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.

14. Karma and the Four Results of Nonvirtuous Actions

December 15, 1993

Meditating on subtle dependent arising

[It seems the beginning of the discourse was not taped]

The definition of existence that was explained by the Omniscient One in the teachings is the object that can be discovered by the valid mind. That is the definition of existence. But now here, it is not just that, by thinking of the meaning of dependent arising, we can say that any phenomena that exists does so by depending on the base to be labeled and depending on the label, that which is imputed. So, there are these two things. By depending on the base to be labeled and the label that is imputed, on those two, [an object] exists. Depending on those two, it is able to exist, it is able to arise, it is able to function.

For example, the I exists depending on the aggregates—the association of body and mind—on the base to be labeled. So there are the aggregates, which is the base to be labeled, and the label, the “I,” that which is imputed on the aggregates. We can also count on the thought that labels [as needed for an object to exist], but the essence is the dependence on these two: the base of the aggregates, and the label, the “I” that is imputed on that base. Depending on those two, the I exists and it is able to function—walking, sitting, sleeping, eating and so forth.

The merely labeled I is able to do all these functions, experiencing happiness and suffering as well as being able to abandon suffering and achieve happiness, by abandoning the cause of suffering and by practicing the cause of happiness. This merely labeled I can do all that. 

So, this is not only defining the existence an object in the usual way, as that which can be ascertained by a valid mind, one that is not hallucinated, not defective. Here, we define an object as existing through subtle dependent arising, how, like the I, everything exists by depending on the base to be labeled and the label that is imputed. By depending on those two, the object arises or exists, and is able to function.

Defining existence in this way is very helpful. When we think of all existent things, in our heart we think of subtle dependent arising, and the understanding that arises from that is that all existent things are therefore empty of existing from their own side. The result is the understanding arises in our heart that everything is empty, that nothing exists from its own side. The I is empty, the action is empty, all other phenomena are empty—empty of existing from their own side.

We should just concentrate on this a little bit, looking at all phenomena as empty, starting from the subject—the I, the self—and then the action, and then all other objects.

[Rinpoche and students meditate on this]

The conclusion of this meditation is that, because of this, now there is no basis for the delusions to arise. There is no object to get angry with; there is no object to cling to; there is no object to cause ignorance to arise, to cause the concept of inherent existence, the root of samsara, to arise. None of these concepts make any sense; they have no meaning. The way they apprehend the object is a total hallucination.

When we look at other sentient beings, at all the six realms’ sentient beings—the hell beings, the hungry ghosts, the animals, the human beings and the suras and asuras—we see how all these sentient beings’ lives are completely trapped in this hallucination. They are totally living in the hallucination, the appearance of true existence. Ignorance, the wrong concept of inherent existence, apprehends that the appearance is true, that the object does truly exist [as it appears].

Then, all the other wrong concepts such as anger, dissatisfaction, attachment and so forth are built on the basis of this truly existent appearance, this hallucination and the belief that the appearance is true. With all these hallucinations and wrong concepts, the sentient beings of the six realms create karma and then have to experience its result, samsara which is only in the nature of suffering, and in particular the suffering of the three lower realms, that have the heaviest sufferings.

[This is the cause of] all of life’s problems: depression, loneliness, dissatisfaction, relationship problems, the problems of desire and so forth. Beings are unable to find satisfaction. No matter how many samsaric perfections, enjoyments, they experience in the world, they never find satisfaction. This ignorance leads to dissatisfaction. It is the door of all the sufferings, such as not being able to find satisfaction and the many other problems of life. And nothing is definite in samsara. Material possessions, relationships, even life itself—nothing is definite. Like this, they experience the general sufferings of samsara, the six types, four types and three types, those that are integrated in the sufferings of each particular realm.

[When we think like this,] we can use the understanding of emptiness to generate compassion toward all living beings, thinking how they are suffering continuously from time without beginning by not having realized emptiness. As long as they do not realize the truth of how things exist, the reality of the existence of all phenomena, emptiness, they will have to continuously experience the suffering of samsara without end.

Think, “How wonderful it would be if all the sentient beings were free from all the suffering of samsara and its causes. I will free them from all suffering and its causes by myself alone, and lead them to happiness and the cause of happiness, particularly to the peerless happiness, full enlightenment. Therefore I must achieve full enlightenment. No matter how many eons it takes, no matter how hard it is, I must attempt to achieve full enlightenment. I have the universal responsibility to free all living beings from all suffering and to lead them to happiness. Therefore I am going to listen the profound holy Dharma, the steps of the path to enlightenment.”

Accumulating merit with holy objects

According to Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy words, actions that are not possessed by the three principal aspects of the path, which means the renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and right view, become just ordinary actions. These are called “all-arising,” which means they cause further karma. Actions which are “all-arising” are the cause of samsara, karma and delusions or disturbing thoughts. All ordinary actions that come from karma and delusion are called “all-arising” because all the problems of life, all the sufferings, arise from karma and delusion. In Tibetan it is called kun jung denpa, the “all-arising truth,” which means the cause of suffering, karma and delusions, except for some exceptional actions.

The whole of yesterday’s talk was about exceptional actions, the actions Lama Tsongkhapa said are done by depending on the power of the merit field, that means holy objects. As I mentioned yesterday, every single action done with respect, such as circumambulating, prostrating, making offerings and so forth, to holy objects like statues, stupas and scriptures of the Buddha, becomes the cause for enlightenment. The action itself leads us to enlightenment when done in relationship with these holy objects. The whole of yesterday I was talking about that path.

The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and even material objects such as statues, stupas and scriptures are called a merit field. Why? As Lama Tsongkhapa mentioned, actions not possessed by the three principal aspects of the path become only ordinary all-arising actions and hence the cause of samsara. The exception is actions that are done by depending on the power of the merit field. By practicing the seven-limb practice—prostrating, offering, confessing, rejoicing, requesting to holy beings to have a stable life until samsara ends, requesting them to turn the wheel of Dharma and making dedications and offering a mandala offering—through these practices done by depending on these holy objects, we accumulate merit. These are the holy objects we receive merit from, good karma, the cause of happiness.

