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 teaching at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, May 1975. Photo: Wendy Finster.
Lectures 3 and 4
Lecture 3

The guru you follow should at least be someone who doesn’t expect materials, someone who is only concerned about release from samsara, the bondage of suffering, by giving teaching and explaining these things. You can sort of put it to the test with things like that. If the mind is involved in not living in the practice but avoiding it, then what happens is that the disciple becomes the same; it is difficult because it becomes the same impression, the same print, the same picture, usually like this. Like a block, whatever is carved there, whatever picture is there, beautiful or ugly, useful or whatever, it gets copied. Like this it comes. At least [the guru should be free of] attachment, avoiding the actions that are done only to gain temporal happiness of this life.

So checking this way is the most important thing. Usually in modern times people don’t know how to check up like this—we only check who has more reputation, who is more famous, who has more possessions, who is better looking, things like that, and we follow that person. With such a conception we follow without really checking the benefits of their teachings or without really checking the guru’s life, their life’s practice, how they lead others and benefit them. Without checking—there are many things, the guru may be very wise in poems, sort of speaking well, things like that, many other things—not really checking whether they definitely benefit us and help reduce or diminish the ignorance, hatred and attachment.

If the teachings we are receiving or the meditations we are practicing become the remedy to these delusions then definitely, if we do that, definitely it can benefit. It will be worthwhile and will benefit to the extent that we can do that meditation or form of practice. If it doesn’t shake, if it doesn’t change, if it doesn’t make us recognize these poisonous minds as false thoughts, if it increases instead of decreasing them, there is something wrong in our practice.

For instance, the great pandit Atisha went to receive the teachings on bodhicitta from one of his gurus. Actually he had 153 gurus, I think, but Serlingpa, from whom he received the bodhicitta teachings, was special, in particular. Just by hearing Serlingpa’s name, Atisha couldn’t remain sitting on his bed. Just by hearing his name it made him get up from the bed because of such incredible deep devotion; just by hearing his name, all of a sudden it made him cry.

I’m not sure of the place where his guru Serlingpa initiated him. Maybe Indonesia, because his story says that he traveled by ship for twelve or six months. He traveled by ship for a long time, long time. I’m not sure whether Indonesia or Ceylon. He went with many other disciples, his own people.

Even though Serlingpa was very famous, his name very far-famed, Atisha didn’t want to take teachings straight away, even though he had come so far. So before seeing him he talked to Guru Serlingpa’s disciples about how they practice Dharma, how their daily life was and how the practice of Lama Serlingpa was; he checked in many ways whether it was pure or not.

Then Lama Serlingpa had a procession for Atisha, because Atisha was not an ordinary person, he was a prince. Lama Serlingpa’s followers also made a procession for Atisha and then Atisha made offerings, a pot full of jewels, gold and other things. That was to make it auspicious, in order to receive any initiation or teachings from his guru Serlingpa as he wants. So afterwards he received many teachings on bodhicitta from his guru. He spent twelve years taking teachings on bodhicitta from his lama called Serlingpa.

This example, how the great pandit Atisha checked up on his guru Serlingpa, is how it should be. The guru should not be interested in receiving materials but interested in whether you practice Dharma, if you control your mind, if you discipline your speech, body and mind and try to diminish the delusions. At least the guru should be pleased by Dharma practice. All those previous gurus—all the lineage of these teachings, all the previous yogis, the previous great meditators—all their gurus were like this, not having interest in receiving materials but having interest in the other person having realization, living in Dharma practice.

Then from the disciple’s side, once we have decided and take teaching, then we have to think of the guru as we think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, as we respect Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. The way of following the guru is just like we think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. There is a way of following the guru, there are teachings on that, by knowing that we have to perfectly follow the guru.

Also the guru has to check the disciple before giving the teaching. Sometimes it’s not always that the disciple has to request the guru. If the disciple is ready, sometimes it is possible that the guru gives teachings without them asking the guru, if their mind is ready. There are many stories of Guru Shakyamuni going to give teachings.

Also the disciple does not check, does not understand—there should not be such thoughts as this. The mind needs to be open. And the disciple has to have wisdom, knowing what is right and what is wrong, taking the good part, recognizing mistakes, having a mind capable of knowing these things, having wisdom.

Then having energy to seek and to practice Dharma; if there is no energy to seek or to practice Dharma, if we don’t practice or continue to practice, then the teachings won’t completely destroy all our delusions. The disciple has to make the teaching beneficial, has to make the teaching become the remedy to the delusions.

This is just a brief talk on the disciple and the guru.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, pp. 80–81]

If we spend our lives gossiping… This is called meditation.

Trying to make the mind become oneness with the object or become habituated with the object of meditation: that is the general meaning of meditation.

Buddhist meditation can be divided into two types: checking meditation and one-pointed meditation.

Most of the meditations on the graduated path are done in two ways: checking meditation and one-pointed meditation.

It is skillful to train in both, but many people of inferior intelligence suffer from the greatly illusory misconception that all meditation is that of one-pointedness …  Therefore it is important to first of all hear and then think about the correct subjects for the practice of meditation.

That means trying to understand the meaning of the subject. After you have the correct understanding, then make the checking meditation. Actualize like this.

As precious yogis have said, “He who meditates without first listening is like an armless rock climber.”

It is necessary to listen at the beginning. Try to receive the teaching as much as possible, because if we don’t have wide understanding of Dharma, if we just know one meditation, one thing, one technique, our method is limited. Having one technique or meditation is not sufficient to solve all our life problems. As there are different problems in the mind, different levels of delusions, so also there are different paths that we have to follow. It is not wise, not skillful—the emphasis is this—it is not skillful or wise to try to be satisfied with one type of meditation, because there are other problems for which we have no method.

