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 Six: Labeling Appearances

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

The original subject is the equanimity that is the foundation of bodhicitta, which is generated by training the mind in the seven techniques, Mahayana cause and effect, realizing that sentient beings are your mother, remembering their kindness, repaying their kindness, great loving kindness, and then great compassion, the special brave attitude, and bodhicitta.

As I mentioned before, the basic problem here is the rising discriminating thought of anger, attachment, discriminating some sentient beings closer and some far. It seems that the basic thing is, because of grasping at the happiness of this life, the happiness of this life is so important. Even for the person who has faith in reincarnation, that there is life coming after this and also past lives, even if the person has faith in the reincarnation, because of the basic problem, one hasn’t cut off the attachment clinging to this life’s happiness. In the mind, this life’s happiness is so much more important in the long run, all the way up to enlightenment, all the future lives, which are difficult to see. In the mind there is the attitude that this life’s happiness is more important than all those others up to enlightenment.

As there’s attachment clinging to this life’s happiness, when somebody interferes with that happiness, anger arises. You understand how it happens in your mind.

If there is no clinging to the happiness of this life, to the happiness of having comfort, receiving material, reputation, or praise, even if somebody interferes, or when there is discomfort, when somebody doesn’t give you material or presents there is no problem. Even if you normally receive birthday presents, the year that you’re practicing controlling the mind and attachment, nobody gives you a birthday present on your birthday. In the year you cut off the attachment clinging to the happiness of this life, on your birthday even if no one gives you a present, even one flower, or one candle, or a cup of tea, even if nobody said, “Happy birthday,” there is no anger or upsetness. Even if the family gave birthday presents to other people on the same day. For you, the condition of not receiving materials from others is not a distraction to the mind. Getting materials, not getting materials—it is equal, whatever happens. Then the same thing—when there is bad reputation or criticism, you are not bothered, there is no anger arising as there is no attachment clinging to or seeking happiness, reputation, or praise.

In fact, you are even happier, because comfort, receiving materials, praise, and reputation make the mind confused, they make it develop delusion. Those things delude the mind. As the disturbing thought arises, it obscures the mind. You see the shortcomings of those things, so your mind is happier with the opposite conditions. Like this, the eight worldly dharmas are equalized for your mind.

Particularly we think, first of all, that the happiness of this life, the day-to-day life happiness, is so important—each hour, each present happiness is important. We have attitude, so we have attachment clinging to that. That’s why even the person who benefited you in the past but today harms you and disturbs your happiness and your wishes becomes a big disturbance—because of thinking of this moment’s happiness as very important, and the grasping and attachment clinging to this moment’s happiness. This is what I think.

Because of that, if somebody bothers me now, even if he helped this morning, or in the past months, years, I only think of the attitude that considers this moment’s happiness important. That attitude is there continuously; that is the main concentration. This is the expectation or the main concentration. It becomes a big distraction. Anger arises, and one discriminates that one as the enemy. What the person is doing is harm, that one is the enemy. That’s how one discriminates. First one discriminates the action, what the person does, and afterwards one discriminates that as harm, and that becomes the reason to prove that that person is the enemy.

It is the same thing with the person who benefits, who gives help, who gives comfort, who gives materials, praise, or reputation. If there’s attachment seeking this happiness, then you discriminate what the person does as benefit or help. Then your own creation, your own discrimination is used as a reason to prove that that person is a friend.

In other words—take the person who is angry at you, who dislikes you, who hates you, and the person who likes you. The person who hates you criticizes you, talking about your mistakes, faults, and incapabilities—blaming you. Then there is another person who likes you and who praises you. First of all there is the perceiver, the one who discriminates. There is the perceiver of the enemy or friend. The discriminator, being oneness with the selfish mind. Being oneness with the selfish mind, living life with a selfish mind, oneself, “I” is not oneness with the mind, it is differentiable, but I’m putting it this way according to our attitude. So then there is attachment clinging to the happiness of this life.

