Kopan Course No. 30 (1997)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1096)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 30th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in December 1997. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Go to the Index page to view an outline of topics and click on the links to go directly to the lectures. You can also download a PDF of the entire course.

Lecture 8
December 9, 1997

When we look at things—friend, enemy, stranger, the five sense objects—we see that they are transitory; it is their nature to change, to decay, not only day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, second-by-second, but they even change within a second. Therefore, these phenomena can be stopped at any time.

Unless we practice mindfulness and see that causative phenomena are in the nature of impermanence, [we will naturally see them as permanent]. On the other hand, if we can practice mindfulness, seeing and realizing causative phenomena are in the nature of impermanence, we will immediately be able to overcome our disturbing thoughts, the cause of samsara. The mind that is under the control of disturbing thoughts, overwhelmed by them, immediately no longer arises. And eventually, by developing the mind on the path, we will be able to completely cease even the seed of delusions. Particularly, by developing the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, by actualizing this, we can completely cease even the seeds of delusions, making it impossible for disturbing thoughts to arise again. In that way, we can achieve everlasting happiness, the complete cessation of the whole of suffering and its causes.

And due to practicing this mindfulness meditation on impermanence, realizing how causative phenomena are in the nature of change, we can not only achieve liberation from samsara for ourselves, because this is part of the section on renunciation in the lamrim, one of the three principal aspects of the path, from this we can also attain bodhicitta and then complete the Mahayana path and achieve full enlightenment and bring all sentient beings to full enlightenment.

Unless we practice mindfulness, looking at how impermanence is the nature of these causative phenomena, unless we look at them according to their impermanent nature and realize this, our mind will be invaded by the concept of permanence. It will be overtaken by the concept of permanence, just as one country is invaded by another, just as Tibet was invaded by the Communist Chinese. Invaded, overtaken by this, we are controlled by the concept of permanence. And then, because causative phenomena appear permanent, they look as if they will last for a long time.

On the basis of that, desire, the mind that exaggerates the positive qualities of the object, clings to these causative phenomena, which then continuously ties us to samsara with attachment. Due to that, we experience the oceans of samsaric suffering—the oceans of human beings’ suffering, the oceans of gods’ and demigods’ suffering, the oceans of the lower realms’ suffering, the suffering of the hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals. We must experience this again and again. Our continuation of the samsaric suffering did not have a beginning and while we continue to hold this wrong concept of looking at causative phenomena as permanent and, because of that, generating desire that clings on to these objects, samsaric suffering will be endless. Unless we can do something in this life, unless we can make some change to our mental continuum in this life, we will have to continuously live our life with the same old mind, with this wrong concept of permanence, looking at impermanent phenomena as permanent and generating desire for them. That clinging, that attachment makes samsara endless.

So, we can concentrate on this. We can look at how the nature of all causative phenomena is impermanence.

[Long pause]

Not only causative phenomena, but for all phenomena, permanent and impermanent, nothing exists without the mind that labels it. Without the mind that labels the object, without the mind that perceives it, nothing exists. Everything comes from the mind. Subject, action, object—the subject, the mind the perceives the object; the action, the cognizing of the object; and the object, that which is perceived—all these come from the mind. Nothing exists completely from its own side; everything is merely labeled by the mind.

Therefore, everything—the mind that knows, the action of knowing and the object to be known— the way every phenomenon exists is being merely labeled by the mind. Therefore, all phenomena—including the mind that knows, the action of knowing and the object to be known—do not exist at all from their own side; is they are totally empty from their own side. Any object that is known is totally empty; it does not exist from its own side.

Concentrate intensively on emptiness like this, looking at yourself as empty, at your actions as empty, and at all objects, all phenomena, as empty from their own side.

[Long pause]


The other day we were doing the requesting prayer to the lineage lamas to receive the realizations of the path to enlightenment, so I gave a brief description of visualization. 

We can continue with the refuge merit field from the beginning, visualizing the elaborate visualization of the refuge merit field but without the ocean of milk, just with the throne and the lotus petal. With this visualization we can continue the lamrim practice or do it according to the jorchö preparatory practice or the Guru Puja, doing the elaborate visualization at the beginning when we do the refuge practice.

