BODHICITTA - Take Refuge in Bodhicitta
By Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(September & October 2001 Newsletter)
Our lives are so busy; we are preoccupied by many family and other obligations. When your life is so busy, there is no other refuge than your good heart. Your good heart is the most important thing in which to take refuge. Even though you might want to do long practices, sitting meditation, many prayers or retreat, your life is usually so busy that you don't have time. You have too many other obligations; you can't do everything that you'd like. If this is the case, your only refuge is your good heart, your compassion, the thought of benefiting others, bodhicitta. If you take refuge in that, if you can practise that, no matter how busy you are - even if you cannot do many hours' sitting meditation, prayers, preliminary practices and so forth - you will have no regrets over lost opportunities, now or in the future. In this life and in all future lives, you will go from happiness to happiness to enlightenment.
There are so many practices you can do - what's the most important? What's the most important thing to practise in life? Meditation. What's the most important meditation, the most important Dharma practice? I would say that it's the good heart, your very precious thought of loving kindness, compassion; the thought of benefiting others, bodhicitta. That is the best meditation, the best Dharma practice.
As Shantideva also said when talking about the benefits of bodhicitta in the Bodhicharyavatara, "After checking for many eons, the buddhas discovered that bodhicitta is the most beneficial thing for sentient beings." [Chapter 1, verse 7.]
That means that bodhicitta is the best thing for you too. This quotation also explains what's best for you. What's the best way to take care of yourself? What's the best thing for your own well-being? It's bodhicitta. The buddhas' discovery applies equally to you.
There are so many problems in life - cancer, AIDS, relationship problems, being in debt, not having enough money, job problems such as other people being jealous of you or interfering with your work or being unable to find a job. There are so many problems. But the one answer that takes care of everything, the one solution to all your life's problems, the one thing that fulfils all your wishes, is again your mind, your good heart, your bodhicitta.
If you have a good heart, you don't give harm to others; you always help others with their problems, whatever they are. That causes you to have a long and healthy life. The lam-rim teachings talk about the eight ripened qualities of a good rebirth [see Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, p. 460]. One of these is a long life, the cause of which is explained as being saving or sparing the lives of others, animals or human; for example, giving them food, medicine, clothing or helping them in various other ways [Liberation, p. 462].
Therefore, in your everyday life, try with a good heart to benefit others as much as possible. If you can do this, whether you are offering others great service or small, you're continuously creating the cause of your own success - wealth, long life, good health, everything. Your actions are harmonious with such results. Thus, your good heart fulfils all your wishes for any happiness, including the highest, peerless happiness of full enlightenment. Actions done with a good heart are never non-virtuous, only virtuous. Actions done with a good heart only benefit and never harm others. Therefore, when you act with a good heart, you never create the cause for sicknesses, only health. Your wish to benefit others is a healthy mind. That healthy mind makes your body healthy.
Overcoming illness with bodhicitta
Nowadays, many highly intelligent Western doctors, psychologists and scientists have checked and proven with their wisdom that diseases such as cancer come from the individual's own negative attitude. Cancer comes from the negative mind. Therefore, the way to heal cancer is to have a positive attitude, a pure mind.
For example, in Singapore, there was a Chinese Dharma student who had AIDS. He informed his guru, a very high lama called Rato Rinpoche, who lived in Dharamsala. Rinpoche sent this student instructions on how to do the special bodhicitta practice that I mentioned before, tong-len, as a remedy, a method for him to practise. So, he practised for four days and then went to the hospital for a check-up, where the doctors told him, "You no longer have AIDS." After four days they found no trace of AIDS. When I heard this, I thought he must have spent many hours a day practising tong-len, so I asked him, "How much did you practise?" "Four minutes a day," he said!
He practised only four minutes a day, but during that time his compassion was unbelievably strong. There was no space in his mind for his own AIDS. His only concern was for the many other people who have AIDS. During those four minutes a day he felt so much compassion that tears poured down his cheeks. He felt it unbearable that other sentient beings should suffer from AIDS. Why could the doctors find no trace of AIDS after he had practised for only four days? Because even though he had practised meditation for only a few minutes a day, the meditation that he did practise had the power of an atomic bomb. His compassion for others was so powerful that it purified his mind of vast amounts of negative karma.
Do you remember the quote from Shantideva that I mentioned before, how bodhicitta purifies inexhaustible heavy negative karma? That's what happened here. The principal cause of AIDS is negative imprints left on the mental continuum by past negative actions. This student's compassion was so powerful that it neutralised the karmic cause of his disease.
In the same way, meditation can also cure cancer. The same reasoning applies. In my own experience, five or six people with terminal cancer completely recovered by reciting the mantras of various buddhas with whom they had a connection. They had been told by their doctors that they were going to die, that they had only two or three months to live, but by purifying the principal cause of their cancer, which was in their mind, they completely overcame their disease. Mantra recitation can also heal other sicknesses, such as heart disease.
I heard about a person in Spain who had a very serious heart disease. His heart was enlarged and the doctors gave him only a short time to live. The geshe at our Nagarjuna Centre in Barcelona advised him to recite Guru Shakyamuni's Buddha's mantra, TAYATHA OM MUNE MUNE MAHA MUNAYE SOHA, 300,000 times. Geshe-la gave him a big number to do! Anyway, he followed Geshe-la's advice, and his heart decreased in size until it became normal. I was also told by a famous Spanish musician about someone else who had recovered from AIDS through meditation, but I don't know the details of that case.
However, what I'm trying to emphasise here is that generating a good heart is the best way of taking care of your health.
Nowadays, there are many new diseases occurring, many new dangers to life. The best way to avoid experiencing those sicknesses is not to create their cause. Thus, a good heart is the best protection from disease. And, should you contract any disease, developing a good heart is also the best way to overcome it.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche (2001). Making Life Meaningful. Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive: USA.