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.

Day One: Renunciation

Like teacher and disciple. Teacher takes responsibility of the disciple and educates the disciple. So it’s same here, bringing up this child, bringing up this student, this mind, oneself taking responsibility. Bringing up the child, good education, good manners, bringing up a genuine person, good hearted person – so similar, oneself as teacher, the mind, the child, bring up like this. Like, yourself is doctor and the mind is like sick person, patient. Very kind compassionate doctor, patient who has chronic sicknesses under the care of a very compassionate wise doctor. This mind, which has chronic disease: self-cherishing thought. Chronic disease of selfish mind. From the time without beginning, have been sick of that. From the time without beginning sick of anger; from the time without beginning sick of attachment; from the time without beginning, same with the ignorance and those other disturbing emotional thoughts.

So what I was emphasising is to not to waste this precious human life, this precious human body. We don’t have this for long time. It’s only temporary like rented – like transit at airport. Like the vehicle that we take when we take flight. It’s only temporary. Not forever you’re going to be in that aeroplane. It’s for short time. It’s like the guesthouse, hotel or the guesthouse where you’re there for few days, for holiday. Few days for holiday in that hotel. Anyway, something like that.

So, our having this precious human body it’s like that – just short time. So we must be very wise. We must be very wise to use this every day, every hour, every minute, utilising this. To not waste and we must be very wise to utilise. And to be wise, we need to learn Dharma. We need to learn meditation. We need to learn Dharma. We need to learn Path. We need to practice. You need to get experience; not allow to be misused this precious human body, misused.

‘Misused’ means using for suffering. What I mean, definition of misusing this precious human body, using for suffering. Using for, instead to achieve happiness, to achieve suffering. So, using the body to do the action, which is result only if you experience suffering. So that is misusing, maybe can be said abusing your precious human body. You’re abusing your precious human body. I think that word also applies for that. Misusing. This precious human body is used under the destruction, under the distraction. Under the distraction and the destruction of the ignorance, anger, attachment, self-cherishing thought.

What is Dharma? What is Dharma, meditation practice, or Dharma? That is to achieve happiness. Transforming the mind into the healthy mind. From unhealthy mind, that which is self-cherishing thought, the biggest one, the most disturbing one, is also ignorance, anger, attachment – those are sick, as I mentioned before, of sick mind, unhealthy mind. The disturbing, obscuring – disturbing: doesn’t give peace. So effect is disturbing and obscuring the mind. So those negative emotional thoughts, those sicknesses of mind, so unhealthy mind. From there, into healthy mind: non-anger, non-ignorance, non-attachment, and good heart. Good heart, benefiting others [pause] which brings all the happiness, this healthy mind, positive mind, virtuous thought, peaceful mind which brings all the happiness to oneself and others. For example, the patience that is attitude which is non-anger, one is transformed into patience.

So, what happens if you do not practice patience this virtuous thought, this thought which Dharma, non-anger, nature of patience – then, if you don’t try to change your life by practising patience, Dharma, meditation, if you continue to be yourself, if you continue to be ‘what I am’, what I want to be, what I am, as many people say that – “I want to be what I am”. So, anyway, you never try to change, better mind, happier mind, more positive mind, happier, better life; never changing that. Not better for suffering but better for happiness.

So, anyway, always continuing ‘I want to be what I am’; if you never practice meditation, Dharma, healthy mind, positive attitude, then there’s no antidote. There is no protection. There is no protection in your life. There is no protection in your mind. Then, anger will rise all the time whenever something happens in your daily life. Somebody think differently than what you think, somebody wish differently than what you wish. Just somebody different, just somebody think a little bit differently than what you think, the way you think, or wish, little bit different, opposite than what you wish, or somebody act little bit what one’s own self-cherishing thought, what one’s own attachment do not like. Somebody speak or act little bit – somebody showing arrogance, little movement, little action of the body, or with eyes , keeping the nose in the sky, showing little bit different physical behaviour, action, that one’s own self-cherishing thought is not interested, or self-cherishing thought do not like, or one’s attachment do not like.

What one’s attachment like is respect. What one’s own self-cherishing thought likes is respect, the other person to be humble to you, respect. So, a little physical action, something that one’s own self-cherishing thought or attachment, do not like then, suddenly, anger arises.

