Kopan Course No. 15 (1982)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal 1982 (Archive #095)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Fifteenth Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, November-December 1982. The teachings include a commentary on Shantideva's Bodhicaryavatara [A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.]  You may also download the entire transcript as a pdf file

Section Six: 2-4 December

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2 December, am

(Rinpoche reads the request to the assembly of Buddhas.)

Copied from notes:

The last request is very important to fulfill the wish to accomplish the method of doing extensive works for sentient beings. It is not enough to just have interest in the Buddhadharma or just have wisdom. There are thousands and thousands of hindrances from the outside and from the inside that do not let one practice. Even though one tries to practice, one is unable to continue. You try hard for half a month, then nothing. Then next year again you do one or two months, then for several months it disappears, it is breaktime, holiday. The self-cherishing thought and the worldly concerns give you a holiday without choice. The self-cherishing attitude and the worldly thoughts tell you many things like, “Practicing Dharma can be done later. It is good—but later. What is more important is your pleasure now, this moment.” They say many sweet things that may sound very true and that are very easy to believe and trust.

Even though there is some wisdom of bodhicitta and karma, even though one has listened to many teachings on the three principal aspects of the path and a little bit of experience has been generated, like some experience of impermanence and death, guru devotion, renunciation of samsara, and bodhicitta, still one is unable to practice. The thought of loving kindness and compassion has been generated during these one or two months, but one is unable to practice due to all the various hindrances from outside and inside disturbing oneself. So the one or two months’ little bit of progress in the mind disappears for a long time. Again, some time next year it is generated a little bit, but again disturbances and hindrances come, so again it disappears. One is unable to continue and to develop it.

It is not that difficult to generate realizations on the graduated path to enlightenment. They have been generated in the minds of uncountable numbers of yogis in the past. Actually, it is not difficult. When you really do it day by day there is some change in the mind, week by week, even though you did not hope or expect that to happen because of so many powerful hindrances.

Continued from tape:

One does not have enough merit. One has not done much purification so the hindrances are extremely powerful. Even though you have the wish to continue they are so powerful that you get overwhelmed. They overtake you, they overwhelm you. You are weak and the hindrances are powerful. So now, the solution for you is to overwhelm the hindrances, to make them weak. For you to become more powerful you need much fuel, as I mentioned before. We have to make ourselves very fortunate, we have to accumulate much luck.

To the very fortunate, the very lucky person, whatever he wants comes very easily—anything, even temporal wishes like business. Whatever he is seeking, even the accomplishment of temporal happiness, comes very easily without effort, worry, or fear. It is the same thing in regard to the success of achieving the greatest work, the omniscient mind for the sake of others. How it works is the same. It depends on how fortunate the person is, how much merit he has, how rich he is in merit accumulated in this life and in past lives and how much purification of negative karmas and obscurations has been done. It depends on how much purification of the obscurations that hinder one from generating realizations has been done.

For a person who has done much of that, who is very fortunate and rich on merit, it becomes the same thing on the path as well. When he practices Dharma, as he is making plans, as he wishes it, exactly like that, the necessary conditions come together. If he wishes to become an ascetic meditator, the necessary conditions come together—whatever practice he wishes to do, he receives the teachings. Whatever he wishes, he receives from the guru. Also, he is able to continue his practice and realizations come very easily. They come like a waterfall, like rainfall. All the various realizations of tantra and lam-rim come very easily. Like many of the great Indian yogis and meditators, such as King Indrabhuti, who became enlightened in three years, or the great yogi Milarepa who became enlightened in one brief lifetime, or many of Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciples who accomplished the rainbow body and who achieved the unified state of no-more-learning. So many of them left incredibly good teachings and incredibly good, inspiring examples for subduing the mind. They left biographies and teachings of their experience, they left so many good examples for other sentient beings.

If one wishes to take the essence of this precious human body that is received, if one wishes to make it highly meaningful, then even if one cannot accomplish the omniscient mind with this body, at least one should come near that. In order to accomplish the extensive work for sentient beings, nothing, generally, in this life is more important than training our minds in everyday life. Nothing is more important than training the mind in the graduated path to enlightenment, making the mind come close to the thought of renouncing samsara and the wisdom realizing voidness and bodhicitta.

If we wish to take the essence, which we have never taken before from beginningless rebirths until now, which we have never accomplished, an experience we never had before, from beginningless rebirths until now; if one has the interest, inspiration, and wish, just intellectual understanding of the words of the teachings, of the words explaining the path, just that intellectual understanding of dry words alone is not enough. That alone won’t make it. One should attempt to realize this, because it is extremely important to understand how important the practice of purification and accumulation of merit is. Accumulating merit is the cause of realizations, while purifying obstacles purifies the hindrances to generating these realizations. One should practice and try to understand the various skillful methods of accumulating merit and one should put the purification into action.

During Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s time there was one king, in Sanskrit Mydide, who always, whenever he heard some excellent, good things about Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, tried to compete with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. He always tried to harm and compete with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. He had memorized and learned by heart so many volumes of Buddha’s teachings, such a huge load of texts that one elephant couldn’t carry them. He was able to say by heart that much of Buddha’s teachings. But you see, there was no change in his mind. He was able to say by heart, without looking at the text, such an incredible amount, but the problem was that because of not having put them into action there was no change in his mind.

The conclusion is that if one makes one’s Dharma practice difficult, then it becomes difficult, while if one makes it easy it becomes easier and easier.

It is very good, very important to hear the teachings again and again. Maybe one hears them from a lama that one doesn’t have much karmic contact with—of course, there is much benefit in planting the seed, much benefit is received, but maybe there is not so much change in the mind. But if one hears the some teachings from another lama maybe there is more karmic contact. From various lamas we hear the same subjects, the same teachings, but the teachings that come from one particular lama’s holy mouth are very effective, every single word he says is very effective for the mind. There are differences like these, so it is very skillful and good to hear different teachings, even to hear the same teachings over and over again from different, qualified lamas.

Thus these preliminary practices are so important. These requests for pacifying inner and outer hindrances are extremely important.

(Rinpoche reads the prayer.)

Buddha, head of the Shakya clan, is the foremost guide, peerless in expounding shunyata.
Manjushri is the epitome of the Buddha’s complete wisdom.

“Epitome,” this word is like shunyata—can never make it.

The exalted Nagarjuna, best of the aryas, has seen the full meaning of profound shunyata.
From you three crowning jewels of clear exposition,
I request inspiration.

Please listen to the teaching by generating at least the effortful motivation of bodhicitta, thinking, “At any rate, I must achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Therefore I am going to listen to the commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara.”

I think last night when I was talking about the bodhisattva root downfall, I probably wasn’t thinking properly. I remembered later last night. I mentioned that it becomes a root downfall if these four shortcomings or mistakes are gathered within four hours. I made it sound as if having gathered these four things, of course, that is the best. I spoke completely opposite. As if rejoicing at having done these things, such as criticizing others and praising oneself, not giving things and not having taught Dharma. I mentioned details yesterday, so I don’t need to repeat.

In order for “not having taught Dharma” and “not having given possessions,” to become root downfalls, these four things need to be gathered. (The rest of the eighteen root vows need to have gathered these same four things in order to become root downfalls, except the two precepts of giving up the wishing thought and rising heresy.)

These four things are: rejoicing at what you have done, being satisfied, not having shame. One should feel shame by thinking, “I know the shortcomings of negative karma. If I do this, I who have received a perfect human body, instead of doing better practice, am creating negative karma.” One should remember the ripening aspect, resulting in the lower realms, thinking, “If I do this the result is negative karma. I, who have received a perfect human body should remember the result of negative karma, rebirth in lower realms.” Reasoning like this one feels shame on one’s own behalf, that is shame for oneself.

Then there is the shame on behalf of others. One practices the bodhisattva precepts, but is careless with others. If one has no shame, one doesn’t care about others. One is without consideration for others. For example, if you are going to criticize others, then, by considering other people, you should think, “How dare I do such a negative action towards my own kind mother sentient beings?” Considering others, one should think like this, remembering the kindness of others. “How dare I allow ill-will to arise towards this enemy, who is the one who gives me enlightenment.” By remembering his kindness and by equalizing one thinks, “He also wants happiness and doesn’t want suffering, so how dare I do this.” There are different ways of being considerate of others.

Also, one should remember Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s omniscient mind. If one has accumulated negative karma due to the arising of strong anger, strong attachment, pride, or a jealous mind, one should think of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s omniscient mind, or of one’s own guru. One should remember Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in that aspect, or whatever deity that one practices. Whether it is Chenrezig, whether it is Manjushri, whether it is Heruka, Tara, or Vajrayogini, whatever it is, one should think, “Chenrezig is looking at me. Chenrezig’s omniscient mind sees the harm that I am doing, which is against the enlightened being Chenrezig’s wishes, against Chenrezig’s holy mind. So how can I be careless? How can I ignore it?” Think, according to whatever deity you feel closest to that you normally practice most in every day life; if it is Tara: “Look at what I am doing, my mind, my attitude, my actions! How can I, in front of Mother Tara’s eyes, ignore her advice, how dare I do actions completely opposite to her wishes? The Mother Tara who guides me and who is my sole refuge, upon whom I rely in all my lives, in this life and future lives, and whom I request to fulfill all my temporal and ultimate wishes.”

