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.

7. The Kindness of the Guru

December 8, 1998

How we are guided by Chenrezig

This is just a kind of background story of how we are guided by Compassion Buddha, how Compassion Buddha is working for us. When Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was in India—I’m not exactly sure where, I don’t think it was the Old Delhi train station! I’m joking—anyway, when the Buddha was in India in the Milk Park, which means the park of the milk-plant, which might be one of those holy places like Sravasti, one day five-color beams emitted from the center of the Buddha’s two eyebrows. The beams went to the north, to the Snow Land of Tibet, and as they went, the Buddha smiled in that direction. At that time the bodhisattva Eliminating Defilements saw what happened and asked the Buddha what were the causes and conditions for this to happen.

Then, the Buddha said, “Rays of the Sun.” Sorry, I think the translation is backwards, because when you translate from Tibetan you have to translate backwards or sometimes it doesn’t become correct. This term is Sun’s Rays. But these rays have nothing to do with the physical rays, they have to do with the mind; they are Mahayana rays, to do with having bodhicitta. So the Buddha said, “Sun’s Rays, in the future, the outlying country that is filled with ghosts and cannibals, a place where sentient beings have not been subdued by the past three times’ buddhas,” (meaning all the buddhas of the past, present and future.) “In that place, there will be the holy Dharma like the sun rising. It will be propagated; it will spread and develop. Who will tame those sentient beings who are in that outlying country is the Arya Compassion-eye-looking Buddha, Compassion Buddha, Chenrezig.”

How will Chenrezig subdue the sentient beings in that outlying country, the Snow Land Tibet? The Buddha explained that it will be the arya being, the Compassion-eye-looking Lord. I think, for Chinese people, Compassion Buddha manifests in a female aspect, but here, for people in Nepal, India and Tibet, he manifests in a male aspect. Of course, a buddha can manifest in any form. There’s nothing that says the manifestation has to be like this, there’s nothing definite. A buddha can manifest as a child, as a beggar or a wealthy person, as a judge punishing those engaging in evil karma, purifying them, or as a butcher who then liberates sentient beings. A buddha can even manifest as a prostitute when that action, that manifestation, is beneficial for certain sentient beings, when only that one fits and there is nothing else that will guide and liberate those sentient beings. A buddha can be a king, a lay person, various kinds of animals, even spirits or ghosts, if that kind of manifestation is the only one that fits those sentient beings. A buddha might even manifest as a crazy person.

Why the guru is kinder than the three times’ buddhas

I don’t know which time, but the Dharma king of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, had the two princesses, one from Nepal and one from China. The one from China was a manifestation of Tara, I think. And the one from Nepal was also in female aspect, in essence the same as Tara but normally in a little bit of a wrathful aspect. Both ladies were enlightened beings but they appeared as ordinary beings, as ordinary ladies. When they were invited to Tibet as the king’s wives, each wife brought a very precious holy object with them, one from Nepal and one from China.

The precious holy object brought from China was the Shakyamuni Buddha’s statue, blessed by the Buddha himself, that is now in the Lhasa temple. The statue is considered the most precious one in the world because it was made under the Buddha’s instruction and blessed by the Buddha himself.

I found out the story of this statue after Lama Yeshe had passed away. Lama Yeshe is kinder to us than all the three times’ buddhas, kinder than all the past, present and future buddhas. The reason why he is kinder than the three times’ buddhas is that, even though they enlightened numberless sentient beings, because of lack of merit, we—and I am relating to myself here—were unable to be subdued and enlightened by them. Even though the founder of the present Buddhadharma, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, descended in this present eon, we didn’t have the fortune to be enlightened by him, to directly receive teachings from him, to be subdued and enlightened by him. We didn’t have the karma, the merit. We were unable to be subdued by the Buddha when the Buddha was in India with that aspect.

After that, there were the Six Ornaments and so many pandits and yogis, such as Saraha, Tilopa and Naropa. They happened, but we didn’t have the karma, the merit, to receive teachings from them and to be enlightened by them. Because we didn’t have that karma, we were left out. Then, when great beings such as Marpa, Milarepa and so forth, as well as Padmasambhava, happened in Tibet, many other beings achieved enlightenment by Padmasambhava revealing the Dharma to them and guiding them. There were twenty-five direct disciples of Padmasambhava but there were also other sentient beings who became enlightened under the guidance of Padmasambhava at that time. In Milarepa’s time, I think there were eight disciples who became enlightened in one brief lifetime of this degenerate time, within a number of years. Then of course there were many who achieved enlightenment not in one life but afterwards. There have been other great yogis from the four traditions who enlightened many other sentient beings but we ourselves did not have the karma to be guided by them and to be enlightened by them.

Even when Lama Tsongkhapa happened, we didn’t have the merit to be guided Lama Tsongkhapa. Many of Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciples became enlightened and they enlightened many sentient beings by revealing the Dharma, but we didn’t have the merit to be enlightened by them. We were left out.

Like stars in the sky, there have been so many enlightened beings—yogis, pandits—who have happened even after Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in different times and they were able to enlighten many other sentient beings by revealing the Dharma but we ourselves didn’t have the karma, the merit, to be enlightened by them. We were unable to be subdued, to be tamed, unable to be guided by them, so we were left out.