Also if we do not listen to different teachings, if we don’t take much teaching, don’t listen to many teachings, there can be many wrong conceptions. Even though we try to meditate, there can be many wrong conceptions in our meditations. There is a great danger of making mistakes in our meditation. Instead of receiving realizations, nothing happens. Then sometimes we can become kind of crazy; that can happen.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 81]

Listening to the Dharma is a greatly beneficial activity… … The practice of the whole graduated path has three divisions, according to our level of intelligence.

I think since we are going to start the actual meditation on the graduated path from tomorrow, it is very useful, it is very important if we have the visualization of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the Guru Shakyamuni yoga purification.

For receiving the realizations of the graduated path, just the meditation technique is not enough, not sufficient. There is a need for other help. The actual meditation is like the seed of the flower. Just having the seed planted without the help of the conditions such as the four elements—soil, wind, water and warmth—the seed alone cannot produce the stem, the flowers and fruit. The meditation is like the seed. To quickly receive the realizations of the graduated path depends on how strongly we purify the negative karma, the obscurations, how much we purify and pray to Guru Buddha.

There are three important things: purification, collecting the merits and praying to Guru Buddha—prayer means request—and then meditation. It is very important to understand these fundamental things. If the first two, purification and collecting merits, and the requesting prayer to Guru Buddha, are that much stronger, even if we don’t do much meditation, the realization easily comes without taking much time; it comes without much difficulty.

There are so many stories of other meditators, how they easily received realizations by making purification, without the need of much meditation. There are many stories, which after some time can be told. For instance, the great yogi Milarepa received enlightenment in this lifetime. That is also because he made incredibly strong purification in his life; it is because of the power of that. Under the order of his guru Marpa he built a nine-story tower by himself, without the help of other people. Building and again destroying, again building and again destroying; several times like this.

There is a great difference between visualizing Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and visualizing or remembering ordinary people. There is a great difference between even seeing Guru Shakyamuni

Buddha’s figure, the example of his figure in paintings, pictures or statues; there’s a great difference between seeing his figure in statues and paintings and seeing ordinary people’s pictures. When we see figures of ordinary people in newspapers, in Time magazine or in movies, either we get angry or we get attachment. So when we see even a picture or statue of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, just by seeing it there is great effect, a great benefit to the mind. Just looking at it makes the mind so relaxed. If we really carefully look at it, somehow it has the power to make the mind become calm or quiet and sort of peaceful. Even just his position, the way he is sitting, the examples of the positions in which he is sitting, in the statues, is very beneficial, something which intuitively makes devotion arise, even just by looking at the position, the way he sits; just seeing the statues, even the figures done by artists, made by people. These are just examples.

This doesn’t mean that Lord Buddha is exactly like that. Actually the shape of Lord Buddha’s body is beyond all that. What we see here is just an example in order to create merit, in order for sentient beings to make purification. Such different examples of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, of the shape of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy body, were given. This is why many statues exist.

The thing is this, especially in this degenerated time people don’t have the fortune or the karma to actually see Guru Shakyamuni Buddha with his perfect, completed holy body, which has many holy signs. We are not aware, but each time we see the thangkas or statues of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, just seeing them purifies the obscurations of the mind, the negative karmas. All this is not because of the material, if it is made of gold or something, but because of the incredible, infinite knowledge that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha has. That is symbolized by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; it is because of his knowledge.

Also each time we look at paintings or figures of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, it creates the karma to meet the teachings of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha again or to meet and receive teachings directly from the Buddha in future lifetimes. Especially when we look at the figure of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha with devotion; as we have that much devotion the purification is that much stronger.

In previous times, one of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples, called Shariputra, before he became a disciple of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous lifetime, while he was traveling he stopped on the way at a sort of temple. It was nighttime and he was patching, sewing his shoe with a small light, keeping it in front of him. First of all he didn’t see the beautiful painting of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha which was on the wall, he didn’t see it. Then as he was sewing his shoe, sort of resting sometimes, he somehow saw the painting there, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s picture, the figure of his holy body.

Then each time he looked it gave much pleasure in his mind. A great will arose, wanting to see that or wanting to be like that. He saw a very beautiful figure, such a holy being. Because of this karma, afterwards in future lifetimes he became the disciple of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, received many teachings from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and most of his life was with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Sometimes in thangkas there are two arhats standing, two disciples standing, with Guru Shakyamuni in the center. Two followers, one of them is called Shariputra.

There are benefits like this just even by seeing a figure, so it is always beneficial to visualize or even to look at statues or paintings, or make paintings of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, or to really see Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. At the moment, as our mind is so obscured, we make the visualization in order to purify. By this method, as our mind becomes more and more purified, the obscurations become less and less. Then gradually, as we follow the path, we can see, we can communicate with the buddhas, we can receive teachings from the buddhas. We can see the buddhas in different manifestations, such as those that are called nirmanakaya and sambhogakaya. This is even before we receive enlightenment, while we are following the path.

I think maybe you can try to visualize as I read. If I read what is said there in good English, you may find it much more comfortable. Then I think maybe the visualization becomes more correct.

Motivate with the pure thought of bodhicitta. Think, “I must lead all sentient beings into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightened stage, by myself achieving buddhahood. Therefore I’m going to practice the Guru Shakyamuni yoga.”

At the level of your forehead1

So tonight do the breathing meditation and concentrate on watching the thoughts. Then do the Guru Shakyamuni yoga purifying meditation tomorrow morning.

Lecture 4

From the holy speech of the great bodhisattva Shantideva, his teaching called A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life; just before saying this good quotation from his teaching I’ll give a very brief biography.

Shantideva was a pandit and great holy being, having achievement of bodhicitta. He didn’t show himself as a great yogi, which means that people didn’t see him practicing Dharma, they didn’t see him doing any kinds of spiritual actions, even though he had achieved very high realizations. From their side, they didn’t see that. They saw him as an ordinary person who didn’t know anything, who didn’t do anything.

