Kopan Course No. 10 (1977)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1976 (Archive #092)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Tenth Kopan Meditation Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal in 1977. The transcripts are lightly edited by Gordon McDougall, May, 2011.

You may also download the entire contents of these teachings in a pdf file.

Section Two: Lectures 5 to 8


As I emphasized yesterday, before listening to the discourse, it is necessary to cultivate the motivation. It is necessary to think, “I must receive enlightenment for the benefit of all the kind sentient beings, so I am going to listen to the teachings.”

In order to attain enlightenment you must actualize the principal cause of enlightenment, the loving-compassionate precious thought of enlightenment. To be able to actualize this realization, you must actualize the mind fully renouncing samsara, the suffering realms. This mind and body we have now, that which is not free from suffering, this is suffering realm, this is what is called samsara. To be able to attain a mind fully renouncing the suffering realm, the samsara, you must clearly see how this samsara is in the nature of suffering. To be clearly able to understand this, you must understand karma, action and the effect. To be able to understand this, you must be able to understand reincarnation; to understand reincarnation, you must understand the evolution of mind, you must understand the relative nature of mind.

I’ll just talk very briefly about it, The whole of existence, if you divide it up, comes in two divisions: permanent and impermanent. The whole existence is defined as whatever exists as an object of the conventional mind or the omniscient mind. That is the meaning of existence, whether it exists or not is up to whether it can be the object of the omniscient mind or conventional thought. That is the definition of existence. This existence has two divisions: permanent and impermanent.

Impermanent existence has three divisions. Matter is compounded phenomena. At this point what I want to clarify is that the mind is not matter. The meaning of matter is that which is formation of atoms. Then, knowing, the phenomenon called knowing, meaning that which nature is clear and has the ability to perceive objects, to understand objects.

That is the meaning of the second phenomenon, knowing. Knowing, what we call sense or feeling, all the different types of thoughts formations, sensations, whatever, all the different names that we call, whether it is a thought, the different types of thought, love, compassion, wisdom, also the bad thoughts—all these are phenomena are knowing.

What we have here, the base which we thinks “I”, thinking that I’m Richard, the base upon which the person thinks “I’m Richard” then there’s the mind, there’s two things: mind and it’s object. There are two things. The body is part of the matter phenomena, mind is the knowing phenomena.

The body itself doesn’t have that function, doesn’t have that nature as the knowing phenomenon has. It doesn’t function as the knowing phenomenon functions. It has color and shape—it is matter.

The phenomenon that we have, that we possess, which is clear nature and which has the ability to perceive objects, because of that different nature and function and because it is colorless and shapeless—by this function, we call it “mind.” This is the distinction between mind and body.

Mind is not principally caused by the combination of sperm and egg, as matter is. No part of the combination of sperm and egg becomes the mind, which is formless nature. Just as the earth which is form, cannot become space, which is formless. So, the physical body has its own evolution, the principal cause being the combination of sperm and egg, which comes from the parents.

Evolution of our mind is different. Because of this, there is reincarnation, there’s a past life where all this present consciousness of the mind came from.

Think about what would happen if the mind came into existence in mother’s womb out of nothingness, without depending on any cause, without depending on its continuity, without depending on the continuity of the mind. If the consciousness came into existence out of nothingness, without depending on a cause, then our consciousness has to be either permanent, or self-existent. It becomes either permanent or self-existent.

For instance, a clay pot is impermanent. Why is it impermanent? Because it changes, even in each second. What makes it change? By the cause. Before the clay pot is made, the principal cause of the clay pot, the material, the mud or whatever used to make clay pots, is impermanent, the material. Before the earth took the form of a clay pot, before it get mixed with water and it appeared in the form of clay pot, before that, if it was permanent, then the clay pot cannot be impermanent. There’s no way the clay pot can become impermanent. There’s no such thing, there’s no way for this to happen.

That which is permanent can completely cease, it can become non-existent but it cannot become impermanent. From permanent, that material cannot change to impermanent. So, because the original, the principal cause of the pot, mud, was impermanent, so, that’s how the clay pot becomes impermanent, that is how it has an impermanent nature. Why is the very first moment of our consciousness today—the moment after midnight—impermanent? It is impermanent because it changes each split-second, and what makes it change each split-second? It is because the previous moment of consciousness—the one a split-second before midnight—was its principal cause and that was impermanent. One moment of consciousness is the cause for the next and each is in the nature of impermanence.

