December 8, 1993
Before we label a sound, we must hear it
[When we hear a sound, we give it] a particular label: good sound, bad sound, interesting sound, uninteresting sound, boring sound and so forth. There is a reason why we decide on a particular label. First of all, there is the sound, and then there is what kind of quality of sound. The reason has to come before the label is made. The reason is what the ear sense hears; it is the object of the ear sense. So, in order to label “sound” and whatever kind of quality sound, we have to hear something first. Do you understand? Unless we hear something first, how are we going to judge? There is no reason.
I mentioned about labels last night—over and over, a hundred times, until you got annoyed, until it became a pain in your heart or in your ear. [Rinpoche and students laugh] I repeated over and over, a thousand times, that before the mind puts the label “sound” and what quality of sound, we have to hear something. The ear sense has to contact the object, the sound. Because of that contact, which comes first, we say we heard the sound. Then we add the thought that it is an interesting or uninteresting sound and so forth.
If the ear sense hearing the object and us labeling the object “sound” occurred at the same time, there would be no reason to label “sound” on the sound. We have to hear the sound in order to label it. If our ear sense didn’t make contact with the object, the sound, there is no way we could label it as “sound.” We couldn’t say we heard a sound because there would be nothing to make the mind decide on the label “sound” and to call it a sound. Do you understand? The base is what the ear sense hears and that is what makes our mind decide on the label “sound” and whatever quality of sound it is.
So now we can see that although sound looks like it comes from the outside, it is actually merely labeled by the mind. Sound comes from our own mind. OK? That is very interesting. Now we can see how even sound is empty of existing from its own side. Why? Because it is merely labeled by the mind.
There is the merely labeled I, the merely labeled action of hearing and the merely labeled sound. Then, it’s the same thing with smell and the rest of the senses. This comes back to the mindfulness meditation on how everything is merely labeled by the mind, how subject, action and object are merely labeled by the mind.
When we say things such as subject, action and object exist by being merely labeled by the mind, this is a way of meditating on subtle dependent arising, the extremely subtle way that things exist. As I mentioned last night, there is nothing other than this extremely subtle way things exist, being merely labeled by mind; there is nothing even slightly more than that.
In and out of meditation recognize the hallucination as a hallucination
Today, we can think like that. During our meditation as well as at other times such as when we do a walking meditation, we can look at everything with the mindfulness that everything we see is the refuting object, the mindfulness that everything is the hallucination that our mind places over the merely labeled I, the hallucination that it places over the merely labeled action and the hallucination it places over the merely labeled object. All the phenomena that we see are covered by this hallucination. We can practice that awareness.
We are not pretending that something which is a truth is a hallucination; we are looking at something that is false in order to realize that it is false and we see that which is truth as the truth. This is the biggest problem, not having realized the truth as truth, not having realized the false as false and then believing the false as truth and believing truth as nonexistent. Because of this ignorance, this wrong belief, we get reborn and we die. Our mind is completely overwhelmed, completely intoxicated by this ignorance.
Another way of putting it is that as long as we believe what appears to this ignorance is true, it is like from beginningless lifetimes we have been taking drugs, nonstop, every second, always living in a hallucination and never touching reality, never grounded. We are completely trapped in the hallucination, believing all the false appearances to be true, and from that come all the unbearable sufferings of the six realms. Out of this hallucinated state come all our human problems, all this world’s problems.
Therefore, if we wish for peace and happiness for ourselves, to end all the problems and achieve ultimate peace, liberation, we must do something with the hallucinated mind, we must overcome it by realizing emptiness. If we want more, if we want to benefit other sentient beings, to liberate them from all their sufferings, all their hallucinations, all the wrong concepts that come from ignorance and bring them to everlasting happiness, liberation, then we ourselves must have the wisdom that realizes the ultimate nature. To realize the truth, we first need to recognize what is false; we need to recognize the false view. Only through that can we see what is the truth.
So, either while we are doing a sitting or walking meditation or at any other time, during these days it is very good, especially at break time, to practice the mindfulness of these things. One thing is practicing mindfulness of the hallucination we place over the merely labeled I, the merely labeled action, the merely labeled object and so on. Then, when we think of the hallucination as a hallucination, as I mentioned last night, the result that comes is the reality, the truth that all phenomena are empty. As I mentioned last night, each time we do this, it is like an atomic bomb. It purifies an unbelievable amount of obscurations, of past lives’ negative karmas, making us closer to liberation and to full enlightenment.
Using criticism to realize emptiness
While we are walking, it is good to keep silence. That allows us to be able to do the meditation. But if we could watch the mind, if we could really concentrate, it wouldn’t matter if we talked or not. Even if we talked all day long, it wouldn’t matter because the talking itself would be a meditation. We would be talking but at the same time constantly watching what we are doing and labeling it. Whether we talk for one minute or for twenty-four hours, our mind is checking, “I am now talking,” or “I have been talking so many hours!” Until we finish, until the mind melts and the body melts! [Rinpoche and students laugh] Anyway, I’m joking.
When we are aware of the labeling as we are talking, the whole thing becomes a meditation, a very beautiful, very profound meditation. While we are talking with another person, if we are practicing mindfulness like this, it becomes very interesting. During that time, the other person, if they have clairvoyance, can say many bad things about us, criticizing us in the worst way, but because we are meditating on emptiness, it becomes very helpful. It can be like training, like the training a soldier does before going to war. No matter how badly the other person puts us down, it doesn’t bother us because we are practicing mindfulness of dependent arising, how everything is a dependent arising, especially subtle dependent arising, being merely labeled by the mind, which means that all those things are empty of existing from their own side.
Therefore, nothing that person says hurts us, even if they say the heaviest things about our mistakes. Nothing bothers us while we are meditating on looking at the false view or dependent arising, seeing how all this comes from our own mind. At that time, we are not following ignorance, we are not following the ego, we are not following attachment, therefore what they are saying doesn’t bother us at all.
It is especially useful to know that by this training we are developing our understanding of emptiness and getting closer to ceasing all the gross and subtle obscurations, meaning we are getting closed to attaining liberation and enlightenment. What we are doing has all these benefits, and we can be assured that we will one day realize emptiness. But the important thing is that we should use what we are learning about emptiness in our everyday life. When something bad happens, when we meet difficult circumstance, when somebody criticizes us or gets angry at us, when we meet any undesirable conditions, we should be able to use our understanding of emptiness.
In this way, it becomes extremely practical. This is what we need to do immediately. Even though it has all these long-term benefits, in our day-to-day life we should use the teachings on emptiness that we have learned like taking medicine when we have a headache. In meditation sessions we meditate on it, and in between sessions, when we meet adverse circumstances and life becomes very difficult, when there is the danger of creating heavy negative karma through anger or the like, it is extremely worthwhile to protect ourselves in this way. We protect ourselves, we protect our mind, we protect our liberation, we protect our enlightenment.
Anyway, I think sooner or later the sun might set! It might become dark.
