Kopan Course No. 28 (1995): Audio and Transcripts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal 1995 (Archive #1019)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Twenty-Eighth Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in November 1995. Included are oral transmissions of the Heart Sutra, the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer, and Pabongka Rinpoche's Heart-Spoon [now revised and renamed The Heart's Utmost Need].

Download or listen online to the audio recordings of Lectures 1-3 and 6-9, and read along with the transcript. You may also download the entire transcript in a pdf file.

Lecture One: Compassion

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Today we will do the great initiation of the great compassionate-eyed looking-one deity, and before that some preparation. Preparation means checking in various ways whether there are obstacles to practice the deity Chenrezig and his path, and whether the disciple is a suitable receptacle to be granted initiation. Preparation involves various analyses, checking through different means.

I thought maybe to mention a little bit about the benefits of reciting the Compassionate Buddha's mantra.

The Buddha of Compassion is the embodiment of all the buddhas’ great compassion that embraces and never lets go, never gives up sentient beings even for one second. Never gives up us sentient beings, no matter how much heresy or negative thoughts we have towards Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and no matter how evil the doer. No matter how much heavy negative karma the sentient being creates, even stronger compassion; the one who has more suffering, the one whose mind is more obscured, more evil, more negative—the more compassion.

As there are numberless sentient beings, suffering sentient beings, Buddha’s compassion never gives up even for one second. Never gives up us sentient beings no matter how much we create unrighteous or negative actions. No matter how much we become vicious or evil, doing everything completely opposite to what pleases them, only doing harm to ourselves or others, Buddha’s compassion never gives us up even for one second. Buddha has trained the holy mind, completed the holy mind-training in compassion towards us all, each and every single sentient being. All this great compassion manifested into this deity, so it is called the deity of compassion. So “compassionate-eye looking” means without even one second’s break, not giving up us sentient beings, all the time looking at us with compassion.

The main reason Buddha guides us sentient beings, why Buddha guides other sentient beings and oneself, the basic reason is that compassion. That’s the main reason. No matter what other qualities there are—perfect power to reveal various means, perfect wisdom, highest omniscient mind—whatever other qualities there are, if there is no compassion then there can be a problem. No matter how many other qualities there are, if there is no compassion embracing all us sentient beings, if this is not there, there can be problems. Even if you pray, even if you pray you may not receive guidance. No matter how much you rely upon, it’s possible you may not be guided.

Like, for example, in the world, a person may have a lot of education, much education and knowledge but the heart is dry. There is no loving kindness or compassion. So even the person has so much power and knowledge, if you ask that person to help it is not necessary that person will help you. There is always discrimination since there is no compassion to us all living beings. First of all, there is no compassion; secondly, even if there is compassion, there is no compassion towards all sentient beings. There’s always discrimination, always mind taking sides, bias. So therefore even if one relies upon those beings it is difficult to trust or to receive help, because in their attitude there’s no compassion; even there’s compassion but no compassion towards all living beings without any discrimination. Or there’s compassion only to those people who help that person, who like that person. But that person doesn’t have compassion to another person who criticizes, who hates, to those other sentient beings; no compassion to the enemy, no compassion to strangers, who are neither friend nor enemy; only compassion towards good friends, people who love him or help him. So no matter how intelligent that person is, has incredible knowledge or power, whatever influence that person has, there’s always problems. There are always difficulties. There is the danger that person only helps certain people but not all.

The basic reason why Buddha is guiding us sentient beings with the omniscient mind, full understanding and all the perfect power that Buddha has achieved, with all these infinite qualities of Buddha’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind, that guide us all sentient beings from happiness to happiness to enlightenment; not only us human beings, even animals and other different types of sentient beings—the main reason we can trust to Buddha, the main reason, the main object of refuge is the compassion, having developed, having finished mind-training on compassion towards us all sentient beings. That, I think, is the main one. I think that is the main reason we and all sentient beings can receive guidance, are able to receive guidance from Buddha, the very basic reason why one can trust to Buddha to not be cheated, to not be misguided. According to my point of view, I think, not any other knowledge, the main reason is the great compassion that Buddha has.

