By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Munich, Germany, April 2001
The Buddha is here among us
Why do I often say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion?
The purpose of becoming buddha is to benefit the world, to benefit all sentient beings. That’s the purpose of achieving enlightenment. The door to the path of enlightenment is bodhicitta. Therefore, to even enter the Mahayana path to enlightenment, you need first to generate great compassion, because great compassion is the root of bodhicitta.
What is the definition of the realization of great compassion? Consider how a mother would feel if her beloved only child fell into a fire. How would she feel? She wouldn’t be able to stand it. Twenty-four hours a day, no matter what she was doing—eating, walking, talking—she’d constantly feel unbearable that her beloved child was suffering. Not only that; she would also take upon herself the responsibility of freeing her child from that suffering. Even though there might be many other people around, she would want to save the child herself. That’s how it feels to have great compassion.
Different texts might give different definitions of great compassion but the meaning of great is taking upon yourself the responsibility of freeing sentient beings from suffering. Great compassion is not only feeling unbearable, wishing that the child—in other words, sentient beings—were free from suffering and its cause, but also, on top of that, taking personal responsibility upon oneself to free the child from suffering. Taking upon yourself the responsibility of freeing all sentient beings from suffering and its cause is great, or Mahayana, compassion.
The way that a mother feels when her beloved child fall into a fire is that she immediately wants to go into that fire and save the child herself. Similarly, when you have realized great compassion, you feel sentient beings’ suffering unbearable and you upon yourself the responsibility of liberating them from suffering and its cause.
If this, then, is your attitude when you have realized great compassion, is it possible that after you have attained enlightenment you wouldn’t work for the welfare of all sentient beings?
It’s theoretically possible to have attained the omniscient mind by completing all knowledge as well as the perfect power to reveal all the methods and not act for the benefit of sentient through not having compassion. That’s theoretically possible. But if you’ve completed the mind training in compassion by training in it for inconceivable lifetimes, how could you possibly not act to help sentient beings?
What causes you to realize bodhicitta is great compassion. It’s great compassion that causes you to practice the paramitas—charity, morality, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom—for three countless great eons, to sacrifice your own life, like Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did, for the sake of sentient beings for three countless great eons, to practice each of those perfections for three countless great eons in order to complete the two types of merit—the merit of virtue and the merit of wisdom—so that you can achieve enlightenment and then reveal the path, the teachings, to all sentient beings to liberate them from the suffering of samsara and bring them to enlightenment.
Therefore, not only does compassion not allow you to harm sentient beings, it also does not allow you to not benefit sentient beings. Training the mind in compassion such that there’s nothing more to develop, then, is the main reason that ensures that Buddha is compelled to benefit sentient beings, no matter in which different aspect Buddha manifests, including the Buddha of Compassion Buddha. Thus, there is no question that Buddha is benefiting us sentient beings right now.
There’s also one extra thing to add with respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which is that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself predicted that His Holiness would be the incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, the Dharma king working for sentient beings in the Land of Snows, Tibet. When Lord Buddha was in India, he told the bodhisattva who always accompanied him that when the teaching declined in India, “At that time, you will be Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, and the sentient beings in Land of Snows, Tibet, will be the object to be subdued by you.”
Recently, when His Holiness was teaching at Geshe Sopa’s center, Deer Park, in Madison, Wisconsin, he said, “I have no realization of bodhicitta or emptiness.” His Holiness often says things like that, but then might add something like, “But I have strong faith.” Later on, when Geshe Sopa Rinpoche’s students, the organizers of the center, had an interview with His Holiness, one of them said very emotionally, “You say that you don’t have realizations, so what hope is there for us? There must be none.”
Then it kind of slipped out of His Holiness’s holy mouth—he had to respond to that person with something, so His Holiness said sort of as a private talk—“Actually, I remember when I was with Shakyamuni Buddha in India.” His Holiness didn’t tell the whole story, but he did say that he remembered being with the Buddha in India…but he didn’t give any details.
His Holiness Dalai Lama is also the incarnation of Dromtönpa, the great translator of Lama Atisha in Tibet. Dromtönpa is the embodiment of the Buddha of Compassion. That is well known.
We ourselves know that His Holiness is the source of peace and happiness of all sentient beings; we have experienced the positive effect, the incredible peace and happiness that comes just by seeing his holy body, just by hearing his holy speech, just by reading books of his teachings. These things leave incredible imprints of peace and happiness on the mental continua of millions and millions of people in the world. It definitely plants the seed of enlightenment in the mental continuum of anyone who sees and, especially, hears His Holiness. Just seeing His Holiness become great purification.
