Lamrim Meditation Course at Chenrezig Institute

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Eudlo, Australia (Archive #163)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at a one-month meditation course held at Chenrezig Institute, Eudlo, Australia, in May 1975. This historic event, attended by 120 students, was the first meditation course at the center. The course was based on The Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun, Rinpoche’s first lamrim book, and includes many checking meditations led by Rinpoche. First edit by Ven. Thubten Labdron (Trisha Donnelly), second edit by Sandra Smith, August 2021.

Go to the Index page to view an outline of topics and click on the links to go directly to the lectures. You can also download a PDF of the entire course.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in meditation on Saka Dawa at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, May 25, 1975. Photo: Wendy Finster.
Lectures 15 and 16
Lecture 15

From the holy speech of the great bodhisattva Shantideva:

[1: 29] For those who are deprived of happiness
And burdened with many sorrows,
It satisfies them with all joys,
Dispels all suffering,

[1: 30] And clears all confusion.
Where is there a comparable virtue?
Where is there even such a friend?
Where is there merit similar to this?

Those who don't have happiness and experience great suffering will be satisfied. They will have all happiness and their continuity of all the suffering will cease. It will even destroy their ignorance. Is there any virtue similar to this?

The meaning of this quotation is that the sentient beings are not satisfied and are unhappy, no matter how many material enjoyments and surroundings they have. They don’t have the satisfaction of the pleasures so they are unhappy and they experience great suffering. The bodhisattvas, with their great love—with Mahayana compassion, great compassion—make the sentient beings satisfied by all happiness and make those sentient being see the continuity of their sufferings. With wisdom, understanding of absolute true nature, they explain what is practice and what is avoidance, and they explain the absolute true nature which can dispel the sentient beings’ ignorance.

That last part of the quotation says, “Are there benefits similar to this?” The bodhisattva, the child of the buddhas, does such great actions and brings such great benefit for other sentient beings. The verse is emphasizing that there is no other virtuous action—the actions created without bodhicitta—that can be as beneficial for sentient beings as this bodhisattva's action. Can the benefits of the virtuous action [without bodhicitta] be similar to the virtuous action created by the bodhisattva?

“Is there any action, any virtuous action similar to that created by the bodhisattva? Is there any virtue?” There is no virtue similar to this. There is no virtue which is not created by the bodhisattva whose benefits are similar to this. There is not even such a relative. “The relative” is the ordinary way of saying the people who are close and who are supposed to help us, to benefit us. There’s no such way a relative can benefit us like a bodhisattva.

This quotation explains that with the realization of a bodhisattva, with great compassion and great love, and with wisdom understanding the absolute true nature, how great is the benefit they give, helping us and other sentient beings, such great benefit. By having the realizations they have, even relatives, who we expect to help us, cannot give us such great help, even they can’t do that.

In essence, Shantideva is talking about the great benefits of bodhicitta. By understanding the great benefits, the functions and powers of the bodhisattva who has bodhicitta, by understanding this and why it is necessary, we also get the chance to train the mind in the path and to actualize bodhicitta.

Even for the present action of listening to the Dharma to become the cause for receiving enlightenment, besides being just Dharma, it is necessary to think: “Only to release myself from samsara, suffering, is not sufficient. I must receive enlightenment in order to release all the mother sentient beings from suffering and lead them into enlightenment. Therefore, I'm going to listen to the teaching on the graduated path of enlightenment.”

The listening subject is the Mahayana teaching, which leads the fortunate ones to enlightenment. It is well-expounded by the great philosophers, Nagarjuna and Asanga. It is a profound teaching, the essence from which the great, the magnificent, unequaled pandit Atisha and the Dharma king of the three worlds, the great Lama Tsongkhapa, was extracted. It includes the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. All these teachings are arranged for our practice of the graduated path leading to enlightenment. The graduated path is the only path by which all the past, present and future bodhisattvas received enlightenment.

This profound commentary on the graduated path has four outlines. The last one is how to lead the disciples in the path to enlightenment by showing this excellent oral teaching, and that has two outlines: How to follow the guru, which is the root of the path, and how to train the mind in the graduated path. The last outline has two divisions; the last one is how to take the essence of the perfect human rebirth.

This has three divisions:

  1. The graduated path of the lower intelligence being
  2. The graduated path of the middle intelligence being
  3. The graduated path of the higher capable being

The first outline has two parts of which the last one is: Following the method that brings happiness in the experience, or how to follow the fundamental method of happiness.

The outline refers to the future, but it doesn't mean that this method only brings happiness in a future life, never in this life. Not like this. It doesn't depend on this. What it means is that besides bringing happiness and peace in this life, following this fundamental method also brings happiness and peace in the future life. Taking refuge, which is the holy door of the teaching, and arising devotion to karma, which is the root of all perfection and happiness.

Refuge has five outlines. The precepts, as we were talking yesterday about the practice of the refuge, “the precepts of refuge” has two aspects: the particular precepts and the general precepts. “Particular precepts” is divided in two: the practice of avoidance and of obtaining.

Any of the symbolic holy things, like statues or paintings, anything, even if the shape is not complete or it doesn't look good, even if the way it is made is not good, all this; whenever we see these, it is necessary to think that it is actually Buddha. Same thing also when we see any Dharma books, even a few lines, even a few words or one page, whatever, it is necessary to look at it as real Dharma, as if it is the jewel of Dharma and then to have respect. Also, whenever we see any being who is in robes, nuns or monks, without discriminating their essence of life, what the person normally does, without discriminating like this, since they are living in the precepts and are wearing robes, concerned with their own peace, their own happiness, by abstaining from the negative karmas, then it is necessary to think of them as Sangha, that they are the Sangha jewel, also respecting the robes.