Then, after refuge and generating bodhicitta, generating the four immeasurable thoughts and the special attitude of bodhicitta to practice tantra, after this is done, all the refuge merit field absorbs into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Then Guru Shakyamuni Buddha absorbs into us. If we are practicing tantra and have received a great initiation of the [lower] tantra or a highest tantra initiation, when Guru Shakyamuni Buddha absorbs into us, we visualize ourselves becoming the deity. Then, after generating ourselves as the deity, we begin the rest of the practice.

Before practicing the seven-limb prayer and the mandala offering, making the four types of offerings, we make requests for realizations to be granted within our mind and within the minds of all sentient beings. In order to generate the realizations of the path to enlightenment, we make requests to the merit field of the lineage lamas.

Then, if it is the Guru Puja, when we take the four initiations, the guru enters our heart and we make a request. By reciting the prayer, we do a direct meditation on the whole path to enlightenment, requesting the merit field to grant all the realizations from guru devotion up to enlightenment, the unified state of Vajradhara, the unified state of no more learning.

According to the Guru Puja, after we do the prayer to have all those realizations, then on the basis of the realizations of the common path, the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment, we pray to have the realizations of highest tantra’s two stages in order to achieve enlightenment in this life. If that doesn’t happen in this life, if death happens before actualizing these highest tantra realizations and achieving enlightenment in this life, on the basis of the generation stage and completion stage, the clear light, the illusory body and their unification, we pray to be born in the pure land of our own deity. In that way, if we are able to reincarnate in a pure land such as Amitabha Buddha’s pure land, it becomes impossible to be reborn in the lower realms again.

The purpose of reincarnating in a pure land is to quickly achieve enlightenment there. If we cannot become enlightened in this life by visualizing those highest tantric paths, then we reincarnate in a pure land and become enlightened there for the benefit of sentient beings.

If that doesn’t happen, we pray to become the heart disciple of our guru in future lives, to continue being able to serve the guru and to actualize the rest of the realizations of the path that we haven’t completed.

The very last request we make is to request to the guru, who pervades the whole merit field, or who is the principle of the merit field, that we will be their very first disciple wherever or whenever they show their holy deeds. Just as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha showed the twelve holy deeds, becoming enlightened in India, in Bodhgaya, the center of the religious country, in the same way, we pray that at the time and place when our guru shows the holy deeds, becoming enlightened, may we become his or her very first disciple of all the surrounding disciples, and then receive teachings and become enlightened for sentient beings.

That is according to the Guru Puja’s meditation prayer, which shows the whole path to enlightenment from guru devotion up to enlightenment, the unified state of no more learning. Then, at the end, again the merit field absorbs. Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang, who we have been meditating on, the guru, who is oneness with Lama Tsongkhapa, oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, oneness with Vajradhara, one absorbs into the next and then enters our heart. Then we do the dedication and the auspicious prayers. That is just roughly the arrangement of the practice of the graduated path according to the Guru Puja.

What I’m trying to clarify is that after the refuge merit field absorbs into us and we generate ourselves as the deity, then again we visualize the merit field to do the rest of practice, collecting merit by practicing the seven-limb prayer and purifying the mind, making the mandala offering and so forth. The second merit field, with the ocean of milk and the wish-fulfilling tree, is very extended. There is the trunk and all the branches with all the eleven levels of petals. First there is one layer and then another layer and another layer, up to all eleven levels.

As I mentioned before, there are three groups of Kadampa geshes. In the center is Kadampa Geshe Potowa, surrounded by lamas of the Kadam Zhungpawa Lineage, those who achieve enlightenment by studying the extensive scriptures. On one side of them is Kadampa Geshe Gönpawa, surrounded by the lamas of the Kadam Lamrimpa Lineage, those who are trying to achieve enlightenment by studying the lamrim, which is the heart of the entire Buddhadharma. On the other side, in the center is Lama Geshe Tsultrim Bar, surrounded by the lamas of the Kadam Män Ngagpa Lineage, those who try to achieve enlightenment by practicing the oral teachings, those instructions received orally from the holy mouth of the guru, which they try to put into practice and gain realizations from. There are the three groups like this and then, after that, there are the new Kadampas, [the Kadam Serma (Gelug) Lineage].

