The last few days you heard a little bit about the objects of refuge—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—and also a little bit about how it is not blind faith that one should have; how Buddha is a worthy object of refuge in different ways; that the Buddha himself is completely free from all fears, or in other words, all the obscurations. Also how Buddha is highly skillful in guiding others. One way to understand the supreme qualities that only Buddha has is from the stories of when Buddha was in India showing the aspect of the nirmanakaya, the supreme transformation; how skillfully he guided other sentient beings. There are many stories. The understanding and power that the arhats, who have completely ceased even the seeds of disturbing thoughts, don’t have, that only the Buddha has. How Buddha subdued other sentient beings, deeply ignorant ones, who had incredible dissatisfied mind and attachment and unbelievable pride.
There is one elaborate text by Buddha Maitreya—the Abhisamayalankarika. There are eight chapters and the last one contains detailed explanations about the four kayas and the qualities of a Buddha. Those who have studied this scripture and understand it think that it’s the best “pilgrimage.” When you study these things you start to discover the incredible understanding, the powers, the compassion, the six great actions which even the higher bodhisattvas and arhats cannot comprehend. Going to see the holy places alone doesn’t cause one to discover the qualities, but by studying the teachings one understands them extensively and deeply. So this is the best, most effective pilgrimage.
“I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” As we are visualizing Chenrezig, the Compassionate Buddha, above our own crown ... if one can’t think much, then one can think like this: the Compassionate Buddha, Guru Chenrezig, is the embodiment of all the buddhas, all the Dharma and Sangha. Guru Chenrezig’s holy mind is Buddha, the dharmakaya, and his holy body is Sangha, and his holy speech is Dharma. You can think like that when we say this prayer. If you want to think a little more elaborately then think of the absolute Buddha, and the truth of the all-obscuring mind—the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya aspect. Then think of absolute Dharma and the truth of the all-obscuring mind. The absolute Dharma is the true path to the true cessation of sufferings; the relative Dharma is the truth of all-obscuring mind, the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment that we are practicing and trying to actualize now. It is the teachings which contain all the essence of Buddha’s teachings. The absolute Sangha is the attainers of the actual Dharma refuge, the true path to the cessation of sufferings. It doesn’t matter if he’s a lay person or a monk. If one has actual refuge, realization of the true path and true cessation of suffering in the mind, directly seeing Shunyata, one is absolute Sangha. The relative Sangha, the truth of the all-obscuring mind, does not have the actual refuge, this realization, in the mind. It is four members of the ordinary Sangha. There might be a reason for the number four, but we need not worry about that at the moment. So, if you want to think more elaborately, then think like this. This contains all of the objects.
This is my own idea. When taking refuge in the ordinary Sangha one might have to think that in essence they are the absolute Sangha and then take refuge, even if the ordinary Sangha don’t have the actual Dharma refuge. If you have some difficulty in your mind, like having a lot of superstition, if you think this way it is helpful for the progress of your practice. For example, Milarepa achieved enlightenment in a brief lifetime through incredible dedication and offering of service to his guru, doing incredibly great purification by bearing many hardships and by following his guru, Marpa’s, advice. His biography is incredibly inspiring, not only for Tibetans, but so many people in Western countries—who start with drugs, with LSD! Anyway, it’s incredibly inspiring and it benefits so many people. I met many students who before they come to the East got this book in the shops or from a friend and got incredible blessings and inspiration. It gave them inspiration go get to know and practice Buddhadharma. They wanted to practice what great yogis Milarepa, Naropa, Gampopa, and other great yogis practiced and to have the same incredible realizations. They want to have those inconceivable, supreme qualities.
Particularly Milarepa’s life gives incredible inspiration to renounce—to see that samsara has no essence, that the worldly perfections have no essence, and especially to generate the thought of renouncing the disturbing thoughts, the dissatisfied mind. It is especially effective for cutting off the confused mind, the clinging thoughts of samsaric perfection in this life. Then many Western people come to the East and find gurus, to receive the teachings that those yogis have practiced. So, you see, this is how absolute Sangha is guiding. Then they receive lam-rim teachings, tantra teachings, maha-anuttara yoga teachings. They receive initiations; they are able to hear all the teachings of the complete path from the experienced high lamas on what caused those great yogis to reach enlightenment, to complete the whole tantra path in one brief lifetime in this time of degeneration. Then they are able to practice, to meditate. Somehow, even though unable to have realizations, they are able to make such preparation in the mind, to come near to realization, to become as fortunate as those great yogis, and be able to offer extensive benefits to all the sentient beings. So, this is how the absolute Sangha is guiding.
When we read Lama Je Tsongkhapa’s biography it is an incredible inspiration to study, to listen, to reflect and practice meditation on the profound tantra and sutra teachings taught by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and by Indian pandits. They are the example for us, inspiring us to practice. They explain their experience of the path clearly—how to practice lam-rim and the tantric path—and there are many teachings and autobiographies of their great experiences of the path: all the wrong conceptions, the dangers, where one should be careful, have been explained. That’s how the absolute Sangha is guiding us.
So, if you study more of these teachings, the absolute Sangha is guiding you. Like this, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are guiding. Similarly, ordinary Sangha are guiding us. From this we should be able to figure out how: they are living in a practice themselves. They are giving inspiration, or an example, for us to follow. They even become an object of merit, for as we make offerings we accumulate merit. Even that is an example of how Sangha guides. Without having created the cause—merit—we cannot close the door of the lower realms and cannot be free from samsara, cannot be free from the two obscurations. So these are the various ways we should think about how they’re guiding and giving help in Dharma practice.
The first two lines are: “I’m going to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” Relying upon the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in order not to be born in lower realms and to find a body of the happy transmigratory being in the next life is the refuge of lower capability beings. Relying upon Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha for oneself to be freed from samsara, to reach liberation, is the middle capability beings’ way of taking refuge. Then, relying upon Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha in order to achieve enlightenment, to be free from the two obscurations, to free all the sentient beings from all their sufferings and to lead them to omniscient mind is the Mahayana way of taking refuge—the way the higher capability beings take refuge.
When we say this refuge prayer we should do the higher capability beings’ way of taking refuge. This is a Mahayana teaching so the ultimate goal should be to achieve an omniscient mind for the benefit of all the sentient beings. So when we practice refuge we should practice the refuge of the higher capability beings.
SANG.GYE CHO.DANG ...
“To Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha I go for refuge. Due to the merits of charity, moral conduct and so on ..."—"so on” means the practice of patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom. It means any merit that we accumulate in relation to holy objects or in relation to sentient beings—“... accumulated by me, may I achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all the sentient beings.”
The next prayer is generating bodhicitta and dedicating the merits to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all the sentient beings; to be able to practice the graduated path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta—renouncing oneself and cherishing other sentient beings; renouncing the thought of giving harm to others and practicing the thought of benefiting them. Instead of giving harm to others with body, speech and mind, offering benefit with body, speech and mind to other sentient beings. That’s what it means when we say this prayer.
I will say it and you just meditate. Try to remember that meaning which I explained. Visualize Chenrezig, the Great Compassionate One, above one’s own crown.
TO BUDDHA, DHARMA, AND THE SUPREME ASSEMBLY I GO FOR REFUGE UNTIL I BECOME ENLIGHTENED. DUE TO THE MERITS OF CHARITY AND SO ON, ACCUMULATED BY ME, MAY I ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT IN ORDER TO BENEFIT ALL THE TRANSMIGRATORY BEINGS.
You should remember what I mentioned before and practice bodhicitta. Without bodhicitta, enlightenment cannot be achieved. Think, “I’m going to practice bodhicitta and avoid giving harm to others with my body, speech and mind and practice benefiting others with my body, speech and mind. Then recite one round of Chenrezig mantra. Today in particular, we must be aware of the general true cause of suffering that all the sentient beings are experiencing. So many are suffering of starvation. Also remember all the sick people in the hospitals. Right now, so many of them are dying, their breath stopping this minute. The doctors don’t know what to do; relatives and friends all round—there’s nothing that can be done. Nothing. It’s sad; there’s no freedom. So much screaming; so much pain. Just watch all the hospitals on this earth. Just be aware. I don’t mean the buildings, but the people! When you go to hospitals and see all these patients, it’s another world. You see the shortcomings of being in samsara. Even if they take medicines it does not help. It’s so difficult. You should think about it.
Cherish them as yourself by remembering their kindness, seeing how precious they are. At least you know the kindness received from your mother, even if you don’t know other extensive ways of their being kind. Their suffering then seems like I’m suffering. Their having heart attacks is like I’m having a heart attack.
Visualize Guru Chenrezig and think all sentient beings are purified...
“OM MANI PADME HUM ... OM MANI PADME HUM ...”
The nectar rays flow and purify all the wrong conceptions—one’s own and all other sentient beings'—and the obstacles to achieving the complete path to enlightenment. All the wrong conceptions are completely purified, from seeing the guru as ordinary or with disrespect up to the subtle dual views at the times of the white vision, red vision and dark vision. All those wrong conceptions are completely purified.
Then Chenrezig melts into light, absorbs to one’s own heart, and that generates the whole path, especially the stable, definite understanding of karma and bodhicitta. Think that all the sentient beings are oneness with Chenrezig and have generated all the realizations. Feel the great compassion of the Chenrezig holy mind, feeling an unbearable wish that everyone be free from suffering and to cause that by oneself.
There is a story about Seri.ig, one who becomes an Arhat in that life. I don’t remember the full story of that. However, after he was born from his mother’s womb, golden coins came unceasingly. This is more difficult to understand than golden ka-ka coming from the elephant! Can you say that it is impossible that the energy which makes gold by melting things together never occurs at all inside an elephant’s stomach? That the physical conditions one hundred percent, absolutely, cannot happen inside an elephant? There are many karmic stories that were explained in the sutra teachings that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha explained to His disciples. Many of those karmic stories were about something we don’t normally except, something which cannot be imagined. Many of those stories that Buddha Shakyamuni explained were purposely included. What Guru Shakyamuni explained was put in the sutras. The point was to give a definite understanding that even small negative karmas and even small virtues are important. To not feel careless, but to think of virtuous actions as being extensive, not thinking, “This is a small virtue, it doesn’t matter.” To see how important it is to practice them because they have an incredible result of happiness. And to feel that even the small non-virtues are as great and important to renounce as the heavy ones. To discover that from small non-virtuous causes there is an unbelievable continual suffering result. Then a person who has inspiration causing him to renounce even the small non-virtues. That is the point.
Do you think there’s karma like a horn growing from a human head? What do you think? Mark, what do you think?
Mark: I really don’t know, Rinpoche.
Lama Zopa: Do you think there’s a karma of a horn growing from a human head? Is somebody saying yes?
Audience Member. I know a story like this but I don’t know if it’s true.
(end of tape)
My sister has a tail! She’s alright now, but she had this much tail! Do you think it’s possible or not possible?
A.M: There are people who have been born with strange mutations, like three arms. I haven’t seen, but I’ve heard these stories. But I haven’t heard of people growing tails after they’re thirty years old!
L.Z: If you hear a story, will you change your conception? So, actually your reasoning is: whether there are horns growing or not, tails growing or not, is dependent on whether somebody has told the story. It’s not so much that there is a story of something that happened in the world, but it’s up to whether you heard it or not! It’s good to ask questions. It’s actually a good point to think on when we meditate on karma. For example, for myself, I cannot say one hundred percent that no horns will grow on my head, I cannot say no tails, because various karmas have been accumulated in this life and in past lives. One can never say absolutely yes or no, because there are various karmas. These things such as tails are common and now becoming more common. Because these are degenerated times, more strange things happen! One can’t really say.
Now I’m just asking the questions, but when one actually meditates individually on karma, it’s good to put the question to oneself. It’s very effective; it inspires one to purify these negative karmas. Because various karmas are created, we can’t really say how life will turn out. Even regarding tomorrow we cannot say. Even about tonight we cannot say. Now we are comfortable, but tonight? We are not sure. Maybe a sudden heart attack. Friends around, doctors around, pressing on our chest, going to the hospital. Not sure whether the person can make it from here to the hospital. We can’t say if he will continue being alive. We can’t really say since we cannot see every single karma from beginningless rebirths. We don’t have clairvoyance even to see each karma created in one day, and the details of what kind of result they have, whether it’s a good result or not. We can’t see these details clearly.