This great bodhisattva, even at six years of age, even at such a young time had contact, communication with the buddha of wisdom, Manjushri, from whom the lineage of the profound path was handed down. The profound path contains the teachings on shunyata and absolute nature. I think he was also a prince born to a family of which the father was king. After some time the people in that country wanted him to take the throne, to take the place of the king, and however much he rejected taking the place of the king, the people didn’t listen, so he had to accept. By looking at the faces of the people he had to accept. The inauguration was going to be the next day, and in the nighttime he had a dream that Manjushri, the buddha of wisdom, his guru from whom he received teachings, was sitting on the throne on which he was going to sit tomorrow. He was sitting on the throne and saying, “You, the one son, this seat is mine. I am your teacher, so you can’t sit on the same place, the same throne.” Then he woke out of the dream. He realized that he should not take the place of the king; he could not accept that. He escaped after knowing the dream.

Then he went to Nalanda, where there were thousands and thousands of pandits in the famous monastery, which we talked about before. I don’t remember the name of the abbot of the Nalanda Monastery. He took ordination from him and lived in the monastery. As he was living there in the monastery, the monks saw him only sleeping, all day sleeping, doing nothing; lying down doing nothing, not saying prayers, not reading texts, not doing any monastery work, not doing any kind of spiritual action. So people thought he was a very lazy person, very foolish; other people were thinking like this.

The monks thought, “If he doesn’t do anything and if he always spends time like this, he is wasting our monastery things. It is better for him to get out of this monastery than to live in the monastery eating and using things, just wasting.” So they had to use a tricky method; they couldn’t just put him out of the monastery without any reasons, there had to be something criminal or something which gave them a reason to get him out. The monks talked with each other about how to do it, how to get him out of the monastery. Then they proposed, “Since he doesn’t read any texts, he doesn’t learn anything, I’m sure he can’t say any spiritual teachings by heart.” Usually in monasteries they have learned many texts, they have to learn hundreds of texts by heart, especially the sutras and vinaya, the division of the teachings that only explains the discipline, the different levels of ordination. It explains the details of these precepts, so much detail. These are teachings that have many texts, which the monks should learn by heart and should recite at certain times, like on Wesak day. At certain times they have to recite by heart amongst many hundreds of monks in the assembly hall.

The monks talked like this: “If we do like this, if we ask him to say these sutra teachings by heart, he can’t do that. In that way we can find a reason to get him out of the monastery.” So they requested him to recite these teachings and he accepted to come. The monks made a very, very high throne with no steps to climb up, to see how he was going to sit on the throne.

That day they invited him and he came. Without any difficulties he went up and sat on the throne. Then he asked the monks: “What kind of teachings do you want to hear? Teachings that were given by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha or teachings that were not given by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha—what kind of teachings should I give you?” So the monks asked for teachings that were not given by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Then he started to give teachings from his heart. It is not that he had previously learned the sentences and prayers that were already in a text and then he repeated them. Not like this. As they asked for the teaching that wasn’t given by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, all of a sudden he started to give teachings just by heart, like a whole book. Instead of writing a whole book and then explaining, he started to give teachings, a whole book, full, like rain coming from the mind, without any difficulties and without any sign of being ignorant.

This teaching is called A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, I think Bodhicaryavatara in Sanskrit and in Tibetan Jang chub sem pa’i jo pa la jug pa, following the bodhisattva’s actions or practice. This teaching is very fantastic, very clear; it contains very clear explanations and the methods to solve daily life problems. Actually it contains all the fundamental methods that are explained in the graduated path; the teachings of the graduated path are contained in this teaching.

He started the teaching like this: “Those who have gone beyond to the most blissful stage, having the achievement of dharmakaya and all surrounding sons…” He started to give the teachings like this, like rain coming, like water flowing from a pipe. As he was giving continuously teachings like this; actually the main subject of this teaching is method and wisdom. The part on the explanation of wisdom of shunyata comes after the last chapter. Before that he talked about how to train the mind to receive bodhicitta, the practice of bodhisattvas, the practice of the six paramitas. It contains many things and the benefits of bodhicitta.

When he was about to give the last chapter on the wisdom of shunyata, when he reached the sentence about the existence that is useful and transitory, and the existence that is not transitory, he flew up from the throne and dissolved gradually. He dissolved his body while he was giving the teachings. Then afterwards he was completely dissolved. The listeners couldn’t see him, but even though they couldn’t see him, his oral teaching was still going on as if he was sitting on the throne, the same as before.

Afterwards, since he had started to give the teachings, all the monks who used to complain before got a big shock, a big surprise, and then they felt sorry. So his usual character, his outward appearance to ordinary people was sort of like this. It was difficult to guess that he had achieved such high realizations, because the monks only saw him sleeping, eating and making kaka and pipi. They only saw this. Also they called him the name Bhusuku. However, he was a great hidden yogi, which means all the practice, the realizations were hidden, he didn’t show that he lived in such practice.

Also for us to hear the great pandit Shantideva’s teachings, which he has left, his experience, his realizations to benefit the other sentient beings and to achieve bodhicitta, for us also to talk on that teaching and to hear that teaching, I think is very fortunate.

From this highly realized bodhisattva’s holy speech:

[1.4] Leisure and endowment are very hard to find;
And, since they accomplish what is meaningful for humanity,
If I do not take advantage of them now,
How will such a perfect opportunity come about again?

“This perfect human rebirth is extremely difficult to find. If benefits are not created in this life, how can the perfect human rebirth be received in the future?”

Shantidva is explaining that our present human body, which has the freedom to practice Dharma, is extremely difficult to find. Why we received such a precious rebirth this time is because we have created the merit, good karma in many other lifetimes. We have not received such a precious rebirth before for many eons, for such a long time. But this time, it’s sort of saying by chance, like something happened by accident, sort of by opportunity, we received this perfect human rebirth which has the freedom to practice Dharma.

