Refuge Teachings (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Jamyang Meditation Centre, London 1992 (Archive #920)

Teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche prior to a refuge ceremony at Jamyang Meditation Centre, London, November 6, 1992. Topics include the suffering nature of samsara, refuge practice and precepts. Click on the audio links to listen to the teachings and read along with the unedited transcripts.  Read more teachings on refuge by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at the Ninth Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976.
The Suffering Nature of Samsara

[Preliminary prayers]

So, so before taking the refuge, so normally like this, one thing we have to understand why we have to take refuge to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, all three, why there's need three and then, recognition of what samsara is, unmistaken understanding of samsara, from where you have to be free.

So, just to be free from the lower realms, hell and hungry ghost, preta, animals, just to be free from the lower realms doesn't need all three. At the death time if we are able to remember Buddha, even that alone saves, protects, even that alone protects from rebirth in the lower realms, if one is able to remember Buddha at the time of death, if the last thought is that thought of Buddha then even that saves from the lower realms. Or just even Dharma, for example, at the time of death even the thought of Dharma, like for example, mantra, even just remembering the mantra or for example Essence of Wisdom, Heart Sutra, just even a text, one mantra or the Heart Sutra, something you can remember that at the time of death, when one dies, if one die with the thought, even that helps to not be born in the lower realms.

For example, there happened a lot of experiences, that somehow one, recently I think even I met somebody who saw hell. But I don't remember, I've forgotten the name of the person. Some, I don't remember. There are many stories like this. So this, I think, I don't remember, one night somehow he had a vision of hell and then all these as explained in the teachings, swords, he was going through these things and then he remembered the text that he was reading, one of the, whatever the prayer it was, he remembered that suddenly and then, he saw the text or something and then when he remembered the text then the vision stopped. Recently I think that somebody told me.

I think there's quite a number who have these experiences, that kind of, yeah, one, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, he was here in London? So Rinpoche, not himself, but there's another lama, another very high lama, Amdo, so he has one attendant who looks after him. So this attendant, the manager of this lama, who takes care, looks after the lama while the lama is in retreat or things. So this attendant one night, one day he had experience of hell. He saw the whole ground filled with swords, where he stepped, where he put his feet he cut and so he, and full of fire and things like that, so he used to recite Diamond Sutra, it's like Essence of Wisdom, emptiness, but much more longer. So because he used to recite this every day so then suddenly when he was going through all this, very, very heavy experience, like it's explained in the lam-rim teachings, then this text, he remembered this, what he used to recite, then the text appeared and then the whole experience stopped.

So then because, he, I have really seen hell then for many months he couldn't stop praying, he couldn't stop reciting mantra, because he, because very heavy experience so no break, there's no break, just constantly, couldn't help, constantly, there's no break, constantly reciting, wherever he goes, because he was so. Rinpoche told me this, his guru, who told Rinpoche. This manager is one incarnate lama, one high incarnate lama from Amdo, this manager is his manager, but Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche is like, not actual teacher, Tsenshab means kind of like a teacher, not actual teacher, but helping in the education, as a helper in the education, substitute of the teacher. So many high lamas, like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, before he became the geshe, the examination, then besides tutors then His Holiness has also some very learned geshes from Sera, Ganden, Drepung to help in the educations, not actual guru but in place of guru, like that.

So Rinpoche told me about the experience of this manager. So seems quite a number of people have this experience, like one daytime, one nighttime going through incredible experiences like that. Somehow kind of very short term experiences.

So however, like that, even remembering, if one can remember then, just even remembering, just taking refuge to the text, just remembering that stops the experience, it changes the view, you see the emptiness of the hells. So, even Dharma, at the time of death, even one just take refuge to Dharma, just even that one doesn't get reborn in the lower realms.

Then, even Sangha, at the time of death, even just the thought of Sangha, just devotional thought to Sangha, even that positive mind towards the Sangha, even that mind, if one dies with that thought, even that saves, one doesn't get, it protects to not reincarnate in the unfortunate realms.

And so now, here, in order to be free from the samsara, to be completely free from samsara, then taking refuge to Buddha alone, is not enough, have to take refuge to Dharma, and that is not enough, the Sangha. It's like very severe patient has to rely upon the doctor, the medicine and the nurse, all three to recover from disease, some serious patients who are in hospital have to, need all these three help to recover from their disease, so it's like that.

