Kopan Course No. 33 (2000)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1257)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Thirty-third Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2000. The transcripts are lightly edited by Gordon McDougall. You can download the entire contents of these teachings as a PDF file.

You can also listen online to the teachings and read along with the unedited transcripts. Click on these links to access Days 1-5 and Days 6-10.

 

Lecture Six

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EMPTINESS: HOW THINGS APPEAR TO EXIST FROM THEIR OWN SIDE
[Although all causative phenomena] are in the reality transitory, by not seeing them as having that nature, by seeing them as permanent, as lasting a long time, by apprehending them in that way, the result is only suffering. The concept of permanence becomes basis for the arising of the discriminating mind: attachment, anger, all these disturbing negative emotional thoughts. That immediately disturbs your own mental continuum. Instead of giving peace to your own mental continuum, it only causes disturbance to your own mental continuum. And, also, it makes you to engage in negative karma and leave negative imprints on the mental continuum and that creates samsara. These, attachment, anger, ignorance, and then motivating karma, creates, produces samsara. Like this, the result is only suffering.

Without meditating on impermanence and death, without looking at the impermanent nature of phenomena, the result of this wrong concept leads only to suffering, to the endless suffering of samsara. You die and are reborn, die and are reborn, continuously, and experience the suffering of samsara. All phenomena, all existence, is divided into two types of phenomena: impermanent and permanent phenomena. Now think: it is not only these causative phenomena, even the uncaused phenomena, the unproduced permanent phenomena—all phenomena, including ‘I’, action, object, are merely labeled by the mind.

Meditate in this way. This is a good example, to meditate on emptiness. There’s a year. When we think of year in our mind, it appears as a real year. Not this ear. Not this one. ‘Y-e-a-r’. not ‘e-a-r’. Year. [RL] Later you can meditate also on the ear.

Anyway, by the way, as we meditate on impermanence, then meditate on emptiness. This is very powerful to cut delusions, the cause of the suffering. By ceasing the true cause of the suffering, by ceasing that, true suffering ceases.

So when we think of ‘year’, how does it appear? The year is an inherently existent year, a real year. In other words, it seems a real year appearing from there. A real year. If you put it in the simple explanation, according to how it appears to our mind and the way we apprehend “year’, the way we think of ‘year’ is as a real year, not merely labeled by the mind.

When you use the word “real” in your daily life, you should actually know what people are talking about, what you yourself are talking about. You are talking about the false, the real “I.” When you say “me,” “I’m really there” or “I’m really here” or “I really did it” or something like that—whenever we use those words, actually, if you can understand, if you can relate to teachings on emptiness, you’ll see that at that time you are talking about false “I.” Whatever object you think is real, you’re not talking about what exists; you’re talking about what doesn’t exist. You believe what doesn’t exist exists. What appears doesn’t exist. The way things appear to us, the way the I, phenomena appear to us, to our hallucinated mind, is not merely labeled by the mind. As long as it appears to you that way—not merely labeled by mind—they don’t exist. They’re totally empty there. They’re totally empty right there. From where it is appearing, it is totally empty there.

This is what I usually say. I am introducing this as my mudra, to express the object to be refuted, the false object. That which appears from its own side, which doesn’t exist from its own side.

So like this mandala here, it appears as something real, really real—that gold and those stones, whatever, this bright blue, bright red—this blue is blue from its own side, everything exists from its own side. This clock appears as existing from its own side. These flowers, all this yellow, all these appear as existing from their side. All these: all appear as existing from its side.

And this one exists from its side. [Rinpoche rings his bell] When you hear the sound, you don’t hear the sound. You don’t hear the merely labeled sound; you hear the sound not merely labeled by mind. When you hear the sound, you perceive it as not merely labeled by mind, so that’s false. It’s a false sound. That sound is totally empty there. Even though it is a merely-labeled sound you don’t hear it that way. Because the definition of sound is an object that is apprehended by the ear sense. It is whatever the ear sense apprehends, what it hears. This is the definition of sound. That is how it is explained in the very first debating subject, dura, at the very beginning of the path. So, that’s the definition, the object that your ear sense hears or listens to. That is the base. That’s the base.

EMPTINESS: THE “A” SEEMS TO APPEAR FROM ITS OWN SIDE
I mentioned the other day, probably the clearest example is the one that I gave one day, the letter “A.” Do you remember? First, you see the design. You see the design like this and then, afterwards, when you’re introduced that is “A.” and after that you believe and follow that person’s explanation. You believe and then your mind labels “A” and believe in that. Then there’s appearance that this is A. Only then, do you see this is A. You don’t see A as A at the very beginning. At the very beginning you don’t see this as A. When you see this design you don’t see this A at the same time. You don’t see A before the design. You don’t see A together at the same time as you see the design.

I think I might have mentioned this before. But, anyway, it’s useful to bring it up again. It’s very important logic; it’s a very important analysis to help us realize emptiness.

You think you’re seeing this design at the same time you’re seeing the A. First you know that from the process that I explained. You don’t see the A, that this is A, at the same time you see the design. It doesn’t happen together.

