By taking precepts and living in ordination, any merit that one accumulates is much greater than that accumulated when not living in ordination. There is a great difference; that is one benefit. Not living in ordination and offering as much butter as would equal the Atlantic Ocean to the Triple Gem, and living in ordination and offering one drop of butter like the tip of a needle—the second has much greater merit than the former. By taking this ordination even for one hour, or even 15 minutes one purifies negative karma and restores virtue—or, putting it another way, purifies vices that have been received by degenerating vows, and revives the vows, tek.chen so.jong, revival and purification by Mahayana ordination—and this has greater merit than one would accumulate in eons by other practices. If you are going to do more virtuous action, especially in retreat, take Mahayana ordination that day. Normally it is very rare to accumulate merit, so on those days when we especially try to accumulate merit, when we try to give ourselves time to accumulate merit by making offerings, or in others ways, with respect to the object sentient beings, it is very skillful to take the Mahayana ordination.
You see, if one is living on vows such as the refuge precepts which involve not killing, even by living in that one upasika vow to not kill, to not accumulate this non-virtuous action until death, the merit that is accumulated is much greater than accumulating such merit without living in ordination. When taking refuge there are three things to practice and three things to abandon, such as the precept which applies to killing—as I described, the action of the body of the path of killing. If one is living in the five precepts, the merit is much greater than if one lives in one vow. If one is living in the eight precepts, the merit which is accumulated is much greater and more powerful still. If one is living in the thirty-six vows it is more powerful. Likewise for the two hundred and fifty-three or three hundred and sixty-five precepts. Also with the bodhisattva vows or the tantric vows, there’s incredible advantage compared with accumulating merit when not living in the vows. The higher the ordination in which one is living, the merit that one accumulates is much more powerful.
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The fourth benefit is that by living in ordination whatever prayers one makes get accomplished. It is said in the teachings that generally, by living purely in moral conduct, without doubt all the prayers that the person makes get accomplished. Mahayana ordination is just for one day, not a lifetime, so it is easy to keep and to keep purely. As it is not for a lifetime, there’s more energy to keep it purely. Having taken the Mahayana ordination the revival and purification—during those times that the precepts are not being degenerated whatever prayers one makes definitely get accomplished.
This Mahayana ordination should be taken with the motivation of bodhicitta, remembering the kindness of other sentient beings. Others are so precious; each sentient being gives us all three great purposes into our hands. All the past happiness and perfections were received from sentient beings, but even without thinking of that kindness, just thinking of the happiness and perfections of this life, it’s unbelievable how extremely kind and precious the sentient beings are. As I often say during courses, there’s not one single happiness or perfection that we receive without depending on the kindness of the sentient beings. There is not one single perfection received from them without them having suffered. This rice that we are eating today came from the fields. The fields were fertilized and plowed and during those times so many ants, mice, worms, so many creatures in the ground were killed. So many had to die and had to suffer for this each time work was done. There are many stages in order to get the fruit. After the seedlings are grown they have to be replanted, and then there is weeding and many jobs at different times as it is growing. Each time so many creatures have to die or suffer.
In the West it is mostly done by people with machines. Here in the East it is mostly by animals. The buffaloes and other animals get beaten so much by the people when plowing the land. The human beings and animals worked so hard, experiencing heat and cold. They were burned by the sun and experienced much tiredness. Sentient beings created negative karma by killing other sentient beings just for this one serving of rice. So many sentient beings had to die or had to suffer. This rice came from other rice, other seeds. The same thing for that—so many sentient beings had to suffer or had to die, and others had to accumulate negative karma. And that came from other rice and again it was the same thing. If you think back it’s unbelievable—this rice came from previous rice, that from previous rice and so on. By thinking about the continuity of even this one meal of rice you can see that an unbelievable number of sentient beings accumulated negative karma and so many others suffered and died. For one plate of rice uncountable sentient beings suffered and had to die and created much negative karma. When you think of this, to eat even one plate of rice unconsciously without the thought to benefit at least those who suffered to provide this—if not all the sentient beings—is something unbearable. You dare not put even one spoonful of rice easily in your mouth without making some determination to do something for them, to benefit then. To eat that one bit of rice without the slightest concern for offering benefit to others, with only the selfish attitude concerned with one’s own happiness, is very unsuitable, very upsetting.
We should meditate like this: consider yourself as “others” and think of those who suffered and created much negative karma as “yourself.” Then look at your old self, who eats this rice only for the happiness of himself, and think, “He is eating this rice which came from me, for which I created much negative karma and went through much hardship and suffering. He is eating it for his own happiness without one single thought of concern for me.” Look at it this way, from the point of view of yourself being those other beings. It is very painful and upsetting if you think in this way.
It is similar for even one piece of vegetable—so many suffered and created negative karma. Even for one cup of tea or even for one mouthful of water when you are thirsty. There are many tiny creatures in the water that you cannot be see with your eyes, but you can see with a microscope. When you enjoy the water they die—when it is boiled or when you drink it. So there is no way to have the pleasure of even a mouthful of water or one plate of rice, one bowl of soup, or vegetable, without harming some sentient beings and other sentient beings, creating negative karma. Even by just thinking of food and how it came from sentient beings, one cannot spend one’s life completely working for one’s own happiness. One has got to do something, to think and plan to benefit them—one can’t relax. One can’t be satisfied by thinking, “If I am happy, not sick, that’s enough.”
It’s the same thing with your house. In order to have the comfort of living in a house protected from rain, the heat of the sun, from dangers, so many human beings created negative karma by killing others, and so many other creatures have suffered much injury or died. So much of the clothing that we wear comes from the bodies of animals, and is taken by force. For example, silk comes from silk worms which are controlled by human beings and killed in hot water or whatever. We take the things which keep animals warm, like the hair of their body, by force, for our own happiness and comfort. Many sentient beings suffered, including human beings, in order to for us to have clothing. Think of the whole process: in the beginning those creatures suffered so much and the human beings experienced much hardship to make the clothes. Even if the cloth is made by machines, human beings put much effort into making the machines. Some people bought the cloth from others, made a shop, tailored the clothes and so on. Everything is made by sentient beings to be ready to wear and easy to get.
Now you can see there is not a single comfort that we do not receive from other sentient beings. Even this body that we have now, which has the opportunity to have more comfort than the lower realm beings, even without talking about Dharma, was given by our parents and is due to the karma they created to give it. If they hadn’t created the karma we would not have this human body. Some couples, no matter how much they want a child and try to have one, don’t get a child. That oneself is alive as a human being today and each day, is due to these sentient beings. It is completely due to the kindness of sentient beings. Being alive today, having the opportunity to practice Dharma, to listen to teachings, to accumulate merit by taking the eight Mahayana precepts, is completely given by the sentient beings. Therefore one cannot just relax all the time with the thought of only one’s own happiness, thinking, “When will I be free from this problem?” If one thinks of suffering, it is only one’s own suffering; if one thinks of happiness, it is only one’s own happiness. Now one has got to do something to benefit at least those sentient beings who are kind now, from whom one received the present comforts and happiness, even if not all sentient beings, who are kind in past and future lives.
What is needed is to free them from true suffering and the true cause of suffering, for them to have ultimate happiness. This is the best way to benefit them. To complete that work there is no method except practicing Dharma and achieving enlightenment. Therefore, think, “Today I must achieve enlightenment for the sake of all these kind sentient beings; therefore I’m going to take Mahayana ordination.”
Please repeat the prayer visualizing Guru Chenrezig surrounded by numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas.
So if the precepts are not degenerated from now until sunrise tomorrow, every single merit that we create will be so much more powerful because, as it was mentioned in the teaching, there is a big difference between living in and not living in the precepts. Whatever prayer is made will definitely be accomplished. Feel great joy about this. Think, “How fortunate I am.” Also, by knowing the benefits as taught this morning, you should think, “Today might be the last day of my living in the precepts, so while I am living in the precepts I’m going to accumulate merit as much as possible.” Like the business person who is in a country where there is a lot of profit to be made, tries to buy or sell as much as possible; like this, as you can make as much profit of merit as possible by living in ordination for one day, this is the action of a really wise person. In business, even if there is material profit, that itself is not the cause of happiness—the happiness of future of negative karma, but this profit of merit is completely the opposite—it is abandoning negative karma.
“As I have taken these eight precepts, I’m going to keep them until sunrise tomorrow in order to free each sentient being from suffering and to lead them to enlightenment.”
FROM NOW ON, I SHALL NOT KILL...
I PROSTRATE WITH BODY SPEECH AND MIND IN FAITH...
THE GROUND WITH SCENT IS BLESSED...
The nectar rays from Guru Chenrezig enter one’s body and mind as well as all other sentient beings, and completely purify all the wrong conceptions, particularly those preventing the stable understanding of karma and bodhicitta. The selfish attitude is completely purified. A replica of Chenrezig is absorbed to one’s heart and the hearts of all sentient beings. The complete realization, from guru devotion to enlightenment, is generated, especially the stable understanding of karma and bodhicitta. The same thing happens for all sentient beings. Feel this very strongly, the two bodhicittas—the essence of wisdom and the method, the altruistic mind of enlightenment—are generated. One can also think that the method and wisdom of maha-anuttara yoga tantra—wisdom, clear light and method, the illusory body—is generated in one’s own mind and the minds of all sentient beings.
THE FOUNDATION OF ALL KNOWLEDGE...
OM MANI PADME HUM..... OM MANI PADME HUM...
Guru Chenrezig melts into light and absorbs to one’s heart. Feel that the mind is completely oneness with Chenrezig’s holy mind—the great compassion feeling as so unbearable that other sentient beings are suffering and obscured, and wishing to immediately liberate them from all their sufferings and obscurations, by oneself. Feel this very strongly. The same thing happens to all sentient beings. Chenrezig melts into light and absorbs into their hearts and they become completely oneness with great compassion.
DUE TO ALL THESE MERITS ACCUMULATED BY ME...
Please listen to the teachings by generating at least the effortful bodhicitta, thinking, “At any rate I must achieve an omniscient mind for the benefit of all the kind mother sentient beings; therefore, I’m going to listen to the commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment.”
The non-virtuous action of telling lies. If a particular object is experienced with the consciousnesses of body, of tongue, of ears, or eyes, and then one says that one didn’t experience this, it is telling a lie. Also it can be the other way—saying that one did see or experience something which one did not. The base is the other person who has understood the meaning of what you are saying. I think not only having heard, but having understood the meaning of what you are saying. The thought is that although you have seen it, you change your recognition to not having seen it. For example, you have seen a person but you change the recognition around into not having seen them. Also, it can be that one did not see, but changes the recognition around into having seen. For example, even though one did not see deities or the Buddha, because one wants to be recognized by others as a special person, wants to have a good reputation, one changes the recognition into having seen Buddha.
The disturbing thought is one of the three poisonous minds—either anger, attachment, or ignorance. The motivation is wishing to tell the false recognition. The action is actually verbally saying this, or remaining silent, or making some movement of the body. For example, while one does not have bodhicitta, because of having some small compassion one verbally says, 'I have bodhicitta realization’. But if one doesn’t know the definition of bodhicitta, or doesn’t know what realization of shunyata means but has meditated on what one believes shunyata is—such as when the mind becomes blank thinking that is shunyata; or seeing the relative nature of mind, the truth of all-obscuring mind, that it is formless and colorless, and believing that this is the emptiness of true existence and that one has realized shunyata—then tells others with “visible” pride, “I have realized shunyata,” for one’s own mind one is telling the truth so one is not changing of the recognition. But, for example, if one knows that one has not realized shunyata but changes the recognition, thinking, “I should say that I have realized shunyata’, this is telling a lie. The four things, the base, thought, action and completion are there, so the path of the non-virtuous actions of telling a lie is completed.