Each of these holy symbolic things, like holy statues and Dharma—even though those statues, those paintings, are not the real Buddha—thinking like this and respecting in that way only causes us to create good karma and avoid creating negative action. Dharma books and things like this, even a few words or a few letters, even though they are not absolute Dharma, actual Dharma, but by looking at them as the Dharma jewel and respecting that, only makes us create good karma and avoid creating negative action. Same thing, any monks that we see, even though they are not the real Sangha jewel, by looking at them as real Sangha and respecting them, it only makes us create good karma and stops us from creating negative karma.

All this practice is only for us to make profit, to not have loss and to only make profit, to create the cause of our own peace.

Then also there are general practices. By remembering again and again the different [qualities] of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and the knowledge of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, take refuge. And no matter what you drink or eat, just before you start eating, any time, no matter whatever it is, whether delicious or non-delicious, whatever you are taking, just before starting always make offering to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

I explained before how to make offering, how to visualize these things. If you can do that visualization as I explained before, having Guru Shakyamuni Buddha at your heart, then all sentient beings at the heart of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, this is really so very, very helpful for the mind. Visualize the Buddha at your heart and at the heart of the Buddha keep all sentient beings. If you can visualize in this way it is extremely beneficial, creating much good karma. As much time as you spend eating, whatever, how many times, also this practice is easy to do all the time. However much you eat, as much time as you spend, it is such a method by which you can easily make incredible merits so many times, easily, easily.

It’s not like fixing a schedule to create good karma, it’s not like fixing a schedule to meditate at a certain time, or making hundreds and hundreds of prostrations, thousands and thousands of prostrations, or going to a solitary place to do retreat in order to create good karma, to do purification. If doing purification and creating good karma depends on that, then it's difficult. Usually to do like this, to spend time like this away from your work, away from your life, is difficult. Therefore, if this practice is done all the time, being conscious all the time, then it’s easy, so easy. Without depending on going to another place to make retreat, you create so much good karma easily.

I don't mean that it is not necessary to go to solitary places to do retreat, to do 100,000 prostrations, these things. I’m not saying that is not necessary—of course it is. But the emphasis is, even during the time when you go to work, when you live in the city, when you have normal life—at that time you can easily create so much good karma, you can easily make so much incredible purification. I'm just emphasizing that to be unconscious and lazy wastes a lot of time, it wastes a lot of energy and wastes the great precious chance to create good karma with your wisdom, with this emphasis. Then especially, the most important thing to remember is the motivation.

If we have wisdom, if we know the different methods, with wisdom, just living the normal life there are so many things, like when we eat, there are so many beneficial things, actions we can do. Just by living a normal life we can create [good karma], we can make such great purification all the time, just normally—while working, talking, walking, eating or sleeping. If we have wisdom and know the different methods, besides having the intellectual understanding, if our mind is not lazy, just in normal life we can do incredible purification. The purification and beneficial actions, Dharma practice, can be done.

Anyway, I don’t need so much to repeat this, after talking so much on refuge, the Buddha's knowledge.

Out in the fields, to receive a crop that we enjoy, which makes our life happy, how much we have to work, how much we have to try—plowing and fertilizing, planting the seed, again cleaning—there's so much work. In the East there's so much work before the crop is coming. Fertilizing the land, putting water, planting seeds, then cleaning and afterwards when it starts to grow, cleaning and then putting water, all kind of things, and then harvesting the crop. So much work has to be done. Even if it’s done with machines, so much work has to be done. To get the pleasure of eating one plate of food, one plate of rice, how much work has to be done. Incredible work has to be done for the rice from that field, for one plate of rice. That much work has to be done for one small cup of rice.

However, without changing or subduing the mind, without cleaning the mind, these temporal things help us only temporarily. Without trying to subduing the mind, without changing or cleaning the mind, without working, all these temporal things never make us receive ultimate happiness, they never bring release from samsara.

Even to receive that plate of food, how much we and other beings had to work! Whether by us or other people, so much effort was put into receiving that one small cup of rice. Even though we didn't do the work, there was a lot of energy used. But this small action of the mind—just by the way, while we are eating, as we have to eat, no problem—we just do the visualization and have a pure motivation, then we dedicate, just thinking of offering to Buddha and sharing with sentient beings. Just that small action becomes the cause of receiving the highest enjoyment in future lifetimes, receiving enjoyments in future lifetimes without effort—materials, food, clothing, these things—without effort, without working for it, intuitively receiving these. Not only that, we are born in the upper realms, and it also becomes the cause of receiving enlightenment, the cause of receiving the realizations, because doing this is a method of purification.

So it is a small action but it has incredible benefit. The result, the happiness and peace that we can see from this small action is so much. It is something we can receive in this lifetime or in the future life even when we are in samsara; the result is also something we can experience after, when we find release from samsara, when we receive enlightenment. Incredible results accrue from this small action, such a small action—planting that virtuous action in the holy field of the Buddha, and also in the field of the sentient beings. The virtuous actions that we do in the merit field of the Buddha and sentient beings are like the seeds we are planting in the field. The sentient beings, the Buddha that we visualize, to whom we dedicate the action, are like the fields from where we receive all these crops.

So you see my emphasis is this. Until the mind is changed like this, without depending on the mind, the mental development of the mind, the pure motivation, even if we want one small cup of rice, for that much we work, we put so much energy into our work, but what is the result? It is limited, you know. What is the result? It gets eaten and becomes kaka and maybe there are a few minutes of pleasure, but that's all, that's all, that's all. For this effort, that much time spent in the field. Therefore, in regard to the benefits of the result, they can never compare. This one, making offerings to the field when eating the rice, and the benefit or result of that other action can never compare. Even drinking a drop of tea or eating one spoonful of rice, if we make offerings, by that we are planting the virtuous action on the holy field of Buddha and the field of merit, sentient beings. This action so easy and it doesn't even take a minute; it’s so easy but the result is incredible, the resultant benefit is peace. What we can receive from that is incredible. Checking like this, thinking like this, you can understand.

