Teachings at the Mitukpa Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Vermont, USA (Archive #1391)

These teachings by Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche are excerpts from a one-month Mitukpa Retreat held at Milarepa Center, Vermont, USA, in Aug/Sept 2002. The transcripts are lightly edited by Ven. Sarah Thresher. On the Index Page you will find an outline of the topics discussed in each teaching.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.
The Meaning of Retreat

So, good morning. My good morning. [Everyone laughs because it’s night time].

Before we start just to mention a little bit about the meaning of retreat. The very basic thing is retreating away from nonvirtue, the cause of suffering. That means keeping the body, speech, and mind in virtue. That’s the very least meaning of retreat.

It is mentioned that the definite meaning of retreat is living in morality. This is the foundation. For example, living in the morality of the ten virtues and retreating away from the ten nonvirtues, such as gossip and so forth. Then, of course, there’s the eight Mahayana precepts, that’s also retreat, living in the eight vows, which is the virtue of abstaining from the eight nonvirtues. This is the basic thing. It’s like the foundation for a house.

Then there is retreating away from attachment clinging to this life, the worldly concerns, the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. By practicing mindfulness, you recognize when the attachment clinging to this life rises, which doesn’t allow the retreat to become Dharma. If you practice awareness all the time, watching the mind, then you can recognize when the thought of the eight worldly dharmas takes over your mind, not allowing your actions of meditating, reciting mantra as well as eating, walking, sitting, sleeping and all these things to become Dharma and you can keep the mind in renunciation. By watching the mind as much as you can, keep it away from the attachment clinging to this life. Cast that thought away as you would garbage or used toilet paper.

In other words, by reflecting on impermanence and death, and the most powerful thing, which is not just that I am going to die after sometime, but the uncertainty of death, that death could happen today. Even within this moment, while I’m eating or while I’m in the toilet or while I’m drinking tea. Even while I’m walking to the house death might happen. Before the session finishes death might happen. By thinking that death might happen this hour, this moment, you cut the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. That means cutting the attachment clinging to this life, which immediately brings peace to your heart. Cutting attachment to this life’s pleasures or letting go immediately brings peace and happiness in your heart. It gives satisfaction to your heart. All those hundreds of thousands of expectations and superstitions, which cause all these worries and fears are due to the thought of the eight worldly dharmas. By cutting the attachment to this life, you cut all those things so it immediately gives you satisfaction and brings peace and happiness to your heart. Your mind is free. There is peace, happiness and freedom. You are free from confusion and free from all the rest of the stuff. That’s the pure Dharma. Whenever you are able to do that your mind becomes pure Dharma and whatever you do—meditating, reciting mantra, eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, whatever—everything becomes pure Dharma. Pure Dharma, like pure gold.

When you practice pure Dharma there is so much peace and happiness in your heart. When you are not practicing pure Dharma, you are doing something but it is not pure because your mind is stained or possessed by the thought of the eight worldly dharmas—attachment, looking for reputation, power, wealth, long life, health, and all the pleasures and comforts of this life for oneself, for me, “I need this”, “I need that”, but even that is just only for this life, not for future lives. When the motivation is possessed by that it’s like when you mix the colour white with the colour black. If you put white with black it becomes something else. (I remember when Thubten Jinpa translates he always uses the word “company” with this thought, the mind in company with this thought.) So it’s the same when the mind is possessed by worldly thought.

If you spill Tibetan butter tea on the text, on white paper, or if you put oil on white paper, how does it become? If you put black in white color, how does it become? It doesn’t stay pure white, it becomes another color. It’s like that, when the mind is stained or possessed by the attachment clinging to this life. So the attitude of doing retreat, meditation, reciting mantra and all the rest of the things become nonvirtuous thought and that transforms all the actions into nonvirtue. Even the actions of meditating and reciting mantra, the whole twenty-four hours of activity and the whole retreat, then the whole life, everything becomes nonvirtue. And that’s what makes one’s own heart empty, all the time. Whatever you do with the desire clinging to this life, you can never get satisfaction. You can never get satisfaction.

