Kopan Course No. 31 (1998)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1087)

Lamrim teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the 31st Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov–Dec 1998. 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.

2. The Need for Great Compassion

December 3, 1998

Subduing the mind

Engage in perfect wholesome actions,
Do not commit any unwholesome actions,
Subdue your mind thoroughly;
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

Engage in perfect wholesome actions, do not commit any unwholesome actions—it’s normally the other way around! However, this is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. It is the essential practice of the Buddhadharma, to abandon harming others and to only benefit them. The next lines say that we should subdue our mind, that this is the teaching of the Buddha.

This also shows how we can stop engaging in negative karma and how we can engage in perfect, wholesome actions, how we can stop giving harm to others and benefit them instead. It’s all up to the question of subduing the mind. If we subdue the mind, these things happen. If the mind doesn’t get subdued, if we don’t watch the mind and take care of it by applying the remedy, the meditation, if we don’t practice the Dharma, then there is no remedy. We can’t protect our mind; we can’t protect ourselves. Unless we practice the Dharma, we cannot look after ourselves. Unless we practice the Dharma, we are not taking care of ourselves. Put it this way. If we are practicing the Dharma, we are taking care of ourselves. The best way, the real way to take care of ourselves is to practice the Dharma.

External actions—changing our outside dress, moving from the city to the mountains, being in a church or temple, doing prayers—these things depend on how we do it. Just being in a temple or just being in a cave, changing our clothes into a religious form or saying prayers, that alone doesn’t mean practicing the Dharma. That alone is not the definition of practicing the Dharma, even though what we do with our hair or what clothes we wear might be regarded as important in other traditions. For example, we might change into an Indian sari! We might wear an Indian sari, wrapping it around and going up! We might put colors on the forehead. I don’t mean going to a shop in the West to get made up, but as a spiritual practice when you put paint on the face. In other traditions, if we take on that culture, that is regarded as a spiritual practice. Shaving our head and putting colors on the face or the body is regarded as very important, as a spiritual practice.

However, according to the Buddha’s teachings, that alone doesn’t define practicing the Dharma. It is mentioned in the teachings that these external changes are not the real change. From this, we can understand that anybody can have a deity to meditate on, anybody can recite mantras, but that does not mean they are practicing Dharma; they might still be unable to practice the Dharma.

Similarly, even if we physically change from the city, from New York or Chicago to a Himalayan cave, maybe one at a very high altitude, the problem is still not practicing the Dharma. I think I need to change my nose! Each piece of the body has a different function, so it must be important to have a nose. What would happen if there were no nose? A body without a nose. Then there would be no problem with operations on the nose and having to take care of the nose. But somebody made up the nose. I don’t think it was the parents who made it. They happen to be a condition. I was talking yesterday about the four conditions. So then, somehow things got spread out from that!

Karma and the body

But the human body is very interesting. It’s not the parents that made it up, like a person makes a watch by putting everything together. The parents put all the parts of the body together, all the pieces inside, like making a watch. It’s not that. It’s a really amazing phenomenon. This human body might be similar to an animal body.

The human body is like a machine, where all the pieces depend on each other to function, like a car or an airplane. There are so many pieces inside. Just even the head. Inside this head there is the brain, whose shape is like a tree without branches. Is it like that or not? A tree, but with no branches and no leaves! How the body works is amazing, how the blood circulates, how, after eating and drinking, the body kind of separates things and disposes of the garbage part. After eating food, the body works to get rid of the garbage part. The essence goes inside, and all the parts of the body including the heart, work together by depending on each other. It is a very interesting phenomenon that is like a machine in how it functions. Each part has a different job, from the head down to the toes.

Since this body is a causative phenomenon, before this result is actualized, the cause should already exist. Result and cause. The result of this particular cause and the cause itself don’t arise together. The cause doesn’t happen after the result; the cause must happen before the result, before this body is actualized. So, the cause already exists before the conception. The cause of this body exists before the conception.

What is explained by the Omniscient One, by the Fully Knowing One, is karma. Karma is the cause of this. There are positive actions and negative actions, virtuous actions and nonvirtuous actions, and this human body is the body of the happy transmigratory being. Therefore, the action, the karma that exists before this, has to be virtuous; it cannot be nonvirtuous. And that virtuous action, that good karma, is motivated by a virtuous thought. This body that is studied for many years in hospitals, researching all the sicknesses, all the different things that this body experiences, as I explained before, from the tip of the hair down to the toes, the whole thing is a description of karma.

