Freedom Through Understanding

By Lama Thubten Yeshe, By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
UK September 1975 (Archive #169)

In Lama Yeshe’s and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s first trip to Europe in 1975 they offered a seminar based on their Kopan meditation courses. Preceded by Lama Yeshe’s lecture on meditation, these teachings encompass the entire Buddhist path to enlightenment.

These historic teachings are also available on DVD. Watch video excerpts in Chapter Three and Chapter Five, or go to our YouTube channel.

11. Lama Yeshe Answers Questions

The best answers come through meditation
Whenever human problems arise, instead of getting nervous and worried, you’re better off meditating and checking up. Meditation is like a computer - whenever regular people have a problem, they turn to their computer for answers; similarly, whenever meditators have a problem, they meditate. And through meditation they get answers. The answers are there; the calm, clear mind gives knowledge-wisdom the space to come up with answers. The foggy mind is an obstacle; it makes the answers invisible. So meditation really is the best way to check up and find solutions to your problems.

We usually think we get answers by asking questions and that’s true up to a point; certain things can be answered that way. But if you’re unaware, even if the lama gives you a good answer, it doesn’t really register; it goes right over your head. That’s because the way you’re asking is not serious. If you want to question something deeply and really, seriously meditate on it, when the answer comes it’s so powerful. You become the answer, you become that knowledge; it doesn’t just remain as some kind of superficial fact.

Often when you ask somebody a question and the person says, “This, this, this,” you might receive a little wisdom but we don’t consider that to be true knowledge.

So meditation is really worthwhile; it gives you the answers you want. Meditation is the real personal computer. Answers you discover for yourself through meditation are much more meaningful, much deeper, than those you get from somebody else’s replies to your questions. You ask, “Please could you tell me blah, blah, blah”; the other person replies, “Blah, blah, blah”; you think “OK, that’s good.” But then another problem comes to occupy your mind because you don’t have the penetrative concentration to cut through the fog of your confusion. That’s why I always say that human beings are so powerful. Potentially, we have fantastic energy; we just have to use it in the most professional way.

Every human being has a beautiful quality. If we only look at people’s superficial external appearance we will never find true beauty but if we look at their deeper human qualities - what people can do, the positive actions they can create and the power of the human mind - we will see everybody as beautiful. In fact, all universal living beings have some beautiful qualities.

If everything that existed in the world were to appear as beautiful, there’d be no way for the miserable mind to arise. The view of the miserable mind is foggy - the subject, the mind, relies, or depends, on the object it perceives. Transforming the external world into beauty prevents the ugly mind from arising by giving it no space.

So it’s really worthwhile that you people, having realized that happiness can never be found in the superficial sense world alone, are seeking a joyful life through internal happiness, fully convinced - not “maybe, maybe” - that this is the way. You have to make that decision. If your mind still harbors the doubt, “Maybe the supermarket really does contain everything I need,” your meditation will be no good and you won’t get any realizations.

Also, you shouldn’t spend your life on useless pursuits. For example, there’s so much garbage on television; when you watch it your unconscious mind automatically absorbs that garbage reflection. So you have to exercise the discriminating wisdom that assesses whether what you’re doing is worthwhile or not.

I’m not saying that television itself is bad. I’m saying that, according to your mind, you have to check up whether what you’re watching is useful or not. Does it lead to wisdom or to the completely concrete attachment that causes conflict in your mind? Check up. This is really worthwhile.

Actually, you’re much better off watching the internal television of your mind. Regular TV is so boring; the same old programs on the same old topics over and over again. You don’t really want to watch. But when you watch your mind, it’s incredible; it’s much more interesting. There’s always something new; if you think about it, every experience is new.

This is really true. I’m not exaggerating. Every moment of mind is interesting. If you check your mind in meditation for ten or twenty minutes a day, it’s so worthwhile.

In Tibet, after listening to lam-rim teachings and receiving a clean clear intellectual understanding, people would often go into retreat to put the teachings into action; they’d experiment to see if what the lama said really worked or not. They would seriously check up. Of course, Western life is so busy that you don’t have the time to do long retreats, but if every now and then you could spend a two- or three-day weekend in strict meditation it would be very powerful and most worthwhile.

