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 33rd 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 5: The Four Noble Truths, Karma


“To not commit any unwholesome action, engage in perfect wholesome actions, subdue one’s mind, this is the teaching of the Buddha.”


Look at the causative phenomena, one’s own body, possessions, surrounding people, friend, enemy, sense objects, forms, sounds, smells, taste, tangible objects – these causative phenomena, they’re impermanent nature. Not only changing day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second – they’re changing even within every second. They are changing, decaying - do not last. They do not last even within a second because they are under the control of cause and conditions.

Concentrate that they’re decaying, that they’re changing, that they do not last even within second – especially focus on this.

Because of that extremely subtle change, the subtle impermanence, extremely subtle - there could be three: extremely subtle, subtle and gross. So all these come from the extremely subtle, that they’re changing, do not last even within a second, these causative phenomena. So, changing second by second, minute by minute – that’s subtle. The extremely subtle – they’re changing within the second. And then, from those, gross change happens. Because they’re changing even within a second, they do not last, they decay, these phenomena can be ceased or can be stopped any time. So just meditate on this.

How important it is to meditate on impermanence and death, how important it is. Anyway, this is part of the nature of life. When we think of this we’re not thinking of something that - these causative phenomena, one’s own life, body, possessions, surrounding people - that they’re permanent, that they’re not changing day by day, minute by minute, hour by hour, second by second, not changing even within second – something permanent and then we try to look at them impermanent; something which are permanent and then we try to look at them impermanent. It’s not like that. So, of course, in that case, can be, anyway that’s not true. You’re meditating on something which is not true. But here, this is the nature of life. We’re meditating, we’re trying to be mindful, trying to realise, discover that these causative phenomena are nature of impermanence. We try to discover that they’re impermanent nature. We try to realise gross impermanence and subtle impermanence, to cease... so this is part of the realisation of the Four Noble Truths.

Impermanence is one. Each Noble truth has four qualities. What’s the difference between attribute and quality? What’s the difference between qualities and attributes? Maybe it’s different in Switzerland. Joking. I’m joking.

[Rinpoche discusses with someone (Losang Yeshe?) in Tibetan]

So each one has four attributes or qualities. Impermanence is the first attribute of true suffering. Then emptiness; then, selflessness. However, so we’re trying to realise one’s own life, the surrounding people, friend, enemy, family members and so forth, which are the nature of impermanence – trying to realise that. Realise that they’re the nature of impermanence. In that way we cease, we stop the wrong concept, the concept of permanence - that which is wrong. Apprehending, as they appear permanent to our hallucinated mind, like how I explained on one of the nights. I explained how, after our mind merely imputed “I”, action, object, any phenomena, then when it appears back, it appears back not merely labelled by mind. It should appear back merely labelled by mind but it doesn’t appear back to us in that way. It appears back to us totally wrong, totally false – not merely labelled by mind, existing from its own side. To our hallucinated mind it appears like that. It appears back like that, false. It doesn’t appear back according to reality.

So what appears to us, how things appear to us, is opposite – not harmonious with, not according to reality. So that’s the definition of false view. Truth and false – the definition of false is that which appears is not harmonious, not according to reality. The way things appear is not according to reality. That’s the definition of the false. So like that.

Same here – we don’t see, when we look at our bodies, we don’t see impermanent nature. Even though in reality they’re changing day by day, becoming older hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, even within second, getting older, changing. It’s happening but appears as permanent.

Same thing when you think of life, or ‘I’. Even ‘I’ is impermanent but appears permanent. For example, especially, I. When you think of ‘I’ it doesn’t appear, even though it is impermanent, it doesn’t appear impermanent nature, changing – it appears as permanent.

Same thing when you think of enemy, when you think of friend, it doesn’t appear impermanent. Even though they’re impermanent, doesn’t appear to us that way. You hold onto it as permanent. So to our hallucinated mind they appear permanent.