Also, not only this, but from the external field we cannot always get plants, the crops. From the outside field we cannot get them all the time, we have to depend on the seasons. All the time as we want, we cannot always receive crops from the field—only maybe once or twice in the year. If we want to have rice from the field all the time, we cannot receive it from the field. But from this field, the holy buddha field, the merit field, the sentient beings—any time, it doesn't depend on day and night or the seasons, winter, summer, spring and autumn, things like this. It does not depend on any specific times. How much we want, anytime, whenever we want, we can plant virtuous actions in the field any time. And each action has incredible beneficial results.

When we think like this, when we check like this, even just one time—one lunch or drinking one cup of tea—not making offering is a great loss, it is an incredible loss, an incredible loss of chance. We had the chance but we lose such a great chance, such a precious opportunity. We have the chance and we have the wisdom to do it. The holy field, the buddhas, the merit field, sentient beings—this field really is a wish-fulfilling field. This is really a wish-fulfilling field because from this field, by cultivating virtuous actions, any result, any enjoyment—besides enlightenment, ultimate happiness—any good result that we want to receive in the future lifetime, even to become king, to have sufficient surroundings, many possessions, whatever, from this field we can receive all that. So it is really the wish-fulfilling field.

One thing is that even though we know the practice, the methods, the different things that can be done, we do things unconsciously, we don't use the methods. This is because without understanding what right action is, what virtuous, meritorious action is, without understanding this, it can be said to be caused by ignorance, not knowing virtuous action and non-virtuous action. Once we have a little understanding, depending on our motivation, we know that this is right action and this is wrong action, but still we are not conscious, we are not using the methods—we are being lazy, unconscious and lazy. Laziness, not having forbearance, not being afraid of the negative karma, not remembering, not thinking about the suffering results of the negative actions. It is due to not thinking of this.

The third thing is that even if we know the techniques, the method, how to do things, we become lazy, unconscious. The third one, which we usually have, is very strong. That is the self-cherishing thought. Always thinking, “I am more important than any other sentient being,” we see only ourselves there and we don't see anyone else. All the time, we see only ourselves. All the time we see only ourselves, we don't see other sentient beings. I'm talking about our feelings, I'm not talking about seeing with the eyes but about our feelings, the feelings that we have. We think that the buddhas, the enlightened beings, are not important, and sentient beings are not important. We think nothing else is important—only we are important. We only see ourselves, we only see “I,” the great Mt. Meru, “I.” This feeling is always there, therefore this is one thing that makes us unconscious.

I'm just telling you what possibilities you have and how easy it is to create good karma without living the life of an ascetic, like the great yogi Milarepa. Also in the morning, as you have a statue or holy painting, some symbolic things like that, and you put them up in your meditation room or whatever, at your place, a little bit higher. As you wash, as you clean yourself, by the way you can offer bowls of water. You don’t even need seven bowls—just one cup or bowl, or three bowls, whatever, it doesn't matter, a hundred or even two hundred, anyway, whatever is possible, big or small, or as big as Diamond Valley, whatever. As you wash in the morning, just by the way, you can offer bowls of water. But you should make sure they are clean.

Because you don't see the statue, that object, because you don't see it even yourself, sort of moving and living, you don't see anything, so with laziness and ignorance, thinking like this, even though you are making offering to this statue or painting, sometimes you don't make it clean. You don't even make it as clean as you would giving it to your friends, even that much cleaning you don't make. Just sort of wiping the bowl if it’s dirty, then pouring a little bit of water, not like this. This is doing things with ignorance; this kind of action is the same as having no devotion. That mind has no smell of devotion and is thus an evil thought of the worldly dharmas.

I'm not sure that this can be the evil thought of eight worldly dharmas, however, not like this. The bowls should be clean. As much as you want the bowls clean, even if you can't make them cleaner than that, they should be as clean as if you are offering to the buddhas, they should be that much clean.

However, no matter how dirty the offering is, no matter if it is even kaka or whatever it is, for the enlightened beings they only see nectar. For them all the time it is nectar. They taste nectar and only feel bliss. It's completely different, the taste they have, what they feel. Between what they see and your views—what you see and what you think is completely different. Even though there's no danger and it doesn't give any harm to the buddhas, for your sake the offerings should be clean. If you do not clean the bowls well, then in that way also it is negative action of offering something dirty. The object to whom we offer is not like sentient beings, it doesn't give harm and the object is holy, is precious, so holy. Because of that if the offering is dirty it becomes disrespectful, so it is a negative action.

So even one bowl or one cup, whatever, you should wash it and make it clean, and then offer. You should also clean the dust on the altar, things like this, putting rice bowls or something. Make it clean-looking. Just as when you eat food at the table, you make it clean, so also you make the altar clean here. Then you offer, you fill water there, clean water. Not dirty water or something left over—clean water, then flowers. There are many disciplines when making offering but now there's no time.

You pour the water without making a noise. First you start small then after a certain amount, pour a little more until the bowl is full. In that way it doesn't make a noise. Much noise becomes a condition, a cause for the mind to be crazy, unpeaceful, complicated. When you pour water, pour it very gently, respectfully, as if Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is really sitting there; visualize that, as if he is really there. Offer respectfully, like you are serving an important person. Then by remembering the omniscient mind, those things as we talked before, you offer.

While you are offering, you can say the blessing mantra: OM AH HUM, OM AH HUM, OM AH HUM, just three syllables, OM AH HUM. While you are pouring the water you recite this mantra. That blesses the offering; saying the mantra blesses the offering.

Student: Rinpoche, is that HUM or HUNG?

Rinpoche: Yes, that is right. Whatever comes from your mouth, HUM or HUNG. OM AH HUM. There are other spirits, other interferers who steal, so it protects the ability of that, the pure power, the pure essence of that offering. There are other spirits who enjoy water, who enjoy plants; there are many different spirits like this. When you bless like this they cannot take the essence, the ability of the offering.

You make offering like this but you can visualize it is much better than that. You actually make the offering like this, one bowl, then put flowers around, the decorations for making offering. If your motivation is pure, then however much you can do it is best, and you create that much good karma. No matter how much, you can make it beautiful, you can visualize.