Similarly, what is the principal cause of the split-second of consciousness in the very first moment in our mother’s womb? It could not be the physical body, it has to be a precious moment of consciousness. It has the be the moment of consciousness that existed before the mind entered the mother’s womb. The consciousness, which was existing before, which was about to take place in mother’s womb, that has caused the consciousness of this life to change in each split second.

The cause which existed before the result makes the result change. The cause forces the result to change, that is how it becomes impermanent. So the cause has to exist before the result.

If continuity exists without depending on any cause or creator, then consciousness becomes self-existent. There’s not one consciousness like this, since consciousness has to be dependent. It has to be dependent, otherwise there is no way consciousness can exist. Without being dependent, there is no way that consciousness can exist. Just like this the meditation says.

Since this exists, this has to dependently exist. This has to exist by depending on that. There is no way the whole entire thing can exist without depending on something else. The existence of this house depends on the person who rented it, the person who gives the idea, dependent on each piece of building material—all the things that make it an actuality. You see, there is no way for this place to exist without being dependent.

Therefore, an independent manifestation of a phenomenon does not exist. An independent table does not exist. Similarly, an independent cloth does not exist. If the cloth exists, there is no way it can exist independently. The cloth has to be dependent. Without being dependent it cannot function as a cloth, so it cannot become a cloth.

So, an independent consciousness, a self-existent consciousness does not exist. Perhaps somebody might think that conscious is some sort of continuity that originates from a universal principal consciousness. All the sentient beings’ consciousnesses originated from this big consciousness, this total, big consciousness like this earth, like this globe. Then, all the individual consciousnesses broke away into pieces—like the evolution of the Earth is explained, how there was a very big globe that broke into pieces, each piece becoming a planet. Sort of like that. Before, it was an incredibly big, huge continent, then that becomes pieces, what is called universal principal consciousness.

If consciousness came from some universal principal consciousness, if each of our consciousnesses came from that big consciousness, there would have to be a big self, an enormous self. In that case, since all the sentient beings’ consciousnesses are pieces of that person, that big self—all the sentient beings’ consciousnesses are that person’s mind—then all the bodies are part of that person’s body. What happens is that all the sentient beings are one person, taking different bodies. In that case, everyone should have the same knowledge, since they’re all the same person. For instance: whatever knowledge one person has, I should have [because we are all part of this universal consciousness], and conversely whatever knowledge I have, he should have. Whatever experience he has, I should have, because we are in fact one self.

When he feels hungry, I should feel hungry; when he’s upset, I should be upset. Otherwise what happens is that one person is hungry and full at the same time; one person is happy and unhappy at the same time; one person is a baby and a hundred years old at the same time.

In that case there should be no problem with possessiveness—this is my material possession, it is not yours; this is my property, that is your property. There wouldn’t be any this discrimination. If we were all part of this one universal consciousness, there wouldn’t be this intuitive feeling. Even though you lived in a big apartment, you wouldn’t think you owned all the material possessions in it. But in fact we always think, “This is mine.” Every time we see something, anything, when we see it we think it is ours. We never have the concept that something belongs to others, because everything is ours. If all sentient beings were one consciousness, there would be no discrimination of mine and theirs.

No sentient being’s consciousness ever came from a universal principle consciousness or the one big mind. No sentient being’s self ever came from one big self. Our different daily experience alone prove this, the many different lives that sentient beings lead, having different experiences, having different desires and so forth.

Using this kind of reasoning, that you can understand how our consciousness has not come from our parents’ consciousnesses, so therefore our own consciousness must be a continuity of its own previous stream of consciousness—it must have come from a previous life.

Many experiences confirm this. We can see many different children born from the same mother, who have different personalities or minds. Some babies are born very impatient, even they were not taught how to be impatient by their parents, some are very greedy even though they were never taught that. They just seem to be born with such types of mind. Some babies are born with very calm, very good personality, even a little philosophical! Some have very loving minds and are compassionate to creatures and to other people, not wanting to harm them and being very upset when they see creatures being killed, or people being beaten by other people. They feel very upset, feeling much compassion. Baby animals, like puppies or calves, can do things right away, instantly they make physical contact, like suckling, without being taught.

