Kopan Course No. 36 (2003)

Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1441)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 36th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2003. The transcripts are lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Lecture 11: The Emptiness of the Ice Cream
The importance of a pure motivation

[Chanting: Heart Sutra, The Foundation of Good Qualities, lamrim prayer.]

You can read in English. If you are not familiar, then you can read the English.

[Chanting in Tibetan]

After the praise, the homage to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is done, it expresses what is Buddhadharma, the Buddha’s teachings. It is saying to not commit any unwholesome actions, actions that harm self and others, whose result is only suffering, so to not commit any of those actions, any type. Even if it is a very small one, you should abandon it because you want all the happiness—you want even the smallest happiness, even the small comfort in the dream. Therefore, if this is what you want, you have to abandon even the small negative karma and you have to engage in perfect wholesome actions, virtuous actions, actions which result only in happiness.

Usually we do our perfections the other way round. Usually we do a perfect nonvirtuous action, a complete perfect, powerful nonvirtuous action. And even if a virtuous action is done, even if it is finally done, it’s very short-term and very weak, not powerful and not perfect. Either there is no motivation, no virtuous motivation, leave aside bodhicitta, not the thought of seeking liberation from samsara for ourselves, not even a Dharma mind, a Dharma attitude, seeking happiness of future lives, being detached from this life—without even that very last Dharma attitude, the minimum, without even that.

There is no understanding of reincarnation and karma; there is no thought of seeking long-term happiness of a future life. And even if there is understanding, it doesn’t mean we seek the happiness of future lives twenty-four hours a day, that doesn’t happen, because the mind is totally occupied by attachment, clinging to this life, to reputation and pleasure, comfort, sense enjoyment, just the pleasure of this life, power and so forth, totally occupied by the sense pleasures, attachment, clinging to sense pleasures of this life. So, even if we have an intellectual understanding of negative karma, that thought seeking happiness for all those coming future lives doesn’t arise. That attitude, which is Dharma, seeking the happiness of future lives and being detached from this life, doesn’t arise. It’s quite rare.

Therefore, even if we do a virtuous action, either the motivation or the actual body of the practice is missing. If we are going to recite just one mala of om mani padme hum or whatever mantra then we can’t concentrate during that minute. We can’t concentrate, the mind is so scattered. In that way, the actual practice is not perfect like that. Either there is no meditation or even if there is a visualization we can’t concentrate throughout, for that duration, we can’t keep the concentration and there is no clear visualization, and so forth.

Even when we do a virtuous action, because there is no virtuous motivation, no Dharma motivation, no Dharma attitude for the action, even if we are trying to practice virtue, the cause of happiness, trying to practice Dharma, the Dharma motivation, the attitude is not there, and we are unable to transform the action into virtue. Leave aside the other activities in daily life, even something different from we would normally do, reciting prayers or doing meditation, again, we have no knowledge of karma, of how creating karma is to do with our attitude, with what kind of attitude we do the action, what creates good karma and bad karma, all those different levels of good karma that produce different levels of happiness. We have no knowledge of that. Even if there is an intellectual understanding, we are still unable to practice, unable to use the understanding, unable to put that intellectual understanding into practice in daily life.

Usually, for Western people, there is not so much emphasis on prayer. Prayer is not the trip; the trip is meditation. The trip is meditation, quietly sitting in meditation, not prayer. Chinese, Tibetans and others do so much prayer, but Westerners don’t usually like to do prayers. Here, even if the person tries to meditate, there is no virtuous motivation; there is no Dharma. The meditation does not become Dharma, the cause of happiness; it does not become even the very least Dharma motivation. Even if the person has been doing meditation for thirty or forty years, looking back it is extremely hard to find even one meditation that has become Dharma.

The Buddha: His kindness in showing the path

Using myself as an example, from Tibet, from Solu Khumbu when I was, I think, maybe four, five or six years old, I started to learn the Tibetan alphabet from my uncle who carved mantras on rocks, huge rocks that are near the road. Different families and people sponsored them, requesting him to carve the mantras, then they place them on the road so that people who are travelling, who are passing through, when they come up this way, when they go down this way, it becomes circumambulation. When they come up this way either they actually circumambulate the rock or the next time, when they come down, it becomes a circumambulation. It’s a service, a way of benefiting other sentient beings.

