The Happy Path

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Bendigo, Australia (Archive #877)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught on the merely imputed I, the benefits of altruism and compassion, how to transform problems and the five powers, during two evening discourses in Bendigo, Australia, in August, 1991. 

These teachings have been edited and divided into five chapters that correspond to the online audio files. Click here to listen to the teachings online and read along with the unedited transcripts.

The Five Powers (Second Discourse, con't)

So I promised yesterday to speak about how death happens, about what happens to the mind and the body, and meanwhile while we are generating the path, while we are developing our mind, until we become completely free from death, until we have complete control over death and rebirth, over suffering, how we should handle death to make it beneficial for the development of our mind; how we can use death as a path to develop our mind and to benefit all sentient beings; how to transform death into happiness; how to make death enjoyable rather than terrifying. That was my plan, but somehow I was distracted again today. Again I talked about stress.

I'll just give you some idea about how one stops death. Buddha revealed three levels of path: the Lesser Vehicle path, the Paramitayana path, and the tantric path. The Lesser Vehicle path has two divisions, the paths of the Hearer and Solitary Realizer, and each of these has five paths leading to ultimate liberation, cessation of the all suffering and its causes.

The ignorance that I mentioned before, the ignorance not knowing the ultimate nature of the I, the self, is the root of all suffering and its causes, and this is eliminated by realizing the ultimate nature of the I. Developing this wisdom eliminates all the other disturbing thoughts and stops the actions produced by them. And even the seed left on the consciousness by this ignorance is completely eliminated by this wisdom realizing the ultimate nature of the I. According to the Lesser Vehicle path, when even the seed is completely removed, at that time one doesn't experience death; one is completely free from the cycle of death and rebirth, and this includes old age, sickness, and all other problems.

Now, the Paramitayana path is a Mahayana path, which has two divisions, Paramitayana and tantra. The Paramitayana path has five paths: path of merit, preparatory path, right seeing path, path of meditation, and path of no more learning. When you reach the third path, the right seeing path, you become a transcendent being, an Aryan being, and you don't experience suffering death, you are completely free from disease, as well as suffering rebirth. This holy being has a subtle spiritual body that is not like our bodies. This is the level at which one doesn't experience death according to those of the Paramitayana path, who don't practice tantra.

Tantra has four levels, the highest of which is Highest Yoga Tantra. Highest Yoga Tantra is the one that makes it possible to achieve the peerless happiness of great liberation, full enlightenment, in this very brief lifetime. "Brief" refers to the very short lifetime in this degenerated time. Because it has the most skillful means, Highest Yoga Tantra makes it possible to achieve this highest realization of full enlightenment in such a short time.

Highest Yoga Tantra has two stages: generation stage and completion stage. Generation stage involves meditation practice on the three kayas, which leaves potential on the mind to purify the ordinary suffering death, intermediate state, which comes after death, and rebirth, and ripens the mind to generate the completion stage, to generate what is called clear light and the illusory body, the path of unification - in other words, the path time dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. It also leaves the potential to achieve the resultant three kayas, the highest realization of full enlightenment.

The second stage, completion stage, has five stages within it: isolation of body, isolation of speech, isolation of mind, illusory body, clear light, and unification. Then there is enlightenment, the unification of no more learning, which is the highest realization. There is gross mind, subtle mind, and extremely subtle mind; and also gross body, subtle body, extremely subtle body. When you achieve the realization of clear light, you are not under the control of death; rather, death is under your control at that time. According to tantra, when you achieve this level, you are free from ordinary suffering death and rebirth.

A person who has achieved clear light is able to achieve the highest realization, the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, in that same life. As I mentioned last night, by manifesting millions and millions of various forms, according to the levels of mind of all sentient beings, this person with omniscient mind knowing everything, infinite compassion, and perfect power is able to benefit every sentient being, bringing them from happiness to happiness, to the highest happiness of full enlightenment.