There are two ways to make offerings: actually transformed offerings and mentally transformed offerings. You say a mantra which purifies the place and then you say the mantra blessing the offering. You recite the mantra to increase the offering and bless the offering. That mantra increases both. That long mantra, then om ah hum. That is not in this book, the mantra to transform the offering.

You can visualize the offering bowl like a golden bowl, large as the earth, incredibly wide like that and full of nectar. When you visualize, you can do mental transformation, you can make like this. Full of nectar, like this. Make the offering of blissful nectar, the bowl full of nectar, to the buddhas. Make the offering of blissful nectar to the buddhas, like this. Then you create good karma in two ways: by actually offering you create good karma and by mentally transforming the offering you create good karma. Even though there's no actual material thing, however, you create good karma by visualizing like this. I think the buddhas will be flying, falling down to earth. [Rinpoche laughs]

How does that become good karma, even though there is no actual material offering? Just because it is there it doesn't become an offering, just because it is there. Often it is just a function of mind, actually offering is a function of mind. The main essence, if we really clarify it, is a function of mind. Just because it is there, that doesn't make it an offering. Just because someone is surrounded by all their possessions—children, partner and possessions—that doesn't make it an offering. The essence of offering is dedicating with the mind, with the mind renouncing it instead of being attached to it. Dedicating the offering for the Buddha or for sentient beings, renouncing the attachment—that is the exact meaning of offering. The essence, what it really means is renouncing attachment. Therefore, it does not always depend on making offering of material things, having something there.

Many times, even in dreams, even during the day, many times we remember our previous actions and our previous friends. As each particular one comes, the attachment strongly comes up and anger comes up. Everything is like this, even in dreams, even in the daytime, even if we don't physically see the actual person, even if it’s in the mind.

Some people think offering is putting something on the altar, something fixed there, or taking a flower or something to the temple, a separate house, something like this, a temple or church or whatever you call it, but they don't understand the real purpose of offering. They understand offering like this—always taking something to the temple, taking a flower into the temple, putting something there. They never understand that without having enough physical things we can still make an incredible offering. Offering is method. Offering is the remedy to miserliness, to attachment. What negative mind it specifically destroys is the attachment, miserliness. Therefore, the practice of offering is done to lose attachment and finally, naturally, the main aim is to receive enlightenment.

I'm just giving you the idea, just a suggestion, of how offering can easily be done like this. Just by the way, as you have to wash, just do it like that, easy. Also, if you have several bowls, if you have many bowls, if you want to offer, you can also offer candles and incense. You can think like this, even though you make offering of just one bowl of water. The offering can be milk, honey, anything, but why we use water is because we don't have much miserliness, attachment to it. It is easy to make that offering of water because there's no attachment to it. And water is usually plentiful, although maybe not in certain places. Because there is not so much mind problem when offering water it is easy to make offering and easy to dedicate, so the offering is more pure. That is why water was used in India and Tibet by the previous meditators. Why they make water offering is because it's easy and also there are no difficulties with heat. The main thing is that it's easy to renounce and in that way it becomes a pure offering.

You offer water there, then: “Due to the merits of making one bowl offering to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may it become the cause of all sentient beings receiving enlightenment.” Even though you make one bowl offering, dedicate the offering like this. Besides offering to Buddha, you can dedicate the merit to all the sentient beings. Think, “May the merit be the cause of all sentient beings receiving enlightenment.” You have dedicated the merit, you have shared, dedicated for all sentient beings, the infinite number of sentient beings. So even though the offering is a simple thing, one bowl offering, the merit covers all sentient beings. It becomes the cause for all sentient beings to receive enlightenment, by dedicating it like this. As you dedicate like this, as I told you, the benefits of bodhicitta are like infinite space and just by making that offering you gain infinite merits easily. It’s so easy.

Also when you offer lights, candles or anything, visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and make the offering. When you start to light the candle, while doing that, you can think: “By making offering of this candle, by lighting it, due to the action of offering light, may all the sentient beings’ ignorance be burnt and destroyed by the transcendental wisdom flame or light, by the transcendental wisdom light.” If you think like this, so it’s not only physical action, you also feel it in your mind, then the action has such great meaning. Offering one candle, you feel it has meaning. Sincerely think like this: “By my offering the lamp, the light, and lighting it, may all sentient beings’ ignorance be dispelled, or burnt (whatever you want to say) by the transcendental wisdom light.” Transcendental wisdom is the wisdom realizing shunyata. The main ignorance is what? The main ignorance is not knowing the nature of self.

Same thing, when you light incense, you can think like this. This motive involves bodhicitta. Just while you are starting the action of lighting the incense you can think: “By my making offering of the incense, lighting it, burning it, may the subtle dualistic mind of all the sentient beings be burnt by the transcendental wisdom of happiness.” With your mind, think like this. Also if you can, strongly think that all sentient beings’ subtle dualistic minds are completely burned by the transcendental wisdom of happiness. Kind of like completely extinguished, sort of not existing. If you can strongly think like this it will be more effective, more beneficial. Then you put the offering there as you are visualizing Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; you make the offering.

With this action, if you do this with the pure thought of bodhicitta, it becomes the cause of receiving bodhicitta sooner and also, by receiving the realizations quickly, soon you can become like a buddha, capable of burning and destroying all the sentient beings’ dualistic minds, and capable also of destroying all the sentient beings’ ignorance. You can lead them to actualize transcendental wisdom happiness, the path, by offering like this.

Then, remember Buddha, Dharma and Sangha three times at night and three times during the day if it is possible. Actually those who take refuge, those who precisely take the refuge or ordination, precisely taking through prayers—since we have fear and since we do not desire to be reborn in suffering realms, since we have fear of that rebirth, since we want to seek help and receive guidance from the Buddha, that itself is taking refuge. Refuge is not to do with the action of speech; refuge is mainly mind action.