When we see a tiny flower, it seems so artistic. Within even that tiny flower there are so many colors and patterns. One tiny flower has so much art, so many shapes and colors. Just as when we think of this body, this tiny flower is a description of karma, a description of our karma because we are seeing that flower. It’s an object of our senses, so it’s our karma, that tiny flower that has all those incredible patterns, all those shapes and colors. It is a sense object that is the object of our eye sense. So even that is an explanation of our karma, a manifestation of our karma.

If it is something ugly, it is a manifestation or description of our negative karma. If it is a beautiful, desirable object of the senses, it is a manifestation or result of our own good karma, an explanation of our own good karma. Twenty-four hours of our life, whatever ups and downs there are, as I mentioned yesterday, it depends on how we think, it depends on how we make up the label, on what kind of label or name we make up continuously in our daily life, a negative label or positive label. Depending on that, it affects our mind. If the label our mind makes is negative, there’s the appearance of something negative. We have this negative appearance, and we create a negative world for ourselves. Having the negative appearance, the object we view seems negative and that affects our mind, that upsets our mind. That brings our spirit down.

On the other hand, if our mind makes up a positive label, thinking something is good, we have a positive or good appearance. Then what appears to us is a good or beautiful object. Seeing that makes the mind happy or excited. Twenty-four hours a day, the negative label that comes from our mind upsets us, whereas the positive label that comes from the mind makes us happy. It’s like that for the whole twenty-four hours, always up and down. The whole creation during all the twenty-four hours comes from our mind, affecting our ups and downs.

So here we can even understand from this example what the Buddha said, “Engage in perfect wholesome actions, do not commit any unwholesome actions, subdue your mind thoroughly; this is the teaching of the Buddha.” The teachings of the Buddha tell us to subdue our mind. So now here, even from this we can understand why the Buddha emphasizes the mind. The main practice the Buddha teaches is subduing the mind. By applying the remedy, meditation, and not allowing negativities to arise, we don’t allow ourselves to be controlled by the afflicted emotions or the disturbing thoughts. No longer overwhelmed by the delusions, the disturbing thoughts, we are protected.

Then, by applying the meditations, by practicing the Dharma, we not only stop those afflicted emotions from arising, we also make it impossible for them to ever arise again by ceasing even the seed of delusion. We must destroy that seed. Otherwise, even though we don’t feel angry now, if we encounter an undesirable object, without watching our mind, without applying the meditation, without practicing the Dharma, we have no protection in our life, we are not looking after ourselves. When we meet an undesirable object, anger rises. Because the seed is there, it gives rise to anger by encountering an undesirable object.

The need for great compassion

This is the subject that I began yesterday. Was it yesterday? I was inquiring, while there is no desire for that object or no anger for that object, suddenly attachment or anger for it arises that we didn’t have before. I was trying to inquire into what causes that? We don’t have attachment or anger now, but we encounter an object, and attachment or anger suddenly arise for that object. The afflictive emotions suddenly manifest. I was inquiring yesterday what causes this? How does psychology explain it? I went on and on yesterday, and then the real tea came and the real monk, or the empty tea and empty monk! But the purpose of bringing up this issue was to explain that the anger that arises does not happen independently, without causes and conditions.

There are four conditions, including the main one, the cause of this anger, which is the seed of anger, in the nature of an imprint that is left on the mental continuum. Therefore, if we get angry today, it is useful to practice patience, tolerance. If we get angry today, that leaves an imprint again, it plants the seed of anger again on our mental continuum. So, the more we get angry, the more seeds of anger are planted on the mental continuum. That makes it even harder to practice patience, a good heart, in the future. The more seeds, the more imprints left on the mental continuum by anger, the easier it is to get angry and the more difficult it is to practice patience. It makes us more impatient in the future, in both the near future or in our future lives after this. Not only that, anger destroys our peace of mind now, our happiness, and causes us to engage in heavy negative karma.