These are the doers, the creators, the ones who make harm and benefit, who discriminate praising as help, and criticizing as harm. That person who praises is a friend, that person who harms is an enemy.

Out of this attitude, on that person’s words, you label, “This is good, helpful, this is good.” Then after you label that “good,” you have the appearance of good. On that person’s words, “You are so beautiful,” or “You are so wise,” you label, “It is good,” “This is nice.” After you have labeled “nice,” you have the appearance of nice or good. Because of this, you label the other person “friend.” Right after you label the other person friend, there is the appearance of friend to you. A friend appears to you.

What this person does is what the selfish mind wants, what the attachment seeking happiness for this life, clinging to the happiness of this life wants. What this other person is doing to you is not what the selfish mind wants. The selfish mind always wants the best for the self, always seeks the best happiness for the self. The selfish mind wants happiness for self, worldly concern, happiness of this life—nothing else but the happiness of this life. It’s seeking only the happiness of this life. What this person is doing is not what the selfish mind wants—it’s the complete opposite. What this person is doing is not what worldly concern wants, it’s the complete opposite of what the worldly concern wants. Because what this person is doing is the opposite of the selfish mind and worldly concern, with this attitude, with this thought, you label that person’s criticizing, talking about one’s fault, as “bad.” “This is bad.” After you label, “This is bad,” there is the appearance of bad to you. On these words “bad” appears to you. Then because of that reason, then you label the other person “enemy.” After you labels enemy, there is the appearance of enemy to you.

Now, the person who has never seen a Tibetan lama, who doesn’t know what a Tibetan lama looks like, sees the body.

Even if he sees a Tibetan monk, wearing robes and with the appearance of a monk—no, let’s put it this way. This person who doesn’t know Tibetan lamas sees an Eastern person, a monk wearing robes. But because he saw many Hare Krishnas and is familiar with shaved heads, he thinks, “Oh, this one has his head shaved, he’s a Hare Krishna.” Without asking, he labeled “Hare Krishna,” on that person. Seeing the shaven head, his mind figured out that’s a Hare Krishna. So he labeled and he believed in his label, Hare Krishna, and then he has the appearance of Hare Krishna.

But when he comes near and asks, “Are you Hare Krishna?” and hears that this person is a Tibetan Buddhist monk, then he thinks, “Oh, Tibetan Buddhist monk.” So then his thought labels, “This is a Tibetan Buddhist monk.” And with the label there is the faith that he is a Tibetan Buddhist monk.

Right after he labels “Tibetan Buddhist monk” with faith, with belief, there is the appearance to him of a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and the appearance of Hare Krishna stops. He stops labeling, “That is a Hare Krishna.” The appearance of Hare Krishna is stopped for that person’s mind. So now, for this person who discriminates, as there is the belief that this is a Tibetan monk, he has the appearance of a Tibetan monk.

Like this it is exactly the same—the subject, I, the action, object, everything, whatever appearance we have right now here, your seeing me, myself see you, decorations, thangkas, flowers, tables, the mattress, the ceiling, the seats—the whole thing—all of these appearances are like the appearance of the Tibetan monk, or the Hare Krishna, on the person, on the same object. The whole thing comes completely from one’s own mind. All that we see now here, right now here, the whole thing completely came from our own mind. What appears to you is what you have labeled, what appears to you is what you have labeled there. There’s nothing that appears to you that you haven’t labeled there. There’s nothing! This is very important, a very essential thing to meditate on, a very subtle point—this becomes a meditation on emptiness and dependent arising.

When you go to the supermarket or the department store, there are billions and billions of objects, billions of objects appear to you. Even a primitive Tibetan person or a person from the mountains, a nomad or somebody in the supermarket in the West, in a department store or a supermarket, even though he doesn’t know exactly the names to label, what appears to him is what he has labeled. The number of objects that appears to him in the department store or the supermarket, even though he doesn’t use the labels because he has not been introduced to them, even though he doesn’t know what for those things are, those machines and things, that whole room of make-up, cosmetics, what he sees is what he has labeled there. Then he’s told, “This is perfume, what it does is this, this is lipstick, what it does is this.” After he is introduced to the name of each thing, he has the appearance of, “This is lipstick, this is eyelash, this and that.” So like this.

