Kopan Course No. 41 (2008)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1746)

These teachings were given by Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 41st Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in December 2008. The transcripts are lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Lecture 13 is a talk on the beginnings of the FPMT by Ven. Roger Kunsang, who is Rinpoche's assistant and CEO of FPMT Inc. See also the Basic Philosophy of Buddhism, to listen to the audio files and read along with the unedited transcript for Lecture 10.  You may also download the entire contents of these teachings as a pdf file

Lectures 7 & 8: Creating the Cause for Happiness

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Lecture 7

[A short lecture not audible due to taping problems]

Lecture 8


[Rinpoche chants the Requesting Prayer to the Lineage Lamas]

From here, receive blessings from Lama Atisha, then receive from all the three lineages, the lineage of the path of extensiveness and the path of profundity both from Lama Atisha. Then Drontömpa, from there then both the lineages from Lama Atisha and Osel Tenda Sampa, Lama Atisha, then Drompa Rinpoche, Drontömpa, who is the embodiment of Compassion Buddha. His Holiness Dalai Lama is the incarnation of that, Drontömpa who was the translator for Lama Atisha in Tibet. After Lama Atisha came to Tibet, Drontömpa translated for Lama Atisha, when Lama Atisha was giving teachings. So His Holiness is manifestation or embodiment of Drontömpa, the present time existing and benefiting us sentient beings in this world.

From there, we receive both the lineages, pacifying obstacles to achieve both paths and then actualize within you the paths of both extensiveness and profundity.

[Rinpoche chanting]

From here, we are making requests to the Kadampa Shombawa, the Kadampa lamas, the Extensive Scriptures.

[Rinpoche chanting]

From here, the lineage lamas, the Kadampa geshes, man-ngapa, the instructions, the Kadampa lamas of the instruction of the path to enlightenment.

There are three different groups of Kadampa geshes. Lama Atisha is in the first group, man-ngapa, Lamrimpa. How these Kadampa geshes achieved enlightenment, the way they attempted to achieve enlightenment is by studying the lam-rim and practicing the advice of the path, which is the heart of the 84,000 teachings of the Buddha. The three baskets of teachings are condensed into the lam-rim, the stages of the path to enlightenment. By studying that, putting it into practice, they attain path to enlightenment.

The next group, Kadampa Geshe Potawa, studied deeper the extensive scriptures of Buddhadharma, by putting them into practice, then actualizing it, achieving enlightenment. Now this one, this Kadampa geshe group is from supreme Tsultrim Bar, the great yogi Tsultrim Bar. They received instructions, teachings from the lama, and then they put it into practice and actualized the path, trying to achieve enlightenment. That group is called man-ngapa.

If you have intelligence, opportunity and intelligence, then you too can study the extensive teachings of Buddha, extensive scriptures of Buddha, the philosophy. There are five great treatises: the sutra, Abhisamayalamkara, and then, Madhyamaka, then there’s the Pramanavarttika, logician teachings, and then the Vinaya teachings, the Abhidharmakosha teachings. So there’s the root, composed on the basis of Buddha’s teachings, the root text which is normally memorized in the monasteries, written by those great scholars, the Six Ornaments, those great pandits, you see, Six Ornaments. The treatises composed by them, on the basis of the Buddha’s teachings, and then the commentaries. Then also, the commentaries by Lama Tsongkhapa, by great scholar, and by the highly attained lamas from Tibet. Scholars memorize the root texts and commentaries, then study the details, and through debate, and achieve a very deep, clear, explanation of the Buddhadharma, the path to enlightenment. They do extensive study about the Buddha, the Buddha’s qualities and the path and all that, then about samsara and the mind.

You don’t get from full explanation of those subtle subjects from the Sutrayana, you get it from Vajrayana. You don’t get everything about the mind, the study of mind from Sutrayana, even though there’s extensive explanations, but all the subtle explanations, the full explanation, you get from tantra.

His Holiness has mentioned this many times at the scientific meetings that His Holiness started many years ago. Every year there’s a meeting, a dialogue, talking from the Buddhist philosophy side, Buddhist science, explaining about the mind.

