Kopan Course No. 14 (1981) Audio and Unedited Transcripts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #119)

The following are excerpts from the teachings given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Fourteenth Kopan Meditation Course, 1981. The teachings include a commentary on Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara [A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.] Unfortunately, one of the tapes from Lecture Six was lost, and the remaining recordings were not good enough to publish online. So we have posted only those which are most clear. The entire lightly edited transcript of Rinpoche's teachings from this course can be read or downloaded here.

Lecture 2: How to Remove Suffering; Emptiness of the I

...Any type of human being, who are from different countries, who have different cultures, even the creatures, however they look different, whatever different body they have, all these living beings who live on this earth, all they wish is one thing, all they do not wish is one thing. It's just one. All what they wish is happiness. All the human beings, looking different color, speaking different language, even the creatures, those who are flying, those who are crawling on the ground, what they do not wish is just one: suffering. So to prevent, to pacify either one's own suffering, to accomplish one's own happiness, either for self, either for others, however to accomplish that wish for either oneself or for others, there happened various religions on this earth.

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's way of freeing the sentient beings from suffering is not by washing off the cause of suffering, the unsubdued mind and its action, karma, not by washing with water. And not like taking thorns from the body. You just sit and somebody comes along, you just scream, you don't do anything, you sit on the bed then somebody comes along and takes out the thorn. You just sit comfortably, you just relax on a chair, then somebody comes along, takes out thorn that bothers you, the thorn. Not like this. Not in this way. The way that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha frees sentient beings from sufferings, is not that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha comes along and sentient beings just sit there, then Guru Shakyamuni Buddha comes along and takes out, not like this, like taking the thorn out, not like that. Not eliminating by hand, by physical hand. And also not by transplanting, like in the West transplanting the heart. If somebody's heart is transplanted to another's heart, then the other person is empty, body is empty of heart, there's something missing in the other person's body, even though now the other person has a good heart, healthy heart. Not like that, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha transplanted his enlightenment, his realization of bodhicitta, wisdom of sunyata, his realization of enlightenment, he transplanted in the mind of us. Then frees us, we become free from sufferings, and Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, he becomes sentient being, his mind become empty of realization. The way Guru Shakyamuni Buddha freed the sentient beings was not by transplanting realizations in the mind of others.

So, what is the way that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, what is his way of freeing the sentient being from suffering? By revealing the absolute truth, by revealing the nature of the existence. The nature of the "I". By revealing the absolute truth of the "I", the self, the "I". The absolute truth, the absolute nature of the "I", the absolute nature of existence, on which us, the sentient being are ignorant, hallucinated. Because not seeing this, being hallucinated, being ignorant in this, so continuously we suffer. So Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the way he frees the sentient beings from sufferings of samsara is by revealing the absolute nature. Then the sentient beings, by doing listening, reflecting, meditation practice on this, by actualizing, the sentient beings are able to eliminate even the seed of ignorance, the hallucinated mind, the ignorance, which is the originator of all the sufferings, of all other unsubdued mind and the sufferings. This is the way how Guru Shakyamuni Buddha leads sentient beings in the blissful state of peace, and this is the way how Guru Shakyamuni Buddha leads to the state of omniscient mind, the supreme bliss, the sublime bliss. By developing the path of method and wisdom that is revealed by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the sentient beings practicing, actualizing, developing that, they approach to sublime bliss, the state of omniscient mind.

Also one thing. If the suffering did not come from the self, if it was not created by one's mind, if it came from others, from a separate being, if the creator of one's own suffering is a separate being, who is separate from oneself, then in that way perhaps it might be possible by just having faith alone, without need to practice from the side of the sentient beings, without need to do anything from the side of us, just by having faith. Or another way, what happens is: it doesn't make any difference whatever you do, because the creator of your suffering is somebody else, not you, it is somebody else, so it doesn't matter whatever you do from your side, anyway it's up to him, it's up to the other being. So it's completely dependent on him, no matter whether you do good action, no matter whether you do bad action, whether you live good life or even one lives very evil life, having only ill will in the mind, not having any slightest love and compassion for others, only doing harm to others, so however, even one lives very evil life, even without having faith, nothing, it would be possible to experience happiness.