This is the time just before the Buddha’s teachings stop. It is like just before the sun sets. Like that, this time is before the light of the Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings, finally stop. During all this time, we have been totally left out; we have been unable to be subdued by all those other numberless buddhas and holy beings. So, at this time, we are totally lost or guideless.

Then, in this aspect, Lama Yeshe guided us. So that’s why, in the teachings and when we do many refuge practices such as Guru Puja, we say, “I go for refuge to the Guru.” That one comes first. And then we say, “I go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.” One explanation is that even though by quality [all objects of refuge] are the same, but by kindness the Guru is kinder. The Guru is kinder than all the buddhas. That is why, when we do the refuge practice, the Guru comes before the Buddha. Some geshes explain it like that.

However, I think there is an extremely important explanation why the name comes before the Buddha. By knowing that explanation, we know how to practice guru yoga. Otherwise there’s no way. Without knowing it, we don’t know the root, like the very source where all the water in the rivers and streams comes from. The four rivers in India, for example, including the River Ganga, come from Mount Kailash; that is the root. That’s what is explained in the teachings—they all come from Tibet, from the snow mountains.

The dharmakaya is the absolute guru

The holy mind of all the buddhas, the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of bliss and voidness that is eternal, having no beginning and no end, this is pervasive. This covers all existence. There is no existence where this dharmakaya does not cover, does not pervade. So, this dharmakaya is the absolute guru. And this absolute guru is bound with infinite compassion so it embraces all us sentient beings.

This absolute guru, the dharmakaya, which has no beginning and no end, which is eternal, then manifests as the originator, the creator, the door. When we say the prayer “La ma sang gyä la ma chhö / De zhin la ma gen dün te / Kün gyi je po la ma yin…”—when we say “The Guru is Buddha; the Guru is Dharma; the Guru is Sangha,” we mean the Guru is all the doors. We use this prayer to take refuge and as the prayer to make offerings.

This is not a common prayer. It is not a common prayer to use for offerings or for refuge, even though the same meditation comes, for example, when we say “Namo Gurubhyah; Namo Buddhaya; Namo …” which has the meaning of “La ma sang gyä la ma chhö / De zhin la ma gen dün te / Kün gyi je po la ma yin.” Even so, this prayer is not common outside of FPMT. It’s a kind of unusual prayer. We normally don’t hear it. I think it originally came from a root tantra text. I think this prayer didn’t exist during the very first meditation course. Maybe it came into existence when the second meditation course started. I put this prayer there at that time! I found it very effective, very powerful, very meaningful, so I put it there. During the second course, I think I started to explain from the beginning of the prayer.

The verse has very profound meaning, very deep; it has oceans of meanings. It started during the second Kopan meditation course and then it spread out from there to the other FPMT centers.

This absolute guru, this dharmakaya, covers all existence. Whenever a sentient being’s karma ripens, without delay of even one second, it is just there. It takes form and guides the sentient beings. Whatever form is necessary, it fits exactly. According to the karma of that sentient being, it takes form and guides them. This is how the absolute guru—or how the Buddha—guides us sentient beings.

In the Guru Puja, when we do the invocation, after we visualize the elaborate second merit field, in the second verse [Lama Chöpa, verse 16] it says,

Though phenomena are free of any inherent coming and going,
You arise through your enlightened activity of wisdom and loving compassion
According to the dispositions of varied disciples.
Holy refuge savior, please come forth with your retinue.

Even though in the nature of the existence there is no coming and no going, the absolute guru manifests in any form, exactly according to various mentality or the characteristics of the minds of the sentient beings who are objects to be subdued; they do the action of understanding [wisdom] and compassion.

This is talking about the activities of the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, how it guides us sentient beings. When that aspect is no longer needed, when sentient beings’ karma changes, it absorbs. When the karma to have that aspect is finished, or a purer karma ripens, then that aspect changes.

So this dharmakaya, this absolute guru, is the one that manifests into the various aspects of the buddhas. It manifests into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha to reveal the sutra teachings. It manifests into the tantric aspect deity, Vajradhara, and all those various deities to reveal the tantric teachings. Then, it manifests into Lama Tsongkhapa and into all those lineage lamas and all the deities of the four classes of tantra. It manifests into the thousand buddhas of the fortunate eon, into the Thirty-five Buddhas and so forth, into all these buddhas. It also manifests into the bodhisattvas, as well as into the arhats, such as the sixteen arhats, to enable the teachings to exist for a long time in this world, for us to be able to practice purely and to be able to live in pure morality for many reasons. It manifests into the dakas and dakinis, to generate the simultaneously born wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, which is the essential attainment of the higher tantra path. This and clear light have the same meaning. By manifesting into dakas and dakinis, it causes these realizations within us. Then, to pacify obstacles and to support us in our Dharma practice in actualizing path to enlightenment, it manifests into Dharma protectors.