Do not commit any nonvirtuous actions,
Commit only virtuous actions,
Subdue your mind thoroughly—
This is the teaching of the Buddha.
A meditation on emptiness
I, action, object, the surrounding people, friend, enemy, stranger, possessions, your life and so forth—all these phenomena are changing within every second by causes and conditions. Because of this, they can be stopped at any time.
Therefore, there is no reason to have any discriminating thought, to become angry with a dissatisfied mind, to have attachment or ignorance, to allow the concept of permanence to arise for all phenomena that are actually impermanent.
The reality of causative phenomena is that they are changing within every second due to causes and conditions and can be stopped at any time, therefore to hold such wrong concepts toward them is nonsense. When we follow these wrong concepts, such as seeing the impermanent as permanent, the result is only samsara, particularly the sufferings of the lower realms. The result of being aware of the reality of causative phenomena is liberation from samsara.
The I, the action, the object, all phenomena, what they are is nothing other than being merely labeled by the mind. Therefore the I, the action, the object, all phenomena—permanent and impermanent—are completely empty of existing from their own side.
The subject I is empty, the action is empty, all these objects of the eye sense, all the forms—what we see around here—are empty. What appears to us as real, as existing from their own side, all these are hallucinations, empty.
Concentrate just a little bit in this.
Next, the sound that is the object of the ear sense, which appears as real, as existing from its own side, as having nothing to do with our mind, which seems to come from outside, this is also a hallucination. This is the refuting object, which means it is a hallucination, it is empty. All the sounds you hear are empty.
Again, place the mind in this emptiness a little bit.
Each sound you hear appears as if it is a real sound, a sound appearing from its own side. All these are the refuting objects; all these are hallucinations. When you hear a sound, it seems you hear a real sound. That “real” sound you hear is the refuting object; it is the hallucination; it is empty. Every time you hear a different sound, think that it only appears to be real, appearing from its own side. Then, try to understand the meaning—that it is empty, that the “real” sound doesn’t exist at all.
So, as you hear each sound, meditate on emptiness. Meditate on the emptiness of that sound. First, be aware how the sound appears to you, as real, as appearing from its own side. Then try to understand the meaning of that, how it is empty. The more sound you can hear, the more you get to meditate on emptiness.
[Place your mind on emptiness like that.]
Next, concentrate on the objects of the nose sense. For any smell that you apprehend, the way the smell appears to your mind is from its own side, as a real smell existing from its own side. It appears as not merely labeled by the mind, so again that is the refuting object, that is the hallucination, that is empty.
Think of how those different smells appear to you. If they appear as real, as appearing from their own side, think that that is the meaning of emptiness, that they are empty of existing like that. That kind of smell does not exist at all.
If there is smell now, that’s very good, because you can meditate on it. If there is no smell then you can think of those different very strong smells, how they appear, those strong smells. That is more effective to meditate on because they have a very strong appearance from their own side.
[Meditate on that for a while.]
If you can’t smell anything, maybe the person next to you can help! [Rinpoche and students laugh]
The next one is taste. Again, remember a sweet taste. Even the sweetness is merely labeled by the mind. The way it exists, how it comes in existence, is by coming from the mind. Although it is merely labeled by the mind, it doesn’t appear that way to you when you apprehend it. When we sentient beings taste something sweet, that sweetness appears real, existing from its own side. Again, this is the refuting object, this is a hallucination. That means it is empty.
Place your mind on this emptiness.
Now, think of the taste of chili. How does the taste chili appear? If you don’t have any experience of chili, then you can think of something else. Does the taste of chili appear to come from your own mind? Does it appear merely labeled by the mind? The taste of chili is really hot, which means hot appearing from its own side, not merely labeled by the mind. That is opposite of reality. That real hot is the hallucination; it is the refuting object. It is that which is empty, which doesn’t exist at all. That taste of chili doesn’t exist at all.
Place your mind on that emptiness.
Next is the object of the body sense, the tangible object. As you are sitting on your cushion on the floor, how does it appear to your mind? Does the object of touch that you apprehend appear to be coming from the mind? Does it appear like that or not? It doesn’t appear like that.
More specifically, does it appear as merely labeled by the mind or not? Whether it feels hard or soft, if what you are sitting on now does not appear as merely labeled by the mind, it is completely the opposite of reality. The real softness coming from its own side—not softness coming from the mind, merely labeled—or the real hardness coming from its own side—not hardness coming from the mind, merely labeled—that is the refuting object, the hallucination. That means it is empty; it doesn’t exist. That kind of softness or hardness appearing from its own side, not merely labeled by mind, doesn’t exist at all. It is a hallucination, completely false.
Again, place your mind on that emptiness.
The object of the body sense, the tangible object, such as the soft feeling of your clothes that touch your body—does it appear as coming from your own mind, merely labeled by the mind or as appearing from its own side, not merely labeled by the mind? The tangible object, the soft contact of your clothes with your body, which appears from its own side, that is the refuting object, the hallucination.
Place your mind on that emptiness.
Next, the object of the mind sense—impermanence, permanence, emptiness and so forth, all these objects of the mind—when you think of impermanence, permanence or emptiness, does it appear as coming from the mind, and particularly as merely labeled by the mind, or does it appear as real, in the sense of existing from its own side? If it seems to appear from its own side, that is the refuting object, that is the hallucination.
Again, place you mind on that emptiness, the emptiness of all these mental phenomena—impermanence, permanence, emptiness and so forth—appearing from their own side. Place your mind in the absence of that.
For example, this space is empty of form, but even this is empty, even this has an absence of form. Space does not have resistance; it is empty in not having resistance. So, when we say “space is empty” that only refers to the ultimate nature of emptiness, emptiness only, that specific emptiness.
Thinking how even space is empty becomes another very effective meditation on emptiness. Ordinary emptiness is an absence of something, like the absence of form, something like that. But even this space, which is an absence of form, is empty. There is no other way to think of emptiness [only]. The other way to think is ordinary emptiness because space is an absence of form, but that is ordinary emptiness, the wrong idea of what emptiness [only, tong pa nyi] is. This phenomenon, space, that you are going to meditate on as being empty is already empty in the ordinary sense, in being an absence of form. But even this is empty.
This is very effective for those of you who are doing a highest tantra deity sadhana. There are two stages in highest tantra, generation stage and completion stage, and the meditation on the dharmakaya in the generation stage involves the ordinary death, the clear light, and the base time clear light, visualizing the result time dharmakaya. This visualization itself becomes the preparation to actualize the path time dharmakaya, that actually stops the ordinary death. It escalates the potential to achieve the result time dharmakaya. So, the meditation visualizing the three kayas in order to actually achieve the result time three kayas is the most important practice in the generation stage sadhana. This three kaya meditation is the heart of the generation stage, the essential practice of the deity sadhana. So, when you meditate on the dharmakaya, even the space that appears to you, even that is empty. Then, you do the rest of the visualization that is there in the highest tantra practice.