The meaning of “Kadam” is whatever teachings were taught by the Buddha. Kha means “teaching” and da means “instruction.” So, this refers to how the Kadampas see whatever was taught by Buddha as instructions, whether it is the Hinayana teachings, whether it is Mahayana Sutrayana teachings, or whether it is the Mahayana Paramitayana teachings. Whichever level of teachings taught by Buddha is included here, even one syllable from the alphabet, besides those different teachings that need interpretation.

For instance, there are instruction in the Lesser Vehicle and the Paramitayana about abandoning alcohol and meat, whereas in highest tantra alcohol and meat are used. One person, the Buddha, at one time gave different instructions–don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t eat this and so forth, and at another time, in highest tantra instructed the practitioner to do these things. It’s not that different teachers gave these different instructions. They all came from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. He saw that these practices were dangerous for those of us with lower levels of mind, whereas within a highest tantra practice, where the practitioner’s mind is much more advanced, the practices were beneficial; they became supportive to complete the rest of the realizations and achieve enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerated time.

The Kadampa geshes see all these different levels of teachings, these different instructions given by Buddha, as a teaching for themselves to achieve enlightenment, even those that appear to be contradictory. They don’t see any teaching as contradictory. Besides a whole text or teaching, even one syllable appears to them as an instruction from the Buddha for them to achieve enlightenment. Therefore they’re called Kadampas, one who see the teachings of the Buddha, kha, as instruction, da. Everything the Buddha said is advice for them to achieve enlightenment.

Where we visualize in the center Lama Tsongkhapa and the followers of the new Kadampa tradition, in the last row at the end, there is an empty seat. Visualizing the empty seat is for auspiciousness. I think having the empty seat is creating the causes for us to have a guru in our future lives.

And then, in the center there is the root guru. The way to meditate on this is to visualize, and to realize, that our own root guru is oneness with Lama Tsongkhapa and oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, who is at the heart of Lama Tsongkhapa, as well as being oneness with Vajradhara, who is at the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha. Then there is the syllable HUM at the heart of Buddha Vajradhara, the concentration being. Concentration being, not the concentration camp! This visualization is called the “three piles of beings,” visualizing Guru Shakyamuni Buddha at the heart of our own guru [in the aspect of] Lama Tsongkhapa and Guru Vajradhara at the heart of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. And then at Vajradhara’s heart there is this concentration being, the syllable HUM. 

This visualization is according to Highest Yoga Tantra. It’s an extremely profound visualization with a very special, very profound meaning. I think I already mentioned the other day, the HUM might signify the absolute guru, the absolute dharmakaya, the holy mind of all the buddhas, that which pervades all existence and which is eternal, with no beginning and no end.

Since I mentioned this now, I want to mention the rest.

This is bound with infinite great compassion for all sentient beings, including us, in order to guide us, to save us from the lower realms and even from the whole of samsara, from falling into lower nirvana, the blissful state of peace for ourselves alone, and in order to lead us to full enlightenment. [The absolute dharmakaya] manifested as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and gave the Lesser Vehicle teachings and the Mahayana Sutra teachings, and then, by manifesting as Vajradhara, gave the tantric teachings. Manifesting as Lama Tsongkhapa was to reveal the entire 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, integrating all those extensive teachings, making them so clear and so simple, in the form of the lamrim, which we are learning. Not only that, Lama Tsongkhapa clarified many other unbelievable teachings, especially explaining those difficult ones, the extremely profound subjects such as tantra, the ones where many meditators easily made mistakes. He especially clarified all those points. All this manifests as all the lineage lamas.

Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang is in the center [in the aspect of] Shakyamuni Buddha with Vajradhara [at his heart and the syllable HUM at Vajradhara’s heart]. Behind Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, there are the lineage lamas of the blessing of the practice. On his left, the lineage lamas of the profound path, the lineage of mahamudra, all in the form of Manjushris; and on his right side there are Maitreya Buddha and the lineage lamas of the extensive path, the lineage of Yamantaka.

