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 Four: Labeling the I

Please listen to the teaching well, generating at least the creative bodhicitta thinking, “At any rate I must achieve the omniscient mind for the sake of mother sentient beings who equal space, who have been kind from beginningless time, from beginningless rebirths. Therefore, I’m going to listen to the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment. Also clarifying the righteous conduct of listening to the teaching according to the traditional practice of the lineage lamas.”

I didn’t make the conclusion last night, in the evening time, I didn’t make the conclusion of my talk. As I mentioned, one way of thinking is a problem, and with one way of thinking there is no problem during life. I gave several examples, particularly—if you follow anger, then he or she harms you. In the view of the anger there is an enemy. In that way of thinking there is an enemy, you have trouble, you’re receiving trouble and harm.

Now the other way—you stop thinking that way, and instead of spending time, instead of spending life in a negative way, instead of putting your life in pain, pain for yourself, pain for another person, creating pain by following anger, creating pain within your heart and pain in the mind of the other person, instead of this, thinking that this harm is of no use, use the situation that you are experiencing, the other sentient being harming you, to develop compassion to the person who has anger toward you.

Using the example of the stick—in the stick itself there is nothing—it is completely silly to be angry at the stick and blame the stick, because it is in the hand of the other person, no matter how much the stick injures you. The same thing—the person’s body, speech, and mind, the person is completely under the control of the anger, completely overwhelmed by anger. So the person has not the slightest freedom. So pitiful. Like the person riding the horse. It is not up to the horse, it is up to the person’s mind how the horse is used and led. If the person is completely used by the anger, they become a slave to anger. The person is completely lost to the anger.

When you look at it in this way, rather than thinking of yourself, my happiness, my problem, think of the other person’s suffering. Thinking in this way, there is no choice—unbearable compassion has to rise in your heart. You see the person as so pitiful, with so much suffering. This is one example related to the person who has great anger toward you, but later this same thing, this one example, you can use for many other problems.

If there is someone who is jealous of you, and always harms, always disturbs you to succeed in their own wishes, same thing. Again, meditate that they have no freedom at all, and are completely overwhelmed by the negative mind of jealousy. When you think this, suddenly your mind becomes pure. The anger and all the other bad thoughts stop. Suddenly there’s compassion, your heart feels compassion toward that person.

It is the same thing with the person who is completely overwhelmed by the dissatisfied mind, great attachment. You don’t need to use these conditions to be angry; you don’t need to use these conditions to make yourself unhappy. You can make use these conditions to get satisfaction, to have real peace of mind in your heart.

It is the same thing with the person whose mind is filled with wrong views, heresy, and doubts, or the person who is filled with ignorance, harming you and others because of ignorance, because of not knowing. There is nothing to be angry with at that person—the person is doing these things, these harms, due to ignorance and not knowing. The person is completely overwhelmed by ignorance. It is the same situation.

Actually, if there’s compassion, wherever you will look, any sentient being that you look at, the friend, enemy or stranger, since it is a sentient being, just seeing the sentient being is the cause of compassion, the cause for compassion to arise in you, without clinging, without believing that that is true, without letting yourself be cheated by your own hallucination, which is the projection of the wrong conception.

In other words, as I explained in the morning during the motivation of the Mahayana ordination, while it is clear, while it is true, while it is one hundred percent—in reality, all the time, day and night, what we talk about is, “I’m happy, I don’t want this, I want that,” even though it is so clear, in reality, what this “I” that we talk about is—that which is merely imputed on these aggregates. The actions of the I are merely imputed according to the aggregates, this body and mind, and whatever action it does, the actions of the I are merely imputed according to what the body and the mind does.

This merely imputed I is the one that experiences happiness, experiences suffering, stops the suffering, and obtains the happiness. This merely imputed I, by generating renunciation of samsara and entering the path is able to liberate from samsara, and able to achieve liberation—by generating bodhicitta, it is able to achieve enlightenment.

The I and the phenomena, the I, you, other phenomena—what exists is only what is merely imputed on the base and nothing even the slightest bit more than this. Something extra than this, other than that—you, I, others, and the rest of phenomena—does not exist at all. There is no way to find more than this you, I, or other phenomena that is merely imputed on the base by the thought, no matter how much you analyze. No matter how much you search, there is no way to find that these things exist as something more than that—nowhere, it is a complete hallucination because if you search, you cannot find it, even though it appears, even though you grasp it.

So the unlabeled I, the independent I, that which appears to us, to our thoughts, is completely empty.

Even intellectually, when you analyze, when you check how the I exists as mere name, being merely imputed on the base by the thought, you get the idea that the I and phenomena are under the control of name or under the control of mind, that they came from the mind.

