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 Three: The Good Heart

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 sentient beings who equal infinite space and who have been my mothers and kind. Therefore, I’m going to listen to the teaching of the graduated path to enlightenment.” Also clarifying the righteous conduct of listening to the teaching according to the traditional practice of the lineage lamas.

As I mentioned yesterday, how much happiness and peace and how many difficulties and problems one has in life is completely dependent on the doer, the one who experiences, one’s own mind.

Generally speaking, a person whose mind is less selfish has more thoughts cherishing others, more concern for others. Naturally by that attitude there are so many less problems, especially with other sentient beings in day-to-day life. That person has less bother, that person takes it easy because of the good heart—as the person has that much good heart, they are happy to take on trouble for others, to experience the difficulties for others.

The one who has the more selfish mind, more concern for oneself than others, more thought cherishing oneself than others, that person has greater problems, that person has more enemies. Wherever they go, wherever they live, whomever they accompany—there is more bother, more distraction to that person. This is the common experience.

Also, you can tell by your own experience. For example, for somebody who is practicing, some years have been good practice; some years have been bad practice; some years you did strong practice of bodhicitta, with more effort in the thought of cherishing others, and then at other times it degenerated or didn’t get done—you didn’t get to continue the practice. Somebody who has been trying to practice can tell from their own experiences.

Just by looking back, the years that you have practiced well, with bodhicitta, taking others’ sufferings, dedicating your own happiness, body, possessions, and merits to other sentient beings, exchanging oneself for others—in those years you had easy times. In those days it was very easy to get along with people. It was very easy even if other people stole your things, even if other people criticized you—it was very easy to handle, nothing bothered you, nothing was important, or you found what they did to be extremely beneficial. You found the harm beneficial for your own practice, the development of your own mind. There was much happiness and peace, continuously day and night, because the condition of your happiness is not outside. The condition of your happiness is within your mind. The condition of your happiness, the cause and the conditions are within you.

When you take care of your own mind in the good heart, then whatever the people around you do, harm or benefit, whatever, because you’re practicing, you are controlling your mind, the disturbing thoughts, they don’t disturb your mind. The changes of the people around you and their actions, whether harming or helping, do not upset you. They don’t bring you up and down, these emotions. As you are able to practice that much good heart, bodhicitta, there is that much tranquility or peace, day and night, in life.

When you don’t continue the practice, life becomes like a water bubble—the mind becomes like water bubble, like boiling hot water. Life becomes like that because the mind is like that, so there is no peace. Every single thing that other people do affects you a lot because you do not practice. A slight, small behavior, a slight movement or action, whatever the surrounding people do to you—even how the skin of the face appears to you, what it shows, tight and dark, upsetness. If the face has some wrinkles, narrow eyes, fine eyes, the mind is very happy. This face becomes so important for your mind. When you don’t practice and take care of your mind, when you don’t control your mind, the mind is completely dependent on external things. So it changes—ups and downs, upset, happiness, all the emotional life changes, because it is so much relying upon the outside, external expectations. When you don’t practice, when you don’t look after your own mind, when there is no practice, no controlling, no guiding, when you don’t take care of your own mind, your own life, then it’s like that, then that is the problem.

In one way, it seems very silly, completely silly, because it is completely dependent on this size of face, whether it smiles at you, whether it’s tight. Your life is completely dependent on that—happy or unhappy, the surrounding people, the face.

The basic problem is following the selfish mind. The selfish mind expects all good things to happen for you, and you become a friend of the selfish mind, you follow the selfish mind, and when what it expects does not happen, you collapse. When the selfish mind does not succeed, you collapse. Again, you see the very silly thing there.

You can see how everything—all happiness, problems, everything—came from this way of thinking. And through a skillful way of thinking, everything becomes happiness, the whole life becomes happy. With the unskillful way of thinking, you don’t see happiness, and the conditions of life become miserable.

For example, when you find somebody is angry with you. Let’s put it this way—as long as there’s anger in your mind, there’s the possibility for anger to arise. As there is the possibility for anger to arise, there’s the possibility to find the enemy outside. If there is no possibility for anger to arise in your heart, there is no possibility to find the enemy outside. So whether you have an enemy or not is up to whether you have anger or not.

