Kopan Course No. 05 (1973)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973 (Archive #027)

These notes are a literal transcription of the teachings given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Fifth Kopan Meditation Course, and form an auto-commentary on the course text, The Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun of Mahayana Thought Training.

You may also download the entire contents of these teachings as a PDF file.

Meditation One: Part II: Death and Impermanence

Day 11
Monday November 26th
3 p.m.

(Page 52)

Paragraph 7:

This is just an example of how we waste the preciousness of the human life.

(Page 53)

Paragraph 1:

Remembering impermanence is very important. Remembering the shortness of life, the impermanence of life always helps to continue one’s practice; remembering this always pushes one to continually practice, to create good karma. It is the same thing with remembrance of death. Because there is such a thing, the end of the life such as death, death will happen. Therefore, we are practicing Dharma, meditating, purifying the negative mind—if there were no death then that would not be necessary. If there were no death then life would not have an end. Then whatever the life is—happy life, suffering life, it wouldn’t have any end—and that would mean that no method could be used to not have a suffering life.

Also, the time for the person making pure Dharma practice, whether the person can make pure Dharma practice, can become a pure practitioner also depends on how strong an experience the person has of impermanence, of the shortness of life, how strong a realization of impermanence the person has. The stronger the experience or the realization of impermanence the person has, that much more purely, when he practices Dharma, practice can be made. It comes to the person.

Because when there’s no such strong, effortless experience of impermanence, when he has such strong, effortless experience of impermanence, the person is not that much attached to temporal life, because of that effortless experience of impermanence, the realization of the impermanence. For instance, like this—for a person who has a strong experience, which means a strong understanding or realization of impermanence—of life shortage and death, that death is definite to happen—this person, besides not being much concerned for and attached to the happiness of this life, this person is always concerned with creating good karma to have better future lives. His mind is always concerned to have a better path, and makes arrangement to find a better path at death time.

Like if there is a person who is going to leave for New York tomorrow; his mind is only thinking of packing up things, it is no longer concerned about how to stay here, how to fix this, how to make this place more comfortable. His mind is busy buying things, packing up, thinking how to do things on the way; his mind is only concerned with leaving, packing things, getting ready. It is the same like this—the person who has the realization of impermanence, and who clearly sees the life shortage and strongly understands that death is definite, and also understands that the actual time of death is indefinite, has the fear of the death—by understanding clearly, seeing, realizing that the actual time of the death is indefinite, and not being sure when it will happen. This person who has done the experiment and has the realization of impermanence is like the person in the example.

In early times in Tibet, there was one ascetic Lama, Geshe Kharagpa. When he was in retreat there was a thorn growing nearby the door of the cave that touched his robes as he went out and in tore them. Each time he went out it touched them, and he thought, “I should cut it, but maybe I won’t come back again.” So as he goes in, again it touches and again he thinks that he should cut it, but that he might not come out again. He spent a long time like this, due to his realization of impermanence—and his life finished there in pure Dharma practice, without cutting the thorn.

The realization of the impermanence of life and death always helps the person not to be attached to the objects of the senses, not to be attached to the pleasures derived from enjoying the objects of the senses. And this realization, the experience or the practice on the impermanent life and remembering death, always helps not to keep the person busy, only working for the temporal life, but keeps the person busy working for enlightenment, working for the future life. Therefore, in this example, this great Tibetan yogi, even though the thorn was disturbing, touching his robes, the understanding of his practice, or the realization of the impermanent life, remembering death, didn’t allow him to spend the time to cut the thorn that was growing outside.

If one does not continually meditate on this and think of death, then even a person who thinks to practice Dharma, even if he starts to practice Dharma, will not become successful and continue any longer. This person cannot make his practice continually in his lifetime, making progression. Even if he practices one, two, or three years, due to some situation he stops. Then as he gets into problems, falls into confusion, he misses Dharma. So he again starts to practice. But due to not practicing these meditations, not having the realization of impermanence, not clearly realizing that the actual time of death is indefinite, even if he tries to practice, his mind is not equal, always up and down—sometimes practicing Dharma, sometimes not practicing Dharma. As he meets different environments, different people, his practice easily gets disturbed—that is due to lack of continual practice, meditation on impermanence, the life shortage and remembering death.

For instance many Westerners take ordination, take precepts, but break them soon—say after one month or after one year. That’s basically due to the lack of experience, lack of continual strong practice of these meditations, of impermanence, and lack of the strong understanding realizing death, that the actual time of death is indefinite, and lack of the effortless experience of impermanence, of the impermanent life.

So because of the lack of all these experiences and meditations, the person does not fear breaking the precepts, creating negative karma; the person has no fear of creating negative actions, the person has no fear. Basically, the person does not have that much fear of attachment. Therefore, the person easily follows the attachment that is attached to the pleasure of this temporal life. So, that is how the person easily creates the negative action.

A person who makes continual practice, and who strongly remembers from the heart that life is short and the impermanence of the life and death, this person always has fear of the death and has no interest working for the temporal life, has no interest in making arrangements for the temporal life.

In ancient times, when Guru Shakyamuni was born in the princely life, in that period in India there were five different kings. In that time when his parents were giving birth to him, the other four kings were also giving birth to their own children—all those five king’s children were born at the same time. So at that time the whole world was full of light, when he was coming out. The white light covered the whole earth, so the other four kings thought it was because of their own sons. There was one king called the clear king (sang.gyal), he thought that the reason that there was white light covering whole earth was because of his son. From the west there was a Brahmin who had power to foretell, the power to predict, and other psychic powers, he also got surprised by the light and he checked up what caused it. So he came to this family of Guru Shakyamuni. As he came to their home, the parents showed the child to this person who had power to foretell and other psychic powers and when he checked up Guru Shakyamuni’s Body he saw all these holy signs—the thirty-two and eighty signs of his holy body, the figures on the outside of his holy body. And as he was checking up the man became very much upset and began crying. So the parents of Guru Shakyamuni thought maybe he had discovered the physical signs something bad. Then the parents got upset and asked why was he crying, is the sign of my child bad? He said no, no, no and he predicted that this child will renounce the princely life, would become a renounced being, and at such and such an age he would receive enlightenment. And this man discovered that at that time he himself wouldn’t exist anymore, he would be dead. So, because he remembered his own death, he became upset and started crying. He had that much power.

If one is free of the karma, if one has control over the death and rebirth, if one is free of that, then no need to worry about death, there’s no need of having fear of death. If one has control over this cycle, if one is free, then there is no need to fear during death time. So having fear of death is good, having fear in the life shortage is good. But it is not good to have at the time of death—that is a distraction—at death time being scared, making all kinds of noises, asking all the relatives to come and see—that is a distraction, that is useless. But before death, before that danger happens, it is necessary, before that danger comes, to frequently remember death and to meditate on the impermanent life, and build the fear stronger and stronger, and lessen the attachment. Doing continual Dharma practice or creating merit is wise, this is skillful. The practice of this meditation on impermanence and remembering death is also great helpful to avoid the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, because thinking of this causes fear to arise. So as the life shortage and death are examples of the suffering results of the evil thoughts of the eight worldly dharmas, so the person who has fear by remembering the life shortage and death also has fear of the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. In this way the person does not follow the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. The person, whenever he creates good karma, creates pure action, without being involved in the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. So this meditation is very important, so important.

Such as Guru Shakyamuni, what encouraged him to give up such princely life, even he had that much possessions, number of populations, place, so many things, also many thousand wives—but even that much possessions, no problem from outside, what encouraged him to lead the ascetic life. His giving up the princely life and making the six years retreat, austerities, and showing the holy deeds; and receiving enlightenment at the holy place, Bodhgaya, and subduing the evil demons, the Maras, and giving sermon in three different places, the cycle of the Dharma, for different beings who had different level of intelligence. All these things, his receiving enlightenment, giving the Dharma cycle to the great number of disciples—all that started from, all those things started from remembering death and life shortage, remembering impermanence and death, the suffering of life.

His palace has four gates. So one day, from each gate, he saw different examples of suffering life: he saw old age, a very thin old man whose body has no weight or strength walking with a stick, the body bent. Outside of another gate he saw a sick person. Outside of another gate he saw a dead body being carried, and outside of another gate he saw a very well-subdued looking bhikshu (monk) walking.

So anyway, from those examples he received renunciation of the samsara, he discovered the nature of life, the suffering life nature, the nature of the samsaric suffering. He discovered that being attached to the happiness of this life, it is trivial, useless, that all the pleasures of temporal life are trivial, meaningless actually, that all those pleasures are in the nature of suffering. All this he realized by seeing those examples. By seeing the monk, who was an emanation, he wanted to become a renounced being, he avoided the worldly life and the worldly works, the worldly interest, and he led life as a bhikshu. From this event, by seeing this outside example, he received the realization of impermanence, remembering death, that started everything, changed his whole life—he did six years of retreat, practiced austerities, received the realizations of the path, and found the truth, which means receiving the realization of the absolute nature.

His seeking the truth and we, many people coming from the West, seeking truth is basically different. The way we seek the truth is this—seeking the truth by tying our neck with the rope of attachment to this life. His seeking the truth was on the basis of avoiding attachment to the pleasures of this life. So, anyway, his receiving enlightenment was also caused by that, this basic realization, seeing those examples. And his showing the circle of the Dharma, enlightening great numbers of sentient beings, great numbers of holy beings happened, pandits, yogis in ancient times—that is also due to his kindness, which started from his basic realization of impermanence. Also, in Tibet great numbers of yogis and holy beings, also received enlightenment—that is also due to Guru Shakyamuni’s kindness, it also happened due to his first realization of impermanence, discovering the suffering nature. Besides that, even in modern times, many numbers of European people having the chance to meet Dharma, to study Dharma, to practice awakening from ignorance—all these are due to his kindness, our finding the meaning of life from the Dharma shown by him. So all these perfection, all these good results started from his first realization of impermanence seeing those outside examples, and discovering the suffering nature and renouncing samsaric life. So anyway, therefore, it is important to continually remember impermanence and life shortage and death, even for us.

