Eight Verses of Thought Transformation (Audio and Unedited Transcript)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
San Francisco, CA USA (Archive #1448)

A commentary on Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, an essential mind training text composed by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa. This teaching was given at Tse Chen Ling Center, in San Francisco, California, USA, in November 2003.

See also His Holiness the Dalai Lama's commentary on this text.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Bern, Switzerland, 1990. Photo: Ueli Minder.
Day One: Perfect Human Rebirth


So, good evening to everyone. Here, our resident teacher, Geshe-la, and all the Sangha here, all the center members, organizers, and all my brothers and sisters. I would like to thank very much the center for arranging this occasion. I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about. Anyway, I think I’m going to mumble something. I’m going to mumble some words. I’m not sure which words—English or Nepali, Nepalese words I’m not sure which language was my own language. Anyway, for organizing this talk. So then all the rest who came here I would like to thank and happy to meet all of you.

We can see how much the world is suffering. Each individual living being , how much it is suffering, how much problem each individual person has. We can see how, globally, how the world is suffering so much. We see, we hear, continuously, twenty-four hours, we see them, we see how much it is suffering—day and night. So, seeing how much the world is suffering, seeing others, even one individual person or insect, is suffering, that became, pursue, a request or pursue to oneself to you, to change our life; to change one’s own mind. Seeing others suffering that is a request or pursue to one’s self to help. They need your help.

So, with our confused mind, with our deluded mind, hallucinated mind, can’t help. We make others confused instead of liberating others, liberating the world, liberating the individual, liberating the living being from hallucination, from physical and mental sufferings. Oneself is not free from suffering and confused mind, with all the deluded mind, obscured mind, with self-centered mind, especially. That attitude is the greatest obstacle to benefit others, to serve others, sincerely, from heart to heart.

So, with all this confused mind, or the troubling mind, with all this troubling mind, obscured mind, it blocks capacity to help others, to develop wisdom to knowing the right method to help others, to free others from problems and cause of the problems because these selfish thoughts—anger, ignorance, attachment, so forth—all these obscuring , with their function. What they do is obscuring. Instead of clearing the mind they’re obscuring. Instead of realizing—opposite of realizing the ignorance, obscuring. Instead of realizing, which affects the mind, obscuring. Then it makes difficult to develop compassion to others.

However, what we see in our daily life, how much the world is suffering. The situation of the world, and even individual sentient being, a person, or insect, whatever—so much problems and having sufferings. Not only, even if there’s no physical problems, there’s so much mental confusions, so much problems, so much disturbing negative emotional thoughts, so many things that makes that being constantly to suffer with all these hallucinations you see.

That is itself unbelievable reason, just around you, purpose why we need to meditate, purpose why we need to practice Dharma, why we need to change our life, why we need to change our—the need, incredible emergency, need to better life. As he often says, as His Holiness Dalai Lama often says, genuine, good heart, need to generate and develop. Need to generate, develop and complete. We need to develop wisdom and compassion, continue, and complete.

So, here, it is not only a question of your own happiness. To provide, or to achieve happiness for oneself is not – we’re not talking about that. Here, we’re talking helping others, helping the world, helping numberless living beings who are suffering, who want happiness but devoid of happiness; who do not like suffer but constantly suffer.

As we have, every one of us has buddha nature, or, the very nature of our mind is pure in the sense it is not oneness with the defilements, not one with the ignorance. So we can be fully enlightened because it is not oneness with anger, as well as dissatisfying mind, desire—so can definitely achieve because of that. Definitely, you see, can have realizations of path – can overcome these problems, can achieve ultimate liberation, ultimate happiness. Not only one can achieve all these, the peerless happiness, full enlightenment, cessation of all the mistakes of mind, and completion of all the realizations—not only that, because all of us has this nature of the mind, that which is pure, unstained by all these obscuring thoughts, disturbing thoughts.

So that enlightened, the potential or the buddha nature, this gives us great hope. Because of this we have all the hopes in our life that, to be able to overcome all the sufferings, all the problems, and cause of problems—these delusions and their actions, called karma, that we can overcome these. So, therefore, all these, whatever problems we have in each of our individual lives, even including the defilements, all these are temporary. Not everlasting. All is temporary because you can remove, you can be free from these.

And this potential to be perfect guide, to become perfect being, fully enlightened being, with all the qualities, power to benefit others, to liberate numberless other living beings from the oceans of these sufferings, removing the cause – the disturbing, the negative emotion thoughts and their actions, karma. Of course, everyone has that potential, even the mosquitoes, even the tiniest insects that you can see only through microscope—even they have this potential. But they don’t have human body so, human body which can function, has a capacity to be able to communicate, to be able to understand the meaning of the words – they don’t have. So even they have this potential to be fully liberated, fully enlightened but, at the moment, can’t do anything with that body. But us human beings, having this body, this incredible precious human body, by having that, what you can do with this: benefit others. Help yourself and liberate the world, benefit numberless living beings. Limitless skies of happiness, peace, you can cause to others—the numberless other living beings. That’s unbelievable what you can do. Not only you have this Buddha nature, or this pure nature, potential to be free from all the sufferings and cause of all the sufferings, not only that, this time, by having this precious human body, so easy to develop compassion so can benefit others. So easy to develop wisdom so one is capable, because of the wisdom, one is able to help others.