It is like the external field where we plant seeds and then the crops grow that allow us to enjoy our life. All that comes from the field where we plant the crops. In the same way, by depending on these holy objects, we accumulate merit, and then, from the merit, realizations of the path come, like stems coming from the seeds. Then just as the stems give fruit, when all the realizations are achieved within our mental continuum, we achieve full enlightenment, the fruit of the path.

The four results of sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct becomes a negative action as a result of being done out of an impure mind and with at least one of the three poisonous minds of ignorance, anger or attachment. But the main thing that makes sexual misconduct a negative action is ego, the self-cherishing thought.

A complete action of the sexual misconduct is one where all four aspects are gathered—the base, the thought, the action and the result, which is the goal. When all these four are gathered, that makes the action complete. Then due to the attitude, the negative, impure mind, there are four suffering results. The ripening result is rebirth in one of the lower realms and experiencing the sufferings of that realm, depending on how heavy the action is. Then we have to experience the three other problems after some time when we are born in the human realm. These three are experiencing the result similar to the cause, creating the result similar to the cause and the possessed result.

With experiencing the result similar to the cause, when we are born as a human being, those around us and those we live with, our partner, servants and so forth, disturb us greatly; they are very annoying. We cannot trust them. Our relationship with our partner becomes incompatible. They always go against our wishes. This is the way it is described in the Sutra of the Ten Bhumis, where it explains two types of experiencing the result similar to the cause for each of the ten nonvirtues. A complete action of sexual misconduct is explained like that.

Our companion, our servants and so forth, the people around us, are always annoying, always disturbing us. We cannot trust them, we cannot trust our companion and we become incompatible, which means that our partner either doesn’t follow our wishes or else goes against our wishes. This is what is explained in these teachings. The relationship becomes disharmonious and that leads to separation. Our partner might go off with somebody else.

When this problem happens, it looks like it totally happens from the side of the other person, from the outside. It appears like that when we don’t understand karma, but in reality it comes from our own mind. It appears like that when we don’t know how these problems come from our negative karma, the imprint that was planted on our mental continuum by the past karma of sexual misconduct, which becomes powerfully negative, [ripening] this year, this month, this week, today.

Even if we were in a harmonious relationship, suddenly this year, this month, this week, today, suddenly there is a big change in the relationship. The whole thing completely changes. That is due to the imprint that was planted by the past negative karma of sexual misconduct powerfully manifesting. Because that negative karma wasn’t purified, because nothing was done to purify it, that imprint remained in our mental continuum until today, when, due to causes and conditions, it becomes ready to be experienced. Then, suddenly there is a change in the appearance of our life, relating to our companion and to the people around us. There is a different appearance, a different projection, and we have to go through all those problems again and again.

So much of what is happening in the world is this aspect of karma, experiencing the result similar to the cause of the past sexual misconduct. That shows that all these problems come from the mind.

Then, there is the possessed result. Even when we are born as a human being, we have to experience undesirable places, places that are very muddy or dirty, filthy places where there is a lot of garbage, a lot of kaka, of excrement, places that are poor and smell very bad, that are very depressing and unpleasant. The possessed result of sexual misconduct is to be reborn and have to live in such a place. However, even if we have to occasionally experience an undesirable place like this, one that is very filthy and smelly, even for a short time, this is also the possessed result of the past negative karma of the sexual misconduct.

What this explanation shows is that all these appearances of unclean, dirty, unhealthy places, and the unpleasant, suffering feeling that arises from having to experience them, this all comes from our mind, from [the ripening of] past negative karma.

The other aspect of karma is creating the result similar to the cause. Because of the past habit of doing that action, an imprint is left on the mental continuum. Then, even when we are born as a human being, we do the same action of sexual misconduct again and again, over and over.

This is similar to the action of stealing, where no matter how much a person is punished or imprisoned for stealing, having to go through a lot of difficulties, somehow, uncontrollably, because of their habit of stealing, they steal again and again. Similarly, even though we might have suffered a lot, experiencing so many problems due to this many times, and even if we don’t wish to experience these problems again and again, somehow it becomes uncontrollable and we commit sexual misconduct again and again, creating the result similar to the cause due to the imprints of the past action.

Of the four suffering results of this complete negative karma, this one is the worst. The ripening result of reincarnating in the hell realm and experiencing suffering there looks like the heaviest one, the worst one, but actually the worst among the four suffering results is creating the result similar to the cause—doing the negative action again and again. Why is this the worst, why is it is more harmful than reincarnating in the hell realm? Having to suffer in hell is not forever. It’s not like what is said in the Bible, that once we are born there it is forever, that it can never change. It’s not like that. Depending on how heavy the karma is, there is always a duration of time that we have to experience any of the lower realms, but even the heaviest karma of the lowest hell does not last forever.

Therefore, it is very logical that creating the result similar to the cause, doing the negative action again and again, is the worst of the four suffering results. It is the one that is the most harmful. After the negative karma of reincarnating in the lower realms and experiencing the suffering there is finished and we are reborn as a human being, if we do the same thing again and again—the negative action of killing, stealing or sexual misconduct and so forth—then each of those negative karmas, when it is a complete negative karma, produces four suffering results, one of which is again creating the result similar to the cause. From that one result, after some time when we are again born as human being, we again do that complete negative karma, and again we have to experience the four suffering results. In that way, it goes on and on and on, on and on and on and on.

By creating the result similar to the cause again and again, the suffering of samsara is without end. We will forever be creating this negative karma again and again, which again and again will result in the suffering that is the result of that past negative karma. This makes the suffering of samsara endless. This is even worse than having to reincarnate in the hells because that is just for a period of time and then it is finished. If we analyze it, we will see that this is the heaviest, the worst one, because this is what traps us in samsara forever, making us experience suffering continuously.

The importance of taking vows

When we think like this, we can see just how important, how urgent it is [to stop negative actions like this]. It is like the emergency treatment that a car accident victim or a heart attack victim receives to save their life. Immediately something like that happens, the ambulance races them to hospital for emergency treatment, otherwise there is great danger.