We may live maybe ten years, maybe six years, maybe fifteen years. It is definite, it is for sure we won’t live for 200 years; that is definite, that is for sure. Not even more than 100, that is also for sure; to live to 100 is almost an impossible thing. So maybe 60 or 70. However, there is some length of life for each person. I have, each of you have, a certain length of life and that has a certain number of years, and that has a certain number of months, a certain number of days, a certain number of hours. Just as there are a certain number of hours, there are a certain number of minutes and seconds. It is something that can be counted, it is not something numberless, even the seconds to death can be counted. So there are a certain number of breaths in and out. Our death is just a matter of stopping the breath—it is not something that one has to make a long trek to do, just stopping the breath, nothing difficult, so easy, so simple. Even the person in one day, generally, I think, I’m not sure, takes 21,000 breaths—there is a certain number of breaths in one day.

Nothing is long, only we don’t feel it is short; we have no fear of death, we think we live—each day we think we will live for a long time. In each year we think we will exist in the next year, we think and plan like this. Also in each day we think like this, that we will exist tomorrow. Only we don’t feel scared of the life shortage; that is because we do not fully realize the change in life. So it’s like this—just as the clock makes noise, as the clock ticks, there is a certain number of ticks in our life. So as the clock in front of us is passing each tick like this, exactly the life is finishing that fast. Life finishes in that time, our precious life. If you know how to meditate on impermanence, clocks are also useful for the meditation on impermanence.

As this great yogi, Milarepa said, “All the phenomena appearing as the teachings.”

For instance the clock. It is a clock, a material thing, but it can be just as a book, just as a teaching that explains about impermanence, exactly the same thing. If you have wisdom, you have eyes that see all phenomena appearing as a teaching. Then just as the great yogi Milarepa said, such as the clock can always show impermanence, just the same as a Dharma book. Also a clock can appear as a guru, always instructing one in the impermanence of this life.


Try to be conscious of what you are thinking, what motive you have for meditating, try to discover.

Think, “The attachment that is attached to the happiness of this life, to the sole happiness of this life and the higher pleasures of the samsaric realms, is the cause of the samsaric sufferings, problems. The attachments are the real enemy that have been keeping me in the prison of samsara, in the bondage of suffering. Having this present life and many future lives happy and pleasant is not enough because it is still in the nature of suffering—it’s like being on a ground of thorns. So I must be released from this bondage of suffering. It is still not enough, releasing myself from the bondage of suffering and receiving ultimate peace, because infinite sentient beings are in incredible suffering, not having the wisdom eye to understand Dharma, and not having a leader leading them to nirvana, and most sentient beings have not received a perfect human rebirth. They always create and experience suffering. It is the same thing to them, they desire happiness and do not desire suffering. So it’s more important to release other sentient beings from suffering, then only try to release myself from suffering. The sentient beings are the object from whom I received all my past, present, and future happiness and perfection—as they are extremely kind, I must repay them; as they are in such unbearable suffering, I must help them, guide them from suffering. At the moment I don’t have the capability or power to guide them from suffering. Who has such power, knowledge, and great compassion? The Enlightened One. So I must achieve enlightenment. In order to achieve enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings, I must complete the realizations of the graduated path. In order to complete the realizations of the graduated path, I am going to meditate on the graduated path, with the preparation of purifying with Guru Shakyamuni and the breathing meditation.”

When you meditate on the perfect human rebirth try to recognize the freedoms that you have and what you don’t have, and the receptacles that you have received. As many freedoms or receptacles as you have received try to rejoice yourself. It is worthwhile to rejoice because it is something that is useful in the work for enlightenment. If you have not received, if there is something missing, then you have to create the cause. Then you should think like this, “I am missing this such and such thing, so I must create the causes.”

In “The Great Usefulness of the Perfect Human Rebirth,” try to remember the precious possibilities that can be achieved, that can be done with the perfect human rebirth, and the different results that are included in the temporal and the ultimate results.

In the meditation on “The Extreme Difficulty of Receiving the Perfect Human Rebirth,” do the checking meditation with cause, with numbers, and with examples.

And then also, according to time, do the checking meditation on “How the Human Fife is Fragile and Impermanent.”


Visualize the throne, lotus, moon, and sun absorbed into Guru Shakyamuni, and that Guru Shakyamuni comes down and is seated on the center of your head and absorbs into you. At the same time as Guru Shakyamuni absorbs into you, the dualistic conception and the impure view of yourself becomes void in the form of emptiness, but in the nature of infinite happiness, your mind being one with Guru Shakyamuni’s holy mind.

Now visualize the throne, lotus, moon, sun and yourself in the from of Guru Shakyamuni, having a very light holy Body, shining, and think that your body, speech, and mind become oneness with Guru Shakyamuni’s holy body, speech, and mind.

Day 12
Tuesday November 27th
9 a.m.

From the teaching of the great bodhisattva, [Khunu Lama] Tenzin Gyaltsen, “Even the fully omniscient mind, the fully enlightened, omniscient mind arises from bodhicitta. Therefore, those who desire the complete release (which means nirvana) from the whole suffering will find it greatly worthwhile to practice bodhicitta.”

“Even the fully enlightened, omniscient mind arises from bodhicitta.” “Even” (or “also”) means, besides all temporal happiness and perfection, and the happiness, the ultimate happiness, the peace that is beyond samsara, besides the fact that those arise from bodhicitta, also the ultimate goal, the fully enlightened omniscient mind also arises from bodhicitta, this is also received from bodhicitta.

Like this—for instance, for the number of the people we are here, our practice, our bodhicitta that we have received becomes the fundamental of each of our enlightenment. It’s like the root of the tree—so each of us, the future buddha, or the fully enlightened, omniscient mind—each of us has a future goal, has a future fully enlightened mind or buddha that each of us will become—so that’s like the fruit of the tree. Just as the fruit of the tree is received, it arises from the root by depending on the root of the tree. Just as this, our future fully enlightened, mind, or buddha, that is received through the present practice of bodhicitta. So each of our bodhicitta gives birth to enlightenment, to each of our future’s enlightenment. That’s how the buddha or fully enlightened mind is born from bodhicitta. By relating to each of us, for instance, my future buddha is born from bodhicitta, from my bodhicitta, bodhicitta that is received through practice. Just like this example, so it works with each sentient being each living being.

The great Indian philosopher, pandit, well far-famed, highly realized Chandrakirti said in the beginning of the Madhyamaka teachings that he admired great compassion, because great compassion is the cause, the main fundamental thing, because buddha, the fully enlightened mind arises from bodhicitta, and bodhicitta arises from great compassion. So great compassion is very important, the fundamental of bodhicitta. That’s why the great Chandrakirti, before the explanation on shunyata, the absolute true nature, paid homage to and admired great compassion, which gives birth to bodhicitta and enlightenment.

Totally, it means all the temporal good results, even the whole ultimate good results, arise from bodhicitta. Therefore, for us who desire complete release, it is greatly worthwhile, it is important to precisely practice bodhicitta. So just as this great bodhisattva said with his great experience, we have freedom for such a short time, such a short life. So we have received the freedom to practice Dharma, especially the Mahayana teachings, and therefore it is greatly worthwhile to train the mind in bodhicitta, even from now, this moment, as we have the time, as we are free. So before listening to the subject, in order for it not to become a worldly action, in order to transcend our listening action to be higher than that of any ordinary beings worldly actions, in order for it to be different than the everyday old actions, we should think and cultivate the pure impulse.

“The attachment that is attached to the happiness of this temporal life and the higher samsaric enjoyments, no matter how much the present life is happy, no matter how pleasant the future life in samsara may be, it is still in the nature of suffering, it is still in the bondage of suffering—it is still not certain that we will not be reborn in the lower suffering realms, we are still not free. Therefore, it is important that we release ourselves from the bondage of suffering.

“Oneself being happy in the goal, everlasting peace, is not sufficient. Just as oneself, there are many sentient beings in suffering, desiring happiness and not desiring suffering, but not having freedom, not having a guru as I have, not having the wisdom to know positive and negative actions. Also, they are the objects from whom I received all my past, present, and future happiness and perfection. As they are in great suffering, I am greatly responsible for releasing them and repaying them for their kindness.”

“The best way to release them and repay them is to lead them to enlightenment. To do this, I must complete the graduated path. To fully understand and realize the whole meaning of the graduated path, like Guru Tsongkhapa, who is like the second Buddha, who has the same level of knowledge as Guru Shakyamuni has, to achieve this, I am going to listen to the Mahayana teachings on the graduated path.”

The listening subject is the graduated path—we finished perfect human rebirth, the great usefulness of perfect human rebirth, and the difficulty of receiving perfect the human rebirth. We also finished the explanations on the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, but I am still not satisfied—perhaps it will be possible to continue in the future life.

Anyway, then, “How to Make the Human Life Meaningful?” (Page 51). This is just generally to understand and for us to make a decision—even if I can’t do that, I must at least have the achievement of this; if not that, at least I must have the achievement of this ... something must be done with my life. But this is not the part in which you have to train the mind precisely—this is just to have an idea, to finish something in this life. But this section does not come in the meditation outlines. (So the vertical marking line should be deleted from this sub-section). When you meditate, it is good to think frequently, again and again, because according to the subject as it is written here, it is very helpful to the mind to cross the hardship of Dharma practice. But it is not necessary to think about this outline topic, “How Should I Make This Perfect Human Rebirth Highly Meaningful?” until the realization is received, and after the topic, “Is It Easy to Receive the Perfect Human Rebirth?” you meditate on “How Long is lifespan?”

I think I didn’t completely explain the realization, the definition of when there is achievement of the topic of the difficulty of receiving the perfect human rebirth. For instance, when a person puts a sack of gold in the water, and wastes it, you see how you feel when a person wasted such a thing—you see it as such a great loss, something unbelievable, a great loss. If your sack full of gold is put in the water or thrown somewhere, you experience such a great feeling of its preciousness, and a great, strong feeling of great loss. As when the sack full of gold is wasted, when one has the realization of how extremely difficult it is to find the perfect human rebirth, through the practice and realization of this meditation such a strong feeling arises within the person’s mind, that, such a strong feeling arises within the person’s mind even when the person spends a minute or a second in distraction, without creating merit. Besides the feeling of great loss, if this previous human rebirth is used for creating negative actions for a second or a minute, or even if it is not used for creating negative actions but just in distraction for a second or a minute, one feels that great loss—then one has the realization of the difficulty of receiving the perfect human rebirth.