Now you can see why meditation and development of the mind is so important, not only for your own happiness but for the happiness of all sentient beings. I've already mentioned how important it is to develop compassion, and development of compassion comes through meditation. You need to learn all the subjects and meditations to develop this step by step. The ultimate goal of practicing meditation, of practicing Dharma, is to free everyone from all suffering and its causes and to bring them to the highest happiness of full enlightenment. This is the ultimate goal. The purpose of practicing meditation is not small or narrow. It is infinite as space.

In the meantime, until you achieve this level of the path, you have to go through death. So you have to know how to use death as a path to develop your own mind, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. You have to know how to make your death happy. This involves the five powers. I will just go over the outlines; I won't go into any detail.

The first power is the power of the white merit. This involves accumulating merit. When you know that death is about to happen, you give away everything that belongs to you, either to holy objects or to other living beings, those who need help. You make charity so that you create merit. The main point of accumulating merit is to develop bodhicitta, this ultimate good heart cherishing all sentient beings and wishing to bring all beings to highest happiness of enlightenment. For this reason you want to achieve enlightenment.

The main thing is not to cling. There are two things that make us terrified of death. One is the attachment clinging to our own body, possessions, and the people around us. This clinging makes death difficult. Because of this clinging we do not accept death and are afraid of it. Whether you give your belongings away or not, the main point is to give yourself the freedom not to be afraid of death, to have an easy, happy time, by not clinging to these things at the time of death. That is the main point. Whether these materials leave the house or not, the main thing is to dedicate them to others in your mind. From your heart dedicate them all to either holy objects or to other living beings, your family, sick people, poor people. This helps you not to not cling, which is a great release for your mind.

The other thing that makes us afraid of death the many unwholesome actions we have done in the past, all the actions that have harmed ourselves and harmed others done with negative thoughts, such as self-cherishing, anger, ignorance, attachment, and so forth. Even though you mightn't feel this very strongly now, at the time of death this is on thing that brings fear. Therefore, you need to purify these negative imprints left on your mind by negative actions done in the past because of negative thoughts. And you can purify these. This is one way to have an easy death, without any difficulties, without any worry or fear about what is going to happen to you, about reincarnating in another realm where there is much suffering. Without any of these fears, you can have a very happy death, like going on a picnic or a holiday. Without any fears or doubts, you have a happy, confident mind. Then, by knowing that you are going to one of the higher realms of the enlightened beings, where there is no suffering, you can even feel incredible happiness.

The next one is the power of the motivation. This means that you think, "I'm going to practice bodhicitta. When I die, even in the intermediate state, I'm never going to separate from this altruistic good heart." This is the power of the motivation. If you have this intention and are able to remember this altruism all the time, there is no suffering; your life becomes a very pleasant journey and becomes very beneficial for other sentient beings. You are then able to take a meaningful perfect rebirth, develop your mind, and benefit so many sentient beings. You then go to enlightenment.

The next one is the power of putting the blame. This means that when any problem, any difficulty, comes in your life, you immediately blame the ego. You blame everything on the ego, because all your problems come from the ego. You give all your problems - even cancer, AIDS, relationship problems - to the ego, rather than taking them upon yourself. Whether you have a relationship problem or have failed in business, give it to the ego and think that you have destroyed the ego, like killing an external enemy. The ego is your main enemy. Without this inner enemy, there is no outside enemy. Give the problems to your ego, the inner enemy that brings outer enemies, so that the ego becomes non-existent. Use your everyday actions as a remedy to eliminate the ego.The next one is the power of the attitude. This means that every morning you think, "The purpose of my life is to free everyone from all their suffering and its causes and to bring everyone happiness. Therefore, from now on, especially until my death, especially this year, this week, and especially today, I won't let myself be controlled by the ego, by self-cherishing thought. I will always practice the altruism cherishing other sentient beings. I will never separate from this even for one second." You motivate like this when you get up in the morning, and then during the rest of the day, you try to live with this altruism. This is the power of the attitude.