Since our mind is not pure, our mental continuum is not pure but obscured by karmic defilements, by impure karma, we currently cannot see things in a better, purer form, without mistakes. Like me, we cannot see this pure form, so this absolute guru, this dharmakaya, manifests into an ordinary aspect, which means one that has mistakes, as I mentioned the other night. It manifests as having delusions and suffering, exactly like an ordinary person. Manifesting into an ordinary aspect means being exactly what happens to an ordinary person. We see them as having delusions, having the suffering of samsara and making mistakes in actions and so on.

Whatever happens to an ordinary person happens to the absolute guru manifesting in this ordinary aspect, because it is only in this aspect that they can guide us, that they can communicate with us, guiding us to liberation and to enlightenment.

All the buddhas are manifestations of this absolute guru, this dharmakaya, that which has no beginning and which has no end, which pervades all existence. And the door to all this is the guru. When we say, “Guru lama te we should understand that all our past, present and future happiness, all happiness up to enlightenment, all come from our good karma. And our good karma is the action of the Buddha. There are two types of actions of the Buddha. One is possessed by buddhas’ own holy mind, one is within us sentient beings. So all the virtuous thoughts and virtuous actions are the buddhas’ actions working within us. And all those buddhas are manifestations of this absolute guru, this dharmakaya.

Now we can see that this is the originator. It is the originator of all our happiness, all our past, present and future happiness. The door to all that is the guru. This is the way to understand the absolute guru. Because our karma is not pure, we cannot see the Buddha in the pure aspect, the pure form. Therefore, the absolute guru manifests into an ordinary aspect because, as I mentioned before, this is the only way to guide us, to free us from suffering of samsara and bring us to liberation and to the full enlightenment. This aspect is called the conventional guru.

With this explanation it becomes easy to feel that no matter how many gurus we might have, they are all oneness with the Buddha. This helps us see the oneness. It makes it easy for us to realize or see that.

As it is mentioned in the tantric teachings, wherever we generate faith in the channels, in the channels or chakras—I’m not a hundred percent sure of what the next word means; it’s something like “muscles”—anyway the essence is that wherever we generate faith in the Buddha, the Buddha is there.

If we generate faith that there is a buddha on our crown, there is a buddha in our crown. If we think there is a buddha in our heart, there is a buddha in our heart. If we think there is a buddha in our palm, when we generate faith that there is a buddha in our palm, the buddha is there. So, one thing manifests into these many forms, in order to guide us. The other reasoning is that, as we generate faith in the absolute guru, the absolute guru manifests into these forms in order to guide us. That’s one explanation.

The other thing, as we generate faith, “Oh this is a buddha,” as in this quotation, wherever we generate faith there is a buddha, the buddha is there. This is similar in the guru devotion practice when we think this is a buddha, the buddha is there. How? For example, with ordinary spirits, who haven’t even entered in the path to liberation, just an ordinary spirit, if we are involved with the spirit through a medium, as soon as we think of the spirit, the spirit immediately enters the body. When we invoke the spirit through a medium, if we want to consult or whatever, as soon as we think of that particular spirit’s name, it immediately enters into the medium.

[A section of the teaching is missing here]

Acting with a bodhicitta motivation

Whenever a problem happens, instead of pointing outside to other sentient beings, to other precious sentient beings who are the source of all our past, present and future happiness, instead of blaming them, we should put the blame on the ego, which is within us. We put the blame on that, and then harbor it in our heart. We harbor [that grudge we have against the ego] like when somebody abuses or disrespects or criticizes us, how we normally harbor that, keep it in our mind and think to retaliate. We keep the grudge against the person who harmed us, keeping it in our heart, remembering it again and again in daily life and then we plan to harm them back.

It’s the same thing here. Thinking of the ego, we see that that one is only causing suffering to ourselves and others. Then, we put the blame on that one thing and we hold a grudge against it. And we determine to destroy this great demon, this mind that is cherishing the I. So, we can meditate on these verses from the Guru Puja [Lama Chöpa, verses 91 and 92]. And at least we can recite them to meditate on the shortcomings of the ego and the benefits of cherishing others.

This chronic disease of cherishing myself
Is the cause giving rise to my unsought suffering.
Perceiving this, I seek your blessings to blame, begrudge,
And destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.

The mind that cherishes mothers and places them in bliss
Is the gateway leading to infinite qualities.
Seeing this, I seek your blessings to cherish these transmigratory beings
More than my life, even should they rise up as my enemies.

These verses are extremely powerful, extremely effective. You can meditate on them, elaborating on the basis of these verses. Then, at the same time, while reciting OM MANI PADME HUM, you can think, “Sentient beings are the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including all the realizations, up to enlightenment. Therefore, in my life I should cherish nobody but my kind mother sentient beings. I should work for nobody except my kind mother sentient beings. What they want is happiness and what they do not want is suffering. Therefore, I must free them from all suffering and its causes and lead them to happiness, especially to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. For the success of that, there is no other means except for myself first to achieve enlightenment. Therefore I must achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all the mother sentient beings.” You can think like that to generate bodhicitta.

Then after this, think, “Therefore I’m going to do all actions—doing meditation, doing sadhanas or prostrations, making offerings and so forth, as well as all these other actions such as walking, sitting, sleeping, doing a job and so forth—thinking of others rather than thinking of myself first, in order to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.” In this way, it becomes the motivation of the cause.

