Kadampa Teachings

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Root Institute, Bodhgaya (Archive #1404 1470 1588 1683 1677)

In this book Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains how to practice Dharma the way the famous Kadampa geshes did. These lamas were exemplary practitioners of Buddhism in Tibet, renowned for their extreme asceticism and uncompromising practice of thought transformation in order to develop bodhicitta. As ever, Rinpoche covers a vast amount of ground, teaching on many other topics as well.

Kadampa Teachings 2: Bodhgaya, December 2003 - January 2004

December 27

I thought to read a little bit of Lama Atisha’s life story, since the root of the lam-rim teaching is Lama Atisha’s Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment.

I requested that Root Institute have the statues of these Kadampa geshes. Seeing these statues inspires you to practice lam-rim and transform your mind into the path and particularly to practice lo-jong, or thought transformation, which means using obstacles to practice Dharma. As the Kadampa geshes did, you can use any undesirable thing that you experience—a strong delusion arising, sickness, an obstacle to your Dharma practice—in the path to achieve enlightenment. You can use even your delusions, your negative thoughts, in the path to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. When ignorance, anger, attachment or self-cherishing arises strongly, you can do tong-len, taking and giving, in which you take all the delusions of other sentient beings into your own heart and give them to your self-cherishing thought, thus destroying it. When there’s strong attachment, you take the attachment of all sentient beings within yourself and use it to destroy your attachment.

You use all the undesirable things, all the obstacles to practicing Dharma, transforming them all into the path to enlightenment. Taking all the similar problems of the numberless sentient beings, all the sufferings and delusions, upon yourself is like transforming poison into medicine. Instead of harming your health, the poison then becomes beneficial for your health. You use what is regarded as an obstacle to practicing Dharma to develop bodhicitta or to meditate on emptiness. By taking all those obstacles, all those problems, of other sentient beings on yourself, giving all of them to your self-cherishing thought, you will have no obstacles to your practice of Dharma. When you use obstacles to practice thought transformation or lam-rim and bring happiness to all sentient beings, you’ll have no obstacles to your Dharma practice. Before there were obstacles to your Dharma practice; but after you have applied the meditation of thought transformation, you won’t find any obstacles to your practice. Since the Kadampa geshes whose statues are here did this practice, they inspire us to practice lam-rim, the heart of the 84,000 teachings of Buddha, and to transform all our sufferings, all our obstacles, into happiness, into the path to enlightenment, thus becoming the cause of happiness for all sentient beings.


Rather than reading Lama Atisha’s life story from the Tibetan, it might be quicker for me to read the English.1 This is to inspire devotion to Lama Atisha. The lam-rim, the special way of presenting the Dharma, came from Lama Atisha. When other teachings can’t subdue the mind, the lam-rim is the only one that can.

In the eastern part of India, in the country named Bengal (Sahor), the ruler was a religious king named Kalyana Shri. King Kalyana Shri brought the prosperity of his kingdom to its zenith. His palace had a golden victory banner encircled by countless houses and there were great numbers of bathing-pools encircled by 720 magnificent gardens, forests of Tala trees, seven concentric walls, 363 connecting bridges, innumerable golden victory banners, thirteen roofs to the central palace and thousands of noblemen in the palace.

All this splendor matched the King of Tonkun’s (one of the Chinese kings); the dignity of the monarch’s royal bearing and his air of great authority were like those of the great god Indra. His subjects were as numerous as the inhabitants of a city of Gandharas and their religious attainments could be compared to those of Aryadharma. Shri Prabhavati, the consort of this devout king, was like a goddess. She was a beautiful and chaste woman who worshipped the Triple Gem, and was beloved as a mother by all human beings. This queen had three sons, namely Shrigarbha, Chandragarbha and Padmagarbha. The story of these three is seldom to be found in other books. The second son, Chandragarbha, was my noble guru. At the auspicious moment of his birth, flowers rained down upon the city, a rainbow canopy appeared, and the gods sang hymns which brought gladness and joy to all the people. For eighteen months he resided in the capital and was excellently reared by eight nurses.

To the north of the palace there was a sacred place called Vikramshila Vihara. To make offerings at that place, the King, Queen and their ministers, escorted by 500 chariots full of lovely girls elegantly adorned with ornaments and surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of musicians, carried the innumerable jeweled articles necessary for the votive rite and all went to that place singing.

My infant guru, who already seemed like a child of three, had so many beauties of person that the eyes were dazzled. The boy, having been crowned and adorned with godlike ornaments, was carried by his father wrapped in fine muslin garments. When the people saw him they felt so full of happiness that they could not tear themselves away. Those who stood by exclaimed: “At the time of your birth, the tent of the sun was set up and melodious songs were heard by the people. So our most cherished desire was to meet you. And now, having seen you, we are filled with joyous awe.”

I don’t remember seeing this story before. In the Tibetan text it says that all these things were arranged by the king and queen, Atisha’s father and mother, so that the prince, Atisha, would be impressed, or dazzled, as it says here. They chose many beautiful girls and an extensive range of songs to make staying home more attractive to Atisha than going away from home to become a monk. I don’t remember seeing this story in the Tibetan text, but the text with the stories of the lam-rim lineage lamas mentions what his parents prayed for and the prayer that Lama Atisha made when his parents made all these extensive arrangements to try to get him to stay at home.

Then the excellent Prince enquired: “Who are these people, O parents?”
“These are your subjects, Prince,” answered his parents.

Then the excellent Prince continued: “May they be possessed of merit like that of my parents. May they rule kingdoms that reach the summit of prosperity. May they be reborn as sons of kings and may they be sustained by holy and virtuous deeds.”

Then, when the royal procession came safely to the Vikramashila Vihara (the main chapel at that place of pilgrimage) the excellent Prince, having prostrated himself to the Triple Gem, recited this melodious song of praise:
“Having attained the noble body of a man, and being without defect in all organs, I shall adhere to the Triple Gem.
Always, I shall take the Triple Gem upon my head with deep sincerity.
Henceforward, may the Triple Gem be my refuge!”

When these words were heard by the King, Queen, ministers and monks, they were filled with joyful wonder and all declared with one voice that the Prince was destined for greatness. Then the King, Queen and attendants declared: “May we, by gathering merits through paying reverence and making offerings, be able to make offerings to the Triple Gem from life to life. And, by the virtue of those merits, we pray for the long continuance of our religion, for which we shall make offerings to the Sangha. Oh, may we be delivered from the sufferings caused by defilements.”

When the Prince heard their words, he looked at his parents and exclaimed: “May I never be bound by worldly ways. May I be taught the holy way of the monks and humbly worship the Triple Gem. May I feel pity for all beings.”

I’m not sure that pity is the right word—maybe compassion would be better.

“May I feel compassion for all living beings.”

His parents and the others felt full of wonder when they heard the sayings of the Prince. This was the first preaching of my guru.

So, this was the first teaching from Lama Atisha.

The Prince, by the age of three, had become well-versed in astrology, writing and Sanskrit. At six years, he was able to distinguish between the Buddhist and non-Buddhist doctrines. From then up to the age of ten years, he took the Triple Gem for refuge by observing the precepts (shilas) of the upasakas, bestowing charity (dana), studying happily, reciting prayers, seeking out people of noble character, obeying and serving his parents humbly and with sweet words, enjoying every sort of religious dance and sacred song, paying respect to holy men even from a distance, looking at worldlings with heart-felt pity, helping those who were wretched, and doing many such noble deeds. When the Prince reached the age of eleven years, the ministers and subjects brought twenty-one girls of noble parentage to him and the King and Queen presented them with valuable gifts.

One day the King summoned all his ministers and commanded: “Beginning from tomorrow you must carefully prepare the thirteen royal chariots and adorn them beautifully with innumerable ornaments such as the people love, especially the most beautiful and strongest chariot, which should be placed in the center. On it you must pitch the peacock umbrella surrounded by fans. In the center (under the peacock umbrella) place Chandragarbha clad in splendid garments on a beautifully jeweled throne. In the other twelve adorned chariots, all the ministers will be seated dressed in magnificent garments and accompanied by musicians with many kinds of instruments to play joyful songs.

“The procession will be led by three white chariots; there will be three red chariots to the rear, three yellow chariots on the right and three green chariots on the left. In each of the chariots place many youths and maidens with colored banners proper to the devas of the four directions. The Prince’s chariot of five different colors should be ornamented at the four corners with carvings shaped like peacocks’ necks and surrounded by girls dressed as goddesses bearing offerings. The other attendants should play melodious tunes upon such instruments as violins, drums and cymbals to delight the crowds who will gather on all sides. Beyond the great city in a pleasant garden must be set all sorts of amusements and games that will draw the people to assemble there. These amusements must last for a period of half a month so as to make all the people happy and contented. Among the assembly, there must be girls ready to delight the Prince, and the ministers must instruct them how to behave when the Prince’s gaze lights upon them.”

Thus the great king ordered the ministers to get ready thirteen adorned chariots within a week, with the chariot of the Prince in the middle, richly ornamented, and twelve chariots of musicians with instruments of all sorts.

Then beyond the great city at all the crossroads and in the gardens, the people began enjoying themselves with fascinating games. During the royal progress through all the quarters of the city to which Prince Chandragarbha and his 25,000 attendants proceeded in their chariots, the people in the lotus gardens adjacent to the capital and at every junction of the roads welcomed him like a universal king (chakravartin) and all followed to gaze at the Prince. Prabhadevi and the other court ladies, the Prince’s kinsmen and comrades, encouraged one another to hasten to see the gathering of people. When the people came crowding around the procession, the daughters of King Punnadhara, King Nemandhara, King Jalapati, King Pracandraprabha and other kings of high descent, noble physique and great possessions came armed, riding in twenty-two chariots, to join in the celebrations. In each of the chariots rode seven girls with seven maiden attendants. All these twenty-two chariots were adorned magnificently with diverse ornaments. The riders came singing melodious songs and in happy mood. The girls sat like goddesses, their lovelorn eyes fixed upon the Prince, for, at the sight of this youth, their passion was so great that the hair on their limbs stood up.

Suddenly, a goddess appeared, her complexion pale blue, and uttered the following admonition to the Prince:
“O, care not for power and be free from lust, most fortunate Prince.
If, as an elephant sinks deeply into the swamp, you, a hero,
were to sink in the mire of lust,
Would it not stain the shila robes you have worn
In your past five hundred and fifty-two lives
When you took the form of an undefiled pandita, a holy bhikshu?
Therefore, as ducks seek out the lotus garden,
Seek you ordination in this life.
The charming and lovely girls who live in this city
Are temptresses sent by mara (the evil one) to dispel your brilliant shila,
Thus they hope to betray you by showing you their passion.
Know this, O handsome Prince!
Like the moon reflected in the ocean,
Your purity gives forth brilliance, O Prince.
Your head adorned with the five sacred jeweled ornaments
Puts a spell of fascination upon the people.
Since you have attained a precious human body, so difficult to win,
You should devote your life to hearing, pondering and practicing (the Dharma)
And, to set your doubts at rest,
You should seek the guidance of innumerable gurus.”

The Prince smiled and responded thus to the goddess’s admonition:
“Oh, wonderful! This is good, this is good, most excellently good!
The wise delight in the (silence of the) forest,
As peacocks thrive on poisonous plants
Or as ducks rejoice in the water of the lake.
Just as crows revel in dirty places,
So do ordinary people flock to the city.
Whereas, like ducks hastening to the lotus pond,
Do people of wisdom seek the forest.
How unlike ordinary people!
So, in the past, was Prince Siddhartha
Repelled by the prosperous kingdom of Shuddhodana as by a filthy swamp.
He thereupon sought enlightenment, renouncing all his royal consorts.
All humans and devas praised and worshipped him.
Possessing the thirty-two glorious signs and eighty noble marks of a Dharma king,
He attained buddhahood attended by the twelve holy states.
Unless I renounce this kingdom,
I shall increase the lust in the swamp of evil.
All friends are deceivers sent by mara.
All wealth is but a salty river.
Now by seeking eminent gurus
And by making good use of this body, I shall attain enlightenment.
The enjoyment of pleasures stemming from desire
Is as empty as reflected moonlight,
As fleeting as an echo,
As illusory as a mirage,
As dependent as a reflection.
Into this vast ocean of affliction,
The rivers of birth, decay, sickness and death flow unceasingly.
In the past, I was bound by the karmic power of impure deeds,
But today I am able to fulfill this life, so why not seek after Dharma?
Determined to seek deliverance from worldly things,
I shall devote myself to the noble Dharma under the guidance of my gurus.”

I will now give the oral transmission of a short teaching by Lama Atisha, The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland.

Think, “The purpose of my life is to free the numberless sentient beings from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment; therefore, I must achieve enlightenment; and therefore, I’m going to take the oral transmission of Lama Atisha’s teaching, The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland.”

[Rinpoche gives the oral transmission of The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland in Tibetan.]

I received the oral transmission of The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland from Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche in Dharamsala quite a number of years ago. I requested Rinpoche to give the oral transmission of the many thought-transformation texts compiled by the great bodhisattva Konchog Gyaltsen.2 I received all those teachings except for Parting from the Four Clingings, composed by the great Sakya lama, Dragpa Gyaltsen, as Rinpoche didn’t hold that lineage. I later received that teaching, as well as the commentaries to it, in Nepal from His Holiness Chogye Trichen Rinpoche.

December 28

To keep our mind in Dharma and always strongly devoted to Dharma, to be inspired to do pure Dharma practice and to receive blessings, it’s very good to read the life stories of Dharma practitioners such as the Kadampa geshes, Milarepa and Lama Tsongkhapa. Read whatever is available in your language. Reading the life stories of those who have attained the path inspires your mind, causing you to develop devotion and to receive blessings. Also, by reading the life stories of highly attained great yogis and pandits, or scholars, you know how to practice Dharma.

When we read the life story of Milarepa or Lama Atisha and generate a wish to be like them, we are making preparation in our mental continuum to be like them in the future, sooner or later. Generating a strong wish to be like them is a positive wish, and from that wish we then become like them, with all those qualities, and are able to offer extensive benefit to sentient beings. While you are reading their life stories, pray again and again to be like them. Put your palms together and recite the verse:

Päl dän la ma khye ku chi dra dang
Khor dang ku tshei tshä dang zhing kham sog
Khyö kyi tshän chhog zang po chi dra war
De dra kho nar dag sog gyur war shog

In whatever way you appear, glorious guru,
With whatever retinue, life span and pure land,
Whatever noble and holy name you take,
May I and others attain only these.

I mentioned the importance of reading the life stories of the lineage lamas of the lam-rim path, those great yogis who completed the path. We should read the life stories of present yogis and of the ancient ones, those who accomplished the path, so that we come to know how to practice Dharma. It’s one way of subduing our mind, of softening the concrete concepts of our heavy mind. It is only then that realizations can come.

