Kopan Course No. 33 (2000): Audio and Unedited Transcripts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1257)

The following are excerpts of the teachings given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Thirty-third Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2000. Included is an oral transmission of the Heart Sutra and an oral transmission of portions of the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

The first five days of lectures are below; the remainder of the lectures can be found here. You can also read the entire lightly edited transcript here.

Day 1: Emptiness of the I, Oral Transmissions of the Heart Sutra and Diamond Cutter Sutra

As I mentioned before, I’ll repeat again, we need to, must remove the imprint of delusion. For that, need to study teachings on emptiness, right view. Have to realise emptiness. Not just what people call ‘emptiness’, not just any kind of emptiness, what people call ‘emptiness’, even Dharma books – what anybody call ‘emptiness’, not that. It has to be the right one. It has to be right one because the root of samsara, root of the suffering, only one very specific wrong concept, very specific wrong concept. There’s not many root of samsara; there’s one typical, there’s one specific ignorance: even though the “I” exist in mere name, merely imputed by the mind, that’s how – it’s not that the “I” doesn’t exist . “I” exists. It exists being merely labelled by the mind. That’s how it exists. That’s what the “I” is. What is “I”, is that. That’s all.

By realising ultimate nature of “I”, after that, how you come to realise, by realising absolute truth of the “I” then the next, as a result, you realise conventional truth of the “I”. How the “I” exists you come to know. You come to discover what is the “I”. How it exists you come to know that it exists being merely imputed by the mind.

So when you discover “I” this is how you see – other than that is an hallucination. “I” other than that, what we believe, what appears to us, totally hallucination, false “I”.

So, therefore, there’s a very specific root of suffering, ignorance: a concept. I’m not going to go into details. We allow our mind when – twenty-four hours our mind continuously impute “I”. Our mind imputes “I”.

Now, here, “I’m listening” or “I’m talking” or “I’m listening Dharma” because I get mind listening to the Dharma, I get the body sitting – so the mind label, “I am sitting.” The aggregates, the association of body and mind at Kopan Monastery, so mind label, “I am here at Kopan.” So like that. However, I’m doing course, meditation course, Kopan Monastery course. Twenty-four hours our mind labels “I”: I’m doing this. I’m happy. I’m unhappy; on and on, constantly mind label “I”.

By depending on the aggregates which is the base to be labelled, by depending on the aggregates, because the aggregates exist, so mind label “I”, then depending what function they do the mind constantly label “I’m doing that.” Mind constantly makes up the label. Constantly.

The mind merely imputed the “I”. Mind merely imputed the “I”. As soon as mind merely imputed the “I” what it should be, it should appear back to us ‘merely labelled by mind’. It should appear back to us, when it appear to us, it should appear back to us merely labelled by mind. That’s what the reality is. So it should appear that way but it doesn’t. When it appears back, right after imputation, it doesn’t appear. When it appears back it doesn’t appear back to us merely labelled by mind. It appears back to our mind not merely, totally, totally opposite not merely labelled by mind; totally opposite. Something else.

How does that happen? How does that happen? The past ignorance, this concept grasping or apprehending that “I” truly exists, not merely – apprehending the way the “I” existed not merely labelled by the mind. Which means existing from its own side. So that ignorance left imprint, left negative imprint, on the mental continuum. The negative imprint, right after the mind imputed “I”, the negative imprint immediately projects, decorates. Like we put paintings, decorate the house or decorate carpet on the floor like that. The negative imprints left by the ignorance decorate, immediately project the hallucination that “I” existing not merely labelled by the mind. Which means, there’s something there existing from it’s own side, not just merely labelled.

Project this hallucination, this inherently existent, however, not merely labelled by mind on the merely labelled “I”. On the merely labelled “I” - that which exist; merely labelled “I” which exists; so on that, project this hallucination ‘not merely projected by mind’.

So then, right after that, the same continuation of mind, the mind of second before the concept, second before mind labelled merely imputed “I”, the next second of that mind, because we don’t practice mindfulness that the “I” is empty, dependent arising, existing in mere name, merely imputed by mind, not meditating either way, not having realised so then we allow our mind to hold onto it. To hold on to, grasp, hold onto this “I” – not appearing merely labelled by “I” then we let our mind to let hold onto that is true, that is one hundred percent true. That “I”, the way the “I” is appearing to us not merely labelled by mind then we let our mind to hold onto that; to apprehend or to hold onto that as true, this is right, one hundred percent this is right.