However, in the daily life, all the time anger arises. There’s always something that is not exactly what your attachment want, or what your self-cherishing thought want. There’s always something that your self-cherishing doesn’t like or your attachment do not like. There’s always something. So anger comes so easy - just like if you throw matches. You lit matches, throw in the gas or throw in the petrol, kerosene. Big flame. Suddenly big flame rises.

So the anger rises like that - so easily. If one doesn’t regard one’s mind, doesn’t guard – not regard – if one doesn’t guard one’s own mind, if there’s no protection like practising patience, where there’s meditation, practising Dharma, practising meditation, then there’s no protection in life. So then, all the time, anger rises whenever there’s situation that one’s own attachment, or self-cherishing thought do not like. Just little opposite to one’s own negative thoughts. One’s own wrong concept, you see.

So now, here, the anger rises then makes your most beloved friend enemy to you. Anger rises to that person then that causes the other person to get upset. Even one’s most beloved friend gets upset to you and get angry to you, then your anger makes your friend enemy to you. Your anger makes your friends to become enemy to you.

Here, when we do not practice Dharma, when we do not practice patience meditation, the common way, the definition of ‘enemy’ as somebody whom you hate or has anger towards you, or whom you hate, whom you have anger. Common definition. When we practice Dharma, when we practice meditation, when we practice patience – that time, definition of ‘enemy’ is different. That definition what, commonly, people’s definition of enemy, that one – here, when you practice Dharma, meditation, patience, what you regard that person as enemy before, when you don’t practice Dharma, enemy whom you hate or who have anger towards you, but here when you practice Dharma, practice meditation, practice patience, that person becomes the most precious, most kind. First, put this word: the realisation, the experience of how you see that person, most kind.

So, therefore, most precious one, to you, in your life; is totally opposite enemy when you practice Dharma with that person, meditation. What I’m saying is that, the anger harms in the relationship. To have long-lasting harmonious, peaceful, happy relationship, the anger become very big enemy for that. After some time, if you don’t control, if you don’t practice patience, if you don’t practice meditation, if you don’t practice Dharma, patience, then sooner or later, the other person, companion, become bored or can’t stand anymore to be with you and want to leave. Like that. So the anger causes separation, divorce, like that. Anger makes enemy even your closest person, friend, person in your life, closest one, anger makes that person to be enemy to you. So, therefore, no question other people, other than that, no question. Then anger makes, as much as one do not practice Dharma, meditation, practice patience, then as much anger rises, in the world, in the home, in the office, everywhere, wherever one goes – countryside, or in city, east, west – that creates many enemies, the person whose nature is impatient. Being under the control of anger then creates so many other sentient beings to become enemy to you. So, this way, it makes oneself unhappy, suffering life, and it makes so many others unhappy, makes them to have suffering life, unhappy life.

So, instead of bringing peace and happiness in this world, it brings so much harm to other sentient beings. It harms one person, two persons, three persons, like that. It harms to this world, to that many sentient beings, like that, besides harming to one’s self. So, therefore, here practising Dharma, practising meditation, practising patience, it is not only this bringing, keeping your mind in happy state, in peace ad happiness, keeping your mind healthy and from there you achieve happy, peaceful, harmonious relationship in family, with friends, in the office, everywhere one goes, wherever one lives, whomever with one lives. So brings so much peace and happiness in your life. Brings so much peace and happiness in the life of one’s own friends, the most beloved ones, towards the parents, one’s own children, in office, wherever one go, with whomever one company.

So, here, this is, practice of Dharma or meditation, such as practising patience, is not only for person who seek enlightenment for sentient beings; is not only person who seek liberation, not even for the person who seek liberation for oneself; is not only for the person who seeks happiness in the future lives. Anyone who is seeking even only the happiness this life. Anyone who seek no other happiness but only the happiness of this life, this temporary happiness, only the happiness in this life, person who is non-believer, no religion, non-believer, has, if the person want harmony in his relationship, want other people to be friend, to be happy with you, other people to not get angry to you, that they love you, supporting to you, then there’s no other way. Person who is non-believer, but want these things, desire these happiness, desire that these happiness in the life then, you’ve got to practice Dharma, meditation, patience – practice of patience.