As I talked about devotion and the fear of samsaric suffering, the fear of the suffering of the three lower realms, once we have this devotion and this fear of the suffering realms, we want to receive help and guidance from Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Even though we don't know samsaric suffering, we don’t want to be born in the suffering realms, and as we have that much devotion and that much fear, we receive that much refuge. The strength of the refuge is that much.

Actually, that is the most important thing, rather than repeating prayers. If we don't have that understanding, if our mind is not qualified in those things, even though we repeat the formula, just repeating the words doesn't mean taking refuge. That doesn't mean taking the refuge ordination.

What I mean is, especially those of you who take refuge ordination, you should remember Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and the benefits of taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Remember Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the morning when you get up, in the afternoon and at nighttime when you go to bed—remember. Just remember. Remember the knowledge; remember the benefits of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. You don't have to do checking meditation each night; even if you don't have time for that, just remember the benefits of taking refuge. Just remember.

When you remember this, you can also remember samsaric suffering and the suffering of the lower realms. You can remember that at the same time. Just remember this, even when you are lying down, whatever you are doing. Just remembering even the benefits of arising devotion creates good karma. Then as you remember, you prostrate with your hands and make prostrations like this. You easily create good karma by making prostrations, three times at night and three times during the day, in the morning time. Remember this frequently, don’t completely forget it, remember it again and again.

Then, in our life, whatever work we have to do, whatever is being planned, whatever work we have, small or great, business or whatever it is, it’s like wanting to make a journey to some country, to travel, to be successful or something, to not have any danger on the way, things like that. All the time, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are the only objects in whom we can completely trust, the objects who never betray us and never lead us the wrong way.

Usually ordinary people, even our very close friend, even the closest friend who gives us materials, all kinds of things, who fulfills all our desires: there’s nothing to trust in even that person. We’re not sure that they will always help us, we’re not sure they will always guide us. We’re not sure, and even if they help us, we’re not sure they will always help us in the right way. We’re not sure they will always become our helper. It always changes. Even last year we were so close, almost like impossible to split, inseparable, you know. Almost like interdependent—I'm joking.

Anyway, this is the nature of samsaric beings, the nature of samsara. So for ordinary people, no matter how close we were to our friends, so friendly, almost impossible to split in the last year but this year it’s become completely opposite, we’re completely against each other. There are many of these life experiences like this. It is true, it’s easy to see. In our life experience, it is easy to understand if our mind is conscious. If we try to stay wide awake it is easy, [relationships] always keep changing.

By thinking “Now they are my close friend,” then completely relying for our whole life on that, with our whole life in their hands, completely, soon there's big confusion. Because there's nothing to trust and their nature is not permanent, one day soon maybe we will do or say something which they don't like. Just as a match, a small thing, can burn, destroy many things, it’s easy. It could be such a small thing, a small condition—something is wrong with our voice, something is wrong with our actions, maybe something is wrong with the materials—a small condition can split so easily and they can become enemy. So easily they turn against us. It always changes; there's nothing to trust. Afterwards our life becomes a big hassle.

However, those whom we really should trust from the depths of our mind, on whom we should rely—ordinary people, there’s nothing to trust, because we’re not free and later everything changes—those who our mind should hang onto, rely on, in whom we can have complete trust, who can never betray us, who never lead us in the wrong way, are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Even if we have a job, even if we have great business, even if we have great work that has to be done, we can always rely on Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. We can always pray and always completely rely on Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, especially of course, no need to talk about if we are practicing Dharma, which is the greatest work. Practicing Dharma is greater than anything else, greater action than anything else, so there's no need to talk about the need to rely on the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

Next, whatever action is done, do it by relying on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Not giving up the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha even if it costs us our life. Not giving up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, even in play.

In previous times, there was one monk. I think, the other religion people, anti-Buddhists who follow outer religions, told this person, “You should give up the refuge. If you don't give up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, I will kill you.” So he gave up his life. Instead of giving up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, he gave up his life. He didn't care about himself; he didn't give up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and for that purpose he gave up his life—he didn’t give up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha even though there was danger to his life. Then, after his death, instead of being born in the lower realms, he was born in the realm of the gods.

Even though it doesn't cost our life, giving up Buddha, Dharma, Sangha is very heavy karma. Giving up the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is like completely destroying, completely burning the root of a tree, like a wish-fulfilling tree which always gives much result, enjoyment. Burning that root, completely destroying the root, so we don’t receive all the enjoyment results. However, it's like this.

Then also for other people whose mind we see is OK, whose mind is OK to explain all about refuge, who is seeking some guidance; the person whose mind is a little bit ready, who is not satisfied with their life, the samsaric life and these things. Anyway, the person who wants to have a better, pure and meaningful life, who wants to escape from the mental sufferings, whose mind is a little bit ready, wanting to seek guidance, refuge. That kind of person, whose mind is a little bit ready, who has problems and doesn’t know what the perfect object of refuge is, we can try to talk to them about refuge, the benefits of refuge, things like this. We can talk about the object of refuge with others.

These are the general practices of the refuge.

Lecture 16

Remembering this prayer is very useful. I mentioned before, even at your own house, usually when you enjoy, when you eat or drink—and not only at the time of eating—this prayer is very useful just to remember any time, any time. It has great meaning.

“May I and all surrounding sentient beings in all the lifetimes not be separated from the Triple Gem—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—and always make offerings to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and receive blessings of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.”

This is very useful, even at your own house. This can be used to offer, this prayer can be used for grace. Not for buddha grass! [Laughter] It can be used even when you take that, without discrimination! However, even at your house it’s very good to say this.

“Myself and all surrounding sentient beings,” according to the Tibetan words, “all surroundings” means your friends, your wife, your children, your husband, parents, whatever close people are there, surrounding people, relatives, then all the rest of the sentient beings. You can think like this. Visualize your parents, children or whatever, those who are close to you, then the rest of the sentient beings. This prayer is useful because you are not only praying for yourself, you are also praying for all the surrounding family and the rest of sentient beings to not be separated from the Triple Gem, to always have the chance to make offerings to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and to create good karma, which means to continuously create good karma and continuously receive happiness, to receive blessings for enlightenment.

