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 5: Pervasive Compounding Suffering
The wish to harm the enemy, desire

The shortcomings of desire, the problems of relationships, is another of the biggest sufferings in life! I think, if I mention just the title, the rest you know. It’s the main book you have in your experience—I just have to mention the title. Because we haven’t thought well, we haven’t studied well about desire and its shortcomings, even though we have gone through the experiences, we have gone through so much unbelievable suffering because of it, so many difficulties, somehow still it happens again and again. It doesn’t cease; it doesn’t end. It happens again and again. That is through not having thought well about the shortcomings of desire and all the harm desire gives us, all the problems. That is because we haven’t meditated that way.

If we meditate that way, we come to see desire as our enemy. Like, for example, when we think somebody has provoked us or disrespected us or somebody we have helped hasn’t thanked us. We helped that person, we did them some favor, but they didn’t thank us, even after a long time. Then, after that, when we think of that person we think of what we did for them and how they were so ungrateful. And the same with somebody who provoked or disrespected us, we think about what they said about us, “You are so stupid,” or “You are dumb,” I don’t know what else, “You are selfish,” all these, whatever—we think about this again and again, thinking how terrible that person is. And then we see that person more and more as the enemy. The more we think about it, the more we think what that person did was so bad, and then we see that person more and more as the enemy. And then the thought arises in our mind to harm that person. The thought of revenge or harm comes strongly.

In exactly the same way, if we meditate on desire, if we think of desire in the same way we think of the outside enemy, we will want to harm it back. With an outside enemy, after some time we think, “How terrible he did this, this, blah, blah, blah,” on and on and on. “How terrible, how terrible, what an enemy he is,” and then after some time we can’t stand it. We have to get up and do something, to destroy him. We have to do whatever harm we can, scratching his face or whatever. Whatever harm we can do that person. Whatever we can do, with the feet and hands—not with the nose. After some time we can’t stand it, we have to do something, we have to destroy that being. We can’t stand that person existing.

Just as we do this for an outside enemy, we should do a similar meditation on desire as the enemy, meditating on all the problems given to us by desire, all the problems that have made us suffer so far, that we’ve gone through so many times in our life, so many times, all given to us by desire. We meditate on our own life, with our own life experience—we meditate on that. All the small problems, all the big problems, all these desires made us suffer, all these problems were given to us by desire. Even without looking at other people’s life problems, just our own life, in our whole life, from childhood whatever we can remember, it has been like this. Of course, if we can remember our past lives’ problems, then of course we can add on that too.

So think how bad it is, how harmful it is. This is exactly how we normally think about outside people—we blame outside people for our problems and call them bad, bad, bad. That technique is not meditation; that creates negative karma, but here we use the same technique with the desire, and that becomes a very powerful meditation. That is real meditation.

Renunciation is the path to liberation

The definition of Dharma is when we are fighting desire. Here, it becomes the real Dharma when we are fighting and trying to defeat desire, to destroy desire. That’s the real Dharma, the real spiritual path. Following desire is not Dharma. What is Dharma, what is not Dharma? Following desire is not Dharma whereas renouncing, letting go of desire is pure Dharma. Letting go of desire is not just Dharma but pure Dharma. The benefit we get from letting go of desire is liberation. The benefit we get from that is we don’t get reborn in the lower realms—the hell, hungry ghost or animal realms—because by not following desire, by letting go of desire and therefore not creating negative karma, the cause for the lower realms doesn’t happen, so there is no resultant suffering in the lower realms. And also not only that, because desire is the nearest cause of samsara, if we die with desire, with craving and grasping, that is the immediate cause to be born again in samsara, in one of the six suffering realms.

Therefore, letting go of desire is achieving liberation from samsara. Renunciation of samara is the very door to enter into the path to liberation. Without that realization, we cannot enter the five paths to liberation: the path of accumulation, the path of preparation, the path of seeing, the path of meditation and the path of no more learning. In order to achieve liberation, we have to achieve these five paths.

The door of the path to liberation is the renunciation of samsara, the renunciation of the desire clinging to samsara, to temporary samsaric pleasures, to samsaric perfections, to samsaric happiness.