This is similar when you are taking a self-initiation to purify all your negative karmas, particularly your degenerated samaya vows—the degenerated pratimoksha or self-liberation vows, the degenerated bodhisattva vows and the degenerated tantric vows. You can take a self-initiation after having completed the retreat where you completed a certain number of the mantras or had signs of having achieved the retreat or having done a time retreat. Whichever way you have done the retreat, after you have completed it, you can do this powerful practice, taking a self-initiation. Even when you are taking an initiation from your lama, as you meditate on the four blisses or four joys, with the last bliss, simultaneously-born great bliss, there is the appearance of space—even this space is empty. Seeing that is the foundation for the rest of the meditation. In that way it becomes very effective.
So, just meditate for a little while on the objects of the mind, permanent phenomena, impermanent phenomena, emptiness, seeing how all these—even emptiness—appear as not merely labeled by the mind but appear as existing from their own side. This is the refuting object; this is a hallucination.
Again, meditate on that meaning, which is emptiness.
When we don’t label “problem” there is no problem
How do we apply the understanding of emptiness, the meditation on emptiness, in our daily life? A great bodhisattva called Thogme Zangpo, who composed the Thirty-seven Practices of the Bodhisattva, said that we are very far from emptiness when, although we talk about it a lot from our mouth, when somebody criticizes or praises us, we immediately become emotional, excited. Does that happen to you? If you are praised, how do you react? Do you get excited? Kind of high, like having taken a drug? [Rinpoche and students laugh]
Normally, although we might be able to make a lot of noise about emptiness, as soon as we are criticized or praised in our daily life, even in such a small way, it immediately affects our mind. That means our mind is not stable. When just a few words can cause our mind to go up or down, causing us to suddenly become angry or excited, unable to keep our mind stable, that shows we are very far from emptiness. No matter how much we have studied the Madhyamaka philosophy, no matter how well we can explain it, if a small thing can disturb our mind, we have not applied it to our everyday life.
In another verse, Thogme Zangpo said,
All forms of suffering are like a child’s death in a dream.
Holding illusory appearances to be true makes you weary.
Therefore, when you meet with disagreeable circumstances,
See them as illusory—this is the practice of the bodhisattvas.
What this verse says is that we should see our daily life problems as like hallucinations, illusions—relationship problems, work problems, health problems, depression, loneliness. Now, I’ve run out of problems! [Rinpoche and students laugh] When somebody treats us badly, harms us, abuses us, whatever, so many problems like this, so many fears, worries, upset, all these problems that are merely labeled by the mind, as I mentioned, when we do not analyze them, they look like harm coming from the outside, from other people.
For example, if our mind doesn’t label something a “problem,” there is no problem. The problem comes into existence the moment we create the label “problem,” thinking, “I have a problem.” The moment we merely label a situation a “problem” and we believe in that, that is the moment the problem comes into existence. As long as our mind doesn’t make the label “problem,” we have no problem, but as soon as we create that label, we find a problem in our life.
These various problems I have just mentioned, even though they are merely labeled by the mind—that is how they exist—when we experience a problem it doesn’t appear to us in that way; it appears to come from the outside as a real problem, existing from its own side, not merely labeled by the mind. Even though this is a hallucination, it appears like this and we believe this to be true.
This is exactly like the mother [who dreams of her child’s death.] In a dream that takes maybe an hour or even just fifteen minutes. We can dream that we meet somebody, get married and have children, that we go through so many problems in thirty, forty or even sixty years of marriage, and maybe in the dream our child is killed. First we find somebody we love and get married and we are all excited, then we have a child and they grow up [and we have so much attachment], but then they die and we are unbelievably upset. Having gone through many problems, we become very skinny and our hair turns completely white. In that long life there has been so much excitement, so many fears, problems and worries, and yet this is just a dream. We were dreaming but during the dream we did not realize we were dreaming.
Nothing was real in that dream; everything that appeared came from our mind. We found a partner, got married, had children, experienced the death of our child, had all the excitement and upset, but these were all appearances coming from the mind. Nothing at all came from the outside. Everything in the dream was merely labeled by the mind but during the dream we were not aware it was like that.
Just as in that dream, in our everyday life we do not recognize what appears to us as being merely labeled by the mind. Everything appears as existing from its own side, as real, and we believe that appearance. The various sufferings and problems we experience are like this, exactly like in a dream, but we see them as not merely labeled by the mind. They are hallucinations, but we believe the hallucination to be true, as having nothing to do with our own concept. What is a hallucination we believe to be reality and that misconception tortures us, constantly making us suffer.
Therefore, Thogme Zangpo advised us that when we meet with disagreeable circumstances, we should see them as illusory. This is how we can deal with them. Whether we have a problem or not, we should practice looking at everything as a hallucination, as I talked about the other day.
This is especially true when we meet undesirable circumstances, problems, in our daily life. Whatever problems we have—relationship problems, health problems such as AIDS or cancer—all these come from the mind. They are merely labeled by the mind, but they appear to us as completely the opposite, as existing from their own side. That is hallucination.
When we can see those hallucinations as hallucinations, we are able to keep our mind stable, without ups or downs. We are then free from all those disturbing thoughts such as attachment and anger. This meditation cuts all that. And seeing the hallucination as a hallucination leads to seeing what is empty as empty.
So, immediately, this becomes a great protection. It protects us from constantly creating negative karma and saves us from falling down into the sufferings of lower realms. Protected like that, our actions no longer become the cause of samsara but instead become the cause of liberation. It becomes the wisdom realizing emptiness, removing even the subtle mistakes of the mind. In that way, this practice helps us also achieve full enlightenment.
Meditation on emptiness like space
First think, if there is no mind at all labeling the I, then how does it happen? What happens with the I? Then, try to get the idea that there is no I, no self.
If there is no mind, there is no I, no self or me, how can it seem that there is one? What the I is, is merely labeled by the mind. This I is completely empty, completely empty of existing from its own side. It’s the same with the base to be labeled “I,” the aggregates. Without the mind labeling the aggregates, if there were no mind labeling the aggregates, there would be no aggregates, no association of body and mind. Therefore, this association of body and mind is completely empty of existing from its own side. This association of body and mind that is our aggregates does not exist at all as real, in the sense of appearing from its own side.
Without the mind labeling “body,” there wouldn’t be this body existing, so this body is completely empty of existing from its own side. Without the mind labeling it, even the base, which is the group of the parts of the body, the parts on which the body is labeled, would not exist. So, the group of the parts of the body, the limbs and so forth, is merely labeled by the mind; it is completely empty. What appears as real, what appears to exist from its own side, is completely empty.
So, this is what it is in reality. Even the parts of the body individually—the head, the legs, the arms, the heart, the liver, the lungs and so forth—all the pieces of the body that are called such and such, without the mind they wouldn’t exist at all. There wouldn’t be the head, there wouldn’t be the arms, there wouldn’t be the legs, there wouldn’t be any parts of this body—hearts, lungs, limbs and so forth. None of these parts of the body would exist. They are all completely empty of existing from their own side.
So, place the mind on this emptiness for a little while.