If we pray in this way whenever we see these statues of the Kadampa geshes in the Root Institute gompa, for example, sooner or later we will become like them. We will have all those qualities and be able to practice Dharma and benefit so many sentient beings as Lama Atisha and the Kadampa geshes did. Every time we come into the gompa and see these statues and the other holy objects, it’s very important that we immediately put our hands together in prostration. We should take all the advantages offered by these statues and holy objects. They are here for us sentient beings to collect merit and to purify our defilements and obstacles and to achieve realizations of the path. They are here for us to achieve liberation from samsara and full enlightenment. We must take every opportunity we have to use these holy objects to collect merit and to purify our mind. We must pray to be like them, so that sooner or later, by the power of our mind, by the power of our wish, or intention, we can become like them. As mentioned in the teachings, “All phenomena depend on the tip of a wish.”

Remember the story of Shariputra, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s heart disciple. As mentioned by the great Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, the reason that Shariputra was able to be Buddha’s heart disciple and always be with Buddha was because of what happened in one of his past lives. While traveling, he stopped overnight in a temple. He was fixing his shoes by a light, facing a wall. He would sometimes take a rest and gaze at a drawing of a buddha on the wall. Each time he looked at the drawing he thought, “How beautiful it is!” He generated the wish, the positive intention, to become like that. That is why Shariputra was able to become the heart disciple of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and always see, serve and receive teachings from Buddha.


In the Indian language, Sanskrit, this text is called Bodhisattvamane-vali; in Tibetan, jang chub sem pai nor bu treng wa; and in the English language, The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland.

I prostrate to great compassion;
I prostrate to the gurus;
I prostrate to the devotional deities.
Abandon all doubts;
Definitely cherish the practice.

Here it says Abandon all doubts, but how do we do this? In one way, as we learn more, we’re able to cut doubts. The more we study Dharma, the deeper our learning, the fewer doubts we have.

However, intellectual learning alone is not enough to really cut doubts. We must practice and purify our defilements. Otherwise, if we don’t purify our mind, even if we have good intellectual understanding of what is said in the texts or explained by our teachers, doubts will come. While we’re doing preliminary practices—while we’re prostrating to Buddha, for example—doubts can sometimes come. The thought can come, “There’s no Buddha” or “There’s no reincarnation” or “There’s no karma.” Such heretical thoughts can come, if only for a short time. Learning is one thing, but, from my point of view, the main thing is to purify defilements. This is how we can be free from doubts; this is how we can abandon doubts. Otherwise, we will have doubts about very simple things, not even sophisticated philosophical points. If we have thick obscurations, doubts can arise about even very simple things. Purification is important. Otherwise, even though we have faith in karma and so forth, some past negative imprint for heresy will manifest now and then, and our mind will totally change. When that happens, we are convinced that what we believed before is wrong. When a past negative imprint for heresy manifests, we can totally believe that there’s no reincarnation, no karma, no liberation. Therefore, I think it’s very important every day to do purification practice and to do prayers dedicating merits.

In the early times at Kopan, around the time of the third, fourth and fifth Kopan courses, we would introduce the subjects of the mind and reincarnation then spend at least a few days talking about them. For four or five days, like many birds chattering in a tree, there would be a lot of discussion about the mind. It would be like that for a few days, then slowly calm down. After a week, everything would be quite calm. But even after two weeks, even though most people were fine, there would still be two or three people who couldn’t understand reincarnation, who couldn’t figure it out.

It has all to do with an individual person’s karma. It’s a question of obscurations. If someone’s mind is impure and has thick obscurations, no matter how intelligent the logical reasoning you use is, you won’t be able to prove the existence of reincarnation to that person. Even though other people accept your logic and say, “Of course, it’s like that,” that particular person won’t accept reincarnation. It is only when that person does practice of purification that there can be a change.

Thoroughly abandon sleep, drowsiness and laziness.

This has come at the right time, the perfect time!

Always attempt to have perseverance.

Geshe Wangchen has done a translation of The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland, though it’s more an explanation of the meaning than a literal translation. (See appendix 2.)3 Geshe Wangchen’s translation here is:

Having removed sleepiness, dullness and laziness,
I shall always be joyful
When engaging in such incredible practices.


The next verse is:

With remembrance, awareness and conscientiousness,
Always protect the doors of your senses.
Three times day and night, again and again,
Examine your mental continuum

It means we must examine our mental continuum again and again: morning, noon, evening and night.

Here Geshe Wangchen’s translation is:

I shall guard the doors of my speech, body and mind
Against any negative action,
By constantly being alert and mindful in my behavior.
I shall examine my mind
Over and over again, day and night.

We should practice mindfulness so that we are able to recognize whether or not negative thoughts are arising and whether or not we’re engaging in negative actions. Mindfulness is the first thing, the foundation. Through mindfulness we can recognize whether there’s a danger of our giving rise to anger, attachment, ignorance, self-cherishing or another delusion or of engaging in negative actions that will harm others and ourselves.

Mindfulness of impermanence

Sometimes, because there’s no mindfulness, we engage in negative karma without recognizing it. That is due to ignorance. While causative phenomena such as our life and the objects of our senses are impermanent in nature, continuously changing, decaying, in every hour, every minute, every second, and can be stopped at any time, they appear to us to be permanent, and we let our mind believe that they’re always going to be this way, which is the opposite to impermanence. Even though these things are impermanent in nature, we believe they’re always going to be this way.

Mindfulness of emptiness

Things also exist in mere name, being merely labeled by the mind; they’re dependent arisings, existing in mere name in dependence upon their base, the mind that labels them and their label. Even though that’s how things exist, because there’s the hallucination of a truly existent appearance, they don’t appear to us in accord with the reality, as merely labeled by mind, but appear to be not merely labeled by mind. We have a hallucinated view, and when we then allow our mind to hold on to that view as true, at that time we are creating ignorance in our daily life. This ignorance is the basis, or root, of all other delusions, of all other negative emotional thoughts, which then motivate karma. Here we need to practice mindfulness so that instead of thinking that this view is true, we think the opposite, that things are merely labeled by mind. We need to practice mindfulness of subtle dependent arising.

This is how things exist, from the I, the general aggregates, each individual aggregate, down to the atoms of the body. According to the Prasangika school, all atoms are composed of particles; there’s no atom that has no parts. An atom exists by being merely labeled on a collection of particles, which is then labeled on another collection of particles.

Just to give you some idea of this: the aggregate of form is not the I, the aggregate of feeling is not the I, the aggregate of recognition is not the I, the compositional factors are not the I, the aggregate of consciousness is not the I. Even the collection of all five of these aggregates is not the I. The I exists nowhere, from the top of the head down to the toes. It is not only that the truly existent I doesn’t exist on the aggregates. You can’t find even the labeled I on the aggregates, on the base. It doesn’t mean that the I that is merely labeled doesn’t exist. It exists. Even though you cannot find it on the base, the labeled I exists. The labeled I is in India, in Bodhgaya, in this gompa, on this cushion. It is on this cushion, but you can’t find it on this base. It exists on this cushion while the aggregates are on this cushion. You can’t find that labeled I on this base, but it is here now in this gompa, on this cushion, while the aggregates are on this cushion in this gompa. So, what is that I? It is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind.

The I doesn’t exist as one with these aggregates, nor does it exist separately from them. There is no other concrete reason to prove that there’s an I except that there is the valid base of the I, the aggregates. That’s it. Because the base is there, this valid base receives the label “I.” So, the mind has merely imputed “I.”

Just because the base, the aggregates, is now in India, in Bodhgaya, in the Root Institute gompa, the mind has merely imputed “I” and believed “I am in India, in Bodhgaya, in the Root Institute gompa.” Just because of that, the I is merely imputed, and we believe in that.

It is the same with everything else. When our body is doing the action of sitting, our mind merely imputes “I am sitting” and believes in that. There’s nothing more than that. There’s no I other than that. There’s no I that is something real or something more than that. The I that appears to be more than that and that we believe to be more than that is a false I. That is what is empty.

According to what the mind, the speech or the body does, the mind merely imputes “I am doing this or that” and believes in that. Seeing what the base does, the mind merely labels the action and believes in that. It’s not that there’s no I, but when you compare how the I appeared to you before and how you believed it to be a real I existing from its own side with how the I appears with this present analysis, it’s like the I doesn’t exist. It’s not that the I doesn’t exist, but it’s like it doesn’t exist. It is not that it’s totally non-existent. It exists, but it’s so subtle that it’s like it doesn’t exist. It is extremely fine, extremely subtle. You now have some idea of how the I is empty, empty of that real I that used to appear to you before and in which you believed.

You can’t say that the I doesn’t exist; it exists. But it’s something unbelievably subtle. It is empty of that emotional I, that real I. While it is empty, it exists; it exists in mere name. So, this is how the I is— extremely subtle. When we analyze how the I exists, we find it’s not what has been appearing to us and what we have been believing in from this morning, from our birth, from beginningless rebirths. It is never that I that we have been holding on to, thinking that it’s true. That one has never existed; during beginningless rebirths that one has never existed. Such an I has never existed up to now. There’s no such I. Even the omniscient mind cannot see that I. What the omniscient mind sees is that the I is empty of that. All those who have realized emptiness see that the I is empty of that; this is what they realize.

It is the same with each of the aggregates. Each aggregate is empty of the real one appearing from there that we believe is true. All the aggregates are empty, but they are not totally nonexistent. They exist, but they exist in mere name; they function in mere name. From the I down to the atoms and the particles of the atoms, everything is like that, merely labeled. Everything exists by being merely labeled; everything exists in mere name, merely labeled by the mind.

It is the same with the consciousness. This hour’s consciousness, this minute’s consciousness, this second’s consciousness, this split-second’s consciousness—they all exist in mere name, merely labeled by the mind. (The shortest duration of time varies with the different schools. For the Vaibhashika school, there are sixty-five moments in the duration of a finger-snap; for the Mahayana schools, there are 365.) However, down to the shortest duration of the continuity of consciousness, everything exists in mere name, merely labeled by the mind.

When you are sitting here, in reality there are all these piles of labels, from the I down to the particles of the atoms or the split-seconds of consciousness. One label is labeled on one thing, which is labeled on another thing. The I is labeled because there are the aggregates, and the aggregates are merely labeled because of the collection of the five aggregates. The aggregate of form is merely labeled because of the collection of all the parts of the body, and it is similar with the other aggregates. So, down to the particles of the atoms and the split-seconds of consciousness, everything exists in mere name, merely imputed by the mind. Every single part of what is sitting here is what has been merely imputed by the mind; it exists in mere name.

It is the same when you are walking. From the I down to the particles of the atoms and the split-seconds of consciousness, everything that is functioning exists in mere name. All the activities of the I are also merely labeled by the mind; they all exist in mere name.

When this analysis of the I is done, we get some experience of how the I exists. We suddenly feel that there’s no such real I, no such emotional I, no I existing from its own side. There is I, because there are the aggregates, but the I is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind. That’s all it is. There should be the same understanding, the same awareness, with all the rest, down to the particles of the atoms and the split-seconds of consciousness. That awareness should be the same with everything. Whether we are listening to a teaching, walking or doing something else, in reality there’s no concrete, real I existing from its own side. All these things that appear to us and in which we believe are total hallucinations; they are all totally empty. Not even an atom of them exists.

While we are walking, we should practice mindfulness of this. “I am walking, but what is that I? Nothing except what is merely labeled by the mind. That I is doing the action of walking.” It is the same with the aggregates. It is the same with everything, down to the particles of the atoms. We should practice mindfulness of this when we are walking, sitting or doing any other activity. There are piles of labels. Practice mindfulness that all these phenomena exist in mere name, being merely labeled by the mind.

When you meditate like this, the understanding that comes in your heart is that these things are all empty of the real one existing from its own side. You can see that while they all exist, they’re empty. Starting with the I, everything unifies emptiness and dependent arising. This is what Guru Shakyamuni Buddha has realized and shown, what Nagarjuna has realized and shown, what Milarepa has realized and shown, what Lama Tsongkhapa has realized and shown.

If you practice mindfulness in this way, you don’t allow your mind to create the concept of ignorance. If you let your mind hold on to the truly existent appearance, believing it to be true, you are then creating ignorance all the time. The antidote to that is to practice mindfulness all the time that everything exists in mere name, being merely labeled by the mind. If you are practicing mindfulness of this all the time, you don’t allow your mind to create this ignorance that is the root of samsara. You don’t create the self-grasping of the person and the self-grasping of the aggregates, or phenomena. By practicing mindfulness, you don’t create this root of samsara.

Here in The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland it says:

With remembrance, awareness and conscientiousness,
Always protect the doors of your senses.

We protect ourselves from delusion, particularly from ignorance. Another type of ignorance is ignorance of karma. Even though we might intellectually know about karma, in our daily life we sometimes don’t recognize that we are creating negative karma. Sometimes we don’t know that what we are doing is negative karma. That’s ignorance of karma.

Before, I mentioned piles of labels, but even that is wrong because it is still gross. When you think of one label on top of another label, it still makes you think that a truly existent I, a real I, is on the aggregates. The I is labeled in dependence upon the aggregates; but if you think that the I is on the aggregates, it’s easy to fall into thinking that there’s something real there. Because there are the aggregates, the mind merely imputed the I, and that’s how it is existing and functioning, as merely imputed by the mind. Even thinking of the piles of labels is still not quite correct, because it makes you believe there’s some real I that can be found on the aggregates. The idea that the I can be found on the aggregates shouldn’t be there at all. Otherwise, you can’t differentiate the view of the Prasangika school from that of the Svatantrika school. The subtlest difference between these schools is that the Svatantrika school believes that the I exists by its nature and can be found on the aggregates. There’s no such belief in the Prasangika school. The I not only doesn’t truly exist, but it doesn’t exist even by its nature. There’s no such thing there— you cannot find the I on the aggregates. There are huge differences between these two Madhyamaka schools.

December 30

Though I don’t remember whether I’ve received the commentary, I have received the oral transmission of The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland by Lama Atisha. So, there is the lineage. Because it is quite short, I thought to go over Lama Atisha’s advice as part of the Kadampa teachings.

Abandon all doubts;
Definitely cherish the practice.

What is the practice that we should definitely cherish? There’s no practice other than the lam-rim. What we should understand here is that it means the lam-rim.

As Lama Tsongkhapa explains in the lam-rim prayer The Foundation of All Good Qualities:

Seeking samsaric pleasures is the door to all suffering:
They are uncertain and cannot be relied upon.
Recognizing these shortcomings,
Please bless me to generate the strong wish for the bliss of liberation.4

This is a very powerful meditation. I was actually going to quote the next verse,5 but hearing this verse first helps us to see why Lama Tsongkhapa stressed living in morality as the essential practice. We can then see the purpose of doing this essential practice.