The mind that lets go and is free from the desire and attachment clinging to this life, with this mind practicing Dharma and achieving the path has an end. With this mind you can practice Dharma. This mind is Dharma, pure Dharma. So that itself is practicing Dharma, pure Dharma, and whatever actions you do with that become pure Dharma. With this mind you can achieve the path to liberation and enlightenment. So that’s the end. You can begin and you can complete, because there’s an end. But with the desire clinging to this life with the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, no matter how much you follow that there’s no end. No matter how much you work for the desire, there’s no end. You can never achieve satisfaction. You want again and again and again and again and again and again, so there’s no end. There’s no end for that. There’s no end to wanting. There’s no end to the desire. There’s no end to working for desire. Keeping life busy working so hard for desire has no end.

Not only there’s no end, but it creates so many problems, like the branches of the tree spread out from the trunk, or the root of the tree spreads out. So many hundreds of problems start from that. The root of the desire, clinging to this life, leads to so many hundreds of problems and it makes life so heavy and difficult. Constantly there is depression, worry, fear and so many problems that one has to go through. Life becomes heavy and dark. The heart is dark. Not only empty but also dark. Life becomes like this. So life is very unhappy. You can’t really enjoy life even if you are living in a jeweled palace with everything, all the enjoyments. Even if you have billions of cars, billions of Mercedes, Lexus, BMWs or Rolls Royces, and even if you have billions of swimming pools, and hundreds of thousands of billions of servants and people around you, working for you, you can’t really enjoy life. You are so miserable. There is so much suffering inside. Even externally it looks like you have everything, people can see from your face, from your eyes or something, that your mind is very unhappy, that you are a very dissatisfied person—very miserable and very suffering.

Like the waves of the ocean there is no end to the work for desire. Like the waves, they never finish: one comes, then another one comes, then another one comes and so on— there’s no end. Forever. No matter how much one follows desire, it will never end. From beginningless rebirth we have been following desire and it has never ended. The work for desire is still not finished besides having to experience so many problems.

So you watch the mind, by practicing mindfulness, and you start to recognize when desire rises and then you throw the atomic bomb, or missiles. Like those missiles that America was shooting at Iraq some years ago. They travel many hundreds of miles and land right on target. For us beginners the most powerful missile is the meditation on impermanence and death. Death can happen any moment, any day, even today. Even this moment death can happen. Relate this to karma and the lower realms’ sufferings. You must connect it to karma because otherwise just thinking about death as the consciousness separating from this body, then what? So relate death to karma and the results of negative karma, all those rebirths in the lower realms with their unimaginable sufferings. That is so terrifying. We don’t want even a small discomfort or even an unpleasant dream. We don’t even want to dream about terrifying things, we only want nice, good, beautiful, pleasurable things, so if we can’t stand even the small problems of human beings how could we bear the unimaginable sufferings of the lower realms?

…why lower realm sufferings is because they are so unbelievably heavy, so by knowing the cause of that is negative karma it inspires and persuades you to creating negative karma, the cause of reincarnating in those realms and suffering. But if you feel that human and deva realm’s sufferings are unbearable just as the lower realm sufferings of the hells, hungry ghosts and animals are unbearable, then of course it is not necessary to always think about the lower realms suffering. If you can feel that the pleasures in the deva realms are like the hell realm’s suffering and that the samsaric pleasures of humans are in the nature of suffering, so unbearable, then it is not necessary to think about the lower realms because that fulfills the same purpose. It inspires you to stop creating negative karma and to always keep your body, speech and mind in virtue. It inspires you to practice morality, concentration and wisdom, the three higher trainings and to actualize path to liberation and enlightenment. This helps you not to be attached to samsaric perfections.

We don’t realize that the samsaric pleasures in the human world and the deva’s realm are in the nature of suffering and our mind hallucinates that they are pleasure, real happiness. We don’t even have much feeling in the heart of how unbearable the suffering of pain is in the human and deva realms, the desire realms. Samsaric suffering is the suffering of pain, the suffering of change—samsaric pleasures which are in the nature of suffering, and pervasive compounding suffering—the aggregates, either the mind or the body and mind which are in the nature of suffering. If one doesn’t have much feeling that these sufferings are unbearable then think of the heavier ones, the lower realm sufferings. That gives inspiration to let go of desire and to let go of delusions. It stops negative karma and then as your mind develops more you stop creating the cause of samsara, especially when you actualize the path.