Then because we haven’t realised emptiness – not only that we haven’t realised that they are nature of impermanence, but we do not meditate, our mind is not aware their nature. The way we think of their nature is permanent. We totally think opposite. We totally we look at them opposite – permanent, something long lasting. Like that.

So here, again another problem, another suffering that we have in our life, the concept of permanence. Then because of that again builds up attachment, anger, all these things based on that.

So, for example, when your mind is so dissatisfied like, for example, in the case of business – want more and more and more. After you make $1000 profit, you want $100,000 profit. After you made that $100,000 profit you want a million dollar profit. After you made a million dollar profit you want to make billion dollar profit. After you made a billion dollar profit you want to make a zillion dollar profit. After zillion dollar profit, then trillion dollar profit, then, maybe, million dollar -another million dollars. I’m joking this one.

Mind, by following desire, what you want is always more; always more, more than others. Always want to have more. There’s no end for that. As long as one follows desire there’s no end for that. There’s no limit. Wanting more has no limit. Even while one has enough, enough to live, enough to live for this life, even one has plenty enough, but still want more, more, more. Like that. Even though there’s plenty for just this life, there’s enough - more and better all the time.

While there’s so much stress, so much worry, fear, all this anxiety not achieving more - worry, fear, to become less. Suddenly you think, oh I might die. If you think the nature of your life, suddenly, you bring your mind inside. From being distracted, thinking of only external objects, following desire, busy, busy following desire - bring back, bring your attention back, and think of your life. Think of your inner life and that there’s nature of impermanence, that this can be stopped anytime, any day, any hour, any moment, this can be stopped. This breath can be stopped any day, any hour, any moment, can be stopped. This breath goes out, in; goes out, in. One day it goes out and doesn’t go in. It can happen any moment, any day, any hour, any minute. Any moment it can happen.

Anyway, by reflecting, you think of your inner life. You look at your nature of life – which is impermanence. So when you think of that, this can end anytime, all that before what you worried, wanting more and more and more, better and better, no end. No limit. Not happening then all the worry, fear, stress. You make stress by yourself. With all the emotional thought you make stress. You produce stress. So all this doesn’t make any sense - suddenly, all this has no meaning. When you think the nature of your life is impermanence, death that can happen anytime. So, all this doesn’t make any sense. All the worry, fear, all the expectation, all the desire, is completely cut, right there. That which keeps so busy day and night, is cut by reflecting the nature of life – impermanence, death.

So, here, now when you think of death, all this is nothing. Doesn’t make any sense. Now you have to think something else totally different. Now you have to think something else. When you think of death, nature of life, then now you have to think something else, not this one. Not what you’ve been doing so far. Dharma. Nothing else. Only Dharma. Which helps at the time of death, which stops [pause] this life…. [cut in tape]

...He did not think carefully the karma. Didn’t examine. Didn’t look through carefully, finding attraction, because of blindly following attachment like that; that you can do so many things, and we have no rules, and we can do so many things, easygoing, finding attraction like that. That’s because not thinking karma. Easygoing yes, you can so many things, but not thinking karma, not analysing karma. But if you think of the karma then that brings back in the practice, in living in the vow, precepts. When you don’t think karma, when you look at it externally, you can do everything, you have no rules. One has hallucination, one creates hallucination, give hallucination to oneself. Like that. Anyway, this I was telling him.

I mean, of course, generally speaking, depends on how the person, nun or monk, depends on how that person lives their life. Also, lay, depends on how the person lives their life. Of course it depends, I mean, there’re many yogis achieved enlightenment in lay body. By practising Tantra, by practising Highest Tantra, many yogis like Milarepa, Marpa - many who achieved enlightenment by practising highest tantra. So like that.

I mean, generally, they are like this who are able to practice. Either man or woman, whoever doesn’t matter. Man, woman, lay, who are able to practice like that. So, anyway, generally, nun, monk – it depends, of course, able to practice. So, generally, there’s more freedom to practice Dharma in that life. But, of course, doesn’t mean everyone. Again, it doesn’t mean everybody. Depends how they live their life, even if he has monk life. Of course, being real monk, nun - so much freedom to practice Dharma generally speaking.

