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 with students at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, May 25, 1975. Photo: Wendy Finster.
Lectures 21 and 22
Lecture 21

We might as well finish all karmas tonight! [Laughter] The part of the karma subject is usually very, very interesting for the mind, very interesting and so helpful. Understanding karma is really extremely helpful to correct our life actions and it’s also very helpful in showing us how to live our life purely. Understanding karma is very helpful. Also, usually it is very good to read [Dharma] books, instead of reading stories of people which don't help the life at all, which don’t change our life or make our life beneficial and pure, which don't help at all, which just waste a lot of time and only cause more attachment to arise. Reading their life stories, how they live their samsaric life, how they went through the different trips, all these things, if we don't know how to read the book then reading it can become cause of attachment. It becomes the cause of attachment, increasing attachment and then, by reading that book we also want to get involved, we also want to make the same trip as that person did.

Many people copy like this by watching movies and reading books, you know, just of ordinary people's life stories, then they try to act like that, they try to become like that, not only in the West but also in the East. There are many people who do like this. However, since it takes much time to read those books, instead of spending the time doing that, using the time to read such a book, if we don't know how to read it, it all becomes cause of attachment. It all becomes negative action. Reading that book becomes the cause of increasing attachment, the negative mind. Besides, there’s no need to talk about how much time we waste, we lose. No need to talk about that. Look at the people, so many people, so much time is wasted reading that kind of book, which only builds more attachment instead of bringing peace to our mind, making the mind happy, making the mind subdued, relaxed, which makes the life pure, peaceful.

Instead of reading that kind of book and wasting a lot of time, we can do many better things than that, so many things. There are many books on karma. There are many sutras. Maybe translated into Chinese, I’m not sure. There are many sutra teachings which talk so much about karma; they’re very interesting, extremely interesting. So much talk about karma, stories of bodhisattvas, stories about the Buddha and many things like this. Reading that kind of book would be very interesting, fantastic for the mind. The more we read those Dharma books, the more time we spend doing that, it only helps the mind.

Especially in your family or in your life when there is quarreling, for instance, between husband and wife, when there is a big problem or something. When something is lost or something is wrong, when there’s a bit of problem in your mind, then if you open Dharma books at those times—the mind training teachings, Dharma books, like Jewel Ornament or whatever, the basic practices—just by reading Dharma books it’s possible that your mind becomes detached from that problem, from that person or that object or that situation. It’s possible. The mind becomes detached and your life becomes peaceful, happy.

Regarding karma, you should not think, you should not have the idea that even though you create some negative karma, you won’t experience the suffering result. “Maybe I won't experience the suffering result of this. Perhaps the suffering result of this karma might get lost. I’m not sure whether I will experience the result; these things will get lost, they can disappear.” This is a wrong conception. You have created negative karma and then, as you don't want to experience the result, you're expecting it to disappear without following any remedies, without trying to destroy it, without trying to stop it. That kind of thinking is useless. It never becomes like this, it never disappears as you expect.

Understanding karma and stopping these impulses is the most important thing. Each negative action creates so many new negative karmas. You should always try to apply the remedies, because as long as you don't follow the remedy and you don't try something, the karmic result never gets lost. No matter how heavy or how small it is, it never gets lost. The karmic result never gets lost, no matter how many hundreds of billions and billions and billions of lives it takes, it never gets lost.

Karma is really an interesting subject to understand and it is a very wide subject. Karma is an extremely wide subject; it’s not a small thing. Karma is the thing that we have to always think of, to be concerned about all the time. Whether we make the life happy or unhappy; whether we make the life happy without having confusion or suffering, all depends on karma. All is derived from karma. What life we are going to have in the future all depends on the present karma.

For instance, karma is definite. Usually, we may not have the idea, we may not think, “I want to kill myself.” When we hear some other people have committed suicide, we think “Such action as killing myself I'll never do in my life.” When we hear things like this, we think that such things will never happen to us. You know, dying by being burnt by fire or things like this. We think we’re in a different place. When we hear such things, we think, “It will never happen to me. I will never do like this; such a situation will never happen to me.”

We think like this but it’s not sure, not sure. When the time comes, when the karma is ripened, when the result manifests, it’s without choice.

Even though you thought like this before, that it would never happen to you, in time somehow there is the uncontrollable urge to kill yourself. This can happen. You have to shoot yourself or you have to kill yourself; these things happen, it’s uncontrolled. No matter how much you thought it would never happen to you. That means, even though you thought before how horrible it was, however, when the time comes, when the karma result has ripened and is ready—not sure when—you have to experience the same uncontrollable trips as another person. Not sure. Karma is really very powerful, very powerful, very powerful, very powerful, very powerful.

For instance, the fly which jumps in the flame—these flies jump on the light but they can't stand it there and again come out, then again they go there and again come out, and again go there—the same place where they suffered before they keep on going there. They keep on going there. It doesn't mean they don't feel the heat. They feel hot there. They feel hot and they burn their legs. When the flies go there they come down, they can't fly so well and they come down like this. Sometimes those poor flies get stuck in the light. Once they get there, they can't get their legs off and they get stuck there and die. However, you see, even though they are so hot they again jump there; they keep on going there. That shows how the flies’ karma is really powerful, really powerful. Because the karma has already ripened it pushes them. Also, due to craving, they keep on jumping there; they keep on jumping. No one forces the flies to jump there, no other sentient being forces them but they go there, even though they burn there, even though they are so hot there.

By watching like this, by watching the nature of those sentient beings’ lives, this is the explanation of karma, what we see just around here. Just the evolution of life that we are experiencing, that is the nature of life; that is the explanation of karma, life always is up and down, all the time. All this is the explanation of karma. So, it can be things happening that we didn’t know about before, all these things are the explanation of karma. What we see outside, other sentient beings, other people, insects. Therefore, even in the present time we have to be very careful about creating actions that cause [negative] results.

So, when we meditate on karma, as I explained the relationship earlier—after refuge comes karma. We can remember and think about that!