Then, on one side is Guhyasamaja and on the other is Chakrasamvara. Then, I think, on top must be Lama Atisha, and all the lineage lamas of the Kadam tradition, the sixteen drops. That is what is behind the principle: the guru, Lama Tsongkhapa, Shakyamuni Buddha and Vajradhara. 

You can visualize it as it is depicted in the thangkas, just as Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, the great enlightened being, saw it in one of the Kadampa geshe’s caves. It might have been Kadampa Geshe Puchungwa’s, I’m not one hundred percent sure. Pabongka Rinpoche was in this Kadampa geshe’s cave in Tibet, in a place called Pembo. His attendants were waiting outside when they heard some noise or some voices coming from inside. Pabongka was saying something. It is said that at that time he saw the entire Guru Puja merit field in the hermitage, with all these groups on the right and left sides and all those different colored rainbow beams emitted from the Lama Tsongkhapa, Shakyamuni Buddha, Vajradhara and the syllable HUM. So we can also visualize in that way.

In front of Guru Tsongkhapa, Shakyamuni Buddha and Vajradhara is seated our root guru. The definition of the root guru is, among all the gurus we have received a Dharma connection from, that is the person who is most beneficial to our mind. That’s the root guru, the person who brought our mind into the Dharma, who directed our mind toward the Dharma, who benefited us the most. 

For example, Lama Atisha had a hundred and fifty-seven gurus, but the main one, his root guru, was Lama Serlingpa, from whom Lama Atisha received the complete teachings on bodhicitta for twelve years. I’m not hundred percent sure that it was only by meeting Lama Serlingpa that Lama Atisha then generated the realization of bodhicitta. It sounds like he might have achieved the realization of bodhicitta by meeting Lama Serlingpa, but I’m not one hundred percent sure whether he had it before. However, among Lama Atisha’s one hundred and fifty-seven gurus, Lama Serlingpa was the one who benefited Lama Atisha’s holy mind the most. It was from him that Lama Atisha received the complete teachings on bodhicitta. Whatever Lama Serlingpa had in his holy mind, he granted Lama Atisha everything, like one vase filled with jewels or nectar being poured into another vase, filling it. Lama Serlingpa knew all the teachings, especially on bodhicitta, and he granted them to Lama Atisha, who correctly devoted himself to Lama Serlingpa, and received the whole teachings for twelve years. 

Another main guru is Lama Dharmarakshita. With Lama Serlingpa, these two are regarded as the main gurus of his one hundred and fifty-seven gurus. So, the one who benefits our mind the most is considered our root guru.


We visualize the guru seated on a throne which is in front of Lama Tsongkhapa, Shakyamuni Buddha and Guru Vajradhara. We can visualize the implements the root guru is holding according to our own needs. The guru’s left hand, in the mudra of concentration, is holding a long-life vase filled with long-life nectar. Due to that auspiciousness, we will have a long life. The right hand is in the mudra of revealing the Dharma, the three fingers standing there signify revealing the Dharma through the lamrim teachings and in particular the graduated path of the lower capable being, the graduated path of the middle capable being and the graduated path of the higher capable being.

The two fingers touching, [the thumb and the first finger], signifies the goal of the path, the unification of the complete pure holy body and pure holy mind. By revealing Dharma, particularly the lamrim, the guru brings the disciple through the graduated paths of the lower capable being, the middle capable being and the higher capable being, and then to full enlightenment, the unification of the holy body and holy mind. Normally, when a lama reveals the Dharma, they do this mudra at the beginning as they recite particular verses at the beginning of the teaching, so it has that meaning. 

The root guru’s right hand in this mudra holds the stem of a lotus [which blooms] at their ear, where there is a Dharma text and a sword. To create auspiciousness, we can visualize the Dharma text as what we are studying so we can learn it well. If we are studying the lamrim, we visualize it as a lamrim text. Whichever Dharma text we are studying, we visualize that is what our root guru is holding.

