Teachings at the Kadampa Deities Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Institut Vajra Yogini, France (Archive #1413)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at a retreat held at Institut Vajra Yogini, France, from 18 April to 11 May 2003. The retreat was on the four Kadampa deities, however, Rinpoche teaches on a broad range of lamrim topics. Read the first fifteen discourses, lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

We have now posted three more lectures from this series. In Lectures 13 and 14, Rinpoche explains that Guru Puja (Lama Chöpa) is the heart practice highly recommended by Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo and other great lamas. In Lecture 15, Rinpoche advises us to learn and practice lamrim while we have this precious opportunity. Rinpoche continues with commentary on Calling the Guru from Afar and concludes with extensive dedications.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching in Singapore, 2010. Photo: Ven. Thubten Kunsang (Henri Lopez).
9. The Eight Mahayana Precepts

Good morning! Whatever you were reciting, I was very impressed. I thought maybe you were reciting the Blissful Realm prayer, when I heard about Sukhavati. OK, you can start. You have done already the preliminary prayers? Please start. King of Prayers? You begin with the preliminary prayers before taking precepts.

[Rinpoche and the group chant the preliminary prayers in Tibetan. Rinpoche recites Refuge and Bodhicitta three times, then verses preliminary to teaching.]

The Sufferings of Samsara

So as my root guru His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche explained, oneself and all sentient beings have been experiencing the general sufferings of samsara, and particularly the sufferings of three lower realms from the time without beginning, from beginningless samsaric lifetimes. So in general, there are six types of suffering of samsara. Nothing is definite in samsara, relationships and so forth change from life to life, and even within this life, even from one day to the next, today or the next day, or even on the same day. The perfections of samsara, there’s nothing definite, and however much we have, nothing gives us satisfaction. Whatever body we take in samsara has to be left again and again. In samsara, we have been a deva, sura, asura; we have had a deva body, a human body, we have been a king in the deva realm, a king in the human realm, a wheel-turning king. Numberless times we took those bodies and they are gone.

If all the bodies that we have taken were collected, just the different animal bodies that we have taken, the body of a cockroach or a mouse, a rat or a poisonous snake, a tiger or a worm in the stomach—we have been born as worms in the stomach, inside people’s stomachs, born inside the human beings’ bodies, like that—if they were all collected, even just the worms, being born as worms inside the stomach, if all the bodies were collected, the whole limitless sky would be filled up. The whole limitless sky would be filled up with each body that we have taken, those different types of bodies.

Then joining again and again, as Lama Tsongkhapa explained, our mother’s mother, her mother’s mother and her mother’s mother, like that. By counting like this, even if the whole earth was made into pills, the size of juniper pills, all that is not enough at all; it’s kind of an uncountable number, by going back like that. Then, thinking that way, this body that we have is a continuation of the egg, a continuation of the blood—the egg or blood from the mother—so this has been a continuation of all these mothers, our mother’s mother and her mother’s mother. This body is the continuation of all that. Also our father’s sperm, our father’s father and his father’s father and his father’s father, so like that, so this [body] becomes kind of like an old septic tank, an old collected septic tank.

The point is, there is nothing to be attached to. The conclusion is that. This is what Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the Lamrim Chenmo, this outline. However, there are other teachings about joining again and again, which means from this life, the continuity of this samsara, the continuity of these aggregates which are the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts, defiled. One definition, one meaning of that, because this samsara produces a future samsara, it’s said that one meaning of the contaminated aggregates is that they are the receiver of the future aggregates, the future samsara. This compounds the future samsara.

So the continuity of these aggregates circles from this life to the next life, to that samsara, to the continuity of those aggregates and then the continuity of those aggregates circles from there to the next life. So there’s always the continuity of the aggregates, circling without break. It doesn’t necessarily mean the continuity of the physical body, I’m not saying that. But the aggregates include consciousness. Even in the bardo, there is no substantial body like the one we have now, but it’s like the body in a dream. However, the vehicle of the mind, the wind, the formation of that, so that body is in the intermediate stage. There is the continuity of consciousness, the aggregates, the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts, that which is under the control of karma and delusion, and there’s not one second’s break, there’s always the continuity of that. Sometimes the mind is joined with the physical body, but in the formless realm it is without a body and it’s just the consciousness, just the mind alone.

In that sense, we are joining again and again, and we've never had one single break from the suffering of samsara, not one second’s break. We didn’t have happiness—real happiness, pure happiness—even for one second from beginningless samsaric lifetimes. Because even samsaric pleasure is only in the nature of suffering, we’ve never had one second of happiness.