Renunciation is detachment, the opposite of desire; it is detachment from samsara. Here, renunciation is detachment from samsara, from samsaric perfections, from temporary samsaric pleasures. By understanding the sufferings of the hell beings, the hungry ghosts and the animals—how these sufferings are most unbearable—we wish to be free from all that and to never reincarnate. Not only that, even the human realm, even the desire realm, the form and formless realms, these are samsaric realms. We are in the desire realm. There are devas who are also in the desire realm, who have desire for sense pleasures, but there are also devas who are not in the desire realm, who are in the form realm or the formless realm. All these are samsaric realms.

Suffering: Pervasive compounding suffering

I didn’t get to the point before. I was trying to explain the third suffering, pervasive compounding suffering, but I went off somewhere else. I went sightseeing. Even the form and formless realms are samsaric realms and so are suffering realms. Not only is the desire realm in the nature of suffering but even the form realm and the formless realm, the highest realm of samsara, are only in the nature of suffering. This is a basic fact we need to see.

The form realm has four stages. The fourth stage and the four stages of the formless realms do not have the suffering of pain. They do not even have the suffering of change. But what the fourth stage of the form realm and all four stages of the formless realm have is pervasive compounding suffering. They are not free from this fundamental suffering.

Relating this to ourselves, His Holiness mentions that this collection of body and mind is a product of delusion and karma. It is under the control of karma and delusion. This is another meaning of pervasive compounding suffering. Because this mind and body that we have now is under the control of delusion and karma, that’s why it is in the nature of suffering. That’s why this body is in the nature of suffering; that’s why this mind is in the nature of suffering. That’s why we experience so many problems. As it is mentioned in the teachings, there are over four hundred sicknesses. I don’t know whether in the West a certain number of sicknesses has been calculated or not but just the sicknesses themselves, just the field of sicknesses is unbelievable, unbearable, unbelievable. Even if we only think of sicknesses, the suffering of these aggregates because of the sicknesses, without thinking of the other sufferings of the mind and the body.

From this explanation, we can understand reincarnation, that there is life before this one. Many of us, including myself, don’t remember when we were in our mother’s womb. We can’t remember all the feelings in there or the first time the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, what kind of experience we had at that time. What I heard, for the great yogis it is like entering the mandala, the vision of the pure mind as it enters in the womb; everything is pure. With those yogis, that being has its own appearance, its own pure mind, that is developed.

For us, the minute the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb, right from there it is in the nature of suffering. The teachings say when the consciousnesses of ordinary beings reincarnate, it is like jumping into hot water. There is so much suffering even from the very beginning of this life in the mother’s womb. Even right from the very beginning there is so much suffering.

Due to ignorance, pollution and things like that, we don’t remember the experiences in the womb. Some people can remember coming from the womb, but not most of us. Because our mind is not clear, because it is polluted, obscured, we don’t remember. In fact, there are so many things we have done in our life, even as children, that we don’t remember but other people do. They remember seeing us at such and such a place and doing this, but we don’t remember it at all. Sometimes, even a person who is very forgetful can remember something we don’t—maybe even what we had for lunch yesterday or even certain things we did very recently that we have forgotten. So, there is no question we can’t remember things from childhood time or when we were in our mother’s womb. How can we remember? At that time, there was a big shock, a big change. If we can’t remember so much of what happened to us after we left the womb, how can we possibly remember what happened in the womb?

Anyway, from the very beginning, after birth there is so much suffering, as is mentioned in the teaching. Now, what I was going to say is this. If there were no delusion and karma before the consciousness took place in the fertilized egg, if there were no impure cause, delusion and karma, first of all the question is why? Why did birth happen? That’s a very big question, why birth happens. Why does the consciousness take place on the fertilized egg, why? That’s a very big question.

And the other big question is this. Did the suffering start after we came out of our mother’s womb? Did our suffering start after coming out of our mother’s womb or did it start in the womb? Did the experience of suffering—the pleasant feelings, the unpleasant feelings—start after leaving the womb or in the womb?

Every time you see a child coming from the womb, you always see the face, you know, a very suffering face. Completely squeezed, you know, completely squeezed. It’s something unbearable. The expression of the face tells us it’s unbearable. The child doesn’t come out with a smiling face. Just that, what we see with the eye, the expression of the face is what the mind experiences. If the mind is unhappy there is no smile, the face is very intense and dark. For a person with problems, who is unhappy, it is difficult to smile. What’s the word? Can you find the word? You’re a doctor; you should be able to find that word. What?