Here the service is purifying other sentient beings’ negative karma, the cause of their problems, the cause of their sufferings, by circumambulating the Dharma, these very powerful mantras, carved on the huge rock. It is a very important service, purifying the root, purifying the cause of the suffering. It’s something that really changes their mind, the mind becomes Dharma and creates the cause of happiness, the cause of liberation and the cause of enlightenment. They develop Dharma; it becomes the path and then the path becomes the cause of happiness, the cause of enlightenment. It causes other sentient beings to collect extensive merit, the cause of happiness. So, it’s very, very practical, very practical; it has very deep benefit. This kind of service affects the mental continuum of the sentient beings; it purifies and collects so much merit.

Due to the great lamas of the past who gave advice with their compassion, people learned many ways like this—how to offer service to other sentient beings and how to purify their own karma and collect merit, and bring peace and happiness to the country. In this way, by purifying negative karma, it is causing them to collect a lot of merit and for their mind to become pure Dharma and especially to generate a good heart. So, it’s quite common.

I don’t think it’s happening these days but in the past for so many years, especially in old times, people in Solu Khumbu were so devoted—they had so much devotion, so much good luck. They build many beautiful holy objects. Somebody who had a little bit of wealth had large prayer wheels in their own house, like here at Kopan. Here, we have modern technology, and because of that we put a lot of microfiche, with many, many mantras. Usually, there was just paper, with small mantras, which you can carve or print. This large one is usually called mani dung chur in Tibetan language. That means there are one hundred million om mani padme hum mantras inside. Any big prayer wheel is given that name and so is supposed to have that number of mantras. Nowadays, due to modern technology, microfiche, in a tiny prayer wheel you can have so many millions of mantras. This also has some microfiche, and that’s why it can have so many. I think it has thirteen hundred million om mani padme hum.

So, families who had some wealth had extremely beautiful shrine rooms and many of the extremely precious Buddha’s teachings, if not all of the Kangyur—the complete teachings of the Buddha and the pandits—at least, the Prajanaparamita, the teachings on the Perfection of Wisdom. Many families couldn’t read because there was no such system in Solu Khumbu or Tibet where lay people went to school. There was a school, but it was very little, where they learnt Tibetan writing. But there were not many and they were very little. Somehow they didn’t get set up for lay people to learn reading and writing. If you were going to learn writing and reading then that meant you had to live your life in a monastery, with the Dharma. There was no other reason, but it meant you were going to live your life in the Dharma, so then you could learn the alphabet, to read scriptures.

In the past, in the mountains, people were so devoted; they had incredible devotion. There was not as much distraction as there is now, with so much business and this and that, with the focus on money totally occupying our life, with so many things that we can do for money. There weren’t such things like that before. It was totally different in Solu Khumbu now and before, the difference between sky and earth. Now it’s not permitted, but before in some ways it was holy.

So anyway, there were people who at least had the Buddha’s Prajnaparamita teachings, the Perfection of Wisdom, the teachings on emptiness. This is what the Buddha told Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, that if any of the other teachings are destroyed, it doesn’t matter but you should not degenerate even one corner, even one piece, of this Prajnaparamita teaching, you should take responsibility to not allow it to degenerate. And the Buddha said, “Wherever this teaching is, I am there.” The Prajnaparamita teachings are what the Buddha left in this world to liberate us; this is what liberates. The way that the Buddha liberates us sentient beings is not by washing with his hands, not by releasing all our sufferings, all the negative karma by water, like other religions do. The Buddha does not liberate us sentient beings by taking thorns out of the body without using his hands, not in that way, and also not by transplanting his realizations within us, also not that way—like translating a monkey’s heart into a human being’s body.

The Buddha’s way of liberating us sentient beings from suffering and its cause, delusions and karma, is by revealing the truth. The truth, what is that? That is this teaching talking about the reality of the nature of I, the mind, the aggregates and phenomena.

Emptiness: The emptiness of the ice cream

The emptiness, the ultimate nature, the very nature of phenomena is very subtle. Everything we see, including the I, the sense objects, the sense of the ear—sound—of smell, of taste—food and drink—and tangible objects. All that we see, people, buildings, statues, pillars, the floor, ceilings, all these things, trees, earth and sky and mountains, rocks—their very nature is emptiness. But this is unknown to us, this is unknown to our mind. Even though that is their nature, it is unknown to us.

