Kopan Course No. 33 (2000) (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1257)

The following are excerpts of the teachings given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 33rd Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2000. Included is an oral transmission of the Heart Sutra and an oral transmission of portions of the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

The first five days of lectures are below; the remainder of the lectures can be found here. You can also read the entire lightly-edited transcript here.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Long Life Puja, Kopan Monastery, Nepal.
Day 1: Introduction, Purpose of Meditation

[Prayers]

Good afternoon. Before, I’m going to recite the meditation prayer, which contains the essence of the whole path to enlightenment, the Graduated Path to Enlightenment, the lam-rim prayer.

In the past when the course, the meditation course, was done under the sheet, the roof sheet, and the bamboo wall around with simple cloth covered – when it was ascetic course, renounced, ascetic, course, meditation course style – renounced. Anyway, when it was primitive or renounced – maybe all together. Primitive, so had to be renounced. So, that time, when there was very important topics happening and the aeroplane passes, big noises. It makes big noises. So you see, used to it. Made big noises during the, when there was very important point, talking about very important point then, suddenly, big noise. Suddenly there was big noise. Anyway, maybe have to distract the pilots. No, joking. Anyway, so I think it is a miracle [aeroplane noise] - but this time small one.

It is really a miracle, great miracle to open our mind this life; open our heart, mind. Not having closed mind, very fixed mind, closed mind – old concept or culture, whatever. Mind not being like stone, iron, or something very closed which doesn’t give any opportunity. Not like that. Open mind looking for new meanings, for better life. However, making research or analysing technique - even at least you allow yourself to check, analyse, rather than closed with old mind or concept or culture or whatever it is - for new method. At least giving opportunity to analyse.

Anyway, the methods to achieve happiness, peace, particularly in Buddhism, the way of studying Buddhism, the way of learning, the way it is planned, is by analysing, not just saying that, not just mere faith. That’s the way of explaining, revealing Buddhism whether it is Sutra or Tantra – everything has logic, valid reasons. Every practice has valid reasons and deeper way to understand through analysis and through realisation – through analysis and through realisation, deeper way to understand Buddhism.

One time, when I arrived in Boston in America, United States, when I arrived in Boston the person who was driving the car was one student who is director of the Wisdom Publications at the present time – not the one who actually started, Dr Nick, Australian doctor who was monk for quite some time, was asked by Lama Yeshe to start the Dharma Publishing, to produce Dharma books. The present one, Tim, he was driving car where he lives, Boston. So it’s very surprising, this person – I don’t know how many millions of people there in Boston I have no idea. Probably, I don’t know, maybe a few million. I’m not sure. So from a big city like that, well-developed, materially well-developed city, so much, and from these millions of people this one person came all the way from the city. This one person came all the way to Nepal, to Kopan – very surprising. Came all the way from this big city. This one person came all the way from there to Nepal to Kopan. I mean the culture, the material development, however, if you compare all that, among those millions of people this person came all the way. What decides that? What is that decides that this person, one person, comes so far to here, to Kopan? Anyway, I was thinking was very interesting. I see that’s very interesting point of life. Very interesting.

And of course, some time ago, many years ago, when I was in Sydney, Australia – I think when I went to Australia first time with Lama Yeshe, after the fourth course. Is that right? After the famous sixth course after the very famous sixth meditation course that is unforgettable. Many people who attended that – I think there were three hundred beginning, I think, at the beginning. What made it very famous is that that’s the course where there was the most number of people. I think I spent, I’m not sure, two weeks, probably two weeks on the subject “Eight Worldly Dharmas” and then suffering, of course! No doubt. And the suffering. Eight Worldly Dharmas, of course that’s the cause, and then the suffering, the problem, what manifests afterwards, what it creates. Anyway, that’s what made it famous. I think there was a Christian group in that course. I think one Christian group came. I think most of them left and go down to Kathmandu and used to gather in the restaurant. The group gathered in the restaurant and few came back after some time, something like that.

