Kopan Course No. 41 (2008)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1746)

These teachings were given by Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 41st Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in December 2008. The transcripts are lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Lecture 13 is a talk on the beginnings of the FPMT by Ven. Roger Kunsang, who is Rinpoche's assistant and CEO of FPMT Inc. See also the Basic Philosophy of Buddhism, to listen to the audio files and read along with the unedited transcript for Lecture 10.  You may also download the entire contents of these teachings as a pdf file

Lecture 20: The Four Suffering Results

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Lecture 20


[Rinpoche is reading from an unspecified Tibetan text22 to a mixture of Tibetans and Westerners, teaching in Tibetan and in English.]

I thought to go through a few of the details. I think in the course you have gone through the ten nonvirtuous actions. There are four results of karma; the ten nonvirtuous actions produce four suffering results. You have gone through that, doing the meditations, so you’ve got some idea.

I’ll just read in Tibetan first, then a little bit in English. I think maybe I’ll a few things mention from this.

[Rinpoche reads in Tibetan, giving the name of the text to the Tibetans (unclear).]

The negative karma of killing becomes heavy by thought, by thought, it is generated by a very strong, intense poisonous mind of ignorance, anger or attachment, then wishing or desiring to kill. That’s how the killing becomes heavy by thought.

The next one is how killing becomes heavy by action. The person kills and is so happy, always very happy to kill, always having the thought to kill. With that, being heavy by action means the killer is always very happy to kill. Even if the killing is done only one time, but it is done with a continuously happy mind, the killing becomes heavy by action.

Heavy by action. And while you are doing the action of killing, you also let other people get involved in it. You praise how good it is to kill and making other people’s minds harmonious to it.

There is also killing because you think sentient being have so much unbelievable suffering. In the West, even farmers who have animals who are very sick, who cannot function anymore, the farmers cut the head, probably thinking that they suffer so much, so it’s better to kill them than let them suffer a long time. It seems many farmers do that.

You are thinking of the animal, but only thinking of this life, you’re not thinking what happens after this life. You kill the animal but then what happens. That animal could well be reborn in the lower realms, which is million times heavier suffering [than the pain it is currently in.] If the animal is going to be reborn in the hell realm it gets worse. You kill to save it from this pain, but in the life after this, if that animal is going to be reborn in the lower realms, such as hell realm, the pain is much worse. That’s what I think.

If the animal is going to be born in a pure land, or in the deva or human realm, for that animal, maybe it’s better. But if the animal is going to be born in the hell realm, whatever pain the animal suffers from is hardly anything compared to the hell beings’ suffering.

I think this is similar to a human being. That person doesn’t get better so then you give him an injection to stop the pain or something. If the person is going to be born in a better realm after this, with more happiness, then thinking of the benefit the other person in that way is good, otherwise, if the person is going to be born in the lower realms, whatever pain he is suffering now is nothing. Even though it’s regarded as the human worst suffering, the heaviest suffering of the human being, compared to the lower realms’ suffering, this human being’s problem is comfort! It’s so small, it’s comfort compared to the unimaginable suffering of the hell realm, the suffering of the lower realms. If it seems the person is going to be born in the lower realms, then it’s better to stay even one day as a human being, in coma or whatever. I think like that.

There was a student in California who worked in a hospital. She was involved in deciding whether to take sick patients off the oxygen, or something. I’ve forgotten the details. She had to decide whether the person dies or was kept alive longer. There’s nothing much you can do. You do divination to Tara, you totally rely upon Tara to give advice whether the person should be kept alive or not. You make prayers and have total reliance on Tara. You make strong prayers or mandala offerings. I don’t remember here. Then write down all the possible answers on paper, the same size of paper, roll it up and make strong prayers to Tara, whether to keep the person alive of let them die.

She had to decide. I don’t remember very clearly but it was some kind of job like that. There was also the experience of the family to consider. I told to make strong prayers to Tara, give the responsibility to the hand of Tara. You are not making the decision, Tara is making the decision.

Another form of killing is sacrificing animals or human beings, to worship, which is not Dharma. In many places animal sacrifice happens, although sacrificing human beings is in the past, I think. Now it’s much less, but animal sacrifice is still widespread.