The verse says that no matter how much we use samsaric enjoyments, we never find satisfaction. We have had every samsaric enjoyment there is numberless times. We have had all the human beings’ pleasures and all the devas’ pleasures, which are a million times more pleasurable than the sense enjoyments of the wealthiest human being in the richest country. We have had all these enjoyments numberless times; we have had every enjoyment of human beings and devas numberless times during time without beginning.


As mentioned in the lam-rim teachings, in the section on the six shortcomings of samsara, nothing is definite. Nothing is definite in family relationships; they change from life to life, as shown in the story told by Shariputra. One day as Shariputra was going for alms, looking through the door of the house of one family, he saw that the father of the family had died and been born as a fish in the same pond behind the house where he himself used to catch fish. His son was eating that fish, which had been his father. The consciousness of the fish was of the same continuity as that of the father. The mother, having died with the thought of attachment to her home, had been born as the dog of that family and was chewing her husband’s bones. The son was beating the dog, who was begging for food. The son’s enemy, who was attached to the son’s wife, had died and been reborn as their child. The child he was nursing on his lap was actually his enemy. Since his enemy had been attached to the son’s wife, his consciousness had been conceived in her womb. So, he was now nursing the child, who was his enemy. All the relationships had totally changed.

Shariputra then said:

Eating the father’s flesh,
Beating the mother,
And nursing the enemy on the lap—
I laugh at samsaric existence!

Since nothing is definite and the whole thing had changed, Shariputra said, “I laugh at samsaric existence!”

Things can totally change from life to life in that way, and even in this life, there is nothing definite about friends and enemies. Even in the same day a friend can become an enemy. A friend in the morning can become an enemy by the evening, or even by the next hour.

It is exactly the same with the family members that we have in this life as with this family that Shariputra saw. In Letter to a Friend, Nagarjuna says:

The father becomes the son,
The mother becomes the wife,
The enemy becomes the friend—
Nothing is definite in samsara. 6

There’s a reason that the members of your present family are together with you at this time. In the past, they have had all these different relationships with you numberless times. They have all been your wife numberless times, they have all been your husband numberless times, they have all been your child numberless times, they all have been your father numberless times, they all have been your mother numberless times, they have all been your brother numberless times, they have all been your sister numberless times, they have all been your enemy numberless times, they have all been your friend numberless times. You should understand that, having experienced beginningless relationships, you have experienced all these different relationships numberless times. It will also be the same in the future, for however long you are in samsara.

Understanding the nature of samsara—the changes in relationships, with your meeting the same beings again and again but with different relationships—helps with the grief you feel when a family member has passed away. Otherwise, missing them so much, you can grieve for them for a long time, even for the rest of your life. Thinking of the nature of samsara can help: you have had all these different relationships with that person numberless times, and you will also have different relationships with them in the future. Sometimes, when the husband dies and the wife is left alone or the wife dies and the husband is left alone, the husband or wife has been the only person that they depended on their whole life. If the husband, the only person she has depended on her whole life, passes away, the wife can’t stand to be left alone with no one to depend on. The wife can’t bear it, and because of her grief, many times she also soon dies. Or it can happen the other way around. As I mentioned, there is no need to worry as they’ll meet that person again in future lives. Hearing that can help the person to feel better.


This verse from The Foundation of All Good Qualities is saying that no matter how much we enjoy samsaric pleasures, we can never find satisfaction, and that it is the door to all suffering. By realizing the shortcomings of samsaric perfections, that there’s nothing definite about them, we ask to be granted blessings to have great longing for the happiness of liberation, which is ultimate happiness.

No matter how much you enjoy samsaric happiness, you can never find satisfaction. Take alcoholics, for example. They drink the first sip, then the second sip, then the third sip, then more and more, and then lose control. They can’t stop. Because they are unable to get satisfaction, they drink more and more, then become totally uncontrolled. They then have no sense of shame, and all the secrets they have come out. If they talk about everybody’s faults, it can cause a quarrel or a fight, with people even killing each other. When they’re not drinking, they don’t usually say anything; but when they drink they become uncontrolled, with no sense of shame or shyness. They then express everything, whether anger or something else, to other people. And because there’s no control, many people also die unnecessarily in car accidents. They endanger not only themselves but the other people in their car, as well as people in other cars; not only do they die but also other people. At home, they cause a lot of problems to their husband or wife or other family members, with quarreling, breaking things and beatings. They put themselves through so many years of education, starting from kindergarten, then finally get a job, earn money and buy a house with every material comfort. They then destroy those things and cause a lot of unnecessary harm to their family and to themselves. Being alcoholic makes their own life so difficult. These are shortcomings of following desire.

Alcoholics live their whole life like this, until they totally destroy everything. They are even unable to do their jobs properly; it becomes an obstacle even to their jobs. They then lose their job, and there is the financial burden of that. Their family throws them out, and they become homeless. There are so many homeless people in London, New York and other big cities, many of them alcoholics.

Their family cannot take care of them, so they then become homeless. And they are still alcoholics. They spend even the little money that they collect on drink.

Alcoholics totally destroy the precious human body that they have received just once, this time. They make it totally meaningless. When Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen, gave a commentary to Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment in Nepal, Rinpoche talked to the audience about the shortcomings of drinking alcohol. Rinpoche said, “You fall down in the road in your own vomit. Dogs then come and lick up what you have vomited, right to your mouth.” I remember Rinpoche talking about that.

I’ve been talking just about the mistakes of following desire for alcohol, but the shortcomings of following desire for drugs are similar. You get more and more addicted to the drugs, then it becomes unbelievably difficult to control because you crave that pleasure so much. Because of that, you then steal from shops or from your parents, and you engage in various other negative karmas. Following desire, grasping the pleasure of taking drugs, leads to your becoming more and more addicted, which makes your life more and more difficult. It then leads to your lying, stealing, killing and committing many other negative karmas. Again, your precious human body, which is received this one time, is totally destroyed; it becomes totally meaningless. You end up in prison again and again. You come out of prison, do the same thing again because you can’t control your desire, then again end up in prison.

In relation to business, there are also shortcomings of following desire. No matter how much profit you’re able to make, because you don’t control your desire, you want more and more. If you make a profit of $1,000, you want $10,000. If you are then able to make $10,000, you want $100,000. If you make $100,000, you want to make a million dollars. If you are able to make a million dollars, you then want a billion dollars. If you are able to make a billion dollars, you then want to make a trillion dollars. And if you make a trillion dollars, you then want to make a zillion dollars. It goes on and on, without end. If you follow desire, there’s no end. No matter how much money you get, you want more and more. In business, the mistakes of following desire have no end.

You then have so much worry and fear about others becoming wealthier than you or about losing what you have. Before you were wealthy, you didn’t have those problems. With wealth, you have new problems that you didn’t have before. When you start to be wealthy, the problems of having wealth start.

Because you are continuously following desire, after some time you don’t have the karma, the merit, to continue to be successful. You have already used up the merit you collected in the past to be successful; that merit is finished. One day your whole business suddenly collapses, and you lose millions or billions of dollars. You don’t normally have to worry about how to pay for your food, rent and other family expenses, but suddenly you are greatly concerned about how you will even be able to take care of your family.

If you had stopped following desire and been content, if you had stopped expanding your business before it collapsed, there would have been no problem. But because you followed desire and continued to expand, one day you lost everything, even what you had earned during the previous years. Or because you are following desire, wanting more and more, after some time you engage in illegal activities. Even though it mightn’t be known about in the beginning, after some years your business partner or somebody else who gets upset with you will expose the illegal things you have done. Then, after all this, you end up in prison or with a very bad reputation. The whole country is talking about what you have done, and you can’t do anything about it. These are some of the shortcomings of following desire in relation to business. In recent years on TV you have seen this happen many times to wealthy people. Somebody sues them, and they end up like this.

There are also shortcomings of following desire in connection to relationships, where you’re not satisfied with what you have and always want something better. In this field, there is unbelievable suffering, and the suffering is increasing all the time. Because of following desire and not being content, you have relationships with many people, which then creates hell in your family. Your own life and the life of your partner become hell. You are not yet born in hell, but it’s as if you’re in hell. There are then court cases, and along with that, so much worry and fear and hundreds of problems, including unnecessary expense. When the husband or wife finds out about their partner, it becomes a double prison, a double hell. It is then very easy for the thought of suicide to come; it is very easy to think of killing yourself or of killing others. Again, your desire causes you to engage in various negative karmas: lying, insulting, speaking harshly, slandering in order to cause a separation, stealing, killing. It opens the door to so many negative karmas in this life. It is like you are sunk in a quagmire, drowning in mud. You are suffocating. And it goes on and on in this way. The pain is in your heart and the other person’s heart for years, as well as in the hearts of many other people. For years and years there is so much pain in your heart; it doesn’t heal easily.

Being unable to do pure Dharma practice is also one of the shortcomings of desire. Because you are attached to reputation, power or receiving offerings, you are unable to do pure Dharma practice. Desire for all those things becomes an obstacle to your practice, to being able to continuously practice pure Dharma and have realizations. Another shortcoming of following desire is that even if you have taken vows of ordination, as you don’t practice contentment but continuously follow desire, you will degenerate your vows more and more. You will be unable to live purely in your vows. It will become more and more difficult for you to live in your vows, and then you will even break a root vow. Following desire brings greater and greater harm to your vows.

When you follow desire, because your mind is so distracted by the object of attachment, if you are doing a meditation session or a retreat, you will be unable to concentrate even during the recitation of one mala of OM MANI PADME HUM. Even though you try to make time to practice Dharma, to recite mantras or to do retreat or meditation sessions, because you are following desire, the eight worldly dharmas arise and don’t allow your mind to focus well on the object of concentration, even though you know that life is short and death can happen at any time.

You can meditate on the shortcomings of desire in these different ways. From these examples you can see that enjoying samsaric happiness doesn’t bring satisfaction, and it becomes the door to all suffering.

In the following lines of the verse from The Foundation of All Good Qualities, you request to be granted blessings to be able to realize the shortcomings of samsaric perfections, which are uncertain, and to then give rise to a great longing for the happiness of liberation. The indefinite nature of the perfections of samsara includes having to leave whatever beautiful body you have taken in samsara. Everything has to be left. And you have to join again and again to the next samsara. Even if you become high, even if you are born in the tip of samsara, the highest level of the formless realm—there are limitless sky, limitless consciousness, nothingness and then the tip of samsara— you again fall down, even into the hell realms. As mentioned in the teachings, even if you have a body full of light like that of a Deva’s Son, after that you can be reborn in an animal realm where you don’t see any light your whole life. After you become high, you then become low. And, as I mentioned before, meeting ends with separation and birth ends with death. And after collection, there is exhaustion. All these shortcomings of samsara are contained in this verse.


The next verse of The Foundation of All Good Qualities says:

Led by this pure thought,
Mindfulness, alertness and great caution arise.
The root of the teachings is keeping the pratimoksha vows:
Please bless me to accomplish this essential practice.

Led by this pure thought means realizing how samsara is only in the nature of suffering by having meditated as I have just explained. By realizing how samsara and even samsaric perfections are only in the nature of suffering, you have no attachment to samsara and samsaric perfections, and you generate the thought of seeking liberation. It’s a pure thought, unstained by attachment, and practice of the pratimoksha vows is inspired by that pure thought. Living in the pratimoksha vows on the basis of remembrance and awareness of renunciation of samsara is the heart practice, the essential practice. You ask for blessings to be able to live in the pratimoksha vows as the essential practice.

Another way of saying this is that you must cherish living in the pratimoksha vows as your heart practice. Lay people living in lay vows cherish that as their heart practice, and of course, those who are ordained do the same thing. Other traditions talk about doing large numbers of prostrations, Vajrasattva mantras and other preliminary practices, but in the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition, as explained in the lam-rim teachings by Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, the main practice is not the preliminaries but the pratimoksha vows. If we cherish our pratimoksha vows as the essential practice, we don’t create much negative karma, so we then don’t need to do many preliminary practices. The meaning behind this is that we don’t need to do so many preliminary practices because our life is pure.


Here I want to talk further on the advice to abandon all doubts, which I explained yesterday. When you haven’t learnt much about Dharma, it looks as if you have no doubts, but then as you learn more and more, you have more and more doubts. The more you learn, the more questions you have. However, along with the learning, you practice and experience the path; you collect merit and purify your negative karmas and defilements, which are what hinder your clear understanding and cause you to have doubts. When you do the practice of purification at the same time as you are learning, experiences and realizations of the path then come. When you achieve the arya, or exalted, paths—the path of seeing and the path of meditation—you are able to directly perceive emptiness, which actually ceases the defilements, the disturbing-thought obscurations. Especially, by achieving the Mahayana path of seeing and the Mahayana path of meditation, you cease the disturbing-thought obscurations you haven’t ceased before by proceeding along the Hinayana path. However, with the Mahayana path of seeing and path of meditation, you also cease the subtle defilements.

Here I would like to say that when you complete the path to enlightenment, having ceased all the gross and subtle defilements and completed all understanding, at that time you don’t have a single doubt. When your mind becomes fully awakened, there’s not one single doubt. You have then removed even the four causes of unknowing, which arhats and even tenth bhumi bodhisattvas haven’t removed.7 You have no doubts even in regard to subtle karmas.

The ultimate cutting of doubts comes through your experience, through actualizing the path more and more. That’s the real way to cut doubts.


The next verse in The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland is:

Thoroughly abandon sleep, drowsiness and laziness.
Always attempt to have perseverance.

Perseverance is a mind that is happy to practice Dharma. The easiest, most powerful way to have perseverance is by reflecting on impermanence and death. First reflect on how precious this human body with eight freedoms and ten richnesses is, how you can achieve the three great meanings with it, how it will be difficult to find such a body again and how you will have it just this one time. On the basis of this, remember that death can happen at any time. Impermanence and death is very powerful—the most powerful meditation for us beginners. Also, relate impermanence and death to negative karma and its result, rebirth in the lower realms. Remember again and again the unimaginable sufferings of the hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals. As Nagarjuna explains, we should remember the hot and cold hells every day. Nagarjuna advises this because when we think of the hot and cold hells we have no space in our mind for attachment and anger, these negative emotional thoughts that disturb and obscure our mind.

Whenever thoughts of the happiness of this life comes, we delay or stop our practice. Whenever attachment clinging to this life comes, laziness comes, and we don’t want to practice. We want to spend our time enjoying the comforts of this life instead of practicing Dharma. At that time we should remember that death can happen at any time. Then what happens after that? The most unbearable suffering. We can’t bear even a small problem in this human realm; we can’t bear to have a headache, a toothache, some stomach pain or even to be a little hot or a little cold. When we experience even a small problem in this human realm, because we can’t bear it, we give up practicing Dharma.

Think, “If I were now in the lower realms, in the hot or cold hells, in the preta realm or in the animal realm, my suffering would be far greater. The hunger and thirst of the preta realm is thousands of times greater than that of the human realm. Leaving aside the major hot and cold hells, if I were born now in a neighboring hell or even an ordinary hell realm, my suffering would be unbelievable.”