So, right at that minute, right at that second, then that particular concept, that one becomes the ignorance, root, this root of the samsara; root of the other delusions, karma, as well as all the sufferings. All the sufferings of the human realm, all the sufferings: suffering of rebirth, old-age, sicknesses, worldly fears you meet, encounter undesirable objects, not finding desirable objects; then, also, even if one has found, unable to find satisfaction, unable to get satisfaction. Then the [cut]

The, like mentally, like hell mentally – like billionaires or zillionaires, however, externally very wealthy but mind so miserable; so much unhappiness, so much dissatisfaction - beggar would have dissatisfaction, but one who is unbelievably wealthy, as much as wealthy they are, but dissatisfaction, unhappiness, misery in their life, is so much greater than the beggar. Like that, the deva when they experience the five signs, five near signs of death, unbelievable suffering mentally, like hell.

However, being killed by each other, war and killing each other, then other problems, suffering in their life – jealousy, so forth. Then the hell beings, eight hot hells, eight cold hells, those major hells; then six neighbourhood hell sufferings, then ordinary hell suffering. Then hungry ghosts – five types of hungry ghosts, pretas, hunger, thirst, major suffering. Then disappointment, tiredness, and three types of obscuration: outer obscuration, food obscuration, inner obscuration, then so many sufferings that they cannot find food and drink. Even a spoon of food, even one spoon of food cannot find for hundred thousands of years. Even a drop of water, due to their heavy karma in the past life, stingy, didn’t make charity, miserliness – could not find even a drop of water for hundred thousands of years.

Then the animals, as we see, their major suffering being eaten by another one. Not only eaten by animals but also eaten by human beings on top of that. Then being extremely foolish, so forth, the hot and cold and being tortured.

However, so this particular wrong concept that I explained before, this become the root for all these oceans of samsaric sufferings. So, therefore, to eliminate this there’s only one. Even though there’s many what’s called emptiness in the teachings, but the real one which can eliminate this ignorance by realising that, it is only this specific from the four schools of the Buddhist philosophy, fourth one, Madhyamika School – which has two, Svatantrika, anyway, I don’t remember the Sanskrit terms for those.

However, by knowing more Tibetan terms, names in Tibetan language, it is more useful. If one is studying more, if one wishes to study texts more intensively, then more useful to learn Tibetan language. So, therefore, the four schools of Buddhist philosophy: che.tan ne.wa, do-depa, tsem- tsampa, u-mapa, then there’s rang.gyu.pa, tang.gyu.pa – second one, tang.gyu.pa, only this view of emptiness [pause]

Because the “I” is merely imputed by the mind so, therefore, there’s no slightest, even an atom, existing from its own side. There’s not the slightest, there’s nothing. On the merely labelled “I” there’s nothing there, even slightest atom, existing from its own side. The “I” doesn’t have, there’s nothing, it has no slightest even atom, existing from its side; absolutely nothing from its own side, existing from its side. Only by realising this, only with this wisdom can eliminate.

I thought today is a very special day, Buddha descending from Tushita. I’m not going to go over that, descending from Tushita Pure Land. There are about seven special days of Buddha and today is one very special day. So, on this day, whatever virtue we collect it increases one hundred million times. If you make charity one rupee to a beggar it becomes charity of one hundred million rupee charity; if you make offering one light, one hundred million light offering; prostration, one hundred million prostrations.

So any merit you collect today it increases one hundred million times. So, therefore, I thought to do the oral transmission of Heart Sutra and then maybe few pages from the Diamond Cutter Sutra. Like that. [pause]

In the past, one great Indian pandit, Vasubandhu, Lopon Niknyen recited everyday Abhidharmakosa, the Sutra text Abhidharmakosa. There was a pigeon on the roof. So the pigeon used to hear whenever he was reciting this text. One day the pigeon died. He checked with his psychic power of clairvoyance where the pigeon was born. He saw down in the valley, in one family, the pigeon was born to them, human beings. So then he went down, saw the child and he asked the family whether I can have the child.

The family accepted so he took care of the child, and then become monk. This child wrote, become expert, become learned in Abhidharmakosa which he heard in his past life when he was pigeon. So this life, when he became human being he wrote four commentaries on that. Very easy for him to study when he was studying Abhidharmakosa but when he was studying Madhyamika subject, teachings on emptiness, he found hard. Why: because he didn’t get to hear much on that teaching in the past life.

So the question of how much the imprint left on the mind by hearing. It’s a question of how much imprint left, on the mental continuum in the past, by listening to the teachings, which type of teaching. So like that.

As far as the Buddhadharma, Buddha’s teachings, the great advantage here, even if you don’t understand at all philosophical teachings, even if you find it very hard to understand, just listening the benefit of what you get is like limitless sky; benefits of what you get is like limitless sky. So, in the near future, this life or next life, so easy to understand, memorise the words, able to understand meanings, and also able to actualise the Path, that which is contained in that. So like that.