The ten nonvirtuous actions are not the only negative actions; they are just the basic examples of the negative karma we can commit. Because of them, we must continuously experience suffering. Therefore we must stop them. [It is such a waste] if we don’t take a vow in front of a lama or abbot or a holy object to abstain from at least one of them, such as killing, stealing or sexual misconduct.

First, I’ll explain it the other way around. Unless we take a vow to abstain [from a specific negative action] or unless we stop doing it, that negative action will have the four suffering results, of which the worst is creating the result similar to the cause, which results in more negative actions and more sets of creating the result similar to the cause. This goes on without end and the suffering that results from this goes on without end. And this all starts from this one negative action we do today, this negative action we have not abstained from doing.

On the other hand, if we don’t commit this negative action today, all this continuation of the four suffering results and the suffering that comes from that will stop. We will not have to experience all the suffering from life to life that this one act of nonvirtue would have started. So, you can now see the incredible peace of being free from all the problems without end that result from this negative action, the peace that happens when we refrain from that action. There is peace now and in all our future lives because of not committing that nonvirtue.

There is incredible profit in not starting this evolution of creating the cause of suffering and then having to experience the resulting suffering, creating the cause and experiencing the result on and on, without end. No longer having to experience this is the unbelievable peace and happiness we achieve. Even if we can just stop creating one negative karma once, we bring ourselves unbelievable benefits; we protect ourselves from suffering. This is without talking about abandoning negative karma and living in the precepts, dedicating our life to achieving enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, to bring them to full enlightenment. Without all that, this is just the benefits we gain from just stopping one negative karma today by living in the vow.

For example, when we take the eight Mahayana precepts for even one day, those eight negative karmas are stopped. Because we abstain from committing those eight negative karmas, we give ourselves unbelievable protection for this life and for all future lives, protection from the unending suffering and its cause that happens due to those eight negative karmas. Taking the eight Mahayana precepts for one day, we don’t have to experience any of that.

This becomes the best way to have a long and healthy life, now and in the future lives. If this is true of taking just one vow for one day, there is no question of the benefits of taking the lay vows for life, whether it is one lay vow or more or all five. If we are able to take and keep even one lay vow until we die, the benefits are unbelievable now and for our future lives. And this is without talking about how it is the basis for achieving liberation and enlightenment, the cessation of all the mistakes of the mind and the completion of all the realizations, how it is the basis for all the realizations of the path.

Even looking at it practically, if you think about the benefits, if we live in just one vow until we die, such as to not kill, it’s an extremely practical service for other sentient beings. Sexual misconduct creates many, many problems in our relationships and in other people’s relationships, as well as bringing dangers like suicide or murder, and of course it leads to many other negative actions, bringing so much harm to ourselves and others.

Even if you cannot take the vow to not kill others, you can still take the vow to not steal or the other vows, depending on whatever you think you can do. It doesn’t have to be only this first one, to not kill, but here I am just using it as an example. If you can take and live in the vow of not killing until you die, this is a practical way to bring peace to other sentient beings who are numberless, and to the world. By taking and living in this one vow, numberless other sentient beings don’t receive the harm of being killed by you. Animals don’t receive the harm of being killed by you; human beings don’t receive the harm of being killed by you. They don’t receive danger to their life from you—the whole world doesn’t receive the danger of being killed by you. The absence of killing, the absence of this danger of life is peace. Therefore, all the animals are receiving peace from you because they don’t receive danger to their life from you, and all the human beings are receiving peace from you because they don’t receive danger to their life from you. All sentient beings are receiving peace from you.

This is what is lacking, to not have killing in this world, with people killing each other. As much Dharma practice as people can do, and as many people as possible who can do it, brings protecting karma in this world. There is less danger in the world, less danger to the life of animals, to the life of human beings. As many people as possible who are able to practice this Dharma of not giving harm to others by living in the vow not to kill, there is less and less danger for people and animals, and more and more peace, more and more happiness in this world. Just practicing this one Dharma to not kill brings so much peace and happiness in the world, in the lives of human beings and animals and so forth.

On the other hand, no matter how many meetings there are, when there is the lack of this Dharma practice, living in the vow to not kill, the world becomes incredibly dangerous, not only for animals, but even for human beings.

Unless we transform our mind there will always be problems

Although it is good that we are able to also offer service to others, such as giving food, medicine, clothing and so forth, or teaching handicraft so others have a means of living, the most important service we can offer somebody else is to help them change their mind from a negative one into a positive one, from an egoistic one into a compassionate one, a mind of bodhicitta, cherishing others. We can help them transform their mind into compassion, helping them understand what is the cause of happiness and what is the cause of suffering, how happiness and suffering come from the mind, not from outside. We can show them that the correct way of thinking brings happiness and the mistaken of thinking produces problems, sufferings. From right thought comes happiness, peace, success in life. From the wrong way of thinking, the mistaken way of thinking, comes problems, harm to ourselves and others, harm to the world. Therefore, the best way to stop problems comes from within our mind and best way to achieve happiness comes from within our mind.

We can explain this to other people, even though we never use the term “karma,” which is a Sanskrit word. We don’t have to put that label on it by using the language of another country; we can use understandable terms instead. “Karma” means “action” so we can explain that happiness comes from positive intentions or actions and problems come from negative intentions or actions. This becomes a way of explaining karma.

However, the most important subject is compassion, how to develop and practice compassion. Giving this education to others, by introducing how everything comes from the mind and why we need to develop compassion, is the most important education we can give. We can help others change their attitude from self-cherishing and anger into compassion and loving kindness and other positive attitudes like patience. They can change from having a mind of dissatisfaction and attachment, transforming it into a free, healthy, happy mind, a satisfied mind, which means a renounced mind, that which becomes the renounced mind. Then, they can transform ignorance into wisdom.

By changing their minds, only then can they change their actions. Changing their actions means stopping actions that cause suffering for themselves and others and, instead, doing positive actions that bring peace and happiness as well as success for themselves and others. This is the best service we can offer others. This is what they really need; this is what is really missing.