We can’t bear to put our finger in boiling hot water; but compared to being born in the neighboring hell where there are oceans of lava, the boiling hot water of the human realm is extremely cold. Imagine suddenly being in such a hell.

Death can happen any day, any hour, any moment—even this moment. And what comes after death is the lower realms. As Nagarjuna advises, we should remember the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms.

The cause of rebirth in the lower realms is negative karma, or nonvirtuous action, and any activity we do with a motivation of attachment clinging to this life is a nonvirtue. For example, if we got dressed today with a motivation of attachment clinging to this life, that action of dressing became nonvirtuous because our motivation was nonvirtuous. What was our motivation when we were washing? For many of us, it was simply attachment clinging to the happiness and comfort of this life, so again that washing became negative karma. It was the same when we ate lunch and dinner, and it will be the same when we go to sleep. With any activity we do, if we analyze our motivation for doing it, we find it is nonvirtuous, attachment clinging to this life, so all those activities become negative karma.

Negative karma is very extensive. It’s not limited to just the ten nonvirtuous actions, but within the ten nonvirtuous actions are those nonvirtues that we collect many times every day—though we mightn’t kill or steal. However, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche once made the comment that the subject of stealing is extensive and detailed. It depends on the individual person, but we generally commit many of the ten nonvirtues many times in one day. We also break the vows we have taken: pratimoksha vows, lay or ordained; bodhisattva vows; tantric vows. This is talking about just today. The negative karmas we have created from the time of our birth in this life are unimaginable, and then there are all the negative karmas we have created in beginningless past lives.

In his lam-rim teachings, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says that an ordained person being careless about and not immediately confessing a downfall is heavier negative karma than having killed one hundred human beings and one hundred horses. (I don’t think it has to be only horses—it can be any animal. In the past in Tibet they used horses a lot as there were no cars.) If you have taken ordination and are intentionally careless about your vows, this is how heavy the karma that you create is.

When you think of how death can happen at any time and of the lower realms, in relation to karma, you can’t ignore it. You have to get up and practice. You can’t stand it. You’ve got to do something immediately; you’ve got to purify, collect merit, meditate on the path.

It is also very useful to think about people you know who have died, like Andrea [Antonietti], the Italian monk. On my advice, he took ordination for a second time and died as a monk. Many of us here, those who have been here in Bodhgaya and in Dharamsala many times, will remember Andrea. He was an old student, an Italian, who was a monk before. He then changed his life, but before he died, while he was sick, he again took ordination. Now he’s gone. He doesn’t exist. There’s no Andrea. Before there was Andrea, but now there’s not. Before we used to joke and play with him and enjoy his humble, good personality, but now he doesn’t exist. Think, “It is the same with me. There will come a time when I don’t exist any more, a time when I’m not here in this world. This could happen at any time. By this time next year, I could be the same as Andrea, whom we can’t see, who doesn’t exist in this world. This could happen. By this time next year, I could be like that—not to be seen in this world. Some people have Andrea’s malas and other possessions; the same thing could happen to me. Any day this could happen to me.”

There was also another Italian, Stefano [Piovella]. He was a monk before, but he wasn’t a monk when he died. It is the same. We used to joke and play with him, making fun of him all the time, but now he’s not here. Now he’s not here in this world. Think, “Exactly the same thing could happen to me at any time. I could be gone from this world. I won’t exist. This could happen at any time.”

There was also Tenzin Konchog, the nun who was here making tsa-tsas about five years ago. She was the main person responsible for making tsa-tsas. A few years ago she was here, in Bodhgaya, but now she is not here. She’s gone. Think, “Exactly the same thing could happen to me any time, any day. I will not be here. There’s a time when I will be gone from this world. I won’t exist. This could happen any day.”

Your body could be carried to the cemetery or the crematorium. Any day this could happen. You could suddenly have a heart attack or a stroke. Something could suddenly happen, and the time of your death come. Your precious human life would be gone.

If you had done continual strong practice of purification, practiced morality well, lived your life with bodhicitta and correctly devoted yourself to the virtuous friend, you would have no regrets. Even if some sickness came and your death happened, it wouldn’t disturb you. It wouldn’t upset you at all. You would be very happy, as you would feel completely confident that you would go to a pure land or receive a perfect human body in your next life. Your mind would be happy, or at least you would have no fear. Even if death suddenly came to you, you would not be frightened of being born in the lower realms.

If we really bring our attention inside, if we really think about the nature of our life, impermanence and death, we realize that our death could happen at any time and, in particular, all the unimaginable sufferings of the lower realms could happen at any time. Relate this to all the negative karmas you do—in one day there are so many, like rainfall. Committing one complete nonvirtuous action has four suffering results. One of them is creating the result similar to the cause, which means doing that action again, which again produces four suffering results, one of which is creating the result similar to the cause, so you commit the action again…. It goes on and on in this way. Committing one complete nonvirtuous action, from the ten nonvirtuous actions, produces suffering results that go on and on and on, so that there is unending suffering of samsara.

We’ve done so many of the ten nonvirtuous actions in this life, since our birth, and so many others during beginningless rebirths. The results of them will go on and on in that way. There are numberless of them left on our mental continuum that we haven’t purified and that we haven’t finished experiencing.

Since committing even one negative karma from the ten brings this endless ongoing suffering, you can’t stand it. You have to get rid of it, purify it, immediately. It’s as if you have swallowed some poison and could die at any time. It’s as if a poisonous snake has bitten you: the poison is spreading and you could die at any time. But ingesting poison or being bitten by a poisonous snake is nothing. That alone can’t make you be reborn in the lower realms, but your negative karma can.

I’ve been talking about just one negative karma, but we have created so many negative karmas today, in this life and during beginningless past lives. There’s no way you can stand it—you have to purify it all right away! And at this time, by having received this perfect human body, you have all the opportunities to purify it. If death comes before you have purified your negative karma, you are finished. When will you meet Dharma again? When will you be able to purify all those negative karmas? When will you be able to actualize the path? It is extremely difficult to say.

Now, on top of having committed the ten nonvirtuous actions and degenerated or broken all three levels of vows, you have collected negative karma in relation to the guru. Even the smallest of these negative karmas is very powerful, and you have created so many with heresy, anger and other negative thoughts. These negative karmas are much heavier than all those others.

In the lam-rim outline of the shortcomings of having made mistakes in correctly devoting to the guru, the first shortcoming is that criticizing the guru is like criticizing all the buddhas.

Second, if you get angry with your guru, you destroy eons of merit equal in number to the moments of your anger, and for the same number of eons you will be reborn in hell and experience suffering.

Third, even though you practice tantra, you won’t achieve the sublime realization.

Fourth, even though you attempt to practice tantra, it will be like achieving hell. Even though you practice tantra for many years by not sleeping, not eating, not talking and living alone in a cave, it will be like achieving hell. Why? Here you have to understand that when you make a mistake in devoting to the virtuous friend—even showing some small disrespect, criticizing him, harming him or giving rise to negative thoughts—it is so heavy that even though you are practicing virtue and collecting merit by doing retreat sessions, it is very small compared to the heavy negative karma you have collected in relation to the virtuous friend. That negative karma is so huge that any virtue you practice by reciting mantras and so forth becomes insignificant. The negative karma is overwhelming, and you are reborn in the hell realm. This is what happens unless you change your mind, stop following those negative thoughts, recognize the mistakes you have made, confess them to the guru and purify them. By using logical reasoning and the quotations from Shakyamuni Buddha and Vajradhara, you have to transform your mind into devotion by seeing the guru as a buddha.

It doesn’t mean that you have no hope—it’s not saying that. There’s hope, if you change, if you recognize the mistakes you have made and, with strong regret, confess and purify them. In order not to commit the mistakes again, you then have to keep your mind in devotion toward that guru. You can change; it’s not saying you can’t change. But if you don’t change, no matter what practice you do—many years of chanting mantras in retreat with no food and no sleep—even though you may be collecting merit, it will be insignificant compared to the heaviness of the negative karma you have created. Even though you attempt to practice tantra, it will be like achieving hell. As long as you don’t change, it will be like achieving hell. Instead of achieving enlightenment, you’ll be achieving hell, because that karma is so heavy.

What I am saying is that there’s no time to be lazy. Reflect on the negative karmas you have collected and the sufferings of the lower realms, and remember that this is the only chance you have. If you cherish yourself, if you love yourself, this is what you have to do. If you want to take care of yourself, this is the practice you need to do. If you think about this, there’s no time for laziness, no time to be distracted by the appearances of this life or works for this life.

As mentioned in the motivation for taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts by my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche,8 which is similar to the motivation for taking refuge in Jorchö, if you think of all the endless sufferings of samsara that you will have to experience, particularly those of the lower realms, you don’t dare to eat or sleep. When you’re very frightened, you can’t eat, or even if you do manage to eat, you vomit. If you think of all the past beginningless sufferings of samsara, in particular those of the three lower realms, it’s something that cracks your heart. It’s very frightening.

Here The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland says:

Thoroughly abandon sleep, drowsiness and laziness.
Always attempt to have perseverance.

Of course, it’s not saying not to sleep at all at night. There is sleeping yoga. I heard that His Holiness Chogye Trichen Rinpoche sleeps for only two or three hours, and sometimes only one hour. During the daytime he gives initiations and teachings, then does his own practice for many hours. Also, I think His Holiness the Dalai Lama gets up around three o’clock in the morning. Peljor-la, His Holiness’s attendant, offers tea around 3:30, then His Holiness begins his practice. Of course, Compassion Buddha doesn’t need to practice….

As mentioned in The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, in the middle part of the night you do sleeping yoga, then you wake up very early in the morning and practice. My sleeping is at the wrong time, the totally wrong time. When it’s time to practice, I’m sleeping.

With remembrance, awareness and conscientiousness,
Always protect the doors of your senses.
Three times day and night, again and again,
Examine your mental continuum.

You have to protect your body, speech and mind from engaging in negative actions. As mentioned, three times in the daytime and three times at night, you should examine your mental continuum.


What makes you attached to an object comes from your own mind, not from the side of the object. One point is that an imprint has been left on your mind in the past, and the imprint projects that view, or appearance, of an object as attractive. It’s projected by the imprint left on your mental continuum from your past concept of attachment, your past habituation. That is why you see an object—someone’s body, for example—as something good, or beautiful, and are attached to the pleasure of having contact with it. This view of the object came from your mind; it is projected by the imprint. There’s no such beautiful thing there, appearing from the side of the object. Your past imprint projected this view, and your mind interpreted, “This is nice, something worth being attached to.” From the male side, there is a projection on a female body; from the female side, on a male body. It’s just a physical body, but the past imprint left on the mind interprets that it’s good. After this projection and this interpretation, attachment then arises and clings to that body.

There’s really nothing there but the view, the creation, of your own mind. Your own mind made it up. As I normally explain, two factors are involved in how something comes from your own mind. One is your present concept: your view is a creation of your present concept. The other factor is long-term: it is the view of your past karma.

For example, you may have been seeing someone’s body for a long time, for many years, but no attachment to it has ever arisen. Then suddenly one day your view of that person’s body changes. You exaggerate its good qualities, thinking that it is wonderful or beautiful. Attachment then arises to that object you have exaggerated, and you cling to it.

One point is that your view of that body as beautiful comes from your present concept. It’s a creation of your concept of today, of this moment. It’s exactly like a movie being projected onto a screen from a film in a projector. Attachment then clings to that projection.

The other point is the past karmic imprint. Seeing this person in this way happens because of past karma. There has been a connection, a relationship, in the past with that being. Even though the person might be ugly in the view of many other people, you see them as beautiful. Of course, it has to do with your present concept, but there’s also a long-term evolution, which has to do with your past karma. Your past karma produced, or projected, your view of the person as beautiful, even though in the view of other people they are ugly.

You can see here that nothing exists from the object’s side. It comes purely from your own mind. Everything comes just from your own mind, from your present concept and your past karma. This is one very important analysis you can do when you encounter an object of anger or attachment. There’s really no such thing there. You have this view because of your own past karmic imprint, but since you’re not aware of this, you believe it exists totally from its own side, from the object’s side. You then think it’s worth being attached to that object, attachment arises, and you cling to that object.

To show how there’s nothing from the side of the object, I normally use the example of learning the alphabet. When you were a child, your teacher or parents taught you the alphabet. At that time, when your teacher first drew the lines for the letter A on the black-board, you just saw the lines. Before you were taught, “This is A,” you just saw the lines. At that time you didn’t see those lines as A; there was no appearance of A to you. Why didn’t you have any appearance of these lines as A? Because your mind hadn’t yet labeled them “A.” Why not? Because nobody had yet introduced them to you as A. That’s why you saw just lines and had no view of them as A.

Your teacher then told you, “This is A.” By listening to and believing their explanation, you then labeled those lines “A.” Your mind then merely imputed “A” to those lines and believed in that label your mind had imputed. As a result A then appeared to you. After that you saw those lines as A. For you to be able to see that figure as A, all this evolution had to take place. I’ve used the example of A here and not that of a body, but we should analyze and meditate in the same way with any body that is an object of our attachment. And it is the same with any object of anger. Here, you can see that this view of A, this appearance of A, came from your mind. It’s a creation of your mind. Your mind labeled “A” by following and believing in what somebody taught you.

You can now see that A is labeled. The A that you see is labeled by your mind; it came from your mind. It’s very clear. At the very beginning, when you hadn’t been introduced to the alphabet, you didn’t see that figure as A; it didn’t appear to you as A because your mind hadn’t yet labeled, “This is A.” It is the same with all phenomena, including all the objects of the eye-sense, all the forms and colors you see here. Everything that you can see here came from your mind, through labeling. What you see, what appears to you, is what your mind has merely imputed.

It is the same with sounds. Any sound that you hear is what your mind has merely imputed. What your ear-sense hears is the base, and in relation to that base, your mind then makes up the label “sound.” So, “sound” is the label that is merely imputed to the base, the phenomenon that the ear-sense hears. Depending upon the quality of the base, whether it’s a song being sung, a prayer being chanted or music being played, you then label, or merely impute, “good singing” or “bad singing,” “good chanting” or “bad chanting,” “good music” or “bad music.” Here you can see the difference between the label “sound” and the base of the sound.

It is also the same with the objects of your tongue-sense. You are tasting what your mind has merely imputed. The taste that is appearing to you is what your mind has merely imputed. And what is appearing to the body-sense—soft, rough, good, bad—is what is merely imputed by the mind.

It is the same with all five external sense objects that you experience. What you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste, what you touch—they are all what your mind has merely imputed. Therefore, they all came from your own mind; they are all creations of your own mind. You are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching what your mind has merely imputed.

Through this analysis you can now understand that with any object of attachment, whether someone’s body or something else, you’re seeing nothing there that your mind hasn’t labeled, that your mind hasn’t merely imputed; you are seeing nothing that doesn’t come from your mind, that doesn’t depend on your mind. In the same way, any object of anger or of ignorance also comes from your mind.

