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: Seeing Oneself Lower Than Others

As I often say, even from our own experience, that the minute when you think of the ‘I’, cherish the ‘I’, there’s tension. There’s tension. Stronger concern on ‘I’ there’s bigger tension. There’s no rest. There’s no relaxation, peace and happiness. And the minute, as I mentioned before there’s so experience of worries, concerns, more one concerned the ‘I’, cherish the ‘I’.

The minute when you change the object of cherishing – thinking of oneself, concern on oneself, change the object on others, when you think of others; the minute when you think, oh I am here – while you’re walking on the street, or while you’re at home, or whatever – oh, I’m here to serve others. I’m here for others. I am here in the family to serve them, or in office. However, even if it is just one person - I’m here to serve this person, whether it is a child, whether it is a father, mother, or just somebody who is sick or old-age, somebody who need help. The minute we change – I’m here to obtain happiness for this person, for this precious, for this most precious kind living being, then, immediately, the minute when you change the objectivity of your life, change the object of mind, think of others, the minute when you do that, the tension is gone. Immediately there’s peace. There’s peace, real joy in your heart. Real joy in your heart – immediately you find happiness in your life, peace you experience in your heart. There’s immediate effect; best medicine, best psychology, best medicine, best meditation, way to achieve happiness. Like that. So, even just small example like that, you see.

And whenever the times we practice more good heart or more think of others than self, service, there’s more joy in the life, happiness, peace, and better communication. And better communication with open heart. Better communication. With self-cherishing thought, the stronger the self-cherishing thought, you can’t open heart, you can’t communicate. Then there’s obstacle. Even you communicate becomes communicate with the anger because, behind, motivation is self-cherishing thought. You communicate with the anger, it only, it doesn’t make other person happy. It only frightens, makes upset, anger others. So like that. Then others see you as selfish. When they see that they’re not happy with that. They’re not happy. It doesn’t make them happy.

With other one, the thought of benefiting others, with that you can smile, you’re relaxed, you’re peace, you can talk to others. The words come so beautifully, nice, respectfully. You become closer to that person. Better communication makes the person very happy. You can also have success. From that you can have much success. Other person can listen to you - what you want. I think the best politic is politic with the bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is no harm, no danger; only benefit for the other and to yourself.

Coming back, introduction at beginning, there’s importance to one’s own happiness and for to be able to benefit others. By recognising one’s own mistakes as mistake then give chance to better person, to have more qualities, more pure mind or better quality, more knowledge, like that. However, better life. It gives you opportunity for improvement. So, therefore, recognising your mistake as mistake, that’s only helpful. That’s only helpful. Then you use that – realising that, then you start, you put effort to change, better, so you can have more happiness, peace. So that is not a mistake. But if you, because you feel bad when you find out a mistake, by recognising it as mistake one feel bad, then one label it ‘good’, recognise as good, then [pause] Another example, you have some sicknesses. If you’re not aware you have sickness then you wouldn’t treat it. You wouldn’t look for method, look for medicine to treat that, to recover that. Then it will get worse and worse. Then it leads to death. That’s how one cheat oneself. That gets worse and leads to death. That’s what happens in the end. Like that. Or the children who made many mistakes in their writing or whatever writing, explaining, giving answer to the questions. There are many mistakes the child makes. If the child feels bad by seeing his mistake, then everything you label ‘good’, ‘good’, ‘good’. Then you don’t see mistake is mistake, then they never get corrected, child never improve, doesn’t learn. So we use these examples here. Those ones we understand but we use the similar example here then we can understand.

By learning Buddha’s teachings you see you have Buddha nature. You have Buddha nature. Nature is pure. That one is not oneness with the mistakes – guilt, or the defilements. So, because of that, then there is all the hopes. You can be free from any problems, any suffering, and even the cause of suffering - the delusion, karma. You can remove by actualising Path. There’s full of hope. So much what you can do and develop. Then by having perfect human rebirth everything is so easy, so quick to learn, so easy to practice, to have realisation, to be free from the negative emotional thoughts or the sufferings. So there’s all this you can – like sun shining in your life. Rather than darkness there’s sun shining in your life. There’s whole possible opportunity you can actualise all this Path that’s enlightened. Then you can enlighten other sentient beings. Liberate. Bring light in everyone’s life, heart; light of the happiness or the wisdom.

I think if you’re not practising meditation then your life, if you do not have understanding, all this about Path to liberation to enlightenment, all these teachings, these opportunities, so much what you can do with this human rebirth, with this Buddha nature that you have - if you don’t know all this, then your life become really, when you have problems your life become so depressed, so depressed. In your life you have nothing. There’s no method. Your life is totally empty. No understanding of meditation. Nothing. Or these teachings: life full of hopes, opportunities, but you don’t see that because one didn’t learn. Didn’t learn, or opportunity didn’t learn, however, unable to learn. So then when the problem comes, no mental medicine, no meditation, no mental medicine, antidote to that. So then life really goes down, depressed, like that.

