Teachings on the Heart Sutra

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Tara Institute, Melbourne, Australia (Archive #1178)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaches on emptiness, compassion, guru devotion and other topics, in this two-day seminar at Tara Institute in Melbourne, Australia, March 18-19, 2000. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

You can view excerpts from the teachings on our YouTube channel in a series of 22 videos, commencing with Rinpoche Surveys the Scene.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.
You Have Time to Get It Done

I will do the oral transmission of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga along with the lam-rim prayer [Foundation of All Good Qualities] for those who haven’t received these. To do the preliminary practices, one of these is the guru yoga. Guru yoga is one of the preliminary practices, a very important preliminary practice.

In our daily life practice we definitely need guru yoga practice in order to receive the blessings of the guru. We need to develop the devotion to receive the blessings of the guru, so it's for that and so that we can receive realizations of the path to enlightenment, and so that we can transform or change the mind, otherwise it doesn’t happen.

Even those who haven’t receive a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation can do this guru yoga practice, by leaving out that part of the meditation practice, the Highest Yoga Tantra practice. By leaving out that part of the meditation we can practice the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, and, for example, Guru Puja, we can practice [without doing] those secret meditations which are Highest Yoga Tantra practice. Without receiving the Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, we can do the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice, without adding those Highest Yoga Tantra meditations.

Something like this short guru yoga practice should be, generally, unless we are doing other forms of guru yoga practice, such as Guru Puja or others, but otherwise something like this should be our daily life practice, one guru yoga practice. Then along with that, after that, we must read the lam-rim prayer mindfully so that it becomes direct meditation. Reading straight but mindfully plants the seed of the whole path to enlightenment, all the realizations of the lam-rim. That means each day when we do this prayer, we become closer to realization of the lam-rim. And as we become closer to the realizations of lam-rim, we become closer to enlightenment each day and that means we become closer to liberating sentient beings from all the suffering and its causes, and bringing them to enlightenment. So each day we become closer to bringing the sentient beings to enlightenment by reading this lam-rim [prayer] each day.

Of course, if we do different lam-rim prayers in one day, each time we do the lam-rim prayer, of course, as many times as we read it in one day, that much we become closer to enlightenment and to enlighten other sentient beings.

Something like this is the minimum if we want to develop our mind in the path to enlightenment.

You want to develop in the spiritual path, then minimum practice, at least, one guru yoga like this, something like this, something short one then lam-rim prayer. One should do the direct meditation, reading the prayer mindfully. Then, something like this to make preparation the mind for realizations, to plant the seed. So that’s the minimum practice, at least what one should do daily.

So therefore, I’m going to do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga and this prayer.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga.]

So, maybe I recite in Tibetan the lam-rim prayer.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of Foundation of All Good Qualities, then completes Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga.]

The other one is the Thirty-five Buddhas’ prayer, reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names. The first one is Shakyamuni Buddha’s name, which has the power to purify eighty thousand eons of negative karma. Reciting the name once has the power to purify eighty thousand eons of negative karma. The rest of the buddhas manifested to purify the different negative karmas, and by reciting each name it purifies many eons of negative karma. For example there’s de zhin sheg pa me tog päl la chhag tshäl lo. By reciting this it has the power to purify one hundred thousand eons of negative karma.

Also, for this Buddha’s name there’s a mantra, and by recitingthis twenty-one times on a flower and then offering the flower to the stupa, all our wishes get fulfilled. That comes with this Buddha’s mantra, this Buddha’s name, de zhin sheg pa me tog päl la chhag tshäl lo. This is one of the Buddha’s names, here in the Thirty-five Buddhas practice.

It is unbelievably powerful reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names, this confession, confessing the downfalls.

Even to realize emptiness, to understand the teachings on emptiness and to realize that, what makes it difficult to feel and to realize, to understand—even intellectually to understand and to feel, the next thing is to feel, to actually experience, to feel and to have realization—so what blocks that is the defilements, the negative karma. Therefore, it’s very important to purify the negative karma and defilements, and this Thirty-five Buddhas practice is what Lama Tsongkhapa did, with prostrations, many hundred thousands of prostrations, prostrations with recitation of the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names.

One day a question came in my mind. Why in Lama Tsongkhapa’s life story are there only the Thirty-five Buddhas and no Vajrasattva? There’s no mention, we don’t hear much about Vajrasattva. I asked Denma Lochö Rinpoche, and Rinpoche said, by doing the Thirty-five Buddhas practice one time, reading, reciting this well just one time, doing this practice well, it has the power to purify the five uninterrupted negative karmas—having killed one’s father, mother, or an arhat, having harmed a buddha or caused disunity among the Sangha. Rinpoche said that’s why Lama Tsongkhapa did so many prostrations with this prayer.