All this proves there is a past life; it shows the existence of past lives. How is that? A child whose mind is very greedy or cruel, always giving harm to other beings, in a previous life his mind was so habituated to doing those actions, to harming others, and because of that habit or that continuity, in this life, the baby was born with such a personality, with such a mind. It’s the same thing with a baby who is very loving, full of compassionate thoughts, wanting to always help, never wanting to harm. That kind of mind comes from a previous life, when his mind was trained in that way. His mind was habituated in that and because of that continuity, in this life the child was born with that personality.

It’s the same thing with the animals, doing what we call instinctive actions, things they do without needing to be taught in this life. Previous similar actions that they did left impressions on the consciousness, so that in this life they instinctively do the action.

It is very common, too, even in Western countries like Germany or America, for children and older people to remember their previous life, talking about their previous life, the home they lived in and how they lived their life. There have been many examples like this.

One girl remembered how her father had been her enemy in her previous life. She has belonged to the army of one party and her current life’s father has been a soldier of the army of another party. He had shot his enemy, only to have that person reborn as his own daughter. I’ve forgotten now all the details, but she described the castle were she was shot and the circumstances.

There have been so many stories like this, without talking about the reincarnate lamas who were born in Tibet, and also many of the old people, some of whom had psychic power powers, who can remember their past lives or who can explain other people’s past lives.

Even in America there are many people like that. There is a book here in the library, from California, (I don’t know its title) that describes the experiences of a lady. She explains that she experienced how there is another life after this, how the consciousness continues, even after it has left this body. She explains in the book that she died and all her relatives came to see her corpse, and they were crying.

Student: You said the other day that when a person attains enlightenment he becomes omniscient, which in my understanding means he can see all things, all possible things. This confuses me a lot. This means the Buddha can see all possible futures, which makes me think that my idea of coming here was already seen by Buddha, and he’s omniscient, and he can’t be wrong, and if I hadn’t chosen to come here, this creates a cycle for me that I can’t understand this.

Rinpoche: What kind of cycle?

Student: A cycle of, well, if the Buddha is omniscient, then what I’ve done has already been done, he’s already seen it, it’s already happened all possible futures.

Rinpoche: You mean it’s already done?

Student: But he’s seen it, and I have no choice.

Rinpoche: Your futures, he can see all of your futures, so it’s like already done.

Student: Yeah, but...

Rinpoche: But it’s not done.

Student: ... the play is written, actors in a play.

Rinpoche: But it’s not done.

Student: Yeah, but the play is already written, and the actor walks through the play.

Another Student: But you don’t know what the script is. [GL]

Student: It’s like I’m an actor going through my life, and the Buddha has a copy of the script and he’s sitting in the audience watching us act and knowing exactly what’s going to happen.

Rinpoche: Then?

Student: Well, I don’t know what the script is. I think that is this play which is my life, I have a choice.

Rinpoche: Yeah, you have choice.

Student: But if I have a choice then I can change things, so how can they be seen before? If the Buddha can see all possible futures, all things that will happen, he sees what will happen to me tomorrow, when, if I ever will reach enlightenment, when that will happen. He already knows what will happen. So what difference does it make what I do now?

Rinpoche: For instance, let’s say yesterday you took some food that might cause you to get sick, to get fever today. And so, if you did not have that food, and if you did take that food you will get sick today. In those things we have a choice. And whatever choice you take, that omniscient mind sees.

Student: He’s already seen it!

Rinpoche: That’s right, that’s right. That the choice for you. You can choose which one, whether to take that food or not.

Student: But someone has already seen what I will do.

Rinpoche: Hmmm yeah .... I didn’t hear.

Student: Someone has already seen what I’m going to do.

Rinpoche: Someone can see, yes, can see what you’re going to do, but that’s no problem. [GL] The problem is from your own side. If you change, if you stop the cause of problems, you can change by yourself. If from your side you do not change, you make yourself unfree, not free from problems, and you will experience the problems in the future. But the omniscient mind seeing doesn’t mean that you don’t have any choice. The omniscient mind sees that you also have a choice, whether you are going to choose or not.

I’ll give an example. Let’s say the omniscient mind sees whatever rebirth you will take. The omniscient mind sees it causes, the virtuous or nonvirtuous causes that you are going to create in this life. But the omniscient mind also sees that you have choice in this life.

I think I can make you understand. The omniscient mind sees what rebirth you are going to take, the cause of the different rebirths, the virtuous or nonvirtuous causes that you will create, but you also have the choice, to stop the nonvirtuous actions and to create the virtuous actions. The problem is not from the side of the omniscient mind, the problem is from your side, whether you pacify the disturbing negative thoughts or not.