You have no choice. Anyone who want, desire, peace and happiness in this life, happiness this life, everybody want, person want everybody to love, to be happy with you, supportive to you, good relationship with you. This is an example how the Dharma practice is so essential in life. Meditation practice, how it is essential even if you are a non-believer. Even if you are a non-believer, doesn’t believe in religion, but this Dharma practice, to have healthy, but desire happiness in this life, good relationship, harmonious, need – there is great need – Dharma practice, meditation practice, specifically, an example is patience in this case.

And, same, person who suffers so much dissatisfaction, person who suffers so much dissatisfaction; because mind is dissatisfied more and more, so more and more unhappiness comes in the life. It builds up. Having material possession, for example, a business person [pause] after having made profit, one hundred dollars then looking for $1000 profit. After one achieved $1000 profit then the $10,000 profit, $100,000 profit, after that, million dollar profit. After the million dollar profit is achieved, after one gained million dollars then looking for billion dollar profit. Then after one made profit billion dollar, one make zillion dollar profit . After one make zillion dollar profit then trillion dollar profit. After one made trillion dollar profit, then I don’t know what .

Anyway, there’s no end. Desire, as long as one follows desire, it has no end. There’s no end. After some time, their life is the nature of impermanence, what the desire want, didn’t achieve. Never satisfied how much gained, how much one may profit in the life. Even if one did succeed, because life is the nature of impermanence, one day, suddenly, the death happened but that doesn’t mean the desire is ended. Doesn’t mean that. One has to, one need to have realisation, renunciation, one need to actualise Path to cease the negative imprints from where desire rises. One need to cease, remove completely, the negative imprint from where the desire rises. Only that way one can make it impossible to rise desire by actualising the gradual Path, particularly, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, ultimate nature.

So, here again, the person who has unbelievable wealth that can last many lifetimes, that the person can live for many lifetimes, having so much wealth but living the life of desire, as long as one lives the life of the desire, follow the desire, one can never achieve satisfaction. Always is not enough. Always want more. There’s always discontent. The result of following the desire is discontent. You never get satisfaction. So the result is dissatisfaction. By following desire the result of what you achieve, what it affects to your mental continuum, what we achieve is only dissatisfaction.

So the person suffers more and more and more. Had everything what the person could get in this world and still the mind is not happy, dissatisfied. Even more. Had everything what the person could get in this world but, because of that, even much more unhappiness. So much more dissatisfied than the beggar who is begging in the street with nothing - just lives on everyday meal what the person, what the beggar can get. Even that beggar might have so much peace and happiness in his life.

So now here, there happened, I saw it in TV. One wealthy person in England, he had huge property and huge like castle, or huge building, I don’t know how many rooms. Each night he’s sleeping in different rooms. That’s what I heard. I didn’t go to see the building or his home, but anyway, I heard. So, anyway, after all this he became so unhappy, so miserable. Only drinks, sixty or seventy bottles of alcohol he drinks, something like that. He doesn’t eat food, only drinks. Why does he drink so much? Because mind is so unhappy, dissatisfied, taking refuge to the alcohol, to the bottle. His mind was so dissatisfied, so unhappy, so he checked back what are the cause that made his life so miserable, so unhappy. Then he thought about the wealth, by having wealth. And what made him to be wealthy. He stared his business by selling cars, that’s how he became rich, wealthy. He thought the root of his problem is by selling cars, because he did business selling cars became rich, that was the root of the problem he thought. So he has one attendant, man. Outside the building is a bird-feeder filled with water. I think might be for that. Anyway, he sent his attendant to buy many small cars from the shop. He fill up this container, which is to give water to bird, he fill this up with small cars. Then he put kerosene and he burned the car because he thought that selling car was the root of the problem, what made his life so unhappy.

That was shown on TV anyway.

So what I’m saying is that, again here, even if you are a non-believer but you want happiness, even if you don’t accept religion but you want happiness, so here, no choice. You have to practice renunciation. One has to practice contentment. One has to practice contentment.