One should understand that there are four things to each action. If one has taken the precept, whenever the four things are completed, it is completely broken. Otherwise, one does not receive the actual body of the path of the non-virtuous action. But, you see, even if it is not completed, such as in regard to sexual misconduct if the sexual emission did not happen—there is still a small vice received; although lighter than if the thought and action were complete. Each complete non-virtuous action has four suffering results, as you heard before. If, however, it is incomplete—either there is no action, or disturbing thought, or recognition—the four suffering results are not experienced, but one might experience one or two out of the four.
I asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, from whose holy speech I received lam-rim teachings for the very first time in my life, about this. While Rinpoche, along with many other learned geshes and high lamas and many Tibetan people was taking teachings from His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche’s root guru, whose holy name is Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, who was combining four different lam-rim commentaries, I asked Rinpoche whether each of these actions, even if not complete, has all four suffering results, or not. Rinpoche replied to the letter: “The complete non-virtuous actions have all four results; the incomplete ones might have some, but not all four. That’s why when you do perfect purification by confession there are four powers. The function of each power is to stop one of the four suffering results.
One has “visible” pride if one doesn’t know that one has broken precepts, for example if one has received the negative karma of the complete non-virtuous action of stealing, but one doesn’t know that one has received it. The Tibetan word for stealing is ma.chel.den, which means “taking that which is not given.” That makes it very clear what is stealing and what is not. What I’m saying is that if one doesn’t know that one has not given, but one believes that...
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While he knows he has, telling or showing others that he hasn’t stolen—that is, changing the recognition on purpose. But in this example the person doesn’t know, so then there’s a kind-of pride because of his believing that he didn’t receive the negative karma of having taken that which was not given. So, even if he says that he didn’t receive that negative karma, it doesn’t become the actual body of the path to the non-virtuous action of telling a lie.
If somebody asks a person whether he broke any of the four root precepts—not killing, not telling lies, not engaging in sexual misconduct or not stealing—and he has, and yet he keeps quiet without giving a particular answer, and so shows the aspect of not having committed and action, the motive is wishing to tell a lie by changing the recognition. If the other person understands what it means, the non-virtuous action of telling a lie is complete and the person receives the actual body of the path of the non-virtuous action of telling a lie. If somebody is praising oneself, saying, “Oh, you are a great bodhisattva; you have such a pure mind! You don’t have worldly concern; you are a pure Dharma practitioner,” and if one doesn’t say no, or show a physical sign of denial, but kind-of smiles and keeps quiet, kind-of accepting the praise, the four things are gathered, so one receives the actual body of the path to the non-virtuous action of telling a lie.
Whether the motive, the disturbing thoughts, are for the benefit of others or of oneself, it is the same. I mentioned a little about the actions of those great bodhisattvas who completely renounced themselves to suffer in the narak in order to save others from creating negative. There actions don’t have the disturbing thoughts. Their attitude is one of only cherishing others. That is a different thing—it is virtue. It is said in the teachings that if someone is coming to kill a person named, say, George, and you know where George has gone, and the person asks you whether you have seen George, you should tell him, “Oh, today I am very busy and I have to go to the office!,” or, “I’m very sick today!”—something in order to not answer the question!
One can also indirectly receive the actual body of the non-virtuous actions of killing, stealing and telling lies. Sexual misconduct is an exception. For example, lying can be by telling one person to tell something to another person, so that one doesn’t speak directly to that person. The completion is the other person understanding the meaning. If he does not understand the meaning, it becomes gossiping, not lying!
Next is the non-virtuous action of slandering. The base is harmonious sentient beings or disharmonious sentient beings. I think the meaning of this comes later in the text. The thought is the disturbing thoughts. The motivation is wishing to cause a split when some sentient beings are harmonious or if they are already disharmonious, wishing that they remain disharmonious. From this you can understand that the base can be harmonious or disharmonious sentient beings. For example, praying to God that those who are disharmonious not be harmonious! The action is speaking true or untrue words either in a way that is interesting or uninteresting for oneself or for others. What you’re saying may be true, for example that the wife criticized the husband, or has a lover, but your goal is for them to be disharmonious so you tell the husband. Or, if she did not criticize her husband or does not have a lover, you make it up, in which case it is untrue, and tell the husband in order to create disharmony. “Interesting” might mean—this is my guess—saying something close to being an untruth in order to create disharmony. For example, even if the wife did not talk about the husband in such an interesting way, you make it interesting so that they will split up. Or, if another person talked about the wife or husband about a subject which is interesting or uninteresting, and you tell what the other person actually mentioned in order to create up, but telling people something that another actually said in order to create disharmony. The completion is when they become disharmonious or they have the words which create disharmony. “Uninteresting” might refer to words spoken with the intention of causing disharmony but which do not actually cause disharmony because they are not believed, or are ignored.
Then, speaking harshly. The base is a sentient being. When we speak harshly to a person there is the thought to hurt the person because of the disturbing thoughts of anger or ignorance. It could also be attachment—not necessarily attachment to that person: it could be attachment to the possessions belonging to that person and speaking harshly in order to get them. The motive is wishing to speak harshly. The action is pointing out faults of the person, whether they are true or not. It could be in regard to their education, caste, their body or their general or moral conduct.
The words don’t necessarily have to be violent, they may be very polite, but they hurt the other person. Just one example; say one person says to another, “You are a great practitioner of tantra, so when you drink wine you won’t become intoxicated or violent—it won’t break precepts and you won’t receive vices.” The words are nice, but actually the person has the motive to hurt, and the words are sarcastic. If it hurts the other person it becomes harsh speech. The text says the completion is the other person hearing and understanding the meaning. As with sarcasm, it seems that the main completion is that it hurts the other person’s mind. Maybe one has a bad motive but if it doesn’t hurt the other person, if it becomes beneficial, an incredible teaching, and brings kind-of happiness, then perhaps it doesn’t become the actual body of the path of the non-virtuous action of speaking harshly. There Lama Tsongkhapa is saying that if the person understands the meaning of what one is saying, the action is complete.
Then, gossiping: speaking something which doesn’t have any real purpose. The base is sentient beings. The purpose is to say something which is not necessary. The thought has three sections: first is the recognition of what one is gossiping about. I think it is not necessary to recognize that one is gossiping, but the recognition is recognizing whatever subject or meaning one wishes to express. I think the base is not necessarily sentient beings—you could be speaking alone, no-one listening to you talking! Or they are not paying attention or perhaps are deaf!
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The disturbing thought is ignorance or anger or attachment. The motivation is wishing to tell whatever comes into one’s mind and which doesn’t have any purpose. The action is attempting to gossip. The completion is having finished gossiping.
For example, talking about fighting or debating or quarreling. Not talking about Buddhadharma but about something which only appears to be Dharma such as scriptures written by outer beings, or reading and reciting and giving oral transmissions of the Hindu Brahmin tantras. Talking about life’s difficulties and problems. The motive of these actions is attachment or ignorance, perhaps sometimes also anger. The main thing to check is the motivation. It could be the pleasure of speaking proudly to show others what a difficult life one has had or what incredible things one has done. Or, talking about things for fun, to make laughter; talking about parties and entertainments without any Dharma reason. Whether this is gossip or not depends on the motive.
When bodhisattvas or Dharma practitioners speak about suffering it is so that either themselves or the person listening will get renunciation of samsara. Or, if they talk about entertainment, it is to show the result of good karma. Even if they are talking to make others laugh the motive is different. Gossiping is also talking about the lives of kings or ministers, or about different countries, or about thieves and robbers. I think also reading books such as are found at airports and train stations and all over is included: books from beginning to end about terrible things somebody did! Or relationship problems and so on. According to what Lama Tsongkhapa is saying here, it is gossip if the motive is attachment. Talking about wars or, as he said, reading or reciting or giving oral transmissions of the Brahmins’ tantra. Reading all those books with attachment, with no thought that it will help one have strong realization of samsara, or to generate bodhicitta or compassion, or to help with one’s lam-rim practice.
One of the main things that is necessary to transform these three actions of body and four of speech into virtue is the great thought to benefit others. Otherwise all this—reading books and so on—is gossiping. If they are not read verbally, it may not become the actual action of gossiping; probably one might have to be verbally saying it. Gossiping could mean speaking like a crazy person, as if one is kind-of intoxicated; also speaking with wrong livelihood. Lama Tsongkhapa did not elaborate, but it might mean this: even though one is not a pure Dharma practitioner, speaking to others as if one is—this is not one hundred percent sure; it is my guess. For instance, if one doesn’t in fact do lam-rim meditation all the time but speaks to others as thought one does. This is my guess; it can be checked. Also, showing the true cause of suffering. Probably that means talking about attachment and things like that as if they are positive—I think Lama Tsongkhapa might be saying that. Then, talking about movies and songs, actors and so on which are only amusements. I think I will stop here.
Yesterday’s topic was about the general shortcomings of the selfish attitude, how the selfish attitude is harmful, but just thinking only about the problems of this life. That was from the point of view of one who doesn’t know the practice of buddha-dharma, just talking about this one life. For one who practices Buddhadharma there are many more shortcomings of the selfish attitude to think about.
Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was an ordinary being like us, suffering and circling in samsara under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts, before he entered in the Mahayana path. The same as oneself he had the selfish attitude. But Guru Shakyamuni Buddha gave up the selfish attitude, cherished others and generated bodhicitta. He practiced renouncing the selfish attitude and practiced cherishing others, and by this entered the Mahayana path. He accumulated merit for three countless great eons, became enlightened an inconceivable length of time ago and revealed the teachings of the lesser vehicle and of the greater vehicle—both the Paramitayana and Tantrayana—to subdue the minds of sentient beings and gradually lead them to enlightenment. Guru Shakyamuni showed the Twelve Events. Because Guru Shakyamuni Buddha gave teachings, uncountable numbers of sentient beings achieved the arhat stage and enlightenment; such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Chandrakirti, Aryadeva, Shantideva, the two Sublime Disciples, the Six Pandits and so on. There were eighty great siddhas, yogis such as the great Saraha, Tilopa and Naropa, and the lineage lamas of the different aspect buddhas that some of us are practicing. All those lineage lamas of India and Nepal, innumerable numbers, like stars in the sky, became enlightened. They were enlightened much earlier than us.
Then there were the great Tibetan yogis Marpa and Milarepa. Milarepa led thousands of disciples along the path to Enlightenment by revealing the teachings. Among these thousands, eight became enlightened in one brief lifetime, like Milarepa himself. Also, the great yogi Padmasambhava purified the land of Tibet in order to establish Buddhadharma and revealed teachings. At one holy place called Takyeba he taught the twenty-five main disciples. Then they gave teachings. I heard that this place is incredible, with so many caves. One high incarnate lama who came from Tibet recently went to see this holy place and said it has incredible power and is very beneficial for the mind. Many great yogis meditated at that place. So many are enlightened already.