So, after that, students who attended fourth and third course, Dr Nick and a few original Australian students who attended those early courses, invited Lama and myself to Australia to do course there. So when I was in Sydney I thought it’s amazing, amazing. Same reason: such a highly developed, materially developed country; their way of thinking, culture, totally something - and then able to wake up, able to open the mind, to learn Buddhism and to learn this practice; to find interest in Buddhism. I thought it’s amazing. It’s a miracle. It’s amazing I thought while I was looking around the – I mean, not everybody - those who come to meet Buddhism from their side, learn, experiment – just amazing. It’s a miracle I thought. That mind can open from that society, in a society like that.

Whereas, East, like India or however, inside these countries where the environment or for hundreds of years that Buddhism has been flourishing, practice, environment. You open your eyes and what you see is temples, holy objects, stupas, and so forth. Even by looking, opening eye and looking around, even physically, even the environment is like that, so it’s not surprising – Tibet, like that, people to learn Buddhism that’s not so much surprising. If you compared the West it’s not surprising. It’s surprising but, comparing to that, to the West, it’s not surprising.

So anyway, this is want to learn Buddhism, want to practice meditation, that is contained in Buddhism. This is opening a door, giving freedom to yourself, releasing yourself from the prison of wrong concepts, prison of delusions, prison of sufferings, giving freedom to yourself. It’s opening door to liberation, that which is free forever from the entire suffering of samsara and, not only that, the great liberation, the full enlightenment. It’s opening the door also to, especially, when you hear ‘bodhicitta’, the ultimate good heart benefiting for other sentient beings, opening a door, directing your life or opening a door towards full enlightenment; to achieve that, to be able to do, to be able to accomplish the extensive benefit towards the sentient beings, to liberate the numberless sentient beings and bring them in the peerless happiness, the full enlightenment. When you start to meditate on generating compassion towards every single sentient being without exception, without discrimination, without exception – to every suffering, to every obscured sentient being, when you start to meditate to generate compassion to every living being, when you start to learn the great compassion and practice - that’s the door towards that. The benefit is like limitless sky, benefit able to complete; benefit like limitless sky, benefit towards sentient beings.

However, what I’m going to say is that the meditation we are going to learn, that we are interested in or that we’re going to learn, that which brings change in our life for better. However, in short, of course the minute when you meditate it brings calm, peace in your heart, it tranquils your mind, because meditation is like medicine – the antidote to the disturbing, obscuring emotional thought, the negative emotional thoughts. The delusions, the negative emotional thoughts when they arise, effect you get on the mental continuum is disturbances. It’s opposite to peace.

So the meditation which is transforming your mind into renunciation, or in other words, content – making the mind satisfied from the dissatisfied, painful attachment and transforming the mind into patience from the painful mind - anger. And as well as wisdom from the awakening, meditation makes the mind awaken, wisdom, from the ignorance, transforms the mind into ‘good heart’, the happy, peaceful, fulfilling. The good heart which makes you feel fulfilment - besides peace, fulfilment. It makes you to see your life meaningful, worthwhile, into this positive mind from self-cherishing thought. These are the real meditation. And this is what we should practice; such this meditation is what we should practice in our life.

What I was going to say, we should not be satisfied by doing breathing meditation or something, by paying attention while walking or something. By doing some concentration that immediately calms down the mind or brings some peace. It’s like you work very hard and then stop doing the work and taking a rest. Or when you feel very hot you go in the shade and have some comfort – kind of similar like that. So should not be satisfied with just that, something which is just immediate kind of quiet the mind. Quiet, from the noisy mind, kind of quiet. However, should not be satisfied, should not be just – life is, our precious human life is not just for that. What I’m saying is our precious human life is not just for that. Should not be satisfied just with this.

If there’s no ignorance rising then there wouldn’t be anger. The sicknesses of the chronic disease of the mind, the attachment, the painful mind, attachment, these things won’t rise. So, therefore, we need to eliminate the ignorance from where all these disturbing emotional thoughts, all those other root and branches, the negative emotional thoughts, the delusions, from where they rise, from where they’re born. We should attempt to eliminate the ignorance. We should attempt to make it impossible to arise. To do that we must attempt to eliminate the negative imprint seeds left on the mental continuum. We must attempt to cease that completely. That’s what we should do. That’s what we should do. If we don’t want suffering, if we do not want problems, then that’s what we should do.