Buddhism has a very clear explanation of all the different thoughts, the six principal consciousnesses and the fifty-one mental factors, whereas there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation in Western science, which is much more focused on the outside, much is focused on outside phenomena, what is to be known, and not so much the knower—the knower means the person—not so much the mind, that which perceives the external. The Western study about it doesn’t go into details very clearly, but investigates the brain. There’s no particular emphasis on anything non-physical, the mind, as in Buddhism. The only study of the mind is through the brain, the different atoms or cells or the different sides of the brain. But, studying the brain can’t really explain the details of each thought.

Even from His Holiness’s talks each year in the dialogues or meetings, you can see how the mind is very clearly explained by Buddha, and then by those great yogis, those pandits, the great Indian and then Tibetan scholars.

All those subtle definitions of the different mental processes can’t be found from a study of the brain; they can’t be expressed, they can’t be shown clearly from analysis of the brain. The five senses, and the non-conceptual mental sense, as well as all the types of conceptual minds, all the minute details, cannot be identified from the brain. The brain seems just some sort of shell. There are so many things that can’t be explained from the brain that was explained by His Holiness, during the many years of the dialogues with the experts, when he explained it from the viewpoint of Buddhist science.

His Holiness emphasized many times that there’s a support from Western science, the analysis of the external objects. So much analysis has been done on external objects, and that helps Buddhist scholars understand some things, and conversely they help the scientists from the Buddhist side, about mind, all the specific details, such clear explanations. Of course, the Sutrayana explanation is one thing, but then there is tantric explanations which are very subtle. There are many details in tantra which you can’t find from Western science, so they export it from Buddhist science.

So, it’s made very clear, it’s emphasized very much to the Western science how important it is to do more study of the mind, that perceiver, the mind. His Holiness says that at the moment the understanding of the mind is still developing in Western science, it’s still developing, it’s still like a child compared to inner science, Buddhist philosophy. Western neuroscience, about the mind, is like a baby at the moment. This is what His Holiness has discovered from the many years of meetings, of dialogues, with the experts, the Western scientists.

So, anyway, what I was saying is that those who have intelligence, I’m relating it to Kadampa geshes, if you have intelligence and opportunity, then study the extensive philosophy, and then above that, these five great treatises. These are the sutras and then there are the tantras—unbelievable, unbelievable, mind blowing, mind blowing. Not nose blowing, but mind blowing, not ear blowing—anyway, it’s unbelievable knowledge, the clarity about the mind, as well as the path that can be achieved. There are unbelievable details, all those subtle points. You can do that, you can try to achieve enlightenment by studying the extensive scriptures. We can relate this to how these Kadampa geshes studied.

Those who don’t have that degree of intelligence and merit can try to achieve enlightenment by hearing the teachings, the teachings, the instructions, you have heard from the guru, and then put them into practice. In that way, you can try to achieve enlightenment.

Like the three Kadampa groups, it’s same thing with us, we study according to the level of our intelligence in order to achieve enlightenment. All three levels can lead us to achieve enlightenment: studying the extensive scriptures, studying some of the lam-rim teachings or studying the instructions received from the guru and putting them into practice. In that way, we can attain the path to enlightenment.

If we have no opportunity or no intelligence to learn the whole extensive philosophy and the teachings of Buddha, there’s a way to achieve enlightenment, even if we don’t have the opportunity or intelligence. Even if we don’t have the capacity, there are other ways.

We can achieve enlightenment by studying that and meditating on the heart of the Buddhadharma, the lam-rim, or otherwise following the instructions, the teachings we receive from the guru and putting it into practice. That way we can achieve enlightenment. This is just to give you an idea—even if we can’t study extensive philosophy, that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve enlightenment. Even among the three groups of Kadampas this happened, trying to achieve enlightenment.

From here starts the new Kadampa lineage, we’ll do the stanza for Lama Tsongkhapa.

[Rinpoche chants Migtsema]

[Offering of mandala]

When I was talking, say, just to mention, during this tong-len practice, we need to be brave hearted, with bodhicitta, giving up ourselves for numberless sentient beings, taking their sufferings on ourselves, including the cause, disturbing thought obscurations and the subtle obscurations, taking it all on ourselves, on the self-cherishing thought and destroying that. Doing that with compassion, then generating loving kindness towards all sentient beings. We do that practice with compassion, not only wishing sentient beings free from all the suffering and its causes, but to do that by ourselves.

And then the giving, the practice of giving, we’re doing this with loving kindness in the same way, not only wishing them happiness, but taking responsibility on ourselves to cause all that happiness.