And with respect to this seminar, we’ve been talking so much that you haven’t had much time to meditate; but if we’d allowed more time for meditation you wouldn’t have received the teachings you need, so we’ve just had to try the best we can.

Now I can try to answer any questions you might have, bearing in mind that the real answers are those you get through meditation. As I said before, those answers become incredibly powerful and meaningful. Verbal answers often aren’t as meaningful. However, if you have serious questions, please ask.

Q. Lama, last year in Nepal you said that fully ordained nuns have over one hundred more vows than fully ordained monks do. Also, we see far fewer pictures of Tara than we do of male manifestations of Buddha. So I was wondering if you could say something about women. Sorry!

Lama. Lord Buddha gave fully ordained monks, gelongs, 253 vows and fully ordained nuns, gelongmas, 364. The reason for the difference is that women have incredible wisdom and very quick minds. Men are normally a little bit slow but women can put things together and come to immediate conclusions much more rapidly. Also, the way women’s bodies are constituted makes them more susceptible to vibrations of the sun, moon and earth, and they undergo monthly internal changes as well. All this has a psychological effect. So women’s minds change much more quickly than do men’s. Women are very intelligent; they have the wisdom to quickly put things together.

In addition, women’s desire does not arise frequently but when it does it can be very strong and last a long time; it can feel very uncomfortable, like being poked by a needle. Men also have desire but while it’s often present it’s not as strong.

Q. So the greater number of precepts is because women are less able to control desire?

Lama. Yes, that’s right. That’s why I’m talking about this.

Q. So it’s bad karma to be born female?

Lama. No, not necessarily. You asked a general question so I’m generalizing in my reply. Certain individual women have great control. There are female buddhas. So actually, you can’t generalize. However, Lord Buddha considered that men and women have equal potential to gain liberation in this life. Also, Lord Buddha didn’t just say the words - he showed the method, the path to liberation. So women’s liberation - inner liberation - is very good. Anyway, women have qualities and abilities that men don’t and vice versa. Both have their own individual characteristics.

Also, when we ordain women, Lord Buddha said that first we should give five precepts - precepts being the way we start training the mind - for say a month; then perhaps eight; then maybe more. Proceed slowly and wait, sometimes for a year, then check up to see whether she can manage or not. Traditionally it was very strict; the purpose was to make sure. Of course, generally it’s the same thing with men. They too have uncontrolled desire. But men also have their own specific characteristics, psychologically and physically.

But there’s no way you can say that men can attain liberation or enlightenment and women cannot. That’s impossible. In Tibet, sometimes even senior monks would take teachings from higher nuns.

Q. If one has overcome strong attachment or aversion in this life, would one be placed in contact with the same people or places in the next life?

Lama. It’s possible, yes. It’s also logical. If in this life you train your mind such that your attachment gets less and less, at the time of death your powerful determination and the force of your karmic mental energy can lead you into perfect contact with familiar people or places so that you have the opportunity to help them again.

Q. You said last night that a man couldn’t be religious if he points a gun and shoots another man who is religious. What bothers me is that you hear of Thai monks blessing guns that are then used in Vietnam, Vietnamese monks burning themselves to death in Saigon, and Tibetan monks disrobing and fighting the Chinese. Can you explain all this, please?

Lama. Thank you, it’s good to ask about such things. I think monks who bless guns do so out of misconception, no matter who they are. Psychologically, that will come back to bother them. As for the monk who burnt himself in Saigon, there could be two things. If he has incredible compassion for the Vietnamese people suffering in the war and burns himself in order to demonstrate their suffering, I don’t think that’s foolish; but if he doesn’t have compassion and is just doing it out of anger, that’s foolish.

Q. Is it true that Tibetan monks have disrobed, fought the Chinese and therefore killed some?

Lama. Yes, some Tibetan monks have done that. There are different kinds of Tibetan monk. When the Chinese came, some monks did return their vows to senior monks who didn’t go to war. You can’t stop that kind of individual anger. Actually, they were wrong to do that. If they’d asked the senior monk if they should go, he would have said, “That’s foolish; a misconception. You want to fight but you’re already the best kind of soldier. You want to give up being a member of the best army, the Sangha, to join a junk army.” That monk is already a soldier; he’s fighting the internal enemy of the delusions, which is what really brings him down. That’s a great question; you’re right to ask.