It is said in the teachings, Pramanavartika, that for Buddha, even if somebody takes pieces of flesh from one side of the body, then this other side somebody makes offering, puts perfumes, those scented smells. Or someone is doing massage, anyway joking, putting perfumes on one side of the holy body and on the other side somebody is taking pieces of the flesh with a knife, with an axe or whatever, slowly taking pieces of flesh from other side. Even though from the sentient beings’ side there is harm and help, but from the side of Buddha, from the side of Buddha’s holy mind, there is equal compassion.

This is very important, this is a very important thing, I think, in Buddhism, especially in the subject of refuge, how we can trust and take refuge in Buddha. In the lamrim, there is a very extensive section on refuge, talking about the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. For example, the Abhisamayalamakara, Maitreya Buddha’s teaching, has eight chapters; the last one is talking about the enlightenment qualities, it has extensive commentaries on the four kayas, teachings on that. There are infinite qualities mentioned, which are beyond our present ordinary concept, the qualities of the Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha that don’t fit to our concepts. When we read or we hear about them we think, “How is this possible?” Like that our present limited, obscured mind can’t figure it out. Like somebody who doesn’t know about TV or watches. Like some primitive person, somebody to whom it doesn’t fit how this is possible. Like that, to our very primitive mind all these incredible qualities that those beings have achieved, which are explained and described in the teachings, that doesn’t fit, it is difficult to comprehend.

From Buddha’s side there is equal compassion to that person who’s making offering, putting perfume on this side of the holy body; then that person who is cutting pieces, taking away pieces of flesh, slowly, with a knife or with axe, or whatever. From Buddha’s side there is no discrimination to those sentient beings, to those two sentient beings, from Buddha’s side there is no discrimination. There is equal compassion to both of them.

It’s a question of understanding, it’s a universal thing and Buddha is a universal being. It’s a question of understanding; studying, meditating and understanding.

Therefore, this deity, the deity of compassion, embodiment of all the buddhas’ compassion becomes very important. The purpose of this deity becomes extremely important. Great need for us sentient beings, for our peace, for our happiness and to make our lives meaningful, for each of us not only to obtain peace and happiness in our mental continuum, not only that, but each of us to be able to cause peace and happiness towards others, the numberless obscured suffering sentient beings. We need to be able to understand this and the need of compassion, and how all the peace and happiness has to come from compassion.

I think, compassion, compassion, there’s less, my thought is that compassion is clearer; but loving kindness, if you don’t know what loving kindness is, loving, it can be very easily mixed with attachment. But compassion is very clear: somebody is suffering and you help to free that person from that suffering, from those problems. Loving kindness, if the person doesn’t know what it is, then, this is my point of view, it is very easy to mix with the evil, self-centered mind and, because of that, attachment, generally speaking.

But in Brazil, I think... is anybody in Brazil? Is (Rinpoche laughs) anybody from Brazil? Maybe also in other countries, but maybe even more in Brazil, I think, if you talk about having general compassion to somebody, then they take it as you think you’re special. How you’re special, you’re higher and the other person is down, they take it as if you’re underestimating or putting down the other person, so they don’t feel comfortable. They don’t feel comfortable with somebody have compassion to them. It means you are down, the other person is looking down at you. Anyway that is due to not having the full understanding, not having understanding of the lamrim. That is due to misunderstanding.

Some people are very happy to receive compassion. Some people are looking for compassion. Some people have difficulties finding a person who gives compassion, who has compassion for that person, seeking very much to receive compassion from others. So those people are very happy, they appreciate very much when somebody is concerned about them, when somebody gives help and has concern and understanding of the other person’s life difficulties. But some people interpret another person having compassion to you as meaning that you are lower than the other person, that you’re lower, put down. It is due to cultural misunderstanding, due to that person’s interpretation or way of thinking.