However, even though all phenomena exist in mere name, being merely imputed by mind, they appear to us to be not merely labeled by mind. This view came from ignorance; it is a creation of ignorance. The imprint left on our mental continuum projected, or decorated, true existence on the merely labeled phenomena. This negative imprint projected all these hallucinations of true existence onto the merely labeled phenomena, which are empty of existing from their own side. It projected a truly existent appearance all over the merely labeled I, merely labeled mind, merely labeled body, merely labeled hell, merely labeled enlightenment, merely labeled four noble truths, merely labeled everything. The view of ignorance came from our mind, from the negative imprint, and that is the basis of anger and attachment. All these hallucinations have covered the reality of I, action, object, and all other phenomena, which exist in mere name, merely imputed by mind. Past ignorance left the negative imprint on the mental continuum, which then projected all these hallucinations. It made everything appear real, existent from its own side, and not merely labeled by mind.

Now here, in the view of ignorance, you have someone’s real body, in the sense of existing from its own side, not merely labeled by mind. You exaggerate that body as being beautiful, then right after that, attachment arises. (Or you exaggerate something as being bad, then right after that, anger arises.) You exaggerate that object as being beautiful, attachment then arises, and you cling to that object. So, there’s another hallucination. On top of that fundamental hallucination of true existence, you exaggerate that object as beautiful, and attachment then arises and clings to that object. Or, on top of the fundamental hallucination of a truly existent appearance, you exaggerate an object’s bad qualities, then anger arises toward that object. So, there’s a double hallucination. In reality there’s no such thing there.

With the object of anger, or ill will, you want to hurt that object. With the object of attachment, you cling to it, and it becomes difficult for you to separate from the object, just as it’s difficult to separate oil from paper or cloth or difficult to separate a moth from candle wax. In reality, all this came from your own mind. There’s no such object of anger or attachment there. It is something you have built up on top of the view of ignorance, the truly existent appearance. The foundation is a total hallucination. There’s no such thing there. There’s no such truly existent body, no such real body in the sense of existing from its own side. It’s totally empty—not even an atom of that exists. All these objects are the view of a hallucinated mind.

Therefore, giving rise to attachment or anger is total nonsense. When you think of how the object of attachment or anger has been created by your own mind, attachment and anger don’t arise. These negative emotional thoughts arise only when you think that there is such a real good or bad thing, one existing from its own side.

As Lama Tsongkhapa explains, in reference to a quotation from Four Hundred Stanzas by Aryadeva, on the nature that is exaggerated by this ignorance, we then exaggerate especially beauty and ugliness. After that, attachment, anger and other delusions arise. The way the delusions apprehend objects can be eliminated by valid reasoning.

While you are in equipoise meditation on emptiness, seeing everything as empty, ignorance, because it is the opposite of wisdom, cannot at the same time project a truly existent appearance. In that way you can also stop anger, which apprehends an object as bad and wishes to harm it, and attachment, which clings to objects.

Lama Tsongkhapa also quotes an explanation from a commentary to Four Hundred Stanzas, which says that attachment and so forth only exaggerate as beautiful or ugly phenomena that have been labeled by ignorance. Because of that, attachment is not separate from ignorance; it is dependent on ignorance. Ignorance is the principal delusion.

The conclusion is that attachment and anger are total nonsense. There’s no need to give rise to attachment or anger in relation to objects. This is one very deep meditation to protect the doors of the senses, to protect your mind from delusion. Not only that, but with this way of meditating by recognizing the object of refutation, the truly existent phenomenon, and thinking that it is a hallucination exaggerated by ignorance, there is then no basis for any delusion to arise. Simply thinking that the fundamental hallucination is a hallucination is like dropping an atomic bomb on all the delusions.

December 31

Think, “No matter how long it takes or how difficult it is, I must achieve full enlightenment in order to free the sentient beings, who have been my mother and kind numberless times during beginningless rebirths, from the oceans of samsaric suffering and lead them to full enlightenment by myself alone. To do that, I first need to actualize the graduated path to enlightenment. Therefore, I’m going to listen to the holy Dharma, to The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland by Lama Atisha, the originator of the Kadampa tradition.”


I just want to mention a little more on the verse I discussed yesterday:

Abandon sleep, drowsiness and laziness.
Always attempt to have perseverance.

Last night I mentioned how important it is, especially for us beginners, to remember impermanence and death. As mentioned in the benefits of remembering impermanence and death, by remembering impermanence and death we are able to overcome delusions, which is very difficult to do because we are habituated to them. We have been under the control of delusions during beginningless time, during beginningless samsaric lifetimes. However, by remembering impermanence and death, we are able to overcome delusions and destroy them. Also, by remembering impermanence and death, we are able to begin to practice Dharma, to generate the path. We are also able to continue our Dharma practice, to continue actualizing the path. Also, by remembering impermanence and death, we are able to complete our Dharma practice, to complete the path, and achieve enlightenment.

Remembering impermanence and death is very important when we begin our Dharma practice; it’s also very important to remember it in the middle; and it’s very important to remember it even at the end. When our death comes, we can then die very happily. We won’t have any fears about reincarnating in the lower realms and, on top of that, we will have an extremely joyful mind.

It’s very helpful to write out quotations to remind you to bring your mind back into Dharma when it becomes distracted. It helps to write verses from A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and other books on cards and put them around your room. It’s like these teachings are saying, “Hey! Don’t get distracted!” and then explaining the reasons why you shouldn’t. For example, there is a quotation from Kharag Gomchung, one of the Kadampa geshes, which is similar to a verse in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.9

By depending on the human boat,
You cross the great river of suffering.
Since this boat will be difficult to find again,
While you have it, don’t be lazy.

Write this verse out nicely on a beautiful card and put it up in your room as a reminder. When you then see these words, you’ll know that you’ve immediately got to do something. You have to bring your attention back from the objects of delusion, from being distracted by the appearances of this life. You have to let go of your grasping and clinging to these appearances and bring your mind into renunciation of this life, bodhicitta, right view or guru devotion. With those attitudes, you purify your mind, your negative karma and defilements; collect merit; and meditate on the path.

Also, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life says:

It’s not certain which will come first—tomorrow or the next life. Therefore, rather than working for tomorrow, it’s better to work for the next life.

This means it’s better to try for long-term happiness, the happiness of all the coming future lives.

Kharag Gomchung also mentions:

At present we have a choice between the happiness of the upper realms and the sufferings of the evil-gone realms. Reflect on this.

Also, in Calling the Guru from Afar Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, the great enlightened being, the actual Heruka, describes how in each second we have the freedom to choose between the sufferings of the lower realms and the happiness of the upper realms, the human or deva realms.10 It means we have the freedom to stop rebirth in the lower realms and to receive the body of a happy transmigratory being. Calling the Guru from Afar says that when we reflect on this, it reminds us of the guru. That means the guru is the one who gives us this incredible opportunity, this freedom in each second to choose not to be reborn in the lower realms and to achieve at least the happiness of the upper realms. That is not our only choice. In every second we can also choose to create the cause to achieve liberation from samsara. Not only that, but in every second we have the incredible freedom to create the cause to achieve enlightenment.

When you see what is written in this verse, you then understand how each moment is unbelievably precious because you have the incredible freedom to accomplish all this. Of course, the only way to do this is to practice Dharma without even a second’s delay. There’s no way to achieve all this happiness without practicing Dharma.

To remind you of impermanence and death it’s also helpful to have the belongings of somebody who has passed away. Every time you see or use those things it will remind you of impermanence and death. As I mentioned last night, you should think, “Like this person, I could no longer exist in this world, but have gone from here to my next life. This year, this month, this week, even today, even within this hour, I could be like this.”

You did Medicine Buddha puja this morning for Peter [van Heeswijk], a big man from Holland, who went into a coma yesterday and suddenly died this morning. I also did a short prayer for him during my preparation for the Gyalwa Gyatso initiation.

Medicine Buddha puja or practice is always good to do for any problem but it is especially good to do at this most critical time of death. Medicine Buddha puja is one of the best things you can do to help someone who has died. In the past, during his time as a bodhisattva, Medicine Buddha did many prayers for us sentient beings, praying for us to have various problems pacified and to receive various good things. Medicine Buddha made many prayers that anyone who recited his name or mantra would be freed from these problems and have all this peace and happiness. After having achieved enlightenment, a buddha has many qualities, including the ten powers, one of which is the power of prayer. Once the power of prayer is achieved, the name and mantra of a buddha has the power to accomplish what was intended during that buddha’s time as a bodhisattva. In this way, a buddha is able to benefit all sentient beings, immediately freeing them from suffering and bringing them happiness.

It is similar with the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas. If we recite one name just one time, we purify many eons of negative karma. In the past when the Thirty-five Buddhas generated bodhicitta and became bodhisattvas, they motivated in particular to benefit sentient beings by enabling them to purify negative karma. They motivated for their names to have the power to purify many eons of sentient beings’ negative karma. They then attained enlightenment and achieved the power of prayer. This is why their names have so much power. By reciting one name one time, we can purify many eons of negative karma. For example, reciting Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s name one time has the power to purify 80,000 eons of negative karma, and some texts mention an even larger number. Lama Atisha explained that this is why reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names has so much power.

If you recite once the name of Tathagata Glorious Flower—de zhin sheg pa me tog päl, in Tibetan—it has the power to purify 100,000 eons of negative karma. And if you recite the mantra of this Tathagata— OM PUSHPA PUSHPA PUSHPA SVAHA—twenty-one times and offer a flower to a stupa, it helps to bring success.

Every time I went to Holland, Peter would come to see me, though I don’t know whether he has been here in Bodhgaya during recent years. The last time I saw him was recently in France, when he came to a course. I did have a meeting with him, though I don’t remember the topic of discussion. So, that’s now the last time I will see him.

Peter, that student from Holland, has left this world. He has already gone. He suddenly went into a coma yesterday, then died. So, that could happen to you. Somehow you have been fortunate, and it hasn’t happened so far. What happened to Peter could have happened to you a long time ago; you could have already died a long time ago. And if it had happened a long time ago or even last year, it’s not sure where your consciousness would be by now. It’s hard to say where you would be now.

By now you could have been born as a snake, constantly eating mice and other small animals. Because of negative karma, a snake has no other food. It can’t eat vegetables or leaves. Their karma is to have to kill other sentient beings to survive.

Or you could have been born as a worm, living in filth and attacked by ants. Even if you were completely covered by ants, no matter how much pain you had, there would be nothing you could do. Think how painful it is when a single ant bites you on the leg. Now think of this fragile worm completely covered by ants and being bitten all over its body. It can’t do anything. So, you could have been like that by now.

Or you could have been born as a worm and already be in a bird’s beak, with a little of your body hanging out and the rest inside. Your body could already have been chopped by a sharp beak. There would be nothing you could do except suffer. You could have been like that.

On TV I saw a program about a white worm that lives inside trees—it might have been somewhere in Africa. There’s a hole in the trunk of a tree where the branches start, and this white worm lives some distance inside the wood. The karma is incredible. The worm is the food of a particular bird. The bird’s beak isn’t long, like a humming bird’s, which is long enough to fit into flowers. Here the bird’s beak isn’t long enough to reach the worm, because it’s quite a way down. However, tiny sticks, like tooth-picks only longer, grow from the tree. With its beak the bird breaks off one of these sticks and puts it down the hole. The bird doesn’t get the worm immediately, because the worm’s head has thick, brown skin. If the stick hits the head, it doesn’t pierce the worm. It takes a little time. After two or three tries, however, the stick goes through the worm’s body, probably because the worm moves around. The bird then takes out the stick with the worm on it and flies away.

It’s amazing karma. The length of the stick is such that it exactly fits down the hole, and it also grows just there, on the same tree. The bird breaks the stick and puts it through the worm with its beak. By now you could have been like that—today, this hour, you could be like that.

Or you could have been born as a tiger. If tigers were vegetarian, they would be beautiful animals; but because of the manner in which they grab and eat other animals, they’re terrifying. When a herd of buffaloes or some other animal races away, the calves and weaker animals are left behind. The male or female tiger then runs, jumps on a buffalo’s back and bites it. After some time, the buffalo is in so much pain that it falls down. Once the animal falls down the whole family of tigers, including the cubs, comes to eat it, even though it’s not yet dead. By now you could also have been like that.

Or by now you could have been one of those lobsters in a glass tank in a restaurant. You could have been there right now. Some businessman could come along and, pointing at you, say, “I want that one!” Somebody with gloves would then put you into boiling hot water. It would make you scream for a few seconds, then that would be it. So, by now you could also have been like that.

Besides being born as a being in the lower realms, even if you were born as a human, you could have been born as an ordinary human being. You would never have met Dharma; you wouldn’t have a single understanding of Dharma. You would have had no opportunity to practice Dharma in your whole life, even if you lived for seventy or even a hundred years. If you had been born like that, even though you were a human being, you would have had no opportunity at all to learn Dharma, let alone practice it. You would have no opportunity to acquire Dharma wisdom. You couldn’t bear that ordinary human being’s life, even though it’s a human life. You would totally misunderstand the cause of happiness and the cause of suffering. Even if you did some intellectual study, your knowledge of the causes of happiness and suffering would be totally wrong.

Even though you would be a human being, you couldn’t bear that life even for one day. You couldn’t stand even for one day to be a human being with no knowledge of Dharma and no opportunity to practice it.

It’s very good to picture yourself in those situations and imagine how it would be, because it then makes you appreciate your present perfect human body. That you have met the Dharma and taken the opportunity to follow the teachings is like a dream. It’s an incredibly joyful thing. But you also shouldn’t waste it. Not practicing Dharma with this perfect human body for a minute, or even a second, is an incredible waste. It’s a greater loss than losing zillions of dollars. Wasting this precious human body by not practicing Dharma for a minute, or even a second, is a greater loss than having lost billions of zillions of dollars or the whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels.

You might be doing Medicine Buddha meditation in your daily life or just to help Peter at this difficult time. It is a most critical time, with either the possibility to be born in the realm of a happy transmigratory being or the incredible danger, because of all the past negative karmas, of being born in the lower realms.

When you yourself have died, with your breath stopped, you reach the intermediate state on your journey to the lower realms; the intermediate state of one of the lower realms appears. Even while you’re in the intermediate state, there are terrifying karmic appearances of burning fires, winds like tornadoes, violent waves, mountains crushing you and so forth. These terrifying visions, even in the intermediate state, are the appearances of negative karma; they are the results of delusions, of the impure mind.

