Kopan Course No. 15 (1982)
- Kopan Course No. 15 Index Page
- Section One: 18-20 November
- Section Two: 21-22 November
- Section Three: 23-24 November
- Section Four: 25-26 November
- Section Five: 28 November - 1 December
- Section Six: 2-4 December
- Section Seven: 5-7 December
- Section Eight: 8-11 December
Section One: 18-20 November
18 November, am
First I would like to offer thanks to everybody that came here to seek happiness, differently than other times. Seeking happiness might be the same as before, that might be the same, but this time, without closing our minds, we are giving some freedom to ourselves. This time we seek happiness by opening our minds to a new method. So therefore I feel rejoicefulness that you are giving the opportunity to yourself to open the door of liberation, the door of release, the great release, by opening the mind to a new method—not only the external way of seeking happiness, but opening the mind to practice, to understand the inner method, the spiritual method. This is extremely important to do because the happiness is not outside, it is within the mind. So whatever we talk about, temporal or ultimate, whatever it is, there is no other way, except through mind development.
There are various methods for inner development, mind development. These methods, which are the methods explained in the teachings of Buddha, you can understand even before you practice, without putting them into action. Even just hearing the words, you can understand how they are effective for the mind. The calmness or satisfaction or peace they bring can be understood while you are listening to the teachings and then especially by putting them into action. Like the food that you see in the restaurant or in the supermarket, by tasting it, by putting it into action, it becomes experience; also through meditation. Without need to explain in many words the quality of the teachings, the effect of the teachings as one carries on, as one examines, while one is listening, while one is studying, meditating, this one can understand, one can experience.
One should not be satisfied with one or two meditations. It is something that you can do in your life, not like breakfast, you know, between lunch and dinner—if you feel hungry then suddenly you have something quickly. Just something to do because many people are practicing meditation. They have meditation from Zen, from this and that, they have received meditation instruction from Hindu gurus, various others, so everybody talks about meditation: I do this meditation, I do that meditation. So it becomes something just to have, just to make a story in the life, so that you can be part of it, so that oneself can be in the group of those who say, “I practice meditation, I do this and that.” Like we say, “Every day I have breakfast.” Doing meditation just so that you don’t become peculiar in the group of those who do meditation. Anyway, without talking much, that is not the point of doing meditation. Actually, meditation is not even to relax the body or to recover from a headache (here you might get leg pain from doing the sitting meditation). The practice of meditation is not just that.
What we want is to eliminate the root of suffering, the root of unhappiness. That root is within us and that is what we need to eliminate. In that way, our mind is able to approach the everlasting happiness (I don’t know in English how correct it is, “ever release from suffering”). In our daily life, that is actually what we need and that is the main emphasis of the Buddha’s teaching, that is the main emphasis. So we should study all those various meditations, the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment, without being satisfied with one or two meditations and thinking, “Oh, this is enough. I have enough, I have enough meditation.” If you know only one or two meditations, you block your own wisdom, the door of ultimate happiness. Or another way of saying, the door of the exaltation of omniscience. So that is not skillful.
Similarly, a patient who has various diseases—headache, stomach pain, heart attack, wound, infections, toothache—you see, one medicine, just taking medicine will stop the headache, but that alone cannot stop all those other diseases. As the patient has various diseases, he should get a prescription from the doctor—he should get all these medicines and take them in order to recover. You see, same, same. We have various diseases of mind. The disease of ignorance, disease of attachment, anger, pride, jealousy, various gross and subtle diseases, mental diseases. So one might wonder, physical disease has pain, but attachment, pride, this doesn’t have pain. This is mental pain. Not so much the physical pain, but it is mental pain.
When anger arises, how does it look? How do you see the mind? Do you find yourself comfortable? Mentally, there is no comfort, no happiness, like having a rock inside the heart. And pride is also like having a rocky mountain, a huge rocky mountain that does not fit, that almost cracks the body. So uncomfortable, so painful. Even if you are well dressed, even if the body is dressed with very expensive clothes, sitting on very comfortable, soft cushions, you have lost your comfort, pleasure. During those times, your experience is just like having a rock inside, so solid, so tight, so painful, not relaxed. Similarly, with attachment, one is so uptight, so painful, as if something is pulling out the heart. Very painful inside.
Physical sickness can be easily cured with the right medicine, but it is not so easy with the inner disease, this pain occurring when disturbing thoughts arise, except maybe if you take something to make yourself unconscious—I don’t know the names of the tablets, however, just for two or three hours being unconscious. Similarly, if you are able to sleep, then for one or two hours, however long you sleep, during that time, the disturbing thoughts don’t arise strongly. So you see, this inner disease is nothing external. It has no external medicine to completely cure it. Therefore, we are real patients because of having so many mind sicknesses even though we don’t have physical pain.
Because outside medicine cannot stop these mental sicknesses, we need to study these various medicines, the meditations, with nothing missing—the complete method, the complete path to eliminate all the sufferings that we have within. We need to study the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment. Then especially while one is going through the meditation, one can see the benefit, one receives benefit, one discovers. Then after one has studied and listened completely to all the teachings, after one has completed the course, then one can discover the benefits, the differences within one’s own mind, how much freedom one has and also the peace within the mind. By looking back at one’s life, the state of the mind before one attended, and after having known all the subjects of the method bringing peace in the mind, what comes in the mind is only rejoicefulness, happiness. This is the experience of those past students who have studied and checked the teachings, studied and put them into action. Then especially this course, even if you don’t understand my language, even if you don’t know what I am talking about, just mumbling on the throne, also mixed with coughs, during this course, Tom will be explaining the usual subjects of the course, the lam-rim part, in one of the sessions. So this time, you can hear clearly, and also if there is something unclear when I speak, doubts, you don’t need to keep the pain, that can be eliminated by discussing.
I am supposed to teach Buddhadharma here but it is difficult to benefit your mind just from my own speech. I don’t have much hope of bringing benefit to your mind. To teach others, oneself should practice. So, myself having no understanding of the Buddhadharma, and then not living it, not practicing, it is difficult for you to receive benefits. But somehow, many conditions gathered, somehow, even without knowing Buddhadharma, one or two words that I say may be something that benefits you, maybe there is something that I know that can benefit you.
So this time, the subject that I will try to explain during the course is the Bodhisattvacaryavatara. Guiding one’s own life in the bodhisattva’s actions, or putting one’s own three doors—the body, speech, and mind—in the bodhisattva’s holy action.
Putting the mind in the bodhisattva’s holy action of mind is renouncing the self-cherishing thought from which all the problems arise. The mind, which is overwhelmed, possessed by the demon of self-cherishing thought, is transformed into the bodhisattva’s holy mind, cherishing others. That is the practice of the Bodhisattvacaryavatara, practicing the bodhisattva’s holy action, trying to transform the mind into the bodhisattva’s great will, the brave bodhisattva’s heroic good heart, by cherishing others alone and then accomplishing the works of obtaining happiness for others by bearing all the hardships, in spite of all the hardships, however many there are. Through the practice of Bodhisattvacaryavatara, by replacing the self-cherishing thought with the ultimate good heart, the thought of only cherishing others, one’s mind is entered, one’s mind is guided in the bodhisattva’s holy actions, from the danger of self-cherishing thought. Similarly, the speech and body are guided or entered in the bodhisattva’s holy action. So on the basis of this, one’s mind is guided in the bodhisattva’s holy action of mind.
Before going over this chapter, just by knowing the story of the author of this work, the great bodhisattva Pandit Shantideva, if one has a little idea of the author—it helps one to know that he himself was highly attained, highly learned, a highly realized being. That he himself did the practice, not just writing down the words, not just copying the words from somebody’s teaching, from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, but that he himself lived in this practice and offered great benefits for uncountable numbers of sentient beings. There are many other amazing life stories of the great bodhisattva, Shantideva, but this story is related to this scripture.
The great bodhisattva, Shantideva, was born in India, close to Bodhgaya, that area, I think the western side of Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha has shown the aspect of enlightenment. Shantideva did the retreat of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, and he actually obtained the retreat, approaching Manjushri. In other words, he saw Manjushri and received many teachings. Then after some time, his father passed away. His father was king in that area and so people in that area requested Shantideva to be the holder of the king’s throne. They insisted, so he could not refuse. He accepted and that night, Shantideva had a dream of Manjushri. Manjushri was advising him, “I am your teacher, so we cannot sit together on that throne.” Shantideva woke up from the dream and realized that it was a sign that he should not possess the king’s reign, the king’s power, the king’s possessions, palace, all those things—that Manjushri was advising him. So that night, he escaped to Nalanda. I don’t remember exactly the name of the abbot who granted ordination to Shantideva, but I think it was Victorious Deva. The abbot who granted the ordination offered the name of Shantideva to him. From this abbot and from Manjushri, Shantideva received and completed the listening of all the teachings, vast like the ocean. He lived in the great monastic university, Nalanda, where there were thousands of pandits, those whose holy minds approached the higher path and were experts in the five qualities, not only Dharma, but also in logic, handicrafts, poetry, and hygiene, those educations. The ordinary people who didn’t have any knowledge of clairvoyance could not see what level of realizations Shantideva had, what kind of practice he did. Actually, the great bodhisattva, Shantideva had approached the very high bhumis and was doing incredible, unimaginable works for all the sentient beings. In fact, that is how his life passed in the monastery, that is how he spent his time, but not to outside appearance.