There are many religions in the world, Buddhism among them. When their followers act in mistaken ways it’s not the religion that’s wrong; it’s the people who have the misconceptions. And it’s not only misconception - uncontrolled attachment is so powerful: “Oh, my nation, my country . . . I’m going to lose the place where I eat and sleep.” So acting out of uncontrolled attachment, these Tibetan monks abandon their ordination and rush off to fight. They’re foolish; I agree. That’s exactly what I was talking about before. I don’t even consider those people to be Buddhist. They’re so emotional; their wisdom is so limited.

Q. What do we do if we recognize our negative mind? Do we just face it or do we react to it? Sometimes it seems the reaction could be to not want to face it.

Lama. What kind of situation do you mean? Be specific.

Q. For example, when we’re meditating and see, “Oh, now I’m proud” or “Now I’m angry,” do we just recognize this and say to ourself, “OK, I’m angry,” or do we say, “I’m angry and this is not good”? What do we with the negative mind? When we find the negative mind, what do we do?

Lama. When you find that your negative mind has arisen, instead of just letting it go, apply the appropriate antidote. Even better, as soon as you find your negative mind starting to arise, stop it right there; don’t let it go any further. Many Western psychologists say that when you’re angry, let it out, don’t suppress it; they tell you to get more angry. They mean well, but according to Lord Buddha’s psychology, they’re wrong. Every moment of anger creates a karmic imprint; every moment of unchecked anger builds up the energy of anger within you.

What’s better is to recognize the anger within you and as soon as you feel it start to arise, instead of letting it come and recognizing and expressing it, try to digest it. That’s the best way. Western psychology says, “No, no, no... don’t keep your tremendous anger energy in, let it out; express your anger.” So that allows the person to be overtly angry. That’s foolish. It’s not good because your anger energy builds up. Actually, any action you do over and over - positive or negative - builds up the corresponding kind of energy.

Let me give you an example. How do you control anger if you’re a person who has great difficulty doing so? When you get up in the morning, bring to mind the characteristic nature of anger. First of all, anger comes from the root of ignorance, and the cooperative cause for its arising is a huge build-up of superstition. Its function is to destroy all your pleasure. Even your face becomes the picture of misery. Check the faces of people who are always angry: they’re always kind of tense, tight. Check up; they’re different.

Anyway, first thing in the morning, because you’re not angry at that time, examine the shortcomings of anger and see clean clear what the nature of anger is. After that, generate much compassion for yourself: “If I keep behaving in this way I’ll ruin my life. But it’s not only me. All universal living beings also destroy their beautiful, enjoyable lives by getting angry. A moment’s anger can destroy the lives of a couple that has been together for years. They do this to themselves. It’s incredibly foolish. The nature of anger is pure foolishness; today I’m not going to get angry at all. I dedicate my life today to the opposite of anger: patience. From now until I go to bed tonight, I’m going to control my anger, with much compassion for all universal living beings.”

When you make that determination in the morning, the whole day goes like that. In the evening you check up: “What a surprise. Normally I’m always angry but today I didn’t get angry at all. I’m so glad, so appreciative, so happy.” Then dedicate your positive energy to others and, rejoicing, go to sleep.

The next day you almost won’t need to generate strong energy to maintain your control; it will be easy. Then the day after that it will be easier still... and the next and the next, until you’ve managed to control your anger for a week. If you can control it for one week, the second week will definitely be easier. Then you’ll have been able to control it for a month. So two months will be easy. Then you’ll have controlled it for a year. Once you’ve done that you’ll practically never get angry again. Finally you’ll finish up saying to people, “I find it impossible to get angry. Please would you teach me how?” You might have to go to anger school to learn how to do it! It’s possible. That’s true. You can reach a point where there’s no way anybody can make you angry.

So that was a good, practical question. Just stopping the problem of anger is most worthwhile; that’s incredible. The nature of anger is misery and the angry mind is uptight. Angry people suffer greatly; their faces are different and they totally destroy their enjoyment of life. So at least controlling your anger is most worthwhile. If there’s no anger between a married couple there’s no way their life will be miserable; it’s impossible. They will always have a good relationship, a good home and good vibrations.