So anyway, I was using that as an example of how the meditator, the meditation, the person, that monk did not think death. So then that’s how the opposite to renunciation thoughts come. So when I was mentioning this he was crying. So like that. So very important, as an education, very important mind become familiar with this: to train this meditation in everyday life so important – to remember everyday. When the day begins to remember this.

The Kadampa Geshes said that if you don’t remember impermanence and death in the morning, then all morning, whatever you do, that doesn’t become Dharma. That means, including reciting mantra, chanting prayers, and so forth. Including that. Not only the action walking, sitting, sleeping, doing job – not only that. Even reciting prayers and so forth, doing meditation, even those do not become Dharma if you don’t think, if you don’t remember death in the morning when the day begins.

And then, if you don’t remember at noon then, all the afternoon activity, whatever you do, it doesn’t become Dharma; they all become worldly dharma; worldly dharma – non-virtue. Then, in the evening time, if one does not remember, does not recollect impermanence and death then, again, all night time activities they do not become Dharma. They all become worldly dharma, non-virtue. So like that.

So, desire problems – for us beginners, two things. Without strong meditation on renunciation, impermanence, death, without that, physically separated it becomes suffering, becomes so much pain because of the attachment. So much pain, unbelievable pain and then one commits suicide. All these things happen. Then get angry. Because of anger, attachment arises – kill other people. Just in a minute, kill other people or kill oneself. However, what I’m saying, physically, that alone become suffering. Without the meditation, without giving strength to yourself, inner strength to yourself by strong meditation impermanence, death, and meditating how samsara is the nature of suffering – effectively meditating on this, which gives strength, courage within you. Without that it becomes so much painful. Life becomes so much painful – only physically separated.

Even if one is meditating on these things – impermanence and death and then how samsara is the nature of suffering – but then because our mind is very weak we don’t have realisation. Even though we’re meditating we’re weak. The attachment is so strong. So, physically close, then there’s great risk.

So, therefore, for us beginners, both: physically away and also strong meditation, together – renunciation of samsara, impermanence, death. How samsara is the nature of suffering is effective to meditate as well as impermanence, death - strong meditation which, inside, gives courage, makes your mind real brave. So, together then, life doesn’t become painful. Life doesn’t become painful then, there’s no obstacle. You’re free from obstacle to, if one is living in the precepts, able to continue to live purely, as well as, then to actualise realisation. By continuously meditating, achieve the realisation of the path to enlightenment. So like that.

Even for layperson then, doing this way, it helps to create less negative karma in their life. Not only for the Sangha, not only for ordained person, but even for the layperson, by applying this technique able to keep, able to practice lay vows – the lay five precepts such as abstaining from sexual misconduct with other people’s relationship, that which creates a lot of confusion, lot of relationship problems - so much unhappiness in one’s own life and in other people’s life. So, even in lay life, this idea, this practice, helps to have more peace and happiness and to live in the lay vows, less negative karma. Like that. That means, easier to achieve liberation; easier to achieve realisations of the path to enlightenment – liberation and enlightenment. So like that.

So, anyway, what I explained yesterday, went through the twelve links. Then I mentioned how the [unclear] aggregate, this body, all the appearance that we have – the appearance to the five senses, objects what we enjoy. By having contact, pleasant feeling. By having contact, unpleasant feeling. So how all this came from consciousness. After that, came from karma. And came from ignorance. I used the twelve links to meditate in that way – how everything came from one’s own mind: consciousness, karma, ignorance.

It’s a way that, this meditation also becomes another technique to develop patience. Relating to enemy, somebody who abuse you, somebody who badly treats you, or if you hate your parents – other abuse or didn’t take care of me, didn’t look after me, or something, whatever in young time it’s very common. Also, when you go to see psychologist, the old western psychology method, that because you’re not taken care of by mother, young time, then now you have this problem, that problem, this problem - the old method that is taught in the west.

