Kopan Course No. 32 (1999)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1156)

Lamrim teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at the 32nd Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in November-December 1999. 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.

8. Everything Exists in Mere Name

December 2, 1999


Student: Could I ask a question? When I look at that post, does my projection have any base to it, or is even the solid image of that pillar purely mine?

Rinpoche: There is a base. The pillar that you see, before seeing that this is a pillar, your seeing that this is a pillar depends on your labeling “pillar,” your mind labeling “pillar” and believing that.

That’s how this comes from your mind. It depends on that. Why does your mind label “pillar”? Why don’t you label “pillar” when you see [that thing over there]? You don’t label “pillar” by seeing this. You have to see a very specific object, one that causes you to label “pillar.”

There is a reason that causes the mind to make up the label “pillar.” And the reason exists before you make up the label. What is the reason? That reason is the base.

For the mind to make the label “pillar,” the mind first sees the base, this phenomenon that lifts the beams and things like that. This is the base. The mind sees this base, and this base makes the mind make up the label “pillar.” The same thing here. Since I brought the mala anyway, seeing this [pillar] doesn’t cause you to label “mala.” Do you understand? And by seeing this [other object], it again doesn’t cause you to label “mala.”

What causes your mind to make up the label “mala,” you have to see the specific base. You have to see a base which can receive the label “mala,” not just any base. A particular base, that means valid base, that particular base that can receive the label “mala.” Seeing any of these objects doesn’t cause your mind to label “mala.” You have to see a particular base.

Just consider this. Seeing this phenomenon that is shaped like this, that is used to count, to recite mantras, what this mind sees first is just this phenomenon that is shaped like this, that does this function. Then, the mind is immediately caused to make up the label “mala,” and then you believe in that. There’s the appearance that this is a mala, which comes from your mind.

I will put this one more time. So now, furthermore, you can analyze to prove the false view of mala. After your mind imputed “mala,” you believe in it. Then, there’s the appearance of a mala. The appearance of the mala is on this, on this base, and there appears to be a mala from its own side. But if you look for it, if you check whether it’s true or not, if you check whether this is a mala, when you point to each bead to see whether it’s a mala or not, then no, each bead is not the mala, it’s a part of the mala. When this breaks, when there are these pieces, you label it, “The mala is broken.” You think, “My mala is broken,” and maybe you even cry. I’m joking!

If you look for the mala, you cannot find it on each bead. One bead is part of the mala so you cannot find the mala on each bead. Even the whole group altogether is not the mala. Therefore, this is the base that receives the label “mala.” There’s the base and there’s the label “mala.” These two are different phenomena; they are not oneness. They don’t exist separately, but they exist differently.

Each bead is part of the mala but it’s not the mala, otherwise, if you had only part of the car, you would have the car. Just having one wheel, you would have the car. If a part of the car were the car, then just by having one piece of a car, like a wheel or something, you would have the car. That proves a part of the car is not the car. Similarly, a part of the mala is not the mala, and even the whole together, that’s not the mala. That’s the base, and your mind makes up the label “mala.”

So now, on this thing, there’s no mala at all. On all the pieces altogether, there’s no mala at all. It doesn’t exist at all. But in my hand there’s a mala. There’s no mala on this, [Rinpoche holds up the mala] but in my hand there’s a mala. Why? Because there is the base in my hand; that’s why there’s a mala in my hand but there’s no mala on this.

So, what is that mala? It is nothing else except what is merely imputed by the mind. We’re using a mala that is merely imputed by the mind.

Student: Is the base imputed by the mind?

Rinpoche: Yes, yes, also.

Student: The base is also imputed?

Rinpoche: Yes, yes.

Student: It doesn’t exist?

Rinpoche: From its own side, no. Just as the mala is merely imputed, it’s exactly the same, the base is also merely imputed by the mind.


It’s the same with the I. For the I, I pointed there, but I’m not sure! Of the five aggregates, for example, for the body, the general body, there are the five limbs and then all the pieces of limbs. Then you go back to the cells, and then down to the atoms, then the particles of the atoms. There are different schools talking about the particles of the atoms. It depends on the different schools. I think the Prasangika School believes there are always particles in every atom.

So, from the self, all these are what are imputed: the I, the aggregates, then for each aggregate the various parts. For example, when you take the form, the general body, there are five limbs, then all the pieces, all with so many labels, so many things imputed, right down to the atoms. And even the atoms are also labeled on the particles of atoms. So, everything is what is merely imputed by the mind. That’s how everything exists, in mere name.

That is how everything exists, starting with the I, down to the particles of atoms of the body, and then the consciousness and the particles of the split seconds of consciousness. You keep going finer and finer. The way everything exists is in mere name, merely imputed by the mind.

