Lotus Blooms In the Blog

July 8, 2006

A Teaching from Lama Zopa

Filed under: Impermanence — by Warren Moriarity @ 7:22 pm

In 1975, while trekking in Nepal, I struck up a friendship with a fellow traveller from California. When we got back to Kathmandu he told me that the main reason he had come to Nepal was to visit his sister who was about to become a Buddhist nun at Kopan Monastery. I agreed to visit Kopan with him. At that time I had very little interest in Buddhism and knew even less about it. When we got there, my friend decided to take the one month residential Lam Rim course/retreat offered at Kopan every year and, out of curiosity, I also attended. It was a life-changing experience. I am still thinking through the implications of what I learned then.

Early in the course Lama Zopa asked us to imagine that for one day we could have anything our heart desired. We could have all the food we liked best, the finest clothes we could imagine, the sweetest music. We could have any companions we wished. We could meet all the people we most admired. If we wanted to surround ourselves with the most attractive, friendly (and open-minded) companions of the opposite sex we were free to do so. For that one day we could do and have whatever we wished. But at the end of the day we would most certainly be killed. We meditated on this for an hour.

After the hour Lama Zopa asked us how the meditation had gone. The consensus was that it would be impossible to relax and enjoy the pleasures of the day knowing we were about to die. We would be so terrified of dying we wouldn’t be able to think about anything else. Lama Zopa smiled and said we were right, but that the situation we all faced in our day to day lives was no different. We are all going to die. We may not die at the end of today, but then again, we may. Our deaths might be twenty years away, but we might die today, we might die an hour from now. So how is it possible to go about heedlessly, pursuing pleasure, with this death sentence hanging over our heads? What were we thinking?

Lama Zopa told us that death and impermanence teach us to focus on what is important in life. Then he taught us about karma. About how positive actions guaranteed positive results and negative actions guaranteed suffering. He told us that when our bodies die our minds continue, and beyond the death of our bodies we would certainly experience the results of all our good and bad thoughts, words and deeds.

At death we lose everything. We can expect no help from everything we have put our faith in – our loved ones, our wealth, our fame, our good reputations. At death our only friend will be the good we have done while alive.

He contended that the essential good action, the only action that has meaning in this transitory life is to love and serve others and the purpose of the Mahayana teachings is to provide us with the best and most effective methods to do this.


1 Comment »

  1. Beautiful story, Warren! It is very real and a reminder that it only takes a few minutes to re-order your priorities.

    Comment by tenzinchodron — July 18, 2006 @ 12:00 pm |Reply

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