Same thing, when we’re here, whatever we see, the objects that our senses contact, whatever we recognize, are all what we have imputed. When we go shopping, in each shop it’s all like this. As I told you this morning, we buy something that our mind has merely imputed, which we have labeled. We buy something that appears to us by labeling.

For the person who doesn’t know that there’s toilet paper, there is no appearance that this is toilet paper. The person who doesn’t know that this is toilet paper, who is not introduced, doesn’t label, “This is toilet paper,” and he has no appearance of toilet paper, that this is toilet paper. Now that is very clear. The example of toilet paper is very clear. The other person who knows what toilet paper should look like comes along in the shop and he sees the rolls of paper there in a pile, and thinks, “Oh, that’s toilet paper.” Or, “There’s toilet paper,” and then he labels. First he sees the rolls of paper, the base, that have that particular characteristic, and then he labels, “Oh, there’s toilet paper.” After seeing that roll of paper, that particular shape and character, he labels, “Oh, there is toilet paper.” So then that person has the appearance that it’s toilet paper.

So now we should think of and remember toilet paper. When we think of toilet paper, when we see toilet paper, the appearance looks like it has completely nothing to do with the mind. The appearance of toilet paper seems to have nothing to do with your mind at all. You who see toilet paper, when you analyze the appearance of the toilet paper that you see, when you are aware of the appearance, “How do I see the toilet paper? How is that appearance of toilet paper?” It seems to be completely independent, nothing to do with the perceiver—you the perceiver, your mind. That’s completely wrong, completely false. The appearance of toilet paper is completely from its own side, the toilet paper exists completely from its own side, the toilet paper has been toilet paper from the beginning—it didn’t have beginning. It did not depend on the factory, or on the person’s ideas, the person making it.

Like this, all appearances, bad and good, everything completely came from one’s own mind. The whole thing came completely from one’s own mind.

You can think whether this completely came from the mind or not? The base on which you label toilet paper is another appearance—you labeled on another appearance, the appearance of the base. Appearance, what is it? The base. So now, that appearance, the paper, the certain shape, describes the purpose. So now, all that appears to you is again what you have imputed, what you have labeled there. So again, the base is also the thing that appears to you, so it is an appearance. That appearance came from your mind. When you think of the base of that label, again that is another appearance. It came from one’s own mind.

The conclusion is that everything that exists is what is merely imputed on the appearance. Now you see, enemy or friend—now it is very clear—enemy, friend. The appearance of friend and enemy completely came from your own mind. Without your own label, the bad and good on the action, there’s no label, there’s no bad or good. Without your own label of friend or enemy, there’s no appearance of friend or enemy. All these appearances completely came from your own mind. They are your own mind’s creation.

So now, you can see that it is completely childish, that you create it with your own mind—this selfish attitude and worldly concern is made up, created, and then you get angry or upset with your creation, the enemy. Then, you grasp and cling to your own creation, the friend.

You can see now completely that no one makes your life up and down, except you following the selfish mind, following the worldly concern. You can see this point very clearly, one hundred per cent, very logically—no one causes your life to be up and down, or makes your life happy and unhappy, up and down. The main creator is yourself, your own mind. Everyday life, your emotional state, life up and down, your environment, the appearance of bad and good—no one else makes it except one’s own mind.

That’s why Buddha said that oneself is the enemy and oneself is the guide. When you do not follow, when you control the selfish mind, the worldly concern, when you protect your own mind from those, you become a guide. You do not create problems, so you become the guide, the doctor.