While we have this precious human rebirth, if we spend the life empty, using this body only to obtain success, the actions of this temporal life—another way of saying this is only to gain the temporal happiness of this life and not create any good karma, any benefits—then there is no way to receive, to find again this perfect human rebirth in the future. It is impossible. So just as he said in his precious teaching, even if we want to be born again as a human being, having the freedom to practice Dharma, to work for ultimate happiness, to work for enlightenment also in the future, or if we want to achieve ultimate happiness just in this lifetime, the whole thing depends on creating the merit. We need to do some special actions, much higher and more meaningful than our daily life actions, which we do only to gain the happiness of this life with attachment.

As we met this precious teaching, which explains what is right action and what is wrong action, what is evil karma and what is virtuous karma; as we have the chance to know and as we have understanding, it is important for even the present action, even right at this moment, to make it beneficial, to make it transcendental, to make it pure, to make it become the cause of enlightenment. So it is necessary to cultivate the pure motivation before listening to Dharma.

It is necessary to think: “It is not sufficient that only I am released from the samsaric suffering. Numberless other sentient beings are living in suffering without guidance, without method. In order to release them from their sufferings and lead them to the most sublime, blissful stage of enlightenment, I must receive enlightenment first. Therefore I must complete the whole realization of the graduated path to enlightenment. Therefore I am going to listen to the profound teaching on the commentary of the graduated path to enlightenment.”

The commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment is a Mahayana teaching, which leads the fortunate ones to enlightenment. It is well-expounded by the great philosophers Nagarjuna and Asanga, those who are like the sun and moon, like the second Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, in regard to explaining and spreading Dharma teachings in the world. This is a profound teaching, as the essence of the magnificent, unequaled great pandit Atisha’s and the Dharma king of the three worlds, the great Lama Tsongkhapa’s knowledge was taken out. It includes the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and all this is arranged for the graduated practice of our achievement of enlightenment. This graduated path is the one through which all the buddhas passed, which means they received enlightenment.

This teaching has four outlines:

  1. The knowledge of the authors to show pure reference.
  2. The knowledge of the teachings in order for devotion to arise.
  3. The way of listening and explaining these teachings.

The way of explaining the teachings: there are many disciplines from the side of the teacher or the person who explains the teaching. The basis is having a pure motivation as much as possible, especially as it is a Mahayana teaching. It is necessary for us to possess the pure thought, the beneficial thought for other sentient beings.

Usually in the world, in schools, there may be no such thing as the person who teaches sitting up high and the listeners sitting down, that sort of arrangement. It may look a little bit funny in the West. But there is a big difference between the Dharma work, when that teaching is given, and just teaching education generally. The whole idea is different, the whole motivation is different; even the fundamental mind, the way of thinking is different, just like the earth and space. There are many stories of when Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was giving teachings, always in this kind of form, sitting on a throne and teaching others. There are stories, anyway, and these take much time.

However, such a way of listening to teachings and such a way of explaining the teachings is mainly to respect the Dharma, to respect the teaching. Generally it is to respect the teaching and also the person who gives the teaching; but here mainly the reason is to respect the teaching. The subject that we are listening to, what we are trying to understand, this method, these teachings, is something which eradicates all suffering and all the causes of suffering, all the delusions, and is the cause of achieving enlightenment, the highest goal, the highest blissful stage of enlightenment, and the enlightenment of other sentient beings. It is such a precious teaching method. So it is different from the common ways in the schools or in general.

Also all these things, this whole action, from the listeners’ side and from the side of the person who is explaining, the whole of this action is supposed to be done on the basis of avoiding the delusions: attachment, hatred and ignorance. The whole movement is supposed to be positive and pure, not involved with these negative minds.

Also there are many disciplines for the person teaching: they should not have pride, a negative mind of sitting on throne; they should not have pride when giving teachings. Making prostrations before teaching is a method for them to lose pride. It is purification and a method to lose pride, and there is also meditation of making prostrations to the lineage of the teachings by visualizing them on the throne. And when the person sits on the throne then also meditation has to be done, in order to not use the negative mind. The teacher has to remember all existence as a phantom, as a dream, as a water bubble, as magic, as lightning, like a ray of sun, like a cloud—the cloud doesn’t last a long time—all the changeable phenomena. So that’s what I’m saying, it is completely different from general worldly actions.

Then from the listeners’ side, if the listener is very sick or something, there are some exceptions, but generally there are disciplines about sitting and many things. According to the discipline explained in the teaching, the person who teaches Dharma should not explain the Dharma while the listener, the follower is standing; the person who teaches the Dharma sitting cannot teach the Dharma that way. The listener sits a little bit down and the person who teaches is a little bit higher. In that way the teaching has to be given. Also they shouldn’t teach Dharma if the person is wearing a hat or has an umbrella on top, kind of disrespectful, unless there are particular reasons, like the person is sick or something, some physical thing, then that is the exception. Like this, there are many other disciplines.

4. Leading the disciple on the path to enlightenment by actually giving these teachings.

That has two parts:

a) The way of following the guru who is the root of the path
b) How to train the mind in the graduated path by following the guru.

The first one, how to follow the guru who is the root of the path, is the most important thing to understand, but I think even though we try to talk about that, there’s not much understanding of the following meditations, the fundamental meditations. Therefore, even though I will explain it, if we discuss and meditate on that, there wouldn’t be that much strong feeling in this guru yoga practice. So we will just go through the fundamental meditation on how to train the mind in the graduated path, then if after some time there is time or a chance, some break times, we can talk a little bit about the guru.

The last outline, how to train the mind in the graduated path to enlightenment by following the guru, has two outlines:

  1. Persuading in order to take the essence with this perfect human rebirth, and
  2. How to take the essence with this perfect human rebirth.

The first one is persuading in order to take the essence, in order to achieve the goal. There are different levels of essence which can be achieved, which can be received with this precious human body. So in order to take that essence, first we need energy. If there is no energy, even if it is explained how to take the essence there’s no feeling. There wouldn’t be that much strong feeling and we wouldn’t seek it continuously, we wouldn’t try to take the essence. So first is persuading the mind in order to take the essence with this perfect human rebirth.