Why is their nature emptiness? They are not empty of substantial phenomena, not empty of concrete, substantial phenomena. They are not empty of what is labeled this and that. Not empty of substantial phenomena, like the sky or space. Neither is it empty of what is merely labeled, not that. Like this—this is not ice cream, you can see is empty of ice cream. It is empty of ice cream. For example, ice cream is empty of ice cream. It’s not empty of merely labeled ice cream, which exists. Merely labeled ice cream exists. The ice cream that exists is what is merely labeled by mind. The ice cream is not empty of merely labeled ice cream. When we talk about emptiness, we are not saying that ice cream is empty of ice cream; we are not talking of that.

While there is ice cream, while this ice cream exists, it is empty. It is saying, while there is ice cream, while the ice cream exists, then it’s empty. Therefore, you can see it’s not empty of ice cream. It’s not empty of kaka. The ice cream is not empty of kaka, excrement. So the ice cream is empty of something about the ice cream. The ice cream is empty of something about the ice cream. It’s not empty of ice cream but something related to ice cream, something which doesn’t exist. It’s not that it’s empty of some other phenomenon, kaka or something. Not that. It’s not empty of the ice cream that exists, which is merely labeled by the mind. So, it’s empty of something about ice cream.

The ice cream that exists is what is merely labeled by the mind. What is merely labeled by mind. Maybe I’ll just mention this, maybe it might help. It might give you some idea a little.

When there is not this cream, what is this? There is milk and what else? Milk and cheese? Milk and sugar? Ice? These eyes? Eyes with white eyebrows! I am joking. So anyway, milk and sugar, that’s all?

[Student explains]

What substance is cream made from? It is milk, right? So anyway, when the milk is in that state, you don’t call the cream “milk?” Do you call cream “milk?”

Student: No

Rinpoche: Why?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Separate? But the thick milk top, you call that cream, right? The top, when you say, thick or something, right? The creamy milk. So anyway, it’s ice, then the sugar and then milk. The milk will become thicker when it’s all put together. So that is the base, that is the base. Before that existed, before actualizing this, even your mind labeling “ice cream” doesn’t exist. You see before this base materialized, even your mind that labels “ice cream” doesn’t exist. It’s impossible for ice cream to exist before the base materializes.

Even if there is the base, if it is not labeled “ice cream,” ice cream doesn’t exist. Even though there is the base, if your mind hasn’t labeled it “ice cream” yet, ice cream doesn’t exist. That’s should also be known.

Emptiness: Do the base and label happen at the same time?

As soon as the base comes into existence, the label, say, “ice cream,” also comes but they don’t come into existence at the same time. That is very important to know. That’s a very important analysis to do. The base and the label don’t happen together. When they come into existence, is it possible to come into existence together? Do they come together? I said it’s not possible but I think … huh?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Why?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Little bit after, not at the same time? After a long time? The label comes after a long time? After one hour? After that you completely enjoy it? If you enjoyed it, then you can label it “ice cream.” But if you haven’t enjoyed it, then you don’t label it “ice cream.” I am joking. If it has a good taste, then you label it “ice cream,” and if it doesn’t, then you don’t bother. [Laughter]

If there is a spider suddenly coming down, suddenly falling down onto your leg or onto your nose, at that time, didn’t it come together?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Oh, I see, if you labeled in your mind “spider,” then they come together, huh?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: You mean even before you see it coming down, dropping down, landing on your nose. Huh? What?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Oh, I see. So, as soon as it lands, the minute you see it landing on your nose, then the base and label happen together at that time? You see it comes down like this. It comes down so fast.

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: So, they come together, the base and label? The base and label come together?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: At that moment, it sounds like it? When you look through the window or a glass door and you see a car speed past or a bird fly past, is it the same? The label and base you see together like that? When you look through a window, you see a bird flying or a car passing quickly, so you see base and label together. You immediately see the car passing, right? That means at the same time you are seeing the base of the car going, it’s happening together? Seeing the label “car” and the base going together?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: You see the base and the label? Oh, then the label. So, it’s a little bit different from the spider. The spider you see together but the car changes a little? There’s some flexibility.