Then, relating to non-Dharma activities, killing the sentient being, while it’s unbelievably screaming.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

Then quite a lot of details follow.

The action of killing becomes heavy without an antidote. The highest one is without having achieved the realization of the path of merit. The middle one is not having achieved the actual body of the firm contemplation. There are four firm contemplations so not having achieved that actual body of the firm contemplation, then engaging in action of killing, is the middle level. The last one is one who has never does even one virtue, who has never done even one prostration or any practice, doesn’t do anything, and then engages in killing. That kind of killing becomes heavier.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

I think that the killing becomes extremely heavy if you think this way, this is not ordinary sentient being, this is wangchuk, Mahadeva. In Hindu worship, worshippers of Mahadeva or Shiva think animals have manifested for human beings’ use, so therefore there’s no harm if you kill them. If you kill with that kind of belief, then it is very heavy negative karma.

The animal is an ordinary sentient being, but you want to make offering to Shiva, so you kill believing that the animal being killed collects merit and you who are killing get also benefit because you are making Mahadeva happy, therefore you won’t receive negative karma by killing. If you kill with that kind of belief, then the negative karma of killing is very heavy, extremely heavy.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

Then when you do the action of killing, negative karma becomes heavy because of the base, if the body is bigger. The bigger the body is, the heavier the killing is, because there’s more pain, it takes longer and more pain. I think it might be that.

Then, killing so many creatures at one time.

Then, killing the sentient being who rely upon you. I guess this refers to pigs and chickens and so forth, who are fed and taken care of by the family, and then a family member kills them. That’s a very heavy killing.

Then of course a very heavy one is killing your own parents, an abbot, a preceptor, and arhats.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

There are different results, the ripening aspect of the result, then experiencing the result similar to the cause, where you experiencing the same kind of harm as you did to others, how you created negative karma, how you harmed others, you are experiencing back on yourself, similar to how you harmed others in the past. And, [creating the result similar to the cause] where because you killed in the past, you kill again now.

The ripening aspect result has two aspects, that which throws and that which obtains. The one which is throwing is, by having done small killing, it throws you into a rebirth in the preta realm. With a middle killing, you get reborn as an animal. With a great, heavy killing, it throws your rebirth into the hell realm. This is mentioned in the Buddha’s teaching, The Ten Bhumis Sutra.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The ripening aspect result in the hell realm is described, the karma of killing creatures. Your body gets eaten by the creatures, called ...[Rinpoche uses the Tibetan] I’m not sure what. Many of those creatures eat you with vajra beaks, like some of those fish that have very long beaks or bird that have very, very long beaks. They eat you.

Then there are lions and tigers and so forth that have iron beaks. They eat your body from the outside. It’s said in the Mindful Sutra, this is in the hell realm you experience as the result of killing.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The result which is similar to the cause, that is when you are born a human being due to another good karma, but, because of having killed, you experience shorter life. Even when you’re in the human mother’s womb, your life is in danger. You don’t survive, you die or there’s spirit harm or other dangers such as abortion. You experience a short life, you get killed, or even after you are born you don’t live long, you experience a short life.

Then, even if you manage to live a long life, you experience many sicknesses, one after another, so many sicknesses. Even if you live longer, there are always health problems, one after the other. You finish experiencing one sickness, then you get another; your whole life goes on like that, You see many people like that, with many sicknesses.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

What it’s saying here, the possessed result of killing is you don’t have the means the live, to survive. You’re born like that.

Even if you have means of living, such as food and so forth, it doesn’t help to be healthy for long life, it causes disease, it becomes the opposite, it becomes opposite to your health or your long life, it becomes obstacle for that.

I think I am a very good example of that. I have diabetes. Because of diabetes, I can’t eat many things, I can’t eat many things. [Rinpoche laughs] Anything that has the nature of sweet, many things, fruit, many things. Basmati rice is ok. I didn’t discover by myself the difference between basmati rice or brown rice, but what it’s says is other white rice harms, because that’s naturally sweet. There are many things that harm.

I know by eating some fruit, I immediately feel that it affects me by increasing the diabetes. Many years ago if I had two oranges, which had a lot of water inside, then I could feel it affecting me. You feel something there not comfortable. Then, two grapefruits, which have a lot of water, I ate and felt something not good. It increased the diabetes.