I think I stopped reading on page 81 yesterday. [Rinpoche reads from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, pp. 81–82]

The practice of the whole graduated path has three divisions … the suffering of the three lower realms, refuge and karma.

Samadhi and penetrative insight on the basis of bodhicitta and the tantric path: usually penetrative insight and samadhi can be achieved without having the achievement of bodhicitta. Regarding samadhi, just ordinary samadhi achievement, other non-Buddhist religions, the Hindu religion and other religions in India also have the samadhi practice. Also there are many people who practice this, who achieve this realization, but just the general realization. They just have control over the mind, distractions and sluggishness and these things, but they don’t have the penetrative insight, vipassana, realizing absolute true nature. This isn’t in those other teachings, it isn’t explained; many other teachings have their own different views, opposite to reality. Such beliefs, even though things are dependent, they have a doctrine or theory believing things are independent. Things like this; even though impermanent but believing it is permanent. Like this, there are many things.

But here in the text of the graduated path, shamatha and vipassana come after bodhicitta. That is because if you practice vipassana and shamatha with bodhicitta, your practice of shamatha becomes the cause for enlightenment. It never becomes the cause for samsara, it never becomes the cause of suffering; it becomes the cause of eradicating samsara or receiving everlasting happiness. The action becomes beneficial for all sentient beings if the practice of shamatha, this meditation, is practiced with the thought of bodhicitta. So in order to make the actions of the practice highly beneficial, to become the cause of enlightenment, the subject is set up after bodhicitta.

Actually, it’s sort of necessary to discuss with each person, taking time to discuss their different conceptions and especially the mind. No matter how much there is pure logic, even though there is logic that really proves it and the logic is very profound, our mind is so obscured. Even though there is logic, we don’t see it, we don’t understand it. The logic itself is profound, but we don’t understand it. The whole thing is difficult without the help of purification. By continuing the purification everything becomes easier and clearer. The mind at the present time is sort of foggy; with purification the fog is going away and the mind is sort of becoming clear.

What I am saying is that in this subject there are many things, there are many new subjects which you never heard before, which you cannot imagine with this present mind. It is not so impossible that you cannot understand; it is not an impossible thing which you cannot realize. Not like this. But there are many subjects that cannot be measured by this present mind. It’s all dependent on purification, so there is a need for time and patience.

There are also things like this: besides the animal realms—animals are quite clear because we see them with our eyes—there are things like long-life gods and other living beings. In Western terms they are living on other planets, different sentient beings, such as those called narak beings, such as those called pretas and such as those called long-life gods. There are suffering beings that we see and also that we don’t see. The worst of these suffering beings, either we don’t have the karma to experience their suffering and to be in that realm, or we are not free, we don’t have mind control and our mind is not purified.

When the mind is purified, when the mind has control, we can see all these suffering beings without the need of going to different places, different planets, without meeting them. With that psychic power we can see, no matter how far it is, we can see. They are like this, the suffering beings, the narak beings, the preta beings. The ordinary suffering beings, some easy ones, little bit light ones, can be seen. There are some examples given, there’s an explanation of the worst sufferings, their life situation or how they suffer; that meditation comes afterwards. It is useful to read, even though that part of the meditation doesn’t come now. It is useful to read that part of the meditation. It makes clear, you get some idea when you do meditation on the first part here; you have a clear idea, you have a feeling for it, you have the feeling. So your meditation becomes very effective, very useful for the mind.

The explanation of those different sentient beings’ sufferings was given in the teachings by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha; not only by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, but also by many of his followers who have complete mind control, whose mind is completely purified of all dualism, with no obscurations. With their experience many of his followers, also high yogis, have explained this in teachings given to their disciples.

We cannot contradict other beings’ experience because we don’t have that experience. Generally it is a silly thing if we contradict other people’s experience because we haven’t experienced it, because we don’t see it ourselves. Our contradicting other people’s experience doesn’t make other people’s experience not exist; it doesn’t make other people’s realizations disappear because we don’t understand it.

For instance, I explained to some Tibetan people how beautiful Australia is. If I try to explain how it is to the Tibetan villagers, that there are people who ride on the waves of the ocean, on surfboards and they enjoy it very much, they are so happy and they fall down, and they miss their boat, [laughter] they lie on the sand and feel hot and again go in the water, they see if they can get cramps and pains and other enjoyments. Anyway, it’s possible that if I explain the machines or some kinds of things that are in Australia, people may not believe it. It’s hard to believe. Like if I explained to Indian villagers a rocket—like the box, the brain, the computer. We saw a computer in America. It was a big box containing a lot of wires, like threads that got mixed up. I tried very hard to understand by asking questions but I didn’t understand clearly how it is working, by questioning the person how it is working. It doesn’t sound like you can put any kind of questions, Dharma questions or anything, maybe only numbers or certain things.

If I try to explain like this, they might think I am dreaming or crazy or something, possible. But their not believing doesn’t mean that what I experience is not true; it doesn’t mean that, it doesn’t prove that at all. And their not having the same experience, the same understanding, doesn’t mean there’s no Australia, it doesn’t make any of these things non-existent.

Just like this, there are many other sentient beings. Even regarding living beings, there are many sentient beings that we see and there are many that we don’t see. Only at certain times, when we have certain karma, can we see them. Or when we are born as those types of sentient beings, then we see them, and at different times like that. So regarding sentient beings, there are many different types of sentient beings which we see and which we don’t see, who are living on different planets, which we cannot perceive with our mind. There are sentient beings living on the other planets who have a much better material life than human beings, and there are also more sentient beings who have much worse suffering than human beings.