For us, the work is night time to come back home, sleep, and day time to go out to work, to obtain our own happiness. I am not sure whether there’s something special, inside, that is outside, and then inside, something special, like the great bodhisattva, Shantideva. I am not sure, that has to be examined. However, the great bodhisattva, Shantideva, appeared to the ordinary people as if he didn’t read any scriptures in the monastery as others did; he didn’t appear to be doing any reading of scriptures or doing virtuous actions that normally the other monks do in the monastery. He didn’t do any works for the monastery, or read scriptures, or do any other Dharma actions. So whatever merit people saw was only three things: he eats and sleeps and then goes to the toilet. So only three things were all the ordinary people see in his daily life. So they called him in Sanskrit, Bushke; in Tibetan language, “the three recognitions.”
So they felt he was wasting the monastery’s means of living, the monastery’s possessions. All the time he sleeps, then eats, then goes to the toilet. So they criticized, other ordinary people criticized, the monks criticized. He was doing nothing for the monastery, didn’t do any service for the monastery. Also, he was wasting the monastery’s things, that is, the monastery’s means of living: food and those other materials that are offered by benefactors with devotion. So they thought to kick him out of the monastery. They consulted about kicking him out of the monastery. They think he is useless, or hopeless, or something like that, you know. But they can’t just kick him out without his having done something wrong, something, there has to be some reason to kick him out of the monastery. So they consulted together and the idea came to ask him to give teachings, to recite teachings by heart. They thought that if they asked him to do this, because he didn’t study, he wouldn’t be able to give teachings, or recite. Also, they put a very high throne. So they thought, besides being unable to give teachings, he wouldn’t be able to climb up on the throne. So they put a very high throne.
They requested Shantideva to give teachings and he accepted. Then I think they must have waited with great curiosity. Now what is going to happen when he comes? Anyway, when Shantideva came, without any resistance, without any difficulty, he sat on the throne. Then he asked the monks, “What teaching do you need—that which is explained by Shakyamuni Buddha or the teachings that are not explained by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha?” Of course, they would ask for something that has not been explained by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Then without any resistance, without any effort, straight from the heart, he gave the teaching of the Bodhisattvacaryavatara. Then when he reached the “Wisdom” chapter, before the “Dedication” chapter, when he reached that chapter, one particular word, then Shantideva, while he was carrying on giving the Bodhisattvacaryavatara teaching, flew away from the throne. And then he became smaller and smaller, his holy body became smaller and smaller, smaller, and after some time, the size of a fly. And even that became smaller and they couldn’t see the holy body, but they were still able to hear the teaching, as if he were still on the throne. Then afterwards, when the teaching was completed, they gathered, then they recorded it. So that is how the Bodhisattvacaryavatara happened, the reasons that made Shantideva teach this.
Similarly, like the great bodhisattva, Shantideva, there are many like this in Tibet and in the monasteries. Outside, very ragged looking, wearing very ragged clothes, very old, four pieces joined or a bare body, living on human excrement—where the people make excrement, there they eat. Outside, looking like that, very dirty, very ragged, but inside, the quality of their mind, the excellence of their mind is like the sky. The amount of realizations that they possess is like the sky. Ordinary people who don’t have clairvoyance cannot see this. From the outside, they look just like they are begging, living like this, but in fact they are doing incredible, unimaginable, extensive works for sentient beings. There are so many stories similar to Shantideva’s about monks and laypeople, there are so many stories like this that happened in Tibet.
Before going through this, we should try to understand more, to have a more extensive purpose for listening to this subject, to have a pure motive. One great pandit, Chandrakirti, said in the teaching called Entering the Middle Way, “The mind sees the shortcomings, the delusions; the mind sees that all the shortcomings and delusions arise from the gathering of changes, the view of gathered changes. I will realize that the `I’ is the object of this, the `I’ is the object of karma, and I, the yogi, will refute the ‘I.’”
What this quotation is saying is that all the problems of body and mind that we experience in our daily lives, all these depressions, aggressions, fear, and worry—all these things are the shortcomings of the disturbing thoughts, such as the three poisonous minds: ignorance, anger and attachment. Where did all these disturbing thoughts come from? They came from the view of the group, the view of the gathered changeable ones, that is the Tibetan term jig.ta, or “the view of the changeable ones.” “Changeable ones” means the five aggregates. “Changeable ones” has another meaning, which is “view”—the view of the changeable ones, or the view of the gathered group of changeable ones. The gathering of the changeable ones, the five aggregates are the aggregates of form (the body), feelings, cognitions, the compounded aggregates, and the aggregates of consciousness. The gathering of these five aggregates is in the nature of change. The gathering of all these is in the nature of change. So they are called the changeable ones.
Now “view—” the view of the changeable ones. This gathering of the five aggregates is the base on which we always label our “I.” Whenever we talk about our “I,” each time we think, “Now I am going to do this, now I am going to do that, now I am getting tired, now I am going to eat.” Each time we think, when we talk with others, saying something, talking about the self, doing some actions, each time when we say this, even though we are not aware of what we do in our life, constantly while we are speaking, while we are thinking, we are labeling, even though we are not aware. Each time we think this, we are labeling on these aggregates. So on this gathering of the body and mind, “I” is labeled. While the body and mind are doing some action, on that, “I am doing this and that—” the “I” is labeled. Because the body is sitting and the mind is thinking, the mind is concentrating, keeping that in the mind as a reason, then with the mouth we say, “I am now sitting; I am now meditating.” That is the reason in the heart, that is what there is in the mind when we say, “I am now sitting; I am now meditating.” That is what there is in the mind unless it is questioned. But if it is questioned, “Why do you say this?” (if it is not questioned, of course, the person won’t say anything), “Why do you say, ‘I am doing this?’ Why do you say, ‘I am sitting?’ Or why do you say, ‘I am doing this?’ Why do you say, ‘I am eating’ or ‘I am meditating?’” If it is questioned, then, “Oh, because my mind is concentrating,” or “Because my body is sitting.” That is always the foundation aggregate and that action is kept as a reason in our heart, in our mind, and then in the words we say, “I do this and that,” thinking that way. Like this, it is labeled all the time. This “I” is labeled, or merely labeled, on these aggregates, and exists by depending on the aggregates.
Now, not that “I,” but there exists another “I,” which you might call instinctive according to scientific terms. This is not the labeled “I” but the “I” that is not labeled. There is an “I” that is not labeled, which appears as if it is completely existing from its own side, completely, from all parts, from all sides, completely existing from its own side on these aggregates. There is something not labeled, there is some “I” that is not labeled. “Yes, I understand that labeled ‘I’, I understand that one, but there is one ‘I’ that is not labeled, I feel this in my heart, in my chest, there is something there appearing to me.” Okay, now that is the hallucinated “I,” the hallucinated, illusory “I” that is completely illusory, which is in fact completely empty on these aggregates. It cannot be found; if you search, it cannot be found, from the tip of the hair down to the toes. It cannot be found on the body, or on the mind, not even on the group. So now, the “view,” you see, the “changeable view,” is the very root of all suffering.
“Changeable” is the gathering of the five aggregates. Now view. The “I” is labeled on these aggregates, but in your experience, in your intuitive experience, while you are not examining how the “I” appears to you, it is as if it is not labeled on these aggregates but exists completely from its own side, independently, without depending on anything. That is the “view,” this appearance of “I”—that which independently exists from its own side. “I,” something which is not labeled, which exists without being labeled, this is the “view,” this appearance is the “view.” So this is the completely non-existent, hallucinated, illusory “I.” This is the source of all the disturbing thoughts and all the sufferings. I think I stop here.
19 November, am
During the discourses, when the lamas give teachings, the usual practice that was done by the lineage lamas of the graduated path to enlightenment, and also the lineage lamas who have given the commentary to the Bodhisattvacaryavatara, is just briefly explaining the outlines on the usual way of listening to and explaining the teachings, as they are given in the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment. The commentary is given from beginning to end, about the qualities of the teachings, this particular teachings’ general qualities, the particular qualities of listening and of practicing these teachings, and the details about the way of listening in order to make the teachings effective for one’s own mind, and also from the side of the lama, the way of explaining the teachings. Just briefly mentioning, those explanations come if it is done from the beginning to the end—the details are given in the commentary.