Like this, by sometimes considering sentient beings and by sometimes considering the omniscient ones, you try to overwhelm the disturbing thoughts and to stop the non-virtuous actions.

The second thing that needs to be gathered in order for the action to become a root downfall is not regarding these root downfalls, not regarding any of these eighteen root precepts that have been degenerated, as shortcomings. One does not remember the result, the harms to oneself and other sentient beings. Because of this one doesn’t change the action, but carries on doing it. Not changing one’s attitude and stopping the action of body and speech is the second. The third is being happy and satisfied at having done that. Having no shame or consideration for others is the fourth.

Maybe from among the eighteen root vows one has given up the Mahayana teachings because, “It is so difficult to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings, so difficult and it is taking so much time.” If, with little heart the mind is discouraged and one decides not to practice anymore then, if within four hours one has not looked at the shortcomings, not changed one’s attitude or actions, but is happy at doing this, and having no shame or consideration for others, if it happens like this, one has received the root downfall of having given up the Mahayana teachings. One should think in the same way with the other precepts, except with heresy and giving up the wishing thought.

However, if within four hours one either looks upon one’s action and attitude as a shortcoming, and one wishes to change, to not give up the Mahayana teachings, if any of these four things happen within four hours, it doesn’t become a root downfall.

Sometimes, some lamas’ definition is half a day. I checked this with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also with His Holiness Ling Rinpoche. They are more strict than some lamas, so the duration is four hours. If none of these four just mentioned are gathered within four hours, then you receive the root downfall.

I stop here.

2 December, pm

Now we come to the second aspect of moral conduct, the righteous law of gathering virtuous Dharma, the righteous law of the moral conduct of gathering virtuous Dharma. It is just a general explanation.

A person who has taken bodhisattva vows and who is doing prostrations, making offerings, and offering service to the merit field, who is doing the listening, reflecting, and meditation practices and the practice of the six paramitas, whose three doors are attempting to do virtuous work—all his actions form the first part of the paramita of moral conduct, abstaining from vices. The second is the moral conduct of gathering virtuous Dharma, while the third one is the moral conduct of doing work for other sentient beings. In the commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment eleven different forms of work are mentioned.

One should work for sentient beings, doing whatever is needed. If you have the capability to help when somebody is suffering or having problems, then you should help them. If one does not have the capability then one should make preparations to be able to have that capability. We don’t have the perfect power to guide sentient beings that Buddha has, so the purpose of doing the meditation course is to make preparations to have the perfect capability to guide others. Each session in which we practice meditation on the graduated path to enlightenment prepares us for that. In order to guide ourselves we have to rely upon others who have supreme powers and greater understanding.

We should be doing the works for others, like benefiting beings who are suffering and who are ignorant of the method, by trying to help them understand the method. One should try to help them accomplish temporal happiness and perfections, whatever they are seeking, and finally the ultimate happiness, the peerless omniscient mind. One should try to dispel and eliminate their ignorance. One should also benefit the sentient beings that benefit oneself by doing works for them. And one should rescue those who are in great fear or in danger. One should help those who need and ask for help. Things like this are doing the works for others.

If somebody is going to commit suicide or is in danger of doing so, if someone’s mind is so aggressive or depressed, and you have the capability to help with these dangers, you should help. You should also help those who are possessed and intoxicated by worries, so many worries. But if the person does not want to see you perhaps it might not be a good idea. Anyway, he won’t listen to whatever you might talk about. If the other person doesn’t want to see you at all, it gets worse when that person sees your face. Of course, how much one is able to benefit and to guide others from suffering depends on how skillful one is.

His Holiness mentioned this several times; the last time was after the Dharma Celebration when the Western monks and nuns finished the Guhyasamaja retreat. The previous year, after the centers offered His Holiness the Dalai Lama a long-life puja, we received an interview. This time, during the interview with the Sangha, one of the questions was, “How to explain Dharma in the West? How are we going to explain the Buddha’s teachings in the West?” This was a question concerning doing work for others. The same question was put the year before and to that His Holiness replied, “People have various kinds of minds, so how can you say, ‘It should be like this?’ People have various kinds of mind so it is difficult to say. That is one thing.” This time there was some question concerning benefiting others, so His Holiness said, “Even for the bodhisattva who is on the second path, the path of preparation, the benefit that this bodhisattva can offer others is only ordinary benefit.”

So actually, only after having attained the first bhumi on the arya path (the right-seeing path, the path of meditation and the path of no-more learning), can one offer actual benefits to sentient beings. Only after one has achieved the first bhumi or the right-seeing path. Otherwise, before that, even a bodhisattva who has accomplished the second Mahayana path of merit can offer only ordinary benefit. This bodhisattva has already achieved tranquil abiding and the great insight, lhag.tong. He also has powers of clairvoyance. There are many excellences, but still he cannot do the actual work for sentient beings.

How much benefit is the bodhisattva who has reached the tenth bhumi, who meditates under a tree, how much benefit is he able to offer compared to the bodhisattva who has accomplished the first bhumi? Between them there is no comparison. Likewise, there are incredible differences between the bodhisattva who had accomplished the tenth bhumi and the Buddha, the omniscient one. There are big differences.

There is an example given in the commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment, taught by the recent lineage lama Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo. He gave this example, “Like between your palm and infinite space.” The benefit a bodhisattva who has reached the first bhumi of the arya path is able to offer to others, how much actual work for sentient beings he is doing compared to a tenth bhumi bodhisattva, is like the size of a palm, while the extensive benefit that the tenth bhumi bodhisattva is able to offer to sentient beings is like the sky.

As the bodhisattva proceeds higher and higher on the arya path—which is the remedy that ceases, two obscurations—the bodhisattva gets more and more skillful. The two obscurations cease: the obscuration of the disturbing thoughts and the fully knowing obscuration, which means the obscuration to knowing all the three time existence fully and clearly. According to how much the realizations of the arya path are developed, the bodhisattva becomes more and more skillful in regard to guiding sentient beings.

But we should not get discouraged either, even though it is like this—though there are great differences even among the bodhisattvas. Whatever capability one has, if it does not harm, if there is some benefit that one can offer, one should do it as much as one can. One should offer benefit as much as one can, such as by practicing the six paramitas.

Then we have the practice of the four gatherings, the bodhisattva’s practice and the holy action of the four gatherings, guiding sentient beings on the path to enlightenment with four different methods of gathering or drawing sentient beings.

Concerning charity (a little bit more detail will come later), if charity doesn’t become a hindrance for practicing the holy Dharma and accomplishing enlightenment, one should practice even the smallest charity, like making charity of one’s body to one flea, for example. One should even be training oneself in this practice of giving, making charity of one’s own body. The fleas are also hungry. When we are hungry we have to eat something for our comfort and to stay alive, whatever it is. Similar to us, these fleas and mosquitoes were also human beings in the past, but not having Dharma wisdom and being under the control of ignorance and disturbing thoughts, they accumulated this karma. There was no plan, it was not well-planned when they were human beings, “Oh, I must be reborn as a mosquito!” It was not knowingly planned, like when we plan to become a soldier or a doctor, or to find a perfect human body in our next life; it is not like that. If there are those here who like free will, those who like to keep the words, who cling to the words, then those things, you see, like finding a perfect human body, are done with free will.

However, there was no choice. There was no wish at all to be born as a mosquito or lobster, as those long worms that old people come and pick up and put into cans, after the waves of the ocean go away. They pick them up on the sand and then they give them to the fish. They cut them into pieces and use them to hook the fish. You see how pitiful they are. Human beings do so much torture. We have so much power over these sentient beings who don’t have any power at all, who have no capability, and there is nothing that they can do. They have no power to protect their lives, nothing at all. Guideless, powerless, they are used for food to kill other animals. They are used for that human being’s means of living, for his comfort, for him to obtain one day’s comfort.

It was not purposely, knowingly planned, the karma was not created the way we in our past life created the good karma for this present perfect human rebirth, which we created on purpose in order to find a perfect human rebirth in our next life. For them it was without choice. While there was no wish at all to have such a body, because of being overwhelmed by the ignorance of clinging to true existence, because of ignorance, the unknowing karma and disturbing thoughts, such a body was taken. While there was no wish to have such a body at all, not even in a dream, this time, in this life, such a body was taken even though he was a human being in his past life. The consciousness migrated to such a body, so what can he do? What can they do? Nothing. How long do they live? A hundred years? A thousand years? I heard that those animals in the museums, the dinosaurs, who don’t live now, but thousands of years ago, lived for a thousand years. (I have seen a dinosaur in New York, the bones. It really is a huge one.) In the past there were animals that lived a long time. However, it doesn’t matter how long they live because what is the use? What is the benefit of just living a longer life to experience more suffering? During that life with that kind of body there is no freedom to practice Dharma, no way to meet the holy Dharma. Having taken that body makes a block to practice the holy Dharma. Also, as their minds are completely overwhelmed by disturbing thoughts like anger and attachment, the actions that they do are nothing but non-virtuous actions all the time. So they are very pitiful—guideless and powerless.