After that, even after we become high, we become lower; we fall, we become lower. So after being at the tip of samsara, the highest realm of samsara, the tip of samsara, the fourth level of formless realm, then again, because nothing is definite, after that, due to karma we can be reborn in the lowest hell realm, the vajra hell or as Chöden Rinpoche explained, the unbearable hell realm. This has the heaviest suffering in samsara, even among the hell realms. This is the realm which has the heaviest suffering, so that you can’t notice it’s a sentient being. Your body is oneness with fire, just as a log or wood is oneness with fire; your body is fire, so you can’t tell it’s a sentient being, the only way you can tell is by hearing the sound of screaming. Not only that, from the ten directions this is the heaviest, hottest energy. The fire comes from the ten directions, it’s unbelievable, and the length of life is one intermediate eon. That is from the uncountable age, the number in human years. From there the lifespan goes down to ten years, then from ten again it increases, by collecting merit it increases, and goes up to 80,000 years. That is one curve, that’s one intermediate eon, so how much time it takes going up, increasing slowly, slowly, by collecting merit, the lifespan increases up to 80,000 years. So that is one intermediate eon.

Among those eight major hot hells this is the longest one with the heaviest suffering and for the longest time. Rinpoche explained this during the lamrim teachings at Land of Medicine Buddha, when Rinpoche was talking about guru devotion, the section on the shortcomings, such as criticizing or giving up the guru, arising heresy, the degenerated samaya with the guru, so these shortcomings. Rinpoche explained that there’s the vajra hell, which is much heavier even than that unbearable hell realm. Rinpoche explained during the lamrim teachings that it’s much heavier than that. I’ve forgotten the way His Holiness explained the meaning of the very last hot hell, which I translated as the most unbearable hell realm. It wasn’t that, but I’ve forgotten the title. There’s another one called the vajra hell, which is much heavier than that, so Rinpoche explained that.

After we are born in the highest realm, the form realm and the tip of samsara, then again due to karma we are reborn in those lowest realms, like that. Or, after we have been a deva, which has a body in the nature of light, totally in the nature of light—there’s also an insect which has nature of light—so the deva’s body is in the nature of light, which is not surprising because there’s even an insect with light, an insect or a fish, with electricity, the light. Anyway, the deva is like this, their light completely fills up the world; the place is filled with their own body’s light, but then in the next life they are reborn as an animal where there’s no light—there are sentient beings like animals who are totally in darkness. After being a king then in the next life being a slave, things like that; after being higher then lower. Nothing is definite.

Then among the shortcomings of samsara is having no companion. At the birth time, we are born alone and also at death time, as Nagarjuna’s writing mentioned. When we die, we die alone, nobody comes with us, no servants or friends, nobody comes, no matter how many servants or how many friends we have, nobody comes with us. As His Holiness Zong Rinpoche explained, all the karmas that we have collected for the family members and so forth, all the karmas that we have collected, then when we are born in the hell realm, nobody comes with us to share our sufferings. “Oh, you have done this for us, now you don’t have to suffer all that. We will come to help you; we will come to share your suffering.” Nobody comes with us, nobody comes to the hell realm to share our sufferings. Only we alone have to experience all the sufferings, the negative karmas that we have collected. The family members, friends, and the people surrounding us don’t come with us.

So, the four types of suffering of samsara and the three types of suffering of samsara, all this, the general sufferings of samsara and the particular sufferings—the eight types of human beings’ suffering, then the suras and asuras, their particular sufferings, and the hell realms. In the six realms, the heavier suffering is that of the hell realms, the hungry ghost and animal realms, so we have experienced this numberless times, from time without beginning, from beginningless samsara.

The Four Wrong Concepts

As His Holiness mentioned, as he expressed, if we think of all this beginningless samsaric suffering: the general and particular suffering, the three lower realms, the most unbearable one, then it’s something which cracks the heart. If we really think that we have experienced all that from beginningless time, it’s something which breaks our own heart. Then if we think about what caused us to experience this suffering of samsara, general and particular, from time without beginning, it is due to believing that while there’s no I, no real I, the emotional I, what is called “emotional I” in Western psychological terms, I existing from its own side, a real I which is appearing from there and is believed by our own mind, but it doesn’t exist. There’s no such I, it is totally nonexistent, but we believe it is there, we believe there’s such an I.

Then due to that, while our own life, including the body and so forth, is in the nature of impermanence, apprehending that it’s permanent. While this body is the container of thirty-two impurities, like a septic tank or like a garbage can, a container of so many impurities, so many dirty things, but believing that it is clean, totally clean. While experiencing the sense pleasures with this body, with these aggregates, there is the suffering feeling, which is the suffering of pain. Even what we call pleasure—that reduced suffering, that feeling which has reduced the suffering of pain so it becomes reduced, smaller, which we label pleasure—all these sense pleasures are only in the nature of suffering.

However, the stronger our effort, the continual and stronger effort we put into this, instead of increasing the pleasure it becomes more suffering. It turns out that the suffering increases, that effort makes the suffering increase and then it becomes just the suffering of pain. It’s only suffering, but we look at it as pleasure, then we are attached to that. We have the concept of permanence toward the phenomena which are in the nature of impermanence. Feeling or looking at that which is only suffering as pleasure is a wrong concept; and while it’s dirty, we look at it as clean. The contaminated aggregates, the body, are the product of delusion and karma. So while there’s no real I existing from its own side, we believe that there is. These four wrong concepts have caused us to experience the general suffering of samsara, particularly the three lower realms numberless times, from time without beginning.