Then after that, I think also here, one point is about the Dharma. The actual refuge is Dharma and then that whole thing is based on observing karma, observing even our tiny actions. So that is karma. The actual thing is checking on each of our actions, how they are done. Then after checking the actions of this life, we can think like this: “I also did this a number of times in my previous lifetime.” Then, on the basis of all these negative actions, we use each one specifically—how karma is definite and karma is expandable.

Karma is definite, which means we will definitely get the result in our life, as I told you in the example of the seed.

Like this, also we may have wrong conceptions about creating negative karma, such as thinking that negative karma can bring the result happiness. We think perhaps this could be possible. Then think about the billions and billions and billions of karmas that are created and collected in the mind. For example, we put into a big cup of curd some raisins, peppers and all kinds of different tasting things, some which taste acid, which taste sour, which taste hot or sweet—we put all kinds of things in the curd and we mix it up. However, when we taste it, when the pepper comes we feel hot, when the raisin comes it tastes sweet, when salt comes it also tastes hot—according to whatever comes we get its taste, the taste never changes. The taste of pepper does not go sweet, the taste of the pepper does not become the taste of sugar, the taste of the raisin does not become the salt taste. It doesn't change, like this. Whichever comes, we get the taste of it.

So like this, there are many billions and billions and billions of karmas created in the mind and nothing gets mixed up. Karma is created in the mind—actions, potentials, intentions, seeds. Happy results, suffering results—nothing gets mixed. Perhaps it is possible some of you may think when so many negative karmas are created, maybe some results get mixed up and it becomes a sort of happy result, a good result. It’s not like this, it's impossible, impossible.

Karma is expandable. Also you remember those examples I mentioned. There are so many things to talk about. But anyway, you can also understand by sometimes reading other books. There are many stories and other things showing how karma is expandable. Karma is expandable. Try to understand it by looking at examples like rice, like crops.

It is impossible to experience the result without creating the cause; also remember those examples about the disease and those things. I'm just giving you an idea of how to check up. There are many ways to check up. There are so many examples; the world is full of examples. If you can check up, then it's not difficult to find examples. I'm just giving you suggestions, ideas, so that you can find similar examples. You can get many examples.

For general meditation on karma, you can think it is impossible to experience the result without creating the cause. How? This one is like this, this one is like this, etc. As you have experienced in your life, try to remember all this. Try to prove it. Why is it like this? Because without creating the cause, the result cannot be experienced. For instance, when you plant a potato in the field, you cannot expect to get corn on the cob or apples, maybe. You cannot expect to grow apples from potatoes. Without planting the apple tree or whatever, it can't grow. It can't grow. You can't expect apples to grow from a potato.

The result of the karma created is never lost, so you need to do confession. After this, you can see, your life is so clear, after checking all this karma, your life is so clear. It is very clear; how clear it is. You can see after checking this.

“Now my life is like this, and after this, if I die, where is it more definite that I'll be reborn? It’s more definite I will be reborn in the suffering realms, where I will only experience suffering. There will be no chance to practice Dharma to be released from samsara, and I will keep on being reborn there and suffering there for a long time. Therefore, I must do something now. Right at this time I must do something with this karma. I must do something; I must purify these karmas before being born in the suffering realms. I must purify the karmas which make me go into the suffering realms.”

You can think like this: “Before being born in the lower realms I must purify the negative karmas. I must do something with the karma. I must try as much as possible not be reborn in the suffering realms.” Think like this; it builds some energy. Then, after that, you can make confession.

The last one is the way of thinking how to stop karma. How to stop karma is the last thing.

You start with how mind is beginningless, from there, then the perfect human rebirth. All these methods, actually, are methods to stop karma and to be free from delusion and karma. All these methods, starting from beginningless mind, are all methods to free us from delusion and karma. All these teachings, all these meditations, generally, are like this.

Anyway, it is good to make confession after this because, you see, after meditating on karma, your mind becomes so clear and you have so much energy there wanting to purify, to do something to stop the karma. So if you do confession after this, your confession becomes very powerful, very powerful.

The perfect way of doing confession is according to this method, which has gathered all the four points.4 It is the perfect confession and has definite power to purify. It is necessary to remember these four points. They are called the four faculties or remedies. Remedy to what? Remedy to negative karmas.

The first thing is to take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, like the meditation during refuge time: La ma la kyab su chi o, etc. You recite this prayer. That itself is with understanding, with devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; taking refuge is always that. That is the first thing, which is the faculty of refuge—the faculty of refuge, which means Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Next one is feeling repentance for the negative karma that has been created since beginningless samsaric lifetimes. The repentance should have strength. It should be skillful repentance, a great feeling of repentance of so much incredible negative karma that has been created from beginningless samsaric lifetimes. That arises because you have been observing, because you have been checking on karma like this, therefore you don't need to spend a lot of time here. You are checking on karma and feeling great repentance. The more and more you check, as you gradually check this life and other beginningless samsaric lifetimes, remember as you check the energy, understanding how much negative karma you have created, “What incredible negative karma I have been creating!”

Realizing this, that feeling itself is the repentance. Feeling kind of upset, feeling sorry about doing the negative actions, that feeling itself is repentance. You don't need to spend more time on that, it does not depend on the subject. It is OK as you have meditated on karma. That is the subject of repentance. If you want to make powerful confession, to really purify as quickly as possible, it’s most important to make the feeling of repentance as strong as possible.

The stronger repentance there is, that much better you can do the fourth one, which is vowing not to repeat the sin. You determine not to create that action again next time. You are making the decision now to not do it again, to not create that karma again; you are making the decision now.

Why repentance is important is that if the feeling of repentance is very strong, our decision to not do these negative actions again also becomes very strong. Our decision becomes very, very strong. That is the psychological way to work. The feeling of repentance is very strong. We feel that having created this negative karma is unbearable and so definitely the decision becomes stronger, thinking: “I don't want to do it again. I really don't want to do it again.”

The decision comes so strongly. Not just intellectually thinking, “Oh, I don't want to do that,” just superficial words, but really from the depths of our heart we're making the decision, “I really don't want to do that!” Like if we’re about to do something negative, then afterwards we realize, sort of, “I'm really not interested, I'm making a big decision.” This one we really care about. So, in this way—by strong repentance and making the strong decision not to do it again, making a vow—this makes confession really powerful, so powerful, really powerful. So repentance is very important.