For example, as long as the people in Africa and other places who are suffering from poverty and drought don’t change their minds and don’t change their actions, but still engage in negative karma such as the ten nonvirtues—killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and so forth—they will continue to create the same negative karma and continue to create the cause for suffering again and again. Killing again and again, they continuously create the cause for an unhealthy, short life, where they can be killed themselves. Stealing again and again, they continuously create the cause for poverty, drought, disease and all those things, again and again and again. Because they don’t change their attitude and action, they continuously create the cause of those problems, not only in this life but in all future lives, and they have to experience the same problems over and over, even when they are reborn as human beings.

For instance, during a drought many countries send food and water, but they never receive it. There is the story of a plane that flew fresh drinking water to Somalia, I think. The water was perfectly drinkable before, but when it was offloaded at the airport it smelled terrible and it was undrinkable. That is another clear example of karma. No matter how others tried to help, because from their side the people had not created the good karma to enjoy fresh water by things such as practicing charity, the opposite of stealing, they were unable to have drinkable water. Other things were sent there but they never got them. There is a definite reason why that was so.

Within the four outlines of karma, this shows how karma is definite. Whatever negative or positive karma is created definitely brings the result of happiness or suffering. That is definite. Then, karma is expandable. And without having created the cause, we cannot experience the result. In this case, what happened was, from their side they had not created the positive karma and therefore they were not able to experience the result, the success, the happiness. They were unable to receive the means to sustain their life.

The last one is that once the karma is created it doesn’t get lost. For example, unless negative karma that has been created meets a remedy, by practicing virtue, that destroys the seed, even it is a very small negative karma, no matter how many eons it takes, it never gets lost. In time, when the causes and conditions come together, when it becomes powerful, the result will definitely be experienced, even though it may have been created an unconceivable number of eons ago.

It’s the same thing with virtue. As long as it doesn’t meet an obstacle, no matter how many eons since the virtuous action was done, it will never be lost. If it hasn’t been destroyed by anger, heresy and so forth, when the causes and conditions come together, when it becomes powerful, the result will definitely be experienced. No matter how small that positive karmic action was, the result will definitely be happiness.

Living in morality is the best contribution to world peace

Therefore, living in the morality, living in the vows, even if it is just one vow such as abstaining from killing, becomes the most practical service for other sentient beings. It becomes the most practical contribution for the world peace. Here we are talking about peace for people in this world, this earth, this one globe, but in reality there are numberless universes. Not only in the teachings by the Buddha, even scientists explain that there are numberless universes, numberless galaxies. Just living in even one vow becomes the best contribution for peace in the world, for all sentient beings’ peace.

If every human being in this world practiced this one Dharma, this one morality of not killing, then everyone would have peace. There would be so much peace and happiness from just this thing. This practice, this cause of happiness, is what needs to be taught. People have to be educated in this.

I think I mentioned this when I first gave the eight Mahayana precepts. There are many people, even in the East, who think that people who are retreating—living in the mountains, in the caves—or living in monasteries, nunneries, or isolated places, not living in the city and mixing with others, many people think that they are not offering any service to the people of the world. They criticize them because of that, but that is due to not knowing the Dharma, and especially not knowing karma. They don’t understand how developing the mind in the path—doing meditation, doing retreats, living in morality, living in ordination—is the most practical service for the world and for all sentient beings. From their point of view, service to the public is only by working in hospitals or doing voluntary work or something like that. That is the only service they see, the only service they understand. They cannot see how the profound service offered by ordained people and those living in isolated places is any service at all. They cannot understand the great benefit this kind of service brings.

Some people even criticize some of our centers in the West, such as in Italy. Even though the students have received many teachings, some have not really thought well about subjects such as karma, and they say that the meditation center does not do anything for other people. They think that there should be a place to care for sick people, otherwise the center does not offer any service for others. Of course, it would be very good to be able to build places to take care of sick people as well, but their idea of offering service is very limited. They cannot see how all those giving teachings and all the unbelievable activities happening in the meditation center are offering service to other sentient beings.

That is an ignorant thought. It has not really been well thought out, especially about karma. Without changing the mind, there is no change in the action, and so there is no change in a person’s life and no way to reduce their suffering. If from their side they constantly create the cause of suffering due to their attitude and their action, they constantly create the cause of problems.

Christianity says everything is created by God, but if it is only up to God, God must have compassion. If it is only up to God, if God created everything, since God has that much power, and since God should have compassion for other living beings, there wouldn’t be any living beings suffering. When it comes down to details, it shows that it is not only up to God. If you do the opposite of the ten commandments, like the ten nonvirtues, or if you don’t believe in God, you will go to hell. That shows, even though God created everything, it is not only up to God, it is also up to you; it is also depends on you, on your mind and your actions. Even in Christianity or Hinduism, which says that everything is created by somebody, when it comes down to particular points, it also depends on yourself, your mind and actions.

This is especially so in Buddhism. The doctor checks the diagnosis, gives the prescription and the medicine to be taken, and advises on diet and conduct—what should be done and what should not be done—but if from the patient’s side they don’t take the medicine or follow the doctor’s advice, what can the doctor do? No matter how much compassion the doctor has, wanting the patient to recover immediately, if the patient doesn’t listen to the doctor or take the medicine, what can the doctor do? It depends on both the doctor making the correct diagnosis and giving the correct medicine and the patient following the doctor’s advice and taking the medicine.

Similarly, the numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas have completely renounced the thought of seeking happiness for themselves; that thought of working for the self does not arise for even a second. The only thought they have is seeking happiness for other sentient beings and only working for other sentient beings. The compassion that a new bodhisattva, one who has just generated bodhicitta, has for us is much more than the compassion we have for ourselves, so there is no question that the Buddha has much more compassion for us than we have for ourselves, hundreds of thousands of times more compassion. And the loving kindness the Buddha has for us is hundreds of thousands of times more than the love we have for ourselves.

