Bad and good depend on the individual person's
interpretation. In general, if you are able to spend your life collecting more
virtue and less negative karma, that's a good life. Even spending half the life
this way is quite good. Spending even one quarter of the day creating good
karma is better than spending the whole 24 hours creating only negative karma.
So today, if you are able to create more virtue than negative karma, that's a
good life. Even though you might be exhausted, even though you might have
almost died from practicing Dharma, you had a good life today.
Naropa, for example, had to experience the 12 great
hardships and the 12 small hardships under the advice of Tilopa. And Marpa
would not allow Milarepa to come to teachings and initiations; he received
scoldings and beatings only, no sweet words like "you are such a good
disciple" or "you have done excellent practice"; he only
received Marpa's wrathful aspect. Then Milarepa had to build a nine-story tower
by himself, alone, and not just once; he had to tear it down and build it three
times. Because of doing these intensive preliminary practices and following
exactly his guru Marpa's advice without having any negative thoughts towards
him, Milarepa became enlightened in that life.
That's the best life, you see, the best life. The
definition of a bad life and a good life is very important, because if you
don't know you will be very confused; if your connotation is wrong you will go
in the wrong direction. The result of this will be no attainment, no
realization. The result will be that the mind is empty.
There is an interpretation of bad and good life
according to attachment, according to ego. Then there is an interpretation of
bad and good life according to the point of view of Dharma wisdom, the wisdom
understanding karma, understanding lam-rim. Of course, they are totally
The common thing in the world is to follow the
interpretation according to attachment. So if one has more success, more
wealth, more external development, then that's regarded as a good life: more
and more things, more friends, more children, then grandchildren, then their
children—the more there is happening, the more successful the life. So that's
Of course, everyone is looking for peace of mind and
satisfaction in the heart, but they have no idea how to get it. Their methods
are through external development only. Even though they really want peace and
satisfaction, because of lack of spiritual education, Dharma education, they
don't have methods, they don't have knowledge of practice. So they end up just
as the Rolling Stones sang: "I can't get no satisfaction."
So from my point of view, unless you have renounced
attachment you will not find satisfaction. You could be living in life-time
retreat, or in the monastery or nunnery following the moral disciplines, having
sacrificed a lot of the pleasures of this life, a lot of comfort, in order to
live in pure morality, but if the mind is still suffering, it's because it
didn't renounce attachment, it is not separated from attachment clinging to
this life. You didn't make the mind free, so the mind becomes friends with
attachment clinging to this life, the mind associates with the thought of the
eight worldly dharmas.
Therefore, even if the body is in retreat or in the
monastery, the mind cannot enjoy following the moral discipline or the
meditation practices. There's no peace, no happiness in the heart. As the mind
has become friends with attachment, you cannot give up this life's comfort to
practice Dharma. Then it gets difficult to follow the advice of the virtuous
friend, it gets difficult to do service for the monastery, for the monks and
nuns, and it's difficult to serve other sentient beings.
Even though there is not yet any happiness in the mind
because you have the attitude of attachment clinging to this life—you're stuck
with that, not with Dharma—nevertheless, your mind is protected from obstacles
because you are trying, you are practicing morality. Then you can have great
peace and can practice Dharma without obstacles. It's the same with somebody
doing long retreat, or someone who's serving the virtuous friend or other
sentient beings. What I am saying is that even though your motivation is more
stuck with attachment and even though you mightn't experience any happiness in
your heart yet, it is still a good life because your practice of morality
brings good results, a good rebirth in the next life. Even though your mind is
not completely pure, even though the mind is not completely renounced, it is
still a good life.
Of course, it takes time for this to happen. You need
very intense and continuous meditation, especially on impermanence and death
related to karma and the lower realms, and the general suffering of samsara,
particularly the lower realms, and the preliminary meditation, the perfect
human body, how it is highly useful and difficult to achieve again.
Or you could do the opposite: give up this life and
think, "Oh, it didn't make me happy." After many years of practicing
and studying Dharma—philosophy, highest tantra, anything that can be explained
by qualified teachers—after all that I didn't find happiness, so I'd better try
something else." You give up everything, and what you tried to abandon
before, for all those years, now you have all of them. You are without rule,
without discipline—you become a free guy.
So now you have a lot of physical comfort, wealth,
friends and so on and you believe you have enjoyment; in fact it is a
hallucination because the uncontrolled mind is the motivation. When you don't
think of the motivation and the future karmic result, this new life appears as
pleasure. But if you think of the motivation and karmic result, then you realize
it is not really a happy life.
What I am saying is that, according to my
interpretation, a happy life is when you have a good motivation and your
actions bring good results. As I mentioned before, Naropa and Milarepa had so
much hardship but it brought a fantastic future, the best future. So that is
the best life.
But in the West the interpretation of a good life is
whether or not it makes me happy now. Now! This moment. Today. One is involved
in the psychology of cherishing oneself, which gives you so much inspiration
that you are important. But practicing Dharma is not rejecting yourself, it's
actually the best way to take care of yourself.
Practicing renunciation helps you become liberated from
samsara, so that's what you need, otherwise you experience suffering again and
again, without end. And practicing the right view, emptiness: that's the best
way of taking care of yourself because it cuts the root of suffering. And what
else do you need? What is better than this? What else is there that is better
Therefore we must rejoice that we have met the precious
Buddhadharma, especially lam-rim, the integration of the entire 84,000
teachings of the Buddha, and that without any confusion we can practice and
Besides all this, we are able to do so much service for
other sentient beings. Without talking about meditating on the stages of the
path, practicing purifying negative karma, collecting merits, without that.
Therefore we should rejoice.
"We hear religious people talk a lot about
morality. What is morality? Morality is the wisdom that understands the
nature of the mind. The mind that understands its own nature automatically
becomes moral, or positive; and the actions motivated by such a mind also
become positive. That’s what we call morality. The basic nature of the narrow
mind is ignorance; therefore the narrow mind is negative."
The above quote changes daily
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was born in 1946 in
Thami, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal, not far from the Lawudo
cave where his predecessor had meditated for the last 20 years of his life.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is now the Spiritual Director of the Foundation and
oversees all of its activities.