Then, many Kadampa geshes such as Lama Atisha who, after the Dharma gradually degenerated, transmitted the Kadam teachings. This particular one, the Lam-rim, is such a clear, condensed essence of the Buddhadharma and is easy to practice. After Lama Atisha revealed this teaching so many Kadampa geshes became enlightened by giving up the selfish attitude and one-pointedly practicing bodhicitta. So did disciples of the Kadampa geshes, such as Lama Tsongkhapa. Then many of his disciples achieved the rainbow body and achieved enlightenment in one brief lifetime; such as Ensawa who achieved enlightenment within twelve years or so. From all four sects: such as the five great Sakya pandits, many great yogis in the Kagyu sect such as Gampopa, and in the Nyingma sect. Before, they were the same as us—completely deluded and having a selfish attitude. By renouncing the selfish attitude and practicing bodhicitta they became enlightened much earlier, a long time ago.
We may have met Buddhadharma fifteen, twenty, or ten or seven years ago, but even during this time other Dharma practitioners, by practicing lam-rim, by understanding the shortcomings of the selfish attitude, by meditating on this and realizing that the selfish attitude is the enemy, generated bodhicitta and became bodhisattvas. Many others who attempted it already generated bodhicitta, and became objects for accumulating much merit by other sentient beings. For oneself, from beginningless rebirths until now, the mind has been completely empty of the realization of bodhicitta, the root of the Mahayana path; leaving aside becoming enlightened, not having a single realization of lam-rim.
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…………Not looking at the selfish attitude as an enemy, not realizing how the selfish attitude is harmful. Not renouncing, not giving up, the selfish attitude. You see, because of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha so many great yogis in India, Nepal, in Tibet, became enlightened and did incredible extensive benefit for the teachings for the sake of sentient beings. Just think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha – after he became enlightened and revealed the teachings, uncountable numbers of sentient beings were led into temporal and ultimate happiness, enlightenment. You see, they not only completed works for themselves, but they completed works for others by giving up the selfish attitude and practicing bodhicitta, cherishing others. They put themselves aside and completely involved themselves in doing works for other sentient beings, even if the works for themselves were not completed, even if liberation, the release from samsara for themselves, had not been achieved.
You see, in this life we have received the perfect human rebirth qualified with eight freedoms and ten richnesses and have met the perfect virtuous friend who can reveal the complete path to enlightenment without missing anything. We have met and received the teachings, both sutra and tantra—even the most profound, secret, quickest path to enlightenment achievable in this brief lifetime. Even if we saw the actual Buddha, there is nothing better, more profound that He could teach than the teachings we receive now from the virtuous friend. But from our own side we haven’t done any practice. Even though we may have heard teachings such as thought-training so many times, but practice never gets done when problems arise. I’m just talking about myself I’m using myself as an example, telling the story of my life! When somebody gives one a hard time, shows anger to oneself, one doesn’t even remember the teachings. It looks like one hasn’t received the teachings on thought-training, patience or bodhicitta, at all! These are shortcomings of the selfish attitude; the self-cherishing thought doesn’t let one practice. Because of that there has been no progress in the mind, even though one met the Buddhadharma three, five, seven, ten or fifteen dharma—I can’t remember! I think I have never thought about it! One makes no progress and is still the same as before one met the Buddhadharma. One didn’t have any experience or lam-rim realization. At least one should be able to say. “I had much anger three or four years ago; I met the Buddhadharma and now I have less anger.” Or, “Before, I was very selfish, but now, after these years, less so.” If one has the thought of the selfish attitude all the time, it doesn’t let the mind progress.
Then even after we have met the Buddhadharma, even if we understand the words, those teachings of the graduated path for the lower capacity beings—perfect human rebirth, its usefulness, the difficulty of finding it, impermanence and death; then those of the middling and higher capability beings, but our actions, whatever we do, do not become dharma. If we do not follow the selfish attitude our actions become the cause of enlightenment, whatever we do. But following the selfish attitude they do not become even the cause of liberation or even the happiness of future lives. It is incredible how harmful the selfish attitude is.
Even if there’s an opportunity to practice moral conduct and accumulate merit continuously from now until death time by taking precepts, we have much fear of taking even one precept. The self-cherishing thought will not allow us to accumulate merit, from now until the time of death. Even if we live in moral conduct by having taken vows, the self-cherishing thought doesn’t allow us to keep them purely. Even if we try to practice shamatha, tranquil abiding, it doesn’t work. Even if we try for months, nothing happens, except obstacles! Even if we try to meditate, try to concentrate on Buddha, try to do fixed or analytical lam-rim meditation, again the self-cherishing thought doesn’t allow it. Distracted mind harms the meditation. Even if we listen to the teachings and even though the teachings are infallible and we can without a doubt achieve the result if we practice, it does not benefit our minds. One’s mind is not subdued. Again, that is because of following the selfish attitude. The self-cherishing thought doesn’t allow the teachings to be effective for one’s mind. It causes superstition to arise that the teachings are not true, thinking that they are not connected with reality, that they are just made up to make us afraid! Even if one tries to reflect on the meaning of the teachings, no matter how profound and clear they are, there is no benefit for the mind. The mind remains solid, like iron. It’s like a parrot reciting OM MANI PADME HUM! There’s no feeling, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just words.
Audience Member: There’s no merit for the parrot?
Lama Zopa: I’m not talking about merit. I appreciate what you are saying! But it’s not enough! We cannot be satisfied with only leaving a seed from this life! There’s an opportunity for greater things than leaving an impression on the mind!
Even if we meet a perfect virtuous friend, which is the root of the path to enlightenment, we are unable to accomplish his advice and criticism and heresy arise and we receive all negative karmas that you meditated on before—those eight shortcomings of not having correct devotion to the virtuous friend. Again, this is because of the selfish attitude. If one follows the selfish attitude, the selfish attitude gives rise to all the degeneration and negative karma of mistakenly practicing with respect to the guru. The mistake is that one lets oneself fall under the control of the selfish attitude and one doesn’t let oneself be under the control of the virtuous friend. This is my observation: by breaking one advice, somehow, due to dependent arising, many other advices get broken. One disturbs the holy mind of the virtuous friend and the result is that one’s own mind becomes unhappy and there is a danger of becoming crazy.
Even if one tries to practice Dharma, tries to do retreat—makes the time and sets up the conditions—disease comes or some other problem comes and one can’t retreat. One can see that all these obstacles are related to the selfish attitude one has at that time. One can see the shortcomings of the selfish attitude in that way and also as karma created by the selfish attitude in past lives. Even if one actually has plenty of time to meditate, in the East or the West, one does not find time for lam-rim meditation or for the six preliminary practices such as prostrations and mandala offerings to the merit field to accumulate good karma. It appears that there is no time at all for meditation, but a lot of time for sleeping and other works of this life! Definitely there is time, but the life slips by like that, month by month, year by year. If one checks, it is so clear that it is allowing oneself to come under the control of the selfish attitude which does not allow one to practice Dharma. The selfish attitude all the time says, “Your happiness is much more important than others.” Your happiness of this life is much more important than the happiness in future lives.
Actually, when one is practicing Dharma, when there is a wish to practice bodhicitta and one is meditating on the lam-rim—the perfect human rebirth, its usefulness, impermanence and death and so on up to karma, then true suffering and the true cause of suffering, the four Noble Truths, then bodhicitta—that is what taking refuge really means. One is then relying on the actual refuge, the Dharma. Training the mind in bodhicitta is the best way of taking refuge. As one has taken refuge in Buddha’s teachings, one has taken refuge in Buddha and in the helper, Sangha, by the way. But one may think that refuge is something truly existent, something else, and be scared of the word “refuge,” scared that one may lose something, some part of oneself, if one takes refuge! Even the fear of taking refuge or precepts is because of the selfish attitude.
In short, the conclusion about the selfish attitude!—until we don’t do something to change, while we follow the selfish attitude, even if all the ten directions buddhas and bodhisattvas come in front of us and give teachings, it cannot benefit our minds. It cannot subdue the mind as long as we don’t do something about the selfish attitude from our own side.
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If one cherishes oneself, there is the heaviest suffering, the narak; if one renounces oneself and cherishes others, there is the peerless happiness of enlightenment. So, there is an incredible difference! As long as we follow the selfish attitude there isn’t any peace, even for a second. Even one’s own wishes don’t get accomplished. It interferes even with one’s temporal wishes. Like this, think about the details of the shortcomings of the selfish attitude in many ways.
If you want to control the selfish attitude, the most effective way is to think of your own problems that you experience, because you can see clearly how they come from the selfish attitude. As I mentioned yesterday, we think over and over again about the person who is mean and harms us with body and speech. We even keep a diarrhea.... sorry, diary! That he did this and this! Actually we should keep a diary to write down what the selfish attitude does and all the troubles that it causes us, and read it again and again! That is the best meditation. It would even be of benefit for other people who see it! We don’t forget the external person who gives harm; we remember each harm and point out in what ways the person is bad, like reciting a mantra—bad ... bad... bad...—many times a day, for hours and hours. Even if we are alone we recite it silently in our mind! Depending on the length of time, so much negative karma is created. We should think of the self-cherishing attitude exactly in this way, and each time point out how terribly harmful to oneself it is.
If you get sick with cancer or a heart attack or something, or have some other trouble, thinking like this helps very much. You should think, “Of course I deserve to have this trouble. It is not something unreasonable, that should not happen to me, because by following the selfish attitude I created so much negative karma.” One can practice thought training in this way when one has problems. If you created the karma because of wrong conceptions, who should experience the result? Should Buddha experience the result? Or other sentient beings? That is unsuitable.
If one is always friendly towards the selfish attitude it is difficult to practice thought training and to have a happy mind when one has troubles. If there is a relationship problem, it is so good to see it in this way because then one has nothing to complain about, which is very good because it stops one creating negative karma. The only object to complain about is the self-cherishing thought, nothing else. That is attempting to give up the selfish attitude. That is the power of blame. I still didn’t make it to the other powers!
LAMA SANG.GYE LAMA CHO...
The fifth benefit of taking the eight Mahayana precepts is that by having taken them even one time one is able to find the special body of a deva—worldly god—or a human being. The special deva body might be one which has the opportunity to practice Dharma; and it is not just any human body, but a perfect human body qualified by the eight freedoms and ten richnesses. Just being born as a human being is not so much of a prize because there are many who have received a human body but not a perfect human body. If one does not create the cause to receive a human body which has the opportunity to practice Dharma, it is not much advantage. It is the same as being born as these dogs. Perhaps there is a little less suffering than that which the lower realm beings experience. Sometimes a person with a human body has more suffering than an animal—unbelievable problems for his whole life then, because of having not met the Dharma and so not understanding, again he creates negative karma and returns to lower realms, perhaps as a buffalo, chicken or dog. To accumulate virtue is as rare as a star in the daytime, so one again returns to the animal realm or the realms of the suffering transmigrators.
Therefore, to create the cause to receive a perfect human rebirth is extremely important; not just praying to be born as a human. Actually, human beings create more negative karma than animals. Even tigers or poisonous snakes cannot kill thousands or millions of people, but one human can, thus creating unbelievably heavy negative karma. By taking a human body we can do incredible things—we can achieve enlightenment or we can create uncountable eons of negative karma. We can give much more harm to other sentient beings then can a poisonous snake or a tiger. If one protects one’s own mind from negative karma and disturbing thoughts by taking Mahayana ordination, for example, one can achieve the peerless happiness of enlightenment. If one does not perfect one’s mind at all but allows it to come under the control of the disturbing thoughts and karma, one will be reborn in the heaviest suffering, the unbearable state of the narak, where one has to experience suffering for eons. If one has very heavy negative karma one stays there for an eon, again dies and again is born into that suffering state for another eon. If that karma still is not finished, it goes on and on until it is. There are many stories of persons who received a body of a happy transmigratory being by taking the eight precepts. The sixth benefit is being able to meet Maitreya Buddha’s teaching when he descends. It is said in a text by Maitreya Buddha, “One who listens to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching with devotion and who keeps the eight precepts will be born as one of my closest disciples.” If one wishes to meet and receive teachings from Maitreya Buddha when he descends on this earth the cause is taking the Mahayana precepts. Therefore, it is extremely worthwhile, no matter how difficult it is.
