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 2: The Nature of the Aggregates, Emptiness

So good afternoon everyone.

So, before, the other day I meant to recite the meditation prayer, which contains the essence of the whole path to enlightenment. Generating that in our heart, that’s the real transformation of the mind. Transforming our mind in this path, in Lam Rim, the steps of path to enlightenment. This is what we can really call spiritual path. Determination, the attitude that in the full determination to be free from samsara or the circling aggregates which is nature of suffering.

In relation to us that is mind which experiences loneliness, depression, fear, all these problems, contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts; all these emotional thoughts. Because it is contaminated, our mental continuum is contaminated, all these seeds of disturbing thoughts. So that’s why all these negative emotional thoughts continuously rise and it tortures us. It tortures us. Constantly it tortures us. Tortures our life – our own life.

Besides that, then there’s the body, which is in the nature of suffering, which experiences so many problems, so many disease – not only cancer, not only that which frightens by hearing the name. When the doctor says, you have cancer, after going to hospital, X-rays, or whatever. Or diabetes, I have diabetes, so it’s good to bring out. 

So, anyway, diabetes or cancer or however, that which when you hear the name you get frightened. When you hear the label given by the doctor. When you hear the label you get frightened. You have fear, even you don’t have but you have fear you might get it if you don’t do exercises, if you don’t do billions of exercises that’s advertised on the TV that hundreds, billions, of machines that you can pull this way or that way, makes all the, makes ups and downs, or putting the machine on your belly, pulling the machine very tight to your belly, for big belly to go back, the big belly hanging down to go back. Anyway, I’m joking. However, do billions of things exercise – walking, running, so many billions of things to not get these diseases; cholesterol, or heart attack, diabetes, cancer – because of fear. So much fear then do all these billions of things, learn many exercises, yoga, and many exercises, billions of things, tablets to take.

The body, which is nature of suffering, that’s why beings has all these sicknesses; as well as old-age and all those problems. So, so many problems with the body experiences - these aggregates which is container of all the problems of this life and the foundation of problems of future lives. This is what’s called samsara, this continuation. Even this gross body does not circle to next life. What circles next life is the mind, the aggregate of the mind. Then endless, it is formless realm where there’s no body, no form - only consciousness. The aggregates that the formless being has, on which the mind is labeled, on which the “I” is labeled, the aggregate is only the mind. There’s no substantial form body. Otherwise, consciousness continuation of this life’s consciousness goes to next life and then takes another form, again, which is the nature of suffering because it is caused by, that rebirth, that aggregates of [unclear] body, mind which is in the nature of suffering. Why that is the nature of suffering is because that is caused by the karma and delusions.

So, as I was talking the other night, that particular ignorance I introduced, that very specific ignorance that I mentioned that night, that which is the very root of the samsara, of the whole entire suffering. Suffering of rebirth and death and all the problems which are experienced between those two.

So this particular ignorance, not just any ignorance, this particular ignorance that I introduced that night, that particular wrong concept – that is the one which creates death; from where death comes. From where death comes. It comes from that wrong concept, that ignorance: not knowing what is “I”, not knowing what is mind, ultimate nature of mind. These things. From where reincarnating gain and again, rebirth, comes from. What creates it is by that ignorance. What creates old age is by that ignorance - all these things; all these problems.

So this, these aggregates, why our mind has to experience suffering, why our body has to experience suffering, why when we press like this we have to experience pain. Why we have to experience pain, why not bliss? Why not great bliss? When you fell down, why not great bliss? When you knock your head on the door or on the floor – why not great bliss? Why suffering? Why pain? So normally I say this is the proof that there’s reincarnation. When you do like this you feel pain that proves there’s reincarnation. Reincarnation. There’s a past life. You’re born with this suffering. The suffering that you experience at birth, in the mother’s womb at birth when the consciousness took place on the fertilised egg - that experience. Suffering not only started after you came out of mother’s womb. Not that. Suffering started inside. There’s the experience of suffering inside. Also, when the baby gets born, when the baby comes out of the mother’s womb – I don’t mean every time the baby cries. I’m not saying that. It’s not because the baby is experiencing such bliss, unbelievable bliss, and then crying! It’s not that. When the baby comes out of the mother’s womb, cries, makes noise. Anyway, I’m not going to imitate the noise. It may not come out properly. So that doesn’t mean the baby is experiencing unbelievable bliss and can’t stand it and then cries. It’s because there’s something undesirable experiencing. So, because of that, cries.