Also regarding karma, it is possible that the experience of our life, the material pleasures can be much higher than this human life; much higher, much richer than this. There will be a time of having greater pleasure than we have in this human life. Also it is possible that even though we don’t have as great sufferings as other beings such as animals, we don’t have that now, but because we don’t suffer now it doesn’t mean we will always be like this, it doesn’t mean this. Today I am well, but that doesn’t prove that all my life I will be well, all the rest of my time I will be well and healthy, it doesn’t mean this. So just like this.

At a certain time it is possible that our life will be much worse than this, much more complicated, with so much incredible mental and physical suffering. We cannot say that because we are well today, we cannot get sick tomorrow. This is a silly reason. Just like this, we won’t get sick until we die. The suffering of death is also a sickness. However this is silly reason; this reason we cannot prove. Thinking like this is just silly. Even though we think like this, “I am clever, I can work and I can earn money, this and that,” that doesn’t prove at all that our life will always be happy. Even while we are working, while we are doing these things, our life is not happy.

If we check up, it always keeps changing, up and down, morning and nighttime. Always not equal. Therefore, the future changes that will happen may be worse than this or maybe we will be happier. Because we don’t perceive it, we cannot say about our own life, our own experience, we cannot say what will happen. How can we contradict it when we don’t have the mind to perceive that? How can we contradict it; how can we decide that something will never happen to us?

For instance, it is very clear that a situation changing does not depend on expectation. Many times, things happen all of a sudden without depending on expectation. For example, all of a sudden death comes; people don’t have the expectation that they will die by their house collapsing, things like this. There is no expectation before that; they always have a similar thought, all the time, they never think that such danger will happen. There’s no expectation before that time.

For instance, also, like people traveling from one country to another. There’s no expectation that maybe the airplane may burn in space or drop down or crash, things like this. There’s no expectation before; doesn’t depend on expectation. So when that happens our life is finished. It doesn’t depend ahead of time on the expectation, our knowing the future, it doesn’t depend on that. For instance, it’s possible that one day the place we live in will be on fire, the whole thing becomes a fire place; with everything upside down. Just exactly like a fire place, maybe by atom bombs or things, even though we don’t expect such matters to happen. So life is not always sure, not sure. We can’t really say that because we’re aware now and we’re OK, that it will be like this every time. We can’t say that. I mean, it is very clear; if we really think with intelligence, with wisdom, if we really check up, it is very clear. It is silly just proving this way, even though we think in this way, even though we feel in this way.

Student: Excuse me Rinpoche, isn’t it that on one level we always determine what happens to us?

Rinpoche: Yeah. We determine that. All the experiences of our life are determined by our actions. All the future things that are going to happen are determined by our actions. But that doesn’t mean we understand. That doesn’t mean we understand. All the experience, such daily life as we are having at the present time, such enjoyments, each of these is the result of our previous actions. That was determined, that was created by us. The reason for having such a result now is because it is determined by the previous karma or the previous actions. But that doesn’t mean we fully see and fully understand that all this is the result and all this is determined by our actions, created by us. How we created it, we don’t understand.

Same thing with the future. If we really understand and are really aware of all our thoughts and actions and the effect of the actions—that the result is brought by the action—if we are aware, if we really fully understand then so many of the life problems are solved. This understanding is what we need. Not having this understanding is what makes our life complicated, always up and down, always unbalanced, always having developments in the mind. So without depending on this present life, without depending on this, there will be a different life in different times, which is determined by our actions in previous times or in the present time, which we don’t know.

Therefore, by understanding the life changes that will happen in the future, as they happened in the past, by understanding that we create this, we have to stop the future danger. We have to stop the fear, we have to stop the future danger. The past is finished, the experience is finished; now our present responsibility is to stop the danger of the future life, the fear that will arise in future lives, in future times.

It is very clear that people who are rich in their early life never think, never believe that after some time they will be homeless and have to beg or become a refugee. They have no idea when they are rich, they never think. They think their life will always be like this, their daily life, because they have this and that, they have so many staff and this and that; always believing the wrong conception; always believing the conception of permanence. If their mind was completely aware, understanding the future, it would be possible to do something to stop all the future dangers. Because of not understanding and completely believing and following the wrong conceptions, when the life problems come there is no method, the time is finished.

Similarly, as there are also many changes in this life, even though we are human this time, it is also not sure that we will always keep on being born human, not sure. It’s the same reason as there are many changes in this life. For instance, one person can have many life stories—sometimes way down, incredible, a beggar, not having any materials, very poor and very down, and sometimes very high, having much reputation and many material things. Just as that person’s life is not equal and there are different changes in the life, similarly, we cannot trust the present situation. Same thing, we cannot say that even in the future life, we will always be born as a human being, we cannot say.

All those different lives, the bodies that we will experience are also determined by our actions, which are created with ignorance, with pure ignorance. We may think, “Creating actions with ignorance, how can that be possible? How can that be possible? I know I’m eating; I know I’m sleeping; I’m purposely doing this. I know I’m talking; I’m not ignorant.” This is very possible, “I’m not doing ignorant actions.” Reasoning like this, “I know I’m eating; I know I’m sleeping, working,” we don’t see that the action is done with ignorance. We think someone who says that action is done with ignorance is sick, they’re crazy.

I’ll give an ordinary example: a person is walking in a forest and then they step off the path. If they walk without looking at the road, if they put their feet in a dangerous place without looking, like the thorns or something, we would call that person foolish for not watching the road, for not looking carefully and just walking. Or, sometimes when people do some magic, the magician transforms something into money and the audience believes it completely as they receive the money, but when they get back home that changes. It was not actual money. Those kinds of things we usually think of as ignorant or foolish action, the mind not being aware.

So this, what we ordinary people understand, is ignorant action, foolish action. Similarly, even if we are aware of any action, walking, eating, sleeping, no matter what we do—I’m talking about ordinary people in daily life actions—even though we know we are doing that, as we don’t fully know our mind, all these actions of our daily life are ignorant actions. They are similar mistakes. Even though we are aware of doing these things, “I am eating,” doing these things—still there’s a mistake, which we cannot see, and we can only understand if we understand the mind. We can only understand that mistake, that wrong action, is wrong when we realize or recognize the mind, the different types of mind.