But quite a number of years ago it happened, but not all the time. Now it doesn’t happen, so it changes. The doctors explained this to me, but that is my own experience and I think it’s maybe different for other diabetic people. My own experience is what affects my body. There are certain things that you can tell by yourself, besides what the doctors say in general. So, anyway, something like this becomes an obstacle to your life.

With the possessed result, even medicine, supposedly the cause of health, can become a cause of illness and death. Medicine is supposed to help regain health and have a long life, but even if it’s the correct medicine, prescribed by a doctor for that illness, because of the possessed result of killing, but when the patient actually takes it, it has side effect to make him sicker or even die. People who have digestion problems are experiencing the possessed result, the negative karma of killing. They are unable to digest food properly. The Ten Bhumis Sutra explains that the food and the medicine that are supposed to help with health become the cause of sicknesses.

[Rinpoche speaks in Tibetan and then reads from the text.]

For the karma of stealing, for an object to be stolen it has to be something that has value and an owner; it has to belong to others.

The example it gives here is a substance, like a bean from inside this cupboard. I don’t know how many beans there are. It’s used in tormas and it’s sweet, but not a raisin. It comes from Tibet and goes in rice and mice collect it for their food at three different times in winter, storing it under the ground, very nicely, very clean. But humans take it. When they are walking they see where the ground is soft and they know the mice have stored this substance there and they dig it up, collect it, putting it aside for the winter.

The text talks about the earth on top, so I presume it’s referring to this, the earth the mice pile on top of their horde, and not a mountain or cliffs. It’s the earth that is on top of the torma. I’m not sure.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The essence of the action of stealing is either taking something away with force, confiscating or taking it with force, or stealing in very gentle way, not appearing to steal, not taking with force but in a kind of very gentle way stealing.

For example, you borrowed something from others but you don’t give it back, or you don’t pay back what you owe. Other people have left things with you to keep, but you don’t give them back, or you don’t pay debts, one of the five wrong livelihoods.

When you do business, you force the person to give you more than he wishes, he has no choice to give more. Similarly, if you’re selling, you giving less to others than what is needed.

The completion of stealing is whenever you generate the thought, “I have received it.” At that time the action of stealing is completed.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

Now the text is talking about what makes the action of stealing heavy negative karma. If you steal many things that makes it heavy. From an object of good or bad quality, if you steal the object of good quality, the stealing is heavier.

When the victim is either somebody who is poor or somebody who is rich, if you steal from the poor, the stealing is heavier. Then from the enemy and friend, if you steal from the friend it’s heavier.

From somebody who has taken ordination with renunciation, and who hasn’t take ordination with renunciation, the lay people I mean—in other words, an ordained person or non-ordained person—to steal from an ordained person, it’s heavier. Similarly, it’s heavier to steal from a Buddhist ordained person, and heavier still to steal from your parents and from an abbot and the preceptor.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The ripening aspect result of stealing has throwing karma and obtaining karma. The obtaining is, when you get born in the hell realm, you see the wealth, you have illusion, you see material possessions, and you run to steal that. But when you do that, you are caught by the hell protectors, the karmic guardians, who catch you and cut you up into pieces with weapons, splitting you like cutting up fruit.

With the result similar to the cause of stealing, you get born into a poor family. You are born poor from the beginning, or your possessions don’t belong to you but to others; your possessions not only belong to you but also belong to other people, so you don’t have complete freedom to use that.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The possessed result you experience in the human realm is that there’s no rain, there’s so much drought, and the crops don’t grow. Either that or there is unbelievably heavy rain. The trees don’t give actual fruit; they stopped growing and just the buds came out but no actual fruit, nothing to eat. Then, even it grows it is destroyed by hail storms or destroyed by floods. There are many obstacles, such as hail storms and also crops or seeds being eaten by animals. Maybe the crops grew but then rabbits, worms and other animals eat either the roots below or the plants on top.

In New Zealand there are an unbelievable number of rabbits, an unbelievable number of rabbits, covering whole fields, covering forests and mountains. What happened was the government sent airplanes to drop poison on them. What do you call it? Is it poison?