However, here do three prostrations. First of all, it might look funny. In the West, before giving lectures, there are no prostrations. In the universities, when the professor, or generally, when a president or somebody gives lectures, there are no prostrations, so it might look funny. However, this is different, the purpose is different, the whole thing is different—the purpose of listening, the purpose of explaining, the whole goal, the whole thing is completely different. The teaching, if it is given with pride, it is not pure, is not Dharma practice. It doesn’t become pure action. It cannot benefit others that much if the teaching is given with pride, with impure motive. In order to overwhelm the pride, to stop the pride from arising, as the lama comes in front of the throne, he makes three prostrations while visualizing the merit field and the lineage lamas: Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of these teachings, and then the direct and indirect lineage lamas of the teaching that is going to be explained to you. Visualizing the triple gem, the merit field—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Then as one sits on the throne—one doesn’t sit on them (I am just joking)—then the merit field, the lineage lamas that you have visualized above the throne absorb into one’s guru, and then that root guru is absorbed into oneself, enters into one’s mind, into one’s heart. Yourself being oneness, your mind being oneness with the guru’s holy mind, you give the teaching.
Then the disciples make prostrations to the lama who reveals the path, the guru who leads one on the path to enlightenment. However, I am not going to explain now the purpose from the side of the disciple for doing prostrations and all the rest. Those who know the purpose of doing prostrations, who know how to do them, can do. If you know, then you can do, if you don’t know, then you don’t need to. If one doesn’t know the purpose, why it is done, then when you understand, when you feel, when you understand the purpose, at that time, you do it. It is not Nepalese law, it is not the law of the Nepalese government, so there is no danger of police catching you.
The purpose and the meaning of prostrations is very deep and very extensive. If one knows the explanation of prostrations, they contain the whole path to the omniscient mind. The goal is to purify, to be free from all the suffering—true suffering and the true cause of suffering. This is done as a method to obtain happiness, ultimate happiness. It contains what is to be purified, the true cause of suffering, from which to be free. And then path, the explanation of the mudras, contains the path, signifies the path and the result, the enlightenment, the two kayas—the Dharmakaya and the rupakaya. So actually, in short, it is a method to accomplish the whole path and the goal, the rupakaya and Dharmakaya, the exaltation of enlightenment. By doing prostrations to the object, not just rocks or trees or animals, but to a particular, holy field, not ordinary, that is able to guide one from the suffering realms of samsara, and guide one to the blissful state of peace, nirvana, or to enlightenment.
So first, the lama leads the prayer. After sitting down, he leads the prayer. After the disciples have done prostrations and sat down, he leads the prayer The Essence of Wisdom—the Heart Sutra or The Essence of Wisdom. The Essence is the essence of all the Buddha’s teachings, sutra and tantra. This is the very essence of all the Buddha’s teachings. That is, you see, the Prajnaparamita, the teachings of the Wisdom Gone Beyond, which explain the absolute nature, the reality or absolute nature of the “I,” the absolute nature of all existence. That wisdom which realizes this absolute nature, voidness, is the best, the direct remedy to cut off the root of samsara, the true cause of suffering, the very root of the true cause of suffering, the originator, the ignorance grasping at the “I” as truly existent. There are twelve volumes of the text, the Wisdom Gone Beyond, in the scriptures, talking about shunyata—80,000 stanzas, I think, one text, and this is the most abbreviated one among those texts on shunyata.
This which is on one page is the very essence, the most abbreviated of all the Buddhadharma, among all those scriptures of the Wisdom Gone Beyond. Each time one reads this, as one contemplates, while one is saying the words, each time one thinks of the meaning of the words, as one understands the meaning of this, it shakes the root of samsara. It harms the root of samsara, the ignorance grasping the “I” as truly existent. As we hear, as I read, you contemplate without the mind wandering. Even though you don’t understand much of the meaning of these words, just concentrate on the sound and if you understand the meaning, then of course, meditate on that.
As you hear “no eye, no nose, no tongue,” as you hear such things, concentrate, not just thinking “there’s no eye, no nose, no tongue.” Look at the appearance—think when you hear “there is no eye,” when you think of that, how it appears to your mind—eyes, nose, tongue, all these things. Eye, aggregates, all this—how does it appear when you think of that, when you hear of that, how does it appear to your mind, to you. How do you grasp at it, how do you think of it, how do you hold that, or how does the mind believe in it—in other words, the instinctive belief in those objects. When you hear it, you think of the way the mind grasps at the object, the instinctive belief. The truly existent, inherently existent, the “I” from its own side; there are the aggregates from their own side, there is the eye from its own side, there is the nose from its own side, without being labeled, something real which is not labeled, something real from its own side without being labeled. However, that is the hallucination—that view, that appearance is illusory. A hallucination that does not exist—the thing that appears, the way that it appears to one’s own mind, it does not exist at all, it does not exist at all there. Where you find it, where you think you have found it, where you think it is—there it is completely empty.
In short, during this prayer, sometimes you think, concentrate on the eye aggregates, all these parts of the aggregates—nose, tongue, all these things—all these as merely labeled. Strongly think from the side of the thought and name, labeled, merely labeled, sometimes strongly think from that side. Just concentrate on that, and sometimes, when you strongly think from this side, then some experience comes, some answer comes into the mind, some effect, some result, some understanding comes in the mind, if you think correctly. In that way then, one recognizes what it is that the teaching is saying more clearly, or what I am saying—that which you see, that which you find in the teachings of Buddha and that which you hear me saying is “hallucinated” or “truly existent” or that I say is completely a hallucination, completely empty in fact. By thinking sometimes strongly from the appearance, from labeling, that it is merely labeled by thought, the appearance, you see, it is more clear.
When those who have meditated and found some understanding of dependent arising, understanding of the hallucinated “I,” the aggregates, the object of the senses, that which appears, which has to be refuted, that which has to be realized as empty, when those who have found some understanding of the correct emptiness and dependent arising think of the way these things exist, by merely labeling, then, you see, the hallucinated “I,” the aggregates, the senses, the objects become empty. As they are empty, they become empty for your mind. You see that they are empty.
Those who have not found much understanding of dependent arising and emptiness, the absolute nature, can at least meditate on the appearance of truly existent, inherently existent, or independently existent, which is not labeled. This is so even though it is not clear at this moment, even though one does not recognize it now, even though it is not clear for your mind, when you look at how things appear to you, even though you do not recognize it, you don’t find it appearing that way. Still, when you think more of the way things actually exist as dependent arisings, being merely labeled, then the result, the benefits of it, the understanding is the discovery in your way of perceiving things, in what it is that you clearly recognize.
Like scientists—as they check the atoms more and more, and check the elements, the more they check, for those who check the mind, and those checking outside phenomena—the deeper they check, the closer they come to Buddha’s explanation of biology, of the mind, the mental factors—the evolution and the nature of the mental factors, and also the evolution of the outside, the elements. So, in this way, the result is more and more—as you hear, as you see, you recognize it to be as you have seen in Buddha’s teachings.
It says in the Heart Sutra,” There is no this and that,” saying so many “no’s.” Sometimes when you meditate like this, sometimes meditate that yourself, the “I,” the listener to the teaching, and the aggregates, the general and particular aggregates and the objects of the senses, are merely labeled. And then sometimes, as you hear the words, look at them. As you hear the words, whatever appears to your “I,” your aggregates, your parts—the eyes, nose, those parts—without the mind wandering, as you hear the words, look at the appearance of your own particular aggregates, your own object of the senses. Also, you can think of others. Think where it says “no,” “no,” “no;” apply that to this— on the thing that appears to your mind, apply the word “no.”
Think, “All this is illusory.” Like when you have taken LSD, you get visions of mandalas or going to the planets, and then at the same time the mind is aware that it is not real, it is just a hallucination. Similarly, while you are dreaming, at the same time, you are conscious of the dream, you recognized that this is a dream. Similar to this. At least you can meditate sometimes in this way.
Then each time you do like this, it plants seeds, and the mind gets trained and can soon realize the meaning of emptiness, the absolute nature, the emptiness that is so much emphasized in Buddhadharma. It is emphasized so much how important it is to realize—there are so many volumes of teachings that explain about it in detail. There are the root texts and so many commentaries written by many realized lamas and by Indian pandits. So, soon that experience comes. What is in the books, what you talk about in the teachings, what you meditate on, becomes real. In other words, it becomes reality. Now it is just words, you know, imitating—when we are meditating, we are imitating, just repeating the words. It is like this in reality, but we don’t see it in this way. So now, one doesn’t see it as a reality for one’s own mind, as a kind of philosophy, but something that you cannot feel, or something that has no relation to the fact of existence. However, at that time, when the understanding and experience comes in your mind, it becomes normal reality, it becomes reality for your mind. Then in this way, one can be swiftly liberated from all the true suffering and the true cause of suffering.