I still have the photograph: in Calcutta one child was born with a tail—like the tail of a goat. I think it was maybe two inches long. The nurse was holding up the tail. It was tied with thread, and they were thinking of cutting it off. Also, in one country, in a hospital there was one child who was over two years old who had a tail six inches long. They cut it off. So, there are many things happening all the time. That’s just what I have heard about!
In China, I’m not sure of the district, one farmer who was over eighty-eight had two-inch long horns growing, exactly like ox horns—two horns, pointed! Those who came to check said it was exactly like seeing an ox horn! I still have a picture of one child who has already experienced old age. This child has glasses; she was a girl, I think. The body was small, but looking exactly like an old person’s with veins showing. She was with her mother. I don’t know in which country. So, as Jack said, miracles can happen in the world.
A.M: Rinpoche, can I respond to that?
L.Z: Yes, yes.
A.M: The disease plegoria which is premature aging, is being studied, and it fits consistently with our model of the way nature may work and work incorrectly. And the idea of someone having a horn that looks like a goat horn may be accurate, but, I would bet anything that it’s made of human tissue, and that it’s consistent with something in the growth process. And having tails is something that occurs as a birth deformity and it’s not a monkey tail or a goat tail—it’s a human tail.
L.Z: I’m not saying it’s a goat tail, I’m saying it’s like a goat tail.
A.M: I just want to clarify that the difference is that these are unusual events, they’re not miraculous events, in that ...
L.Z: I’m not saying it’s a good thing.
A.M: No, no. I agree. It’s not a good thing. They’re inside the realm of causal phenomena, as we experience it. As we gain more and more knowledge about the way the world works and it seems that if something happens outside of that, it defies karma. In other words, if it was a goat horn on a human head, that would be outside the law of karma. That would disprove karma rather than support it.
L.Z: No, I didn’t say a goat horn on a human head. I didn’t say an ox horn on a human head. Even the hospital people said it’s exactly like seeing an ox horn! You’re right! There’s no goat! If a horn grows it’s not a goat horn, it’s a human horn. It’s a human tail, not a goat tail. If there’s hair growing, it’s human hair if it’s connected to the body.
Just to finish yesterday’s talk about those particular stories. Last night I showed Neil where in the text Lama Tsongkhapa mentioned the gold coming from the hands, and the elephant. It’s from the text called “The Sutra of the Wise and Foolish.” The names are mentioned there. One should try to understand karma, how karma is expandable, by reading those sutra scriptures. So, if you say, “Somebody put this story about such and such karma into the teachings,” it means that Lama Tsongkhapa is foolish. It kind of looks like those great yogis became enlightened and gained the definite understanding of karma by studying wrong things. It appears like this: we believe only factual things—that’s why we are still in samsara, still confused. If it’s made clear it turns out like this.
In Tibet if you wrote something which is against the Buddha’s teaching, something not correct, the great pandits and the great lamas contradicted it. Many people who were practicing contradicted such teachings—they said such and such is a wrong concept and explained how it is wrong. Normally how the great lamas, yogis and pandits in Tibet and India practiced it is: if it’s taught by Buddha then it’s practiced; if it’s not taught by Buddha, if it’s against Buddha’s teaching, they don’t practice it. This is how it is because in the teachings of Buddha there’s nothing missing from the path to achieve enlightenment, if that is the goal. Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching is the same. The teachings of the great highly attained lamas are the same.
Also, to say that the teachings of the Buddha are not Buddha’s teaching is criticizing the Buddha’s teaching. This is avoiding Dharma and one receives negative karma. Avoiding Dharma is much more heavy than destroying all the stupas on this earth. I heard this but I’m not sure. Similarly, many Theravadin people think that the Mahayana teachings were not taught by Buddha and that Vajrayana is not Buddha’s teachings. They believed that what the Buddha taught is only the lesser vehicle path, only that which is common for them, which suits their minds. But something which doesn’t fit their level of mind, like the tantra teachings, they say was not taught by the Buddha. So that is avoiding Dharma which creates much negative karma. It’s the same thing for a person who thinks, “I am a Mahayanist,” and says that the Theravadin teaching is a bad practice. It is Buddha’s teaching, so saying that is avoiding Dharma.
Also, we may not say there’s so karma, but when it comes to a particular point like this—something we haven’t seen by eye—if we say, “There’s no such thing,” about something which happened, which Buddha explained—that is heresy. Even if normally we don’t say there’s no karma, no triple gem, things like that. If one is not aware of what one is doing when one hears the Buddha’s teachings, there is danger of creating negative karma, of destroying one’s own temporal and ultimate peace. Then, you see, even if one hears the stories mentioned by Lama Tsongkhapa and those great yogis, one feels uncomfortable, one finds it difficult. Logically it is impossible to prove that such and such things are impossible. You cannot prove it, but inside you, you find it difficult to have faith in karma as Buddha taught it. The answer to that is purification. Even if you cannot say with logical reasons that it’s impossible for it to happen, but from the heart you cannot find faith, that is an obstacle, so it needs purification.
Karma is definite and karma is expandable. Without creating the cause, the result cannot be experienced. The cause which has been created cannot be lost at all. Before mentioning these I would add that this karma subject is the most difficult to discover of all the subjects. The way to discover existence is explained in three points:
The first is things that can be directly perceived like planting a seed and seeing it grow by eye. By making fire, smoke comes and it can be identified, or discovered by seeing it with one’s eyes. These are things that can be seen by eye and can be discovered by seeing.
Secondly, there are things such as subtle impermanence which have to be realized by depending on reason. For example, how the body is in the nature of change in each second, due to causes. By reasoning one realizes how the aggregates are by nature impermanent. The same thing with Shunyata: how the “I” is empty of true existence, how the “I” exists by being merely labeled on the aggregates is seen by depending on logic—the absolute nature of “I” is a dependent arising, which identifies that “I” is empty of true existence. So you see, these things are more difficult to understand than those other things which be discovered through seeing them by eye. They are realized by depending on reason, or logic.
Then thirdly, more difficult than these, is karma: such as that by practicing charity, wealth and enjoyment is received; by practicing moral conduct, the body of a happy transmigratory being is received. Things such as creating that negative karma results in suffering.
One doesn’t have clairvoyance to see all this, doesn’t have power to understand one’s own various karmas, the various results being experienced. Also one doesn’t have an omniscient mind, doesn’t have the power to see other’s karma. The way to discover this is by having faith, or depending on the true quotations of the Omniscient One, the Fully-Knowing-One. In the second category, by meditating, by reflecting on them, one can realize shunyata, impermanence, and those things.
You may say, “Just because Buddha said it alone does not prove that it is true.” O.K, in that case, why do you believe geography and the past history spanning many thousands of years? Why do you believe these? You yourself don’t have clairvoyance, you don’t see those past stories that you believe which occurred a thousand or even a hundred years back. Why do you believe that you come out of your mother’s womb; you don’t you remember living in your mother’s womb; you don’t see, you can’t remember how you came out. You are told that you were born from her, so you believe those words. So why do you trust this and those past histories?
There are many scientific explanations from biologists, psychologists and so on; why do you believe those explanations? You are relying on their explanations, their discoveries, what they say. Even though they have degrees they still have to learn because now there are new discoveries. Each year as they do experiments they find mistakes, previous explanations that are wrong. As they make further examinations, research, they have to change their explanations. Regarding Buddha’s path, no-one says: “What I told you before about the path is wrong—now it should be like this.” Or, in regards to the explanation of the mind, “Oh, this was wrong!” In Buddha’s explanation of biology, the evolution of this earth and the evolution of beings and things, Buddha does not say, “The previous time I explained this, but now it is wrong.” This is because there is no change in Buddha’s knowledge. It is a sign that there is not the slightest obscuration left, and the understanding is complete. No defilement is left so the understanding, the realization, is complete. So you see, as Buddha’s omniscient mind sees everything—absolute nature and the conventional truth, exactly as it is—the nature of the minds of sentient beings is correctly explained. There are no changes such as, “The previous one was wrong; now this is correct.” You see, if Buddha does not see exactly then the teachings would have to be changed.
That the Buddha is the true founder, that he is reliable and unbetraying, was proved by the pandits and great yogis who practiced the teachings. They found the infallible realizations. Just as the Buddha explained, they were able to approach enlightenment. They were able to be freed from true suffering and the true cause of suffering. That Buddha’s teaching is unbetraying is proved by the practitioners’ experience. You can see now, it’s not just blind faith.
When you check which teaching is betraying and which is unbetraying, you should check like this: are there many followers who achieved liberation from samsara by practicing as the founder taught the path? Did his followers achieve liberation and then did those followers also achieved the same thought? If there have been many examples like this, and if it is the experience of others, not only of the founder who teaches, “If you do this and that there’s liberation,” then that is a reliable path. If there is no one, just the founder, the one who reveals the path saying, “Blah-blah-blah, this and this,” and there are no other followers, then there is no proof. If many of the followers died having achieved nothing, there is no proof.
Such teachings as, “If you jump onto a trident and points come through the left and right shoulders, and the middle point comes through the head, then you will receive liberation”—there are many...
(end of tape)
…..beat yourself, holding very heavy things in your hand, punishing yourself. There are many things which are regarded as having the power of purification. If you are dead, then that’s it! There is nothing to be heard about whether you achieved liberation or not!
Karma, in the third category, is the most difficult to understand. The arhats see shunyata directly and clearly. Shunyata is very subtle, difficult to realize, but even an arhat sees it perfectly. But only a Buddha sees details of karma perfectly, especially subtle karmas. It’s the most difficult. The whole point is that you need purification. Without that we cannot develop realizations of the path.
JANG.CHUB SEM.CHOG RINPOCHE...
Yesterday I briefly explained the way of taking refuge and how it frees one of different fears, and how to rely upon the guru, the Great Compassionate One: practicing refuge, then practicing bodhicitta, generating the altruistic mind of enlightenment. Remember the Mahayana way, the higher capability beings’ way, of taking refuge. Remember that and meditate as I say the prayer in English.
“To the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Supreme Assembly I go for refuge until I become enlightened. Due to the merits of charity and so on accumulated by me, may I achieve the buddhahood stage for the benefit of all the sentient beings.”
Think of all three refuge objects; Chenrezig himself embodies all three. Remember, whichever way you think, the meaning of “I go for refuge.” One does not have the power to free oneself from samsara and doesn’t have power to free others, therefore we have to rely on someone who has that perfect power. Who can free or guide oneself from the samsaric suffering, from all the obscurations? Who is able to free oneself and all other sentient beings from suffering, and also make it possible that oneself can become the perfect guide to free all others from suffering? Buddha—such as the Great Compassionate One—Dharma and the supreme assembly. “I take refuge, I rely upon them, until I become enlightened.”
Also, it’s good to think: the same as when relying on, asking for help from the doctor, he gives some medicine and advice, by asking for help and guidance from the Buddha he gives you advice to protect karma. Protection karma is the actual refuge. That’s the main one. By protecting karma, practicing Dharma, that’s how Buddha, Dharma and Sangha guide oneself from sufferings. We should remember this. Without taking medicine, without putting into action the advice from the doctor, the doctor cannot help; the same thing: without practicing Dharma, without protecting karma, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha cannot guide.
“Due to the merits of charity ...”: at this time you should remember all the three times merit accumulated by oneself and by all other sentient beings. Put together all the merits, making one thing, and dedicate. Make a total, then dedicate. “May I achieve enlightenment for the benefit of kind mother sentient beings.” Not just dedicating, not just saying, “May it happen like this.” Not just praying. One should feel in one’s heart. “I am going to take the whole responsibility to free each narak beings, each preta being, each animal being, each human beings, each sura and asura, each sentient beings, from all the obscuration, from all the sufferings, by myself alone. Take the whole responsibility to free each being from all the sufferings. One should feel this in the heart when one says this prayer; not just praying for something to happen from outside—that God will help. You shouldn’t think this way. Think, “I’m going to do it, therefore I should develop bodhicitta and practice not giving harm to others with my body, speech and mind; instead, only offering benefit to others.” As it is said in the tantra teaching Guru Puja, “Even if all sentient beings in the three realms”—those sentient beings who get born and who die, all of them—“get angry towards me, even if they provoke me, even if they insult me, threaten, beat, even kill me, I won’t make my mind disturbed. I won’t get angry, I won’t become violent.”