It’s similar to some people who, when they hear about the kindness of the mother, they get very angry. Some people when they hear of kindness of mother, how the mother is so kind, they even get angry. They don’t want to hear about the kindness of mother. They get very upset, angry. Lack of understanding, lack of the understanding of the main reason, why... the person who gave you this precious human body, even that person didn’t give, even that person has not been with you after you were born, even that person wasn’t with you, to look after, to take care, but just gave the body.

So, lack of understanding, lack of recognition or understanding of how this human body is so precious, even that person’s mother just gave this body, just to get this body, even she herself didn’t do the rest, help to grow up or to give education, even though she herself didn’t do directly. Other people did. But however, if this person didn’t give you this precious human body, if she had had an abortion or something, didn’t take care of you, she didn’t give you this birth, then also there’s no chance for other people to give you education or to take care of you, there wouldn’t be that chance. When you think like this, everything rests on that first person who gave you this body. So it becomes very important. That becomes the source. Everything depends on that.

Not knowing, due to lack of understanding, how this human body is so precious, so important, with which one can achieve so much temporal and ultimate happiness and perfection for oneself, and can give cause to numberless other sentient beings happiness and perfection. Due to lack of understanding of the usefulness of the perfect human body, lack of the understanding of the usefulness of this, the infinity of good things one can do for oneself and others with this precious human body. It is a lack of that understanding that leads to a lack of understanding why one is dependant on the kindness of the parents.

So then, some people get angry when they hear the teaching of how the mother is kind, due to the individual person’s interpretation. It doesn’t mean it’s correct what the person thinks. It is just the person’s interpretation, concept.

Generally one can understand, one can see the person whose mind is very loving, having a very compassionate nature, very good-hearted, very kind-hearted person who especially lives a life with this attitude, filled with a good heart. In everyday life, in the heart of that person, in the mental continuum of that person, there’s so much peace, there’s so much fulfillment. There’s so much peace, happiness and satisfaction there. Even that person doesn’t have much education, even that person doesn’t have great intellect, hasn’t learned so many things, didn’t go to school, didn’t go to university or college, all these things, but the person is filled with a good heart, there is so much peace in that person’s heart.

Even that person hasn’t learned Dharma, even the person hasn’t studied Dharma, learned many things about the path, but for that person who has lived life like this, who has such a quality of mind, there is so much peace and happiness in the daily life. That person is happy with everyone because of his good heart, good heart, so that the person, not having strong, egotistic mind or self-centered mind, is happy to meet anybody, happy with everybody. Everybody’s happy with that person, anyone who meets that person, they’re happy, very happy to meet any time, and everybody wants to meet that person, everyone talks about that person, praises that person, everybody wants to help that person even if that person doesn’t need help, everybody would want to help. There’s so much fulfillment or peace, satisfaction and because of that, even when the death comes, which is most terrifying for most people, there’s usually so much worry but the result of that, is for that particular person there is much less fear of the death.

For the common people it is most frightening even to think of that…

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… even to express the word “death,” but for that person, as a result there is not that much fear or worry. The death for that person becomes very easy, not disturbing to the mind, it becomes very easy.

Many people, even intellectuals, believe that there’s no reincarnation. Intellectually, due to society and education, due to what’s taught in school. When the mind is very fresh or in young child-time, when there are no other concepts, anything can be taught to that. What is introduced to that child-mind at the very first is this philosophy, where there is no such thing as a past and future life. Whatever is introduced first to that child-mind, which didn’t have other concepts, the very first concept that is introduced, taught in school or by the culture or the society’s belief, it is influenced by that. However, even if one follows that philosophy or those concepts, intellectually there is a fear of death. There is a fear of death. There’s great fear of death. And deep, deep in your heart, you have no idea of death, what death means, and you are afraid of what’s going to happen, “What’s going to happen to me?” because there is nothing clear about death, nothing one hundred per cent clear about the phenomenon of death and what’s going to happen after that. There’s nothing one hundred per cent clear in the mind about where it’s going to lead, what’s going to happen to oneself.