There are two types of motivation: motivation of the cause and motivation of time. This becomes motivation of the cause, which is the motivation before we act. Motivation of time is while we are acting—while we are prostrating, while we are helping others. After the action has started, while we are doing the action, that is the motivation of time. So here, by motivating like this, with the motivation of the cause, this helps whatever action we do from now on to become virtuous, even working, eating, walking, sitting, sleeping. Besides the virtuous Dharma actions, all those other activities become virtuous and therefore the cause of enlightenment. Even the mundane actions become virtuous, the cause of enlightenment in this way. And nothing becomes a nonvirtuous action. Eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, working, all these also become the cause of enlightenment because we do them with bodhicitta. So this becomes the motivation for all our actions.

By training the mind like this, sooner or later, because your bodhicitta starts to become very strong, even what would have been nonvirtuous or indifferent actions become virtuous. Even nonvirtuous actions, like killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies, slander, harsh speech and so forth, become virtuous due to the power of bodhicitta. They become the cause of enlightenment.

After this, you can think, “May I be able to benefit all sentient beings, like the sky, like Lama Tsongkhapa, by having the same qualities within me as Lama Tsongkhapa has.” Or you can say, “Due to all three times’ merits collected by me, by the buddhas and bodhisattvas and by all other sentient beings, may I be able to offer extensive merits to all sentient beings, like the sky, like Lama Tsongkhapa, by having the same qualities within me as Lama Tsongkhapa has.” You can dedicate like that.

What you are doing here with the bodhicitta motivation is generating the attitude for life, which makes all your actions from now on become virtuous, which means whatever actions you are going to do is for others. That is what is contained in that. If you are unable to think exactly of these motivations that I explained, you can abbreviate this motivation for life. This is the first thing you should do in the morning after you wake up, the first thing you should think. This bodhicitta motivation directs your life toward enlightenment, giving you a clear direction in life, showing you where you are going.

Prostrating to the Thirty-five Buddhas

After this, you can do prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. You may begin with the multiplying mantra, that which increases the strength of each prostration a thousand times, so one prostration becomes [the equivalent of] a thousand prostrations by beginning the prostration with one of the multiplying mantras. If before the prostrations you can generate the bodhicitta motivation again, that makes it very precise, very powerful. Then, you can generate a very strong thought to purify, because death can happen today and even at this moment, and so you should purify all the defilements, the negative karmas right now.

You can first think like this, “If I was now in the hell realm, what would it be like?” Try to see, try to feel that. Besides there being no opportunity to practice Dharma, you are completely overwhelmed by the heaviest suffering.

After that, think, “Death is not only definite but it can come even today, even at this moment. That means I’ll be born in this terrifying hell realm even in this moment. Therefore I must purify all the defilements, the negative karma right now. I need to prostrate for this, as well as to free all sentient beings from all the suffering and lead them to enlightenment. Therefore, I’m going to do the prostrations and confession while reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas.”

So, before you begin the prostrations, make a strong thought of [wishing] to purify. Then recite the mantra to multiply the number of prostrations. Then, in the case of reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas, what you do is, if you are able to make time, do the first one, “Lama la kyab su chhi o,” “I go for refuge to the guru.” While you keep on reciting, you do a full-length prostration. If there’s no space to do a full-length prostration, you can do a five-limb prostration, but if there’s space then you must do a full-length prostration, because the reason here is to purify the defilements and to collect merit as extensively as possible. The more merit you collect, the more extensive merit you collect, the closer you become to enlightenment.

That means you are able to enlighten sentient beings more quickly. Therefore, spread your body out as much as possible. If you have long hair, when you do the prostrations, spread the hair out as much as possible on the ground. Then you collect unbelievable merit. In that way, you can use your long hair for quick enlightenment! It’s mentioned that if your body covers one atom, by doing prostrations you collect the inconceivable merit to be born for a thousand lifetimes as a wheel-turning king, the most powerful, the wealthiest king in the universe. There’s much more description of what a wheel-turning king is, but anyway it means there’s no other king who can compete; this is the most powerful, the wealthiest and there are many more qualities about the wheel-turning king I don’t remember now. So, you collect the merit to be born as a wheel-turning king for a thousand lifetimes if there is one atom that your body covers when you do one prostration.

Now, if you have a fingernail the size of a rice grain, when you do a prostration, from here down to the center of the earth, that small nail covers an uncountable number of atoms. In the text, it says down to the golden base but [that means] from here down to the center of earth, this small nail covers an unconceivable number of atoms.

So, when your hair spreads out on the ground, you cover so many unbelievable, incredible number of atoms from here down to the center of earth. Due to all these merits, the equivalent of however many atoms your body covers, you create the incredible merit to be born as a wheel-turning king for a thousand lifetimes, equaling that many number of atoms. If you understand the first example, then the rest is easy to understand. Therefore, you must stretch out your body as much as possible when you do a prostration.