You can understand this from the experience when you were in kindergarten before you were taught that this is an A. At that time, you only see this design but you don’t have this appearance. You don’t have the appearance that this is an A and you don’t see that this is an A. Having the appearance that this is an A only comes after somebody introduces to you to it, after somebody teaches you, and then you believe in that and your own mind also labeled it as “A” and you believe in that. Only after that then it appears as A.

From the experience when you learnt the alphabet, you can see very clearly. You have to see the base first, and then that makes your mind label “A” and then it appears as an A, then you see it as an A. You can see from your own experience, it’s like that. And that is how we see everything in daily life. Not only just this A, not just the alphabet, but this is how we see everything. This is the process. This is the process of how we see anything.

So, all these phenomena that we see here—the statues and pillars, lights, everything—all these phenomena, everything that we see here, the procedure is like that. Everything is like that.

The light, for example, the phenomenon that functions to dispel darkness. You see that first. That’s the base. You see that first then, by seeing that, that thing which dispels darkness, then that causes your mind to make up the particular label “light.” By seeing that particular phenomenon, which has the function of dispelling darkness, causes your mind to make up the label “light.” What is “light” is only all—merely imputed because the base does function of dispelling darkness, so that is “light.” You relate to that, then due to the existence of that base, you made up label “light.” And then it is the same with other phenomena that function as the base to dispel darkness. You label them all “light.”

Whatever the mind does, whatever the conscious mind does, our mind makes up the label “I”—“I am thinking.” Or when the mind is unhappy, even though mind is not I, but when the mind is unhappy, our mind makes up the label “I am unhappy.” When the mind is happy our mind makes up the label “I am happy.” So like that.

It’s the same thing with the body. Even though the body is not I, depending on what function the body does, what activity what the body does, continuously, our mind make up the label “I am doing this and that.” So it’s like that. Geshe-la also mentioned this yesterday, so it’s the same thing. Even though the collection of those two, even though that’s not the I, but because that’s the base which can receive the label “I,” the valid base, because the base is there mind makes up the label “I.” Then, whatever activity the aggregates does, the base does, then we make up the label “I am doing this and that.”

So you can see here, very clearly, how it is merely imputed by the mind. It is not non-existent. It exists. But it exists in mere name; merely imputed by the mind. It is the same thing with this light.

Maybe I’d better go back. I want to clarify once more why you don’t see it together. When you see the base, this design, this “A”, why you don’t see the A at the same time. I mentioned about experience, how you gradually come to see the A. The other thing that, when you see this base, this design, if you’re seeing the A at the same time, you can understand from the process that I explained before. To be able to see that this is “A” there has to be appearance that it is A. In order to have the appearance that this is A your mind also has to label A first.

Now here is the question. Seeing the base of A seeing this base, this design, and the A at the same time, then the question comes: when does appearance of “A” happen? If you think the appearance of the base and the labeling all happens at the same time, the big question is here. That would mean that by seeing this design like this you don’t label “A.” It doesn’t cause you to label “A.”

For your mind to be able to choose this particular label “A,” you have to see something first. You have to see something first, the design, which causes your mind to choose the particular label “A.” There must be a preliminary; you have to see something before.

Without any of those designs which can receive the label “A,” upon which can be imputed the label of “A,” without seeing these designs, these particular designs, either this way or this way, [you can’t have the label.] No other design causes your mind to choose the particular label “A.” You have to see either this one or this one. It is this particular design that which causes the mind to choose the particular label “A.” You have to see something, a particular design, that causes the mind to give this particular label “A.”

So, therefore, this is the process. Before you put the label, before you see the label, you have to see the base first. That’s the preliminary. First the base comes into existence and then the label comes into existence by imputing.

Seeing the A comes after seeing the base. You can meditate on emptiness like this. After your mind imputed the “A,” the reality is by seeing that your mind merely imputed “A.” That’s it. So now, here, after the imputation, after your mind imputed “A,” when the A appears back to you it doesn’t appear back to you as merely imputed by mind.

It appears to you the A is there. The A is there on this design. You see the A on that design. You don’t see the A as being merely imputed by your mind when it appears back to you. You see the A as being there. I’m not talking about the blackboard or the paper. You see the A on that design, on that drawing or the design, like that. You see the A on that design. You see A there. ‘There’, in the sense, on that design, on the base. That’s what’s wrong. That’s false view. That’s the object to be refuted. That’s example of object of refutation. That’s what you have to realize is empty. It is the absence of that; it is the emptiness of “A.”

You see the real A on that design, but when you analyze it, where is it? You visualize the other one. I tried to make an “A” here [GL] or here [RL] or here [GL, RL] anyway, this little bit longer maybe. [RL] Anyway, I’m joking!

The analysis is the same. This line is not A. This line [RL] this is not A. This line is not A. You understand? This piece is not A. This piece is not A. [RL] All together it is not A. All together, the design, is not A. That is the base. That’s not A because that’s the base to be labeled “A.” As I mentioned before, you see the base first, you see the A later. You see the A afterwards. They’re two different things; they’re not one. They’re two different phenomena. They exist differently.