After you have actualized the ordinary path—the path of merit and the preparatory path—and you have achieved the third path, the right seeing path, at that time your wisdom directly perceives emptiness so you don’t create new karma. You don’t create any more negative karma that would throw you to a new rebirth, future samsara. As the mind becomes more advanced and developed in the path, you don’t create the cause of samsara. So all of this is to help that to happen and eventually to become free from samsara, totally free forever from the entire suffering realm. Then you have everlasting happiness, liberation.

It is very important especially now when we have made special time to do retreat that we put emphasis on this point—retreating away from the clinging to this life. For example, in the Sakya tradition there is the Four Partings or Parting from the Four Clingings or Graspings. The first one is grasping to this life, the attachment clinging to this life. That’s the first one because if you have that it doesn’t allow you to practice Dharma. Then there is grasping to future lives’ samsaric happiness. You have to cut that, let go of it, otherwise you cannot achieve liberation. Then, there is grasping at working for the self. If one grasps at works for the self, one is not a bodhisattva because that attitude is not bodhicitta. In other words if one is cherishing the I then the mind cannot become bodhicitta and whatever actions one does do not become the cause to achieve enlightenment. When the attitude is self-cherishing thought, then it becomes an obstacle for everything one does—reciting mantra, doing retreat, all the activities—to become the cause to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings.

In the text it says, “If one grasps to this life, one is not a Dharma practitioner”. If one clings to this life, then one is not a Dharma practitioner, [Tib: ?]. “If one grasps to future samsaric happiness, that attitude is not renunciation of samsara.” [Tib: ?]. “If one grasps to works for self” or “If one grasps to one’s own happiness, that attitude is not bodhicitta.” That means cherishing happiness for oneself because of cherishing the I, and working for that, [Tib: ?]—that attitude is not bodhicitta. “If one grasps the I, then it is not right view”, [Tib: ?] . If one grasps that the I is truly existent, existing from its own side, then it is not the view. The I appears to be truly existent, existing from its own side and if one grasps that this is true, then even if one believes “I’m meditating on emptiness”, it is not meditating on emptiness. Even if one believes “I have realized emptiness”, it is not meditating on emptiness. It is not right view.

This is the Parting from the Four Graspings according to Sakya tradition. In the Nyingma-Kagyu there are the Four Aspects that Transform the Mind, [Tib: ?]. There may be other translations, however it is just a different label it is talking about the same thing. What they are is the same: renunciation of this life, renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta, right view.

What I was trying to say before is that especially when we take time out from our life to do retreat, we must put all our effort into this practice. Of course, if one can do this in normal life it means your whole life you are able to practice pure Dharma. You become a Dharma practitioner. Your life and Dharma practice become equal. It is not that life is longer and Dharma practice shorter. Your life and Dharma practice go together, they are equal. In Tibetan it is called, [?]. [Tib: ?] is life and [Tib: ?] is practice. So your life and the practice are equal. Twenty-four hours they go together, your whole life up to death. This is letting go of attachment. This pure mind, this peaceful, inner happy, free mind, is the Dharma mind. This is the fundamental practice. This is the real Dharma practice. If you are able to do this in normal life, then there is no question, but since most of the time even when we are trying it is difficult to do then especially when we save special time to do retreat we must put all our effort into this practice.

This is pure Dharma practice—watching the mind and if you see attachment, clinging to this life, the thought of the eight worldly dharmas take over your mind and your life you try to cut it by applying the remedy, the meditation, like a weapon to destroy it. Then not letting it rise again by living with your mind in meditation all the time, such as the awareness of impermanence and death, thinking that death might happen today, even this moment. Continuously, relate whatever actions you are doing to that, thinking that before you finish it death might happen. Think that death might come any moment. By keeping the mind in this awareness of impermanence and death, it doesn’t allow the enemy of attachment clinging to this life and the eight worldly dharmas to rise. It doesn’t give it the opportunity to rise, so you are able to overcome it.