“Instead of harming back, I will offer benefit. May I be able to practice such patience.” Then, regarding the true cause of suffering and true suffering, think particularly of couples’ problems, all the relationship problems in the world. Even though born as a human being, but experiencing something kind-of like being born in hell. Be aware; remember your own experience, then be aware of how others are suffering. Use your own experience as the cause to renounce samsara. Like you yourself suffer, others suffer likewise. Generate compassion by being aware of others’ problems.
OM MANI PADME HUM ... OM MANI PADME HUM ...
Chenrezig melts into light, absorbs into one’s own heart, and the Chenrezigs who are on the crown of each sentient being absorb to their hearts. This generates the whole graduated path to enlightenment, from guru devotion up to the unified state of no-more-learning, especially a stable understanding of karma and bodhicitta. Then, feel also that the mind becomes completely in the nature of great compassion, Chenrezig’s holy mind. Feel as unbearable the sufferings of others, wishing everyone to be free from all the sufferings, and to cause that by oneself. Especially one should remember the person whom one dislikes. Feel the great compassion, particularly for that person.
Then, thinking the same as in the beginning:
“I go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha until I become enlightened...”
“Due to the merits of listening to the teachings”—from the listeners’ side, the merits of listening, and from the lama’s side, he should think of the merits of explaining Dharma. When you say it in Tibetan, instead of dag.gi jin.so you should say dag.gi cho.nyen—listening to Dharma.
Please listen to the teaching by generating at least the effortful bodhicitta. It’s not sufficient to just help others recover from a headache, or just to stop their hunger. That’s not enough. Just to be able to help for temporal happiness, temporal pleasures, just to stop starvation, or headaches or diarrhea is not sufficient. That doesn’t really solve the problem. Giving material possessions, things like that, is not sufficient. They themselves have been millionaires, they themselves have been kings numberless times in past lives. They had everything numberless times in past lives. If material possessions could free sentient beings from the root of the problem, then there wouldn’t be any sentient being left.
As long as nothing is done, as long as you don’t help others to be free from the cause of suffering—the obscurations, the disturbing thoughts—as long as you don’t make some change, as long as they are not eliminated, even if you give them medicine when they have headaches, diarrhea, cancer or whatever it is, or food when there is starvation, nothing is done for the cause. So the causes of the problems are continuously created. If no change is made to the disturbing thoughts, the sentient beings easily create karma. Even if there was no past karma they would easily, uncontrollably create new karma to experience true suffering, the cycle of rebirth and death, all those problems—starvation, cancer, headaches, relationship problems, all those things. There’s no end. Karma is created because there are disturbing thoughts all the time, and so the problem, the result is experienced again and again. There is no end. So probably you might feel, “What’s the point of sitting in the tent just reciting mantra and meditating on compassion? Doing nothing, just sitting on a cushion not moving? Not running into a city, not running to a hospital, not running to the wars to stop the danger?” Probably you might be thinking it’s silly. That is actually a lack of understanding Dharma, a lack of study, of thinking well about the evolution of suffering. It’s because of not having understood the samsaric evolution well. It’s thinking, but not thinking further. It’s only thinking about a person’s hunger. You are not thinking beyond that. You are not thinking about where that starvation, that headache, that relationship problem came from. Not checking beyond that, just the surface. That is not understanding the true cause of suffering. So therefore, your only solution is to give food or to give medicine. That’s all. You see, there is no thought of how to really benefit others, to cease the cause of their problems. That’s because of lack of understanding the true cause of suffering. There’s no question arising of how to cease your own and others’ true cause of suffering.
Also there’s no understanding the different levels of the path, the graduated path which frees, which purifies, which ceases the different levels of disturbing thoughts. You can understand whether you have compassion towards all beings or not: when a relationship problem comes you can see whether you have compassion towards that person or not. Not whether you have compassion towards all beings or not, but just to that person with whom you are staying, with whom you are living. Just the person who is sitting next to you, whom you always see everyday; when someone comes along and disturbs the relationship, disturbs the pleasure that you are seeking for, then you see if you have compassion or not towards all beings. If you have compassion towards that person there is no problem in your mind. You want to offer everything to that person: belongings, husband, wife, children, whatever. If one really feels compassion, there is no problem. We have incredible, unbelievable confusion, disharmony, all these problems. Everyday you hear about it in the West. Actually, that’s because of not having generated compassion for every living being. Especially the closer ones. We can experiment to see whether we have got compassion or not when somebody disturbs our pleasure.
You see, the sentient beings themselves have been millionaires, having everything numberless times in the past. So therefore, this is not the ultimate solution. What they need to be free from is true suffering. There is no other way other than being free from the true cause of suffering. The question is, how does Buddha liberate the sentient beings from suffering. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said: “The Mighty Ones do not wash the negative karma by water.” This is very effective: negative karma cannot be washed by water, so that is not the way the Mighty Ones liberate sentient beings from suffering. Also, for example, when you get cancer, or leprosy disease—even if you cut out that piece of the body it doesn’t mean you are now completely free from leprosy disease or cancer for a life time. If you get a thorn in the foot, taking that out doesn’t mean that from now on you won’t ever get pain from a thorn. These things never stop the true cause of suffering. They don’t do anything for the disturbing thoughts or the hallucinating ignorance. This doesn’t do anything to the hallucination in regards to the absolute nature of the “I,” the reality of the “I,” which is the root of samsara.
Therefore the Mighty Ones do not eliminate suffering by using their hands like when taking a thorn out of the flesh. You see, it doesn’t change anything, it does no harm at all to the cause. So that’s not the way the Buddhas liberate the sentient beings from suffering. It’s not the way to cease the sufferings of sentient beings. Also, it’s not done by transplanting the realizations, like transplanting a monkey brain into a human or something like that, or like transplanting the heart. The way Buddhas liberate, ceases the sufferings of the sentient beings is not by transplanting realizations ...
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You see, if the cause of our sufferings is not created by us, if it is created by somebody else, then we don’t need to create the cause of happiness by ourselves. If our suffering and happiness is created by, or given by somebody else, by a separate being, it doesn’t make any sense. We don’t have freedom at all: we don’t have freedom to be free from suffering, we don’t have freedom to obtain happiness. We don’t have choice. Whether we are going to be happy or unhappy is up to the other beings, whatever he is called. That would be depressing because we wouldn’t have the freedom at all to make it impossible to experience suffering it’s up to whatever that other being does. So, there would be no reason why we should try to have a good heart. It doesn’t make reason why we should try to have a good heart. It doesn’t make much difference; it doesn’t makes much sense. Even speaking generally, if happiness and suffering come from a separate being there is no need for laws to stop violence, there’s no reason to educate; no reason to change ungenerous conduct into generous conduct; no purpose for practicing good conduct and for renouncing non-virtuous conduct and ill-will. If it’s created by somebody else, we don’t have any freedom. It’s up to the other person, the other being. I’m just talking, as this subject came up.
First of all, if the beings and the whole world are created by somebody else, why? Why was it created in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better if nothing was created? If there was nothing, no beings, no places, there wouldn’t be all this violence, famine and fighting of wars. There wouldn’t be all these meetings to stop the atomic danger, the many meetings for peace! It wouldn’t need to be done. Doesn’t the person who created this know these faults? He is very ignorant, he created it blindly. It looks like the conclusion must be that the one who created this world, the beings, everything, is completely ignorant; that he has no compassion because he created suffering. It almost becomes like this: the one who created the whole thing looks to be like some kind of element, not a being. If you question or research to trace back to the root, you come to a terrible explanation.
It is proved even by this example: if a person takes medicine he recovers, if he doesn’t take medicines he does not recover. If you eat food, you don’t starve; if you don’t eat food, you starve! That is in your hands. But, if you think of food but don’t go shopping, don’t do a job, just sit in a chair and think, “Somebody will give me food when I’m hungry—it’s not up to me, it’s up to somebody else,” or stay in bed all day and night and say, “Somebody will bring food, cook and do my job to earn money for me, even put the food in my stomach!, you can do this only if it is somebody else’s creation, not yours.
It is the same if one attempts to practice Dharma. If you don’t know so well what it means, just concentrate on protecting karma, avoiding the cause of suffering and practicing the cause of happiness. That is an infallible, unmistaken, basic understanding of Dharma, even if you don’t know so much about the path. If one practices Dharma, one can be liberated—one can cease the true cause of suffering, the disturbing thoughts. If one doesn’t practice Dharma, one cannot stop the disturbing thoughts. If one doesn’t practice Dharma, liberation doesn’t happen. If you eat food, you stop hunger. If you take medicine you stop the pain. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t stop. It becomes kind of funny when you check, when you think that the creator wants only happiness yet the sentient beings’ suffering is not created by them but is created by this separate being. When you check further, the one who created the whole thing is not a being who has great compassion. It comes to the point that it’s no longer a being, but is a power which doesn’t have a mind, doesn’t have consciousness! If you check further it’s not a being, but an element. But doesn’t science say that all beings come from the water, from the ocean?
A.M: From small organisms.
L.A: I heard something but I don’t remember exactly. Came from inside the water? I think I heard a bubble. Not a sort-of bubble? That’s why we have all the suffering? Does it explain how the beings came and animals came?
Audience: (Explanations from the audience referring to biologists’ explanation of the various causes and conditions and elements necessary for the creation of life.)
L.Z: By getting all these things together it creates life? What do you mean by life? What’s the definition of that life?
A.M: They can reproduce.
L.Z: They can reproduce! Those lives reproduce? No, I’m talking about the first one when those conditions gathered and made life. What’s the definition of that life?
A.M: (gives definition of life as “anything that reproduces itself.”)
L.Z: So that is the first living being?
A.M: That’s what they say.
L.Z: What’s the difference between that living being and an orange? Or a potato? What is the difference between the potato and that life?
A.M: A potato is more complicated. It has more cells.
L.Z: Potato has a more complicated life! That other one reproduced and the potato reproduces—the same. So I wonder what is the difference between that life and potatoes’ or peanuts’. So in that case, has a potato got mind? Has a potato consciousness? The first has consciousness, right?
L.Z: It doesn’t have consciousness? Doesn’t have sensations, feeling?
A.M: It doesn’t have a nervous system. That evolved later. It’s just a single cell, a single-celled organism. There’s a distinction made between animal and vegetable life. A single-celled animal is called an amoeba.
L.Z: The first one is a single cell? An animal?
A.M: Before that there were things like viruses which are not cells.
L.Z: The first life is an animal?
A.M: Plants have a more simple structure than animals.
L.Z: That was the first life? The first life was a plant? Then they became animal? Developed and became animals?
A.M: Different chemicals made animal cells.
L.Z: Animals do not have consciousness, is that right? What do they say?
A.M: I don’t think they discussed that.
L.Z: So do they accept that animals have ignorance?
A.M: They say they have limited knowledge. They say that they only respond to stimulation in a very basic way.
L.Z: Animals have no understanding of phenomena. Scientists don’t think that’s ignorant?
A.M: It’s called limited wisdom, Rinpoche.
L.Z: I just wondered—you may have to say that ignorance came from water and all those conditions. Do they accept that the disturbing thoughts can cease, to never arise again? Do they ever say that it can be ended? Even without accepting reincarnation, that consciousness can be separated from anger, from pride, jealousy, all those things?
A.M: Most scientists don’t make a separation between consciousness and brain. The brain is kind-of limited, so the mind can never be perfected.
L.Z: That means to cease anger and those things, to cease dissatisfaction and ignorance, you have to cease your mind? The mind has to become non-existent because it’s oneness? Yes? They think in this way?
A.M: They think it can be improved but not perfected.
A.M: I think they think that maybe through evolution the brain will become bigger. Maybe like this they can imagine.
L.Z: Brain become bigger? What about an elephant’s brain? It must be the biggest, no?!
A.M: The ratio of the size of the brain to the size of the body, that’s important.
L.Z: I don’t follow.
A.M: The relationship between the size of the brain and the size of the body is important.