It is like this. The Buddhas has an omniscient mind, perfect power, compassion and everything—the infinite qualities of the holy body, holy speech and holy mind—but, just like the doctor and the patient that I mentioned, although from the side of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, they wish for all obscured and suffering sentient beings to be free from all this without the delay of even a second, if we don’t follow the path revealed by Omniscient One, the kind, compassionate Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, as long as our actions don’t change (like the patient not taking the medicine) we will be continuously caught in samsara and experience suffering. If we continue to do the same things, nothing will change, nothing will happen in the future.

The importance of the meditation center and the teacher

Therefore, the meditation center is offering the most important service, which is especially benefiting the mind. Starting from the Dharma teacher, the geshe or the lama who is there, the whole point of a meditation center is to offer the most important service of benefiting the mind, showing how to eliminate the attitude that brings all the sufferings and how to develop the cause of temporal and ultimate happiness, highest enlightenment.

The center offers the students the way to transform the mind into the path to liberation from samsara, the cessation of the entire suffering and its causes, and then highest enlightenment. It does this by explaining the lamrim teachings, especially the teachings on karma, explaining what is the unmistaken cause of happiness and the unmistaken cause of suffering, by introducing this and by explaining the various powerful meditations, the various powerful methods to purify the negative karma that has been already collected, and by explaining how to create good karma, the cause for all the happiness of this life and future lives as well as liberation and enlightenment. The center especially teaches about the need for compassion and how to develop it.

When I was asked by reporters what Buddhism can offer people in the West, I said the same thing. It teaches the value of human life, how precious it is, how with this life we can achieve any happiness we wish for, for ourselves and others, for the numberless sentient beings. We can offer incredible service because we have this human body and we have buddha nature, the enlightened being’s nature that is there in our mental continuum, that which is not oneness with the mistakes, the obscurations.

The most important education a center can offer is teaching compassion for all sentient beings, without discrimination of religion, nationality, race, appearance—whether ugly or beautiful—without any barrier at all. The center offers that education on the need for compassion and how to develop compassion for all sentient beings. Then, as I mentioned before, it teaches the whole path to enlightenment, which involves how to achieve all the happiness from within our mind, and how to remove all suffering, all the problems, from within our mind.

In our organization, founded by kind, compassionate Lama Yeshe, we do this by having incredibly qualified geshes and teachers who not only have intellectual knowledge, understanding of Buddhist philosophy, but also live in the practice, including the most important, most fundamental practice, protecting their karma by living in morality as fully ordained monks or nuns. Many of the Tibetan teachers have spent their whole life doing extensive study and they live in the meditation practice. Many have experience of the path, experience of bodhicitta, experience of emptiness, the fundamental experience of the common path, which is the foundation for not only practicing tantra but also having the experience of tantric realizations. Generally speaking, to even find a teacher who has an unmistaken intellectual understanding of the Dharma is very difficult.

The people who are studying with these teachers are unbelievably fortunate. Just to be able to hear the unmistaken teachings of Buddha, even if it is just an intellectual explanation, is unbelievably fortunate. Not only that, from the student’s side, when you have the intelligence and the capacity, you can learn so much about the path. You can learn any Dharma subject, sutra or tantra.

Since the centers were established, by having the lamrim explained to the students, and particularly karma, including those various preliminary practices, the means of accumulating merit and purifying negative karmas, and by listening, reflecting and meditating on the lamrim, so many students have been able to purify their negative karma accumulated from beginningless rebirths. So many causes of the lower realms have been purified, and they have been freed from so many eons of suffering. And not only that, so many of their problems experienced in the human realm, now and the future, have been purified.

They have done so much preparation, so much practice, including taking refuge, taking the eight Mahayana precepts and the lifetime precepts. All that and the other Dharma practice, the lamrim practice, helps create the cause of a deva or human body in their next life and in so many future lives. So much preparation has been done, so many causes of happiness of their future lives have been created. By teaching how to listen, reflect and meditate on the lamrim, the meditation center has helped to create so many causes in their mind and helped prepare them to be liberated forever from samsara, from the entire oceans of samsaric sufferings.

The students’ minds have been brought so much closer to enlightenment by having been given teachings by the teachers as well as by all the other people helping at the center. There is the director, the secretary, the volunteers, those who help make the center capable of doing all this, capable of offering all these profound benefits, the causes of happiness, to many students, bringing them much closer to liberation by listening, reflecting and meditating on the lamrim. Not only that, they help bring the students so much closer to enlightenment, the cessation of all the mistakes and the completion of all realizations, so that each of them will be able to free all sentient beings and bring them to enlightenment.

The center helps enormously even if people come for just one day to hear teachings. By hearing a one-day lamrim teaching on renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness—how without the renunciation of samsara you cannot achieve liberation, without realizing the right view of emptiness you cannot cut the root of samsara, ignorance, and without having bodhicitta you cannot achieve full enlightenment for sentient beings—just by hearing about the three principal aspects of the path, they receive the best solution, showing them exactly what is missing and exactly what is needed. Without having realizations of the three principal aspects of the path we cannot help ourselves. We cannot be liberated and we cannot help others. We cannot really benefit them or offer service to them.

Without transforming the mind, we need to be healed again and again

The first or second time I went to Singapore and Malaysia, when I did a teaching tour there, I met quite a few people who did miracle healing. For instance, a person who had cancer was brought in supported by other people, unable to walk at all. A jar was filled with water from the altar and given to them to drink. And then, the next day, they returned without needing any support, feeling much better. There were many miracle healings like this.

In China, I met a young Chinese boy who could give a talk and, without even touching them, could cure people in the audience from their disease. Just being there, being near him, they recovered. Or he met people on the road who relied on wheelchairs or sticks and, without touching them, just by seeing him or maybe hearing a few words from him, they became healthy and were able to stand up and walk unaided. This young man, who lived in China, seemed kind and compassionate.