Suffering doesn’t only start outside when the baby come out. Suffering of this life started when the mind took place on the fertilised egg – that which is the definition of conception; when the consciousness took place on the fertilised egg, which is the definition of consciousness - sorry, definition of conception. Conception.

In Australia some years ago when I was travelling by car from Sydney to Queensland, or I don’t know now. I don’t remember exactly. Stopped on the road, hotel or motel? In the TV there was a show, a lot of debate among the doctors. There was disagreement about the definition of conception because in the west, I’m sure now getting more educated, but death, beginning of the life and end of the life not clear in the western culture. Rebirth is not clear. There is not clear education on that. And the education of death is not clear. There’s a big hole, there’s a dark hole, those two parts of education: beginning of the life and end of the life. So because those two are not clear there’s a big hole, dark hole. So, therefore, the life between – that’s why the education of the mind is not clear. Even the life between, the mind, [pause] not clear what is mind is not clear. I found one book, psychology book, quite a number of years ago in America. I think it’s supposed to be a good book. I didn’t read from the beginning to the end - like many Dharma texts I just opened here and there. However, my feeling is that it didn’t seem to be real conclusion there what is the mind. There’s a lot of examples. Goes on and on and on and even at the end didn’t seem to be concrete explanation of what is mind in that book.

However, I think it’s progressing. Still, in the western culture, in the science of mind, the understanding of mind is not complete yet. The full understanding of what is mind is not complete yet. It’s on the way.

Like Buddha, here in the text, in Buddhism it is explained by omniscient one. Omniscient One. Not somebody who is analysing. Not somebody who is studying. Somebody who finished studying. Somebody whose mind is fully awakened, then explained. There’s nothing slightest that mind doesn’t know. Not one single ignorance; there’s not one single obstacle to see, to directly see the phenomena. There’s not one phenomena that the mind do not see, do not discover or do not see. So there difference here is who explains. Here in Buddhism who explains about the mind is by the omniscient one, who purified the mind completely of all the defilements – gross and subtle defilements. All the obstacles that obstruct the mind to directly see all the phenomena. All those obstacles which block the mind. It’s like the dust cover the mirror, and completely clean so they can get full reflection. Clear. No obstruction to the mind. Everything purified, gross, subtle, and can directly see every thing. As the mind [unclear] potential, proof of potential, and purify gross, subtle, all the obstructions, that which blocks the mind to directly see all the past, present and future, every single phenomena that exists.

Therefore, even the very basic texts, explanations which came from Buddha about science of the mind in Buddhism, all the definitions from very beginning starts what is mind. Then goes into details. Even in the monasteries, even young monks able to, even they don’t have full understanding real meaning but, at least, they have intellectual understanding correct answer of the mind those who are beginning to study philosophy. So like that. Correct explanation – simple and correct explanation of mind - all the details, all the different thoughts, and like that.

Clear from beginning what is mind, what is body - totally separate. Different phenomena. However, [pause] there’s huge argument among the doctors. There’s a huge debate about the definition of concept. That’s what I saw on TV.

However, [pause] as the mirror is not obstructed by the dust so become clear and able to give reflection. The mind doesn’t have obstruction of the substantial phenomena so it’s clear and, because of that, then knowing the object, which is formless. Mind, which is formless, which is not substantial – formless, colourless, shapeless, clear, having no obstruction of the [unclear] phenomena and, because of that, knowing object.