That’s how it exists. But to our hallucinated mind, due to our ignorance that leaves the imprint on our mental continuum, everything—starting from the I down to the particles of atoms, down to the split seconds of consciousness—everything that exists in mere name, that in reality is totally empty, does not appear to us that way. Due to ignorance, everything appears as something solid, something inherently existent, something real, existing from its own side. Everything—from the I down the particles of atoms, down to split seconds of consciousness—appears as totally something else, something totally false. This is the hallucination. This hallucinated world is the projection of our own ignorance.

In reality, these phenomena exist, they all exist, but they exist in mere name; they are totally empty of existing from their own side.

All these are totally empty from their own side, while at the same time existing in mere name. They are not nonexistent but exist in mere name. While all these exist in mere name, as dependent arisings, at the same time they are all empty.

What is reality and how we see things, how things appear to us and how we believe [them to exist] is totally the opposite; the two are totally contradictory.

Our basic problem comes from not knowing what is false, the basic wrong view, and what is the truth in our life. The suffering in our life comes from that. We are unable to recognize the differences. Therefore, it is essential to study and meditate, and to have this wisdom, to learn teachings on emptiness, the ultimate nature that the Buddha revealed, the teachings on emptiness. Until then, we are ignorant, we can never overcome our suffering. We can never be free from death, rebirth and all the sufferings of samsara.

So just one more thing. I’m sorry I’m going on and on! Just one more thing to your question. This is a very helpful meditation, a very good meditation; this analysis is very good.

You can see that the base and label are not one; they are different phenomena. You can understand that. That helps to be able to recognize what the false view is. Only by recognizing what the false view is can it lead us to realize what is empty. This only comes by recognizing the false view that we have. Only by recognizing that, can we have a correct understanding of what is empty, what emptiness, the ultimate nature, really means.

So, to put it this way. I think I’ll use this, which is maybe easier. One of the simple meditations that I introduce is to understand dependent arising and also to recognize what is the false I, the I that doesn’t exist. This is a very good meditation. Normally I introduce it like this. Ask yourself, “What am I doing here?” Ask yourself the question.

Then, you answer, “I’m sitting.” Now here, pay attention. Asking yourself the question what you are doing makes you think. Here’s the point. Your thought makes you analyze what your body is doing before you put the label but after you have put the question. Asking the question “What am I doing?” makes the mind analyze what your body is doing, what your speech is doing, what your mind is doing. Then, it gives you the answer, which means making up the label, because the mind sees what the body is doing and you decide, “I am sitting.” After analyzing what the body is doing, the mind makes up the label, “I am sitting,” then believes in that.

Similarly, with “I’m meditating,” the mind is meditating, transforming into virtue, so then the mind makes up the label, “I am meditating,” and you believe in that. And with speech, if it is the speech doing the function, then you think, “I am talking,” and you believe in that. 

So that’s it. You understand the point? First, you ask yourself the question, then that makes your mind analyze what the body, speech and mind are doing. Then, according to what the body is doing, what the speech is doing, what the mind is doing, then the mind can make up the label, “I’m doing this and that,” and then you believe in that.

So now, here pay attention! Here, I’m talking like a presenter on TV. It reminds me of TV, where they show a business in order to sell things. The TV program comes to an exciting bit and then they stop and there is an advertisement selling Coca-Cola or other things. And then the program continues. I think there was this show. Before they got to the business part, they said, “Don’t go away!” They had to remind you to pay attention before they got to the business part. So here, I’m saying, “Now pay attention!” It reminds me of the TV.

Anyway, here’s the point of your question. Maybe it’s clearer than the mala. Now listen to this!

The mind labeling, “I am sitting,” “I am talking,” “I am meditating,” doesn’t happen at the same time as the mind seeing the body. It doesn’t happen at the same time as doing the action of sitting, speaking or meditating. Seeing the action and making up the label are not simultaneous.

Why doesn’t that happen? Because if were to happen at the same time, what would it be? We have to find out the reason that persuades the mind to make up the label, “I am sitting,” “I am talking,” “I am meditating.” What is the reason? What causes the mind to make that particular label? If it were to happen at the same time, we wouldn’t have any reason.

Why? Because our mind makes up these labels based on a specific base, the particular base that allows us to label, “body sitting,” “speech talking,” “mind meditating.” The mind labeling and the action happening at the same time—that doesn’t happen. Why? because for our mind to make up this label, we have to have a particular reason. And that particular reason is seeing that particular valid base: the body sitting, the speech doing the function of talking, the mind transforming into virtue by meditating on the path. The mind has to see those valid bases. Only then can we have a reason to make up the labels, “I am sitting,” “I am talking,” “I am meditating.”

So now listen! Which one do we see first? We see our body sitting first. That is the evolution, our mind sees our aggregates, the body sitting, first, and then, after that, we see the label, “I am sitting.” And the same with seeing the speech—the base—and then seeing the label, “I am talking,” and seeing the mind meditating—the base—and then seeing the label that we have imputed, “I am meditating.”