This is the difference in the daily life actions, which ordinary people think are conscious actions. For the meditators, for the realized person who practices Dharma, who is living in the practice of Dharma, from their side it is a silly mistake, a silly mistake. The ordinary people thinking that their actions are done consciously is a silly mistake in the view of the meditator, from the side of the person who is living in the Dharma practice, who has an understanding of Dharma; especially who has an understanding of karma. From the side of the meditator, the ordinary person’s actions of daily life are mistakes. From their side, all that ordinary person’s daily life actions are unconscious actions. There are levels of unconscious that ordinary people understand and that they do not understand. It becomes more and more subtle.

Mainly because of what we think, no matter how the visualization is, even though it is not perfect or exact as we think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha or any enlightened being—as we rely on that or request, and also depending on the devotion, it’s possible that through this the Buddha communicates or that we mentally receive blessings. Through that it’s possible that the visualization can sometimes become very effective, according to our mind and the situation at the time. The visualization becomes very powerful and generally how it helps the mind—it depends on our mind, of course—mainly it is due to the power of the enlightened being, mainly due to their compassion. We want the Buddha to guide us from suffering, as we take refuge, as we rely on him. It is mainly because of the enlightened being’s power and knowledge. That is how the visualization benefits the mind, purifies the obscurations.

Student: For Christian people, who feel a great relationship toward Jesus, would the same benefits be accorded to them, visualizing Christ as a living being? If the lamrim was converted into Christian terms, would it be of great benefit to them? Many of my friends are devout Christians and if I show them the meditations, which really show Guru Shakyamuni, is it the wrong thing to do, or would it be of value to them?

Rinpoche: Which one is more useful, are you saying?

Terry: They find it difficult to visualize or pray to Guru Shakyamuni. They would rather pray to, say, Christ. If we converted the meditations for all those Christian people to visualize Christ and take on the sufferings of Christ, that type of thing, would it be the same value?

Rinpoche: I see. That depends on their mind. Generally it depends on the meditator’s mind; if the meditator doesn’t really understand what this is then maybe something else. If they don’t understand what this is, if they have no understanding of Jesus’ knowledge, no knowledge of Jesus, if they understand Jesus is like the sky, that kind of thing, then it’s not so effective, not really so useful. It’s not so effective for the mind if their understanding of Jesus is like the sky, kind of sky, space. It is useful to think of this, kind of same essence, if they don’t have much understanding of what Jesus is. If we look at it in the same essence as Guru Shakyamuni, then it is more useful.

Think, as I read, try to feel it.

[Reading from Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, p. 83]

From time without beginning until the present, in all my numberless previous lives, I have been dying and being reborn in the cycle of samsara, the six realms of suffering.

The six realms are the narak, the pretas, the animals, the suras and the asuras—the long-life gods—and the human beings.

Think: “In these six suffering realms, from beginningless lifetimes I have been dying and getting born; dying and getting born continuously in the six realms.” Try to feel this by thinking back and back in our previous life, like this.

[Reading, p.83, continues]

Now I have received a perfect human rebirth, which has eighteen attributes: the eight freedoms and the ten receptacles.

What is the Perfect Rebirth?

The eight freedoms (Tib: d’äl.wa.gyä)
These are conditions of existence out of the eight unfree states in which beings do not have the chance to practice Dharma.

Freedom from birth:
1. in the hells (Tib: nyal wa; Skt: narak)

The narak realm is where there is the worst suffering. That is the worst suffering realm, the narak. Once we are born there, all the time until we get out of there, no matter how long we live there, there is not one minute, not one hour of rest from suffering. Once we are born in this suffering realm, we are either having cold suffering or experiencing hot suffering in different conditions, according to karma. The suffering in these narak realms, hot and cold, anything, is much greater, a thousand, billion times greater than any of the hot and cold sufferings that exist in the human realm. If we are born in these realms, there is not even one minute or one hour to have a rest, not having suffering. To have even temporal pleasure, there is not even one hour or one minute.

If we are born there, how can there be a chance to practice Dharma, in order to receive ultimate happiness? There is no chance to practice Dharma at all, no chance at all to practice Dharma in order to receive ultimate happiness. For instance, if there is a thorn going inside our body or a flame that touches our body and we feel incredibly hot, suffering, it is impossible to meditate. How can we meditate? No matter how much we are pushed, how much we are requested to meditate, how can we meditate? So if we are born in this realm there is no chance to meditate, no chance to practice Dharma. In the narak realm there no chance to practice Dharma at all.

Think, “Numberless times in previous lifetimes, I was born in the narak realms. Even the time when I wasn’t born in this suffering narak realm, I was born in preta realm.”

Once we are born in the preta realm, again there is no chance to practice Dharma, because of great karmic suffering, feeling hot and cold, thirsty and hungry. Most of the suffering is feeling hungry and thirsty, and having much fear, so much fear. Even when we see similar things here on earth, when we see starving people not having any food, looking extremely poor, faint; when we see that we cannot bear it. It is unbearable for us when we see that. When we see their suffering, their troubles, we cannot bear it. And these people’s suffering is not for a hundred years, not for a million years, just for a short time. But once we are born in the preta realm, for eons, for many hundreds of lifetimes we have to suffer from hunger and thirst, not finding food and always having much fear. So how can we practice Dharma? It is impossible. Even if we don’t get lunch one day, we cannot meditate, we cannot concentrate, we cannot keep the mind calm. So not getting food for many hundreds of years, with that much suffering it is impossible to practice the Dharma.

“I was born in the preta realm numberless times in my previous life, and even the times I wasn’t born in preta realm I was born as an animal.”