As I mentioned the other day, I’ and aggregates don’t exist separately but they exist differently. So, therefore, this design is the base to be labeled “A” not A itself.

So, where is the A? Where is the A? There’s no A there. There’s no A here. There’s no A there on this piece. There’s no A on this. Where this is drawn on a blackboard or paper there’s an A. But on this design there’s no A. On the base there’s no A but on the paper, on the blackboard, there’s an A. What is that A? It’s nothing but what is merely imputed by the mind. That exists.

What is the A? What is the A is what is merely labeled by the mind, what is merely imputed by the mind. Why the A exists, why it exists is because there’s the base, the design is there. It’s better to think this way: why it exists in the first place is because the base exists. Then after that is the question, what it is? Nothing. The A is nothing except what is merely labeled by mind.

And then third question is where is it? Wherever there’s a base. Not on the base but wherever there’s a base, there’s an A.

So like that, the answer comes. Three important questions that help, three important questions that makes clear how the phenomenon A is never the A we believe in; it is never the way it appears to us. It is never that one; is not that one at all. That’s totally false. If you look for it, you cannot find it there. It looks like it’s there. It looks like you can find the A. It looks like you can find ‘A’ there on the design but, if you look for it, you cannot find it. If you analyze it you cannot find it.

As we haven’t realized the emptiness of the A, the ultimate nature of the A, when we do not analyze it, that’s one thing. And as we do not practice mindfulness and recognize the appearance of A, it appears that there’s a real A un-differentiable from the design, with the base. The A appears from its own side above this design. On this design there’s an A appearing from there.

First of all, not having realized the ultimate nature of the A, that this is empty there, that this real A appearing from there is empty. It’s totally empty there. It’s non-existent there. Not having realized that the A is empty of existing from its own side, not realizing this and not practicing mindfulness, that this is a hallucination, that the A appears from there, un-differentiable from the base or from above the base, that particular design.

This is only the point of view of the hallucinated mind. This appearance is only from the view, from the perception, of the hallucinated mind. It is according to the view of a hallucinated mind, not according to your wisdom. Not according to your wisdom realizing the emptiness. The other mind is wisdom. According to that, this is totally non-existent. This A is totally non-existent, totally empty there. It appears like this, as if it is findable on that base, on that design, when we do not analyze it

Now you can get some idea when we say “alphabet,” when we see the A, in our view there is a real A there on that design. There’s a real A appearing from there. What I was trying to say before, as an example, as I introduced those analyzes, when you look for that real A, which means appearing from there, existing from its own side. When you analyze you don’t find it there.

Neither the merely imputed “I” nor the real I; neither the merely imputed “A” nor the real A, or the A appearing from its own side, it doesn’t exist there when you look for it. When you analyze, it’s not there. When we do not analyze it appears as if it is there on that base.

EMPTINESS: THE I IS NEITHER ONE WITH NOR SEPARATE FROM THE AGGREGATES
Anyway, that real A appearing to us, that is another example of the object to be refuted, what is called in Tibetan gag-cha. For example, to be able to realize the emptiness of the I through this analysis, we use the reasoning called “one or many.” Put it this way, by reasoning, by using the logical reason, we analyze whether it exists either as one or it exists separately. By logical reasoning we prove that it is neither oneness with the base nor does it exist separately. I think, maybe. [GL, RL] At this point of reasoning—neither is it one nor does it exist separately—we’ll have some rest. [RL] We’ll have some rest in emptiness. [RL]

[Rinpoche holds a discussion in Tibetan]

What I was saying before, among the many lines of reasoning, there are different logical arguments used to meditate on emptiness. The one basic common one is meditating on emptiness by reasoning that nothing exists either as oneness with the base or separately from the base, in the Tibetan, chik du dor-je ten-tsik. It sounds like many but is not. If you just think of only the word of translating then it looks like many, then it will create confusion. That’s not how you start first; whether the object is “one or many” comes later. That analysis comes later. [Tibetan] Whether it exists, the reasoning that it doesn’t exist either oneness or separately [Tibetan] it sounds many but is not. There’s a reasoning called “one or many” but actually that is the second part. Sometimes if you only think of the Tibetan word [Tibetan] it usually means “many.” But if you translate just without thinking of the meaning, without thinking of the way of reasoning, without knowing that, it will be wrong translation. But the second part is correct.

Anything which exists has to be either oneness [with the base] or exist separately [from it]. For example, this mug cannot exist in oneness with the aggregates with my body, with aggregates of body, speech and mind. The mug has to exist either in oneness with the aggregates or separately. Of course the mug doesn’t exist in oneness with the aggregates of my body, but it exists separately. So it is like that.

What this line of reasoning is saying is this. If the I is inherently existent, if the way the I appears to you is something real, in a sense appearing from its own side, of existing from its own side, of not merely labeled by mind—if this is true, then it should be, it should exist either [in oneness with the aggregates or separately from them.]