We still continue following these wrong concepts, therefore we will have to experience all of these sufferings, general and particular, the lower realm sufferings, without end. If we really think about this from the bottom of our heart, if we really pay attention to this, if we really think about it, then we can’t get to sleep at all. It’s so unbelievably frightening that we can’t get any sleep, we’re unable to, we dare not eat or drink, we can’t eat food. So it is incredibly, unbelievably frightening, being in this suffering, being in samsara and following these four wrong concepts. All the obstacles, all the undesirable things , so far what blocked us—what didn’t let us achieve full enlightenment, achieve all these realizations of the Mahayana path—is the self-cherishing thought. All the problems, all the obstacles, everything, came from cherishing the I. Everything came from the I, so the I is to be abandoned forever, let go forever.

All our happiness, all the desirable things, all the collections of goodness, all our happiness comes from bodhicitta, cherishing others, and bodhicitta comes from great compassion, which is the root, and that is generated depending on the obscured, suffering sentient beings. Therefore all the happiness, all the collections of goodness, everything, comes from the kindness of sentient beings, each and every single sentient being. So each and every single sentient being is the most precious, most kind one in our own life.

Every Single Sentient Being Is Most Precious, Most Kind

And, not just this, just to receive a human body, an ordinary human body, has to come from having practiced pure morality in the past, so no question this precious human body that we have, which is qualified by the eight freedoms and ten richnesses, is the result of having practiced [pure morality]. That is the cause of those eighteen qualities. Having the eight ripening aspects; having the result of the eight ripening aspects, we have created the cause of each of those in the past.

However, the basic thing is morality and having made charity to other sentient beings, so we have dedicated the merits to receive this human body and especially this perfect human body, which gives us the opportunity to practice any Dharma that we wish. We can achieve any happiness that we wish—the happiness of future lives, liberation from samsara and full enlightenment, and then we can bring all these four levels of happiness to numberless sentient beings. We can do that by developing the mind in the path with this human body. All this unbelievable advantage that we can achieve with this human body, so all that, and the cause, which is pure morality and charity, and dedicating the merit that is collected to receive this, so all this came from the sentient beings.

Without sentient beings, without depending on the sentient beings, how are we going to make the vow to not kill? There’s no way to make that vow without depending on the existence of the sentient beings. Without depending on the existence of the sentient beings, how can we make the vow? There’s no way, no opportunity to take the vow, to abstain from stealing or sexual misconduct, telling lies, all that. All the morality, which resulted in this opportunity so that we are able to practice; the opportunity is given by sentient beings. So it is by the kindness of sentient beings, therefore we make the vow on the object—all sentient beings. We make a vow to not kill, to not tell lies, to not steal, like this, on the object, all the sentient beings. Therefore, all this good karma, all this practicing morality, charity, all this, being able to create the cause is totally by depending on the kindness of sentient beings. So like that, being able to collect merit and dedicate is totally by the kindness of sentient beings. Depending on each and every single sentient being, not just a few sentient beings, but being able to collect all this merit is by depending on the kindness of each and every single sentient being.

Therefore this result, the perfect human rebirth, what we have now, which gives us an incredible opportunity, freedom, so we can be liberated totally from the oceans of samsaric suffering and its cause, delusion and karma, and achieve even full enlightenment, so this is completely received by the kindness of every single sentient being. And then, if we want happiness of future lives, if we want a good rebirth in our next lives, a perfect human body or to be born in a pure land where we can become enlightened if we don’t become enlightened this life, so all this result comes from, we have to achieve this by depending on the kindness of the sentient beings. And because the cause of all this is again morality and charity and dedicating the merits, all this, by depending on the kindness of sentient beings we create the cause, so we receive that opportunity by depending on the kindness of sentient beings.

Achieving liberation from samsara and then actualizing the three higher trainings of morality, concentration and wisdom is totally dependent on the kindness of sentient beings, so it all comes from sentient beings.

Then, achieving full enlightenment, having ceased all the mistakes of the mind and completed all the qualities, and then actualizing bodhicitta, so actualizing the Mahayana path and the root, bodhicitta, the door of the Mahayana path, all this is totally by depending on compassion. The root is great compassion and that is generated by depending on the kindness of sentient beings, totally by depending on the kindness of sentient beings, by the existence of the obscured, suffering sentient beings. So because of that—because of these suffering sentient beings—then compassion can be generated, as well as bodhicitta, so the whole path and enlightenment, all this is received by, is completely depending on the kindness of the sentient beings, each and every single sentient being. All this happiness, temporary and ultimate.

Therefore, every single hell being is the most precious one, the most kind one. Every single hungry ghost is the most precious, most kind one. Every single insect, every single animal, is most kind, the most precious one in our own life. Every single human being is the most precious, most kind one. Every single sura and asura is the most precious, most kind one in our own life.

