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: Shortcomings of Desire Part A

So, I thought to mention that, some teaching from Arya Asanga, talking about differences- the worldly happiness and happiness with Dharma. Also, might be useful for analysis and for meditation, analysing the Dharma happiness and the worldly pleasure.

Arya Asanga said that the happiness, enjoying the Dharma, living with Dharma wisdom, enjoying the happiness by enjoying Dharma is un-comparable from the worldly pleasures – pleasures of eating, drinking. Here it didn’t say men, but anyway, should add that, vice versa: women, men, song, dancing, so forth. The pleasures that one experiences, those desire objects, what is saying is that the pleasures or the happiness that one experiences living with wisdom, Dharma wisdom, and enjoying Dharma , through the practice of Dharma, it is un-comparable to those other pleasures, those other worldly pleasures. How it is, the pleasure experienced by practising Dharma how that is un-comparable to those. How this is greater, better, which means, better than those other worldly pleasures.

And so it says that the pleasures from eating, drinking, so forth, these doesn’t cover the whole body. The pleasure doesn’t cover the whole body. I guess pleasure of the tongue, just here during the duration when contact the tongue. That doesn’t cover doesn’t cover the brain or doesn’t cover, that delicious taste doesn’t cover the whole body – your head or, when it went into stomach it’s all same. When beyond from the throat is also same, went in the stomach. So, anyway, the delicious taste doesn’t cover the whole body. So this is analysis, comparing the happiness of Dharma. So, similar the pleasures, the sexual pleasures, dance, so forth, whatever the worldly pleasure. Doesn’t cover the whole body. It is dependent on external conditions. Therefore, you can’t experience anytime, whenever you want, whenever you wish you can’t experience immediately because it is dependent, need external conditions for those worldly pleasures. So, therefore, sometimes can happen, sometimes cannot happen because it depends on external phenomena, conditions.

And it says that it doesn’t cover, these worldly pleasure, doesn’t cover all the three realms: desire realm, form realm, formless realm, all these different realms. These worldly, these sense pleasures doesn’t cover all the three realms. Also, if you live the life just with the desire of this only temporary these sense, these worldly pleasure, then if one doesn’t, as I mentioned before, if one doesn’t let go this desire, the dissatisfied mind; the worldly pleasures, that interferes, that doesn’t allow to achieve the exalted path, the Aryan, the exalted beings, the Arya beings. There are seven types of wealth. The qualities, exalted beings’ wealth the qualities. So can’t achieve [Tibetan] Aryan beings’ wealth, seven: devotion; morality; listening – wisdom of listening; abandonment – body abandoning the defilements; [Tibetan] . One thing is to have reason of others then to have shy – you don’t engage in negative karmas because of reason of others, shy. Then shame, not sure the English. One is for because of reason for oneself, then not engaging in negative karma. The reason of others, then shy, then you don’t engage in negative karma. [Tibetan] Not engaging in negative karma. Then wisdom; these seven, exalted beings’ wealth, these seven qualities of mind.

So, what Asanga is saying, just living life just following satisfying desire, seeking only the temporary worldly pleasure, it interrupts, it doesn’t allow you to transcend your mind, gain spiritual path, or the exalted beings’ seven wealths, qualities. Then the other mistake is that these, enjoying these worldly, the desire enjoyment, it finishes. It finishes. By enjoying that it finishes. The happiness doesn’t last. Pleasure doesn’t last. It’s very temporal, only for a short time, doesn’t last. So then, again, you attempt for that, and it doesn’t last. Again you attempt for that. So it’s endless. So it says in the teachings, working for desire has no end. The work has no end. Leads to dissatisfaction, because of that, no end. Work for samsaric pleasures, no end. Never finishes. And then the samsaric pleasures, the worldly pleasures, these can be interrupted by [voice interrupts] – that’s a part of the teaching!

So they can be, the samsaric pleasures, the worldly pleasures, they cannot, they get interrupted by the enemy. They get interrupted by enemies, so forth, and then the worldly pleasures, for example, was mentioned above. These pleasures, you cannot carry with you to the next life. You can’t carry with you to the next life. Whereas, Dharma happiness you can carry from life to life. You can enjoy from life to life. These samsaric, the worldly pleasures, by relying on that, it get, it’s temporary, so very short time. By relying on that you get completely … By relying on that you never get satisfied. You never get completed and never get satisfied by relying on these worldly pleasures. You never get completed; never get satisfaction. And then, from this, by following this desire, pleasure, these worldly pleasures, from this all the problems of this life rises and future lives sufferings, problems, rises. All the problems of this life, all the problems of future lives rise.