Also, reciting The Essence of Wisdom is in experience a way to prevent life dangers or disease. It can prevent temporal hindrances for the success of the works. Then for Dharma practitioners, of course, this is a very essential practice. This is the everyday life practice, the remedy to all the disturbing thoughts, all the true causes of suffering, and particularly to the ignorance grasping the “I”—which, while there is no such “I” existing from its own side, believes that there is such an “I” on the aggregates. So it is of utmost need to practice this. The meditation of the Essence of Wisdom is of utmost necessity.
Actually, it is supposed to be related to everyday life. As the meditation and the subject that it explains speaks about one’s life, day and night one should practice. The way of practicing this is not just in one session, not just one session of sitting. The meditation on this is from morning until night, whatever one does. Even when one does meditation, even when one does sitting meditation sessions, even when one does not do sitting meditation sessions, even during the break times, whatever action one does—sitting, walking, eating, whatever one does. Also at night, even going to sleep with this practice. This is something very much like a mirror, introducing a way of thinking in one’s daily life to see what is wrong and what is right. In our daily life, there are things, objects that we believe exist but that do not exist in fact, and things that do exist. This is like a mirror showing, clarifying these things.
When one does meditation with rituals, such as tantra practice, especially tantra practice, there is generally no way that one can accumulate virtue, perfect virtue, the cause of happiness, without the understanding of the meaning of the Essence of Wisdom, the absolute nature, the dependent arising—no way. And especially tantra practice, from the beginning to the end, the practice is to be done accompanied by the meditation, with the understanding of voidness, the Essence of Wisdom. All those profound, secret tantra practices, such as the mandala, generating deities—all those things have to be done by the subject, the mind, the creator realizing wisdom, seeing the voidness with the wisdom, looking at dependent arisings as illusory, looking at the subject-object, the visualization, and the appearance as illusory.
So it is very important. When we recite this, all the hindrances to Dharma, to being able to hear and receive the teachings, all the hindrances that disturb one from hearing the teachings as one wishes, and all the hindrances preventing the teachings from becoming effective for the mind, become empty, and do not exist at all. All the hindrances to generating the whole path from beginning to end, the exaltation of the omniscient mind, become empty. There are outer, inner, and secret hindrances. All these disturbing thoughts—anger, attachment, ignorance—all the obscurations, all the hindrances to actualizing the whole path from beginning to end, the exaltation of omniscient mind, become completely empty, and are completely empty. As the hindrances appear while one is saying “hindrances,” how this appears to one’s mind becomes completely empty, does not exist at all.
Also, if one wishes, one can relate this particularly to anger if one has much anger, and is very impatient. Or if one has so many problems with pride, or attachment, or whatever. If one has one of those particular great problems, one of those particular kinds of disturbing thoughts, such as the self-cherishing thought, or of course the ignorance grasping the “I,” then one can think of these hindrances to practicing and accomplishing the practice of Dharma as completely empty, not existing at all. In that way, reciting the Heart Sutra, or meditating, this becomes puja, or becomes the method to prevent or dispel the hindrances to accomplishing Dharma practice.
So now I read the story. Then you can meditate on the meaning.
Before you recite the Heart Sutra, it is very good to visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in front of you and then remember the kindness of his having shown such an infallible supreme method, the best method to liberate you. Remember the kindness of the great compassionate Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, and then read and meditate on the meaning. Those who can do this, those who understand this can think in this way.
“ ...Thus I have heard (In emptiness, there are no karmic formations—I think the term compounding aggregates is better here) ....”
I think I have finished. Another day, I would like to make each subject a little bit clearer, more simple so that when one recites this, it becomes very effective for the mind. So, the more you do the meditation on the Essence of Wisdom, instead of getting more and more bored, the more and more your faith increases and, you know, the mind becomes more and more happy. Like this. I think I stop here.
If somebody has one or two questions—if there is somebody who has some problem or something that they can’t answer.
Question: I wonder if you could explain what some of these things are: bodhisattva, mahasattva, Shariputra?
Rinpoche: I think Sharipu is one of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples, the arhat. The name of that disciple is Sharipu. Sharipu, the son of Shari, probably—that I am not quite sure of. Bodhisattva, mahasattva. I think mahasattva—I don’t remember one hundred percent from the commentary, but it could be the Buddha, mahasattva could be Buddha. It could also be great bodhisattva—there are ordinary bodhisattvas, and then there are higher bodhisattvas who have reached the bhumis. There are ten levels of realizations or bhumis, so those could also be called “mahasattvas.” They can also be buddhas. Bodhisattvas are those who are not enlightened, mahasattva could also be Buddha. If I remember one hundred percent later, I will tell you.
Question: Could this sutra also be saying, “Form is form and emptiness is emptiness?” Logically, it seems like that.
Rinpoche: You understand what? No, excuse me, your understanding is what? You understand when you hear “Form is empty,” you hear “emptiness is emptiness,” “emptiness is empty,” that is what you mean?
Question: Yes, in some books, it’s explained this way; in other books, in other ways.
Rinpoche: Oh, that’s alright. Emptiness is empty is correct. Emptiness is empty. In the teaching, when it says “emptiness is empty,” it means emptiness of the absolute nature. You see, emptiness of the “I.” “I,” that which is actually completely empty, the way appears to oneself, to us now, that emptiness itself, when we talk about that emptiness, it looks like the emptiness is appearing from its own side, doesn’t it? So that emptiness of the “I,” the way it appears to us now, that is the emptiness of the “I,” Okay? When I say the emptiness of this “I,” there is emptiness again appearing from its own side. Now, that is also empty of that appearance from its own side. So emptiness is empty. You see, emptiness, okay You just think, this “I” is empty, it doesn’t exist the way it appears, okay? Now, that emptiness is also empty of existing from its own side and labeled on that emptiness “empty.” We label the third emptiness “empty.” There is no truly existent emptiness, so that emptiness we label “empty.” That is, form is emptiness, emptiness is form—that is actually the very essence of the subject of the Heart Sutra. Relating to our own experience—this “I” that we feel now, here, above the heart, not in the toes, not in the hair, not in the stomach—we feel “I” somewhere above the heart, in the chest, somewhere here, a real one. Okay, that “form is empty” relating to the “I”—we can understand it easier with the “I” than with form, or than with outside objects because “I” is easier to understand. When we are not analyzing, not seeking the “I,” it looks as though it can actually be one hundred percent shown, pointed out here on the aggregates, somewhere in the chest. That it can be found in X-rays! I am joking, but anyway, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” can relate the “I.” You see, as soon as you search, “Where is the ‘I?’” suddenly it becomes weaker. The appearance of the “I” that is not merely labeled becomes weaker. For those of us who have not trained the mind much in the nature of emptiness, there is no need to say “merely,” just “not labeled.”
There is an “I” that appears to exist from its own side, which is not labeled by thought. However, as soon as we start to search for it, it becomes weaker. As soon as we start to check out where it is, it becomes thinner, weaker. For some individuals, it would be easier to recognize the aggregates, the outside objects as the object to be refuted, that thing that does not exist. But usually, for most people, it is easier to recognize the “I” as the object to be refuted, the thing that does not exist, to which we cling. The “I” is easier. So, as soon as we start to search, suddenly it becomes thinner. This “I” that looks as if it exists from its own side, without being labeled, the more we search for it, the more it becomes unclear, disappears. That itself shows that this “I” is a complete hallucination—it does not exist when we search inside.
Now, I’ll make this short. There is no “I” on these aggregates doing actions, except what is merely labeled on them by thought. We have an instinctive feeling, instinctive belief that there is an “I” on these aggregates existing from its own side, something real from its own side, without a label, but it is completely empty, completely empty. Therefore, the “I” is empty. On these aggregates, the “I” is empty, not existing from its own side. This “I” that is empty, not existing from its own side, exists on these aggregates. The way it exists on these aggregates is by depending on the aggregates by labeling, by merely labeling. Without choice, without freedom, it is under the control of thought and name. This “I” exists on these aggregates under the control of thought and name. No matter how much one believes, or tries to believe that the “I” does not exist through intellectual doctrinal belief, no matter how much one says it, in our experience there is still an “I” on these aggregates under the control of name. It is under the control of name without choice. It exists by labeling on the aggregates. If you don’t label it with your mouth, with words, the experience labels it. When you are hungry, even though you might say that you believe, or that your doctrine says that “I” doesn’t exist, still, when you feel hungry, your experience says, “I am hungry, now it is lunchtime.” You know? The “I” is empty. On these aggregates, the “I” is empty of true existence. It is empty from its own side because it is dependent on these aggregates by labeling. You can see by this that the “I” is empty, and that emptiness is “I.” The “I” is by nature empty, not existing from its own side, existing by dependence. So emptiness is “I.” Like that, okay? The meaning of this, one can see, as I said before, can be found only through experience, through realizations. That time, actually, one can get a surprise.