The head is empty from its own side. The arms are empty from their own side. The legs are empty. Each of the parts of the main body, the heart and so forth, are also empty.
Now, the atoms of the body, the collections of atoms that make up the body. Without the mind there wouldn’t be the collections of atoms. The collection of atoms is merely labeled by the mind; therefore the group of atoms is completely empty of existing from its own side. Without the mind labeling “atoms,” there wouldn’t be any atoms.
First, try to get that idea. If there is no mind labeling “atom,” then what happens? What would it look like?
That means the atoms are merely labeled by the mind; they are empty. The atoms that appear to be real, existing from their side, are completely empty from their own side.
So, please place your concentration on this emptiness, on the emptiness of the atoms.
Now, without the mind labeling the sub-atomic particles, there wouldn’t be sub-atomic particles, that which are the basis to be labeled “sub-atomic particles.” What does it look like if there is no mind labeling sub-atomic particles? Without the mind labeling “sub-atomic particles,” there wouldn’t be sub-atomic particles.
That means the sub-atomic particles do not exist from their own side; they are completely empty of existing from their own side.
So, please place your concentration on this emptiness.
Now, without the mind labeling “mind,” there wouldn’t be any mind existing. That means the mind that exists is merely imputed by the mind, by the thought, so the mind is completely empty of existing from its own side.
The mind which appears to us as real, appearing from its own side, this mind is completely empty of existing from its own side; this is a complete hallucination. Without the mind, even the base to be labeled “mind” does not exist. That phenomenon that is opposite in nature to the body—it has no form, no color and shape, but it has the function and characteristics of being clear and able to perceive objects—that mind doesn’t exist at all without the mind labeling it.
The mind is compared to a mirror. When the mirror is not obstructed by dust and those other substances, it is clear and can reflect objects. Objects can appear as reflections in the mirror because it is clear, not obstructed by other phenomena. Similarly, this phenomenon that is formless, that is not obstructed by form but is clear and therefore able to perceive objects—that which is clear [and has the ability to perceive] objects—is the definition of mind. This phenomenon that is formless and has these functions and characteristics is the base that receives the label “mind.” Without the mind labeling it, even this base of the mind wouldn’t exist.
So, this base of the mind, which appears to exist, to be real, existing from its own side, is completely empty from its own side. Please place your concentration on this emptiness for a little while.
Now, there are the six principal consciousness and the fifty-one mental factors that the whole mind is divided into. If there were no mind labeling these aspects of the mind, there wouldn’t be these six principal consciousnesses and fifty-one mental factors; they wouldn’t exist. This shows that the six principal consciousness and fifty-one mental factors are merely labeled by the mind, therefore they are all completely empty of existing from their own side.
Please concentrate on this emptiness.
The six principal consciousnesses and the fifty-one mental factors that appear to us as real, existing from their own side, are hallucinations, existing in mere name.
The base of the principal consciousness is a phenomenon that does the function of recognizing or perceiving only the actions of the object. That is the definition of the principal consciousness, the phenomenon that is clear and perceiving objects, that functions to perceive only the essence of the object. That is the base to be labeled “principal consciousness.”
Anything that functions to do more than that is called a mental factor. So, the phenomenon that functions to know the essence of the object is the basis to be labeled “principal consciousness,” and the phenomena that function to accompany the principal consciousness are the bases to be labeled “mental factors.” The bases to be labeled “mental factors” arise with the principal consciousness in five similar ways. The literal translation of sem jung is “arising with the principal consciousness,” which makes it clearer than the term “mental factor” that is usually used. That alone doesn’t give a clear idea.
The principal consciousness perceives just the essence of a particular object, for example, a person, then, on the basis of that, remembering the object, being attached to or angry with the object, all those mental events are mental factors, not only knowing just the essence of the object but performing additional functions based on that initial perception. These fifty-one minds are called sem jung, “arising with the principal consciousness” or “mental factor.” They arise in five ways similar to the principal consciousness: similar aspect, similar time, similar object and so forth. Because a mental factor arises dependent on the principal consciousness, without the mind labeling it, it is merely labeled by the mind: even the base of this consciousness doesn’t exist at all. Therefore it is empty of existing from its own side.
For example, the mental factor “ignorance” is the mind that does not know what is right and what is wrong, what is right and should be practiced and what is wrong and should be abandoned, what is the cause of happiness and what is the cause of suffering. It doesn’t know these things and doesn’t know past, present and future or the ultimate nature of the phenomena. This mental factor receives the label “ignorance” by having this function; therefore, it is the base to be labeled “ignorance.” In the same way, this is also merely labeled by the mind, and therefore it is empty of existing from its own side.
The mind of attachment is the mental factor that clings to the objects, like oil soaked into paper or cloth, so difficult to separate from the object. That mind is the base that receives the name “attachment.” Again, this base is merely labeled by the mind. Without the mind labeling this, it wouldn’t exist, therefore it is empty; even this base is empty of existing from its own side.
The mind of anger is the mental factor that dislikes and wishes to harm others. That mental factor is the base that receives the label “anger.” Without the mind labeling this base, there wouldn’t be this base, so this base is merely imputed by mind. Therefore, this base is empty of existing from its own side.
This is true of all this body and mind, even the split seconds of consciousness. There is mind, this life’s mind, today’s mind, this hour’s mind, this minute’s mind, this second’s mind, this split-second’s mind. Just as [the shutter] of a camera clicks for a hundredth of a second, for that duration there are many split seconds of consciousness. Without the mind labeling those many split seconds of consciousness, they wouldn’t exist. They are all merely labeled by the mind, therefore all those split seconds of consciousness that appear to be real, existing from their own side, are completely empty; they are a hallucination.
So now like this, starting from the I, the split second of consciousness and the atoms and the sub-atomic particles, all these are completely empty of existing from their own side.
So now, this last minute, concentrate on that for a while.
Starting from the I, the split second of consciousness and the atoms and the sub-atomic particles, all these are completely empty of existing from their own side. All these are like space. They are not space but they are like space. From the I down to the sub-atomic particles and the split-seconds of consciousness, they are all completely empty.
Please concentrate on this.
[Something happens. Probably there is a power failure.] While you are meditating on this space-like emptiness, again the lights [go out] and there is darkness you don’t want. You might think that this darkness is not something to meditate on, but it is an emptiness. The darkness is a very good example of the refuting object. This is not as dark as at night when the lights go out, then it is completely dark. There seems no appearance of dark from the side of the mind; the darkness seems to come from the outside. It seems to be real darkness, darkness existing from its own side, appearing from its own side. The inherently existing darkness is a very good example of a refuting object. Because the darkness is very strong, seeming to be real darkness appearing from its own side, if you can, meditate on how it is a hallucination, empty. That is very helpful when you do a highest tantra sadhana dharmakaya meditation, the near attainment dark path. You have to meditate on the emptiness of that.