It is very clear from this that even if every person on earth, every dog, every bird, was angry at you, even if all the dogs were biting you, if there is no anger in your mind, you will not find even one enemy on this earth, among them all. Besides people I just added some more.

If your mind is rich in compassion, loving kindness, if your heart is filled with compassion toward other sentient beings, then even if all people and all animals are angry and harm you, from your side you see everyone as your friend or relative. If your mind has compassion, then all the sentient beings are your friend. You feel that everyone is close in the heart.

Therefore you can see the good heart, loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta are unbelievably precious, incredibly precious—and how unbelievably important it is to practice them. In your life, in every hour, you need to pay attention, and always to put every single effort into having a good heart. With this good heart, you see all the other sentient beings’ harms as benefiting you, purifying you, finishing your own negative karma. You see so many ways that sentient beings’ harming you actually benefits you.

As a mother who has one beloved child sees that one most beloved child, if your mind has compassion toward all other beings, loving kindness, and bodhicitta, then you see all beings—those who help you, and even those who harm—whatever they do, you see it all in beauty, like the mother sees her one most beloved child.

But if this mind is empty of loving kindness, compassion, bodhicitta, and the good heart, then no matter how much wealth you have, no matter how much education you have, no matter how much reputation you have, no matter how many things you have—there are continual problems, even more problems, and there is no peace in the life.

Therefore, even if you don’t have even one dollar, even if you are homeless, living life by begging for each meal, if the heart is filled with compassion and loving kindness toward others, there is incredible joyfulness, unbelievable happiness, and peace of mind. Even if there is no reputation, no wealth, no education, you see everyone as a friend—you feel it in the heart—there is no thought to give harm, only benefit. Your life is full of joy. Every hour life becomes highly meaningful, beneficial.

Therefore, if you think carefully, if you examine well, transforming your own mind into the good heart, into the loving, compassionate thought of bodhicitta—this is the source of all happiness. When you understand the benefits of bodhicitta, loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta, both temporary and ultimate, and then you practice this, you will receive these benefits, seeing the teaching of the Buddha, whose emphasis is to not harm all sentient beings, to have compassion toward all sentient beings. On top of that, to benefit all sentient beings. You see the teaching of the Buddha as so precious, and in this way you receive benefit by practicing, by understanding the teaching, and you feel the kindness of Shakyamuni Buddha, and how compassionate he is. You feel near Buddha, you feel that you are protected, you feel that you are guided by Shakyamuni Buddha out of his compassion. When you practice, you have the experience of how unbelievably kind Shakyamuni Buddha is.

I lost my thought, I don’t remember.

Because of this teaching, do not harm other sentient beings; benefit other sentient beings and have compassion for all other sentient beings. This is what every sentient being needs. Buddha is not telling us that they don’t need it. This is what every sentient being needs from you. What every sentient being needs from you is to not give harm, to have compassion toward them and to benefit them. So Buddha is telling you what they need from you.

Practicing this, you will be protected. You will not create negative karma. By stopping giving harm to others, you don’t create negative karma. Instead of that you create merit, good karma.

Like today, we abandoned eight harms, eight things that harm others directly or indirectly. Some indirectly because there are some things that stop you from developing your mind, causing others to build attachment, which obscures your mind and stops realizations. As it stops realizations, these disturbing thoughts disturb the development of your capacity—it makes you create negative karma, obscures the mind, and in this way makes it difficult to have realizations. So then, you cannot develop your capacity—the ability or power to help others, to benefit other sentient beings.

When you stop, when you prevent the development of your own capacity to help others with wisdom, with method, when you interfere with that, it is like indirectly harming others. Like killing, stealing and so forth, which are directly harming. And some of the branches, not wearing ornaments and so forth, abandoning doing these things out of attachment. Today we abandoned eight things that harm other sentient beings directly and some indirectly. We took the vow to not do these things, so we are creating good karma.

