Teachings on Karma (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Maitreya Instituut, Emst, Netherlands (Archive #144)

Teachings on karma, excerpted from a lamrim course led by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Maitreya Instituut, Emst, in August 1990.

Click on the audio links to listen to each section and read along with the unedited transcript.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche giving initiation, Maitreya Institute, Bruchem, Netherlands, 1981. Photo: Jan-Paul Kool.
The Negative Karma of Killing

So what makes the killing, so first of all, the attitude is self-cherishing thought, so basically because of that, that it becomes negative karma. So if the action is done out of that then it becomes negative karma. Other than that, there involves desire, the anger and so forth, so, the killing that which is not done by these attitudes, that which is done, one-pointedly, purely, with unbearable, purely for other sentient beings, with great unbearable compassion.

And this bodhisattva sees with wisdom that it is of great benefit, so like that, then, in that way, the action is done. The killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, so these things, for such practitioners, developed, for such beings who has developed the mind, the great compassion, cherishing other sentient beings, the altruism, who has developed, so when that is certainly, a hundred per cent it has great benefit than not doing it, it has great benefit for others, than not doing it, not doing it has less benefit to others, doing that is more beneficial for other sentient beings. And the wisdom sees and understands that, for such a bodhisattva, such a practitioner, who has great compassion developed, altruism is developed, for whom the whole question is this, for whom that these actions become more beneficial for others than not doing it.

So for those beings, Buddha permitted there's no contradictory to Buddha's teaching that normal teaching to not kill, not steal, sexual misconduct, telling lie and so forth, all these, don't do this and don't do that. So that, don't do this and that, that teaching is when these actions, action doing these things, when you cannot transform, when the capacity of mind, when the realization is not developed, when the capacity of mind, when the realization is not developed, such as great compassion not developed, because of that, then that is one thing. And when these actions do not have benefits, only harm, for whom by doing these actions does not receive benefit, only harm to others and therefore only harm to oneself. For those beings who cannot transform or for whom by doing these actions only harm, no benefit.

So because there is this danger, harm others and harming oneself, so in order to guide these sentient beings, so Buddha not permitted because there is danger. It is like parents protecting the baby, going inside a fire, or on the road, or where there are dangerous places protecting, or telling them to not go, to not do, like that. But for those beings, who has capacity of mind, can transform these actions, that these actions, killing, stealing and so forth, becomes beneficial, more beneficial than not doing it, more beneficial by doing it than not doing, more beneficial for others, that means beneficial also for oneself. So more beneficial for others by doing it than by not doing it, so for those, when that is definite, certain, the wisdom sees, then for those beings Buddha permitted because there is not danger and only benefit for other sentient beings.

So it's mainly, Buddha permitted-not permitted, it is not a dictatorship, it is different from dictatorship, well, what to say, well, put it this way, it's different from the dictatorship that which follows self-interest, not the dictatorship of a bodhisattva, not the dictatorship of a holy being, who only lives the life for others, who has compassion and wisdom, not that one, dictatorship that has no compassion, doing the work with self-interest, in other words for one's own power, one's own happiness. So Buddha making the rules or moral laws, can't do this and that is not like that dictatorship. Whose concern is not for the happiness of other sentient beings, but for one's own happiness, to develop one's own power, this kind of dictatorship, not like this. Without having the aim the happiness of other sentient beings, that goal, goal which is only one's own power, one's own happiness, then making lots of rules, not like that.

So this here, Buddha's the...

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According to the level of mind of other sentient beings when, for those whom these actions become harm, then Buddhas don't do. For those whom the actions become beneficial for others, for oneself, then permitted. So, the aim is other sentient beings' happiness.

That is why there are different instructions. In the Lesser Vehicle path, according to the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle path, in that teaching, no permit, there's no permission to do this, there's no permission at all. The three actions: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and telling lies, harshly speaking, gossiping, slandering, these seven actions not permitted at all, that is because, those who do not have bodhicitta, renouncing oneself and only cherishing other sentient beings, who has, that which is derived from great compassion, so for them, if it is permitted, it becomes dangerous, even there is renunciation of samsara, but does not have bodhicitta so it becomes dangerous for them, for those practitioners, so who are seeking liberation for self. So therefore it does not become work for other sentient beings, so therefore it is not permitted, not at all. In other words, so, because of that maybe difficult for them to understand how the violence also can be positive, a wrathful action, external violent action, action of body, speech so perhaps difficult to understand how that can be positive, how that can become virtue, positive. Because it is not permitted at all, these actions to become virtue in teaching which is taught for those level of mind. [pause]