And Lama Atisha explained why these Thirty-five Buddhas have so much power, reciting the names, is because when they were bodhisattvas they dedicated to benefit in this way, to purify the different negative karmas of the sentient beings. So they made a prayer, so much prayer, and dedicated. So that’s why. When they became enlightened, they achieved ten powers, so one of the powers is the power of prayers. When they achieved that, then as they dedicated before, made the prayer before, then it happens. So if sentient beings use, recite this name, then they get all the benefit as they made prayer in the past.

So therefore, it is unbelievable loss if you don’t get to recite this even just one time in a day, it’s much; lost billion or zillions, trillions of dollars is nothing, that’s nothing, if you don’t get to recite this Thirty-five Buddhas, even just the names once, even just one time, not repeating over but even just reciting each name just once, because it purifies so many eons of negative karma. This is the best way of take care of your life, health and long life, everything, by doing the practice of purification. Obstacles come from negative karma. So therefore, the ultimate solution is, ultimate solution is Dharma, purification.

The other solution is abstaining from those negative karmas and living in the vows, abstaining from those other negative karmas, not commit again the same negative karma. So that is Dharma practice, so that is one solution. What was already done, purify, so that’s Dharma. That is the ultimate solution to solve the problems, especially to have realization, enlightenment. So purification is one [solution]. Dharma practice, purification, which is Dharma practice is one solution, very important solution. The other one is to not commit again the obstacles, the negative karma. So that is also Dharma practice, such as living in the vows, abstaining from, to make sure to do that and then by living in the vows, such as the lay vows and then the higher ordination, then there’s the bodhisattva, tantra [vows], like that. So, however, to achieve enlightenment and—bodhisattva vows to achieve enlightenment, tantric vows to achieve enlightenment quickly, so like that. So such as the Thirty-five Buddhas’ practice is one answer for all the problems of life, which means to purify the cause of the problems.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of Thirty-five Buddhas’ practice.]

Then, the seven Medicine Buddhas. Then, by reciting the Medicine Buddhas’ name then all your prayers, whatever you pray normally they succeed, so it’s very, very important, very powerful also for purification. Medicine Buddha practice is very powerful purification if you broke vows, if you degenerated vows, then those negative karmas, Medicine Buddha practice is very powerful, and especially specific one is to bring all, whatever you normally pray, to bring success. And whatever Medicine Buddha made the prayer for us sentient beings, we receive that.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of names of Medicine Buddhas.]

The general confession.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of the General Confession.]

The last oral transmission is the oral transmission of the Vajrasattva mantra.

The particular benefit of Vajrasattva is [to purify] our negative karma. For example, if we have killed one tiny insect today, then before going to bed if we do not purify, it becomes double the next day, and it becomes triple on the third day, like that. After fifteen days it becomes the same heavy karma as having killed one human being. Even if we don’t have a story of having killed a human being, that small negative karma, by multiplying day by day, after fifteen days it becomes the same heavy negative karma as having killed one human being. After eighteen days it becomes the same, it becomes very heavy karma, [it increases to] 131,072, that much negative karma it increases to after eighteen days. It’s mentioned by Pabongka, the great enlightened being.

So therefore, if one recites even only twenty-one times the long one or the short one, which has four syllables, only twenty-eight times, it has power to stop increasing the negative karma the next day. So that means there are many negative karmas collected in one day with the body, speech and mind, so many. So then each of those becomes so heavy after fifteen days and as day and week goes, becomes so heavy. Each negative karma by multiplying, so therefore if one recites the Vajrasattva mantra before going to bed, either twenty-eight times the short one, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM, or the long one twenty-one times, whichever way one recite, whichever one chooses, whichever version of the mantra.

So not only it stops multiplying today’s negative karma tomorrow, but it purifies today’s negative karma. Not only that, it purifies this life negative karma, created in this life, from the birth. Not only that, it purifies the past life negative karmas. So therefore, it is extremely powerful, at least that many number to recite before going to bed, so that makes much easy, negative karmas become much thinner. Even just with this Vajrasattva practice so that makes death, when you die, much easier, lighter, the negative karma becomes much lighter. Even it’s not completely purified but becomes lighter, much thinner, so therefore, when the time of death happens, less fear, less fear, worry and less terrifying karmic appearances in that time, visions, terrifying visions, karmic appearances, however, makes easier death. And not only that, then to be able to go to pure land of Buddha and then that makes possible without, by purifying negative karma there’s no obstacle so that makes chance, that gives chance to be reborn in a pure land, in the higher realm, deva, human realm, good rebirth next lives. So like that.

[Rinpoche gives oral transmission of Vajrasattva mantras.]

Somebody who doesn’t know what to do—many [people] have practices in the life, commitments and many practices, but somebody who has no clear idea of what to practice; if they want to do some practice in the daily life but don’t know what to practice, what to do, my suggestion is that, something very simple.

