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 3: Geshe Rabten, Good and Bad Labeled by Mind, Seeing Problems as Opportunities

However, what I’m saying, I forget why I brought this story. Huh?

Oh, I see, see. Don’t remember why I brought this story, two teachers Huh? What?


Oh, label. I think I forgot even the label.


Huh? What did you say?


Two uncles


That’s right. That’s right. How the two uncles came from before that. It doesn’t matter.

So, that’s right. I was talking about giving present the person who disrespects you or criticises you. Even appreciating and give present to that person, talking about that. I thought about that. Really felt to do some – but result, exactly, didn’t happen to go down and offer present to the person. So I remembered one of my teachers. That’s how it started.

Geshe Rabten Rinpoche is my first teacher, who begin teaching the debating, the philosophy, this form of study in India, at Buxor. This is the place where the monks escaped from Lhasa, from great monasteries – Sera, Ganden, Drepung. Actually, they are monks from the four traditions: Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma, Gelug. Those who wanted to continue their study they were put at this place by the Indian Government. They thought the monks needed some place very secluded, very isolated place, something very far from everything.

So, anyway, the monks who wanted to continue to study, so many monks, they went to work to build roads in many parts of India where the military made road like that. Many went to work after they escaped from Tibet. Then those who wanted to study, they were put in this place called Buxor which was a concentration camp when India was under British control. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned there. That building became nunnery. When the monks came there, then there were nuns. Nuns stayed in that building, then into nunnery. Then monks live there in that prison camp. But, of course, people lived there before prison. Also Jawaharlal Nehru was imprisoned there. That became our sort of monastery, prayer hall, monks room. Seventy, sixty, monks lived in that long house and it became our puja hall and monks room, seventy or eighty monks.

My first teacher who taught me, who begin the teaching philosophy: Geshe Rabten Rinpoche. When Geshe Rabten Rinpoche was living in Dharamsala, some other Geshe who criticised to him, he invite – this is his practice – he invite those who criticise him, he invite at home and make Tibetan special food, momo. So make very delicious food and invite that Geshe home who criticised to him. So Geshe who criticised Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, then Geshe Rabten invited that Geshe home, make delicious food and offer. This is to appreciate, this is to thank, the person who criticises you. In other words Geshe La uses that person, using that person who criticises him, for his practice, to develop his mind. To develop his mind - bodhicitta; to develop his mind path to enlightenment – to achieve enlightenment to be able to liberate, bring the sentient beings to enlightenment. So he’s using that person for that achievement. So like that.

Many practitioners, real practitioners like Geshe Rabten Rinpoche do like this – practice thought transformation. So, actually, you appreciate that person – the enemy, you appreciate the enemy who criticises you, puts you down and all that. Actually feel from your heart – it’s not politic. It’s not playing politics. From the heart you feel kindness of that person then you want really offer something. So like that. So, coming back what I was saying, whether you see the person negative or positive up to your way of thinking - whether is bad or whether it’s good - what person does. Whether is bad or whether it’s good, harm or beneficial, it’s up to what your mind labels. That’s what I’m saying.

Naropa, the great yogi Naropa, Indian great yogi Naropa, who is the guru of the great enlightened being Marpa; Marpa who is the guru of the Tibetan – Marpa is Tibetan - enlightened being and the guru of Milarepa, Tibetan great yogi who became enlightened within a few number of years. There are two books. One is his story, one is all the hymns that he sings with his realisations, expressing his attainment; extremely inspiring life story, his teachings.

Milarepa’s life story is one text to read. That’s one to read, to study, especially for guru devotion realisation – the root of the path to enlightenment. The root of the path of enlightenment is to have this realisation of guru devotion.

What inspires, what helps very much to have realisation of guru devotion is to read Milarepa’s life story. The great Tibetan yogi Milarepa’s life story – how he practised guru devotion is incomparable. Incomparable practice of guru devotion that he did with his guru Marpa - made him to achieve enlightenment. That made him achieve enlightenment within few number of years.

I think it was, maybe, thirty years ago when LSD was discovered, these things came out. When many young people by taking these things break their fixed idea, fixed concept, solid concept according to western culture – so break these. Somehow due to their karma these things happened. Then by taking these broke the fixed idea or concept according to culture. Then saw Milarepa’s life story which book available that time – maybe not so long ago. Then some people after having taken drugs saw this book and it inspired them. Then they came to Nepal, India, to look for gurus. They want to be same like Milarepa. They were so inspired.