Our root guru is in front of Lama Tsongkhapa, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Vajradhara, and our other gurus are surrounding them. Those gurus who have passed away are seated on the lotus, sun and moon discs, but for those who have not passed away, it is advised to visualize them on a cushion. If normally the guru’s holy body is limping, or they are blind or have some physical imperfection, when we visualize the gurus in the merit field, it is advised to not visualize them in that way, but to visualize them in perfect health, with no organs missing. Guru devotion involves training the mind, making our mind pure, which means seeing the guru as an enlightened being, having ceased all mistakes and only having all the qualities. Seeing the guru as an enlightened being in this way transforms our mind, making it pure. With this, devotion comes. Then, because of the cause, the devotion, we receive the blessing, and because of the cause, the blessings, we receive the realizations. Because of the cause, the blessing of the guru received in our heart, then we receive the result, the realizations of the path to enlightenment in our heart. From that, we are really able to benefit others, to do perfect work for all living beings.

After the gurus, there are the Highest Yoga Tantra deities. According to one instruction, we visualize Guhyasamaja in front, Yamantaka on the right, Chakrasamvara on the left and Hevajra behind. That is one instruction. Another specific instruction says that Yamantaka is in the front, Guhyasamaja is on one side and Chakrasamvara on the other, with Hevajra behind. Then down below and in the front are Kalachakra and the other Highest Yoga Tantra deities, then the Yoga Tantra deities, the Charya Tantra deities and the Kriya Tantra deities.

I mentioned before about the absolute guru by talking about the syllable HUM. The main focus here however is the root guru. No matter how many different visualizations there are, it’s all one, the root guru. When we think of the root guru from our heart, that is what to recognize.

So that particular aspect, who is of the most benefit to our mind? That is the one we recognize, we label the root guru. But what understanding should we have in our heart when we think of the root guru? What is the essence of that? The understanding we should have is that the root guru uses the ordinary aspect of that particular human form that benefits us the most. Our understanding of who they are should be the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, the holy mind of all the buddhas. How the root guru appears is in this particular ordinary aspect, in human form, the form that benefits us the most, directing us to the Dharma so our mind is transformed into the Dharma.

The root guru is the one we have received the Dharma connection from, on the basis of the recognition of guru and disciple—we ourselves are the disciple and they are the guru. On the basis that this person is the one who has most benefited us in that aspect, we hold the understanding in our heart of who the root guru is, that the root guru is the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, the holy mind of all the buddhas. That is not only in the case of the root guru, it is the same with all the gurus.

Whatever ordinary human aspect the guru shows—ordained or lay, male or female—the feeling or the understanding that we, as the disciple, should hold in our heart for that particular ordinary aspect is that the holy mind of the guru is the dharmakaya, the holy mind of all the buddhas.


When we look at it this way, this refers to not only the root guru but all the gurus we have established a Dharma connection with. We should see that they are the guru and we are the disciple. On the basis of that recognition of having received a Dharma connection, we take vows—not only the refuge vow and the five lay vows but also the eight Mahayana precepts—as well as oral transmissions, initiations and tantric commentaries and specific instructions on how to meditate on the path to enlightenment. On that basis, we recognize that this teacher is our guru and we are the disciple, even if we have just received teachings. With even just one verse of teaching, even just the oral transmission of one verse of teachings or a few syllables of a mantra, the Dharma connection is established.

The tantric text Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Krishnayamari Tantra mentions,

A person who does not regard as a guru
Somebody from whom they have heard even a single verse of teaching
Will be reborn as a dog for one hundred lifetimes,
Then as a human being of lower caste.

The last word, mi se chen, has different interpretations. In his teachings Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo defines it as “lower caste.” Lower caste probably means nothing to Americans or Europeans! But, if we have created the karma, we will be born in countries where society puts us down, like the untouchables in India, also called neo-Buddhists. They are one caste that the rest of society in general looks down upon. People don’t respect you when you are low caste, they don’t let you have high positions, so there is much less freedom to do many things than those of a higher caste. However, according to His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, the last word is not “lower caste” but “scorpion.” So even after being born as a dog for a hundred lifetimes, we then get reborn as a scorpion.

This does not refer to anybody we have heard one verse of teaching from. It’s not saying that. It means having the recognition of us being disciple and the person who gave that one verse of teaching is our guru, whether they are ordained or lay, male or female. Then, after having established the Dharma connection, if we don’t practice guru devotion toward that virtuous friend, [we must experience this negative result]. Here, it’s not talking about generating heresy or anger toward the virtuous friend, just failing, after having made the Dharma connection, to remember them as a guru with devotion, seeing them as a buddha and following with devotion.