As you continually practice this meditation, the feeling of this gets stronger and stronger. Before, the person may create some good karma, merits, or virtuous action for maybe half an hour. Before, nothing—the person has no idea about creating good karma, not understanding the reason. Before his mind wasn’t even scared of creating negative karma because of ignorance, and he used his life for that. As the person practices and understands the teachings more and more, the fear of creating negative actions grows and the person creates more and more positive actions. But he is still lazy, still creates negative actions. This happens even if the person says and thinks it is bad, because there is not that much fear of it, and not much strong realization or clear understanding of the difficulty of receiving the perfect human rebirth. Then, as he continually practices this meditation, as he sees more and more clearly, checking many ways, then also, at the same time, he sees the preciousness of the perfect human rebirth more clearly, and he has a greater feeling of it. So, he has that much stronger fear of creating negative actions, of wasting the perfect human rebirth that is received once, and very difficult to receive again; that much fear of wasting the perfect human rebirth that is so difficult to receive again. So that much more he creates positive actions, his mind is that much more hung up on creating the causes for enlightenment, no matter how much other people try to disturb him.

For those of us who try to practice Dharma, even if we want to meditate, even if we have the desire to meditate, we fall asleep and our minds are easily distracted by things, by interesting objects. This is the lack of the achievement of these fundamental realizations, and the lack of not strongly feeling the preciousness of the perfect human rebirth. This is the best psychological method to not get lazy and keep away sleep.

As Guru Shakyamuni said in the sutra teachings called Gya.che Rol.ba, “The three stages of life are impermanent, like a cloud in autumn. If one looks at dancers, if one look at the actors, costumes, it will look same thing to the living beings death and rebirth.”

The meaning is this—”their life” means the sentient beings who are under the earth, on the earth, and above the earth. Life of all those living beings life is impermanent, fragile, like a cloud in autumn. The cloud doesn’t stay in one place, permanent—in each minute, in each second, it changes. If you look at one cloud precisely, check up—slowly, slowly the shape changes. This is still the gross change that we see. When we think the cloud we saw, in one part it is not there, it is somewhere, it is very indefinite. There is nothing to believe in, there is no way to have full confidence in its shape. Why? Because the cloud as we saw it before is no longer in that shape, or it is not there at all. It instantly, spontaneously changes. So it is the same thing as the cloud; even if it was foggy in the morning, it is not the same in the afternoon, or in the nighttime. Even if the whole space is cloudy, foggy, this doesn’t last for a long time. So, just like this, like those indefinite clouds in which we cannot have belief or full confidence in the shape or the existence in that place, just like that cloud, the living beings lives are not sure. Like us—for a short moment we are here with a human body, having some kind of life, doing something, but this doesn’t last very long from our side, though it seems long. But other beings, such as those in the realm of the gods, see our lives as so short; even a human who can live for fifty years they see as existing for one morning. Even if we live to 400 or 500, they see our existence as such a short time.

But, at the moment we are here, with such a body. Then soon, death arises, and after death, according to each of our own karma, we’ll be somewhere in a different place, with a different body, having a different life. Somewhere—either in the preta realm, in the narak realm, in the animal realm, as a sura or asura, as a samsaric god, or perhaps as a human being. We do that for some time, and then again after death we take another body in a different place. Always life never lasts, it is indefinite; it is something that as we think, as we believe, as we project, is indefinite. It is something in which we cannot have full belief or confidence. For instance, the actor changes his costume. He has the costume for a few minutes, until that dance has finished, and then he puts on another costume, and then another. Just like this example, the sentient beings’, the living beings’ rebirth and death is like the actor’s costume—it is only for a short moment, then changes. There is no such costume that is certain, definite; it always keeps on changing. So, also, life is very short, and as the actors keep changing costumes, so our mind keeps taking different bodies.

Our life is very fragile and impermanent, like lightning. Lightning is for a few seconds. Just like this, life is very short. Also, lightening lasts for many seconds, and then finishes in that time. Our life is just like this—generally so short, finishing spontaneously and rapidly, in split seconds. As time finishes that quickly so our life, like the lightning, finishes spontaneously, rapidly,

Another example of the way our life is finishing is if you throw a stone up, as it comes down it doesn’t stay, it never stops in space—not even a second, a minute, it doesn’t stay without coming down. Especially as in this example, life rapidly finishes; as in this example, life finishes that quickly, and goes to death.

It is good to think in this way. First think like this: even if I live 100 years, if I have a life that lasts for 100 years, in the total number, by gathering the 100 years, and that much number of months, days, minutes, seconds ...

Question: Now that we know it is so short, what can we do to make it worthwhile?

Answer: Practice this meditation. If you know clearly why we follow the negative mind, why we the keep negative mind, why we store the negative mind. Just like the example of the two-pointed needle with no holes that cannot sew cloth—like this, this example is good. We cannot do both, Dharma and non-Dharma, we can’t practice them together; it doesn’t work.

Anyway, so thinking in this way would be effective to fully realize impermanence—the 100 years is the total of the years, months, weeks, days, minutes, and seconds. Just like a mountain is dependent on the big form by which it exists, gathering all those heavy, gross parts; and then on the small parts; then down to the molecules and atoms; it is a group of atoms. The 100 years is the total group of great numbers of split seconds; 100 years is a group that exists by gathering a great number of seconds, just like the mountain. Just like a big pile of rice—the big pile is made of each of the grains, so if you take each of these grains from the pile, it can finish. Taking one by one, the big pile of rice can be finished. So all those split seconds, which are like all those rice grains make up the aggregate of the 100 years—it finishes, it passes away. It finishes so quickly, even in one second.

Try to visualize and think clearly. So, as the group made by great numbers of split seconds which is called 100 years, it finishes so quickly. As a split second finishes, each second finishes. As each second finishes, each minute. As each minute finishes, the hour finishes. As each hour finishes, the day finishes. As each day finishes, the week finishes. As each week finishes, the year finishes. So the 100 years depends on the finishing of each split second. We always see and believe that it is not finishing, but it is finishing with each split second. As each of the aggregates finishes, so the 100 years finishes that much quickly. Starting from the time that our mind entered the mother’s womb, as much time as that human life has to live, it finishes with each split second that makes the aggregate of the 100 years.

So if you think in this way, the 100 years is nothing. It finishes so quickly because that is nothing in there that is not traveling, not passing through, there’s no time. As it changes that quickly, starting from the mind that took its place in the mother’s womb, life gets older. As all these months, years, 100 years finishes, the person gets older. As the person gets older in each measure of time—second, minute, hour, day, month—he gets closer to death. The person gets closer to death, and still we are planning as we have 100 years to live. But as the person gets that much older time passes, the person getting that much closer to death.

So what does it look like now, our life? Is it facing, running with each split second without stopping—it spontaneously, rapidly runs to death. Without stopping for one day or minute, with each split second, it gets closer and closer. When we think about this we get a shock, we get frightened, we see how fast we are coming to death. In this way we realize it. Checking in this way is useful, better than just saying the words, “I will die.” Anyone can say that. It is not enough only to think that I will die after some time, this is not enough. Many people can have such thoughts—those who don’t meditate, who don’t understand the meaning of impermanence—that anyone can have.

Still we plan 100 years to live. But according to our life, it is not like that. According to individual karma, all kinds—we may life ten, fifteen, five years, or sixty or seventy—maybe something like that. This short life finishes so quickly. Actually what we have is not 100. It is much shorter than that, even the little we have, the short time we can exist, even that finishes so quickly, like this.

One great Tibetan yogi said, “Just from the split second of taking birth, the person is running to the lord of death (this means the person is running to death). Even if he is called “living,” or “alive,” he is in danger of death, and is going in the danger of death.”

Just as the example of people taking a goat to the butcher. From the place where the goat makes his first walk to the butcher, to where it’s going to be killed, it’s alive but it’s going into the danger of death. Just like this, our life is like the goat going from home, on the way, who has started the first walk to the butcher’s place. Our life is just like this, but it is called “alive.” The goat that is taken by people with ropes to the butcher looks sad. In the same way we can feel upset.

Then, sometimes think like this, “It is definite that (it is useful to sometimes think like this) that the whole planet, the sun, moon, the whole thing, the universe, will become empty, nothing existing—even the planets, sun, moon, the mountains—everything will become empty. So for sure it is definite that I will not permanently exist. If all this ends, why not me? So at that time, where will I be, where I will go? It is definite that as this whole thing began at one time, after a certain number of eons it will be finished, empty. (I think even scientists say the same thing.) So at that time, it is certain I will not exist.

“For instance, even those fully enlightened ones, the arhats, many other holy beings, yogis, enlightened beings such as Guru Shakyamuni—even those who came to different places and gave much Dharma, even those who had great realizations, now there are only empty places. They all passed away—those yogis, holy beings—and only empty places are left, only their holy names. Like those ancient scientists, they all passed away, however much they did in their lifetimes, and what is left is only their names. So why not me?” Think like this yourself.

Also think like this. Our physical generations, past generations, like our forefathers, foremothers, and ancestors—if you go back, if you think in this way it is very effective—the ancestors and all the past fathers and mothers, not existing. I have one grandmother, before I had one grandmother; but that grandmother doesn’t exist as she was before, being a human being. Also for my father, the same thing, he doesn’t exist. I didn’t see my grandfather, or my father either—I have no idea about my father. Thinking like this is helpful. I remember only his clothes left in the house; when I was a child I slept in his chuba, which was made of animal skins, but I never saw my father. So thinking like this is very effective. It must be the same thing for many of you. I think my grandmother died while I was in Tibet. She had very white hair.

3 p.m.

So just like that example that we were talking about this morning of checking through families—it is very useful to see the impermanence of your own life, to check the forefathers and the ancestors like this. Even the generation of parents has been continuing for a long time, for many periods, but now we don’t see those many past ancestors, those ancient fathers. Besides talking about those past ancestors—the past mothers and the forefathers who are beings that we didn’t see in our life—also there are the relatives and parents that we saw in our life, and also there are the dead relatives that we saw before—parents, either mother or father or both.

So whatever the number of family members that exist now, we are not sure whose turn it will be next among the family. Most of us don’t have the feeling that among the family, I shall die first. We think that he is going to die first (and we often make sure that he is going to die first) and also we make plans—I think this is happening. These conceptions are not useful—it is better to think that I will die first in place of thinking that the parents or the relatives will die first.

Also we may think that whoever he or she is, he or she is going to die soon, so I will get his or her property, the money. Then, like the example I mentioned before of the man who killed himself dancing, we make plans of what to do with the money—do this and that, and by believing that one will not die before that there is an intuitive strong belief, no one teaches this, that this is true.