Among the students there’re some students who started like that. Then there are others inspired by different books at that time - Lama Govinda’s book, “Way of the White Cloud” - many of them inspired by that. Those who have taken drug they talk about Tantra, all the visions happening in the mind – travel without body, those things. Experience what they had, and what they read in book they see something similar and then they come to look for spiritual path. They come to East. According to their karma, they see, they try different Dharma books, Book of the Dead, and like that.

Naropa said, great yogi Naropa said, even one who get sick, this concept is sick. Even one get born, this concept is born. Even one dies, the concept dies. Even when one receives harm, the concept harms. So, what Naropa is saying, all these things actually are all concepts. It’s a way of thinking. It’s all due to concepts. If one is able to cut root of this concept, the concept which creates the problem; where the problem comes is from the concept so, if I cut this, then there’s no obstacle, Naropa is saying. So, it’s like that you see. All these things in our life are due to concepts, the way of thinking. Whether there’s problem or no problem, obstacle or no obstacle, is according to the concept.

I met one lady in New Zealand at the retreat centre, Mahamudra, Coromandel. We have a retreat centre there called Mahamudra Centre. I met one lady who was doing retreat there. She had so much suffering. She suffered so much for last few years being abused. She suffered so much. And she was unable to overcome, unable to deal with it. Suffered so much, been abused. She explained that so I discussed. I said that this is – I don’t remember, exactly, everything that I mentioned. But I mentioned why this has happened to you is because, in the past, you have treated the other person in that way. You have, in the past, abused the other person in the past lives. So this is the result why you experience abuse, treated like that by the other person. I think that has to do with the family. It’s a family problem – the father or something like that.

Anyway, however, this is the result of your past karma, that you did the same thing to the other person. It’s ones own karma. Something you have to accept is your own karma.

I don’t remember exactly but I mentioned, I think, probably, the two – Shantideva, the great bodhisattva Shantideva explained in Bodhicaryavatara, The Guide To Bodhisattva’s Life. This quotation is very effective. It’s very powerful. Very effective to remember advice that talks about karma.

“In the past I gave harm to the person.” I don’t remember the last verse exactly. It’s gone. I don’t know how many miles it’s gone – it’s gone! But, anyway – that’s right. Now I remember. Now it came back.

“In the past I gave such harm to sentient beings. Because of that, I receive this harm from the sentient beings. [Tibetan quote] Therefore, I deserve to receive harm from other sentient beings.”

I deserve. What’s happening to me is not something – what’s happened to me, this abuse or whatever, what’s happened to me is not something undeserved to me. It’s not something that’s happened to me without reason. It’s not undeserved. Because in the past I did such harm, so now, by giving harm to other sentient beings, I receive harm. I deserve.

In other words, by thinking this quotation, by thinking this advice, you’re accepting. When you accept it doesn’t make a problem to you. How the person treated you doesn’t become a problem to you when you accept it. I deserve to receive this harm. So when you accept, the minute when you accept, cuts down the problem. You have no problem.

There’s a reason why this is happening to oneself. The reason exists before it’s happening. That reason is the cause, that’s the karma. That reason exists before it’s happening. That’s the cause. That’s the karma. Then, also, the other thing is to use this situation to develop compassion. What you labelled as that person abused me, what you labelled that way, use that to develop compassion to the other person. That is a way of developing compassion, way of training your mind in compassion towards all sentient beings. So it’s unbelievable. You are using that situation to develop your mind in the path to enlightenment. You are having unbelievable achievement out of that – skies of benefit out of that.

[Tibetan] “My karma persuaded” [Tibetan] “therefore, I received this harm.” What he’s saying is I did the same to that person in the past so my karma obliges that person to harm back to me. My karma obliges that person to harm back to me.

[Tibetan] “Because of that, didn’t I make that person lose in the hole of hell?”

“Therefore, didn’t I make the person to lose in the hole of hell.” The meaning is that my karma, because I treated the person that way, harmed like that in the past, so my karma obliged that person to harm back to me. And, by that, that person by giving harm to me, caused that person to be born in the hell realm. That’s what it means.

To lose in the hole of the hell, means to lose from where? To lose from the human realm, he’s now human being. Because my karma persuaded him, because I harmed that person in the past, my karma persuaded him to harm back to me and that caused, that make him who is now in human realm to die and born in the hell realm. So, actually, I throw him from human realm into hell realm. So this is where we’re generating compassion to that person – person whom you think abused you, whom your mind made up the label, interpretation, the label ‘abuse’. It’s also a label: abuse.

