Advice For Practice—Answering the Question: Why are you Wearing Robes?
by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche
One evening, at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s apartment in Deer Park, USA, six Sangha members were sharing stories about strangers who come up to us in grocery stores, book stores, gas stations and other such places, and either tell us how happy they are to see us or ask us why we are wearing robes.
One of the monks present looked to Rinpoche and asked, “What is the best way to reply to a child who asks me why am I wearing robes?” Rinpoche asked each of the Sangha what they would say and then Rinpoche offered his reply:
I follow the Buddha, who has compassion for all, who has shown the complete path to achieve perfect complete happiness and freedom. The foundation of our practice is not to harm others or ourselves and to help benefit others as much as we can. For that purpose I shave my head and wear robes, which is the easy way to practice Buddhism. The meaning behind this is to take freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth and from the cause of all afflictive emotions, such as ignorance and attachment, which bring all the pain and confusion in this life.
Rinpoche said we can elaborate on this, or take the essence of this message, depending on the circumstance and situation, and depending who you are speaking to. Rinpoche said, of course, if you know something better to say at that time, then say that. Otherwise, you can say what is above. Rinpoche said this is just to give you an idea what to say, it’s not like you should only say this or just read the card!
Each time you explain that you are ordained and the reason gives you the opportunity to awaken the other sentient beings minds and to enlighten them, it gives you the opportunity to free them from all the sufferings and to bring them to ultimate happiness, enlightenment.
We developed the idea of carrying “business cards” with our name, a very beautiful picture of the Buddha or His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the address and phone number of the closest FPMT center, or FPMT International Office, FPMT web address, and email address on the front. On the back we could print the paragraph of Rinpoche’s explanation. Rinpoche advised this would be beneficial for ourselves and others.
Written by Ven. Lhundup Nyingje in 1998, lightly edited by Ven. Lhundup Damchö in 2003. . Reprinted with permission from Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. For further information, please visit www.LamaYeshe.com