So first thing in the morning rejoice that so far we didn’t die, that we didn’t die, rejoice. Then after that, by remembering all those people who died, family members, then if there are gurus who passed away, remember those and family members who have passed away, friends who have died. Anyway, rejoice that we did not die so far. And again today we are able to be a human being, and not only that but we have a perfect human rebirth, so that we can achieve the three great meanings, more precious than the whole sky filled with the wish-granting jewels. All those are nothing compared with our precious human body, with which we can achieve three great meanings in every second, whatever we wish for. Even in every minute, we can achieve all that, because we can create the cause.

So rejoice, then think death can happen any minute. Death can happen any [time], death can happen even today, any minute it can happen, any moment death can happen. Either make complete determination, thinking that we are going to die today, that’s the best, however, think it can happen any day, even today, in any minute it can happen. Then make strong determination of what we should do with our life. Then on the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend, that’s how to practice Dharma. The most profitable way to practice Dharma is correctly devoting to the virtuous friend. That’s how to make our practice most successful.

On the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend then at least leave the imprint as much as possible.

So on the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend, at least leave imprints as much as possible. At least leave imprints as much as possible, by listening, reflecting, meditation, and studying. Then make strong determination to not follow the ego, to not allow yourself to be under the control of ego from now on, particularly up to the death. And then today, even each minute, each second, to never separate away from bodhicitta from now on, especially until death time, especially today, even for one second, think, “I won’t separate away from bodhicitta.” Make a very strong determination, like that. That’s the attitude of the life, which means we’re going to live the life for others. That’s what it means, we’re going to live the life for others, not for ourselves, for others.

Then, something like that—simple, short, motivate how to begin your day, begin with bodhicitta. Remember impermanence and death and bodhicitta. On the basis of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend, by remembering that, how to practice Dharma.

There are other explanations of how to practice Dharma but this one is very important. Whether you’re going to have success or not depends on this. Whether you’re going to fail in your Dharma practice; whether you’re going to fail or whether you’re going to have success depends on this. So this is important to remember when you begin, when you plan your life, it has to be based on this.

Then, if you want to elaborate, you can meditate on , when you recite from Guru Puja, the section where it says, “this chronic disease, the self-cherishing thought.” This chronic disease, that one, opening the door for all the sufferings, [I will not] harbor it,  and will destroy it. That stanza, about cherishing the I, and the next stanza, how the thought of seeking happiness for others is opening the door for all the happiness, that stanza. [Guru Puja, v. 91-92.1] So you can meditate and elaborate, when you recite this. You can elaborate in your meditation, on the shortcomings of cherishing the I and the benefits of cherishing others, how other sentient beings are so precious and so kind. If you want to, you can elaborate, and then you can do tong-len, but during this time you can recite OM MANI PADME HUM so your commitment also gets done while you’re doing the motivation for your life, if you have commitments.

However, OM MANI PADME HUM is very [important.] That’s another one that is very important. We must recite OM MANI PADME HUM if we have a mouth. If we don’t have a mouth then it’s okay, but if we have a mouth then we must recite OM MANI PADME HUM. That is to develop compassion for all living beings. That’s the minimum practice, OM MANI PADME HUM. Because every time we recite this, there are benefits like the limitless sky. We get limitless skies of benefit each time we recite OM MANI PADME HUM. Even if we don’t know, even if we’re not aware of all the karma, of all the benefits of it, even if we don’t see that.

At the end, as I did the motivation this time, then after we meditate on how the sentient beings are so precious, so kind, then make the conclusion that in our life there’s nothing to do, nothing to work for or cherish other than sentient beings, to free them from all the suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, we need to achieve enlightenment. Then we dedicate that; after we have the thought to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, then think, “Therefore I’m going to do all my activities from now on—all the virtuous actions, which are practices, those particular practices, and all the actions, such as eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, doing my job, everything.” So this becomes the attitude of our life. This is the motivation, the cause, so that doing our job and everything else becomes virtue, Dharma, the cause of enlightenment.

Then, there is washing yoga. So there can be three ways of doing this. There is the Hinayana way of doing the washing yoga and the Paramita, the Mahayana way of washing yoga, and the tantra way of doing the yoga, the practice of washing. The Hinayana way of washing the body is for health and the purpose is to practice Dharma. The Paramitayana way is with the attitude to benefit others, to serve others, so for that we need to be healthy, therefore we are washing our body. So our main attitude is to serve others, to benefit others. Whether it’s to have a clear mind to practice Dharma, to meditate, however, the main thing is to benefit others.