Receiving blessings is extremely important. Having devotion to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha is also receiving blessings. Your devotion increasing to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is also receiving blessings. Receiving clearer and clearer understanding, clearer and clearer experience of the meditation subjects as you practice, meditate—that is also receiving blessings. As your experience of meditation is getting stronger and stronger, the feelings of meditation are getting stronger and stronger, clearer and clearer, that is also receiving blessings. Of course, no need to talk about actualizing, receiving realizations—no need to talk about that.

Even remembering impermanence, even remembering impermanence and death and wanting to practice Dharma, by remembering this you want to practice Dharma, you want to do something good—this is also receiving blessings in the mind, blessings of the Triple Gem. Receiving blessings is extremely important and without that there is no way to actualize the meditations. Therefore, praying to receive blessings is very important.

If we pray like this, we can easily remember these things. Of course it’s good to help parents and relatives in a material way, this and that, but actually what really helps, what can really help them is doing this simple prayer, which we can say during the time of eating. Without making our mind complicated, this can definitely help. The best help we can give is this prayer. It’s the best help, for our parents, our family and the rest of the sentient beings to not be separated from the Triple Gem.

If we are separate from the Triple Gem, if we don't meet the Triple Gem, then we remain ignorant, not having a savior. Also we are always ignorant, following the wrong guide, always creating negative karma, always putting ourselves in suffering. Then besides us, all the family, all the rest, by continuously making offerings to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and receiving blessings, they receive enlightenment. This is very useful, very useful. This is the best thing; prayers such as this are the best help.

Sometimes I used to listen to my mother. Of course, she worried about me very much so I used to tell her what she could do: the best thing she could do for me was not give me presents, not give me material things. I told her that what I would really like, instead of giving me a million dollars I would much prefer that she pray for the success of my Dharma practice. I would much prefer that; I’d be much happier that she made prayers.

My mother said she often prays for me. One day I asked her how she prays, “How do you pray for me?” I tried to check up. It really made me laugh the way she prays. She says she prays all the time—when the sun rises in the mountains, in the early morning, she says she often remembers me and prays. She says she has been praying since I was born, even from that time when I was small she has been praying. In her prayers, I'm not sure, but there are funny words. One of her prayers is “May the sun rise on the mountains,” or something like that. “May the light of the sun strike, may the snow mountain receive the sunlight,” kind of like that prayer.

Then I said, “Why do you pray like this? It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense, so why do you pray like this? Better you pray like this ....” She said, “No, no, my prayer has some meaning, because by continuously praying like this all the time, it becomes successful.” Afterwards we talked about how to pray and sometimes I examine whether she is saying it correctly, whether she can remember or not. I used to tell her that if the Dharma practice is to be successful then that includes everything, every wish, everything, so you don't need to say many words, this and that, so many things. Sometimes I feel shy to explain what she is doing, like those prayers, what she is doing.

Even when we are invited by other people, friends, to parties or anything, at those times the best thing we can do for them, the really best help for them, among all the actions that we do for other people, the best thing we can do for them is to pray like this. Then even when we eat, sincerely thinking, praying like this, remembering all this.

That is the best help for them. By praying we are making conjunction, fixing a relationship between them and Buddhadharma, between them and Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Even if at the present time they do not know Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, even if they are far away from that understanding, even if they are completely in darkness, if their mind or life is completely in darkness. For ordinary people other actions—giving presents to them, talking nicely, trying to say good words, ego-pleasing words— are mostly involved with the eight worldly dharmas, however, sincerely praying in our heart, which other people don’t know we are doing, is really sincere, really pure action. This is just my suggestion of what things can help, how we can help, how we can benefit others without confusion.

Before, I mentioned and explained about refuge, the benefits of refuge, and talked about knowledge of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for others. The emphasis is that it is not like being a missionary, as I see it. It’s not like some missionaries who go all over the country, all over the place, in the streets, passing books. Not like that, not in that way. Some religious people want to just spread as much as possible their theory, without checking, without having any compassion, without any concern for other people’s suffering. The basic idea in Buddhadharma—not talking about Mahayana, just the basic idea of Buddhadharma—is that it’s necessary to have concern for other beings' suffering. Those kinds of things, without concern for other beings' suffering—to release, to guide other beings from suffering, from their problems of life—not being concerned with any of this, completely forgetting that and just trying to spread their own theory, whatever they call their religion, trying to be well-far-famed. That is more or less having attachment to that religion and doesn't really have so much purpose. Talking from the side of the ordinary person, it isn’t the real purpose of religion.

However, the basic thing is that it is necessary to have compassion when we talk, it’s necessary to have compassion. Not with attachment, the mind kind of taking partisanship to Buddhism, not with attachment, but when we talk about Dharma or when we explain about refuge to other people, there must be compassion. Not so much with that but mainly, with compassion, being concerned with those other people's suffering, their wrong conceptions; the mind feeling their suffering.

Those who are ready, those who can digest or whose mind wants to seek a new method instead of having such a material life according to their level of mind, and especially having fear of death—that is very rare. Especially if they have a mind capable of listening to a talk about refuge, it is worthwhile to explain that, to talk about refuge to them, because refuge is the best solution to guide, the fundamental method to not be born in a suffering realm and to have less suffering at death-time. By feeling the wrong conceptions that they have—not knowing Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, not having that knowledge, and not knowing the perfect guide who can definitely help; not having wisdom and not having method, all these things, the sufferings—by feeling compassion for them, understanding their suffering with compassion, feeling concerned for their suffering, you can explain, talk about refuge, the knowledge of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, how they are fantastic. As much as you know, you can explain the powers that it has or the benefits of taking refuge.