Student: I was thinking, the only one who has a real choice is the Buddha, because all our choices are determined by past karma and all our choices are determined by the cause of that action. I was thinking that the idea of choice is one of the delusions that comes around from the whole of samsara. Really the only person who can make a choice and decide is the person who has transcended the wheel of samsara, and therefore is a buddha. All our actions are caused by our past life and past karma, so I can’t understand how we have a choice?

Rinpoche: Do you want to get diarrhea tomorrow? Do you want diarrhea, stomach pains? Do you want to experience that tomorrow? Of course, you don’t want. What would you like? Do you want to be comfortable or not? Do you want the pleasure of not having diarrhea? Or do you want diarrhea?

Student: I don’t want diarrhea. [GL]

Student: If tomorrow you want the pleasure of not having diarrhea, can you can stop the cause? Is there a possibility, can you manage to stop experiencing diarrhea tomorrow?

Student: [inaudible]

Rinpoche: Let’s say you take medicine today in order to not to not having diarrhea tomorrow. You keep away from the conditions which cause diarrhea, therefore you can make yourself not experience diarrhea, by putting injections before the disease. Many times you put injections before the disease spreads to you. Like that the experience of this can be stopped, you can create conditions to not experience the diseases, isn’t it? Is it possible or not? So, you have freedom! Why? Because what you do not wish to experience you can stop, and what you want to experience you can achieve. You can make it possible to achieve, so you have freedom, you can make yourself have freedom.

Student: [ inaudible]

Rinpoche: That because you haven’t managed to not have a car accident before, so you have a car accident.

Student: If the Buddha had foreseen that I would have a car accident at the age of 39, no matter what I run around trying to do to avoid that car accident I’m going to die in that car accident because the Buddha has seen it all and I’m dead at 39. Because somebody hits me with a car if I come to Nepal.

Rinpoche: What about if the Buddha sees that if you did not change the cause of the car accident you will definitely experience it, but if you change the conditions you won’t experience it; you won’t die in that situation.

Student: [ inaudible]

Rinpoche: That’s not created by God, that’s created by your own mind.

Student: [ inaudible]
-------- if you do what I tell you, you will go to heaven, but if you don’t, you will go to hell.

Rinpoche: That is according to him.

Student: If the Buddha sees someone is making a wrong choice, why doesn’t Buddha stop a person making the wrong choice?

Rinpoche: When a guide tell you not to go on that rock because you will fall down and you’ll kill yourself, but you don’t listen and you go to that rock anyway, without listening to your guide’s advice, you fall down and die, whose fault is that?

Student: At the same time we know that he’s all-powerful, why doesn’t he stop you from going the wrong way? [Lots of cross talk with students]

Rinpoche: The Buddha’s wish is to guide all sentient beings from suffering but without the efforts of the sentient beings, trying to escape from the cause of suffering, there’s no way from his side he can do it. If from their side they don’t try to escape, to pacify delusions, to be free from suffering, if they never try to pacify disturbing negative thoughts, try to be free from suffering, then the Buddha cannot do it for them. Not listening to the path, the method shown by Buddha how to pacify, then only creating, only developing the disturbing negative thoughts, cause of suffering, then in that way the Buddha cannot guide the sentient beings from suffering.

Like a doctor who has given the patient the medicine and the instructions, he has power to cure the fever of that person. He has cured many other people who have listened and followed his instructions, who followed his method to purification, those people he has cured. But those people who, despite being given the medicine and the whole method to be cured, don’t follow the doctor’s instructions—don’t work hard, don’t drink wine or eat meat, that sort of thing—of they do the complete opposite, then not getting better is entirely their fault.

This is entirely different from how people think about God’s power? Your conception about God’s power, how God created everything. For a person to become well depends on the doctor and depends on himself. It depends on both. In the same way, for sentient beings to be free from suffering depends on the sentient beings and depends on the Buddha’s instructions.



This morning I was talking brief explaining how, even though the continuity of delusions, disturbing negative thoughts is beginningless, it can be ended by following the path, the perfect path. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself has achieved this; he has had the experience of actualizing the path, how all the delusions were completely removed. This is also one reason how it is possible to receive enlightenment, how we can make our mind an enlightened mind, how we can become a buddha, or a fully enlightened being.

