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 Ten: Equilibrium Meditation

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

Here, the great equanimity, which comes before exchanging oneself for others, is having the equal thought and action to benefit without discrimination, equal toward all sentient beings. So, if we do the meditation elaborately, there are six ways to meditate depending on the all-obscuring thought, the illusive thought. Then there are three ways to meditate depending on the absolute thought.

There are six ways to meditate, six ways to actualize the mind to become the great equilibrium depending on the all-obscuring thought, and three reasons why our own mind should be great equilibrium from the side of others or depending on others, and then three reasons why our own mind should be great equilibrium from the side of oneself.

There are three reasons why our own mind should be great equanimity from the side of others. As it is mentioned in the Guru Puja, “There’s no difference at all between myself and others, not desiring even the smallest suffering, not having satisfaction at all in happiness. Please grant me blessings to generate happiness when others are happy.”

Oneself and others are exactly equal, not desiring even the smallest problem, not having satisfaction at all with happiness, and desiring even the smallest comfort, pleasure, even in a dream. But if we are perfect, if we receive what we wishes, if we are comfortable, then we are happy. If others have perfection, if others receive what they want, if others are happy, then we feel jealous and dislike. So far because of not having changed this attitude, we did not become liberated from samsara, we didn’t achieve liberation, enlightenment. There’s no reason at all, while oneself and others are exactly equal, desiring happiness and not desiring suffering, to renounce some sentient beings and to cherish some sentient beings, not giving help to some sentient beings and giving help to some sentient beings. There’s no reason at all.

Think, “I must have equal thought and action to benefit all sentient beings. As I’m responsible, as I should eliminate suffering for this I, obtain happiness for this I, same thing, I should eliminate the sufferings for other’s I and seek to obtain happiness for them.”

Secondly, if there are ten beggars, they are all exactly equal, they all need food and drink. They are exactly equal, they all need food and drink, but if we discriminate and give food and drink to some beggars and not to other beggars, this is our own fault. They are all exactly equal; they all need food and drink. Like this, all sentient beings, leave aside that they are devoid of ultimate happiness, even temporary happiness is like stars in the daytime. They are exactly equal, because they are devoid of happiness and they all want happiness. So, there is no reason at all for us to give up, to renounce some sentient beings, to not help some and cherish some other sentient beings. We must have equal thought and action to benefit all beings.

Third, if there are ten sick people, they are all the same, exactly equal in being sick. So there’s no point at all in giving up some sick people, renouncing some sick people, not giving them help, and cherishing some sick people and giving them help. No point at all.

Same thing, all sentient beings are exactly equal, all sentient beings are suffering, they are exactly equal, suffering, under the control of the three poisonous minds, ignorance, anger, and attachment, and they are constantly experiencing suffering—either the suffering of suffering, or the suffering of change, of the samsaric temporary pleasures which depend on external conditions. Particularly those, the suffering of change, and pervasive compounding suffering. They continuously experience these sufferings. What pervasive compounding suffering means, without explaining the meaning of each word, is being under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts. You may not understand perhaps because the explanation of the twelve links, the evolution of samsara, didn’t come at this point, so some of you may not get a clear idea of how in that way samsaric beings are under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts.

Anyway, to put it in a simple way, we can use the example of our everyday life,  including birth. From birth, the beginning of this life, since the consciousness took on the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb, starting from there until now, we have been experiencing pervasive compounding suffering, being under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts.

Having taken a human rebirth is good, but it would be much better if we didn’t have to take birth at all, any samsaric birth. If we didn’t have to take any birth in samsara, it’s much better. Taking birth in samsara, compared to other rebirths that do not have the opportunity to practice Dharma, which have very heavy sufferings, compared to those, having taken this human birth is better. But the best thing is to stop birth. There is no need to take birth in samsara, therefore there’s no problem with meeting the undesirable object, not meeting the desirable object or not finding or meeting the desirable object. And we do not experience all the problems of old age. We don’t need to stretch out the wrinkles, we don’t need to dye the white hair black, or whatever it is, to cover old age. We don’t experience all those problems of old age, without choice we have to go through these. Then sicknesses and death.

The best thing would be to end taking birth in samsara. That would stop all the problems that come after the birth. In our everyday life, I think we can use the example in every hour, every day, every year, every month, every hour, every minute, always there’s something that we have to experience without choice. There’s some problem there, there’s some undesirable thing, something we do not wish to happen, something that we don’t want to experience. There’s always something there. Simply we can use this example, how we are under the control of karma. The past karma, created in the past, that we are now experiencing, arises due to disturbing thoughts. The reason these things are happening, the main mistake, is that we allowed ourselves to be under the control of disturbing thoughts. Being under the control of disturbing thoughts is the very root, the main mistake.