Especially if you talk from your own experience, it is the best, not just intellectually but with experience, that is the best, the best. How do you say? It’s more real for them. This is leading others in the path of refuge.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 127]

If the good results of taking refuge were to manifest themselves in form, there would not be enough room in the three worlds to contain them, so immense are the benefits. They are innumerable—more numerous than handfuls of water in all the oceans.

Yet, there are eight major benefits of taking refuge.

1. Becoming Buddhist (an inner being; Tib. nangpa.)

Actually that word “Buddhist,” according to my understanding, just from the word “Buddhist” usually we interpret—because someone has studied Buddhist philosophy and they can explain it, they can talk about Dharma and Buddhist philosophy—normally for reasons like that we believe that person is Buddhist and we call them Buddhist. However, that word cannot just make someone a Buddhist.

For instance, in previous times, I think Devadatta who always competed with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, who was recognized as evil, the person who always tried to destroy Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. In Devadatta’s mind there was [knowledge of] maybe thousands, thousands, thousands, thousands of volumes of texts, as much as a big elephant could carry as luggage. He had that many texts in the mind, he could explain them, but there was still no change in his mind or having refuge. So another way of saying this, using this normal word “Buddhist” even though there is that much textual knowledge in someone’s mind, as much as one big elephant's luggage, thousands of volumes, still they are not Buddhist.

The actual term is “inner being” and the actual meaning is inner being. So just the word “Buddhist” does not really convey that; just from the word Buddhist it is not so clear. “Inner being” is a clearer title, if we use “Buddhist” as title for inner being. However, as we talked before, it doesn't depend on anything physical. The definition of the inner being or Buddhist can never be made just by seeing the external actions of the person.

Just because the person is in robes does not mean they are an inner being, a Buddhist. Just because the person's hair is shaved doesn't mean they are Buddhist; just because the person has a mala around their neck, doesn't mean the person is Buddhist. Anybody can have mala, anybody can shave their hair. Just the physical thing of wearing robes, anybody can do that without going through the precepts and changing their mind. That doesn't mean they are a Buddhist; it doesn't mean they are an inner being. Same thing, making pujas or saying prayers doesn't mean the person is an inner being, a Buddhist. Even sitting on a throne, the person is sitting on a throne and talking about Dharma, still that doesn't mean they are an inner being, a Buddhist; that cannot make the definition. It can be possible that none of those who are speaking, talking about Dharma and none of those who are listening to Dharma are Buddhists, inner beings, but some beggars begging outside are maybe pure Buddhists, inner beings. That can be possible. It only depends on the mind. The definition can never be made by judging only the external actions.

Even if we sleep with thousands of statues and Dharma texts around our room and we sleep in the middle, that doesn't mean we are a Buddhist, an inner being. It doesn't mean this. If all this doesn't mean being Buddhist, then how can it be possible that just by being born in a Buddhist country we become Buddhist? Of course, it is clear that being born in a place doesn't make us Buddhist. It is clear. Even if we understand the whole philosophical teaching, many thousands of volumes, if we have the texts in our mind to explain—just that, without changing the mind we don't become Buddhist.

Without having refuge or changing the mind, without having refuge, we don’t become Buddhist. Therefore, how can it be possible that just by being born in a Buddhist country we become a Buddhist? That's just generalizing, that's just ordinary people's talk, without checking. Also being born in a family in which the father and mother make offerings or have a little devotion, just being born to that family doesn't mean that person, that baby is a Buddhist, an inner being. Just that doesn't make it so.

So now, since it doesn't depend on only physical actions, actions of speech and body—what does it depend on? It’s all in the mind; it only depends on the mind. How do we define whether someone is an inner being or not? That is by refuge, the definition is by refuge. The person with refuge is an inner being. If we don't have refuge in our mind then we are not an inner being, no matter how we act, no matter how much our actions are Buddhist actions. This is so important; this is very important to understand. This is very important.

In this way we can check, by understanding this we can check whether we are an inner being or an outer being, whether we are outer or inner. Whether we are inner being or outer being: we can check. Then we know where we are—outside of the house or inside. By understanding this, we can really check up the level of our mind and know where we are. Otherwise, if we don't know this, we will always have wrong beliefs. Because we can say some prayers and mantras and we can do some religious actions, we believe we are Buddhists, inner beings, but this is a wrong conception. Because we are born in a family to parents who have a little devotion, who make little offerings, who imitate a little bit that religious action—because of that we believe “I am Buddhist.” That is a wrong conception, wrong conception. This is very important to know. Then we know for ourselves.

So how much we are a pure inner being depends on how pure our refuge is. It’s only defined by the mind, by the mental development, the understanding, having fear of the samsaric sufferings, the suffering of the three lower realms, and having devotion to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. Comparing the outer being—who doesn't have anything at all, who doesn't understand anything about samsaric suffering or the suffering of the three lower realms, who has no understanding of reincarnation, no devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—looking at that person's mind level, they have such an ignorant, limited mind.

If we have a little understanding of reincarnation and have faith in it, having fear of those rebirths, especially having fear in general of samsaric rebirth, and having devotion to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha—even if we don't have deep understanding of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha's knowledge, or a deep understanding of samsaric nature—comparing to that person who doesn't have anything, whose mind is completely empty and very dried; compared to that mind, we who have a little bit of devotion, a little bit of fear, a little bit of understanding, our mind is much higher. Compared to that previous person, we have realizations. Compared to that person whose mind is completely empty, in darkness, we who have a little bit devotion, who understand something, having some faith in karma, it’s like having realizations. Our mind is much higher; we have that much refuge and we are that fortunate.

Generally, having fear and devotion is like this. This is talking about having fear of the suffering of the three lower realms, according to ordinary people, according to the level of our mind. Of course, there are higher bodhisattvas who have refuge. The higher bodhisattvas and higher beings following the higher paths have refuge, but they don't have fear of the suffering lower realms because they have gone beyond the ordinary level of mind, the ordinary path, they have gone beyond that. So there's complete trust. Because of that higher path they have received, definitely they won't be born in the suffering lower realms. They don't have fear of their own future rebirth, but they have the wish for release from the delusions, and also the higher bodhisattvas wish for release from the dualistic mind, the subtle obscurations. They also have incredible, deep understanding of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha's knowledge, and incredible devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. So this is just a little detail, just to have understanding.