So we are very severe patients, the chronic disease of the self-cherishing thought, the basic thing, then the delusions, ignorance, anger, attachment, so without beginning, from the beginningless rebirth these disturbing thoughts from where all the karma and all the disease come, all the suffering of the hell, preta, animal, human beings, sura, asura, from where all these sufferings rises, so it's from those delusions.

So, here, so now first, so therefore to be completely free from the whole entire sufferings, not just only lower realms but the whole entire sufferings of samsara, and all the cause, karma and delusions, everything, then we have to rely upon Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then, only then we can be free from the whole entire suffering of samsara and the causes of samsara, the karma and disturbing thoughts.

So now, the first thing is to recognize what samsara is. Now, that, so these aggregates of form, feeling, cognition, cognition means this is table, this is rice, this is box, like that, recognizing the object, then compounding aggregates, is there are twenty-one, fifty-one mental factors, so there's generally six consciousnesses, then there's other than that, so like this, body and mind, so as far as the mind, there are six consciousnesses, then there's fifty-one mental factors. So, from the fifty-one mental factors one takes out feeling and cognition, those two mental factors one takes out, then all the rest, forty-nine mental factors they are recognized, they are called compounding aggregates. Then, the consciousness.

So there are five aggregates, okay. So these aggregates which is collection of these five, so these aggregates is caused by karma and disturbing thoughts. So we have to understand now like this, why this is in the nature of suffering. Why we can't have a body without pain, why we can't have a mind without delusions, why we can't have mind without the emotional mind, anger, dissatisfied mind attachment, without self-centered mind, without all these problems, just clear mind and body which cannot experience pain. Why our mind and body, why it's not like that? Why this nature of pain, this body? Mind has worry and fear, all these things, mental pain, there's the pain of anger, there's the pain of attachment, there's the pain of jealous mind.

So, then, even if you press the body like this, there's pain. If you don't know how to, even when we lay down if we're not careful there's pain. Even when we walk if we're not careful there's pain. So, in every manner, if one is not careful, very easy to experience pain. So why is this body like that, in that nature? So, you see, we have to understand the reason. So you see now, now the conclusion is that, so if these aggregates, which included the body and mind, all this, so, if this is not created by the karma and delusions, particularly the ignorance, the attachment and the ignorance, ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I, the self. If this is not created, if this is not caused by this impure cause, the karma, the action, and the delusions, cause of this, this is the body of the happy migratory being, so therefore, in the cause there's no anger, in the delusions there's no anger, anger causes, the cause of the human body, which is the body of the happy migratory being, this is not anger. But there is like this, generally the anger causes the rebirth in the lower realms, such as hell, like that, but there's also like this, the anger also, because in the past life not practicing patience, not having practiced patience so therefore the very ugly body and the color, so forth, in the past life not having practiced patience. So because of the result of past life practiced patience so, for example, even the moment, even the hour, even the time when we are angry, our body become ugly. When we practice patience then peaceful appearance, for example, even that time the result.

So now in the long run, so there's the long run effect, creating the cause in other lives, then another life it affects, it manifests in the body, the next life body, because past having practiced patience so this life, so result happened the beautiful shape, beautiful body, color, like that. Then, anger, not having practiced patience, complete opposite.

Again like this, however, now, so the cause of this, karma, and karma motivated by the attachment, there's attachment, not necessarily all the time cause is the attachment, there are some causes which, some karmas motivated by attachment there's also, so like for example now, the attachment clinging to this life, to this life happiness, that cannot cause, that cannot motivate a karma which causes future good rebirth, because actions done out of attachment clinging to this life is non-virtue, is only cause of rebirth in the lower realms. But with attachment to the future life samsara, the body, deva, human rebirth and samsaric perfections, wealth and so forth in the future lives, so that attachment is seeking samsaric perfections, so in the future lives. So then, you see, out of this, then one make charity to other sentient beings, then in the future lives one receives wealth, all this, then saving others, with this motivation, attachment, then saving others, saving animals and so forth, from life danger, causing long life, then this way, future life then one has long life, when born as deva or human being, one has a long life. So they are like that.