The next example might make it clearer. We stand up, our body stands up; it changes from sitting down. Somebody asks us, “Hey! What are you doing?” Or we ask ourselves, “What am I doing?” The first thing the mind does is analyze the aggregates of the body and see that they are doing the function of standing. When the mind sees the base, the aggregates, the body doing the function of standing, then it makes up the label, “I am standing.”

So, the base comes first. The body is standing—that comes first—and then afterwards there is the label, “I am standing,” which comes second. That is because our mind sees the base, the body is standing, and then after that, after we see we are standing, we add the label, “I am standing.”

The next thing is walking. Again we change the actions of the body from standing to walking, and again we ask, ‘What am I doing?’ Asking the question, the mind sees the body doing the action of walking. Then, after seeing this base, the mind makes up the label, “I am walking.” So you see, the base comes first. Got some idea?

Actually, this is a very good, very simple but very effective meditation on dependent arising or emptiness. It is an extremely profound meditation when walking, doing a walking meditation on emptiness or dependent arising, or watching the hallucination, the false I, the false action, the false object. Even one minute, even one second meditating on this cuts the root of samsara.

It is said in the teachings, to even have a doubt about emptiness, thinking that maybe this I is empty, even having a doubt like that, breaks samsara into pieces. It is so powerful.

Each time we meditate on emptiness, doing an analysis like this, which brings the mind into emptiness, that there’s no inherent existence, each time we do this meditation, it purifies unimaginable defilements. Each time, we become closer to liberation from samsara.

It’s the same with any phenomena. Before we see the label, we have to see the base. When we see our mom, do we see her body first or do we see “mom” first? The base and label are never together; that is impossible. When we don’t analyze it, it seems like we see “mom” first, then maybe the body. But actually, if we were to analyze it, we would have to come to the conclusion that in order to see our mom and believe that this is our mom, there must be something that makes us give that label, “That’s my mom!” There must be a base for us to have the label. What makes us label that that’s our “mom?”

For that, we have to see something. By seeing any other person’s body, is our mom there? Maybe it’s our past life’s mom! Seeing any person’s body doesn’t cause us to label, “This is my mom.” We must see a particular body, a particular body shape that did the function of giving birth to us. Among the crowd of people, we first see that particular body shape of the person who gave birth to us, which is the base, and then, seeing the base causes us to make up the label “my mom.” Do you understand? We first see the base of “mom” and, after that, we see “mom” second. It’s like that with all phenomena.

Thank you.

[Rinpoche does a short mandala offering]


This time I’m not going to talk about that verse. Yesterday, we took time on it. But we will do the meditation on these two verses: refuge and generating bodhicitta.

Visualize Shakyamuni Buddha in front of you, by thinking of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas in all the directions or the Guru Puja merit field, whichever way you wish to visualize it or you can visualize it. Say,

I go for refuge until I am enlightened
To the Buddha, the Dharma and the Supreme Assembly.

I say, “By the merits of explaining …” and you can say, “By the merits I create through listening to Dharma …”

I go for refuge until I am enlightened
To the Buddha, the Dharma and the Supreme Assembly.
By the merits I create through listening to the Dharma,
May I become a buddha in order to benefit all sentient beings.

Today I’m going to do the oral transmission of this Guru Shakyamuni Buddha yoga practice. This can be used by those who do not have other guru yoga practices to do and want to do this meditation practice. You can also practice another deity’s guru yoga practice if you wish.

Generally, this is what I suggest practicing for the time being. Then later, with more understanding, you can do a more elaborate guru yoga practice. You don’t need to do this if you are doing other more elaborate guru yoga practices.

This practice contains Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s mantra and also the lamrim prayer of the Steps of the Path to Enlightenment that was composed by Lama Tsongkhapa. And, by the way, you receive the oral transmission, the continuation of the blessing of the Shakyamuni Buddha mantra and Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s name, the lamrim prayer, the short mandala offering, the seven-limb practices and so forth.

As it is mentioned in Lama Tsongkhapa’s lamrim prayer, [The Foundation of All Good Qualities], the second verse:

When I have discovered that the precious freedom of this rebirth is found only once,
Is extremely difficult to find again and is greatly meaningful,
Please bless me to unceasingly generate the mind
Taking its essence, day and night.

This is talking about this human body. Normally, we common people don’t think the human body is very precious because we don’t know the real, unmistaken cause of achieving a human body. Because we don’t know the unmistaken cause of achieving a human body, we don’t know that the cause just to be human being is so difficult to create. Just to be a human being depends on the cause: practicing pure morality, living a pure life, keeping the vows, which is the promise that we made on the basis of not harming sentient beings, who do not want suffering and who only want happiness, who do not want to receive harm from others and who only want to receive help.

People in the world are not aware of this; they don’t know the real unmistaken cause to be born a human being and don’t know how difficult it is to create. Therefore, they have no idea of how precious this human body is; there’s no feeling of how precious it is. Our human body is so precious, others’ human bodies are so precious.