The seventh benefit is that if a person whose attitude and conduct towards others is poor, like a dog’s, takes the precepts on the special days like the full-moon, the eight or thirtieth days of the lunar calendar, and if the vows haven’t been degenerated, he becomes an object of humans’ and devas’ respect and making offerings—similar to a buddha.
The eighth benefit is that protecting the eight Mahayana precepts is very easy to do. It is said in the teachings, “Even if one recites mantras for eons with a distracted mind, it doesn’t bring a result”. If one retreats for three years, for a hundred years or for eons, but one’s mind is distracted, it doesn’t bring much a result, because it is not perfect virtue. For that practice to be beneficial the mind should not be distracted at the beginning, in the middle or at the end, otherwise it just becomes exhausting.
But in regard to Mahayana ordination, if one can concentrate at the beginning when one recites the prayers, even if afterwards one is distracted or unconscious, even asleep, for the whole twenty-four hours, it doesn’t disturb the benefits of the ordination. One accumulates merit throughout the twenty-four hours as long as the precepts are kept. Therefore, compared to other practices of virtue, this is very easy to do. The precepts are much fewer and of shorter duration than tantric, bodhicitta, or pratimoksha vows. They are taken for a short time so are easy to keep purely. Also, as this is done with the motivation of bodhicitta, there is unbelievable benefit. Without talking about the precepts, just to generate the bodhicitta motivation for taking the precepts creates incredible merit.
It is said in the sutra teachings, “If a person simply puts palms together and thinks, `In order to receive enlightenment to be able to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment, I’m going to practice bodhicitta’, this merit is much greater than making offerings of the seven precious jewels in volume equaling the earth for as many eons as there are sand grains in the Pacific Ocean to as many buddhas as there are sand grains in the Pacific Ocean.” The merit of generating bodhicitta is much greater than that of making this unbelievable offering.
Remember what I spoke of last night about the shortcomings of the selfish attitude, “All the undesirable, unsuccessful things, all the degenerations, come from me, come from “I.” All my past, present and future happiness and perfections both temporal and ultimate, come from other sentient beings—each of the narak, preta, animal, human, asura and sura beings. Therefore, from now on, if I want success, if I want to accomplish whatever I wish, if I want progress without degeneration, what I should give up is “I” and what I should cherish is other sentient beings.” But just having the thought to cherish them but doing nothing is not sufficient. What they do not want is suffering and what they want is happiness, so cherishing them means to free them from suffering and cause them to have the happiness that they desire—the ultimate, peerless happiness of enlightenment. As I mentioned during the motivation for ordination yesterday, if the sentient beings...
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One’s own happiness and comfort are received from, and are completely dependent on, the sentient beings and also sentient beings are dependent on oneself. Sentient beings receiving happiness is dependent on you helping them. If they help oneself throughout the three times, why doesn’t one help them? Sentient beings help oneself to be liberated from suffering and to receive ultimate happiness. Why shouldn’t one help them? There’s no reason not to help them.
The best method to accomplish the work for sentient beings is for oneself to achieve enlightenment. Without creating the cause one cannot achieve enlightenment. Think, “Therefore I am going to take the eight Mahayana precepts to receive enlightenment for the benefit of all the kind, precious sentient beings.” Think, “I am taking the ordination in the presence of Guru Chenrezig surrounded by numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas.” Now read the prayer:
“Since beginningless rebirths until now I have taken so many bodies, also I have taken human bodies so many times, but wasted them. I didn’t take the essence of having those bodies. I didn’t do anything to make them beneficial for other sentient beings. Now, in this life, especially today, this one time, I am able to use my body, speech and mind to benefit; to make them highly meaningful, and to stop giving harm to every sentient being, by living in the precepts. I’m not sure for how long—I might die today. I am so fortunate that I have found this opportunity.” You should think like this. Also think, “I have always been using the sentient beings. Today I am using myself for the happiness of the sentient beings. I am dedicating myself for sentient beings.
As the arhats kept the precepts...
From now on I shall not kill...
I GO FOR REFUGE...
Please listen to the teaching by generating at least the effortful bodhicitta...
The next one is covetousness. The base is others’ possessions. It can be, for example, their animals such as horses, cows or dogs! The recognition is recognizing the base, such as seeing another’s beautiful horse, cat or cow! I think it’s like that. Also puppies! The thought has three divisions. The disturbing thought can be either ignorance, anger or attachment. The motive is wishing that the object belong to oneself—“How wonderful it would be if I would have it!” I think I have created a lot of covetousness with koalas, the special Australian animals! Not so much before, but during the last tour! I came back from Australia with huge mountains of covetousness! Instead of returning with more good karma, I returned with more bad karma! It even made the airplane heavy! I guess they didn’t realize that they should overcharge! If they had felt it I’m sure there would have been an incredible overcharge!
There are five points to be gathered in order for the actual body of the negative karma of covetousness to be complete. First, having great attachment to the possessions which one already has. Second, having the painful mind of attachment that wishes to collect more possessions. Third, seeing or tasting, or so on, a good possession belonging to another. Fourth, having attachment to that. Fifth, having the thought to have it for oneself, thinking, “May I have it.” Because of covetous there is no shame, one doesn’t know that one should have aversion to the shortcomings of covetousness, thus shame does not arise. It is having a mind completely overwhelmed by covetousness.
These five aspects do not include having attachment so strong that it causes one to decide to go about acquiring the object. It’s possible that one can’t get the object. For example, one might wish to have a white palace, or to own the whole of New York, including the banks! One might wish or pray, but at the moment one can’t own it, yet one can create the negative karma of covetousness with regard to that object. If any of these five aspects are missing the definition of covetousness is not fulfilled.
Next is ill-will. The base is another sentient being. The recognition and disturbing thoughts are the same as for harsh speech. The motive is the wish to hurt or kill. It could be wishing to bind someone with ropes and chains, for example. It can also be the wish that others’ possessions degenerate, wishing a person whom one dislikes to have nothing. If he is doing business, wishing him to not have success. Action is putting the thought to give harm into practice. I think it means that when the thought of ill-will arises, one continues on with that thought to give harm. It may be thinking of a way to give harm. The completion is having completely decided to harm or to kill or to take another’s possessions, for example.
This also has five points to be gathered in order that the actual body of the path of the non-virtue of ill-will be complete. First, holding oneself and the cause of harm to oneself as truly existent, such as believing that a beating or criticism is truly existent. Second, having the thought of anger towards that cause. Third, having the unbearable thought, resentment, that the other person is causing one harm. Fourth, harboring thoughts about the cause of anger, that is, remembering the cause, the reason one uses to get angry, over and over again. It could be, for example, the person spoke harshly or was disrespectful to oneself, stole from oneself or criticized oneself. This does not mean that the cause of anger is the ignorance holding true existence! It’s not remembering one’s own ignorance holding true existence and so not getting angry at that! It is one’s own connotation which is the cause of anger: that the person didn’t respect, or criticized oneself and that therefore one should get angry. Feeling it is kind-of worthwhile to get angry, to harm the other person. Also thinking, for example, “How good it would be if I beat or killed him.” Fifth, having no shame about ill-will arising and not being aware of the shortcomings of having ill-will; the mind being completely overwhelmed by ill-will.
The actual body of the non-virtuous action of mind of ill-will is completed with these five aspects. If any of these is missing it is not the actual body of ill-will. It is similar to the previous one, covetousness—not having shame in regard to allowing covetousness to arise...
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….Thinking this person will give, is giving and did give harm. Any thought to harm that person which arises is ill-will. Wishing that his relatives die, that he lose or not receive possessions or that his virtues degenerate, or wishing that he will be born in a lower realm, generally any of these thoughts are ill-will. It is ill-will, but it is not the complete actual body of this non-virtuous action of mind. Having the determination to actually harm is missing. Thus, by definition, it is not complete.
The next one is heresy. The base is something which exists. Any heresy, to be one of the ten non-virtues, has to be a nihilistic view, that is, regarding or believing something which denying the existence of the Four Noble Truths, the Triple Gem, reincarnation of karma—holding something which does exist as non-existent, and believing that is true. Do you say “minimizing” if you are saying these don’t exist? “Negating”? It’s not exact! The founders of the “outer” tenets criticized Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, saying that He is a liar and that He does not have bodhicitta or an omniscient mind. Saying that a person who has a realization or quality does not have it is heresy. What is the term? You don’t say “criticizing”—I think it’s different in English! Those things—karma, the Triple Gem, reincarnation—exist but one believes that they don’t exist. It can be holding that what one is saying is true, or that the person criticizing Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, for example, is saying the truth. Many people, through a wrong doctrine or by having met a wrong teacher—a non-virtuous friend—believe that the Four Noble Truths, karma and so on, do not exist. The “recognition,” or conviction, is, “What I am believing or what I’m seeing, is true.”
The disturbing thoughts are ignorance, attachment or anger. Attachment can be like this: in India there was a Brahmin called Ta.ming.ba—I don’t know why he was called Ta.ming.ba. He was very much attached to his wife, or maybe his daughter, I’m not sure! He wanted that other people would not criticize him and not create obstacles for him to have a relationship with his daughter, or wife. He had strong attachment to have physical contact with her. To fulfill his own desires he wrote hundreds and thousands of scriptures saying that reincarnation does not exist. That made it easy for him to avoid criticism because of people thinking that he was involved in a wrong path, or practice. He wrote texts such as Sixty Wrong Views. He made it up himself! That kind of heavy heresy comes from attachment.
The motive is wishing to deny the existence of a thing which does exist. Then, action is that once the thought comes, the person continuously thinks of that and speaks of it. The action might be like this. There are four things in regard to the action. First, ‘denying the cause’; saying that there is no creation of good or bad karma. Second, “denying the result”: saying that there is no suffering or happy result from the cause. Third, “denying the doing.” Lama Tsongkhapa said, “Denying the planting of the seed”—that there is a holder of the seed, that there is father and mother. This may not be planting external seed, but is probably inner seed. I don’t think it’s the seed of crops, or the physical seed of the father and mother. Probably it relates to some stories of things that happened in India. Maybe somebody made a philosophy for his own happiness, like in the previous story. Then, fourth, “Denying the actions of coming and going”: saying there are no past or future lives. Fifth, denying that which will be born: there is no sentient being which has an “entering” birth, like the birth of bugs. For instance, when fruit becomes old and sentient beings have karma to be reborn there, then consciousness enters into that fruit and a worm appears. Similarly with rotten meat. When the conditions are there and sentient beings have created the karma, consciousness enters into that and worms appears. Also inside rocks, inside wood and so forth. Consciousness enters even flowers and tiny creatures get born having the same color as the flower.
The completion of the actual body of the non-virtuous action of heresy is having the definite determination to deny existent things. There are five things which make heresy complete. I will stop here.
Please listen to the teaching by generating at least the effortful bodhicitta, thinking, “At any rate I must achieve the state of omniscient mind in order to benefit all the kind sentient beings. Therefore I am going to listen to the commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment.”