One has to practice renunciation protecting, let go desire. Let go desire. The painful mind you let go and you achieve peace and happiness in return. In the place of that you achieve peace and happiness, real peace and happiness that can be established in your heart, you can continue, and you can complete. You can develop. You can complete this peace and happiness.

So you let go of the painful mind – desire. The method to achieve peace and happiness, to not continue the life of getting more miserable, depressed, more and more depressed, more miserable. Instead of that, to be more and more happy, gaining greater peace in your heart. And, from that, mind is more relaxed, more healthy mind so, more healthy body. Body, such as the blood pressure and all these physical problems which are effect of the negative thoughts, the effect of unhealthy mind. It is scientifically proved that people who are more impatient, angry, they are more, statistics, more are heart attack among the people who don’t practice patience, more anger, there’s more heart attack in the statistics by examining that.

One doctor in India, in Delhi, he made comments that, his analysis that – I had his paper. I had his comments paper. I kept for some time. Unfortunately, I lost. So his daughter in Delhi, from his own experiment, analysis, that people whose mind, in their daily life whose mind put more positive labels to other people, thinking good, putting positive label to other people instead of putting more negative label – this person is bad, that person is bad – instead of that, putting more positive label. He said that the people who heart attack, heart problems, these sicknesses he said came from mind labelling negative towards others. That’s what he said. That makes great sense because when you put negative label your life situation or to other people, then you believe in that. Then you make really bad. You really make that person bad. Then when that person, after your belief in your label ‘bad’, then that person appears to you as bad. Then it bothers you. That person, which appears bad to you, it disturbs your mind. It doesn’t make you unhappy. Sorry, it doesn’t make you happy. It doesn’t make you happy by seeing, by thinking of that person bad it doesn’t bring peace in your heart, doesn’t make your mind happy. It disturbs. It has negative effect to your mental continuum. So then that affects your body. And then you get angry. Not only that, makes your mind unhappy, causes to rise, it upsets your mind. It makes you get angry. Then that harms your own health.

So, as it is mentioned in the teachings, that one’s mind become negative emotional thought – anger, desire, so forth. Un-peaceful. So it disturbs the vehicle of the mind which is the wind. So, for example, person who is riding horse, that person not peaceful. Depending on what that person does, the horse gets disturbed, then not become peaceful. Then that horse not walking peacefully, violently running, disturbed, then that disturbs the person. It affects the person.

Here, same. The mind that has disturbing emotional thought then disturbs the wind, vehicle of the mind, wind, and then that effects the four elements: fire, water, air, earth; four elements within oneself. They get disturbed. They become unbalanced. Then, that cause sicknesses. When they become unbalanced cause sicknesses. Then the same. They become unbalanced, the four elements, then that causes the disturbance of the winds, then that causes disturbance to the mind. Like that. So it’s true what this doctor was advising for health reasons, to put positive labels in our daily life; positive label to others. So you can see, logically, makes you happy. When you think of that person makes your mind happy.

So, here, renunciation; before was patience. Now, here, practising Dharma, meditation, renunciation – letting go the painful mind, desire. Which, by doing that, you don’t lose; you only achieve the great peace in your heart, happiness. So, healthy mind and healthy body, long life you achieve from that. With the desire, cause harm to others. Due to desire anger arises causing harm to others’ lives, then that cause your short life.

Here the, even very simple meditation – there’s so many ways to meditate. However, meditating, looking at the very nature of phenomena – emptiness; then very gross nature of the phenomena by looking at it, nature of impermanence: that what exists yesterday doesn’t exist today, stopped already. What exists today, stops - doesn’t exist tomorrow. Same hour to hour. What exists this hour stops by the next hour. What exists this minute doesn’t exist next minute. What exists in this second is stopped, doesn’t exist in the next second. What exists in the first second, it doesn’t exist in the next second. It’s decayed. Stopped. Because it exists, when it came into existence, being under the control of cause and conditions, so therefore, because it is under the control of cause and conditions, it doesn’t last. So what exists in the first second doesn’t exist in the second.