So I should think that, when the old monastery was there, there is a big difference between doing prostrations there and doing prostrations on top of the hill, because the hill is bigger, so from the top of the hill to the center of earth there are more atoms. Therefore, there’s more merit when doing prostrations on the hill. For example, in a hotel, if you can do prostrations either on the floor or on the bed, do the prostrations on the big bed, especially if the bed is very big and you can roll anywhere! In that way, a big bed becomes very meaningful if you do prostrations on it.

Prostrations are not often done in those five- or six-star hotels. However, seeing you spend so much money for a room, if you did some prostrations in that hotel, there is no comparison between the merit you would create and the money you would spend, no matter how expensive it is. What you spend is nothing compared with the merit you achieve by practicing the Dharma, by doing prostrations. And doing it on the bed or on the floor, there are big differences in the amount of merit.

That means, when you do preliminary practices, if you can do them on a higher mountain, at a higher altitude, if you are doing the preliminary practice of doing many, many prostrations, when you do them on a higher mountain, you create more merit.

Advice on daily practice

After that, you can set up offerings on the altar. As you are setting up the offerings on the altar, it’s extremely important to recite om ah hum to bless the offerings. As soon as you light the incense, you must recite om ah hum. As soon as you switch on a light in your house, to make it an offering, you must bless it with om ah hum, and the same with candles or fruit, or whatever you put on the altar. As soon as you put them on the altar, you must recite om ah hum to bless them. Then, in the mind think that the spirits, the interferers, abiding within the offering are dispelled.

In this way, there is no harm, no damage to your mind. By blessing the offerings, these spirits, interferers, cannot enter your mental continuum and cause many problems to arise, such as a lot of desire, a lot of attachment, making your life become so uncontrolled and making you unable to meditate, unable to practice Dharma. Life has no control. This doesn’t happen.

Not only that, there are different problems that happen when these spirits, these interferers, abide in the offerings. These things don’t happen, and you collect inconceivable merit from each offering. There are particular benefits from each offering that are explained in the sutras.

Either you do the offerings first and you do prostrations after that, or [the other way around]; it doesn’t matter which way. After that, you sit down and do one of the guru yoga practices, either the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice or the Guru Shakyamuni Buddha Guru Yoga practice that I put together in this small book. You can recite whichever one you have more feeling for, the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice or the Guru Shakyamuni Buddha Guru Yoga practice.

As I have already mentioned a few times, this is extremely important. To receive the blessing of the guru and to receive the realizations of the path to enlightenment you must do one guru yoga practice. Then, especially you should do a meditation prayer of the whole path to enlightenment, such as The Foundation of All Good Qualities or any other prayer. You can alternate them. You don’t have to recite the same prayer every day; you can do different lamrim prayers, whichever inspires the mind more. Reciting one lamrim prayer along with the guru yoga every day leaves a positive imprint on your mental continuum. And each day you become closer to gaining realizations, each day you become closer to enlightenment, each day you become closer to enlightening all sentient beings. Each day, as you recite the lamrim prayer, it has this incredible benefit.

The most important thing when you read the lamrim prayer is to read it mindfully. Even if you don’t understand some of the subjects, that doesn’t matter. It is very important to read it mindfully so that it definitely leaves a positive imprint of the path to enlightenment. If your mind wanders, if it does not pay attention to the words, the prayer cannot leave an imprint. Your mouth recites it, but your mind does not pay attention to it. If you go straight but mindfully through the subject, it becomes a direct meditation.

Then, if you are able to meditate, during this time or after you have finished this, before the merit field absorbs within you, if you are going to do a more elaborate guru devotion meditation, at the beginning of the lamrim prayer there’s a guru devotion meditation verse. After you recite that, you can either do an elaborate meditation on guru devotion from the outline of the lamrim, such as in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or some other short lamrim text, like Essential Nectar or something that goes straight. Essential Nectar is very good because it gives details without examples or stories. Because it goes straight, the words in Essential Nectar are very effective. You can either follow a lamrim outline after having studied Liberation or another lamrim commentary, and then meditate using that as a guideline. Then you can elaborate from that. You can elaborate any amount, a little or a lot; you have so much choice. Whichever lamrim meditation you are going to do, a more elaborate one, to train the mind, you do this stanza that contains the meditation in the lamrim prayer. Or you finish all the prayers, then, before the merit field absorbs into you, you do the extensive meditation on the lamrim, whichever meditation you are going to do to train your mind.

As I explained the other day, whatever meditation you do in the morning, if it’s a guru devotion meditation, if you can transform your mind into guru devotion in the morning by doing the meditation, then you can continue that experience for the rest of the day. You try to live with that experience of your mind transformed into guru devotion. In this way, you are able to take the essence in your life. Keeping the mind in that experience of guru devotion helps to stop delusions from arising, and then you don’t engage in so many negative karmas in that day. While you are doing many activities—walking, eating, drinking and so forth—you continuously keep the mind in guru devotion, and you collect so much merit.

Similarly, by meditating in the morning on bodhicitta, then keeping the mind that has been transformed into this experience, the altruistic mind to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings or cherishing other sentient beings, for the rest of the day you continue to hold the mind that is transformed into bodhicitta. So again, in the same way, with that thought, whatever you are doing—whether you are working, sleeping, eating, walking—you collect infinite merit, skies of merit all the time. Like this, you always continuously create the cause of enlightenment. That’s how you take the essence, by using the morning meditation to transform your mind into the lamrim, and then by living your life with that experience. You are able to take the essence of life so much like that. It makes your daily life very, very meaningful.