It’s similar like when there’s a fire, the airplane comes to dump water, but here it sprayed poison on them. However, it didn’t stop them coming at all. The planes killed them but again another group came. And the planes killed them but then the next group came, and again the fields filled up. That’s because the person who owned the field, their karma was not finished, so even though the planes came spraying poison and one lot of rabbits was killed, the next group came. This is because nothing was done to alter that karma. The farmers, the people who owned the fields, didn’t do anything with their karma.

Then, whether it’s done by the farmer or the government in the area, they are creating negative karma again, to experience the same result. They kill these present animals to get rid of the problem but they are creating extra negative karma to receive harm from others. So, in the future, not just one time, so many times, for hundreds of thousand lifetimes, that one negative karma affects the person, because karma is expandable. For many hundreds of thousands of lifetimes, he receives harm. From that one negative karma he receive harm to be killed, for many hundreds of thousands of lifetimes—from that one act, that one negative karma. So, that becomes unbelievably dangerous, unbelievably dangerous.

They interfered with them. The rabbits came to eat food, their needs, their living, but the farmers interfered with them, so of course that causes poverty in their future lives.

Because they do not have the education of karma, they do not have education of mind that the action has these results that affect back to you, the only thought is to harm back, but you are creating extra negative karma to experience harm for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes, to be killed and to experience poverty.

The texts talks about the hell realm, the karma of stealing: you see the possessions, you have illusion of seeing the possession, then you run to steal them, and the hell beings catch you, and then they slice up your body and then cut you to pieces.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

So here, with sexual misconduct, the conclusion is that the other person can be man or a woman “possessed” by somebody else, like being protected by the king, or a prostitute possessed by others, or could be a relative. These are not appropriate objects of physical contact, of sexual contact. Then, it is sexual misconduct if the object is the mouth, the non-limbs or the hands. Then time must not [be inappropriate] and there are places where you can’t do the sexual act, such as in front of holy objects, stupas, scriptures and statues, or where there’s a bodhisattva abiding, or a guru, an abbot or preceptor, in front of them, or in the front of the parents. Those are non-places, places where doing the sexual act is sexual misconduct. If you engage in it in these circumstances then it becomes sexual misconduct.

Then there’s about time, such as doing at the time of the month when a period is coming, or when your wife is pregnant, because it could cause harm to the child and then cause much suffering, bringing unhappiness to the person.

Having sex with somebody who is living in the eight Mahayana precepts or the pratimoksha vows is also sexual misconduct.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The ripening aspect result of sexual misconduct is that you get born in the hell realms, and you get eaten by a woman of iron, in Tibetan, nyal wa gye.

I’m not a hundred percent sure whether they fly and go in your mouth, something like that, and you get caught in an iron house. I think maybe it’s a sort of iron house, where there’s a fire inside, with sparks, and you get burned by sparks, and then the male sex organ gets pulled out with… what do you call it? Two irons things that come together to pick things up? What do you call? [Students: Prongs? Tweezers?] Tweezers? To take out the penis? Then it is crushed by hammers. A purba, a pointed thing, is put down on the penis and the penis is hit by the hammer.

You also see your object of attachment taken by water, and you run after it and you also get taken away by a river.

This is to give you some idea. You have lots of suffering visions, due to the ripening aspect result of sexual misconduct. You experience various sufferings.

Then, the experience which is similar to the cause, if, due to another good karma you’re born as a human being, in that life you experience problems, the way your husband or your wife thinks is totally opposite, he or she goes totally against to your wish. Whether it’s a husband or whether it’s a wife, he or she is against you. So you don’t get along, there’s no real no harmony. Your partner is totally opposed to your wishes. Even if you’re living physically together, you always fight, so your wishes are never fulfilled.

This also applies to the people you work with in an office, when you are doing job. All the people in the office or in the family, their way of thinking is against your wishes, so there’s no real happiness. You fight or there are many problems arising in the office or in the family. It could be in a school if you’re working in a school. The other teachers or the students are not happy with you.

The possessed result of sexual misconduct is that the place where you live has a lot of mud, like a quagmire. It’s very muddy place, and lot of kaka, excrement, and many bad smells, filled with bad smells, with unpleasant smells, with many dirty things.