Think, “Therefore, in my life, there’s nobody to cherish other than the sentient beings. There’s nobody to work for except the most precious sentient beings. There’s nobody to work for except the most precious, kind, wish-fulfilling sentient beings, except only them. There’s no other work, nothing that I have to offer service, to work for. Therefore, I have full responsibility to free them from all the suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, I should do this by myself alone, and for that reason I must achieve full enlightenment, and for that purpose, I’m going to take the eight Mahayana precepts. I’m going to take the Mahayana Restoring and Purifying Ordination.”

For the benefit of every single hell being, every single hungry ghost, every single animal, every single human being, sura, asura, intermediate stage beings, so everyone, including the person whom we hate or who doesn’t love us, who we think is the enemy, whom we call “enemy,” whom we hate, including Saddam Hussein. So if there is anybody whom we hate, including them.

Now do three prostrations, visualizing the lama, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha from your side, and all the buddhas and bodhisattvas around. [Long pause]

Prayer for Taking the Precepts

Please repeat the ceremony prayer. I should be reading in French, but maybe next time, in the next life, with a French body, whenever that happens. [Rinpoche and group laugh]

Please, guru, pay attention to me.
All the buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, please pay attention to me.

[Group repeats prayer, here and throughout the precepts ceremony]

Actually, in the text, if you have a guru then this is what you add. First, recite, “Guru, pay attention to me,” then come all the ten-direction buddhas and bodhisattvas. In the visualization, as I mentioned before, there are also all the buddhas and bodhisattvas around, in the merit field, and we’re taking the eight Mahayana precepts from them.

Just as the previous tathagatas …

Those who do not know the English meaning, you can read the French there. Repeat the prayer but you can read the French, so you translate by yourself. In this way you become translator, to yourself.

Just as the previous tathagatas, foe destroyers, perfectly completed buddhas,
who like the divine wise horse and the great elephant, did what had to be done, performed actions,
laid down the burden, , subsequently obtained their own welfare, completely exhausted the fetters to existence,
and had perfect speech, well-liberated minds, and well-liberated wisdom,
for the welfare of all sentient beings,
in order to benefit, in order to liberate,
in order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harm of the four elements…

This wasn’t there in the original prayer, but I thought very important to include it. So it means that when you are taking the eight Mahayana precepts, it is also to eliminate war, because nowadays there’s so much war happening, so to include that, to not forget those sufferings of sentient beings. You are taking precepts also to pacify war, and also you are taking precepts against earthquakes, those which destroy the whole city within a minute, and so many thousands of people get killed, and also fire danger and tornadoes, the dangers of the wind element, and water. You are taking precepts as a means to stop those problems for the sentient beings, for them to have peace and happiness.

In different parts of the world there are always problems from floods and disasters which leave people homeless. So many people go homeless and have no food, all the family’s children, all the things they developed for many years by working hard their whole life, then everything is destroyed by those disasters of the elements. So, to stop those disasters.

In order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harm of the four elements, in order to eliminate sicknesses,
in order to fully complete the thirty-seven practices harmonious with enlightenment
and in order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect, complete enlightenment,
perfectly performed the restoring and purifying ordination;
similarly, also I, who am called …, please mention your name, from this time until sunrise tomorrow for the welfare of all sentient beings
in order to benefit…

“In order to benefit” means all the temporary benefit, all the temporary happiness.

“In order to liberate…” So that’s the ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, the ultimate happiness, to cause that.

In order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harms of the four elements, in order to eliminate sicknesses,
in order to fully complete the thirty-seven…”

I think it should be “thirty-seven realizations.”

…the thirty-seven realizations harmonious with the enlightenment.

Or sometimes it is translated as “thirty-seven aids to enlightenment.”

In order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect, complete enlightenment,
I shall perfectly undertake the restoring and purifying ordination.

Please, guru, pay attention to me.

All the buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, please pay attention to me.
Just as the previous tathagatas, foe destroyers, perfectly completed buddhas,
who, like the divine wise horse and the great elephant, did what had to be done, performed actions,
laid down the burden, subsequently attained their own welfare, completely exhausted the fetters to existence,
and had perfect speech, well-liberated minds, and well-liberated wisdom,
for the welfare of all sentient beings,
in order to benefit, in order to liberate,
in order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harm of the four elements, in order to eliminate sickness,
in order to fully complete the thirty-seven realizations harmonious with enlightenment,
and in order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect, complete enlightenment,
perfectly performed the restoring and purifying ordination;
similarly, also I …, please mention your name, from this time until sunrise tomorrow for the welfare of all sentient beings,
in order to benefit, in order to liberate,
in order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harms of the four elements, in order to eliminate sickness….