As far as the lamrim meditation, first study well one elaborate lamrim text, such as Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or something like that. At the moment, that’s the most elaborate one that is published in English. Study it from the beginning to the end a few times, making yourself very familiar with the whole subject. Then, whichever meditation you do, you know all the background, the whole reason why this meditation is important, and that can help bring more inspiration to do the meditation.

While you’re studying the whole lamrim from beginning to end two or three times, either while you’re doing that or afterwards, do one meditation on guru devotion every day, whether it’s ten minutes or fifteen minutes—even something short like that—until you achieve the realization of guru devotion, seeing from your own side that each buddha is all the gurus and each guru is all the buddhas. You feel this from your heart; you have this faith a hundred percent from your heart, very stable and not just for a few minutes, not just for a few days. That’s the guru devotion realization, when you see like that, that one guru is all the buddhas and one buddha is all the gurus. Until you achieve that stable realization, you must continue the guru devotion meditation, for whatever length of time, even for ten minutes or fifteen minutes.

On top of that, do another lamrim meditation to train the mind, such as the first part of the lamrim from perfect human rebirth up to karma, especially impermanence and death. The meditation on impermanence and death is very important. It’s the most important one in that first part of the lamrim because the more you think of that, the more it helps you to quickly have realizations of those other meditations, like the usefulness of the perfect human rebirth or karma. You need to meditate and train the mind from perfect human rebirth up to karma until you have the realization, no matter how many months or years it takes.

When you have no time, this means you have no time to do meaningless actions. You only have time for meaningful actions. To clarify a little bit. This doesn’t mean you stop sleeping or stop eating and drinking. It doesn’t mean that. You are still sleeping and eating and drinking but, because you changed your attitude, you no longer have worldly concern; your attitude is only Dharma. There’s no worldly concern, there’s no eight worldly dharmas. Therefore, you only have time for the Dharma, you have only time to practice. You especially cut the eight worldly dharmas by meditating on impermanence and death. By changing the mind, by changing the attitude, you only have time for the Dharma; you have no time for the meaningless works for this life. That is one definition.

The other definition is that your attitude is totally changed. In the beginning, the most important thing you felt in your heart was this life’s happiness. You didn’t feel the happiness of future lives was important. Now, that has totally changed; it’s completely the other way round. The most important thing is the happiness of future lives. The work of this life is utter nonsense, childish. By meditating on impermanence and death and then those other meditations such as perfect human rebirth and so forth, you have cut the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, the attachment clinging to this life.

Then, when the happiness of this life doesn’t happen, it doesn’t bother you. Whether the comfort of this life happens or not doesn’t bother you; it is completely unimportant. In your heart, the most important thing is the happiness of future lives; that is the most important Dharma. At that time, then you have the realization of the graduated path of the lower capable being.

Then, after having that realization, you train the mind in the graduated path of middle capable being. By meditating on true suffering and the true cause of suffering, the sufferings of each realm, you reach a point where day and night, twenty-four hours a day, you have not the slightest attachment to, not the slightest interest in samsara. You see samsara is totally suffering and you have an aversion to it. It’s like a person caught in the prison who wants to be free day and night, all the time. The aversion to the prison, the wish to be free, arises continuously, while eating, while in the toilet. This is similar to meditating on true suffering and the true cause of suffering, those kinds of subjects, the thought to be free from samsara arises day and night continuously, spontaneously. You have not the slightest interest to be in samsara even for one second. When that renunciation of samsara becomes very stable, you have a realization of the graduated path of the middle capable being.

After that, you train your mind in the graduated path of the higher capable being, bodhicitta, so that the altruistic mind wanting to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings arises spontaneously. You see each sentient being, each animal or human being, and feel naturally, spontaneously from the heart, that you want to achieve enlightenment for that sentient being. Like that, the wish to be free from samsara arises so strongly, spontaneously day and night, all the time. Now, the thought to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings arises spontaneously without any effort, day and night, continuously, on the basis of taking responsibility for all sentient beings, to free them from suffering and to cause them happiness. At that time, you have the realization of bodhicitta.

Then, when you have completed the realization of emptiness, having signs of an unmistaken realization of emptiness, you are able to realize the unification of emptiness and dependent arising. You’re able to put emptiness and existence together on the I. The I exists, but also at the same time it is empty from its own side. So, the I is a dependent arising and it is also empty. So, when you see that the I is empty, when you unify those two, emptiness and dependent arising, that shows you have an unmistaken realization of emptiness, you have completed the realization of emptiness.

However, you still have to develop wisdom by practicing shamatha, calm abiding, and then achieving great insight by unifying these two, shamatha or one-pointed concentration and meditating on emptiness through analysis. From this is derived extremely refined, rapturous ecstasy. By developing that, you achieve the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, which ceases the different levels of delusions, and you are able to achieve liberation.