Normally I say that, I use this example, turtles or a pig or even an animal that lives close to a human being—a cat, dog, horse, or pig, however, or crocodile—unless crocodile lives close to a human being I’m not sure, anyway, the mosquito, tiniest of insects. If you explained them cause of happiness is virtue or explained them what is the virtue—the action which result only happiness, even just that, the very essence. Action which has a result own happiness, motivated by non-ignorance, non-anger, non-attachment, that is the virtue. That is the cause of, that action is the cause of happiness.

So you explain this—either the cause of happiness is virtue, or the action which results only in happiness, motivated by non-anger, non-attachment, non-ignorance—even you explained them, not only hundreds of years, but if you explained for hundreds of eons, even if you explained them everyday, twenty-four hours every day, hundreds of eons—or eons, American or English way. Anyway, even if you explained them for hundreds of eons, they wouldn’t understand. They cannot understand at all definition what is the cause of happiness and what is the virtue. No way they can understand that with that body. But if somebody explains to us, and if you pay attention to that, you understood within only a few seconds. Doesn’t even take one minute. Within few seconds you learned, able to learn this within a few seconds. Can you imagine? Can you imagine this? Can you imagine this? Within few seconds, which they cannot learn for eons if explained, but by having this human body, us this time, having this human body, we’re able to learn this within few seconds. So, therefore, you can see this human body, how unbelievable precious it is that we have at this time. How precious it is. How incredible precious, valuable it is.

So, therefore, I think, people who commit suicide … When you encounter a small problem, a relationship problem, your problem, you the one person’s problem—even there’s nothing cut, body missing, cut, just mental problem, just concept; your life suffering is due to, just because your mind label "negative" to the situation, your mind put negative label on how the person treated you, the way the person think of you, behave towards you, one’s mind put negative label. But if you put positive label you have no problem. You have peace and happiness. You have no problem at all. But because you have put negative label, ‘this is bad’, so then appears bad, you believe bad, you see bad. So that’s it. That’s it.

Now here you see problem in your life. With negative thought you find problem in your life. With anger you find problem in the life. With anger you find enemy in your life. When anger’s gone you don’t find enemy. That person’s no longer enemy. That person is no longer enemy when anger’s gone. You have no enemy when you don’t have anger. Only when you have anger you have enemy in your life. So it’s all to do with your concept. It’s all in your mind.

Here I can say this is in your mind. I don’t know if I can say everything’s in the mind, but here I can say. This one I can say it is in your mind . This relationship problem is in your mind. Here, yes, I want to say this way. Not perhaps in every situation but here, yes. Yes. It’s in the mind, yes, depending on what your mind labels.

So, just simply, your mind put negative label instead of putting positive label then you believe in that. Then you believed in your label. Label that you put you believed. Not only that your mind put negative label but, along with that, believe into that. That’s what creates, I think that mere, if don’t believe, after you put negative label ‘bad’, if you don’t believe in that, I don’t think still it becomes really problem. The minute you believe in that, then it becomes problem. Then you see problem in your life.

I don’t know where I went. I think I went somewhere—now I disappeared, went round then disappeared.

Anyway, doesn’t matter. Total lost! So, as I was mentioning before, you can see how this human body is unbelievably precious. You learn this: what is cause of happiness, and definition of virtue, within few seconds.

That shows how it is so easy, with this human body we have now, this time—this human body that we have in this time. During this duration, which is, that we have this precious human body, you can see now, by using that as an example, how it’s so easy, as I mentioned before, to learn all the rest of the spiritual path, all the rest of the path, to remove all the suffering causes, all these defilements. So much intelligence it has, this human body, opportunity. It has capacity. The whole path to, the complete path to total liberation and great liberation—the full enlightenment, the peerless happiness—so easy to learn, so fast to learn and like that being able to practice. With those other living beings, with the body they can’t practice. As I mentioned before, no way to be able to learn even if it’s explained, continuously, for eons. So then, of course, how are they going to practice without understanding? No way. How can they have realization, development of, how can they develop their mind, develop compassion and wisdom, develop their mind in the complete spiritual path? Path of liberation to full enlightenment—how they can? No way.

Now I remembered. Only now I remembered. I started with the people committed suicide. With a small problem they meet, face some difficulties in the life, some relationship or something – one person think something different way to you, it become a huge, different way of thinking to you. Then one put a negative label, then believe in that; then become mountain of problems. It becomes mountains of problems in the life, pressing down, suffocating. Then you make yourself suffocated with your negative concept, then your life suffocated. Even can’t move, difficult to move. Like that. Even difficult to breathe. Made life very suffocated—which, clearly, came from your own mind due to your own concept, negative concept.