Many times Westerners are too intellectual, always looking for some kind of higher meditation. They’re not realistic. If you just practice not getting angry it’s so worthwhile. That itself is liberation, inner freedom; that’s more realistic and so worthwhile - in everyday life you’re dealing with people, so you don’t get angry with your wife, husband, friends or anybody. You always have a good time.

Q. Please could you say more about the dedication of merit?

Lama. We have an analogy for why we dedicate the energy of merit. Say you’re riding a big, powerful horse. If you have no bridle the horse will run wild and you won’t end up where you want to go. Although the horse’s energy is perfectly strong and it can run really well, without control you’ll finish up falling off and hurting yourself badly. Similarly, if you have the powerful energy of merit and don’t dedicate it, if somebody suddenly says something to you that makes you angry, your merit immediately disappears.

Creating merit and then destroying it is like first cleaning a floor, then, when you’ve finished, putting ka-ka all over it, dirtying it up again. This is a good example of what we normally do. Therefore, you should dedicate whatever positive energy you have to benefit others, instead of letting it go without direction, like a powerful horse without a bridle.

Also, whenever you dedicate your positive energy to others, the energy you dedicate is like a drop of water put into the ocean - as long as the ocean remains, that drop of water is never exhausted. Similarly, when you deposit your positive energy into the bank of enlightenment for the benefit of others, it becomes exhaustless.

Not only that. When you do something positive you might automatically feel proud: “Oh, I did such a good meditation.” Pride is a psychological problem; dedication is the solution. Therefore, it’s very important to dedicate your merit. Otherwise we often generate pride, boasting, “I did this; I did that.” You make a big show of your virtue. Dedicating merit is like putting money in a bank. You bank your money to protect it; dedicating merit protects it in your internal bank.

Q. When you do something good and you know what it’s for, is that dedication?

Lama. No, that’s not dedication. Dedication is the mind that thinks, “I have not done this positive action for my own salvation or pleasure but totally for the benefit of others.”

Q. So you let go of it?

Lama. Yes, you let go; put your energy in one direction. Don’t let it go like an uncontrolled, powerful horse. If I were to talk about merit in detail it would take much time, but briefly, it’s not that easy to dedicate merit properly; you have to bring to mind the emptiness of three things: yourself, the person dedicating the merit; the merit itself; and the way you dedicate. Dedicating with understanding of the empty nature of these three things is the best way to dedicate, absolutely worthwhile. Dedicating with pure knowledge-wisdom releases all the misconceptions of self-attachment to these three things. This is the prajnaparamita - perfection of wisdom - way of dedicating. It’s difficult, but, if you can manage, you should do it that way. Otherwise our dedication is mixed with attachment. In Tibetan we call this ngo-wai kor-sum–dedicating in the circle of the three.

Q. How does one use the rosary (Skt: mala)?

Lama. One thing that a mala is used for is to count mantras. Sometimes we have a certain number of mantras we have to count on a daily basis or in retreat and we use it for that. In some retreats you have to recite one, two, five or even ten million mantras; each day we bless our mala and use it to count the number of mantras we recite. We also use it to treat certain illnesses. For example, some people are made sick by spirit possession and can be healed by a mala placed on their head, but the person doing this needs long experience and to have received the power of the mantra.

Q. Can we go beyond time, like reincarnate in the past?

Lama. No, that’s not possible. Each rebirth is the result of previous karma and takes place in a different environment, so they’re never the same. For example, say from the time you were born until now you’ve lived with the same family in the same London house - you feel as if you and the things around you are the same. But if you check up carefully, from the time you were born, every minute your environment and your experience have been changing; everything is totally different. If we just look at things superficially we have the attitude, “Oh, every morning I drink coffee, I have the same lunch, I have this family, this house... it’s all the same.” But they’re not the same; thinking that they are is a misconception born of superficiality.

If you check your life experiences scientifically you’ll see that each one is different. Even from the beginning of this seminar up until now, everything’s different: your experiences, your perceptions, your view and your consciousness. Of course, you can say something like, “Last year I was a black woman; perhaps in my next life I’ll be a black woman again.” Is that sort of superficial thing what you’re asking? That can happen but there’s no way you can be exactly the same as you were in a previous life. Is that clear? Perhaps you’d better ask me your question again.