This is because we either have no knowledge of the guru devotion practice or, if we do, after having met the guru and made the connection, we give it up. Giving up that Dharma connection is the heaviest negative karma. So, I think this verse refers to after having made the Dharma connection with the guru, either not knowing the guru devotion teachings or forgetting or failing to devote to the guru. Then, these shortcomings will happen—we have to be born as a dog for a hundred lifetimes and then [as a human of low caste], or as His Holiness Zong Rinpoche says, a scorpion.

This is just to give some idea about what problems occur, without talking about how this hinders us from having realizations of the path to enlightenment.


Because many of us are beginners, just starting out fresh, it is very important to know as much as possible about the teachings of guru devotion. Why? By knowing the teachings of the practice of guru devotion well, we make less mistakes from the beginning and then there will be less problems, less shortcomings and more success.

The real success that comes from this is achieving realizations. So much of the success in the world, what ordinary people regard as success, is success in creating negative karma. It’s how much you can defeat others, how much you can destroy or kill your enemies. That is the common people’s definition of success, those who are not practitioners of Dharma, but in reality that is only success in creating negative karma.

The real success in our life is how much we can practice Dharma, how much we can benefit others, how much we can achieve realizations. That’s the real success. The best success is being able to achieve the realization of bodhicitta. Among all the realizations, that is the best success. Of realizing emptiness or realizing bodhicitta, the one we regard as more successful is realizing bodhicitta, because with even a direct realization of emptiness the highest we can achieve is arhatship, not enlightenment. We cannot even become a Mahayanist; we cannot even enter the Mahayana path without bodhicitta, therefore we cannot do perfect work for sentient beings.

So coming back to what I was saying about real success, the greatest success is having realizations of the path to enlightenment, therefore this is the most important thing in life for us and for other sentient beings. Making mistakes in relation to the gurus becomes the heaviest obstacle to our inner development, and the most important thing in our life is having realizations on the path to enlightenment in order to be able to benefit other sentient beings.

Therefore, it is very important, especially as we are just beginning to follow the path, to start from the beginning correctly, with as many teachings on guru devotion as possible in order to avoid making mistakes. Otherwise, if from the beginning there is no understanding of how to devote to the virtuous friend—all these incredible advantages of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend and all the unbelievably heavy shortcomings of making mistakes in our relationship with the gurus—without understanding from the beginning how important it is, there is no opportunity to put it into practice. But if we can put it into practice, everything goes very smoothly. Life goes very smoothly; it is very stable and there is so much peace and happiness in our heart. We achieve so much satisfaction. It is very easy to have realizations without hardships, with very little effort. We might think that gaining realizations requires so much hardship and takes so many years, that we have to overcome so many obstacles, but it not like that. Even by doing a very short meditation, even just thinking about the subject a little bit, then it becomes very easy to have a realization. Just thinking about that subject for a very short time, the effect is so strong—everything goes very smoothly and it is very easy to have realizations.

Then not only in this life, but also from life to life, we progress even more; it becomes so much easier in the next life. We are able to meet gurus like Lama Tsongkhapa, like Manjushri, like Maitreya Buddha, like Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; we are able to meet gurus like that in the next life and in our future lives, gurus who have all the qualities. We are able to meet them and see all these qualities, and we are able to achieve enlightenment quickly.

If we don’t understand the great advantages of correctly devoting to the virtuous friend and the heavy shortcomings of making mistakes in our relationship with the virtuous friend; unless we understand the entire teachings on guru devotion, knowing how to devote correctly to the virtuous friend, we make mistakes with one guru and then, when we meet another guru, we also make mistakes. In that way, we become habituated in making mistakes with other gurus. 

Then, the rest of our life can become very messy; it can not only be very difficult to achieve realizations but many problems can happen in this life. Because the object, the guru, is the most powerful object among the powerful objects, a small negative karma in relation to the guru, such as showing a little disrespect, becomes so heavy that we start to experience its results in this very lifetime. Conversely, even a small positive thing we do in relation to the guru, such as showing a little respect, becomes very powerful positive karma, so powerful we start to experience the positive results, the happiness, in this life.