This is giving freedom to yourself. Most of one’s own life, one gives freedom to desire. You give freedom not to you but to the desire, the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas and you become the slave. You become the slave of the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas and then you are always abused by the desire. You are constantly abused by the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. You are always used, you are always abused by this desire. And you are always tortured by this desire. It has already brought so many problems to you and it brings so many problems to your life everyday, one after another.

So the time we have for retreat is nothing. Even if somebody is doing three year retreat, even that’s nothing because most of the life goes by being servant to the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, the attachment clinging to this life. The attitude in the mind is the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas so all the activities in the rest of the life did not become Dharma. Even if one tries to do meditation, prayers, making charity, and so forth, one tried to do something but it became an act—like Dharma but not Dharma. So there is no question that all the daily activities of eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, doing jobs, and so forth did not become Dharma, but became nonvirtue because they are all done with this attitude. Therefore, even if one gives the life to do retreat for three years, but it is nothing compared to all the rest of the years that have gone by. Even if there is more life to come after this.

Usually the time that we give for retreat is very short. Therefore it is unbelievably important to put all your effort to make sure it becomes Dharma. During these days, make sure your attitude becomes pure Dharma and your practice really becomes Dharma. Make sure your retreat becomes Dharma. Make sure that everything you do—meditation, prayers or whatever—becomes Dharma. We need to put all our effort in this. Watch the mind and make sure it becomes pure Dharma. Otherwise, even if one believes “I’m a Dharma practitioner, I’m doing retreat” but actually you are not. It appears like that, but it is not. There is this risk. So if we didn’t get to watch our mind and make our mind and actions become Dharma for even this very short time that we have, then other times it will be difficult. Life is filled with distractions, all the superstitions and delusions. So the meaning of retreat is retreating away from the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. That means living the mind in renunciation of this life, letting go of attachment to this life. Leaving your mind free from that. Giving freedom to yourself this time and not giving freedom to the thought of the eight worldly dharmas.

The next retreat, higher than that is the mind retreating away from attachment to future lives’ samsaric perfections and samsaric happiness by living in renunciation of samsara. Then, on the basis of this foundation, retreating away from the ego and self-cherishing thought. Retreating away from egoism by living the mind in bodhicitta, the thought of cherishing other sentient beings and benefiting other sentient beings. Working for other sentient beings rather than working for self, seeking the happiness of others, rather than seeking happiness for oneself. Living with that attitude.

Then, retreating away from ignorance, the root of samsara. The root of samsara is the ignorance apprehending the I to exist from its own side. While the I is totally empty of existing from its own side, it appears to be existing from its own side, and ignorance apprehends that as true. It is the same with the aggregates and whatever appears to the senses—form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects. Even though they are totally empty, devoid of existing from their own side, they appear to the hallucinated mind as though they exist from their own side and then ignorance holds onto that as true.

So retreating away from this ignorance by practicing mindfulness in daily life, looking at all these things as empty, as they are empty, or looking at them as hallucination. Look at the hallucination we have on the I, the hallucination that you have on yourself, the merely imputed I, merely imputed aggregates, merely imputed form, merely imputed sound, merely imputed smell, tastes, tangibles, merely imputed hell, merely imputed enlightenment, merely imputed liberation from samsara. Look at the hallucination we have on all these merely imputed phenomenas. Look at them as hallucination as they are hallucination.

Practice mindfulness in this way so that it doesn’t allow the mind to apprehend the false view as reality. Even though these phenomena appear truly existent, by practicing mindfulness in this way you don’t have to believe that this is true. Or practice mindfulness by looking at all these phenomena, I, action, object, everything as dependent arising, merely imputed by the mind. Meditate or practice mindfulness on how they exist by being merely imputed by mind, or exist in mere name.

