Kopan Course No. 29 (1996): Audio and Transcripts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1045)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these teachings at the 29th Kopan Meditation Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1996. These excerpts include teachings on patience, bodhicitta, and reincarnation, and a question and answer session.

Click on the audio links to listen to the teachings and read along with the transcripts.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.
Reincarnation: Proof and Q&A

So here, as I explained before, what is the mind, the definition, so that it has six consciousness and fifty-one mental factors. The function of the consciousness is mainly to focus the essence of the object. It perceives or focuses the essence of the object. And the mental factor focuses the same object but discriminates the aspect of the object. For example, the mind of anger focuses on the person, the same object of the consciousness, but looking and discriminating as ugly and undesirable object, what the anger, the differences, the mental factor anger. Then the attachment focuses on the same object as what the consciousness focuses, but the mental factor of attachment exaggerates the object as beautiful.

So like that, so within the mind there are six consciousnesses and fifty-one mental factors: seven virtuous thoughts, twenty secondary delusions, four changeable mental factors, five definite objects, the five omnipresent mental factors (contact, feeling, intention, apprehension and cognition) these five always exist as a surrounding of the principal consciousness. They always accompany the consciousness, like the boss and the secretary and staff members around. Each member of staff has their own job but they are all working toward the same goal. So like this, I don’t remember if I have counted everything or not. So there are fifty-one mental factors. So each one has its own definition.

So now, the mind is a phenomena that is formless, shapeless, colorless, which nature is clear and perceiving objects. So the very first mind took place, conceived on the fertilized egg. So that first second mind that is conceived there, took place there, so the previous continuity of that, like the external examples have the same continuity, so like that here the continuity cannot be physical, cannot be the body. It should have its own previous continuity of a similar type, formless, colorless, shapeless.

So that, also this way of thinking may help. Mind is not permanent. Mind is impermanent phenomena and the definition of impermanent is that which is under the influence, under the control of other cause and conditions. Because of that it is changing, not lasting, changing, decaying. So that is the definition of impermanence. All of existence comes in two—permanent and impermanent phenomena. Whatever exists comes either in impermanent phenomena or permanent phenomena. So the mind comes under impermanent phenomena. For example, today’s mind is caused by yesterday’s mind. So today’s mind exists by depending on cause and conditions. Its nature is changing, decaying, being under the control of yesterday’s mind, that which is the cause. So today’s mind is the result of yesterday’s mind and today’s mind causes tomorrow’s mind. The same, this present mind is caused by previous...

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...split, even by dividing the seconds, the split second, dividing even the seconds, then even the split second mind is caused by the previous split second mind. So the present split second mind becomes the cause of the next split second mind. So you see it continues like that. So the mind is an impermanent phenomena because it is a causative phenomenon, depending on cause and conditions. That’s why it changes, doesn’t last. So therefore the very first second of mind took place on the fertilized egg, that mind is causative phenomena because of its impermanent nature. So that mind the first second of which took place on the fertilized egg, that is a result. That mind is a result. So since that is a causative phenomenon that is a result, so therefore there should be a cause before that mind. So the cause of that cannot be substantial like those other examples I mentioned. It has to be its own continuation. It has to be the same type - formless, colorless, shapeless, whose nature is clear and perceiving object, like that.

So therefore, that is the mind. The cause of this first second mind took place on the fertilized egg, so that is the mind, so that has to be the mind before this life. That is the mind before this life. So by this reason there is reincarnation. So like that, the same, the very last mind when we die, the mind that leaves the body, the very last mind that is associated with this body, so the same, that also has a continuation. At the death time, the very last mind that is associated with this body, that doesn’t stop just there, it has its own continuation. So this physical body like the scientists mention, that this world is made of atoms. They talk about the continuation of the atoms. Always there’s continuation of the atoms. So like that similarly—the atoms gather and become one particular form then disintegrate then come together in another forms like that for example earth—so it talks about the continuation of the atom like that. I think that Einstein explained in science—so the same thing, the mind at the time of death, the very mind associated with this body continues like that.

So however, the second thing proving reincarnation is having the cause. I already explained that this present physical body is caused by the same previous type of physical cause and this mind, this first second of mind that took place on the fertilized egg, that is caused by its own cause separately from the body, its own cause—so those two actually looks a little bit similarity.