On the basis of that motivation then in tantra it has advanced the visualization, so we see ourselves as the deity. There’s also outer washing, inner washing and secret washing, or either the outer washing, inner washing. In tantra we stop ordinary appearance, we stop the ordinary appearance and concepts, and then we make everything pure, the deity, the mandala, everything. Then the inner washing or the outer, where the goddesses are initiating us, then there’s also secret washing, like that.

However, as we motivated with bodhicitta in the morning when we woke up, so again here remember, before washing, make sure the washing becomes for others. Even if we don’t practice tantra, those more highly skilled meditation techniques of washing, even if we don’t do that, the first thing is to make sure of the bodhicitta, that the washing is for others. Make sure of that. So being clean and healthy in order to make offerings. His Holiness Zong Rinpoche explained how to make offerings at the altar, for example, washing the mouth, so when we make offerings at the altar there’s no bad breath or polluting. That’s what His Holiness Zong Rinpoche said. However, make sure of bodhicitta, that the washing is for others, the yoga of washing. So by having a healthy, clear mind, then to meditate or also to serve others, like that.

If you recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM or the Medicine Buddha [mantra] or any of those powerful purifying mantras that you know, you can recite them on the water. If you have paralysis, if you have a kind of problem of paralysis, then there are different mantras to recite to bless the water and to heal the paralysis. However, there are two different deities. Or if you feel polluted, if your mind is not clear, things like that. However, the general thing is that you recite these powerful mantras, like Mitukpa mantras and so forth, then you blow over the water, in the bathtub water or in the basin, whatever, you recite those mantras and blow [on the water], then it has the power to purify your mind. So here you’re not only washing, but washing also becomes purifying for your mind. It becomes purification by reciting the mantras and blowing on the water. So it becomes very meaningful.

Then the prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas. Either after setting up the offerings, after setting up, performing the offerings—you do prostrations either before that or after that.

Make sure whenever you put offerings on the altar to recite OM AH HUM. Make sure when you offer incense, light, flowers, food, anything, as soon as you put those on the altar, recite OM AH HUM to bless the offerings. Without that, those different spirits who are abiding with the different offerings occupy your mind and harm you. They damage your mental continuum or cause disturbances. There are different problems due to spirit possessions abiding in the different offerings. For example, flowers, when you put the flowers on the altar you must recite OM AH HUM and if possible, the interfererers, the spirits, the [possessors], are dispelled away. If you recite OM AH HUM and think they’re dispelled away, then it’s good. That’s why in tantric practice always before [offering, you do the] blessing. Even before you offer, you bless, before you generate pure offering, before you offer. Before you generate a pure offering do the blessing, then you purify the ordinary offering. Before that you dispel these spirit possessions. So it always begins with dispelling the spirit possessions in the tantra practice, always. The reason is that.

When you offer a flower if you don’t bless with OM AH HUM, if you offer a flower to the holy object then the spirit possession, I don’t remember the name, it occupies your mind, your mental continuum, then that causes so much attachment, unbelievably strong desire and that overwhelms your mind, your life. Then you cannot do meditation, you cannot practice and then it destroys—you engage in the negative karma, however, then it interrupts your practice. So things like that. So that is very important, because otherwise it causes obstacles to your life, to your practice and to your mind.

So then after that, sitting meditation. Sitting meditation. If one doesn’t have time in the house to do sitting meditation, since, if one, always one has to drive a car, go to work, so can do the prayers in the car by maybe recording the tape, make a tape and then you put in the car, so you do together while you’re driving the car you can do your prayers. So this way it gets done, rather wasting time by listening to music or some, or gossiping or something. So, since there’s many hours to drive every day so it’s very good opportunity to use, to listen to teachings, while you’re driving a car you can put tapes of Dharma teachings or prayers or teachings in the car, then you recite together or listen or recite together, however. So even can do the sadhanas of prayers like that, if it’s suitable there in the car. If it’s convenient to do in the car, also can be done like that.

Then after that sitting meditation, so the guru yoga, must do one guru yoga. Then, so those who haven’t received initiation, received great initiation then Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, unless you do guru yoga with other deities. There’s also Guru Shakyamuni Buddha guru yoga, which I put together. That is for the people, after they did a course, like Kopan or something like that, then they want to continue meditation, they want to practice meditation everyday life, when they go back to the West. So this is also for that. Then somebody who want to do meditation everyday life and doesn’t know what to do then this book is for that, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, something in general, not specific some related with a deity or tantric deity.

So, guru yoga and the lam-rim prayer combined. So that is the minimum practice, the very last, the last thing what one, if you wish, if you wish to develop the mind in the spiritual path, lam-rim, I mean, to achieve enlightenment and benefit, to enlighten sentient beings, then should do some most profitable practices like this, that which helps to have realization of lam-rim.