Just a very brief explanation on that. Even a white cloth which is very dirty, there is a possibility of making it clean, of separating the dirt from the cloth. Why is that? Because the white cloth itself is not oneness with the dirt. That is why there is the possibility to wash it and separate the dirt from the cloth, because the cloth itself is not oneness with the dirt. Just like that example, the clear light nature of mind is not oneness with the delusions. And just as the clear light nature of mind is not oneness with the pollutions, there is a possibility, by following the perfect path, that the obscurations, the delusions can be removed, can be purified. Just as when you wash the cloth, the dirt is removed gradually, this method also is a matter of gradual purification.

For instance, when you first wash the cloth with water, you simply to take the heavy dirt out. The second time you wash it, with the heavy part of the dirt already removed, you wash it again with soap and even the subtle dirt comes out. And again you clean it. The water you use for the first wash is very dirty, but with each wash it become lighter and lighter. Afterwards the cloth becomes completely clean, and it’s the same with the mind.

The way we clean our mind from the dirt, the obscurations, the different obscurations, that is by following the graduated path.

In regards the paths we can take, there are two main divisions, the Paramitayana or Mahayana (Great Vehicle) and the Hinayana path. It is sometimes translated as the lesser vehicle.

First of all, the Hinayana path also has five paths. By gradually following the five paths, disturbing negative thoughts, delusions gradually become less and less. Then afterwards, when all these disturbing negative thoughts and the seed of the disturbing negative thoughts, the principal delusions, the I-grasping ignorance are completely eliminated, the meditator achieves nirvana or the blissful state of peace, and becomes an arhat. But even though the arhat has completed the Hinayana path, completely removed the disturbing negative thoughts and the seed of the disturbing negative thoughts, he still has to enter into the Mahayana Path in order to attain enlightenment.

The reason he is still not enlightened yet, despite having removed all the disturbing negative thoughts, is because there’s still subtle obscurations. The disturbing negative thoughts are gross in comparison and there are still subtle obscurations that have to be purified. It is like a cloth that has been cleaned, but even though you can’t see dirt there is still the trace of smell remaining.

These subtle obscurations that remain are called in Tibetan she-drip. She is “knowing,” drip is “obscuration.” So we can call she-drip, “obscurations to knowledge,” which means obscuration to receiving the full knowledge which fully sees the whole of existence.

The other, previous one, the gross delusions, are called nyön-drip in Tibetan — nyön meaning “unpeaceful” or “unsubdued.” This gross obscuration, nyön-drip, can also sometimes be called nyon-monpa. The thought which has the action of make a person’s mind unsubdued is the gross delusion, or what is called nyön-drip. It is the ignorance in the mind of a person that causes feelings such as anger that in turn has the action of making a person’s mind unpeaceful, unsubdued, unhappy. It’s the same thing with attachment, pride or the many other disturbing negative thoughts. Because of the function of these disturbing negative thoughts is to disturb the mind, they destroy the peace of the person. Therefore, I call nyön-drip disturbing negative thoughts. By doing that, it makes it clear; it reminds us what they do. They don’t benefit us. Anger, attachment, pride, don’t benefit us, so what’s the point, what’s the use in keeping them, in following these disturbing negative thoughts? Even just remembering the name “disturbing negative thoughts” affects the mind, it reminds us of Dharma.

The subtle obscuration, she-drip, or obscuration to knowledge, is the impressions left on the consciousness by the nyön-drip, the disturbing negative thoughts, the truly-grasping ignorance, the truly-believing ignorance. For instance, right now we believe ourselves and all phenomena to be truly existent. These obscurations are impressions left on the consciousness by the truly-believing ignorance and the dualistic mind.

Again, the Mahayana path which leads to enlightenment has five levels of path. First the nyön-drip, the disturbing negative thoughts, get purified completely, then, afterwards, after some time, as one continuously approaches the higher path, the she-drib, the subtle obscurations get completely purified. These subtle obscurations, the obscurations to knowledge, are the obscuration to attain the omniscient mind. These are the main distraction that obstructs us from attaining enlightenment, that block the mind from becoming omniscient. When the obscurations to knowledge are completely purified, then we are enlightened.

As we proceed from higher path to higher path, the different obscurations gradually get removed; they become less and less. As the obscurations become less and less, at the same time, knowledge, the realizations increase. When even the subtle obscurations are completely purified, then this mind is perfected in all the realizations. Then, there’s not a single existence, there’s not a single object, not a single existence that we does not know, that we cannot see. So this mind, which is purified of all obscurations and perfected in all realizations, is the omniscient mind and this is called the dharmakaya. One name for the state of enlightenment is dharmakaya.