Because of this lack of knowledge of how a human body is so precious, without talking about a perfect human rebirth with the eighteen precious qualities, they just sort of use the human body like a toy. Even a dollar is more precious than this human body. Maybe chocolate is more precious, especially Swiss chocolate! I’m joking! Or maybe Italian wine or Italian olive oil is more precious than a human body!

This is because we don’t know the real cause, why it’s so difficult to practice. Besides living the practice, even just to understand, just to accept that we must live in morality and practice vows. Generally speaking, from our own side, even to take one vow is so difficult. Abstaining from killing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from telling lies, or abstaining from alcohol, which many problems of life arise from, causing many dangers to our own life and to others, making our life so uncontrolled. That’s not talking about the suffering results that will be experienced in the future lives, just this life. I’m not talking about the future lives that come from the negative karmas of drinking alcohol and so forth.

We might hear the explanation about how this makes our life so meaningful but because it takes a long time to actually experience this karma it will still be difficult to see how this human body is so precious and the unmistaken cause of attaining this body is so difficult to attain. To be able to understand Dharma, particularly this subject, which is at the beginning of the path to enlightenment, the beginning of the lamrim, the perfect human rebirth with the eight freedoms and ten richnesses, it takes so many years for the karma to ripen for the cause of even just a human body. Even if we hear the explanation, that doesn’t mean we can accept it immediately. It takes a long time to understand and accept it. And after that, the actual practice to create the cause even just to be born a human being, by practicing pure morality, that is not easy. It takes a long time to even make the decision to do the actual practice.

We are unbelievably fortunate that we are able to take a vow for these last two weeks of the course, that we are able to create so many causes to receive a human body in many hundreds of thousands of lifetimes because karma is expandable. This one-month meditation course was set up in this way many, many years ago. It was planned to give the opportunity in the last two weeks to really practice, not just learning the words, not just having an intellectual understanding, but to really do something, to practice Dharma, not just collecting ideas, gaining an intellectual understanding of the Dharma.

Those of us who are able to take the vows, not just one but the eight Mahayana precepts, for this number of days, we are unbelievably fortunate. It’s really amazing! It’s a miracle. Even if we don’t recognize it now, we will later. The more we understand karma, the more we purify our mind, the more we collect merit by doing these preliminary practices with the holy objects, with the Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and then generate a good heart, benefiting other sentient beings, then we can understand more and more about karma, getting a feeling for it more and more, and not just an intellectual understanding but understanding with faith, with a feeling for the karma in our heart.

And the more feeling, awareness, we get about how the human body is so precious, the more we see how it is so important to create its cause, such as practicing morality and charity. We get more and more feeling, understanding, faith, in how important it is to engage in virtue, the cause of a good rebirth.

At that time, we will be able to feel how attending this course was so important, how it was the most valuable thing in our life or the most important decision we made in our life. At that time, we feel the importance of this, when the mind is more purified and we have collected more merit, then understanding with faith comes more and more.

We have heard teachings on how difficult this precious human body is to find, how this is the one time we have it and how it will be extremely difficult to find again. But now we finally try to come to the conclusion that we need to do something in our life, that we must do something, we must change something. We must practice.

Unless we become liberated from samsara in this life, we need to take another rebirth. I mean, there are buddhas’ pure lands where we can become enlightened, but otherwise the best thing is to take a perfect human body again in a country where all the teachings exist, not only the Lesser Vehicle teachings but also the Mahayana teachings, and not just the Mahayana sutra but also tantra, and especially highest tantra, where we can achieve enlightenment within a brief lifetime of degenerated times. We must receive a perfect human body with all the conditions for us to develop our mind in the path to attain the rest of the realizations of the path to enlightenment that we haven’t developed in this life. That’s the best one.

If we don’t become enlightened in this life, if we don’t get liberated from samsara in this life, we need to take a good rebirth again to continue to practice, one that has the most opportunity to benefit others. We need to attain another human body, especially the perfect human body. Therefore, we need to create the unmistaken cause of a good rebirth, the practice of morality.

After thinking for a long time, if we finally make the decision to take a vow in this life, then we need to live purely. Just taking the vow is not enough; we have to live purely in that vow, whether it’s one vow or many. Otherwise, a good rebirth cannot happen; it will be so difficult to continue. There will be so many obstacles to continue living in the pure vows. At first, these obstacles will come from inside, in particular from all the attachment, then, because of that, there will be many obstacles coming from outside. All these internal obstacles make us receive many external obstacles. That’s what makes life difficult. Even if we take a vow, it is difficult to live purely in that vow.

That’s how it is very difficult to receive a human body. And if we analyze it, if we look at the world, at all the other people, to even find a person living in one vow purely is very rare. There is only a tiny number of human beings who exist on this earth who are living purely in even one vow. When we look at the world, it’s like that.