The last one is the power of training. When death is about to happen, you lie down. Some meditators die by sitting in the meditation posture, but many die lying in this special position. If possible you lie with your right side on the bed. You stretch out both you legs with your left arm stretched along your body. You rest your head on the palm of your right hand, using it to block your right nostril. You do this as best you can, or ask other people to help you to do it. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha used this posture when he showed the aspect of passing away. He left this teaching for living beings on impermanence and death, the nature of life. Therefore we need to develop the mind, to practice meditation.

This special posture is itself a protection for the mind; it helps us to die with positive, happy thoughts, not with anger, attachment, jealousy, or any of the other disturbing, unhappy thoughts. And if you die with a positive thought, you will definitely have a better rebirth, so that again you can practice and develop your mind. Or you can go to a pure realm, where there is no suffering. This is the physical posture. Now, the mind. According to your capacity, you can generate compassion by thinking of everyone who is dying now and who will have to die. There are so many others who are suffering much more than you. Thinking of all their sufferings, think, "How wonderful it would be if they could all be free from all their suffering and its causes. I will do this." Try to die by generating compassion in this way. This is one way to use death as a path to achieve the highest happiness, to be free from all suffering.

Another thing is to meditate on the ultimate nature of the I or of the mind, as I explained before. Try to die by meditating on the ultimate nature.

Then, depending on your own practice and your mind, you can generate devotion for holy objects. This is another way to have a happy death and protect yourself from bad rebirth. According to your own capacity and your own level of practice, there are many ways that you can meditate at the time of death. In this way, you can transform death into happiness, into the path to be free from all suffering and achieve the highest happiness of full enlightenment.

Now, the sign of death. The definition of death is that the consciousness leaves the body. As long as the consciousness is in the body, even if the brain doesn't function or the heart doesn't beat, the person is not dead. If a person dies slowly, not suddenly as in a car accident, the sign of death for a woman is that white seed, sperm, comes out of the nose and red blood comes from the sex organ. For a man, blood comes from the nose and sperm from the sex organ. This is the definition of death; at this time the consciousness has left the body. The gross consciousnesses absorbs, and this is the sign that even the subtle consciousness has left the body.

This doesn't necessarily happen with everybody. In those with chronic disease this process is blocked. It is mentioned by those who have experience with dying people, that if you pull the skin, and it goes back into place, the person is alive; if the skin doesn't go back, that is the sign that the consciousness has left the body. Also, when the consciousness has left the body, a rotten smell suddenly comes from the mouth. These things are the experiences of other lamas and meditators.

When all the gross consciousnesses have absorbed and only the extremely subtle consciousness is left, the meditators who have practiced tantra during their life meditate with this extremely subtle consciousness. They meditate whatever length of time they wish - one hour, three days, many months, even years. Some meditators have stayed in that meditation even many years in their hermitage or cave. Even recently, many of my gurus have done this. When one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's gurus passed away, he stayed in meditation nine days. The length of time differs, according to the wishes of the meditator.

Even in our day-to-day life we need to train our minds in these five powers so that we can deal with death, so that we are able to practice at the death time. We can know that we are about to die through physical signs and dreams; there are many ways to check when death is going to happen: outer, inner, and secret signs. You can even know when death is about to happen, after how many years or months, from the way the breath moves through the nostrils. If we train now, at the time of death it will be very easy.

So I'll stop here. I hope during these two nights of my talking blah, blah, blah, blah for such a long time that you found some benefit, some sharing, some understanding. I hope there was some benefit to the life, to the mind, that you can see, so that we can benefit other sentient beings more.

Please dedicate the merits of the good actions that we have done to develop altruism within your own mind and in the minds of all other sentient beings. And those who have it, may they develop it.

Due to all the good actions that you have done and those done by others and the holy beings, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, may any sentient being who hears me, who touches me, who remembers me, who talks about me, who thinks about me, from that time may they never be reborn in the lower realms and may the be free immediately from all sicknesses, spirit harms, negative actions, and obscurations. May their seeing me, touching me, remembering me, talking about me, be able to cause this. May everything become a healing for them. May everything about me become meaningful to behold, so that all sentient beings immediately be freed them from all problems and achieve the highest happiness of full enlightenment.

[End of Second Discourse]