Leaving more negative imprints on our mental continuum, it becomes harder to practice the Dharma in the future. I’m not sure whether you have meditated on the sufferings of the lower realms, particularly the hell realms. If you have meditated or read the teachings on the sufferings of the lower realms such as the hell realms, [you will know the importance] of meditating in order to liberate yourself from the cause of samsaric sufferings, to liberate yourself from the three poisonous minds by knowing the shortcomings of anger, desire, and all these things.

To be able to totally liberate ourselves from all suffering and its causes, particularly the suffering of the lower realms, we have to overcome the delusions. That is very important but it’s still a limited reason for meditating on suffering. The main purpose of meditating on suffering, including impermanence and death, is to develop compassion toward all sentient beings. By meditating on our own samsaric suffering—the suffering of pain, the suffering of change (temporary samsaric pleasure) and pervasive compounding suffering—by understanding these three types of samsaric suffering and by doing meditations that include the sufferings of the lower realms, we are able to generate not just compassion but great compassion. The main aim is great compassion, not only wishing others to be free from suffering but wishing that we ourselves can be the cause for that to happen, to free every sentient being, whose mind is obscured and whose experience is only suffering, even though everyone wishes only for happiness.

Great compassion becomes so important. Because great compassion is really the main force for us to help all sentient beings, it is of the utmost importance. The great compassion that we generate for sentient beings makes us liberate all sentient beings from all suffering and its causes, freeing them from all the defilements and bringing them to peerless happiness, full enlightenment, that state which is perfected in all the qualities of cessations, free from all the mistakes of mind, the gross and subtle defilements, and which is perfected in all the qualities of the realizations, in order to bring sentient beings to that peerless happiness, full enlightenment.

Because great compassion is what forces us to do this, it is the highest benefit, the best service to all sentient beings. The skies of benefit we can offer numberless other living beings comes from our compassion, particularly from our great compassion that takes the full responsibility to do the service of freeing others from suffering by ourselves. It is what makes us actualize the whole Mahayana path to enlightenment, because to enlighten others, to cause all these skies of benefit for sentient beings, there is no other way except that first we ourselves become enlightened. At the moment we can’t guide even one sentient being, we can’t even liberate one sentient being. We can’t even guide ourselves.

Therefore, the solution is to first achieve full enlightenment. We must achieve all the qualities of the Mahayana path, starting from the realization of bodhicitta, which is the door to the Mahayana path to enlightenment. We must achieve all the qualities, having all the realizations and ceasing all the mistakes of the mind. This comes from compassion, our compassion that is the force to be able to offer skies of benefit to all sentient beings.

Bodhisattvas welcome suffering

Unless we know all our own samsaric suffering in all its different types, we cannot see all the different types of suffering of others. Then our compassion becomes very limited. We cannot really generate compassion. Even though we might feel compassion for those other beings who are experiencing the suffering of pain, because we don’t know that samsaric pleasure is temporary and is only in the nature of suffering, and equally because we don’t especially understand pervasive compounding suffering, we cannot generate compassion. We might generate compassion only for those who have the suffering of pain but be completely blind to those other sufferings. Then we cannot develop compassion, especially for those sentient beings who do not experience the suffering of pain but experience the suffering of change and pervasive compounding suffering. Because we are unable to feel compassion for them, we don’t do anything for them. Then we are not making our human life most productive. We are not becoming useful for all the living beings.

Why are we scared of hell?

Anyway, I’m just going back. What I think is that the imprint of delusions is much, much more terrifying than the suffering of the hell realm. No matter how unbearable it is, we must experience the hell realm for a certain length of time and then it is finished. However, the imprint of anger, the imprint of desire, the imprints of those delusions are much worse than the hell suffering, which we find so terrifying we can’t even bear hearing about them. Beside meditating on them, we don’t like even to hear the name “hell.” Why? There’s an interesting reason. There’s something very interesting in the heart. Not in the nose! Not in the ear! Anyway, it’s a very interesting reason if you analyze this.

There are only two reasons why we don’t want to hear the word “hell.” I don’t think there’s third reason. One reason is that there are many people who not scared of death, even in the West, even those who have never met Buddhadharma or meditated. There are many people that I have heard of or I have met who are not scared of death, for whom death is not a heavy thing.