By meditating on subtle dependent arising or in any of these three ways, it stops the mind from holding onto phenomena, including the I, which appear to be inherently existent, as true, which is false view. When we let our mind hold onto the wrong way things are appearing and apprehend this as true we are creating ignorance, wrong concept. While there are no phenomena existing from their own side, if we believe there are, then that is wrong concept. That concept receives the label “ignorance”, which means not understanding and not realizing that things are empty and devoid of inherent existence. Not seeing this. So this is another definition of retreat.

This is retreating by keeping your mind in the three principals of the path: renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness. In Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition these are the three principals of the path and there is nothing missing. The other traditions split renunciation into two: renunciation of this life and renunciation of future lives’ samsara. First there is renunciation of this life, and second the renunciation of future samsaric perfections and happiness. In the Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition there are three aspects, or principals of the path to enlightenment: renunciation, bodhicitta, and right view. Retreat is living with the mind in these three, retreating away from attachment to both this life and future lives’ samsara, self-cherishing thought, and ignorance.

Now, the definition of retreat for tantra. The fundamental retreat of tantra is keeping the mind pure. There’s a practice called the yoga of the three transformations, the Tibetan term is [?]. That is what you are supposed to do whenever you do a deity retreat. If you are concentrating and meditating on the meaning when you do the sadhana, first everything is transformed into pure: you are transformed into the deity, the place into a mandala, other living beings are the deity and the enjoyments are offerings. You visualize the enjoyments as the pure enjoyments that you will experience when you become a Buddha and make offerings to yourself as the deity.

The yoga of the three transformation, means that whatever appears to your senses is the deity, whatever sounds you hear are the mantra of the deity and whatever thoughts rise are the Dharmakaya of the deity that you are meditating on. So your form becomes the pure form of Buddha Mitukpa’s holy body, not ordinary form like this, but pure form. Whatever thought rises is the dharmakaya, which means that even if attachment rises or when anger rises think it is dharmakaya. Look at it in the nature of Mitukpa’s holy mind, dharmakaya. Whatever thought rises look at it like that. Then see other beings as Buddha Mitukpa, and the place as the mandala of Mitukpa. What is the mandala? The mandala is not called deity, but it is the pure appearance to the Buddha Mitukpa’s holy mind.

For example, here there is a container of liquid. Although all the liquid in the bowl is the same, when preta beings see this liquid, in their view it appears as pus and blood. When human beings look at this liquid it appears as water. When devas, the worldly gods, sura and asuras, who have more merit perceive this liquid, the same liquid appears to be nectar. And for the Buddhas, it appears to be even more pure nectar. So the perception depends upon how much merit each being has. Devas have more merit than us, and of course Buddha has completed the collection of both merits, the merit of wisdom and merit of virtue. Since Buddha’s mind is the most pure mind, this liquid appears to the Buddha as the most pure nectar, the most high quality nectar. The liquid appears in different ways due to the production of the different minds of the perceivers. So the mandala and all these things in pure appearance is what appears to Buddha Mitukpa’s holy mind. It is the manifestation or creation of the holy mind of Mitukpa. The mandala is not called deity, but it is a manifestation of the holy mind.

So any form that appears is the deity, any sound is the mantra, any thought is the deity’s holy mind, Dharmakaya. In the case of the mandala it is not called deity, but it is the manifestation of the holy mind of the deity—this is the yoga of the three transformations.

When you do the sadhana, if you are concentrating this way, then there’s a pure appearance. Even in the breaktimes, this is what is meant by practicing pure appearance. When you have pure appearance, then you have pure thought. That causes you to have pure thought. When you make things impure, when you project and make things impure, then that becomes [Tib: ?]. There are four conditions, aside from the cause, that give rise to causative phenomenon. So because you made this impure, by projecting impure, then in dependence on that impure thought rises. By thinking this is impure, having the impure concept of ordinary appearance, “I’m an ordinary person” causes ordinary thought and concept to rise. Of course, generally this is the fundamental retreat for tantra. This is what it means to do secret mantra retreat, vajrayana. Then on top of that, there are higher ways, more advanced, but this is the foundation.