Student: [Inaudible]

Rinpoche: For what? Liberation? Enlightenment? When the person’s mind has some problem or is unhappy, what do you call the expression of the face?

Student: [Inaudible]

[General discussion]

Rinpoche: But I thought in this case, his face and his heart are different. His heart’s happy but his face is something else.

The common thing is the person’s vibration. The face is an expression of the state of mind, the vibration. Even though the mind is formless, the face is an expression of the mind, of the state of mind. With a person who has a very good, very tamed mind, a very subdued mind, a very soft heart, a very loving nature, we feel it and we can see from the face; it’s a very kind, warm face. Even just seeing the face makes us very happy. When we see that kind of person’s face, it makes us very happy and we always want to see the face because it has a very positive affect. But then the opposite expression, of somebody who is very self-centered or egoistic or with a very impatient nature, that is a totally different face, not a happy face, not a loving face.

So exactly the same, when a child comes from the womb, we can see from their face that they are suffering. We can see that very clearly. How do you define it in the West? Does suffering only start after we come from the womb or has it already started? Has the experience of suffering, of happiness and unhappiness, of discomfort and unpleasantness, already started in the womb? If it has already started when the child is in the womb, then did it start sometime later or right from the beginning, when the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg? That is the question.

To me it is clear. Whenever I see a child come from the womb, it seems to have a very bluish complexion, because the birth [canal] is very tight. There is a lot of suffering on the face; it looks totally squeezed. The child is going through so much pain. So, there is no question for me that suffering started in the womb. The baby is experiencing suffering coming out of the womb and suffering in the womb.

The Buddha explains that right from the beginning, it is in the nature of suffering. If there were no cause of suffering, delusion and karma, before that birth, there couldn’t be a suffering birth. In that case, it would be the other type of reincarnation, where the higher being reincarnates with total freedom, in order to benefit others—total freedom, not under the force of delusion and karma but with virtue, with merit, with realization. Due to past prayers to benefit others the higher being has these realizations and then can reincarnate without suffering. There is no suffering at all there. This is especially so with arya beings, the exalted beings who have a direct perception of emptiness, like those arhats or higher bodhisattvas, and so no question about buddhas showing birth without suffering.

Why is our life—our body and mind—in the nature of suffering? When did it begin? It did not begin after coming out; it’s already [in the nature of suffering] in the mother’s womb—we can see that from the expression on the face when the child comes out. From the very beginning, birth is in the nature of suffering. Why? The whole answer is that from birth up to now, from the birth up to death, the body and mind are suffering because before the birth there is delusion and karma. The cause exists before the result, the suffering rebirth. The cause, delusion and karma, exists before the result, the suffering of birth. Usually the cause and the result cannot be together, the cause has to come first. Cause and effect relating to one phenomenon cannot live together; there has to be a different time. From the very beginning of the birth, of the whole life, the body and mind are in the nature of suffering because there was the cause before that, delusion and karma.

That is the main answer. There was the cause before—delusion and karma—which resulted in the product, the suffering birth. If there were no cause, delusion and karma, then there would be no reason before the birth, before the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, why the body and mind are in the nature of suffering. No reason at all. The body and mind wouldn’t be in the nature of suffering, and therefore there wouldn’t be any suffering of pain, any suffering of change, any pervasive compounding suffering. These aggregates wouldn’t experience the suffering of pain and the suffering of change because they would not be in the nature of pervasive compounding suffering, because they would not be produced by delusion and karma. I am not a hundred percent sure, but maybe the arya bodhisattvas, the exalted bodhisattvas who have a direct realization, a direct perception of emptiness, have a spiritual body and don’t experience the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death. They have completely abandoned suffering; they are completely free from all of them. We can also use the example of a buddha’s vajra holy body.

Therefore, birth is in the nature of suffering, and there has to be a cause, something that came before which produced it. That cause has to exist before the result, which proves life existed before this one. Even this shows there is reincarnation.

I must conclude now and pack up. So, these aggregates, the body and mind, are the product of delusion and karma; they are under the control of karma and delusion. That’s one definition, that’s why this is in the nature of suffering. So being under the control of karma and delusion—that’s one definition of pervasive compounding suffering.

The other thing is that these aggregates have the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts. These aggregates are contaminated with the seed, the imprint, and because the seed is there, at any time when the condition comes delusion arises. At any time when the situation comes, delusion arises, desire and all those things. Because the seed, the imprint, is there, delusion arises and that motivates karma, and so the suffering of the mind.