Q. Are you saying that karma goes forward all the time?

Lama. That’s right, yes. It’s impossible for karma to go backwards. If it were then it would be possible for me to become a five-year-old child in this life.

Q. A lot of people do become children when they get older.

Lama. Come on, dear; that’s just street language. We need to talk about this scientifically. When we talk generally we say things like, “Your mind is like a baby’s.” That doesn’t mean the person has become a baby. We’re talking about a one-hundred-year-old person’s becoming a five-year-old. That’s impossible. Can you prove scientifically that it can happen? You can say somebody’s like a child; that doesn’t mean the person’s a child.

Q. But things seem to go in a circle.

Lama. Yes, things circle, but the experiences themselves are different. You can’t say they’re always the same thing. If you check scientifically you’ll see that they’re different.

Q. Can you say specifically what meditations we should be doing when we first wake up in the morning and right before we go to sleep at night?

Lama. The best meditation to do in the morning is the development of single-pointed concentration; at night you should do purification. Before you go to sleep, check back on your day: “Since I awoke this morning I’ve done many things and gone many places.” So you check up: “What kind of mind did I have here? What kind of mind did I have there?” Check how many positive minds you had and how many negative. The conclusion you’ll probably come to is, “Most of my actions were negative; not so many were positive.” So before you go to sleep, do a purification meditation and then go to sleep with a happy, joyful, clean clear mind. That’s very useful.

Actually, it’s best not to go to sleep with a foggy, uncomfortable mind. If you go to sleep in an agitated condition, you keep generating that energy all night. For example, if you go to sleep angry, anger energy builds up in your mind all night. Therefore, it’s much better to make your mind calm and clear before you go to sleep. And if you can actually go to sleep in meditation, your entire sleep energy becomes the everlastingly peaceful path to liberation. So meditating prior to going to sleep is very, very useful. And we also have special methods of meditating while you’re asleep called dream yoga that are in the further reaches of the graduated path to liberation, so you can study those later.

That’s a wonderfully practical question. When you get up in the morning, instead of thinking in a conflicted, mundane way, “What am I going to do today?” and rushing into the kitchen as your mind immediately goes into your refrigerator, get up slowly and meditate. Relax, make your mind calm and clear, and dedicate yourself to making this day’s life meaningful in the highest way instead of living like an animal. That way you’re not up and down all day because the powerful determination you generate in the morning keeps you on track. Even if somebody suddenly hits you, you remain in control. That’s possible, through the will power of the mind.

Your mind is incredibly powerful, I tell you. You have to know how. We think external things are so powerful but they’re all manmade. Real power actually lies within us. We created all these things; our internal power manifests the external world. If we direct this power inward we can create the inner realization of enlightenment. That’s why generating proper motivation in the morning is very important.

Thank you for your questions. Now, one of the students has made small Manjushri lapel buttons, which is very auspicious. Manjushri is the manifestation of knowledge-wisdom, so now I’m going to bless these buttons and offer them to you. I’ll also give you the transmission of the Manjushri mantra to facilitate the growth of knowledge-wisdom within you.

[Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche do puja to bless the Manjushri buttons.]

Mantra transmission
Now, if you can, instead of visualizing me, Thubten Yeshe, sitting here with this body of meat and bone, immediately transform it into the radiant red-yellow light body of Manjushri. At my heart is the Divine Wisdom Manjushri mantra. From this mantra a duplicate transcendent mantra manifests and comes from my heart through my mouth like a rosary. This electric rosary energy goes into your mouth and down to your heart three times: the first time, it comes to your heart; the second time, it sinks into the first mantra; the third time, it again sinks into your heart mantra, making it indestructibly powerful, magnetically powerful to attract enlightened realizations through your developing knowledge-wisdom.

While visualizing all this, repeat the mantra:

OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH; OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH; OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH.

Now let’s recite it together:

OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH DHIH DHIH DHIH DHIH.... (x3)13

From your heart, blissful red-yellow radiates all throughout your entire body, energizing great joy.

[Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche chant.]