So, even if there’s no intellectual belief, it can be due to the belief or culture of society, what one was introduced to first, the first concept or philosophy that was introduced to the mind.

One example I mentioned before is my mother. She doesn’t have any intellect, cannot read even one syllable, cannot recognize even the very first word of the Tibetan alphabet, KA, she cannot recognize even one syllable. But, even though I received so many initiations, hundreds and hundreds of initiations or teachings, even I learnt many Dharma words, she has a hundred times more compassion than I have. Always-warm hearted to anyone, especially people who are taking care, those around her. First she thinks of others’ need, in regards thinking if anything is needed she thinks first of others. What she knows is just to recite Amitabha Buddha’s mantra and OM MANI PADME HUM and the very short prayer, Sangye chö dang so gyi chog nam la. What she can recite is very little, so she does one whole set in the morning, then she does another whole set in the afternoon, then she repeats that again in the evening time. (Rinpoche laughs) Whatever prayers, only those few stanzas, all she knows she repeats in the morning and the afternoon, repeating a few times in the day. (Rinpoche laughs)

Anybody who meets her loves her because of her compassion, everyone loves her, anybody who sees her respects her generosity and her qualities.

It is the same with Lama Yeshe, who is kinder than all three-time buddhas. Even people who didn’t meet Lama Yeshe, by seeing a picture they feel the warmth. They feel the warmth from the picture. They feel the kindness, the warmth towards them. So many people, even they haven’t met Lama, expressed to me the effect just by seeing the picture. Everybody, any class of people, high and low, anyone who meets lama, everyone enjoys even to meet, even to have a few words in a short time. They really enjoy it so much; they have a lot of peace and happiness.

As I normally mention, without compassion in one’s own heart, what is there? What attitude is there is only ego, self-centered mind. Due to that the discriminating thoughts of anger, attachment and those other emotional minds rise. Then what happens is not only harm to oneself, these disturbing thoughts not giving peace or happiness to oneself, making obstacles and hindering not only ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara and enlightenment but hindering even the peace and happiness of this life, doesn’t allow. Then not only that but indirectly or directly one harms others, other sentient beings, from life to life, from life to life one harms directly or indirectly all others, all us other sentient beings. With this ego, self-centered mind, other emotional minds rise, other disturbing thoughts.

What happens if you don’t develop compassion, if you don’t do anything to your mind, if you let yourself be what you are, how you happen to be, if you let yourself be yourself, which means how you were in the past, how you’ve been thinking? If you want to let yourself be yourself, then how it has been in the past is this.

Therefore now, if you don’t do anything to this mind to change for the better, then you see… in the West many people talk about being oneself. “I don’t want to become something else”. But it is not clear if you ask, what is yourself? So many people talk about this, but if you really ask what you are, what is yourself, it is difficult to give the answer. But in daily life a lot of people talk about this.

If you don’t do something to this mind, especially during this time, while we have this precious human rebirth, for however many years, months or weeks, however many days or hours that we have this precious human rebirth, where we have all the opportunities to make our minds better, to develop the mind, to transform the mind more into the path, into the originator of happiness, rather than originator of suffering, all the time creating, producing suffering to oneself and others. Especially this time, this life becomes an extremely important occasion, the one-time opportunity to do something with the mind, to make some change to this mind.

Without compassion, as I explained before, even for oneself, if there’s no loving kindness and compassion toward others, then no matter how much education one has, no matter how much power one achieves in this world, no matter how much reputation one has achieved in this world, no matter how much education, how much wealth one has achieved, if there is no compassion in the heart, kindness towards others, then one suffers so much. One suffers so much. Without this, the attitude toward life will be those emotional minds, discriminating thoughts of anger, attachment and so forth, the self-centered mind. They make life very difficult. These thoughts are the ones that make life so difficult, they don’t give satisfaction, this attitude doesn’t give satisfaction any time.