Maybe I should mention the outline, the analysis of the four vital or important points.

The analysis of the four very important points is this. The first one is the important point of recognizing the object to be refuted. This is a vital point, recognizing the object of refutation, the object which is to be refuted. “Object of refutation” and “Object to be refuted”—is it the same meaning? In Tibetan, it is gag-cha, the object which is to be refuted. So, “object of refutation” is the same.

The first point means recognizing the object of ignorance, the object that the mind grasps or apprehends as inherently existent. The important point is to recognize that this object of ignorance, that which is hallucination, doesn’t exist.

Then second important point is kyappa (?) definite pervasion. The important point, the understanding is that it’s not oneness with base. Anyway, we’ll just go through the outline.

Then the next important point is the understanding that it doesn’t exist separately from that.

What we call the real I seems to appear from there, existing from its own side, not merely labeled by mind. You recognize that, which is the object of ignorance. Just as you recognize the enemy who always harms you, or thief who always steals your things, you recognize that. Then after you recognize that, whether you throw bombs at it that, or hit it with big hammer on the head, you use whatever way is the most to destroy the enemy.

You try to eradicate ignorance by realizing object of ignorance, object that your ignorance apprehends, which is the inherently existent I, to realize that it is empty. After you recognize that then, like weapon as I mentioned before, then the important point the definite pervasion. If this real I exists, then it has to be oneness with the aggregates or it has to exist separately.

If it exists, if there is a real I, and analyzing if it is oneness with the aggregates, comes here, whether it is one or many. It only here comes, not with the first one, but with the second important point of definite pervasion. What is definite pervasion? It is either that this inherently existent ‘I’, if this exists, must be either one with the aggregates or it must exist separately from them. What is definite, the important point of definite pervasion is this. It has to be either, if this real I that appears to really exist then it must be either one with the aggregates or it must exist separately from them.

EMPTINESS: THE I IS NOT ONE WITH THE AGGREGATES
If you think that it is oneness with the aggregates, then you can analyze that it is not oneness with aggregates. If you think the I is oneness with the aggregates then this analysis comes. In that way, in that case, because the I is one with the aggregates, there are five aggregates: the aggregates of form, feeling, cognition, compounding aggregates and the mind of cognition. There is the principal consciousness. Generally, we’re talking about six consciousnesses. And then there are fifty-one mental factors. Feelings and cognitions are from the fifty-one factors. So the feeling and cognition they are counted there. Their name is precisely mentioned.

So the rest, from the fifty-one mental factors, all of the rest without counting feeling and cognition, all the rest are labeled [Tibetan], feeling, cognition or the discriminating thoughts, discriminating the objects: this is table, this is mug, this is mandala, this is pot.

From fifty-one mental factors you take out the feeling and cognition. All the rest are labeled ‘compounding aggregates’, du-je kyi pung-po, compounding aggregates. Then the last one, fifth one, is consciousness. So there are five aggregates like this.

If this real I appearing from there, if it is oneness with the aggregates then the mistake that can rise is this? Because the I is one, therefore all the aggregates must become one. Either that, or because there are five aggregates so there would be many Is, many selves. There would be five selves. The body has many parts. The body has many parts: the limbs, head, the trunk. Even in the arms there are all these pieces.

There are many atoms, so the I would be so many. The same logic follows. If the real I appears not merely labeled by mind, if it’s oneness with the aggregates, then all these aggregates become one because the I is one. That’s not true. There are five aggregates. Or there would be many Is, five Is as there are five aggregates. There would be many of those Is.

Taking the four aggregates of form, you can use the same reasoning. Eliminating the different parts of the body, you go down to the atoms. There are so many atoms. There would be that if this I is oneness with the aggregates, with that number of atoms, there would be that many Is or selves.

The feeling aggregate can be divided into the three types of different feelings, so there will be three different Is. And because there forty-nine different types of compounded aggregates, there would be forty-nine Is. From fifty-one mental factors, we take out two. The rest is forty-nine. So there’ll be forty-nine Is. So there are all these mistakes. There are six consciousnesses. If this I is oneness with the aggregates of consciousness then there are six Is, so that is a mistake. All these mistakes will rise like that.

This is not according with your experience. It would mean that there are so many beings, so many selves. The sense consciousnesses and then the sixth one, mental consciousness, all those Is. There are so many selves there and then all these atoms of the selves.

Then when you buy an air ticket, how many Is do you need to buy tickets for? You have to buy an air ticket for each I. [RL] So many Is!

Even starting with the five aggregates, there are five Is so you would have to buy five air tickets. There are five people, five Is. If you can think all the atoms are I, it becomes so many. In the plane the numbers would be incorrect, the number of passengers would not be correct [GL] There would be many billions of billions of passengers travelling. [RL GL]

So, anyway, many mistakes could arise. Then many problems can happen, if you buy an air ticket for only one person. [RL]

Then, how many hairs you have, then all these are I. If the I is one with the aggregates, then however many hairs you have, there must be at least that many Is. Then, when you shed the hair, if you burn the hair, what happens with the I? What happens to all those Is? All those hairs are people. All those hairs are oneness with the I so all those hairs are people, sentient beings. So you’re killing all these sentient beings. [GL] You’re burning all these sentient beings. So then the problem is, when the body ceases, because the body is one with the I, the I would cease, the self would cease.