The example often given is cleaning a mirror. When the mirror is full of dirt, it can’t give any reflection, but as you remove the dirt, as it becomes thinner and thinner, it gives more and more the reflection of things. When all the veils or the obscurations are completely removed from the mirror, as it becomes very clear it can give a clear reflection. This is similar with the mind. The knowledge of the realizations as we purify the obscurations gradually develops like this. When our mind becomes the omniscient mind, the mind is fully developed, it has finished the work of actualizing the path. We have finished the work of practicing Dharma. When the temporary obscurations, the disturbing negative thoughts and the subtle obscurations, are completely purified, the nature of this mind becomes the nature of the omniscient mind and that is called the state of the self-nature. Before I used to translate it as “holy body”, but that gives the idea of some kind of physical body, so I prefer the state of self-nature. This in Sanskrit is called nirmanakaya. This is also enlightenment.

It is impossible to be able to attain such an fully enlightened stage, the state of buddhahood, without following the gradual path what will be explained during the course. So, since we wish to achieve this goal to work for other sentient beings it is extremely important follow the Dharma without any mistake, to not be on the wrong path. We must follow the perfect path which definitely brings us to enlightenment.

It is vital to check up any religion we plan to follow. If it talks a lot about how, if you do this, if you practice this and this, we will receive liberation, be omniscient and be free from suffering, we need to check up and see whether any followers who have followed this path have actually achieved liberation. How many followers have there been who became liberated, who became completely free from the suffering, from delusions. How many followers are there? In former times, in the present time, are there any followers who really experienced liberation by following this path. If there’s no evidence, if there is just a lot of talk about what we will receive if we follow this path, but evidence that this has been anybody’s experience, we can discount that religion. We need to hear of followers who have the whole experience, being completely free from all the suffering and having realized bodhicitta, the loving-compassionate thought of enlightenment, having realized absolute nature, and completely removed all the delusions. We don’t hear any stories like this. Why? Because the path itself does not contain any teachings that contain the two paths of method and wisdom that lead to enlightenment, or even nirvana.

Why is there not even one follower who has realized shunyata, who has removed all delusions? Why are there no stories of followers who attained bodhicitta and enlightenment. That shows that the teachings on that particular path don’t contain the perfect method and the perfect wisdom. It doesn’t talk about having compassion to all sentient beings. Maybe it talks about compassion to some sentient beings, to some humans, but not to animals. For pigs and dogs? Let God take care of them! (I’m just joking.) But you can check up with this. I’m giving an example. Does this path contain explanations on the delusions, the root of suffering, the I-grasping ignorance and how to destroy it. This is a simple way to check up on the path.

The path that is explained from Buddhadharma, this gradual path to enlightenment, has not only been explained by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself, he himself went through it, he achieved the complete path. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself attained enlightenment by completely removing all the obscurations. He himself followed the path as it was shown by his guru.

As Guru Shakyamuni Buddha has done, numberless of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s followers, the great Indian pandits, the great yogis have also followed the path perfectly as it was shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, completing the experience and attaining enlightenment. Then not only that, as the Dharma was brought from India to Tibet, again, so many great Tibetan lamas received the teachings from those highly realized Indian pandits, and they also completed the whole path. An incredible number of yogis in Tibet attained enlightenment even in one life.

Even now, as the teachings have not completely degenerated but are still existing, there are many practitioners who are actualizing the path. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha explained how to follow the path, how to practice Dharma, and if we follow it perfectly, there is not a single doubt that it leads to the attainment of enlightenment, because this has been the experience of numberless other followers.

To be able to be able to follow a gradual path to enlightenment such as this, you have to hear the teachings, to understand and practice them, and to do this you have to depend on a teacher. So, again one of the most important things is this. You have to be extremely careful in seeking a guru. If you want to attain enlightenment, the teacher should be qualified of all the teachings of the path that leads to enlightenment. If he himself is not qualified to show all these paths, then the teacher cannot lead you to enlightenment. If the teacher himself does not know the teachings that lead to nirvana then the teacher cannot lead you there.

[Break in tape.]