By having bodhicitta, you enter the Mahayana and by developing those wisdoms, you cease the defilements. There are two types, gross and subtle defilements, and that’s how the mental continuum becomes an omniscient mind. In order to have a realization of bodhicitta, you must first train your mind in the renunciation of samsara. Without that, the realization of bodhicitta is not possible. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot meditate on bodhicitta. Here we’re talking about, as a beginner not having any lamrim experience, where to put the main effort.

It’s good to meditate on emptiness every day, whatever length of time. Whether you recite the Heart Sutra or some other teaching on emptiness, such as mahamudra, whether it’s one stanza or more, it’s good to get something on emptiness done every day; to do some meditation on emptiness. This is very, very important.

Then if you have received a highest tantra initiation, if possible, with the deity you have a karmic connection to, on that deity’s path, there is a graduated path of that deity at the end of the sadhana. So, if you have received a highest tantra initiation of the deity that you have a karmic connection with, you should recite the prayer that contains the graduated path of that deity, which is like a lamrim prayer. Reciting it every day leaves a positive imprint on the mental continuum of this tantric realization. That means each day you become closer to the tantric realization of that deity. Then, getting closer to the enlightenment of this deity, you are getting closer to being able to quickly enlighten all sentient beings. This is the fundamental practice to have a quick tantric realization. As a minimum, every day at least, you should recite that deity’s prayer of the whole path. That is one advice. You have lamrim, the sutra path, and here you have in tantra a prayer that contains the graduated path of the deity.

Then there is single-pointed concentration, shamatha. To achieve this practice of single-pointed concentration successfully, you need to be in a particular place, a special environment, a conducive place that has no obstacles. There are causes and conditions to succeed in actualizing shamatha, and you need to perfect those causes. If you are going to meditate, to have realization, you need to perfect the causes. For instance, if you don’t have pure morality it becomes an obstacle, making it more difficult to achieve shamatha.

You can also practice shamatha, calm abiding, with tantra, such as the Six Yogas of Naropa or tummo fire meditation. Using the tummo fire as a meditation object for shamatha, you get some experience of both the tantric path and also shamatha, single-pointed concentration. Or the generation stage, when you visualize yourself as deity. In this way, you achieve two things, single-pointed concentration as well as a tantric realization. His Holiness the Dalai Lama especially advises that then life becomes more profitable.

So, in the morning, before meditation, if possible do prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas, by reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. The other way is to recite the names, one after another, straight through, and then do the prostrations. That’s one way. The other way is the best, if you can repeat one name, “I go for refuge to the Guru”, repeating it over and over until you have put your forehead on the ground. Then, after that, you change, saying “I go for refuge to the Buddha,” reciting it over and over until you have put forehead on the ground. Then, you change, reciting “I go for refuge to the Dharma,” and so forth, until you finish all the Thirty-five Buddhas. If you can add the Seven Medicine Buddhas, that is very good. Then it’s very, very powerful; it makes life extremely profitable.

Then, without finishing the last part of the prayer, go back and start again from refuge. After you have done this three times, it becomes about a hundred and fifteen prostrations. It is extremely good if you can make this a daily practice, maybe not every day, sometimes you might miss out, but generally a sort of a daily practice. Whether you have a commitment to do a preliminary practice or not, if you can do this as a daily practice, it’s extremely good. Then, after that, you do the last part of the prayer.

I once asked Denma Lochö Rinpoche why the biography of Lama Tsongkhapa talks about the Thirty-five Buddhas but never mentions that he did the Vajrasattva practice, reciting the Vajrasattva mantra. Denma Lochö Rinpoche mentioned that if you do the Thirty-five Buddha practice well once, it has power to purify the very heaviest negative karma—killing your father or mother or an arhat, harming the Buddha and causing disunity among the Sangha. This negative karma gets purified by doing the Thirty-five Buddhas practice once.

Reciting the names just once has the power to purify so many eons of different negative karmas. There’s a main one, and each Buddha is to purify a different negative karma. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t purify other negative karmas. Therefore, in the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition, this practice of the Thirty-five Buddhas is regarded as very important, as very, very powerful. So many lamas in this lineage do the practice every day with many prostrations.

Then, in daily life, before you go to your job, or eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, whatever activity you do, make sure that you do it with a bodhicitta motivation. That transforms the actions into the cause of enlightenment, to enlighten all sentient beings. That makes life most productive, most beneficial. In this way, all your actions such as working are done with a bodhicitta motivation, they all become the cause of all the sentient beings’ happiness. Before each action, think that the meaning of life is to free all sentient beings from suffering, to cause them happiness and to bring them to enlightenment. Think that that is the purpose of your life and therefore you must achieve enlightenment. Therefore, you are going to do this service for others.

When you go to sleep, when you eat, think you are going to do the yoga of sleeping or the yoga of eating. You can think like that. When you practice tantra, there’s a special practice of sleeping, as well as eating, washing and all these activities.