19 November, pm
I didn’t mean to come tonight to speak, but this morning, I think I just went somewhere, so I thought in order to reach the Bodhicaryavatara text, first we should finish some fundamental, necessary understanding and then actually start the Bodhicaryavatara subject.
As I mentioned the day before yesterday morning, this “I” is dependent on the aggregates because of being merely labeled, and the aggregates are also dependent on the group of the particulars, the five aggregates. Then each one—for example, the body—there is no body that is not labeled, which exists without being labeled on the gathering of the particulars of the body by thought. There is only what is merely labeled on the gathering of the limbs, all the particulars. Similarly, the mind is also a dependent arising. From that you can figure out the other mental factors, the other skandhas that have different names.
The mind or consciousness, which is formless, colorless, and whose nature is clear, perceiving objects, which has such a nature and which has such an action, is labeled “mind.” There is no mind as it appears to our mind—a real mind that exists from its own side. As we hear “the mind,” when I speak of “mind,” the mind that appears to your mind is something real, that exists from its own side without being labeled. But that is empty except for what is labeled, and the mind that is labeled on that aggregate has the nature of colorlessness, formlessness, and clarity, and perceives objects. There is no mind that exists that is not that.
So, like this, dependent arising. The body is a dependent arising. The mind exists by mere labeling; similarly then, the mattress. When we look at that mattress, the grass mattress, it is also a dependent arising, it also exists in dependence on the shape and material. If it were a rock or a stone, you would not call it a mattress. If it were made of wood, you would not call it a mattress. However, mattress? What do you call it? Mat, I see. I am sorry—wrong label!
Like this, on the particular base of such material and shape we say, “mat.” Same thing with the table, labeled on the basis of that wood that you say has a particular shape—it is not so much that it is wood, but that it has a particular shape, which functions as being used to put things on top. When you have this particular base that fulfills such a function, it is called “table.” So it is dependent, and exists by depending on such a base.
Then, however, without talking much, in short, Kopan. By thinking, “I will go to Kopan,” you came by air, by land, or whatever it was. But Kopan also exists as merely labeled on this particular area. It is a dependent arising. This meditation course is also merely labeled. There is no meditation course from its own side, as we believe. It exists as merely labeled on the base of the program, discourses—it is labeled on that basis, and it is a dependent arising. However, all this, when we think about it, when we talk about it, everything looks to our minds as though it were not labeled, as though it existed from its own side, but in fact, it is completely empty apart from what ourselves and others have labeled it.
Similarly, one dollar, one rupee, a million dollars—when you look at thousand dollars or one rupee, they appear to be a real one thousand dollars or one rupee or one million dollars in the bank. They appear from their own side as though they exist by themselves. When you look at them without analyzing, without checking how they are created, your intuitive perception gives it the appearance of existing independently, of existing from its own side, without depending on the idea, on the people who made the machines—without depending on any of these. All these rupees, all these dollars that appear in this way are actually empty, a hallucination. What exists and what you can do, the actions of buying food or doing business with it, that is what is merely labeled. According to the number of zeros, according to how many round ones there are, according to that, it is labeled one thousand dollars, one dollar—all these names were given, all these names were put on that. It is believed, it is agreed, and you are able to buy. If you pay these one thousand dollars, then you get something that costs that much—a television, whatever it is. Like this, all these are dependent arisings labeled on the different numbers.
Similarly, clothes, you see. You make clothes, and something round that you can cover the legs with, you call trousers. The things you can put the legs through are called pants or trousers. Then the things you can put the arms through are called—shirts? With arms? With sleeves? Sleeveless? So you see, making different shapes, you give them different names. There are different shapes for different parts of the limbs, to cover the different parts of the body. Something that covers the head is called “hat.” Then for the feet, they are called “socks,” something like that. You can see, this way, how all these things are dependent arisings, how these different articles of clothing exist by being merely labeled on the particular shape that does that particular function.
Similarly, food. When flour is not mixed with water, when it is just dry, it is just called “flour.” You don’t call it “noodles” when it is in the shop in the sack. In the West, I am not sure—I don’t remember whether I have seen a sack like in the Nepalese shops. Anyway, “flour.” Then it comes into the kitchen. Each time that flour is used, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, each time you make something, you call it something different. From the same material you make a round or square something and you call it “bread.” Then if it is made long, it is called “noodle.” If it is made flat and then inside you put tomatoes, or cheese or something else, then it is called “pizza.” I don’t have a wide view of the varieties that pizza can contain. However, according to the way it is served, it is called something different—like spaghetti and all these things. You can see now from this that all the different food also exists by being merely labeled on that particular base. So you see, they are all dependent arisings.
Like this, it is the same with all the objects of the six senses. The six senses are also dependent arisings, as each has a different function. The sense of the tongue cannot hear, cannot smell—it can only taste. Depending on the different function or action that it does, it is labeled. Although when we see, hear, or think about the objects of the six senses, they appear to our minds as not labeled, as existing from their own side, actually nothing exists except for what is merely labeled on that particular base. All this is dependent arising. There is nothing, not one single existence, not one single thing, that exists without being merely labeled, without depending on the merely labeling thought labeling on that base.
It is simple—anything that exists has a name. Why? Anything that exists has to be a dependent arising. Why can’t it be independent? It is easy to understand thinking in this way; anything that exists has a name. For example, one couple plans to have a child next year and so this year they think of a name. Maybe they look in books—I have heard that in the West there are books of names to help the parents. If they are going to call the baby “Vajra” or something like that, that Vajra doesn’t exist even if they have chosen the name. Vajra doesn’t exist, they don’t have Vajra now. Vajra will have to come. Next year, when they see the baby come from the mother’s womb, if they are still going to call it Tashi, sorry, Vajra, if they haven’t changed it, if they still have the same idea, then Vajra exists. Vajra exists actually—that Vajra which they already decided on from the beginning, before he was actualized in the mother’s womb. When he is actualized in the mother’s womb he exists, that Vajra exists. As the base is actualized, Vajra exists. But if they don’t like to call him Vajra, if after one year they change the name, if they are going to call him “Rock n’ Roll,” or something like that, if they didn’t like the previous name, then the boy, this child, “Rock n’ Roll” did not exist when he was one year old. He wasn’t labeled during that one year, so that child “Rock n’ Roll,” did not exist to that couple during that time. Only in the second year, when they decided to label him “Rock n’ Roll,” from that day forward, the child existed.
Before, there was a body, but “Rock n’ Roll” didn’t exist, because things that exist have to have a name. Even though that body didn’t have a particular name given to it by the parents, it was just born—there was the body, the aggregates. The aggregates were actualized but no particular name had been given to them by the parents. But “child” was the name. Although it didn’t have a particular name, it had that name. Before the particular name was given, it had some name. So you see, the name is merely labeled on the object by thought. Even object that we say “exists,” exists also as merely labeled by thought. Every existence has a name and that name exists by being merely labeled on that base by thought. Every existence is a dependent arising, is dependent on the base. It arises, then it exists. All existence—the “I,” like “Rock n’ Roll,” like “Vajra,” as well as any other name that you put on phenomena—all existence has a name—without a name it cannot exist. Everything has a name that is labeled on the base, merely labeled on the base by thought. All existence is dependent on the base—by depending on the base, it exists. Being dependent on the base is the way it exists in mere name, as a dependent arising. The “I” is dependent on the aggregates and the thought and name that labels on the aggregates is dependent. The “I” is dependent on the aggregates. As in the example of the child, without the aggregates it cannot be labeled. If there is no base for thought and name to label, then there is no way something can exist. The “I” exists by depending on the thought and name labeled on the aggregates. It does actions, experiences suffering, experiences happiness. Like this, the “I” is a dependent arising. The whole thing, starting from the “I,” the aggregates—the whole thing exists by mere labeling.
So in fact, it is like this. But according to our experience, according to our wrong conception of true existence, according to our ignorance—things appear according to our belief—I came from France—truly existent France that does not exist—and then came to Nepal—truly existent Nepal that does not exist—flew by airplane—truly existent airplane that does not exist—came to Kopan—truly existent Kopan monastery, truly existent hills, truly existent trees, which do not exist at all—then doing meditation course—truly existent mediation course that does not exist at all, which you are not doing—it doesn’t exist, so how can you be doing it? Truly existent “I”—”I” am meditating, “I” am taking the course—that truly existent “I,” the real “I” existing from its own side, cannot be seen even by the omniscient mind. What I am saying is that it does not exist at all. There exists nowhere such a subject who is doing the meditation, who is taking the course. Same thing with parents. When we think of our parents, we see our parents as something not labeled, as truly existent parents who do not exist, from whom we believe that we were born. Same thing with the truly existent son or daughter—they are completely empty. Same thing when we say, “I have a problem.” Again, an inherently existent problem, an independent problem, a problem that one worries about so much—and which does not exist at all. Then again, there is happiness, inherently existent happiness which is not merely labeled by one’s own thought. One clings to the pleasures, seeking the happiness that does not exist. So, in fact, without talking much, it is like this.