Then, out of attachment to receive deva, human body next life, then practicing morality. So there are, but this practicing morality, this karma, practicing charity and morality done out of attachment seeking future life samsara, this deva, human body, so forth, wealth and so forth, this one become virtue, this karma become virtue, even though it's done with attachment, but not done with attachment clinging to this life, so there's big differences in the effect.

So here, the motivation is attachment, but it's not attachment clinging to this life, but it's attachment to future lives' samsara, deva, human body, wealth, samsaric perfections. So therefore, this motivation, which is seeking happiness beyond from this life, this becomes virtue, even though it's attachment but it's virtue. So therefore what I'm saying is cause of our rebirth on this earth, this human rebirth could have the delusion, attachment. But it doesn't mean again every human body has to come from attachment, not necessary, because without attachment only to benefit for sentient beings, without any expectations, only to benefit for sentient beings, then making offering to Buddha, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Also doing prostrations, it has good rebirth, that causes good rebirth, even just putting palms together like this to Buddha, this is without any expectation to receive deva, human body next life, without any attachment, just to do with devotion, by remembering the qualities of Buddha, just doing like this, it become cause of future life, deva, human body. So, like that, without attachment, that sincerely to benefit for other sentient beings, then making offerings to the Triple Gem or, like that, there are many things which doesn't have attachment, clinging, receiving future life deva, human body, without any attachment.

Then, with bodhicitta, renouncing oneself, cherishing other sentient beings, then doing activities, create good karma, practicing morality, making offerings to the Triple Gem, then, one can receive deva, human body. Then, also, actions done out of wisdom of emptiness, so also it can happen, from that it can happen also future life receive good rebirth. So not necessary that has to have attachment as the cause.

So now, there are good karmas accumulated with the motivation of bodhicitta, wisdom realizing emptiness, renunciation of samsara, which causes deva, human rebirth in the next life, there are, from these, the karmas created by this, bodhicitta, realization of emptiness, renunciation of samsara, one can, there's deva, human body received, but it is said by Lama Tsongkhapa, even though this is received but it doesn't mean bodhicitta, wisdom realizing emptiness or even just with awareness with meditation of that, renunciation of samsara, but good karma accumulated with that, with one of these, it's not, these three are not the real cause of samsara, even though you do receive deva, human body from that, but they are not the real cause of samsara. Are they real cause of samsara? They're not real cause of samsara, so anyway it's explained.

So anyway, so like this, so now the conclusion is this, why these aggregates, this body is in the nature of pain, why this experiences so many problems, this body and mind, why this experiences so many problems, that, if, why this is nature of pain, if this is not caused by karma and disturbing thoughts, the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I, then, if this is not caused by this, karma and disturbing thoughts, then there's no reason why this body and mind has to suffer, there's no reason. There's no reason and this wouldn't experience suffering, if this is not caused by karma and disturbing thoughts, the root, the ignorance not knowing the nature of the I, then, this body and mind would never experience problems, wouldn't be in the nature of pain, never experience unhappiness, hunger, thirst, hot and cold, old age, sickness, all these things, if this is not caused by karma and disturbing thoughts, especially ignorance, not knowing the ultimate nature of the I.

So now, so the reason why this experience so much, all these problems, why this is in the nature of pain, so this is because these aggregates is caused by impure cause, came from impure cause, caused by impure cause, the karma, the disturbing thoughts, the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I...

[tape change]

...so, these aggregates caused by karma and delusion, that's one thing, that is talking about the creator, who creates this, who by oneself. Now what creates this samsara, what created this samsara, these aggregates nature of suffering. So, by the karma and disturbing thoughts, so this gives that idea. What creates the samsara, this samsara, these aggregates, which is suffering nature, which is basis of all the problems, so by karma and disturbing thoughts.