Then the third reincarnation proof that, due to habit. Habituation proof of reincarnation, due to having had habituation before. So anyway I will explain the meaning. One Indian pandit Lopon Bawo? said one who does not have clear power of mind—I don’t remember; there is one verse I am trying to remember - one whose mind does not have power, one whose mental power does not have clarity and not having clear mind, the next one, without being taught by anybody, able to seek food, so one can understand reincarnation by this. So I don’t remember the verse exactly but the meaning is this.

For example, the animals, even though they are not like human beings, they are so ignorant and foolish and mute, they cannot communicate like human beings, but the animals, the cow babies as soon as they are born, as soon as they come out they go to suck the milk from the mother, without going to school, the college, university, without being taught—there is no school in the mother’s womb—as soon as it comes out it goes to suck milk from the mother’s breast. So this is what the pandit is saying—I can’t remember precisely, but the essence of what he is saying is this—you can see that there is reincarnation even by watching the way animals behave. I saw on TV that the kangaroo baby, it is quite hard to recognize as a baby because it is just like blood, so it comes out and goes up and goes inside the kangaroo’s pocket. About this size [Rinpoche indicates one finger joint] comes up and goes into the pocket. So who taught that? Who taught it to do that? There was no school in the kangaroo’s womb. So, like that, and then the animals, what makes to do these things, as soon as born going to suck milk. There are birds and animals that without being taught, each animal has its own enemy, so without being taught, without teaching them, even if they never met this other animal before, they attack the very first time they see each other. Just by seeing each other they attack. So who taught that? So the same thing making nests, the birds make those incredible nests by picking all those pieces. It’s so difficult - I could never manage that one. So nicely woven, by picking each one. I don’t know how they manage, because they don’t have hands, to hold.

Student: If that mindstream that enters the kangaroo has come from a person that has been reborn in a lower realm, where do they get the information from in the first place unless they have seen the show? If that mindstream was a kangaroo before then okay they would have the instinct to do that, but if that mindstream comes from somewhere else, a human being, where does that information come from to climb up into the pouch or where does the information come from to make the nest?

Rinpoche: So you believe that after a human being can become a kangaroo?

Student: [inaudible]

Rinpoche: So, yes. Do you also believe that has also been a kangaroo before becoming a human being?

Student: It is possible, yes.

Rinpoche: So all the human beings have been kangaroos in the past and all the kangaroos have been human beings in the past.

Student: Well, if we have had limitless rebirths…

Rinpoche: So yes, in that case, yes, the same. So from kangaroo to kangaroo so as you think that is possible. Then from human being to kangaroo, then from kangaroo to human being and back to kangaroo, the same. So it is the same. Yes, each case the same.

So now, the baby was inside the womb and while they were there the mother picked up all these things, all these sticks of wood or hair, then made the nest, then they were born there. But the baby bird was not shown how to make the nest, it was inside the womb. But then when they become mother then naturally they do these things. If one looks at the life of the birds it is unbelievable. So all these things, so now like this. In the West the answer is instinct, the biologist’s or psychologist’s answer is instinct. They think the same for human beings, that the child that is very compassionate and does not want to harm others, even if they see others harming, killing insects then they get very upset, and probably in the biological scientists and psychologists might say instinct. For animals they call it instinct. I don’t know what they call it for human beings when a child is like that. Then another child may be so eager to kill, want to shoot and kill - so violent nature. Some very angry nature, some very patient nature. Even the child is different without being taught by anybody, without being taught by parents. Very uneducated parents, very primitive, but the children can be fully awakened, completely different, totally different quality of mind. So that is very easy to know, cannot reject. So probably might be the same answer according to the Western psychologist calling it instinct. I haven’t heard other answers for that.

So now here, the differences. Why for children and animals they do like this, without being taught? According to the Western philosophy they say instinct, but you never question after that. After it was answered ‘instinct’ you never questioned how this instinct happened. How does this instinct happen, evolution of this instinct?

Student: Biologists say that it is encoded on the DNA.

Rinpoche: On the cells?

Student: The pattern inside the brain is encoded on the DNA.

Rinpoche: So it is to do with the cells.