So, I came from France—which is merely labeled—by plane—which is merely labeled. Came to Kopan—which is merely labeled. I am doing the meditation course—which is merely labeled. “I am doing the meditation course.” “I” again—which is merely labeled on these aggregates. Then oneself is born from a merely labeled mother and merely labeled father, oneself is a merely labeled daughter or a merely labeled son. Similarly, one has merely labeled dollars in the bank, in the merely labeled bank. Same thing with the merely labeled money in the merely labeled purse. In the merely labeled car, you go to the merely labeled shop and you buy merely labeled food. Then you come back to the merely labeled house. Then you drink merely labeled wine. Then you meet the merely labeled wife. Then you quarrel, believing everything is truly existent. Then you quarrel, fighting about how much truly existent money was spent. How much money was wasted, how much truly existent money was wasted. I am talking about how it is according to belief, according to appearance—if that was put in words. But in fact, the wine that he had was merely labeled wine. The money was merely labeled money. However, they are quarreling, fighting over the merely labeled things. They are fighting, making each other unhappy, screaming at each other, beating each other, believing that so much truly existent money was spent. The mind is grasping at that view of the money being truly existent, even though it is empty. Like this.
Now they have found jobs in which they get a million dollars each month. And then they are excited, you see, believing that they are going to get a million dollars that exists from its own side—a truly existent million dollars each month. Then comes great worry that they may lose it, that somebody might interfere with the job, that somebody might kick them out, or be jealous. They feel much worry about not getting the truly existent million dollars. Even if they get it, even if they don’t get it, even if they lose it, it is merely labeled. I think I stop here.
There is something left. So you see, like this. You see how it is completely opposite—our belief, our everyday belief, the appearance of possessions, place, enemy, friend, stranger, to our minds. The way it appears, the way we believe it exists and the way things actually do exist are completely opposite.
It is like having a vision. Even though we are staying at Kopan hill, even though we are staying at a place like this, having a hallucination of living in a golden palace. Even though we are staying here at this place, we are having the hallucination that we are living in a golden palace, that everything is made of gold, and that you are the king. Like this, although it does not exist, although you are not a king, although there is no palace and you are not living in a palace, still, things appear like this and you believe them to be so. Although it is not a palace, although you are not a king, although it is not a palace, you believe that it is. Like this.
It is like a dream. In dreams, things appear as if they exist from their own side, as if they were not a mind projection, as if they were not labeled by thought. As if they were something that really existed from their own side. In dreams, we also see things, people, ourselves—everything—in that way.
When you see and meet beautiful people, objects, or possessions, attachment arises for those objects. Then when you see undesirable objects or people, hatred arises. In this way, we are under the control of what, in the Western sense, might be called instinct by the scientist—this simultaneously born ignorance, believing that things are truly existent.
As it is said in the teachings, first one clings to the “I,” then one clings to the “my.” Like this, one circles in samsara. First, one clings to the “I,” then one gets attached to “my” things. Like this, one circles without freedom. The circling in samsara is like the wheel that brings water that you turn round and round—like the wheel that is used to get water.
So, to that compassion that arises over these sentient beings (I am not sure if that is correct, but anyway, you may understand), the compassion that arises from this object, from the sentient beings, these suffering sentient beings, to that compassion, I pay homage. As Chandrakirti, this great pandit said. So you see, the simultaneously born ignorance of true existence holds the “I” as truly existent, as it appears, and it clings to that being true.
That is also how one cherishes the “I.” As one clings to “my” body,” “my” possessions,” “my” relatives,” and “my” happiness as truly existent, then also one’s attachment for these arises. Whoever benefits one’s own happiness, one believes to be a truly existent friend or helper, and then attachment arises. The one who disturbs one’s own happiness, one believes to be a truly existent enemy, and then anger arises. Then one clings to the stranger who neither harms nor benefits one’s own happiness as a truly existent stranger, so ignorance arises. As one meets different objects, these various disturbing thoughts arise.
Then they produce actions. They produce the karmic formation or the compounding action. (I think “karmic formation” is very commonly used, but it is more exact from the Tibetan to use “compounding action;” it makes more sense. It is more clear than just saying “formation.”) Like this.
Relate this to the present human body. Out of ignorance, under the control of the ignorance holding the “I” as truly existent, and also under the control of the compounding action, the virtuous action, the cause for this present body was collected and created. One did virtuous actions, practiced moral conduct, and made prayers with the wish to have human body, and the accumulated virtue, the compounding action, left a potential or seed on the consciousness. At the time of death, because of ignorance and the actions of craving and grasping, this arose. Because of the craving that plans and the grasping that actually decides to take it, craving and grasping caused the potential or the seed that was planted on the consciousness ripen. This is called becoming.
If the craving and grasping have ripened the potential that is left by a non-virtuous action, the person dies with a non-virtuous thought that takes him to the suffering realm. The consciousness transmigrates to the suffering realm. If the person’s craving and grasping ripens the seed that is planted by virtuous action, the person dies with a virtuous thought. That makes the consciousness migrate to the happy body, the happy realm. You see, the potential that was left by the compounding action was ripened by the craving and grasping at the time of death. Because of that, he died with a virtuous thought; so in this life, this time, the consciousness was able to migrate into these present aggregates which are called “human,” having a particular shape and having the incredible freedom to obtain whatever happiness one wishes for. This is labeled “human being.” I think I will stop here.
Rinpoche reads the Heart Sutra.
20 November, am
After this, the lama or everyone together usually recites some mantras of the Lion-face Dakini to dispel hindrances. Then after this is the teaching of the Bodhicaryavatara that presents the two or true paths: method and wisdom. The method is particularly bodhicitta, exchanging oneself for others—particularly this profound advice, the practice of bodhicitta, equalizing and exchanging oneself for others. The extensive methods and the profound path, these teachings of the two paths came from the founder, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, to Manjushri, then to Nagarjuna, then to the author of these teachings on the Bodhicaryavatara, Shantideva, then gradually through to Lama Tsongkhapa, to the present living guru from whom I have received the commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara, the only guide of devas, human beings, and all sentient beings, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From His Holiness’ holy mouth, I was able—one or two times I think—to hear this commentary.
The first commentary that I received was from another great bodhisattva, His Holiness Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, the great bodhisattva pandit who is inseparable from the previous pandits such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Shantideva, Chandrakirti and all those well-known pandits who did great works for sentient beings, who wrote many root text commentaries, and who clarified Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. The Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, passed away some years ago. I am not going to mention much now but I will be talking a little bit about this great bodhisattva during the beginning of the discourses—about his advice, his teachings on the practice of bodhicitta. I shall talk just a tiny bit about his holy actions, just to get a tiny idea of his practice.
Rinpoche Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, was born in a rural place in Tibet. I don’t remember the exact name. The biography is very short. The copy that I have received or somebody wrote down is very short. However, this great bodhisattva did much listening in his earlier life. He was an expert, learned in all the different aspects of Buddhadharma, the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, the Theravada Path, the Paramita path, and the teachings of the secret mantra (I did not receive these—it was not so common for people to receive tantra teachings. In public, Rinpoche didn’t give many tantra teachings but many teachings on the sutras, particularly on the Bodhicaryavatara).
Rinpoche himself wrote one teaching from his own experience on the benefits of bodhicitta, on the practice of the good heart, which is so effective, like nectar to cool the fire of the selfish attitude. He did much listening. There are four sects in Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. I think this happened mainly due to the different presentations of the teachings by the lineage lamas. However, the essence, the essential path is the same, the goal is the same; the base, the essential subject is also the same. They all talk about the base, about samsara, about true suffering, and the true cause of suffering.
Rinpoche did extensive listening to all the four sects’ teachings on sutra and tantra. He was also an expert in poetry, a great poet. The teachings that Rinpoche wrote are very sweet. They are written with poetry. Then also he understood diagnosis or hygiene—this part of the education, and logic. Like the previous pandits, he had all these five great qualities or excellences. He was excellent, fluent in Sanskrit.
His holy mind was like a great library, like those they have in universities, or Tibetan monasteries, with hundreds and hundreds of volumes. All these teachings that come directly from the holy mouth of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, collectively called the Kangyur and the commentaries on these written by the pandits, the Tibetan lamas, all those commentaries called Tengyur, Rinpoche could remember those hundreds of volumes. Each volume has three hundred, four hundred, five hundred pages. However, Rinpoche did not have any problems. For ordinary people at that advanced age, it would be difficult to remember, but he did not have any of the hindrances that ordinary people have in explaining or remembering the teachings. It was as if the whole library was within his holy mind. In this way, he could remember any of the teachings and explain them. Later, Rinpoche became the crown of all the learned, highly realized lamas and the higher geshes.