L.Z: I think as long as there are more and more discoveries that mind can be freed from disturbing thoughts, it is good, even if they accept that it has a beginning, as long as they understand, as long as more discoveries come, that the mind can be controlled, that disturbing thoughts can be controlled, that it can be separated from those.
A.M: Small organisms, single-celled organisms, seem to have consciousness. They are self cherishing, they do respond to negative feedback—they still preserve themselves.
L.Z: The cell itself is not conscious. It is covered, pervaded, but that does not mean the cell itself has consciousness. It’s similar: we have got mind, but that doesn’t mean we are mind; we have got a body but that doesn’t mean we are the body. We’re sentient.
A.M: It seems that small organisms, then, are sentient also.
L.Z: No. No!
A.M: What is the beginning of sentience? What is the first sentient being? Where is the line drawn? Coming down the scale into the lower realms. Is it a mosquito? Or a fly?
L.Z: It must be a mosquito! I don’t know which of the animals is the first. I have no idea. You’ll have to ask somebody else!
Anyway, in the Abhidharmakosha it is explained the other way. The scientists explain it as animals then human beings. The Buddha’s explanation of the beings is that the very original beings came from the deva realms, the beings who are on the higher planets—the world of form. They finished their karma to be in that realm and they had accumulated the karma to be born as human beings from past times. Earth was evolved according to the collective karma of those who were to be born there. Particularly the richness of the earth, whatever exists now, depends on those particular human beings. Consciousness came from the deva realms, the world of form. The physical condition on earth was light, some kind of sparkling light, then consciousness entered into the light. The original human beings didn’t have a body like this, made of flesh and bone and which came from the mother’s womb. It was a different birth, I think it’s called ‘entering’ birth. The consciousness took place in the light, that was the physical condition. They had a body made of light.
There’s a whole explanation of how they reached the world of form. It is explained in the Tibetan philosophical texts that the young boys are studying now. However, in a simple way of speaking, they were born there through the development of mind, through virtuous thoughts. They had stable concentration, having aversion towards sense pleasures, thus seeking the inner pleasures derived from meditation. Through the development of concentration one gets born in the realm of form. Those in the form and formless realms don’t have such things as old age and sickness. They don’t have suffering of suffering. They accumulated various karmas created in the past times, both virtuous and non-virtuous—virtue to be born as human beings. When their karma to be in the form realm was finished, the karma to be born as human beings became stronger. That was their cause to be born on this earth as human beings.
Why were they born again as humans even though they were in a realm where there’s much inner bliss derived from concentration, without these problems that we have? They had achieved single-pointed concentration, tranquil abiding, by doing tranquil abiding meditation. There are four levels of stable concentration. They reached the highest, the deva realm, which is called the very peak of samsara. However, not having practiced the wisdom path, not having realized voidness, they were unable to eliminate the root of samsara, the ignorance holding the “I” as truly existent. So, from that, anger, attachment and various disturbing thoughts arose, and then they created karma.
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…….even though they had a body of light. They didn’t need to depend on sun, they had their own light. Because of the impressions from past times, the disturbing thoughts and karma – gradually the mind became more gross, those disturbing thoughts gradually became stronger and stronger, therefore the body had less light. Even those beings degenerated. The main evolution was the mind becoming more gross, the disturbing thoughts arising more strongly, so becoming more and more physical. Then the body gradually degenerated. The physical condition was that they ate something with attachment. I don’t remember exactly, you can find that out. Then came sex. Before, they didn’t have sex, but later on the sex organs developed. Do you remember? Have you heard the explanation? They ate impure food. Fruit? Something like that. They ate one impure food with attachment so the sex organs came out. But what food? That’s the question.
A.M: Some kind of fruit tree.
A.M: Apple tree.
L.Z: They ate this with attachment. Then, because it was an impure thing, that physical condition made the sex organs come out. But the main cause was disturbing thoughts and karma from past lives. Chok Dorje (in the audience) said that in Sanskrit salt and chili is the cause of attachment!
A.M: In the Bible it’s an apple.
A.M: The apple’s in Milton. The apple’s not in the Bible!
L.Z: I heard apple too! You see, because of strong impressions from past times, it’s experienced now. Then, by seeing sex organs attachment kind of developed, the physical contact then others felt and they threw dust over the ones who had physical contact. Then they built houses in order not to be seen by others! That’s the evolution! But I can’t remember all the details. There are very many details in the explanation about the evolution of the earth – plants, human beings, everything. So you see, human, then animal. From up, down. Anyway that’s enough!
A.M: Was the next animal a monkey then? From human did it go to a monkey?
L.Z: Of that I have no clue at all. It’s not that a human’s body turned into a monkey’s. Which animal started first I have no idea. Anyway, the conversation just went, but what I’m saying is if you’re really searching back it looks like what one thinks is the creator—whatever you call it, God or whatever—doesn’t have mind, that it is a kind of element, but having the power to create suffering. Wouldn’t it be better not to have that power which gives suffering to beings?
Anyway, the conclusion is that the sentient beings’ suffering is not without a cause. Is not created by a separate being. Nothing is caused by a separate being. If buddhas could transplant realizations then they would liberate sentient beings. However, the conclusion is that without us, the sentient beings, attempting to train the mind in the path, the remedy which eliminates the disturbing thoughts and karma—the cause of suffering—no other being can free us. Without sentient beings doing anything for their own liberation, no separate being can give liberation or realizations. There are uncountable numbers of bodhisattvas and buddhas—the most commonly known one for practitioners of the lesser vehicle path is Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. If, without doing anything, without the need to practice Dharma from the side of sentient beings, a separate being can do something, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha alone would have enlightened every sentient being already and there wouldn’t be one sentient being left by now. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha trained the mind in compassion, great compassion for all sentient beings, for eons, so there wouldn’t be any sentient beings left.
Similarly, as long as the patient doesn’t take medicine and doesn’t follow the instructions of the doctor, doesn’t make any effort from his side, then the doctor cannot help. You see, the way that the Mighty Ones want to liberate the sentient beings is by revealing the true path. Sentient beings get liberated from samsara if they follow the true path which actually eradicates the true cause of suffering. The Mighty Ones, the buddhas, liberate the sentient beings by revealing the meaning of selflessness—the absolute nature of “I", the aggregates and phenomena. Through listening, reflecting and meditation practice, they generate the true path that leads their mind to the cessation of sufferings.
Therefore, if you wish to really benefit, to liberate the sentient beings from the two obscurations, to lead them to the peerless happiness, the state of omniscient mind, to completely liberate them from true suffering and the true cause of suffering and to do that by oneself, I think that first oneself should know every single sentient beings’ different wishes, their different capabilities, their different karmas. One should know this clearly without the slightest mistake. You see, as there are very different levels of mind, in terms of karma, there is a need for various methods to teach them. So, one should know every single different method to reveal which will suit them. To guide one sentient being, as his wish, as his karma changes at different times, one should know every single method of guiding each sentient being to enlightenment gradually.
So, that which knows everything is only an omniscient mind. Nothing else, only an omniscient mind. Therefore, as long as you don’t have an omniscient mind there’s no way that you can perfectly guide other sentient beings without mistake. Even arhats, who are completely free of even the seed of the disturbing thoughts, although they have incredible psychic powers and clairvoyance, cannot perfectly guide because they are not completely purified of obscurations and their realizations are not completed. So you see, there is no other method, no other way except achieving an omniscient mind. So, one should achieve that omniscient mind.
Omniscient mind does not come like this: you sleep tonight and tomorrow morning without the need to meditate or do anything, just say, “I want to help others.” It’s not that you get up the next morning and the omniscient mind is there, without studying and training the mind in the graduated path. To attain the omniscient mind one should train the mind in the graduated path of the higher capacity being, the root of which is bodhicitta. That depends on the graduated path of the medium capability being. The renunciation of samsara which the medium capability being practices depends on training the mind on the graduated path of the lower capability being, renunciation of this life. So, training the mind from the beginning of the path, guru devotion, up to the unified stage. According to tantra, one should train the mind in the unified stage, the path of no more learning—the clear light and the illusory body which become the cause of dharmakaya and rupakaya.
That’s why the meditators who live an ascetic life, who are experimenting on the graduated path to enlightenment, cut off that which keeps one busy, which interferes with the quick success of actualizing the path—such as astrology, giving medicines, and other activities which offer only temporal benefits. Because if they only concentrate on the temporal benefits, even though they can do a lot of things such as curing people by mantras and various methods of concentration and medicines, that gives only temporal benefit. As I mentioned before, that doesn’t bring the cessation of suffering. They think, “If I can achieve bodhicitta then I can offer benefit, I can reveal teachings on shunyata to others which can liberate them from ignorance, the root of samsara. By achieving an omniscient mind I can perfectly guide others.” This is the most important, the ultimate benefit. So, other actions are not skillful. Leaving out that which offers only temporary benefits is not skillful, is not wise. They give up those activities and take on the most important ones. They use their life to accomplish the graduated path to enlightenment. Once sentient beings are free from samsara they don’t medicines and they don’t need to go to hospitals, they don’t need astrologers to tell them things. They get freed from the true cause of starvation, then there’s no need of food. When they become free of the true cause of hunger and thirst they don’t need to depend on food and drink.
Please generate the motivation of bodhicitta, thinking, “At any rate I must achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all the kindly mother sentient beings. Therefore, I’m going to listen to the teaching on the graduated path to enlightenment.
Maybe first there are one or two questions? Anything which I know ...There’s a question?
A.M: Yes, Rinpoche. Could you explain a little bit the difference “merely labeled” and “labeled”?
L.Z: You didn’t find any difference between these two? Did you find that “merely labeled” and “labeled” are the same?
A.M, “Labeled” was something I imposed on some object that “merely labeled” was just the concept of no object.
L.Z: Labeled? I missed out the first one.
A.M:“Labeled” was a name imposed upon an object and “merely labeled” was just the name without a substantiating object.
L.Z: Without a substantial object. What do you mean by “substantial object”?
A.M: Having permanent, inherent existence. I have a question about that.
L.Z: You said that “labeled” is something that puts a name on an object. Then “merely labeled”?
A.M: No object; just a label.
L.Z: Merely labeled, without an object. That’s like saying that you have Queen Elizabeth’s hat on your head! Is it like that? Do you have Queen Elizabeth’s hat? the jeweled hat?
L.Z: Crown, that’s right; it’s not a hat, sorry! Do you have that crown on your head?
L.Z: So if you say, “I have Queen Elizabeth’s crown on my head,” is it labeling?
A.M: Yes, it’s fantasy.
L.Z: It’s labeling?
A.M: Merely labeling.
L.Z: So you see, you don’t have the object. You don’t have that jewel with that particular shape that Queen Elizabeth wears on your head. But you label it Queen Elizabeth’s crown. So you’re “merely labeling.” Do you mean “merely labeling” is like that? Labeling without an object? Without a base? Without a substantial base?
A.M: Either it can be with misperception, or like with feelings that I have, or projections. I can see the conspicuous projections, but I can’t ...For instance, when I say something is beautiful that strikes me as mere labeling.
L.Z: That’s defined as mere labeling? When you say, “That’s something beautiful”? You find that that’s merely labeling? Well, that’s very good. Congratulations! Do you find it the same for the ugly objects?
L.Z: You find “ugly” is merely labeled?
A.M: I don’t know that that’s...
L.Z: You don’t find things ugly? You don’t see ugliness? I think that’s excellent! Excellent. One problem stopped! I don’t know about the beautiful things, but the problems about meeting the ugly ones are stopped! okay So, for you, there is no beautiful object.
A.M: No, I often make that mistake! No, I often think that there is!
L.Z: Do you see beautiful objects or not?
A.M: I consider that a projection, a judgment.
L.Z: Projection, judgment. So, you don’t see beautiful objects?
A.M: I still have appreciation.
L.Z: O.K, you have appreciation. Isn’t appreciation the same as seeing a beautiful thing? Isn’t appreciation also projection?
A.M: It’s an internalized projection, if it is a projection. As opposed to being externalized.
L.Z. You said the beautiful object you see is also a projection?
A.M. It’s an Internalized projection. If it’s a projection, as opposed to being internalized.
L.Z: Internalized projection?