The times while you are dying and when you are recently dead are most critical. You need so much help at those times. If somebody from the human realm is praying for you, that is very kind. You have incredible need of that help. So there is no doubt about your need of prayers if you have already been born in the lower realms and are experiencing the most unbearable, unimaginable suffering. Use yourself as an example; think of your being in that situation. So, you must pray for Peter. Whenever you hear that a student in the FPMT organization has passed away, you must dedicate your merits to them or do your best prayers for them. This applies in general, not only to when an FPMT student has died. You should do this when you’re watching the news on TV or reading the newspapers and you see that many people have died. Just one or two days ago, thirty thousand people died in an earthquake in Iran. A whole city, built in the traditional way with mud, was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Whenever you see something like that on TV, you should immediately pray, “Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me and by others, may all of these people who have died be born in a pure land of buddha where they can be enlightened or receive a perfect human body, meet a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru and Mahayana teachings and achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.” You must immediately pray in this way. Don’t just think, “I’ll pray for them later.” Do it immediately. As soon as you hear someone has died, pray for them. This is our duty, our responsibility, our job.

It’s also very good to immediately recite some OM MANI PADME HUMs or some other mantra for anyone who has died. Pray for them and then recite some mantras.


In relation to abandoning laziness so that your life isn’t spent being distracted by meaningless things, a text mentions:

One who is craving small pleasure cannot achieve the great pleasure.

Anyone who clings to small pleasures won’t achieve the great pleasure, which means the everlasting happiness of liberation from samsara. Craving samsaric pleasure, which doesn’t last, itself becomes an obstacle to achieving the great pleasure of everlasting happiness, which never changes, never decreases. After you have removed even the seed of delusion, the imprint that gives rise to delusion, motivates karma and results in all the sufferings of samsara, there’s then no cause to give rise to delusion, no cause for suffering. When that happens, since it’s impossible for you to suffer again, you experience everlasting happiness, including the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, which is complete bliss.

By craving small happiness, small pleasure, you cannot achieve the great pleasure of liberation from samsara and full enlightenment. It becomes an obstacle to that. If you wish to achieve the everlasting happiness of liberation from samsara and full enlightenment, you have to let go of small pleasures. You can’t have both, just as you can’t sew with a two-pointed needle. If you put one leg on one road and the other on another road, you can’t proceed. You can’t go on two different paths at the same time. So, if your goal is to achieve liberation from samsara or full enlightenment, you have to let go of the desire clinging to small pleasures. In order to achieve this great pleasure, the everlasting happiness of total liberation from the whole ocean of samsaric suffering and its causes and especially to achieve the everlasting happiness of full enlightenment, you have to give up the small pleasures of this life. There is no doubt that you have to give up the comforts of this life, but you even have to give up all samsaric pleasures, which are transitory. Your mind has simply labeled “pleasure” on a suffering feeling, and that pleasure doesn’t even last.

This quotation is also advice about not being lazy. When you crave small pleasures, you become lazy. You have to let go of those small pleasures because it means giving up the great pleasure of liberation from samsara and full enlightenment.


I’d like to say a little more on what I talked about last night. As I mentioned last night, seeing a person, or their body, as an object of desire is a creation of your own mind. And so is seeing someone as an object of anger. If you understand how an object of desire is the creation of your mind, you will know that any object of anger also simply comes from your mind. It’s a creation of your mind, a projection of your mind.

How you see someone, how you see someone’s body, is the view of your mind. Their appearance came from your mind; it’s a projection of your mind, of your present concept. The kind of concept you have at the moment you see that person’s body creates that appearance. If your concept labels them “ugly,” they then appear ugly to you. If you label them “beautiful,” you then have an appearance of beauty after your mind has labeled, or interpreted, in that way. This is just your own view, the view of your present concept, your present way of thinking. When you realize this, you then know there’s nothing from the side of the person or their body. Attachment arises through believing there’s something coming from outside, from the side of the person or their body. On the basis of that belief, attachment arises.

When something appears ugly to you and anger arises or something appears beautiful and attachment arises, you should think, “This is my own view, my own projection. This appearance happened as a result of what my mind has labeled.” When you think in this way, attachment then feels shy. There’s no place for attachment; it disappears. You don’t see any purpose in giving rise to attachment, in being attached to anything.

Last night I mentioned that there’s also a long-term evolution of your view of a person or their body, which involves past karma. The past karmic imprint left on your mental continuum projects your view of the person. I gave the example of how even though many people may see someone’s body as ugly, one person may see that person’s body as beautiful. I also gave the example of how you may have been seeing someone’s body for a long time but not seen them as beautiful; but then suddenly one day they appear to you to be beautiful. On that day your karmic imprint from the past manifests and projects, or creates, this view of that person as beautiful, and attachment then arises. It is like images on a film. When you put the film into a projector, those images are then projected onto a movie or TV screen. In a similar way, your past karmic imprint today projects this view of the person as beautiful and you see them as beautiful; attachment then arises and clings to that object.

Another example of how the object of anger, attachment or jealousy is the projection of your own mind is mentioned in the Madhyamaka teachings. This particular example is very useful in many places, including in guru devotion, when as a disciple you’re trying to have the realization that the guru is a buddha. It is also useful in relation to respecting others. When I explain the example you will understand how it helps you to respect others. Throughout your whole life, the view that you have is that of your own mind. If your mind is pure, you have a pure view; if your mind is impure, the view that you have is impure. Here, again, we can use the example of projecting a film: whether violence or enjoyment is projected on the movie or TV screen depends on what is on the film.

The example is that there’s one bowl of liquid. When pretas, who have no merit to see anything of better quality, see this bowl of liquid, the liquid appears to them as pus and blood. This is their view of the liquid, and it came from their mind. Pretas have no merit, no good karma, to see anything better than this. They see neither water, which is what we humans see, nor nectar, which is what the devas, the worldly gods, see. When we look at that same liquid, we see water and at the same time, when devas look at the liquid, they see nectar. Pretas don’t have the merit to see either water or nectar. Because of their lack of merit and impure mind, they see only impure substances, pus and blood, when they look at that bowl of liquid. All three types of beings are the same in seeing a liquid, but this liquid appears to pretas as pus and blood, because of their lack of merit, their impure mind. The same liquid appears as water to us human beings. Since we have a little more merit, the liquid appears as water rather than pus and blood. When devas look at this same bowl of liquid, because they have more merit, it appears to them as nectar.

There is one object, one bowl of liquid, but it appears differently to the different beings in dependence upon how pure their mind is and how much merit they have. You can now see that how the object appears completely depends on the quality of the perceiver’s mind, on how pure or impure it is.

This example is very helpful in guru devotion. There are four main reasons to prove that the guru is a buddha, the last of which is nothing is definite in my view. You can’t use the fact that the guru appears to you to have faults as a reason to prove that in reality the guru has faults, because how an object appears to you is totally dependent on your, the perceiver’s, mind.

There is also a story about a butcher who visited the Jokhang, the main temple in Lhasa, where there’s the most precious statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, which was built during Buddha’s time under Buddha’s direction. An artist, who was a manifestation, made this statue for Buddha’s mother, because she missed Buddha so much when he went to the Realm of the Thirty-three for yar-ne, the summer retreat. The statue was made on Buddha’s instructions for his mother, so that she could look at the statue of Buddha during Buddha’s absences. Buddha predicted that this statue would be in India and benefit many sentient beings there for a certain number of years, then it would go to Mongolia and benefit many sentient beings there for a certain period. The statue would then go to China and benefit many sentient beings there for a certain number of years. It would then go to the Snow Land, Tibet, and benefit many sentient beings there for a certain period. And it would then go to the naga land, which, I think, means under the ocean.

When the butcher went to the Lhasa temple to see this statue of Buddha, he couldn’t see the statue at all. He couldn’t see even the butter lamps around the statue. It was totally dark. It wasn’t because of his eyes. You might think that Tibetans don’t know anything and that he must have had cataracts or something else wrong with his eyes, but it wasn’t because of anything like that. He went to see a lama, who told him to do many hundreds of thousands of prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names. After doing that, he still couldn’t see the statue, but he could see the lights.

Another person went to receive teachings from a lama, who was giving an oral transmission of a text. The person, who must have had heavy negative karma, could not see the text. During all those hours of oral transmission, he saw only piles of meat and the lama eating that meat. That was all he saw. When the mind is obscured by heavy negative karma, you can’t even see statues of Buddha or holy texts.

Now, here, the same liquid appeared differently, as pure or impure, to different beings, according to the quality of their mind. You can see that the appearance of pus and blood, water or nectar came from the perceiver’s mind. You can understand very easily that their view came from their mind; it was a production of their mind. It depended on the amount of their merit and the purity of their mind.

Now it is the same in our daily life. In exactly the same way, our objects of anger and attachment come from our mind. We normally think that something comes from the object’s side, that there’s something real from its own side, which then causes anger or attachment to arise. That appearance and that belief are totally wrong. I already described this yesterday in relation to Lama Tsongkhapa quoting from the commentary to Four Hundred Stanzas, and I don’t want to repeat it.

This analysis of our perception makes it even clearer that there is nothing from the object’s side. That object of anger or attachment comes from the side of our mind; it is what our mind has projected. This is what we should remember, this is what we should meditate on. We should practice mindfulness of this when we see we’re in danger of giving rise to attachment or anger in relation to objects. We should be aware of when we are in a situation where it is about to happen. As Eight Verses of Thought Transformation says:

I will examine my own mental continuum in all actions, and the moment I realize a delusion is arising, endangering myself and others, I will diligently practice to avert it in the quickest, most powerful way.

Attachment endangers you and others, causing you to create negative karma, and you then cause others to engage in negative karma. It is the same with anger and the other delusions. It makes you and others evil. How does it make you evil? By giving rise to the evil mind of delusion, you then engage in evil actions, which result only in suffering and are obstacles to achieving happiness for yourself and others, especially liberation and enlightenment.

The more you delay applying the meditation, the more you destroy your enlightenment, your liberation and all your happiness, not only of this life but of future lives. You destroy so many eons of merits. As A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life says:

Giving rise to anger for one second destroys the merit collected by having made offerings to the buddhas, made charity and so forth for one thousand eons.11

The more you delay applying meditation, the greater destruction of your own happiness, of your own merit, there is.

You should immediately meditate in the following way. Think, “This is my view. This object that I’m attached to (or angry with) comes from my mind. This appearance has come through my mind labeling.” The other point to consider is karma. Think, “There’s nothing there from the side of the object—this is just the appearance of my karmic imprint. The object I’m attached to (or angry with) is an appearance created by my own mind, so it’s totally childish to be attached to (or angry with) it. It’s total nonsense.” It’s like a child who has built a sand castle; when somebody then destroys it the child gets so upset, screaming, “You destroyed my house!”

Like this child who gets so angry and cries so much, you get angry with the appearance that your mind created. That appearance came about through your mind labeling it. Your past karmic imprint projected this view, then you got angry with or attached to it. Your thinking is totally opposite to the reality. You think that appearance is coming from outside, from the object’s side, which is totally false. That’s a hallucination.

A great Kagyü yogi, Gyalwa Götsangpa, said:

Others’ mistakes are your own mistakes. Therefore, visualize the appearance of mistakes as your yidam.

The advice here is to change the mistaken appearance you have into pure appearance, as in tantric practice. Gyalwa Götsangpa says that when we see others’ mistakes, they’re our mistakes. When somebody cheats you, lies to you, gets angry with you or abuses you, remember what Gyalwa Götsangpa says : Others’ mistakes are your own mistakes.
The bodies of Mahayana arya beings—the exalted beings who have actualized the Mahayana path of seeing or path of meditation and have the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness—are not like our bodies. Since they have abandoned the sufferings of rebirth, old age, sickness and death, even if others try to harm them, there’s no pain. Because of their level of purification, they don’t experience pain in the way we do; through having actualized the path, they have ceased a certain level of obscurations, though not necessarily all of the obscurations. Since Mahayana arya beings don’t experience pain, there is no doubt about buddhas, who have totally removed even the subtle negative imprints that project truly existent appearance. Even when millions of maras tried to attack Shakyamuni Buddha, all the weapons that they threw were transformed into fl owers, so Buddha didn’t receive any harm. Even before becoming a buddha, a bodhisattva who has attained the path of seeing or the path of meditation doesn’t experience pain. That comes about through development of the mind, through having purified negative karma and defilements.

We receive harm and feel pain because we haven’t purified our mind. Receiving harm and experiencing pain are totally dependent on whether we have or have not purified our mind. It’s totally dependent on our mind. Somebody hurting us mentally by insulting us or hurting us physically by hitting us has to do with our mind. If we have purified our mind, if we have actualized those levels of the path, we cannot experience pain at all. This is especially so if we have reached the completion stage of the tantric path—the stages of clear light and illusory body. Once we reach those stages, we don’t experience pain. Even if we fall down or somebody hits us with a stick, we don’t feel pain; we feel only bliss. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche recently explained this when giving a commentary on the tantric grounds and paths.

Another proof comes from the great meditator, Gen Jampa Wangdu. Many of you have heard of Gen Jampa Wangdu, one of the old meditators from Dharamsala and Dalhousie from whom many of the older FPMT Sangha received the practice of chu-len, or taking the essence, the pill retreat. If you want to live in a remote, isolated place for many years to do retreat on calm abiding or meditate on the path, and you have to go very far to get food, with this practice you can just live on pills. Gen Jampa Wangdu himself lived on these pills and accomplished the practice.

One time we were receiving teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was giving the teaching in the palace, not in the main temple. One morning there was a lot of rain, and the cement steps outside the palace had become very wet. During the break Gen Jampa Wangdu slipped and fell, hitting his head on the steps. After the teaching was finished, we both went back to Tushita Retreat Centre and talked a little together. He mentioned that he had slipped over and hit his head. He told me that when he hit his head on the steps he felt much bliss. He didn’t experience any pain, just bliss. When he came inside there was a little blood on his head. I didn’t see it happen, but His Holiness blew on Gen Jampa Wangdu’s wound.

Gen Jampa Wangdu didn’t become a traditional geshe, where you have to make big offerings. There are different levels of the geshe degree. Some monks are examined and answer questions, then get the degree. Those who are unable to give the answers can instead recite many pages of texts by heart. However, even though Gen Jampa Wangdu didn’t do any of those examinations, he was a real geshe.

He actualized bodhicitta in Dharamsala many years ago. Sometimes in the evenings, after the teachings or at other times, he would come to see Lama Yeshe and me, and we would chat. Gen Jampa Wangdu would tell us stories. Some meditators would offer their realizations to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and others, whose root guru was His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, would go to see Trijang Rinpoche and explain what they had achieved. When Gen Jampa Wangdu went to see His Holiness, His Holiness would then tell him the news of the realizations achieved by the meditators, some of whom wrote to His Holiness from remote places. Gen Jampa Wangdu could go to see His Holiness without going through the Private Office for an appointment. The only time he went through the office was when I wanted to request His Holiness to give Gyalwa Gyatso initiation; he then went through the Tibetan secretary to make the request to His Holiness. He told me that this was the only time he went through the office.