So, here, such that idea, that thought arising, while we have this incredible, unbelievable, this human body so precious, you can accomplish so much. You can accomplish so much if you knew how to do, if you knew the method, the path, how much you can do, develop while you have this human body. And that with this human body you can cause others, numberless other living beings, so many other living beings, you can cause comfort, happiness, this life. So much happiness this life you can cause, so many living beings – human beings, non-human beings, so much what you can do. And that makes your life, able to do that, able to offer that service, makes your life so satisfied, so happy, so satisfied, so fulfilling. Even if you are able to offer only temporary happiness, only this life’s happiness, even such short-term happiness even, even just being able to offer so many other living beings including family members, the human beings, animals, and other living beings who are around you, starting from there. Not only that. That’s great, sincerely to be able to offer happiness to others. So what greater joy there is in the life than that. Day and night—all the time to attempt this. Focus your life on this and attempt this. There is no greater joy than that.

With this human body one can cause now even longer happiness to others, more important happiness to others. Happiness of all the coming lives one can cause to others. Next life and next life—all the coming lives’ happiness, peace, one can offer others, one can cause others to achieve. Numberless of other living beings you can do that with this human body that we have now. And not only that, we can cause others, you can give, more important than that, you see, happiness, than that, is ultimate happiness. Happiness—with not suffering; pure happiness. Total liberation from the suffering and causes: delusion, karma. One can cause this ultimate, everlasting happiness .to numberless sentient beings. You can do this with this human body that we have; this human body that we have now. So that, unbelievable what you can do. Even the first one is unbelievable. Then second is even more unbelievable what this human body that you have now, what you can do with that—happiness you can provide to others who are numberless. Even just to one person, even to one insect, even just one living being, able to cause all the coming future lives happiness, providing them, able to do that. Unbelievable.

Then, third, providing them the ultimate happiness, the everlasting happiness. Then the most important happiness among the happiness, the peerless one, the most completed is the full enlightenment, the great liberation. [pause] Their mind, state of mind, that which is inexperienced, they completed great bliss, free from, not only, gross stains but even the subtle stains of mind. Even the subtle negative imprints, freedom of these.

Now no question to be able to do this with this human body we have at this time, that we can provide this to others, no question how unimaginable it is. So now, here, one can see how this human body that have now, how unbelievable precious it is.

Therefore, the duration, how long we will have this precious human body is not long, is not for long time. It’s not for ever. It’s not for long. There’s a Tibetan saying that, [Tibetan] every day is not New Year. I don’t remember. Every day is not New Year. So this incredible opportunity that we have with this incredible precious human body is not forever. We don’t have this forever. It’s only for short time. So, therefore, we must use, we must not waste, we must utilise in this way. Use this to practice Dharma, to meditate, to develop the mind in path to liberation to full enlightenment as much as possible. Therefore, must learn, must utilise this human body to, as I mentioned before, how incredible opportunity it gives to learn so fast, so easy. So must utilise it to learn the path as much as possible—must use.

How the future lives are going to turn out, each of us individual’s life, is going to turn out—whether it’s going to turn out very suffering one or whether it’s going to turn out enlightened one, liberated one with so much peace and happiness in the life; in the heart, so many realizations of the path, spiritual path, offering deep benefits to others, able to cause so much happiness to others. What kind of future life is going to turn out to each of us individual beings, that depends. How the future life is going to turn out is the effect of this life. How we live this life.

Future lives and lives are going to turn out how we live our life this time. So, if we learn as much as possible in this life and practice as much as one can, then future lives, all the coming future lives, much much easy, so much easy. The understanding so easy. And have greater understanding, and so easy. As soon as you hear the teaching, as soon as you hear, your mind get enlightened, you attain realization. You understand exactly the whole meaning. Nothing strange and new. Immediately you feel home. Immediately able to understand meaning and have realizations; able to actualise, in your heart, the path. So easy the coming lives. Hundred, thousand times much easy life next to have realizations to the Path to enlightenment and also to be able to offer greater benefit to others.

So again, also by that sense, this life has great responsibility. So need to live the life with good heart. So it becomes so essential every day, every hour, of our life to live with good heart. So essential. On that basis, then to develop wisdom as much as possible. To always watch the mind. Yourself being the father or mother, and mind as your child. Like taking care of child. Exactly like that, one has to take care of the mind. One has to guard one’s mind like that exactly like parents take responsible of the child. How they think the child is so important. And twenty-four hours, every minute, they take responsibility of the child, watch all the time to make sure child doesn’t get into problems doing something wrong, eating something wrong, running toward dangerous place to fall down. Always guard, the parents always guard the child every minute to protect from the problems. And always create comfort and peace and happiness. So, exactly like that, one has to, like the father or mother, your mind like child, protect, guard from the disturbing negative emotional thoughts, which makes you it unhappy, makes it to suffer. So, protect mind from those negative thoughts such as the dissatisfied mind, ignorance, anger, jealous mind; this strong self-centered mind careless of others, no concern of others’ suffering, others’ needs.

Next Chapter:

Day One: Renunciation »