Anyway, as I was touring those places, I met quite a few people who did miracle healings but the thought that came to my mind was this. These miracle healings were incredible, how they caused big changes to happen, but I was thinking, as long as they don’t actualize the renunciation of samsara and realize emptiness and bodhicitta, from the patient’s side this problem will return again and again, with the same sicknesses again and again, without end, because they have not changed their mind and they have not changed their actions, no matter how many times they are healed. They create negative karma, get the problem, the disease, then they take medicine and recover, and then they do the same thing again—creating the same negative karma, getting the same sickness, taking the same medicine, and so on. So, I thought that without actualizing the three principal aspects of the path, you can’t really solve the problem. There is no end to the suffering of samsara.

Then, I thought, just to give one hour of lamrim teaching is of unbelievable benefit. It leaves an imprint in people’s minds that definitely brings not only temporal happiness in this and future lives, but also, by leaving imprints, makes them sooner or later actualize the three principal aspects of the path. Therefore one hour of lamrim teaching definitely leads them to the end of the entire oceans of samsaric suffering, which have continued since beginning time. In time, it will definitely bring them to liberation and definitely bring them to enlightenment. So, there is no comparison between one hour of lamrim teaching and a whole life of miracle healing. Thinking this way inspired me to continue. Even though I don’t know the lamrim, even though I’m just repeating a few words, it showed me it is worthwhile to continue to teach the lamrim.

Even coming to the meditation center and receiving one mantra or one verse of Dharma leaves imprints. When we even hear one mantra, such as TADYATHA OM MUNÉ MUNÉ MAHA MUNAYÉ SOHA or OM MANI PADME HUM, that mantra contains the whole Dharma: the base—conventional and absolute truth; the path—method and wisdom; and the result—the two kayas. Therefore, even just hearing one mantra leaves an imprint on our mind and that imprint in time definitely brings us to enlightenment, either in this life or in some future life. Due to that imprint, we come to understand the meaning of the mantra and from that we are able to meet Dharma and understand the teachings, and not only understand them intellectually but also actualize the path, which ceases the delusions and leads to enlightenment.

For example, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha gave teachings to five hundred swans in the field, and due to the power of hearing the teachings, in their next life all those five hundred swans were born as human beings, they all became ordained and actualized the path, becoming arhats and achieving liberation. There are many stories like this, showing how just by hearing the Dharma, just by listening to the Dharma while in an animal body there is an incredible change, an incredible development in the next life. Just hearing the Dharma has unbelievable, inconceivable benefit.

This is without even practicing the teachings we have heard; this is just by hearing them, so there is no question about the benefits of practicing them. So, you can see the benefits to other sentient beings brought by everybody working at a meditation center—the teacher, the director, the volunteers and so forth. Just offering the teachings, letting sentient beings hear the Dharma, brings inconceivable benefit.

I think maybe we’d better enjoy some tea.

The results of the ten nonvirtues and the ten virtues: The four results of lying

I’ll just try to quickly finish the part on karma.

The action of telling a lie becomes a complete negative karma when it is done out of ego, out of the self-cherishing thought, coming from one [or more] of the three poisonous minds, such as the attachment clinging to this life, that makes the action of telling a lie become negative karma.

This complete action has four suffering results: the ripening aspect result which is rebirth in the lower realms, and the other three suffering results that occur when we are born in the human realm: experiencing the result similar to the cause, creating the result similar to the cause, which is telling lies again, and the possessed result, which is to do with the place.

It is explained in the sutra teachings that when we are experiencing the result similar to the cause, we are always getting cheated by others, and other people are always lying to us. Then, we are also criticized and blamed. It doesn’t specify here but it could mean that other people blame us for things that we didn’t do, that kind of criticism. When we are blamed by somebody for something we didn’t do, that is definitely the result of past karma of us having blamed others for mistakes they haven’t made, lying to them in that way.

Therefore, whenever we get cheated by others or others tell us lies, we should always immediately remember that this is the result of our past karma of having told lies. That should be our practice. If we can remember karma in that way, without delay, that itself becomes the practice of patience because it helps us to not get angry with others. We can’t find anything to blame on the other person, therefore it naturally becomes the practice of patience. When somebody is harming us in that way, it also becomes the cause of compassion for ourselves.

As Shantideva mentioned in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life,

Because my karma persuaded me,
I have received harm from this being.
If, by doing these actions, they should fall into the hole of the hells,
Haven’t I done this to them?6

What it is saying is that this is all due to our own karma. Why does that person harm me, tell me lies, treat me badly? Why don’t they love me? There is a reason; there is a cause for that, and that is because we have created the cause in the past. Either in this life or in some previous life of the person we have treated them similarly and so now they are doing this to us. Our karma has persuaded us and so we must now receive that particular harm from that person.

And because they have harmed us in that way, they have created the cause to fall into the hole of the hells, to be reincarnated into the hell realm. It’s as if we have tossed that person over the precipice into the deep abyss where there is a raging fire. At present, they are a human being, but we have caused them to lose their human life; we have caused them to be reincarnated into the hell realm, into the “hole of the hells.” Why are we responsible for this? Because if we had not harmed them in the past there would be no reason for them to harm us now, in this life. The evolution of this action would not be there. The harm we received from that person was caused by us.

Do you remember how some time ago I explained for a couple of days what makes others harm us? I went through all the details without bringing up the subject of karma to do with present and past lives. I said that if somebody is harming us now, this minute, that is caused by our mind, how it’s our mind that makes others harm us. I went through the details like that. But here we are looking at the longer evolution of the cause and result, how we harmed that person in some previous time. If we hadn’t harmed them in the first place, there would be no cause, no reason, for them to harm us back. And not harming us, there would be no cause for them, in the future, to be born in the lower realms.

So now it’s clear that for this person to create the karma to be reborn in the lower realms after this human existence depends on us having harmed them in the past. That’s what this verse from Shantideva means, how “my karma persuaded me” and therefore we have been harmed by that person, but only because we harmed them in the past. We caused them to do this, therefore we are responsible for making them “fall into the hole of the hells.”

When we think in this way, as explained by the Buddha, the Omniscient One, and by the great bodhisattva Shantideva in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, we have no choice; there is no way to get angry with that person. Instead, they can only become an object of compassion for us.