Since Gen Jampa Wangdu had achieved calm abiding and also the Six Yogas of Naropa, he had clairvoyance. Because of this, I think he could see whether His Holiness had time to see him or not. Because he was clairvoyant, he could go straight to see His Holiness at any time. Maybe he sometimes had to wait a little while, but he never had to go through the office.
Also, at certain times when he was needed, Gen Jampa Wangdu would come to see us. When there was a need, he’d appear. He would go to see other people in a similar way—if somebody was dying with much suffering or difficulty, for example. Even though he would be in his cave, I think he was able to see what was happening. He would just go there to that dying person’s house at the right time.

Anyway, Gen Jampa Wangdu told us, “For seven years I have never been in anybody’s house for myself.” It doesn’t mean that he didn’t go to other people’s houses, but that he had generated bodhicitta seven years before. During that time, not only had he not gone to other people’s houses for himself, but for seven years he hadn’t done any activity for himself.

In Dharamsala Gen Jampa Wangdu lived for many years in a cave under a big rock, down below where His Holiness Ling Rinpoche lived on top of the hill. He realized emptiness there in that cave. He had already accomplished calm abiding in Dalhousie. After His Holiness sent Geshe Rabten to Dalhousie to inspire meditators to practice and achieve this realization, Gen Jampa Wangdu started to meditate on calm abiding and accomplished it. When he began the practice, he had a dream that he was riding a horse and that the horse fell down. He thought it was an inauspicious sign indicating that maybe he wouldn’t achieve calm abiding; but I think it actually meant that he would be able to control the obstacles to single-pointed concentration, attachment-scattering thought and sinking thought.

Gen Jampa Wangdu used to stretch out his arms when he described the bliss that comes by achieving calm abiding. He used to say, “Until you achieve calm abiding, what you call meditation is not meditation.” This is because we always have gross or subtle attachment-scattering thought or gross or subtle sinking thought. Gen Jampa Wangdu also had great success with the Six Yogas of Naropa. It was because he had reached those levels of the completion stage that though he fell heavily and knocked his head on the cement step, as Gen Jampa Wangdu explained, he experienced bliss instead of pain.

Let’s put it this way: if you don’t have negative karma, you don’t experience pain.

Others’ mistakes are your own mistakes. Therefore, visualize the appearance of mistakes as your yidam.

When somebody has abused you, insulted you, disrespected you, cheated you, if you analyze the situation, you find that it is your own mistake. Why? As great bodhisattva Shantideva mentions in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, it is because your karma persuaded that person that you receive this harm.

In the past, I gave similar harm to other sentient beings.
Therefore, I deserve to receive this harm from other sentient beings.12

(I won’t mention the other quotation that comes at the end of the chapter and is about using how others treat you to develop compassion.)13

Shantideva is saying that this person is treating you badly because in the past you treated them in exactly the same way. Because you harmed that person in that way in the past, you deserve to receive harm from them at this time. Deserve means that you accept the situation rather than rejecting it by saying, “It’s okay that I harmed others in this way, but I can’t receive the same harm from them.” It is unreasonable to reject it when others harm you but think it is fine for you to harm others. Saying I deserve to receive this harm means you are accepting your own mistake. The way that others harm you in this life is the result of how you treated them in the past, whether in past lives or earlier in this life. You can now see that when others treat you badly in this life, it is your own fault. As Gyalwa Götsangpa says, Others’ mistakes are your own mistakes. When you relate this to karma, it’s very clear.

Therefore, visualize the appearance of mistakes as your yidam means that you visualize the person who is harming you as a deity. With this meditation technique, anger and the other delusions do not arise.

I thought to bring up this issue of what Gyalwa Götsangpa said because even though we (and I include myself here) normally talk so much about karma, in our daily lives when we actually experience karma—when somebody treats us badly, insults, disrespects, abuses or cheats us—at that time we never think of karma. We think it’s totally the fault of the other person, not our fault; we have never made any mistakes. We totally blame the other person.
This way of meditating, or analyzing, in which you make the discovery that it’s your own mistake when others create negative karma in relation to you, becomes the practice of patience. Understanding this leads to the practice of patience because it’s then impossible for you to give rise to anger.

The other point is that it inspires you to generate compassion. What is happening is not the other person’s fault but your fault. Because you acted in this way toward others in the past, you obliged this person or these people to create negative karma by harming you in this way, which then causes them to be reborn in the lower realms. Who is throwing them into the lower realms? You. You’re the one who causes them to fall from the human realm down into the lower realms. Therefore, these people who abuse you or harm you in other ways are purely objects of compassion. So, this verse helps you in two ways: it helps you to develop patience and is a powerful way to generate compassion.

I meant to finish The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland this evening, but I got stuck at the beginning. I think we’ll stop here. We’re going to do the Gyalwa Gyatso initiation half in a dream or half alive….

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the merits of the three times collected by others, which are empty from their own side, may the I, who is empty from its own side, achieve Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment, which is empty from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are empty from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is empty from its own side, by myself alone, who is also empty from its own side.

Please also dedicate the merits in the following way.

May the general teaching of Buddha and in particular the stainless teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, which unifies sutra and tantra, be actualized in my own heart, in the hearts of the members of my family, of all of us here, of all the students and benefactors of the FPMT organization, especially those who give their lives to the organization, offering service to sentient beings and the teaching of Buddha. In that way, may these teachings spread in all directions and flourish forever in this world.

January 1


I just want to mention a few points in relation to the verse from The Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland where Lama Atisha is saying:

With remembrance, awareness and conscientiousness,
Always protect the door of your senses.
Three times day and night, again and again,
Examine your mental continuum.

Protecting yourself means protecting your own mind so that you don’t engage in negative karmas of body, speech and mind. By allowing delusions to arise, you endanger yourself by creating negative karmas with your body, speech and mind, and you also endanger others. You harm others and you harm yourself, destroying your own happiness. You destroy not only today’s or this moment’s peace and happiness, but all the happiness of your future lives, including your own ultimate happiness of liberation from samsara and full enlightenment. It also becomes an obstacle to your actualizing the path and offering deep and extensive benefit to other sentient beings.

The other way to protect yourself is by not allowing yourself to be abused by your delusions, by your own ignorance, anger and attachment. You don’t allow yourself to be harmed or destroyed by your enemy, delusions. If you follow your delusions, if you allow yourself to be controlled by your delusions, you then create negative karma, which means you throw yourself into the lower realms.

You may get upset when you suddenly remember that in your childhood you were abused by your father, your mother or somebody else, but at the moment you are being abused twenty-four hours a day by self-cherishing thought, ignorance, anger and attachment. You are being abused by these delusions all the time. This has been happening not only today but twenty-four hours a day since your birth and during beginningless rebirths. So, what are you going to do about it?

When you have abused somebody in the past and the result of that karma ripens so that you are now abused by that person, it makes you think you are the worst person in the world. You show an unbelievably sad face and say, “I’m hopeless.” You may think you’re worse than even an animal—worse than a mosquito, a flea or an ant. That comes from not having thought about and understood karma. It comes from not having reflected on Dharma and understood Dharma.

We’re being abused all the time by self-cherishing thought, ignorance, anger, attachment and other delusions. There’s no break from being abused by them. We need to recognize this and separate ourselves from delusions, rather than always being friends with them. Rather than being inseparable from our enemy, the delusions, we have to recognize how our delusions have been abusing us not only today but all the time from our birth and throughout beginningless rebirths. If we can generate the same feelings toward the delusions that we have toward a person who has abused us, it will inspire us and give us the courage not to follow our delusions but to defeat them. Instead of letting our delusions control us, we will control them. We will defeat our delusions, rather than letting them defeat us.

We aren’t upset in the slightest about our real enemy, our delusions. We don’t like anybody to dictate to us, but we’re always being dictated to by our self-cherishing thought, by our ignorance, by our anger, by our attachment. They are the real dictators, always controlling us and never giving us any freedom.

This is another way of protecting yourself. Through this practice, you are freeing yourself from your enemy, delusions. You are giving freedom to yourself; you are giving peace to yourself away from the disturbance of the delusions. There are many different ways you can do this practice of controlling the delusions, and you are then giving liberation to yourself. In this way, because you don’t create negative karma by giving rise to delusion, you are liberating yourself from the lower realms. This is the immediate danger. Death can happen at any time, and the immediate thing after that is the lower realms. Being free from that danger means that you have the opportunity to practice Dharma and gradually free yourself from samsara by actualizing the path.


Yesterday I used the example of different beings seeing liquid in a container to explain the views of attachment and anger on seeing an object, such as someone’s body. When you get attached to or angry with somebody, it doesn’t come from the side of the object. You get attached to or angry with something that came only from your mind, to an appearance that is projected by your mind.

Yesterday, to clarify this, I used the example of how the same liquid in the same container appears differently to different beings in accord with the quality of the perceiver’s mind. To those with an impure mind, to those without any merit, it appears impure, as pus, blood and other unpleasant things. To those with a pure mind it appears pure, as nectar. To the pretas, who don’t have merit, it appears as only pus and blood. But when a human being looks at the same liquid at the same time it appears to them as water. When a worldly deva, who has more merit, looks at that same liquid in the same container, it appears as nectar. And, of course, for yogis and others who have pure appearance, and especially for buddhas, who have totally purified their holy minds, it appears as blissful, uncontaminated nectar.

Therefore, you can see that your view is a production of your own mind, just as these different beings see different things according to the different qualities of their minds. There’s no such thing coming from the side of the object; there’s no such thing existing from the side of the object without depending on the mind. To put it in the shortest way: there’s no such thing from its own side. It’s all appearance. All the objects that you see also come from your mind; they are the result of the quality of your mind.

This example is also very good to use in guru devotion and in respecting sentient beings. For example, even when you see a dog, the question is, “Is it a real dog or not?” Your seeing a dog doesn’t always mean that it is a dog. Take Asanga, for example. Before Asanga had purified his mind, he saw Maitreya Buddha as a dog. But after he had purified his negative karma by generating incredible compassion and sacrificing himself for that one living being, the ordinary, impure appearance of Maitreya Buddha as a dog disappeared. The same being that had appeared before as a dog now appeared as a buddha.

You can’t really say who is a buddha and who is not a buddha. When you see a beggar or an animal, you can’t judge what they are from what appears to you. Saying “I see a dog” or “I see an ordinary being” doesn’t logically prove that it is a dog or an ordinary being.

It also helps to remember what is mentioned in The Essence of Nectar:

Until I am free from my evil karmic obscurations, even if all the buddhas descended in front of me, I have no fortune to see the holy body adorned with the holy signs and exemplifications—only this present appearance. 14

We have no fortune to see buddhas in the aspect of buddha. We see only ordinary beings. The meaning of ordinary is having faults, delusions and suffering and making mistakes in actions. That’s the definition of ordinary, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained during the Guru Puja commentary15 that the FPMT requested as part of the Second Enlightened Experience Celebration in Dharamsala. Later, when I went for an interview, I mentioned to His Holiness that these words had benefited me very much.

Until our mind is separated from karmic obscurations, even if all the buddhas came in front of us, it doesn’t mean that we would be able to see them as buddhas. We would see only ordinary beings with faults, or even animals.

If you’re not sure whether a person or an animal is a buddha or a bodhisattva, your seeing them as an ordinary being with faults doesn’t prove that they’re an ordinary being. We definitely see buddhas, bodhisattvas and dakinis in our daily life in different places, especially in holy places. When we go to holy places such as the twenty-four holy places, there are numberless dakas and dakinis there, but it doesn’t mean that we recognize them. When we are in cities or on pilgrimage, we do meet holy beings, but it doesn’t mean that we recognize them. We cling strongly to our ordinary view, totally believing in it. Since we are habituated to our ordinary view, it blocks our seeing holy beings. Even if we see some special signs, it’s still difficult for us to believe that it’s a buddha and to really respect that being and behave toward them as it explains in the teachings. We don’t follow them or make requests to them.

We certainly do meet buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas and dakinis. It’s just that our heavy ordinary appearance and strong belief in our own view block our seeing that they are buddhas, bodhisattvas, dakas or dakinis. Because our mind is impure, our view of someone as ordinary doesn’t prove that in reality they are like that.

Therefore, since anyone we meet could be a buddha, a bodhisattva, a daka or a dakini, we should respect everyone we meet. We should be careful not to get angry with or disrespect them, which creates heavy negative karma. By thinking that they might be a holy being, we should respect them and serve them, which creates so much merit. By thinking like this in our daily life, we gain a lot of advantages; we make a lot of profit, a lot of merit. The first thing is not to create negative karma, which is the obstacle for realizations and the cause of samsara, especially of the lower realms.

When the mind is not purified, it sees beings as ordinary. The stories of Asanga and the novice monk Kusali16 are inspiring stories that show the benefit of generating great compassion and sacrificing yourself for even one sentient being. It brings the quickest, most powerful purification and collection of merit and enables you to quickly achieve enlightenment. Although these stories also illustrate the benefits of generating great compassion for even one sentient being, I’m using them here to show that our view of someone as pure or impure has totally to do with our own mind. It’s a production of our own mind, depending on whether the mind itself is pure or impure.

The following story of Asanga is also helpful in relation to respecting sentient beings. After Asanga had spent twelve years in retreat on Maitreya Buddha, nothing had happened. It was only after he generated unbearable compassion and sacrificed himself to take care of a wounded dog that he was able to see Maitreya. The lower part of the dog’s body was an open wound filled with maggots, and Asanga cut flesh from his own thigh and stretched it out on the ground as somewhere for the maggots to live. Because collecting the maggots with his fingers might have crushed them, Asanga then closed his eyes and went to pick up the maggots with the tip of his tongue. But he found that he couldn’t reach them. When he then opened his eyes, he saw Maitreya Buddha.

Asanga saw Maitreya Buddha not only as a dog, but as a wounded one filled with maggots. He saw something very awful. It is similar with us in our daily life. We can never tell whether in reality someone’s a sentient being just because we see them as a sentient being; they could also be a buddha. Even someone very ugly, awful or terrifying could be a buddha. Asanga didn’t see even an ordinary human being but a dog, and even that, a dog with great suffering.

The other story is about Kusali, the Vajrayogini practitioner who went to the Vajrayogini pure land. Kusali’s guru, Krishnacharya,17 was going to the holy place called Oddiyana to engage in tantric conduct, the final part of tantric practice. It seems there are all different kinds of tantric conduct, in accordance with the individual person; there’s not one particular fixed conduct. Chöden Rinpoche said that one monk in Ganden Monastery who was about to achieve enlightenment and was engaged in tantric conduct built a huge house. There was no particular use for the house; he just built it.

On the road to Oddiyana Krishnacharya met an extremely ugly woman riddled with leprosy and oozing pus and blood. No one would dare to touch her. She asked Krishnacharya to pick her up and take her to the other side of the river, but he didn’t pay any attention to her and went straight across the river.