The next of the five powers is the power of prayer. You may have been doing that: first totaling all the merits of the three times accumulated by sentient beings, enlightened beings and oneself, then dedicating, saying that the bodhicitta which is not generated be generated in all sentient beings’ minds, particularly in one’s own mind, and that which is generated be increased. If one has bodhicitta, then one should dedicate that it be generated and increased in the mind of others. We always do the prayer “JANG.CHUB SEM.CHOG RINPOCHE...” at the end. If we do not only say the words, but rather, without a wandering mind, total all the merit and dedicate it in this way, it becomes, of the five powers, the practice of the power of prayer. The five powers integrate the whole lifetime of practice.
I mentioned the other night about the power of the white seed. In order to generate bodhicitta and to increase that which is generated, one should accumulate all merit—large and small—as much as possible, to achieve that goal. One should take every possible opportunity to generate bodhicitta. Whenever one accumulates merit, be it great or small, it should always be dedicated to the generation of bodhicitta. Dedication is like the reins wishes to go, and arrive there. How is dedication important? Generally if one dedicates for the happiness of future lives one achieves that result; if one dedicates merits to receive liberation it becomes the cause of that; if one dedicates the merits to receive enlightenment then all that merit becomes the cause of enlightenment on dedication. Dedication practice should be done as skillfully, as perfectly, as possible.
If one is practicing the Mahayana thought trainings it is very good for the mind because one is able to accumulate merit and dedicate it to generate bodhicitta. Whenever one offers even one bowl of water as nectar, or flowers, or one stick of incense, or strews grain as an offering to the merit field—either visualized holy objects such as the figure of Buddha, or to a statue or painting; or offers a handful of food or a piece of bread to a dog; even if one makes charity by speaking Dharma to a sentient being: Whatever merit one has accumulated, since all temporal happiness and perfections, and all ultimate happiness and perfections, even enlightenment, the whole lam-rim path come from that merit...
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“... May sentient beings receive it; may I not receive it. May the cause, the merit, and the entire result from that, be received and experienced by sentient beings.” This is very effective. This becomes a pure practice of the Mahayana teachings. It is completely against the selfish attitude. The selfish attitude wants everything—cause and result—for oneself. Also, one should say the prayers of dedication which are in the thought training teachings. Dedicate the merits in this way, “Due to all these merits may I experience whatever sufferings sentient beings have; may whatever merit or happiness I have meaning, or commentary, pray that in your mind all the true causes of suffering and the true sufferings be experienced by yourself. Then, any merit created in the three times and the result—happiness, everything including enlightenment—should be dedicated for sentient beings by saying this prayer. We should practice the Mahayana thought training as a remedy to the selfish attitude by even just saying the words of the prayers. Pure dedication causes the merit to not be mixed with poison. That is one of the thought training commitments—I think it might be one of the twenty-two advices of the Mahayana thought training. I think the advice is worded “abandon poison,” or something like that.
Whenever one accumulates and dedicates merit, it should be sealed with the right view, in whichever way is more effective grouping of body and mind—is doing the action of dedicating enlightenment is labeled dedicating. “Dharmakaya”, or, “enlightenment”, is merely labeled on the state of omniscient mind and the pure, absolute, nature of that. “Sentient being” is merely labeled on the base of those who are obscured. Even if one does not say the words, “They do not exist from their own side; they exist by being merely labeled”, but thinks well on the words “merely labeled”, the understanding comes that all the things—the dedicator, the action of dedicating, enlightenment, sentient beings—do not exist from their own side. It depends on how sharply intelligent one is. It depends on how near to subtle dependent arising one’s understanding is. A person who has recognized the object of refutation—the dedicator, dedication, enlightenment and sentient beings which exist from their own side—that is appearing on these phenomena, will understand that it does not exist. That which is appearing as existing from its own side does not exist. These phenomena are completely empty of that which is appearing. By thinking that these phenomena are completely empty, the result, the definite understanding that they are merely labeled, automatically comes into one’s heart without the need to say that they are merely labeled. By thinking about this object of refutation- things existing from their own side—and that that which is appearing is empty, automatically the definite understanding of he consequence of that—that they are merely labeled—comes.
One who has this experience has realization of the essential subject of the Heart Sutra, or, the Essence of Wisdom—that form is empty and emptiness is form. This is because the person has an infallible, or pure, understanding of emptiness of true existence—the object of refutation. The unmistaken object of refutation is recognized, and because of that the person has an unmistaken, pure, understanding subtle dependent arising. This meditator can see that on the dedicator, the dedication, the action, enlightenment and sentient beings, emptiness and dependent arising are unified.
If “merely labeled” is difficult to understand, then, as Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, who is the root guru of myself and many high lamas who are alive now, advised in the lam-rim teachings, “He who has no idea of this subtle dependent arising and emptiness should think in terms of dreaming.” While you are dedicating, think, “I am dedicating in a dream.” When you think like this it automatically helps because it gives the idea of labeling and that things do not exist from their own side. It brings the mind nearer to the right view, even if you don’t see it exactly. You recognize the dream object—the merit—that you are dedicating as being like in a dream. When you recognize the dream as a dream, even if there is a sharp stone or piece of wood, you have no fear because you know that it won’t hurt. You get an understanding that it is not real, “This is a dream, so even if I jump in a fire it will not burn; if I touch sharp objects it will not hurt.” You can experiment, or play, in a dream. If you practice like this at least it brings you nearer the understanding that things do not exist from their own side but are merely labeled.
Then, the fifth one is the power of training. As I mentioned in regard to blaming the self-cherishing attitude: remember all the shortcomings of the selfish attitude and then think, “If I follow this selfish attitude I don’t receive a single benefit.” Then, in regard to cherishing others, always remember: one’s own and all sentient beings’ happiness and perfections, everything, come from the thought of cherishing others. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha generated the whole Mahayana path to enlightenment; He completely purified, or ceased, all the obscurations and achieved omniscient mind. His mind training in compassion was completed, there is nothing more to train in or to develop. He has perfect power to guide sentient beings with the holy body, holy speech, and holy mind.
Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was born in hell, a hot narak, in a previous life, pulling a carriage alongside another being. He felt much suffering of heat and unbelievable compassion arose for the other narak being who was with him on the red-hot burning iron ground. The thought arose, “Since I have experienced so much suffering anyway, how wonderful it would be if I pulled the carriage by myself without my companion needing to suffer.” I don’t remember one hundred percent, he might have prayed that any sentient beings born in the narak need not experience all their negative karma and that these sufferings be experienced by himself. However, this was the very first time that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life generated compassion. When He generated that compassion the karmic ally created guardians hit him on the head with a hammer and immediately his consciousness transferred to Tushita heaven.
Think about Guru Shakyamuni Buddha: He revealed the teachings of the three vehicles and uncountable sentient beings were led to enlightenment and liberation...
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Even now, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is benefiting and enlightening so many sentient beings. He is guiding us now. Many western people, by having met his teaching, are purifying all their accumulated negative karmas and are practicing virtue, generating many causes of happiness in future lives, and liberation and enlightenment, in each day. As well as all these great advantages, they are having less problems and more mental happiness, an easier life. All these benefits are from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha having revealed the teachings. This is how he is guiding us. All these advantages came from that great compassionate act of renouncing himself and cherishing others when in the narak realm. We should think in various ways how the thought of cherishing others has incredible advantages. Guru Shakyamuni is doing the work of leading every single sentient being to enlightenment.
One should think this: one’s own and all the sentient beings’ happiness comes from good karma. Good karma is the action of buddha. Good karma is accumulated by knowing the teachings of buddha. Merit accumulating in the minds of sentient beings is itself the action of buddha. Buddha comes from bodhisattva; bodhisattva comes from bodhicitta. A being who has bodhicitta is called a bodhisattva. Now you can see in a broad way how every single happiness of oneself and of all sentient beings comes from bodhicitta, renouncing oneself and cherishing other sentient beings. The happiness of the sentient beings before Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, in the present and in the future, comes completely from bodhicitta.
Also one should think in an extensive way on the ten benefits of bodhicitta mentioned in the lam-rim: 1) without bodhicitta one cannot enter into the Mahayana path, cannot receive the name “bodhisattva”, or, “Son of the Victorious One”; 2) By being in the bodhisattva caste one controls even arhats; 3) The bodhisattva becomes a supreme object of offering for sentient beings; sentient beings accumulate so much merit by making offerings to a bodhisattva 4) the two accumulations of merit – of fortune and transcendental wisdom—are completed immediately; 5) All the negative karmas quickly get purified; 6) Any wish that one has is accomplished without obstacles; 7) One cannot be harmed by living beings or by fire, water, air or earth; 8) One will quickly achieve enlightenment; 9) Because of bodhicitta, the bhumis—bodhisattva levels or realizations -are quickly developed. Like this, there are about ten benefits. One should remember these benefits of bodhicitta, of cherishing others.
So, you see, every single happiness comes from bodhicitta, the thought of cherishing others. There is no single benefit or profit to be received from the selfish attitude of cherishing oneself. There is only loss. When there is a very strong selfish attitude, it is very good to examine which gives more profit – the thought of cherishing oneself or others? If one follows self-cherishing one gains not a single profit. By following the thought of cherishing others there is not a single loss, only profit. Then you should ask yourself, “Which one should I follow? To which one should I dedicate my life? The thought of cherishing myself or the thought of cherishing others?” What one wants is profit, what one doesn’t want is loss, so one has to follow the thought of cherishing others, and one has to renounce the thought of cherishing oneself. When there is laziness—no energy to do lam-rim meditation, to accumulate merit or to do purification practices—one should question oneself and make a determination. Determination comes automatically when one examines like this and asks oneself how one wants to dedicate one’s life. You should be aware of these shortcomings and benefits all the time, then train the mind in bodhicitta at all times and in all circumstances. At all times means every day, whether you are sleeping, eating, walking or sitting.
I received my first commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara, and the teachings on the admiration of bodhicitta, the Precious Lamp, from Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, the great bodhisattva and pandit. Rinpoche passed away some years ago in the same area where he had been born before. He was not a monk, but when he was giving teachings to Tibetans he said he lived in eight precepts, but actually in practice he kept the two hundred and fifty-three precepts. He lived an ascetic life all the time, not keeping any possessions no matter how much people offered. He kept just enough money to travel, enough for a few months. Whatever people offered was all returned, he never accepted it. Rinpoche always gave anyone who came to see him Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s mantra to recite. When Rinpoche lived at Bodhgaya and went to circumambulate the stupa, he used to pick up bodhi seeds and give them as a blessing to the people. Also His Holiness the Dalai Lama took many teachings from Rinpoche, including the commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara. Rinpoche wrote the Precious Lamp. In that teaching Rinpoche said, “Even when you eat, eat with bodhicitta; even when you sit, sit with bodhicitta; even when you stand up, stand with bodhicitta; even when you sleep, sleep with bodhicitta.” Like this, as much as possible, we should train and do every action with the motivation of bodhicitta.
In the lam-rim there are particular meditations for when one enters a house, when one closes a door, when one washes, when one walks—what to think in order to dedicate these actions for sentient beings. I didn’t have time to talk about how to make food offerings, how to transform the eating of food into virtue. To train the mind in bodhicitta in all circumstances means especially when there is danger of anger, jealousy and those disturbing thoughts arising, and even at the time that they are arising; under the circumstance when others give you a hard time or when you get into trouble; in any circumstances, whatever you meet with. By, for example, practicing tong.len—taking and giving—the very essential Mahayana thought training practice. As much as possible relate the practice to whatever problem you have. In this way all troubles, disease, everything, are transformed into happiness so there is no interference to your Dharma practice even when you have trouble. Even when delusions arise one is able to continuously practice Dharma. When one experiences sufferings, or much comfort and happiness, one should practice tong.len. Thus all happiness and suffering becomes the cause of enlightenment; it becomes worth experiencing.