This is similar when there is moonlight shining on snow. It seems to be white from its own side, even though it is coming from the mind. Without the mind labeling “darkness,” there is no darkness. Darkness doesn’t exist. Darkness comes from the mind but it doesn’t appear to us in that way; it seems to be real, to come from the outside, to exist from its own side. It seems real in that sense. The way we use “real” is that something exists from its own side. So again, the absence of that is the emptiness of the darkness. That is the ultimate nature of darkness that we have to realize.
Just complete this meditation now. Starting from the I down to the sub-atomic particles and the split seconds of consciousness, all these are completely empty from their own side, what appears like space.
While your mind is in that state of this concentration, you should consider what enlightenment is. When you think of enlightenment, it appears real, existing from its own side, but even this is empty, completely empty of existing from its own side, like space.
Now hell, when you think of hell, even hell appears real, existing from its own side, even that is a hallucination, empty, completely empty, like space.
And when you think of samsara, what appears is real, existing from its own side, even this is a hallucination; this is completely empty like space.
Now nirvana, liberation from samsara, when you think of liberation, it looks like there is liberation from the outside, existing from its own side, but even this is a hallucination; it’s completely empty like space.
And when you think of suffering, there seems to be suffering from the outside, real, existing from its own side, but even this is a hallucination, empty like space.
When you think of happiness or pleasure, this looks like it comes from outside; it looks real, existing from its own side, but that is a hallucination. That is the refuting object. It is empty like space.
When you think of virtue, it looks real, existing from its own side but that is a hallucination; that is empty like space.
When you think of nonvirtue, the cause of suffering, it looks real, appearing from its own side, but again that is a hallucination. It is completely empty, nonexistent. This nonvirtue is empty like space.
So now, all phenomena—you and I and all phenomena—are completely empty of existing from their own side. All the phenomena are empty like space. Please concentrate well on this.
Intensely concentrate on this emptiness. Intensely concentrate on this emptiness so that you cannot differentiate the subject I and the object emptiness in that experience.
Now think. What is this emptiness? Emptiness is just one thing, but then the mind labels “this” and “that” and so many things, and those things appear, and we believe it. This is how we live our life.
In this emptiness, there is no I, there is no you, there is no suffering, there is no happiness, there is no virtue, there is no nonvirtue. In this emptiness, there is no liberation, there is no samsara, there is no enlightenment, there is no hell. I think there is only tea. [Rinpoche laughs. The students laugh and applaud]
In emptiness there are no conventional truths, those existent things. Not only that, it is the same thing, in emptiness there is no emptiness.
Meditating on emptiness like space during break times
This is also a very good way of meditating not only in session times but also in break times, just as we just have gone through—how everything is empty like space, not space but like space. This way of meditating is very effective for the mind, thinking that when there is going, emptiness is going, and when there is coming, emptiness is coming. Maybe I’ll mention this way first, then mention the other way later.
According to the point of view of our ignorance, our hallucinated mind, it’s like this is how everything in life looks. The I that has nothing to do with the mind, that is not merely labeled by the mind, the real I existing from its own side—that real I, having met a real person, one not merely labeled by mind, one who does not exist at all, and that real I heard from that real person who does exist at all some words about the Kopan course, real words about Kopan, not words merely labeled by mind, real words that do not exist at all. Or maybe that real I saw a brochure that is not merely labeled by the mind, that is a real one, a brochure that has letters talking about the Kopan course, again that appears real, not merely labeled by the mind, but which doesn’t exist at all. The whole thing does not exist at all in reality in the way that it appears.
To make it short, from the point of view of our ignorance, the hallucinated mind, everything that is merely labeled by the mind but appears not merely labeled by the mind, as real, existing from its own side, all these things are objects of ignorance that do not exist at all. Therefore, in reality there is the non-existent I who heard from the non-existent person the non-existent words about the non-existent Kopan course or saw the non-existent brochure about the non-existing Kopan course, then bought a non-existent air ticket and came by a non-existent airplane to non-existent Nepal, then came by a non-existent car to a non-existent Kopan. Then, the non-existent I took a non-existent course from a non-existent lama, sitting on a non-existent meditation cushion doing non-existent meditation, as well as doing all the other non-existent actions such as eating non-existent food.
By following the ignorance, this is what our whole life it is. The I that is born is non-existent, born from non-existent parents, then goes to a non-existent school to do non-existent study from non-existent teachers. That non-existent I has non-existent friends and non-existent enemies, goes to non-existent parties, receives a non-existent degree after attending a non-existent college or university, then does a non-existent job to receive non-existent money. After that there is a non-existent old age, non-existent sicknesses such as non-existent cancer, non-existent death and so forth.
But because we follow ignorance, all the objects of ignorance that are merely labeled by mind but that appear to the hallucinated mind, the obscured mind, as not merely labeled by mind, that appear as existing from their own side, as real, we believe that appearance as true. We believe all these hallucinations as complete reality, as truth. Then, the reality of how everything exists as being merely labeled by mind becomes like non-existent for our mind. The way things really exist becomes like non-existent. How things exist, the reality, becomes unknown to our mind and we regard the hallucination as the reality.
Therefore, the way we have been believing things to exist is [totally wrong.] We live our life with this concept of true existence, believing that non-existent things exist. As we were just meditating on looking at everything as empty like space, I just wanted to mention that it is also very good to practice this mindfulness not only in meditation but also in break times.
That means we see the I, that is in reality empty like space, is doing the action of meditating that is empty like space, on a cushion that is empty like space. Therefore, the subject is emptiness, the action is emptiness and the object is emptiness. What we meditate on is the path, and again the nature of that is also emptiness. The action of sitting is emptiness, the nature of the cushion is emptiness.
When we eat, again the nature of the I is emptiness, like space, then doing the action of eating is emptiness, like space, and the nature of the food we eat, the object, is emptiness, like space, so emptiness is eating emptiness. When we go shopping, if we drive, it’s the same. The reality of the I, the car, the action of going, the action of giving money, the action of buying something, the person we buy it from, the shop—the whole thing is empty of the way that it appears to us, which means as real, as existing from its own side. All these things are empty like space—the I, the action of going, the car, the money that we give the shopkeeper, what we buy, the shop, the road—all these things are empty, like space. Therefore, one way of looking at it, the reality, is that emptiness is going to buy emptiness, emptiness is paying emptiness, buying emptiness.
That’s the reality. This I that is in nature emptiness, like space, this emptiness wants to be with another emptiness. This emptiness is worried, afraid, scared that this emptiness is being given up by another emptiness. What I am saying is that is reality, that everything is empty, like space, so when we are attached to somebody and we are scared of being left or given up by them, or if we are afraid of meeting somebody, the nature of all these things is emptiness, like space. In reality, it is this emptiness being attached to that emptiness, and this emptiness afraid that that emptiness will meet another emptiness and leave this emptiness.
The other mindfulness is practicing the mindfulness of the hallucination, the refuting object. As I have just mentioned, to our hallucinated mind, all things that appear to us appear to exist from their own side. They are the objects to be refuted because they don’t exist at all. The reality, the absence of all these hallucinations, is emptiness. So, we practice the mindfulness of this reality, their emptiness, while we are doing our activities. Being aware how everything is emptiness is also very effective for the mind.
