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 Two: Guru Devotion

So like this.

As it is mentioned in the “Guru Puja”, section of the Seven Limb Practice, section on the prostration, it says in Tibetan, [Tibetan Nye kun parchar…..] As is mentioned there, every single mistake that we’re able to make less like from ten non-virtuous actions, whatever we’re able to make less from those, any behavioural or any mistakes of mind, delusion, able to make less, from there, in this life now, from there by actualising the whole Path, the path of merit, preparatory path, right-seeing path, path of meditation, then we cease the delusions, disturbing thought defilement, the disturbing thought obscuration we cease. And, also, by actualising Mahayana path we cease also the subtle defilement; even the last very subtle defilement, their negative imprint cease totally. All the mistakes of mind, gross and subtle, cease totally. All this, able to do this is totally, only - the Tibetan term is nya.chuk? only by the kindness of guru.

Then by doing that, all the qualities, all the realisations, from the beginning of the Path – the realisation of the graduated path of the lower capability being and general. The perfect human rebirth: how this human body is so precious, qualified with eight freedoms and ten riches – realisation of the very beginning of the Path of Lam-rim. So from there, how this is highly meaningful that realisation, how difficult to find it again, then life is the nature of impermanence, the realisation of impermanence; then the lower realm suffering, the realisation of that; then, realisation of refuge; realisation of karma. All this graduated path of the lower capability being, all these received by the kindness of guru.

Then realisation of the graduated path of the middle capability: renunciation of samsara, all that. Then, bodhicitta, realisation of higher capability: the seven - step mind cause-effect, all those realisations starting from the base of equanimity, realising how sentient beings were one’s mother and all that, result bodhicitta, all that; the realisation of emptiness, the great insight; then direct perception of emptiness.

The whole path to enlightenment that the meditator who has actualised path of merit in the preparatory path, they have so much qualities, especially, Aryan beings, the bodhisattva Aryan beings. Even non-bodhisattva Aryan beings have so much qualities; then especially bodhisattva Aryan beings – first bhumi, second bhumi, third bhumi – unbelievable qualities, what they can benefit so much to sentient beings. Ninth, tenth, then many billions, billions, billions, they can manifest for benefit of sentient beings.

All these qualities what one will achieve is received by the kindness of, solely depends on, the guru; received by kindness of guru. All the collections of merit to achieve Dharmakaya, Rupakaya, the transcendental wisdom, merit, which is cause to achieve Dharmakaya, that we’re able to collect, this came from guru, from kindness of guru. The merit of virtue, the method, all that is the cause of the Rupakaya, received by the kindness of guru – able to collect this by the kindness of guru.

Guru Puja says the guru is the treasure of the merits. Guru is your treasure of your merits – where all the merits come from, whose kindness you’re able to collect all this merit. [Tibetan Penden ma lu…..] So, therefore, the only one door, the virtuous friend, the only one door from where you receive all your peace, all benefit and happiness. Every single benefit and happiness you receive, the only door is the virtuous friend.

[Tibetan Penden ma lu …..] I pay homage and prostrate to the pure and perfected guide, at your holy feet I prostrate. So, basis of all the qualities. In the Foundation of all Good Qualities it says the perfected guide, kind, basis of all the qualities. So basis of all the qualities what one has now, what one will achieve, and all the happiness, every single happiness, benefits, from whom one receives is the guru, is the basis. Therefore, kinder than, even though in regards to the qualities same as all the Buddhas, here the practice is looking at Buddha, then by that one is able to see Buddha; so kind because one receives all these things then, even kinder than all the numberless Buddhas - more kind than all the Buddhas.

Then correctly devoting to the virtuous friend with thought and action. Thought - the devotion, the respect; with the quotations, with the reasoning, explained in Sutra and explained in Lam-rim teachings, looking at it Buddha. With these pure thought, devotional thought then devoting the virtuous friend. With these thought, with these devotional thought and action [pause] like very severe patient who has chronic disease, many years of chronic disease, those very severe patients totally rely on the doctor, wise skilful doctor, totally rely on that. So [pause] correctly devoting with thought is that. By looking as Buddha, seeing that as Buddha – the devotion with a pure mind. Then action, obtaining the advice, doing service, respecting service. If one do have material offering then to collect merit making to the most powerful object, make an offering. But the main thing is obtaining advice from the guru. The main action is obtaining the advice, fulfilling exactly according to the advice.

First time Chöden Rinpoche came to Vajrapani, that time Rinpoche mentioned the reason why one has to look at, practice guru devotion, looking at Buddha, seeing Buddha, that is in order to so one can obtain the advice. That makes oneself without any hesitation. Rinpoche didn’t say that but I’m just trying to clarify.Without any difficulties to follow the advice; without any difficulties in your heart, in your mind. So Rinpoche said at that time, the purpose of guru devotion, seeing as Buddha, is to be able to complete the advice. If you’re able to complete the advice that means then able to practice; then you’re able to follow the path and you’re able to actualise the Path. And then you’re able to have realisation and that means you’re able to liberate oneself from the suffering of samsara and then able to achieve enlightenment. So like that.

