January 28, 2016

A Life for Others: Opposing the Ego as a Path to Peace.


Why are there so many problems in the world? Why is there so much unhappiness in life, in society, in the family, even in an individual person’s life?

No matter how much wealth and education there is, how many friends, what seems to be missing in education, particularly in the West, what is missing is the teaching, the education of compassion and universal responsibility.

Education about these two things is missing. That’s why there’s so much depression, so much suicide, so much dissatisfaction. Even if we have so much other education and wealth, all these things that we have tried and achieved on one hand, but still there is not the education on compassion and universal responsibility, in our daily life and in the general education of our society. It’s missing for the young and for the old, for both.

The most important quality of the mind is missing, the mind that is the very essence of life, the mind that really gives happiness, satisfaction, even if we live alone. It gives happiness, it gives satisfaction, it gives peace of mind, and we can enjoy it. Even if we become a slave to others, we can enjoy doing that. Even if we live with others, we can enjoy life. This is the very source of life, the very purpose of life, but this education, or this attitude, is missing. To transform the mind, to live life like that is not a common subject to practice.

People receive so much harm from each other because they lack these things, compassion and universal responsibility, not having thought of how they themselves are responsible for all sentient beings’ happiness, starting from the family, the parents, then all the rest. Feeling this.


This is the great attitude, this is what gives so much peace and happiness in life. This is the purpose of life.

With this attitude everything we do is dedicated for others. With this attitude all things—enjoyments and so forth—are made to live our life for others, not only for our own sake, not only for our own happiness, but it helps to make life happier for other sentient beings, to obtain happiness for all sentient beings.

What offers more happiness than this? What is there in life that offers more peace, more satisfaction, than living our life for other sentient beings, working for other sentient beings, pacifying the sufferings of other sentient beings, and obtaining happiness for other sentient beings as much as we can?

As much capacity as we have, as much intelligence as we have, we must dedicate our own life to other sentient beings. As much as we can, whatever we can do. Each 24 hours of our life, we must try to dedicate, to live our life for other sentient beings.

Of course, the best service for sentient beings, the most perfect service for every other sentient being is only when we become fully enlightened. Becoming fully enlightened is the perfect service without any mistakes toward all sentient beings. Even to one sentient being, to do perfect service without mistake, life to life, that can only happen after we become fully enlightened, only after we have achieved the perfect mind and perfect power, and completed the mind training in the compassion for all sentient beings. Only then can we do perfect service without any mistake to even to one sentient being, and then, from there, to all the sentient beings, to every sentient being.

But we should feel happy even in our day-to-day life that we can become useful for even one sentient being, that we are found useful by even one sentient being, that we become needed by one sentient being. Even if we’re taking care of an old person or looking after a baby, doing service in that way, we should feel happy that we are useful to that person, that we are needed by at least one sentient being.

Even for that, we should try to feel happy. How good, how wonderful it is, like this. That our body, speech and mind have become useful even for one sentient being. We should rejoice at how wonderful this is, that we are able to serve even one sentient being, that we have become useful to even one being.

There are numberless sentient beings, but being useful even to one sentient being, how wonderful it is. How wonderful it is.

We can get satisfaction, we can enjoy life, on the basis of this attitude, thinking like this, that our life is for other sentient beings—on the basis of this attitude, and that universal responsibility and compassion. This is the purpose of life, on the basis of this attitude, thinking, “My life is not for me. This life, my life is not for me, it’s for all sentient beings, to pacify their suffering, to obtain happiness, to do this service. My life is for the enjoyment of other sentient beings. I am here to be used by the sentient beings.”

All this practice, all this attitude, all this service is completely the opposite to the ego, the self-cherishing thought. When our attitude, when our service becomes like this, completely against the self-cherishing thought, then there’s much happiness in life; there is real satisfaction in the heart. When our attitude of body, speech and mind is the opposite to the ego, when it becomes altruistic service for other sentient beings, then the sun of happiness has risen in our heart.



This excerpt is from Practicing the Unmistaken Path, which is the first volume in a four volume series of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings given during the 24th Kopan lam-rim course in 1991.

Read more of Lama Zopa RInpoche’s teachings at Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.

Here’s Rinpoche’s guidance on a variety of issues in Rinpoche’s Online Advice Book.


Editor: Toby Israel

Images: (1) Lenny Foster, (2) Roger Kunsang, (3) Lama Zopa Rinpoche Art Work


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