It is not sure anyway, that it will happen this as we think, because it is not sure that death cannot happen. We reason that I won’t die soon because I am not old or not sick. These are wrong conceptions. By reasoning in such a way—”I am well, and I have all the properties, I have everything, I am not sick, I am well, therefore I will exist; I won’t die soon, I won’t die this year, or this month.” But such reasons cannot be logic to prove that death cannot happen, because we know that it is common that even a baby conceived in a mother’s womb can die before it comes out, without depending on abortion. It can die inside the mother’s womb, or just after coming out—it doesn’t have to be definitely old. Even it is possible that to a person who has everything—all the possessions, everything, all the temporal needs of life—death can happen. For instance, a president, or a king who has much country, power, and a great population working under him, much government, great materialistic power or machines, great numbers of doctors. No matter how many psychologists there are, or how many things there, death happens, even to the president, the king. This is also common. However people try their best, it doesn’t work. Even if besides one’s own country’s doctors, one depends on another country’s help or support, there are no means to stop death. This is common, we have been hearing this information. This is also helpful to remember the impermanence of our own life. How famous he is, how his name is well far-famed.

Rinpoche: So, at death time, what causes the living beings to have death and rebirth?

Answer: Karma.

Rinpoche: It’s agreeable—my father says it’s karma. The reason that there is death and rebirth for living beings is karma—agreeable or disagreeable? You don’t have to say beautiful things, just say what you think.

Answer: Ignorance.

Rinpoche: How does ignorance cause it?

Answer: It perpetuates life and death.

Rinpoche: How?

Answer: You can’t tell because it’s lost in ignorance.

Rinpoche: That is something that one can laugh about for eons. Is that caused by ignorance?

Answer: I’m not sure.

Rinpoche: But what is the basic idea, in the west, what causes death?

Answer: There’s no escape from time and change, growth and decay.

Rinpoche: I see, so the reason in the west that all living beings have death, that human beings, creatures, have to go through death, that life has to be ended by death, is time?

Answer: Yes.

Rinpoche: Why does it have to happen?

Answer: Because it’s impermanent, it’s in the nature of the body.

Rinpoche: Who created the nature of the body?

Answer: For Christians, God ordained it to live that way. The Christians say that when man was in union with God he lived for a very long, a very long time, but as he turned away he lived shorter and shorter.

Any samsaric sentient beings who are in the circle of death and rebirth, who are not free of that circle, as long as those uncontrolled living beings, samsaric beings don’t break the circle, as they uncontrollably take rebirth, they also have to die, also have to go through this evolution of life. So anyway, at death time, when the person is nearing death, even if he is a rich person or a poor person, a beggar, whatever he is, there is suffering, great worry and suffering. Those ordinary beings, no matter whether they are a king or a beggar, who didn’t spend their lives creating merits, doing pure actions, who didn’t create much good karma, at death time both have much suffering. At death time, both have problems—the beggar who dies in the street and is homeless, or the king who dies on a jeweled, golden throne in a beautiful palace full of servants, helpers, friends, many important things, and many possessions. At death time both of them have problems, both of their minds are in fear and in worry. Even the king looks usually very powerful, magnificent-looking, even when he goes he is very pompous looking (if it is a mistake, I’m sorry). Also when we look at him we see him as if he is permanent—but at death time he is very fearful looking. With the palace, the jeweled throne, the servants, so many things around—at that time his body is different from his usual life’s body, and he is very fearful looking.

Also then, he is near to death, and experiencing much upset, much worry about the negative actions he did in his life, the actions that harmed other beings—he is greatly upset. Also, if it is a non-virtuous person there is much trouble, not only at death but also as it approaches he has to go through much suffering, much sickness, and also great worry, great suffering, releasing himself from all these things—power, populations, possessions. And he sees life when he is near to death, and whatever he enjoyed, whatever power he had, the family he had, how many children, wives he had—everything he sees as a dream, everything finishes, just like lightning, the whole life. There’s a feeling that the whole life is quickly finished, like the lightning, in such a short time, with such an upset mind, “Oh, now I have finished my whole life.” Thinking like this, there is a feeling or vision of life finishing as lightning, in such a short time.

So, it is the same thing, similar to the example—when we die, similar things can happen, similar fears, worry. That time there is no choice, everything has to be left—relatives, possessions, whatever it is, even one’s body that has been taken care of more than other living being’s body, that we have spent the most time looking after. Besides leaving the family, property, possessions, and everything, we even have to leave this body. We have no control, no choice to take even an atom with us. So at we also find ourselves in great suffering, with much worry, and our faces change, we become awful looking, fearful looking, our color and eyes change.

Also, this causes the relatives to worry, crying—mother, father, husband, wife—no matter how many there are, nothing helps, their mind is worried, your mind is worried. They sit on the bed, surrounding you—and nothing helps, you are only dying with worries. Even if they all hold your body, if they all ask you not to die, and some hold the hands, legs, and some hold the head—no matter how much they request you, no matter how many thousands request you—even if you desire to stay, there is no choice. You make great noise at death time, moving your legs and hands because of fear, and from the other people’s side nothing can help you.

After you die, the body becomes a corpse. The body that was used, that was taken great care of, that enjoyed many beautiful things, wore beautiful and expensive clothes, lived in a beautiful apartment, slept on a soft bed, ate only that which it was used to receiving, only delicious food, the body that was used, that enjoyed other people, that was taken the best care of it many ways with many things—that body no becomes a corpse. Your dead body is covered by a cloth and becomes fearful looking, so that no one can look, even if it was most attractive in its lifetime. Even the room has a vibration, something.

And the possessions, I think it’s better to put on us our situation. After each of our bodies becomes a corpse, the possessions that we had are used by other people, and they say this belonged to such and such a dead person, using only the name. After the corpse is taken out there is such an empty feeling even in the house. The property, the possessions that you tried to get it by working very hard, that you received, that he bought with the money you worked for very hard—all those things are left without choice, no matter how much you spent your life and energy and worked very hard, with greed, ignorance, hatred, working extremely hard, in spite of physical and mental difficulties.

Like this—first of all you studied very much when you were young. After you were qualified, educated, then you found a job. The possessions and money that you received by that job, whatever you collected, decorated the house. So after death, everything is left, and there is no choice to enjoy anything, even all the possessions that you gained through hardship. Therefore, even the possessions, life, and the body all are trivial.

Therefore, we shouldn’t deceive ourselves with meaningless works, and we should not be deceived by meaningless objects. It is important that we try to use our actions in life, whatever we do, our daily life actions, in a virtuous way as much as possible. There’s a way to use even the meaningless objects in a meaningful way; there’s the possibility to use the meaningless body in a meaningful way, and the meaningless life in a meaningful way. There’s a possibility, there’s a way to take the essence from the essenceless body, life, or objects. If you use the daily life, before death—the body, life, or objects we enjoy—in a virtuous way as much as possible, this is like taking the essence from an essenceless object, an essenceless thing. Then life does not become completely empty. There is something, profit is made that can be used, that can help in future lifetimes.

So therefore, because life is impermanent, the actual time of death is indefinite. It is also good to continually think like this, remembering yourself—the body that is going to become a corpse. When you sleep, also remember the impermanence of your life, the body that will definitely become a corpse. The blanket or whatever it is is like the cloth that is going to be used to cover and wrap the dead body.

Remembering this also helps to detach yourself from your own body and possessions. Also frequently think, “These possessions that I have now at this moment after death will soon be possessed by other people; maybe tomorrow, the next day, or in a month, a year.” So at the moment, the things we have are like loaned things that we borrowed from other people, temporal things. If you frequently think like this, that possessions are temporal things borrowed from other people and will soon be taken by others, this lessens the attachment, even though you are keeping and protecting the possessions at present. You are protecting them for other people, but you are just using them at the moment. It is the same thing with clothes, you can think like this—this helps us to be detached in our enjoyments.

Being detached from your body, objects, and your enjoyments is not suffering, which is what some people think. Being detached is suffering, being attached is pleasure—some people think like this, but this is wrong.

Even the house, place—not thinking like this. Usually we have the feeling that, “This is my possession,” that, “I will permanently possess it, it will be permanently mine.” There is a kind of feeling—check up with your possessions, with your body too. Also with your place, it is good to think that it is someone else’s place, that it is temporal. This is very helpful.

Even those ancient yogis, those great ancient mediators carry skulls, thigh bones to blow, many things—the whole purpose of this is to remember life shortage, impermanence, and death. So, by remembering this, their life and mind is not caught in the pleasure of attachment to the happiness of this life. Remembering impermanence and death always helps one to be detached from the happiness of this life, from the enjoyments of this life. So for that reason those ancient yogis keep those things. Even the symbolic, religious things—why do they have to be bone? Totally for those reasons, to remember impermanence and death. So, they think like this, the skull they have definitely belonged to some other person, one person, who experienced pain if something was pressed here—if this was pushed in, he experienced pain, he made noise. Now, only his skull is left—very soon, the same thing will happen to me. Just as this person left, the same thing will happen to me.

It is like this—not remembering impermanence and death is like the animal that is not conscious, like a rat that is not conscious. If it goes in the trap where there is meat he will be killed getting inside the trap. So the person who doesn’t think of impermanence and death, who doesn’t practice, easily gets into the trap of attachment to the temporal happiness of this life, easily gets in that trap. If the person gets in that trap, there is no peace, he is only creating suffering—creating suffering and experiencing suffering in the future, for long time. So meditating on impermanence and remembering death always makes the person conscious and aware of this trap, the trap of the attachment that is attached to the happiness of this life. So by being conscious the person doesn’t easily get trapped, by remembering impermanence and death. Just like the animal rat, if he knows he will be trapped by being greedy for that meat, causing himself more suffering, and death—if the rat remembers that he keeps himself away from the danger. Remembering impermanence and death works in the same way. This causes us to be aware and not to be attached to the pleasure of this life. Without thinking the impermanence and death, we easily get attached, get cheated by the objects of the senses, get attached to the temporal pleasures. So we get trapped by ourselves, get trapped in worldly life, like this.