So now, next thing to understand, these aggregates is contaminated, contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts, like having planted seed under ground, then, when it meets water, soil, all these minerals, then it brings sprout, sprout comes out, then, so like that. Now the second thing to understand, these aggregates is contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts, okay. There's imprint left on the consciousness by the past delusions, ignorance, anger, attachment, so forth, many of those delusions, especially the wrong concept of true existence of the I, the ignorance, even the I is merely labeled by the mind, but then what is the I, it's simply what is merely labeled by the mind, but apprehending as existing, as real one existing from its own side, then apprehending that is completely true. So that is the ignorance, wrong concept - wrong concept, why? Because as it believes that the I is truly existent, it's not true, because the I is, what is the I, that is simply what is merely labeled by the mind, okay. So, imprint, seed, so many imprints is left in the mental continuum, seed of this ignorance and many other delusions. So these aggregates is contaminated of the seed of disturbing thoughts.

So because there's the seed, imprint left on the consciousness, so in our daily life, when we meet objects, the beautiful object, ugly object, indifferent object, When we meet ugly object, anger rises. Then imprint is there, the seed is there, so because seed is there then anger rises, seed of anger is there so anger rises. Then meet beautiful object, so because seed of attachment is there, then attachment rises. Then, when we meet indifferent object, ignorance rises, because seed of ignorance is there, so ignorance rises. So when we meet the various objects then, because seed of different delusions is there, left in the past on the consciousness, so then by meeting the object, this delusion rises because, why this delusion rises? Why? Because mistake is that because we don't apply meditation during that time, when we meet the object, we don't apply meditation, so there's no protection so then the delusion rises.

The other mistake is, fundamental mistake is that in the past lives we haven't generated the remedy path, true path and true cessation of suffering, which is the actual Dharma, we haven't actualized this and completely ceased the seed of delusions, completely purified, cleaned away the seed of delusions, so that didn't happen in the past lives, so that is why the seed is still there. And then in our day-to-day life still didn't get to apply the meditation, so there's no protection, so then from the seed then by meeting the object then delusion rises.

Then this delusion rises, now the delusion, this ignorance, anger, attachment, now motivated karma, the action, then the karma, action, leaves imprint on the consciousness. So this imprint, then, like sprout coming from the seed or in the film imprinted figure of people or house, place, many, many things in the film, movie or picture, then by putting in the machine, then look with the electricity, then able to project on another paper or able to project on the movie screen or the TV screen.

However, like this, so this imprint left by karma, so because of this imprint, from this imprint, this imprint get manifested out the future life samsara, this imprint left by karma, karma motivated by delusions, that which came from the seed, then this imprint get manifested, get materialized, actualized future life samsara, again future life aggregates, either association of body and mind or just the consciousness. If it's formless realms then only consciousness, only mind. But if it's not formless rebirth, future life, then association of body and mind, like that, aggregates.

Then again one experience the suffering of samsara, all those problems, whichever realm one reincarnate. So goes, so then again with that samsara, again that samsara, future life samsara is contaminated, it's created by, like this one, caused by, created by karma and delusion, it's contaminated seed of delusion, because seed is there then again delusion rises, motivate karma, again leaves imprint on the mind, that imprint get actualized in the future life samsara. So, again experience the suffering of that realm, so it goes on and on, endless.

So now, why this is called samsara? Why these aggregates are called samsara? These aggregates creates the cause of future life samsara, so these aggregates creates future samsara, okay. So the continuation of these aggregates joins to the next life and that continuation of aggregates joins to the next life, so it goes on and on like that. So this continuation, continuation of this samsara did not have beginning, no beginning, so like how I explained now, from this samsara how it creates future life samsara so like that, so this, if we didn't achieve liberation in this life, then this, didn't achieve enlightenment, liberation, neither liberation for self nor enlightenment, then the continuation of these aggregates again joins to the next life. So like that, the continuation of these aggregates, these aggregates is continuation of the past life aggregates, samsara, and the past life aggregates, samsara, is the continuation of other, that past life, so like this, the continuation of these aggregates did not have beginning, it is beginningless, okay. So you can see now the continuation of samsara did not have beginning, so therefore the experience of the suffering of samsara did not have beginning.