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Oh, I see. You see the spider dropping on the nose, landing on your nose, but you don’t see it? But you don’t think of it? No time to think? You see it landing on the top of your nose and enjoying it, you know. But you don’t think, you are not trying to think, so you don’t think, right? You don’t think, so you don’t label. You don’t label “spider” right at that time? You see the spider landing on your nose, but you are seeing spider landing on your nose without labeling?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Without labeling. You see the spider landing on your nose without the mind labeling. Without your mind labeling “spider,” how do you see the spider landing on your nose?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Without the mind labeling, how do you see the spider landing on your nose?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: So, you don’t see it; you just see a phenomenon landing on your nose? You just see this beautiful phenomenon landing on your nose? Or most precious! So, anyway, just to finish this.

Suppose a person is separated from their father or mother from childhood time, many years ago. Then when they meet, when the daughter or son meets either the father or mother and is unable to recognize them because they hadn’t met for many years, at that time does that child see the father or mother, or not?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Does the child see the father or mother or not? They don’t see the father or mother? So, they don’t meet. While they are meeting, they are not meeting? While the son and father are meeting, they are meeting but not meeting?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: They are meeting. They are meeting but the son doesn’t see his father?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Yeah, yeah, right. You are right.

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Yeah, it takes a lot of time to work it out in the mental office. So, while it’s not recognized, the son sees the father or not? Is the son seeing the father or not? The son sees the father? The son doesn’t meet the father?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Yeah, he doesn’t recognize him. Yeah, that’s right. I think I agree, but the son doesn’t meet the father? The son doesn’t see the father?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: So, the son doesn’t see the father. The son doesn’t meet the father? The son is not meeting father?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: If the son kills that man, then the son is not killing his father? Is the son killing his father or not? On the basis of not knowing, the son doesn’t recognize that this is his father, on the basis of that. So, the son doesn’t kill the father, even if he killed that man. Because the son doesn’t recognize the father, if he killed him, he did not kill his father; this is not killing the father. So, he doesn’t create the uninterrupted negative karma of killing a father?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: That’s quite an advantage. It is so useful to not recognize things. [Laughter] That way, you have less negative karma.

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: That memory is a good one. That not memory, that unforgetfulness helps reduce karma. So you are saying right?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: I think it will be good if you can think whatever he thinks.

You see, that person sees the father but he doesn’t recognize that person as the father. That’s the difference. The person sees the father, otherwise he would completely lose. He sees the father but does not recognize him as father. Even if the son didn’t recognize that he killed his father, because the relationship is there, the karma is there. He was born from that mother and father; his body’s evolution came from the father. So that’s what that means. The combination of sperm from the father and egg from the mother, the fertilized egg, so even if the person didn’t know that it was his father but killed him, it would create the uninterrupted negative karma of killing his father. If that son didn’t recognize his father but in reality that body, because of the blood connection, which made the body of this child, therefore he receives the label “father.” It is a valid base that can receive the label “father.” Therefore, if he killed him, he would create the uninterrupted negative karma, that without the interruption of another life, would immediately cause him to reincarnate in the lower hot hell realm.

So anyway, the label “ice cream” and the base also don’t come into existence together. The reason why is this. For example, maybe I’ll put this first. A person that you met in the past, whether it’s your father, mother or friend, somebody that you have met long time ago. Now, at the beginning you don’t recognize him, then slowly while you are talking, the voice and the shape of the face, manners or certain things cause you to slowly remember. You could remember from the voice, the way of talking. Slowly you remember, slowly it comes into your memory. So, you see, here is the label. Here, you see the base first, you are able to recognize the base first, because of certain shapes, characteristics and so forth. Then recognizing the base, as a preliminary, that becomes the reason. Then that reason persuades the mind to make up the label, “father” or “mother” or “this face” or “that person.” The mind makes up the label. This is exactly same. It doesn’t come together. You recognize the base and make up the label; base and label don’t come together. The label comes later. So now it’s exactly like that, the base of ice cream and the label “ice cream” don’t come together. There is no way to come into existence together. This is like the other example.

Here you see the base first. Seeing the base, the milk and sugar and ice together, and the milk thick like that, in that style, in that form, by seeing that all together like this and recognizing it, that causes the mind to make up the label “ice cream,” that label you were taught, you were introduced by somebody. There was a time when you learned the name “ice cream.” There was a time in childhood or whenever, there was a day, when you learned this label “ice cream” because somebody introduced you to the label. All phenomena are like this. You are introduced to the label by somebody and then you believe in that. Somebody introduces you to the label and then you believe in that. Then, your mind makes up the label and you believe in that. And then after you believe, there is the appearance. After that, there is appearance to you of that phenomenon, which you labeled and which you believe. If you don’t believe it, I don’t think there will be the appearance. I don’t think there will be the appearance if you don’t believe that label. So you believe in that then, next, as a result of that there is the appearance to you.