Things exist, the I and phenomena, from the side of the mind—they did not come from there but they came from the mind. Nothing of this exists in the slightest from their own side.

Anyway, this might help you to get an idea. Before the parents met the child, before the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, even if the parents had the thought to label “David,” there is no base—the association of body and mind.

[Tape ends]

...they had the thought and labeled, “David.” Before they made the child, they discussed the name to give. They agreed to label it “David.” But at that time David doesn’t exist.

Now, another one—they made the child, the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, they had the child, but they don’t have the thought yet to give the name “David.” They had the child but they don’t yet have the thought to give the label “David.” Also at this time David doesn’t exist.

There is this child, there is this association of body and mind, and then when the parents, or whoever, label “David,” whenever that person’s mind merely imputes “David” on that base, then David exists.

If you just meditate well, if you just think carefully, if you simply meditate on the meaning of dependent arising, how David exists—especially the subtle dependent arising, according to the Madhyamaka Prasangika school. There are four schools, and the fourth one is the Madhyamaka school. Within that, there are two sections, and the second one is the Prasangika school. According to the Madhyamaka Prasangika school, this is subtle dependent arising. That David exists on the base by the thought merely imputing. That is the way David came into existence, how he came to exist, how David came to exist. That’s the explanation.

So, on the base David exists as being merely imputed by thought. It is very clear. To meditate on the shunyata, on the emptiness, of David, this is enough. On the base David exists by being merely imputed by thought. So when you think, think that the David that exists on the base is what is merely imputed by the thought there. So, it is very clear, there is no David existing in the slightest from his own side.

David is imputed on the base by thought. He is merely imputed, merely imputed, so David does not exist in the slightest from his own side. The same thing, just on this point—something more than this cannot be found. Even though it appears, it cannot be found anywhere by analyzing. If it were true it should be found by analyzing, it should become more clear. When you start to analyze and it becomes more and more unclear, unfindable, that means it is false. It is empty—the unlabeled, independent David is empty, a hallucination, and that is the absolute nature of David.

Now, similarly, the mere appearance the aggregates is sitting on the cushion, and by depending on the mere appearance of aggregates sitting, your own thought merely imputes “I,” and because the aggregates, the body, is doing the action of sitting, you think, “I’m sitting.” When the aggregates, the body, stands up, then the mere appearance of the aggregates is that it is standing, and on that your own thought merely imputes, “I’m standing.” Then, again, as you see the mere appearance of the aggregates, the body, doing the action of drinking tea, on that appearance your thought merely imputes “I,” and because the body is doing the action of drinking tea, “I’m drinking tea.” So like this. I, same thing—you, others, all the phenomena, samsara and nirvana, the whole existence, the whole thing, nothing exists in the slightest, even an atom, from their own side. Everything is merely imputed on the base by thought. But constantly we think like this, and when we talk, constantly we are labeling, when we meditate, we are labeling—every time we think, every time we talk, we are labeling. Without labeling, there is nothing to think about, there’s nothing to talk about. Without name, there’s nothing to talk about.

Constantly, when we think, when we talk, we are constantly merely imputing on the base. But we are not aware of this evolution, how we make things exist by labeling on the base, our own thoughts labeling constantly. We are not aware of this actual reality, because of the previous habit, the past habit, the habit from beginningless rebirths, the imprint. But this is the reality, this is the evolution—like David, everything exists by depending on the base and the thought that labels. By depending on the base and the thought that labels, things arise. So everything is a dependent arising, which means it exists in dependence on those two. When those two things are present, the thought and the base, the thought merely imputed on the base, things arise, so this is a dependent arising. So even though the whole thing exists, I, you, all the phenomena, everything exists by mere name, being merely imputed by the thought, why doesn’t it appear this way? Why don’t things appear as they exist in reality?

After we impute, everything appears to us as if it exists from its own side, constantly. Unlabeled, independent. Even our name. When somebody calls “Lama Zopa,” Lama Zopa exists in my mind, and appears to exist from its own side. Even the names are unlabeled, independent, without depending on the base and thought.

When we think of the senses, the objects of the senses, even when we think of samsara, or nirvana, they are truly existent, independent, unlabeled. Everything that appears to our minds, subject, action, object, everything appears independent, unlabeled, completely contradictory, completely opposite to the reality. The way things appear is completely opposite to the reality. Because it is completely opposite to the reality, it is false. If I, phenomena, everything that appears, existed according to the reality, then that is a definition of true. If it is the opposite of reality, then that is a definition of false. In regards false appearance, there are two things: things exist but you look at them as non-existent, that’s one false thing; and things don’t exist but you look at them as if they exist. This one is something that doesn’t exist but you look at it as if it exists.

