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 4: Compassion is the Essence of Religion, Emptiness Meditation; Transforming Problems

...any unwholesome action, any harmful action – harmful to oneself, towards other sentient beings.

“Engage in the perfect wholesome action, perfect virtue.”

Action which is beneficial to oneself as well as to other living beings. Perfect wholesome action, perfect virtue.

“Subdue one’s own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha.”

Not only Buddhism taming the mind, subduing the mind is not only Buddhism. It should be the essence of all the religions. Once that practice is not there, then chanting prayers or rituals or whatever, no matter how much one does – not subduing the virtuous thought but subduing the mind which brings the problems in the life. Subduing the mind which brings problems, which gives problems to oneself and which gives problems to others – to the world, to other sentient beings. So, to tame, subdue this.

This should be in any religion. It should be essence of any religion, otherwise, how it can benefit, how it can bring peace and happiness in the life, in the individual person’s life as well as to the world. If the essence of religion is not reducing anger, if it’s not subduing the mind, subduing the anger – the dissatisfied mind, desire, these things, that which makes life unhappy. Simple way we’re talking - that which makes life unhappy. Simple way of expressing: that these emotional thoughts which make life unhappy, your own life and others’ life.

So, by practising patience: subdue the anger. By practising compassion, thought of cherishing others: subdue the ego, the self-centred mind. Only caring oneself, only cherishing oneself, working for only oneself, not benefiting others – by practising compassion, the good heart, cherishing others, then subduing the ego, the self-centred mind. Practise contentment, renunciation, renouncing the dissatisfied mind, desire and then you achieve contentment. You achieve peace. You achieve inner peace. You give peace to yourself, peace in your heart by practising renunciation, letting go the desire, grasping - the painful mind. Letting go this then we achieve contentment. You achieve inner peace, satisfaction, in your life, in your heart. So essence of religion should be these things. At least, at least, should be these things – subduing the mind.

Lack of this that’s why there’s lot of wars between religions. For hundreds and hundreds of years, for unbelievable length of time, for hundreds and hundreds of years so many people get killed, suffer for that.

So, therefore, very important to practice the essence of religion, that which is compassion. It’s not only Buddhism. Not only in the case of Buddhism. Should be like that. Any religion should be like that. So if one practice compassion, kindness towards others – often His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, ‘my religion is kindness towards others.’ That makes sense: my religion is kindness towards others. That has great meaning. If that is practised then impossible to have all these wars between religions for years and years – so many hundred thousand, millions of people get killed or suffer. I guess, maybe, missed out what is the real meaning of religion. Missed out or didn’t get to practice. Missed out practice of real essence of religion – the compassion or kindness towards other living beings.

If the mind is devoid of compassion, if your heart is devoid of compassion, the inner peace, the contentment by attaining the desire, tolerance – if your heart is devoid of this then no matter whatever extensive things, external performance one does is not real religion. It’s not spiritual. Your heart is empty of spiritual.

Of course, no question in Buddhism – what is the teaching of the Buddha, what means to practice teachings of the Buddha, what means practising the Dharma. That is subduing one’s mind, taming the disturbing, obscuring, emotional thoughts which brings so much suffering to yourself, which gives so much suffering to others from life to life. That which has been giving suffering to yourself and others from beginning-less – not only from birth time of this life – from beginning-less rebirth up to now.

If you continue that, if you don’t change your mind, that will continue giving harm to you and others without end, so, therefore, so important. Everybody wants peace and happiness. Every body wants peace. Everybody wants happiness. Numberless other living beings – any insect or human being, deva, or anybody, any other living being. Everyone want happiness just exactly as oneself want – do not want suffering and want peace and happiness. Like that. So, therefore, it has become extremely essential that real spiritual, real Dharma, to tame one’s mind. However, soft mind – to have soft mind, not rough, not harmful, vicious or violent thought. Not like that. Soft mind. Loving, being kind towards others.

However, this stanza – “do not commit any unwholesome action; engage in perfect wholesome action; subdue one’s own mind; this is the teaching of the Buddha.” This contains Four Noble Truths – the fundamental teaching of the Buddha. Which is basis, essence, in Hinayana teaching, which is the foundation of Mahayana teaching, which is the foundation of Mahayana Sutra and Mahayana Tantra. Like that.