So think of all the people at home who are sick and think of all the people in hospital. The minute you enter the hospital, the feeling is different, the feeling is sad. The minute you enter the hospital, the feeling is sad. Even if you are not sick but you’re going there to see somebody who’s sick, just entering the hospital it’s a sad feeling. It a sad feeling because there’s somebody dying, there’s somebody who has died or somebody’s dying or is about to die. There’s somebody having unbelievable pain, all kinds of different sufferings. And people in a coma, I’m not sure, I can’t really tell how long it will take, so it’s very sad, the minute when you enter the hospital that’s the feeling. Not joy, there’s no joy or there’s nothing kind of uplifting. The mind is always sad, it’s a very difficult feeling.

So remember everyone in hospital, those having so many different sicknesses, and think, “Today I am taking the eight Mahayana precepts for all of them. Those who are sick, those who are at home and the sick people in the hospital, so everyone, to benefit them.” To benefit their present suffering and eventually liberate them from all the sufferings by ceasing their delusion and karma, the cause of samsara, by revealing the path to them, so eventually that. Right at the moment it’s for healing all their sicknesses, then eventually to make them forever free from the sicknesses, free from all the oceans of samsaric problems forever, free forever from those. Taking this ordination today does that. It becomes preparation, it causes us to actualize the path and then reveal the path to them, and then cease their delusion and karma, and make them free forever from all these sufferings. So like that, the long-term benefit.

… in order to fully complete the thirty-seven realizations harmonious with enlightenment,
and in order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect, complete enlightenment,
I shall perfectly undertake the restoring and purifying ordination.

Please, guru, pay attention to me.

All the buddhas and bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, please pay attention to me.
Just as the previous tathagatas, foe destroyers, perfectly completed buddhas
who like the divine wise horse, the great elephant, did what had to be done, performed actions,
laid down the burden, subsequently attained their own welfare, completely exhausted the fetters to existence,
and had perfect speech, well-liberated minds, and well-liberated wisdom
for the welfare of all sentient beings,
in order to benefit, in order to liberate,
in order to eliminate famine, in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harm of the four elements, in order to eliminate sickness
in order to fully complete the thirty-seven realizations harmonious with the enlightenment,
and in order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect, complete enlightenment,
perfectly performed the restoring and purifying ordination;
similarly also I, …, please mention your name, from this time until sunrise tomorrow, for the welfare of all sentient beings,
in order to benefit, in order to cause all the temporary happiness, in order to liberate,
in order to eliminate famine ….

So think of all the famine in Africa and in different parts of the world, so much famine, then all these economic problems, so remember that. After famine, when you say “famine,” remember all the economic problems in the world that are happening, so you’re taking ordination to prevent all that.

The Four Harmonious Friends

As you would remember, many of you might have heard the story and would know the story of how taking ordination, taking precepts, helps the development of economics in the world. There  is a story about something that happened in the past, in one country, I think maybe Kashika, I’m not sure. In one country, there was no rain, so no crops were growing; it was a very difficult time and there was a scarcity of food. Then later the rains came at the right time, the crops grew well and there was so much enjoyment, plenty. Then the king of that country thought, “I did it.” He thought it happened due to him. But the ministers thought that they did it and that’s why the country was so well-developed.

Then they had a discussion one day and the ministers thought they did it but the king thought he did it, that it was because of him. So then one minister suggested that they go to see a sage who lived in the forest. The sage had clairvoyance, so he could tell. They went there and they asked the sage, the one who had clairvoyance. He said, “Why the country has developed is not because of any of you. There are four harmonious brother animals living in the forest, and the young ones respect the senior ones.” There’s the elephant and the monkey and the rabbit and then a bird on top. I don’t know if it’s a particular bird or not, I’m not sure. So there’s a bird on top.1

So the animals respected the senior ones, like this, and then practiced the five precepts. The elephant practiced the five precepts then that spread to the other elephants. The monkey practiced the five precepts then also spread that to others, then the rabbit practiced the five precepts and spread that to other rabbits, and then the bird. Due to that, because they lived like this, harmoniously, especially by living in five precepts in the forest, that’s why the country developed, the rains came at the right time and the crops grew. That’s why there was plenty of food, the means of living. It was not because of the king and it was not because of the ministers.

Actually of these four animals, one was the embodiment of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and the other three were Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s attendants, Nyi gyä, Päl na kyä and Kungawa.2 The Buddha’s attendants were in the form of animals, they lived in the precepts and caused others to do so. That makes the devas and nagas happy. It makes other beings happy, those who are connected with the environment. So in this way, when there is a scarcity of water, rain, by doing these practices of sojong and so forth, reviving the vows again, that’s why there is rain, that’s why we are able to receive rain and so forth, and are able to grow the crops.

I think maybe one or two times at Sera, they started sojong, and they used a stick, which is called gandi.3 There was no rain, then the monk hit the gandi, “Tang!” like this, and as soon as he did that, rain came. So it affects the nagas and devas, it makes them happy, and that’s why the rain came suddenly like that. Also, I think maybe at Kopan one time that happened.