By practicing the Buddha’s teachings, we stop creating the negative karma that makes us suffer, that makes us experience the problems of samsara again and again.

This is talking about protection—by practicing the teachings, you are protecting yourself from creating the cause and the result of problems in the future. This is only talking about one person, you. The main attitude you should have—seeing the shortcomings and problems of killing, living in the vow abandoning the negative karma of killing. As long as you live in even just one vow, abandoning killing, this is a method of guiding sentient beings.

When you take the vow to not kill any sentient being, it is not a vow to not kill the friend but to kill the enemy. It is not a vow to not kill the good ones but to kill the bad ones, to not kill the ones you like but to kill the ones you don’t like. It is a vow to not kill any sentient being.

So now, all the rest of the sentient beings. When you take this vow, as Buddha has shown the method, for example, the eight Mahayana precepts, the particular one-day ordination, all the rest of the sentient beings do not receive harm and during those times that you have taken the vow, for one day, or for the lifetime until death, however many times you have taken the vow, living in this vow, the harm sentient beings receive from you becomes less. The longer you take the vow, the longer numberless sentient beings don’t receive the harm of being killed by you. So the vow is unbelievable protection.

Just think of one precept that you practice. It’s unbelievable protection, and an inconceivable number of sentient beings receive protection from you. They don’t receive the harm of being killed by you.

So, as I mentioned this point, as the subject came to this point, now you can see how unbelievably important, how incredibly important—how living in one vow is unbelievable protection for the rest of beings. Then if you live in two precepts, adding not stealing, then again the harm that the rest of the sentient beings receive from you becomes so much less. On top of that, telling lies. The more you take vows, the less harm the rest of the numberless sentient beings receive from you—unbelievable protection.

Without thinking of your own benefit, your own suffering, your own problem, “I don’t want problems in future lives, I want happiness and therefore I want to live in the precepts, therefore I want to take the vow.” That is nothing. If you think of all the benefit for sentient beings, so much harm becomes less and there is unbelievable benefit. As many vows as you take to not kill, to not create negative karma, to not harm. When you think this way, there is unbelievable benefit—you can see now that all the rest of the sentient beings completely depend on you. Their happiness, their suffering, depends on you.

If you think this way, you can see very clearly how all other sentient beings’ happiness and suffering depends on you. So the more precepts, the more morality you practice, uncountable numbers of other sentient beings receive so much less harm and so much greater happiness from you.

You can see how, even simply from this, each of us are completely responsible for all the rest of sentient beings’ happiness—not only starting from the family with whom you associate, eat and drink together, but all the rest of sentient beings—their happiness and suffering is completely dependent on you. It is dependent on each of us.

So now we can think this way. The person sitting next to you, in front, at the back, or on the right or left side, starting from there, the happiness and suffering of all the rest of the sentient beings is dependent on you. How much happiness and suffering they have becomes less depending on you. So you see, each one of us completely responsible. So now you can see how incredibly important it is to protect karma, to abandon negative karma and practice good karma. How unbelievably important living in morality is.

If you do not change your own attitude, living life with a good heart, loving kindness, compassion, bodhicitta, cherishing others—one thing, patience. If there is patience in your mind, the harmful actions toward others get stopped. The harmful actions of body, speech, and mind get stopped. So you can see all other sentient beings have happiness. By stopping harm, they have happiness. So completely like this.

If you practice patience, so many other sentient beings receive happiness and don’t receive harm from you. If you don’t practice patience and you continuously follow anger, they continuously receive harm. Therefore, all the rest of sentient beings’ happiness is completely in your hands. Suffering, not receiving harm from you, is completely in your hands, depending on you.

Now, to finish up—you can see today that by living in the eight precepts, other sentient beings, all the rest, are receiving protection. They do not receive harm, but happiness from you. All this is by the kindness of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings—Buddha’s holy words, to have compassion toward all beings. This depends on which way you train the mind. If you get more habituated to being selfish, then you dislike problems. When the mind is more habituated in this way then whatever appears to the six senses, everything, gets turned into the enemy. Everything appears as the enemy, disturbing. Then it is so difficult to find happiness, even temporary happiness is so difficult. If the mind is more trained in cherishing others, it likes the problems. By realizing the benefits of the problems, the mind gets habituated and trained in that way. When the mind is trained in this way, then even the biggest problem becomes like cotton. The way the person sees it and finds it pleasant is as light as cotton.