For them, death is just a label, just a change of life. It doesn’t bother them at all, even though they have never heard of Buddhism or meditated. The main reason is because they have lived an ethical life. They have lived their life with sincerity, trying to lead a good life, usually trying to not harm others. Their practice in life is nothing sophisticated; it is very simple. They lead a very simple life, in which they usually try to not harm others. Because of that, they haven’t created much cause for death to be scary for them.

I can put it the other way. What causes us to be afraid of death? It is the opposite of an ethical life or the opposite of not harming others. The person didn’t create many of those causes.

This kind of person doesn’t want to hear the word “hell” because they don’t want to hear about other sentient beings’ suffering. They can’t stand to think of others suffering in hell because they have so much compassion. They strongly want to hear no such thing. Here, in this case, it is positive because it is to do with others.

The other reason why we don’t want to hear the word “hell,” why we don’t want to think about hell, is because, as I gave the example, for some people death is not scary. For some people death is something exciting. For great practitioners, death is exciting because for them it’s a path. (If they are English, it’s a “path”; if they are American, it’s a “parth!”) Anyway, for those great practitioners, what is called “death” is exciting because they can use that as a quick path to enlightenment. By applying the most skilled meditation of highest tantra, it becomes the quick path to enlightenment.

Even for the bodhisattvas, to die for others is an unbelievable pleasure. Without talking about tantric practice, bodhisattvas who only practice sutra, because they have a realization of bodhicitta, when they see there is great benefit to die for others, it becomes an unbelievable pleasure. On the other hand, to totally free themselves from the oceans of sufferings of human beings—what we see all the time on TV, in newspapers and magazines, as well as all the sufferings of the gods and demigods and the hell beings, the hungry ghosts and the animals—to be totally free from all that is nonsense for bodhisattvas. Even achieving everlasting happiness doesn’t make any sense to them. It’s nonsense to achieve that just for themselves. Even if they can achieve it in this life, in this year, for them it is not a pleasure. For those holy beings, the bodhisattvas, who renounce the self and only cherish others, who only work for others, this not happiness, this is not pleasure.

For them, even if they have to born in the hell realm—and not only that but the inexhaustible hell, the hell with the most suffering and that lasts the longest, for an intermediate eon I think—when they see the benefit for other sentient beings, being born there is an unbelievable pleasure. For them it brings limitless skies of bliss, unbelievable pleasure.

No matter how long and how much they have to suffer for others, it’s like drinking nectar. It’s unbelievable pleasure; it brings skies of happiness, of bliss. Achieving everlasting happiness, the total liberation from all suffering and its causes, which means from now on it is impossible to experience the suffering of samsara, that everlasting happiness, nirvana, the sorrowless state, for bodhisattvas it is utterly uninteresting. It is not a pleasure at all. It’s like used toilet paper!

Since I brought up this subject, since I came to this point, there is a story of a bodhisattva, a monk called Metog Datse, who lived in the forest, maybe not in the United States! I’m joking. He lived in the forest surrounded by seven thousand bodhisattvas. I’m not sure of the numbers. Then he saw that if he taught the Dharma to all the creatures in the palace of the king—I’ve forgotten the numbers, but it was something like ten times one hundred million—they would all become liberated and then enlightened. He saw this benefit but he also saw if he did this the king would kill him. After seeing the benefit, he went to the palace and for seven days and nights, he didn’t sleep. He circumambulated the stupa that contained the Buddha’s nails. All night he circumambulated the stupa without sleep and during the day he gave teachings. Then, after seven days the bodhisattva monk was killed by the king.

For his mind, it was unbelievable pleasure. It is normally said of bodhisattvas that no matter how many hardships they must suffer to serve others, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is, if they can benefit others, it’s like a swan entering a pond or a swimming pool. You know a swan? I think that might be the example used in the text, but maybe we can say it’s like a person who is exhausted after working so hard or with so many problems, looking forward so much to going to the beach to relax or get into the water. Anyway, that is just to give some little idea.

