E-letter No. 79: December 2009

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Bodhgaya, India 2006 (Archive #1588)

Dear LYWA friends and supporters, 

Thank you for your interest in the Archive and your generous contributions, which allow us to do what we do, especially publish books for free distribution: there are now over 500,000 in print! Thank you so much! 

Books in the New Year
\"Our next free book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Kadampa Teachings, is being printed right now and will be available next month. As usual, it will be sent with our gratitude to all Members and Benefactors. If you are not a Member or Benefactor, please consider becoming one; make your donation before January 5th 2010 and you'll receive this book later in the month.

Wisdom Publications are also publishing a new book by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Wholesome Fear, which we will be sending automatically to all our Members free of charge along with Kadampa Teachings. If you are not an LYWA member you can buy it directly from Wisdom Publications. If you become a Member by January 5th we will send you a copy.

Also, due to the generosity of our supporters, we are reprinting Geshe Jampa Tegchok's The Kindness of Others. We won't be sending this out automatically, so if you'd like a copy you can order it from our website in January.

Supporting the Dharma for the Benefit of All
And we especially would like to thank all of you who have contributed to our year-end appeal. We have received $35,000 of the $50,000 we are trying to reach. See here for more details of this appeal. If you have not yet contributed, I urge you to make a donation right now to ensure that we have the funds we need to keep bringing you and all beings the Dharma teachings that we do, in print and on line.

Thank you again. We have several more great books coming out next year so please stay in touch.

New Online Developments
Listen online to teachings on the nyung-nä practice given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taiwan in 2007. The series includes an oral transmission of the nyung-nä text and the long Chenrezig mantra. As usual, you can read along with the unedited transcripts.

We have posted an edited version of the Mahamudra Teachings and Medicine Buddha Teachings that Rinpoche gave in Crestone CO in June 2008. Previously we had posted the audio and unedited transcripts, which you can also access here

Other News
Our friends at Vajrapani Institute are building a stupa on the site where Lama Yeshe was cremated in 1984. Read all about it here.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, we leave you with an excerpt from our new book Kadampa Teachings

Much love,
\"
Nick Ribush
Director
 

The Shortcomings of Samsara

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Bodhgaya, India, 1982. Photographer: Ina Van Delden.The more we reflect and meditate on these subjects [perfect human rebirth, impermanence, death and karma], the more we feel that the whole of samsara is unbearable. Besides the desire realm, even the form and formless realms are only suffering in nature. The whole of samsara is only suffering in nature. The thought of having to reincarnate again in any of these realms is most disgusting, most terrifying, like jumping into a septic tank. You don’t want to jump into a septic tank, where there are all those smelly, interesting things. You also don’t want to jump into the center of a red-hot fire or into a nest of poisonous snakes. It would be terrifying to do that. You don’t want that for even a moment. Because you know very clearly all the danger, unpleasantness and suffering you would experience, you don’t have the slightest attraction to being in the middle of a septic tank, a fire or a nest of poisonous snakes.

This is true even for the deva realms within the desire, form and formless realms. In the desire realm there’s the suffering of pain, the suffering of change (which means samsaric pleasures) and pervasive compounding suffering, aggregates under the control of karma and delusion. One meaning of pervasive is that the aggregates are the production of the impure cause, karma and delusion, and because of that, it is natural that they are pervaded by suffering. Also, because the aggregates are under the control of karma and delusion, they are suffering in nature. That’s another meaning of pervasive. They are also contaminated by the seed of delusions, which is another meaning of pervasive. Because the seed of delusion is there, mental and physical problems can arise at any time from it. The seed compounds the suffering of this life and also produces delusion, which then produces karma, leaving a karmic seed on the continuity of the sixth consciousness, the mental consciousness; that karmic seed then produces the future rebirth, the future samsara.

These aggregates are pervasive compounding suffering, compounding the suffering of this life and the suffering of the future life by producing the future rebirth. This is the fundamental suffering of samsara. On the basis of these aggregates, we then experience the suffering of pain, all the sufferings to which even animals have aversion. Even animals don’t want to suffer; they don’t want to experience heat or cold or any other suffering of pain. Temporary samsaric pleasures, which come from pervasive compounding suffering, from these aggregates, are another suffering of samsara: the suffering of change. All three of these sufferings are experienced in the desire realm by humans and desire realm devas.