Even just, I think, even just meditating on this, that what exist in the first second doesn’t exist in the second. It is gone. If you think, if you’re just meditating, if you think this, the nature of suffering, Tibetan duk den nowa?? If you reflect just this, it’s great meditation for renunciation; the subtle meditation on impermanence. However, when you think on the nature of phenomena, when you don’t examine the nature, it looks like – for example, when we’re looking at this mug, when we’re looking at this bright brocade and this mug, it looks like, it doesn’t appear at all to our mind that… it is said those who have realisation of subtle impermanence then have this understanding in your heart when you see looking at this mug, changing, decaying. Doesn’t last hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, second-by-second. Doesn’t last. It’s decaying second by second. What exists in the first second doesn’t exist in the second second, the next second. Even if this continues what exists in the first second doesn’t exist in the next second. It’s already stopped. Gone. It’s gone next second. Next second time the first second mug is gone.

So, just contemplating this is very powerful. Even that helps that renunciation, to content. No point. There’s no point to cling on that. It’s an hallucination. There’s nothing to cling. Even by thinking this change and decaying, doesn’t last, what exists in the first second doesn’t exist next second, all that. By thinking, and then, gross impermanence: that things can be stopped any time, anything can happen. One’s own life and the wealth, anything can happen. This is not particular religious faith or something. This is just the nature of the phenomena. You’re meditating, looking at their nature – what they are.

So, anyway, thinking this is enough for me, why do I need more? This is enough. When you make that determination, stop following the painful mind, desire, for me this is enough. Why need more? The minute you do that, stop following desire, that continual growing sicknesses of mind, or the continual growing suffering, misery in your life, is stopped at that time. The minute you think this is enough for me, why need more. Again, here, this Dharma practice, letting go delusion, desire; cutting, or letting go, desire, delusion, practising renunciation – it can become the most important practice in the life that gives you so much peace and happiness. Gives you so much peace and happiness – continual peace and happiness in your life. And, from the healthy mind, then healthy body, long life as I mentioned before. But, of course, the long-run benefit is the desire obscures the mind all the time. Effect of the desire, always obscures the mind. It interferes to develop compassion, seeing the suffering of others, seeing your suffering, seeing, realising how desire is the nature of suffering, and all the short-comings of desire. It blocks, the desire obscures for you to realise all these things. Your own, all these sufferings, the effects, all the short-comings, harms, to realise all those effects are harms. And to be able to realise others suffer. Because you don’t see your suffering, your own suffering, then you don’t see how others suffering. Totally overwhelmed by desire how others suffering you don’t see. Then don’t generate compassion to others. It blocks. Obstacle to develop compassion to others.

It obscures the mind and then it hinders your mind to realise the very nature of phenomena, the emptiness, shunyata of I and of the mind – the very nature of the emptiness of the phenomena. If you don’t realise emptiness then you cannot eliminate the root of all the suffering, the ignorance. You cannot eliminate ignorance. You cannot eliminate all other afflictions, negative emotions – attachments, so forth, all other, the delusions cannot eliminate. Cannot eliminate the karma. Cannot stop the suffering rebirth. You cannot stop. You cannot completely stop, cease, the cycle of suffering rebirth and death. All these we can’t stop. That means then endlessly one has to suffer in cyclic existence or samsara. Then can never achieve liberation. Then cannot achieve full enlightenment. That means one can’t liberate others from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to enlightenment.

So, just some emphasis of the practice. This practice is not only people who seek enlightenment or liberation, religious person, but this practice is even for non-religious person. Anyone who want happiness, anyone who is seeking happiness, anyone who likes to be healthy, they need to do these practices. Anyone who wants long life, healthy, want harmony, anyone who wants wealth, all these things, all this happiness of this life, even non-believer but want all these happiness then no choice, you’ve got to practice meditation, Dharma. To be totally be free from the delusion, karma, all the result sufferings, to achieve liberation, to achieve this everlasting happiness, to make it impossible to experience suffering again by ceasing completely the karma and the disturbing, the negative attitude, the delusions and by ceasing the cause, the imprint, negative imprint – for that, one needs to actualise the Four Noble Truths.