We are experiencing the result now, continuously, the result of that karma that is motivated by disturbing thoughts. We continuously experience it, and while we are experiencing the result of the karma, one after another, as we meet the different objects, the various disturbing thoughts arise. As we do not practice, as we haven’t removed the imprint by generating the remedy of the path, continuously we are under the control of disturbing thoughts. Then out of these we create karma, on and on.

Sentient beings are exactly equal, being under the control of the three poisonous minds, and they continuously experience suffering. There is no reason at all to give up some sentient beings, to not give them help, and to cherish some other sentient beings, to help them. Think, “I must have equal thought and action to benefit all sentient beings.”

Now, we may think, “It doesn’t matter from the side of the sentient beings, so why  should I benefit them? Why should I have concern to benefit them? From my side why should I have concern for benefiting them?”

There are three reasons that we should have the great equilibrium thought, the equal thought and action to benefit all sentient beings. Three reasons from our own side.

By depending on the kindness of sentient beings, we achieve liberation, and by depending on the kindness of sentient beings, we achieve enlightenment. All our past, present, and future happiness we receive from them, from the kindness of sentient beings, and sentient beings have been our mother, father, and friend, and benefited us so much in the past, and also in the future they will benefit us. By this reasoning, this conclusion comes, “Without discriminating, I must have equal thought and action to benefit all sentient beings.”

Then the question comes, that sentient beings benefit but they also gave harm. The question comes. But the duration of times the sentient beings harm us is only occasional; it is not all the time. It is only from time to time. Sentient beings benefit directly and indirectly, so the benefit is much greater than the harm. The length of time of the benefit is much more than their giving harm. So, even by looking at the present life, our own life, we can understand.

Indirectly, if there are no suffering sentient beings there wouldn’t be bodhicitta, there wouldn’t be compassion. If there were no bodhicitta, there wouldn’t be any bodhisattvas. If there’s no bodhisattvas there wouldn’t be Buddha. Without Buddha, there’s no Dharma, there’s no Sangha, and we don’t have the opportunity with the holy objects, the great opportunity to purify any negative karma that we have accumulated in the past, to stop experiencing obstacles, to achieve the realizations of the path, to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

In this way we can see the incredible opportunity that we have to purify the cause with Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—it completely came from the kindness of sentient beings. Even though we have been evil, selfish, and we have created so much negative karma and given so much harm to other sentient beings from beginningless lives, and we have accumulated negative karma, the cause of problems—all this we can purify.

By practicing Dharma, what the Buddha taught, and then by actualizing the actual refuge, Dharma, within us, we become the Sangha and can benefit and guide other sentient beings. We can cease completely the cause of suffering and the whole entire suffering of ourselves, and also liberate others from all sufferings. We are capable of all of this, by actualizing the actual refuge of the Dharma. We can liberate all other sentient beings from all suffering and its causes and be able to lead them to peerless happiness and enlightenment. Now there is all of this unbelievable fortune and great opportunity, completely by the kindness of sentient beings.

Buddha gave teachings, so we know what the cause of happiness is; we have Dharma wisdom. By meeting Buddha’s teaching, by listening, reflecting, and meditating, we have Dharma wisdom knowing the unmistaken cause of suffering and the cause of happiness. We have unbelievable freedom.

Leave aside helping others by explaining and sharing the wisdom, by teaching others, by explaining to others, by revealing to others what is right and wrong, what is to be practiced and what is to be abandoned, what is Dharma wisdom. Leave aside all that opportunity to benefit other sentient beings. Just thinking of our own happiness for our own self, having unbelievable freedom with this Dharma wisdom, knowing what is right or wrong, what is to be practiced, what is to be abandoned, the cause of suffering, the cause of happiness. With this Dharma wisdom, there’s free will, and every day, then how many years, how many months, how many weeks we have this perfect human rebirth, and even within one hour or minute or even a second, if we wish for great meaning, the happiness of future lives, any future lives, the good body of the happy migratory being, deva or human being in the next lives, by having this Dharma wisdom even for one second, we create this cause of happiness.

Even if we wish to achieve ultimate liberation, everlasting happiness in this second by having this Dharma wisdom, we can create the cause. We can practice the three higher trainings, moral conduct, concentration and great insight. Even if we wish to achieve enlightenment with this free will, if we wish to achieve enlightenment in this second, by practicing bodhicitta we can create the cause.