It is explained in the teachings by the Buddha how this sound, the ringing of the gandi for the monks doing confession, vinaya practice, how the sound benefits the area so much. In the Kangyur, there’s a whole entire explanation of the benefits—about the ringing, the wood, the gandi, to call the monks for the confession practice, sojong, to make the vows pure. It is said that it brings happiness, that it benefits sentient beings, so the sound makes the devas and the nagas and all those other beings happy.4 Even just doing that there’s incredible benefit in the area, so no question about the vows, which are a practical thing that bring peace, so much peace and happiness, because we don’t give harm and we stop many negative karmas, so not only that.

Like that story of the four brothers, the harmonious animals, the four harmonious brothers, how it affected the country economically, the economic development, so similarly, by taking the ordination today, the eight Mahayana precepts, that definitely helps stop the economic problems in the country and in the world.

When you say “famine,” remember that, and also think, “This is my contribution to stop the world’s problems, the largest economic problems that cause so many people to suffer.”

… in order to eliminate war, in order to stop the harm of the four elements, in order to eliminate sickness,
in order to fully complete the thirty-seven realizations harmonious with enlightenment,
and in order to definitely actualize the unsurpassed result of perfect complete enlightenment
I shall perfectly undertake the restoring and purifying ordination.

Then without a wandering mind you must make strong determination that you have received, in the presence of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the lama, visualized [in the aspect of] Shakyamuni Buddha, from your side think you have received this ordination, the Mahayana ordination reviving, purifying and then restoring.

Then, think, “Just as the buddhas practiced the eight precepts and benefited sentient beings so much, then I’m also going to take these eight precepts.”

Just as the foe destroyers of the past have abandoned all misconduct of body, speech and mind, such as taking the lives of others, so shall I, for the sake of all beings, abandon for one day these wrong actions, and devote myself to the pure practice of training [in the precepts.]

Commitment Prayer to Keep the Precepts

From now on I shall not kill, steal others’ possessions, engage in sexual activity …

It’s not just sexual misconduct but any sexual activity here in the eight Mahayana precepts. It’s different from the Lesser Vehicle path, the liberation for oneself, the pratimoksha vows.

… or speak false words. I shall avoid intoxicants, from which many mistakes arise …

Here the main thing is alcohol, which makes the mind completely uncontrolled, and then we engage in killing, stealing, sex; we engage in so many negative karmas, harming others and harming oneself. Therefore we are avoiding that by living in the vow to abstain from drinking.

I shall not sit on large, high or expensive beds…

So higher than, longer than this, higher than this. Also, [avoiding the use of] animal skins, which has a kind of negative effect on one’s own mind as well, and avoiding things which cause pride, for example, being on a high bed.

I shall not eat food at the wrong times …

So, either you make the time by the sun or by a clock, whichever. In ancient times, in the Buddha’s time, it would be measured by the sun, by the shadow or the sun, whichever way it was done. However, I guess, the shadow starts smaller, if you put a stick there, then it gets longer and longer, it gets longer than that. Then in the afternoon the shadow gets longer, like that, due to the sun. However, just by that, it might be the same, I think the shape might be the same as the stick.

However, go by the clock, the time in that country, what normal people recognize as the time, twelve o’clock. Not twelve o’clock that you make up, that you set up. Use whatever is your country’s time, what they have recognized as the time. It has to be conventional truth, the time. [Rinpoche laughs]

That means to not eat after twelve, except things that melt, that don’t become kaka inside the body, substantial. So those things which melt you can have, but the things that become substantial in the body are not taken.

So here, if you are taking [eight precepts] only rarely, then it’s good to have one meal. If you are taking them many times, then you can have breakfast. Also publicly, I guess, taking many times may be different. But if it is only occasionally then it’s better to have one meal. When I wrote to His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, this is what Trijang Rinpoche answered to the question about having breakfast or not having breakfast. So this is what Rinpoche answered. Rinpoche said publicly, that it’s better to not have [breakfast.] Why? Because I think publicly it doesn’t happen all the time, I think only rarely, so I think that’s why. So on that day, the practice is done more strictly. The main point is to have less negative karma.

But I didn’t discuss with His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche about taking [the eight Mahayana precepts] for a long time publicly, I didn’t get to check that, so I guess it might be OK. Generally, of course, some people do without breakfast and some people do with breakfast. Especially if you are doing it many times—because you are not doing just once, because it’s not done rarely but done many times—I would think it might be OK [ to have breakfast.] Previously for oneself, for the individual person doing it many times, I think maybe that reason can be applied to this one, perhaps.

If it’s one meal, you eat well in the beginning, and then you stop, you completely stop. But if you change your mind after you stop and then start to eat again, that doesn’t become one meal. You made the vow to have one meal during the precepts and then you are breaking that. So, eat well at the beginning, then when you stop, please stop like that.