It is not only difficult to have realizations when we make mistakes in our relationship with the guru, we also encounter so many problems in this life. Besides there being no happiness, even the little experience of meditation we might have had, the little understanding of the Dharma, degenerates completely; we lose it completely. Our mind becomes very hard, like a stone in the ocean which, however long it has been in the water, never becomes soft. It remains hard for a hundred thousand years. The mind is always hard, completely blocked; nothing is working, nothing is happening in the mind.

Therefore now, because many of us are beginners, before we make all those mistakes, we need to start correctly from the beginning. If our relationship is good from the beginning, all the rest of the realizations up to enlightenment become successful, and then all the work we do for sentient beings becomes most extensive, most successful; we can be of great benefit. 

If in our guru devotion practice we make mistakes in correctly devoting to the virtuous friend, as I mentioned before, it becomes a blockage to all the realizations up to enlightenment. We are then unable to benefit sentient beings; it becomes a blockage to being able to offer great benefit to sentient beings. All the other successes are dependent on this one. That’s why guru devotion practice is called the root of the path to enlightenment.


Now to finish. All the lineage lamas starting from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha are manifestations of the root guru. All the deities of the four levels of tantra are manifestations of the root guru, all these are the root guru. The thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon, the Thirty-five Buddhas, the Seven Medicine Buddhas, all these are also manifestations of the root guru. Whichever way it is said, it is the same. All the bodhisattvas are also the root guru. As I mentioned in the beginning, we should think, “All these manifest in order to save me from the lower realms and bring me to full enlightenment. The root guru manifests as all these lineage lamas, as all these tantric deities, as all the thousand Buddhas, as the Thirty-five Buddhas, as the Seven Medicine Buddhas, as all these buddhas, for me. The root guru manifests as all these bodhisattvas, as all these arhats, such as the Sixteen Arhats, to guide me. The root guru manifests as the dakas and dakinis and as the Dharma protectors to protect me from obstacles.”

One thing to mention here, in the merit field that we visualize, it is only the protectors who are beyond samsara and who also show that aspect of being beyond samsara. The protectors can be visualized on the throne. There are other Dharma protectors who, even though they are beyond samsara, do not show the aspect of being beyond samsara but show a worldly aspect. Those are not visualized there on the throne, on the lotus. I don’t think this is a problem for Westerners. I don’t think there are proud protectors in the West. Maybe some protectors make doughnuts or hamburgers! Even if they are beyond samsara but rather than show that aspect, they show a worldly aspect, you don’t visualize those on the throne. In a thangka of the merit field, those protectors are not drawn there.

So, we can think of all those lineage lamas and think, “The root guru has manifested as all those protectors to protect me, so that I can actualize the extensive path and the profound path within myself.” For example, we can think, “The root guru has manifested as the dakas and dakinis for me to generate bliss and voidness and the tantric realizations, the simultaneously born bliss and clear light. And the root guru has manifested as the Dharma protectors for me to grant me the four actions—pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful.” We can think that the functions they do are manifestations of the root guru, done for us, to guide us to enlightenment. There are so many different aspects, but no matter how many hundreds or thousands are there, the essence is just one being; in reality they are all just one being, the root guru.


The last thing. We should then think, “I cannot see all these buddhas directly and receive teachings and guidance from them because my mind is so obscured, so defiled, so contaminated with negative imprints. Therefore, out of unbearable compassion for me, the root guru has manifested in this ordinary aspect, showing the aspect of having mistakes, of experiencing whatever happens to ordinary people, having all the problems and suffering, doing all the mistaken actions. The root guru has manifested an ordinary aspect like this for me, one that I can see directly and receive guidance from. With my present level of mind, it is only such an ordinary aspect, with all the suffering and mistaken actions and so forth, that I can see and receive guidance directly from. Anything purer than that I would not be able to see. Worse than this, like animal forms or others, I would not be able to receive guidance from them.”

A Kadampa geshe, Chengawa Lodrö Gyaltsen, said, 

Since our karmic obscurations are so heavy,
We should be happy to see our guru even in a human form.
We have great merit not to see him as a dog or a donkey;
Therefore, generate heartfelt respect, son of Shakyamuni.

There are more verses but I don’t remember them, only this one, the essence, I remember.