Generally, even if we collect virtue by practicing morality, the merit gets destroyed by becoming angry. Unless we practice patience, loving kindness and compassion for others, unless we practice renunciation, unless we practice bodhicitta, unless we practice right view, unless we practice lamrim, we become angry, and then there’s no protection for our mind in life. Anger arises and it destroys our merits. Or heresy arises toward the Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and it destroys our merits. Not only that, we feel proud that we have collected virtue by practicing morality, and then the pride makes the virtue weaker. That’s why, when the ordination is taken, there is usually the dedication, “May I complete the paramita of morality by keeping it without mistakes, pure, without pride.” We dedicate to be able to complete the perfection of morality without pride because pride makes our virtue weaker.

Pride makes our virtue, our merit weaker, because it’s not strong, and then other nonvirtuous actions that are very strong will bring the result first, which means a suffering rebirth. Even if virtue is there, having become very weak, the result is that a good rebirth is delayed. It’s there but it’s delayed because the cause is very weak.

Even if we finally come to understand this very basic practice to create the cause of happiness, when we collect virtue, either there’s no motivation or there’s a virtuous motivation but there’s no dedication at the end, so it is incomplete, it is imperfect. Or maybe there’s a motivation and a dedication, but the actual body of the virtue—the meditation or whatever it is—is not done well, so it’s not perfect.

Usually, in our lives, when we do nonvirtuous actions, there’s a motivation and at the end we rejoice. There’s motivation and rejoicing, feeling happy that it’s done, so the preparation, the actual body and completion are all done. Nonvirtuous actions are mostly done perfectly, so we experience their results: rebirth in the lower realms or the sufferings of the upper realms. Those are the results that come first.


We have found this precious human body at this time, but it’s difficult to find it again. Not just that, at this time we have received a perfect human body qualified with the eight freedoms and ten richnesses, a human body which has these eighteen qualities.

This is so unbelievably precious. This perfect human rebirth that is found this once is so meaningful. With it we can achieve whatever we wish. We can achieve a good rebirth in our next life; we can achieve any happiness in our next life—wealth, a long life, to be born as king, a god or in the human realm, having a beautiful body, having perfect surroundings, family and friends who always follows our wishes, who always support us—whatever happiness in future lives we wish for, we can achieve with this human body because we can create the cause. We can practice morality and charity. Charity helps us to have wealth, and patience helps us to have a beautiful body or perfect surroundings with people to help us. Whatever happiness in future lives we wish for, we can create the cause with this human body.

If we wish to be born with a perfect human body in the next life, having the eighteen qualities, we can create that cause in this life. If we wish to receive a human body with the eight ripening qualities, we can create that. The eight ripening qualities are having a beautiful body, long life, a capable, strong body and mind and so forth. We can create all the causes to achieve all these eight ripening qualities of a human in our next lives. If we wish to achieve a human body having the seven qualities, we can achieve that because with this body we can create all the causes. And if we wish in the next lives to achieve a precious human body having the four Mahayana Dharma wheels, we can do that. The four Mahayana Dharma wheels are having all the necessary conditions to practice, such as a place to practice and a family which doesn’t oppose our wishes, [relying on holy beings, and collecting merit and making prayers]. With this human body we can create the cause to have all that we need to develop our mind in the path to enlightenment.

If we wish to be born in the pure land of a buddha, which is a quick way to achieve enlightenment, we can create various causes to be born there with this human body, by practicing morality and generating the wish. And by doing the practice of transferring our consciousness into the pure land. There are particular practices we can do.

If we want to immediately achieve liberation from samsara, we can do that, because with this perfect human body we can practice the fundamental path, the three higher trainings: the higher trainings of morality, of concentration and of wisdom. And if we wish to achieve ultimate happiness, full enlightenment, we can do that, because with this human body we can create the cause by practicing bodhicitta and following the bodhisattvas’ path.

As I mentioned before, we can achieve not only enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate times, but if we don’t do it in this life, we can also do it after death, in the intermediate state, which is what Lama Tsongkhapa purposely chose to do, even though he could have become enlightened during his lifetime.

The quick way to become enlightened is by practicing highest tantra. We can do it within three lifetimes or within sixteen lifetimes. We can do it with this human body. There are all the necessary conditions to do it with this human body that is born in the southern human continent. For the body to practice tantra, especially highest tantra, it has to be a human body and it has to be born in the human world of the southern continent, a body that is constituted of six things, three things received from father—bone, marrow and sperm—and three things received from the mother—skin, blood and flesh. I think it might be that but I’m not one hundred percent sure. To practice highest tantra, we need a vehicle, a base, a foundation like this, a body that is constituted with the six things received from the parents. We have that body. Otherwise, there’s no vehicle, no base to practice highest tantra.

