The Happy Path

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Bendigo, Australia (Archive #877)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught on the merely imputed I, the benefits of altruism and compassion, how to transform problems and the five powers, during two evening discourses in Bendigo, Australia, in August, 1991. 

These teachings have been edited and divided into five chapters that correspond to the online audio files. Click here to listen to the teachings online and read along with the unedited transcripts.

The Benefits of Problems (Second Discourse, con't)

We received this enjoyment of living in a comfortable house through the kindness of numberless beings, including human beings.

It is the same with the food we eat. This one grain of rice came from a field, which had to be fertilized and have a lot of other work done on it. So many sentient beings, such as rats and insects, who also want happiness and do not want suffering, exactly like us, had to die, and many other beings had to do the negative action of killing them. Only after all this did this one grain of rice reach your plate. So many beings suffered and died for this one grain of rice.

Now this one grain of rice came from another grain of rice, and that grain from another one. Think of the continuation of the rice like this. And for each grain so many beings suffered and died, and killed - an inconceivable number. Therefore, there is no way that we can eat this rice without thinking at all of these other sentient beings, without thinking to help these beings who have suffered and worked so much for this food. We have to have some thought to do something to benefit them. There is no way that we can eat this one grain of rice thinking only of our own happiness. This would be extremely cruel. Look at it from their side. Imagine that you are one of those many beings, then look at yourself eating the rice thinking only of your own happiness. You can see how upsetting and cruel that would be.

It is the same when we drink even a cup of tea or a glass of water. Again, so many insects, which we can see only with microscopes, have to suffer and die for this. Our enjoyment of a cup of tea, a plate of rice, or a bowl of soup comes from the suffering and death of so many beings and from other beings having to kill. This is how we get our enjoyments. We receive all our enjoyments, all our comforts, through the kindness of other living beings. Without them, we cannot get these comforts.

It is the same with our clothes. Again, so many beings have suffered and died for these. Think of where the clothes comes from - so many of them, such as silk, come from animals. So many suffered and died, and so many others performed the negative actions of killing them. Then finally this cloth came from it. And that's how we have the comfort of keeping warm and healthy.

From morning until night, twenty-four hours a day, every single comfort that we have comes in dependence upon the kindness of other living beings. And it didn't come comfortably, but through numberless beings suffering, dying, and killing. So, how can we dare to live without generating compassion? Without some thought to make our life beneficial at least for those beings from whom we received all this comfort? There is no way we can live our life even for one day only with the thought of cherishing ourself.

Now you can the incredible importance of generating compassion for other sentient beings. And the individual person's happiness comes from the good heart. As I mentioned just now, when we change our attitude from self-cherishing thought, we experience incredible joy in our life. All of a sudden, while you are walking along the road, you find happiness.

Like this, if you have compassion, there is so much happiness and success in your life; there is harmony in your relationships. Even though the person who has a good heart doesn't seek a good reputation, other people recommend how good you are, this and that. If you have compassion, a good reputation comes naturally, effortlessly. And this reputation is very safe. It's not like the reputation of those who become very famous because of their wealth. Then after some time, it is discovered that the person obtained their wealth through cheating and harming others. This person's reputation then becomes completely black. But here, if you develop compassion, a good reputation comes naturally - this is a very safe way to become famous.

If you have a good heart, everyone loves you. Inside and outside your family, there are many people who like you. Wherever you travel, people always befriend you. Other people very easily become your friend. They can see immediately that you are a warm-hearted, reliable person. All these are benefits of compassion, of the good heart. Your life is easy, because everybody wants to help you. People are so happy to help you, especially when your are sick or need help.

Now, when someone has a very strongly selfish mind, they get very impatient and very angry easily, and they also have very strong attachment, strong dissatisfaction. All the other disturbing thoughts, such as jealousy, pride, and so forth, arise very easily and very strongly. Such a person finds it very difficult to get along with other people, in the family and outside the family. Wherever they travel, they make enemies. After one day, after one hour, other people become their enemy. Even if the person is asking for help, everybody complains about them, about how selfish they are, and say that no one should help them. They don't like to help such a person.

The person who has a warm heart, who has compassion, who cares for others, even if they don't ask for help, wherever they go, people come to ask whether they need help. Success comes naturally. Whether they live alone or with other people, they are always happy. Even if they don't have a comfortable, expensive house, but live in a grass hut eating very simple food and drinking only water, there is much happiness in their life.

Compassion is the source of happiness in an individual person's life; compassion is the source of happiness in the family; compassion is the source of happiness in society; compassion is the source of happiness in the country; compassion is the source of happiness for all living beings. This is why compassion is so precious.

Having problems helps to develop compassion for others who have problems. It also destroys pride, arrogance. Pride is an obstacle to developing our qualities, most importantly the inner good qualities of our mind. Pride is the biggest obstacle to this, and having problems destroys pride.

And having problems makes you cautious about creating the cause of problems. You become careful to avoid negative thoughts and negative actions, which bring problems. And you are very happy to transform your mind into positive attitudes and to do positive actions, which are the cause of happiness.