So that's why Buddha, in the bodhisattva teachings, teaching of the Paramitayana teaching, when these actions, when it becomes definitely work for other sentient beings, when you can do that, then it is permitted. So same thing, then also higher, then tantra, what is not permitted in those lower teachings, in those other teachings, then in tantra it is permitted. So it looks like contradictory. In the Lesser Vehicle teachings, those other teachings it is said: Do not drink, do not have alcohol, things like that, then to not have the sex, those things in the lower teachings it says to not do. Then in the Highest Tantra, it is opposite, then one finds so much emphasis that for development of the mind, for quick enlightenment. So all these things, it looks like contradictory, when you read the different teachings, one says don't do, one says to do, looks contradictory, looks like that you become confused, one says don't do, one says to do, for the development of the mind and this and that ys. So however, so Highest Tantra is for those who have that capacity, whose mind has reached that level, for whom again these things are more beneficial for sentient beings, much more beneficial to achieve enlightenment, quicker. By doing these things much quicker to achieve enlightenment, practicing these things much quicker to enlightenment, than not doing. So more beneficial for sentient beings, for those practitioners who have that level of mind, where that these actions do not become dangerous, only great benefit. So for those higher practitioners of tantra then Buddha permitted because it's only benefit. So like that.

So when it is referred, so for example, a bodhisattva, and especially one who has realizations of tantra, who has realization of generation stage, oneself as deity, and especially on the top of that who has completion stage experience, clear light, illusory body, these things, then so if there is an evil being who harms a lot, who harms so many sentient beings, or teachings, holy beings like that, then if this bodhisattva, especially this great yogi, who has those Highest Tantra experiences, is responsible to destroy that evil being, to kill, in other words to split the consciousness from the body, through meditation, through wrathful actions of tantra. So if it is tantric practitioner, like that so he is responsible because of having those qualifications, one who has the bodhicitta, great compassion, where this action doesn't become dangerous to you and tantra realizations, so he is responsible, it is a vow, samaya, it is a bodhisattva vow, to do that. While you have the capacity, if you don't do that then breaking a vow.

So the whole concentration is to benefit other sentient beings. So anyway, you can see the whole thing is dependent on the mind. The reason why I am telling this, to come to the conclusion how everything is dependent on the capacity of the mind. When there is no capacity, the action becomes negative karma, harmful. When the mind has capacity, then the action becomes positive, even these actions,like that.

Generally, it is good to give the picture, to give the idea, or picture, to put the recognition, that killing and so forth, stealing, these things are bad, negative, It is good, because, to put it that way is better, generally it is good. Why? Because most beings, most people, do not have that capacity to transform into virtue. Therefore, generally it is good to give the picture, to regard, all these things are negative, so that the ordinary sentient beings then they observe, care, there's benefit that they abandon that. So in this way they are protected from negative karmas.

It is very clearly mentioned this point in the text, how these actions hts by using the example, the story ys that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's past life, was a captain of a ship that was taking five hundred traders and then there was a person called _____ ______ dung chen, this person, was thinking to kill all the five hundred people. So when the captain, the bodhisattva, when he realized this, he felt unbearable compassion that he completely sacrificed himself to be born in the hell I don't mind, I will be born in hell by killing this person, but not - usually ordinary people, Oh, this person is going to do this harm, you are helping to somebody but you have anger, you have hatred to this person, mind is not equalised, for example somebody is harming to the family or one's own friend, you want to help the friend, there is thought to help the friend, but there is anger to that other person harm, but not like that. Here, the person who was going to kill the five hundred people, unbearable compassion, specially unbearable compassion, instead of anger, to this person, who is going to kill the five hundred people. Specially for this person, who was going to create all that negative karma. So there's big differences. So himself completely sacrificed to be born in hell and to kill this person in order to protect him from all the negative karmas.

So by doing that, by killing this person, instead to be longer in samsara, it only caused to be shorter in samsara for a hundred thousand eons. To be in the suffering realm, become shorter, one hundred thousand eons become shorter. It's like become shorter that many eons to be in prison. By that action, killing that person out of unbearable compassion, sacrificing himself completely to even have to suffer in the hell, I will do it to protect that person, that sentient being from all that heavy negative karma.

So now here, this only virtue. This is very clearly mentioned, that one hundred thousand eons become shorter in samsara, and this action becomes virtue. It is very clearly mentioned, I don't remember word by word now but it is mentioned in the text [Tibetan] The Very First Mind Transformation, The Opening the Door of Dharma, so in this text very clearly mentioned. And the text The Liberation in the Palm, that one simply says, by doing this action, then accumulated inconceivable merit, it said there simply like that. So most clear one is mentioned that this text, that which I have seen. Then there are other similarities in the other texts. [pause]

So, if these things cannot become virtue, then what about tantric practice? Those high yogi's, when they do these actions, they would be creating negative karma, so that is the debate, that is the question. Those high yogi's when they do these actions, it would become negative karma. So how is it possible negative karma become, yeah, anyway, so cause of enlightenment? So, [pause] one more example might come later.