So now, so these aggregates, the continuation of these aggregates joins from one life to another life, so that's what is called these aggregates circles from one life to, the continuation of these aggregates circles from one life to another life, like that. So, because of that, then this is called circle, samsara meaning is circling, like we call bicycle, like cycle in motorcycle, that always turns, because the function is turning, all the time turning, circling so then we call bicycle, motorcycle. So same thing, in Sanskrit it's samsara, but what it means is, in Tibetan it's korwa, korwa means circling, in Tibetan it's much clearer, korwa. So, because the function what it does is circling one life to another life, so therefore this is called korwa, circling. Then the term they use in Sanskrit is samsara.

So therefore now, if we don't break the continuation of this, if you don't stop, if you don't end, if you don't break this samsara circling, joining from one life to another life, if you don't break it, then endlessly you have to suffer in samsara. One has to circle, what circles is these aggregates, samsara. Who is circling is the I, so like that. The I, who is circling is the I, the I who exists by depending on these aggregates.

So now, like this, until we break this continuation, these aggregates, this samsara circling one life to another life, until we, as long as we don't break this, until we break this, then, we continuously have to experience suffering of samsara, that, the suffering of pain, all the problems what common people who haven't met Dharma, what they can recognize as a problem, the suffering of pain, then, like hunger, thirst, hot and cold, so forth, separating from desirable object, meeting, having worry, fear to meet undesirable object, all these things.

So, suffering of pain and then suffering of changes, so that is the temporary pleasures. With this samsara, like this, when the Buddhas, when we offer to Buddha the sound, music, food for the sense of tongue, flower, light for the eye, so forth, when we make these different offerings to Buddha, when Buddha's senses enjoys this, when they experience pleasure from these offerings, that is not suffering, because there's no, that is not suffering because there's no suffering feeling. Because doesn't have suffering feeling, their feeling by meeting this object of the senses is not suffering, it's, the feeling what they experience by meeting the object of the senses, that doesn't have suffering, so it's pure happiness, bliss, great bliss, what they experience. [pause]

But for us, with our samsara, aggregates, the senses, the form, sound, smell, taste, so forth, the sense objects, when we meet, the feeling, even it is desirable object, beautiful sound, beautiful taste, sweet taste, sweet smell, even it's desirable object, object of our senses, even though they are desirable object, but the feeling what we experience is, that is nature of suffering, the feeling is only suffering in other words, the feeling what we experience is only suffering.

So example, that, so first we feel so much thirst and then when we drink water there's a feeling. Now how that feeling is in the nature of suffering, so that is important to analyze. So, now like this, when we drink the water, after feeling so much thirst we drink the water, so there's a feeling caused by that. The suffering of thirst is stopped from great, the previous action of not having a drink, previous action of not drinking which is created, feeling which is created by that action, the thirst, so that one, because now you change the action, drinking, so because of the new action so the previous action of not drinking is stopped so and then the suffering, the thirst is stopped from great. Now because the new action, drinking, so there is different feeling, there is a feeling that's created, compounded by the new action, the second action, drinking water.

So now, the aim is to, the point is, how this is suffering feeling, so if one continue drinking on and on water, cold water, ice water, on and on, then this action of drinking it increases the discomfort in the body. Gradually it increases, the discomfort becomes more and more and more and more. So, actually the discomfort, so before saying this, now, because the thirst, the suffering of thirst is stopped from great to small, what I'm saying! The suffering of thirst is stopped, that is stopped and the feeling that which is created after that, by drinking, that, until the discomfort becomes too gross, until it becomes noticeable, then it's called pleasure, then we label that feeling pleasure, we label it pleasure. When it become noticeable then it becomes suffering of pain. When it's not noticeable for our minds, when it's subtle, the discomfort is subtle, not noticeable, then we label that feeling pleasure.

So, actually the discomfort started right from the beginning, after we drank the cold water, right after that, that first action of drinking that immediately compounded the feeling which is discomfort, that first action already compounded the discomfort, but it is so subtle, so small, so therefore it didn't become noticeable for our mind. So because it did not become noticeable so we label it pleasure. So like that. So we label it pleasure and appeared as pleasure, but it's not pure happiness, it's not pure pleasure, because the feeling that we label is discomfort, unnoticeable discomfort, so like that.

Same thing, with these aggregates, samsara, whatever sense object we use, it's, all the feelings are like that. Even it's music but then after some time the action of listening to that music, longer it continues, then more and more, sometimes becomes less interesting, more tired, more boring.