You can see how much fear dogs and even birds have. Even though they find food there is no way to escape fear. The whole day is spent with fear—they have to watch east, west, north, and south. Even though they have found food, they watch in the east, west, north, and southern directions at the same time, because there is the danger that other birds might attack them. If you look at crows and small birds it is like that.

When you consider how they have taken that body without choice, you don’t need to think of any of their other sufferings. How they are hungry, cold, and hot; how those who are in the hands of human beings are tortured by people, how among themselves they are attacked by each other, becoming the food of other animals. Without thinking of the sufferings they experience in that body, just think of how without choice they have taken that body, while having no wish at all, no interest whatsoever, in having such a body. But through being under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts in their past life, the consciousness has taken such a body. The result is experienced for that being to be whatever it is, to be one of those lobsters that are burnt when put into boiling water. Somebody picks them out of the water after having put on rubber gloves—you choose whichever you want and give it to the special waiter. The special waiter has a special dress, everything is white. He is trying to accomplish the naraks each time he is boiling those living creatures, because the result is ripening on that sentient being.

Just think of this: the goats and sheep don’t know where they are going when they are being taken to the butcher’s place. They don’t know where they are being taken, they don’t know where they are being led until the moment they are killed. They don’t know anything about where the person is taking them. They have no idea until the time when the butcher is standing with knives in front of the eyes of the animal. Until the time of the killing they didn’t know anything. Just thinking of that, how they are without choice under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts and how, because of that they have taken that body, just that is, I think, so pitiful, something that has to generate your compassion, that has to make your compassion arise without choice. When you are giving even such tiny charity, like giving such an incredibly tiny drop of blood to a mosquito or flea, that is practicing the charity of giving one’s body. By remembering their kindness in the past and how one has eaten their flesh and drunk their blood one remembers how incredibly precious they are.

When we are practicing training our mind in the thought of giving, and giving up miserliness and attachment, we should not even have any clinging to the merit gathered by having given that charity. Instead we should dedicate it completely for that sentient being to be able to find a perfect human body and for oneself to reveal the path to him and guide him to enlightenment. Like this dedicate for all sentient beings. If the practice is done like this, with even the tiny, small actions gradually the mind gets more and more strengthened, more and more courageous. Finally we become like the bodhisattvas, or how it is explained in Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s biography, in so many lifetimes he made charity of his holy body to sentient beings. One becomes able to make charity of one’s whole body after some time, without any difficulty, without any hesitation, and in spite of all the pain with an incredible thought of loving kindness and great compassion. Then, after some time, one is able to give charity to others even without pain. I don’t know. When you see the mosquitoes’ stomach, when they fly around, completely empty their stomachs, transparent; then after you gave the blood it is kind of full, kind of heavy, while before that it was completely transparent, like the plastic you put the bread in. Incredible, they have no other food, there is no other. Completely empty, kind of screaming with so much hunger. I find it so effective for the mind and at the same time I remember their kindness. Somehow, there is a kind of tranquility and happiness after they have drunk enough and left. After they have flown away, having drunk enough, there is a feeling of purification and tranquility. While there is pain, while they are drinking your blood, at the same time remember their kindness. It is very effective to think of their kindness at that time. Also, even though there is pain at the beginning, the pain disappears when you think so much of their kindness.

I heard that you get malaria from them, but I don’t remember any bad ones, some that caused disease. They didn’t leave any fear of getting a disease.

I didn’t finish the eleven works for sentient beings, but tomorrow.

3 December, am

(Rinpoche reads The Heart Sutra; when he reaches, “There are no spheres of the ‘I’ ...,” he starts explaining.)

Concerning the base of the label, the five aggregates, the object of the senses, if you cannot differentiate, if what exists and what doesn’t exist looks like oneness to your mind, if you can’t recognize it, the best way, the safe way to not get the wrong idea about emptiness, what can help us, is to think that the “I” does exist from own side. This is beneficial for recognizing the thing that is really empty, which one has to realize is empty, which doesn’t exist there on the aggregates, which doesn’t exist on that base from its own side, which does not exist inherently on that labeling base, which is in fact is empty. The best way is to think that such an “I” does exist from its own side, or that there is an “I” from the side of the aggregates. Think that there is a cushion from the side of the base of the label, the base to be labeled. From the side of the base there is a cushion.

In fact it is completely empty, but by believing in it and by clinging to the “I” and the sense objects, to the things that look as if they exist from the side of the base inherently, the mind becomes confused. Confusion arises and the three poisonous minds and various unhealthy minds and disturbing thoughts arise, which make the mind of the person unsubdued and unpeaceful. By not realizing or recognizing that things are in fact empty, we always have confused lives, one after another, continuously. Like this, whatever we would like to change and whatever we try to do, we never increase our peace of mind, because nothing is done about the root of the disturbing thoughts and the root of confusion.

So this is the best and safest way if it doesn’t make any sense to you that true existence is emptiness or voidness, or if you cannot differentiate what that thing is that you are supposed to see as empty actually is. You have to realize what it is that is empty. Here in the teachings it is written “empty,” but the best thing to think in your mind is “merely labeled.” You see all phenomena as empty, without characteristics.

It doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t have a bad character, or a good character that arise, such as loving thoughts and compassion, or that some people don’t have a very evil character. It is not saying that things don’t have characteristics, like being of a soft or a rough nature, of the nature of flames and heat or of ice and coldness. It is not saying that the nature of the Dharma doesn’t have certain characteristics, the Dharma’s power, if it is practiced, to subdue the unsubdued mind. There are characteristics, things do have characteristics, but there is something that doesn’t exist on top of that. On top of that there is something that appears to us but is not there on that, over that characteristic, on the “I.” There is a merely labeled “I,” but on the merely labeled “I” there is something that doesn’t exist, something that appears to us, which is empty, which is not there over that merely labeled “I” at all—completely empty.

When you hear that each aggregate is empty—feeling, recognition, “no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind,” if it doesn’t make sense (it doesn’t mean that you should visualize yourself as blind or with a dead body not having mind), then think “merely labeled.” This is the best way, which also gradually, the more you think about it, helps you to recognize what it is that is empty. It helps you to realize more and more the eye that doesn’t exist, the ear that doesn’t exist, the nose that doesn’t exist, the tongue that doesn’t exist, the body and mind that are empty, that do not exist. You recognize more and more the things that are empty, that do not exist.

On the merely labeled eye the truly existent eye doesn’t exist. On the merely labeled ear the truly existent ear doesn’t exist. On the merely labeled nose the truly existent nose doesn’t exist. On the merely labeled tongue the truly existent tongue doesn’t exist. On the merely labeled body the truly existent body doesn’t exist. On the merely labeled mind the truly existent mind doesn’t exist.

There is a mind that appears not to be merely labeled that appears on the merely labeled mind. That which appears from above the merely labeled eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, is empty of existing there.

The truly existent eye is empty on the merely labeled eye. The truly existent ear is empty on the merely labeled ear. A nose existing from its own side is empty on the merely labeled nose. Similarly with body and mind. That is that which is empty of those things—namely, the absolute nature of eye, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and the same with all that exists.

There is a great meaning in saying that the refuting object is above the eye, is above the ear, the nose, the tongue, above the “I” and above the aggregates; saying “above” has great meaning. Saying that the absolute nature is above the “I,” above the aggregates, has great meaning. It is related very much, it is expressing an experience. The meaning of the word “above” is that it is actually talking about the experience itself, but saying the word “above.” This can only be understood and recognized, and the meaning of that can be identified only when your guru’s blessings enter your mind. Or you start to recognize it after practicing much purification and accumulating much merit. And also by training the mind in shunyata meditation.

When you start to realize and recognize the refuting object, or start looking at the “I” that is empty, the aggregates that are empty with the experience of the guru’s advice, at that time it makes great sense. Saying the words, “the absolute nature on top of the ‘I’, the absolute nature that is above the ‘I’, above the aggregates, the refuting object on the ‘I’ and the aggregates,” saying this makes great sense.

So there is no “I.” “I” is merely labeled in your mind. When reasoning that there is no “I,” if you don’t know how to meditate in this way, in your mind it is very useful to think, “There is no eye, eye is merely labeled. There is no ear, ear is merely labeled. No nose, nose is merely labeled and so on like this. It is similar with the ‘I’ and the aggregates, they are merely labeled.” Gradually meditating on dependent arising saves you from falling into nihilism. There is a danger that you might accept wrong ideas due to doctrines saying that things do not exist, but if you check your own experience it is contradictory. If you check what you intellectually believe because of being influenced by the thoughts of others, due to wrong doctrines or philosophy, you will find that actually your experience of reality is the complete opposite. So falling into nihilism is not easy. I don’t think it is such an easy thing to happen, even though in the teachings so many lamas emphasize it.