It’s not that we wish happiness to others—“Oh, I wish you have happiness”—then nothing happens. We wish them have happiness and then doing nothing. It’s not like that, wishing happiness for others but then we live our life for ourselves. [Rinpoche laughs] We offer good words to others and then we live our own life, dedicating our life for ourselves. It’s not like that. [Rinpoche laughs]

When we meet somebody who is about to travel somewhere, we naturally say, “I wish you happiness. I wish you have success.” It’s not like that, just saying the words. Loving kindness is also taking responsibility, ourselves, to cause them happiness, to cause them happiness, for them to experience happiness, then from their side they have to create the cause of the happiness. That involves us actually having to educate the other sentient beings to create the cause of happiness, to learn about the cause of happiness.

Why I bring this up, to cause them happiness, they have to create the cause of the happiness, so we’re taking the responsibility to cause that, to educate them, to inspire them to create the cause.

For example, quite a few years ago, in Africa, many millions of people died of hunger, in a famine, I think it was Africa. There was a drought happening in the country and nothing grew. When things grew, floods came and destroyed the crops, so even if it grew, there were obstacles. When there was food, the floods destroyed much of it, but generally no rain came, no crops grew, and many people died, including children. So many people died, I think probably millions of people, including children.

I was in Adelaide doing a retreat. Actually, I was doing retreat of watching TV. I was doing watching-TV retreat, a TV retreat. [Group laughs] At that time, the thought came, what we can manage is sending some Sangha, inviting some Sangha or some Tibetan lamas or monks, maybe some incarnate lamas there to make rain. There are some good monks or lamas that are able to do puja and make it rain. The thought came that we could do that.

But, of course, they have to have the karma to receive rain. From their side, they have to have the karma to receive the rain, otherwise the rain doesn’t happen, even if you do pujas. First of all, the people have to have the karma, from their side they have to collect merits, to receive the rain, to receive the rain to grow crops. From their side, if there’s no karma, no merits to receive the rain and to raise crops, nothing happens.

So, that thought came, even if I invited somebody to sponsor this, even if I invited some lamas there, some good ones to do that puja, but I was still not sure—if the people don’t have karma then it can’t happen. The foundation, from their side, they need to have good karma, merits.

We have a student who has already used the text. He went to the mountains and read it in order to make the nagas happy. Nagas are in the realm of animals, but you can make nagas happy by giving gifts to them and then you teach them the Dharma, to not harm others. It says, “If you want happiness and do not want suffering, then you don’t harm others, and you benefit others,” and Dharma advice like that. It’s a short text, the practice is only a few minutes, but it’s very effective if you do correctly.

This translation was done in Dharamsala many years ago by a Tibetan man—I’ve forgotten his name—who used to translate for Tara Rinpoche, a great lama, a great scholar, a highly attained being from Drepung Monastery, in Tibet.

He gave teachings in Bodhgaya in the early days, many years ago. He used to give teachings during the pilgrimage time in Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is the place where Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, has shown holy deeds, achieved enlightenment, as well as three other buddhas. There will a thousand buddhas and all will descend there, showing the holy deeds, achieving enlightenment, so Bodhgaya is a great place, the most holy place in the world.

As His Holiness mentioned, whatever practice you do there, its power is increased eight times. If you do one prostration, then it becomes eight prostrations; if you do one mantra, it becomes eight mantras. It’s a great holy place.

Anyway, Tara Rinpoche used to go there during the pilgrimage time and give teachings to Western students and a young Tibetan man translated for Rinpoche, so I asked him to translate this text.

The text was found many years ago in Vajrapani, but I forgot it completely. Vajrapani Center is the retreat center in the forest near Santa Cruz in America, where the holy body of Lama Yeshe, the founder of this organization, was offered to the fire. It was our first Dharma center in the United States.

A student found this text there in the office, and she went to Colorado with it, into the mountains—Colorado or Seattle, I’m not sure, maybe Colorado—and she did this practice, exactly as it’s explained, and the rain came. There was scarcity of rain there, and then the rain came.

At that time she wasn’t a nun, now she is nun, called Nyingjema [Paula Chichester, Ven Lhundrup Nyingje] because there was Nyingjepa, another man called Nyingje, who used to be a monk, who stayed in the house where I lived, in Aptos house in California, so, Nyingjepa and Nyingjema, male and female. Anyway, her Western name is Paula.