“Subdue one’s own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha.”

What it contains is subdue, to pacify the wrong concepts, thought of mistakes towards the guru, from there up to subtle dual view, the ordinary impure wind, subtle wind and mind.

The dual view, up to the very last, before you achieve enlightenment, the very last obstacle: the hallucination of inherently existent appearance. That which is projected, that which is also subtle defilement. That which is projected by the subtle negative imprint left, such as the simultaneously-born wrong concept apprehending that “I”, while it is non-truly existent, while it doesn’t exist from its own side, apprehending, holding on to it as if it truly existent or if it exists from its own side – inherently existent. While it is non-inherently existent, holding on to, apprehending the “I” is inherently existent. The subtle negative imprint left by that wrong concept, that simultaneously-born concept of inherent existence, the inherently existent appearance, this hallucination that one has up to the time before one become enlightened, this subtle negative imprint which projects that.

So subdue one’s mind; this is the teaching of the Buddha. From very beginning the wrong concept, thought of mistakes towards the virtuous friend who reveal to you the path to liberation and enlightenment – from there, then up to the subtle dual view and the subtle defilement. So subduing all these wrong concepts, all these obstacles – that which are obstacles to have realisations path to enlightenment. So attaining all these is the teaching of the Buddha.

Next we do just little meditation. The very meaning of this verse [Tibetan] is Buddha’s teaching advice: how to look at the phenomena.

One’s own body, possessions, life, surrounding people, family member, friend, enemy, sense objects, all these causative phenomena – not only that they’re changing due to causes and conditions day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, not only that, these things are changing, decaying, do not last even within every second. Even within second they do not last. They decay. Change. Like when you click the camera they come out many seconds, many hundred seconds like that. Can use those here - bring in the meditation that. So changes, all these conditioned phenomena – they change, decay, do not last even each second, even within each second.

These are causative phenomena - they’re changing, decaying. Not only second by second but even within second, changing, decaying, do not last. Being under the control of cause and conditions, so because of this, these causative phenomena can be stopped anytime.

Not only these causative phenomena nature of impermanence, transitory, not only that, including causative phenomena and even uncaused phenomena, the permanent phenomena. All the phenomena - permanent, impermanent - all the phenomena, what they are, is merely labelled by the mind. What they are is what is merely labelled by the mind. [pause] So no phenomena has inherent existence. No phenomena exist from its own side. All phenomena are totally empty of existing from their own side.

Even they appear, in the view of our ignorance, concept of inherent existence, all these appear inherently existent, something real. All these are ‘real’, something real appearing from there. All these phenomena are real – I, action, object - all these phenomena are real; real in the sense our definition of real for us, especially, if we haven’t realised emptiness. Our definition of real is something appearing from there. That’s real: something appearing from there, something existing from its own side. So even I, action, object – all the phenomena appear. Enlightenment, hell, samsara, nirvana, happiness, unhappiness, the suffering, virtue, non-virtue, everything – all these appear existing from its own side; something real existing from its own side. But, in reality, all that appears to our hallucinated mind, is not in mind. All these are hallucination. All these are totally empty. All these phenomena are totally empty of this inherent existence. All these are empty of existing from their own side. So concentrate on this. Concentrate by looking into this emptiness, focussing into this emptiness.


So we visualise Guru Sakyamuni Buddha – one who reveals this unmistaken path to liberation, to full enlightenment; the graduated path to enlightenment that we’re studying, that which our mind is going to be transformed in that. That which gives possibility for you to liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and causes and bring them in full enlightenment. To be able to offer perfect, to be able to do perfect work towards other sentient beings; then purified, mental continuum to be purified, and receive blessings, all those qualities.


From the Guru Sakyamuni Buddha, all the guru, buddhas, Dharma, all the lineage Lamas replica absorbed to oneself then achieved all the qualities, all the realisations from guru devotion up to enlightenment – Dharmakaya, Rupakaya.

So to plant seed for the whole path to enlightenment; to read, by reading English, maybe, get some understanding of the meaning. So everybody read together in English.