When you meditate on dependent arising and merely labeled phenomena, it benefits you to gradually recognize the refuting object. First we cannot differentiate between the “I” that exists and the “I” that does not. It is complete oneness; everything is complete oneness for our senses, for our mind. But gradually, by meditating on dependent arising, that things are merely labeled and by thinking about the way that they actually exist, by thinking about this over and over, all the time practicing awareness, it becomes like the person who is always telling lies. At first you believe what he says is very true, but then gradually, as you see that he only keeps telling lies as you deal with him and live with him, one day you recognize completely that he is a liar, that what he says, the whole thing, is lies, he has been telling lies. It is the same thing with somebody who always steals things from your house. He has always been a very good friend, smiling, very good, nice talking, maybe he gives you things sometimes, however, he is always stealing things from you. Then, as you check on him, one day you realize that he is the one who stole all your things. The person who is actually doing wrong things is somebody you believed to be doing right things. Then one day you realize that he was completely wrong.

Now at the beginning we cannot differentiate; it is completely oneness, but with the help of this meditation on dependent arising, using this logical reasoning on these things, on the “I” and the aggregates, gradually, gradually you are able to discriminate, to see the difference. Gradually you discover something different on top of the “I,” a different “I” appears to you that you did not feel, that you did not recognize before, and you discover the same with all outside objects.

When you think of the “I” as merely labeled on the aggregates by thought, the truly existent “I,” which appears to exist purely from its own side, that real “I” becomes thinner and thinner. While you are aware of dependent arising, the truly existent “I” or the real “I,” which is something that you feel in the chest, becomes thinner and thinner. Then, when you forget this awareness of dependent arising, the “I” comes back as usual. The “I,” the merely labeled “I” becomes very strong as usual, as if truly existent.

When this happens, it is a good start, a good sign. This is a good way of starting to recognize the hallucinated “I.” When you have this experience it is a kind of start. When there is a small experience like this, some change is happening. Gradually one starts to recognize that “I” that is hallucinated, the “I” that is the refuting object, that is false, that is empty. Gradually the meditation on dependant arising leads one to see that this truly existent “I” is completely empty. By recognizing that that is where the fault lies, that this is what is actually non-existent, it becomes completely empty or it disintegrates. It does not disintegrate into atoms or into pieces, it gets completely lost. What we cling to, what we have been taking the best care of as the most precious being among all sentient beings from beginningless births, that “I” is completely lost, without choice. Without choice it gets completely lost.

It is like this: one day you recognize that the person you trusted completely as your best friend is actually someone who has been the so-called enemy. You realize that he is the one who has been stealing and destroying everything, who has been harming you and destroying your happiness. Then, after you recognize this you throw a bomb at him, so that he completely disintegrates.

Anyway, with this meditation on dependent arising we see the truly existent “I” that we believed to be real, and that we have clung to as real from beginningless births; we see that “I” as not real. So far we have clung to it as real, completely real, one hundred percent with not the slightest doubt. For that reason we have taken the best care of it, cherished the most among all the numberless sentient beings. But one day you see that it is in fact false, that it does not exist. You realize that it is in fact completely empty. Just there it gets completely lost, not going somewhere else, to America or hiding in a cave somewhere, going from your room into hiding in a cave, not like that. Just there, wherever it appears to be, wherever you believe the “I” to be, wherever you believe there is an “I,” just there it becomes empty, it gets completely lost, like the snake on the rope. The snake that you see on the rope doesn’t go anywhere. You know—it is not something that goes outside when you come with a torch, it is nothing like that, it becomes empty just there. Similarly just there, wherever one believes the “I” to be, just there it doesn’t exist, it is empty. You see that it is empty just there.

After realizing that the truly existent “I” is empty you actually see clearly, you recognize and realize how the “I” exists on these aggregates. Then you actually realize that it is merely labeled on these aggregates or that it is under the control of name.

So the meditation training the mind in dependent arising is beneficial for seeing the “I” that is false, for recognizing the false “I.” Then it gets completely lost and one realizes that it is completely empty. The realization seeing that it is emptiness finally leads to the point where you see how the “I” exists. Then you have got the real meaning in your mind, the way it is in reality. You have got the complete meaning in the mind; the “I” is merely labeled on the aggregates under the control of name. That which you have been reciting in the past, on which you have been debating, that which you have been talking about so much—now you have got it. Only now, after you understood and realized this exactly.

There are seven different types of logic explained in the Madhyamaka for realizing that the object of ignorance, the true existence is empty, that it doesn’t exist. The four points of analyzing, ne.shi.yer.pa. However, it is said in the teachings that the logic of dependent arising is the king of logic, the king among the hundreds of infinite logical reasonings for realizing the non-existence of the object of ignorance, true existence. The reasoning of dependent arising is the king, the principal reasoning used to prove that the object of true existence is empty.

We are meditating on this “I” that we believe to be inside the chest somewhere; then right on top of the aggregates, the sense objects, right on top of the appearance of these things we use the words “dependent arising;” we are reflecting on the meaning of dependent arising right on top of that appearance. This is powerful for making the object of ignorance of true existence non-existent. It completely eliminates the ignorance of true existence, the root of samsara. It is like an atomic bomb. It is like dropping an atomic bomb—that is how powerful it is.

I am not saying how powerful the object of ignorance is. What I am saying is that putting the meaning of dependent arising right on top of this appearance, this “I,” is as powerful as an atomic bomb in its ability to destroy and hurt the root of samsara. How it is harmful and quick to eradicate completely the root of samsara is like the most powerful among all powerful weapons, like the atomic bomb.

(Rinpoche reads, “There are no spheres of the eye ...... up to no spheres of the mind ...., there is no attainment, no non- attainment .....”)

Same thing again with this, think “merely labeled.” If the meaning doesn’t make sense for you, think “merely labeled.”

(“Therefore Shariputra .......” Rinpoche finishes The Heart Sutra.)

There are about eleven examples mentioned in the commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment about the righteous action, the righteous law of doing sentient beings’ work. One is doing the work for sentient beings who are living in poverty.

There are two kinds of poverty: material poverty and Dharma poverty, which means being ignorant about the four noble truths, about karma, and not having any understanding of Dharma. That is poverty of Dharma. For those who are living ascetic lives, for monks and nuns who are living in the pratimoksha ordination, the practice should be to keep few possessions. The practice should be to have small desires and to be content. So in regards charity, for them material charity is not the main thing; the main thing is the charity of Dharma.

For those who are not living in ordination and are working for material things it is important to make material charity, and also to help sentient beings who have the wish to find a place to live, who don’t have such a place and who have difficulties in finding a place or a house.

One should also work for sentient beings who are experiencing disharmony and, if one is able, help those beings to become harmonious.

Next, work for sentient beings to be able to enter the right path, the perfect path of the world. This could have two meanings—however, forget about “the path of the world.” Sentient beings enter the perfect path by having someone explain to them what the virtuous karmas are and what the non-virtuous karmas are—explaining which way things become virtue and which way they become non-virtue. Then they are guided into the right path of giving up non-virtue and practicing virtue, giving up the cause of suffering and practicing the cause of happiness. Like this one guides them the right way, into the right path. Secondly, one guides them by letting them enter the perfect path by revealing the infallible right view, the unmistaken voidness, the remedy cutting through the root of samsara to them. Like this one guides sentient beings into the perfect path.

One also works for them to enter the perfect path of tantra without mistakes. But one should not guide sentient beings further on this path without their having done the preliminaries, such as the graduated path of generation, the first step of tantra, the first graduated path of tantra. Without having practiced this, without the realization of this, the highest path, the path of accomplishment, can’t be achieved. Even if one reveals the highest path at the very beginning, no matter how much the disciple practices, without preparation and realizations in the preliminary practices, he doesn’t reach the highest graduated path. No matter how much effort he puts into it or how many eons he dedicates his life to this, doing retreats, he won’t reach the highest graduated path. Instead of reaching enlightenment swiftly the mind becomes crazy or one gets wind disease, becomes unhealthy, because of wrong practice and unskillful meditation.

The next one is working for sentient beings who have entered the wrong path. The first one is guiding the sentient beings who have not entered the wrong path into the perfect path. This one is guiding those who have entered the wrong path into the perfect path. I think the difference is that. Then comes working for sentient beings using psychic powers. For a while, until we reach the bhumis, the arya path, until we achieve the arhat or bodhisattva path, we can’t do works for others with extensive psychic powers. But most of the other work for sentient beings we are able to do and the more we study Dharma and get the experience of the path, the more benefit we are able to offer beings, like benefiting others with the four practices of gathering.