Is the Time of My Death Definite? (Page 53)

Anyway, why, as we get closer to death, should be afraid of death? Our life gets closer to death with each split second, but why is fear of death necessary to have now? That is because if there was no mind before rebirth, there is no reason for the rebirth, the existence of life, to happen. So because there was our mind before our human rebirth, so the same thing, when death comes, the mind does not cease as the body ceases, the mind has to continue after death. So after death, now we don’t know how we will die or where we will die—each person, most of us have no idea, completely black. The mind has to go somewhere. It is almost sure that we will be born in one of the three lower realms—it is almost sure, because in this lifetime, if we check up how many positive and negative actions we created from the time we were born until now, there are more negative than positive actions. Therefore, it is definite, almost definite that we will be born in one of the three lower suffering realms and suffer there.

At the moment we are human beings like this, some with robes and some with trousers, or some have long hair, some have short hair. But now we are not sure—after one year, maybe we will be born as a creature with 1000 hands, just crawling in the forest, on the road, in the house—now we are thinking like this, but after one year we may have 1000 hands, be crawling, awful looking, and no one will like us—like a snake or a scorpion, not sure. When we look at this animal it looks awful, ugly, we don’t want to see it in the house; something like that was taken out, but we still have fear that it may come in. So now we are here, but after one year it is not certain who in the room will take this birth—after one or two years he may be reborn as a being who scares everybody.

Or we may be reborn suffering from heat—on a red-hot iron ground ablaze, which is creation of our own karma. We may suffer there, becoming one with fire. What happens is not sure—it is the same thing for me, same thing for you—not sure. At the moment we see ourselves as having such a long time, but actually it is not a long time, it is such a short time. In such a short time we are doing something like this—I am talking, you are listening, some are reading books, but in a short time something will happen, life always changes. Now there are one hundred and something people together here—but soon we will separate, soon all these people will die, soon great change will happen.

Everybody check up your own thought, your motive—why are you going to do this meditation—just for curiosity, or for release from suffering, release from ignorance and achievement of the ultimate goal?

If there is a motivation that is just curious about the things that arise in the mind, not having any particular thought, any particular Dharma thought, or if there is an impure motive that is attached in the happiness or the comforts of this life, then think that, “This is the cause of all the problems and sufferings. Besides the attachment to the happiness of this life, the attachment to the higher samsaric pleasures is also the cause of suffering. As long as oneself is in the bondage of the suffering of samsara, actually it is like living on hot, red, burning iron ground—wherever the person goes, walks, there is only suffering. Actually the situation is like this example; it’s just a matter of not recognizing it, not clearly seeing it, due to ignorance of karma and the absolute nature of existence.

“Oneself being released from samsaric suffering and having the achievement of ultimate peace is not enough, not sufficient. There are infinite sentient beings also who desire happiness and do not desire suffering, and are in incredible suffering, and most of them do not have a leader on the path to enlightenment. They do not have the wisdom eye to fully see all the different existences and karma, and which are positive actions and which are negative actions.

“And also they are the objects from whom I received my past, present, and future happiness and perfection, even enlightenment. Therefore, I must repay them for their kindness. I am responsible as they are suffering and I have the chance, having met Dharma, the Mahayana teachings, having had the chance to develop the wisdom eye, fully realizing the existence, the path and goal, and the foundation. I must do this, as I am responsible to guide them from suffering. So, the best way, the most efficient way of repaying them and guiding them from suffering is to lead them to enlightenment. For this it is necessary for me to be enlightened first. So in order to receive enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings it is necessary to achieve the entire graduated path.” Think, “Therefore I am going to meditate on the graduated path with the preparation, the purifying meditation with Guru Shakyamuni.”

Tonight, you don’t have to do the breathing meditation. After the purifying meditation with Guru Shakyamuni, with the recitation of mantra, start the meditation on the graduated path, the perfect human rebirth.

In “The Perfect Human Rebirth,” check up the number of freedoms, the number of opportunities that you received and what is missing with your wisdom. Try to feel that the freedoms and opportunities that you have received are much precious, are that much useful, and try to rejoice yourself.

And in the meditation on “The Difficulties of Receiving the Perfect Human Rebirth,” try to remember the different levels of good results that are included in the temporal and the ultimate.

In “The Difficulties of Receiving the Perfect Human Rebirth,” you have to do the checking meditation with cause, number, and example.

Checking the result is with “The Usefulness of the Perfect Human Rebirth.” There you check up the results that can be gained with the perfect human rebirth. Then, also think how to make the human life meaningful. And how the human life is fragile and impermanent. Do the checking meditation on that, remembering also the time, the way the time changes, similar reason to life.

And then death—”Death is Definite and the Actual Time of Death is Indefinite,” and try to check up whether you can see when you will die. Like this—”Will I exist next year? Will I exist after six months? Will I definitely exist until next week? Will I exist until the course ends?” Ask these questions to yourself within the mind. And also try to visualize the form of death, how your body becomes, how things happen, what changes happen.


Do the absorption of the throne, lotus, moon, and sun into Guru Shakyamuni.

Guru Shakyamuni comes down and sits on the center of your head. As he absorbs into you, think that the impure conception that produces this impure view that causes you to see this body, and also the ordinary body, the whole thing becomes devoid. Your mind becomes one with Guru Shakyamuni’s holy mind in the form of all-encompassing space, but in the nature of infinite happiness.

From the emptiness, which in nature is infinite happiness, the throne comes into existence, then the lotus, the moon and sun, and yourself as Guru Shakyamuni. Think that your body, speech, and mind become oneness with Guru Shakyamuni’s holy body, speech, and mind. Very shining holy body in golden color, the holy body in the nature of light—like dew, like a water bubble, very transparent.

Day 13
Wednesday November 28th
9 a.m.

From the teaching of the great bodhisattva, Tenzin Gyaltsen, “When one checks up the best method in order to fulfill one’s own and others’ success, and when one discovers the jewel, bodhicitta is the best, then it can be born.”

To repeat one time, “If one checks up the best method to fulfill one’s own and others’ success, and when one discovers the jewel, bodhicitta is the best, then it can be born.”

This means that the best method to gain self support is bodhicitta—to gain self-support, even in a worldly way, to gain the ultimate self-support, oneself receiving the cessation of suffering, the whole suffering, the ultimate self-support. (The other is the worldly self-supporting, the self-support that worldly people recognize. From the Dharma point of view, the actual self-support is not the self-support that worldly people define. The actual, ultimate self-support from the Dharma point of view is at least to have the cessation of suffering. So when we achieve the cessation of suffering, we gain the actual self-support. Until we are out of samsara we never gain the actual self-support). Even to achieve the ultimate self-support, the best method is bodhicitta. And the best method to achieve the state that is the complete purity of all impure, dualistic mind, of all impure conceptions, which is enlightenment, the best method to achieve this is also bodhicitta.

And the best method to fulfill others, to succeed, to work for others, is bodhicitta. So this emphasizes that it is important to realize this, that bodhicitta is the best method for all this success, to bring all this success. Whenever one fully discovers that bodhicitta is the best method to bring all this success, bodhicitta can be born, can be received through the person’s practice, practice done with understanding. That it is the best method.

At the moment it is difficult for us to bring others’ success, in order to bring all other sentient beings success without confusion, without problems, because we have not achieved success ourselves, we have not yet gained the ultimate self-support, the ultimate peace. In this way, therefore, our power is limited. For us, the method or power to work for every other sentient being, to fulfill every other sentient being’s success, is limited at the moment.

As bodhicitta is the best method to gain one’s own and others’ success, it is important that even the actions that we create today, even in one day, in a few hours, be possessed by the pure motive, bodhicitta; it is important to start from now on as we have the freedom, chance. Think, “Such attachment to the temporal happiness of this life and to the higher samsaric pleasures is merely the cause of suffering. However the present life is happy, even if we receive a future life that has the higher pleasures of samsara, it is all in the nature of suffering, even if from the ignorant mind’s side it is pleasure, actually it is suffering. Therefore, it is nothing to be attached to. As long as we are attached to these samsaric pleasures, they keep us in the bondage of suffering. Continually they only oblige us to experience the same problems, the same old problems. Therefore, I must be released from the bondage of suffering.

“Myself being released from the bondage of suffering and receiving ultimate peace is not sufficient. There are infinite sentient beings that are objects from whom I received my past, present, and future happiness and perfection, and even my future ultimate goal, enlightenment. Therefore, I must repay them for their kindness. The best way to repay them is by leading them on the path to enlightenment and releasing them from suffering. It is greatly needed because they are in extremely unbearable suffering. So, as they have not received a perfect human rebirth, and missed many other chances, and as I have the present chance, I am greatly responsible to guide them from suffering, besides guiding myself from suffering. Therefore, it is necessary to receive enlightenment oneself. Without receiving enlightenment there is no power, no complete knowledge, no complete power to guide them from suffering. So, in order to receive enlightenment I must achieve the whole graduated path. Therefore, I am going to listen to the Mahayana teachings about the graduated path.”

The listening subject is the graduated path. We finished “Perfect Human Rebirth” and “The Great Usefulness of the Perfect Rebirth.” Yesterday we did “How Life is Fragile, Impermanent,” “Death is Definite,” and “The Actual Time of Death is Indefinite.”

So, generally it is important often for us to think about life shortage. Thinking about life shortage always helps us not to get into problems or confusion, and to be detached from the objects which cause problems—people, objects, non-living things, and living beings. This is important for us to frequently remember when we eat food, when we travel—whatever we are doing—in the meditation time, anytime, morning and night.

Especially when the person has a problem—especially when the person has a problem with other people—thinking of life shortage is like medicine for the mind, which makes the budding mind cool. Like if there is water boiling in the pot and you put in cold water, it gets relaxed, no more noise. It is the same thing with the bubbling mind, making noise from the mouth, the body—then the cool water of remembering impermanence can relax the mind. That is the best medicine. It is billions of times better than chemical medicines, which are given when the person has something happening—injections to make the person sleep, or go unconscious. This does not affect the mind the same way your own mental medicine affects the mind. Remembering life shortage and death never makes the mind unconscious, always makes you more conscious, helps you to discover yourself better. When we are attached to family, children, relatives, and friends and attached just as a couple, husband and wife, we are also attached to non-living things. When there are things happening, this mental method, your own mental medicine, is very helpful to cool those mental problems. Thinking like is very effective. As this Tibetan great yogi said, “The family couple is impermanent, like meeting guests; therefore don’t fight and give harm.”