The devas of the form realm have no suffering of pain, but according to Geshe Sopa Rinpoche, they do have the suffering of change and, of course, pervasive compounding suffering. The aggregates of the devas in the form realm are under the control of karma and delusion and, of course, suffering in nature, and also contaminated by the seed of delusions.

The devas of the formless realm, though they don’t have the other two sufferings, do have pervasive compounding suffering. That is the nature of their aggregates. Also, when their karma to be in the formless realm finishes, they have to reincarnate from there in the hell, hungry ghost, animal or some other realm.

We have been devas of the desire, form and formless realms numberless times in the past. Even those higher samsaric realms are not a new experience. However, all of those realms are disgusting. We human beings in the desire realm think that the sense pleasures of the desire realm are great and real happiness, because we can’t see that they are suffering in nature; but the beings of the form realm see desire realm pleasures as totally disgusting and only suffering in nature.

Through the six contemplations, or analyses, you move from the desire realm to the form realm. With the first contemplation, analysis of individual characteristics, you look at the desire realm as only suffering in nature. You examine all the sense pleasures of the human desire realm—sleep, sex, food and so forth—and discover that they are only suffering in nature, as they are only suffering. You then compare the desire realm to the form realm, where there is a very long life with more peace and happiness. Through analysis you discover that our realm, the human realm, and all human pleasures are only suffering in nature. You look at the form realm as a better realm, and your attachment then seeks that. However, you first have to achieve shamatha, or calm abiding. That is the foundation. With that as the preliminary, you then achieve the first of the four levels of absorption.**

When you are born in the form realm, you see the desire realm of human beings as disgusting. No matter how great we think our pleasures are, those who are on the first level of absorption in the form realm see them as completely disgusting. They don’t have any attraction to those pleasures for even a moment. All the pleasures that we think are so great, they see as only suffering. It’s similar to the way we see disease and many other problems in our realm. When we think of Africa or some other place with a lot of contagious diseases and many people dying in epidemics and famines, we have no desire to be there for even a day—or even a minute. We’re afraid of getting those diseases. This is how the beings in the form realm see even the human beings who have great wealth and pleasure. Here we’re not talking about how they see arya beings or meditators who have entered the path and have renunciation of the whole of samsara. We’re just talking about how the gods of the form realm see what we human beings believe to be great pleasure. They see it as totally disgusting and only so much suffering. They’re not attracted to it at all.

The devas of the form realm go through all six contemplations. The second is contemplation arisen from belief. With the next, contemplation of isolation, they start to remove the gross delusions; they are actually removing the visible ones, not the imprints, or seeds. To remove imprints one needs the direct perception of emptiness and that, of course, depends on having renunciation of the whole of samsara, which devas of the form realm don’t have.

After that, because they have removed the visible delusions, sometimes they feel happy and sometimes depressed. They then move though the contemplation of joy or withdrawal, during which they remove the three middling delusions. The fifth is contemplation of analysis. With the sixth, contemplation of final application, they remove the three subtle delusions. But these are all visible delusions.

It is by going through these six contemplations that you go from the desire realm to the form realm. From there, you go through the four levels of absorption. When you are on the first level, you compare it to the second level and find that the second one is a better state, with a longer life and more peace than the first. When you analyze, you find that the first absorption has more suffering. You then go through the six contemplations and reach the second absorption. You again do analysis and find that the second absorption is suffering in nature and that the third absorption has more peace and happiness. You then become attached to and seek the third absorption. After completing the meditation through the six contemplations, you then reach the third absorption. You then go to the fourth absorption in a similar way.

You then become bored with even the inner happiness derived from meditation and seek indifference. You then look at the form realm as suffering in nature and see the formless realm as better. Again you go through the meditation of the six contemplations. After you have achieved the first level of the formless realm, limitless space, you again look at that state as only suffering in nature, which is only suffering in nature, and look at the second level, limitless consciousness, as a better state. With attachment to the second level, you look at it as better and become totally detached from the first one, limitless space. You then go through the meditation, of the six contemplations and reach the second level, limitless consciousness. When you achieve that stage, you again look at it as only suffering in nature and look at the next stage, nothingness, as better. You then seek that stage. You again go through the six contemplations, and achieve the third level, nothingness. When you have reached that stage, you again look at it as suffering in nature and look at the tip of samsara as better, as having more peace. You realize that compared to the tip of samsara, the state of nothingness is only suffering in nature. Through the meditation of the six contemplations, you then achieve the tip of samsara.