If there’s time, if you have time, if you’re not familiar with the lam-rim then read some pages from the lam-rim—whatever, one page, two pages or even a few lines, whatever, relating to your own mind so it becomes a meditation. If you are not familiar with lam-rim from beginning to the end, this is to become familiar with it. The next day or the same day in the evening, or the next day, read the next part of the subject. So like that do one, two or three times. Finish the whole lam-rim then come back and again do the same thing, one or two or three times.

After you have done this one time, anyway, on the basis of these daily practices then you can meditate—whether it’s ten minutes or fifteen minutes or half an hour, whatever—on guru devotion, based on those outlines. Do this—no matter how many months or years it takes— until you have realization of guru devotion, that one guru is all the buddhas, is oneness with all the buddhas, and the buddhas are oneness with the guru. All the buddhas are guru and the gurus are all the buddhas. You feel this from your heart naturally; you feel like this not just for a few hours or one day, but for weeks, months, stable, then you have the realization. So until the stable realization like this happens, you have to continue meditation on guru devotion, whatever length of time you can do.

Then another [time] or on the same day, in the evening time or whenever, if you can, on top of that then impermanence and death, from perfect human rebirth up to karma, especially impermanence and death. The more you think of that, then it helps to have realization of the perfect human rebirth, its usefulness, the difficulty [in finding it] and all those other things, as well as karma. It helps to have realization of all those other meditations in that section, if you think more about the death, impermanence and death meditation.

If you are still able to manage, then on the basis of guru devotion, train the mind in this, in the graduated path of the lower capable being. Then no matter how long it takes, however many months or years it takes, your mind is totally switched into that instead of seeking the happiness of this life—before, seeking the happiness of this life became the most important thing, but now you have totally changed your mind from that into the most important thing, the happiness of future lives. Or it could be, if your mind is more advanced, it could be the happiness of others.

However, the main thing is having no attraction, no interest, no attachment clinging to the happiness of this life. You have the understanding that this life is very short and this appearance can be stopped at any time. The appearance of this life can be stopped at any time, so you have this understanding. Therefore, there is no attachment arising to this life. Even if somebody criticizes you, it doesn’t disturb your mind; if somebody praises you, it doesn’t affect to your mind, it doesn’t cause attachment. So those two—if somebody criticizes you or somebody praises you—are equalized in your mind. That is the best definition of the realization of renunciation of this life, when the mind is in that state, like that. That’s the best quality of the realization of renunciation of this life.

Then next, as Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the three principal aspects of the path, meditate on samsara, —how it is in the nature of suffering—and the cause of samsara, the delusions, also the evolution of samsara, the twelve links, all that, the particular sufferings of each realm and the general sufferings of samsara. You can continue that until you get [the realization] Continue for weeks and months and years, however long it takes, until you get the realization, seeing the whole entire samsara from the hell realms up to the formless realm, the tip of samsara—the human realm, the desire realm, the form realm, the formless realm, even the highest formless realm, the tip of samsara—are totally only in the nature of suffering. They are only in the nature of suffering, like a prison.

Everything is like a prison; all the suffering of the human realm, the desire realm, the form and formless realm, everything is a prison. So we have not one single attachment to be in prison. The prisoner doesn’t have one single attachment to the prison, like that. We don’t have one single attachment to be in prison, so like that, the same. Not one single attraction, not even for a second, not one single attraction we find. It’s like being in the center of the fire, so having total aversion and seeking liberation, wanting to be free from this day and night, day and night, continuously, all the time, spontaneously arising. So when this happens, for weeks and months, stable, then we have the realization of renunciation of samsara.

How the mother feels about her beloved child, when her child is born, if the child falls and is drowning in the river or the ocean, or falls in the fire, in the hole of the fire. The mother feels it is so unbearable and she wants to go there herself and bring the child out of the fire or [save the child from] being drowned. The mother has to go there and get the child out. This unbearable compassion is naturally arising, without any effort. Whatever she does—eating, talking, whatever she does—this thought is spontaneously arising all the time. So like that, if we have that thought toward all sentient beings then we have great compassion, to free the sentient beings from all the sufferings by ourselves.

Similarly, on the basis of this great compassion the thought arises, the spontaneously arising thought, to achieve enlightenment. Like the mother [feeling] so strongly to go there to pick up the child; in order to pick up the child, to go into the fire, to go into the ocean or to go into the fire herself. So similar like that, to achieve enlightenment in order to liberate the sentient beings, to bring them to enlightenment. Day and night, all the time naturally, spontaneously arising, to achieve enlightenment. Whenever we see sentient beings we get the thought to achieve enlightenment, that is the realization of bodhicitta.

The unmistaken realization of emptiness, the completion of that, is that we’re able to see one phenomena as empty, that we have realized empty, unified with the dependent arising. For example, the I is empty, but while it’s empty it is existing, it is dependent arising. While it is existing, it is empty.