The first of the four practices of gathering is to give material things to those who are not receptacles for the teachings. At first one gives food and clothes, material things, making these sentient beings happy, helping and benefiting them in their needs. Also one talks to them in a sweet, suitable way. I mean, sweet like candy, so that the other person likes it, pleasing the other person. With many of my gurus, like Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, that is how they make conversation with people. I mean, there is nothing to be done in this life for that person except talking, according to his life, saying something that the other person likes. Spending time talking just to please, so that he is happy.

The next is that as one explains the Dharma, like that oneself also practices. As one explains and teaches the Dharma to others like that oneself also lives in the practice. Otherwise, there is no good example—the other person has no example, no inspiration. Also, while you are explaining and giving teachings to others, you let them practice the teachings and put them into action. Otherwise, there is no result in their mind, in short, there is no peace of mind.

I think I stop here.

3 December, pm

Now the next paramita is patience, the mind abiding in virtue without being overwhelmed by suffering and harm. This paramita has three branches: having patience towards sentient beings who are giving harm; the patience of taking the suffering that one is experiencing voluntarily; and finally, the patience of definitely reflecting on the Dharma.

It is explained like this in the thought training and also in the teaching of the Guru Puja, “When inanimate things, the place and sentient beings all turn out to be disturbing for me, I should practice patience. When the whole thing is completely filled with the result of negative karma, even if there is a rainfall of unbearable sufferings, by seeing in them the cause for finishing off the result of negative karma, please grant me blessings to transform the bad conditions into the path.” One is making this request to the merit field, the triple gem, for the mind to be capable even though unbelievable problems arise.

Wherever you go, the whole place, all the four elements disturb you. All the creatures and human beings, everybody becomes your enemy. No-one likes you, no-one. There is nobody who likes you, everybody criticizes. Everybody treats you badly, beating you, whatever they can do day and night without a break. Not only that, but your whole body is full of leprosy disease, and you are homeless, with no money and no food, only suffering. There is no-one who smiles at you, who gives infection (Rinpoche laughs.) Not “infection,” affection, I am getting mixed up. Nobody gives affection, the whole world criticizes you. If you go out even the creatures attack you. If you go to hospital for treatment nobody wants to accept you. If you have dreams they are bad dreams. (Rinpoche laughs.) Besides, in the day-time everything, everything turns out negatively, harming you. Even in your dreams the people and the animals that you see attack you. Showers and showers, billions of billions of rainfalls of problems.

One is asking the guru and the triple gem to be able to transform these miserable conditions into the path, even though it may sound unbelievable and it may not happen in this life. One may not experience such things, but when there are showers of problems so that one cannot count each drop, you are asking for blessings for your mind for that amount of problems to be able to transform these miserable conditions into the path to enlightenment. When you receive so many harms, besides being homeless and starving and full of leprosy disease, maybe you also have headache, toothache, and all those things, and you receive showers of harms from the place and the sentient beings—even though you experience showers of undesirable problems like this, you ask for blessings for your mind to be able to transform these miserable conditions into the path to enlightenment. To transform whatever you meet with, even when it is so many uncountable numbers of problems.

Something that you can’t stand, something that you can’t figure out for yourself. Something that you can’t believe, “How is it possible that this is happening to me? Other people do not experience such things.” You ask for blessings to make it highly meaningful, to make whatever you experience highly meaningful and highly beneficial, in order to achieve the state of omniscient mind for the benefit of all sentient beings. In this way whatever problems one experiences become highly beneficial, one makes them highly beneficial for all sentient beings. The way is to transform these miserable conditions into the path to omniscient mind.

One way, one method to transform all these miserable conditions and problems into the path to enlightenment, is to look at it like this, thinking, “My experiencing all these problems—how fantastic! How fortunate I am! How fantastic it is! My experiencing all these problems is finishing off all the suffering results of negative karmas accumulated in this life and in past lives from beginningless rebirths.”

It is also very, very effective for the mind to remember details about karma at this time.

There are four outlines on karma: karma is expandable, karma will definitely bring its result if it is not destroyed, one cannot experience the result of karmas that one has not created, and the karma that one has created never gets lost.

If the seed that was planted in the ground is left without water it becomes completely dry or if it is burnt by fire it gets completely destroyed, but as long as the seed doesn’t meet these hindrances, or as long as it is not rotten, then it is definitely going to bring its own result, it never gets lost.

Particularly when you practice this thought training, looking at things like this, experiencing problems becomes a cause for finishing the results of negative karma. When we remember that karma is expandable there is more feeling and more happiness. The result is that more happiness comes in the mind. Even with external things, like when planting one rice seed, so many come as a result. Fruits come from such a small seed. One small seed grows into an incredibly huge tree with many branches and later so many fruits come. But the inner karma is so much more expandable.

I’ll give just one example of how one experiences such an incredible result of suffering from one small negative karma and how from one small virtuous action one experiences unbelievably good results. In the past in India one person got angry. I don’t remember exactly what it was that made him angry, but there was one bhikshu crossing a stream and then another person in anger gave him a nickname. He criticized him, saying, “You jumped, you are like a monkey.” He criticized the monk with a bad attitude. So due to that small negative karma of criticizing the monk, that person had to be reborn as a monkey in five hundred lifetimes.

One example of a virtuous action: when Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was going for alms in a valley, on the road there were three children playing on the sandy ground. As Guru Shakyamuni Buddha came along these three children wanted to make offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was so tall that their arms couldn’t reach up to make offerings into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s begging bowl. So this is how these three children managed: one child stood on the shoulders of another child and then another child stood on his shoulders, like in the circus. They didn’t have anything to offer, so they offered handfuls of sand grains while visualizing that they were offering gold into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s begging bowl. Due to that one small virtuous action of offering sand visualized as gold, one child in his next life was born as the Dharma king of India, the king Ashoka. In one day he was able to build in so many different places (I don’t remember one hundred percent), ten hundred thousand or one million stupas. He was also able to build many monasteries and he was able to make many offerings to the Sangha. Due to that small virtuous action he was able to accumulate so much more merit in his next life. This is just discussing temporary results.

So you see, in many lifetimes one has to experience the result of even one small negative karma, like in anger giving somebody a nickname or blindly criticizing others for this or that. If it is a powerful karma one starts experiencing its result even in this life after one month, one year, after some years, or even the next day or hour. It depends how powerful the action is.

Even in this life just with words we give so much harm, we hurt sentient beings so much. And it is not only this but negative karmas have been accumulating in past lives as well, from beginningless rebirths. Some of the results of the negative karma are finished, some are half finished; we have still not finished experiencing them, while there are many results of negative karma that we have not yet at all experienced. There are uncountable numbers of those.

Remember that karma is expandable, relating it to examples like the karmic stories of sentient beings, explained by Buddha Shakyamuni to sentient beings, in the sutra teachings. What Guru Shakyamuni said has been recorded in many of these karmic stories of the sutra teachings. Most of the stories, particularly the unimaginable ones, the peculiar and amazing ones about sufferings that you cannot imagine, were recorded on purpose. It is similar with those with such incredibly good results, so that you can’t imagine how it was possible that so much good could come from such a small action.

They talk about things that people usually cannot imagine, cannot figure out. It is purposely recorded there, not just saying that from good karma comes good results and happiness, while from negative karma comes sufferings; besides this they give more detailed descriptions.

We don’t have clairvoyance to remember all past lives and see all coming future lives nor can we understand the karma of others, like why each sentient being has different experiences. Those who are incredibly wealthy have one type of experience; they experience so much enjoyment of happiness and perfections. There are other sentient beings who have unbelievable problems that you cannot imagine.

At the airports, at the train stations, or in the city bookshops, especially in the West they sell many books that give one person’s life story from beginning to end, thousands and thousands of pages all about suffering. Even between one couple, for example, it is unbelievable how many problems and how much suffering there is. Just listening to all the stories of the boyfriend’s or the husband’s life, the whole biography, as well as the whole life story of the wife or girlfriend, is incredible.

After they met, while they are staying together, there is so much unbelievable pain and fighting, they do so many undesirable things to each other, experiencing so much pain of the heart. Then, after a while that man leaves, he drops out. The first man drops out, gives up, and runs away with somebody else. Then she meets somebody else and again similar problems start, completely opposite to what she expected in the beginning. Again, there is no more interest, so again she tries to find another one. Maybe she is physically living with one man but at the same time she is trying to find another one. She is somewhere hidden, not telling him at the house. Then one day, somehow, he finds out, somebody tells him or he meets the person that she has kept secretly at the house when he was not there, while he was away. Sooner or later he finds out. Then there is a big hassle, the whole sky falls down, sort of. Then they fight, pulling at each other’s hair, or if they are brave they beat each other up. Then she runs away or he runs away.

Like this it goes on and on over and over again. “How badly this man treated me. He left me with all the children. While there was one child in my womb there were three or four children outside. Then no money and difficult to find jobs. I had to move the family because the house was too expensive.”