Do all these Is experience the results of karma? Do they experience happiness and suffering? Do all those hairs, all those aggregates of form, all those atoms experience karma, experience happiness and suffering? That means this I is experiencing karma. All these Is are experiencing karma, the karma when conception takes place, when the consciousness joins with the fertilized egg, that is the result of karma. That is a good result and the cause of that is virtue. So consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, that’s the result, and that good rebirth was the result. The cause was created before, which was the reason why the consciousness took place on the fertilized egg.

The reason exists before the birth. That’s why it’s happening. That’s why the consciousness is taking place on the fertilized egg, taking human body. So karma exists before the birth. The cause of the birth, the karma, existed before the birth. That means there’s a continuation of the mind. There must have been a previous moment of the mind, which just took place on the fertilized egg. So that previous moment of mind was the one that was created the karma, the cause to receive human body. It is the continuation of the same consciousness, but which is the future, which takes place, to take place on the fertilized egg.
The cause of much of the experience of this life was created in the past. If all these Is which are oneness with all the atoms in the body, oneness with every single hair, then whenever they experience happiness or suffering, the cause has been created before. It has to have been created before that. So that means every I would have past lives. So these mistakes would arise.

None of the physical body came from past life. It does not continue to the next life. The physical body did not come from past life and does not go to the next life. In that case, mistakes arise on the basis of all these Is. Mistakes arise because this invalidates karma. If there’s no past and no future lives, then there’s no karma. These mistakes will arise. However, there are many analyzes; it goes on and on.

Seeing the real I existing from its own side, as oneness with the aggregates, all these mistakes arise, so it’s not oneness with aggregates.

EMPTINESS: NOR IS THE I SEPARATE FROM THE AGGREGATES
Now, the next one is whether the I exists separately from these aggregates.

If the I exists separately from the aggregates then many mistakes arise. Then you don’t need a job. Why would you need a job? If I existed separately from aggregates why would you need a job because you don’t have body. Why would you need to go to school? Why you need to go to university? All those many years of study, what was it for? Normally it is to get a job and earn more money. Because you have a body you have to earn living, you have to earn money. You need money to take care of this body, for food, clothing and shelter for this body. You have to give food to this body, and shelter and clothing, hundreds of pairs shoes, [GL] hundreds of hats, hundreds of jackets, hundreds of pairs of trousers, underskirts, whatever. Many hundreds each year, many hundreds of pairs of shoes: winter shoes, summer shoes, outside shoes, inside shoes [GL] mountain shoes, so many. That’s because you have the body.

That shows that the I doesn’t exist separately from the body. If the I existed separately from the body you don’t need to go to school. You don’t need to go to college, university. You don’t need a degree. What for? You don’t need all these things if the I were separate from the aggregates. You don’t need shelter. You don’t need food. You don’t need dresses. You don’t need motorcycles [GL] which make a huge noise. You don’t a need passport. You don’t need to go through immigration. You don’t need to pay money. You don’t need anything. If the I existed separately from the aggregates you don’t need all these things. You don’t need an airplane. The I doesn’t need to go by plane. Why it needs all these things is because the I doesn’t exist separately from the aggregates.

In our daily life, the experience is that. In twenty-four hours, depending on the aggregates, whether it is the door of the body, the mind or the speech, you always impute the I. In the morning when you wake up, then you label, “I’m waking up.” When the aggregates of the body are getting dressed then your mind makes up the label, “I am getting dressed.” When you wash the body, then you think, “I am washing.” Your mind imputes “I’m washing.” When you have breakfast, when the body’s aggregates are doing the action of eating, then your mind labels, “I am eating.” When your body is going for meditation session in the morning, maybe, with a sleepy mind, when the body is going for a meditation session then your mind merely imputes, “I’m going for a meditation session.” Then when the body is doing the action of sitting then mind merely makes up the label “I am sitting.” When the mind is transforming into the path, into lam-rim, meditating on lam-rim, then one’s own mind merely imputes, “I am meditating.”

So it’s the same. When the body is hungry, when the stomach is hungry, when the food has gone out and then the stomach is hungry, the mind merely imputes, “I am hungry.” After sitting for a long time in my talk, [GL] when the body aches, when the knees are complaining, then the mind merely imputes, “I am tired,” “I am having pain.” All these are merely imputed one after another, continuously for twenty-four hours. “I am this,” “I am this,” the mind is merely imputing. So like that. Twenty-four hours a day it is like that.