This contaminated seed that gives rise to the delusions and all the sufferings we experience is something no doctor can find, no matter how carefully they examine us. Usually, if a doctor examines a patient very carefully, they’ll be able to find something, but this contaminated seed goes deeper than that. When the condition comes, because that contaminated seed is there, sickness or problems of the body or mind occur. So, this seed of delusion, this seed of karma, compounds life’s problems and not only that, it becomes the foundation for the problems we will face in future. It compounds all our future lives’ problems, which, if we are reborn as a human, are the sufferings of rebirth, old age, sickness and all the other problems we face. It is the foundation for all this.

Another meaning of “pervasive” is the seed of delusion, meaning these aggregates are contaminated with the seed of delusion. Because of that, we experience suffering. Delusion arises, that produces karma and the result is suffering. The Tibetan term is nä nem lai, so this word nä— this imprint is called . Because this seed of delusion, this seed of karma is there, at any time we can receive future problems. So, it is something unpleasant, something bad.

Because we are under the control of delusion and karma, our body and mind are in the nature of suffering and so we experience suffering. Maybe it can be said also that they are pervaded by suffering.

The whole of the entire samsara—the desire realm, the form realm and the formless realm—all these aggregates are the product of delusion and karma; they are under the control of delusion and karma; they are pervaded by it. Therefore, all these realms, all these aggregates are in the nature of suffering. So maybe it can also be called the pervasive nature of suffering.

The contaminated seed of delusion pervades all these three realmsdesire, form and formlessso that is another meaning of pervasive. It is pervasive compounding suffering. The desire realm, the form realm and the formless realm are all in the nature of this suffering that is pervasive and compounding. Wherever we reincarnate is all suffering. All these realms are pervasive compounding suffering.

As I was saying before, although the fourth stage of the form realm and the four stages of the formless realm don’t have the suffering of pain or the suffering of change, they are not free from pervasive compounding suffering. They are still in the nature of suffering because they are under the control of karma and delusion. The other reason is that their aggregates are contaminated with the seed of disturbing thoughts. Because the seed is not removed, when their karma to be in the highest samsara realm, the formless realm, finishes, they can reincarnate back to even the hell realm, the hungry ghost, or as an animal or a human. They circle again and again like that, because they are not liberated from pervasive compounding suffering; they are not liberated from the seed of delusion. The seed that gives rise to delusion, that motivates karma, is still there, so another meaning of pervasive suffering is that the seed is there.

The formless realm has four stages and the last one is the tip of samsara. The others are infinite sky, infinite consciousness, and nothingness. His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, who is a great Tibetan pandit, a highly attained being, used to say that if we meditate on nothing, if when we meditate we stop thinking, like a blank, spaced-out mind where we don’t use our wisdom at all, we will be reborn as an animal, with a very ignorant nature, because the way we meditated—just thinking of nothing—we stopped wisdom. So we get reborn as a very ignorant animal or the highest we can achieve in samsara is the level of the formless realm called nothingness. Even that is just another samsaric realm. The tip of samsara is the last level.

With the thought of renunciation of all of samsara, including the renunciation of the tip of samsara, we not only see the desire realm in the nature of suffering, but we also see the form and formless realm, including the fourth level, the tip of samsara, as only in the nature of suffering.

Like this, we cannot find attraction for even one second, even in a dream, to all these realms. All the desire realm pleasures, all the states in the form and formless realms—all these states, we see are only suffering in nature and we do not find attraction even for one second, even in a dream. Even for one second. We see it as being totally like in a prison. When we are caught in prison it feels so unbearable that every minute we want to be free from that prison. Or it is as if our naked body is sitting on a thorn bush or in the middle of a fire. This is how we feel. In every second, in every minute, we can’t stand it; we want to be free from it. It is like that when we have the renunciation of the whole samsara, the desire realm, the form realm and the formless realm. With that realization, we enter the path, then gain a direct perception of emptiness. Only then can we remove this seed. This is the only [way] to be free from samsara.

