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 2: Golden Light and Arya Sanghata Sutras
The Golden Light Sutra and the Arya Sanghata Sutra

I thought to do a short oral transmission, just one or two pages, to start today.

Not this text. I thought I brought the text but I brought some other text. I was going to do oral transmission of the Golden Light Sutra. That’s a very, very important sutra to recite; it helps very much for world peace, for peace in the country. So many benefits have been explained. I thought to do it since I have received the lineage, the transmission. There are three volumes—elaborate, middle and short—in the Buddha’s teaching, the Kangyur.

I received the oral transmission of the middle one from Bakula Rinpoche, from Ladakh, who was a prince, I think, before the British took over India. His father was the king, so he was born in the king’s family in Ladakh. Then he went to Tibet, to Drepung monastery, to study philosophy and then become a lharampa geshe, like a Doctor of Philosophy in the West. Then he worked for the Indian government, the parliament, for many, many years and then he became the ambassador in Mongolia some years back. He is a great holy being; he has done unbelievable benefit, skies of benefit for sentient beings in this world, to protect the teachings of the Buddha, to protect Buddhism in Ladakh, for many years. None of the monasteries have been destroyed. His life has been totally sacrificed to sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha, to preserve it. His life story is really most inspiring, most inspiring, and it shows a great holy being in this world.

There are sixteen arhats. They are showing the aspect of arhats but they are not ordinary arhats who are just free from samsara, from delusions, having entered in the Mahayana path, not that kind. They have taken the aspect of arhats, but they are actually enlightened beings.

The sixteen arhats are regents of the Buddha; the Buddha asked them. So, he is a regent to protect the teachings of the Buddha in this world and for the teachings of Buddha to last a long time in this world and then to protect, to help the Dharma practitioners, the practitioners of the teaching of Buddha. One of the arhats is called Bakula Rinpoche, so I think he is an incarnation.

It is said by Lama Atisha’s disciple, a Kadampa geshe, that Lama Atisha himself came to Tibet and made Buddhism pure in Tibet. He started the term lamrim. He wrote a text of a few pages that integrated the 84,000 teachings of Buddha, which covers the three levels: the Lesser Vehicle teaching, the Mahayana Paramitayana teachings and the Mahayana tantra teaching. All these levels that the Buddha taught for the different levels of sentient beings, Lama Atisha integrated into a number of pages, making a very simple graduated practice for one person to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. The teachings he wrote and the way he presented them are what we are meditating on during this course; this is what we are learning.

Lama Atisha wrote this lamrim teaching, then it was preserved, practiced and studied in Tibet, and so many beings became enlightened, so many beings became bodhisattvas, great saints, and so many beings became highly attained yogis, many becoming enlightened. Now that is spread all over the world and these days many tens of thousands, even in the West, have the opportunity to follow the path to enlightenment and make their lives meaningful and find peace and the answer in life that they could not find in Western society, culture, where there are gaps, where there are holes. They could not find the answer, but here they are able to find the answer.

Lama Atisha’s practice is the sixteen arhats. He strongly advised his disciples, including Kadampa Geshe Potowa, to practice the sixteen arhats very strongly, worshipping, offering and making requests to them. Kadampa Geshe Potowa had great success in attaining realizations, in benefiting others. And many other Kadampa geshes experienced how it benefited them so much and they advised others to do it in a similar way. It is said that in any monastery, if there is one arhat from the sixteen arhats, it is beneficial to spread the Dharma.

Reciting the prayer of the sixteen arhats offering has several benefits: to be able to practice Dharma and to be able to live in pure morality, in ordination, and then to increase the Sangha. It also brings wealth, prosperity. Reciting the prayer and offering to them is also good for healing and for long life. There are quite a number of benefits.

So, I have received the oral transmission of the middle version of the Golden Light Sutra from Bakula Rinpoche and then there is another very short one, a condensed one, that I also received the oral transmission of from Bakula Rinpoche. I have already given the oral transmission of the short one a few times in different places. The middle one, I don’t remember, I started at Institut Vajra Yogini, a center in France last year, but I don’t think I finished it.

So anyway, this time I thought I brought the text but this is the Arya Sanghata Sutra, another sutra that is so precious, which just by hearing a few words, as soon as you hear the words you collect merit. As soon as you hear the words it immediately purifies very heavy karma, the five uninterrupted karmas, from which immediately after death you get reborn in the heaviest of the hot hells, that stage which lasts for eons. That is the negative karma such as killing your father or mother of this life, harming a buddha by causing the blood of a buddha to flow, killing an arhat—one who is free from delusion and karma, from samsara—and causing disunity among the Sangha. All these very heavy negative karmas immediately get purified as soon as you hear the words of the Buddha’s teaching, called the Arya Sanghata Sutra. That means there is no question that negative karma such as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies—all those ten nonvirtues—all get purified. And as soon as you hear the words, you collect merit. A buddha is one who has completed all the merit, who has nothing more to complete, nothing more to collect. So a buddha is like this, and this text gives you the idea; it shows you how all extensive merits up to buddhahood can slowly be developed.