I thought to talk here a little bit on how to meditate on lam-rim, whether you are in the East or the West. That I will mention tomorrow. Remember what the great bodhisattva Khunu Lama Rinpoche mentioned in his teachings, “When you are happy, remember bodhicitta; when you are suffering, remember bodhicitta; even when you are sick, remember bodhicitta; even when death comes, remember bodhicitta.” In all circumstances train the mind—in the East or West, wherever you are. Even if you go to work, go with bodhicitta. You get money from the employer who gives you a job and from that money you receive comfort. Also you are able to practice Dharma, to meditate on the lam-rim, because he offered a job. So, remember, “Each day my being alive and having the opportunity to practice Dharma comes from these sentient beings”—this company or organization, these people.
By remembering their kindness you should think, “They are helping me to have happiness and to prevent difficulties. Without having a job I cannot do retreat and other things—there would be obstacles.” Remember their kindness and go to your job thinking, “Today I got to eliminate their problems and fulfill their wishes for happiness. What they don’t want is problems and what they want is happiness, so I am going to prevent their difficulties and to help them attain their desire for happiness. Instead of thinking, I’m going to work for my happiness. I want money because I want to go sightseeing; I want to go camping and to tour the different countries which I haven’t seen.” Instead of going to the office with the feeling, “I am going for my happiness,” in your heart. That makes for a very upsetting, poor life. Dedicate yourself completely with this attitude, even though you get money from that employer. Then you are offering yourself as if you are a servant. You are renouncing yourself to the other being. Even if your job is hard, with many problems, you feel more happiness bearing hardships while working for other sentient beings. The more difficult it is, the more problems there are, the happier the mind is because one is bearing the hardships for the sake of other sentient beings. This is very important because we spend so much time working. Then the job becomes Dharma the whole day. Thought training practice is the cause of bodhicitta and enlightenment.
The benefits of the Mahayana ordination that we are going to take are explained in the sutra teaching that was requested from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha by Lhayu Wangpo. By keeping these precepts on such days as the 8th and 15th—the full moon day—and the anniversary of Lord Buddha’s Enlightenment and turning of the wheel of Dharma, one becomes enlightened.
There are eight benefits from practicing these eight abandonments:
By giving up taking life one will have a long life free of disease in many future lives.
By giving up stealing one will receive perfect enjoyments in future lives and enjoy them without interferences, as one wishes. By giving up sexual misconduct one will receive a good body. That might mean having a complete, unhandicapped body, and being born in a good caste like Lama Atisha was.
By giving up lying one will not be betrayed by others and one’s words will have power, and one will not gossip much.
Giving up alcohol—there are some differences between the eight pratimoksha precepts and the eight Mahayana precepts. For the eight Mahayana precepts smoking cigarettes, or doing anything which pollutes the body—like eating black foods such as onions, garlic meat and radish – and therefore affects the mind, perhaps causing unclear concentration or some other interference, is prohibited. Also things such as polluting holy objects or the environment by cigarette smoke which affects and harms other sentient beings such as nagas. In the eight pratimoksha precepts wine is prohibited, but not cigarettes or black foods.
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…….Not only that but very violent so there is a danger of killing oneself or others. The main thing to think about is the result – if it is something which has the same power as wine to put ones life in danger in might be included in this precept.. By giving up wine one will have a stable memory, awareness, clear senses and perfect wisdom in future lives.
One of the eight pratimoksha precepts is sexual misconduct but when taking the eight Mahayana precepts it is broader than that—one shouldn’t lose one’s seed; so any action that causes that is sexual misconduct. This precept and having to avoid black foods are there because Mahayana ordination is purifying negative karmas and reviving virtue, and this came from kriya tantra. The emphasis on kriya tantra is to keep the body clean. If one takes Mahayana ordination one has to keep clean.
By giving up sitting on large, high or expensive beds or seats, in future lives other sentient beings will admire and respect oneself and one will enjoy much comfort and have an easier life. Also one will have good vehicles—animals, perhaps cars and airplanes!
By giving up eating food at the wrong times one will receive perfect foods and drinks, and have good crops.
By giving up wearing perfumes and ornaments with attachment, in all future lives one’s body will have a naturally scented smell and have a good complexion.
By giving up singing and dancing one will have a subdued body and mind in future lifetimes, as well as virtuous speech. One will be able to continuously make sounds of Dharma.
It is also to do with motivation: what we are abstaining from is doing these actions with disturbing thoughts. If these actions such as singing, sitting on high places or wearing ornaments and perfumes are not done because of disturbing thoughts or a selfish attitude, they become pure works for other sentient beings. These cases are exceptions. For example, saying the prayers of the graduated path to enlightenment with nice chanting; there are certain chants which come from highly realized yogis who had great attainments of secret mantra, in order to subdue the solid, unsubdued minds of sentient beings. If these chants and the words are performed together properly, it makes it more effort in subduing the mind, so that the realizations come from easily. Many prayers such as the Seven limb practice, if chanted with a sweet sound, become an offering of speech to the merit field.
All these benefits are for all future lifetimes. Then, there are eight ultimate benefits:
By giving up killing one will achieve the vajra holy body of a buddha.
By giving up stealing one will achieve the holy signs of buddha- like wheels on the hands and feet. These holy signs are needed in order to guide sentient beings from suffering to enlightenment. Therefore one has to create the cause, starting from now, by at least taking the eight Mahayana precepts.
By giving up sexual intercourse one will have perfect senses and a well-developed holy body.
By giving up lying, the ultimate result is that when one becomes enlightened one has a tongue which can cover one’s whole face, and one will accomplish the holy speech which has sixty qualities. It is said that it is so unbelievably sweet, like Brahma’s tune. By giving up wine one will have a holy body that others never tire of looking at, with clear senses.
By giving up eating food at the wrong times one will have forty holy teeth of a nice color and shape.
Giving up wearing ornaments and so on with attachment: I think strictly, as the precept is taken with bodhicitta, it’s not enough to be free of attachment, but for the pratimoksha vow to not have attachment is enough. Either one should continuously have the idea that everything belongs to other sentient beings or one should sue them purely for the sake of others. The ultimate benefit is that when one becomes enlighten the holy body will have the perfect scented smell of moral conduct with will pervade the environment.
By giving up singing and dancing, when one becomes enlightened one will have a holy body adorned with all the holy signs—there are thirty—two holy, or major, signs and eighty holy exemplifications, or minor signs.
By giving up sitting on large, high or expensive beds one will enjoy the “three Dharma seats.” I think it might mean the lotus, sun and moon discs you see in paintings. It might also have other benefits.
These benefits are explained in the sutra teaching which was requested by Kuntugyu Tsenring from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha.
If one of the four major precepts is broken, is there a purpose in keeping the rest or not? One shouldn’t think that there is not much point in keeping the branch precepts. In previous times there were two people, two Kuntugyu—I think the name Kuntugyu is probably to do with their religion, Hindu. One kept all the eight precepts and after his death was born as a king in a human country. The other person was pushed by his wife to eat food in the afternoon, so was unable to be born as a human being. But he kept the rest of the precepts so he was born as a naga king. Both of them became arhats.
So, the shortcomings and benefits are experienced separately. If one degenerates one precept, such as eating food at the wrong time, one should still try to keep the rest of the precepts as much as possible. Even if one finds it difficult to keep a particular precept one should not decide to not take the eight precepts. One should definitely take them and keep them for whatever time one thinks one can keep them. Making a vow before the Triple Gem, or in front of the living guru, and then keeping one precept for only one second, or minute, or hour, in these degenerate times has unbelievable benefit. Therefore, one should feel great happiness about the times one has taken them so far. Some people may have taken them once, twice or more often since the taking of ordination started because of knowing these benefits. Even if they were taken for one day, one should feel great joy.
In order to take this Mahayana ordination which has immeasurable benefits even if kept only in the day time or even for only one hour, one should have the motivation of bodhicitta. If all the benefits were materialized they could not fit in the sky. Think of the kindness of just even one sentient being, the enemy. This present perfect human rebirth came from practicing moral conduct such as not taking other’s lives. This was practiced with respect to every sentient being. One made a vow that one is not going to kill with respect to every sentient being. In past lives one didn’t make the vow, “I’m not going to kill” with respect to every sentient being except one’s enemy! The object was every single sentient being, so one also practiced moral conduct with respect to the enemy. So, that’s how the virtuous cause, moral conduct, and the result, the perfect human rebirth, was received from the enemy, this person who is presently treating oneself badly or disliking oneself.
Also you can think that the cause, charity, and the result—the present enjoyments—and also the cause, patience, and the result—having conducive surroundings and helpers—were received from other sentient beings. You see, we received our merit, the cause of which was moral conduct, from this enemy who now dislikes us, and the future perfect human rebirth will be received from him. By practicing patience with him we will receive perfect surroundings and helpers in coming lives. By practicing charity to him we will receive perfect enjoyments in coming lives. The whole thing, cause and result, is received from the enemy and other sentient beings. The enemy is so extremely kind. This present rebirth as well as its cause, was received from him; the future perfect human rebirth and its cause, and future temporal enjoyments and their causes, will be received from him and other sentient beings. The ultimate result of achieving liberation, and its cause, the three higher trainings, is received in dependence on this enemy. The first of these three is moral conduct—to not steal or lie and so on—and the vows are made with respect to the enemy and other sentient beings. It’s the same thing with the ultimate happiness, enlightenment. The root of the Mahayana path to enlightenment is great compassion, wishing every sentient being to be free of suffering and to cause that by oneself. If one has left out this enemy, even if one has generated compassion with respect to the rest of the sentient beings, it does not become the Mahayana great compassion. So you see, the cause, great compassion, is generated in one’s mind in dependence on this enemy, this suffering sentient being. The cause, the Mahayana path and the ultimate result, enlightenment, completely come from this enemy. We receive the whole thing, the three great purposes, in dependence on the kindness of the Dharma friends who are here, the other creatures like the dogs outside, the birds, buffaloes and chickens—from each of the sentient beings. What the sentient beings offer oneself is the three great purposes.
“What they wish for is happiness and what they don’t wish for is suffering, so therefore, as I have the opportunity, it is my responsibility while my mothers are suffering to guide them from suffering and to lead them to the peerless happiness of enlightenment. To lead them to enlightenment I must achieve the state of omniscient mind, therefore in order to create the cause I’m going to take the eight Mahayana precepts.”
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... I SHALL NOT EAT FOOD AT THE WRONG TIME…
If one is taking the Mahayana ordination of eight precepts continuously for fifteen days or one month, one can eat breakfast in the morning. In that case the vow is not to eat after twelve o’clock. I asked the incomparably kind His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche about eating breakfast or not when one takes this ordination. Rinpoche answered, by letter, that if it’s publicly taken then it should be kept strictly, otherwise it becomes very lax. You see, it is not taken publicly all the time. If one is doing it strictly, when one takes ordination in front of an altar or in the presence of the guru, if the vow is being kept as one meal only, after one has eaten one plateful and decided to not eat more and again changes one’s mind and eats more, even if it’s before twelve o’clock, that is not regarded as one meal. One should eat well, then make a clear decision to fast for the sake of sentient beings.
I SHALL AVOID SINGING...
