Lama Zopa Rinpoche in New York City, US, 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Do we have to go to a retreat center or a faraway country to really meditate?

Way back in 1979, Lama Zopa Rinpoche responded to this question with a teaching on how to practice Dharma in the city.

Rinpoche said, “We don’t have to live in a hermitage in order to generate the realizations of the steps of the path … The whole thing is mind, so whether we are in the city or in the country, or while we are working, there is a way to gradually generate the realizations of the steps of the path to enlightenment.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in New York City, US, 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Rinpoche explained, “Each day, while we are working, living with our family, living in the city, we can leave impressions of the stages of the path to enlightenment in our mind, by making sessions of one hour or half an hour each day, similar to those who live in the hermitage … Do some sessions in the morning or evening, then in the daytime, in the break times, be aware—constantly watch the mind; watch the actions of the body, speech, and mind. As much as possible practice lamrim in the break times, and by watching the mind we know what action the body is doing, what action the speech is doing, what action the mind is doing, we are able to recognize. Then also we find out when delusion is arising or not arising; we recognize whatever the delusion is and when it is about to arise. While it is arising, remember the teachings and the different meditations, and apply them …

Lama Zopa Rinpoche walking in New York City, US, July 2016. Photo by Nan Meng.

“Try to remember bodhichitta and practice bodhichitta … Whatever activity we are doing, try to relate it to the practice of bodhichitta. If our daily activities are not possessed by attachment, clinging to the happiness of this life; if we watch the mind and control the unsubdued mind with the meditation techniques, then the motivation is not possessed by the attachment clinging to the happiness of this life and all our actions become Dharma, the cause of happiness.”

Rinpoche concluded, “Then as we remember bodhichitta, as we relate with the practice of bodhichitta, any activity that we do with the practice of bodhichitta—all our work in the factories, on the ships, or in business—becomes the cause to achieve enlightenment. If our activities are done with the motivation of bodhichitta, they become the bodhisattva’s practice. So even if we live far away from the guru—in the city or with our family—there is a possibility of doing this.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche blessing a dog on a city street, New York City, US, 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Find the original teaching here:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation and community service.