With Dharma wisdom we can make free will, with Dharma wisdom we are free, we have free will; if we don’t have Dharma wisdom, then we don’t have free will. So with this Dharma wisdom, if we practice and attempt, we can achieve whatever we wish, these three great meanings, by creating their cause. Whatever we wish we can obtain by creating the cause, and however much we wish we can create so many causes even within a minute. All of this is an unbelievable opportunity for happiness, even for us, and all of this is completely by the kindness of sentient beings. The Dharma came from the Buddha. If we refer back, we can see that the opportunity for whatever happiness we wish to achieve is completely given by the sentient beings.

All the happiness of the three times, of the past, present, and future, all this came from good karma, not from negative karma. It did not come from nonvirtuous actions but is the result of virtuous actions. So, the virtuous action is Dharma, the virtuous action is the Buddha’s action, Buddha’s action that is possessed by the mind of sentient beings. Buddha has two actions, one action that is possessed by the Buddha’s own holy mind and one that is possessed by the sentient being’s mind. So all of our own past, present, and future happiness came from virtue, and the virtue is Buddha’s action, and that is Dharma, and Dharma came from Buddha.

By referring back, the Buddha came from bodhisattva, bodhisattva came from bodhicitta, bodhicitta came from the suffering sentient beings. Therefore, all our past, present, future, all happiness is completely given by sentient beings. So, now you can see how all the three times’ happiness completely came from sentient beings’ kindness.

Now let’s think this way, you can see friends quite easily, even though you don’t see enlightenment, liberation, and how all the past, present, and future happiness came from the kindness of each sentient being. You think your friends are good, helping. They are called “friend” because they benefit you for the happiness of this life, the happiness that you desire. By that, you label the person “friend” by your thoughts.

When you don’t see the extensive kindness of sentient beings, what you see is what they do only in this life—your understanding of the kindness of others is so limited, so little! So narrow, so little. It is only to do with this life. Even that more related to this year, this month, today, so little the kindness that you see.

When you think in the wide way, the extensive kindness, each time you experience happiness, each time you have comfort, either happiness by practicing Dharma, by having realizations, even the happiness of having a good reputation or being praised by other sentient beings, even drinks, house, clothes, these enjoyments; every time you experience happiness, it comes from all sentient beings, it is given by all sentient beings.

Now in this way, include the friend and then the stranger that you don’t feel kindness toward at all, and especially the enemy that you don’t feel kindness toward at all. Now, with this understanding of the extensive kindness of sentient beings, you see that all sentient beings are in these three, either friend or enemy or stranger. All sentient beings are contained into this, relating to you. Now you can see all sentient beings, friend, enemy, stranger, actually all giving is this happiness all the time, so indirectly you see how they continuously bring benefit to you. By thinking of this long evolution.

Even the enemy, when you think this way—with the buddhas there is no opportunity to practice patience at all because the Buddha does not have anger toward you. There’s no disliking thought. Now what’s left are the sentient beings. With the Buddha there’s no opportunity to practice patience at all. So, now what is left is only the sentient beings.

Sentient beings come in these three. The person who helps you, the person who likes you, that is what is called “friend.” That person has no anger or disliking thought toward you, so there’s no opportunity for you to practice patience at all.

What’s left after that is strangers. Most sentient beings are strangers. Strangers do not have anger or disliking thoughts toward you. The person who doesn’t have that thought that likes you so much, loves you so much, and doesn’t hate you, doesn’t harm you, is called “stranger.” Strangers do not have anger, therefore there’s no opportunity to practice patience at all.

The only object that is left out, with whom you have the opportunity to practice patience, is the person who has anger toward you, the person who has disliking thoughts toward you, who hates you. If you do not practice patience with that person, there is no object at all with which to practice patience. The person who makes you angry, the person who disturbs you, if you do not practice patience at all with that person, there is no object at all with whom to practice patience. Therefore there is no way to develop your good heart. Your mind, which is in the nature of anger, won’t get tamed or subdued, and there will be no liberation. Then you do not give liberation to yourself.

By completing the practice of patience—among the six paramitas, the paramita of patience—by completing this you are able to achieve enlightenment; without completing this there is no way to achieve full enlightenment. Then what happens is you don’t achieve enlightenment, and if you do not attain enlightenment, you cannot do perfect works for all the sentient beings. Whatever happiness they’re seeking, you cannot cause them to have happiness, temporary happiness, liberation, enlightenment. You cannot do this perfectly.

This is the greatest loss, that you are incapable of this. While you have all the opportunities to do perfect works for all sentient beings by attaining enlightenment; while you have all the opportunities to extensively benefit all sentient beings, then not practicing patience in order to for this to happen, simply following the side of the anger instead of following the side of patience. There’s no greater loss than this, there’s no greater defeat than this.