So now if there’s no ignorance the mind unknowing what is “I”, what is mind, the ultimate nature of the “I”, ultimate nature of the mind. Mind which is unknowing, that ignorance. Without that there’s nothing that we create. Death. Death – we don’t even want to hear the name of death in the West. In recent years then people listened, recent years people more wake up to learn about death, to help other people dying and also to learn about death. And, also, to know your death, learn about death, which includes your death, learning about. And then, also, then doing meditation practice to prepare, making yourself prepared for death – when death comes, what to do. When enemy comes that make you ready to defeat, to overcome enemy. So like that. Making preparations, making yourself prepared for death. However, to not experience death, making preparations to be free from death, to overcome death, then even that doesn’t happen this life, even if one didn’t achieve that level of Path where you can overcome death in this life, but next, even when you experience death makes you very happy. Even when death comes, even though you haven’t overcome or you didn’t make it yet free from death but yourself prepared through the meditation practice, what Buddha has taught, that [cut]

...much better life, much easier to practice, where you can complete the path to enlightenment. That way you can be enlightened, such as those Pure Land of Buddha, or take better rebirth, more healthy body, in the right environment where there is all the support or conditions to practice, and then continue to develop your mind in the spiritual path.

However, like that, to go from happiness to happiness, to liberation, to enlightenment – from life to life like that, so therefore no fear. You have very clear direction. You know where you’re going. You have a clear direction, confidence, you know where you’re going, so no fear. Death, for that person, is just like changing dress. You leave the old dress and wear new dress, new fashion - the new fashion. So, anyway, like that, at least no fear. Confidence. No fear, with confidence, full of confidence that you won’t reincarnate in those suffering realms: hell, hungry ghosts, animals; those realms.

However, even when death comes, even when you’re experiencing, through meditation practice, making mind more and more positive, sincere, good-hearted by developing the thought of benefiting others, so even when the death comes, even when you experience death, the end of the life - happy death; happy death not scary death. Happy death.

So, however, what I’m trying to say, the essence is that here shouldn’t just be satisfied some short-term peace; short-term quiet mind or peace or something like that. Life shouldn’t be spent, the precious human life shouldn’t be spent just for that. That’s not the real meaning of life. That’s not the real purpose of living, why we have taken this precious human rebirth this time, not just that.

However, the real meaning of life, to clarify, is not even - even if it’s ultimate happiness, everlasting happiness, the liberation which is free forever from the whole entire suffering of samsara. Of course, that’s so essential, so important to achieve that, to attain that by ceasing the delusion and karma but still to achieve that ultimate happiness that great peace of liberation for oneself, to achieve that for oneself, even that is not the real meaning of life. Even if it’s ultimate happiness you see. Achieving that for oneself, even that’s not the real meaning of life.

The real meaning of life, the real purpose of living, that is making one’s own life useful for others. Making one’s own life useful for other sentient beings; to benefit other sentient beings. So, as I normally mention, as I normally introduce this way, so regards the benefit of others, yes, one should make one’s own life useful to others, to other living beings. So in other words benefit others. So there’s benefiting others, causing happiness to others, causing happiness of this life towards others. That is one. Of course that is short-term happiness. Happiness what you’re causing to others is short-term. Short-term happiness.

So now, more important benefit, service, to other sentient beings, that is causing happiness for all the coming future lives to others. You’re causing beings happiness in all their coming future lives.

First one, just this life, comfort; causing comfort, to solve problems, like that. Giving shelter, food, clothing, however, solving this life’s problems. Like that. Causing happiness this life.

Then next, the second one is causing, that you’re causing happiness of the future lives to others; all coming future lives’ happiness to others. So you can see this service is much more important. All the coming future lives, so many lifetimes, all the cause of happiness to others.

So now more important service to others than this, that is as I mentioned before, more important service than the second one: by ceasing the delusions, the disturbing emotional thought and actions motivated by the that, the karma, by ceasing completely the cause of the suffering which is within them then, that way, liberate them forever. Make them free forever from all the entire suffering, all the problems – make them impossible to experience again, so total liberation. Causing them to achieve total liberation.