There is a difference if, while we're working or digging, while we're building, while we're doing something, while we're working with materials, even though it isn't in the mind, animals get killed. Normally we don't kill but somehow there's no choice, somehow they get killed. However, not having the desire to kill, that's so important. That's very important. Not having the desire to kill, that's so important. Not having the desire to kill even though we had the desire to kill before.

After the action is done, anytime, whenever it's done, if we have repentance, feeling sorry for doing this, if we have genuine repentance, the negative karma of killing becomes lighter. If we don't have repentance the negative karma is heavy. It’s heavy by not having repentance. Having repentance makes the karma lighter. It's very helpful to have repentance, feeling sorry. This is a method to make the karma lighter.

Then penance to purify, the action of purification: the faculty of practicing the remedy, like reciting the refuge prayer La ma la kyab su chi o, according to how much time you have you can do like this. Even normally you can also do, at retreat times or even normally, as much as you want can do like this. La ma la kyab su chi o—like we did before. Half is done with white light and half reciting with yellow light, knowledge light, coming. Purifying like this.

La ma la kyab su chi o. You don't have to say it loudly, you can say it quietly, you can say it very quietly, with no sound of your voice, very quietly, so even other people don't hear it, very quiet. You can recite like that and also with Sang gyä la kyab su chi o—with each one you can do like that.

During the times when you purify with the Guru Shakyamuni prayer La ma la kyab su chi o, those negativities created by depending on the object, the guru, also all the rest of the negative karmas that have been created from beginningless lifetimes are completely purified. Just as when a bottle is very dirty, when we clean the dirty bottle with water, as we clean the bottle, which is transparent, which has marks inside, all the dirt goes down and it becomes clear and transparent, all the dirt goes down. Like this, all the white light is coming inside the body and all negativities are going out. Those are created by depending on the holy object and also all the negative karma we have been checking before; all these are completely purified, going out, so we feel very light, very transparent, very light. Like this, as you usually do in Guru Shakyamuni yoga meditation.

This recitation of the refuge prayer, making meditation, is also called the faculty of using the remedy, practicing the remedy. The third one, which says here [Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 137], “Penance, to purify negativity.” The Tibetan meditators recite this refuge prayer 100,000 times each one—La ma la kyab su chi o, Sang gyä la kyab su chi o, Chö la kyab su chi o, Gen dün la kyab su chi o—and they make purification like this. That is also recognized as doing purification.

There are many other actions of doing purification as penance. There are many actions—any recitation of mantra is purification, any meditation, any listening to Dharma. Generally, listening to Dharma, making meditation, anything becomes an action of purification. So does reading texts; this also becomes an action of purification. There are many different ways to make purification; there are many different methods. Also, people build [holy objects] for purification. They make many statues or they make many thangkas—they also do like this. There many different ways to purify, such as building stupas or even cleaning the holy places. There are many methods, such as making offerings.

There is also a purification practice based on the deity called Vajrasattva, a powerful tantric deity. Meditators also do the retreat and they do much purification by reciting this deity's mantra. There are long and short mantras of that deity. They repeat that mantra 100,000 or 400,000 times, reciting the mantra and making purification.

So like this, there are many different methods. Through the purifying methods, such as by continuously making confession, there are different things that cause us to not completely experience the negative karmas. And even though we have to experience the suffering result of the karma, for instance by being born for four hundred or five hundred years in the lower realms—the animal realms or the naraks—being born and suffering there, as well as suffering in the upper realms, doing purification can cause us to not experience the suffering result completely, even though we could not do so much purification that we don’t experience it at all.

Even though we still have to experience the result, instead of being born in the suffering realms for a long time, we just have a small headache for one day, for a short time, or we have pain in the stomach or we experience a small danger of life. By experiencing this, all the negative karmic result which we would have experienced in the lower realms for a long time, or in the upper realms—all that result is finished by experiencing a small danger for a short time.

Even having horrible dreams, even just by that, all the suffering results which we would have to experience for many lifetimes finishes by making strong purification. Just by experiencing horrible dreams all the suffering results are finished. It depends on how much we purify whether the suffering result of karma is impossible to be experienced or maybe it doesn’t have to be experienced. Maybe we have horrible dreams or a small sudden disease for a short time, maybe we get sick for one month or one week instead of being born in those suffering realms for a long time, for many, many lifetimes, five or six hundred years. Maybe we get sick for a short time instead. Instead of being born in the upper realms, maybe we get sick for one week or one month, and that finishes the suffering result. However, it all depends on how strong our purification is.

Student: [Unintelligible]

Rinpoche: Yes you can destroy the seed, yes. You can make it incapable of bringing the result, like making a seed incapable of producing a sprout. It helps.

Student: [Unintelligible]

Rinpoche: The purifying method, yes, we are doing confession to completely destroy the karma. The sutras say the heavier, closer or more habitual the karma, the sooner the result will ripen. If all are the same, the result of the closer one comes first. So there are many things: heavier, closer and more habitual karma. If all karmas are the same heaviness, the closer comes first, it brings the result first. If all are the same habitually, then whatever was created first brings the result.

The next meditation, Meditation Three, is checking meditation on the suffering of the upper realms and checking meditation on the general samsaric sufferings.5 It is also very useful doing checking meditation on the sufferings of the upper realms. There are specific sufferings in the human realms and in the asura and sura realms. As explained in the Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, it is easy to check the human realms, for example, the problems the poor people here have and the problems even rich people have. The king, the president, rich or poor, whatever, all these people have different problems in their life. They all have dissatisfaction, things like this. Check like this, do meditation like this. The most effective checking meditation, especially on the upper realms, is the checking meditation on the eight sufferings.6

The part of the checking meditation on the suffering of rebirth is also very helpful. Each time it is necessary to think like this: after you think of the suffering of rebirth, after you've made checking meditation according to the method explained here, you decide there is so much suffering that there is no reason to create the karma to be in samsara again. There is nothing to get attached to in this samsaric body. Like this, if you can think like this after each one it is very helpful.

Then, also after checking the suffering of old age, also think that therefore there is no reason to create negative karma. This is all talking about the suffering of the body. There is no reason to create the negative karma to be born again continuously in samsara; there’s nothing to get attached to in the samsaric body. That means our own body and all the other people's bodies.