Renunciation is freedom

There was one point that I was talking about before I’d like to go back to. In order to achieve liberation we have to actualize the five paths. To enter the path we have to have this realization, this renunciation of samsara. What I was saying before was that letting go of the desire for samsara, for samsaric pleasure, this is renouncing samsara. What we achieve by letting go of desire is all of these five paths; it is the realizations of all the five paths on the path to liberation. Then we achieve the total cessation of the whole entire samsarathe oceans of hell suffering, of hungry ghost suffering, of animal suffering, of human being suffering, of sura, asura beings’ suffering, of intermediate state beings’ suffering. We are totally free forever from all the oceans of samsaric suffering, including delusion and karma and the seeds of delusion. Achieving that realization, we are free forever.

Then not only that, with bodhicitta we are able to complete, to actualize the method, supported with wisdom, the path of wisdom supported by method. Then by practicing like this, we cease not only gross defilements, but also subtle defilements and our mind becomes a fully enlightened mind.

So, what I was saying before, letting go of desire, we have all these advantages. What we achieve are benefits like the limitless sky; we gain limitless skies of benefit. Following desire, what we get, what we achieve, is only the suffering of samsara, including the lower realms’ suffering. So there is a huge difference.

Letting go of desire is not losing; it is only gaining. It is freeing ourselves from the prison of samsara. We are put in the prison in chains but by letting go of desire we are released; we are free. Letting go of desire is freeing ourselves from the bondage of delusion and karma, from samsara.

The need to cut the root of samsara, ignorance

This is very important. I want to take the opportunity to express this. It is very important. I think maybe I’ll conclude here.

It’s very important that if we have some meditation technique that just brings some peace of mind, that’s not enough—just some realization, some peace of mind. After we have worked so hard, doing very hard labor carrying rocks or something and then we take a rest, at that time also we have peace, relaxation. After working so hard then we go to the beach, we lie down, after working so hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We go to beach, we lie down in the water or on the sand, then there is some peace, there is some relaxation. Even by going to the beach, when we look at the water, we don’t think of our problems. We think of the water, so we don’t think of the problems, we have some peace.

If our meditation is just like that, this is not sufficient. The purpose of meditation is not for that kind of peace. Even though common people look for that kind of thing, this is not the real purpose of meditation. This is the wrong purpose of meditation.

If we never know what the root of samsara is, if we are never educated in what it is, we can never eliminate it. There are many different types of ignorance but there is only one root of samsara, one particular one, one specific ignorance, so we have to know that, and we have to know what can eliminate it. There are many schools with different views of emptiness, of ultimate nature, shunyata. There are many different schools with their own point of view of emptiness, but cutting the root of samsara, ignorance, can only by realized through the view of the fourth of the four philosophical schools, the Madhyamaka school, and then only the second one, the Prasangika school. Only by realizing that school’s view of emptiness, which is extremely fine, extremely subtle—finer and subtler that all the other schools’ views of the ultimate nature of emptiness—only then with that wisdom can we cut the root of samsara, otherwise we can’t.

In reality, there is only one emptiness, only one shunyata. There is only one specific root of samsara, ignorance, and there is only one emptiness. Only by realizing the Prasangika school’s view of emptiness, only then can we cut the root of samsara, otherwise not.

Developing that wisdom realizing emptiness and combining it with the realization of shamatha leads to great insight, which is the preparation for the arya exalted path, where wisdom directly perceives emptiness. This is the wisdom that can directly cease the defilements, both gross and also subtle defilements. The wisdom directly perceiving emptiness is the only one that can directly cease both gross and subtle defilements. Without this wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, we can’t remove the delusions, we can’t remove the seed of delusions, we can’t remove karma. That means as long as the seed is there, delusions will come back again and again and therefore we can never be free from samsara. We can never be free from samsara forever.

If the meditation on emptiness, the ultimate nature of phenomena, is not introduced, if it is not taught, we can’t have that realization, we can’t have the wisdom realization which cuts the root of samsara, ignorance. We will never have opportunity to remove the disturbing-thought obscurations or the seed [of delusion]. We can never be free from samsara forever but must continuously suffer.

Even if we don’t like suffering, we still have to suffer continuously. Therefore, if we don’t have the wisdom realizing emptiness, then whatever other realizations we have, including tantric realizations, we cannot remove the delusions, including the seed. There is no other realization that can directly remove delusion and the seed of delusion.