As soon as you just hear the words of the sutra, how much merit you collect equals offering to all the buddhas equaling the number of sand grains of the Pacific Ocean. It says “Ganga” but Ganga is not only the River Ganga. In the text it is explained it is the Pacific Ocean. And “sand grain” is not what we call ordinary sand; it’s much more subtle. It’s an atom, even the water has atoms. So, it’s much finer. So, you collect that much merit, more merit than offering to all the buddhas equaling the number of sand grains of the Pacific Ocean. I don’t remember a hundred percent but it’s like twelve times that, twelve times the number of buddhas equaling the number of sand grains of the Pacific Ocean.

There was a large Buddha that was destroyed some time ago in Afghanistan. There are lots of caves there. I’m not sure, but it seems there is story that even the Buddha came there and gave the Kalachakra initiation in that area. And I heard that there are supposed to be two thousand people there who are Buddhists, but I think maybe that’s what was left. Of course, they had no support, the family life had degenerated and I don’t think they had any support in education. So anyway, there was a stupa built in that area of Afghanistan and it was completely filled only with this special sutra of the Buddha, the Sanghata Sutra. It was only filled with this text because the merit, the purification by just hearing it is unbelievable, unbelievable, incredible. This was mentioned by a professor who in the early times translated this text from Sanskrit. Anyway, I mention the story because I brought this text, but I was going to give the lung of the Golden Light Sutra. That was the idea.

The second time I went to Mongolia—I don’t think it was the first time—there was a Mongolian man who was a doctor. He was the husband of the sister of Dr. Renuka Singh, who is the present director of Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre in Delhi. Her sister passed away. She was a very wonderful person, with a very good heart, extremely good-hearted, a wonderful person, but somehow she didn’t take care of her body, of her health, and she passed away. So, I went to the doctor’s house in Mongolia. There were a few texts kept very high, very respected. I think maybe his father read them, but I don’t think these were read, so they kept them very high.

I was curious, kind of looking for antiques. I am just joking! Anyway, I asked him if I could see one text. There must be some karma to be able to see these texts, to use these texts to benefit the world, I guess, maybe the Buddha’s action. There were a few texts there, but this was the text he brought down. The minute I opened it, the first line that I saw was, “And by hearing this, all the negative karmas get purified.” Just that one, that’s the line I saw first. So that inspired me. Of course, I am very excited about anything that purifies negative karma, anything that you see around that is very helpful, very powerful to purify negative karma. So anyway, anything that you see around that can purify negative karma.

So I borrowed the text, I took it back home—I mean the house in Mongolia. I thought to read this text in the market because it was so powerful and by hearing it, it purifies negative karma. I thought maybe it would be very useful to go to the market and sit down and read the text so that people passing by could hear it and their negative karma could be purified. I went to one shop, to the market, which was maybe twenty times this space, I am not sure, maybe thirty. It was a huge, huge ground, but it was all filled with Mongolian leather boots and shoes, clearly all covered. So there was no place to sit to read the text. Outside there were cars going round but it didn’t seem the right place. So this didn’t happen. I also thought to read it outside the house where there were a few people passing by but that didn’t happen.

When I came back to New York, Ribur Rinpoche—a guru I received many initiations and teachings from—was doing retreat outside New York, at Richard Gere’s private house. Rinpoche asked me to come there to do retreat. While I was staying there, I borrowed the text, which came from Mongolia. There is an American geshe, I’ve forgotten his name. Huh? Ah, Geshe Michael Roach. He went to Mongolia, so one of his disciples had the text and I borrowed it. So I read it while I was staying at Richard Gere’s house. It brings unbelievable, unbelievable benefit to the world, to the country, to that area it is in. It brings unbelievable benefit, it brings peace and happiness, it stops violence. It has a few chapters. I thought it would be nice, because it brought so much benefit, if it went to Africa where there is a lot of fighting. If you could go there and stay some time, and just read this text, to bring peace to the country. This is an idea.

After I read this then I made a vow that in order to repay the Buddha who left such precious teachings, to be able to bring such incredible benefits to the world, to translate it into many different languages, in order to spread it all over the world. So the Spanish translation is done already by a monk who is in Sera Monastery, in south India. I think probably now a few other translations are in process. It already exists in Chinese because the whole entire teachings of the Buddha, the Kangyur and Tengyur, were translated into Chinese many hundreds of years ago, I am not sure how long ago. It seems there are a few more texts in Chinese which are not translated into Tibetan. By giving other translations for people, all over the world, it gives them the chance to purify and to collect so much merit and to bring peace in the world, in the country, in the area.

It seems that this text was very famous in Mongolia. I didn’t hear that it was so well-known in Tibet. Of course, it’s always there in the Kangyur, wherever there is the Kangyur this is always there. But in Mongolia, it is common that every family has this text. In the past for many, many years there has been so much prosperity in Mongolia. So much power and so much prosperity happened in Mongolia because of this Golden Light Sutra text, for so many years. It is said in the text and explained by some high lamas. This is also to do with the oral transmission, to give this as much as possible. The Buddha taught this to spread this precious teaching, to benefit sentient beings, to offer service.