What I was saying—I have to return many times—what I was saying before about hell, the normal reason somebody doesn’t want to hear the word “hell” is because there’s a fear of hell. Other people don’t have that fear. Those other people, those who don’t have a fear of hell are bodhisattvas, as I explained, who think that to be in hell for the benefit of others is unbelievable; it brings skies of pleasure and bliss. There are also other people who are not like that, but who also have no fear of hell. As I mentioned before, they are those who have lived a sincere life, an ethical life, with a very simple practice to not harm others.

The common reason people don’t want to hear the word “hell” is, even though they are unable to explain it, they fear it. Why? Because the cause of fear has been created through engaging in negative karma, in nonvirtuous actions, through not having practiced morality, not having abstained from harming others. Even though that person cannot explain it, this is the reason, this is the explanation why there’s a fear of hell, why they don’t want to hear the word “hell.”

Of course, to just try to stop hearing the word “hell” doesn’t solve the problem. That is totally nonsense, because not hearing it doesn’t stop them from being reborn in hell. That’s not the way. If we are afraid, the way to not be reborn in hell is to purify the cause of the fear. If we are afraid, we should purify the cause of the fear and not create the cause of the fear again. We should not create the cause to be born in hell again. That’s the solution. And what is that? That is Dharma practice. That is doing practices that purify our past negative karmas, those negative actions that cause us to fear the hell realms. That means living in the morality of abstaining from those nonvirtuous actions, those actions harmful to others. Living in morality means living in the precepts. Even if we cannot preserve all [the precepts], whatever ones we can keep in our own life, is the solution.

Having a good heart is the best benefit

What is the answer to all our problems? The one answer to all the problems of life is to have a good heart. There are so many different forms of practice to do, so many meditations to do in life, but the one answer to solve everything is to have a good heart, to have the thought of benefiting other sentient beings, the practice of bodhicitta. We should live our daily life with a good heart, with the thought of benefiting others, bodhicitta, as our main practice, as our heart practice. Living our life with this attitude is the main practice. This is our main meditation. This is our main purpose for living.

So, even though there are thousands of practices to do, what makes our life most productive, most beneficial, is to live it not only for ourselves but for all living beings. From this, everything happens: purifying so many eons of negative karma and collecting merit like the sky, attaining realizations. With a good heart, we don’t harm others; with a good heart, we benefit others. In that way, besides no longer creating negative karma, we collect the most merit. Similarly, we no longer harm ourselves but only benefit ourselves with a good heart. Having a good heart is the best benefit for ourselves.

From this come all realizations, the whole path to enlightenment—everything comes. The more we can lead our life having a good heart, the less obstacles to realizations there will be. The more we have a good heart, the more merit we naturally collect, day and night. Even if we are alone, we create so much merit. If we are with others, we only do positive actions because our attitude is the thought of benefiting other sentient beings. So therefore, naturally, whatever we do, we always naturally collect merit, good karma, good luck. Good luck doesn’t come from outside. Good luck must come from our mind.

From this, everything happens: the happiness of this life, the happiness of future lives, liberation from samsara, enlightenment, and then the ability to cause this for all sentient beings; the ability to not only cause them to have the happiness, comfort, and the pleasure of this life, but also the happiness of future lives, long-term happiness, and to not only have ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, but even the highest happiness, full enlightenment. We are able to cause others to have all this.

Anyway, I still want to come back to what I was trying to say before.

From ignorance all delusions arise

Having an imprint [of a negative action] is much heavier, much more terrifying than the suffering of hell because having the imprint makes the emotional mind arise, anger, attachment, ignorance and so forth. It makes it arise again and again and again. Each time the motivation, the karma arises again, we create negative actions again and that produces samsara again, and again we experience suffering in that realm. By being in that realm again, because the seed, the delusion, is always there, the delusions arise again and again, so many times. The motivation, the karma, again creates samsara. And so it goes on. Even in one day, out of ignorance, the unknowing mind, [this happens so many times.] I think Geshe Lama Konchog has already introduced you to the twelve dependent-related limbs or the twelve links of dependent origination, in Tibetan called ten drel yen lag chu nyi. Geshe-la has already gone over these with you.

The root of all suffering is the mind that is unknowing of the very nature of the I, the ultimate nature of the I. The mind that doesn’t know how the I exists, that doesn’t know the very nature of the aggregates, the association of body and mind, This ignorance is the root of delusion, the root of all the suffering.