A.M: okay When I feel that something gives me a sense of beauty when I consider it and appreciate it, then I’m owning that experience. I’m saying that that’s my response to something. I’m not saying that it is something inherent in what is out there. For instance, it would be easy to say that’s a beautiful tree in bloom over by the side of Norbulingka. But, in my more lucid moments I can recognize that the concept of beauty is a projection from my mind, and it is a tree at best. Perhaps not even a tree according to Buddhist philosophy!
L.Z: But then, the tree that you see is maybe not a tree, eh? This may not be Nepal! This may not be Kopan! This may not be the Kopan meditation course! No, I think what you’re saying makes sense to me—that you see a tree which may not be a tree.
What you are saying is that on that base—that tree which we can see, and which we can burn, and with which we can cook food, and from which we can eat fruit—the way it exists is by being merely labeled on that particular nature and form. The way that it’s existing is nothing more than that. In fact the tree exists as nothing more than what is merely labeled on that base—that particular nature and shape on which we put the name, the label, “tree.” First of all you see the tree or stone, or person. You look at the base. When we look at him ... what’s your name?
L.Z: Jack. When we look at him, whenever he’s speaking, we see his aggregates first ... the particular face. If it’s somebody name we don’t know, we would think “one injie” because of the eyes and the hair—mostly the hair. Moustache probably! I’m joking! The color of the hair. Is there any black person having yellow hair?
L.Z: Aborigines. Black color? Normally it’s white people. Then you say “injie.” When we look at him, first we see the aggregates, then right after we say “Jack.” First we have to recognize a particular shape. But when the base is not so clear, we can’t decide what to label. When we can’t see the base, the particular shape of the body we can’t decide.
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There are different ways to understand it. As long as the base on which you label is not clear, you don’t know what to label. An example: you see a person coming from a distance, but you can’t really decide who it is. Do you see how labeling is dependent on the base? Afterwards as the person comes nearer, and the particular base, the shape is seen—the way his nose is, the way his mouth is, the eyes, everything—and as you know what Jack looks like, you think, “Oh, that’s Jack! It’s not Jock!”
From this example you can understand how Jack is a dependent arising; Jack exists dependent upon his aggregates. First you see his base, his aggregates, and when they are clear you label, you say, “It’s Jack.” The way Jack exists is in dependence upon the aggregates and your thought which labels. The Jack which is dependent on the aggregates and the thought which labels—a dependent arising—that exists. Jack is dependent on the aggregates, not only the body. If it were only the body, then when Jack’s body is in the coffin with flowers around, you wouldn’t say “Jack is there.” You say “Jack’s body,” you don’t call it “Jack.” The aggregates are the grouping of body and consciousness. Even though there is a body, if Jack’s consciousness has separated from it, it’s Jack’s body, it is not Jack.
Now you have been seeing Jack for a long time. You labeled that particular person with that particular shape as “Jack” some time ago. It has become familiar to your mind, so you don’t examine each time when you see him. First you don’t see Jack; first you see the aggregates, then you label “Jack.” One who has understanding of the teachings on dependent arising and voidness would know this for our mind, whenever we see him, it is as if Jack exists from his own side according to the appearance. If we put how Jack appears to us into words: Jack is existing from his own side. There is no question of seeing Jack as merely labeled—we don’t even see Jack as labeled!
There are many different levels hallucinations with respect to how Jack appears. When we look at Jack, even though we know that Jack is dependent on our mind labeling, still we believe that there is some existence from Jack’s side. At that time there is the appearance that there’s Jack existing from his own side only, without depending on my mind, without depending on thought labeling. That is one type of appearance. Then another is that Jack is existing without depending on the impression. Remember some days ago I asked that you meditate intensively, practice awareness on how everything that exists comes from the mind, comes from the impression that is planted on the past consciousness. It appears that there is Jack existing without dependence on my experience or impressions, and that there is Jack existing alone, without depending on the continuum of his aggregates. And then the more gross hallucinations; that Jack is permanent and not dependent on causes, and even not dependent on parts, or the group of aggregates—not dependent at all on the existence of the aggregates. These are very gross hallucinations. So there are many different levels of hallucination. That’s why there are four Buddhist schools or doctrines.
Out of the eighteen groups there is one particular school called ni.ma poe.pa. Those who follow this school are Buddhists. The first school’s view is deeper than that of this ni.ma poe.pa school. The first and second schools’ views are the same. The third, the “mind only” school’s right view—their views of voidness, or reality is a little more pure than the first and second schools. Within the fourth, the “middle way” school there are two divisions: Svatantrika and Prasangika. The Svatantrika view is more pure, more correct than that of the third school. The most correct, most pure, unmistaken, infallible right view of reality, or the absolute nature of the “I” and phenomena, as they actually exist, is that nothing has the slightest existence from it’s own side, but exists by being merely labeled. I and objects are empty of existing from their own side. Not only empty of existing only from their own side, but empty of existing from their own side at all. That is the meaning of “labeled” and “merely labeled.” “Labeled” cuts off the view that I and the aggregates and phenomena exist only from their own side. “Merely labeled” cuts off the view that I and phenomena exists from their own side at all, cuts off the view that something exists from its own side.
Even thought we agree that I and things are labeled—that Jack is labeled by people who see him—at the same time there is something existing from their own side. When you look at Jack, do you agree that Jack is merely labeled?
Jack: I’m not here?
L.Z: Do you wish you were somewhere else? Do you wish to be nowhere?!
Jack: I would like to understand. This is very difficult to understand. Do I wish to be somewhere else?
L.Z: Do you wish to be somewhere else or do you wish to be nowhere? I’m just joking! But do you agree, when you see Jack, that he is labeled—everybody?
A.M: There seems to be something there. It’s different from seeing an image of Jack with my eyes closed.
L.Z: When you see the image, you don’t think it’s labeled?
A.M: When I close my eyes and see an image of Jack it isn’t labeled, the quality is there. I’m creating a memory of Jack’s face. Then when I look at Jack, although I’m labeling qualities on to him, saying he has certain characteristics, but I still think that that’s a different image than what I see when my eyes are closed.
L.Z: I see. But the point is this—even if you see an image of Jack, even when you are not physically seeing him with your eyes and you remember Jack, do you see that that it is labeled? But isn’t it the same, don’t you find that something exists from his own side, whether it’s a memory or whether you actually see him?
A.M: When I see him? When I see him, whether his name is Jack or whatever, I know that that’s a label, but that it’s not only a label, but that it’s a body, and I recognize it’s impermanent because there’s a time when Jack’s body didn’t exist and there’s a time when Jack’s body will not exist, but now he seems to exist. The thing that’s being labeled exists.
L.Z: That’s right. But my question is do you agree that Jack is labeled?
L.Z: Do you agree that he is merely labeled?
A.M: Merely labeled? What does that mean? If I say “I’m merely labeled,” what does that mean?
L.Z: Do you agree that he is merely labeled on his aggregates? Do you agree or not?
A.M: I’m not sure what that really means.
L.Z: O.K, okay If you don’t know what it means, okay. Do you agree that Jack is labeled? Even though you agree that he is labeled, do you still see that without there being some existence from Jack’s side Jack cannot exist? Don’t you feel this?
A.M: I think that there is something existing. The space ...
L.Z: There’s something existing from its own side?
A.M: Yes, the air right around Jack’s body is different, is different from the matter that is within that area. Whatever you want to call it, atoms or whatever, the space that Jack’s body is occupying seems to be different from the space that’s right around him. Whether I call the air the body or the body air is irrelevant, but there seems to be a difference.
L.Z: I think even though we agree one hundred percent that Jack is labeled by his parents, or when we see Jack, labeled by our mind, but we still think that there is some existence from his own side—that without some existence from his own side, Jack cannot exist at all. Do you feel that?
A.M: Yes, but I can call it the memory or image. I can close my eyes and see Jack.
L.Z: No, I’m just talking about when you see Jack.
A.M: There’s something there.
L.Z: No, not just that something is there, but something from his own side—that Jack is labeled but that there is some existence from the side of Jack. There is nothing wrong with understanding that Jack is there. Jack is there!
A.M: But in terms of Buddhist philosophy there seems to be something incorrect about me thinking that there’s an actual, independently existing quality or matter.
L.Z: So, I’m trying to come to a conclusion, okay?! So, you have agreed with “labeled”; okay, but now you see that there is something existing from its own side. For our mind, if there is no existence from Jack’s own side, then he doesn’t exist at all. That’s the idea in our mind: Jack is not merely labeled—there should be some existence from his own side. We think there is some existence from its own side, not only that there should be, because that is how it appears to us. So in “merely labeled,” the “merely” negates any existence from its own side—not only the Jack that is completely existent from his own side, but that he is existent from his own side at all.
Just concentrate. This way you may not understand much. If you get the idea through “dependent arising” clearly, then it makes sense that “merely” cuts off even what you believe exists from its own side. I have the example before. Now, just concentrate on this point, I will repeat the same thing: when you don’t see the base clearly, you can’t label “Jack,” you can’t decide. Once a base—the aggregates, the body with its characteristic shape—is clear, if you know that particular person is named “Jack,” then you say, “It’s Jack.” That’s all; there’s nothing more to Jack’s existence than that. There’s nothing more than just the mere appearance of his particular figure and your thought labeling “Jack” on that. There’s no more Jack than that existing. Do you get the idea?
A.M: If I see Jack’s body in a coffin, I see the aggregates, and I recognize the aggregates as Jack, but I don’t think he exists. For some reason when I see him now I think he exists with that body and mind, and if I see him in the coffin I don’t think he...
L.Z: Do you believe he’s Jack?
A.M: You don’t label on his body, you label on his aggregates, and you cannot see the aggregates in the coffin because they are no longer together, complete. The aggregates are not the body, the aggregates are all the aggregates together...
L.Z: Yes, yes, good! What she is saying is this—Jack’s body in the coffin is not Jack because consciousness is not there. That’s what she is trying to tell you! Anyway, we won’t talk about that subject, O.K?! Anyway, Jack’s body isn’t Jack; Jack’s mind is not Jack. Even the mere group of aggregates is not Jack. Jack depends on being merely labeled on the group of aggregates.
The point to concentrate on is this: when you see Jack’s particular aggregates—the body associated with consciousness—clearly, then, as you are familiar with that particular shape as being Jack, you label “Jack”—“Oh, here’s Jack coming.” Jack exists by depending on the particular aggregates and your thought merely labeling on them; that’s all. Because his body is coming near to you, you think, “Jack’s coming.” You are satisfied by that—as the body is coming, Jack is coming. That’s all. Jack is nothing more than the thought merely labeling dependent on the base. There is no Jack which is something more than, something else than that. That’s all there is to Jack’s existence. That Jack is existing is satisfied by just seeing this mere appearance of the aggregates, nothing more than that. Now another example this is also good, since we have come to this point. Now just concentrate. Think of your own name, whatever it is. I will mention one name, but you should relate it to your own name while thinking of this other person’s name. This might give you a little bit of an idea of subtle dependent arising. This way you might get a bit of an idea of what “merely labeled” or “only labeled” means.
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There’s a person called Peter, okay? First of all think of your own name. Now, before Peter’s base for labeling, his aggregates were actualized, even if there was a thought which labels “Peter,” Peter did not exist. Similarly, before your present aggregates were actualized, either inside your mother’s womb or outside, even if your parents had the thought to label whatever your name is, Thubten Zopa or whatever—you didn’t exist. As Peter didn’t exist, Jack or Jeff Nye, or whatever, didn’t exist. Whatever the name—Robin or Linda or George, Ken or Uldis or whatever your name is, before these aggregates were actualized, even if there was a thought which labeled “Peter,” “Jack”—all these—they did not exist at all. First of all, think of that: before these human aggregates are actualized, even if there is a thought which labels, Peter or whatever doesn’t exist.
If there are the aggregates—the body associated with the consciousness—but there’s no thought which labels “Peter” on that, Peter doesn’t exist. Think: does Peter exist before the thought which labels on those aggregates? Relate it to yourself, whatever your name is. Even though there were aggregates, before the abbot gave the name “Thubten Zopa,” Thubten Zopa didn’t exist. Think about this in relation to yourself. Concentrate on this. Check deeply—not just intellectually suddenly saying, “Oh, how can it be possible without the thought labeling?” Think how it doesn’t exist—even if there are aggregates but no thought labeling, there is no Thubten Zopa or Peter.