So, therefore, especially if you’re practising thought transformation, Mahayana teaching, thought transformation, especially if you are practising bodhicitta there’s no, it doesn’t give time, doesn’t allow you, there’s no space for depression if you’re practising bodhicitta. [pause] Because your thought, attitude, is thinking of others, seeking happiness for others, the sufferings of numberless human beings, their problems, numberless hungry ghosts, animals, devas – those who live on higher planes, suras, asuras also – all their sufferings; so there are numberless other living beings. You concern is others’ sufferings and cause happiness to others. So, therefore, become unimportant your own. Even you didn’t any difficulties happen to oneself – lost job, or there’s no job, whatever difficulty happens, it doesn’t really bother. It doesn’t really bother because you’re thinking big. You’re not thinking very small, tiny. You attitude: the other living beings, other. So you’re the one person doesn’t really bother however other people treat this ‘me’. There’s no such thing. It’s not big deal.

I heard in Switzerland one time there was no jobs. I don’t know what happened. There was no job for I think month or some. I don’t know what’s the reason stopped. The Tibetan people working in the same company, they were so happy. Because they can do practice. They can do their practice. They can do prayer. They can do so much. Same friend, the other people - Swiss people there, they’re so depressed. The same people, when there’s no job there, I think, a month. Not sure. Few weeks. But they’re so depressed. So you see it’s to do with the education, or it’s to do with the attitude. It’s to do with the attitude of life. Not necessarily, if there’s no job, everybody have to be unhappy. Not necessarily. So like that. I heard this. They were so happy because time to do practice during those times. Anyway, what was I saying?

I think, I tell you one thing, when you do shi-ne, calm-abiding meditation, when your mind is kind of excited then unable to concentrate, unable to do one-pointed concentration on the object. Then, that time, you have to think about, come to control the mind, bring down mind that was excited. Then you think about impermanence and death. You think impermanence, death, lower realm sufferings, then the mind is able to come down. You’re able to come down, concentrate. That’s antidote.

When your mind is sinking, the sinking mind, even though you’re concentrating on object not having clarity on the object. Or there’s a clarity but the way you focus, the way your mind focus on the object, intenseness missing. The intenseness is missing even though it’s clear. So sinking thought you see. Sinking thought mind go down. Then, that time, you need to meditate to lift up. When you feel down then meditate Buddha nature and usefulness of perfect human rebirth, that you have all these eighteen precious qualities, how this is so meaningful. All this makes you happy.

If you think this shi-ne, calm-abiding meditation, depend on your mental state. The whole point is so that to achieve one-pointedness, the concentration. Not only that - to achieve actual calm-abiding. After that, extremely refined ecstasy of body and mind. All that. Then, so easy to keep your mind virtuous and very easy to have any realisation because you’re able to concentrate. To achieve that, working with your mind like this. When the mind is high, excited, then you think other meditations to bring down. Then when the mind is so down you think those other meditations makes happy, bring up. That’s the method.

So, here, if you meant self-pity, looking oneself lower, others better – is it right? Just that? I would say, for example, the [pause] don’t remember. Anyway, I kind of mentioned already. [pause] It all depends how you interpret. For example, emotions: there’s positive emotion, there’s negative emotion. All emotion doesn’t mean bad. That is wrong. There is a positive emotion, like devotion to the holy object, that benefits you. That can benefit you; that which has qualities to benefit you. So that is emotion. Compassion is emotion. Loving kindness is emotion. Is positive thought, virtuous thought, root of enlightenment. Compassion to other living beings: root of bodhicitta, root of enlightenment, root of infinite qualities of Buddha’s Holy Body, Holy Speech and Holy Mind. The compassion for others is a very pure thing but is emotional thought. So the emotional thought, there’s attachment to clinging to this life, to one’s own comfort, pleasure. So that is also emotion. The anger is emotion. So there’s a positive and negative emotion like that. Similar, repentance: when one made a mistake then feeling sorry, sad, like that. Then you want purify because you recognise made a mistake and feeling unhappy of that. That makes you to purify; to do something rather than leaving the mistake, that karma. Then you purify. You do something. The advantage of recognising negative karma, the mistake, feeling sad of that: that makes you do, that persuades you to purify that. Purify that so you don’t have to experience result: suffering, problem, at all. So that repentance it helps you. It helps you to achieve happiness; to not be born in the lower realms.