If our goal is just as I mentioned in those examples, going to beach and seeing water so we can have some peace and we don’t have to think about our problems—if our goal is only that kind of peace then that is different. Just by distracting the mind from the problems then there is some peace. By focusing on the breath or any object, if we spend our whole life just doing that then the wisdom part is not educated. If the wisdom is not educated, if it is unknown, then there is no way to be liberated from suffering and its causes. So that is one thing. So that’s one emphasis.

The three scopes

Going back to what I said at the beginning, if the happiness we are seeking is long-term happiness, the happiness of all coming future lives, then we must practice. I want to mention this. Making this life meaningful, taking the essence of this precious human body, this perfect human body, the first great meaning to be achieved, the meaning of the purpose of life is the happiness of all the coming future lives. That is long-term happiness, the happiness of all those future lives.

Which one do you prefer? Today’s happiness, today’s comfort—just this one hour’s happiness and comfort—or the happiness and comfort of all the hours of this life until death? Working for just this hour’s happiness while ignoring the happiness of all the many days and hours that will follow is totally meaningless. That is very foolish—a little happiness and then suffering.

Because we don’t prepare for happiness in all those coming hours and days, we don’t prepare to achieve that happiness; we only work for this hour, for this day or this hour. So then we suffer. We don’t prepare for happiness, so then there is only suffering for all those hours and all those days to come. That’s totally silly, totally silly. But if we are detached from this one hour’s happiness, from today’s happiness but instead prepare for long-term happiness, that’s very wise.

Similarly, this life is very short, just a few years, a few months, a few weeks. We can never be sure how many hours, and so only working for this is not virtue. The method to achieve happiness is not virtue; it is something else, which only results in suffering. Even for achieving the happiness this life, the method is mistaken.

If we don’t work for all the coming future lives’ happiness, if we don’t use this life to prepare, then all these future lives are only suffering. That means this life is totally wasted; it becomes meaningless. So, the first great meaning of this life, taking the essence of this body, is achieving the happiness of all coming lives.

The second great meaning of life or taking the essence of this body, is achieving liberation from samsara, ultimate happiness. The third great meaning of life, achieving the essence of this body, is full enlightenment, the great liberation. This third one is the most important one, the highest success, peerless happiness, concerning both ourselves and all other sentient beings.

What kind of happiness do we want to achieve? If we want to achieve the happiness of future lives then we must practice the graduated path of the lower capable being. By realizing that this precious human rebirth is qualified with eight freedoms and ten richnesses, that it is highly meaningful and difficult to find again, this persuades the mind to practice, to let go of the attachment clinging to this life, and then the mind becomes Dharma. All the actions become Dharma and the result is only happiness. Then, the realization of impermanence and death and the realization of the existence of the suffering lower realms, which becomes also the cause to generate compassion for those beings. If we don’t know their suffering, we can never generate compassion for them and the thought to help them never arises. We don’t generate bodhicitta to achieve enlightenment for them, and our compassion remains partial; it doesn’t involve all sentient beings. It is not complete.

The need to practice all three scopes

The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha have all the qualities, all the power, to save us from not only the sufferings of the lower realms but also from the suffering of the whole of samsara. Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, whole-heartedly, not with blind faith but with understanding, can save us from suffering. We see that the object we take refuge in is reliable. It is as if we have a fever and buy medicine from a shop but we don’t really know if it will help us, then we take it and find that it really does cure us. We have picked the right medicine and so we can safely rely on it.

Even in the case of blind faith, what we have relied on is correct as it has the power and the qualities. Therefore, if we rely on it, it can definitely protect us and liberate us not only from the lower realms but also from the entire suffering of samsara and its cause, delusion and karma. Even in the case of blind faith, as long as the object has the qualities and power, there is no problem. But if it is a wrong object that we rely on, one that doesn’t have the quality and power to do that, then that’s a problem. No how much faith we have, it doesn’t help. Therefore, here we need to analyze and study, we need to use our wisdom and not rely on what other people say.

Fully understanding the advice the Buddha gave, based on knowing about refuge and karma, we need to totally practice that. The cause of the suffering, the problems, we don’t like, which is nonvirtue, the negative karma, we abandon. The cause of the happiness we all want, which is virtue, positive karma, we have to practice. By following the instructions given by the Buddha, by relying upon the Buddha and practicing the teachings of the Dharma, we protect our karma, and in that way we are liberated not only from the lower realms but forever from the oceans of samsaric suffering, which are caused by delusion and karma. And not only that, not only personal liberation, but we also obtain ultimate great liberation, enlightenment, by ceasing even the subtle defilements.