So the killing that is done out of the self-cherishing thought, those other disturbing thoughts, then it becomes negative karma. So that has four suffering results that complete action of killing, so the killing has base, object, the other sentient being, having mind. To give the label killing it is related to the object which has a mind, so, base, then thought, action, goal. So there are four things gathered. Up to the goal if it's happened, then the action is completed. So this complete negative karma of killing then four suffering results the ripening aspect result, rebirth in the lower realms. So the very heavy one, in the narak. Generally speaking, the very heavy one, the ten non-virtues, example the karmas, such as ten non-virtues, the very heavy ones in narak, then after that, middle one is the preta, then the smaller one in the animal realm. Like that, rebirth.

Then even after some time, even one get born as human being, then one experiences the three problems, sufferings. The shortage of life, so right after the conception taken in the mothers' womb, then one dies, so those things. Then child time dying. Having short, experiencing shortage of life, so that is experiencing the result similar to the cause. Those who do not live long, who experience shortage of life is the result of killing. Negative karma of killing.

Then, in the place where one lives, when one get born as human being, the place where one lives, is very dry place, has no glorification, very dusty. The food and drinks, medicines, these things, no protein. The place where one lives, those food and those things even the medicines don't have power to benefit, the power is degenerated. Therefore difficult to benefit for health. The protein or the potential degenerated food and those things so not so useful for health. And unable to digest, even you eat, unable to digest, these kind of things, to do with the place, so that is called possessed result. [pause]

So now you can see the environment, this is a question of the environment, so the environment how it is, plants, food, all these things, if it is a bad environment, if it is dangerous, or good environment, rich environment, healthy environment, unhealthy environment, the environment, it came from one's own mind, it is a creation of one's own mind, it is a production of one's own karma. Here in this case, production of killing, the negative karma of killing. So it left the imprint, when this action was done out of those negative thoughts it left an imprint on the mental continuum, you remember as I gave the example yesterday the electricity waves carry the message, from the other side, the person, whether it's a fax machine or whatever it is the electricity waves carry the message from the other person and then here, at the other end where there's the machine, then it get actualized, manifested, takes a form, sound or letter, or TV pictures. Like that, like the other side, the person, is your past life, or in other words, before you experience the result, the cause was created in the past, while the same continuation, you who is the same continuation, [pause] now this present you, present oneself, experiencing the result. Now continuation of this present self, the past continuation, the continuation of the self, that one created the cause. It is not possible, however, to exist the cause and result together, this is not possible. Before the result, first a cause then from that the result. The cause as preliminary, then from that, result comes. According to cause and result, relating to one phenomena, plant, karma or plant or whatever, inner factor or outer, external factor, plants, whatever it is. So that one phenomena, cause and result cannot be together, the cause has to be before, then by depending on that then result comes.

So however the past continuation of you, created the karma, created the cause, out of the disturbing thoughts, did the action of killing, that which became negative karma and that left imprint on the mental continuum. And then, as there is always continuation of the mind, the consciousness, the sixth consciousness, so therefore that carries the imprint and now this time, this year, this month, today, this imprint is experienced out, it is actualized. The message that is carried by waves, now here, when it comes to this condition, the machine, then it appears in sound or letters or pictures, in different colors in the TV, like that. So now here, the karma that which is done in the past lives, or in this early life, however last year, or last month, or yesterday or even this morning, even one hour before, even a minute before, however, so experienced. Imprint which is left on the mental continuum, this sixth consciousness then it is experienced out.

So imprint produced this environment, such as unhealthy environment. So it came from one's own mind. I think we are experiencing this now, it just happened the right time [incredible smell in the gompa, due to the fact farmers working on their land]. Maybe it is a healthy one! I thought this was only in Switzerland, but also....anyway, I am joking! I thought it was a special thing about Switzerland.

When we meditate, when we read the lamrim teachings, we should meditate, think like this, more precise, so this way it becomes very clear how everything is production of one's own mind. Everything, so this way, everything becomes teaching, everything becomes emphasis. Everything becomes explanation of one's own mind. The whole environment, everything what happens in one's own life, all the appearance what we have, all the views we have, is a commentary of our own mind, is explanation of our mind, quality of our own mind. It is describing the quality of our mind, what type of appearance or view we have. How we see things, how things appear is a commentary, itself is a psychology, describing the level of the mind.

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