The I doesn’t exist separately from the aggregates. The I exists in relation to, in connection with, the aggregates. The I exists in connection with the aggregates. It doesn’t exist separately from the aggregates. Therefore, this I that appears to you, and that you believe in, as a real one in the sense of existing from its own side, doesn’t exist. The one you believe in, which you have been believing in from beginningless rebirths up to now, that it is true, that is totally non-existent.

So, this I is neither oneness with the aggregates, nor does it exist separately from this body, so that means that this I is totally non-existent there. This I that you’ve been grasping onto, that you’ve been believing in, that you’ve been holding onto from beginningless rebirths up to now, is totally non-existent. You can see this after all this analysis.

Seeing the totally non-existent I, the totally non-existent, totally empty I, that, right there, is entering the middle way. That time you are seeing the middle way, devoid of the two extremes, nihilism and eternalism.

EMPTINESS: YEAR IS MERELY IMPUTED
Since I brought this topic I want to mention these two things and then I’ll stop. This is another good meditation, this way of meditating. There’s gross dependent arising and there’s subtle dependent arising and this is a meditation on subtle dependent arising.

It’s like this. A year is twelve months. First, you think of a year. [RL] First you think of a year, that is normally how you think of a year. You think this year I came to Kopan and you think like that. You think this year I’m going to become enlightened. [GL, RL]

The main thing to focus is year. While you’re thinking this you analyze how the year appears to you, how you see the year. Year not ear! [GL, RL] Year. How the year appears to you. How you see the year. [RL] While you’re thinking I’m going to be enlightened this year, okay. Think about how the year appears to you.

Okay, so now there’s twelve months. Now we analyze what is year? We question what is the year. It’s nothing other except what is merely imputed by the mind, by one’s own mind, okay.
Nothing except what is merely imputed by the mind. Why the year exists is the next question. Why does it exist? That is because there are twelve months.

What is called a year—those twelve months—is the base to be labeled “year.” It is the same as I mentioned before. That’s not a year. Those twelve months are the base to be labeled “year.” The base, the twelve months, and the label, the year, are two different phenomena. They’re two different phenomena. And that year, the year that exists, is what is merely labeled by mind because there are twelve months. So what the year is, is an extremely subtle phenomenon. It is totally empty, that which is totally empty from its own side.

It exists, but it is totally empty from its own side. It is merely imputed by mind, totally empty from its own side. The year is totally empty of existing from its own side; it is empty of inherently existing. So, it is unbelievably subtle how it exists, that phenomenon which exists in mere name, merely labeled by mind.

It’s so fine, so subtle. You cannot say that it’s totally non-existent. It is not non-existent but is like it is non-existent. It’s so subtle. That phenomenon is so subtle that it’s not totally non-existent, but it’s like it’s non-existent; so fine, so subtle. It’s on the borderline between existing and not existing. The mode of its existence is so subtle.

It is so unbelievably subtle that it is very easy to fall into nihilism, thinking that it is totally non-existent. This phenomena “year” is totally non-existent. It’s so easy. It is so subtle that it’s easy to slip into the nihilism, believing that it doesn’t exist. It’s unbelievably fine, the way year exists.

EMPTINESS: SEEING LIFE AS LIKE AN ILLUSION
All phenomena are like that, not just the year. Some may think I’m only talking about a year but it’s not only to the year. The I exists in the same way. And the body and mind, all the phenomena including hell, enlightenment, everything—the way phenomena exist is like that, like this example here. It is extremely fine, so subtle—so subtle that it is so easy to slip into nihilism. Many famous meditators in Tibet made that mistake. They thought they had realized emptiness but actually they got it totally wrong. By meditating on emptiness they fell into nihilism. They were unable to see the middle way and fell into nihilism. It is so difficult. To see the middle way is so difficult. It’s so subtle how things exist, extremely subtle.

This is how we should see all phenomena. This is how we should see the I, everything, all phenomena like that.

By seeing the year is empty of existing from its own side, then you realize the ultimate truth of year, then you realize conventional truth of the year, how the year is existing and in mere name, being merely imputed by the mind. When you realize how everything, including the I, the aggregates, the sense objects, how you see them is like an illusion, like a dream, then there’s nothing to cling to. There’s no base to cling to. You don’t find any reason to get angry. You don’t find any reason to grasp, to cling. This is what you realize.

Even though the year or whatever phenomenon you are looking at still appears to exist from its own side, it still has that appearance, what your mind realizes is that this appearance is a total hallucination, that the year is totally empty of inherent existence. You realize that the year is merely imputed by mind but when it appears to you it still seems inherently existent.

Until you become enlightened you have this hallucination projected by the negative imprint left on the mental continuum by the concept of inherent existence, ignorance. Except, when you become arya being, at that time, when your mind is doing meditation of the equipoise concentration on emptiness, only during that meditation state you don’t have that hallucination.

That hallucination is not cut, but it is absorbed for the time being. Meditating on wisdom like that you don’t have that hallucination. Seeing emptiness in equipoise meditation is like “putting water into water.” During the time of the meditation you have absorbed the dual view. So through that wisdom there is not that hallucination during that time, when you have wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, when you achieve the aryan path. Otherwise when you are not in equipoise meditation then you have this hallucination.