After some time, his disciple, Kusali, a monk living in thirty-six vows, came by and saw this leper. The woman asked him, “Please carry me to the other side of the river. Please take me there.” When Kusali saw the woman, he generated unbelievable compassion for her. Even though he was a monk and even though she was a leper oozing pus and blood, without any hesitation and with incredible compassion he lifted the woman onto his back. When he reached the middle of the river, she then appeared to him as Vajravarahi, not as an ordinary woman any more. She then took Kusali, in that same body, to Dakpa Khachö, the pure land of Vajrayogini, where he became enlightened.

Here, because of the unbearable compassion he generated for just one living being, Kusali completely sacrificed himself to take care of that being. This brought such powerful purification of his impure karma and defilements that, without crossing the whole river, when he reached the middle of the river, his view of that woman was only of a deity, Vajravarahi. She then took him straight to the pure land without his needing to die or go to the intermediate state or a next life. In that life, in that same body, he was able to go to the pure land of Vajrayogini.

Here, Kusali seeing an ordinary leper was the view of his impure mind. By purifying the impurities of his mind, he then had the pure view of her as a deity.

Another angle of this story is the importance of generating compassion as strongly as possible. The stronger you generate compassion, for even one living being, the quicker you are able to achieve enlightenment.

I’m using these stories to help you to understand that all the objects that you are attached to or get angry with in your daily life are your karmic view; they all come from your own karma. They’re creations, productions, of your own karma. The view of things as ugly or undesirable manifests from your own karmic imprints, as does the view of any object of attachment. The view of something as desirable is also a creation of your own karmic imprint. It means that there’s nothing there from the side of the object, from outside. What we normally believe is totally wrong. When attachment, anger or any other delusion arises, we normally believe that it doesn’t come from our mind but from its own side. We think that the appearance of an object of attachment or anger exists from its own side or comes from outside, instead of thinking that it comes from our mind, that it is the view of our karmic imprint.

In conclusion, there are three points to consider. The first is that this moment’s appearance of a friend, enemy or object of attachment comes from this moment’s concept. Your mind merely imputes, or makes up, that label and believes in it, and it then appears to you. After you label it, it appears to you in that way; you see it in that way. So, this moment’s appearance of things has to do with this moment’s concept; it’s a creation of this moment’s way of thinking.

The second point is that the appearance of this friend, enemy or object of attachment is the production of karma. It came from the karmic imprint, which means it came from your own mind. Again, there’s nothing from the side of the object.

Now I want to tell you about the third point. The truly existent friend, the truly existent enemy, the truly existent object of desire, the truly existent harm, the truly existent help and so forth don’t come from their own side; they are projections of the negative imprints left on your mental continuum by past ignorance. This is the third point. There’s nothing coming from the side of the object, as we normally believe in our daily lives. It’s the total opposite.

These three points give you an idea of how your view of an object comes from your own mind. It’s very important to do this meditation, this analysis, and use it in your daily life when you’re in danger of giving rise to delusions. It proves how delusion is a wrong concept because there’s no such object as it apprehends. In the case of ignorance, there’s no phenomenon that exists from its own side. Every phenomenon exists by being merely imputed by the mind in relation to a valid base. Because a valid base exists, that phenomenon is merely imputed by the mind. Therefore, nothing exists from its own side. No phenomenon exists from its own side; all phenomena are totally empty. That’s the reality. All these things appearing to us one after another as not merely labeled by the mind, as existing from their own side, are total hallucinations. They are totally false—not even an atom of them exists.

This analysis proves that this ignorance that apprehends things as existing from their own side is totally wrong. It proves that ignorance is a false mind. And it is the same with anger, attachment and any other delusion: they are all wrong concepts. A superstition is something that you believe when in reality no such thing exists. So, all delusions are superstitions.


Remembering the deity

Yesterday I mentioned a quotation from the great Kagyü yogi, Gyalwa Götsangpa:

Others’ mistakes are your own mistakes. Therefore, visualize the appearance of mistakes as your yidam.

I want to clarify the second part, where he says that you visualize the appearance of mistakes as your yidam, your deity.

When somebody harms, cheats, abuses or provokes you, there are many thought-transformation methods you could use, but Gyalwa Götsangpa mentions visualizing the person as your yidam, your mind-sealed deity. When you visualize them as the deity, there’s suddenly no way you can be angry. Your anger immediately disappears. It also stops your creating negative karma by harming them in return. It stops your insulting or beating them or doing other negative actions out of anger. Because there is no way you can give rise to anger, the negative actions that follow anger don’t happen. When you think of the person as the deity, you also give rise to respect. There are many benefits in visualizing the person as your deity.

In a similar way, you can also look at that person as your guru and think that you are receiving the blessing of the guru or the deity. There is a thought-transformation practice where you look at sentient beings as your own guru. Anger and other negative thoughts do not then arise and instead respect arises. That might be the reason that in thought transformation you practice looking at sentient beings as your guru.

When someone is possessed by spirits and there’s also a danger they will harm others, if you visualize that person as a deity, they calm down or are unable to harm anyone.
Remembering that the buddhas are always watching

There are other methods to control your mind when you’re in danger of giving rise to delusions and of engaging in negative karma. Kadampa Geshe Kharag Gomchung gave the following advice:

Whatever thoughts arise in your mind, the buddhas’ holy mind can always see them. Since the buddhas’ holy mind is clear, without obscuration, it can see what you are thinking. There are numberless buddhas, and all the time they can clearly see what you are thinking. When you give rise to attachment, anger and other negative thoughts, the buddhas see what is going on in your mind.

Because numberless buddhas see what you’re thinking, when attachment and other negative thoughts arise, you should remember, “All the buddhas are watching me. They can see my mind; they can see that I’m generating negative thoughts.” You will then suddenly feel embarrassed and want to stop thinking of that object of delusion and following that delusion. This is what happens when you remember that since the holy mind of all the buddhas is clear, without obscuration, they see everything that’s going on, including when you’re generating delusions. You will then feel embarrassed that you are doing something wrong, and that will help you to control the delusion or at least to control your responses.

Kharag Gomchung then says:

Don’t let bad thoughts run in your mind, because it upsets your yidam.

For example, if you display bad manners in front of respected people, they will think you are disrespectful or stupid. Or if somebody who has become your friend finds out that you are selfish and have other bad traits, they will think badly of you. First they respect and like you, then later, when they find out about all your faults and all the bad things you have done, they get upset and see you as bad.

Kharag Gomchung then explains that, like someone with sight watching a blind person, the buddhas are always looking at what you’re thinking and how you’re behaving. The blind person doesn’t realize that people with sight can see all the mistakes they are making, such as going where there’s no road or where there’s danger. In a similar way, without obscuration, the buddhas and bodhisattvas are always watching you and seeing your mistakes.

Kharag Gomchung then continues: Therefore, don’t get excited about engaging in bad

Kharag Gomchung is giving us a technique to help us control our mind. When we suddenly remember that all the buddhas are watching us, that they know about our mind and our bad behavior, we don’t dare to continue. We have to stop. Being aware of the buddhas watching is one technique to control the mind.

Remembering the negative imprints

Another technique is to think of the negative imprints. Whenever attachment, anger, heresy or any other delusion arises, it’s not simply arising but leaving a negative imprint on your mental continuum, like planting a seed in a field. As you have more and more negative thoughts and perform more and more negative actions, more and more negative imprints are left on your mental continuum, which make your coming future lives more and more difficult. In your future lives, because those negative thoughts and actions left negative imprints on your mental continuum, because of this past habituation, it then becomes very difficult for you to stop negative behavior. For example, if you are habituated to stealing, as more negative imprints are left by those thoughts and actions of stealing, it becomes more difficult for you to stop stealing in your future lives. Stealing happens uncontrollably. It is the same with sexual misconduct and all other negative actions. Because of the negative imprints left in this life, it becomes difficult for you to stop negative actions, making your future lives very difficult. Also, because you have already left so many negative imprints in your past lives, delusions arise and make you do negative actions, which then leave more negative imprints, which then make it very difficult in future lives for you to control your mind and to stop these bad behaviors. Again you leave negative imprints on your mind. This happens continuously, creating obstacles and obscuring your mind, making your life very difficult. The negative imprints left on your mind by attachment and other negative thoughts and by negative actions harm you in many, many lifetimes. It goes on and on in that way. With hell, you experience it for a certain length of time, then exhaust the karma to be in hell; but with a negative imprint left on the mind, you experience it again and again, until it is purified.

Experiencing it again and again means you experience a difficult life and engage in those negative actions again and again.

Gungtang Rinpoche, a great Amdo lama, said:

The evil friend, the friend of negative karma, isn’t somebody who has horns growing on his head or who says, “I’m the friend of negative karma.” He smiles at you in an affectionate, caring manner.

The friend of negative karma is the person who helps you to engage in careless activities, who helps you to play, laugh and be distracted.

Abandon that friend of negative karma like a contagious disease. Abandon the nonvirtuous friend, who is like a smiling cannibal or the hala plant.

At the beginning, when you first meet a cannibal, he smiles, says, “I love you,” “I care for you” and many other nice things and shows you a lot of affection, but later, when you have come believe in what he says, he eats you—by believing in the cannibal, you are cheated: afterwards, he eats you.

Similarly, the hala plant has a beautiful flower but it’s poisonous when you smell or eat it. Again, it cheats and harms you.

Another piece of advice from Kharag Gomchung, which is related to a verse from Lama Atisha’s teaching, is:

If the desire arises to engage in an unrighteous action, restrain your body and speech from engaging in it, from moving toward it. The advantage of doing that is that you eliminate obstacles for yourself and for others.

It eliminates obstacles for both self and others when you stop engaging in negative karma. When you don’t stop engaging in negative karma, that itself is creating obstacles in your life. It creates obstacles to your Dharma practice, as well as to your health, so that you experience sicknesses. It creates obstacles to many things. It causes obstacles to you and to other people; there are problems in your life and in the lives of others. However, abstaining from engaging in unrighteous actions with your body and speech eliminates obstacles to self and to others. That itself becomes a puja—the best puja. In our daily life, whenever there’s a danger of our engaging in unrighteous actions, such as when desire arises, we have to stop our body and speech from engaging in them. When we stop that, the puja is already done. Without needing to ask other people to do a puja for us, we ourselves have done the puja, because we stopped creating negative karma.

Kharag Gomchung then concludes:

You will then receive the common siddhis and sublime realization.

One point is to remember to generate fear of negative imprints. Allowing delusions to arise and engaging in negative actions leave negative imprints. Remember how these imprints will also continuously harm you in your coming future lives. It is very important to be cautious of this. These pieces of advice from Kharag Gomchung are very powerful.

There are two main methods to control the mind. One, for us beginners, is to separate ourselves from the object of desire. Since we don’t have realizations or a stable mind, being close to an object of desire is very dangerous for us. But even if we are physically separate from the object, if we don’t meditate, it becomes very difficult because the desire is still there, clinging to the object. Even though physically we’re far from the object, since mentally we didn’t let go of the object, the suffering becomes unbearable. Therefore, not only do we need to be distant from the object, but at the same time we need to practice meditation. If the problem is anger, we need to meditate on the shortcomings of anger. We have to remember again and again all the suffering that results from anger. We need to meditate on the shortcomings as extensively as possible: anger results in the sufferings of the lower realms; and even when we are next born as a human being, we will have an ugly body and many other problems. If the problem is desire, meditate on the shortcomings of desire. It’s not enough just to be physically distant from the object of desire. We need medicine for our mind. Desire is a sickness of the mind, and we need to take the medicine of meditation for it.

Yesterday and the other day I mentioned various other techniques for controlling the mind. One is to remember that death can happen at any time and relate that to negative karma and the sufferings of the lower realms. Relate in particular to the shortcomings of desire and of the negative actions done out of desire, which become nonvirtues. This is powerful and most effective. You need to reflect on those parts of the meditation, and on how samsara is suffering in nature.

There is a story of a person who was born without a right arm for five hundred lifetimes. After five hundred lifetimes, he was then born with a right arm. The karmic story is that in a past life the person was a monk who touched a woman’s body with attachment then broke his vows. Because of that, he was born for five hundred lifetimes without a right arm. After five hundred lifetimes, because the karma had been exhausted, he was then born with a right arm. When he got the arm, he must have felt that it was very precious.

There are also many children born in different parts of the world as Siamese twins, with their bodies joined at the head, stomach or back. I think that many of those births are the result of strong desire. It could be that they took ordination in the past and broke their vows because of desire. These people could have been born like this because of very strong desire, not being able to let go of the object of desire. After that lifetime, they are then born with their stomachs, backs, lower bodies or heads joined. Recently in the news there was the story of a successful operation in America to separate two children. There was also a recent operation done in Singapore to separate twins joined at the head, but both of them died. They weren’t small children, but quite grown up. I don’t know how they were able to live like that for so many years. They decided to have the operation but neither of them survived.

In this text there are quotations from the sutras and many other karmic stories. Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, the great pandit, also has many karmic stories in his Great Thought Transformation text.

An ordinary being, who doesn’t have realizations or a stable mind, needs to do strong meditation because their mind is very weak. They need to be far away from the object of desire, the object of delusion, and at the same time do strong meditation. Their mind then won’t suffer as much, and they will be able to continue their practice; they will also be able to continue to live in their precepts or ordination.


1 Rinpoche read the following excerpt from Atisha: A Biography of the Renowned Buddhist Sage, translated by Lama Thubten Kalsang et al.   [Return to text]

2 This is Mind Training: The Great Collection op cit. [Return to text]

3 Other translations of this text may be found in Advice from a Spiritual Friend and The Book of Kadam, p. 61. [Return to text]

4 Essential Buddhist Prayers: Volume 1, p. 140. [Return to text]

5 Led by this pure thought,
Mindfulness, alertness and great caution arise.
The root of the teachings is keeping the pratimoksha vows:
Please bless me to accomplish this essential practice. [Return to text]

6 Verse 66. See Nagarjuna’s Letter, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin and Artemus B. Engle. [Return to text]

7 Mi she gyi zhi: not knowing karmic causes due to the separation of (1) time or (2) space or to (3) their subtlety, and not knowing an enlightened being’s secret qualities and actions. [Return to text]

8 See Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Direct and Unmistaken Method  [Return to text]

9 Ch. 7, V14  [Return to text]

10 “Thinking of this excellent body, highly meaningful and difficult to obtain, and wishing to take its essence with unerring choice between gain and loss, happiness and suffering—reminds me of you, Lama.” See Heart of the Path, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, p. 403.  [Return to text]

11 Ch. 6, v. 1  [Return to text]

12 Ch. 6, v. 42  [Return to text]

13 Therefore, just like treasure appearing in my house
Without any effort on my behalf to obtain it,
I should be happy to have an enemy
For he assists me in my conduct of awakening. Ch. 6, v. 107 [Return to text]

14 See The Essential Nectar, p. 193, v. 121. [Return to text]

15 Published as The Union of Bliss and Emptiness.  [Return to text]

16  Getsul Tsembulwa, in Tibetan.  [Return to text]

17 Nagpo Chöpa, in Tibetan.  [Return to text]