So however, all the feelings that which we generate, that are created by meeting the object of senses, the desirable object of senses, so all these feelings, as long as it is unnoticeable that it's discomfort, then we label it pleasure. So when it becomes noticeable, then it becomes a problem, then we call it a problem, This is boring, disgusting. Then that time become the suffering of pain. So like this, even the samsaric pleasures is in the nature of suffering, so like that.

Then, now, these two sufferings are based on, if you don't have this third suffering, this samsara, as I explained before caused by karma and delusions, contaminated with the seed of disturbing thoughts which is pervasive, then compounding means these aggregates creates again the future samsara, by creating the cause, so this is pervasive, compounding suffering. So, those two sufferings, if you don't have these, the third suffering, pervasive compounding suffering, then we wouldn't experience those two other sufferings. But as long as we are not free from this, this samsara, pervasive, compounding suffering, then continuously those two other problems also we experience.

So therefore now, until we become free from samsara, so we are continuously attacked by these three types of sufferings. However, whichever place, as long as we are in samsara, whichever place we live, it's a place of suffering, and with whomever we accompany, friend of suffering, and whatever enjoyment we have, it's enjoyment of suffering. So, as I explained before, for example, I introduced before, what we call, with our samsara, the aggregates, senses, when we meet even the desirable sense objects, I discussed how the feeling is in the nature of suffering. So like that, whatever enjoyment, as long as we are in samsara, then any enjoyment we have is enjoyment of suffering. And nothing is definite, as long as we are in samsara, nothing is definite, the relationships so forth, that changes from life and life, then, even within one year, month, even one day. So, as long as we're not liberated from samsara, then, in the samsaric existence, nothing definite.

Then, how much we use doesn't give satisfaction. Have, how much we received, doesn't give satisfaction. Then, leaving the body again and again, how many times we take the body, powerful, beautiful body, deva, human being, have to be left, cannot have forever. Then, joining again and again to the mother's mother's mother's mother, so like that, so same thing one can think about the father, father's father's father, like this joining again and again.

So however, so this body which we think, clean, pure, which we cling so much, so this is actually collections of this father's sperm, then that one continuation of another father, that continuation of another father, so uncountable fathers, like that, you see, so this is the continuation of all these fathers, like that. Then this body is made of blood from mother, mother's mother's mother's mother's mother, so uncountable, even we make whole this earth into pills, by counting mother's mother's mother's mother, even not enough, all this earth is not enough to count mother's mother's mother's mother...

So this body which we think is pure and clean, cling so much, in the reality, so all these father and all these mothers, uncountable fathers and mothers, collections of the sperm and the blood, however, came from their body, impurity came from their body, so this is what it is. So however, so this way also become reason, become meditation, mindfulness of the body, and then to stop rising attachment, so much clinging to this body. So then this way, attachment clinging to this body become cause of samsara, ties oneself to samsara. So then this way breaks the attachment, cuts off attachment and this way there's no cause which ties oneself to the samsara, it's like that. So the purpose of thinking this way, which is the reality, meditating that way, the benefit is that.

So however, then, nothing definite, that even no matter how high one become in samsara, high rank, position, you can't stay all the time there, again one has to come down, like the king, like this life king, but next life become slave or in the lower realms, born as animal or lower realm being or become slave, so nothing definite, even one become high then one has to become lower. So there's nothing to cling.

Then, when one dies, when one get born, those times, nothing comes, when one dies, how many millions of population or for example the kings, how many millions of population one has, how many thousands of friends, companions one has, cannot bring even one with oneself, even this body has to be left, only consciousness has to go, like the hair, when we pull the hair from butter, the butter doesn't come out, only the hair comes out, so like that, only the consciousness. So, in the naraks, in the hell realms, the companions they don't come, for whom we create so many negative karmas, for whom we work so hard and create so much negative karma, so when one is hell, experiencing the suffering of one's own negative karma, nobody comes to share, only oneself alone has to experience this.

So however, so only suffering as long, until we don't become liberated from samsara, until we are not free from samsara, eating, sleeping, walking, whatever we do, whatever lifestyle it's only in the nature of suffering.