Now, think: the parents label on the actualized aggregates, checking in books to find the best name! Think that this minute they are going to label “Peter” on those aggregates. Before this should relate it to yourself. You should imagine that your parent are deciding right now what to call you. Maybe they asked many people or read books. They are going to label in the next minute! At this minute Peter or Jack or whatever does not exist. Now, the next minute comes and the parents decided, “We are going to call him Peter.” That’s all—that’s how Peter or Jack or Thubten Zopa exist. Relate it to your own name. When you think about this, is there Peter existing from his own side? Now you understand: the parents label on those aggregates after checking books and so on. Don’t you feel now that Peter is merely labeled? Relate it to your own name.
A.M: Peter is a name.
L.Z: Peter is a name. Peter is not a person? Is Peter a word?
A.M: I think a name.
L.Z: What’s your name? Ubdesh Singh? okay Ubdesh Singh, do you know dal bhat? (Nepalese food). Is dal bhat a word?
A.M: Dinner, lunch, breakfast!
L.Z: Dinner, lunch, breakfast are words? Is dal bhat a word? Isn’t dal bhat a name? Coffee, chocolate—are they names?
A.M: I don’t know; my English is not so good!
L.Z: Your English is perfect! That’s my question—is lunch a word? Is coffee a word? Then my question would be: “Are we eating a name?” That’s a word, so when we eat lunch we eat a name!
You see, Ubdesh Singh, Peter is not a name. The word “Peter” is a name, but Peter is not a name. If we say this person is only a name, that’s a mistake. There is a difference. When you don’t concentrate on the words, you might think that you are speaking correctly. I heard somebody say in some lectures, I think in Delhi, at a conference, “It’s only a name.” “Only labeled,” is correct. That it is “only a name” is not right. You see, when you don’t think about the words it seems correct, but “it’s only labeled” is correct. If you say “Peter is only a name,” then Peter wouldn’t be a living being.
Do you understand the point?
There are the aggregates, the parents agree and label “Peter,” so there is Peter. You should concentrate on that point. Now you can see that nothing exists from its own side. There is not the slightest existence from the side of Peter. Peter exists only by being labeled. If you understand that, you should relate it to the “I”—oneself. Then you are able to recognize the infallibly right object of refutation—that which is existing from its own side. Then it only takes a second to recognize the right view, that the “I” is empty of existence from it’s own side. Then you see clearly, and there is the definite understanding of how “I” exists by being merely labeled. Definite, unshakable realization comes. Then you have a weapon like an atom bomb to destroy the root of samsara. Okay?
There is no object, no existence that Chenrezig’s omniscient mind does not cover. There is no existence that is not the object of Chenrezig’s knowledge, or an object of Chenrezig’s understanding.
Just to give an ordinary example: on this earth some people have great knowledge and understand ten or fifteen languages. They have studied various subjects and know all the different religions in the world. Whether something is right or whether it is wrong, it is different peoples’ concepts. Whether these things really exist as they believe or whether the things do not exist as they believe, there are all the different beliefs. Some people have traveled everywhere, especially where other tourists cannot go! Places which are called secret, places which are difficult for other Western people to go to! They know the histories of each country. There are some who know a lot; there are some who don’t know even one language well! I don’t know even the Tibetan language well, you know! To understand all the Tibetan language you have to understand the whole Dharma. Some people can remember so much, some remember very little. You see, there are different capabilities of mind on this earth, just talking about ordinary people. Some have great intelligence, can remember every topic, can remember everything they study. There are some who can remember very little.
Besides common knowledge—such as understanding biology, science, history, geography, this and that, the common knowledge that is taught in universities, schools or colleges—some people have higher knowledge which common people do not have—such as clairvoyance, being able to remember the past, to see the future—which is not as common as that other knowledge. Even clairvoyance has different levels. There is very limited clairvoyance and there is very deep, profound clairvoyance, being able to see much further, even past lives or far into the future for many lifetimes, or the ability to see very distant objects, or being able to read very distant people’s minds, even as far as from here to the West! They have different levels of power and understanding. Particularly, by generating the path which eliminates the unsubdued mind’s obscurations, powers such as the incredible psychic powers and clairvoyance that arhats have are achieved. They can make even huge rocky mountains small like atoms.
One arhat, called Nerbe, I think, was giving teachings. Some maras, evil doers saw that if he revealed teachings many of the disciples would realize the true path. The evil doers, because of their negative nature, always disturbed the sentient beings trying to accumulate merit and increase their virtue. They came to disturb while he was giving teachings. They caused rainfalls of food while the arhat was giving teachings! I am not sure what kind of food - I don’t remember whether it was hamburger or cheese! I don’t remember exactly, maybe the arhat transformed it into the form of flowers. Some evil doers came in the form of very beautiful girls and danced while he was giving teachings. The arhat transformed their bodies so they appeared completely ugly and no longer were a distraction. Higher bodhisattvas are incredibly greater in psychic powers and have greater understanding than that. Such as the bodhisattvas of the ten bhumis, who have immeasurable qualities. With ordinary clairvoyance one can see the past and future of this life, and the earlier and later lives of other people. Through mantra, through the power of materials, one can achieve ordinary clairvoyance which can predict the length of lives or see past and future lives of other people, whether a person will recover from a disease or what needs to be done for a disease or things like that. Their clairvoyance is deeper and much more reliable through their having achieved tranquil abiding, shamatha meditation, which has nine stages. And that is without having realized Shunyata, without having renunciation of samsara, without having entered the path. By developing bodhicitta and the wisdom realizing voidness, which is the direct remedy, the different levels of obscurations are ceased, the understanding gets more and more developed, supported by the accumulation of much merit through the practice of bodhicitta. Like this one is able to accomplish the all understanding omniscient mind.
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There’s nothing Chenrezig’s omniscient mind does not see. Everything, all existence is covered by Chenrezig’s omniscient mind. So, there is Chenrezig above your own crown. There is Chenrezig wherever you are: in your room, at your altar, in front of you, above your head. How is that? For example, we see Katmandu or we see Boudha from here. We are not there, we are here in Kopan, but we see Boudha. We can’t compare our own experience to the Buddhas. You see, our aggregates come from an impure cause: karma and disturbing thoughts and from ignorance, which we were talking about last night: the ignorance not understanding that the “I” is existing by being merely labeled. Among the ignorances this one is the very root of samsara.
Each of the six consciousnesses is defined. These are the very first subjects that these young boys here study; the very first things they debate and memorize. The sound “Peter” is a name, but Peter is not a name. If Peter is a name, then Peter has to be a sound. Peter would be only an object of the ear consciousness! That’s just to clarify a little bit.
The point is this: our aggregates come from karma and the disturbing thoughts and ignorance. Being ignorant is not understanding that the “I” is existing by being merely labeled on the aggregates and thinking that there is existence from its own side. These aggregates, this samsara, are created by, or caused by, our own disturbing thoughts and karma. This samsara continues to the next life and one again experiences the suffering of birth, death, etcetera. It’s continuous except if we are able to eliminate the seed of the disturbing thoughts in this life. If we can realize the true path, directly perceiving Shunyata, or emptiness, then the samsara will not circle to the next life. If we can’t make it to this stage we have to continue in samsara and our aggregates will continue circling to the next life. On and on, like this. On and on, continuously suffering in samsara. All of the problems of the six realms over and over. It says in the teachings, “For the one who sees the truth, there’s no throwing karma. One doesn’t accumulate new karma to cause one to circle in samsara.”
Therefore, it is extremely important to practice Dharma: to develop the thought of renunciation of samsara, which is the door of liberation. Our aggregates are so bound, contaminated by the seed of disturbing thoughts, and are caused by karma and disturbing thoughts. The arhats have achieved Nirvana, the complete cessation of the true cause of suffering and true suffering. Buddhas, having completely ceased all the obscurations, do not have a gross body. You see, even the subtle obscurations, the subtle dual view, are completely purified, especially by the tantra path, particularly by the second stage, that of accomplishment. Buddhas don’t have a gross body but they have a subtle body.
Even now we have a gross body and subtle body, and gross consciousness and subtle consciousness. What are the subtle consciousness and subtle body? The subtle wind is the vehicle of the subtle consciousness. The subtle wind is the subtle body. At the moment we have this but it’s not pure. It’s completely polluted like a filthy cloth, like the night time - no moon, no stars, completely foggy, completely obscured and polluted. The graduated path, from guru devotion to enlightenment - the fundamental lam-rim path: the three principle paths and the tantra path especially the stage of accomplishment - is actually the thing which does the work of purifying. As I mentioned before, it’s the second stage, that of accomplishment, the tantra mahamudra realization. I’m not going to clarify what that is.
There’s no need to clarify the particular points of tantra, especially to reveal Maha-anuttara yoga tantra. Without the listener having faith in tantra and faith in karma, without his mind being ripe and ready, without him having received the initiation, the one who reveals it receives the vice of breaking a Vajrayana vow. Also, sometimes it is of no benefit. Certain things instead of helping, cause the listener to have bad thoughts. Because his mind is not ready to understand, to hear, it could create bad ideas about tantra practice. Instead of faith to practice arising, wrong ideas and heresy arise.
Through the second stage - that of accomplishment, the tantra Mahamudra realization - one reaches the tantra stage of clear light. Through this, one is able to achieve the illusory body. Then, by developing the clear light of meaning, wisdom directly seeing voidness, and the pure illusory body, (the previous one was impure) the path of unification is achieved. The illusory body is related to subtle body. If we practice tantra in this life on the basis of lam-rim we will achieve the illusory body and the clear light. That is the continuation of the present subtle body.
People in the West like to talk so much about astral trips! When we achieve these tantra stages of the impure illusory body, the clear light, the pure illusory body and the clear light of meaning, we can really do these astral trips! Then we achieve the path of unification: unified clear light and illusory body. By developing this path of unification of clear light and illusory body, the subtle dual view completely ceases and the subtle obscuration are completely ceased. Then one has achieved the unified state of no-more learning, the Vajradhara state. Then one has achieved the unified Chenrezig state.
The clear light—the subtle mind—and the illusory body—the pure and impure subtle wind or subtle body—is the graduated path which leads to the Buddha’s or Chenrezig’s unification of holy mind and holy body, to the unified state of no-more-learning which is completely pure, unstained even by subtle obscurations. You should not think of the holy body as being gross like our body which is contaminated by disturbing thoughts. What I’m saying is that our polluted and obscured body and mind shouldn’t be thought of as similar to a Buddha’s.
This is to give you some idea, don’t you sometimes feel like this: even though you’re sleeping at Kopan, your body of flesh and bone is in bed inside a sleeping bag, yet there’s a very strong feeling that you are in America? Sometimes it is so strong, as if it is real, as if you have gone to some new place where you haven’t been before. Your mind is not just consciousness going without a body, but it is a body not having resistance and able to go very far, like, to America, seeing many fearful or amazing things like in a dream. Even now, while we are not free but polluted with the three poisonous minds and the two obscurations, the subtle consciousness and subtle body are together, during dreams and ordinary times.
When we become enlightened, the vehicle of subtle consciousness - the subtle mind - and the subtle consciousness are together. The difference is that now they are completely obscured by the two obscurations.
When we are enlightened the subtle mind and subtle body are completely free of the two obscurations. So then there’s no gross body such as we have now, which we are bound to by karma and disturbing thoughts. One example is: in a dream you think that it is your experience that you go very far, but the great practitioners of tantra can actually go to the pure realms. It might help a little bit if you think about going very far in your dreams and experiencing either something very enjoyable or very fearful. Some people have dreamed that they go to the narak and suffered so much. The person might have slept for several hours, but in the dream he experiences burning hot iron ground or a hell having a ground of swords wherever he steps as incredibly, so unbelievably real. Before that experience they didn’t have feeling or faith about the narak. The story I’m telling is about one Tibetan - I don’t know for sure if he’s a monk or not. After he had a very real, very vivid dream experiencing incredible fear of the suffering of a narak being, he got unbelievable faith in karma. He said the narak really exists.