In our daily life, we encounter ugly, indifferent, and beautiful objects. However, we do not practice meditation, especially the lamrim—not just the meditations on watching the breath or watching the sensations of the feet walking or the stomach going up and down, but we have not done the meditations on the three principal aspects of the path: renunciation, the meditation that frees our mind from the attachment, bodhicitta, and right view, emptiness. Because of that, whenever we encounter these objects, because the seed is there, ignorance is there. This root delusion is there. Due to the seed of the delusions, all these other delusions arise. These afflictive emotions, these delusions arise. Then that motivates karma, and that karma leaves an imprint, a seed, on the mental continuum. Whenever these imprints, these seeds, manifest, we experience samsara.

Like that, in twenty-four hours, we create so many samsaras. With this ignorant, unknowing mind, in every twenty-four hours we produce delusions that then motivate karma which creates samsara. In one day we start so many twelve dependent-related limbs. We start so many in one hour. This is because we do not have the realization of the lamrim. Without the meditation on the lamrim, the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment, there’s no protection. Even if we don’t have the realization of the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment, at least by doing the meditation our mind is transformed by putting effort into the meditation. Then we feel renunciation, we start to cherish others or have the wish to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.

I was giving those examples yesterday but I did not continue after the example of the flower. Anyway, by looking at those hallucinations as the hallucination that they are, we can see that the objects in our view, the view of this ignorance, are all hallucinations. The way these objects appear—the I, the action, the object—is [distorted] like when we have taken alcohol or drugs or cigarettes or whatever, so we need to look at these as hallucinations because they are hallucinations. Yesterday I used the example of looking at the dream as a dream, rather than believing the dream is something real. Here, in the same way, we look as things as hallucinations because they are hallucinations. So, we practice mindfulness in this way, which gives the understanding in our heart that this is all empty. All this is empty.

We might not have renunciation, the detachment that frees our mind from grasping that makes separating from the object so difficult, so painful, but just by looking at the object as a hallucination immediately frees our mind, making it detached. Doing this lamrim meditation is one way of protecting our mind from negative karma. Not only that, it protects us from the obstacles to realizing the path to liberation and enlightenment, especially for the benefit of sentient beings. Not only that, it causes us to have a clear memory, a clear mind. And not only that, it takes care by the way of what people, in the world and in the West, are normally concerned about: a long life, a healthy body and a healthy mind—everything is taken care of by the way. As we take care of our negative karma, we take care of our own liberation and enlightenment and benefiting other sentient beings. Besides taking care that, it takes care of a long life, a healthy body and a healthy mind, everything.

Questions and answers

I think today maybe we’ll have a holiday! Is there one question?

Student: Dear Lama, as you are speaking, I think that you have met many things. Is that right? What have you seen?

Rinpoche: I wish to say nothing! I wish to say that I have seen nothing. You thought I went into a supermarket? I went into a Spanish supermarket? No, I’m joking! A Pisa supermarket! I guess that’s all. Yeah?

Student: Dear Rinpoche, there are many new students who are maybe struggling to sit for so long. Have you compassion for them?

Rinpoche: No compassion! I think I left my compassion in the other room. Do you have so much pain? Now I understand. After your request, I’ll try to develop compassion and make it shorter! There’s another person there somewhere.

Student: What’s the difference between the Buddhist idea of a mental continuum and the Hindu idea of a soul?

Rinpoche: Basically, I think it depends on how you interpret “soul.” It’s a label but it depends on where you put the label. I think the meaning of soul seems to be as something permanent. I think according to Hindu philosophy, it’s a permanent I. But what the Buddha explained, and this is also in reality, the I itself is an impermanent phenomenon, which exist by the force of causes and conditions. The force of the causes and conditions is what makes it changeable. The I is transitory, changeable. It’s not permanent, but in Hindu philosophy (I think in Hindi it is atman) it is permanent.

There are five divisions of sutra texts. One of them is called Pramanavarttika, the logic treatises that talk about reincarnation, analyzing how there is reincarnation, giving all the proofs, all the valid logic and reasoning. It doesn’t just give somebody’s idea but uses valid, logical reasoning. It explains that the cause of this mental continuum is not the physical body. The mind is not caused by the physical body, because it has its own continuation and it existed before this life.