There’s no one else with whom you can practice patience except this being who has anger. So therefore, the person who hates you, the person who dislikes you, the person who has anger toward you, is unbelievably kind. Their having anger toward you is unbelievably kind. If they do not have anger they won’t receive the label “enemy;” by having anger they receive the label “enemy.” So this is the most kind person who gives you the reason to practice patience, this is the most kind teacher who helps you to put the teaching of patience that Buddha taught into practice. So they are as precious as the Buddha.

Buddha gave teachings on the practice of patience, and by practicing this we can become enlightened. In the same way, this person gives us the opportunity, reminding us of the teachings, reminding us of our practice. So by practicing with this sentient being, we become enlightened, we are able to complete the paramita of patience, we are able to achieve enlightenment, which has all qualities, having ceased all the obscurations and having all the qualities of realization. Think, “That person is my practical teacher, my guru, who gives me enlightenment, who gives me realizations to complete the practice of patience and to achieve enlightenment, in the hand. So unbelievably kind.”

They are precious like Buddha, they are precious like Dharma, they are precious like Sangha. Dharma, why so precious? Because by practicing it ceases all our causes of suffering, it ceases all suffering. It liberates us from all suffering and its causes. It is able to lead us not only to temporary happiness but also to ultimate happiness. So same thing, by practicing patience with this sentient being who has anger toward us, that’s the same thing. Practicing patience with them, who give liberation and enlightenment. It’s so precious.

The Sangha inspire us to practice, and the same thing, this person, this sentient being who has anger toward us shows the reason, the need to practice patience, inspires us to practice patience. So, so precious.

Think, “Even if the whole world was filled with jewels and I offered them to that person every day for millions of eons, I could not repay their kindness in letting me control my anger with them. I am able to control my anger by practicing, and their kindness gives me this opportunity. The tranquility that I receive by practicing patience is unbelievable.”

In this way even the enemy, the sentient being who gives harm, who hates us, is a most kind friend, dearest friend, because they give unbelievable benefit to our mind.

[Tape ends]

…and then as I mentioned the other day in the morning of the ordination, during the motivation, everything, the comfort of everyday life, depends on other sentient beings and came from other sentient beings. They have been our friends, relatives, helping us, all those things. Even the harm that they gave us was due to ignorance. We recognize them as an enemy, but actually they are friends—they are our most kind friend and teacher. We cannot find an enemy this way, we don’t find someone who is giving harm. Therefore, there is no reason at all to renounce some people and to cherish others, to not give help to some and to give help to others. So we must have equal thoughts and actions benefiting all sentient beings.

I’ll stop here.

[Dedication prayers]

Here we need the lung of the Vajrasattva mantra, the most powerful deity to purify obscurations and negative karmas, and also the oral transmission of the Vajrapani mantra.

All the buddhas’ power is embodied in this form of a wrathful deity. “Wrathful” doesn’t mean that the deity is angry with the sentient beings, it doesn’t mean that. The buddhas show wrath to our selfish mind, the disturbing thoughts that bring all the problems. This selfish mind and these disturbing thoughts are the ones that don’t bring us happiness, liberation, and enlightenment, so the wrath is shown to the selfish attitude and the disturbing thoughts. Out of this we create negative karma, and that’s how we get diseases, the samsaric problems of the diseases—AIDS, cancer, all the diseases. There are also other sentient beings who become conditions for these things, such as devas, nagas, spirits, and so forth, and also coming under the control of disturbing and self-cherishing thoughts.

Vajrapani-Hayagriva-Garuda. Vajrapani is there, and then on the top there’s Hayagriva, with a green horse head, and on top of that, Garuda. All these are manifestations of all the Buddhas’ power. This is very powerful. The aspect of Garuda, the Buddha manifested in Garuda, that is very powerful against the nagas, the landlords, against those outer conditions that give harm due to the inner cause, the self-cherishing thought, the disturbing thoughts, the ignorance of the truly existent I and karma. Infections, cancers, leprosy disease—all those are caused by nagas.

Doing meditation-recitation becomes protection against all those harms, so we don’t experience those diseases or if we have a disease, it heals that. The horse is powerful against different types of beings, the outside conditions, kings and so forth, which causes crises, which cause us to become unconscious, spirits called tsen. Vajrapani is the opponent of those spirits or planets called de, which cause paralysis, and all those diseases such as epilepsy. It is a common experience that those who have a very heavy disease that medicine does not cure, do this practice and then cancer and many other diseases get cured.

Think, “I’m going to take this lung of the Vajrasattva and Vajrapani mantras in order to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all the kind mother sentient beings.”

[Oral transmission of mantras]