That’s how the whole thing works, everything here, everything, all that appears to the senses—the eyes and so forth—everything we see here, when we are in the temple, when we are outside, when we are shopping, at the market, when we go for sightseeing, at the beach or at a movie, all that appearance. All the appearances we have recognized here, the appearances of the sense of ears, of nose, of tongue, of body, all the appearances we have when we are outside—the sky, the earth, the buildings, the mountains, the birds, the people, everything—through analysis you can see, all these came from your own mind. Everything came from your mind. Before mentioning that, first somebody introduced you to the label. Your parents or some teachers, in the school, in kindergarten, in primary school, all the way up to university—it’s all about teaching labels. What you learn is labels. What you are learning is all labels. What you are taught is all labels. Everything you are learning in university is labels. Somebody introduces you to the label, you learn that and you believe in that. Then your mind makes up the label, and believes in that and there is appearance, then you see this and that. Then you see this phenomenon, that phenomenon; this person, that person. So like that. Then there is du she, discriminating, du she, how you say? Discriminated?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: Discriminative? Native American. [Laughter]

Therefore, now here, all the things we see right here is discrimination. You are seeing me, I am seeing you, all the things here—the statues, the ceiling, the floor, this carpet, this brocade, all these phenomena—seeing and discriminating, always discriminating, this, this and this. Seeing all these, discriminating all these, before that there is appearance. The appearance came from the label, your mind labeled and believed in that. Before your mind made up the label, you are introduced by somebody, the name, the label. In some ways the whole of study is actually the studying of the labels. When we are learning the path, we are studying the labels. Everything—hell, the sufferings, the true cause of suffering and the true path, the true cessation of suffering, enlightenment—one way of looking at it is by doing the analysis this way. You are studying the whole thing that is labeled. You are studying what is labeled. You are introduced to the label, and you learn that. Then your mind makes up the label and believes in that.

Through this knowledge, you generate beneficial thoughts, which only produce happiness, which is labeled “virtue.” This thought, the action, is labeled “virtue.” And then the result that is experienced is what is labeled “happiness.” Then you try to abandon all the thoughts which result only in suffering, which is called “nonvirtue.” So, while everything is existing in mere name—true suffering, true cause of suffering—it all functions in mere name. The true path and removing the delusions, all these, actualizing the path, the cessation of suffering—everything functions, exists in mere name. It exists in mere name; it functions in mere name.

Because it is dependent on cause and conditions, dependent on base and mind, on the label and existing, it is a dependent arising. Therefore we have total freedom. We can change, we can remove the cause of suffering and we can be free from suffering. We can actualize the path and achieve liberation, enlightenment.

Anyway, now to go back.

That base and that label “ice cream” don’t come into existence together. You can see from that, you can see the evolution of the label “ice cream,” how it comes. By understanding that, you can see they don’t come into existence together. As soon as you see the base you see the label—that doesn’t come, that doesn’t happen, it’s impossible. They don’t come in existence together. After seeing the base, that becomes the reason, that persuades the mind to make the label “ice cream.” And you believe in that, the label. Then, there is the appearance of ice cream, then you see ice cream. So, to be able to see ice cream there is a whole evolution that has taken place. It started from somebody, at the very beginning, introducing the label, “This is ice cream.” You learnt that name.

Everything is a creation of the mind

Just by this example, you can see this is completely the creation of your mind, the creation of your mind, right down to seeing the ice cream. First, somebody introduces you then after seeing ice cream, you think, “This is ice cream.” The whole thing is a creation of the mind. Being a creation of the mind doesn’t mean without depending on the base, it’s not saying that. Without the base then it’s like what you see in a dream. You dream you win a billion dollars in a lottery or somebody gives you a billion dollars in your hand, but when you wake up you don’t have a cent, even your purse is empty. When you wake up, that billion dollars is merely labeled by the mind. It’s the same as ice cream but there is no base, there is no valid base, so that’s why when you wake up you don’t have it. Or if somebody, a magician, transformed something into a million dollars and gives it to you in your hand but when you get back home, it’s not there in your purse, the magician had just hallucinated you. That is similar to the dream because there is no valid base.