Then, I think, according to the biography, Rinpoche came to India. For sure that doesn’t mean that Rinpoche didn’t practice in Tibet, that he only listened without practicing, but in India, he practiced for many years, just living an ascetic life in different places in India, living with the sadhus. From the outside, he appeared to be a sadhu, with just some red cloth wrapped around him, but inside, he was in fact a great holy being, possessor of all the teachings, the words, the understanding of the meaning of sutra and tantra, the whole teaching.
He also had realizations, the experience of the path. He was so rich inside, a great holy being. Day and night, all the time his heart practice was bodhicitta. For us, for myself and ordinary people, the heart practice is the self-cherishing thought, but for such beings as Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, day and night, the heart practice is bodhicitta. Even though the quality of his knowledge of sutra and tantra, of all the teachings, of the complete path to enlightenment, was as extensive as the sky, still he practiced bodhicitta with his whole heart, equalizing, renouncing the self and cherishing others. And if Rinpoche gave advice to anybody who came to see him or take blessings from him, this was the main advice.
When he was living with the sadhus in different places like Varanasi, by the river Ganges, the sadhus liked Rinpoche very much. They helped him, offering him food and things like that.
At that time, many Tibetan people didn’t know about him. Then later on, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took Bodhicaryavatara teachings from Rinpoche and suddenly the Tibetan people and everybody started to realize who he was, that somehow he was a great being—something like that. Then everybody started to recognize him. His Holiness took teachings and showed his devotion to him as a virtuous friend, as a guru. Before, although as regards education, as regards understanding, his knowledge was as vast and infinite as the sky, still, many learned lamas, abbots, and geshes didn’t take teachings and show their devotion to him as a guru. Some took teachings but didn’t show devotion—didn’t take the teachings with respect for him as a virtuous friend. However, after they saw that His Holiness the Dalai Lama showed devotion to the Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, and followed him as a guru, he became famous among the Tibetans.
The practitioners and monks of the different sects and later so many Western people as well received teachings. They received many blessings, advice and teachings from Rinpoche.
Rinpoche lived on one meal a day. His holy body was not the body of a monk, but he lived by the eight precepts, as a completely pure Dharma practitioner. He lived what we, in our ordinary view, see to be a completely ascetic life. He is what we see as a pure Dharma practitioner. Later on, as many people heard his holy name, they came to see him and to make offerings. He, Rinpoche, did not accept the offerings but gave them back. Usually Rinpoche returned whatever the people gave him, he did not keep them. Also, he wore very simple clothes.
Rinpoche was not only an expert in Buddha’s teachings but also in other Hindu religions. There are many different Hindu religions and he could explain them all so well, so clearly. He was an expert in those other religions. Usually when Rinpoche began teaching, if there was time, he had a particular way of giving his teachings to the people, introducing those other religions to prove how their views were wrong and how their path didn’t lead to nirvana, to the cessation of samsara. Then Rinpoche would start talking about Buddha’s teaching, about the Dharma—the inner and outer Dharma. Then about the four sects of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism with their different presentations—Rinpoche knew all the teachings of the four sects very well and there would be monks from all the sects in the audience. Rinpoche would not only explain the teachings from one sect’s view but would show very clearly each sect’s side in his presentation. “This way,” he says, “according to this sect. This way according to this sect.” Very clearly, without any confusion, so everybody was completely satisfied. Incredible, to be learned not only in one sect, Nyingma, or Gelug, but in all four.
I received one oral transmission, just the thing, just listened to the reading. I requested to receive a commentary just for myself, there were no other people. Rinpoche was very busy and couldn’t give the commentary, only the oral transmission. So when he reached the ninth chapter, the chapter of wisdom, he was going to give a particular commentary on that, which I had not particularly requested, but there was a great obstacle—when he reached that part, I fell asleep. Then afterwards, I heard one commentary with many other geshes and lamas from other sects.
Rinpoche passed away at the same place and in the same country in which he was born. He was in meditation when he passed away. Rinpoche was in meditation for seven days or something, for quite a few days.
I think most of you have heard about His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Especially those who took teachings, those who received teachings—they understand. Especially those who came from Delhi, who have just seen His Holiness the Dalai Lama—you can understand, just by seeing him, so I don’t need to say much. An ordinary person like me has such an ordinary view, but the ordinary person’s view becomes great when you look and think of the holy actions of the body, how, even just with the holy body, even without hearing his holy speech, just by seeing the holy body, how much it benefits others, the suffering, confused sentient beings. Then, the holy speech and the actions of the holy mind—the attitude of the holy mind in this life, which you can see and feel very clearly. The whole of the holy body is filled up with compassion from the head down to the feet, like we are filled with blood and flesh. Compassion for any sentient being, whatever race or religion they may be. Compassion for all sentient beings.
Usually, kings or presidents wish less difficulties for themselves as far as the responsibility of working for others is concerned. Usually, those kings, or the president, whoever is the head of the population, desires less hardship, that his work for others should be as easy as possible. But His Holiness is different. There is a particular thing about His Holiness, a sign that he is a great bodhisattva, a great hero working for others, doing any difficult work for others. He is a hero doing that work for however long it takes, however hard it is, without the slightest thought that “it is difficult for me.” Instead, it is like drinking nectar.
His Holiness says that for himself, he wishes the work for the Tibetans to be even more difficult than it is now. For himself, he likes that. In general, for all sentient beings, he wishes he could relieve them all from suffering, particularly as regards getting independence for Tibet. Day and night, he is continuously working for all sentient beings with incredible great love, for them to receive happiness without even a second’s delay. His great compassion, without even a second’s break, is always concerned, the way a mother feels for her most beloved son. With great compassion, with the great compassionate eye, he is always looking at sentient beings, not for even one second not working for sentient beings.
The regard for others’ wishes is like this, but for himself, His Holiness is happier if he is working for others; the more problems people bring, the happier he is. That is a special, particular thing, different from other leaders who are working for the people. You can see his holy actions by reading his holy biography—what happened in the past and what is happening now.
Relating to the preservation of the teachings, His Holiness talks about not only one of the four sects’ teachings of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, not only the Gelugpa teachings, not only the Nyingmapa teachings, but all of the four sects’ teachings, with complete clear understanding. He explains them without mixing them up. He knows all the teachings of all three vehicles, not just with the intellectual mind but with experience, more clearly than what is written in the texts. He can explain straight, directly from experience. Through experience he can explain the general fundamental lam-rim path, then the exhaustless path of the secret mantra, of tantra. So extensive, so profound, incredibly profound, deep teachings that many of the learned ones cannot understand, have difficulties in understanding. His Holiness makes the subtle meanings very simple, and relieves many practitioners from confusion and doubt. At the same time, he is preserving the whole Buddhadharma, preserving the experience, and spreading the experience in the minds of sentient beings.
At the same time, he is performing many other skills, the same work as the presidents or kings of other countries. He is doing all those other works, handling all the various problems of all the people. At the same time, he is doing all this work. He is able to handle it, able to do the whole thing, both the secular work and the spiritual work.
It’s amazing. The capability, the power to be able to work for others is unimaginable. When His Holiness comes to give teachings, he looks very simple. He looks like a very simple monk who just came out of a cave. Like somebody who lives in a cave and who doesn’t do any work, doesn’t do any office work, nothing of any kind, like a person who doesn’t have any of this, the politics, all these kinds of problems that people bring. His appearance shows no sign of this. He looks like somebody who doesn’t handle anything, who doesn’t do this kind of work; just himself alone living in a cave and practicing Dharma. Like that.
There are so many amazing, incredible, unimaginable stories in the biography of the Dalai Lama that ordinary people cannot imagine, that ordinary people cannot comprehend. There are so many other stories.
From these holy actions, from these things that ordinary people cannot do, it is proven that His Holiness is a great bodhisattva, a real buddha, the great compassionate one, the compassionate eye buddha, Chenrezig.
There is a praise, a request to Manjushri Buddha. One reason that Manjushri is visualized in the Bodhicaryavatara is that the great bodhisattva, Shantideva’s guru from whom he received extensive sutra, tantra, and also this teaching, is the Buddha of Wisdom. So, by lineage, Shantideva is making requests to his guru, the Buddha of Wisdom.
Requesting and doing meditation practice swiftly purifies the obstacles and obscurations that make it difficult to understand karma and shunyata, and make it difficult to have faith in the Triple Gem and karma, and which prevent the understanding of shunyata. Then the ignorance is purified and Dharma wisdom develops the understanding of the meaning of the whole teaching. We are able to comprehend the words, able to understand the meaning of the teaching correctly, and to actualize the realizations. We are able to understand every single thing about what is right and what is wrong, what to practice and what things are to be given up. For that reason, the request and the admiring prayer to Manjushri are done.
