Lama Zopa Rinpoche with Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, India, January 2017. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Can our relationships help us progress on the path?

Lama Zopa Rinpoche says yes! Here is what he has said about relationships: “You should consider having a relationship to be an opportunity to practice Dharma … In particular, you should make sure that being together with someone becomes a cause of enlightenment by keeping in mind the motivation of bodhichitta. You should cherish, serve, and dedicate your life to your partner in the same way that you aspire to do for all sentient beings.

“You can use your relationship to practice morality by, for example, observing the five lay vows of abstaining from killing, stealing, adultery, lying, and mind-altering substances. Likewise, having a partner provides an opportunity for you to practice the other five perfections of giving, patience, perseverance, concentration, and wisdom. If you can do this, they will give you enlightenment …

“You can also think about your partner [like this]: ‘I have received every happiness experienced throughout beginningless lives from this person.’ Just that kindness is unimaginable, but on top of that, you also receive all your future happiness from them … Thinking in this way, the conclusion is that your partner is the most precious, most dear, and most kind person in your entire life.”

Flowers at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s house at Buddha Amitabha Pure Land, Washington State, US, October 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

Rinpoche added, “You should also keep in mind that in past lives, your present partner was your mother … By recognizing the vast kindness you’ve received from them, you will come to see yourself as their servant. Thinking in this way, your living together will become an opportunity to practice Dharma. With the attitude that the other person is most precious and kind, every single action you do will become a means of collecting extensive merit. If you also act with bodhichitta, you will collect limitless skies of merit and your actions will become the cause to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. By thinking, ‘I am going to offer service to this person who is a most precious sentient being,’ you will collect a huge amount of merit every day and also purify defilements collected throughout beginningless lives. Since you will constantly create the cause for the biggest success—full enlightenment for all sentient beings—your life will be filled with happiness and hope.

Ösel Hita and Indila Dora at Nalanda Monastery, India, January 2017. Photo by Kunchok Gyaltsen.

“When trying to understand the things that happen in a relationship, you need to take past karma into account … If you always remember to relate events to karma by thinking, ‘This is my karma’ and ‘This is their karma,’ a potential problem doesn’t even become a problem because you accept the situation. It does not bother you and there is peace in your heart.”

In conclusion, Rinpoche emphasized, “If you are able to make use of all your relationships to practice Dharma, you will lead a very healthy life … By thinking in the ways that I have explained here, you will be able to fully enjoy life. You will find satisfaction and fulfillment and you will experience inner peace and happiness.”

Rinpoche talks more about relationships in the video below. 

Watch Rinpoche talk on YouTube about what matters for good relationships here:

Find the complete teaching on making relationships meaningful here:

See more videos of teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at
Rinpoche Available Now:

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.