Then, after going to see psychologist who used all the old methods in the west, then the daughter or son completely – before they had good relationship with the parents, harmonious, good, peace, happiness – now, after going to see psychologist they become totally hate to their parents; doesn’t want to see them, doesn’t even want to see them. Generally full of hatred towards parents who are extremely kind - from whom they, this life, comfort, all the pleasures; then, especially, if you met Dharma, opportunity to practice Dharma, all came from them. Unbelievable kind. Unbelievable kind. Look at them as totally enemy and generate full hatred towards the parents. Then, like that, continues for years. So like that. So, anyway, what I’m saying...

[tape change]

... came from karma, came from the ignorance. Then there’s nobody to blame. Even if the parents gave you away for somebody else to take care, put in a hospital, or put somewhere’ even so, even if they did like that. So here by meditating like this even the parents the way they treat you in that way, it all came from your mind. So there’s nobody to blame. There’s nobody for you to get angry. There’s no one there for you to get angry except to change your mind; except to purify your past negative karma; except you purify the past negative karma that was already done and to create only good karma, to live in the vows, precepts – opposite to the negative karma - to change your action, to change your attitude, and to realise emptiness, to eliminate the ignorance. This becomes techniques to practice patience. So should meditate like this.

Before I mentioned meditation technique by using the alphabet. Whatever you see, whatever you hear, whatever you smell, taste, something bad, good, everything – is something that your mind labelled. All these are something that your mind labelled, then appear ‘bad’. As soon as your mind labelled then appear bad. I mentioned how important it is to meditate especially the break times. To practice mindfulness in this, so unbelievably – it’s so important. Actually, this is so good even for one week, one month. To practice mindfulness is so good. This is very powerful. It’s great fun scenery. In this way everything, the way you look at it, is different.

That one is by labelling. In that minute, your mind by labelling, then you see that – how everything came from mind. Now, here, I’m talking about to meditate how everything came from mind in the long-run evolution. So how we see temple, the people here, how we see each person, the effect you get by seeing each person – then, when you go out, these trees, road, sky, clouds. When you’re going by car, when you’re travelling, you see many mountains. You see different towns, cities. So you have many different visions, many different appearances, passing through while you’re going by car. You have all these views. So all these views, each time it’s coming, is coming from your mind. It looks like from ‘there’ but, actually, it’s from here.

As I mentioned, the negative roll, with movie camera – many things printed on the negative roll. Then by putting in machine, projected on the movie screen. Then it appears. Or TV screen. So like that here. All these, for example when you’re going by car you see, you have many views – mountain, different cities, towns, whatever; different mountains - some are beautiful, some are rocky, some are very nice green, some snow, some ugly, some are beautiful. You see many things. So all these views passing through coming from one’s own – the karma, imprint left on the consciousness of the mind, experiencing out. That’s what you’re seeing. That’s what you’re seeing. Your consciousness comes from your karma, came from ignorance. So like that. So now, here, long run evolution: how things came from the mind. It’s a deeper way to meditate how things come from the mind.

So it’s a very important meditation. It’s fundamental Buddhist philosophy and reality. Not only Buddhist philosophy - but is reality. It’s universal. It’s reality.

So it’s very good to meditate this when you go to shop, when you go sightseeing. Then you use, you meditate Lam Rim, when you go sightseeing, when you go city. Whatever you see, garbage, whatever you see. When you go sightseeing, when you’re trekking, you meditate Lam Rim. You practice awareness. All these came from the mind. This way it’s very good. This way it’s very interesting. Then it become very interesting; this way it become very interesting tour; very interesting scenery – the scenery of your mind. In other words, watching your karma – movie of your karma, movie of your mind - movie of your karma.