The conclusion is that if there’s a good heart, there is so much happiness in life, without need to seek happiness from outside.

However, as soon as you are not aware, as soon as you don’t attempt to find happiness from your own mind, only seeking happiness from outside, there are always problems. Even if you do find that sense object, you experience problems with that object. So not seeking happiness from your own mind, but seeking happiness from outside, that itself becomes an obstacle for peace of mind. In short, all the causes and conditions for suffering are there within your own mind. Same thing, all the causes and conditions to establish happiness are within your own mind.

Shantideva said in the Bodhicaryavatara, “There is no phenomenon that does not become easier by training.” If you let the mind get addicted or habituated to the nonvirtuous thought, the selfish mind, dislike of problems, it becomes more that way, it develops. The mind becomes more and more difficult, and life gets more and more difficult. But if the mind gets more habituated with bodhicitta, instead of dislike, then there are less problems and more happiness, more temporal happiness, more success.

One thing that I left out to finish. When somebody is angry with you, beating you, criticizing you, whatever happens, the harm is completely coming from them, the problems are coming from them. When you think psychologically, “This problem came from them,” when you put the whole blame on them, your anger arises. You see the enemy there, you discriminate this enemy. So there’s an enemy for this hallucinated mind, anger. In that angry mind there’s an enemy. In the view of the angry mind, there’s an enemy whose label is given by anger. Now in this way of thinking, you stop that part of the creation, your own mind and projection. If you think in the correct way, in the positive way, relating to karma, “If I didn’t harm him, if I didn’t create harm, give harm…”

[Tape ends]

There are verses, but I don’t remember, they are from Bodhicaryavatara, I’ve forgotten. “In the past I created negative karma, harmed this sentient being, so therefore I’m experiencing the result, receiving harm from him.” In other words, if I didn’t create the negative karma of harming them, there’s no reason at all for them to harm me, to disturb me. So therefore, there’s no one to blame except myself.

Putting it another way, a clear way, “If I did not create negative karma, harming others, I wouldn’t have this karmic appearance.” What you see is a person, a male or female harming you—you have the appearance, like a dream, somebody harming you.

If you don’t have mind, you don’t have this appearance. You understand? To have appearance you have to have mind. So the kind of appearance, pleasant or unpleasant, depends on the mind. The appearance comes from the mind. We have the appearance of the table, but the table itself does not have the appearance of us, the table itself doesn’t have the appearance of table. You understand?

This appearance is like a dream, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant is completely due to the mind. The karma created in the past left an imprint on your mental continuum. So this time, because it is not purified, this imprint is actualized, and you see somebody harming you. Even if that person becomes enlightened, free from anger, free from all the disturbing thoughts, since your karma is not purified you have the appearance. When the imprint of the mental continuum is ready to experience harm, you will have problems with that appearance. So now, even this becomes more clear.

However, it is said in the Bodhicaryavatara, by Shantideva, “My karma persuaded, I received this harm. Therefore sentient beings harming me is deserved. I’m worthy to receive the harm from sentient beings.”

You can harm others but you don’t want to experience it. That is completely selfish. What’s the word? Huh? Dictator. You become a dictator.

The other thing, just one thing is that this enemy is like the stick beating the body, making harm, injury. There is nothing to blame in the stick because the stick is under the control of the person. This is similar to the person—blaming the stick, being angry at the stick is complete nonsense. Similarly, the person is completely overwhelmed by the anger, completely occupied by the anger. They have no freedom at all. The person is completely overwhelmed, completely invaded by the anger. So there is nothing to blame on that person, they are only an object of compassion. They are completely used by anger, they are a slave. By thinking this way, that there is no choice, strong unbearable compassion has to arise when you see that the person has no freedom at all and is completely controlled by anger.

I’ll stop here.

[Dedication prayers in Tibetan]