Next one. Seeing this is the root of the Path; so, realising this is the root of the Path. Then, with many effort – this word is very important for us to remember. Here the Gelong Lekpa Karma, Buddha’s attendant, who accompanied, who was with the Buddha twenty-two years, who served Buddha , even though inconceivable aeons ago Shakyamuni Buddha himself completed the Path, achieved enlightenment, from his side became Buddha, uncountable aeons ago. But Gelong Lekpa Karma, the attendant, he never, he always look at the Buddha having mistakes, didn’t look toward side of the qualities. His recognition of Buddha is always liar. His identification of the Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, for Gelong Lekpa Karma, is liar, that’s what he think. Because Buddha went for alms in the village, one girl offered handful of grain to Buddha, offered to Buddha’s begging bowl. Then Buddha predicted to the girl that she will become Buddha by mentioning name Tibetan something like sangye sem nepa – in the future she will become Buddha such and such. Then Buddha’s attendant, the monk, couldn’t figure out because she just made one handful of grain to Buddha, he thought the Buddha flattered her just for receiving a handful of grain. That was how he thought, interpreted thought – how he projected the whole thing. So he believed all his life Buddha liar, so never looked at Buddha. From his side he never looked at Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha. He never looked as enlightened being. He only look at mistake, liar. So, therefore, what he saw is only liar, only having mistakes – never saw that as the enlightened being. He never put effort to see enlightened being. Always projected, always looked at it having mistakes so that’s what he saw all those twenty-two years – ordinary being and having mistakes. Like that.

Now here, with many effort, [Tibetan], this is very important for us. This is great teaching for us. Seeing the guru Buddha it doesn’t come from its own side. We expect come from object’s side like this light. Or like those flashing lights in the city night time. Anyway coming from, we expect without any effort from your side. We expect to see the pure from its own side, to see enlightened being, to see pure from object’s side while one has all the mistakes, while one has all the obscurations, defilements, karmic obscuration, all the mistakes. It’s like while one has blind eye, without treating this, while is blind expecting to see. Like that. Object to appear to you, you expect object to appear to you while you’re blind. But without thinking you treat this blindness – you treat this then you can see. Without doing that, while you’re blind, to see virtuous friend appear as Buddha, to see like that – so that doesn’t happen. So, therefore, it says with much, with many effort – not just a few days but years and years, life to life. If you didn’t achieve realisation this life we need put effort next life to have realisation virtuous friend. The way to understand, in our daily life what understanding we should have in our heart is the pure, the Buddha, seeing pure has come from you not from there. It has come from you – from your effort, from your practice, from your purification, from your mind training, the devotion. So has come from your side with many effort, not just few months. If didn’t have realisation this life, have to continue how long it takes time or cannot achieve enlightenment, cannot complete Path. So with many effort is very important teaching for us.

Seeing Buddha has to come from you.; from your practice, from your collecting merit, purification, strong practice of purification, collecting merits, mind training in the devotion. By looking at, by putting effort, by putting all the effort, strong determination. So here it’s a question of determination.

I had one teacher who taught me Tibetan alphabet first time. This teacher used to spend his life carving om mani padme hum mantras on the huge rocks in Solu Khumbu. When the people sponsor. In the road people can circumnambulate. It’s kind of a generous action so other people can get chance to collect merit and to purify by carving mantras on the huge rocks in the road. So my teacher, the first one who taught me Tibetan alphabet, he used to do that. He used to tell me that the aspect is not that studied much Dharma or anything like that but there’s one word this teacher used to mention to me. Everything he says is determination. Everything is determination. There’s one word he very strongly emphasised. It’s very true. Very true. Because we didn’t make determination we still don’t have realisation. We didn’t make determination in our life so we still have afflicted mind and delusions. Still the same story happens. Still the same story in the life, same thoughts rise: attachment, anger, all these. Same thing again and again; still the same thing. Nothing changed. That’s because we didn’t make really strong determination in the renunciation. In the renunciation of this life: renouncing the desire clinging to this life. We didn’t make, we didn’t cut, we didn’t make strong determination.

So how much we learn Dharma but we’re still the same person before we met Dharma or, sometimes, even worse. So, however, here’s the word determination. Determination I find is very important practice in Guru Devotion. You need strong determination. Whom you establish Dharma connection, from your side, strong clear determination. From now looking at Buddha from one’s own side no doubt this is strong determination. The word determination is very important for liberation, paths to achieve liberation. The determination didn’t happen to cut, to renounce the delusion, then liberation from suffering can never happen and enlightenment can never happen. Determination to let go “I’, cherish others – there’s many determinations.