If what we want is happiness for all these coming future lives, if we want to achieve the meaning of life, we must practice the lamrim, the graduated path of the lower capable being, with reliance on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and we must protect our karma, firstly understanding that the nature of life is impermanence and death, and then that the result of negative karma is rebirth in the lower suffering realms and the result of good karma is a higher rebirth.

If the happiness we want to achieve is liberation from samsara, then we need to practice the graduated path of the middle capable being, by realizing how all of samsara is in the nature of suffering, and by practicing the three higher trainings: the higher training of morality, of samadhi (or calm abiding, concentration) and the higher training of wisdom. This is what we need to do if our goal is to achieve ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara.

If our goal is to achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings, then we must practice the graduated path of the higher capable being, attaining bodhicitta, the bodhisattva path with the six paramitas [perfections], the higher training in morality.

But of course, to be able to practice the graduated path of the higher capable being depends on the preliminary, the graduated path of the middle capable being as a foundation, and to have a realization of that depends on the foundation, the graduated path of the lower being. So like that, the whole lamrim comes, in order to achieve enlightenment for the sentient beings, in order to liberate sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to enlightenment.

So what meditation we are going to do, what meditation we want to spend our life on depends on what kind of happiness we want to achieve.

Even shamatha, calm abiding, where we can one-pointedly concentrate by being free from both the attachment of scattering thoughts and sinking thoughts, and where we have this extremely refined rapturous ecstasy, this bliss of body and mind—even with this alone we cannot be free from samsara. Through this concentration, we have achieved this numberless times in the past and because of that we were born in the form realm numberless times. We have attained the four stages of continual precise concentration. This is how it is translated but I haven’t seen a really exact translation of that—in Tibetan it’s called sam den. We have gone through this meditation and been born in the form realm numberless times. We have even renounced the form realm, realized the nature of all the suffering and been born in the formless realm numberless times.

Even so, we are still suffering in samsara, still stuck in the circle. What has been lacking is the realization of the renunciation of samsara, of emptiness, of bodhicitta. This is what has been lacking. So this is what we need to achieve. Bodhicitta especially should be the main goal. If we want to meditate, bodhicitta should be the main goal, the main project in our life. Then we can achieve enlightenment. With stronger compassion, stronger bodhicitta, then we can achieve enlightenment quickly and we will be able to fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings for happiness. Then, the numberless sentient beings don’t have to suffer for a long time. We can liberate them quickly. So I think that’s the end.

Dedication

[Chanting]

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, may the bodhicitta be generated within one’s own heart, one’s family members and in the hearts of all of us here, in the hearts of all the students of this organization and all the supporters, and those who give up their lives doing service for sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha, and in the hearts of all the sentient beings, without delaying even a second, and that which has already been generated, may it increase.

[Chanting]

May bodhicitta be generated in the hearts of oneself and all one’s family members and all of us here and then in the hearts of all the sentient beings in this world without delaying even a second.

[Chanting]

May bodhicitta be generated in the hearts of oneself and all one’s family members and all of us here and then all the leaders of the country, that is so essential, for all the millions of people in each country to have peace and happiness. How much they have peace and happiness depends in part on the leader, so it becomes crucial. May bodhicitta be generated in the hearts of all the groups of people—the terrorists or the gangsters or the Maoists, all those different groups of people who are harming others, doing so much harm to others.

[Chanting]

That we have all these opportunities to explore, to do listening, reflecting and meditation practice on the path to enlightenment, to complete the works for the self and works for other sentient beings, most of the others, to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to full enlightenment, that we have all these opportunities now is by the kindness of the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So please pray for his stable life and for all his holy wishes to succeed immediately.

[Chanting]

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, may all the father, mother sentient beings have happiness, may the three lower realms be empty forever, may all the bodhisattvas’ prayers succeed immediately and may I be able to cause all this to happen by myself alone.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, from now on whatever life I experience—happy, unhappy, healthy, unhealthy, rich and poor, gain or loss, receiving criticisms or praise, bad reputation, good reputation, even dying, even getting reborn in hell, hungry ghost, animal realms—whatever happens, whatever life I experience from now on and whatever action I do, whatever work I do from now on—eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, doing a job—may all my experience, all my actions from now on become only the cause to achieve, to enlighten the numberless sentient beings, from whom I receive all my past, present and future happiness. Whatever my life experience from now on, whatever action I do from now on, the most important thing is to become only the cause to enlighten numberless sentient beings, from whom I received all my past, present and future happiness, all the collections of goodness.