While you have the subtle negative imprints left by the concept of inherent existence, these objects, she-dip, the obscuration to directly see all phenomena, while one has that then there’s hallucination except when you become an arya being and when you are in equipoise meditation on emptiness. You still have that hallucination but since you have the understanding that it is empty, that it is not true, there is no grasping, clinging to that.

It is like you see a mirage as water but you know that there can’t be any water in the desert. You came through that, or you are told by other people, and you know that there is no water but still you have the mirage, as if there’s water. So it’s like that. There’s the appearance but there’s no conception that there’s water, no belief that there’s real water, that it’s water. It appears inherently existent but you realize that it’s not true. So, therefore, you don’t see any point in anger or attachment to it. There is no base for it.

If you see a beautiful man or woman, but you recognize that this is a dream. You know this is not true. You recognize this dream as a dream. Even though you have the appearance, there’s no belief that this is real so there is no discriminating thought, no anger and attachment. There’s no point because it’s not true.

EMPTINESS: A YEAR IS MERELY IMPUTED
After this analysis, you see that a year is something totally different than the year you’ve always believed in. What has been appearing to you and what you have been believing in as a year is totally the opposite. That real year that appears from there, from its own side, is totally false. There is no such thing. Before, when you thought of “year,” it always appeared as something real from out there, and you apprehended that as true. That is the object to be refuted. That’s the gag-cha, the object to be refuted.

However, the year that does exist is this one—the one I’ve just explained—that which is merely imputed by mind.

So now, it’s the same with each of the twelve months. Months are exactly the same. A month is made up of four weeks, right? Four weeks? Three weeks or four weeks? Huh?

Okay, four weeks. So now, when we analyze a month, when we meditate on a month, it’s exactly the same. Four weeks is the base to be labeled “month.” So, there is the base and “month” is the label. There’s no other month except what is merely imputed by the mind.

Because there’s four weeks, because there’s that base, so the month is merely imputed by the mind. Because there’s four weeks. Again, the month is totally empty of the real month existing from its own side. It is totally empty. It exists, but it’s totally empty. It exists but it’s totally empty. It exists merely imputed by the mind. Again, that is so subtle when you analyze what a month is.

Now, a week is seven days. Because there is seven days. What that “week” is nothing else, nothing other, except what is merely imputed by the mind. Is nothing other what is merely imputed by mind. So, again, it exists in mere name and is empty from its side, so the way it exists becomes an extremely subtle phenomenon.

And now a day. A week is like that, so now a day. When we think of a day, how day appears to us, it appears as a real day, something existing from its own side. “Day” doesn’t appear to us as merely labeled by mind. It doesn’t appear to us like that, even though the way the day exists is merely imputed by mind.

So, now, again, twenty-four hours. Because there’s twenty-four hours, a day exists. What it is, is what is merely imputed by the mind. So again “day” is the unification of emptiness and dependent arising. It exists in mere name, merely imputed by mind. Therefore, it is empty of existing from its own side.

Now the hour. Again, when we think of “hour” we think of a real hour. How many hours is this talk? [GL] [RL] I think five hundred hours! Anyway, especially when you realize I’m going to teach one more hour, how will that hour appear to you? [GL] [RL] It would appear an even more inherently existent hour! [GL RL] A very painful hour! [GL] [RL] But it could be helpful to realize emptiness. [RL] It could make it easier to recognize the object to be refuted, the hour.

Anyway, how many minutes are there? Sixty minutes. How does the hour exist? It is because there is sixty minutes. Those sixty minutes are the base, and “hour” is the label. They are two different phenomena. What is “hour” is what is merely imputed by the mind. Again, it is totally empty of the real hour existing from its own side. That is what “hour” is in the reality, how the hour exists. It exists in mere name, while it is totally empty from its own side.

So now, how many seconds in one minute? Sixty seconds. [RL] Again, why there’s a minute is because there’s sixty seconds. That’s the base, and “minute” is the label; they are two different phenomena. And “minute” is what is merely imputed by the mind, therefore, it is totally empty from its own side. It becomes extremely subtle phenomena. Not that it “becomes” to our mind, you see. This is how the minute is but we don’t see it that way. Now, this is how we see something which is an extremely subtle phenomena.

So now, is this a second or not? [Rinpoche snaps his fingers] Huh? What? Less. This is less than a second? [GL] A second is longer than this? [Rinpoche snaps fingers] The clock, tac, tac, tac, [GL] each one second. So this is same. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] What? This is less than second? A second is longer? You think like that? Huh?

[Student: inaudible]

Rinpoche:
One one-thousandth of a second? So you mean you split that second in thousandths? [GL]

[Student: inaudible]

Rinpoche:
A-le, one-thousandth. What is the meaning? [Student: inaudible] [GL] But there’s no meaning of the thousand? [Student: inaudible] Just to create some base? [RL GL] Just to say that it has a base. The second has a base: one one-thousandth. [RL]

So, anyway, it’s the same. Why “second” exists is because there are so many spilt seconds. There are many split seconds. So that is the base, and “second” is the label. They are two different phenomena. What is “second” is merely imputed by the mind. It is imputed in connection to all those split seconds. I don’t know how many split seconds.