For example, while we are walking on the road, we bring the understanding in our mind that this I is merely labeled by the mind and therefore this I is empty. What we label and what we believe—“I am walking”—when we are concentrating like this, that I who is walking in reality is just emptiness.
And the same thing with [the action of] walking. We are on the road walking with emptiness. This way of practicing mindfulness, looking at the very nature of the phenomena, is very effective, very powerful. This wisdom of emptiness is the complete opposite to how we normally live our life, living with ignorance. Because of that ignorance, we normally live our life believing all the false appearances, all the hallucinations, that appear to us. We believe all these wrong concepts.
This wrong belief is the fundamental problem in our life, fundamental, the root of all the delusions and karma and all the sufferings, including death, rebirth, old age, sicknesses and so forth—the suffering of pain and the suffering of change—the temporary samsaric pleasures that are suffering by nature—and pervasive compounding suffering, that is the contaminated aggregates themselves, the seeds of disturbing thoughts that become the cause of our future lives’ samsara. This wrong concept, this belief, becomes the root of all our problems.
The truly existing I appears due to past negative imprints
Now we should move away from this subject. For these last few days, you must be sick of emptiness! [Rinpoche and students laugh] Besides being sick with all the additional coughs and colds and all those things, you are also sick of emptiness. You have an ache in your mind from hearing emptiness, emptiness, emptiness! ([Laughter]
Then, just once more! [Rinpoche and students laugh] While the I is merely labeled by the mind, relating to the aggregates, the association of the body and mind, this merely labeled I does not appear that way but appears as existing from its own side. That is a projection of the past wrong concept, ignorance, the wrong concept of true existence, holding that the I is inherently existent. That comes from the imprint left on the mental continuum by that ignorance and then, by leaving an imprint, there is this appearance of inherent existence, of existing as real, from its own side. This is projected on the merely labeled I. We apprehend that appearance as true and we let our mind believe it is true, instead of apprehending it as a hallucination. We let our mind believe that this appearance is the reality, that this I is inherently existent as it appears. We believe the way that the I appears to us, which is the projection of our ignorance, the wrong concept of the inherently existent I.
Every time we let our mind believe this mistaken appearance, we are creating ignorance, we are making our mind ignorant, because this concept is the one that receives the label “ignorance.” Each time we do this, we are creating the root of all the sufferings, the true cause of suffering, which is the start of the twelve links, the evolution of the samsara.
Therefore, we should not only meditate on emptiness during our meditation time but also practice mindfulness in break times, seeing all the hallucinations as hallucinations. This is a very effective, very powerful, emptiness practice, as I mentioned. Or we should practice the mindfulness of how everything is a dependent arising, how everything becomes merely labeled. In a similar way, we should also meditate on dependent arising, of the merely labeled I, the merely labeled walking, the merely labeled road, as I explained before. We can do it in different ways, depending on whichever is more effective for our mind. In this way, when we practice mindfulness like this, at that time we are letting our mind think in the correct way, according to reality.
While we are focused on the reality of the I and the reality of all phenomena, during such mindfulness, we are not creating ignorance or the root of ignorance. During that time our mind, when we think in the correct way about reality, is transformed into wisdom, and that cuts the root of samsara, like taking medicine. Here, we are taking the medicine of wisdom that takes our mind on the path to liberation and enlightenment. From method and wisdom, the two paths we need, this is the path of wisdom. During this time, our mind becomes the medicine to heal the chronic disease that has existed in our mind from time without beginning.
The twelve links and consciousness
This ignorance is like the cultivator, the farmer. It is the first of the twelve links of dependent origination. Then, the second one is compounding action, karma. This is like the field that the farmer cultivates. Then, the third link, consciousness on which karma leaves the imprint is like the seed, one tiny seed that carries all the potential to become a huge trunk with many tens of thousands of branches and so many leaves, flowers and fruit. Just as one tiny seed carries all this potential, the consciousness carries all the potential from one life to another life.
In that way, we can remember what we did this morning, what we did yesterday, what we did last year and in our early life. Although we can’t remember what we did in our previous life, there are many people who can, just as we can remember yesterday or this morning. They can remember their past lives very clearly. This is because the consciousness carries all the imprints, all the seeds, all the potentials from one life to another life. And imprints left there manifest in this life. Just as from a small seed a sprout comes and the tree starts, becoming a huge tree, like the bodhi tree we have here.
I didn’t mention about karma. Karma is like the field where various crops grow. From karma, the various positive and negative karmas we have on our mindstream, we have various experiences in our life, happy experiences and suffering experiences, not only from life to life but even within one life. For example, even within this one human life, even within one day, there are various happy and unhappy experiences; there are many things, many ups and downs. All this comes from karma ripening.
After that, there are the two links of craving and grasping, which are like the water and the minerals that cause the seed to grow and reach the stage where it is ready to produce the stem or the plant. Like that, craving and grasping make the seed, the imprint that gives rise to delusions, manifest. That is the definition of seed or imprint—“that which gives rise to delusions.” I might have mentioned this once at the beginning, but we are talking about something internal; it is not an external seed, but something carried on the mental continuum that has the potential to cause delusions to arise. That is the definition of seed or imprint.
There are two kinds of wrong views, those simultaneously born and those that arise due to doctrine. On the Mahayana path to achieve enlightenment there are five paths and ten bhumis and bodhisattvas who are on the eighth bhumi or higher still have the first kind, simultaneously born, the view of true existence, which has been on their mindstreams from beginningless rebirths. They are free, however, of the other kind, the wrong views that are learned from doctrines or philosophies and that they believe intellectually, such as a belief in true existence that comes from having met a misguided philosophy.
Bodhisattvas on the eight bhumi or above don’t have this kind of wrong view because they have completely removed the cause of samsara, karma and delusion. The wrong concept of inherent existence has been completely removed, including its seed that gives rise to the delusions, so they don’t have delusions. They are liberated, having completely abandoned samsara and all its causes. Although they don’t have the seed but just the imprint, this imprint doesn’t cause delusions to arise. Only the seed of delusion that is also the imprint gives rise to delusions.
That is called “seed.” Eighth, ninth and tenth bhumi bodhisattvas have the imprints but because those imprints don’t give rise to delusions, they are not the seeds of delusion. So, there are differences according to their function. The imprint is left by the concept of inherent existence, but the seed, the delusion, has been completely removed by having completed the eighth bhumi. Although there is this imprint, it doesn’t give rise to delusions. What this imprint does, however, is project the dualistic view. It projects the two truths, the conventional truth and the absolute truth, which are one in essence but different in name. That translation has to be checked. I’m not one hundred percent sure of this. This is my own translation in the dark—I’ve just put it that way, but it has to be checked.
The two truths are one in essence. As I have mentioned many times, form is unified with emptiness and dependent arising. For example, the I is unified with emptiness and dependent arising. Without emptiness there is no I and without I there is no emptiness. So, the two truths are one in essence. However, this imprint projects the two truths, which are one in essence as they are different, as they are separate. It projects the hallucination of inherent existence. While things do not exist from their own side, they appear to exist from their own side.