Please listen to the teaching by generating at least the effortful bodhicitta, thinking, “At any rate I must achieve the state of omniscient mind for the benefit of all the kind mother sentient beings. Therefore I’m going to listen to the commentary of the graduated path to enlightenment.
If one has a very luxurious life and great enjoyments or even if one sees a beautiful garden, for example, that should be dedicated to every sentient being; “May all sentient beings have this enjoyment.” Give the enjoyment from the beautiful object that is in one’s view to each sentient being. By remembering Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One, either above one’s crown or in front of oneself, make an offering of the enjoyment. Even if you stay in a very luxurious hotel or apartment, think, “May the many sentient beings who are devoid of this comfort, receive it.” Practice dedicating in this way, “How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were to have this pleasure.” Dedicate the merit for others to have the enjoyment of a luxurious apartment. When you have some success which brings great happiness, think, “How wonderful it would be if all the sentient beings who have many problems and poverty had good success and happiness.” Dedicate for them by saying the prayer which I mentioned last night.
If one trains in taking and giving according to the Mahayana thought training—giving one’s own body, surroundings and surrounding people, both family and friends, and one’s possessions—one should remember all these things. If one’s mind is well-trained in this practice, when something happens in one’s life, like a separation—somebody taking one’s possessions or friend or helpers or those around one—one should think, “I’ve been practicing dedicating my body, merits, possessions, people around me, to others. I’ve been praying and dedicating by practicing taking and giving. How wonderful it is that what I’ve been praying for and practicing is accomplished!” If one trains well in this essential Mahayana thought training, in giving and taking, there is not so much clinging and craving when some separation happens; one feels, “Now I have accomplished the practice,” and happiness comes naturally. Depending on how much the thought training practice is done from the heart, how serious one is when saying the words or doing the visualization, when the actual separation happens, when others use one’s body or one’s possessions, much happiness, instead of anger, comes into one’s mind.
We’ve been praying this way, saying different prayers like the Guru Puja, or the lam-rim prayer or the thought training prayer when we do lam-rim meditation. You see, when others actually take away and use one’s possessions or friends, if worry, anger or fear arises it shows that thought training was not practiced sincerely; it did not become a strong remedy to the selfish attitude. Usually thought training such as taking and giving is a strong remedy to the selfish attitude, so if one has been praying or wishing or even doing the visualization, when the situation actually comes there is only happiness instead of fear, worry anger or jealousy. Then one should remember the kindness of that person, “This person who took away my friend (or my possessions) is helping me accomplish that which I’ve been praying and wishing for. He’s so kind that he especially came and took this away; this way I don’t need to visualize it! If I physically share my possessions in order to make charity to each sentient being, there will not be enough. Every sentient being does not get the opportunity to use my body or my possessions or people around one. His taking away or using these things, using me, for his happiness is extremely kind. He is the practical virtuous friend who allows me to put the thought training teachings that I’ve received into actual practice.”
Also think like this, “If I die now while I’m clinging to the friends and family surrounding me and to my body and possessions, I will be reborn in a lower realm for sure. If he doesn’t take away these possessions and relatives and helpers, I will definitely be born in a lower realm. He is a great practical virtuous friend helping me to not have objects to cling to. If I die now, there will be no worries about separating from this friend or these possessions. Death can happen today, in any hour.” You should keep on thinking, “How greatly kind he is. How greatly kind he is...” on and on, thinking of all these reasons. Then there will be no breakdown or one’s mind becoming crazy; one will not have to go to a psychiatrist. One becomes one’s own psychiatrist, one’s own doctor, guide or protector. Actually if one does the thought training practice it makes life much cheaper and simpler. It save going to a mental institute or a psychiatrist who charges a lot of dollars for a few minutes! Then one can use that money in a better way, to create greater merit. I’m not only talking about paying a psychiatrist or doctor, there are so many expenses because of the selfish attitude ad dissatisfied mind. Then there is much worry about not getting enough money from one’s job to meet these expenses of getting the comforts that the selfish attitude wants in the hope of making the dissatisfied mind satisfied. One gets into debt throughout the ten directions! Then, even if one works at night, going without sleep, it’s not enough. Then a time can come when one thinks one should maybe rob a bank or something like that!
I mentioned before something Lama Tsongkhapa explained in the lam-rim teaching that is completely true and so clear: everything that sentient beings are doing is in the hope of satisfying the dissatisfied mind. No matter how much they attempt it by following their desires, there is no end at all. As long as one follows desire, the result is problems and suffering over an extensive time, and no satisfaction. From beginningless rebirths we have been working so hard to get satisfaction by following desire, but so far we didn’t get any satisfaction. That’s why our samsaric suffering has not stopped. That’s why Buddha revealed the Buddhadharma, such as the Four Noble Truths.
Also think, “The person who gives me problems is my virtuous friend who is examining me to see how pure a Dharma practitioner I am. He is checking my capability for practicing the thought training.” It is also very good to think, “How can I say absolutely that this person who is criticizing me, taking away my possessions and friends, is an ordinary person, just because he appears to be ordinary? My mind is heavily obscured by karma; I am not a buddha. If I had an omniscient mind I could judge without the slightest mistake because I would see things exactly as they exist; I’m not even a bodhisattva or an arhat. I have no reliable clairvoyance achieved from tranquil abiding. My mind is completely overwhelmed by mountains of delusions...
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…Completely dark, covered by fog. My mind is like this, overwhelmed by disturbing thoughts one after another as numerous as hailstones. So how can I say that this person is just an ordinary person as he appears to be? That is not a logical reason. He could be a transformation of Guru Chenrezig. If you practice, say Tara, you should think, “He may be Tara;” similarly for any deity you practice – he could be a transformation of that guru-deity. Think, “He could be a transformation who has come to help me, to persuade me to practice thought-training, to practice patience, the thought of loving kindness and compassion; to destroy my selfish attitude. I cherish myself so much, therefore I can’t practice Dharma purely.” It’s very effective to think this sometimes.
Milarepa had a disciple, Rechungpa—I think there were two Rechungpas—whose life story is in Milarepa’s biography. Those who have read this might remember that when Milarepa’s holy body was in a place called Chuwa, his disciples performed the mandala of the deity to offer fire to Milarepa’s holy body. Milarepa did not accept the fire until his disciple Rechungpa came. No matter how many times people offered fire, the fire did not catch. For ordinary people it appeared that Milarepa had passed away. Rechungpa was very far away—a distance it would take three months to travel on foot. He had attainment of the accomplishment stage of tantra, so, by the power of concentrating the winds he covered that distance in three days when he heard that Milarepa had passed away. I don’t think he needed to walk on the ground. When Rechungpa arrived, Milarepa came back from the clear-light state, as he had complete freedom to do, although to ordinary people Milarepa appeared to be a corpse. After that he accepted fire. Milarepa showed that he had accomplishment of Dharma practice as an inspiring example to us, the sentient beings still caught in samsara.
The point of this story is that Rechungpa asked Milarepa three times if he could make a pilgrimage to Lhasa. Milarepa advised him not to go, but Rechungpa went. He met one girl, perhaps selling wine, I’m not sure—I don’t think she was a prostitute, but perhaps she was selling wine. Rechungpa got caught up and had to stay with her and she became his wife. She beat Rechungpa. One day they were boiling soup in a pot and she took out the vegetables with the ladle and threw that over Rechungpa. In the verses of Mila’s biography, Rechungpa said, “I have received many initiations but I have never before received the initiation of the ladle!” And, “I have experienced wearing different ornaments but I have never before experienced wearing fragments of vegetable!” She gave Rechungpa a blue turquoise. One day a beggar came and asked specially for the turquoise. Rechungpa gave the beggar the turquoise. Eventually he returned to Milarepa’s place. I don’t remember what Milarepa asked, but he showed Rechungpa the turquoise. I think Rechungpa hadn’t told Milarepa everything that happened, but Milarepa knew because he was actually that beggar. The point was to show Rechungpa that he knew everything that happened. Rechungpa felt great shock!
Many of the monks from all four sects who escaped from Lhasa wanted to continue their studies. They stayed at Buxa, a place where I lived for some years. They needed to be moved from that place to South India, because it was so bad for their health. It used to be used as a concentration camp and at one time held Nehru and Gandhi. Many of them died from T.B. One governor who used to work in the parliament in Tibet lived in Delhi for three years trying to see the Indian official with the power to grant the land in South India. For three years he didn’t get to see him and nothing was done. He returned back to Dharamsala and went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and explained how he could not even get an appointment. His Holiness asked him to immediately go back to Delhi, the same day.
He did get an appointment with the official, who said, “If you can find one Tibetan Apso puppy—I need one for my son—I will grant you the land.” The Tibetan governor came out of the building and after some time he saw one sadhu with a nice Apso dog on a lead. He asked the sadhu if he would sell it, and so bought it. The next day, feeling so happy that the official’s wishes were accomplished, with the dog well-groomed, he went to see him at his home. The dog immediately went to the son and licked him. The governor got the land is South India! Now the monks have built many large monasteries down there and continue their studies very intensively, and their numbers are increasing. There are many other stories like this. Actually the dog was an embodiment of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
If one’s wife or husband or friend runs off with somebody, one can’t manage, can’t do anything. It’s the same if one gets a disease that medicine doesn’t help, such as leprosy or missing limbs or actual death. As the great bodhisattva Shantideva said in the Bodhicaryavatara—we should remember this—“If it can be managed, what’s the benefit of disliking it? If it cannot be managed, what’s the use of disliking it?” What Shantideva is saying is that if the problem that one is experiencing is something that can be managed, what’s the point of getting angry, fighting and so on, and so creating much negative karma? If it is something that cannot be managed at all—I think in the commentary the example of the sky is used: you cannot make the sky become earth, so what’s the use of disliking the fact that the sky is not the earth? There’s no single benefit at all. If it’s a problem that cannot be managed, there’s no use at all in being upset by it.
One should think, “I’m not the only person who is suffering from this problem of separation, and there are uncountable sentient beings who have much more suffering than this—not only of separation, but not having a place to live, not having means of living, having leprosy or other dangerous diseases and who are in danger of dying. I’m not like this. There are many others who are in danger of being killed, who are in danger of being burnt in fires, of being executed and so on, who have incredible fears and worries. I’m not like that. I don’t have any of these problems. Actually, I’m much more fortunate, much happier than these sentient beings.” It’s very good to think of others who have much more and greater problems. It becomes a cause of compassion. Normally when we have problems we think, “I’m the only one who is experiencing problems.” One thinks only of one’s own problem and not of others’ problems, so the problem gets bigger and bigger.
Also think, “Unaccountable numbers of sentient beings are suffering and having these problems that I have. Anyway, as I’m experiencing this, how wonderful it would be if I could receive all their sufferings—true suffering and the true cause of suffering—all their diseases, problems of separation and disharmony. May I receive all this on me, so that I experience it by myself so that other sentient beings become free of it—especially of this particular problem of separation.” Think, “I who am suffering am just one. But the other sentient beings experiencing this problem are so many, uncountable. So it’s more worthwhile that they be free of those problems and that I experience them instead. They are greater in number so they are more important than me. No matter how happy I am or how much I suffer, there is nothing to be surprised about. What’s so important about whether I have great suffering or am surrounded by wealth and luxury and friends? It is only one person. The other sentient beings who have suffering, who have this particular problem of separation, are uncountable in number.” Then think, “How wonderful it would be if they were all free.” Then pray and dedicate the merits by saying those prayers that I mentioned last night.