I shall avoid singing, dancing, and playing music …

However, on the day of taking the eight Mahayana precepts, in regard to these things, it’s better to be more strict. To not drink things which become kaka inside the body, to not drink things which become solid, things which become kaka inside, which become substantial, so it’s better to be more strict. Otherwise, even on the day when you take precepts, then that day kind of becomes like a yoyo. What’s the word? Yoyo? Even on that day of the precepts, again it becomes a yoyo, then your whole life becomes like that, nothing really strict, nothing really pure. Since you don’t take eight Mahayana precepts like this every day, for your whole life—you are just taking them from time to time—therefore, it’s good on that day to make it more neat, more clear, more neat. Then that’s something also that you feel “Oh, I’ve done it!Something perfect, like that. So to not drink things that are the same as eating food, that create substances in the body, kaka, not like that.

I shall avoid singing, dancing and playing music ...

OK, so repeat.

I shall not eat food at the wrong times.
I shall avoid singing, dancing, and playing music ...

Even though these vows are taken normally, if there are Dharma reasons—like sitting on the throne when you teach Dharma or like chanting prayers, for example, so things like that, which are beneficial for sentient beings, things which become Dharma, Dharma reasons—then this doesn’t become problem, therefore it’s allowed.

I shall not wear perfumes, garlands or ornaments.

Just as the arhats have avoided wrong actions such as taking the lives of others
so too shall I avoid wrong actions such as taking the lives of others.

May I quickly attain supreme enlightenment
and may the living beings who are experiencing the various sufferings be released from the ocean of cyclic existence.

I forgot the tab yin no and leg so. So you say, leg so. Tab yin no. [Group: Leg so.] So you learned some Tibetan language. [Laughter]

Mantra of Pure Morality

Now, recite the mantra of pure morality. This has three benefits, to be able to purify—by saying this mantra it purifies degenerated vows, the vices, degenerated vows. Degenerating your vows, it purifies that. The next benefit is that it makes the vows pure, it helps us to practice pure vows. The third one is that all the buddhas have perfect pure morality, and it is said that we are able to receive that within ourselves, something like that. There are three benefits mentioned in that text and also by His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, by reciting this mantra.

I suggested some time ago that particularly for the Sangha it’s good to recite this mantra in the morning, first thing in the morning after you wake up. After you get up then do prostrations, whether you do prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names or just three prostrations with the refuge prayer or Sang gyä chho dang…., whichever prayer you do, anyway, so after that for the bhikshus, there are also things that you can get permission, for Dharma reasons, you can get permission from Buddha, so remembering the time, you repeat three times, for the gelongs [fully ordained monks].

Anyway, after the prostrations, you can recite this mantra, and for getsuls [novice monks] after the prostrations you can recite this mantra twenty-one times, or whatever. That helps you to be able to live in pure morality.

So please repeat this.

[Rinpoche gives the lung for Mantra of Pure Morality, with everyone repeating three times, then both Rinpoche and group chant together.]

OM AMOGHA SHILA SAMBHARA [SAMBHARA] / BHARA BHARA / MAHA SHUDDHA SATTVA PADMA VIBHUSHITA BHUJA / DHARA DHARA SAMANTA / AVALOKITE HUM PHAT SVAHA
Dedication

Normally whenever we dedicate the merits we should include the sentient beings as much as possible, not only dedicating for oneself. So in this way our dedication covers many sentient beings, not just one sentient being. It covers all the sentient beings, so it becomes part of the bodhisattva’s deeds.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, and the three-time merits collected by others, may I, all my family members, and all the students and benefactors of this organization, as well as all sentient beings, be able to complete the paramita of morality by keeping it without mistake, pure, without pride.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the three-time merits collected by others, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness; may the three lower realms become empty forever; may all the bodhisattvas’ prayers succeed immediately; and may I be able to cause all this to happen by myself alone.

Due to all the three-time merits collected by me and by others, may bodhicitta, the source of all the happiness and success for oneself and for all sentient beings, be actualized without delay of even a second within my own heart, in the hearts of my own family members and in the hearts of all the students in this organization, as well as the benefactors and those who give up their lives for the organization, doing service for sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha, then all the rest of the sentient beings. May bodhicitta be generated in all our hearts and in the hearts of sentient beings without delay of even a second, and may that which is generated be increased.

And particularly in the hearts of all the leaders of the countries, so depending on whether they have bodhicitta or not, then there is that much peace and happiness in the country. However many people there are in that country, they get so much peace and happiness, then also the world. It is up to the leaders, their attitude, whether the world’s countries receive harm or peace and happiness, freedom, therefore pray to generate bodhicitta in their hearts.

One time, when His Holiness was in Bodhgaya many years ago taking the extensive commentary of the Bodhicaryatara from the great bodhisattva Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen in the guesthouse of the Bodhgaya Gelugpa monastery,  His Holiness asked what to do to get independence for Tibet, what to pray for or something like that, I’m not too sure. Then Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen Rinpoche answered, “Pray to generate bodhicitta in the hearts of the officials, the government official leaders of mainland China. Pray to generate bodhicitta in their hearts.” This is what Khunu Lama Rinpoche answered to His Holiness. And His Holiness mentioned that in the teachings.