Even though we live in a clean place, with nice, beautiful gardens, but in our life, many times we have to go through such places, terrible, dirty, smelly, very muddy, a place with a lot of junk or excrement. Even if we have to experience something terrible like that for five minutes, that’s a result of past negative karma, the possessed result of past sexual misconduct.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

So, when you’re passing through that kind of a place, it’s very good to remember, “I’m experiencing the results of my past negative karma of sexual misconduct.” It’s very helpful, it inspires you to abandon negativity, to not engage in that. It encourages the mind.

[Rinpoche continues with the text.]

The ripening aspect result of telling lies is the hell realms. What you experience in the hell realm is your tongue being taken out and then stretched out on the ground, and then eight purbas, sharp stake are driven through it and it is spread like an animal skin being dried in the sun.

Then, on top of that, what do you call the thing you plow the land with? When you plow the land you use a very sharp thing, what do you call it? [Student: Plow.] A plow, a very sharp plow, but it’s blazing with fire, and there are many thousands like that. They plow the tongue like that.

This just gives some idea, this is not the only thing, this is just giving a drop of an idea what you experience as a hell being.

Then, when due to another good karma ripening, you’re born in the human realm, you get born as a piece of flesh, without organs, without organs, I think like the meat that you buy in the store, you get born just as a piece of meat.

The result similar to the cause is that, just as you cheated others, you get cheated by others, you get criticized by others.

In the commentary of Aryadeva it’s mentioned that, if you cheat one sentient being, then you will be cheated by other sentient beings in thousand lifetimes. How many lifetimes will you will be cheated by others? A thousand lifetimes. This is from the one negative karma of cheating one sentient being. This is mentioned by Aryadeva in his commentary, The Four Hundred Stanzas.

[Rinpoche continue lung until its completion, then (it seems) he does an initiation solely in Tibetan]

Sorry I didn’t get to speak into broken English, I didn’t get to explain.

So, please generate a bodhicitta motivation. You’ve probably already done that while I was talking in Tibetan. [Rinpoche laughs]

As Shantideva, great bodhisattva mentioned, in the Bodhicaryavatara:

As long as you don’t drop the fire,
The burning cannot be stopped.
Like that, in order to pacify the suffering of oneself and pacify the suffering of others,
Give up cherishing oneself and cherish others as oneself.

This is an unbelievable teaching by Shantideva. If you’re holding some fire in your hand, as long as you don’t drop it the burning cannot be stopped. Whatever other thing you do, externally, the burning cannot be stopped if you don’t drop the fire.

Like that, what causes problems to you and others, to the world, to other sentient beings is your self-cherishing thought. What harms you, what has been harming you from beginningless rebirth up to now, what hasn’t allowed you to achieve enlightenment, or even liberation from samsara up to now, and what doesn’t even allow you to achieve a good rebirth, is cherishing the I. It becomes an obstacle to achieving even the happiness of this life.

If you don’t exchange yourself with others, if you don’t exchange your happiness and others’ suffering there’s no happiness in samsara you can experience. Leave aside future lives, even the happiness of this life won’t be achieved. The selfish mind disturbs, it doesn’t allow you even to achieve happiness in this life.

Shantideva is saying that this is what harms others and yourself. There are numberless sentient beings and then there is you yourself, one person, and in order to pacify the suffering of yourself and in order to pacify the sufferings of others, you give up yourself to others and cherish others.

All the sufferings come from the I; all the happiness, every day, every moment, all the collections of goodness, including the happiness of future lives, liberation and enlightenment, everything you receive from others.

All the sufferings, the problems, come from the self-cherishing thought, come from the I. All the happiness, the collection of goodness, everything comes from bodhicitta, cherishing others.

Therefore, it is not enough that you are born in the human realm, that you receive a good rebirth in next life. That’s not enough. Even achieving liberation for yourself is not sufficient, is not enough. That’s not the real meaning of life. The real meaning of life is to give up yourself for other sentient beings, and cherish other sentient beings, to free them from all their sufferings and bring them to enlightenment.

This is what they need, and you need to cause it. To do that, first you yourself must achieve full enlightenment, and for that you must actualize the path. For that, you need to purify the defilements. Therefore think, “I’m going to take the Vajrasattva initiation for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

[Rinpoche speaks in Tibetan to monks and nuns, then gives the initiation.]

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22 From the content, it is possibly Shantideva’s Condensed Advice [Skt: Shiksa-samuccaya]. [Return to text]