Inner being, nangpa; inner being has much more taste and it makes much more sense. Now we can understand this term inner being is nothing to do with partisanship. Now we can easily see it's nothing to do with partisanship. It’s not easy to become an inner being. If we think like this, if we really check up, our speech cannot define it by saying “I am Buddhist.” Only our mind can define it, only our mental development can define it, only our relative mind’s realizations can define it. Only that makes us become an inner being or Buddhist.

Generally, if we really check up, even in Buddhist countries there are less people who are inner beings and more outer beings who don't have refuge. Less people have refuge in the mind, if we really check up. However, it’s not an easy thing to become an inner being. Especially becoming a pure inner being is difficult; it depends on great understanding, mental development.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 127]

2. It is the basis of all ordinations.

Why is it called “inner?” Why inner? Because the person who has refuge, as we talked before, as we started with the outline “Refuge is the holy door of the teachings,” this person who has refuge has entered the holy door of the teachings, they are inside. Therefore they are called inner being, Buddhist. It’s like this. An outer being is one who doesn't have devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, who doesn't have faith or understanding of karma and also who has wrong understanding, who follows a wrong path.

So the second benefit: “It is the basis of all ordinations.” Any ordination has to be taken on the basis of refuge, by having the basis, the foundation of refuge. Also as the refuge is pure, the ordination becomes pure, purer and stronger. Whenever ordination is given, the refuge comes all the time at the beginning.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 127]

3. All previous bad karma is diminished.

By taking refuge, all previous bad karma, no matter how heavy it is, can be purified.

4. Extensive good karma accumulates.

As we discussed at the beginning, the benefits of taking refuge are greater than handfuls of water from the ocean, the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. If the benefits of taking refuge were material, even the three worlds—the world of the senses, the world of form, the world of formless—would become a small part. If the benefits of refuge were in material form, they would not fit into the three worlds. The benefits of taking refuge and handfuls of water from the Pacific—if you could count, the number of handfuls of water from the Pacific can be finished but the benefits of refuge cannot be finished by counting.

5. I cannot be afflicted by either humans or non- humans.

Why I said before that mind should always rely on and trust these is because it is the best method, the best protection, not only in this life but in all lifetimes. The best protection at death time and after death, in all the future lives, even in this life, day and night, all the time, the fundamental best protection is taking refuge. There are so many stories, but there's not time.

Just to be released from the ordinary temporal hindrances, from the fears and sufferings of this life—it isn't necessary for those things to happen. We can be protected [from the temporal hindrances of this life] by taking refuge in the Dharma, we can be protected. But to not be born in the suffering lower realms, to find release from samsara needs the help of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, all three. Especially to be released from samsara, to be released from all the wrong conceptions, dualistic mind, we need the help of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. So it’s necessary to take refuge in all three. Only the Sangha, without taking refuge to Buddhadharma, we cannot do, therefore it is necessary to take refuge to all three.

In India, many Tibetan people and monks work in the fields, many Tibetan refugees. There's always the danger of animals—even elephants, very harmful animals—coming to eat in the fields, coming to eat crops and harm the people. So many times when this happens they pray to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They just remember His Holiness and they strongly pray from the heart. Many times they had the experience that when they pray the animals, who usually give harm, just slowly run away without harming anything. Many people had that experience and proved it.

Anyway there is so much to tell you about the previous meditators, how taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha has been helpful for them, how it has been protecting their life. There's so much to talk about.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 127]

6. I shall not be reborn in the three lower realms.

If you don't want to be born in the three lower realms, if you don't desire that, the best fundamental method is the refuge.

7. It brings all success.

All success—happiness in this life, happiness in future lives, receiving enlightenment—everything.

8. I shall receive enlightenment sooner.

By taking refuge, the benefit is also receiving enlightenment sooner.

Taking refuge is, therefore, extremely important, and it is the basis of all teachings. To attain enlightenment or to gain tantric practices, I must complete the practice of the six paramitas: the transcendental perfections of charity, morality, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. To do so, I need the three higher trainings of conduct, concentration and wisdom. The basis of these three is taking refuge.

So the part on refuge is finished. This is still just like a little drop in the ocean, nothing. Actually refuge is a very deep subject. We can only understand it perfectly, fully, without missing anything, when we receive enlightenment. So refuge is very important. If you want to check the founder of a religion or whatever it is, how perfect a guide it is, how pure it is—if you want to check up, you can check up with this understanding.

How they are a worthwhile object of refuge: there are four reasons as I mentioned before, whether that object of refuge has the knowledge, whether they are worthwhile object to take refuge, whether they have this knowledge. Like this you check up the founder of another religion, if you want to check whether they have this and this and this. Then check up whether they have exactly like the Buddha's knowledge—knowledge of speech, body, mind, actions, everything. Like this you should check up.

Not understanding refuge, not understanding karma—not understanding the practice of refuge, not understanding the practice of karma—is the root from where all the suffering comes, all the negative actions, ignorance, our wrong conceptions and sufferings, our complicated life, all the suffering. From the understanding of refuge, the practice of refuge, the understanding of karma, the practice of karma—from there all the happiness, all the perfections, enlightenment, everything comes. That's like the world. Therefore, refuge and karma are extremely important, extremely important.

Even though we haven't gone on to other parts, the next part of the meditations, still it’s greatly worthwhile to hear details about refuge and these things. It’s a fundamentally important thing, which stops us from creating a lot of negative karma, which clears up many things, which is important. It’s difficult to hear about this again, even in the future. It’s difficult because of many hindrances to hear about this again in future times.

Next Chapter:

Lectures 17 and 18 »