…everything I did in my life, all the work, all the actions, has only been done for this life. I never made preparation for coming future lives. I made a great mistake, I never made preparation for my future.

That was the end. I am quite lazy, I didn’t start at the beginning. [GL] I only wanted to see what the conclusion was!

In Tibet, there was a lama whose name was Tengye Rinpoche who was quite poor and who didn’t have much reputation. He was very simple and didn’t have many disciples in the beginning. Then after some time he had many realization and gained many followers. He became quite famous and his monastery became very wealthy and famous. A Tibetan governor burned the whole monastery down, and the lama passed away. The governor tried to gain power by making an agreement on paper that if this lama reincarnates nobody should recognize that incarnation.

What happened was that the lama reincarnated but he was born to that governor. He became the governor’s child and the governor had to recognize that he was the reincarnate lama of the Rinpoche. So he lost his point. It has happened many times that lamas were killed by somebody and then were born to the person who killed them.

Even though at the moment with our limited knowledge and power, we cannot remember our own past life and we cannot see our future life, we cannot just say, “Because I cannot remember, therefore there is no past life.” That cannot be pure logical proof of no past or future life, because even though it is not the object of our knowledge at the moment, it is object of other beings’ knowledge, those who have the power and knowledge, and who can see their past and future. So how can we say otherwise? How can we contradict other people’s experience?

As I normally say, if you can describe to a primitive person about a rocket that can go to the moon, of course he will contradict this, saying there is no such thing, because it is not object of his mind. He never thought nor heard of that before, and even his friends haven’t seen it. But he cannot contradict you by only using the logic that it doesn’t exist because he hasn’t seen it. That doesn’t mean there is no rocket, that rockets cannot land on the moon. So, it’s just like this.

The conclusion is this. It’s good to check up on the person who wrote the theory that denied a life after this one, that refutes the continuity of consciousness, who says there is no consciousness or that there could be no past life consciousness of which this present life’s consciousness is a continuation. You can check up whether they have achieved this theory through great clarity, without one single mistake in their understanding, by fully seeing how the continuity stops, how this consciousness ceases at the death time. Check whether the theory was written with the clear, full understanding of the evolution of mind, what happens at death time. Was it experienced in their own mind, or was this some sort of supposition, not done with a full understanding of the nature of mind and the evolution of mind? Was it just done by examining the physical parts, the physical reaction, the physical movement, then believing there can no more than this, even though consciousness cannot be seen, it is formless.

We can check the fallacy of such arguments like this. The argument would apply to yesterday: “Did I exist yesterday? Because I don’t remember today that I existed yesterday, what sort of life I had, therefore I did not exist yesterday. I can only remember my life after I woke up this morning, therefore I was born this morning.”

Beings who can remember their past lives are numberless. On the other hand, there are no beings who can clearly see there is only one life, without one single mistake.

I think I’ll stop here.

Then, maybe we’ll do just five minutes meditation.

[Think of this moment of consciousness. It must have had a cause and that cause must have been the previous moment of consciousness. And the cause of that moment of consciousness was the moment of consciousness previous to that. We can that that right back. Yesterday’s consciousness came from today’s consciousness, last year’s consciousness came from this year’s the consciousness of a few years ago came] from the last year’s consciousness. That year’s consciousness came from the previous year, and so on, back to first moment after leaving the mother’s womb. That moment of consciousness came from the last moment of consciousness of the fetus, and again taking it back to the first moment of the fetus, what is the cause of that moment of consciousness. It must have been a previous moment of consciousness, and the only explanation is that it must have been the last moment of consciousness of the previous life. That consciousness came from another previous life’s consciousness. So, go back and back like this, go back farther and farther. Try to feel the beginningless continuity of the consciousness. The continuity of this present life’s consciousness has no beginning since it is continued from a previous life, so the continuity of each of the previous lives has no beginning. Therefore, the continuity of consciousness is beginningless. Feel this. Just as this life is continued from the previous life, each previous life was a continuity of the life before. Try to feel the beginningless continuity of life.

Now, think again about this present life’s disturbing negative thoughts, such as attachment, anger and ignorance. Where did they come from? They came from previous lives’ disturbing negative thoughts, the delusions. Why was I born with anger, attachment, all these disturbing negative thoughts? Because my previous life was not free from the bondage of these disturbing negative thoughts, these delusions, and their actions. The actions of disturbing negative thoughts are called karma. My previous life’s disturbing negative thoughts came from other previous lives’ disturbing negative thoughts. Again that was the continuity from the previous life. Like that, it has always been continued from one life to another. Feel the beginninglessness, the continuity of the disturbing negative thoughts. From beginningless previous lifetimes, we have not been free from the bondage of the disturbing negative thoughts.