So now, also the suffering of the body, which was created by negative karma. After that also think the same thing—there’s no reason to be attached to the body.

Then also, after that, there are six different types of sufferings.7 The whole samsaric birth, how it is in suffering nature. That covers much more and is also very beneficial.

Lecture 22

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, pp. 153–54]

5. The suffering of release from beautiful objects and attachments

In these times, first of all try to remember all suffering is not something that is not ours, that we never experience and that only someone else experiences. Not like this. First of all, it is necessary to remember whether we have had this suffering, the release from beautiful objects and attachments, whether we had this. Separation and fear of separation from loved ones, enjoyments and possessions cause suffering during our whole life. These things end. This is the usual thing that happens in our life. We always have this problem—the suffering of release from beautiful objects, whether from possessions or parents or objects of attachment, from our partner or our children.

We always have this suffering. Our possessions become decayed and then we get scared. We get upset when our possessions become decayed and then we get scared. Decay, like food or whatever. When we are born we start to decay but when we change, when we become ugly, we get upset. Try to remember all these things, not just one example.

You should check up when you make this meditation, you should check up. Try to find many examples of experiences in your life. “I had this, I had this.” Like this. For instance, the situation of couples: when the husband goes somewhere then the wife feels upset. “When my husband leaves me, we split up or whatever, he goes away, then I feel upset, my mind is not happy. My mind does not want him to go away, alone. Or my mind doesn't want him to be with other people, or something.” It is very easy to check up because this is always our experience.

6. The suffering of encounters with ugly (disagreeable) objects

Suffering arises by contact with an enemy, having a catastrophe or involvement in problem situations.

Not only people, enemies, but also possessions, many things. Again there is this kind of suffering that we experience.

7. The suffering of not obtaining desirable objects

Not obtaining the desired objects is also one of our greatest sufferings. Always not obtaining, not receiving, not becoming successful or not receiving the desirable object. There are many examples of this if we check up. We find out there are many desired objects that we want to have, we want to receive and we do not obtain. Or if we obtain them, then we’re not satisfied with them and we want more, things like this. All this is suffering.

8. The suffering of this body created by delusion and karma

These ways of checking are also extremely useful, to know how the body is living in suffering, how the body is in suffering nature. It's very clear. After you check this for yourself you can check on other people, other beings who are also living in suffering. They have all experienced a suffering rebirth and are suffering; an incredible number of beings experience a suffering rebirth. Right at this time, after checking on yourself, right at this time, if you check other people, there are an incredible number of people who are experiencing a suffering rebirth. Even at this very time there are an incredible number of beings suffering from all different kinds of sickness. In different places, in different countries, right at this time there are an incredible number of beings suffering like that, suffering death in different ways. Right at this time, in the East and in the West, there are also an incredible number of people suffering encounters with disagreeable objects, disliked objects, and also an incredible number not obtaining the desired objects.

For instance, just check, try to remember one city, like New York or somewhere. Remember. Look at all the people running in the street, working in the shops, going by boat or airplane. Just watch in your mind, you know, as in a movie, and you’ll see all these people involved in these sufferings. All involved in these sufferings, so many of them suffering. So many of them are running, in the house or outside working, no matter what they are doing, they are living in this suffering. It's very clear, very clear.

I left out the suffering of old age—I completely forgot! Anyway, they are living in the eight sufferings. If we really watch like this, it is very clear that all these people, just constituting one city, all those who are working inside or out, doing different things, no matter what different work they are doing they have all these sufferings. Some have extreme suffering due to release from desirable objects. So many of them have extreme suffering, even right at this time, so many of them.

Also we see them suffering in the country, having the suffering of meeting again with disagreeable objects, enemies or danger, fighting, war, many dangers, many things.

And look at this next section: the suffering of not obtaining the desired object. Just watch all the people, watch it in your mind. All the people are running, running on the ground or running in space, wherever. All are trying to get something; all these people are trying to get something. All these people are trying to get something; they’re trying to get desirable objects and they’re running—by boat, by ship, whatever they do, on land or flying in space. Whatever, they’re always running, trying to get desirable objects or suffering by not getting the desirable object. Trying to get the desirable object and suffering by not receiving the desirable object. Worry, much worry. However, look at this, just watch it. It's incredible when you watch it. It's incredible. Just open your mind and watch the whole thing, like this. It's really fantastic to understand, the whole thing. The whole thing, no matter how they are doing, it's all this, it's all this.

Watch the people flying in space—it's all about this! Running to obtain desirable objects, objects of attachment, for that. No matter how they do it—rich ones who are going by first class or those going second class, it doesn't matter, it is just the same, same suffering. Just watch it. Same thing, people who are going by boat, by ship, people who are going by water, same thing, the suffering of not obtaining the desired object.

People who are living in a house, same thing. They are running, going on land by cars, bicycles, trains, same thing, you see. This is the nature of samsara. That explains it. We see it. Now we can see this clearly; they’re always running after the object of attachment and suffering by not obtaining it. And they’re not satisfied, even if they have it. So, they’re always working for this; they’re spending their whole time for this. All these people, this incredible number of people.

When I was in Delhi, one day just walking in the street, I wondered about this country, in this city right now. Who is creating good karma, who is creating virtuous actions? So many people are doing work—all kinds of running, running, all kinds of flying, all kind of things—but how many people right at this moment are creating virtuous actions? By looking from the outside it is almost impossible to find! However, it's very helpful, after checking on oneself if we check others. Then it’s very clear to see how samsara is. If we really check up in this way, it's something that makes tears come out. You know, such an unhappy life, such a limited method of life.

Also, if we can remember the different types of sicknesses, it's very good. There are, as explained in the Tibetan text, about four hundred different types of sicknesses. It's also very useful to understand this, and it’s helpful for checking meditation.