This instruction was given before the death of this great yogi in the place of Thing.Ri, where he was. The villagers asked for instructions and this is part of what he gave. So as this great yogi said, it is helpful to think of the families, couples, children, as very temporal, not to think as if these are people with whom I will always be together. These people who are in my surroundings are like temporal guests who came to meet me. The temporal guest is the guest—they come and you meet—and it is very temporal. So just as in this example, it is exactly same thing with families. They are only together until death time—their deaths or your death—the relationship of being together is not permanent, is not something that is carried on for a long time. It’s like being together for a few hours, a few minutes. At the moment we don’t think this way, but at death time, when there is life danger, it can happen—one sees the whole life as a flash, so short; in the mind there’s a vision like a flash, the whole life finished like a flash. So therefore, great upset and worry arises in the person’s mind. People who are very temporal, the family, whatever, friends who are temporal, won’t always be with you. They are people who are there just for a short time, so there is no reason to fight with a negative mind, or no reason also to be attached to them. There is no reason to harm them or to fight with a negative mind, no reason for hatred, jealousy, or many other negative minds to arise and harm them—no reason.

Even when you are together, it does not mean that you should be away from them, separated—it doesn’t mean precisely this. It means that this is how to treat your mind that causes these problems, because problems arise mainly from the mind. This is how to stop problems when you are together, so you can live in peace. So it is good to think, “I won’t always be together with them, they won’t always be together with me. Just like temporal guests. I am not sure what will happen in a few months, a few years.”

So with material possessions, in order to stop attachment and miserliness from arising, it is good to think that this is a very temporal material that is borrowed, which is generally possessed by other people. So that’s why this great Tibetan yogi, Phadampa Sangye, gave these instructions to his villagers before he passed away, “Material possessions, which are like borrowed things, loaned things, you villagers do not tie, do not make knots of miserliness.”

His instructions are also very helpful for us to think like this. Material things will very soon be taken and used by some other people, even though momentarily, for a short time, we have them.

Also, think like this in order not to be attached to your body. Thinking like this, frequently try to be conscious, especially when there is attachment as it is sack of dirty things, it’s like a sack full of kaka, maybe, full of dirty things. Actually, that is the way it looks inside, except that it is covered by skin, having some different colors outside. This is not only the way to think of your own body, but also other people’s bodies. Totally it is made of, formed of these three—blood, flesh, bones—what is there is all these three. These dirty things are received by eating food, the whole thing is something like this, we can see it exactly as a sack full of dirty things. Thinking like this is helpful to become detached from your own body and also from other people’s bodies. Also, this great yogi said the same thing, like this, “The body, to the body ... anyway, we should not be very concerned, we should not work very much for the body, spending much time—the body which is like a sack of dirty things, sack of impurities.”

Also think the same thing about other people’s bodies—it is helpful.

Thinking about life shortage as the basis with the understanding or belief in beginningless mind, in the existence of previous lives, is useful and is effective. Understanding or belief in these evolutions, the existence of past and future lives, then thinking of life shortage is useful. It is useful because this only helps us to have fear of creating negative actions, because of the future dangers that the present actions causes. This understanding or belief in these evolutions, in past and future lives, in the mental continuity, and the fear of death before death, will always help the person to be careful in the present action, the present life, because of thinking of the future.

But a person who doesn’t have this understanding, neither understanding nor belief in these evolutions, such as mental continuity or the existence past and future lives, even if he thinks of life shortage, “I am very old now, very close to death, I may die soon,” even if there is fear of death, it doesn’t become as useful to stop the future danger as the other fear that arises on the basis of the understanding of the evolution of past and future lives. Because the person who has no understanding or belief in these subjects, even if he thinks of life shortage, he will then think, “If death and no future life is coming, it will be great loss if I don’t enjoy all things of this life.” He will think the complete opposite of the way it works, going round the whole world enjoying possessions and people. This person always thinks that this is important, as he is attached to the possession, to living and non-living things, he sees it as important to use it, he sees it as a great loss as there won’t be any life after this, he sees it as a great profit to do everything as he is attached. Because the person himself does not understand or see the future existence, he is not worried, there is no way to understand the results of his actions, the evolution of karma. Therefore, the person doesn’t discover what is negative or positive. Therefore, he has no worry about creating any actions. So that person has absolutely no reason to create any good karma, to follow disciplines, in order to decrease, fight the negative mind, the attachment. So from this person’s side he sees the people who are living in the discipline, who live in a place of solitude, who live in disciplines, who work to destroy and fight negative mind as people in suffering, people causing problems for themselves, because of his limited understanding. It becomes the opposite, like hot and cold, completely opposite. But as this person thinks and believes, it never works in that way, and it is never correct.

Such life, such actions, such wrong conception is like the example of a person who jumps in the fire, who purposely puts himself in the fire, such as the rat (the example I gave before) who is not conscious of the danger, who is not conscious that he will be trapped and killed, but is only conscious of the meat that he thinks he can enjoy. Or the fly that doesn’t see that the fire will burn him, but sees it as some pleasant place where he can enjoy and receive peace. This wrong conception drives him there, and causes him to suffer—the same thing as the rat. They believe in such ways, but it doesn’t work the way they believe. So just as they believe, we people do the same thing, in the same way.

So anyway, as there is the fear of death, it is important to use the fear to find means, to find a method to stop the suffering of death, to make the fear useful to seek the method that ceases the suffering of death, to become undying, to attain undying, to achieve the undying stage, the power. Also, as there is fear, it is important to make it beneficial or useful to seek the methods to be happy and not to worry at death time, and to find a better path, to have a better rebirth after death.

Why Should I Be Afraid of Death? (Page 53)

Karmapa quotation—this is one of the past lives of a Tibetan lama who is the head of one of the Tibetan sects. What he means is, whatever the person has, however it is happy and comfortable, when death comes, when this greatest danger of life occurs, it is extremely difficult for his mind to continually be happy.

Guru Shakyamuni quotation—when you read a book, you should check in your mind—think, read, think, read; it should not be like reading a newspaper or stories.

Anyway, the whole subject of this meditation is like this—the meditation in the course is for the purpose of discovering ourselves, our life, our mind, to discover everything in ourselves, and correct it. First of all discover, and then as one discovers negativity, this is negative, this is right—as one discovers wrong conception, wrong life, wrong actions, then with method (this meditation also contains method) we should make it correct, make the life right, make right actions. This way we can escape from suffering. This is the way Guru Shakyamuni gave teachings to his disciples, and in this way the disciples practiced by discovering the nature of their mind. As they found the method, they used the method to make life right, correct, and pure; and in that way they escaped from suffering, they became enlightened. This is the whole total thing.

So therefore, for instance, if you ask this question to yourself now, whether we fully see it, which will come first? Question yourself, if it is sure, how you are definite—how you are sure that the next life won’t come tomorrow and that you will exist tomorrow? Like this you question yourself. Like this, even if we are not sure, even if we are doubtful whether there is another life that will continue after this one, even if we are not sure it is still worthwhile to make arrangements for the future life, it is necessary even for the mind to be doubtful.

There are many other examples even in the worldly works. If there is a flood, the person’s mind is not certain if there will be flood in the summer, but it is very dangerous. But the person thinks it is very important and wise and skillful to build the dam before the danger of the flood happens. In the same way, it is more worthwhile to make the dam in this life before the danger of death occurs, in order not to be reborn in a suffering lower rebirth.

For instance, another clear example that we experience in our usual life—even we people who don’t believe in the existence of another life after this, in only this life, don’t fully perceive when death will happen—one day, one week, one month, one year—if you question it is not sure. But a person makes plans for five years—he makes many plans about where to go, where to live, deciding in his mind that he is going to live that long, planning like that. But does he clearly see it? No, he doesn’t clearly see it, yet he makes arrangements. Anyway, so if that is worthwhile, why is it not worthwhile to build a dam in this life, making arrangements for the future? It is greatly worthwhile even if the mind is skeptical about the future life—to do some meaningful things before the danger comes—the suffering lower rebirth, the great suffering at death time—before that comes. It is greatly worthwhile to make some preparation even from now, as we make preparations, projects, and plans to do something after a certain number of months, after a certain number of years, even we are not sure if we are going to live that long. If we are skeptical about the existence of the future lives, if it is not necessary to make preparations in this life for that, then it is also not necessary to do this because the mind is skeptical of a few months, a few years—so it is not necessary to make plans for doing this in the West, going here, enjoying things—this should also not be done. As ordinary people think that it is so important to make preparations for the future months and years, so it is much more important to make preparations for the future life—this is more definite than making preparations to do something after a few months or years as it is not sure, it is not definite that the person will do these things.

Let’s say I’m planning to go back to Tibet next year, and I make arrangements, preparations for that. But what is more important, making arrangement for the future life or for going back to Tibet after one year? It is more important, much more important to make preparations for the future life. Why is it more important? Because the suffering that will come after death and at death are greater than the sufferings of the present life, they are much greater than the present life’s sufferings. Therefore, it is much more important to make preparations for the future lives. And also, making preparations for the future lives is ended, but making preparations for going to Tibet is not, because this is not definite, because going back to Tibet after one year is not so sure as the next life coming. It is not definite, because the next life may come before going back to Tibet—it is definite that the next life will come either before or after going back to Tibet.

So when meditate on life shortage, on life as impermanent, this part is useful to remember. The other paragraphs which are not marked are not necessary in the meditation. And also next, as it follows.

(Page 54)

Shantideva’s quotation means that one shouldn’t let oneself be cheated by the pleasures of the senses, thinking, “I’m not going to die today.” The thing that makes us people—who don’t know Dharma, even trying to practice Dharma—easily get attached to the objects of the senses is thinking “I’m not going to die today.” For instance, one who clearly sees, one who fully realizes that the actual time of death is indefinite, that one is not sure when one will die, that one’s mind does not easily get cheated by the objects of the senses or the pleasures of temporal life.

For instance, take this example; a person is going to be taken to prisoner’s court today to be punished or killed. Before that, however comfortable he was, whatever luxury or beautiful place he had, and however most delicious food was arranged on the table in front, however beautiful and expensive the clothes that he wore, that person’s mind finds no interest. He doesn’t care about these pleasures because of the fear that he is going to be killed or punished. Because of this fear, this worry, he is not concerned anymore with the pleasures of using these objects; he is only concerned and worried about the future suffering, that he is going to be punished or killed. So there is not that much strong attachment for the objects, he doesn’t care about the temporal arrangements, he doesn’t care about them, they are not important to him. That person thinks that relieving that punishment is more important.