She thinks many times of committing suicide; at many different times she has been on the point of committing suicide. While having tried to seek much happiness, nothing happened. She did so much, tried everything, but nothing happened, so the solution is suicide. Living is suffering, so better to commit suicide. That is the final answer, the solution. Many times she was about to commit suicide by jumping off bridges or by putting heaters in the bathtub. Heaters? Maybe not kerosene heaters. Or she tried to commit suicide with injections or some other peaceful method or with knives, guns, ropes, or whatever.

When you listen to the whole biography of the boyfriend or husband it is something that makes tears come out, it is so painful. It makes one have uncomfortable thoughts and makes tears come out. There have been so many unbelievable problems, one after another. When you listen to the wife’s or girlfriend’s life story, all the problems, the whole thing, again it is the same thing. It is so very sad, it makes tears come out.

They are so pitiful, but when I listen, for me it is very helpful. For my mind their life story is so very helpful, so beneficial. It is like listening to teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment about the true cause of sufferings. Their confused minds are the true cause of suffering, while their problems, all the worry and fear and all the physical problems, are the true suffering.

There are so many unbelievable books with life stories about what people did, about the bad things the person did. It is unbelievable, one can’t imagine it. How is it possible to think the way she thinks, with this attitude of giving harm to others.

All those life stories are teachings on karma, similar to the stories on karma explained by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in the sutra teachings, the particular ones that normal people cannot imagine, the not-very-common ones. Or a part of a person’s life story is told. He has so and so many sons, such and such a profession, so much wealth, and this and that; this is talking about that person’s comfort and enjoyment, talking about his happiness, the temporary results of virtue. These stories are very good examples of the three types of suffering, and we also have teachings on karma with the understanding of lam-rim. If you read those books with Dharma understanding, particularly with understanding of karma and with the thought to practice Dharma, they become incredible teachings that can quickly generate the thought of renouncing samsara, and also of bodhicitta and compassion.

The conclusion is that even one negative karma has incredible results through so many lifetimes, but this thought-training makes all those problems finish. Even though one has so many results that would have had to expand in so many lifetimes, it makes them finish in this life. This is the cause to make the result of the negative karma finish in this life, without a need for it to expand in other lifetimes. Not even one negative karma. Every past negative karma’s result is completely finished in this life by practicing thought training like this. The fact is that as one is experiencing the problems they are finishing. They are the results of negative karmas and the results are finishing. The more one experiences in this life the less there is to experience in coming lives. It brings peace to one’s mind, transforming miserable conditions into the path to enlightenment.

So why not bring even incredible problems into the path? One should do this. Even incredible problems that I just mentioned at the beginning can be transformed into the path to enlightenment and happiness. So why not? Just one problem of a relationship, just one problem of a stomachache, just one problem of not having money, or just a problem of having cancer—tat is nothing. So of course, such few, small problems we should be able to transform into happiness.

I stop here.

4 December, am

(Rinpoche reads the Heart Sutra. In the middle he starts explaining.)

Think that whatever we hear and whatever we see today is empty. Think that the objects of the six senses, all enjoyments, all suffering and happiness, today are empty. During what we call today, from this morning until tonight, whatever object appears to our six senses as ugly, beautiful, or indifferent or as friend, enemy, or stranger, think that it is empty. Think that all the surrounding people, and the family that you have either here or in the West, are all empty, merely labeled on the whole thing.

This applies to yourself and all objects, so all the aggregates and all the objects of the senses. Think that this month, this year, from birth until death it is also like this. Everything, including myself, the surroundings, my family, and all my possessions, including all the ugly or beautiful things that I have seen in this life, the whole experience from birth until death is merely labeled. It is empty of being the way it appears to me, as real or as existing from its own side. It is merely labeled, all is merely labeled.

From beginningless rebirth up to enlightenment, the whole thing is merely labeled. All the six realms of suffering that we have been experiencing in the past since beginningless rebirths, the path that we are generating in our minds, the circle of samsara in which we are caught and from which we are trying to get free, including enlightenment, the cessation of all obscurations—the whole thing is merely labeled. Think that all things are empty of being the way they appear to my mind when I think about enlightenment, when I think about the path, and when I think about nirvana, the cessation of suffering.

When we think about nirvana, enlightenment, or the cessation of suffering, when we hear and think about the path, again it becomes something that exists purely from its own side. It becomes something that exists only from its own side, without depending on oneself, the meditator putting effort into actualizing the path that is the remedy, finishing the disturbing thoughts. There is a nirvana from its own side without depending on the path or the process. There is cessation of suffering from its own side—a path, and the realization of bodhicitta from its own side, that doesn’t depend on the process of cleaning away the self-cherishing thought. A real bodhicitta appearing from its own side.

For example, what is unknowing? What is ignorant? The mind is ignorant about what? It is ignorant about such things as karma, the path to enlightenment, and the three times’ existence. But we believe that there is an ignorance from its own side that is not dependent on those objects of ignorance, on the objects that are unknown to oneself, that one can’t see or that one doesn’t realize.

There is no ignorance existing separately from the mind that is ignorant about an object, no ignorance existing separately from the mind that is unaware of an object. There is nothing, there is no other ignorance existing except what is labeled on the mind that is unaware, that doesn’t realize, doesn’t see an object. This is how it is empty. When you hear the words: ignorance, disturbing thoughts, anger, attachment, and pride; and when you think about them as I mention these things, the way each appears to your mind is as something real from its own side, something that doesn’t depend on an object, that doesn’t depend on the mind, the creator, something that does not depend on the originator, the ignorance. There is anger from its own side, independent anger, and the same with attachment and so on. When I talk about these things and when I mention their names, you don’t hear them as merely labeled, they don’t appear that way to you. When you hear: samsara, nirvana, and enlightenment, you don’t perceive that they exist under the control of name, being merely labeled—you don’t hear them as they exist.

While you hear: independent, not labeled, something that exists without being labeled, it is in fact completely opposite, completely against the way it exists. The way things come into existence, the way the whole thing exists is by being merely labeled. All exists by thought, merely labeling on the base.

It is similar with the names we have. After I had taken the thirty-six vows, the abbot labeled “Thubten Zopa” on these aggregates. Similarly, when you Westerners call me “Lama Zopa,” it exists by labeling on these aggregates. Relating to your own individual names, they also exist like that. Everything exists in a manner similar to the way your names exist, similar to how “Roger,” “Paul,” or “Vicky” exist.

But does whatever you label come into existence? If it did, you could pile up, make a huge pile of kaka thinking that you are labeling it “gold.” You could collect all this kaka, pile it up into a mountain and then call it “gold.” “I have that much gold.” It is not like that. It is not just by labeling, being up to you, coming into existence according to whatever you might like, according to whatever label you might give it.

Three things need to be gathered. The base on which you label needs to be perfect. “Perfect” is not quite the translation. “Right.” There should be a right base upon which the label can be given. Secondly, it should not receive harm from or be faulted by the wisdom analyzing absolute truth. If it receives harm from the wisdom of absolute truth, it becomes non-existent. Thirdly, it should not receive harm from the true, valid minds of worldly people, from their true or valid understanding. It shouldn’t be refuted, shouldn’t receive harm or contradiction from the valid understanding of worldly people. The words “conventional truth” are just a part of this translation, “conventional” is a part of that definition.

When you take LSD or this plant, datura, you see the whole ground, all the dust full of moving worms. All the dust and earth are worms and creatures moving. All over the place you see creatures moving, it is a ground of creatures. But other people whose minds have not become defective through either disease or outside effects cannot see this. Those who are not hallucinating due to either disease or chemical drugs, those with unhallucinating, undefective minds or senses cannot see that the ground is full of worms—only those who have taken the drug and whose senses have become defective through external elements can see it. Other people’s true, valid understanding, or the valid knower of phenomena, don’t see it as a ground of worms. What the person who has taken datura sees receives harm or contradiction. The ground of worms seen by a person whose senses have become defective because of drugs can be refuted by the valid understanding or undefective knowing of the phenomena of other people. Also, after the effect of the drug has gone away, the person himself doesn’t see the ground of worms any more. Even though he believed in it while he was having that vision, after the effect has worn off he doesn’t see the ground of worms any more. So he himself refutes it; besides other people’s valid understanding, he realizes that ground of worms was false. After the effect of the datura wears off, the hallucinated view disappears, the view that came because the mind was disturbed by the effects and the power of the drug. His mind, now free of defects and not hallucinated by either disease or outside elements, that valid knower of phenomena realizes that his previous vision of a ground of worms is in fact completely illusory. It doesn’t exist.

When what you label, or the name that you impute on that object, has gathered these three necessary qualities, it exists.

Sometimes people say, “Oh, that is merely labeled and this is also merely labeled.” One is using the words that one has seen in Dharma books and heard in the teachings. Instead of using these words as a means to renouncing giving harm to others and offering them benefit, renouncing negative karma and practicing virtuous karma, instead of that one says because of things existing as merely labeled, “When can I do?”