However, the body, that which is substantial phenomena, totally opposite, different nature which doesn’t have those function - quality or function of knowing the object.

In the case of Buddha then that’s different, that’s exceptional. There’s no resistance. Every atom of Buddha’s Holy body can do the function of mind. Even every single atom of the Holy body can see directly all the past, present and future all the existence for Buddha is exceptional. They see totally. For us the body cannot do the function of the mind. Same thing, mind cannot do function of the body. Different function. There’s limitation in the action of mind; limitation what the body can do. For Buddha it’s not like that. It’s beyond body and mind what we have. The nature of the qualities is beyond us.

However, I’m not sure, even before becoming a Buddha according to Tantra, highest Tantra, even before becoming a Buddha whether there is something preliminary like that which has that quality. I don’t remember exactly.

[pause] So, just going back [pause] why this body and mind is in the nature of suffering, why this experience so much problems is because I mentioned before – when we sit down, if we’re not careful how we sit down, pain. Even when we lay down if we’re not careful of position of body, easy to get pain. So like that. As I mentioned before even we press like that there’s pain. So body is the nature of suffering. That’s why the mind-body in the nature of suffering like this, why it experiences suffering is because the cause of this aggregates is not pure.

The cause of this came from impure cause: the karma and delusions - the very root, the ignorance, unknowing mind. Not knowing what is “I” even though we talk twenty-four hours, I, I, I, as I mentioned the other night, continuously think of “I” and this unbelievable concern of the “I”; so much fear something’s going to happen to this “I” – something’s going to happen, might happen to this “I”. Then somebody asks, what is “I”? What is that “I” that you’re so much, that you always think twenty-four hours you think? What is that “I”? What is that you’re so much concerned something, worried, afraid something is going to happen to that “I”? What is that “I”? Where is it? If somebody asks there is no reply. Persons like me, ordinary beings, cannot say. There’s no reply.

Twenty-four hours the “I” that one believes, twenty-four hours, in whole life, in birth to death, there’s – without examining “I” that is believed twenty-four hours day and night, from birth to the death this life, there’s “I” in this body. There’s “I” in this body, normally, not in the toes, not in the fingers, not in the nose, not in the mouth, not in the brain, not in the stomach, not in the legs, but somewhere down below the neck and before the ca-ca (RL GL), before where there’s ca-ca! Anyway, (RL) somewhere there above the ca-ca and below the neck. When it is not examined, hundred percent it believes that there’s “I” there, somewhere there. Twenty-four hours day and night from birth to death the whole life. Anyway, up to now – for us, up to now.

But the minute when you analyse that, that normally you believed is there, hundred percent there’s a real “I” there. But the minute you examine where it is exactly, when you examine whether it really exists or not, you cannot find. When you analyse you cannot find that “I”. When you look for you cannot find anywhere from the tip of the hairs down to the toes, anywhere, you cannot find.

Through meditation, through analysis, through valid reasons, reasoning, what you discover, what you realise, body is not “I”, mind is not “I”, even association of body and mind together is not “I”. It is not “I” because that is base to label; that is the base to be labeled “I”. That’s the base to be labeled “I”. If that’s “I”, why you should label on that? Why you should label “I” on the I? What is the purpose to label “I” on the I? If the base, the association of the body and mind is the “I”, if that is the I, then why you should label “I” on the I? That doesn’t make sense. Then as it is mentioned in the Madhyamika teachings it becomes unceasing, unending. Then you have to label “I” on that I. Then you label “I” on that I. It becomes endless. There’s no meaning to that, no purpose. [pause]

Another example, [pause] when the child is born [pause] there is the base, that which is the aggregates, the association of the body and mind is there. Because of that, because this base is there, either the father or mother, somebody, mind made up the label “Peter”. Before the parents made up the label “Peter”, if that aggregate is already “Peter” then what’s the meaning there? There’s no purpose, doesn’t make sense the parents labeled “Peter” onto Peter. It doesn’t make sense. Then, again, they have to label “Peter” on that. The aggregates are Peter already, then the parents label “Peter”, then they can label “Peter” on that Peter. Then again label “Peter” on that Peter. So it’s endless.