Student: Also small animals are born with a behavioral pattern.

Rinpoche: What pattern?

Student: [inaudible] ...encoded on the DNA.

Rinpoche: So the behavior, so whose behavior? What the baby animal does, you mean that doing like that is a habit pattern.

Student: It is a pattern of movements coded on the DNA.

Rinpoche: It is like a computer put it there in the brain. It is like information put in the computer. So who put it there? The mother? So therefore, all the knowledge that is not taught in this life, all the knowledge that there is but not taught by anyone in this life, all came from the sperms—the mother’s egg and father’s sperm. That is what it means, right? So going back to the very first living being—was there a very first living being on this earth or not?

Student: Yes, but it was different DNA and now the DNA information has changed.

Rinpoche: What is DNA?

Student: It is the information in the cell, the code that makes the cell what it is. It is the chemical that has the information for the cell to become a ?carrot or a raisin or something else.

Rinpoche: So DNA is a chemical inside the sperm?

Student: And the egg

Rinpoche: In every cell there is DNA, which is information. So going back to the very beginning of life, way back, so this earth, this world has a beginning, no? Does it have a beginning or not?

Student: In the beginning there was no DNA.

Rinpoche: So when this earth started, did the living beings start at the same time? So after. So how did the first living being start? So there has to be a clear answer in order to explain this DNA and all these things. So it all goes back to the very first living being.

Student: There have been some experiments where they have put a lot of heat, some water and energy and put together and cells were growing.

Rinpoche: So this means that the original living beings were born from the earth? Grown from the field, from the earth.

Student: From energy ... [inaudible]

Rinpoche: So living beings are created from the gas and the….

Student: If you combine the chemicals and the energy in a particular way you can generate the chemicals that have the information for life. But you cannot actually duplicate life in a jar. [further discussion inaudible]

Rinpoche: So how the very first living being happened, that is one thing. The other thing is why does the world exist? Even it is said that it came from the Big Bang, this big one blowing into pieces, but why did this Big Bang happen? Why did it come into existence? What for? Why did this exist? So one question is how did the first living beings start and the other is why does the world exist? Even this piece came from there, why did it come into existence? We need an explanation for that—whether it is creation or not, why this happened, why this big one, that big world that broke into pieces—isn’t that right?—this is supposed to be a piece of that? Anyway, so it is a big question, why that happened and this we need to analyze.

So however, in the Western terms these are called instincts. Normally it seems that they are just called instinct and it just stopped there. In reality, according to the Buddha’s teaching or philosophy or reality, which is the same, what is called instinct in the West, this is not instinct that happened without cause and conditions. I guess we have to explain what is meant by instinct, but normally this means something happens without causes and conditions. So these things happened because of previous habit, the result of previous habit. The result of habit before this life. That which happened before this life. It is the habit of the same living being, the same continuation of the same living being’s habit in the past, this is the result.

So now, here we can use the example of this life. You see, if one in this life, one’s own mind can be trained and habituated in attachment by thinking again and again of the quality of the object, how beautiful it is. Always by thinking how beautiful the object is and clinging onto that. So if you use the mind in that way then the mind continuously gets habituated in attachment. So attachment gets stronger and stronger and gets developed. So even in this life it is our experience that the mind can be habituated in attachment. So the same, now same, if one thinks, so you see the desire can be stronger and stronger and completely overwhelms the mind and the life is completely controlled by the desire. It goes on and on like that you see. So the other way, by thinking of the shortcoming of desire, the shortcomings of the object, the negative karma, the suffering results, the problems in this life coming from desire. From this desire hundreds of problems can come out, then you can encounter so many problems. So thinking of these things in particular. Then the sufferings of the future lives, sufferings of the lower realms and so forth, problems in the future lives, even if one is born as a human being one has to experience all those problems, due to the desire.

So however, thinking of all the shortcomings of desire, the sufferings of desire, the shortcomings of the object, how it interferes with oneself to achieve the cessation of the entire suffering and causes, how it blocks to achieve enlightenment, how it interferes to see emptiness, to realize emptiness. So however, by thinking like this, then the mind gets trained more and more to the aversion to attachment - dislike to attachment. So the mind is more and more trained in detachment, the renunciation and the satisfaction. By using these reasons, the mind can get more and more trained in satisfaction, detachment and renunciation. So then after some time completely cut the attachment like that. So even in this life, through meditation - without meditating the mind can become habituated with attachment, the mind can go on and on, stronger and stronger, like that. Then life has more and more problems.