This person who is going to suffer like that doesn’t care about those objects, beautiful clothes, food, place or whatever it is—although it was important before, at such a time it is not that important to him, he has no interest. So just like that, a person who has the fear of death, who realizes that the time of death is indefinite, who fully realizes the impermanence of life, even if this person is surrounded by beautiful food and possessions, he sees it as non-important, it doesn’t become important to him, even though those objects seem important to the person who doesn’t see the impermanence of life.

So as the person doesn’t see it as important, he is not that greatly concerned about temporal things; he doesn’t care much whether it is good or bad, he is mainly concerned with the future dangers. That person does not have great mental problems in regards to the possessions. For instance, when the person is so scared or worried about something—punishment or something—and some relative comes and gives him delicious food, he doesn’t find the taste, he has no interest. Something comes into the mouth but there is no taste, and he cannot eat as much as he used to before. (I think the fear of death and impermanence are very useful because it makes it less expensive for the person, it’s not only useful for the Dharma person but also for ...)

Just like in this example, the same thing can happen. But the kind of worry in this example is not helpful—this is just an example to give you an idea, but it is not helpful like the help of the fear arising from the practice of the meditation on impermanent life and the indefinite time of death. If there is a strong thought of understanding or fearing death, you will enjoy the objects of the senses but not with that much attachment—it helps to create less negative actions.

How Do My Attachments and Possessions Cause Suffering at Death? (Page 54)

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Sentence 1. The ancient practitioners, the yogis, the ascetic lamas, prefer to die in a solitary place, in a cave where there are no relatives, where none of these can be seen. Also, even if they come, for the patient, it can be possible that they cause greater worries and stronger attachment.

Sentence 3. At death time the worry of separation is far greater than the worry of usual separation. In the usual separation, even if it is possible to meet again, still we feel upset. But at that time much greater worry arises.

Sentence 4: So, as much attachment as there is, as greater attachment arises to your body, relatives, and possessions, as you feel you are separating, leaving, that much fear arises.

So totally, how does it cause greater problems at death time? At death time we are that much more attached to our relatives, objects, and body. So it becomes a cause to be born in suffering and to be born in the suffering lower realms where there are greater unbelievable sufferings.

Padmasambhava quotation, “The vision of this life is like last night’s dream.” I think there are two ways to understand this quotation.

1. The dream is so short. Even though in the dream you think that you spent so many years, did so many things, you feel this in the dream, but actually it is so short, maybe half an hour or one hour, even though you felt that you spent that much time. This life is so very short, like last night’s dream. So why should we be attached to the objects—our body, living and non-living things, our relatives? And also, there is no reason to fight, to cause trouble for them, no reason to be jealous or to have pride, because this life is so short. In such a short time doing something like this is nonsense. That’s one thing.

2. Another thing is this: whatever you enjoy in the dream, even if you had a golden palace, many golden elephants, however many great possessions you had, after you wake up there’s nothing, it’s all meaningless, nothing. There’s nothing to bring out of the realm that you can have, nothing—however great the enjoyment, however beautiful the apartment, however beautiful the people that you enjoyed, however beautiful the clothes that you put on, nothing is of any use after you wake up. So just like this, exactly same thing—whatever we have, whatever we enjoy in this life—nothing can be carried of these possessions, enjoyments and pleasures. They don’t last like the enjoyments in a dream, and there’s nothing that we can carry to the next life. After death there’s nothing to carry, even an atom of your body cannot be carried with you to the next life, nor can enjoyments. Exactly like this—we can discover if we think back over our life, from when we were born until now, it is just like last night’s dream—it has finished so fast, whether it was suffering or happy—it has finished.

“All the meaningless actions are like ripples on a lake.”

Ripple is like this—I’m sure you understand—one goes, one comes, one goes, one comes. In the water, it always continues like this—meaningless. All the actions are like that, all the worldly actions that are done with negative mind, with attachment, taking care of the possessions, and also our relatives—all of these are like ripples on a lake, because none of this is new, because none of these actions, taking care of the physical body with attachment, are new; and any action, taking care of the physical body and relatives with attachment, has no beginning. Any kind of action such as taking care of the body, relatives, or possessions with attachment has no beginning, is beginningless. So the way we are taking care of our body is nothing new. So it’s meaningless. As long as we follow that attachment it always obliges us to keep on creating this action, to be involved in meaningless work that is like a ripple on a lake. But if you take care of the possessions, body, other living beings, and relatives in the Dharma way, it is worthwhile, it is harmless.

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Sentence 3: In regards to death these things can’t be taken and can’t help at death time—no difference.

(Page 54)

It is good also to meditate in this way—by thinking of the shortcomings of not remembering death.

So if you don’t remember death, then you don’t remember Dharma, to practice Dharma. Then what happens is that you are only concerned with not remembering Dharma, only concerned with the present life and doing so many things, making so many plans, only for this life. So the whole life, the whole time finishes just working for this life, without creating any merits.

So secondly (i) if one doesn’t think of death, even if one remembers that, one cannot practice sincerely, cannot continually practice. Maybe you start practicing Dharma—for a few days, a week, a month, a year—but then you don’t continue. This is not remembering death, not having the continual remembrance of death. This conception that I’m not going to die today always continues until death. As this great yogi, Guru Tsongkhapa, who is like the second Buddha of Wisdom, said, “Thinking ‘I’m not going to die today’ doesn’t mean that the person will not die today because this conception continues from childhood to death.”

“I may die after some years, of course, but I’m not going to die today—” this conception continues until the last day of death, until the very last time of life. At that time it is finished, and whatever the person remembers to do, a good thing doesn’t help at that time; there is no chance, no freedom. This is one of the great disturbances to Dharma practice.

And also, besides this, (ii) as the person, thinks like that, also at the same time the person becomes distracted. The person being always under the control of distractions means that every day he thinks, “I need this, I need that,” and so he follows this to get it. Every day the person works to gain possessions, to gain the thing that he desires. “I need this, I need that,” and so the time of life finishes in that—thinking this and working for it.

(i) Even if one tries to practice Dharma, cannot truly practice, cannot purely practice Dharma.

(ii) That means this—this is easy to understand, because we talked about it a long time before.

(i)—(ii) Because the person does not discover the attachment to the happiness of this life as being the cause of suffering, and does not discover this evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas as being the cause of suffering. Not discovering the main root, the main thing, the border—what is Dharma, what is non-Dharma; the worldly work and the Dharma work—not discovering the border between these. So even if the person tries to practice Dharma, it does not become pure because the person is under the control of the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas. So the Dharma that the person practices with the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas is not renounced. That practice is made without renunciation for the temporal happiness of this life. In place of becoming a remedy, it becomes a service to the mind.

So, even if one tries to practice purely, starts to practice purely, if one doesn’t continually remember death, again the Dharma practice does not continue. There is the danger of being unable to continue. Even if one starts to practice Dharma purely, one will not be precise and continual. That is because not having the continual remembrance of death.

So, like this. Even in the person’s meditation or whatever Dharma practice is done—even though the first action is done with a pure motive as opposed to the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, as he meets problems, some different situation, as he gets tired, he cannot continually practice, and doesn’t continue the practice because of such little problems—he stops the practice. For instance, when you bear some troubles, when you are a little unhappy, you don’t want to meditate—you are caring for the little problems so you stop the practice, even though the practice is done with pure motive. That is because of not having continual remembrance of death.

Also, if there’s no remembrance of death there is the danger that one may become evil or create evil actions, create negative actions. That happens like this. First of all you are attached to the happiness of this life. So to gain the happiness of this life, your mind is attached to the relatives. In your mind greed arises, attached to the relatives and the objects. Hatred arises in your mind with the enemies. Ignorance arises in your mind with the strangers. Then to gain the happiness of this life you work for the relatives with attachment and try to harm the enemies that you dislike with hatred and anger, and also pride, jealousy, and many other negative minds. In relation to the strangers ignorance arises.

So it is totally like this—the person’s life becomes negative by creating negative action. This is due to not having the continual remembrance of death.

The fundamental practice of the ancient yogis and practitioners, the way they live their lives is like this—the way they think of the situation of life, the ascetic life, is like this—by renouncing this life, the aim of their mind is Dharma. For instance, for worldly people, the aim of the mind is to make the present life happy, to be rich, to be comfortable, to gain temporal needs. Their main concern is to gain temporal needs. But the aim of the minds of those practitioners, those yogis, being the opposite of the ordinary person, is the Dharma.

So if the aim of the mind is Dharma, if the mind only thinks of the Dharma, only works on the Dharma, then maybe things will be difficult. If one is not concerned or doesn’t work for temporal things will there be the difficulty of not receiving temporal needs? Then thinking like this, as this question comes—”If temporal things are received or not, I don’t care.”

This is the aim of the Dharma, relying on the beggar (he beggar who doesn’t have any collections of possessions, any collections of temporal needs. He goes, begs, and eats, and doesn’t collect anything). Then there’s a question—taking the example of the beggar—if one doesn’t work to receive temporal needs, won’t there be the danger of death? Then the aim of the beggar is relying on death.

It means this. First of all the person doesn’t care whether or not he receives the temporal needs. Second, the person doesn’t care about death because of practicing Dharma, or about experiencing difficulty because of practicing Dharma, because experiencing difficulties in order to create good karma and practice Dharma is more worthwhile than experiencing difficulties in creating samsaric actions. So the person thinks, “Even if death occurs it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter if I experience difficulties, if I live in austerities in order to attain pure Dharma practice.” He thinks it is more profitable to die in that way than to die while doing samsaric works.

Then comes the aim of the beggar, relying on death. For instance, like this—I think I said before something on this subject, a quotation that a yogi said before, “There’s no such thing as a pure meditator dying of starvation and cold ...” So the kind Guru Shakyamuni prayed for his followers who make pure Dharma practice to not find difficulties, to not experience such troubles. He prayed like this, “Even if worldly people have to cultivate a field as small as a nail, may my followers, the pure Dharma practitioners, not find trouble living.” He made a promise and he said that this will not come true, may I not receive enlightenment. He dedicated the fortunes of 60,000 universal kings, who had much control and power, to his pure practitioners and followers, so that they would never experience such problems as death by starvation. So as he dedicated, as he promised, nothing like this has been heard of, even in Tibet where there are great numbers of meditators there is no such thing like this for those who are living in avoidance of the evil thought of the eight worldly dharmas, those pure practitioners.