Anyway, that’s one chapter. There are many other chapters. One is how the Buddha is a valid founder, how we can trust him, how we can rely on the Buddha using all the logic, the reasoning. The main reason is by talking about his qualities from so many lifetimes, how his holy mind has completed the training in compassion for all sentient beings, that there’s no discriminating thought. Then besides all the other qualities, because there is the omniscient mind and so forth, total wisdom, total understanding, there is no cheating sentient beings. There is no misleading sentient beings. His teaching is valid, not misleading, not cheating. There are many reasonings like that.

Then there are many analyses that the I is impermanent, negating the philosophies, the wrong views, that think that the I is permanent. There are many things like that. The main thing is that the I is impermanent, that it’s transitory, changing, not only minute by minute, not only second by second, but even within a second it changes. That is due to being under the control of causes and conditions. That’s the philosophy. Maybe you can meditate on it and see what you can see.

Student: Is there any kind of meaning in the fact that there is so much suffering in existence?

Rinpoche: The meaning of suffering?

Student: What is the meaning of the suffering?

Rinpoche: What’s the meaning of suffering? The unpeaceful feeling, the unbearable, unpeaceful, undesirable state—that’s suffering. The feeling that is unpeaceful, that we find not only unpeaceful but also undesirable. That is the base that normally our mind makes up the label “suffering.” That is the base. Then, due to the base, by thinking about that base, the mind that thinks of that base then makes up the label “suffering.” Using that as a reason, that mind makes up the label “suffering.” Is that OK? Or maybe that’s happiness! Maybe that is happiness?

Student: Do you think a student should wait until they have a foundation in lamrim before taking an initiation?

Rinpoche: That’s best, yes. Not just to take an initiation, but also to practice tantra, it’s best to have a realization of the renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and emptiness. After that, if that’s not possible, for example, when you meditate on impermanence and death, you’re able to feel in your heart that life is very short and that it can be stopped at any time, that the actual time of death is uncertain. You actually feel that in your heart. Even though you don’t have a realization, when you meditate, you’re able to feel that. Similarly, when you meditate on bodhicitta, whether through the seven techniques of Mahayana cause and effect or the equalizing and exchanging oneself for others, whichever method you use, when you meditate on bodhicitta, even though you don’t have a realization now, you have the feeling in your heart to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.

And similarly with right view, you must have some idea. Even though there’s no actual realization, you must have some idea. Normally what is said in the teachings, even though you don’t have an actual realization but with some feeling of renunciation and bodhicitta, the tantric practice becomes correct. Then you are able to direct your meditation toward enlightenment, to achieve enlightenment and also to overcome samsara so it doesn’t become an obstacle to achieving liberation. Instead of being an obstacle, it helps you to be liberated from samsara. So, ttantra practice is helpful for becoming liberated from samsara instead of it being a cause. Otherwise, without an understanding of the lamrim, of the three principal aspects of the path, even though you practice tantra, you cannot practice it correctly; it doesn’t direct your life toward enlightenment and it doesn’t liberate you from samsara. It becomes a cause of samsara, not the remedy to cut the root of samsara.

So, by having some idea, some feeling of renunciation, bodhicitta, and emptiness, with that, you can take the initiation. Otherwise, sometimes taking an initiation and practicing tantra helps the lamrim. Due to the blessings of the guru-deities, practicing tantra helps you to have a realization of the renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and emptiness. That is also possible. By practicing the deity, due to the deity’s blessing, you can have a lamrim realization more quickly.

The other thing is that because tantra is more skillful than the Mahayana Paramitayana, the bodhisattva path, you can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. Whereas in the Mahayana Paramitayana you have to collect merit for three countless great eons, if you practice tantra, even with lower tantra you can achieve enlightenment within one life. Especially if you practice highest tantra, it has even greater skill, it is most sophisticated. It’s like the most modern technology that can do things very fast. Because highest tantra has the greatest skill, by practicing highest tantra, you can achieve enlightenment within a brief lifetime of this degenerated time.

“Degenerated time” means a very short time life. Nowadays, the majority of the people live sixty or seventy years. Those who are able to live to a hundred are not common. A long time ago it was maybe common, but now there are very few. So, even in this degenerated time, within some number of years, you can achieve full enlightenment.