With the other one less and less problems as the mind becomes trained in detachment, more detachment. So like that the mind can become more impatient by thinking the reasons that are wrong, that makes to arise anger. Interpreting what the person does as harm to oneself, then that is bad. Then anger, by keeping on thinking of the reasons, then anger arises. Then the anger leaves a negative imprint on the mind and this creates the cause for anger to arise again. So however, the mind gets habituated in anger that way, more and more habituated, so it makes to get angry easier, easier and easier like that. Due to habit, more and more impatience.

So now, similar if one practices patience by meditating on the shortcomings of anger, all the suffering results of negative karma, these things, how this has no benefit to oneself or others, only harm, all these things, then the benefits of practicing patience, now and all the future lives’ happiness, beautiful body and perfect surrounding people to help you, then also the qualities of Buddha’s holy body through patience, the beautiful holy body of Buddha and so forth, however, so by training the mind in the patience it leaves a positive imprint on your mind, then again you see ...

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... so easier for the mind to be patient then later more and more difficult for the mind to get angry. Easier to become patient and more and more difficult to get angry. So the same thing, the ego and bodhicitta, the same. Whichever one trains the mind, one gets habituated in that, so even in this life. So you can see now the present attachment in the mind is the result of past attachment. Today’s attachment is the result of, is habituation, is due to previous habituation. It is the result of previous attachment, the previous habituation because the mind is habituated with attachment in the past. So you can see that even in this life the present emotional mind, such as attachment and these things, is the result of previous habituation, “previous” means yesterday, or last year, or the year before, it’s the result of previous habituation, mind habituated in attachment. So therefore today why there is strong attachment, still there is attachment is because the mind was habituated in attachment in the past. So like this, you can see this one very clear, you can see this example in this life very clear. Then those, very difficult to arise attachment and the mind is always in such distraction, detachment, renunciation, so you can see in this life due to so much meditation and then mind trained that way, then you can see that it is the result of habituation, that also.

So now, this is very clear, so therefore now all those things that animals do and human children do without being taught by anyone in this life, all those are the result of in the past the mind was habituated in that. The child who is a very compassionate one, the mind in the past, life before this, the mind was habituated in that compassion, or trained in compassion. Similar, who has so much desire, unbelievable desire, the child, life before this his mind was habituated in desire, so it is the result of that. So therefore there is a past life. So the logic is that, the normal logic, the child who was born, the mind of the child who was born, who is just born, there is a previous mind of that, because it has mind. The example is like the attachment mind, the mind that is trained in attachment. So that means, that came from the previous mind that is habituated in attachment. So like that, the same, all the mind of the child who is just born, they all have the previous continuity of mind.

Then also, normally for us ordinary beings, that even we, it is so difficult for us ordinary beings to generate a virtuous thought, so difficult to practice patience, so difficult to practice compassion, loving kindness, very difficult have detached mind, renounced mind, this free mind, so difficult to renounce, to free the mind from desire, to give up desire, so difficult. Then even we are able to generate a virtuous thought it doesn’t last, even we are able to develop loving kindness and compassion through meditation, even we generate but it doesn’t last. Even through meditation, you put in much effort, even if you generate it lasts a very short time then is degenerated, and the negative thoughts come so powerfully without any effort. Without any effort coming so powerfully.

So all these, that is because in the past, life before this we have been habituated in the three poisonous minds, delusions, and from beginningless rebirths our mind has been more habituated with delusions than the path, the compassion, loving kindness, bodhicitta, patience and so forth, the renunciation. So that is why in this life, even though we want to practice, why it is not coming so easy as we wish, why it is not happening like this [snaps fingers] as we wish. Why it is so difficult is because our minds have been so much habituated with delusions from beginningless rebirths, not so much habituated in the positive thoughts or the path. So by this, that there is past life and there is previous continuity of the mind in this past life, so that means that there are also future lives. So the third one is the proof of reincarnation by the past habituation.