Jang chhub sem chhog rin po chhe…. (3x)

Due to all the past, present, future merits collected by me and the three-time merits collected by others, may the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness, have a stable life; may all his holy wishes succeed immediately; also may all the virtuous friends and all the holy beings who are in this world bring benefit only to sentient beings.

Gang rii ra wä….

Päl dan la mäi ku tshe….

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the three-time merits collected by others, may anybody who sees me, touches me, remembers me, thinks about me, talks about me, just by that may they never ever get reborn in the lower realms from that time. May they immediately find faith in refuge and karma and actualize bodhicitta. By anybody seeing me, touching me, remembering me, thinking of me, talking about me, criticizing or praising me, whatever, may they immediately be free from all the sicknesses, spirit harm, negative karma and defilements, and by completing the path, may they achieve full enlightenment as quickly as possible, so they become wish-fulfilling.

In this way we become wish-fulfilling for all the sentient beings, we become wish-fulfilling for all sentient beings. Especially when somebody’s dying, then if that person sees us or hears our voice, touches us or remembers us or whatever, then immediately it stops all the terrifying fear of death. It immediately stops that fear and their mind is filled with great bliss or joy and then they are able to go to the pure land, they are able to be born in the pure land of the Buddha where they can become enlightened. Especially if you are doing hospice work, helping dying people, things like that, working in a hospital, doctors or nurses, then this prayer, especially, become very important to be able to affect others in this way.

Due to all the past, present, future merits collected by me and the three-time merits collected by others, may that which is empty of the real one appearing from there, may the I, like that, which is totally non-existent—you are seeing that the I is totally non-existent from its own side, not even a slightest atom exists from its own side—may the I, which is totally empty of existing from its own side, there’s not even the slightest atom of that I existing, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, that which is totally empty, which is not existing from its own side, there is not even the slightest atom of that, it is totally non-existent, and may I lead all the sentient beings, who are empty, who are also totally empty of existing from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is also empty, by myself alone, who is also totally empty of existing from my own side.

I dedicate all the merits to be able to follow the holy extensive deeds of the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra and Manjugosha, as they realized. And I dedicate all my merits in the same way that the three-time buddhas and bodhisattvas dedicate their merits.

May the general teachings of the Buddha, particularly the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa, be spread in all the directions and flourish forever in this world, by completely actualizing in my own heart, in the hearts of my family members, all the students, benefactors in this organization and those who give up their life to the organization, doing service for sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha.

Chhö kyi gyäl po tsong kha päi…

Dag dang zhän kyi dü sum dang…

Today by taking the precepts, whatever merit we collect increases many hundreds, thousands of times, millions of times, whatever we do, and particularly, taking the eight Mahayana precepts with a bodhicitta motivation, therefore we collect infinite merit. Taking and living in each precept for the benefit of all the sentient beings, there are limitless skies of merit, so like that eight times, so we collect merit all the time. Then whatever merit we practice, whatever virtuous action we do, it increases by one hundred thousand or millions of times, so that makes our life incredibly profitable.

Also, by stopping one negative karma such as killing or sexual misconduct, by stopping one negative karma today, by stopping that, then we experience the resultant happiness, the four results of happiness from life to life. For hundreds, thousands of lifetimes we experience the happiness from this one good karma, abstaining from this negative karma. If we don’t do that, if we don’t stop, if we don’t take the vow, then if we engage in one of these negative karmas, we experience the four suffering results on and on, creating the result similar to the cause and that produces the four suffering results. So it goes on and on if we just leave it, if we don’t purify the karma, if we leave it like this, then the suffering result coming from this one negative karma, such as killing or telling a lie or sexual misconduct, whatever is done today, from this one negative karma the suffering result becomes endless. It goes on and on, we have to experience the suffering result forever. Therefore, by stopping this one-time negative karma, then we will have peace and happiness. We won’t experience all those suffering results and we will have peace and happiness in all the future lifetimes.

Not only that, by taking the precepts today, it becomes the most practical contribution to the world peace, most practical. So, when we take this many vows, we are abstaining from this many negative karmas today, not harming other sentient beings directly or indirectly, so this becomes the most practical contribution to world peace.

Therefore, by reflecting like this we must rejoice. We should feel great happiness, thinking, “How lucky I am that I am able to make my life most productive today.” Normally after each practice we have done, we have collected merit, and then rejoicing is very good, because then our merit, our virtuous action, becomes very powerful.

So then do three prostrations with the same visualization.

OK. Thank you very much…

[End of ceremony]


Notes

Read more about the four harmonious friends in Mandala magazine, January 2014. [Return to text]

2 It is said in the Vinaya teaching Dülwa rlung and the discourse Do de nä kyang rlung that the pheasant was an incarnation of Shakyamuni Buddha and the others were disciples. The rabbit was Nyi gyä (Shariputra), the monkey was Päl na kyä (Maudgalyana) and the elephant was Kungawa (Ananda). [Return to text]

3 A wooden ritual instrument used in Buddhist monasteries to summon the monks and nuns to assemblies. [Return to text]

4 See the Gandi Sutra. [Return to text]