Now, here I have one emphasis, when we do retreat, if you don’t put effort to make that retreat become Dharma by making your mind and all your actions become Dharma, the pure mind, letting go of desire, freeing your mind from that, separating from that and giving freedom to yourself, all the peace and happiness…Now this is very important, this should be recognized. Generally practicing Dharma means this. This is the foundation. And generally for Buddhists this is what doing retreat means. This is the foundation. By keeping away from that, your mind becomes pure. Then all your actions become Dharma, pure—the real retreat.

Otherwise, if your mind did not become Dharma, free from the worldly concerns, then your attitude for doing retreat is worldly concern with so many expectations to achieve happiness for this life. When this is very strong, clinging to things, then it creates lung.

Maybe new people are not familiar with the term ‘lung’, this is a new language, lung. Not ‘lung’ , which is the oral transmission of the teachings and initiations, but lung. Some may not be familiar but for all of those who have been coming to Dharamsala, Nepal, or India, doing retreat or taking teachings, for two or three years, lung may have became very famous. Lung becomes a very famous friend.

Lung comes, a tension here, a tightness and pain in the chest. Then there’s a struggle. You’re not achieving what you want, working for the attachment, and at the same time you are in retreat, your body is in retreat, in isolation. So it becomes like being in prison. You put yourself in prison. Even the police didn’t put you in prison, but your mind made a prison. The evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas puts you into prison. That makes the retreat so difficult. You are unable to finish the mantras, all these big numbers. Then the lung gets worse and worse and worse. You cannot meditate at all. Maybe you just do the sadhana, you read the words but cannot practice.
Then so much anger rises to the people around you, the person next to you who is making a noise, talking. When it gets worse, if there’s a knife, a weapon, rocks or something, then it doesn’t take much time. Even though you’re doing retreat it wouldn’t take much time. So we have to understand the root of the problem, where all this lung comes from. That is because you haven’t cleaned your mind at the beginning of the retreat. The mind doing the retreat is not cleaned of the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas.

That is to give you an idea of what retreat is and where we should really put our focus. There are all these levels but I think this one is very important. If this is happening, your mind becomes pure Dharma. If this is happening, then bodhicitta, benefiting others, will come easily. If this is not happening, because of attachment, clinging to this life, the thought of the eight worldly dharmas, then benefiting others, bodhicitta, will be just words. It will be just between the lips. There won’t be any actual feeling, any sincere feeling or thought of others.

This is to be understood not only for this Mitukpa retreat, but for anytime in the future when we do retreat. Generally, if possible this is what we have to practice our whole life, but especially when we do retreat, when we have saved our money and made a special time we must make sure we do our best.

Okay, now we begin with refuge and bodhicitta. Do you need break? Okay, maybe break. We’re just about to actualize refuge but apologize to Buddha for the break.

[Audience recites while Rinpoche has an aside] 

When we invited His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, one of the gurus for…

[People laugh because hay is brought in instead of kusha grass.]

This is not kusha grass but just for people who haven’t done retreat or didn’t know how to set up for retreat to get an idea so that in the future they get kusha grass to put down before arranging the seat. This is to represent kusha grass. You can put it under the seat.

The swastika is to stabilize the mind and the purpose of putting the kusha grass is to use the Buddha’s life story in our practice. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha used a kusha grass to sit on when he lived an ascetic life for six years and then achieved enlightenment. We sentient beings who are the object to be subdued use the Buddha’s life story in our practice by sitting on this in order to overcome the delusions and mara and then achieve enlightenment to benefit sentient beings. So use this with the same thought and in the future when you do retreat use kusha grass. I think there may be also crabgrass. Crabgrass is for long life. So crabgrass and then kusha grass. I don’t remember particularly from the text about crabgrass, but it seems you also do it that way. You don’t need many, just one is enough, but the top should be unbroken. The top is very sharp on kusha grass. To have sharp, clear concentration, it should be unbroken.

I think Brandon also has gone to get grass.

[Pause while grass is being distributed and placed]

We visualize Buddha in front of ourselves, go for refuge and generate bodhicitta by meditating on the meaning of the prayer. Here we are practicing the result refuge and the cause refuge. Causal refuge is Buddha, Dharma, Sangha possessed by another’s mind, a separate being. Oneself hasn’t become Buddha yet, so a separate being who has already become Buddha, who has actualized the Dharma, the path, and then Sangha, the attainer of the true path and true cessation of suffering. That’s the cause refuge.