So, I think, for an example, by following desire, the pleasure, having wealth, wanting more the pleasure having wealth, because of desire clinging on that, then want more and more. Then, because of that, you do stealing; you do cheating others. From that, so many, because of desire clinging the worldly pleasures, then engage in the various negative karma, negative action, unhealthy harmful actions which results only suffering, only problems. Not only legal problems, when one is found out by others, experience facing the legal problems, court cases. Not only that, but because the action itself – harming others, cheating others, stealing, so forth, engaging in many other non-virtuous actions – that itself is not healthy. Is unhealthy one, negative one, because is done with negative mind, selfish mind, impure mind, desire and so forth. So the action itself has negative effect to one’s own life, obscuring the mind. Instead of enlightening, instead of awakening, its effect, because it’s negative action, it obscures the mind. It has that effect.

Of course then one is found out by other people. Then it becomes huge problem. So many other people become enemy. Then one gets into all these court cases or punishment, prison or so forth. One has to face all of that. Then the nature of the action which is not pure, so from that, if it’s not purified in this life before the death, then one has to experience the natural consequences – not consequences caused by other people remembering you did something in the past life. Not that. But natural consequences from your action: suffering result that you have to, nobody experience, you have to experience. If it didn’t happen this life, future lives. One has to experience suffering of those actions next lives. So like that.

And then, I just remembered one story. In Sikkhim, one doctor, I think something to do with the girlfriend. Not golf-friend. When I said, it sounded like golf they play. I think it must be true that, some people came from Dharamsala, the area anyway, came from there to Sikkhim. And came to kill, came to torture this doctor in Sikkhim. What happened was, the doctor, they went inside the house and they fastened the doctor’s hand on the chair with the ropes. Tied up the body on the chair and then they cut the doctor’s ear – hanging down. And then they cut the doctor’s penis and then throw away in the field. The whole room filled with blood. This is what these people did. Went all the way from Dharamsala – somewhere there, went to Sikkhim. Then they do this to the doctor. The doctor picked up the penis and then fixed up or something, I’m not sure, from the field. Something I heard like that.

Anyway, in the world there are all kinds of things happening. Unbelievable things. Not only the ones we saw on TV. Not only the ones we hear. There are so many things that we haven’t heard. We haven’t heard, we haven’t seen. Unbelievable stories. Unbelievable sufferings of people in this world - there are so many - can’t imagine. You can never – it’s hard to think. It happened. That story happened but it’s hard to imagine. So like that. It happens all the time. In different parts of the world, all kinds of people suffer, and people harm, torture.

So, anyway, I just remembered this story as I was reading this. That has to do with suffering came from following the desire, this worldly pleasure. From desire, clinging, the sexual pleasure – so like that. The common result, such as torture, came from the dissatisfied mind, desire, clinging those worldly pleasures. Like that.

So here it says by Asanga the problems of this life and future lives, all the problems of this life, future lives, rises from that, from this desire and dissatisfied mind – by following this desire, clinging to worldly pleasure.

Then it says that when you have leprosy, leprosy sickness, you scratch. You feel so much itchy. Then you scratch. You scratch because you feel so much itchy because of the leprosy sickness. When you scratch there’s pleasure. While you feel itchy, if you scratch, that feeling you label, your mind label, ‘pleasure’. That feeling, your mind label it, ‘pleasure’ and then appears as pleasure. Your mind labelled to that feeling, to that sensation, ‘pleasure’ and by believing in that it appeared as pleasure, as happiness.

So the worldly pleasure, these samsaric pleasures, labelled ‘pleasure’, another suffering is pacified. Which means that heavier pain decreased. Heavier pain that you can’t bear decreased, then that feeling your mind made up the label ‘pleasure’. An example, today I thought on the way down as we drove from Washington. I don’t know what it’s called that particular area. Anyway, we drove down and in the road there’s this - you see, very beautiful plants. Very beautiful the tree, season leaves, they turn from green into yellow and what other colour? Orange. From orange they turn into yellow from green they turn into orange colour and the other, darker than that?

LZR: What?


LZR: Red. Kind of red but [students] I think it’s a friend of red; a friend to red. Anyway, so I thought it’s very nice. It’s so beautiful I thought. First I thought, so beautiful. Then next I thought, but if you see, if you look at this everyday, if you had this plant everyday like this, and if you looked at it everyday like that if the plant was always like this everyday, it would become daily thing. You see all the time like this. You live in such a place where the leaves are this colour everyday, whole year, all the season, I’m sure you’d get bored of that and want to see green. I’m sure you want to see other colours. First of all I thought so beautiful and then next I thought if you live all the time you see, every season, all the time you see, only this you see then, of course, you lose your interest. You get bored and want to see different colours.