Sometimes, there can be wrong repentance. There can be wrong repentance like there’s wrong patience. For example somebody who is living in the precepts – fasting, living in the vow of fasting, for example. Oh, this person doesn’t eat – you feel compassion to that person. The person’s renounced being who has nothing, attaining, making progression in the Path. Week by week, month by month, year by year, getting closer to liberation and enlightenment, but nothing you see. Somebody comes along – ‘oh this person has nothing. Oh, so bad’. However, wrong patience or wrong compassion. You do something good but then you didn’t realise. Something what you did - sincerely you made charity to somebody, then later, oh, either somebody talk to you, ‘it’s wrong what you did’. Then you think, oh I made a mistake. Then you feel sorry. That’s wrong kind of repentance. You do something good but then due to other’s wrong interpretation, wrong advice, or yourself think, like this. So similar here.

Anyway, to finish this so here, this is using as a medicine. I don’t know exactly what self-pity is – thinking lower. When you are with somebody pride start to rise. Sorry I didn’t reach to that – the second, from eight verses, the second stanza.

If you allow to rise pride, that creates negative karma; effect of the rising pride is, in the future lives, you get reborn as a slave, very poor, without means of living. Poor, slave – like India or those countries where the society which recognises caste, lower caste, like there’s ‘untouchables’, everybody keep them down. There’s a caste called ‘untouchables’ in India; Ten dar ul bor rignyen? lower caste.

Mu.long is, Geshe la says you’re born as blind from childhood time. When you’re born, you’re born blind. Then chung chung very small capacity, dong nye zen par che? in the country, depending country, there only interpretation of bad colour.

Even when you’re born in human realm this is the effects that you get from pride. Then the other things as normally mentioned. Normally mentioned that if you have so much pride then you don’t want, it interferes to learn, to increase your quality or your knowledge., When you feel pride then you don’t want to show your mistakes. You don’t want to learn from others because of your pride. It is mentioned by Kadampa Geshes that whose mind is totally filled with pride the quality water won’t stay. So something like this – bowl’s round, if you pour water won’t stay. Mind filled with the pride, water quality cannot stay on top. It interferes with learning. It interferes fro realisation to attain better life. So that time to think oneself as lower, that doesn’t create negative karma. That stops, that become the medicine. That becomes the medicine, the psychology; become medicine of mind. To not rise pride there’s a medicine. You get injections to not get sicknesses. You get injections so that you don’t get sicknesses. So practising this, yourself being lower and others are better, then this way, respecting others. So the main thing is this way respect comes to others; the appreciation and respect. So becomes medicine to not rise pride; protection for you against pride, those delusions that cause you to reincarnate in the lower realm or even born a human being, those many problems, those many disadvantages.

So main thing is by practising oneself as lower then pride does not rise. This way then you can always cherish others. The second stanza is the method to be able to practice the first one – cherish others. So like that.

Here, this is not at all, the second stanza – looking at oneself lower, is not at all that the other one, normal one. Other one is not to respect others, to cherish others, to respect others – not that. Other one is suffering. This one is not suffering. This one, practising the second stanza, to cherish others, to respect others, this is not suffering at all. This is peace and joy. But this other one which you’re talking maybe what normally, not respect others, not cherish others, nothing for that. The aim is not that. With the self-cherishing thought, now motivation with self-cherishing thought, oh that one isn’t suffering. That one: oh I’m this, I’m that. The motivation self-cherishing, then that one is suffering. Do you understand? After all this, do you understand? After all this? That the, anyway, the second stanza here, keeping yourself lower the motivation is totally different. Behind, the motivation from where that thought comes to keep oneself lower than others, from where it comes, is thought to benefit others, thought to cherish others, respect others. The other one probably what you are talking about is coming from self-cherishing thought. Coming from the self-cherishing thought: I’m hopeless, I’m this and that. That is suffering. There’s no joy in that. But this one coming from the thought keeping oneself lower, coming from thought to benefit others; to practice bodhicitta, cherishing others, respect others. Then thinking I’m lower – this one only joy. The effect in your heart is only joy.

So there’s maybe truth, I don’t know whether you call self-pity or not I’m not sure. Anyway, I get the description in the effect from where it comes. So if it’s self-pity or not, I’m not sure. So like that.

For example, His Holiness bow down or respect any kind of person, not only highly educated or wealthy, any – old person, young people, poor, anybody - bow down and respect. That’s not self-pity. I don’t think that’s called self-pity. Sincerely, is not political. It is not done with eight worldly dharmas. It’s not done with attachment, seeking happiness for oneself. That’s the black politics.

If respect is done sincerely, with bodhicitta, respecting the sentient beings done very sincerely, like how normal bodhisattva does, with sincere heart; how they are so precious, like mother her beloved child. Like that one, like her heart is upside, how she cherish so much. So, like that, bodhisattva cherish every sentient being like a mother how she cherish, thinks so precious her beloved child, so the bodhisattva cherish like this all sentient beings – sincerely respects. You see what His Holiness does. So His Holiness there, I don’t think there’s self-pity.