Then also no matter how much you live good life. No matter how much anger, how much self-cherishing thought, the self-centered mind, the strong selfish thought, anger, ignorance, attachment, those unsubdued minds how much they become thinner it wouldn't make any difference for that person's happiness or suffering. The mind peace not becoming greater as those unsubdued minds become thinner, as they get more subdued, as they become thinner there is not any effect, there is no result, having greater and greater happiness in the mind. However it doesn't make any sense, since the creator of the suffering and the happiness is somebody else so it does not make any sense, on the other hand in some ways it doesn't make any sense, whatever you attempt because it is completely dependent on that other being. If the creator of the suffering, if the creator of the self, the creator of your own happiness, suffering, the self, if the creator of the world is somebody else, a separate being, one being, first of all, why that being, whether that being is called a god or deva or whatever name it is called, then first of all, what happens if he did not create the world, if he did not create the self, if he did not create the beings. If he did not create in the first place, what happens? Will there be any problem if he did not create? Wouldn't it be better if he didn't create anything from the beginning. Then there wouldn't be any suffering, any wars, there is no need to fear for the third war, no need to fight for oil. Also it is just extra work. Create suffering then you have to, you have to keep busy to stop the starvation, the danger of the sickness, even the effort of buying medicine, taking medicine, all this is unnecessary extra work. So wouldn't it be better at the very beginning if nothing was created, if nothing was created, wouldn't it be better then having created. However, I think there's ways one can check like this, one can examine.

However Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, his philosophy, what Guru Buddha Shakyamuni said, all the sufferings came from the self. All the happiness, perfections came from others. How all the sufferings came from the self. While the self, the "I", which looks as if it exists from its own side on these aggregates, it is empty from its own side. It is empty. While the "I", the self looks as if it exists from its own side from above the aggregates, it is empty, in fact it's empty of existing from its own side, empty. Which looks as if it exists from its own side it doesn't exist from its own side. Empty. While the "I" is empty of existing from its own side, the "I" appears from above, from above these aggregates, an I appears as if it exists from its own side.

Another way of saying: this "I", the self, which appears as if it is inside the chest, above the heart, above the heart in the chest, somewhere here, which looks as real, which looks as if it is there. Not feeling like, not appearing like this, as one feels in the chest, similar way, it doesn't appear in the toes or in the legs or in the nose, or in the ears, in the fingers. One doesn't feel or it doesn't appear like that in the other parts of the body. But here something that you feel, particularly here something that you feel. Real I. While you are not examining it, when you let it go, when you let it happen in normal life it looks kind of solid, real solid kind of, living in a dark room, living in a kind of black, a kind of dark room, something like that, like as if you are living in a dark room without light. Something like that, I is here inside, kind of living in a dark room, like that.

While you are not examining it looks like it is there, but if you search, if you really examine whether it really exists, where it is, whether it really exists in fact, when you examine on that, right on that, by watching at it, while you are looking at it, if you examine whether it really exists, where it is actually, it cannot be found anywhere, from the very tip of the hair down to the feet, the toes. Cannot be found anywhere, completely empty. What you used to cling before, so far what you have been clinging in your life since you were born, since from the beginningless past lives until now, what you have been clinging, what you have been believing, completely empty in the fact, on these aggregates it is completely empty in fact.

However, without mentioning much, so like this: when one is not examining it looks like it is there, as real, as solid, solidity. Looks like it can be found if one searched, but really when one starts to search it becomes weaker, the more one searches it becomes weaker, unclear, cannot be found. Like when you look at it from far it looks like there is the cow which you want to find, which you are supposed to find, looks like there is a cow on that mountain. From far it looks like it is there, eating grass, looks like it is there, but when you are on that mountain, when you searched you couldn't find the cow, on the top, on the bottom, anywhere, nowhere you can find the cow. That mountain it is empty of cow. Similar, on that mountain it is empty of cow, like that, on these aggregates such I existing from its own side is completely empty, in fact it is completely empty from its own side, just there, completely empty from its own side.

However, this I, on these aggregates there is an appearance of I existing, there is an appearance of an "I" which exists from its own side. Another way of saying, the appearance of the real I, solid I that we point out, today, now, that we put our finger, that we point out when somebody calls you, when you get shocked, or when you are in certain circumstance, happy or suffering circumstances, then you point out here. This is it, what is appearing now to us, to you now, right now, the self, I that is appearing to you now as real, as solidity, somewhere above the heart, not in the stomach but above the heart, somewhere in the chest. This is it. However by making it short, by making it simple, the "I" which doesn't exist, this is it.

So normally what we point in certain circumstances, a shock or happiness, when there is happiness or when there is suffering, normally we point out there. The reason why we point out there is because that relates to the mind belief, it relates to the conception, it is not just pointing out there unnecessarily. When somebody calls you or when you get angry, you can point out nose, you can point out anywhere. When somebody calls, if somebody accuses "You have stolen my car" or ice-cream, anyway from the refrigerator, anyway I am joking but you see, if somebody accuses you, you don't point out...