So, I thought that both of them could go to do the rain puja. It’s maybe three or four minutes, just short. The person who does it has to be devoted, somebody who has faith in the practice and somebody who is devoted to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and who practices morality. So that person needs some quality, not just anybody who reads it can do it successfully. But if the person who does it has some truth, has some quality, then it has so much power, the words they say are much more valid; they have more power, more heaviness. Others listen to you.

This is the subject of karma. So there it happened, there was no water and so many people were dying. Some organization or country tried to take water in by airplane. I don’t know which country tried to support them, to help them. The water was clean fresh water before the airplane took off, but then when they landed in Africa, when they opened the containers the water had become very smelly, very dirty, undrinkable, undrinkable. Because of their negative karma, even if somebody brings water in by airplane, they don’t have the karma to get it; they don’t have the karma to receive healthy water.

We have to think about this. This proves what the Buddha said in the lam-rim teachings, in the teachings of karma. From the sentient beings’ side, in order to receive happiness, from their side they have to have the cause to receive the water, to be able to have healthy water to drink, they have to have collected the cause from their side. The drinking water, that pleasure is a result, so that depends on the cause. The cause has to exist before the result, so from their side they have to have created the cause, then they would get the healthy water, water they could get drink, to help them.

And of course that cause of happiness, of pleasure, is virtue, not nonvirtue, not indifferent actions, the cause has to be virtue. If it’s pleasure, then cause has to be virtue, so they have to collect virtue, Dharma. They should have the cause, virtue or Dharma practice, to receive the healthy water. They hadn’t done that, however, and that’s why even though somebody brought the water all the way there, the condition, the water is undrinkable, it’s very filthy, very dirty, smelly. Therefore, what you need to do, you need to cause them to create the cause, you see, you need to educate them to collect virtue.

So, my idea at the time was to send somebody there. I didn’t go there, sorry, I didn’t go there, but my thought was, the thought came out for somebody to go there and talk about compassion. It is not necessary to talk about devoting oneself to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha at the beginning. You don’t need to do that, but, without talking about that, which is not easy, even though that is the easiest way to collect extensive merits. You need to talk in something universal and compassion is the universal language, the universal language or the universal thing. It doesn’t involve particularly presenting a religion. This is the universal thing—love, compassion, patience, kindness, practicing kindness, all this—that is universal. These are the common things. So, I thought to ask somebody to go there and talk about compassion. Giving an education about compassion even to one person—there may be so many millions of people—but, to educate even one person about compassion, having made a friend, by making friends, then you talk about compassion, and give education of compassion. You teach the need to help to others, how it is most important, how it is the most important thing in the life to give that education

At the same time, your whole entire life is just dedicated to one sentient being, even if that is yourself, you live your life for yourself, but there is a big question there, there is a huge question. To have happiness, you have to create virtue, all your actions of body, speech and mind, whatever you do—eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, doing a job, whatever—all has to become Dharma, all has to become virtue, then you can achieve success, happiness, now and in future lives. As I mentioned yesterday, with karma, if you do one positive action, something good for somebody, an animal or a person, then you experience happiness, the result of happiness for hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. For one act, one good act, one positive act, one action that you did with a good heart for somebody, even for an animal, or an insect or a human being, the result is happiness. You experience that because karma is expandable.

I’m forgetting my talk now. It’s disappearing.

So, the big question is, even if we really want to cause happiness for ourselves, our actions have to become virtue, positive, pure actions, Dharma, otherwise it can’t happen. As Nagarjuna explained in the Jeweled Garland, maybe Letter to a Friend, I’m not sure, “Actions born from ignorance, anger, attachment, that is nonvirtue, result in birth in all the suffering migratory realms.”

That means action we do motivated by ignorance, the ignorance of karma, not knowing the Dharma, not knowing what is right and wrong, what benefits us and others, we can’t discriminate, we have no idea at all whether what we’re doing is right or wrong—right which benefits or wrong which harms. We have no idea at all because we expect happiness from this action, but it doesn’t mean it brings happiness. Because we expect happiness from this, that doesn’t prove that our actions bring happiness.