Therefore it makes great sense—the merely imputed I appears to exist from its own side. The action of listening, which is merely imputed, appears to exist from its own side. The teaching, which is merely imputed, appears to exist from its own side. The whole thing—the subject, action, object—when we think of samsara, when we think of the path, the obscurations, cessation, liberation, enlightenment—everything appears to our mind as existing from its own side, independent, unlabeled. We are completely trapped in hallucination, by not having realized emptiness, not meditating, not practicing awareness—all these are empty of existing from their own side.

Because of the imprint that is left on the mental continuum by the ignorance of true existence, that which grasps, that which believes in a truly existent appearance, because of the imprint that is left on this mental continuum by the ignorance of true existence from beginningless rebirth until now, even if we are constantly imputing on the base, everything, subject, action, object, constantly imputing with our minds, but what we merely imputed with our minds constantly appears as if it exists from its own side, because of the imprint. Why does this happen? Because of the imprint, such a strong imprint, so many imprints collected in the mental continuum by the ignorance of true existence. Due to the imprint, the habit, our mind completely grasps that all these appearances are one hundred percent true.

When we let our mind believe that, this mind becomes ignorance. Instead of practicing awareness that all these appearances are false, that the way all these things appear as existing from their own side is empty, that everything exists in mere name—instead of practicing awareness of this reality, we allow our minds to believe that all these appearances—subject, action, and object—which appear to exist from their own side, are true. That’s how we create ignorance, when we let our minds believe these things. At that time the mind becomes ignorance. That’s how we constantly create ignorance and the hallucinating mind. That’s how we are trapped.

As Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the Three Principal Aspects of the Path to Enlightenment, sentient beings are trapped in the iron cage of self-grasping, the ignorance grasping the I as truly existent, as well as other existences. Following the ignorance of true existence, we’re imprisoned—we put ourselves into the prison, into the hallucination. This is the root of the whole problem, the foundation of all the other delusions, the ignorance not knowing Dharma, attachment, anger, the six root delusions, within which are the five non-views, the five wrong views, and the twenty secondary delusions, then the 84,000 delusions. It is said that the 84,000 teachings are against the 84,000 delusions. However, the whole thing is based on and came from and arose from this, all the delusions came from this base—the ignorance of grasping at the truly existent appearance.

So far, the reason we haven’t achieved liberation from samsara or ultimate happiness is because constantly we are swept away. We can see that this is the biggest suffering, this is the one which stops us from achieving liberation, enlightenment.

What I was saying originally—as we are completely suffering and trapped in the hallucination—in some ways it’s like this. The I that exists is what is merely imputed, but that is not what appears. The I that does not exist is unlabeled, independent, but that appears. So, same thing like this—everything, subject, action, object—everything appears that doesn’t exist. The one that exists doesn’t appear to us, doesn’t appear in that way. So when we look at other sentient beings, how they are completely trapped in hallucination, you can see that this is the problem.

Then, even in terms of temporary pleasures, which are experienced in dependence upon external conditions—their nature is only suffering but they believe it is real happiness, it is pure happiness. This is another suffering. And even the life, I, the consciousness, this body, even though these are of an impermanent nature, they constantly believe that everything is permanent. That’s another suffering. Then, even though the nature of their body is dirty, they constantly believe it is pure, clean—so this is another hallucination, another suffering.

Just looking at sentient beings, their nature, their conceptions, and their actions of body, speech, and mind—what they do is try to get the objects, try to get happiness with this hallucinated mind. So simply looking at a human being, just simply looking at their body, is the cause of great compassion. Male or female, whatever. Outside is a dress of a million dollars, many thousands of dollars, decorated—some appear as rich, some appear as poor, with many thousands of dollars of ornaments around the body. However, inside there is a skeleton. Eating thousands of dollars of lunch, or many hundreds of thousands of dollars—a Rolls Royce, a Mercedes. They may even live in a palace built with jewels—but inside they are a skeleton, pieces of bones joined with pieces of flesh. Outside there are many different shapes and many different things called the lungs, heart, this and that—there are so many pieces wrapped with veins, tied up with veins and then covered with skin outside. So that’s it. This is without talking about the attitude, the wrong conceptions—just the body, the same. It is a very suffering nature. At the top there is something that is called a head, and some kind of hair—even just looking at the body, seeing the body of a human being, it is very pitiful, of a suffering nature. It is so fragile, so it is not worthwhile at all to get angry, to harm such a being. To harm such a being is completely crazy, completely one’s own mistake, such a pitiful thing.