From birth, we should give up the samsaric body, we should not be attached, because if we are attached to this samsaric body, it causes us to take rebirth again, again and again, again and again. In this way we continuously suffer, taking the bodies in suffering. Besides that, from rebirth to death we receive suffering. From rebirth to death there are all types of different sufferings coming. There are also so many problems which have to be experienced; all kinds of problems, like feeling a little bit cold or hot. All these problems, even what's going on inside. Meditation time feeling difficult, having pain—everything is coming from this body. All these sufferings are the fault of taking this body, the samsaric body, which is under the control of delusions and karma.

For instance, taking this deluded body causes suffering even in the future lives, and not only this but many other future lives’ suffering come from taking this samsaric body, by taking this un-free body.

c. Suffering of suffering and
d. Changeable suffering—both arise because the body is controlled by delusion and karma.

Changeable suffering means all the temporal pleasures. All the samsaric temporal pleasures are changeable suffering.

e. Pervading suffering, the suffering of conditioned existence, exists merely because the body exists. I am born in the nature of suffering—I decay and perish.

Actually, the meaning of pervading suffering is that the body is controlled by delusions and karma. In the second line of changeable suffering [see Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun, section 8, p. 154] it says “… because the body is controlled by delusions and karma.” This actually means that the body is in the nature of pervading suffering [pervasive compounding suffering].

Why do we receive this body without choice? This is birth without choice because we are not free from delusions and karma. Being under the control of delusions and karma we have to take this rebirth uncontrollably, uncontrollably.

Another clear way of saying it is that the delusions and karma that we had in previous lifetimes forced us to take this rebirth. We are forced to take this samsaric rebirth, this body; delusions and karma forced us. So, when we are born, we are born with the seed of delusions and karma. Because of that, this body becomes a base for all future sufferings and we always experience suffering.

One most useful thing regarding suffering—just to give a few examples of how to meditate—is the suffering of the indefinite nature of samsaric pleasures, because the happiness they bring is never lasting. Is there any explanation in these notes of how to meditate on this? How to meditate on this? I see. Then I don't have to repeat.

How to meditate on the six sufferings, using an example of the suffering of the indefinite nature of samsaric pleasure, for instance, just an example. In the realms of the gods, for hundreds and hundreds of years they are spending their life, always enjoying—a beautiful, gorgeous wife, many who are called friends—always playing, always enjoying with them, almost impossible to separate from them. However, whenever even that much pleasure is received by being born in such high realms there is nothing definite, because after that life it’s possible to be reborn in the lower realms. They're always surrounded by many hundreds of friends, beautiful friends, always playing, enjoying—however, nothing is definite, even those high pleasures, nothing definite. Again they are born in the naraks, the lowest samsaric realm, the narak realm and surrounded by very fearful protectors and much torture, giving much suffering. Like this.

Also, being born in those higher realms it is so beautiful and they are always enjoying beautiful parks, beautiful places, even the ground, the whole place is very shiny, all around. Very shiny and like a rubber bed, very soft. As you walk, it’s very soft. It’s very shiny and the house, everything is made of jewels, everything is built by mirrors, a reflection is coming, the body reflection is coming, like this. They have such great pleasures like this, but there’s nothing definite, so whenever that karma finishes, again they are born in the narak realm, in the red-hot iron ground.

Nothing is definite; they have that much great pleasure and the place, their friends and food are all the best great quality, but nothing is definite. They have their own natural light; they do not have to depend on other light. They have their own light. Even in the house they have the light of jewels. However, even if they have that very powerful body, there is nothing definite and after that karma is finished, they are reborn in the preta realm or the narak realm, the cold suffering hell where they don't see anything, they are completely in darkness. They don't see their own body and they are suffering with the cold, things like this. They can't even see their body and they can't even see other things. So like that. Nothing is definite, nothing is for sure.

Even great pleasures like this, there is nothing to get attached to, even these great pleasures of their place, friends, food, clothes, whatever it is. I’m not talking about human enjoyment; I’m just talking about the great pleasures of the god realms. There’s nothing to get attached to.

Also we should think of those friends in the human realm. Our friend is not always going to be a friend in the samsaric realms. It always changes. It always changes—in one day it changes, in one month it changes, in one year it changes. Even if they are a friend in this life, they become an enemy in some other lifetimes. Nothing is definite, therefore, there's nothing to be attached to, same thing.

Also, all the possessions that we have now, all our possessions, this and that, we should think, “The possessions that I have are also nothing definite. It’s always like this; not sure. Not sure, nothing is definite. Maybe I’ll leave these possessions tomorrow. I'm not sure. Tomorrow maybe I’ll leave these possessions or maybe tonight! Or next year, I'm not sure. Maybe they’ll also get broken or decay or get lost. Many things can happen. Nothing is definite. Nothing of this is definite, therefore I should not be attached.”

The main thing is to control attachment, to stop it. After checking each of the six sufferings we should always emphasize this, thinking, “Therefore nothing to be attached to.” Like this, then we know for what reason we are meditating. It's very clear, very helpful for the mind.

The Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun book is just giving the outline. You can find many examples by checking, like making commentary in your mind. I think maybe there are more examples in that notebook, Volume 2.

Then, all the samsaric sufferings are categorized in three.

Suffering of suffering: this is the usual suffering which we recognize, which animals even recognize—being wounded, sickness, these things.

Changeable suffering is more difficult to recognize. Only by practicing Dharma, only by studying and listening to the teachings and by checking—mainly by checking—we can experience, we can recognize this. Changeable suffering is all the samsaric pleasures which do not last; all these are changeable suffering.

Pervasive suffering means not being free. Not being free, being under the control of delusions and karma—that is pervasive suffering. This body is pervasive suffering, being under the control of delusions and karma. You can see this very clearly. This body is always like this. In any rebirth—rebirth in the upper or the lower realms, even the sura, asura or human realm, all the rebirths—all these bodies have that nature. There is not one samsaric body that does not live in the suffering nature. Without the suffering there is nothing; all sentient beings are living in suffering, even though they may not be experiencing it.

There is always the suffering of suffering, which can be recognized by people and even by animals, who are also always living in the changeable suffering, the temporal samsaric pleasures. I explained before how the samsaric pleasures are suffering, using the example of the person sitting and standing and carrying his luggage. So, if you don't remember how samsaric pleasure is suffering, try to remember those examples.