Before going to bed, if you can, recite the long Vajrasattva mantra twenty-one times or the short OM VAJRASATTVA HUM twenty-one times. It is so important to do a Vajrasattva practice. If one tiny insect is killed today, if it’s not purified before going to bed, the next day the negative karma becomes double. After fifteen days, it becomes the same heavy karma as having killed a human being. After eighteen days, it becomes one hundred and thirty-one thousand and seventy-two times heavier. It increases day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. Then afterwards, this one negative karma, by multiplying, becomes like the size of a mountain, like the size of the earth. Even this one negative karma makes life so heavy at the time of death. Even just with this one negative karma, you have to experience the sufferings of the lower realms for an unconceivable time.

Now, in one day there are so many negative karmas, not just having killed one tiny insect. So many negative karmas. And each one multiplies so much. That’s unbelievable! After some time, each one becomes like a mountain, like the earth. It makes it so difficult to have realizations of the path to enlightenment; it makes it so difficult to be able to benefit other sentient beings.

If you do a three-month hundred thousand Vajrasattva retreat, it purifies many lifetimes, many eons of negative karma. Even reciting the mantra twenty-one times stops multiplying today’s negative karmas from accumulating tomorrow. And it not only purifies today’s negative karmas, it also purifies this life’s negative karmas as well as the negative karmas from previous lives. That is just by reciting it twenty-one times. Of course, it depends so much on how you recite, how strong your bodhicitta and understanding of emptiness is when you recite, and how strongly you generate regret having done those negative karmas. It depends on many things.

Then, after each practice and especially at the end of the day, you should do a perfect dedication, dedicating all the merits you have created. As you remember, at the end of each teaching, I do some dedications. They are different ones each day, although some are similar. So you can do it like that. There are even dedication prayers, such as the King of Prayers and other prayers you can recite, but even if you cannot do those, doing a few stanzas of dedication is very good. Mainly what you are praying for is that your life, from now on and in all the future lives, becomes most productive, most beneficial, most useful, for other sentient beings. That’s what is contained there.

Because many of you took precepts yesterday, besides the meditation, they are another very important thing. It’s extremely good, those who took precepts yesterday. Whatever number you took, you always collect merit, and living in the vows is the foundation for gaining the realizations of the path and or liberation from samsara.

Another thing is that every year, if possible, you should do some retreat, for either a week, or fifteen days or a month. Longer, of course, is better but even fifteen days or a week is very good. You should plan to do some retreat each year.

The meditation courses where there are teachings and a meditation program become a kind of retreat as long as there is time to meditate on the subject you have heard. On this course, there are times for meditation except when I start to give a talk. When I come back to Kopan, your meditation time disappears! Anyway, a course like this, where there is teaching and meditation combined becomes a kind of retreat. It gets two things done, studying and meditation.

So, each year you should do some retreat, either a deity retreat or some preliminaries, whether it’s a group retreat or a solitary one, because at other times your life is so distracted with your job and this and that, with so many things, but doing the retreat makes you study and see yourself. You learn how you have been in the past and how you are at present. Seeing both the good things and the mistakes give you the opportunity to change, to create a better life. Seeing yourself makes you have a better life. It gives you energy, inspiration, to continue to practice and become even stronger.

I think that’s it. The Chenrezig initiation is finished. It’s gone!

I’ll do the oral transmissions of the mantras of Dorje Khadro, the Thirty-five Buddhas, Vajrasattva, and Compassion Buddha.

Think, “The purpose of my life to free all sentient beings from all the sufferings and bring them to full enlightenment. Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment. Therefore, I’m going to take the oral transmission of these teachings. May each word cause me to have all the realizations within my mind and may each word that I hear cause all sentient beings to immediately have the realizations of the path contained in these words.”

[Lama Zopa Rinpoche chants in Tibetan]

So this is Dorje Khadro, an extremely powerful one. It is one of the golden Dharmas that Manjushri gave to Lama Tsongkhapa. It very powerfully purifies negative karmas, defilements, and revives the degenerated samaya as well as eliminating obstacles. This practice is an extremely blessed one, highly admired for eliminating obstacles. This golden Dharma is Lama Tsongkhapa’s secret heart practice.

Then the oral transmission of the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga.

[Lama Zopa Rinpoche chants in Tibetan]

Now, the Heart Sutra. I’ll do Heart Sutra also, because it’s a very, very important practice. Then the oral transmissions of the Thirty-five Buddhas and Vajrasattva practices. Now, the Heart Sutra.

[Lama Zopa Rinpoche chants in Tibetan]

Now, the Medicine Buddha mantra. There’s a long one but I’m not sure whether I have received the lineage of oral transmission, I don’t remember. If you recite Medicine Buddha’s name and mantra every day, even animals, if they hear Medicine Buddha’s name and mantra, won’t be born in the lower realms. With the name and the mantra of Medicine Buddha, if even animals won’t be born in the lower realms, there is no question for human beings. If you recite the name and mantra of Medicine Buddha, it is guaranteed you will not to be reborn in the lower realms. Because of that, it’s extremely important to recite the Medicine Buddha name mantra. It is not only for healing sicknesses. Sickness is just one problem from the oceans of samsaric problems. Sickness is just one problem; it’s not all the problems of samsara. Medicine Buddha is not only for healing, it is also very powerful for success. Medicine Buddha made so many prayers in the past, during the bodhisattva’s time, to benefit us sentient beings.

[The recording stops suddenly]