Without compassion in the heart, all this wealth, power and reputation, all this education, whatever one has achieved or gained are not much use or benefit, they’re not made meaningful. The way that wealth, education, power and so forth are used, the ultimate aim of all this is just to gain one’s own comfort, one’s own happiness, so they are not made meaningful. Then there’s danger that instead of becoming beneficial these things become problems; education, power and the wealth become problems to oneself. If these things are used with a negative attitude, the self-centered mind and so forth, not only do they not become beneficial, but due to this wrong attitude all these things become problems, causing problems in one’s life, bringing more and more suffering, bringing various problems instead of bringing more and more peace and happiness within one’s mental continuum, in one’s own life.

As I mentioned before, even if the work one is doing is practical help that is much needed by other people, because of the attitude of doing the work, whether one is doing consultations, working in a hospital or doing public service, the attitude or aim that is in one’s own heart is seeking happiness for oneself. The main aim is one’s own happiness, one’s own comfort. Because one’s attitude or aim of life is seeking happiness for oneself, the main thing is this, even though the service one is doing is very beneficial for others, one is not happy with it. You don’t get peace, satisfaction or fulfillment in the heart.

If a person changes the attitude of life, instead of the main purpose of life being seeking happiness for oneself it changes into compassion, freeing others from suffering, causing happiness to others; as soon as that person changes the attitude to the good heart, benefiting others, immediately that person can have fulfillment in the heart because the actions are benefiting others. First change the attitude and then you see the result. Since your attitude, your main aim is the happiness of others, immediately that gives fulfillment, peace and satisfaction in the life.

A few days ago, I mentioned if some Sangha person, a monk or nun, studies Dharma for fifteen or twenty years, learns so much, has much knowledge of Dharma, various texts, much intellectual knowledge, living the ordained life, in the reality that should be the way to actually get peace. That should be the best way to achieve peace and satisfaction, to get fulfillment in one’s own heart, it should be the best way. Why that is not happening is because the person’s attitude, instead of looking for liberation from samsara, is looking for samsara. The aim in the heart is seeking samsara, not liberation.

When the attitude becomes like this, even living the life with so much education you’re not happy. You’re not happy with yourself, you’re not happy. There’s no happiness. There’s no fulfillment in your own heart. What doesn’t give fulfillment, what doesn’t give peace or satisfaction in the heart is not because you haven’t gone to see a psychologist, it is not because you haven’t gone to see a psychotherapist, and it is not because something is missing in the Buddha’s teachings. It is not because something is missing in the Buddha’s teachings of sutra and tantra. It is something missing in the person’s heart. There is something missing in the person’s attitude. The mistake came from the person’s attitude. What blocks peace and satisfaction, fulfillment in the heart is the attitude—instead of seeking liberation and enlightenment for sentient beings, seeking samsara. That’s what stopped, blocked to have satisfaction or fulfillment in the heart. So it is similar.

I mentioned if there is no compassion within your mind, there’s danger to numberless sentient beings besides yourself. Numberless sentient beings receive harm from you directly or indirectly, from life to life. If there’s compassion within your heart, the compassion does not allow you to harm others. The actions that come benefit others or at least stop giving harm to others. When other sentient beings stop receiving harm from you, it is peace and happiness that they are receiving from you. On top of that they receive help, benefit from you. So, numberless other sentient beings receive more peace and more happiness from you.

Therefore, your own compassion is the source of all your own peace and happiness now and up to enlightenment, now, in day to day life, the life after this and all the future lives’ peace and happiness, up to enlightenment. Not only that, your compassion is a source of peace and happiness for your family or the other person who is living with you. Your compassion is a source of peace and happiness for the other person, the family members who are living every day with you. Then same thing, the source of happiness of the human beings around you, in the office or anywhere, in your everyday life anybody who is around you, your compassion becomes a source of their peace and happiness. And not only human beings, also including insects, animals who are around you, your compassion becomes a source of their happiness and peace. Because of your compassion you don’t harm them. That’s how, even if you don’t give any additional help, at least you don’t give harm to them. So, your compassion becomes a source of the peace and happiness of even the insects and animals around you.