The mandala offering is a special method to create extensive merit—merit or fortune or luck to cause one to subdue the mind with regard to the teachings, to be able to complete the Dharma practice of listening, reflecting, and meditating, and to achieve the state of omniscient mind for the sake of others.
It is a special method that gives immeasurable results in this life. The temporal result while one is in samsara, until one is free from samsara, is that in so many lifetimes, one can enjoy the result: temporal happiness and perfection. In so many hundreds of lifetimes, one can find a happy body, perfect enjoyment.
Then the ultimate, the highest, the peerless exaltations of the omniscient mind. The whole graduated path to the omniscient mind. And then particularly, of course, it benefits by pacifying all the disturbing thoughts, the root of ignorance, the grasping “I,” particularly attachment, miserliness. It’s a practice, a remedy, particularly for attachment and miserliness.
Then, after that comes the request to the lineage lamas, requesting the lamas to pacify all the hindrances to generating the path that is contained in the Bodhicaryavatara, the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment, and requesting to purify all those obstacles. The first request is to purify all the obstacles to generating the graduated path to enlightenment within one’s own mind and within the minds of other sentient beings. The first time, we request the purification of all the obstacles for oneself and others, and the second time, the replica of the lineage lama absorbs into oneself and all the sentient beings, generating the whole path to enlightenment, method and wisdom. Especially the wisdom of absolute truth and bodhicitta, equalizing and exchanging oneself for others, are generated within one’s mind and within the minds of all sentient beings.
And after that, as I explained about the purpose and advantage of the mandala offering, according to the practice of the tradition, when the teaching has been given by the lineage lamas before the teaching the mandala offering is given to the guru. Then after that, the lama says some prayers.
I forgot to mention yesterday morning when I was talking about the way of explaining the teachings from the side of the virtuous friend, the lama, that after sitting down on the throne, one should remember that the entire merit field absorbs into the guru and that the guru absorbs into oneself. Then also, the lama should remember impermanence by remembering that the teachings, oneself, the listeners, the disciples, and all existence are like stars—they do not last, shimmering like a lamp, illusory, like water, dew that does not last, like water bubbles, like dreams, like lightning, like clouds. So one should look at it like this. One should look at all of existence like this. Visualizing the merit field absorbing into the guru prevents, stops the pride—remembering this stops the pride and the selfish impure motives for giving teachings. It stops the hindrances that do not allow the action of explaining the Dharma to be pure, that do not allow it to become a pure action of teaching.
Then just before giving teachings to the disciples, the lama, with the right hand in the mudra of expounding the Dharma and the left hand in the mudra of concentration, says the words that tell the devas from those high planets to come down to listen to the teachings. When those great yogis, like Milarepa, and the high lamas give teachings, the goddesses make flower rains. When the lama starts to give teachings, they make flower offerings—flower rains from the sky.
Also, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives teachings, he gives teachings not only to human beings. We see only human beings. We give teachings only to the people, but there are many other beings we can’t see from other planets, such as protectors, spirits, and devas. Not only people. So, when those great yogis give teachings, they also teach the devas.
The lama is telling the devas, the kings of the devas, such as Indra and Brahma, to come down to listen to the teachings, the Buddha’s holy teachings, the teachings that the Buddha has taught, which are extremely pacifying for the mind, and are the cause of ultimate happiness. They ask them to come down to listen to such teachings. Then they tell them that this is a treasure, that there is no greater treasure than this precious knowledge. You should highly devote yourself to this great work—there is nothing to hear that is of greater interest than this. So therefore, listen to the teachings with a subdued manner of body and a subdued mind, listen to the teachings in a righteous manner, with a subdued body and a subdued mind, a mind of pure motivation.
If the teaching is given with worldly thoughts, to seek reputation, with the thought, “I will be famous,” or, “People will think that I’m great,” or, “I’m a realized being,” if it is given with worldly thoughts, with worldly concern, with concern for the happiness of this life or with the worldly thought seeking material offerings, then even though the words of the subject about which I speak (referring to myself) are the holy Dharma that explains the path, the remedy to the disturbing thoughts that eliminates the delusions, still, if the action, the teaching is given with such wrong motive, then the action does not even become holy Dharma. My action of giving teachings does not become holy Dharma—it becomes worldly Dharma, it does not become holy Dharma.
So, without having worldly thoughts, without the motivation being stained by worldly thought, on that basis, with that pure motivation, keeping as much as possible the thought to obtain benefit for others, the compassionate, loving thought of bodhicitta, obtaining only benefits for other sentient beings—with that motivation, the teaching is given.
If there is extra bodhicitta, that is the best. Even if there is no uncreated, intuitive bodhicitta, at least there should be created bodhicitta.
I shall briefly mention the obstacles to listening to the teachings, the obstacles preventing the teachings from becoming effective for the mind. I shall just briefly mention how to avoid the three mistakes of thought. It looks funny, however—if a pot is upside down, then even though what you’re going to put inside is nectar, it doesn’t go inside. Similarly, if during the teachings, the body is in the hall but the mind is in Katmandu or in France or in Germany or in America while the teaching is given, if the mind is distracted, nothing goes inside. If the whole session is done like this, after the session you cannot say, “I heard such and such words on this and that.” The listener shouldn’t just be like a pot put upside down—that is one thing to know.
The second thing is not being like a stained pot. Although the pot is not upside down it has got some stains in it, some bad smell. So even though you pour ice cream into it (the Western nectar, you know), because it has a bad smell, because you put it in a dirty pot, no one will take it. Like this, if one listens to the teachings with the wrong motive, again, same thing. If one listens with worldly disturbing thoughts, such as pride, then we see the teachings with pride. You know, “What else does he have to say?” kind of waiting for some new subject, to hear something that you have not heard before. When listening with pride, we think all the time, “This I know,” “This I know,” “This also I’ve heard before,” and “This also I’ve heard before.” Each time, we are thinking like this, not checking whether we have this realization, not checking like this.
If he is talking about patience, “I heard this ten years ago.” You shouldn’t think, “I’ve heard these things so many times, for so many years, from so many lamas.” If pride arises, that hinders the teachings from being effective, from being beneficial for your mind—it is something to practice, not so much to collect the words, but to practice, to put into action. Then you should think like this, “For that many years, I have listened, but has there been any progression in my mind? Has my anger become less, weaker than last year, than ten years back? Is there any difference between now and before I met Buddhadharma? Is there any difference? Has it become any weaker, smaller, shorter than before I met Buddhadharma?”
The point, the purpose, the conclusion, is this, “Because of following the anger, the disturbing thoughts, I didn’t get to practice patience. That practice of patience didn’t get accomplished, so still, the omniscient mind is not obtained.”
That is how it is blocked. That is why we still cannot do the effortless, extensive works for other sentient beings. It is blocked by anger, by giving victory to anger. Instead of giving the loss to anger and the victory to ourselves, we give the victory to anger, we let the anger overwhelm us.
The whole thing is blocked by this, following anger and not practicing patience. So, the point is to make the rising of anger within one’s mind completely non-existent. You look at your mind to check whether you still have anger or not. This is one example.
Then one should use the same technique, the same way of thinking with the other disturbing thoughts, whatever the teaching is about. If it is a remedy for attachment, then if your mind has that problem, think like that, according to the subject of the teaching.
One should listen to the teachings seeing oneself as a patient because of the sicknesses of the mind, then use the teachings as a medicine for that. One should see the guru, the virtuous friend who reveals the teachings, as a skillful doctor. One should see the teacher who reveals the teachings as a skillful doctor. Then if there is pride, the purpose of listening to the teaching is to remedy, to eliminate the pride, to see the true suffering and the true cause of suffering, the mental sicknesses, pride and these things. Then one should remember the shortcomings of pride.
If one understands the teachings on how to devote oneself to the guru, part of those teachings is to control pride. When pride arises because I know the words, I should check whether I am practicing or not, you see. Pride arising means not having practiced the teachings. Try to recognize your own mistakes, and in this way you will control it, and pride will disappear.
So, like that, listen to the teachings without worldly thoughts of seeking happiness for this life. For reputation—“So that I can write books. With all these notes I can make a book. Or I can teach to others, being a guru, being one of the gurus in the West.” Then the teaching doesn’t benefit. No matter how profound the teaching is, how unmistaken, it does not benefit one’s own mind. It doesn’t help to overwhelm, to pacify the selfish attitudes, the three poisonous minds, all those things.
Also, if one listens with this kind of attitude, with worldly thoughts, it does not become even holy Dharma.
So, in short, one should listen with the motivation of bodhicitta, with at least the creative bodhicitta. In that way, one renounces the mistakes of being like the stained pot.
I think I stop here.