In this way, this perfect human body is the most meaningful one. One day with this perfect human body means we can achieve whichever great meaning of life that I mentioned before, all the happiness beyond this life up to enlightenment. In one day we can achieve however many of those great meanings in life we wish to achieve. In every twenty-four hours we can continuously create the cause of this happiness. We can continuously achieve the three great meanings. Within each hour, even within a second, we have so much freedom with this perfect human body, creating the cause to achieve whichever of the great meanings of life we wish to achieve.

If we only have this perfect human body for one second, within that one second we can create the cause of enlightenment, therefore that one second of having a perfect human body is much more precious than the whole sky filled with not only diamonds but wish-granting jewels.

Without having such a perfect human body, even if we owned that much wealth, with skies filled with diamonds or wish-granting jewels, that alone cannot stop rebirth in the lower realms, that alone cannot cause us to achieve good rebirths in future lives and, besides that, enlightenment. But if we have this precious human body, especially this perfect human body, even if we don’t have a single diamond, a single wish-granting jewel or a single dollar, we can create the cause of enlightenment.

Many yogis like Milarepa, who didn’t even have a single dollar, not even a rupee, by using the same human body that we have, achieved enlightenment in one brief lifetime. Maybe Milarepa was mentally stronger, but our body is certainly stronger than his was when he was practicing, only living on nettles, so he was very skinny compared to us. We have far more muscles! Milarepa was a great yogi who achieved enlightenment in one brief lifetime of degenerated times, and many others also did this. Without having even one rupee, they wisely used their human rebirth, ceased all the delusions and all suffering, and achieved enlightenment.

The body they used to practice Dharma and achieve enlightenment is the same body that we have, but, as I was saying before, in the early stage when they were practicing Dharma, their body was maybe not strong, and was very skinny compared to ours.

Even within a second this perfect human body is much more precious than skies of diamonds, skies of wish-granting jewels. Therefore, if we let our life become distracted and fail to practice Dharma for even a second, it’s like having lost far more than skies of diamonds or skies of wish-granting jewels, or skies of billions of dollars. Even within one second, wasting this perfect human body by not practicing Dharma is a much greater loss than having lost all that much wealth.

If we become distracted and don’t practice Dharma, then the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the years that we are distracted, there is no question that this is the biggest loss in life. If a second passes being distracted, not getting to practice Dharma, that is a great loss, even if it’s only one second.

This will give you a clear idea. Say, there’s only one second left before we die, we can still create the cause of enlightenment with bodhicitta, generating the altruistic thought for others, trying to benefit others. When we think like this, if we have only a second left of our human life, and we use that second to practice Dharma, that one second of being a human being is so unbelievably precious, because what we can do in that one second is unbelievable especially by practicing Mahayana Buddhism, bodhicitta.

We should have the same feeling now with all the other seconds we have, how precious this human body is. It should be the same with all the seconds remaining during the life. Every second of our human life is so precious.

If our life is completely used only with the attitude of ignorance, anger and attachment, especially attachment to this life, the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, if we live our life continuously with just this thought, as I have mentioned many times, all our activities become negative karma, nonvirtue. Distracted by this attachment to all the sense pleasures, we are not enjoying life with bodhicitta, with renunciation, with right view, just with worldly concern.

The Buddha is not saying we cannot have pleasure in this life. Pleasure is not the problem; the problem is the wrong attitude that creates the action to gain this enjoyment, the negative attitude that is the nonvirtuous thought, that makes the action of having enjoyment become negative karma, nonvirtue. The problem is living life without right concepts but with wrong concepts, with mistaken thoughts, this worldly concern, this desire clinging to just this life.

With it, all the actions become negative karma. The seconds, minute, hours, days, months, years—our whole life becomes negative karma. It not only becomes the cause of samsaric suffering but particularly the cause of the lower realms’ suffering, which must be experienced for an inconceivable length of time.

Because one negative karma is expandable, we have to experience the suffering result of that one action for hundreds of lifetimes, for thousands of lifetimes. We have to experience the problems, the difficulties, throughout our whole life from just one negative karma. However, there is not just one negative karma, but so many from this life and from past lives.

Now, we have received the perfect human body and have met the virtuous friend who reveals the unmistaken path to not just happiness but liberation, and not just liberation but enlightenment, who can show the complete path to enlightenment without missing anything, the virtuous friend like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many others like him. Even if we were to actually meet Shakyamuni Buddha, even if we were to actually meet all the buddhas, there would be nothing more special we could hear from them than we can hear from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and those other great masters.

I, myself, am a Mickey Mouse guru! But of the others, even if we were to directly see all the buddhas, there would be nothing more special to hear of the Buddhadharma than what we hear from His Holiness the Dalai Lama or other great masters, especially the lamrim. Even if we actually met them, what they would teach would be exactly the same. Anyway, most of us have met the Mahayana virtuous friend who reveals the complete path without missing anything, and even if we haven’t yet met them, we still can. There’s still so much opportunity.