So, in terms of bringing peace into this world or into the minds of sentient beings, who has the greatest impact? Who has the greatest effect in changing their minds and thoughts from negative to positive? Actually, His Holiness takes full responsibility for all sentient beings throughout all of space, which is beyond our perception, but at least we can see the peace and happiness that he brings into this world in which we live.
On top of that, His Holiness is the holder of the entire Buddhadharma—the Hinayana, Paramitayana and Vajrayana teachings. He holds the entire Buddhadharma taught by Buddha and is able to preserve and spread it in this world in the most extensive and quickest way, for the benefit of us sentient beings.
Not only that, but His Holiness also bears full responsibility for the welfare of the Tibetan people in particular, who have a karmic connection with Chenrezig.
However, it’s not only the Tibetan people who have a connection with the Buddha of Compassion. Westerners, too, are able to meet His Holiness and receive his teachings and advice, not just once but many times. People in the West, nowadays, also have a connection with the Buddha of Compassion. But Tibetans also have a specific connection whereby His Holiness can guide them in not only a spiritual way by teaching Dharma but also as leader of the country of Tibet.
Our enlightenment depends on us
Sick people’s recovering from their illness does not depend only on their doctor making the correct diagnosis and giving them the right prescription. It is not sufficient simply to have a doctor who possesses complete medical knowledge. The patient also has to take the medicine, follow the guide. Only then can the patient recover. It’s the same thing when it comes to reaching enlightenment.
If we want to achieve enlightenment, it’s not only up to Buddha. Buddha has already fulfilled his responsibility by revealing the path. He’s done his bit. Now it’s up to us. From our side, we have to practice. Only then can we get enlightened. We have to correctly practice the teachings.
It’s similar with respect to the Tibetan people; it all depends on karma. The actual, living Buddha of Compassion is here, but independence, freedom or whatever else it’s called depends on the karma of the Tibetan people. Those things have to come together. It’s not only up to the Buddha of Compassion. From their side, the Tibetan people have to put in the effort; they have to create the cause for freedom and independence. If it were up to the Buddha of Compassion alone, not only would there be no Tibetan people left by now; there’d also be no sentient beings left in samsara.
People say, “Everything is up to God.” They think God is the creator and everything is up to God. One way, they say that everything is up to God, but when you look at it another way, it seems that everything is not up to God—because when it comes to practice, you can see that it’s dependent on the sentient beings themselves.
People say that if you don’t believe in God, you’ll go to hell. By saying that, they show that in fact everything is not totally up to God; not going to hell depends your making an effort from your own side; you have to generate faith in God. Therefore, it’s not completely up to God. You also have to observe the Ten Commandments. People say that everything is in God’s hands but you can see that God is not the creator. People themselves have to make the effort to observe the Ten Commandments; they have to practice morality.
Basically, it comes to the same point in Buddhism—from their side, sentient beings also have to make an effort.
What I’m saying, therefore, is that because His Holiness has these unbelievable qualities—offering sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha benefit as limitless as the sky; taking responsibility for the peace and happiness not only of beings in this world but also for all sentient beings everywhere; preserving and spreading the complete teaching of the Buddha; and taking responsibility for the freedom or independence of Tibet—it is very important that we follow his advice. From our side, we must follow His Holiness’s words and support his holy wishes in order that they succeed.
The more we support His Holiness and the fewer obstacles we create, the more he can benefit sentient beings with his limitless skies of qualities. We ourselves don’t have those qualities; even though we have the potential, we haven’t yet attained all those realizations, so we cannot benefit others like His Holiness the Dalai Lama can. But if we support him and don’t create obstacles, he can benefit sentient beings in the most extensive way.
In a way, this is similar to the situation in a Dharma center, where there is a geshe who has studied Buddhadharma extensively for many years in a community of thousands of monks, lived a life of content, which is the real meaning of being a monk—leading a simple, content life in the monastery and not changing, even upon coming to the West—and lives in the practice of compassion and morality.
Even though in a center it is the geshe who teaches and educates to the students, leads those sentient beings to enlightenment, his ability to do so depends on the director, the secretary, the translator and all the other people who work together to make the center function properly. Even though the actual teaching is given by the geshe, by working together, the other people also help to spread the Dharma. Even though those people are not verbally teaching the Dharma, by taking responsibility for a certain area and working together with others, each one is also helping spread the unmistaken teachings of our kind, compassionate Buddha and, in particular, the teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, to sentient beings.
In life, it’s a question of doing what’s most profitable, thinking not only of yourself but also of other sentient beings and the world in general, and making the wisest and most skilful decision to benefit both yourself and others. Use your wisdom to analyze what is most beneficial for yourself, the world and all other sentient beings—not just for now but also for the long-distant future—and on the basis of that, decide how best to lead your life.