Once you have achieved the tip of samsara, there’s no higher samsaric realm with which to compare it to discover that the tip of samsara is only suffering in nature. There is no higher realm to find better, more peaceful. Here you have total detachment to all desire realm pleasures, seeing them as only suffering in nature. You see all those pleasures as totally disgusting. The pleasures that we think are great are hallucinations. You also see all the happiness of the form realm as only suffering in nature; and you see even the first, second and third levels of the formless realm as only suffering in nature. The only thing that you don’t discover is that the tip of samsara is only suffering in nature. You don’t discover that because there’s no higher realm with which to compare it. The problem is that you have total renunciation of the desire realm, the form realm and the first three levels of the formless realm, seeing everything except the tip of samsara as only suffering in nature, but when that karma to be in the tip of samsara finishes, you then have to be reborn again in one of the lower samsaric realms. Sometimes a being believes that they have achieved liberation when the many visible delusions are removed. When their karma to be in the tip of samsara then finishes and they see that they will have to be reborn again in one of those realms, however, the heretical thought arises, "It’s not true that there is such a thing as liberation."

Here the important point you have to understand is that even though they had realized renunciation of the desire realm, the form realm and even the first three levels of the formless realm, feeling total aversion to them as disgusting, they again have to reincarnate because they didn’t have renunciation of the tip of samsara, the last level of the formless realm. The point is that because they have no renunciation of that last level, they again reincarnate. Also, they don’t have the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness. To stop reincarnating, you have to cease your delusions and the seeds of delusion, which are of the nature of imprints. To do that you need the wisdom that directly perceives emptiness. If you don’t have that, you again have to reincarnate.

Thinking in this way can help some people to develop renunciation, or detachment.

You have to reflect on how the whole of samsara and all samsaric pleasures are only suffering in nature, as they are only suffering in nature. Like a scientist, you discover this through analytical meditation, and discovering their suffering nature encourages you to develop aversion to samsara and samsaric pleasures. You feel that samsara and samsaric pleasures are so disgusting that you wish to be free from all of them forever, particularly from those samsaric pleasures to which you have been strongly attached. Meditating on them, you discover that they are only suffering in nature. You also see the benefits of achieving the ultimate happiness of liberation, freedom forever from all suffering. Then, of course, there’s also great liberation, or enlightenment. Discovering the suffering nature of samsara makes you very happy to restrain yourself from engaging in negative karma, in unrighteous actions. The more you meditate, the more you discover that samsara and samsaric pleasures are only suffering in nature, as they are only suffering in nature, and the more aversion to them you feel. Your wish to achieve liberation then becomes stronger.

You then take vows, either lay vows such as the eight precepts or five lay vows or ordination as a monk or nun, with thirty-six or 253 vows. You are very happy to take vows, and you are also very happy to live in those vows. You don’t feel as if you living in a prison. The more analytical meditation you do, the more you discover the suffering nature of samsara and samsaric pleasures, especially the ones to which you are strongly attracted. The more you see that they are suffering, the more aversion to them you have and the stronger your wish to be free from them and achieve liberation. The very basic means to achieve liberation, to be free from this suffering, is by living in vows, either lay vows or the vows of a monk or nun. You are then very happy to do this, because you know that this is the path that protects you. This is your fundamental protection, protecting you from delusions, from negative karma and from all the sufferings of samsara.

The stronger your thought to achieve liberation, the happier your mind is when you’re living in vows. It’s not that anybody is forcing you; it comes from your own heart. It’s as if you are suddenly being released after being in prison for a long time. On the day you’re released you feel so happy. Like this, you feel so happy, day and night, knowing that living in vows is the way to get out of samsara. You’re like somebody who has worked very hard all year and is now going on vacation. After working so hard, you now have time to go skiing in the mountains or on the water. You’re so happy when you have a few days of vacation, but in this case, you’re much happier because you can attain the path and achieve liberation. You can remove the cause of suffering, karma and delusion, and achieve liberation forever. There’s no coming back into suffering.

You need to think of all the shortcomings, all the harm and suffering for you and for others in this life and all the coming future lives, if you engage in unrighteous actions with your body and speech. You then think of all the benefits of eliminating your obstacles and those of others and of achieving the general and sublime attainments.

**Note: For further details see Meditative States in Tibetan Buddhism; Opening the Eye of New Awareness, pp 60–66; or The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, Volume Three, pp. 96-103.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Root Institute Bodhgaya, India, 31 December 2006. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ven Ailsa Cameron and to be published January 2010 in Kadampa Teachings, a free book from the Archive.