The pleasure, the samsaric pleasure here, after some time become, if that is everyday, every season, all through the year is like that, it will be nothing special. It become boring. Bored. Boring. The pleasure doesn’t last. So again dissatisfied. You want to see, to have another colour or want another place. Like that. The pleasure doesn’t last; become pain, boring, undesirable. It becomes suffering of pain. That pleasure, the nature of that pleasure, is suffering. That’s why it doesn’t last. It changes. It doesn’t last. Then, later, when you get a little bored of that, become suffering of pain. Thought on the way [pause] doesn’t come much Dharma thought but, that time, fortunately, just suddenly remembered the samsaric pleasure which is nature of suffering, the suffering of changes.

So that, for example, house where you’ve been staying for long time. Beginning, very attractive, nice. That feeling you label ‘pleasure’. Then longer, longer one stays in that house, gradually, less. Gradually, that excitement or that pleasure, what you experienced in the beginning, doesn’t continue. Longer you stay, less, less. Then even though other people when they see the house very exciting but, for you, it already become boring by staying long time there. And then when one sees something different from that, more things, then leave this and have that one which has more things – more beauties or whatever. So that’s how, why the pleasure, the excitement, that one has at the beginning, why it doesn’t last, why it doesn’t increase, why it doesn’t last is because that is in the nature of suffering. So, therefore, doesn’t last. Besides not increasing, it doesn’t last, doesn’t continue. Like that.

And as mentioned in the teachings, by Lama Tsongkapa, as Lama Tsongkapa explained in the “Great Commentary of the Steps of the Path to Enlightenment”, one example that I normally use [pause] that by being under the hot sun, condition of the hot sun, then feeling so hot. The action is being under the hot sun. That compounded the feeling more and more hot. And then, when you stop the action of being under the hot sun, and then the action of being in the cold water, the minute when you stop the action of being in the hot sun by being under the cold water, because you stopped the action of being under the hot sun, the heavy suffering of being hot, it is stopped. That suffering, feeling hot, stopped from great. Then your action of being under the cold water that, immediately, compounded the suffering cold, but is small. The action of being under the cold water started immediately, the next second produced the suffering of cold – not unbearable, small one. Because, the previous heavier suffering, that was very noticeable, that was stopped, and another suffering started. The cold suffering started but which is small. It was not unbearable because small.

So, that feeling where the previous suffering stopped from heavy, another suffering started but is very small. So, on that feeling, that feeling is there, reason because of that feeling, one’s own mind made up the label ‘pleasure’. One’s own mind made up the label ‘pleasure’. Just made up the label; one’s own mind made up the label ‘pleasure’ and believed in that. So then, longer you continue the action of being in the cold water, longer you continue that action then it compounds the cold suffering more and more, more and more. Then, later, becomes more and more unbearable. So now, here, you can see, very clear example, very clear analysis, scientific analysis, why the pleasure doesn’t last; why the pleasure of being in the cold after feeling hot, being in the cold water, why that pleasure doesn’t last. Why it doesn’t last, why it’s not increasing the longer you are in the cold water. That is because the feeling that you’re labelling on, that you give name to that feeling – if you’re putting label ‘pleasure’ on that, looks like there’s a pleasure on that feeling.

That gives you an idea of object to be refuted, as that is a pure view, as that is unmistaken view. When you say, ‘labelled pleasure on that feeling’. However, you give name to that. You give the name ‘pleasure’ to that feeling. That feeling that you give name to it is only suffering. The feeling that you’re giving name ‘pleasure’ is only suffering feeling. What it is, is only suffering. The base, the feeling that was the base you give name ‘pleasure’ is only suffering. So, therefore, more you continue the action of being in the cold water, the suffering cold, increases. Because it increases the pleasure doesn’t last. Decreases. Instead of increasing, instead of continuing, it decreases. So that’s very clear.

Same, food - I can explain well food because I’m very much into the food so I can say that. Anyway, food at the beginning, there’s great taste. Great taste. Then, more you continue to eat then, later, gradually you’ll find salty. Beginning you don’t – of course may be hungry, at beginning you don’t find the salt is great, but pleasurable. Then, more you continue to eat, you find it salty and this and that. Like that. The pleasure, what one believed, labelled and believed, doesn’t continue. Besides not increasing it doesn’t continue. It decreases. More you continue the action of eating. If you continue the action of eating more and more then, of course, you get more and more bored, besides no taste. You don’t have taste at all what you have taste at the beginning. Then get bored, becomes more boring, become suffering. Becomes very heavy suffering especially if you have to eat it. Especially if you have to finish it, you have to eat it. Under the pressure of what other people, or the regulation of what other people think, you have to eat it or have to finish. So you don’t have that pleasure of what you had at the beginning you see. So, anyway, not only the pleasure doesn’t increase, doesn’t continue, and decrease, stomach pain! then many discomfort starts.