So, created by mind doesn’t mean without a valid base, without depending on a base, it’s not saying that. It exists by depending on the base, but even the base is also the same. Again, again it’s exactly same. Whatever the material there is—ice, milk and so forth—again those names were introduced to you by somebody. Somebody introduced the label and you learned that, then your mind imputed, merely imputed it, and you believed in that, then there is appearance, and then you see it. So again, with all those materials it is the same. Again, all those labels have their own base, so it is the same. Once you know that the ice cream exists as merely imputed by depending on the base, then all the rest of the phenomena, all the rest based on that, then that base, that base, that base, so you see, all the rest of the phenomena, it’s the same. Then the atoms, particles, the particles of particles and so on, it’s all same. Everything from particles to atoms, according to Prasangika, in reality everything exists in mere name, merely imputed by mind and functions that way.

That’s the reality. Everything exists in mere name, merely imputed by mind. That’s the reality. In Tibetan it is called tagyö tsam,4 existing being merely labeled; tröpa5 or tagyö tsam, merely labeled. Starting from ice cream, the whole of phenomena exist in mere name, merely imputed by the mind. Therefore, when you meditate, first do the analysis, what was analyzed just now, how everything exists, starting from the ice cream to the whole of phenomena, existing in mere name, merely imputed by the mind. Meditate on that, on subtle dependent arising.

Then, when you precisely meditate on the meaning of that, what understanding comes in your heart is that all this is empty. The understanding that this is empty should come in your heart, when you meditate on all this, existing in mere name, merely imputed by mind, extremely subtle dependent arising—then the effect of that understanding comes right in your heart. There is the discovery that all these are empty of existing from their own side, or truly existing. Before I said something about ice cream is empty, empty of something about ice cream—not ice cream itself but something about it, so here the ice cream is empty of truly existent ice cream, ice cream existing from its own side, ice cream by its nature.

Therefore, how the ice cream appears to us, how we see the ice cream, how we believe, how we apprehend the ice cream is totally something else. It’s not the ice cream that exists. All that is ice cream that doesn’t exist at all. Normally, what appears to us, the way it appears, how we see it, how we believe it to be, which is ice cream not labeled by mind, not only that, not merely labeled by mind, and existing from its own side or truly existent or existent by its nature. There is ice cream, there is real ice cream in the sense of existing from its own side. That way the ice cream appears and how we see the ice cream and believe it, that is a total hallucination. That’s a total hallucination. That’s a projection of our mind, our ignorant, hallucinatory mind—the ignorance, the concept of true existence. This is the biggest superstition, the king of the delusion. The thing as we believe it to exist, doesn’t exist at all. There is no such thing there.

On the basis of this projection, this hallucination of being truly existent, attachment rises. It seems something worth being attached to. We exaggerate the object, with this and that qualities, how good this is, and then the attachment, clinging to it, arises. Similarly, anger also builds up, the wrong concept of anger, believing this is harming me, this is bad, so anger totally wanting to hurt. The anger and the view of the anger, that there is something really bad, is built up on the basis of this truly existent hallucination, this truly existent appearance, projected by ignorance, the concept of true existence. So, all the other delusions arise, delusion and the view of that delusion, which is another hallucination, all these minds such as jealousy, all these delusions, these wrong concepts and their view, which is hallucinated. Everything is built on this totally false world, this totally false hallucination, the truly existent appearance projected by this ignorance. This is why ignorance is the king of the delusions.

There no such thing as what attachment believes in, the view, there is no such thing as what anger views. It is not true; there is no such thing there. There is no such thing there. Even the foundation that appears to us as something real and we believe, is not there. We believe it is real in the sense of existing from its own side, but it is not there at all.

So here, the ice cream is empty of the truly existent ice cream. What normally appears to us in daily life in that way and the way we believe, that is not there. That one is totally empty. That one is totally empty. Not even the slightest even atom exists. That’s the emptiness of the ice cream.

So, therefore, what is the ice cream? What is the ice cream? It’s totally empty. The ice cream is what is merely labeled by mind and that is totally empty of the real ice cream, in the sense of existing from its own side. The nature of the ice cream is existing in mere name but at the same time it’s empty of the real one, what has been appearing to us, and so far what we have been believing, that there is a real one existing from its own side. We think, we believe, we have been eating this real ice cream for so many years. We think, “I have been eating this real ice cream for so many years.” Or, “This shop has very good ice cream, the best ice cream,” or “This country has very good ice cream.” However, in reality such ice cream as that we have never had, because it didn’t exist.