Remembering that whatever harm we receive is due to our own karma protects us from anger, our most dangerous enemy. Anger has the power to destroy all the merit we have created and is very harmful for bodhicitta. We cannot get angry and instead it becomes the practice of patience. Not only that, by thinking that our karma has persuaded others to suffer, when we see others harming us, it becomes the cause of developing compassion for them.

The possessed result of telling lies is that we cannot be successful in our work. The teachings give the example of a farmer who cannot develop their farm work, or somebody who is transporting people by ship but is unable to develop that work. We can think of somebody who runs a hotel or restaurant. All day long they get no customers at all; the seats and the tables are empty. They have no success and are unable to develop their business. Somebody who earns money in the transportation business, such as a taxi or bus company, doesn’t get any passengers; somebody who runs a shop doesn’t have any customers coming to buy things. We can imagine the same lack of success in whatever work people do. When things don’t happen according to our wishes, according to what we have planned, that is mainly due to us having cheated others in the past, so in this life we are cheating ourselves. The place we are living in has a lot of danger for our life, the potential to cause a lot of harm.

The four results of abstaining from sexual misconduct

We have to not only think of the negative side but also the positive side, living in the practice of morality. For instance, by abstaining from sexual misconduct, we attain all four happinesses. The ripening aspect result is that we achieve the body of a deva or human being. Experiencing the result similar to the cause is that we have harmonious relationships and other people do exactly what we wish. Those around us always follow our wishes; there is no lack of cooperation. Instead of being annoyed and disturbed by others, we live in a harmonious environment where we are successful in what we wish.

The possessed result is always being in a clean, beautiful place, where there is always a scented smell, not a kaka smell! It is not a filthy place, full of excrement, not a depressed, unpleasant place, but a very happy place. When we are in such a place, it makes us happy, lifting our spirits; it is very inspiring.

When we are experiencing these good results, we have to recognize that all these four happinesses have come from our own mind. For instance, rather than creating the result similar to the cause of sexual misconduct, which is committing sexual misconduct again, we do the opposite, we abstain from sexual misconduct. When we experience this happiness, this comfort, we have to realize that this comes from our own mind, from the particular karma of practicing the morality of abstaining from sexual misconduct. When we are in a beautiful place, a garden or a nice, clean place, we should realize it didn’t come from outside but from our own mind. In this way, it becomes very inspiring. It persuades us to continuously practice the Dharma. Seeing this is how such happiness occurs, we determine to put much effort into continuing to practice the Dharma. Instead of finding it hard to keep the vows such as the eight Mahayana precepts, it becomes enjoyable when we think this way, how all these happinesses come from our own mind.

So we should not only meditate on the results of negative karma but also on the opposite, the results of practicing morality and the four resultant happinesses. It’s very important because in our life, from time to time there are problems, but also from time to time there is comfort, happiness and success. We have to realize that they also come from our own mind.

The four results of slandering and of not slandering

For slandering to become a complete action, a complete negative karma, it depends on the action being done with self-cherishing and out of one of the three poisonous minds. The ripening aspect result is rebirth in the lower realms. With experiencing the result similar to the cause, there is no unity, there is no harmony between us and the people surrounding us. They act very meanly to us!

The possessed result of this nonvirtue is that, even when we are born again as a human being, the place we live in is uneven, with many hills and bumps, highs and lows, making travel very difficult. I don’t know how to put it into words, but the hills have sharp [stones] that cut us as we walk. It’s difficult to walk. There are many causes of dangers in the place. All these appearances that are the possessed result of slandering come from our mind, from our past lives’ karma of slandering other people.

Looking at these four suffering results, we have to think about the positive side, living in the practice of the morality of abstaining from slandering. The ripening result is that we attain the body of a happy migratory being. The possessed result is the opposite to that of slandering; we live in a very beautiful land, one that is not ugly, not rough, but very smooth, very pleasant. Then, experiencing the result similar to the cause is that we have a lot of harmony, unity. The people we are with are in accord with us; they are very kind to us.

The four results of speaking harsh words and abstaining from harsh words

Now, the next nonvirtue is speaking harshly. When it is a complete action it has four suffering results. The ripening aspect result is rebirth in the lower realms Experiencing the result similar to the cause is that when we speak with others we hear unpleasant things, not pleasant, beautiful, gentle words. Just as we had spoken harshly to others in the past, hurting them, now we must endure others speaking to us in a harsh way, which hurts us. What they say makes us get angry with them, becoming the cause of fights.

Each time the two results are explained in this way in these teachings. Then, creating the result similar to the cause is that we do the same action again, speaking harshly, speaking in a way that hurts other people. That is the main thing. The words can be said in a very sweet tone but with the intention of hurting the other person. If the action is done out of ego and is one of those poisonous minds, it becomes harsh speech even though the words sound very flowery, very sweet. Sometimes people speak using a very nice manner, but the intent is to hurt somebody. All these appearances of harsh speech, the negative karma ripening, come from our own mind.

On the other hand, by living in the morality of abstaining from speaking harshly, we experience the four happy results. Experiencing the result similar to the cause, we hear only beautiful, sweet words, not words that hurt us but instead respectful words that make us happy, that have a pleasant effect.

The possessed result of speaking harshly is that we live in a place where there are lots of thorn bushes, or lots of trees burned by fire. There are some places like this with a very ugly, very unpleasant atmosphere, where it is dry with lots of dead trees, where nothing grows. It’s a very harsh, unpleasant environment, with nothing green, with a lot of rocks and roughness. I don’t know exactly how to translate it, but it is rough, harmful, unpleasant to touch. The teachings explain in detail the names of those bushes, but I don’t know how to put it into English. The idea is that it is a very rough, dusty, barren place, not magnificent or not glorious looking. Even if there had been water before, with waterfalls or lakes and so forth, now it is dry. Even if there were those beautiful, pleasant things, now, in our time, they don’t exist. It’s a very difficult, very unpleasant place. There are more details explained but I’m not sure what they are. It’s a place where there is a lot of negative karma ripening, killing and so forth, where many very heavy, dangerous things happen that are the cause of fear.