So, here, it’s the same thing. When you start, first there’s hunger, then you start to eat food. The action, of not eating food, that compounded the hunger. Then you stop that action which compound that. So that stopped the suffering of hunger. Then the minute when you do the action of eating, that compounded immediately, next second, the discomfort in the body – started immediately the next second but it’s unnoticeable. It’s very small. Unnoticeable. So that feeling which is only suffering – other suffering stopped, another suffering, another problem begin, but is unnoticeable. So that feeling, one’s own mind gave name to that feeling ‘pleasure’. Gave name to that feeling ‘pleasure’ – to that feeling which is only suffering.So, therefore, longer you continue eating, the pleasure doesn’t last. It decreases. Then, later, it becomes suffering of pain, more and more. It develops suffering of pain more and more. Like that.

So, same thing, also if you don’t have compassion in your mind. If you are following only desire to the samsaric or worldly pleasure, if you’re reason’s only that, if you don’t have compassion to friend or companion, if you don’t have compassion to benefit, to serve, to cherish, as a living being who want happiness, don’t want suffering, reason like that. In the attitude living together, if there’s no compassion, if there’s only desire, the seeking worldly pleasure, samsaric pleasure, temporary, which is only in the nature of suffering, then same again here. At the beginning there’s excitement. There’s so much wanting, kind of hungry, suffering, missing that desire object. Then when you get it, there’s excitement, there’s feeling there. So that feeling your mind give name to that feeling ‘pleasure’. Then to be with that man or friend, whatever, one day, two day, three day, one week, two week, three week, one month, two month, one year, two year. Maybe it doesn’t last that long. Maybe that’s too long.

However, then, sooner or later, as hour by hour goes, or day by day goes, sooner or later, becomes tired or becomes boring to that. Longer one live company become more and more boring. Then because of that thought comes to look for others - different objects of desire. So, again, when one receive that desire object, that person, there is excitement to that feeling. Another suffering stopped: that boredom with the old object stopped by meeting new object, new friend. Then, of course, the dissatisfaction is there but maybe not much as one had with the previous object - the person, friend. Then, again, same story, longer one continues with that. The excitement doesn’t last. The feeling that one gave name pleasure’ doesn’t last. It doesn’t increase and it doesn’t continue. Goes down longer one continues – as day goes, week goes, month goes, like that.

Then, on top of that, more and more one sees mistakes of that person or attitudes of that person – selfish, all that, impatient, many mistakes one find, more and more, of course that aids. So, however, saying here, all those feelings that one gave name ‘pleasure’ only nature of suffering. So that’s why the pleasure, excitement, doesn’t increase and doesn’t last. Besides not increasing, doesn’t last.

If all these worldly pleasures, samsaric pleasures, all these are pure happiness then it should increase. Like His Holiness Zong Rinpoche used to say…. First time when we invited Rinpoche – Rinpoche is ex-Abbott of Ganden Monastery in Tibet - is like those ancient great pandits, Tibetan great pandit, highly attained. Not only great scholar but highly attained. Even common people’s view, by hearing stories, very high yogi like that. Of course, I never saw like that.

So when we invited Rinpoche to give teachings, especially tantra teachings in the west. Course was held near Ibiza in Spain, Ibiza is very famous as you know. Anyway, so course was held near the beach. Beach I think – I don’t know whether was beach or not. It’s near the ocean. There’s a French or Spanish student called Pele. He’s the main person. Some friends together made this pipe, many pieces of pipe. After one course finishes they pack up. They put together there’s a tent, dome. When the course finish, pack up. When the course happen, put another place - do courses like that. So now it’s fixed permanently in Spain, Oseling, where our master who guided me, took care of me, guided me like father, mother. Gave teaching. Who guided me for thirty years or something, whose holy name is rare, difficult to mention, Lama Yeshe.

So where Lame Yeshe was reincarnated, the place that Lama passed away, where he reincarnated, a village called Bubion. But next to that there’s a retreat centre. It’s called Osel Ling Retreat Centre. So they put this dome up there, fixed. Now you can’t carry it. With the cement, whatever. Maybe twenty people can fit inside the dome.

So when they made the dome this first time when Rinpoche gave teachings on Lam-rim, next to the dome, the people, break time people can – it’s hot time so people can go to swim in the ocean in the water anyway. During the teaching, the shortcomings of samsara, talking about samsaric pleasure, how samsaric pleasure is nature of suffering. So Rinpoche used this example because people Rinpoche heard that people swimming there because was hot. So Rinpoche said it was samsaric pleasure. If that’s pure happiness then as you stay in the water longer and longer, longer and longer, Rinpoche said the pleasure of being in the water should increase more and more. After days and days you stay in the water then pleasure should increase greater and greater. So Rinpoche said. So like that anyway.

The reason why all these samsaric pleasures, why it doesn’t last; if it’s pure happiness it should increase more you continue that work, more you continue the action it should increase. But it doesn’t because the nature of that feeling is only suffering. Doesn’t increase. Not only that, as I mentioned before, doesn’t last, doesn’t continue. So stops as mentioned here before.