That’s what’s happening. You’re watching your, your looking at – maybe you don’t recognise but you’re watching movie of your karma. In other words, another way you can say – mind. If your mind is pure, you see everything pure. What appears to you is pure. If your mind is impure, what appears to you is impure. That’s another logic. That’s another logic how everything came from mind. With the devotional mind, pure mind, you see the Guru, Buddha. Even if Guru’s side is not Buddha but when your mind is pure you see the Guru a Buddha from his side, like that.

Same that great, the yogis – even the practitioner of the highest Tantra path, generation stage, who has trained the mind in that, to look at everything pure: your body, deity is the body, place is the mandala. Who has trained the mind then whenever the person wants to see that way, it happens. Whenever the person wants to see that way it’s there. Then, of course, by completing the generation path, ceasing the defilements, dualistic mind, then when you achieve enlightenment, for your senses, everything appears pure.

Any enjoyment - for us water, for the hungry ghosts, pretas; one bowl filled with liquid for human beings is water, it appears water. For hungry ghosts, the same bowl, the liquid that is the same bowl appears as pus and blood to the pretas who don’t have the merit to see water, something clean, something nice and clean – don’t have that merit. Who don’t have merit then that liquid in the bowl appear pus and blood. For the person, us human beings, appear water. For devas – nectar. Then, specially, Buddhas - most pure, best quality, highest, most pure nectar appears.

This is another logic. This is another logic how things come from the mind: those who have higher merit see nectar; those have merit only to see water but no merit to see nectar, only water. Those who don’t have all those merits then just pus and blood. Another example is that one person. When the different people look at that one person: somebody sees that nice. Somebody sees that person ugly. Same person. That same person appears somebody nice, very beautiful, extremely beautiful. But that same person appears to somebody as very ugly, and for somebody maybe not so much beautiful, not so much ugly. Anyway so this one person appears, depending on their karma. This is another example how things come from the mind, different karma. So there’s full of examples, full of examples in the life like that, coming from the mind – which proves coming from the mind.

If it’s only existing, if it’s only coming, without depending on mind, only from object’s side, then it should be same to everybody. It should appear same. The water should – it should appear water to everybody – to Buddha, hungry ghosts, anybody, should appear water but is not like that. This is just one example; one example like that. So this is very important, very essential philosophy of Buddhism. This is very important understanding, extremely important education of the mind and is extremely important technique to control the mind, to overcome delusions. You can’t see anybody to blame. So there’s no point to rise anger. So anger stops. When you think of this anger stops. Anger doesn’t rise. So like that.

So the thing is this, one goes trekking or sightseeing, however, one walks around. When you go for walk like that. Very good to practice these two things: merely labelled one, whatever you see, whatever object sense contact, that came from the mind because mind merely labelled. The other one is what I explained the twelve dependent related limbs – consciousness on which the imprint left; then karma, ignorance - to meditate when you’re walking, everyday. Daily life when you go for walk, very good meditation. Practice awareness of this. Whatever is happening to you, views you have, view of your senses – so it’s very good.

However, another thing, what makes, what is it that makes – if you put positive label in the daily life, only positive label, then that makes your life happy all the time. Keeps you happy all the time. But what makes your mind to make up, to impute negative label ‘bad’, what makes it? What causes that? So that’s one thing. What causes the mind to put negative label ‘bad’? When our mind makes negative label: ‘this is bad’, ‘this is bad’ – what causes that? What makes our mind to put negative label instead of putting positive label?




Everybody’s karma.


Yes, that’s right.

So the past negative karma makes you, your past negative karma which left imprint on your mental continuum, that makes. Anyway, your past negative karma makes you to put negative label. And you past good karma makes your mind put positive label. Then you’re happy. Your past negative karma makes your mind to put negative label, and that’s what makes you unhappy, unpleasant feeling. So now, here, there’s more things, there’s more reasons. Now there’s other reasons how everything came from your mind, besides mind labelling. Karma. There’s karma there you see. So everything came from karma, from mind.

However, first what I explained before – the twelve links. Karma is motivated by the … So all these things – while we are walking, all that we see came from the mind. Came from karma. Karma motivated by the ignorance, like that.