Kopan Course No. 20 (1987)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, By Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1987 (Archive #399)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 20th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1987. Also included is a discourse on the bodhisattva vows by Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup, late abbot of Kopan Monastery. The edited transcript of these teachings is now available for download as PDF file.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings were edited by Namdrol Adams; second light edit by Sandra Smith. The teaching by Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup was edited by Sandra Smith.

Lecture Eight: The Benefits of Precepts

Please listen to the teaching well by generating at least the creative bodhicitta thinking, “At any rate I must achieve the state of omniscient mind for the sake of all the mother sentient beings who have been kind from beginningless time. Therefore, I’m going to listen to the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment.”

The particular subject is the benefits of taking the Mahayana ordination, the purifying and reviving ordination.

The great benefits are from the side of the place. In this impure realm, accumulating one virtue in the time it takes to snap one’s fingers has much greater merit than practicing pure virtue in the pure realms for eons. This place, the world we are in now, is much more impure among the impurities. Even if we are able to keep the Mahayana ordination, reviving and purifying, the eight precepts, for the duration of snapping the fingers, even if it didn’t last longer than that, the merit is infinite. If that merit of keeping the ordination for the duration of snapping the fingers was materialized, it could not fit into this world. If it became substantial, it could not fit on this earth.

Now, there are great benefits due to the nature of the ordination. It is said by Buddha in the sutra that it reveals morality completely, “One who is living in morality doesn’t receive harm from the vicious poison, the great black naga, however vicious it is.” The great black naga, the poisonous snake—no matter how vicious it is, how dangerous it is, the person who is living in morality doesn’t receive harm from it. Therefore, there is no question of other harms.

In the place in India where I lived for eight years, where the monks who wanted to continue to study who escaped from Lhasa in Tibet lived—most monks who escaped from the three great monasteries, like universities—among the four sects, the Gelugpa sect does extensive study of philosophy in the debating way. This is the form of study. At this place, there were monks from all the four sects who lived together and studied, and did meditation together, puja. This place is called Buxa and was a concentration camp during British time. It’s the place where Gandhi and Nehru were imprisoned. During our time, the Tibetan monks came, and that place was chosen for those who wanted to continue their study. Now they are not there, they moved many years ago to south India. This place is between Bhutan and India, and it is a very mischievous place, with many harmful creatures—snakes, leeches, mosquitoes, and I think all the possible bugs, outside and inside.

Anyway, the interesting thing is this, as it’s mentioned in the teaching. The snakes were outside and even in the houses, between the roof and ceiling, between the ceiling and the walls. They made nests and sometimes they dropped on the monks’ beds—the monks were around and studying, reading scriptures, and the snakes fell down on the bed from between the ceiling and the wall. Also, the snakes came from outside, from the ditches, inside. The monks often caught them and threw them away. But you never heard a story that a monk was bitten by a snake, although you did hear that the police were bitten by the snakes, and so were the villagers, the Bhutanese, Nepalis, or the Indians. They killed the snakes when they saw them—huge, long snakes—they put kerosene on them and lit them up. This is how the police killed them. But they got bitten by the snakes.

The person living in pure morality does not receive harm. Living in pure morality itself is abandoning negative karma. The person abandons creating negative karma, abandons the cause of the harm—the person lives in the practice of abandoning the cause of harm, and living in morality purifies past karmas. In the eight Mahayana precepts, for example, by bearing the hardships, the hunger, thirst, and fasting, one purifies the negative karmas to be born as a hungry ghost, as a preta. For example, generally when one eats or drinks, when one does these enjoyments with attachment, it makes the cause to be born as a preta. If one does these enjoyments with ignorance, it causes one to be born as an animal. If one does these enjoyments with the negative mind of anger, it causes one to be born as a narak being.

Then also living in morality, abandoning gossiping out of attachment, purifies and we don’t create the karma to be born as many other results, such as birds that make noise all day. By living in ordination, in the precepts, practicing Dharma, doing meditation, listening to the teaching, bearing hot and cold—those things purify the negative karma to be born in the hot and cold naraks.

By living in the eight precepts we stop the eight negative karmas. Therefore, we do not experience the various problems that arise from negative karma, such as killing, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct, telling lies, taking intoxicants, sitting on high, large, expensive beds, wearing perfumes, garlands, rosaries, and eating food at the wrong times with anger, ignorance, or attachment. Abandoning these eight negative karmas, we do not experience the various problems that arise from the eight negative karmas at all.