Whatever label that you put harm – ‘bad’ something. So, here, besides no way to get angry to that person, no way, that person is purely object to arise compassion. It’s only object of compassion. It’s only object of your compassion that person. Like that.

So then, here, no angry mind; not upset-ness or anger, dislike, hate. Now, compassion and now only what you feel is you want to help that person. You want to purify that person. You want to save, protect that person falling down in the hell realms. You want only help that person. So it’s like that.

So, anyway, as I mentioned these few techniques, psychology from Buddha’s teachings then she resolved her problem. She felt better, after four or five years, after quite a number of years suffering so much. It had become huge problem to her. After those few techniques mentioned, why this has happened to you, and then to use for compassion so forth, then the problem decreased in her. Then she felt happiness. However, again here, now here she is thinking positive way. Now she put positive label so, therefore, now she has happiness. Like that. So in essence that is the conclusion.

I’ll mention one thing then I’ll stop there - just one thing just one thing. Not two things, just one thing!

We should remember this in our daily life. I remember before talking that one. We should remember this in our daily life. When things become problem to you, when you encounter problems or when things become problem to you, immediately, you should remember “this is because I put negative label on. This is because I interpreted negatively. I put negative label so that’s why I suffer. That’s why I see problem.” So by recognising that you change. You put positive label, saying ‘good’ - it’s good.

[tape change]

...depends on the situation. You can look at it positively many different ways.

So, for example, if one has bad reputation, anyway, it’s an example. In case bad reputation happened, that whole country, whole world talk bad about you, for example, on TV or newspaper, however, that everyone talks bad about you, for example, like that. However, how fantastic this - this is so good. I can destroy my ego. I can use this like atomic bomb to destroy my ego who doesn’t allow – who never allowed me, to achieve enlightenment from beginning-less rebirth up to now. My ego, who never allowed me to achieve liberation from samsara, from the whole entire suffering from beginning-less rebirth up to now; who never allowed me to have any realisation. This enemy who made me to suffer up to now in samsara – die and reborn, reincarnating all the time, and who is going to harm me continuously without end, like that. Never allow me to achieve enlightenment, liberation, and any realisation in the future – so this is so good for my ego. I’m going to give all this bad reputation and what people say bad, give all to the ego and destroy the ego, enemy ego, the enemy, the demon, enemy, ego – destroy.

So becomes very effective. Having bad reputation – once the bad reputation already happened, then using like this for practice, use the bad reputation to destroy ego and to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, as a weapon to destroy the ego and to achieve enlightenment. Or, there are numberless other sentient beings who have karma to receive bad reputation, who is experiencing bad reputation, may I take all those, may I receive all those bad reputation of other sentient beings on myself and I experience it by myself. Let them have all the good reputation. Let them have all the happiness up to enlightenment.

So doing this meditation, thinking this way, so each time you experience the bad reputation for the benefit of all the sentient beings, to cause happiness to all sentient beings, each time when you experience the bad reputation for the benefit of all sentient beings, numberless sentient beings, each time you collect merit, good karma, good luck like limitless skies. Like limitless skies you collect each time you think I’m experiencing this bad reputation on behalf of all sentient beings. To benefit all sentient beings – behind, motivation is for them to have all happiness up to enlightenment.

Take their sufferings on yourself and you experience, oneself - the one living being, yourself, experience all that. Let all the numberless others have all the happiness up to enlightenment. So, each time you do this, you collect merit, good luck, and good karma – cause of happiness like limitless skies. Each time when you do this you become closer to enlightenment. Each time when you do this you come closer to enlightenment and it purifies inconceivable negative karmas.

Each time you sacrifice your life for other sentient beings by experiencing the suffering for them – unbelievable purification, unbelievable skies of merit you collect. And that’s how you become closer to enlightenment each time. So like that. The bad reputation already happened so that’s how you can make the bad reputation worthwhile, meaningful - beneficial for all sentient beings. Not only benefit for you but beneficial towards all sentient beings.

Now, here then, it become good. Now here, for you, having bad reputation bring good. With Dharma practice, using for Dharma practice, using it to practice bodhicitta, for you, the bad reputation become positive. It becomes, for you experience of bad reputation, it become path to enlightenment. Path to enlightenment, path to liberate numberless sentient beings from suffering, to bring them to enlightenment like that. So, now did the one point, now finished. [pause] So the [pause] maybe, stop here. I think better to rest here, otherwise, it might get longer and longer. It might continue up to the dawn time – until tomorrow’s sunrise. So maybe stop here.

[Prayers: short mandala, dedication, long life prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, further dedications]