By completing the eighth, ninth and tenth bodhisattva bhumis, by continuing to develop the meditation on the wisdom that realizes emptiness possessed with bodhicitta and with the support of the bodhisattva perfections, by accumulating inconceivable merit and completing the path of merit, the meditator completely ceases that subtle imprint, that subtle mistake of the mind. When that happens, the meditator becomes the dharmakaya, the omniscient mind, the dharmakaya, the ultimate nature of which is completely pure, completely separate from even the subtle obscurations. Therefore, it receives the label “enlightenment.”
Buddhas do not have the hallucination, the appearance of true existence, but until we sentient beings become enlightened, everything that appears to us appears as inherently existent. The only exceptions are those arya beings, the arhats or arya bodhisattvas whose minds are in meditative equipoise on emptiness. The way buddhas see emptiness, the buddhas’ wisdom is like having put water into the water, being in equipoise meditation on emptiness forever, non-dual, by having completely cut off the dual view. But for arhats and arya bodhisattvas in meditative equipoise on emptiness, their way of meditating is not to cut off the dual view but to absorb it. At all other times, when they are no longer in meditative equipoise, what appears to them is the false view of true existence because of the imprint left by the concept of true existence, the delusion.
This is talking about the seed because I mentioned the seed and the imprint. This is just to clarify it a little bit. So here, the seed itself is the imprint. Craving and grasping make the seed that is left on the mental continuum or which the consciousness carries. This consciousness is the particular mental consciousness, the sixth consciousness, that which carries on the seed, the potential, of the various lives from one life to another.
Another example. There is quite often this question. If we have created various karmas—positive karma and negative karma—in past lives, how it is possible to experience those karmas in this life? I think that question is mainly through not having thought enough about the continuation of mind. It seems that whoever asks that question maybe concentrates on the body and there is no continuation of the gross body. This present gross body is not a continuation of our past life’s gross body. Because there is no connection, that person thinks it’s not possible that the karma created in a past life can manifest and be experienced in this life. So, my guess is that whoever put this question concentrates more on the body, not on the mind.
When we speak on the phone or watch television, a signal either travels by satellite or through a cable, but the sound or the image is more than just the cable or the satellite. There are the waves of electricity that carry the potential for us to hear and see what is carried. It is transmitted at one end and we receive it at the other. Similarly, even though the consciousness is not tangible, even though we can’t see it, it carries the potential, just as electricity waves do, that can manifest, that can be actualized.
So, craving and grasping make the seed that consciousness carries ready to result in our future rebirth. When the seed is ready to bring the result of a future rebirth, that is called “becoming,” [the tenth of the twelve links]. Like the external seed which is ready to bring forth the sprout, after that comes “name and form” [the fourth link.]
Some of the texts used for memorizing and debating in monasteries like Drepung Monastery explain the consciousness from the twelve links as the result-time consciousness. Not the consciousness on which karma has left imprints but the result-time consciousness, the consciousness that enters and abides in the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb. There are different ways of looking at consciousness, as causal consciousness and result-time consciousness. The consciousness that is the third of the twelve links is result-time consciousness.
With “name and form,” name refers to the rest of the mental factors and form is what is substantial, the physical aggregates. So, from the five aggregates of mind and body, the aggregates of consciousness, cognition, compounding aggregates and feeling are “name” and the physical aspect of the aggregates is “form.”
Then, there are seven results to be experienced, to be actualized. Name and form is like the sprout coming from the external seed and after that are the six sources, then contact, feeling, birth—when consciousness takes place on the fertilized egg—and old age and death, which is counted as one. Old age or aging starts right after the birth happens, right after the consciousness takes place on the fertilized egg. Then, what is left to experience is death, wonderful death! [Rinpoche laughs]
Our aggregates derive from karma and delusion
This is another explanation of how everything we experience in our daily life comes from the mind, both happiness and suffering. You can see this evolution, starting from the name and form. After death, name and form, then the six sources, then contact, then feeling, which includes pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings, then old age and death. The twelve links describe exactly where all the aggregates, the association of body and mind, come from.
The association of body and mind, this samsara, is the container that all our problems come from. This samsara which experiences heat and cold, hunger and thirst, which is in the nature of suffering, which is the container of the oceans of samsaric suffering, all the hundreds of thousands of problems, is nothing more than these aggregates. If we didn’t have these aggregates, caused by karma and delusions, then there could not be ignorance, anger and attachment.
Relating to our present body, the body of a happy migratory being, this human body, not necessarily all the time, but there could be attachment clinging the future lives’ samsara, motivated to attain the body of a happy migratory being. Then, for that reason, we practice morality, which results in another body of a happy migratory being, another human body. So, there could be attachment.
We can also receive a perfect human body through the good karma created with the renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and emptiness, possessed with the three principal aspects of the path. So, the motivation could also be renunciation of samsara, which means there is no attachment to the happiness of future lives. However, with the wish for the happiness of future lives, with that motivation of attachment, we could practice morality. This present life’s body could be the result of morality activated by attachment created in previous lives. That could happen. However, it is impossible to attain the body of a happy migratory being when there is anger in our motivation.
However, the very root is ignorance. These aggregates, the association of body and mind, have come about through karma and delusions, which have arisen from ignorance, not knowing the ultimate nature of the I. That is why the nature of these aggregates is suffering, why we have to experience suffering. That is the answer; that is the evolution. Because it evolved from impure cause, the association of body and mind is in the nature of suffering. That’s why we experience problems.
As I often say, if we just pinch our skin like this, we feel pain. Sitting for too long, we feel pain. There is some part of our cushion that feels a bit hard or something, and there is some discomfort. Or we feel tired after some time. So, even without pinching our skin we can see this evolution. If these aggregates, if this association of body and mind, had not come from karma and delusions, then we wouldn’t need to suffer, then we can be shocked. If this association of body and mind had not came from karma and delusions, then it would be a huge surprise if we still got sick from AIDS or cancer or had to experience old age and all those problems. It would be a shock, because unless they all came from karma and delusions, there is no way we could experience them. It would be impossible to experience any suffering. But because our aggregates were created by karma and delusions, their nature is suffering. It is their nature to experience hunger and thirst, heat and cold, tiredness and all these other problems.
So, you can see now how these aggregates, this association of body and mind, come from our own mind, our consciousness that carries the seed. They come not only from the consciousness but from the karmic seeds within the consciousness, as I described the other day. As we have the body of a happy transmigratory being, a human body, those seeds were positive. In this case, our body has come from good karma, from positive thoughts, from positive intention, sempa, from the five mental factors that always accompany a principal consciousness. So, that is karma.
So, the second thing is that this association of body and mind comes from our own mind, from the positive intention, sempa. From the fifty-one mental factors, it is one of the five omnipresent mental factors, the minds that always accompany the principal consciousness.