All the samsaric pleasures that we experience with the body of enjoyment, all these things, their nature is suffering because when the suffering of suffering decreases, it's called pleasure. It is not called pleasure by completely ceasing this suffering; the pleasure is not complete cessation of suffering. What we call pleasure is when the suffering of suffering decreases or goes down, then it's called pleasure. So, actually, it is suffering. When that suffering decreases a little bit, that’s what we call pleasure. Then again it's suffering of suffering when it increases. Like having a fever, then we check the thermometer and sometimes it comes up, sometimes it goes down, but it's always there; there are certain numbers.

If we really check, we can't find any pleasure there. We can't really find any pleasure there. Just all suffering and we can't find any pleasure, it’s just a matter of what we call it. So like this, changeable suffering—the nature of samsaric pleasure itself is suffering and doesn't last and otherwise becomes heavier suffering.

Pervading suffering means this samsaric body, which is experiencing samsaric pleasure, is also suffering and usually, since it is a samsaric body—even sura, asura and human—it is always in the nature of suffering, the pervading suffering. This is the most difficult one to realize. It is pervading suffering because it is under the control of delusions and karma. It is under the control of delusions and karma. In other words, it is bound by delusions and karma.

You see, because our body and mind are always bound by delusions and karma, we are living in the nature of pervading suffering, therefore no matter how much we dislike experiencing suffering, we have no choice. No choice of not having rebirth, no choice to not have problems, no choice to not have pain. It does not depend on our desire. All these things show that we are not free. We are not free. All this shows we are bound by delusions and karma. All these uncontrolled life experiences show that we are bound by delusions and karma.

Simply talking, it is like this: if the body and mind were not in the nature of pervading suffering, not under the control of delusions and karma, we would never have problems of rebirth, death, old age or sickness. Nothing would be suffering. There would be no uncontrolled death, going through death without choice, none of these problems. We’d be completely free, completely free. In other words, for instance, if we did some killing action and somebody wanted to put us in prison or kill us, the whole problem is because of this body. If we were not under the control of delusions and karma, we wouldn’t have to experience the punishment, we wouldn’t have to be killed. We would not have to depend on that body, thus we would not have pervading suffering.

We are not free of delusions and karma, therefore we are not free from this body. So therefore, whenever the body gets problem, we have to experience it. We have no choice to leave the body, to run away. If we were free, we could do this—we could leave the body there, leave our mind. That would be no problem for us, nothing, no problem, not one problem, so easy. No one could catch our mind!

Taking one example, all the life problems that we have to experience due to the body are because we are not free from the body. Why we're not free from this, how we're not free from this body is very clear. This body is like luggage. We are like the person carrying the pot, and we are not free to get away from the pot, the luggage, because we are bound to it by rope. The person, the potter is bound to the luggage by rope; tied to the luggage by rope. Like this we’re stuck in this samsaric body.

Think, “This is me, I’m stuck in my samsara, this body, the suffering body. I’m stuck. What made me so stuck, not free from this body—what caused this?” It is by the delusions and karma, the rope that ties the luggage to the potter. We are tied by the rope to the pot, the luggage, so the potter is not free to get away from the luggage. Wherever we are, we have to be with the luggage, enduring much pain, much suffering. Why is it like this? Because we are bound to this samsara, to this body by delusions and karma. We're stuck there, and whatever we call the various experiences, due to the body we experience them. We experience them because we are stuck to this. If we're not bound to this samsara, this body, by delusions and karma then rebirth, all these samsaric sufferings such as birth and death do not happen. There’s no reason to experience them.

So, suffering from being under the control of delusions and karma itself is pervading suffering. That's pervading suffering.

We often say samsaric ocean, which means this body, all the different beings’ bodies—sura body, asura body, preta body, animal body, human body—which are all in suffering, being controlled by delusions and karma. All these bodies, that is the samsaric ocean. “Ocean” is just to get an idea of many, an infinite number, many.

What is samsara? Samsara is not a house; samsara is not a country; samsara is not clothes; nothing like this. Samsara is not a lay person's house, a country house or clothes—nothing of this is samsara! Nothing of this is samsara. Possessions, material things—nothing of this is samsara. What is samsara? The body, the aggregate. Not only the body. The body is one thing, one aggregate, one part.

Like this, just the outside box, without talking about the inside machine, just outside is one, just the base, just one part, without talking about the inside machine. So, the body is one thing. However, the whole collection of aggregates, which are under the control of delusions and karma, all these aggregates are the thing, the human realm body and mind aggregates on which we exist. Aggregates, on which is called “I,” such as a person, a monk or nun.

The aggregates that circle continuously in the samsaric realms, that is samsara. That is samsara. That is the meaning of samsara. At the moment, just to be specific, this body that we have now is samsara. What is really samsara, if we want to find out? It is this body that we are not free from, which we are bound to by delusions and karma. We are bound to this body by delusions and karma—this is samsara, this body is samsara.

The one who circles is the person, and we circle on the aggregates of the six realms. In the present time we circle in samsara, the human body and mind. Next time, if we are born in the asura or sura realms, then we circle on those aggregates. Like this. Then we have the body in the narak and we circle on those aggregates. Why have we always got stuck on those aggregates? That is by the delusions and karma, which make us circle on those different aggregates.

What makes us circle is the delusions and karma. Same thing as I said before, what it is that makes us stuck, not free, in the present time—this body, these aggregates, and also the different aggregates of the different realms—is the delusions and karma. So, at the moment, if we want to find out clearly what is the real samsara, it is this body and mind, which are under the control of delusions and karma, which are always living in the nature of pervading suffering. That is samsara.

To be free from samsara, free from these aggregates—not continuously taking these aggregates, taking rebirth—to be free from these aggregates, free from samsara, we have to be free from delusions and karma, which bind us, which cause us to be stuck there or make us bound to it. We have to be free from delusions and karma, which are like the rope.

The circler is the samsaric being, the person. Where the person is circling is on the aggregates, which are in the nature of pervading suffering, which are under the control of delusions and karma.

So in that way we are under the control of delusions and karma, suffering under the control of delusions and karma. For example, if this body has a wound we say, “I have a wound,” if we are feeling pain.