“Form is empty, emptiness is form” so that shows the unification of emptiness and dependent arising on the form. What is form? Form is merely imputed by the mind. The form, that which appears not merely labeled by mind, from its own side, not merely labeled by mind, so that one is totally empty, nonexistent there. It’s totally empty, nonexistent there. From where it’s appearing it is totally nonexistent right there, totally empty. While that form is totally empty, it is not nonexistent. It exists in mere name, merely labeled by mind.

These two are, so now here, you see, you get some idea, the form is unified with emptiness and dependent arising. Form is empty, emptiness is form. Form which is empty, that is the form. So you see the form is empty, and by thinking that’s merely labeled by mind then you see the form is empty. Then form, that form you see, that form you see as empty, that is the form, however, that shows emptiness of form is dependent arising. Form is empty, that shows the emptiness, then the emptiness is form, that shows dependent arising. So form is unified emptiness and dependent arising.

Then the last, “there’s no form other than emptiness; there’s no emptiness other than form,” that shows the Middle Way view, devoid of two extremes, nihilism and eternalism. However, when you see one phenomena—whether it’s form or whether it’s I—whatever, you see two things unified, emptiness and dependent arising. Existing, at the same time it’s empty. And while it’s empty, it is existing. So unified, not just together but unified. When you have that realization, then your analysis of emptiness is completed.

Here I want to specify one thing. One student who did a lot of studies for many years thought he had realized emptiness. He also asked two geshes and both of them told him that this is realization of emptiness. So what he was saying is this, you look for table and you cannot find table, You look for table, you cannot find table. I think the labeled table you cannot find anywhere, wherever you point it out, you cannot find it. You see the base but you cannot find the labeled table. So you see this is this, all these, which is the collection of the base, how to say, which is the collection of the parts of the table, which is the collection of the parts which receive the label table. Anyway, through analysis you cannot find the label table, you only see the base.

So he checked with two geshes and both geshes told him this, yeah, that is it, if you cannot find the label, then this is realizing emptiness. Then he believed he had realized emptiness.

After realizing emptiness, when the table appears, I heard it takes time, a few days, to see it as a dream or to see the table as illusion; things that you have realized are empty, to see them as illusion. One meditator from whom I took the taking the essence, the pill retreat, said it takes fifteen days to develop the mind into that state. After realizing emptiness it doesn’t happen immediately to see things as illusion. After fifteen days, something like that, by meditating on emptiness then you see things as illusion. It doesn’t happen immediately, according to Gen Jampa Wangdu, who is one of the most successful meditators in Dharamsala, he said that.

However, so you should see, when you see the table you should see like there’s still, a table appears to you inherently existent, but you don’t have the belief, but you have understanding it’s not true, so it’s like a mirage. You have appearance of water but you have no belief, but you have understanding it’s not true. You have appearance of water but you have understanding that there’s no water there. So these two things should be combined. So you have appearance of inherently existent table, because we’re not enlightened yet, still we have subtle imprint, negative imprint which projects the dual view, so when things appear it has to appear that way. But because you have realized emptiness so you understand it’s not true. So this has to happen. So you should see existing and it’s empty at the same time.

So anyway, so here, that’s one thing. So when you realize emptiness, there shouldn’t be anything, not just unable to find the labeled table on the base, not just that. When you see emptiness, anyway, the table, the real table appearing from there not merely labeled by mind, that should be, like how I described about the I, losing the I, the I becomes totally empty right there. You see it’s totally nonexistent right there, where you’re holding onto, right there, you realize, you see just totally nonexistent right there.

Like that, the table that is appearing to you as not merely labeled by mind or inherently existent, should be seen as totally nonexistent, in the view of that wisdom. There is no appearance of conventional truth, nothing, no base, nothing. Just totally empty, totally empty and that should be very intense emptiness. It should be very intensive one, not just emptiness [like] space. There shouldn’t be emptiness like space, like that, empty of substantial phenomena, not that. The merely labeled table or inherently existent table there, so it’s lost. When we see emptiness very intensely, there shouldn’t be any appearance. When we see the I is empty, for that wisdom there’s no discrimination. This is the subject realizing emptiness, this is I realizing, this is emptiness, there’s no such thing. It’s just, there’s no differentiating, no differentiation.

 … just seeing emptiness, during that time, during that experience, there’s no such thing as this and that, there’s no discrimination. So same thing here, table, when we actually meditate on emptiness and see emptiness very intensively, there shouldn’t be any appearance [of] the conventional phenomena. There is only emptiness, ultimate nature. Very intensive, it should be like that. So our realization of emptiness of the table should begin like that, with that experience. Not just because we look for the labeled table and cannot find it, then what we see, we recognize we’re seeing the base but not the labeled table on this. So that wouldn’t be, in my view, according to my view, I wouldn’t think that is the realization of emptiness, that one.