[Foundation of all Good Qualities]

[tape change]

[recitation of Foundation of all Good Qualities, continued]

[short Mandala Offering]

[Refuge and Bodhicitta] [Prayer]

So as I mentioned yesterday and the other day, meditation or what is called ‘thought transformation’, what is said in Tibetan term, lo-jong. It’s a very important practice. The particular lo-jong, generally, whole lamrim is a lo-jong. From guru devotion up to enlightenment is a lo-jong, thought transformation. But lamrim and lo-jong, when you say it like that, the particular one that, even the obstacles you experience when you practice Dharma, when you meditate, even those obstacles if you practice by doing the lo-jong, thought transformation, the particular lo-jong, then even the obstacle, even the problems or unfavourable circumstances or situations that you encounter, the problem that you encounter or the obstacle while you are practising Dharma, studying, meditating, doing retreat – even the obstacles to practice Dharma, able to, by doing this special thought transformation, lo-jong, you are able to, even the obstacles, when you encounter obstacles when you practice Dharma, even the obstacles interfering with your Dharma practice, even those, you are able to transform into path to enlightenment.

You are able to transform the problem into happiness; that which is normally regarded opposite to happiness – problem. Even that you transform into happiness. Obstacles, when you encounter obstacles when you practice Dharma, even that, with the special practice of thought transformation, even those obstacles you transform. You use that. They become the path. They get transformed into path to enlightenment. So you use. With this special practice, thought transformation, then the obstacle – you’re using the obstacle as a path, as a means to achieve enlightenment. So it become path to achieve enlightenment. So like that.

This way you have no obstacle. And this way you have no problems in the life. What is regarded as a problem, with this special practice, thought transformation, with this special psychology taught by Buddha, you transform that. Like the happiness, you need the happiness – same. You transform into, you use the problem to purify your mind, to purify those heavy negative karmas collected over many lifetimes, many thousands, billions how many lifetimes - aeons of negative karmas. And you use the problem to collect skies of merit as I mentioned yesterday. One example I used for the abuse, what you label abuse. From that one you use to achieve enlightenment. What you think is a problem you use path to achieve enlightenment and to liberate numberless sentient beings form all the suffering, causes, and bring them in to full enlightenment by yourself. So you use that problem, that abuse, that way – to be beneficial that way. So that’s same here: the problem you use like that. With this special thought transformation, then bodhicitta practice – experiencing for the benefit for the sentient beings, on behalf of numberless other sentient beings. Rather than making yourself so sad - ‘oh I have this problem. I have this problem. I have this problem’, on and on. You make yourself depressed, mind depressed, discouraged. This way, only courage; the problem doesn’t make you down. It lifts up.

By using this special practice, the bodhicitta practice, giving up yourself for other sentient beings. Letting go “I”. Cherishing other sentient beings. In other words, give up yourself for all sentient beings. So experiencing the suffering on behalf of all the sentient beings with this bodhicitta practice. The problem makes you to achieve enlightenment quicker. Using this way the problem, that unfavourable circumstance, makes you to achieve enlightenment quicker. It encourages your mind. It makes strong; strengthen in yourself. Courage.

Because of that, here, it becomes very useful. The problem becomes so useful, so beneficial. So it’s something that you need. Here, now, in this way, by using it to develop this special bodhicitta, it become need. The problem become need rather than no need. Rather than I don’t want, it become want. Because it is so beneficial – infinite, unbelievable benefit: it makes you to achieve enlightenment quicker. To develop bodhicitta, compassion for other sentient beings, as well, so much merit you collect. So then that makes also, helps to, quickly realise emptiness – to develop wisdom.

To realise wisdom realising emptiness you need so much merit. Like if you want to do big project you need a million dollars, without that you can’t accomplish that big project. In business life is like that, similar, here in order to have realisation, wisdom realising emptiness, that which cuts the root of all the sufferings which you have been suffering, which you have been experiencing time without beginning. Which you have been experiencing time without beginning, from beginning-less past lives – so something which can cut this, the very root of all this sufferings. To realise that which is incredible benefit like this, able to cease all the not only gross defilements, cut the cause of suffering. And even the subtle defilements, which can, directly, cut. That which makes this mental continuum to be fully awakened, fully enlightened – this wisdom realising emptiness.

So even that can achieve by developing good heart. By developing bodhicitta makes it easy to achieve, to realise emptiness. Because with bodhicitta one collect - that’s the most powerful means to collect extensive merit.