The result refuge is the one that you’re going to achieve in the future—the Buddha that you’re going to become, the Dharma, those realizations of the path, and then Sangha, the true path and true cessation of suffering that we will achieve in the future. That includes not only the lesser vehicle but also the Mahayana true cessation and true path, the cessation of not only the gross but even subtle defilements. That’s the result refuge.

For us to achieve the result refuge depends upon reliance upon the separate beings’ Buddha, realization of the path—the true path and true cessation of the sufferings, the defilements—the Dharma and the attainer of that, the Sangha. That is the cause refuge. By relying upon them, you are able to achieve the result refuge in the future, so it is called cause refuge.

“I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha until I achieve enlightenment”. So “I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha” is cause refuge and “until I achieve enlightenment” includes result refuge. Within this practice are cause refuge and result refuge, you are relying on both. This is explained in the commentary of Abhisamayalamkara in the section of refuge [fourth chapter?]. Then, “due to the merits of having made charity and so forth, may I achieve enlightenment in order to benefit all the transmigrator beings”. So generate bodhicitta.

Normally I say that when we say “transmigrator” beings, that time you should remember in your mind the meaning of that. Remember the whole wheel of life. Down below are the hell realms, hungry ghosts and animal realm, which signifies the suffering of samsara. What happens if you are in samsara is that you experience the suffering of pain, so these lower realms are to show the suffering of pain. It doesn’t mean that there’s no suffering of pain in the deva and human realms but the lower realms have the heaviest suffering.

Then the human realm and the sura and asura realms show how samsaric pleasure is also in the nature of suffering. Usually they draw the human beings having enjoyments and the devas also having so much wealth and sense enjoyment, delight, to show that there’s the second type of suffering of samsara, the suffering of changes. It is to show that even samsaric pleasures are in the nature of suffering. Then there are seventeen levels to the form realm. The formless realm is not shown, maybe because it doesn’t have form, but the form realm has seventeen levels, so there are many, many lines. Some wheel of life drawings have that but not all of them. I think that’s very important to have. It shows the four levels of Sanskrit dhyani. I’m not sure of the correct translation. Jeffrey Hopkins uses four “absorption states”, however, maybe just simply for the time being four “levels of concentration”. From the meaning, it looks like “continual, precise, concentration”. In Tibetan it is sam-ten, “precise, continual concentration”. I tried to figure it out and asked some lamas about the term for that exact translation.

Within the four levels of concentration there are seventeen categories and that shows the pervasive compounding suffering, the third suffering of samsara, which is the foundation from which the suffering of pain and the suffering of changes—temporary samsaric pleasures—come. Those two sufferings come from the third one, the pervasive compounding suffering, which is like the foundation, just as bubbles or waves come from the foundation of the ocean. This is to show how even that is suffering. The form realm and formless realm don’t have the suffering of pain and they don’t have the suffering of changes, the temporary sense pleasures, but what they have is the third one, pervasive compounding suffering. Anyway, maybe another time can go into that package. 

The aggregates of the lower realm beings, of the sura and asuras, of the human beings, of the form realms and even the aggregates of the formless realms where there is no body but only mind, all of these aggregates, which are the base, the foundation on which the I is labeled are in the nature of suffering. The cause of all these aggregates is karma and delusion. All these aggregates are the product of karma and delusion and because they are caused by karma and delusion they are in the nature of suffering. That’s why our body and mind is in the nature of suffering. Because it is in the nature of suffering, when the weather changes it is very easy to get sick. When you walk, if you’re not careful it is very easy to get pain, or even when you lie down, if you’re not careful it is very easy to get pain. It is so easy to suffer. Whenever the condition happens. The mind and body both. And not only that, these aggregates are contaminated seed of delusions. All these aggregates are caused by karma and delusion and because they are under the control of karma and delusion, they are in the nature of suffering, pervaded by suffering, then also, on top of that, all these are contaminated seed of delusions...