Happiness and suffering exist, so don’t give harm to others; offer benefit to others. Renounce non-virtuous actions and practice virtuous actions. One should use these words in this way in order to get a more definite understanding of karma, a greater definite understanding of the existence of the four noble truths: that the cause, virtue, brings the result, happiness. But instead of using the words in this way, generating this great, strong, definite understanding of the existence of things we say, “Oh, negative karma is merely labeled.”

When this thought process happens it should affect or benefit the mind: where as when we are using the words we are thinking that since things are merely labeled, since negative karma and also positive karma are merely labeled, since the lower realms, the naraks, and nirvana, the cessation of suffering are merely labeled, the whole thing is a superstition. Thinking that anything exists is a superstition. We are talking like this and consequently being careless about practicing the cause of happiness and renouncing the cause of suffering for ourselves as well as being careless about the experience of others, about what others are experiencing.

If one could think “merely labeled” at the time when a problem is experienced by oneself, it would be useful. If the mind, by thinking, “It is just my superstition,” can’t be shaken when people are causing us problems, and one is able to keep the mind in tranquility because of increasing peace, then it becomes useful to think like this. When people treat us badly and the mind starts to see things in ugliness, if at that time we do not let our minds get confused, depressed, or aggressive, and can keep the mind in peace, the “merely labeled” that one always thinks and recites has become useful. Saying “merely labeled” and “it is just superstition” has become useful.

It is a superstition because of your labeling. You call one way that a person acts towards you “good,” the way he behaves, the way he speaks, for instance. You call it “kind” because of the way he shows his face to you. One way of showing his face you call “good.” If he is moving the flesh a little bit, opening his mouth so that you see a little bit of wrinkles while the eyes are becoming a little narrower, this way of moving the face you call “good.” “He loves me” or “She loves me.” You call it good, you recognize it as good. “That is good.” Then there is the other way. From the white a little bit dark or a little bit red, probably on top of the nose, or on the ears, depending on the person. When the face becomes a little bit stiff, a little bit tough. There are none of those wrinkles, the opening of the mouth or the small, narrow eyes. The eyes are opening up, becoming a little bit bigger and very strong, while the body is looking kind of heavy. Because of a different expression on the face you call it “bad.” “I don’t like it, the other one I like.” It is a different expression of the face, just depending on movements.

This mind is definitely a superstitious mind. There is no truly existent smiling face, there is no truly existent ugly, angry face, there is no permanent, truly existent face liking you, no permanent ugly face disliking you—even though it appears like this to our mind and even though we cling to it. The subject, a person, experiences happiness and suffering, no matter how much intellectually, or due to wrong doctrine he might believe that these things don’t exist. When a person is attacked, the existence of that is his experience. When he has relationship problems or when people criticize him his mind is unhappy. Although he may intellectually believe that things don’t exist because he accepts that kind of philosophy, he cannot, however, stop the experience of these things. There is no choice. Since he has created the cause he has to experience the results.

By applying thought-training the mind is content. When trying to have only small desires the problems are stopped and one experiences peace in the mind. The unsubdued, unpeaceful mind and unpeaceful feeling, the unsinking feeling is called “suffering.” The sinking feeling, the feeling that is in the nature of absorbing or sinking, the relaxed, unworried and peaceful mind is called “happy.” That person’s life is a happy life. Like this, the suffering and happiness that are merely labeled exist in our experience without choice. Similar to having taken medicine against headache, as the pain decreased and went away, so one became happy and comfortable. Like this the merely labeled suffering or comfort exist in our experience.

I think I have finished. From now on I’ll try to make the discipline of not talking in the middle of the prayer. However, if you check this essential subject it can gradually become more and more clear. We have maybe two or three minutes. Are there any questions?

Elen: According to what you say emptiness is merely labeled.

Rinpoche: Then?

Elen: Is it true?

Rinpoche: Why don’t you check? I think it is a very good opportunity to check.

Jimi: I have an understanding of the relative truth of the “I”; I have no understanding of the absolute truth.

Rinpoche: You have realized the relative truth of the “I?”

Jimi: I have some understanding of the relative truth, it’s not completely clear, but I have almost no understanding of absolute truth.

Rinpoche: Is the reason that you say you have some understanding of relative truth the fact that when you feel hungry or when your stomach is empty, you know that you need food? You mean like that?

Jimi: Yeah!

Rinpoche: It is right that there is an “I,” that is true, but you cannot call just having that understanding having realized the relative or conventional truth. It is not that realization. Having just that understanding, you would not call having realized the “I” conventional truth. In order to have the realization that the “I” is conventional truth one has to realize, one should see that the “I” is under the control of name. When the explanation is given of the way it exists, how it is conventional truth, you do get some idea, but it is not clear. You think “Oh, that’s right, now I understand, that is the way it exists.” While you are studying and saying this you get something reliable, some truth, but still, while we are studying this and talking about it, if we check our instinctive or natural conception we see that it is something else.

The time you actually realize that the “I” is conventional truth, that the “I” is under the control of name, is when you see so clearly that from this base, from these aggregates “I” does not exist, but “I” exists on the aggregates. “I” does not exist from the aggregates, but “I” exists on them. Before you said “I” in one way, but now that you have realized it, now that you see clearly, you have the definite, unshakeable understanding that the “I” is under the control of name. Now you see the “I” over the aggregates. When, after seeking the truly existent “I” on these aggregates, you start to lose the “I,” you realize that it is completely empty.

When that which looked as if it existed is lost to our mind, when we recognize that it is empty, and it gets completely lost, when we have that experience we actually realize what we have been debating and talking about all this time—the truly existent and merely labeled this and that. We have actually been using the same words, but the way we have been thinking is in fact completely opposite to this present experience. There is a difference. Only at the time when we actually start to experience it can we recognize it. Even though the words were correct before, our conception was something else. We don’t really touch the meaning when we use the words.

Rinpoche: Concerning realizing absolute truth: when you stand up you question yourself, “What am I doing?” Then you answer, “I want to go and eat food.” Okay? Then you ask yourself, “Why do I tell myself this, saying ‘I want to go and eat food’?” What is the reason? You check! Heh?

Jimi: Because I am hungry.

Rinpoche: Yes, that’s right, that’s right. But why do I say I am hungry? What is the reason?

Jimi: Because I am.

Rinpoche: But after you have eaten, after you’ve had enough, plenty, at that time is there a “you” who is hungry? Is there an “I” who is hungry? Heh?

Jimi: No, I’m full.

Rinpoche: Without talking much, while you are saying “I am hungry,” at the same time you watch, you look at the “I,” you look at yourself. You call it “I am hungry,” and “I am going to eat food,” but at the same time as you are saying this to yourself, your mind is constantly watching your “I,” the self.

There is no other reason for saying “I am hungry,” or “I am going to eat food,” except for the fact that my aggregate, the body, is going to eat, going to the kitchen, touching the plate and putting the food in the mouth. Except for the aggregates, the stomach being empty of food, there is no reason at all for saying these things. There is no real “I” somewhere behind you or somewhere around you, an “I” somewhere who is hungry and who is going to eat; it is completely empty, it doesn’t exist anywhere. Not in your pockets, nowhere. Not on your head, nowhere. Not inside the body and not outside, nowhere. There is no real, hungry “I” except for the body, your aggregate the stomach being empty and your body is going to a place to eat.

After using that logic see what effect it has, see what changes happened to the appearance of the “I,” whether it becomes different from what it was before. Then you see something, you start to feel a little bit unreal, you start to feel it a little bit.

The real “I” somewhere inside the chest, above the heart, don’t you feel it? Heh? Don’t you feel that above the heart, below the neck there is something there, an “I?” “I am hungry, I have taken ordination today.”?

Jimi: Yes.

Rinpoche: Okay. This “I” that looks as if it existed from its own side becomes a little bit thinner. then after some time, while you are eating, you look at yourself again, you check how the self is. Okay? At that time the “I,” the self, somewhere here above the heart in the chest, has become kind of darkness, with no particular shape. Now it is stronger than it was before when you used the logic: “There is no other reason to say that ‘I am hungry’ and that ‘I am going to eat’ except for my aggregate, my stomach being empty. For that reason I am going to eat.” Check the difference between what you see now and what you saw before when using that logical reasoning. Okay?

The way it appears to you the second time is very different from how it appeared the first time. The first time when you were using the logic it had become a little bit weaker, thinner, unclear. Now while you are eating and not applying any logic on the “I,” especially if the food is very delicious or disgusting—now you watch yourself. At that time there is a strong one appearing to you, existing down below the neck, above the heart somewhere, kind of in the form of darkness.

That is what is meant by “the truly existent I” or “the independent I,” that is the one that one has to recognize. One should not just believe in the words, one should recognize it.

I stop here.

4 December, pm

Please listen to the teachings... etc.