I think you went through the four suffering results of each complete negative karma, each complete nonvirtuous action. Each of these complete negative karmas, such as the ten nonvirtuous actions, has four suffering results: the ripening aspect result, birth in the realm of the suffering migratory being. Even when we are born in the realm of the happy migratory being, there is the possessed result, meaning that in the place where we live, there is much fighting, war, epidemic disease, many things which harm the life, the waters do not fit the body, the elements do not fit our health, and there are many things that harm us, and it is dirty.

Depending on which negative karma we have created, there is a particular possessed result that has to do with the place, and there is a particular problem, depending on which particular negative karma one has accumulated in the past. There can also be problems with the food, such as not having protein, being unable to digest medicines—so many things like that. Those are dependent on the ten nonvirtuous actions. In some places the crops and food have much protein, and in some places they have no protein and [crops] are very harmful to the body or are scarce, and there is much famine, drought, or too much water, floods, cyclones or earthquakes—all these things, so many different problems. These different problems differentiate the results of the different nonvirtuous actions of the beings who experience these problems with the place. They have to live in such unbelievably cold places, or unbelievably hot places.

They experience the harm that they caused to others—even after they are born as human beings they experience what they have caused others to feel themselves. Then, there is the result similar to the cause, which means that they do the action again and create the negative karma again, because of the previous habit, such as in the case of sexual misconduct.

Normally, even if you know that it’s a foundation of problems, even if you think not to do it, you are habituated from past lives and you will do it again and again, and again you will get caught in the problems. So, on and on like that, without talking about future lives. Creating the result similar to the cause is doing the negative karma that you have done in the past again. This is the biggest problem. From these four suffering results, creating the result similar to the cause is the biggest suffering, the biggest problem.

Creating the result similar to the cause has four more suffering results. You did not do these negative karmas again because of wanting to experience the four types of suffering in future lives, but it happens uncontrollably, out of ignorance. Then again in the next life, even if you are born as a human being, again you create the same negative karma, creating the result similar to the cause, and again that has four suffering results. So like this, it goes on and on.

For example, just looking at this life, even one nonvirtuous action, sexual misconduct for example, makes so many problems with this person, that person. Even one time it makes so many problems with so many people, and it goes on and on, on and on, like this. Then you have to go to court, you have to pay so much for lawyers, then go to prison, and so many things. The first mistake is following desire, clinging to the happiness of oneself, and secondly the happiness of only this life. So, that’s the basic problem. The basic mistake is not controlling desire. So then, because of following desire, there is anger when somebody interferes. When the selfish mind, or the worldly concern doesn’t get what it wants, or when someone bothers it, then anger arises, jealous mind comes, and many other disturbing thoughts arise from these things. That leads to killing others, ill will toward others, harming others with the body, speech, and mind, destroying others’ possessions, destroying other’s perfections, harming others’ lives, then that also makes you steal others’ possessions, others’ surroundings, the husband and wife that belong to others—it leads to many other negative karmas. Following desire gradually leads to so many other negative karmas.

Even if you are not born in the narak realms, every day, even if you have a human body, because you did not control the mind, everyday life is like being in hell. Everyday life is such a disaster. Even if you have a human body, even if you are a human being.

The whole life passes just in problems, unable to cope with problems. One year goes, another year, one week goes like this, one month goes like this, one year goes like this. Then you are unable to cope with the present problems, and at the same time you create the cause of more problems, because of not controlling the mind. While you are experiencing the problem, experiencing the result, the shortcomings of desire, at the same time you are continuously creating negative karma.

The other main mistake is following the self-cherishing thought, following desire. Following the self-cherishing thought, you follow desire. However many years you live the life, no matter how long you live, it’s like living in hell.

Each year it is enough just to not commit suicide. So many times the thought comes to commit suicide. So many times you have been about to do it, and so far it did not happen. Somehow by luck, so far it did not happen.

While you have received this precious human body, specially qualified by the eight freedoms and ten richnesses, which has an unbelievable opportunity, you can completely end desire. The precious human body, specially qualified with the eight freedoms and ten richnesses gives ultimate happiness by ceasing the desire, the disturbing thoughts, and you can win. Desire has been controlling you and taking over from beginningless rebirths. Now this time, you have found this perfect human body, you have the unbelievable opportunity to control desire, to completely cease the desire and make it vanish.

In that way, completely, you can end the whole entire suffering of samsara, all the problems of samsara. While you has this precious human rebirth, which gives this unbelievable opportunity to escape, you can completely eliminate the whole cause of suffering, the whole problem, by generating the path, wisdom and method, to liberation, to enlightenment, and you can lead an uncountable number of sentient beings to liberation and enlightenment.