This is just a brief example about how they live life, those yogis, how their minds think.

So it is also useful to think in this way, about the four or five shortcomings of not remembering death—if you don’t remember death what danger arises.

It is fortunate to know how those yogis or ascetic lamas practiced Dharma, how they lived life.

6 p.m.

Also, as there are five shortcomings of not remembering death, it is also useful to think of the benefits of remembering death.

Remembering death has great purpose. The great purpose is this—it encourages the person to make pure Dharma practice and to practice the graduated path purely. Also, it obliges the person to create good karma, charity, and morality.

Also, remembering death brings great purpose and great power. Great power of strength, because however much negative karma has been created by the person in the previous lifetimes or in this life—for instance, even if one has killed 1000 human beings in this life—by remembering death, by the great strength of remembering death, it encourages the person to undertake hardships in practice, to surmount the difficult practice of the Dharma, to purify all the negative karmas.

There are many other stories that happened in ancient times, such as the story of Milarepa. Everybody knows his autobiography, so it is easy to show. Milarepa destroyed his aunt while a marriage was going on through black magic. Also many people were destroyed above, and animals below—two stories of the house—those below and people upstairs enjoying, dancing, intoxicated (I’m joking), the whole thing collapsed. His mother was extremely pleased—she was waiting that day for the aunt’s and uncle’s house to collapse. His mother took some trousers and put them on top of the house as a kind of banner and said, “May my son conquer,” or something like that, standing on the roof. And this great yogi, Milarepa, received enlightenment in one lifetime even though he created so much negative karma. How could he do that? That was based on the remembrance of death. Even though there was that much negative karma created, so many people and animals killed, the remembrance of death and the shortage of life encouraged him to lead an ascetic life and practice purely, and he received enlightenment in one lifetime.

This shows the great strength and power that can arise from the remembrance of death. Such a heavy collection of negative karma can be purified in this life.

There are so many examples. In ancient times in India, one person who killed 999 people among 1000. (I think the other one is much more clear.) However, through the continual remembrance of death and impermanent life, he received the fully renounced mind of samsara, and his mind was well-subdued by practicing the teaching shown by Guru Shakyamuni. He becomes celibate, a bhikshu, a monk, and he received nirvana. I think the very last one, the one he didn’t kill, was his mother. Anyway, this has quite a long story, but the essence of what I am talking about is realizing the purpose—the remembrance of death is very important at the beginning of the Dharma practice, it is important even at the beginning—it obliges the person to practice Dharma, to put the life in the Dharma.

Also, the remembrance of death causes one not have a suffering death but a pleasant death at the actual death time. This means at the actual death time not having any worry, any upsetness, dying with great happiness, dying being extremely pleased. Such a thing, even though it is not our experience, it is the experience of many other practitioners and meditators. It is the same thing—if we practice the method by continually remembering death and life shortage, by doing pure Dharma practice, also definitely we can make this pleasant, easy trip as those ancient meditators did—it is matter of arranging things ahead of time.

Therefore, remembrance of death and impermanence is necessary. This makes two things—remembrance of death and of life shortage builds the fear in death, and the fear arising causes you to cease the fear of death. So it’s very interesting, the way it works is very interesting. First, you remember death. Then this builds fear, and this fear causes the person to create the cause to completely stop the fear, which ceases the circle of death and rebirth. So the fear arising helps us to stop the fear of death by controlling the dangers. But we ordinary people who have no understanding or belief in a lifetime after death but have the fear of death that only causes us to exhaust ourselves, become unhappy—this works in a completely different way than the fear that is build up through the meditation remembering impermanence and death.

This is also the experience of the great yogi, Milarepa. For instance, he said this, “At first, I escape to the mountain by being afraid of death. In the middle, I have fully realized the absolute nature of the mind. At last, I have no worry or upset, even if death comes.” So thinking like this, as he practiced, is very helpful for our life, is a good example for our life. So this is the way that he made the successful experiment through successful practice.

The remembrance of death and impermanence is very helpful because, besides being helpful at the beginning and middle of Dharma practice, it is helpful at the end. The last part, the complete achievement of the Dharma practice, enlightenment, is also rooted in the remembrance of death and impermanence. So when you meditate on this subject (Page 52), in the death part think about the remembrance of the shortcomings, the dangers that arise by not remembering death, and the benefits of remembering death, which I have just explained.

Then, after this, meditate on, “Death is Definite.” (Page 53)

So if I total all these meditations—reason like this, about the complete decay of the whole universe, the definite death of yourself. And also think, “There’s no such human being existing in this human world, or any samsaric being who is in the circle of death and rebirth, and as he was born, he never dies, he is permanently existing—there is no such being in the human world, on earth. So it is sure that my death will happen, it is definite.” Also think of the ancestors, the forefathers, those who no longer live, those who are non-existent—so also by this, think, “My death is definite.” And one thing is this, “Nothing, no material possessions can stop death, can make death non-existent. No matter whatever the place, wherever I go, even if I go on the moon, death is definitely going to happen.” Reason like this.

Besides, “My body and these possessions and relatives, instead of helping at death time, become the enemy. As I am strongly attached to them, that much strong fear arises. That much strong attachment to my body and relatives and possessions causes that much strong fear to arise at death time as I am separating from them. That attachment arises from those objects—those objects cause one to be born in the three suffering lower realms. Therefore they are the enemy, these possessions and relatives become the enemy at death time. As one single hair on the body cannot help, cannot be beneficial at death, at that time also a universe full of jewels can’t help or benefit. Nothing can be carried on to the next life, so all those relatives, possessions, the body, so many jewels, and one hair growing on the body are equal as regards taking to the next life. Therefore, why should I be attached to these objects if they become the enemy at death time?

“Mostly it is definite—why I should care about death? Because after death the mind doesn’t cease, and it is more likely for me to be born in the lower suffering realms because of karma—more negative karma than good karma created in the present life, and also in the past lives.” This is effective, this gives us reason to be afraid of death—if there are no dangers after death then there is no reason to be afraid of death.

Also, many great meditators, those who know their own way before death—where they will be born, what life they will have, who has made arrangements in this life, the realm where they will take birth—those who see this have no trouble, no suffering at death time because they see that there is no suffering life after that.

Then—”The actual time of death is indefinite.” (Page 53)

“So I am more sure to be born in the lower suffering realm, and the actual time of death is indefinite.” Think also of these different hindrances to life, especially at such periods. There are many more hindrances to life in such atomic periods, many more dangers to life.

And remember these quotations, these words said by Guru Shakyamuni are very effective and also true. This is something that we can prove even now, what Guru Shakyamuni said, by checking within our mind, “So, as it is not sure tomorrow, in the same way it is not sure tonight, in the same way it is not sure in this minute—what will come next, the next life or the next minute, so it is more sure that death will happen. Therefore, it is more sure that I have to leave this body, these relatives and all possessions; it is more sure than not leaving. Therefore, why should I be attached to them right now, even in this second? There is no reason why I should be attached, because it is definite that I will be separate from all these things and objects.”

Also, do the same thing trying to feel it, not just saying the words. Try to feel as if you are leaving these objects. Then it becomes effective to the mind. And also, when you are attached to these things, this meditation can loosen the attachment like a water-bubble popping. It can help a great deal to solve the attachment problem.

Also, when a problem arises inside or outside with objects and people, use these techniques. This is only to protect yourself, guide yourself from danger. So this way you can see, you can discover, that what you were doing before was nonsense, being attached to that part of work you can see as nonsense by using this technique. Mostly we have many problems with people, so it is effective if you keep this technique in mind and use it—it can be proved through experience.

Totally, like this—meditating in this way in order to realize, in order to build stronger fear and build energy, the encouragement for the continual practice of Dharma by surmounting the difficulties. So meditate in this way as I have just explained.

Secondly, besides meditating in this way, put yourself in the situation of death. Try to visualize the evolution of our future death as it is happening now—visualize yourself on your own bed, and try to feel, try to see, check what you feel. Feel yourself in the actual process of this evolution, and check how you feel in relation to your possessions, your relatives, your body. And also think about your body becoming a corpse, being taken out, this whole situation as you saw happen many times at other people’s deaths. The corpse was taken, burned, all these things. Then all the relatives and people cry and become upset, with upset faces, all this upset environment and feelings. Try to think—it is useful.

Actually, like this—what will happen in the future is an essenceless thing, but by trying to visualize the essenceless thing, we are trying to gain the essence, which is very meaningful.

First, this meditation.

Second, think like this—put yourself in the future evolution of your death. The most important thing is whether your mind can leave your body and your relatives completely alone, just as if on our head there are thousands of hairs, and we take just one hair without any companion—the mind is just leaving like this, alone. This is most important to think about.

Then at least, if this doesn’t change the mind, if still you are lazy, if still you can’t bear the difficulties for Dharma practice—the lowest method is to go to cemeteries where there are bodies of others beings burned. So at least, the very last if one finds it very difficult to treat the mind with the first or even the second meditation on death, then at last go to such a place and check up like this. This is very helpful, because it is something you can see by the eye.

Still can be possible that some people, whose minds are like huge, rocky mountains, are unfortunate, that their minds are still not changed by seeing all those things. It’s just a matter of time, it is definite at the moment. We are afraid of other beings’ corpses, but as you see these fearful dead bodies—it is the same thing. This body that we are taking the most care of will soon become just like that. Even if it is now most attractive, even if it was taken care of in the most precious way, at death no one will want to look or touch, and it will be smelly, very fearful looking.

Even not seeing the body, hearing that such and such a person is dead we get a big shock. Same thing, also other people will have a shock when they hear our name. Even not seeing the dead body, just hearing the sound, gives a big shock and causes fear.

So I will read one or two pages, as much as possible—there’s not much time to go with details.

(Page 55)

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Like I explained with the animals, they only enjoy the result of good karma that was created as human beings. At that time they do not create good karma. Because of the high pleasure and ignorance they experienced, it was extremely difficult to practice Dharma in those times, therefore they only enjoyed the resultant high enjoyments, the cause of which was created before they came onto this earth.

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More explanation of this is in the explanation of the mandala.

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The negative mind (and the general mind) did not start at the same time. This deluded mind existed before they took their bodies, before they took birth on earth. What caused the whole thing? The previous karma created by the previous mind.