In our lives we do many things to achieve happiness but there are many things that don’t work. Many actions bring terrible problems, terrible problems, a huge mess. We make a mess of life, we make life very messy, bringing so many problems, so much unhappiness. But we still expect happiness, our wish is happiness. So, that shows that an action we expect will bring happiness doesn’t necessarily do that.

Nagarjuna explained that any action done with a negative motivation only brings suffering. That was what Nagarjuna said. He was like a second Buddha; he happened in this world and propagated the Buddha’s teachings, wisdom, the subject of emptiness, the truth. He wrote six very profound texts giving elaborate explanation of this truth, emptiness, to liberate sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering, by ceasing the cause, karma and delusion, and the root, ignorance. He did unbelievable benefit for sentient beings and the teachings of Buddha.
Here it’s said, if the motivation is ignorance, anger, attachment, and the self-cherishing thought, if we analyze, our own experience will show us whether our mind is peaceful or not. When we check we can see that we don’t have peace. Analyzing whether any action motivated by ignorance or anger, attachment, by selfish mind to see whether it gives us peace, gives us tranquility, peace, inner peace to our heart, we can see that it doesn’t; peace doesn’t happen. Anger doesn’t give us this—this is clear—but also attachment doesn’t. Attachment is a very cheating mind, a very deceiving mind. It looks like it’s helping us, but in reality, if we really understand it, we get no peace from it; it just brings disturbances. There’s just disturbances, no peace.

Then that act obscures our own mind from realizing the truth. It even becomes an obstacle to developing compassion; it obstructs us from developing compassion for sentient beings. It doesn’t allow compassion to arise with a sincere heart, compassion to free others from suffering, to do that by ourselves. Our mind becomes so sticky, like glue, bringing so much suffering. The nature of the mind is painful, making it painful to separate away from the object. It is so sticky. It holds the total hallucination, as I mentioned the other night. Ignorance has its own wrong view, that things truly existing from their own side.

Now, on the basis of that, attachment arises—this is good, this is beautiful—attachment arises, and attachment has its own projection; it has its own wrong view, on top of that.

The object that attachment grasps onto is built on the basis of the view of ignorance, seeing it as independent, inherently existent, so that doesn’t exist at all, not even an atom. So, how is it possible for the object of attachment to sits there, when the view that is projected doesn’t exist? That’s what I was trying to say that night, with the Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings.

It’s the same thing with anger. Ignorance projects the sense of true existence on top of the merely labeled enemy. Ignorance projects this inherent existence, making it real, then on the basis of that, we think what this person does is harmful, bad, whatever, blah, blah, blah, then anger arises, and anger has its own wrong view. It has its own wrong view, seeing it as undesirable, projected on to something that doesn’t exist. It’s built on the basis of the wrong view of the ignorance—of an independent, inherently existent object, existing from its own side, by nature, not merely labeled by mind. That is not there at all.

Any other delusion that arises—jealousy, pride and so forth—is built, arising on the basis of the ignorance, projecting the inherent existence onto the merely labeled object. So, all those delusions are wrong concepts. There’s no such thing as their own view projected that exists.

It’s like if we put on blue glasses and see the white snow mountains as blue. There are no such things as those blue mountains. The wrong concept is projected, and each wrong concept has its own view, its own wrong view projected that is done on the basis of the wrong view of ignorance.

The inner scientist, the Buddhist scientist, knows the reality. This is discovered by the inner scientist.

Anyway, I’m lost! But it doesn’t matter. Now, we first need to liberate, to enlighten our stomach. [Rinpoche laughs; group laughs] So, I’ll stop here.


[Short mandala offering]

Due to all the three times’ merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, may the bodhicitta be actualized within my own heart and in the hearts of all the sentient beings without delay of even a second.

Jang chub…

Due to all the three times’ merits collected by me, the three times’ merits collected by others, that which exists but which is empty from its own side, may the I who exists, but who does not exist from its own side, who is totally empty, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which exists, but which doesn’t exist from its own side, which is totally empty, and lead all the sentient beings, who exist, but who do not exist from their own side, who are totally empty, to that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which exists, but which doesn’t exist from its own side, which is totally empty, by myself alone, who exists, but who doesn’t exist from its own side, who is totally empty.

Okay, so I think that’s it. [Group laughs] So, thank you very much. Do the offering before you eat food, then generate the bodhicitta motivation. Visualize it as nectar and offer it.

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