The explanation of samsaric suffering is very logical, and nothing is made up, nothing is made up that really does not exist. Just our mind, or a theory that our mind made it up, some extra belief, it’s nothing like that—it’s not like this at all. The more we talk about this, the more clearly we talk about it, it all becomes proven more and more, exactly, with the experience of our body, with the experience of our life. Like that, like a picture.

We need to recognize the delusions, the true cause of suffering. We need to recognize the different types of delusions. It's also very useful to remember this in our checking meditations. There are six principal delusions and twenty secondary delusions. This is also good, remembering these different delusions, trying to recognize each one of them. This also makes very clear in our mind which thought is delusion and which thought is not delusion. This makes it clear.

In the twelve links it explains how the delusions produce karma, and how delusions and karma fix us in samsara. The delusions and karma force us to circle on the samsaric body and experience suffering. The twelve links’ evolution explains that. Understanding the twelve links is very useful.

After the twelve links, there is Nagarjuna's quotation. [Reading from Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 170]

Two deluded actions (links 2 and 10) arise from three deluded causes (links 1, 8 and 9); seven uncontrolled results (links 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 and 12) arise from those two deluded actions. Again three deluded causes arise from these seven results. Such a wheel of life goes round and round.

If you can understand, if you can discuss with people who took courses before from me, maybe with Ann or whoever, try to understand this quotation. After understanding the twelve links, what each one is, after knowing each one, then the most important thing to know in this part is the meaning of this quotation of Nagarjuna. This explains it and gives the whole idea how everything works. How there are twelve links and how they work.

Each of these six realms of rebirth—sura, asura, the six different realms of rebirth—has to have its own twelve links. Each one has twelve links, for instance, our present body has twelve links. Each one has its own twelve links. For each of the twelve links there are certain causes, which finished before, in the past life, and there are certain links we're experiencing this time. In the twelve links, after going through and understanding the general things, the main thing is this. Perhaps, by discussing it you can understand, so it’s good to have discussion time and maybe in retreat time when you do one session or something, you can try to clarify.

When we talked about karma, each karmic action brings four results, and one result is doing the action again and again. So, like this, each time, as we do the action again and again and again and again, the third result of the karma, which we create again and again and again and again, like this, each time we do these actions with negative mind, the twelve links are always created. It always creates the twelve links; it always starts the twelve links. In other words, greed, ignorance, hatred, each time, whenever we do certain actions with these negative minds, the twelve links are always created. Each time we create karma with the delusions—simply talking, each time the negative mind arises, we create karma. Each time, like that, we create karma, we start the twelve links. We start the samsaric twelve links. Right here!

When we think about the twelve links, all these trips, like the trip from rebirth until this present life, from rebirth until this day, there are so many problems. Before, we talked about them briefly. So, even one trip is extremely difficult, full of suffering, difficult. Even just one trip, just one trip, just one set of these twelve links. From rebirth until death, just one set of twelve links is full of suffering. It's unbearable. Each time a negative mind arises, we're creating karma. We talked about how karma has four results—one lower and the third, fourth and second one we experience suffering in the upper realms. Now we can think that according to the twelve links, how we get stuck in the lower realms. Each time, the result of the negative actions that we talked about is that we always end up in the lower realms. Each time the negative mind arises, the twelve links have started; the twelve links of the lower realms.

We can check: “How many negative actions did I do?” By checking, we find so many of these. Like that, each of us has problems, so checking like that is extremely useful. The clearest explanation of samsara, how samsara is working is by understanding the twelve links, then we can understand.

Each time, after we meditate on these different sufferings, after checking on ourselves, we can try to see other people, how they're also doing the same thing. Try to see, this helps very much. Right away, right after, after we check on ourselves, then the second time we can try to understand how others are involved in the same trip. Before, we had great feeling; before, we could clearly see our own trip, so we felt a little bit of renounced mind. There was a little bit of renounced mind coming. Right after that, we can think of others—how other sentient beings are also suffering the same trip, feeling the same thing, and how they are more in suffering because of not understanding Dharma, not having the method and not having the wisdom to understand Dharma. Not understanding the six sufferings’ nature.

If you think like this each time, after the eight sufferings and the six sufferings, after each of these, if you can think of other sentient beings, the second time, then it’s very easy for compassion to arise in this way. It’s very easy for compassion to arise. It's also very helpful for the mind, very helpful, very helpful. By thinking of others, how they don't understand the suffering nature, we can understand our own knowledge. By understanding others, by seeing others, how ignorant they are, we can see we have knowledge. We can see, we can feel we're fortunate. How fortunate we are because we have found wisdom. And then, not only understanding that we are fortunate, how good it is, not only that, but our compassion also arises. Our compassion becomes stronger. As our compassion for others becomes stronger, the thought of bodhicitta becomes stronger in this way.

So it's very, very helpful. Sometimes we can get a big surprise, a big surprise, because normally we don’t think about other people's problems, how they're in the suffering nature. Normally we don't think about it; the level of their ignorance, the level of their wisdom doesn't come into our mind. [Laughter] Whatever it is! Like this. Normally we think, any beings who are enjoying, who have much material possessions, who are doing whatever they want and those things, flying or whatever they're doing; all the time when we're seeing this, we feel they are so happy, they are enjoying life, they are really having a happy life, something like this. But that's looking at it with ignorance; watching with ignorance. If we look at it with this understanding, we cannot find anything interesting in their life, nothing at all. They’re just completely ignorant and their whole life they are always creating the cause of suffering with the negative mind, with attachment.

What they're experiencing now is the result of their previous karma. They're only finishing that result. It is not because they're competent, that they did something in their life. Not like this. It's never like this. It's only the result received by previous karmas. So now they have a chance for a little bit, for a short time to enjoy all this, having all these possessions and enjoyments, or going out, all these things. We can see how they are ignorant, how they have a suffering life. We can see very clearly how the sentient beings are suffering.

For instance, all the comforts and all the enjoyments we are experiencing now are all the result of previous karma, but we don't know this. We don't know this at all. Just realize this. Visualize all this. Even besides creating good karma in our life, even one day enjoying the result means the result is finishing. The result is finishing. It's OK if the result is finishing if we are creating good karma. But we are not creating good karma again. The way we are enjoying the good result is only with attachment. So it's only creating cause of suffering, starting twelve links. It's all negative action. We think we are enjoying and that we are happy but we do not realize we are continuously creating the cause of suffering by following attachment. We do not realize it at all. Our mind is full of ignorance. Like in our lifetime, no matter how long we live, even for eighty years, not one single good karma is created; difficult.