So you see, the holy mind and the holy body of subtle wind are unified, inseparable. As they are unified while we are ordinary beings, so they are unified when we become enlightened. The difference is that they become completely purified, even of subtle obscurations. If you got some idea from what I mentioned in the example, you will understand that wherever there is a Buddha’s holy mind, it’s unified with the vehicle, the holy body. There is no object that the Buddha’s or Chenrezig’s omniscient mind doesn’t cover. Whatever object the omniscient mind sees, the subtle mind is there, the subtle mind is on that object. So you see, there is the subtle consciousness of Chenrezig on our crown wherever we are. Or, it is in front of us all the time. In our heart, in our palm, on our head, at the altar. There’s always the subtle mind, and as it is unified, so there is the holy body, the vehicle, there.
So, it’s not like when we look from this mountain towards Boudha or Katmandu. We see Boudha, but we are not there. For us it cannot be the object of understanding, as we are not free from obscuration.
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We don’t have freedom to be there. We cannot compare our limited experience, limited power, limited understanding, to the buddhas’. That would only block the development of our Dharma understanding. It only blocks the achievement of enlightenment and the understanding of the inconceivable qualities of the buddhas. The subtle wind, the holy body of Chenrezig, and the consciousness, is there. Chenrezig is there, only our mind is so obscured that we cannot see Him.
I didn’t mean to speak like this; it just happened, without freedom! I meant to recite mantra and to talk of karma!
Being able to see the buddhas is dependent on purification. Just taking one example, Kadampa Geshe Cha.yur.wa. Those geshes had achievement of bodhicitta. Their minds had approached a very high tantra path but they never showed outside that they were tantric practitioners with great attainment. On the outside they looked like very simple monks who don’t know anything, who are very foolish, living an ascetic life. They were the holders of Lama Atisha’s teachings. After Lama Atisha came to Tibet, they heard teachings and studied and practiced the graduated path to enlightenment. The Kadampa geshe called Cha.yur.wa used to offer service to his guru, the Kadampa geshe Tha.long.pa. He was so obedient, offering incredibly good service, so Tha.long.pa offered Cha.yur.wa to his guru, whose name I don’t remember. Cha.yur.wa correctly did the practice in relation to the guru, offering much service such as cleaning the rooms every day and doing whatever needed to be done. Even if he was offering a mandala or doing meditation on lam-rim, if his guru called, he stopped immediately and went to offer service. So, every day he cleaned the room, taking all the garbage in the room onto his robe then taking it outside. In Tibet there were no vacuum cleaners! One day he was doing the guru practice correctly, with thought and action, as it’s explained in the lam-rim, as he was going down I guess the house had two stories - carrying the garbage, and he reached the third step, he suddenly saw many Buddhas in nirmanakaya aspect. Normally, there was nothing to be seen in the house.
Maybe you have read the biography of the great pandit and yogi Naropa? Likewise, the Guru Marpa purified all the negative karmas that Milarepa had. Milarepa was given the job of building a nine storied house three times. He had to build it up then destroy it and put the stones back where they were before, then again built it. There were no porters! Marpa made him build it by himself. Milarepa’s back was completely worn from carrying the stones. It was wounded and turned completely blue, with toughened skin. This was to purify all the obstacles to generating the path to enlightenment: the karmas that Milarepa had accumulated during past lives and during that life by practicing black magic. He killed thirty people and some animals by black magic during a marriage party happening at his uncle’s place.
Similarly with Tilopa. I’m not going to start from the beginning of these stories! Maybe there are books people can read if they want to hear more stories about those great yogis Marpa, Milarepa and Naropa, and how they correctly practiced with respect to the guru; how they performed great purification; how they practiced Dharma. This you can understand from the biographies.
Tilopa led Naropa through twelve small hardships, like putting Naropa in fire—putting firewood all around him and burning him. Tilopa made Naropa jump off a roof onto the ground. He asked Naropa to steal a family’s food while it was cooking and bring it; the people saw Naropa and beat him very much. Then, also, a princess was getting married ... I don’t remember the story exactly. She was being taken in a carriage to her wedding. I think there were policemen or body guards around her. Tilopa asked Naropa to grab her and fondle here breasts. Naropa went without hesitation, as he was correctly doing the practice with thought and action as explained in the lam-rim. He grabbed the princess and fondled her breasts. The police beat him so much that he almost died! He didn’t die but it almost came to that! Many times it almost came to his death through such things as being burnt in the fire. Somehow, due to the blessing of Tilopa, I think, although he was completely burnt in the fire he suddenly recovered. He jumped off the roof, got very badly hurt, but suddenly recovered due to the blessing of Tilopa. Tilopa was actually Buddha Vajradhara, having found the unified state of Vajradhara, but in the aspect of what ordinary people saw as an old, very simple Indian man, nothing special.
Earlier, Naropa used to think, “I’m a great pandita. I know all the Buddhist teachings, both sutra and tantra; there are no teachings which I don’t know.” He appeared to have a little bit of pride. One night in a dream dakinis showed him many teachings which he had not seen - many texts, I think, on tantra. The dakinis advised Naropa to go to see Tilopa. He went to the place where Tilopa was supposed to be. Although Tilopa was a great yogi, very famous, he looked like an ordinary person, nothing particular. Not shining or having a long beard or being well dressed, just very simple, ordinary, like anyone seen in the streets or working in the fields; wearing a simple cloth. He didn’t know whether to believe that it was Tilopa or not. He couldn’t tell from the outside appearance as it didn’t fit his reputation. He was roasting live little fish in a fire and eating them. The actions appeared kind-of non-virtuous, so Naropa thought maybe he’s not Tilopa because he’s behaving like this. Although Tilopa was doing non-virtuous actions, still Naropa continuously followed him. He didn’t give up following Tilopa and checking if it was really Tilopa or not. When Naropa asked Tilopa, “Are you Tilopa?,” sometimes Tilopa answered by moving his hand to say, “Yes.” Sometimes when Naropa asked “Are you Tilopa?” he answered by shaking his head. When Naropa had more faith then Tilopa said that he is Tilopa. When Naropa saw Tilopa’s actions as non-virtuous and thought, “Maybe this is not Tilopa,” his faith decreasing a little, and he asked, “Are you Tilopa,” Tilopa shook his head. Tilopa answered according to Naropa’s mind.
Likewise, if one practices with pure view, one sees the guru like that. If one looks at the guru with impure view one sees him as impure—whichever way the mind is more trained or more habituated. The conclusion is this: Tilopa obliged Naropa to experience twelve small hardships and twelve great hardships. Many times it came to the point of dying, but Naropa didn’t die due to the blessings of Tilopa. He immediately recovered from the injuries, whatever they were. So, after all this, Naropa continuously followed Tilopa, even though he gave him so much hardship and never gave teachings for many years. Then one day they stopped on some sandy ground. Naropa was always following behind although he was given so much hardship. Tilopa asked, “What is it that you want?” Naropa answered that he wanted teachings. Tilopa asked Naropa to offer a mandala. There was no water at that sandy place so Naropa made pee-pee, mixed it with sand and offered it to Tilopa as the mandala offering. Tilopa suddenly threw this sand mixed with pee-pee into Naropa’s face and asked Naropa to look into space. Naropa saw a Hevajra deity with complete mandala. Tilopa had transformed it in space. Then he initiated Naropa because he could see it was the right time for Naropa. All the obstacles were purified, so Tilopa transformed the mandala and Naropa could see it.
One or two years ago, one old mother who came from Tibet and lives in Katmandu was making pilgrimage to Nalanda, where there were many thousands of panditas such as Chandrakirti and Nagarjuna. Now there are only a few small ruins such as a small meditation room. It has been completely destroyed; only a few piles of stones could be seen. When this old mother was making pilgrimage to where there used to be a Buddha statue before, but now there is only a platform, she saw Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, life-sized, for one or two minutes. Afterwards it disappeared. She is unbelievably devoted. She has daughters in Tibet who are regarded as dakinis. Sometimes, when she was taking teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, she could see Guru Shakyamuni Buddha in her hand.
This morning the conclusion is this: Chenrezig’s omniscient mind, Chenrezig’s compassion, sees us all the time. Chenrezig is always above one’s crown or in front of oneself wherever one is. The problem is that from our side we don’t see Him because of obscurations. The mind is so polluted by karma and disturbing thoughts. Those who have thin obscurations, who have done great purification, can see Him. So, if you practice like those great yogis, if you do as explained in the lam-rim; if you accumulate much merit; if you do powerful purification for a long time as those great yogis the Kadampa Geshes did, you can meet buddhas in nirmanakaya aspect and hear teachings directly from them. As we become higher bodhisattvas we see the buddhas in sambhogakaya aspect. When all the subtle obscurations and subtle dual view are purified, you will actually meet the guru Buddha mentally. When the subtle dual view is purified and you achieve dharmakaya, you meet the absolute guru buddha mentally.
So, I think I will stop here. This morning we didn’t even get to recite the mantra! There’s no time to explain all these things, but traditionally, according to the lineage lamas, before they give lam-rim teachings, preparations, purification practices and accumulation of merit are done. They start with refuge, then the disciples prostrate. The guru prostrates before getting on the throne, visualizing all the merit field, the lineage lamas of the path. There are many practices to stop negative karma from the side of both disciple and guru. There are many preparations to do before the teachings are given, to create the cause to understand, to generate the path, to stop the obstacles. It didn’t get done exactly that way this time. In the past courses we tried to do it this way, as much as possible doing those various practices such as the mandala offering, the seven limb practice, refuge, then making prayers on the complete path every morning. This time it’s much shorter, almost nothing, no prayers. So it didn’t happen exactly according to the lineage lamas’ way of doing it. Those practices have great purpose. There is a whole way of doing each of the practices from the start to the end of the session. However, the main thing is to subdue the mind. So I just talk whatever comes to my mind.
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Not all the Western people can do the same as the Tibetans, or somebody who already has faith in karma and reincarnation and has refuge in the mind. The main thing is to subdue the mind, to benefit the mind with the teaching. I won’t follow the text much, with the hope that whatever comes in the time might benefit. Probably there might be some purpose why those particular thoughts come. That’s all. Thank you.
JANG.CHUB SEM.CHOG RINPOCHE...
It means, “May I quickly achieve the Great Compassionate One’s enlightenment and lead each and every sentient being to the Great Compassionate One’s enlightenment rapidly.”
“At any rate I must achieve the state of omniscient mind for the benefit of all the kind mother sentient beings, therefore I am going to listen to the teachings of the graduated path to enlightenment.”
I left out some words from Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching regarding the result of heresy. There is also, I think, not having the opportunity to practice Dharma in order to be freed from samsara. Even when one is born as a human being, not having a guide when one has problems; not finding anyone to protect one from danger and problems. The third one is not having refuge to dispel, to prevent the true cause of the suffering: the disturbing thoughts come and one does not have refuge to prevent this, the true cause of the sufferings.
I think the first one makes great sense—not finding the circumstances or opportunities to practice Dharma in order to be freed from samsara. Not meeting the virtuous friend who reveals the teachings to liberate one from suffering. Even if one meets the virtuous friend one has difficulty receiving teachings. There are many conditions which need to be gathered, including a means of living—I think without that, one cannot practice. Also health: if one is sick, one cannot practice. Then, on to that we can add passport! We cannot do without that! Even if there is a lama, the perfect guide, a virtuous friend who reveals the complete, infallible teachings, the complete path to liberate oneself from samsara, there are many other obstacles. One cannot receive teachings and cannot practice. Not only these things, but there are many other obstacles which I don’t need to mention. Even when one is born in the upper realms, one is guideless. No one helps.
Then, the third one, not having refuge. Understanding Dharma but not having refuge in Dharma practice which separates one from all the disturbing thoughts, the true cause of suffering. Not having this refuge causes so many problems. There is a lack of bodhicitta, a lack of shunyata realization. Just talking about refuge in the lam-rim, the fundamental graduated path to enlightenment: renunciation is the actual refuge and these two realizations are the fruits. The actual Dharma refuge is the true path and true cessation of suffering. It means not having this Dharma refuge, the renunciation of samsara. Also, not having refuge in moral conduct: not living in the practice of the ten virtues or keeping the five, the eight, the thirty-six or the two hundred and fifty precepts. Those things are moral conduct. Not having the refuge of abstaining from negative karma. Not having the refuge of concentration and shamatha and penetrative insight. So it is difficult to prevent the true cause of suffering. Even though the life is transferred from a lower realm to the human realm, so many problems are created and experienced. Lack of Dharma refuge is not removing or preventing the true cause of suffering. In Lama Tsongkhapa’s root lam-rim text are only the words, “Not having circumstances; not having a guide; not having refuge.” That’s all—I think the meaning might be what I just said.