One need to actualise the path of merit, preparatory path, path of meditation, no more learning. So for that all this has to begin with realisation, renunciation of samsara. One has to learn the whole path to liberation. That is clearly explained by Buddha. And to achieve full enlightenment, great liberation, and to be able to enlighten numberless of other living beings, then you need to actualise the root: bodhicitta – the great compassion towards all the sentient beings, bodhicitta. Then entering the Path – the five Mahayana Path. If it’s sutra, without practising tantra, there are five paths, ten bhumis one has to actualise. Then you can practice Highest Tantra stages on the basis of the bodhicitta. So the complete path to achieve great liberation and full enlightenment, Buddha has clearly explained. So one needs to learn all these and practice. So, here, Tse Chen Ling Centre, just an example, to give an example here like this where there’s qualified teacher who can teach, educate the whole path to liberation, the whole path to enlightenment. I’m not saying this is the only one like this that has set up all the conditions, qualified teacher that can teach clearly whole path to liberation, to enlightenment. How to get out of suffering, free from the cycle of death and rebirth, those sufferings of samsara and to achieve full enlightenment.

So, become extremely important, such as this meditation centre, it’s extremely important, great need how important it is, how incredible need there is in the world for sentient beings, for suffering beings, become unbelievable how important it is. The need become unbelievable: to give education, to illuminate, to awaken suffering beings’ mind, to liberate them. So, to set up such a meditation centre is incredible, most important help to sentient beings. So, oneself to learn and to benefit others becomes the most important thing in the world. And the essence, what it teach, the essence, is compassion. Because Buddha Dharma is differentiated by compassion toward all the living beings, without discrimination. Whether they believe Buddha or doesn’t believe Buddha, there’s no question. Compassion towards everyone, whether they believe Buddha, do not believe Buddha. Whether they worship the Buddha or don’t. To everybody including anybody who has mind, anyone who has suffering and defilements.

So, therefore, the very essence of compassion, the very essential practice ‘good heart’, to protect karma. To benefit, with that mind benefit others; at least, to stop harming others. So, naturally, by doing that, naturally, you’re protecting, is the best way of protecting yourself from receiving harm and yourself receiving benefit.

What I want to say, it’s the best way of fulfilling all your wishes of all the happiness including enlightenment. Everything. With compassion engaging with the action, benefiting others, at least stop harming others. So, therefore, teaching, especially, how to develop compassion, very basic teaching, very basic education. Most important education is how to develop compassion.

That is the antidote, that naturally becomes method, to not have war in this world, to not have famine in this world, to not have disease in this world, because all these came from the self-cherishing thought and these other negative thoughts, delusions. This becomes antidote, method to prevent, to not create the cause of sicknesses, to not create the cause of famines, economic problems, recessions – all this the world has been suffering so much. To create the cause, instead of war, peace; instead of creating, to not create the cause of sicknesses and to create the cause of healthy body and mind, long life; to cease the cause of poverty, all the economic problems; to cease and to educate the sentient beings to create the cause of prosperity, perfect enjoyment – how to have.

Then educate, here the teachings taught at such as this meditation centre, educates the sentient beings, educate the people to purify, to cease the cause of fire danger, to cease the cause of water danger, to cease the cause of earthquakes, danger of earth, wind, tornadoes and all these, destroying within one hour, completely destroying the whole city or the whole town completely disappeared. So many billions and billions of dollars, destroyed. To cease the cause of those things and to create the cause of the opposite: not having these things, opposite to these. So having perfect enjoyment – like that.

What I’m emphasising, how important it is for such a place, in the centre, where you can learn all these things; where you can educate all the sentient beings and, not only that, especially complete path to liberation, to enlightenment.So that is really amazing. Unbelievable fortunate.

So, therefore, anyway I take this opportunity tonight to say, it happened talking here how this is incredible joy it is in the life to benefit other sentient beings, offering Dharma. So, I think, I’d like to thank my very good friend Geshe La, who is very learned, good-hearted, and pure. So great teacher, been teaching here for many years, and all the students who have been studying here the five year basic program studying and those who have been learning here at the centre; and all those benefactors, anyone, members, directors, all who have been supporting, learning. Here, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you very much. Also, translators who translate Geshe La’s teachings, and also Geshe La’s attendant here Tenzin Lama, taking care of serving. Everyone here. I would like to take the opportunity to thank.

So I think, I don’t know the time I think time has disappeared.