Anyway, the labeled table, to realize emptiness, that wouldn’t be realizing emptiness, that would be what Lama Tsongkhapa said, falling into nihilism, with nothing clear at the end, nothing to point out. So to realize emptiness, the labeled table has to be related with the inherent existence, what doesn’t exist. Because the labeled table exists, so the inherently existent table, so on these pieces put together then, you see, table; on this table existing from its own side, the real table from there so that we have to see as empty, totally empty there. From this base, the real table appearing there, then that one we have to see as totally empty there, very intensive emptiness. If we don’t, what we see empty if it’s not inherent existence then it’s not meditating on emptiness, because what we’re emptying is wrong. We’re emptying something which exists, so that becomes nihilism, if we’re believing that.

Also, the way we analyze is, if we’re merely checking where is the table, the label, then we cannot find it. We check this side, every side we check, everywhere we check, but we cannot find it. After all that, in our view there’s still the inherently existent table. On this base there’s a real table appearing, even though we cannot find the label, the labeled table we cannot find. After all that it’s still in our view, if we look at, how we see the table, there’ll still be a real table on this base, appearing from there. So that means in our meditation nothing touched what we’re supposed to see is empty. What we’re supposed to realize is empty is still there. So then our meditation is wrong. This is what is appearing to us, this one we have to analyze where it is, whether it exists or not, or where it is, then we have to realize empty that one.

The other thing, sometimes we can get the experience that on the aggregates there is I, but I doesn’t exist from above the aggregates. From the side of the base there’s no I. From the side of the base, from the side of the aggregates, from above the aggregates there’s no I. There’s no I from there, but there’s I on the aggregates. There’s no I on the aggregates, on the base, the aggregates, there’s no I from there, no I at all from there, but there’s I on the aggregates, but so ?forcefully, under the control of name, so ?forcefully that there’s I existing on the aggregates, but not from there, not from above the aggregates. So there also this kind of experience can happen.

His Holiness mentioned that it’s an understanding of emptiness, but then Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche mentioned that it is the understanding of not the Prasangika school view of emptiness, but it’s the understanding of the emptiness of, I think, Svatantrika, the Madhyamaka school, Svatantrika, so it is that school’s way of seeing emptiness. So not the Prasangika school view of understanding emptiness. There, I think because on the aggregates there is I; there is definite I on the aggregates. Not from there, but on the aggregates. I guess if it’s from there, what the Svatantrika school negates, that will be appearing. So particularly, completely existing from its own side, that one.

So here, [the I is] existing on the aggregates, it’s definitely existing on the aggregates but ?forcefully under the control of name, under the control of name, something we can’t reject. I think this must be mistaken according to Prasangika school’s view. Saying that there’s I on the aggregates, even that is still mistaken according to the Prasangika school view, I think.

The difference between Svatantrika and Prasangika school is this—the [Svatantrika] school says we can find it, there’s a table or there’s I on the aggregates, and the Prasangika school says there’s no I on the aggregates, we cannot find it, and if we can find I on the aggregates then it should be inherently existent. But the Svatantrika school say that there’s I on the aggregates. The I, even though I is labeled by mind, but I should exist from its own side, should have inherent [existence], should exist from its own side. They don’t say truly existing, but it should exist from its own side. So they have their own connotation; they don’t use the word truly, inherently existent. Like Prasangika, all those terms are the same, but in the Svatantrika school, the Madhyamaka school, they should exist, I should exist from its own side, existing by nature but not inherently existent. With their connotation of inherently existent, without depending on the undefective mind, the valid mind labeling, without that mind labelling, then completely existing from its own side, so inherently existent, so they interpret that way.

There are, I think, I guess there are differences like that, between the Svatantrika school and the Prasangika school. According to Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche that’s the previous other school view, their emptiness seeing this; this is not Prasangika school [view], I think. [The Savatantrika school] sees it is existing on the base, very forcefully, even though you don’t see it from there. Anyway, just to give some ideas, to help when you, in case you have these experiences. Yeah, so I think, now it’s time to go to bed.  [Group laughter]

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may bodhicitta be generated within my own mind and in the mind of all the sentient beings. That which is generated, may it be increased.

Jang chhub sem chhog....

Due to all the three-time merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all the sentient beings, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness, may the three lower realms beings be empty forever, may all the bodhisattvas’ prayers succeed immediately, and may I be able to cause all this to happen by myself alone.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three-time merits collected by buddhas, bodhisattvas and all the sentient beings, may the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and all the virtuous friends have a stable life and may all their holy wishes succeed immediately.

And dedicate for Lama Ösel Rinpoche to have a stable life and to be able to show the same qualities as Lama Tsongkhapa and be able to offer limitless skies of benefits toward all sentient beings like Lama Tsongkhapa.