“Peter” is labeled on the base, which is not the label “Peter”. “Peter” is a label on the base of the aggregates, which is not the label “Peter”. So there’s a big difference. The aggregates is the base to be labeled “Peter” and “Peter” is the label imputed relating to that aggregates, that child’s aggregates - so two different phenomena.

Exactly the same, the association of body and mind is the base to be labeled “I. “I” is the imputed phenomena. The “I” is the label and the aggregates of the association of body and mind, is the base to be labeled.

So two different phenomena: the aggregates, the association of body and mind, and the label “I they are not one. But they do not exist separately. The aggregates, the base, the aggregates and the label “I don’t exist separately but they exist differently. This is what we have to understand. The base aggregates, the association of body and mind which is to be labeled “I” and the label “I” itself they don’t exist - they’re not one but that doesn’t mean that they exist separately. They don’t exist separately. They exist differently. That’s extremely important to – that they exist differently the base to be labeled and the label; the base aggregates and the label “I”. So this [cut]

It gives you total different view. It’s a kind of release, like a knot released. It gives total different view. When you see, when you think that the label “I” and the base to be labeled, the aggregates, they exist differently then, just from this, just from this understanding is clear there is no “I besides the body or the mind or together, not “I”. There’s no “I” on the aggregates but that doesn’t mean that there’s no “I”. That doesn’t mean that there’s no I. I exists. There is I. That understanding comes. You’re able to differentiate the “I”, the self, the label and base – you’re able to differentiate.

Like table - the table and the base of the table you’re able to differentiate. In your view you see the base. The base is what? This side, that side, all the different sides, all the pieces of the table that’s put together and the function to put things on top. So that’s the base. That is the base to be labeled “table”. After seeing that – these pieces put together, their function to put something on top - after seeing that, then causes your mind to make up the label “table”. So now you can see the differences – the base and the label “table”, they’re different, differences - two different phenomena. They don’t exist separately but they exist differently. So you’re able to differentiate label and the base – label “table” and the base of it.

Even with this example you get idea. It becomes clear. This is not table, this is not table - any part of this is not the label “table”. Nothing of this is “table”. Even all together it’s not the table. It’s the base to be labeled “table”. By seeing that, then you label “table”. It’s the base. It’s what causes you to make up the particular label “table”. So that’s the base. You see the base first. After that then by seeing that, then your mind makes up the label “table” then you see table.

First you see the base. Second after the label, after your mind labeled it, then you see you see the table. You don’t see together. You don’t see table first and then seeing base. Not that. That’s totally wrong. Not even together. There’s no way to see together. You see the base first. By seeing the base first – that which functions to put things on top – then causes your mind to make up, to choose this particular label “table”. Then you believe it. After your mind imputed and you believe in that, then there’s appearance. There’s table. Then appearance of table, you see table.

So, anyway, now even here it is clear. The reality, the label “table”, what your mind imputed, the table that your mind imputed – this side is not table, that side is not table, this is not table, any part is not table – you can understand it from even the ordinary language, “part of the table”. So we say “part of the table” means it’s not table. It’s clear from ordinary language – “part of the table.” So that means is not table. This is not table. Any part is not table. So even all together, group, all the collections of this that function to put things on top, even that is not table.

So when you see base and the label “table” different, you’re able to differentiate, when you’re able to differentiate then you know, then you see, you get idea there’s nothing – even all together is not table and “table” exists nowhere. There’s no “table” on this. Now, here, I’m talking on. Before I was talking whether this is table. Now, here, I’m talking on. There’s no “table” on this. There’s no “table” on this. Anywhere. On any part there’s no “table”. On any part there’s no “table”. Here I’m talking about label “table”. Label “table” doesn’t exist here, not here, not anywhere. What your mind label “table” – what your mind labels.