In order to practice patience one should see the various shortcomings of anger. You can see it with your eyes. When you get angry you see for yourself all the shortcomings and problems that arise from this anger. You see all the shortcomings of anger in the world as well. All the shortcomings are explained more deeply in the teachings, showing that it is so harmful. It is said in the teachings that anger cuts off the root of liberation.

First of all, it is very difficult to create the cause of happiness: merit and virtue. So difficult. Just concerning human beings; anybody who is a human being does not just accumulate virtue, those who practice virtue are such a small number. Even we who try to generate virtuous thoughts are only able to generate virtue sometimes, very rarely. Even those who are trying to practice Dharma, having understanding of Dharma, what they accumulate in one day is more non-virtue and less virtue. Then in one week like this, in one month like this, one year like this—like this in this life.

As it is explained in the first chapter, The Benefits of Bodhicitta, at nighttime, without the sun and without moonlight, it is dark, there is complete gloom and fog, one cannot see the stars, there is not even the light from the stars. It is completely dark, gloomy, black, and foggy. Then there is a very brief lightning, one second of clear appearance, the lightning is showing the objects so clearly, but so briefly, just for a second. Like this the fortunate, virtuous thought rises only sometimes, very rarely in the minds of the human beings of the world.

If the small merit that we are able to accumulate with much effort is not dedicated with the motive of bodhicitta, it gets completely burnt and destroyed by anger, like burnt rice. Even if you plant burnt rice it can’t produce anything, it cannot do the useful function of producing, causing more rice to grow. It cannot, it is useless. Burnt rice becomes useless. In the same way the virtues that are not accumulated and dedicated with the motivation of bodhicitta become completely burnt, become useless, having no potential to bring the result of happiness and perfections to the person. Also anger hereby makes our virtues completely potential-less, useless.

Even in the case of the virtues that are accumulated with the motivation of bodhicitta, and dedicated to achieve enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings, if disturbed by anger one can’t experience the result for a long time, depending on the object with which one got angry. For example, you did a job with much hardship, but due to some reasons—maybe you created some problem for the employer or something—for some reason the money will be given only after one hundred years, after a thousand years, or a billion years. You were supposed to get the money today or tomorrow, but because you created some problem they made the rule or contract to give it only after your next life. Or you put money in the bank, but you can’t take it out of the bank this year, you can’t use it now. You don’t receive it now, only after a thousand, billion, trillion years. You are supposed to get it this week or this month, but instead it becomes like that.

The great bodhisattva Shantideva said in the chapter on patience, “The virtue of having made offerings to those who have gone to bliss (which means the Buddha and so on), accumulated for thousands of eons, gets destroyed by one instant of anger.” What he is saying is that all our virtues created in the past, like giving charity to others, protecting moral conduct, practicing patience, and having perseverance in our Dharma practice, as well as the virtue of having made offerings to the buddhas, all these various virtues accumulated for thousands of eons get destroyed if one gets angry with a bodhisattva. Even if one gets angry with a bodhisattva once, and that once is only for one second, all those virtues that one has been accumulating for thousands of eons get destroyed.

Even among those that were done with the motivation of bodhicitta and dedicated with that motive, the merit gets postponed for thousands of eons, as in the example I gave about the bank or about receiving money for your job—when you do not receive your money now, but instead the payment is postponed for so many years. In the same way your merit is postponed for thousands of eons. Maybe one did the practice of purification and accumulated so much merit that one would have been able to generate the realization of bodhicitta the next morning during the first meditation session. But if one gets angry with a bodhisattva before that (oneself not being a bodhisattva), the realization of bodhicitta that was ready to be accomplished the next morning during the first session gets postponed for thousands of eons. It is also like this with other results. The happiness and perfections that arise from virtues get postponed, and you don’t experience the result for such a long time. The result is postponed.

If a new bodhisattva gets angry with a bodhisattva who has received the prediction, the result of the virtues accumulated get postponed for a hundred eons. There are details about how long the happiness and perfections and the realizations that are the result of virtue get postponed, depending on how high the object that you get angry with, and the level of his realizations.

This was about getting angry with a bodhisattva—now regarding getting angry with the guru, the highest merit field among the merit fields.

I think we can also call the sentient beings a merit field. The enemy is our merit field. By practicing patience with the enemy we accumulate merit, and there are many causes for happiness. Just as we receive food and enjoyment by planting crops in the field, in the same way we receive merit. By practicing patience with the object, the enemy, we receive so much merit. Also, with all other sentient beings, we are able to accumulate so many causes of happiness by making charity to them, by keeping moral conduct towards them, by abstaining from giving them harm. Not killing, not telling lies, not stealing—abstaining from those disturbing, harmful actions toward the object, sentient beings. Through the object, sentient beings, we accumulate merit; we receive merit from the sentient beings.

Because of our feeling that it is unbearable that sentient beings are suffering, we develop perseverance and practice Dharma continuously, with much effort. Because of sentient beings, depending on sentient beings, we accumulate much merit through the practice of perseverance. By practicing perseverance in regard to the merit field we accumulate merit, as also through single- pointed concentration on the stable thought. We practice the paramita of wisdom because of sentient beings. By generating these realizations we accumulate so much merit. Feeling that it is unbearable, we can’t stand it that sentient beings are suffering in samsara, feeling that their sufferings are unbearable—by thinking like this we accumulate so much merit. Then we practice generating the realization of the stable thought and wisdom, the great insight, lhag.tong.

You can see now how all our happiness came from and was received through sentient beings’ kindness. We can see from this that they are so precious. You see, if the suffering sentient beings did not exist there would be no object to make charity to, no object for whom we would protect our moral conduct. If sentient beings didn’t exist, if the enemy didn’t exist, there would be no way that we could develop patience or perseverance, single-pointed concentration, or wisdom—in short, the practice of the six paramitas. There would be no way to accomplish the bodhisattva’s path. If sentient beings didn’t exist there would be no way to accomplish the Mahayana path, doing the bodhisattva’s holy actions, and so there would be no way to reach enlightenment. Without sentient beings so there would be no way to reach enlightenment. Without sentient beings, there is no way that one can become completely free from the two obscurations and no way to achieve the complete, perfect quality of cessation and realization. There would be no way for us to practice the six paramitas, the bodhisattva’s actions of accumulating extensive merits, the cause of omniscient mind, without sentient beings existence. Without them, there would be no way for us to generate great compassion, the great thought of loving kindness, and no way to generate the realization of bodhicitta, the door of the Mahayana path and the principal cause of omniscient mind. So without sentient beings existence there would be no way for us to even complete the works for ourselves; that is, the works for others as well as the works for ourselves.

The works for oneself are what I already mentioned—namely the complete qualities or excellences of the cessations, ceasing all the obscurations and accomplishing the realizations. One can see how the path to omniscient mind is dependent on the kindness of sentient beings, how generating the path within one’s mind is dependent on them, on their kindness.

However, among all the holy objects of the merit field, the highest is the guru, the triple gem. If one gets angry with the guru with whom one has made a Dharma connection, for the duration of the sound made when a young person is snapping his finger, for that short time of split seconds, then for as many great eons as the number of those split seconds one has to be born in the unceasing or unbearable state of the naraks—the heaviest, lowest suffering state of the naraks. This is explained much in both the tantra and sutra teachings. The duration of that life is one eon, and after dying there one is again reborn there, over and over like this. So again one experiences an eon. One eon is their eon, it equals their eons, not human beings’ eons. One has to experience this for so many eons if anger arises towards the guru for even one moment, like this (Rinpoche snaps his finger).

In regards the shortcomings of anger, we can’t tell who is a bodhisattva and who isn’t a bodhisattva. The conclusion is that we can’t say who is Buddha and who is not Buddha. You can only judge your own mind, you can’t judge others’. It is extremely difficult to judge the minds of others. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said in the teachings, “Beings like me can understand the minds of others; the living beings can’t guess the minds of others.” This means that when ordinary sentient beings judge each other they can’t say, “This is a bodhisattva, this is not a bodhisattva. This is a buddha, this is not a buddha.” They can’t judge. Living beings shouldn’t judge the minds of others, otherwise their own minds will become degenerated.

This means that merely because you don’t see him as an enlightened being, you might judge somebody who is actually a bodhisattva or an enlightened being to not be an enlightened being. Due to your very thick mental pollution and karmic obstructions you don’t see him as an enlightened being. From how he appears to you alone, you judge that he is not an enlightened being. It does not matter so much how he appears to others, the main thing is how he appears to you. Because he appears to you to be an ordinary person with faults and disturbing thoughts, you judge that he is not an enlightened being. So someone who is a bodhisattva is not a bodhisattva, as he does not appear to be a bodhisattva according to your own karmic view. For that reason only, you make the judgment that he is not a bodhisattva. That is only a cause for degenerating your own mind and for your realizations and fortune to decrease.

You should consider the results of anger arising, even for a short time, towards the highest merit field, the guru. Also, one should remember how the results of virtue and the merit accumulated and dedicated with the motivation of bodhicitta are postponed through anger arising.

I think I stop here.

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