The four different schools of Buddhist philosophy have different ideas about [the smallest things. The lower schools claim] that there are atoms that don’t have particles, and it’s the same with time. There are different views on that. I think the Prasangika school says that even particular atoms depend on another particular atom. And similarly, different schools have different way of explaining time.

So, anyway, all those split seconds are the base and “second” is the label. And that is merely imputed by the mind so, therefore “second” does not exist from its own side; it is totally empty.

This is to get an idea, starting from the year, down to the seconds, then including split seconds, all that they are is nothing except by what is merely imputed by mind. They are totally empty from their own side. This is true of all phenomena. It is exactly like that, all the phenomena are the same. We have to understand that all phenomena are the same in that way. That’s the real nature of how phenomena exist.

EMPTINESS: THE AGGREGATES ARE MERELY IMPUTED
This is the same way that the I exists. The I exists because there are aggregates. The base is the aggregates and the base has a label. What the I is, is what is merely imputed by mind so, therefore, that’s totally non-existent, it’s totally empty from its own side. So, again, it’s an extremely subtle phenomenon. It exists but it’s extremely subtle. The way of existing is unbelievably subtle.

It’s the same with the aggregates. Again, the aggregates in general are merely imputed. How they exist is merely imputed by the mind because there is the collection of the five aggregates. How the aggregate of form exists is because there is the collection of all these parts of the body. So aggregate of form is an extremely subtle phenomenon; it is what is merely imputed by the mind; it is nothing more than a collection of all these parts of the body.

All those what you call head, legs, hands, all these are nothing except what is merely imputed on collections of those parts, and what even those parts are, is what is merely imputed by mind depending on another base. So it goes, down to atoms. What is an atom? An atom is also merely imputed by mind because there are particular atoms. So the particular atoms are merely imputed by mind because there are other particles.

EVERYTHING IS MERELY LABELED
So starting from the I, go through everything down to the particular atoms—the whole thing. Nothing exists from its own side. Nothing has any inherent existence. Everything is totally empty right there. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They exist in mere name. Starting from the I down to the particular atoms, everything exists in mere name.

Starting from the ‘I’ down to each mental factor and consciousness, all those are also merely imputed by mind, depending on another base. Those different thoughts that have different functions, those minds are merely imputed different labels, “this” and “that.” They are different thoughts which do different functions, perceiving different objects. Go down to the seconds of consciousness and the split seconds of consciousness. Starting from the I, everything what they are, is what is merely imputed by mind. All these are totally empty. Starting from the ‘I’, down to the split second of consciousness, everything is totally empty. That’s why the Buddha said in the teachings, [Tibetan] “Everything exists in mere name, by being merely imputed by the mind.”

Tak-yer, means “exists in mere name,” existing merely imputed by the mind. Yer is “exist” and tak is “labeled.” Everything exists being merely imputed by the mind. I made it a little longer in English.

So the conclusion is that everything is empty. [GL] The meditation is from the year down to the split second, then ‘I’ down to the atoms. Meditate on how everything is a label placed on a base and how even the base is labeled on another base, like that. The aggregates are the base to label I, but even the general aggregates are a label is imputed on the collection of five aggregates. They become a label and then it exists on base.

So like that, everything, from the I down, exists in mere name, merely imputed by mind. This meditation is very important for not thinking that the I is the aggregates. It’s very important to think that there are the aggregates and the I is merely imputed because there is that base, the aggregates. When you think this way it differentiates the aggregates and label “I” then you don’t think the I is there. At that time, you don’t think the I is on the aggregates. That is a very important point. That’s a very important point to get to appear to your mind. To get the idea that there’s no I on the aggregates. When you get that feeling, then it’s easy to see that the I isn’t here. It exists in mere name, merely imputed by the mind. It’s empty. That’s the idea you should get.

Then like this, it’s similar with all the rest of phenomena. This is very effective. What you discover is how these phenomena exist, what the reality is, which is something totally different to what you have been believing, to what has been appearing, up until now.

If you can see the differences, then you’re able to distinguish between what is the false and what is the truth. You’re able to see what is false in your life and what is the truth. With this realization or recognition you don’t cheat yourself. Then you don’t get deceived by these hallucinations. You don’t get deceived. Otherwise, what you falsely believe is true is like a bad friend. It is like a bad friend. You believe him to be good and you trust him and then he cheats you.

You believe that all these appearances really exist, and then, by clinging to them that, that makes delusions to continually arise and you create karma, die and are reborn in samsara without end, suffering in samsara without end.

This meditation on emptiness is the path, it is the only way, to directly cut the delusions, cause of samsara. Only by this way will we get liberated from the sufferings of samsara.

I’ll stop here.

[Mandala offering]

[Dedication]

So, goodnight—in emptiness. [RL, GL] Thank you.

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