Gang ri ra wäi ....

Päl dän la mäi ....

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three-time merits collected by buddhas, bodhisattvas and all the sentient beings, may that which is totally nonexistent from its own side, which exists but is totally nonexistent from its own side, may the I, who exists but is totally nonexistent from its own side, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which exists but is totally nonexistent from its own side, and lead all the sentient beings, who exist but are totally nonexistent from their own side, to that enlightenment, which exists but is totally nonexistent from its own side, by myself alone, who exists but is totally nonexistent from its own side. I dedicate all the merits to be able to follow the extensive holy deeds of the three-time buddhas and bodhisattvas, the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra and Manjugosha, Ksitigarbha and so forth.

And the three-time buddhas, I dedicate the merits in the way that they admire the most.

[Rinpoche recites the previous two dedications in Tibetan.]

Then dedicate all the merits, the three-time merits collected by oneself, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings. May all the students and benefactors in this organization, all those who support the center and all the projects, and those who sacrifice their life doing service for others and for the teachings of the Buddha through this organization, and those who are doing service for me, may all of us and everyone here, may all of us have a long life, to be healthy, and may all our wishes succeed immediately according to the holy Dharma and may we be able to actualize the steps of the path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta and clear light, in this very lifetime, within all of us without delaying even a second.

Numberless beings who are suffering in the lower realms, those whose names are given to me, whom I promised to pray for, those who rely upon me and those who have died, may all those beings immediately be born in a pure land where they can become enlightened or receive a perfect human body in all their future lifetimes, and achieve enlightenment quickly by meeting the perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and Mahayana teachings.

Due to all the three-time merits collected by me, by others, by all other living beings, may Tara House meditation center be most beneficial toward all the sentient beings, be able to spread complete teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa in the mind of all the sentient beings, by receiving all the needs. As well, may all the other meditation centers be able to lead the sentient beings to enlightenment as quickly as possible. May all the projects here at Tara House and all the projects in this organization—the five-hundred-foot Maitreya Buddha statue and all the projects of building temples, holy objects, stupas and so forth—may they succeed immediately by receiving all the needs.

May all these projects and centers cause the generation of bodhicitta in the mind of all the sentient beings and may nobody experience war, famine, disease, torture, poverty, earthquake, the dangers of fire, water, earth, all those airplane crashes, car accidents, all the problems, may they never experience those. And may all these centers’ projects, all these holy objects, all the projects, cause sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. May anybody who comes to the center, including the insects or spirits, anybody who comes, who steps on the land, on the place of the center, immediately get purified of all their negative karmas and never ever be reborn in the lower realms from this time, and may they immediately be able to actualize bodhicitta and achieve the realizations of the path to enlightenment quickly.

[Lama Tsongkhapa dedication prayers]

I left [out] three things before, so with the thought of benefiting others, make sure to generate bodhicitta before you go to work, to your job, with thought of benefiting others, before you go to your job. Then even at the job, from time to time remember that. Then before going to sleep, before eating, when you do those different activities, make sure of the most important thing—to generate bodhicitta, the thought of benefiting others. For example, sleeping, to practice Dharma, to offer service for other sentient beings, the body needs to be healthy, having a long and healthy [life], so for that purpose then going to sleep. However, the attitude before going to sleep is the thought of benefiting others, bodhicitta motivation.

Always try to remember or make sure to not miss out before doing these activities, before eating or drinking, before a meal, whatever activities you do. So in this way then everything becomes a cause of enlightenment and Dharma, the best Dharma. This makes life most meaningful and you are always collecting extensive inconceivable merit, good karma.

I think that’s it, just to conclude, something simplified, anyway, how to practice in daily life, at least the very basic things that one should do.

I spoke about the essence of the Heart Sutra, but I didn’t go over the words. I’m sure many lamas will do that, they will explain. Anyway, I didn’t succeed. Even if I went through it, I think it will be like walking in the darkness, a Heart Sutra walk in the darkness. Anyway, its some words, the very essential points, some words, yesterday and today, the very essential points. I’m sure there are mistakes, so leave the mistakes and practice the correct ones.

I think that’s all. So thank you very much. Thank you very much.

[Long mandala]

For the statue, for the big statue, for the gigantic statue. This is for the big, gigantic statue.

[End of Discourse]


1  Guru Puja (Lama Chöpa), v.91-92:

This chronic disease of cherishing myself
Is the cause giving rise to my unsought suffering
Perceiving this, I seek your blessings to blame, begrudge,
And destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.

The mind that cherishes mothers and places them in bliss
Is the gateway leading to infinite qualities.
Seeing this, I seek your blessings to cherish migratory beings
More than my life, even should they rise up as my enemies.
[Return to text]