Then these subjects, teachings on emptiness, Buddha’s teachings on emptiness, Perfection of Wisdom or Gone Beyond Wisdom; there’s scripture path, gone beyond wisdom path, then nature, gone beyond wisdom nature, and then result, gone beyond wisdom of the result. The result: the Buddha’s wisdom, the Dharmakaya. That is the real or the ultimate one perfection of wisdom.

The perfection of wisdom teachings, Buddha’s teachings which reveal emptiness. This is the teaching from where what made possible all the past numberless Buddhas, present and future Buddhas, made by this wisdom – the gone beyond wisdom or perfection of wisdom: wisdom realising emptiness. All the three-time Buddhas are born from this. All the Bodhisattvas are born from this. All the Arhats are born from this. And this perfection of wisdom, this is the one which liberates numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings which continuation has no beginning. Therefore, these teachings are unbelievably precious. Like that.

So think, ‘while I have all the opportunities to practice Dharma this time, having received perfect human body, having met with Dharma, having met Virtuous Friend who reveals path of liberation, path to enlightenment, during this time and before death comes, not sufficient just receive good rebirth next life, even myself to be free, able to achieve liberation from samsara - even that’s not sufficient. Must achieve enlightenment. Must achieve full enlightenment to liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and bring them in full enlightenment. Therefore, I need to actualise the wisdom realising emptiness, perfection of wisdom. I need to realise, therefore, I’m going to have oral transmission of this teaching, Buddha’s teaching.’

[Long Mandala Offering]

[Short Mandala Offering]

[Refuge and Bodhicitta]


One must meditate, concentrate on the sound, the words that I’m reciting as much as possible without distraction. And then think, also, dedicate each word that I listen, ‘may the cause to actualise the meaning of the Path in my heart, immediately, and may each word that I hear may I be able to cause to actualise wisdom realising emptiness, immediately, in other sentient being’s mind when I recite these words or when I say these words to others.’ If you dedicate like this, I think [unclear] everything’s up to the power of mind, the wish. So things can happen.

Oral Transmission: Heart Sutra

Just few pages today, Diamond Cutter Sutra

Oral transmission: Diamond Cutter Sutra.

So, about ten pages, a small ten pages. So I’ll stop there. Of course, if we continue, before we finish the course we might become liberated from suffering and become enlightened, then won’t be able to do the course. I’m joking!

By hearing, by listening to the teachings on emptiness it is said in the teachings, in the Sutras, that ten aeons practise charity, morality, in the precepts, patience, perseverance, concentration – for ten aeons, that much merit is small when you compare listening to teachings on emptiness. So you see how much merit just by listening to the teachings may be collected, so much more what we collect right now. There’s much more than ten aeons practice morality, charity, patience, perseverance, concentration, so like that.

By leaving the positive imprint by listening to the teaching then, sooner or later, to quickly realise preparation to realise emptiness. Sooner or later you come to know, you discover what you are; you discover, learn, you see what you are - the ultimate nature of “I”, ultimate nature of the mind. Definitely by just listening, hearing the teaching on emptiness – what you have just heard, by leaving the positive imprint on the mind, that definitely brings you to enlightenment. Definitely this imprint manifests by actualising wisdom realising emptiness then gradually, definitely, able to be free forever from the whole entire suffering of the problems, however, the oceans of suffering of samsara.

Stop here and from time to time maybe continue. Today is very auspicious. Due to the power of the time, the special time, it grows unbelievable merit. You collect unbelievable merit just to start today.

Mandala offering

Please dedicate the merits we collected - past, present, future, by oneself, by others, to actualise bodhicitta, ultimate thought of the good heart, bodhicitta. Also all the happiness, success for oneself, for all living beings; to be generated within one’s own mind, one’s own family members, and in the mind of all living beings without delaying even a second. That which is generated may it increase.

Dedication Prayer

And then, also, the merits to actualise the wisdom realising emptiness within one’s mind, in the mind of others and that which is generated to be increased.

Dedication Prayer

Due to all the past and future merit collected by me [unclear] that which exist but do not exist from its own side. May the “I” who exist but do not exist from its own side, who is totally empty achieve Buddha Sakyamuni’s enlightenment which exists but doesn’t exist from its own side, that which is totally empty. And lead all the sentient beings, who exist, but do not exist from their own side, who are totally empty, to that enlightenment which exists, but doesn’t exist from its own side, that which is totally empty, by myself alone, who exists, but do not exist from its own side, who is totally empty.

Dedication Prayer

So thank you very much and good night.