DUE TO THE MERITS ACCUMULATED BY ME AND OTHER SENTIENT BEINGS, MAY ALL SENTIENT BEINGS’ SUFFERINGS AND TRUE CAUSES OF SUFFERING, THIS PARTICULAR PROBLEM OF BEING SEPARATED FROM ONE’S SPOUSE (OR FRIEND), BE RECEIVED BY ME TO BE EXPERIENCED ONLY BY MYSELF.
Pray like that. This prayer can be recited like a mantra, on a rosary. If one just keeps reciting this prayer it is incredibly effective for subduing the selfish attitude in one’s mind. It is very direct. You see, we may recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM while there is anger, but if we recite this prayer, “MAY I RECEIVE WHATEVER SUFFERING THEY HAVE,” There’s no place for anger or jealous mind. This more directly opposes anger than does a mantra. Whether you are lying down or working or whatever, you can mentally say this thought training prayer and your mind will become calm. It is the best for destroying the selfish attitude. You can even say it verbally—it is fantastic! Pray like this and do the visualization.
Like a thorn that has entered one’s flesh, when it is inside there is much pain, and when it’s taken out there is immediate comfort; while a fire spark is on one’s body there is pain, but as soon as one throws it off there’s comfort. Now sentient beings are suffering as if from a thorn or spark, but after removing this there is much comfort. Whether you relate this practice with the breath or not, take on all their obscurations, their true cause of suffering, and then their suffering, particularly their relationship problems.
I don’t know whether you have experienced this or not, but in the morning Boudha is covered by fog. Actually it’s very dirty because the vapor from the pee-pee and those things which are on the ground comes up...
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Before, when I was living down there, in the early morning when there was this fog—which also has a very bad smell because of the pollution—as I breathed in a used to feel very uncomfortable in the chest and heart. We should visualize like that. If anyone has been to Calcutta, they will remember the terribly bad smell in the streets! However, we should visualize that like when a fire spark is removed suddenly all their problems and sufferings and their causes are separated from them and both their minds and their bodies experience incredible bliss. One can think that they all become Chenrezig, free from all their obscurations. Their suffering comes from all directions, very powerfully, and is absorbed into one’s selfish attitude.
Also one should think of the conditions of their suffering such as the huge expanse of red-hot burning iron ground filled with swords that the narak beings experience. There are trees in the narak whose leaves turn into weapons that pierce the narak beings’ bodies as they climb the trees the karmic vision of someone the being was attached to before. When they climb up the sharp branches point downwards due to karma, just as those flowers close up when an insect goes inside due to the karma of that insect. All those things you heard about in the lam-rim meditation on the sufferings of the lower realms—the narak ice-mountains; the preta beings’ ugly environments, like deserts with not even a drop of water; human beings’ ugly environments—are transformed into the form of pollution and taken onto the selfish attitude, all at once. This is completely absorbed into the selfish attitude.
You can feel “I” somewhere here (inside the chest). Definitely there is an “I” inside there—one-hundred percent, without a doubt. Not somewhere outside the skin, or in the stomach or the legs or nose or mouth or brain. Depending on their way of thinking some persons might feel that the “I” is inside the brain, but that’s not the normal way of thinking. Inside the chest, inside the ribs, there is something so precious, so important, all the time. There’s not even a second that it’s not important! Take all this pollution and absorb it into this “I.” Like snow falling in the ocean doesn’t stay on the ocean, it sinks and dissolves. Think that the self-cherishing thought and the object that it thinks is so precious, the most important, become completely non-existent.
Concentrate on that emptiness for a while—as long as you can, until the mind becomes distracted. If you feel that this real “I” becomes less real, weaker—without necessarily completely disappearing, but close to that—you are that much nearer to realizing the absolute nature of the “I.” Absorb and as much as possible let it become empty of existence, with not the slightest atom remaining. Put as much energy as you can into that. Even if that fear, “I’m losing myself,” arises, let it arise. Without we ordinary beings who have not studied and understood shunyata going through the fear, these is no way to realize shunyata or the conventional truth of how the “I” really exists. Then it’s easy. After the precious “I” existing from its own side becomes empty, what exists then is just that which is merely labeled on the practice of dedication—merely labeled dedication—of merely labeled body and possessions for merely labeled sentient beings.
Whether you are outside or inside the house, even if you are lying down, while you are eating, whatever problem you are having—now we are talking particularly of a relationship problem—think, “I am experiencing this problem on behalf of all the sentient beings.” Like reciting a mantra, you should keep on thinking this again and again, whatever you are doing; then there is no place for worry and fear or nervous breakdowns. In this way you see yourself as being beneficial and the problem as worth having because it obliges you to dedicate yourself to suffering for others. When the relationship problem stops, you have no more opportunity to practice thought training! No more opportunity to accumulate infinite merit with each breath by taking on the sufferings of infinite sentient beings, or to do incredible purification.
Tara advised one lama, Gonpo Rinpoche, “If one practices giving and taking well, one accumulates extensive merit and will realize the middle way which is devoid of the two extremes and one will become enlightened in a short time.” That means that a person has to have so much merit, has to be incredibly fortunate, and has to have done much purification in order to be able to realize shunyata. This practice of tong-len is the best and quickest method to accumulate infinite merit and to purify so much karmic obscuration; that’s why Tara advised that by doing this one will realize shunyata. Realizing the wisdom of shunyata ceases all the obscurations, so that’s how one quickly becomes enlightened.
A person whose mind is well-trained in thought training is kind-of happy to have more trouble so he can do much dedication for others. When there’s no trouble like sickness, the opportunity has kind-of stopped, so there can be no success. His wish is to experience trouble for the sake of other sentient beings. I mentioned relationship problems in particular, but it is the same if one has disease like cancer. This is the best meditation if one has cancer, a heart attack or something like leprosy. It is the best way of recovering, the best puja—instead of being scared and shocked and crying when the doctor tells you what you’ve got—actually it’s fantastic if a doctor tells you have this or that!
I’m normally very lazy, I don’t practice. I just speak, but don’t practice! I just talk a lot. But from my side when I have sickness it’s actually more effective for the mind because I find the opportunity to practice thought-training. When there’s no problem the mind is so distracted and no practice gets done. If you want protection, tong.len is the best protection, the best meditation, the best puja. I will stop here.
I want to mention just one story! About the doctor. In Bodhgaya there was one monk called Tenba in Bodhgaya monastery. He had some disease but he didn’t realize that it was so serious. He went to see a doctor in Gaya who told him, “Your disease is very dangerous; you can die at any moment.” He came back and planned what to do with all his possessions. He gave all his texts to others—to whichever monks wanted them. He even gave me some of his texts to give to the monastery. Then, he sold whatever goods he had and offered the money to the monks. At that time His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru, His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, was giving teachings—I think a commentary on the Guru Puja or on the gradual path to enlightenment. He made an offering to all the monks and Rinpoche, and even sponsored one teaching I think. He did it several times, but he’s still alive! I didn’t hear that he is dead. This was several years ago and he was there when I went at other times since then. I haven’t heard this year that he is either dead or living. So, you see, what the doctor told him was very beneficial! All that he did after that became completely Dharma because of his wanting to make preparation for future lives. He has to prostrate to his doctor for all the kindness, for all the merit that he accumulated! Then, I will stop here.
Be aware of each realms’ sufferings, “Whatever suffering other sentient beings have, may all those be experienced by me.” You should include all their causes and results and all their obscurations. “May I experience all the pretas’ sufferings; all the naraks’ sufferings; all the animals’ suffering; all the human beings’ and suras’ and asuras’ sufferings—all the obscurations of sentient beings.” You can think that at the same time they become free of these and that these are absorbed to one’s selfish attitude. “May all the merits and happiness accumulated by me, all the three times merits and all the results, the happiness—everything—be experienced by others—each narak, preta, animal and human being; even the enemy. Each sura being and each asura being—each sentient being, including the arhats and the bodhisattvas. And may I not experience that happiness myself. May every single merit and happiness be experienced only by others.” I think I will stop here.
I’m not sure yet, I have to fix a time for those initiations or whatever. If there’s time either during the afternoon or evening we will continue the five powers and also the five powers of the preparation for dying.
Advice on Daily Practice
For those of you who want to practice lam-rim continuously when you go back to the West, I would suggest you do so, if you can, on the basis of the Essence of Nectar—which you can get here or in Delhi at Tushita Centre. This is not so long—but is not too short—and it contains stories and so on! The way it is written is very effective. It is written by the root Guru of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s gurus. It contains all the preliminary practices to create the cause for developing realization of the path, and to purify the obstacles. If you can practice on the basis of that, it’s excellent.
Then, regarding actual lam-rim meditation, depending on how much time you have, the Hymns of Experience of the Gradual Path to Enlightenment by Lama Tsongkhapa is very good. It is short but the words are very effective for the mind. You can use that as the root outline when you do analytical and fixed meditation on the lam-rim. Then, on the basis of that you can amplify your understanding as you read commentaries and various lam-rim teachings, and develop clear meditation. Then, as a short motivation you can use that in the Wishfulfilling Golden Sun, which is not yet published! In the beginning of this there is a motivation containing the four levels of motivation, which is very effective. It is a short but complete meditation on the lam-rim. It is very good to use as a motivation. Then, the preliminary practices—those who will be doing the lam-rim retreat may have a chance to receive teachings on that. Preliminary practices are extremely important—they allow one to have realization of the lam-rim.
One suggestion is that the most skillful way to quickly generate the realizations of the path to enlightenment is, on the basis of the preliminary practices, to do lam-rim practices in the morning. First the meditation on guru devotion each morning, then one meditation on the perfect human rebirth and its usefulness and so on, up to impermanence and death, whatever you can do; if you haven’t generated those realizations, one meditation from the path of the lower capability being. Then, in the evening, perhaps one meditation on shunyata could be done. In this way, by training in three meditations each day on the basis of the short direct meditation prayer that was used during the course, which daily plants the seed of the complete path, within five or ten years, if you don’t achieve guru devotion realization, you may achieve shunyata realization! It you don’t realize shunyata, you many realize impermanence and death or perfect human rebirth. Anyway, within ten years, or before death, something! There would be some attainment in the mind so one’s life would not have been completely empty. That is my suggestion for somebody who really wants to practice. It’s a skillful way. If the person is fortunate enough, then all three principal paths, the whole lam-rim, can be realized in one life—even tantra.
Even more important than actual meditation on lam-rim is purification, because without that no matter how much one tries to meditate, it doesn’t change the mind and a lot of obstacles come. Purification is the main practice for us ordinary beings. Then everything works. Then, when you meet obstacles, things come, even if you don’t have the wish!
Remember the meditation that you did in the morning while you are working in the office, or airport, or train station, or wherever. Especially when there’s a danger of anger or dissatisfied mind arising. That is the real time to practice Dharma. Make the meditation session useful for the rest of the day, especially when you meet the circumstances where you can create negative karma. Do preliminary practices, make offerings to the Triple Gem, as much as possible every day, at every opportunity you can find. Practice with respect to sentient beings—try to live your life for others, doing everything that you do for others.
Then I would like to say thank you very, very much for bearing much hardship, especially during ordination time. In the morning it is extremely cold—I know! So much negative karma that we created to be born in the cold hell was purified! It has become more difficult to be born in the cold narak! You took ordination on many days and with much hardship followed the schedule and discipline. You put in much effort studying and practicing as much as possible. I greatly rejoice and I would like to offer thanks from my heart, and I will continuously pray. I think that’s all. Thank you very much.