Now this one, how that one is so urgent, that service to others. How that is urgent you can see that. Without removing the cause of suffering which is within them, if you don’t do that, they will continue to suffer. Whatever other method you do they will experience the problem again and again. Whatever externally done, as long as the causes of suffering which is within them – the disturbing emotional thought, karma, the negative imprint which is on their mental continuum – if they are not removed they will experience suffering endlessly. Same problem, whether it’s starvation or whatever, sicknesses, whatever, again, again, whose cause is there. So, therefore, what is there, this service to others to cease the cause of suffering which is within them - to cease this.

So that’s all about why Dharma is so important, why practice Dharma, why meditate; why it’s so important like that. Here we’re thinking helping others. Of course, that includes yourself.

Important to be free from suffering, I mean, to practice Dharma to cease the cause of suffering; to see the cause of suffering. How that is so urgent. So that’s what I’m saying. Before, my talk went here and there like this, kind of like water running all over the field. But what I was trying to say before was, this is important, the emphasis of what I was saying, so important: not just for sometime anger, attachment arising, that’s not enough.

The ignorance must be eliminated from where those other negative emotional thoughts come that makes you unhappy or brings you all the problems. To make it impossible to rise forever, the negative imprint seed should be completely eliminated. No external means can do that. No external means – doctors by operating, by cutting the body and by operating, they cannot see the mind. Even by cutting the body they cannot see the mind anyway in the first place so how two operations can take away the negative imprint seed? That which gives rise to the delusions, motivates karma, and then creates suffering – through operation with the machines cannot remove the delusion.

Therefore, the means to that is only Dharma, nothing else. In particular the wisdom realising emptiness; by developing that then you wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, directly then, remove the imprint of the delusion such as the ignorance, the seed, nature of imprint. So only this can, directly, can see that. So, therefore, to realise emptiness, ultimate nature, is so essential.

Now you can see how most important that is in our life, to meditate on that, otherwise, impossible. How you can liberate yourself from suffering? How you can liberate others from suffering? Impossible. No way.

Then even the fourth one is the most important service to other sentient beings. That is to cease even the, bringing them in peerless enlightenment, full enlightenment, by ceasing even the subtle negative imprint left by the ignorance. The wrong concept simultaneously born, such as this wrong concept, simultaneously born, the grasping mind, the concept – while there’s no “I” in the body, on the association of body and mind, while there’s no “I”, while you cannot find, or while there’s no “I” in this body or on the association of the body and mind base, grasping, strongly holding that there’s “I” there. Self.

So this, you’re born with it, like that from beginning-less rebirth. So such this wrong concept, then subtle negative imprint left by this delusion. By ceasing completely even this then, in that way, bring sentient beings into peerless happiness the full enlightenment. Sometimes it is translated as “fully awakened state.” That is bringing the state that cessation of all the mistakes of mind, gross and subtle, then the completion of all the realisations to bring sentient beings to that. That is the greatest - among the service, the fourth one is most important one. So in regards making your life useful to others, purpose of our living, why we have taken this extremely precious human body is for what? Why we live? Why we live for? Why we try to be alive? What for? Why we survive? Why we spend so much money to survive? Why provide so many conditions to be alive, to survive? What for? Like this. Why take medicine, operations, try to have long life, healthy life? What for, what for healthy life? Should be for this: to benefit others.

So, again, what is it that Path, the Dharma, or the Path that ceases even the subtle negative imprint is only by the wisdom realising emptiness – to make it simple, that. What is it that Dharma or Path which directly sees that, wisdom realising emptiness, emptiness. So with Path, by practising Dharma, actualising path, method alone without wisdom cannot remove the delusion, the cause of the delusion, the seed, and even the subtle negative imprint cannot be.

Whatever other realisation you have cannot, without the wisdom realising emptiness, whatever great other realisation you have cannot without the wisdom realising emptiness. Whatever great realisation, other realisation you have, cannot. Without having wisdom directly they cannot remove the delusions, including the negative imprint, without wisdom.

I think it’s time. I just mumbled. I went on and on. Yes. Good heart, of course it’s very important – loving kindness, compassion in daily life is extremely important. We have to make cause of suffering, delusion, never ever to rise. We have to do that otherwise we die, reborn, we experience all the sufferings of the six realms, on and on. No end.