If we are born as an animal there is no chance to practice Dharma. For instance, there is no way to teach an animal to control the mind because, even if we teach the mantra, this very powerful mantra, saying it is very powerful for the mind, how good it is, how beneficial, the animals cannot understand, they cannot recite mantras. There’s no way to teach foolish animals such as cows these things—what is the pure mind and what is the impure mind. There’s no way to communicate; they are extremely foolish.

“I was born in the animal realm, the suffering realm numberless times in our previous lifetimes. Even the times I wasn’t born as an animal, I was born as a long-life god, on those planets.”

Because of having all those rich material enjoyments, everything, so many entourages, many thousands of wives as we wish, many beautiful parks, everything we need, there is great material enjoyment, so the mind is occupied, the mind is so attached in those things. The mind is occupied by this, always distracted by enjoyments, by material enjoyments, the objects of the senses. It is difficult to know suffering and there is no chance to practice Dharma. For instance, even on the earth, those who have so many possessions, so much enjoyment, who have everything, they have to think of these things. Because of the attachment the mind is always occupied by objects of the senses. They never find time to check their mind, never find time to meditate. Some of those sentient beings, gods, are cognition-less, unconscious all their life, however long they live, for eons. So there is no chance to practice Dharma if we born in those realms.

“I was born in those realms numberless times in my previous lives. Even the times when I wasn’t born as those long-life gods, the cognition-less gods, I was born as a human being but born as a barbarian, such as in an irreligious country where there is no Dharma. If we are born as barbarian, there is no chance to practice Dharma.”

We were born numberless times as a barbarian in an irreligious country in our previous lifetimes. Even when we were not born as a barbarian, we were born deaf.2 The deaf person has difficulty understanding the Dharma and they cannot communicate; their mind is incapable of understanding so there is no chance to practice Dharma.

“I was born as a deaf person numberless times in my previous lives. Even when I wasn’t born as a deaf person, I was born as a person who has wrong view, a heretic. Wrong view, wrong understanding, believing that reality doesn’t exist, that things don’t have reality, believing there’s no Buddha, Dharma or Sangha existing, believing karma doesn’t exist, that there’s no such thing as karma, there’s no such thing as karma created by mind.”

Because of these wrong conceptions we don’t practice Dharma, they always keep us away from Dharma, away from understanding Dharma. So if we are born like this, there’s no chance to practice Dharma, to work for gaining ultimate happiness.

“Numberless times I was born as this person having wrong view, a heretic. Even the times when I wasn’t born as the wrong-view person, I was born in the black, dark time, when Buddha has not descended, the time when there is no existence of Buddhadharma. So if I was born in this time, there was no chance to practice Dharma because there was no one who taught it. Buddha had not shown Dharma, so how could it be possible to practice Dharma? No chance. I was born in such black times, dark times in numberless times in my previous lives.”

So now think, “This time I am free, I have received the freedom of not being born in the narak. How lucky I am, how fortunate I am.” Try to feel pleased, try to feel happiness. “I am not in such a realm and have the chance to practice Dharma.”

Think, “I have received freedom this time by not being born in the preta realm.” Try to feel happiness. “How fortunate I am, having the chance to practice Dharma.”

Think, “This time I have received freedom by not being born in the animal realm. Having the chance to practice Dharma, how lucky and fortunate I am.” Think of the difference between us and animals; how they are different, how they are foolish.

“I have received freedom by not being born as those long-life gods, whose mind is completely occupied by the objects of the senses, not having chance to practice the Dharma. How lucky I am to have the chance to practice Dharma at this time.

“This time I have received freedom by not being born as a barbarian, where there is no chance to practice Dharma, being completely ignorant regarding what is the positive action; completely ignorant of what is the virtuous action and what is the evil action, the cause of happiness and suffering. How lucky, how fortunate I am, having the chance to practice the Dharma, to know these things.

“I have received freedom by not being born as those persons having wrong views, where there is no chance to practice Dharma at all due to their wrong conceptions, no chance to realize the reality, the absolute true nature. How lucky, how fortunate I am that I have the chance to practice Dharma and to realize absolute true nature, to have met the teachings, which explain right view.

“I have received freedom by not being born as a deaf person [a person with intellectual impairment], who has no chance to practice Dharma. Look at many of the other people here in East and West. Look at those many [intellectually impaired] children, who cannot even understand language, even though they look good physically. They don’t know language, even ordinary things. How can it be possible for them to practice Dharma? How fortunate I am, how lucky, that I have the chance to practice Dharma; I have the chance to understand, my mind is capable.

“I have received freedom by not being born in such a time when there is no Buddha or where there is no Buddhadharma existing. How fortunate I am to have the chance to practice Dharma by receiving teachings.”

I think this afternoon from two o’clock either Ann or Nick will repeat this, and again like this you meditate, meditate. It’s better, it’s easier if someone repeats like this, then your mind doesn’t get distracted by something. These meditations are very new, so it is easy to get distracted by something. The mind wanders. Maybe for one minute or two seconds you start, then all of a sudden your mind goes somewhere else. Just like a butterfly, exactly like a butterfly.

Student: Rinpoche, does the Tibetan word ’onpa  mean in English “deaf and dumb” or does it mean just “not able to hear”?

Rinpoche: I see. It just means having a mental defect, a mind incapable of understanding Dharma. Generally, regarding the freedom, that also includes not hearing. Being unable to communicate is also included.

Student: Rinpoche, what does “not being born in the right time to receive Dharma” mean?

Rinpoche: There are certain eons. Buddhadharma does not always exist on the earth; there are not always Buddha’s teachings. There are certain eons when no Buddha has descended and there are no teachings. Where there’s no Buddhadharma existing and because there’s no teaching, there’s no way to hear, nothing, so there’s no way to develop the mind in the Dharma. It's completely impossible. That’s why it’s called a dark age.


1 See Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun, pp. 47–49. [Return to text]

2 The Tibetan word ’onpa literally means deaf but in this context it means being born with defective mental or physical faculties, and being unable to understand or communicate. See The Perfect Human Rebirth, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, pp. 50–51. [Return to text]

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