This way, one controls attachment and the dissatisfied mind, so all the problems, the heavy problems, stop. Drug addiction stops, alcoholic problems stop, don’t happen, one is healthy, no smoking problems, the body is very clean, and one has a healthy, longer life, with a clear mind, and control. If there is control, then there is peace of mind. And then one is able to do the works of this life, Dharma practice, and obtain happiness beyond from this life up to enlightenment. One doesn’t get cancer or all those other diseases, one is able to control the mind, the desire, and one doesn’t get AIDS. Then, one doesn’t create problems, so therefore there’s no heart attack. One controls desire, one doesn’t follow the selfish mind, and that way one controls the desire grasping the happiness for self. This stops all the relationship problems, and all the fears and worries.

Anyway, by not following the selfish attitude, there is no worldly concern arising, because the worldly concern seeks happiness only for self and that is only the happiness of this life. So there’s no way for that to arise. By not following the selfish mind, one able to control desire, so one doesn’t need to do abortions again and again and have so many other unnecessary expenses. There is so much anger toward the enemy, so if there is a very selfish mind, there is so much worry and fear and that again makes one sick. Then, there is so much expectation to the friend, the permanent friend. There is so much grasping, so much expectation, and again by following the selfish attitude, one creates so much confusion, so many problems. Then the relationship problems become like a spider’s web.

This brings so many diseases, basically by following the selfish attitude, and many other disturbing thoughts arise and brings so many diseases, besides other problems. Then there are diseases that do not have medicine—for those that have medicine there is some possibility to recover. There are so many unnecessary expenses, a house, cars, so many things, children, life insurance, then what else? Taxes, I don’t remember other things, besides the usual expenses. Then, because of not practicing Dharma, the good heart, or not renouncing selfish mind, first one makes oneself unhealthy, and then one has to go to the doctor for x-rays, and operations, and there is a big debt, and then many other problems. Then, one has to go to the psychologist and this and that. One creates so many unnecessary expenses. Then when it comes to a very difficult point, there is no way to get more money, and it comes to the point that now it is easiest to steal. One comes to that conclusion.

That’s the reason I said that you become the best doctor. By not following the selfish mind, you become the best doctor. You don’t create the cause of problems, the cause of the sicknesses, so you yourself become the best doctor, the best guide. You yourself become the guide leading yourself to enlightenment.

[Tape ends]

…enemy, to rise ill will, to rise anger, there’s no point, there’s no point at all. You can see attachment grasping so much at these objects—the friend, the appearance of friend, and anger, harm, the appearance of the enemy, which is your own creation. Now you can see that it is completely crazy. When we analyze like this, our attitude and our creation, giving up anger and grasping, we do not find differences between ourselves and those who are called crazy, doing nonsense things, believing in nonsense things, saying all kinds of nonsense things, having all kinds of appearances and doing many funny things. There is no difference between ourselves and those crazy persons, those others that you regard and point out as being crazy.

So, same thing like this with all the rest of the objects.

I'll stop here.

One thing about science. This is the best research, the best psychology. You can now see very clearly the root of the problem and what should be done. You can understand both from these teachings.

So today, and also tomorrow, in the session time, in the prayer time, as much as possible, practice awareness of the merely labeled “I,” the merely labeled action, whatever action you are doing, the object, whatever you’re doing with the mind, whatever you’re doing with the body, with the speech, with the eye, with the senses.

Then also this meditation—my explanation of appearance is related with this. Each time you label subject, action, object, there’s an appearance. So also you recognize that this came from your mind.

It’s very important to intensively meditate—meditate at the breaktime, as much as possible, while you’re talking, while you’re reading a book, eating, and also when you sleep. I don’t mean don’t sleep. Also go to bed with this understanding, with this awareness. Actually, this is something very good to train in for five days, seven days—very, very good. Unbelievably worthwhile.

More on this merely labeled meditation of dependent arising, which is the meditation on emptiness. However many hours, however many minutes one meditates, however many times one meditates, one comes closer and closer to liberation, to the cessation of the cause of suffering and suffering.

[Dedication prayers]