Studying the causes of problems and the methods to avoid them helps to develop wisdom. Besides these, there are many other benefits of problems that I'm not going to go over now. Problems help you to develop realizations, the good qualities of the mind. For example, if you have a disease, you can use the disease to purify its cause. There is a meditation - meditation is a psychological way of thinking - to purify the cause of disease. Just as you use a broom or vacuum cleaner to clean up garbage, you can use the disease to vacuum the cause of disease. It is said in the teachings that disease is a broom purifying the obscurations, the negative actions that are the cause of disease.

Then, problems are the manifestation of ultimate truth. Problems help you to realize the ultimate nature of problems, because problems are the manifestation of emptiness, of ultimate truth. How are problems the manifestations of ultimate truth? Lets' take the disease, AIDS, as an example. First of all, it was not that hundreds of doctors or scientists suddenly all together labeled AIDS. It was not like that. At the very first, a doctor discovered the virus or the change in the body cells that meant that their capacity to protect from disease had degenerated (I'm not sure about the details) and made up the label "AIDS.". One person, a doctor or scientist, saw this particular change and made up this label, AIDS. AIDS is an idea; AIDS is a name. This scientist made up this label, then because he is respected by others, other people began to follow his idea and to use the label that he had created. Everyone began using this label, AIDS, for the change of the cells. AIDS is an idea, a concept. You can see that there is no AIDS came from its own side. There is no AIDS without the mind labeling AIDS, without the doctors or scientists, especially the first one, labeling AIDS.

Take Bendigo for example. One person made up the label Bendigo, depending on this valley or this place. It was not that Bendigo suddenly came into existence as soon as this earth evolved. Bendigo happened much later. Bendigo was labeled in 1850. In 1850 somebody made up the label, Bendigo. So, Bendigo is just an idea. Bendigo came from the mind of the person who made up the label. There is no real Bendigo existing from its own side. There is no independent Bendigo, no inherently existent Bendigo, which means a Bendigo existing without depending on this place and the person's mind. There is no real Bendigo existing from its own side - that is not the way Bendigo exists. The way Bendigo exists is by depending on this place and the person who labeled Bendigo. In dependence on those two, Bendigo came into existence. So, Bendigo is empty of inherent existence, empty of existing from its own side. That is the ultimate nature, the reality, of Bendigo. Bendigo is empty of existing from its own side.

Now we'll go back to AIDS. You can see that at first, one person saw this change in the body and then made up the label, AIDS. So AIDS is just an idea, a concept. The person made up this label and then believed in that - that's all that AIDS is. The independent Bendigo, the real Bendigo from its own side, that is not true, that doesn't exist, that is empty. In the same way, the AIDS that appears to us when we think and talk about AIDS is something real from its own side, something true, independent, unlabeled by the mind, something that has nothing to do with the mind. It appears to us like this and we believe in it, but all that is not true, all that is completely false. All that is completely empty, right there, just there. It doesn't exist right there. There is no AIDS from its own side. This emptiness is the ultimate nature of AIDS, the reality of AIDS. There is no AIDS from its own side - that is completely empty.

What it is is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind, by the doctor's mind, by the patient's mind. Now you can see that AIDS is empty, AIDS is unified with emptiness. AIDS is empty of existing from its own side. It exists by depending on that particular change in the cells and on the mind of the doctor or patient who labels AIDS. AIDS is empty of existing from its own side. AIDS is empty of independence. It is a dependent arising; it exists by depending on that particular change of the body and the mind that labels. You can see now that AIDS is a manifestation of emptiness, of ultimate truth.

Now here I'm using the example AIDS; I'm talking about the ultimate nature of AIDS, about what AIDS really is. What is normally described, the changes in the body, that alone is not a full explanation of what AIDS is. That doesn't explain the reality of AIDS. In reality AIDS is nothing other than what is merely labeled by the mind - this is the full explanation. It is the same answer if somebody asks, What is the I? You just change the name "AIDS" to "the I," then analyze in the same way. It's the same explanation. The I is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind. That is the full explanation of what the I is. Now here this is the full explanation of what AIDS really is.

Therefore you can see that AIDS is a manifestation of emptiness, that any problem is a manifestation of emptiness. Having a problem makes you analyze, meditate, and see what it really is. It helps you to see the truth, reality. The way we normally think is completely wrong. We think that AIDS has nothing to do with our mind, is not created by our mind, not labeled by our mind. We think AIDS is something real from its own side, something independent. So, that appearance is completely false, completely empty. Belief in that is a completely false view.

Even meditating like this on the reality of AIDS, of problems, immediately cuts down the psychological worry and fear that there is a real problem there from its own side. You see immediately that it is completely empty; it doesn't exist. It cuts down all that hallucination. Meditating on the ultimate nature of a problem, such as AIDS or cancer, is very, very powerful. It purifies the mind, the cause of AIDS and cancer, the cause of any problem. It affects the root, which is in the mind, which is the mind, the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of things, which is hallucinated about everything.

This is the root of all problems. Meditating on the ultimate nature of problems completely eradicates the very root of problems, which is in the mind. This is regarded as a most powerful meditation. Doing this meditation is really a very powerful quick way of healing even disease. This meditation immediately stops the problem that you think so serious. You see immediately that it is false.

There are many other benefits of problems. By knowing all the benefits of problems and by reflecting on them, you then start to establish the thought of liking them. The main benefit of problems is that they develop your mind, and enable you to bring everyone to the highest happiness.