We should think, “Unless my gurus show these ordinary aspects, I am totally lost in samsara, totally guideless. Even if I had a human body, there would be no opportunity to practice Dharma. In that case, I would have a human shape but an animal mind; I would be no different from the animals. However, it is not like that; I have all this incredible opportunity to learn the Dharma, to practice the path not just to liberation but also to enlightenment. Especially lamrim that definitely shows the unmistaken path not only to the happiness of liberation but also enlightenment. That I have this incredible opportunity not only to benefit myself but also numberless other sentient beings is due to the kindness of the gurus who show these ordinary aspects, allowing me to directly see them and receive guidance and teachings from them.

“Each of the gurus showing these ordinary aspects is so precious in my life. All the buddhas communicate with me and guide me through each of these ordinary aspects, the conventional gurus who have taken these ordinary aspects. So each of these aspects that show making mistakes is so precious in my life.”

Then, as I mentioned yesterday, we should recite like reciting a mantra, “Each guru showing an ordinary aspect of having mistakes is so precious, so kind, so precious, so kind.” We can repeat that over and over, for half a mala or a mala or more, to stabilize the devotion we have generated.

With this very special technique of guru devotion that Lama Tsongkhapa explained, with this way of meditating, even seeing mistakes in the guru becomes the cause, the support, for developing devotion within us disciples.

So there are two things here. One is that the guru shows mistakes because at the moment that is the only way we can be guided to enlightenment because of the present level of our mind, which is impure and which can only see the ordinary aspect, the aspect that shows making mistakes.

[The other is] to see that the ordinary aspect, the mistakes and suffering of the guru that we see are just appearances of our own mind. That one is a very important protection for the mind, allowing us to have a stable realization of guru devotion. Without this awareness, negative thoughts such as heresy, anger, and many emotional minds can arise, and we create negative karma like rainfall, like hailstorms, making our life unbelievably heavy.

We have this impure mind, therefore we have no other way to see the guru other than in this aspect, which means the guru is purer than that. Worse than this, in their pure aspect, the guru cannot guide us; we cannot receive teachings directly. Therefore, the guru has manifested in this ordinary aspect, having mistakes, exactly according to the level of our impure, mistaken mind, so that we can receive teachings directly. Only like that can the guru communicate directly with us.

This is the reason why the guru is so precious and kind, by showing us this ordinary aspect, having mistakes. It becomes a reason to realize how extremely kind the guru is. Therefore, seeing mistakes in the guru becomes supportive; it becomes beneficial for developing devotion within our mind. So, to count like this is very good. As I mentioned before, when we come to this conclusion, that the guru has shown this ordinary aspect of having mistakes, we should think, “That the guru has shown this ordinary aspect for me, having mistakes, is so precious, so kind.” Thinking not only of the root guru but of every guru, we should repeat this over and over, half mala or one mala or more, to develop our devotion and make it stable.

Then after that, we should think that all the holy actions the guru has done toward us—giving vows, commentaries of sutra and tantra, giving oral transmissions and initiations, giving instructions and advice on how to live our life, on how to practice the Dharma—all this definitely leads us to enlightenment. Then, for each virtuous friend we have, we should repeat over and over, “How kind they are, how precious they are; how kind they are, how precious they are.” Concentrating on the activities they do for us definitely brings us to liberation and enlightenment, so we should repeat this over and over while intensively concentrating on their activities. This is very good.

My talk has become very long again! There is a little bit more to mention but maybe another time. Actually the meditation is very short; I just made many words but actually if you know the meditation it’s just this and this and this and this. Each one is extremely important, very effective and beneficial, but to introduce it took many words.

First, before talking about the ordinary aspect, we need to analyze our mind and see how impure, how obscured it is. After doing analysis, when we talk about the guru showing an ordinary aspect it becomes more effective. We can really appreciate how, because our mind is like this, the guru shows us this ordinary aspect of having mistakes. We can feel just how precious, how kind the guru is.

I think tea is manifestation of dinner! [Laughter]

Anyway, first enjoy the dinner then see what happens. Maybe enlightenment will come after dinner! In that way, we achieve enlightenment without needing to practice the Dharma. Enjoy.

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