Having met the Buddhadharma, we are full of opportunity, but if we totally let our life become distracted with attachment—I mean, we don’t live with anger all the time but basically with attachment, with worldly concern—and, on top of that, negative karma, we would be making a greater mistake than the animals, than the insects, because insects haven’t received a perfect human body to practice Dharma; they have no opportunity to meet the Dharma, no opportunity to learn Dharma, no opportunity to meet the guru, whereas we have all the opportunities. With all this, if we then totally spent our life in distraction, in negative karma, we are sadder, poorer, than the animals, than the insects.

So anyway, I want to finish this sentence from Lama Tsongkhapa’s lamrim prayer:

When I have discovered that the precious freedom of this rebirth is found only once,
Is extremely difficult to find again and is greatly meaningful,
Please bless me to unceasingly generate the mind
Taking its essence, day and night.

Wishing for blessings to make use of this perfect human rebirth that is received just once, that is extremely difficult to find again and that is highly meaningful, the answer is in the last two lines, to unceasingly generate the mind that takes its essence day and night. With the thought of taking the essence, we constantly achieve the three great meanings, twenty-four hours a day, by continuously creating the cause. That means twenty-four hours a day we continuously practice the lamrim, we always keep the mind in the lamrim, which basically means practicing the three principal aspects of the path, living in the three principal aspects of the path twenty-four hours a day. In that way, we continuously take the essence, the three great meanings. Then especially, if we live our life with the attitude of bodhicitta twenty-four hours a day, we achieve the best essence, the greatest meaning in life, enlightenment.

Another way to think might be in the morning, if we do a meditation on bodhicitta, for the rest of the day, we maintain the feeling of bodhicitta, the thought to achieve enlightenment for others. If we continuously keep the thought of benefiting others that we generated in the morning for the rest of the day, then our actions continuously become Dharma and the cause of enlightenment.

Another example, if we meditate on impermanence and death in the morning, the feeling that this life is very short and it can be stopped at any moment, if we maintain that feeling we have generated without losing it for the rest of the day, if we try to live life in that feeling, what we have generated in the morning from meditating on impermanence and death, then worldly concern and attachment do not arise, only renunciation. Because the attitude is a feeling of impermanence and death, that death can happen at any time, all our activities become Dharma, at least the cause of happiness beyond this life.


Maybe I will do the lung of the lamrim prayer, maybe not the whole thing. The oral transmission is getting shorter and shorter than what I promised at the beginning!

Generate bodhicitta to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings and think, “Therefore, I’m taking the oral transmission blessing.” OK?

The foundation of all good qualities is the kind and perfect, pure guru;
Correctly following the guru is the root of the path.
By my clearly seeing this and applying great effort,
Please bless me to rely upon the guru with great respect.

I don’t know what that means!

When I have discovered that the precious freedom of this rebirth is found only once,
Is extremely difficult to find again and is greatly meaningful,
Please bless me to unceasingly generate the mind
Taking its essence, day and night.

This body and life are changing, like a water bubble;
Remember how quickly they perish and death comes.
After death, just like a shadow follows the body,
The results of negative and positive karma follow.

When I have found definite conviction in this,
Please bless me always to be conscientious
In abandoning even the slightest collection of shortcomings
And in accomplishing all virtuous deeds.

When I have recognized the shortcomings of samsaric perfections—
There is no satisfaction in enjoying them, they are the door to all suffering,
And they cannot be trusted—
Please bless me to generate a strong wish for the bliss of liberation.

If we think of the West, so much of the people’s problems is contained in these two shortcomings. Even if people have everything, to understand that there is no satisfaction in enjoying samsaric pleasure, that’s one big problem. And that their shortcoming is that they cannot be trusted, that’s another big problem. Many of people’s problems are in the first and the second shortcomings that Lama Tsongkhapa explained here. There are about six shortcomings of samsara, but Lama Tsongkhapa specifically mentioned these two.

Through my being led by this pure thought
With great remembrance, alertness, and conscientiousness,
Please bless me to make keeping the individual liberation vows,
The root of the teachings, my essential practice.

Just as I have fallen into the sea of samsara,
So have all mother transmigratory beings.
By my seeing this, please bless me to train in supreme bodhicitta,
Which bears the responsibility of freeing transmigratory beings.

Even if I develop only bodhicitta, without familiarizing myself with the three types of morality,
I cannot achieve enlightenment.
By my seeing this well,
Please bless me to keep the vow of the sons of the victorious ones with fervent effort.

Therefore, the bodhisattva vows become a very important practice to benefit sentient beings, because without them we cannot achieve enlightenment. So, that’s the advertisement for the bodhisattva!

By my having pacified distractions to wrong objects
And correctly analyzed the meaning of reality,
Please bless me to quickly generate within my mindstream
The unified path of calm abiding and special insight.