I received the middle version and the short one from Bakula Rinpoche. In the Kangyur there are three volumes—the elaborate, middle, short ones—which I received at Vajrapani Center in Santa Cruz in America from Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, who is great yogi, a great scholar whose qualities and realizations, whose experience of tantra, are like the limitless sky. So, I received the oral transmission from Rinpoche recently, which I had been waiting a long time for, as well as the Golden Light Sutra—except the elaborate one which I haven’t received yet. I’m hoping to receive it soon from Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche. Every single word is very clear. If you are able to concentrate and you never miss one single word, it is very clear. It becomes that much more perfect, when you transmit it to others, so much more perfectly.

Anyway I think we’ll stop here. It will take some time, maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow. So, I think that’s it.

Dedication: Great compassion is the most important thing

[Chanting mandala offering]

Due to all the past, present, future merits collected by me, the three times merit collected by others, may the bodhicitta be generated within one’s own heart, one’s own family members and in the hearts of all the sentient beings, every single sentient being, without delay of a second, and that which is generated, may it be increased.

[Chanting]

May the bodhicitta be generated within one’s own heart and in the hearts of everyone in this world.

[Chanting]

May the bodhicitta be generated within one’s own heart, one’s family members, all of us here and all the leaders of the countries, all the leaders of this world. If one leader of a country generates bodhicitta, is able to have bodhicitta, then all the millions of people in that country will have so much peace and happiness and all those millions of people will be led in the path of peace and happiness, in a correct way. Therefore, it makes a difference whether the leader has bodhicitta or not; it makes a huge difference for the happiness of all those millions of people in that country. It is like the difference between sky and earth. It makes their lives different.

It’s very important to pray as well that bodhicitta, the altruistic mind to achieve enlightenment, be generated in the hearts of all the terrorists and all the gangsters, the mobs or gangsters or whatever, all those groups of people who engage in violent actions harming others.

[Chanting]

I didn’t conclude; I talked but I didn’t conclude. What I was saying was that here we are receiving an education, not only in meditation, which is training the mind in compassion, in bodhicitta, the root of the door of the whole Mahayana path to enlightenment. Like the root of the tree that bears so much fruit, it is the root of the whole path to enlightenment, to attaining a buddha’s infinite qualities, a buddha’s holy body, holy speech, holy mind. Each one has infinite qualities, and is spontaneously working for sentient beings equaling the limitless sky. The root is bodhicitta and great compassion toward all sentient beings. So here, receiving an education means not only an intellectual education but also to put meditation into practice by training in compassion. What I was saying before was that this is what is needed most in the world; it is the most important thing. It is the antidote for every negative thing—war, famine, disease, torture, poverty, sicknesses. All those things come from negative karma, produced by those deluded, afflicted minds and all that is to do with the self-cherishing thought.

Compassion is the complete opposite of all this. With compassion, everybody collects virtue. With compassion, everybody stops giving harm others and benefits others and only creates virtue. That brings all the prosperity, inner prosperity, inner realizations, outer prosperity, all wealth, enjoyment, everything. It brings the opposite to famine, to poverty, the opposite to sicknesses; it brings good health; it brings peace and happiness, the opposite to war. So, training the mind in compassion is the answer for everything. It brings world peace, peace and happiness to all sentient beings in this world, in this country, to our own family, to ourselves. Our compassion becomes the root of peace and happiness for everybody.

You should therefore recognize that coming to this course you are doing the most important thing in life, the most important thing that the world needs, the most important thing that sentient beings need.

So that’s why I was saying at the beginning, it’s not just for one person’s peace of mind or even for liberation, not for that—it’s global. What you are doing here is something related to all sentient beings, connected to all sentient beings, connected to whole world. What you are doing here is connected to the whole world. That’s what I was saying from beginning. So now I’ll conclude. [Laughter]

All the opportunities that we have are due to kindness of His Holiness Dalai Lama.

[Chanting]

Due to all the past, present, future merit collected by me, the three times’ merit collected by others, that which exists but which does not exist from its own side, that which is totally empty, may the I, who exists but who does not exist from its own side, who is totally empty, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which exists but does not exist from its own side, that which is totally empty, by myself alone, who exists but who does not exist from its own side, who is totally empty.

I dedicate all the merits to be able to follow the holy extensive deeds as the bodhisattva Samantabhadra and Manjughosha realized, and I dedicate all my merits in the same way the three times’ buddhas, the past, present and future buddhas, dedicate their merits. May the general teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, which is like refined gold, that which is unified sutra and tantra, may it be spread in all directions. May it flourish forever in this world by completely actualizing it within oneself, within all of us, in the hearts of all the students and benefactors of this organization, those who give up their life for this organization, doing service to sentient beings by teaching Buddhism.

[Chanting]

Thank you very much. I don’t know what the time is. I have no idea.