In the few years that you have this precious human body, if you didn’t get this opportunity done in the time when you have this precious human body, again you let yourself become under the control of desire, you become the slave of desire. Then even this precious human body is used to continuously create the cause of suffering, the cause of problems.

This way there is no peace; you don’t live even one year in peace. And then, when death happens, there is nothing worthwhile that you have done for yourself. There’s nothing to remember, nothing worthwhile that is done for other sentient beings, no benefit that you have given to others, there’s nothing to feel happy about, “Oh, I have done this, I have done this great benefit for others.” There’s nothing to feel rejoicefulness about in the heart. You can’t think, "It’s OK for me to die, I have done enough preparation for the happiness of future lives.” Within you there’s [no] confidence, “I’ve no upsetness, I have done enough preparation for the happiness of future lives.” There’s nothing even for your own happiness, something that is satisfactory, something that is done—there’s nothing. There is also nothing worthwhile that is done for other sentient beings. Then you see your life as completely empty, you lived the life completely empty, and your life is finished, being empty. Then, you have to die, the breath stops with an unhappy mind, with a dissatisfied, empty heart.

So, if we do not practice Dharma, controlling the disturbing thoughts, desire, then due to some other good karmas from another life, even if we get born as a human being after some time in the next life, then again we experience the suffering results of the nonvirtuous actions done in the past. We experience the same problems over and over, relationship problems, all these things again, over and over.

By living in the morality, which means abandoning and controlling desire, and abandoning negative karma, even if we cannot keep the other precepts but just one precept, abandoning sexual misconduct, just living in one precept, in this way we do not experience the four suffering results at all. If we do not practice Dharma, controlling the mind, the harmful thought, the desire, this negative karma from the ten nonvirtues, sexual misconduct, will be repeated and accumulated many times in this life. But by living in just this one precept, we do not create all those negative karmas for all those years, all those coming years. However, in this life, if we took the precepts for one day, like today, living in the eight precepts, even if it is just today, then we stop creating negative karma. Therefore we do not experience the four suffering results—we do not experience creating the result similar to the cause in the future lives. Therefore, we do not experience the four suffering results that come from creating the result similar to the cause. So because of that, we create the result similar to the cause, and again there are the four suffering results.

If today this negative karma is accumulated, it has four suffering results, and again that creates the result similar to the cause; that has another four suffering results and that has another four suffering results—and so it goes on and on without end, life to life, it continues on and on, until we abandon desire, it continues.

In this way, without abandoning the cause of suffering, desire, we have to experience the suffering of samsara without end, like this. Even from one negative karma, there are four suffering results, so it goes on and on without end, life to life. It is not that so many negative karmas accumulated in this life are experienced in the next life, but each one that is completed has its own four suffering results. If we understand, we should think well like this, how each of the negative karmas is harmful from life to life. So harmful, how harmful it is, for temporary happiness and especially to achieve liberation, how harmful it is—then there is great pleasure in controlling the mind. We see the shortcomings of desire as very deep, endless, and then we are so happy to abandon it, to abandon it in this life. In this way, we abandon the desire with our free will, with great happiness. We see the unbelievable temporary and ultimate benefits, so easily. As much as we see the harm of desire and the benefits of abandoning it, the peace and happiness, all the way up to enlightenment, then we are happy, and there are no difficulties at all in abandoning desire, and renouncing negative karma. It’s so easy, it’s like drinking nectar. So enjoyable, no difficulties.

When we do not see karma, we do not understand karma; when we do not think well, when we don’t practice awareness of the shortcomings of desire—for that person avoiding desire becomes like losing the heart, like losing some precious thing. Instead of great enjoyment, unbelievable happiness, that becomes the greatest pain, so difficult, so unbelievably difficult. For that person who is not aware of the shortcomings of desire, who has no understanding of karma, no awareness of the shortcomings of desire, it is easy to follow desire, but the result, the problems, are difficult to experience, the resultant problems are unbearable. It is so easy to follow desire, the disturbing thoughts, but the problems of this are so difficult, so unbearable to experience. Not only in this life, but until samsara ends, until we end samsara, we have to experience the problems of the disturbing thoughts.

The other way, it is so difficult to follow desire and so unbelievably easy to abandon desire. It is so difficult to follow desire. So, the whole thing depends on mind training, which way our mind gets more trained.

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