Then if you look at creatures, there is no question—the chickens, monkeys, spiders, snakes, lobsters, and scorpions—they did not take this body with free will, they did not take this body with choice. Out of disturbing thoughts they created karma, out of ignorance they created karma to take this birth. Being under the control of karma and delusions, without choice, without freedom at all, they have to take this rebirth. Their consciousness migrated to this body. So therefore, it is unbelievably pitiful. It happened without choice. They have taken this body without choice. So, it is completely pitiful.

That’s what I’m saying—whomever we look at, any sentient being we look at is a cause of compassion arising within us. So, as I explained yesterday, think in those different ways to generate compassion for the person who has anger toward us. Thinking in this way, you don’t find an enemy, and compassion arises. Instead of anger arising, compassion arises for the person. With that thought, you don’t find the enemy there. With that thought, the enemy doesn’t exist.

So the life problems are completely dependent on the way of thinking. One way of thinking there is a problem, one way of thinking there is no problem.

The conclusion is that since everything—happiness, suffering, samsara, nirvana, the whole thing—everything came from the mind, from one’s own mind, and is dependent on the mind, therefore, it is extremely important to subdue your mind.

I’ll stop here tonight, then I will do the lung of the Chenrezig mantra.

MANI PADME, MANI is method, PADME, wisdom. That is Chenrezig’s holy name, MANI PADME, the unification of method and wisdom. Now, this MANI PADME contains the Lesser Vehicle path, and method and wisdom, the wisdom realizing emptiness, the mind renouncing samsara, the thirty-seven realizations according to the Lesser Vehicle path, and the eight noble path. All those methods are contained within it. Also, the Paramitayana wisdom and all the method, bodhicitta, the five paramitas—all those methods are contained there. Then tantra, such as Kriya Tantra there are four divisions of tantra, including the lower tantra of method and wisdom, the path of creativity, or having a sign, and the wisdom path not having creativity or not having a sign—meditation on emptiness related with the skillful means of Kriya Tantra yoga. This is also contained in MANI PADME, as well as the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra of method and wisdom, according to the second stage, the illusory body, which is method, and the clear light, which is wisdom. All the methods that are mentioned and revealed in the Lesser Vehicle path, in the Paramitayana path, in the tantra path, which are cause to achieve the rupakaya, are contained in MANI. And all the wisdoms to achieve the dharmakaya are contained in PADME. So the whole path to enlightenment is contained in MANI and PADME. Everything that we need to listen, reflect, and meditate on is in MANI PADME. MANI PADME is calling Chenrezig’s holy name.

HUM is like saying, when you call your mother, “Hi, mom!” Like that, “I’m hungry. I want a milkshake.” HUM is like calling “Hi!” This is persuading Chenrezig’s holy mind. That way we receive the blessings. Persuading Chenrezig’s holy mind with HUM blesses our own heart and mind. The definition of receiving blessings is making the mind, which is so cruel and so selfish, like a rock, like iron, to become like soft, well-fertilized ground that is ready to plant. It makes what is hard become soft. Receiving blessings, the mind becomes soft, subdued. By receiving this blessing in our own heart, we are able to generate the path, the whole wisdom, the method, the cause of the rupakaya and the dharmakaya, MANI PADME, the whole path. We are able to actualize method and wisdom in our own heart. Then, through this, we are able to purify ordinary appearance. Ordinary body, speech, and mind get purified and transformed. Doing Chenrezig practice, our own body becomes the indestructible holy body of Chenrezig, our own speech becomes the indestructible holy speech of Chenrezig, and our own mind becomes the indestructible holy mind of Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha.

These three are simplified by the A-U-MA, the three syllables, which when you put them together become OM. OM signifies the result, the goal.  MANI PADME is the path, the method and wisdom that makes us reach the goal.  MANI PADME signifies the path, the vehicle. So now, if you get inside, if you allow oneself to be in this vehicle, the vehicle takes you to Chenrezig’s vajra holy body, his completely pure vajra holy body, completely pure vajra holy speech, completely pure vajra holy mind. Then with this, since there is omniscient mind, perfect power, and compassion for all beings, you are able to perfectly guide every sentient being without the slightest mistake, without any effort. You are able to continuously work for sentient beings.

Then please dedicate the merits. Due to the three-time merits accumulated by me and by other sentient beings, may I quickly achieve the enlightenment of Guru Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha, and lead every sentient being to Guru Chenrezig, the Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment as quickly as possible.

[Ge wa di yi....]