Kopan Course No. 26 (1993)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #971)

Lamrim teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the 26th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov–Dec 1993. Highlights include teachings on tonglen (taking and giving) in Lecture 4, a meditation on emptiness in Lecture 8, and teachings on karma and the four suffering results of nonvirtuous actions in Lecture 11 and Lecture 14. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Go to the Index page to view an outline of topics and click on the links to go directly to the lectures. You can also download a PDF of the entire course.

1. Universal Responsibility

December 2, 1993

The need to transform the mind


So first I would like to say, “Hello.” From my heart I would like to thank you very much, those of you who have just begun to seek—that’s seek, not to be sick—the unmistaken path, as well as all you people who have been following or attending the unbetrayable or unmistaken path for some time, the path leading to peace.

The first thing I want to explain is the reason we need to practice meditation, to practice Dharma. Of course, the basic reason is we want happiness and we do not want problems, we do not want suffering, but it’s not just that. The main reason is that happiness and suffering do not come from outside; happiness and suffering come from within our own mind. Every living being’s happiness or suffering comes from the mind, not from outside. That’s the main reason there is the need to practice Dharma, why there’s the need to practice meditation.

While our life’s so busy, why is there a need to add some additional thing on top of that? Why do we need to meditate, to practice the Dharma on top of our normal busy life? Another way of saying that is our daily life must become Dharma—meditating, working, eating, sleeping, sitting, talking and so forth—all our daily life activities must become Dharma. Whatever we are doing, even in our business, has to become our Dharma practice, it has to become a meditation. Why is that? The whole reason we have to practice meditation, Dharma, is because we have to change our life, we have to transform our daily life into the Dharma. We need to transform the same actions that we have been doing all our life into the Dharma, into meditation, so that they all become the cause of happiness. Because the happiness we want and the suffering we don’t want don’t come from outside but from our own mind, we have to put all our effort, all our attention into this.

The main cause of suffering is not outside, it is in the mind; the main cause of happiness is not outside, it is in the mind. You can say it is in the mind or on the mental continuum; it can be said both ways. Within the mind is the wrong concept that becomes the cause of suffering, that produces or creates all the suffering, all the problems of life. Then there is the causative attitude of the healthy mind, which is also a concept, but one that produces peace, happiness in life.

The happiness or suffering we experience is the ripening of an imprint on the mental continuum left on the mind by past actions, by the power of positive or negative attitudes of the past, like having planted a seed in the ground.

Like the body, the mind is flexible. With effort we can make the body very flexible, like the acrobats in a circus, able to jump about and do all those various things. I don’t know how to label it, but anyway those that can do all those things in the circus. People who do physical yoga can bring their legs around the body, around the neck! [Rinpoche laughs] All that physical flexibility has come from physical effort; just imagining it is not enough. It has to come through physical effort.

Similarly, because happiness and suffering are inner factors, because they are feelings, they come from the mind, they are produced by the mind. Therefore to stop the mind creating suffering and to cause the result of all the happinesses and peace in the mind, this will only come through thought transformation or mind training, the development of a positive, healthy mental attitude.

There are no external factors that can eliminate the mind that produces unhappiness or suffering, that can transform it into the cause of happiness alone. There is no other means except the Dharma, meditation, to eliminate suffering and obtain happiness. This is because happiness and suffering come from within our mind. It can only come about by the transformation of our own mind, by positively developing our mind, which makes our life have a better quality.

The other thing is that the purpose of our life is not just to solve our own problems and obtain happiness for ourselves—not just for this one person, even if that person is ourselves. The purpose of living our life is to free every living being from every suffering and to obtain happiness for every living being. That is the purpose of our life.

Therefore we need to transform the mind from a mind of ego, of the self-cherishing thought, the thought seeking happiness only for ourselves, working only for ourselves, which is the source of all the problems of life, all the obstacles to achieve not just temporary happiness and success but also especially ultimate happiness, the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. This ego, the thought seeking happiness only for ourselves, is the source of all undesirable things; it is where all the harms come from, all the obstacles to practicing the Dharma. Even when we practice the Dharma, when we meditate, there are interferences or obstacles that don’t allow us to practice Dharma, that interfere in us having success in our Dharma practice, even for the success of the work for this life. The ego, this attitude that is concerned only for ourselves is the root of all these undesirable things that we experience. It is where all the dissatisfaction in life comes from, all the pain in the heart.

Therefore we need to transform the mind from this thought seeking happiness only for ourselves into one of altruism, the thought of benefiting others, of helping all living beings to obtain happiness. This change is like the difference between the earth and the sky. This change of mind, this thought transformation, is the root of happiness of our life; it is the best way to find satisfaction, happiness and success—happiness and success for ourselves and happiness and success for others, for every living being.

As soon as the change starts, as soon as we start to change from the egoistic thought of working only for our own happiness and start to work for the happiness of others, that is when real peace and happiness start within our heart. With this healthy mind that seeks to work for others, wishing to obtain the happiness of other living beings, with this thought of benefiting others, life becomes enjoyable. Whichever lifestyle we might be living, with this new healthy mind our life becomes enjoyable because we see the meaning of our life. There is a purpose for living; we have the responsibility to obtain happiness for everyone, to free everyone from all the sufferings and to obtain their happiness.

Our universal responsibility

As I often say, if there is no compassion in our heart, then what is there is ego, the self-cherishing thought. Depending on that, anger arises as well as the other emotional minds, the dissatisfied minds such as attachment, jealousy and so forth. Then other living beings receive harm from us directly or indirectly from life to life. If there is compassion generated in our heart, what comes out of this compassion is no harm, only benefit to others. Starting from the people or animals nearest to us, any living being who is around us, from there to all the other living beings, nobody receives harm from us; what they receive from us is peace. With compassion, we not only stop giving harm to others but we also benefit them, so all other living beings receive help, happiness, from us.

Whether all other living beings receive peace and happiness from us depends on whether we have compassion toward them or not. And that is up to us; that is up to what we do with our mind. Therefore every one of us here has the universal responsibility to free everyone from all the sufferings and obtain happiness for them.

Maybe we should do a short meditation at this point. Try to feel the universal responsibility that you have responsibility to obtain peace and happiness for everyone who is around you here now in this building, in this place, Kopan. Starting from here, think, “I have a responsibility to obtain happiness and peace for everyone, for all the living beings.” By using reasoning, try to feel the universal responsibility.

[Rinpoche and students meditate]

The next thing to consider is what is it that hurts you? That part might come in a dream. If you go to bed, it might come in a dream. I’m joking. [Rinpoche laughs]

Anyway, I’ll stop here. Thank you very much.