However, so like that. So how to do so? With many effort then great respect to devote with many efforts and great respect. So the, actually, like the very severe patients, whatever the wise doctor tells – first, look for wise doctor. Once you’ve found then do exactly what the doctor tells. So like this here. That patient’s completely surrendered, completely under the control of the doctor, that wise skilful doctor, compassionate doctor. So like that here – same; under the power, under the guidance, putting one’s life. But to do that, to not rise problems, mistakes, very important from beginning, before making Dharma connection to examine well. So then become very successful. Under the guidance of the virtuous friend who has qualities of compassion then show path and achieve enlightenment to enlighten all sentient beings, benefit all sentient beings, which is the main object of our life.

There’s a question from somebody: how to practice thought transformation and avoid self-pity, or lacking loving kindness to oneself. I don’t know what it means. I know there’s ‘self’, there’s ‘pity’, ‘avoid’ Whoever is enlightened person, anyway, if you can explain what it means – ‘avoid self-pity or lacking loving kindness to oneself’. Maybe the person went to sleep I think. [student] When we practice seeing as lower than everyone……

LZR: One’s practice -? Seeing lower than others.

So self-pity is looking at oneself as kind of poor, right? kind of down? Right? Sort of like bad or incapable of something.

[student] ….unworthy…..

LZR: I don’t think it contradicts to the practice, from the Eight Verses, which I haven’t started.

First I’ll give you one example. Recognising the mistakes you have, if you recognise, the mistake is mistake, then you give chance to change – better action, better life. If you try to think all your mistakes try to think always good, you try to have, for example, negative karma of killing, stealing, all these things, you try to think good – oh, that’s good I did it, because you don’t want to think it’s bad because you don’t feel good if you think it’s bad. Because you don’t feel good so you want make everything good. You want to make even all the mistakes good so you feel good. This is kind of cheating oneself. If you can understand that psychologically cheating oneself, then you life can never get better. You never recognise your mistakes. You never recognise your mistake as mistake - you can never get better. You can never improve. So we should understand that one first. If you understand this, then this can help other things to understand.

In the west, the society the self is emphasised. The self is the main objectivity. In the society or in the education, the self, always the emphasis on the self, making important, objectivity. Like Mahayana teaching, the objectivity is happiness of other sentient beings but, by the way, all your happiness, you succeed all your happiness. Mahayana teaching is very skilful. Mahayana practice is very skilful. You get done, you complete works for others and you complete works for yourself naturally. By only thinking of others happiness you achieve enlightenment, you get all your happiness, complete realisation of the Path and you’re able to liberate all numberless other living beings ad bring them to enlightenment with that objectivity, having that objectivity in your life, having that goal in your life. So that’s incredible advantage – skies of advantage, limitless skies of advantage. With this attitude, with this way of having object others main thing, you achieve everything. You never get failed. Only you get better. All your wishes for happiness you achieve. You become free from samsara naturally from that, even faster, much faster, because you collect so much merit and you have good realisation much faster; with bodhicitta much faster for you to be free from samsara. So like that - much faster to achieve enlightenment, to complete the realisation to cease all the defilements much faster. Stronger compassion you have to others, stronger bodhicitta you have others – that’s the advantage.

If you always emphasise, if your main objective is self, comes so many problems, brings so many problems always. Can’t achieve even happiness this life, successfully, for oneself. Those people who have stronger selfish mind, whose main focus is on the ‘I’, happiness for me, my happiness, as main goal day and night, that person’s life has so many problems. It invites so many problems. It’s like – I wouldn’t say SARS, maybe not quite the example of SARS, the famous disease SARS; but maybe not quite example I think. Something that brings so many problems, that one thing brings so many problems from all directions. So I don’t know what example is there.

So, anyway, like that. If you analyse people whose attitude is like this, stronger the selfish mind sis, only thinking of self, happiness of self, more jealous mind. Definitely you can find more jealous mind; more anger, more impatient mind, and stronger desire. All these things are there. All these sickness of mind, all these pains are there stronger, easy to rise, so like that. You can see from life experience by studying other’s attitude and the life – attitude and the result life, how it appears; how much peace and happiness there, how much problem it reflects, comes, manifests, or invites.

So, person who has good heart, in the daily life more thinking of others, certainly, definitely, logically, and also life experience, definitely less problems. There’s much less emotional, negative emotional things - much less rising and less stronger. And there’s much more peace and happiness and that person gives so much. The less selfish mind the person has, that person gives more happiness to others. That person is able to give more peace and happiness in the family, to others where ever the person is. That’s normal thing you can see. It’s our experience. That’s how we see among people, others. And also, even yourself, when our attitude is so focussed on self then there’s so much unhappiness. Naturally, the effect of that self-cherishing thought there is much unhappiness in your heart because there’s more concern on the ‘I’, the self, so there’s more unhappiness, more worry, more expectation, more worry. So you can see how it is easy to have unhappiness. Whenever some small thing goes wrong, something even insignificant, then get so upset because the self-cherishing thoughts are strong, cherishing ‘I’, one’s own happiness. So there’s small things something went wrong, or not exactly what one wishes, what the self-cherishing thought wishes, then so upset. Even if it’s nothing, insignificant, but so upset, so depressed, so...