First of all the mind should see the shortcomings of non-virtuous actions—how they cause suffering results. Instead of seeing non-virtuous actions as a kind of quality, seeing them as a mistake. Then comes the attempt to abstain from the non-virtuous actions, and then making a complete determination to abstain from the non-virtuous actions. Virtue is to make a complete determination to practice the three virtues and are connected with the body, the four virtues of speech and the three virtues of mind as I described at the beginning.
Each of these ten has the completion of virtuous actions—each of them has four good results. Through doing the opposite to the non-virtuous action of killing, one will experience the opposite to the four suffering results. The opposite is all the good results—that which we want, which we are longing for. There are four results for each of these virtuous actions that are opposite to the four suffering results of each of the non-virtuous actions. We should know and meditate on not only the non-virtuous and the four suffering results, but also that each virtuous action has four good results.
Virtuous actions should be generated like this: firstly seeing the non-virtuous actions as mistakes, the cause of suffering; then, because of that, attempting to abstain from the non-virtuous actions. Make a complete determination to abstain from non-virtuous actions. Make a vow in front of your actual living guru or in front of an altar or statue of Buddha. At least think of Buddha and make the vow, the determination. You see, if a person makes a vow to not kill he actually practices the virtue of abstaining from killing, from then until death. It depends on whether the vow is for one day, seven days, one month or until death time. If these ten virtuous actions are practiced for one day, each has four good results.
Taking vows such as the eight Mahayana precepts purifies the negative karma and restores and increases merit. To talk of these four good results is only talking about temporal happiness, but also they become the cause of each quality of Buddha. For details there might be some notes about how each precept becomes a cause of each quality of a Buddha for the benefit of sentient beings.
If even just one vow—to practice the virtuous action of non killing from now until the end of one’s life—is made, then continuously there is good karma created, even if one is sleeping, unconscious, or working, or eating. The cause of happiness for many lifetimes, not just for one life, is continuously created. Karma is expandable, so the result is not just happiness in one life, but for many lives. There is a big difference between having made a vow and not having made a vow in front of a holy object. A person not actually killing doesn’t mean the person is always practicing the virtue of non-killing. The person who hasn’t made a vow doesn’t have that merit, that profit, the whole time. For example, the armless or those not having legs don’t kill even if they live for a hundred years. How can they kill? I’m just giving you an idea, you know! Since there’s no determination, since a vow not to harm others is not taken in front of a holy object, there’s no merit, even if they live for a hundred years. There isn’t the virtue of renouncing the non-virtuous action of killing. It has to come through mental determination. So you see, there is a big difference. Merely not actually killing because there didn’t arise the condition to kill, doesn’t mean the person is practicing virtue.
Karma is definite. You see, it’s extremely important to get a definite, stable understanding of this. Then it’s easy to gain a stable, definite understanding that it’s expandable, that without a cause the result cannot be experienced and that the karma that has been created doesn’t get lost.
It is said in the lam-rim teachings, in the outline of the meditation on karma, “Action and result is the root of all happiness and goodness.” That is regarded as extremely important. Lama Tsongkhapa said, “It’s extremely important to find the stable, definite understanding of action and result, which is the root of all happiness and goodness. Without finding faith in karma one cannot find refuge. One doesn’t think of the future lives. One can’t make preparations for the happiness of future lives. Also one doesn’t practice Dharma in order to be free from samsara. One doesn’t fear samsara and one doesn’t try to liberate oneself from samsara. If one doesn’t understand karma, doesn’t have faith, one doesn’t protect karma and also doesn’t correctly do the practice of devotion to the guru. That means one cannot achieve enlightenment and thus cannot do the perfect extensive work for others. The two fundamental Dharma practices of refuge and karma are regarded as extremely important.
Just talking further, even if one does not think of past and future lives or liberation from samsara, but is thinking to benefit others, one has got to protect karma. If one doesn’t protect karma, one gives harm to others. If one gives harm to others, that’s not benefiting them! So, one’s mind making the determination to stop harming others is protecting karma. In order to benefit the health and happiness of others, to bring peace to the world, the essential thing is to protect karma. The Buddha said, “If there’s no faith in karma there is no way to have pure refuge in the mind. Without refuge there’s no foundation for the levels of moral conduct, the vows or ordinations.” There’s no foundation for the eight Mahayana precepts; for five upasika precepts or even for one, two or three or four of them; the eight pratimoksha precepts; the thirty-six or two hundred and fifty-three precepts; or the bikshuni precepts, because they are all based on refuge. Without refuge, the practice of moral conduct by taking ordination cannot happen.
“Buddhist” does not mean somebody who can speak about the Dharma very well, even all the sutra and tantra teachings. Some people might know this story of Du.hle.jin who always competed with and tried to harm Guru Shakyamuni Buddha by throwing rocks and so on. I don’t remember exactly, but he could say by heart as many texts as fifteen, or five thousand or something, elephants can carry! That is amazing. So, you see, just being able to speak well, or having a shaved head or wearing robes does not mean a person is Buddhist, or “inner being.” It’s defined not by how one looks outside, but by whether there’s refuge in the mind of the person or not
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By planting beans in the field you can’t get papaya. Do you know papaya? O.K. By planting papaya seeds you can’t get beans—it’s separate. If you plant papaya seeds you get papaya. By planting beans you got beans. It brings its own result, not something else. So, if there’s a chili plant growing and you plant raisins and sweet things around it, or if you put honey or sugar there, still the chili cannot become sweet. When one eats it, it is hot. Because you planted the seed of chili, the result is hot. It’s the same thing if you plant raisins or whatever and put chilies around it—the raisins won’t have the burning taste of chili. If what you plant is sweet, it brings its result of a sweet fruit.
So, accumulating non-virtue brings its own result of suffering, and accumulating virtue brings its own result of happiness. As Guru Shakyamuni Buddha said in the sutra teachings, “Whatever action was done, a similar result will arise.” It will not be mixed. Even though there are so many non-virtuous karmas accumulated, they will not get mixed. Happiness coming from non-virtue or suffering results being experienced from virtue does not happen. Karma is definite to bring its own result.
Buddha explained one story about this. One person had a good, sweet voice. In one of his past lives he was a worker. I don’t remember the name of the king exactly, but the king was building a stupa and this person was one of the laborers carrying the stones, or whatever. He had bad thoughts in regard to the stupa, thinking, “The stupa is so big. Why? It will never be finished. Why should he build such a big stupa?” Later on, the stupa was completed and then he felt very sad and repentant about the bad thoughts he had had before. So he made an offering to the stupa of one very sweet-sounding bell. Because of that karma, in his next life he was born with an incredibly ugly body. No one desired to see him. I think maybe it was a her, not him! When she sang, her voice was incredible—so charming, so attractive, so unbelievably sweet. But her body was terribly ugly. Her name was Nyempa.Sang.Den—“having a good sweet sound.” Having such a terribly ugly body was because of the karma that he had created by criticizing the stupa. She had an incredibly sweet voice because of the karma that during the same life he offered a sweet-sounding bell to the stupa. Like this, you see, it’s not mixed.
The results are experienced separately. Even small pleasures such as when you feel very hot, and cool air blows; or even having a nice dream after which your mind is happy and comfortable, are from virtue. Even small discomforts, such as being terrified in a fearful dream and your mind feeling a little bit uncomfortable after you wake up; even the little bit of discomfort when we sit on a cushion or a bed, come from non-virtue.
There are many ordinary narak beings that one can see sometimes in the forest or inside water or in deserts. They can be like a pillar or a broom or long, thin leather things, like something to bind a load. They can have various forms like this, or like a wall. In the teachings Buddha has explained the causes for some of these. As there were various-shaped animals the disciples asked Guru Shakyamuni Buddha why. Then Guru Shakyamuni explained the causes of those ordinary narak beings. Some are like walls. I think maybe in a monastery the person attended teachings or pujas with a disrespectful mind or had negative, disturbing thoughts. Perhaps the person was lying against the wall during pujas or teachings, things like that. Then the person is born as an ordinary narak being having a body like a wall. Then, I think a broom or something belonging to a monastery or the Sangha was not returned back or was used without permission, or something like that—that being was reborn as an ordinary narak being with a body in the form of a broom. Then the strings, with some parts fat and some parts thin—it was explained that one person in his past life was the manager of a monastery and he didn’t give to the monks all the offerings that were given by people. During the summer retreat times the monks stay inside and they don’t go out for alms, and he didn’t give the offerings he was supposed to give them. After he died he was born as an ordinary narak with a body like string.
His Holiness Serkong Rinpoche is one of my unbearably kind gurus who always gave so much advice about practices, who practiced so much and who this year passed away when I was in Italy. He was also His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru. Rinpoche told me that in Tibet he saw this. One of the monks from that monastery who used to travel sometimes to distant places was preparing to travel. The leather thong for tying the luggage had become very dry because he had not used it for a long time. He put it in the water stream for seven days so that it would become soft and could be used to bind things. When he went back after seven days it had become an animal. There was a ring at the end of the leather which was in the mouth of the animal. So he couldn’t use it!
Perhaps a person who makes business has theoretically very good plans, but when he puts them into action it doesn’t work. The business people would know! His experience is an explanation of his own karma to himself. No matter how intelligent he is, thinking up plans to make money that other people cannot easily think of, when it’s put into practice it turns out completely opposite. He doesn’t make any profit, but gets a loss. People make some plans, “It should be like this,” but it turns out completely the other way round. All this is a very good illustration of the four outlines of karma. Not having a profit that time shows that karma is definite. He has created the cause to be unsuccessful through covetousness or ill-will or whatever. He didn’t do anything to eliminate the cause, that non-virtuous action which has the result of non-success, so it’s definite that he will experience the result of non-success. He hasn’t created the cause to have a profit at that time; that explains that without having the cause, the result is not experienced. He didn’t do anything to change the cause, the non-virtue which brings the result of non-success, so it’s not lost. Also, the non-virtuous action is expandable so not just one time but many times there is non-success.
It is similar with disease. Disease comes from non-virtuous actions. I think I mentioned this many times when I was talking about the results of non-virtuous actions. Receiving the wrong medicine and getting worse is the result of non-virtuous actions. Receiving the right medicine and recovering it from a separate cause—virtue. A person having a disease and even though there is medicine for this disease, never recovering, is because of a very strong non-virtuous action. Karma is definite and expandable, so he gets sick many times and in many lifetimes. Even in this life, although taking so many medicines one after another, because of not having created the cause, he doesn’t experience the result. The cause doesn’t get lost and because the person didn’t do any purification of the non-virtuous action, the cause of the disease—cancer, heart attack, all those fearful things—so it’s definite to bring the result. Nothing was done before the result was experienced, so when he starts to actually experience the result of very heavy karma normal things don’t help. Even if puja is done or mantra is recited, it doesn’t do anything. Neither doctors nor anybody else can help. The person may be sick for years and years. He may die after being tortured by sickness for years and years.
When the actual result comes it’s very difficult to practice Dharma. Before the result ripens one should hear and read the teachings on karma taught by Buddha, then practice the profound methods of accumulating merit and purifying. If one does not do anything, doesn’t do any purification when there’s the opportunity to practice Dharma, when the result comes it’s very difficult.
After meditating on the fact that karma is definite to bring its own result, you should make a determination, a conclusion, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense. Why do we meditate on karma? It doesn’t make much sense if we don’t make a conclusion. Then it’s something just to keep us in fear. It would be like just knowing the evolution of some existence or other. However, when you think how karma is definite to bring its own result—virtuous action is definite to bring its own result of temporal and ultimate happiness and non-virtuous action is definite to bring it’s own result of suffering—you should decide, “I will purify non-virtuous actions that I have accumulated in the past, and I will abstain from non-virtuous actions and practice virtuous actions.” You should make such a conclusion or determination about what to do. I think I will stop here.
JANG.CHUB SEM.CHOG RINPOCHE...