The third thing is that these aggregates also come from attachment that is in our mind and from ignorance, the very root, the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I. So, these aggregates come from our own mind, from our consciousness, and within that, from karma. Then, if there was the motivation of attachment, that produced the karma, which is our own mind, and it all comes from ignorance, which is our own mind. So, this completely comes from our own mind.
Not only that, whatever appears to us comes from our own mind. For example, today, from this morning, during these twenty-four hours, all appearances that we experience today—form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects—today, and from birth until death, all the appearances of this life that we have ever had come from our mind. From birth up to death, beautiful, ugly, indifferent, all these appearances come from the mind.
What I was talking about before, how everything comes from the mind, can be seen in a much more extensive way. It includes impermanent phenomena, permanent phenomena, it even includes emptiness itself. Everything comes from the mind, because the mind labels these things and then they come into existence. But here, at this time, I’m not relating how every existence such as emptiness comes from the mind; I’m not explaining it in this way. Here, we are just referring to karma, so it’s more specific. The previous one referred to any existence coming from our mind, but here it’s how appearances comes from the mind, how it is a creation of that moment’s mind, that hour’s mind, that minute’s mind, that second’s mind.
Every appearance we have today and from birth until death—beautiful, ugly, indifferent, all these appearances—every appearance comes from that moment’s mind. This day’s appearances come from today’s mind. All the appearances we have in this life come from our mind because our consciousness carries the seeds, the negative and positive seeds left by negative and positive karma. So, any desirable object we meet, any desirable appearance we have, comes from our senses contacting that object which results in a pleasant feeling. Our senses contacting an undesirable appearance results in us having an unpleasant feeling, one of suffering. Then there is also [an indifferent object resulting in] an indifferent feeling.
So, it is not only these aggregates that come from the mind but also the appearances of our life, from birth until death. The appearance of a person or a place, of food, of views, as well as the feelings these appearances induce—pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent—by meeting the various appearances, our whole life has completely come from our own mind, our consciousness that carries the seeds, on which karma has planted the seeds.
All these come from our own mind, from the positive and negative intention, from karma. This whole life, these aggregates, all these appearances, all these feelings, all the ups and downs—all these come not only from our own mind, from karma, they also come from the root, from ignorance, from the mind not knowing the ultimate nature of the I. So, everything comes from our own mind, from the root, ignorance.
So now, as we go through the years, the months, the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, we have these aggregates that experience things and we have the sense objects, the appearances, and the feeling associated with what our senses contact. All these things that are happening every hour, every minute, every second, all these things that we are experiencing are the result of the karma, that is our own mind.
We are the creator of our own world
It’s the same when we go sightseeing. Everything that appears to us, even though it appears to come from outside, is actually coming from our own mind. It looks like we are touring around, visiting places that exist as something truly coming from outside, but actually we are touring our appearances that came from our own mind. We buy tickets in order to tour our appearance! [Rinpoche and students laugh] In order to see our own appearances, we buy tickets that also cost money! And the tickets are also part of our appearances.
Let’s say we are going by car, passing through the villages, cities, mountains. Every minute as we drive through we constantly have appearances of some mountains, some people, some places. Appearances are constantly happening, of the scenery, of the people, of the mountains, sky, everything, including the sun, the moon and the stars. All these appearances on our journey arising one after another are manifesting out the imprints left on our mental continuum by past karma. They look like they have nothing to do with our present mind and with our past karma; they look like they exist from their own side, but that is completely the wrong view. We constantly have one appearance after another, and all these manifestations come from our own consciousness, from our past karma that derives from ignorance.
It’s the same thing when we meet people. There might be one person we don’t like, somebody who seems undesirable, then there might be one person we see as desirable and one we see as indifferent. When we meet many people, we have many different appearances, and again these appearances come from our own mind. Somebody praises us, somebody criticizes us, somebody blames us for something we that haven’t done, for a mistake we haven’t made, those appearances also come from our own mind, from our consciousness, from karma and ignorance.
While we are walking on the road or going by car, suddenly somebody comes along and beats us or shoots us with a gun. Even if we don’t know that person, even if we haven’t met them before in this life, this unknown person suddenly beats or shoots us while we are walking on the road or going by car. Or suddenly we have an accident. We are completely healthy, there is nothing wrong with the car, but the accident happens. We don’t die but our body completely changes, with something broken or missing, and our whole life completely changes. We were totally healthy this morning, an hour before, but within an hour we are suddenly in a coma or we are suddenly paralyzed.
All these things—an unknown person suddenly shooting or beating us, having an accident—all these things arise from imprints left on our consciousness by our past karma. Because that particular imprint has not been purified, because nothing was done to that imprint, today it became ready by cause and conditions, and it manifested. We see a person and suddenly they are beating or shooting us, or suddenly this accident happens or this disease manifests and we are in hospital, and our whole life completely changes unexpectedly. Beforehand, we never thought such a thing would happen.
All these things have to do with appearances, and appearance is something to do with the mind. Trees and rocks don’t have mind so they don’t have appearances. Appearances come from the mind, and all these things are to do with appearance and it comes from the mind, from consciousness and karma, and then the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I.
It’s the same thing with AIDS and cancer. Somebody who doesn’t have the karma—who doesn’t have the seed planted by karma—will never get AIDS, no matter how much that person mixes with others who have AIDS.
So, the conclusion is that we ourselves are the creator, our own mind is the creator; there is no other outside creator of our life other than our own mind. It is the creator of all our happiness and suffering. For example, that person we never met before who suddenly shoots or beats us, that is the appearance of our own mind. That is due to our own past karma. If we hadn’t created the karma, if we hadn’t planted the negative seed on the consciousness, there is no way that this fearful appearance of being beaten or killed could happen.
In reality, there is nothing to blame from the outside, there is nothing to point to outside that is the root of our problems. There’s nothing to point to except to our own mind, ignorance, the wrong concept, that is the root of our problems.
So, we need to practice mindfulness, being mindful of how the association of body and mind, the aggregates, how appearances and feelings, how our whole life comes from our own mind. That itself becomes a very powerful practice of patience because in this way we can see there is nothing to blame from the outside, and therefore we can’t see any reason to get angry with others. It also becomes a meditation on true suffering and the true cause of suffering, the four noble truths.
And when we think of it, it also becomes the cause of inspiration, seeing that good things happen now, success happens, because of our past life’s good karma, they also come from our own mind. Therefore, it inspires us to create more good karma, to have an even better life, to have more development of the mind in the future.
And when we look at how other sentient beings are suffering in samsara through the twelve links, always creating the cause of suffering and having to experience the result of suffering—true suffering and the true cause of suffering—constantly attacked by delusion and karma and all the problems, it becomes the cause to develop deep compassion for other sentient beings. It becomes a very deep meditation on compassion that then causes us to generate bodhicitta, thinking, “I must achieve enlightenment for them, to free them from all their suffering and lead them to enlightenment.” Then, by having this realization of bodhicitta, we enter the Mahayana path and achieve enlightenment, the cessation of all the mistakes of the mind and the completion of all the realizations. And then we are able to bring every sentient being to full enlightenment.