So, therefore, the table which exists is what is merely labeled by your mind. That’s how it exists but, even that, you cannot find on this, on anywhere. You see? You cannot find anywhere. So, therefore, how is possible an inherently existing table? A truly existing table, table existing from its own side - table not labeled by your mind? Table not labeled by mind, which means, existing from its side. That is totally wrong. That is totally false. That one is totally false. Exists nowhere. Not only on this, exists nowhere. So, therefore, that appearance, that belief, is wrong. That kind of appearance of “table” is totally false and that belief is totally wrong conception because when you look for what you discover is it’s totally non-existent. But the merely labeled “table” it exists even though you don’t see on this base – here, here, anywhere you don’t find it, you don’t see it but it exists. There’s no other reason. There’s no other reason. Only because there’s a base, that’s it. Only because there’s a base, that which functions to put things on top, which can receive the label, which can receive the label “table” is there. So that’s it. That’s the only reason why there’s “table”. So, merely labeled “table” exists. Why it exists there’s no other reason. It’s only because there’s base. That’s it.

So, now, exactly the same, the analysis that we did here: same with the “I”. Ever since I brought up this subject – I didn’t mean to talk on this again. My topic become like the mad elephant running everywhere! So now, since I brought up this issue, run into this subject, so now here this is important what I want to say. So, now, when you think is like that. When you look at the table, in our view, un-differentiable. The label “table” and the base un-differentiable in your view; cannot see these two different, un-differentiable. When we look at the table there’s a table there. There is a table on the base.

That’s one way of introducing - according to who is able to recognise what is object of refutation, gakchak, who is able to see the gakchak, who is able to see the object of refutation. Who is able to recognise then this explanation fit. You can see there’s “table” on the base. You see that. Appears to you like that.

Those who don’t recognise that then the refuting object – what is refuting object? You see the base and the table un-differentiable in your view. Looks un-differentiable. So that’s gakchak, object of refutation – in your view you don’t recognise. If you don’t recognise there’s a “table” on the base, if you don’t recognise that view that you have then un-differentiable - base and label “table” un-differentiable. That is the object of refutation. That is a false table. Anyway, in your perception you’re seeing that. That’s false. That table doesn’t exist. However, “table” that you see on the base or you see un-differentiable from the base doesn’t exist. That’s false.

According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Guru, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, when Rinpoche taught the Seven Points of Thought Transformation in Drepung Monastery, while Rinpoche was explaining about emptiness, that part of the subject introducing what is the object to be refuted, what is called in Tibetan, ‘gakchak , in Tibetan language. Rinpoche explained like that. So, I think, that explanation is according to the people who cannot, who are unable to recognise the object of refutation – who don’t recognise. His explanation those who are unable to recognise what object of refutation is – those un-differentiable. So, I think, Rinpoche mentioned according to those people’s view.

So, however, that’s false. It’s not un-differentiable. It’s differentiable. They exist differently. In reality they exists differently. Therefore, un-differentiable in your perception, that’s false. That doesn’t exist. So same the “table” on the base - there’s table on the base that is also false. Object to be refuted. [pause]

So what I was going to say is this: [pause] so same thing. In your perception there is “I” on these aggregates. Besides the belief or the appearance that there’s an “I” inside this body, besides that, there’s “I” on these aggregates, the association of body and mind, the base. That is the object to be refuted, what in the Tibetan language is called gakchak. There’s “I” on these aggregates. The way the “I” is appearing on these aggregates that there’s “I”. Appearing like that you see. That is false “I”. That is totally non-existent.

Same as His Holiness Ling Rinpoche explained: in your view the aggregates, the association of the body and mind, the aggregates, and the label, un-differentiable. That’s the false view. That’s totally non-existent - totally empty. Totally non-existent and that’s totally empty.

So as I mentioned the table which exists, so same here. Because there’s aggregates, the association of body and mind, then mind merely imputed “I”. That is “I” what exists. “I” which exists is that. That one. [pause]

I think maybe stop there. I think maybe at this stage stop there.