By receiving the transmission of this mantra you’re not making a commitment to recite it daily but you can if you like; doing so would be most worthwhile. It’s a specific method for gaining knowledge-wisdom.

For example, in Tibet, if a monk was a bit slow in understanding things he would practice Manjushri in order to gain quick knowledge-wisdom. Also, this mantra is incredible for people who can’t talk properly because of trouble with their tongue. After just a month they can talk properly. I’m not joking; this is people’s experience. If you recite this mantra before talking or giving a speech the power of your words can be greatly increased. So it is a very good to recite this transcendental mantra. Manjushri is nothing external; Manjushri is all enlightened beings’ supreme transcendental knowledge-wisdom transformed into such a red-yellow light body. That’s what we call Manjushri - the embodiment of knowledge-wisdom.

Conclusion
And now we’ve come to the end of this very short seminar. I’ve enjoyed it very much and have been very happy to meet you beautiful people. I pray that next time we meet we can spend more time together; that would be better. It’s been a little rushed this time, so please forgive us for that. However, if you have any questions arise you can write us. These days, the world is very small. Also, if you have questions, you can talk to Chime Rinpoche or Akong Rinpoche, who both live in the UK.

We’re also going to offer a protection cord blessed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to anybody who wants; you can wear it around your neck if you like. It offers psychological protection. It’s not that we think there are demons from which you need to be protected.

Also, the Manjushri buttons are worth keeping. They can be very useful in reminding you of the knowledge-wisdom you have gained instead of allowing your mind to be always occupied by mundane thoughts. This kind of image is not merely a material object but a reminder of knowledge-wisdom. It gives you teachings without words. When you look at an image of the Buddha sitting in the meditation posture you feel something, don’t you? It automatically gives you some control. That’s why we have this kind of art, not because we somehow believe that this is really God or Buddha. It gives off a positive vibration.

Also, when you get back home, check up on how you have decorated the place you live. This can give you a clue as to your psychology, what interests your mind, what kind of mind you have. Anyway, what’s best is to keep the inside of your house very clean, clear and simple instead of cluttering it with all kinds of garbage. When everything in your house is clean, clear and orderly, your mind becomes simple, clean and clear. Don’t keep all kinds of mixed up things, many pictures, crazy stuff around. Look at the art of people who are psychologically disturbed. Everything they draw is so complicated and disordered. So don’t make your environment like that; your mind is conditioned - you haven’t yet reached beyond conditions.

Art can sometimes be useful. Religious art explains things beyond words. Even shopkeepers understand this kind of psychology, as you can see from their window displays.

I think that’s all I can say. Thank you so much for everything. Now we’re going to dedicate the merit we’ve created during this seminar to the benefit of all sentient beings, to lead them into enlightenment, the everlastingly joyful state of consciousness.

Ge wa di yi nyur du dag
Lama sang gyä drub gyur nä
Dro wa chig kyang ma lü pa
De yi sa la gö par shog

Thank you again. Perhaps I’ll say one more thing. Sometimes young people take teachings from a lama then go back home and push their ideas onto their parents and friends, agitating them. You shouldn’t do that.

The things you’ve learned here are for your own liberation, not to push onto other people. We don’t believe in pushing our ideas onto people, trying to convert them to Buddhism. That’s not right. Don’t push your parents or friends; just live naturally. Just put what you’ve learned into action as much as you can. Don’t push your ideas onto others.

If you live the teachings, those close to you will get a good vibration from you, through your actions. Some young people get all excited, “Oh, now I’ve found something really special,” and lay their trip onto others. Don’t push that way. Also, don’t accost strangers in the street and say, “Come with me, I’ll show you the path to liberation.” That doesn’t work either. Be realistic; be natural. Of course, if somebody approaches you with questions, at that time you can answer to the best of your ability. But if people don’t ask, don’t push - that’s not the characteristic nature of Buddhism. Act as much as possible; that’s the way to gain realizations.

So thank you again for everything and we’ll see you again soon - in the sky!

Notes
13 DHIH is the seed syllable of Manjushri. It is often recited repeatedly, either alone or after a repetition of the mantra OM AH RA PA TSA NA, in order to benefit the speech in the ways Lama mentions below. [Return to text]