By living in the practice of the morality of abstaining from speaking harshly, we experience the complete opposite. The environment is very beautiful, very pleasant, having all those waterfalls, ponds and so forth.

The four results of gossiping and abstaining from gossiping

The next nonvirtue is gossiping. When the complete action of gossiping, the negative karma, is done out of ego with one of those poisonous minds, it has four suffering results. The ripening aspect result is rebirth in the lower realms. Experiencing the result similar to the cause is that when we are born as a human being, our speech has two results, two problems. Our words don’t have power when we talk to other people. People don’t listen or follow what we say, so our words have no power. And there is no discipline in our speech, in our words.

The possessed result of the negative karma of gossiping is that, even when we are born as a human being, the trees in the place where we live don’t bear fruit. It might be the same thing that even if we plant crops, they don’t take fruit. And even if there is fruit, it remains unripe. On the outside it might appear ripe, but because it does not have a firm root, it doesn’t last long. The place is unpleasant, with very dirty water, such as filthy ponds. There are unpleasant forests and so forth that are the cause of danger to our life. Even if the crops or the fruit happen, they don’t happen at the right time, not at the time we need them.

Creating the result similar to the cause means that we gossip again.

Now, practicing the morality of abstaining from gossiping, we experience the four happy results. The ripening aspect result is that we are born in a deva or human body. And then, the opposite to the possessed result of gossiping, our crops and fruit trees all grow well, and we live in a place where there is no danger to our life. Experiencing the result similar to the cause means that our speech is pure and very disciplined. We never just say anything that comes, and whatever we say has much power. Other people listen to us and follow what we say.

The four results of covetousness and abstaining from covetousness

The complete negative karma of covetousness has four suffering results. The possessed result is that even when we are born as a human being, in the place we live the crops, the materials, the enjoyments, are all decreasing. What we have does not increase but continually decreases, year by year, month by month, day by day. For example, our food becomes more and more scarce, we have more and more financial problems, things like that.

Where we live is very harmful, with many contagious diseases, epidemics, earthquakes, and harm from all four elements—fire, water, earth, wind—such as tornadoes, dust storms, cyclones and so forth. There is harm from humans—fighting, wars and so forth—and harm from animals like poisonous snakes and insects. We get bitten by those tiny insects, such as mosquitoes or ants. There is also harm from spirits, and there are lots of thieves and robbers.

Experiencing the result similar to the cause means we have a mind of very strong desires, one that is never satisfied. And rather than seeking to benefit other sentient beings, we seek to harm them, as well as ourselves. Creating the cause similar to the result is [that we are covetous again].

With the practice of living in the morality of abstaining from covetousness, we have to think that all the four happy results are the complete opposite of that.

The four results of ill will and abstaining from ill will

The complete action of ill will, that which becomes a negative karma, has four suffering results. The ripening aspect result is rebirth in the lower realms. I am not sure what I said before about the possessed result but, for this, everything become harmful. Experiencing the result similar to the cause is that other sentient beings harm us and we receive harm from the four elements. Even insects and animals harm us. There are wars, fighting and so forth, and people harm us by various means, including black magic. These are the results of our past negative karma of ill will. Then, creating the result similar to the cause means that we do the action of ill will again.

On the other hand, by living in the morality of abstaining from ill will, we experience the four happy results, which are the complete opposite of those of ill will. The possessed result is that we live in a place where there is no danger to life. We don’t receive harm from earthquakes, water, fire and so forth. When our house catches fire and we die, that danger of fire comes from the negative karma of ill will. Living in the morality of abstaining from ill will, we don’t receive those harms—from earthquakes or even from insects. Mosquitoes don’t bite us; we don’t have bugs, lice or worms on our body. We don’t receive harm from people, from black magic, and all those things. Instead, we receive protection and we can live without fear, with no danger to our life. This is from practicing the morality of abstaining from ill will.

The four results of heresy and abstaining from heresy

When heresy becomes a complete action, it has four suffering results. Experiencing the result similar to the cause means that, even when we are born as a human being, because we have wrong views, we act with cunning and hide our mistakes, even small ones. I don’t remember this so well. These are experiencing the result similar to the cause. Creating the result similar to the cause means that again we will have heresy.

The possessed result is to do with the place. We will live in a place where there is no guide, where there is no refuge. It is a place where suffering appears pleasure; it is a dirty, unclean place, where dirty things appear as clean. Before we lived there, it was a place where there were a lot of jewels, a lot of wealth or oil, but now that we live there, those rich things have stopped. They don’t happen anymore. Not finding a guide, a helper, is the possessed result of heresy. We need help but there is nobody able to help us, no guide. Being in such a place is the possessed result.

By living in the morality of abstaining from heresy, we have the four happy results. The ripening aspect result is that we obtain a deva or human body. Then, we live in a place where there is a guide, a helper, and where there are lots of treasures, oil or jewels. Many precious things come from that place. So, everything is the opposite to the results of the nonvirtue of heresy.

Experiencing the result similar to the cause means having the right view instead of the wrong view. When we are born as a human being, we have the right view; we are truthful and sincere.

These are some basic examples of how to meditate on the shortcomings of negative karma and the benefits of good karma, practicing the ten virtues. The conclusion is that because all happiness and problems come from our mind, we have complete freedom. By transforming our mind, we can change our actions, and in this way we can achieve any happiness we wish. So, the conclusion is that by understanding karma, we can see more clearly how to abandon suffering and have great freedom, which includes peerless happiness, full enlightenment.

So, I’ll stop here.

As there will be some initiations, the plan is that before the initiation, we will continue the teachings as much as possible as a motivation. Then, those who are not taking the initiation can leave.

So, tonight I’ll stop here.


6 Shantideva, ch. 6, v. 47. Compare with Stephen Batchelor’s translation:

Having been instigated by my own actions
Those who cause me harm come into being.
If by these (actions) they should fall into hell,
Surely isn’t it I who am destroying them? [Return to text]