Your own compassion becomes a source of the peace and happiness of however many million people there are in the country, your compassion becomes the source of peace and happiness of the rest of the people in the country, how many millions of people in the country. Then your compassion becomes a source of peace and happiness of all the living beings on this planet, in this globe or this world. Then your compassion becomes the source of peace and happiness of the numberless other sentient beings who are living in other universes. However, your compassion becomes a source of peace and happiness to numberless other sentient beings. Your compassion becomes the source of peace and happiness of the society.

Therefore, now, this becomes the most important education, the most important practice, more than anything else. This becomes the most important practice, meditation, education, the most important thing, the very first thing in the life, the most important thing to be cherished in our life, the very first thing to think about and the best practice. Even regards spiritual practice this is the best practice, the best meditation, the most meaningful meditation. From there all the success comes to you and numberless sentient beings.

We can see with these reasons, every one of us has full responsibility of every sentient being’s happiness and peace. Every one of us here, you, have full responsibility, universal responsibility, responsibility of the numberless other sentient being’s peace and happiness. Because numberless sentient being’s peace and happiness, what they receive from you, depends on you, depends on your mind. It depends on your mind.

It is up to us what we do with our mind. It is in our hands whether we give all this peace and happiness to the other numberless sentient beings, whether we give this or not give, it is in our own hands, because it is up to what we do with our mind. So it becomes essential to develop compassion, the root of bodhicitta. That which is the root of enlightenment, root of the Mahayana path to enlightenment.

In order to meditate on the path to enlightenment, the root of all the happiness of oneself and of all sentient beings, the root of bodhicitta, which has infinite benefit, which is the door of the Mahayana path of the mind to enlightenment—just meditating on that is not sufficient. In order to have this realization we need to receive blessings of the special deity, the deity of compassion. That is Avalokitesvara, compassionate-eye-looking deity. For that reason, in order to be qualified to recite mantra and to meditate, in order especially to develop compassion, the most important thing in life, for the numberless sentient beings we need to take the great initiation.

The next thing is to introduce the importance of practicing tantra, because this great initiation is kriya tantra. How this is beneficial, how this has incredible benefit to the sentient beings. The basic aim of practicing tantra is the need to free the sentient beings, to be able to free the sentient beings from all the suffering and the cause of suffering, and to lead them to enlightenment, to be able to bring them to enlightenment quicker. For that one needs to achieve enlightenment quicker.

So how does tantra practice makes these things happen? That is one basic important understanding, to have some general idea. I think maybe stop here tonight. (laughter) Sorry. I didn’t give enough time. So maybe stop here tonight.

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Dedicate that in all the lifetimes, without separating from the four Mahayana Dharma wheels: to be in the perfect environment, to practice the steps of the path to enlightenment, relying upon the holy being, having success of positive wishes or prayers, and having accumulated extensively always to have these four conditions all the time. Then, due to this, to train the mind in the three principal aspects of the path of enlightenment and then to be able to complete the two stages of tantra and in this way reach enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

Due to all the past, present and future merits accumulated by oneself and all the sentient beings, the three times merit accumulated by buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sentient beings, which are existing but are empty, may I, while it is existing, that is empty, achieve Compassionate Buddha’s enlightenment, while it is existing, that is empty, and lead all sentient beings, while they are existing, that are empty, to that enlightenment as quickly as possible, by myself alone.

Then dedicate to actualize, complete Lama Tsongkhapa's path in this life within one’s own mind, the family and all the students. Then to spread in the minds of all sentient beings, to a exist long time and spread in all the directions. This is a very important thing.

The way I did the dedication, the different points, this is one way to learn the important points of meditation, the very important things that the happiness of oneself and all sentient beings depends on. So, this is just to get an idea how to dedicate the best way, some important points.

Normally in our daily life, after we finish the practice, especially at the end of the day, then we should do this very important dedication. It is included in the dedication about the guru practice, that mentions it. It is good if one can do this, when one wishes to do a little bit more elaborate dedication, then bodhicitta and dedicating oneself to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, besides those two important dedications. Then the other important dedications, it can be done like this.

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