So here in this prayer, what it expresses is the real meaning of life, not to live long, not to just have a long life or not just to be healthy, not just to be wealthy, not just to have a good reputation, not just all these—the main purpose of life, the main goal of life is for whatever happens to be most beneficial for others. That everything we do causes all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible—that is the main goal. As long as that happens, as long as our actions, our experience, works that way, becoming the cause for numberless sentient beings to achieve enlightenment, whenever this happens in our everyday life, the meaning of life is fulfilled. Even if we have cancer, our life, our experience of cancer becomes beneficial for others, and we are able to cause happiness for all sentient beings. So our purpose of life is fulfilled. Otherwise we have a healthy life for thousands of eons but it is totally empty, meaningless, without that attitude, without that experience or action benefiting other sentient beings. It is a totally meaningless, empty life.

Even dying and being reborn in the hell realm—if our experience of being born in the hell realm becomes the cause of happiness of all sentient beings, for sentient beings to achieve enlightenment, then the meaning of our life is achieved. Even if we are born in hell, experiencing suffering, it becomes so meaningful, our purpose of life is achieved, our goal is achieved. So the purpose of life or the goal of our life should be this way. Then the direction of our life is clear, what we are supposed do, whether it is lay or whether it is ordained life, our attitude, our direction of life is clear—it is to achieve this goal. There is no confusion, it’s clear. Whatever is of benefit, this we do. It makes it very simple, very easy to follow.

Then with this attitude, this goal, of life, our mind is always happy, peaceful. Even if there is loss we are happy. Whatever happens—gain, loss, poor, rich, cancer, no cancer, living a long life, living a short life, death—whatever happens nothing bothers our mind, nothing disturbs our mind. Our life is always happy, always peaceful, always fulfilled, always very satisfied because whatever happens is beneficial for sentient beings. So this prayer is also very important. It contains advice on our everyday life attitude, the goal of our life, the direction of our life.

Whatever we are doing should be toward this goal. Even if our work is dancing, Scottish dancing—I’m joking, anyway—even if we are dancing, the attitude, the goal is like this. Even if we are working in a restaurant, the goal is like this. Even if we are a teacher, even if we are a student, learning, studying, the goal is this way. Doing business, whatever, the external style of life is different, but the goal is this way.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, may I be able to benefit like the sky toward sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha, like Lama Tsongkhapa, by having the same qualities within me as Lama Tsongkhapa has, from now on and in all my future lifetimes, in every second to be like that.

This dedication is extremely important if we wish to offer extensive benefits to sentient beings, to give stainless teachings of the Buddha.

Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me, and the three times’ merits collected by others, that which exist in mere name, merely labeled by mind, may the I who exists in mere name, merely labeled by mind, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, that which exists in mere name, merely imputed by the mind, and lead all the sentient beings who exist in mere name, merely imputed by mind, to that enlightenment, which exists in mere name, merely imputed by the mind, by myself alone, who exists in mere name, merely imputed by mind.

So this way of meditating—exists in mere name, merely labeled—gives an understanding, what it should affect. All these things exist but nothing exists in the slightest from its own side, all these phenomena do not have the slightest atom of true existence, existing from their own side. They are [not] truly existing, in the sense of existing from their own side. Therefore it means that they are totally empty of this, this true existence, that which appears to us. This is a hallucination; these phenomena are totally empty of true existence. As they appear to us, they don’t have this true existence, not even an atom. So, all these appearances are in reality empty, all these are totally empty.

I dedicate all the merits to be able to follow the holy extensive deeds just as Samantabhadra and Manjugosha did. I dedicate all the merits in the same way as the three times’ buddhas dedicate the merits. May the general teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa, unified sutra and tantra, enlightenment the final goal—may they be spread in all the directions, may they flourish forever in this world, by actualizing all of them within me and within our own family members, all of us here, in the hearts of all the students and the supporters of this organization, all those who gave up their lives for this organization doing service to sentient beings and to the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.

[Chanting]

Again, many hours. So good night.