You have never had that ice cream in reality—not even one atom—you have never had it in this life, you have never had it from beginningless past lives. You have never had such ice cream in the world, not even the slightest atom, because it has never existed. It never existed before and it doesn’t exist now. As long as it is ice cream, it is not that. As long as it is ice cream, it exists in mere name, empty of the real one that exists from its own side. There is no such ice cream. So, you have never had that ice cream. What you had is what is merely labeled by mind, which is empty.

So, I think I’ll just stop there.

Emptiness: The object of refutation

The problem is this. Because we don’t analyze, it appears that the base and the label “ice cream” come into existence at the same time or that the base of the ice cream and the label “ice cream” are inseparable. They appear like that, inseparable.

If we are more aware of our view and we recognize the object to be refuted or the hallucination as a hallucination, then we can see that on this base there is ice cream, which means, on this base there is ice cream existing from its own side, on this base there is real ice cream.

If we recognize the hallucination as a hallucination, if our mind is analytical, sharper, able to recognize our view as a hallucination, we will see that on the base there is ice cream, which means on the base there is real ice cream, in the sense of existing from its own mind, it’s not merely labeled by mind. That is the projection of the negative imprint left on the mental continuum by the ignorance, by the past concept of inherent existence. That projection is total hallucination.

It’s not possible base and label come into existence simultaneously, it’s impossible. Similarly, the base, the aggregates, the association of body and mind, and the label “I” don’t come into existence, they don’t come together. If they came in existence like that, in order for our mind to make up the label “ice cream” we would have to have a reason. Why does the mind choose the particular label “ice cream?” There has to be a reason. The reason is that before we make up the label there has to be a particular phenomenon that can receive that label. We have to see some particular phenomena that can receive that label. Otherwise, there is no reason, nothing there for the mind to choose this particular label “ice cream.” If we just see water, that doesn’t cause us to make up the label “ice cream.”

In order to label something, there must be a valid base. For example, “I am listening to the Dharma,” or “I am explaining the Dharma.” To label that depends on a reason, first seeing the aggregates and doing the function of listening to the teachings or explaining them. We see that first, then because of that reason the mind makes up the label, “I am listening to the Dharma,” or “I am explaining the Dharma.” Therefore, the base and the label don’t come into existence together. The base comes first, the label comes after.

If they came together, if the base of ice cream and the label “ice cream” came together, that would mean that the base of the I and “I,” the label, would come together, that the aggregates and the label, “I,” would come together. If they came into existence simultaneously, not sequentially, that would mean that the aggregates themselves would be the I. The aggregates themselves would be the I. The base itself would be the ice cream. The label “ice cream” would become one with the base if they came into existence together. If the aggregates are the I, why we do need to label “I” on the I? If that were so, we would have to label “I” on that I. Then, we have to label “I” on that I. So it becomes endless. That is the reasoning, to prove that negates this false view, as it is explained in the Madhyamaka teachings.

This comes from the Prajnaparamita teachings. I was saying, in Solu Khumbu the people with some wealth always at least had the Prajnaparamita text on the altar, even if they couldn’t read, even they didn’t know how to read, because they knew it was incredible good luck, bringing so much merit; it is so fortunate to have. Then, they would make prostrations, make offerings, make light offering or water offering, and in that way offering to the Prajnaparamita teachings collects unbelievable, unbelievable merit.

So, this subject came from there. And I was saying, the Buddha’s way to guide us sentient beings is by revealing the truth. That is how the Buddha liberates us sentient beings. This teaching of the Prajnaparamita shows the truth, the ultimate nature of phenomena. By learning what the Buddha has already revealed, taught, by listening, reflecting and meditating, and by actualizing wisdom, realizing emptiness, then developing the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, and directly ceasing both the gross and subtle defilements, that is how we achieve liberation and enlightenment. That’s how the Buddha guides us. Therefore, this Prajnaparamita teaching is so precious.


4 Wyl: brtags yod tsam. Merely labeled phenomena. [Return to text]

5 Wyl: spros pa. A mental fabrication or construct. [Return to text]