When I have become a [suitable] vessel by training in the common path,
Please bless me to immediately enter
The holy gateway of the fortunate beings—
The supreme of all vehicles, the Vajrayana.

At that time, the basis of accomplishing the two attainments
Is keeping my vows and samayas purely.
When I have gained effortless conviction in this,
Please bless me to protect them even at the cost of my life.

Then, when I have realized exactly the vital points of the two stages—
The essence of the tantric sets—
And am enjoying the yoga of four sessions with effort, without being distracted [by nonmeditation objects],
Please bless me to accomplish these according to the teachings of the holy beings.

Thus, may the virtuous friends who reveal the noble path
And the spiritual practitioners who correctly accomplish it have long lives.
Please bless me to pacify completely
The collections of outer and inner obstacles.

In all my lives, never separated from perfect gurus,
May I enjoy the magnificent Dharma
And, by completing the qualities of the grounds and paths,
May I quickly attain the state of Vajradhara.

If we want to have the realizations on the path to liberation and enlightenment, this is the way. If we also want to help the numberless sentient beings, to liberate the numberless sentient beings, this is the way.

There’s only one definition. This way brings them to enlightenment. Besides mind training in the whole lamrim path, try to have realizations. All this is based on planting the seed on our mental continuum as much as possible by studying the lamrim, by reading and reciting lamrim prayers. Meditating on the lamrim and achieving the realizations of the whole path to enlightenment depends on the foundation, planting the seed, the positive imprint, on our mental continuum as much as possible by reading and reciting lamrim prayers.

When we read a lamrim prayer like this, whether it’s the long version or the short version, it’s very important to not become distracted, to keep the mind in the meaning of the prayer. Whether we know it or not, we should always keep the mind in the prayer. In that way, it becomes a direct meditation on the lamrim.

“Direct” means we go straight, we don’t stop there and try to analyze and elaborate or to feel the experience and transform the mind into that. Here, we go straight through the prayer by meditating on the meaning, by thinking of the meaning of the prayer. This is called a direct meditation. What does it do? Within that minute, the seed of the whole lamrim path, all the realizations up to enlightenment, is already planted on our mental continuum by the time the prayer finishes. That means we made our mind closer to the realizations of the path to enlightenment; that means we made our mind closer to enlightenment; that means we made our mind closer to being able to enlighten all sentient beings.

Each day we do something like this guru yoga that contains a lamrim prayer, each day we become closer to the realizations of the path to enlightenment, we become closer to enlightenment, we become closer to enlightening all sentient beings. That is the benefit it has.

Even if we don’t have time every day to do the elaborate meditation that normally comes at the end of a sadhana to transform the mind into the lamrim, doing an effortful meditation practice [we can] transform our mind into the lamrim. There’s a long version that usually comes at the end of the whole tantric path [within the sadhana].

One prayer is the lamrim prayer and the other is the prayer of the graduated path of tantra. By reciting that, each day it leaves an imprint on the mind of the whole tantric path realization. That mean each day our mind becomes closer to tantric path realization and closer to enlightenment and closer to enlightening sentient beings more quickly—not just to enlighten sentient beings but to do that more quickly, due to tantra.

So, if we want to have realizations, if we want to achieve enlightenment, if we want to liberate others from suffering and enlighten them, this is what we must do. Even if we have no time to do an elaborate meditation, we must recite a lamrim prayer, mindfully, to at least plant the imprint of the lamrim realizations as many times as possible in everyday life.

I planned to talk more about prostrations, about the benefits and meditation that goes with prostrations, but I got distracted again with some other subject.

We have to do the Lama Tsongkhapa puja for the special day of Lama Tsongkhapa’s passing, so today we’ll stop here.


“Due to all the three-time merits collected by me and by others, I dedicate the merits to actualize bodhicitta within my own mind, within my family members and all the students and benefactors in this organization, as well as all sentient beings.

“Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three-time merits collected by buddhas, bodhisattvas and all the sentient beings, that are totally nonexistent from their own side, may the I who is totally nonexistent from its own side, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, that is also totally nonexistent from its own side, and lead all the sentient beings who are also totally nonexistent from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is also totally nonexistent from its own side, by myself alone, who is totally nonexistent from its own side.”

At different times, there are different dedications that I mention. Of course, due to ignorance there might be mistakes in the subject that I’m talking about, however, as much as possible, I try to make less mistakes.

This subject is how to meditate, so with a dedication like this, if you write it down, this is an education for your normal daily life, showing the way it’s done, which means how you should practice, how you should do the dedications in everyday life. It shows how to dedicate the merits in the purest, best way. It is meant to be used in that way in daily life, to get some idea of how to do even the dedications, how to practice in the wisest way, how to collect the most extensive merit and have the greatest success. You have to make it simple.

It’s not that everybody doesn’t do it, but I’m just emphasizing it to remind others who don’t think that way, just to show how to meditate and how to even do a dedication.

Thanks very much.