Just watch this movie, then we can really, if we try to look at it this way, we can really get big surprise. We can find not one tiny interest in all this. We can't find any knowledge there, any knowledge, any beneficial things in life. Any knowledge we can't find. It's only in this way, as we have wisdom, a little bit of wisdom method, trying, it can only become compassion. So, like this, in this lifetime we live like this, but we are only circling around in samsara. If we always take human rebirth, that's something else—but it’s not like this.

I think the rest of these meditations are part of the Mahayana meditation method to release bodhicitta. This is actually quite clear, quite clear.

In the practice of the Mahayana meditation the most important thing is understanding the faults of the self-cherishing thought and the benefits of cherishing others more than ourselves. We should spend more time on the faults of the self-cherishing thought. And cherishing others more than oneself, bodhicitta—we should find as many of these benefits as possible. Try to understand how the sentient beings are kind; try to do checking meditation as deeply as possible. That's very important. Try to understand how the sentient beings have been our mother, how they've been extremely kind in the past, present and future, as I often repeat. Try to understand a little bit why this is so important. This and understanding the faults of the self-cherishing thought and the benefits of cherishing others more than ourselves. This causes the generation of love, great love and great compassion.

Before doing that we have to go through the equilibrium meditation. Equilibrium meditation is when we have equalized all sentient beings—friends, enemies, strangers, mainly friends and enemies—when we have equalized them in our mind. When we have an equal feeling for all sentient beings, when we get to this point or feeling, concentrate on that. We should not give it up all of a sudden, we should just concentrate, just keep that feeling, hold that feeling. It's very useful. Hold that feeling, be conscious. Be conscious. It helps even during break times, when something comes we can get the feeling right away if we get used to it.

To receive bodhicitta quickly depends on quickly receiving compassion and love. That depends on how much we can see, how much we understand how the sentient beings are kind. They are not always our mother but they're kind all the time, in the past, present and future. They are kind even when they are not our mother; they are kind all the time, all the time. That's very important to try and discuss with each other. During discussion time talk with each other, with someone who understands. Who has extra ideas and can explain it. Like this. Then you help each other very much.

When you do checking meditation on the basis of this book, when you find your own commentaries, please write it down. If you can, write it in a book, write as you discover. What is in the book, on the basis of that you find your own commentaries and logic. If you write in a book then next time, if you keep on remembering that, if you bring it up again it helps so much for your mental development, for your deeper understanding of the meditation and to experience it quicker.

Then, the part of bodhicitta, a little bit on how to think, how to generate bodhicitta. That part of the motivation, just the essence.

Anyway, I think doing retreat on lamrim is very fortunate, extremely fortunate, more fortunate than those people who have healing powers, who have great psychic powers, who see even the past, present and the future but are not free of karma. They have no choice to practice bodhicitta and there's no chance to practice the path. Even if they have magic powers to fly, things like this, it is nothing surprising. Making retreat on lamrim, that's more surprising. It's much more fortunate, much more fortunate, because the only way, the actual way to be released from samsara is this. Without experiencing this path, it is impossible to get out of samsara, so of course no chance at all to receive enlightenment.

For instance, how many people in the world have time to meditate? How many people know lamrim? How many people have understanding, have time to make a retreat? You can't find many. Generally in the East and in the West, wherever, it is extremely rare to find people making retreat on lamrim. It’s extremely rare, especially on lamrim, very rare, especially in the West, in such countries or places, and also in such a time. However, doing meditation on this is the cause of all the happiness, of all peace, including enlightenment.

Then there are visualization prayers, things to be done at the beginning of the sessions. These are things to be done. Those prayers we will record and then it's easy. Then you can imitate that. Prostrations and different prayers to say for purification, to actualize the meditation, to stop the hindrances to meditation. There are methods to stop the hindrance to the meditation, for Dharma practice to become successful and to actualize the path sooner.

Working on the lamrim path brings the mind closer to realization. As you have that much impression left on the mind doing these meditations, that much you become closer to enlightenment. It is very fortunate to have this chance, using your effort for the lamrim meditation. Also, it’s much easier to understand in the future when you hear the teachings again.

Then also, one thing is very important, to do always do the prayers to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Avalokiteshvara. Always pray to actualize the meditations quicker, as much as possible and to stop, to destroy all the hindrances—all for the benefit of mother sentient beings. Praying is always important, always important. It is also, how to say, the mind of praying, not just saying the words; it is experience, to make our meditation successful.

And if you don't meditate, since you want to make this life and all the future lives happy, it is good to at least read lamrim. If you can continuously do Guru Shakyamuni purification practice in the morning or at night, whenever you have time, that's very good. That's so important. And if you can do twenty-five minutes of meditation on lamrim that is great, and very, very, extremely helpful for the life. In another way it is like making kind of retreat, if you always do twenty-five minutes’ meditation on lamrim. On different days you can do different subjects, like this, starting from perfect human rebirth down to bodhicitta, and then again you go up like this. It's extremely helpful—even though you can't imagine it!

You people have been taking ordination in spite of feeling cold and all these things in the morning. I wonder if I have done one thing, among all these Dharma subjects, which does not hurt your mind! What to say, there are plenty! [Laughter] It is quite surprising and sometimes I think in my mind, I am quite surprised, because usually Tibetan people have the energy to experience suffering for Dharma. For Tibetan people I don't get surprised because this is kind of the usual thing. But you didn't know Dharma before and this is the first time you have met the Dharma. And actually, if you didn't want to take ordination you could leave it; there were no police coming to arrest you. So I think it is a surprise. For Tibetan people it is not a surprise—they are used to it, or it’s their culture or something. So for that I really want to thank you. I think that's all. That's all. Thanks a lot!


4 See Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 137. [Return to text]

5 See Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 141. [Return to text]

6 See Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, pp. 150–154. [Return to text]

7 See Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 156. [Return to text]

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