That’s how tantra is the short cut path to enlightenment, how you can quickly enlighten all sentient beings. The main aim to practice tantra is so that you can enlighten sentient beings quickly. Otherwise, the longer you take to become enlightened, the longer other sentient beings have to suffer. The other sentient beings you have a karmic connection with, those who are dependent on you to become enlightened, to be guided on the path, they have to suffer for longer. So, the main reason here again is compassion for others.

In this fortunate eon, there are one thousand buddhas who descend on this earth but not every buddha teaches tantra. Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth, and this is the first time that tantra has been taught on this earth. The three previous buddhas didn’t teach it. It is said that the seventh buddha, who is the embodiment of Lama Tsongkhapa, will teach tantra but after that no other budddha will do so. The very last buddha promised that he will teach all the Dharma that the previous buddhas taught, so it is assumed that the last buddha might teach tantra. So, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha taught it and the seventh buddha will teach it. So, it will only happen three times. None of the other buddhas teach tantra. It’s not that they don’t know tantra. They don’t teach it because sentient beings don’t have the merit, they don’t have the good karma to meet tantric teachings and to practice tantra. That’s the main reason why the other buddhas don’t teach tantra. This is the quick way to achieve enlightenment and the quick way to enlighten other sentient beings.

Therefore, it is regarded that meeting tantric teachings is much rarer than actually meeting the Buddha. This is emphasized. And also, not every human world, every human continent has the opportunity to practice tantra. Only this, our continent, the Southern Continent. Therefore, in one way it’s emphasized very much how it is so rare to meet tantra, and how important it is to take the opportunity to meet tantra and to practice tantra as much as possible in this life. Even if we are unable to achieve realizations, at least we can plant the seed, the imprint of tantra as much as possible, so that in the near future lives, we can again meet and achieve tantra. This causes us to meet tantra again in the next life and to actualize the path. In that way, we can quickly achieve enlightenment. That’s one emphasis [or reason] for the practice of tantra. But also, without any practice of lamrim, we cannot practice tantra, because without lamrim practice, tantric practice doesn’t become correct.


“Due to the past, present and future merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may bodhicitta be generated within my mind, in the mind of all my family members, and in all sentient beings.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all sentient beings, in whichever universe, country, city, and area I am, just by being there, may it cause all the sentient beings who are in that universe, that country, that area, to never ever be reborn in the lower realms, and immediately be liberated from all the disease, spirit harm, negative karma, obscurations, and may they achieve enlightenment quickly, by actualizing the whole path, especially bodhicitta. May they all have perfect happiness.

“May those who are blind be able to see. May those who are deaf be able to hear. May the lame be able to walk. Just by my being there, may I be able to cause this. May those who have obstacles to practice the Dharma be free from obstacles. And may those who need a guru be able to find a guru. May those who have relationship problems be free from them. May they achieve all the happiness.

“And may those who are having back pain and knee pain by listening to my teaching! Mind pain, body pain, they can’t stand it! May they immediately recover.”

I guess that means by me stopping talking! Maybe not praying, but stopping talking.

In our daily life, this is also a very good way of dedicating. The essence is from now on may your life become wish-fulfilling and bring all happiness to all living beings. Just being in that area, sentient beings who are in that universe, that country, that area, those with cancer, AIDS, in a coma, so all those problems such as sicknesses are all immediately healed, just by you yourself being in that universe or country or that area. It’s very good. If you pray like this, it can gradually happen due to the power of the mind. Many bodhisattvas are able to benefit like that because they did prayers like this in many past lifetimes. This is due to the power of the mind.

“Due to the past, present and future merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all sentient beings, may I able to offer benefits like the sky to all sentient beings, just as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Lama Tsongkhapa did, by having the same quality within me as they have.

Due to the past, present and future merits collected by me, by the buddhas, bodhisattvas and all sentient beings, which are merely labeled by the mind, may the I, which is also labeled by the mind, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which is also merely labeled by the mind, and lead all sentient beings, who are also merely labeled by the mind, to that enlightenment, which is also merely labeled by the mind, by myself alone, who is also merely labeled by the mind.

[Rinpoche chants in Tibetan]

Thank you so much.