Think: “I have not been free from the bondage of the disturbing negative thoughts, the delusions. Because of that I have been constantly suffering.”

The conclusion is this. In this life as I have met the incredible method, the perfect method, the Dharma, which can completely cease the beginningless continuity of the disturbing negative thoughts, the delusions, in this life. So far, for that many incredible number of lives, I have not been able to cease the continuity of the delusions, so in this life I must stop the continuity of the disturbing negative thoughts, the continuity of the suffering. I must stop it. If I don’t cease this, I cannot reach enlightenment in order to work for other sentient beings, therefore, to practice Dharma as much as possible, to cease the disturbing negative thoughts, this is the most important thing.


The first and most important thing is to cultivate the pure motivation of bodhicitta.

Usually, in the world, ordinary people who never make plans to stop future problems are considered very foolish. If they fail to plan for next year, for their life until death, but are only concerned with enjoying today’s pleasures and dealing with today’s problems, then others see them as being very unskillful, very unwise, very foolish. Such a person makes no preparations and then is so upset when problems happen. Ordinary, worldly people see this as being very foolish.

We can take this line of reasoning from a Dharma viewpoint. As there is continuity of consciousness, after this life there will be the next life, so if a person only thinks about the problems of this life and completely ignores the problems of future lives, never bothering to make preparations for them, that person, too, is very unskillful, very foolish.

We need to do more than just be free from the problems of this life, we must try to be free from the whole suffering realm. Even if by some means we could ensure we would only ever be reborn in the human realm again and again, we are not free from the suffering realm of samsara. However many times we are born as human beings, we are all the same still in a suffering realm.

Therefore, we must liberate ourselves from the whole suffering realm, from samsara. But achieved the blissful state of peace by being free from the samsara for ourselves alone is not right. We must achieve enlightenment in order to release all the human beings from suffering and lead them to enlightenment. In order to fulfill this work, I must achieve enlightenment. That depends on the teaching that shows the path to enlightenment, to listen, understand and to practice and to meditate. Therefore, I am going to listen to the teaching for the benefit of all the sentient beings.

Yesterday, we tried to feel a little bit how the continuity of consciousness is beginningless, the continuity of life is beginningless and the continuity of the delusions, the disturbing negative thoughts is also beginningless. But, we could think that something like disturbing negative thoughts that is beginningless could also never have an end. How can it have end? It has an end if we make it to end. It has end. It can be ended if we follow the path which has the ability to completely cease these delusions.

I’ll just briefly talk how these disturbing negative thoughts can be destroyed. Normally the objects of our anger, attachment or other these delusions, the object of our experience, are nothing definite. On one object, sometimes we get angry, but sometimes anger does not arise, but attachment or pride arises. The object is the same, but the delusion about the object changes.

Also, all the other delusions can be completely destroyed because they are caused by ignorance. All disturbing negative thoughts are caused by the king of the delusions, ignorance. By destroying the root, the cause of all other delusions, all the branches can be completely destroyed.

Through meditation practice or through Dharma practice, we can control attachment, anger and those other delusions, and we can completely destroy the cause of those other delusions, ignorance. This ignorance is the ignorance that grasps onto the I. It is the I-grasping ignorance that believes in the I in a completely wrong way. It views the I in a completely false way. The I-grasping ignorance believes in an I as we believe it now.

At this moment we are unable to see the I as it really exists, and this is what I am talking about, how we believe the I now is the way I-grasping ignorance views the I. What the I-grasping ignorance views and believes is a false I.

The way, the method to destroy all these false views and be liberated from all the suffering is by practicing Dharma. It is clarified here in this point.

It is like this. We can completely destroy this I-grasping ignorance, the cause of delusions, by actualizing the realization which is called penetrative insight, or higher seeing, which is the realization of the absolute nature of reality. The meaning of penetrative insight or higher seeing is this. Once we have achieved shamatha or single-pointed concentration, possessed with great bliss, then, the mind one-pointedly concentrates on the absolute nature of reality without any distraction. It is compared to fish swimming in the water without the surface of the water moving at all. With the realization of shamatha, possessed by great bliss, without any distractions, the mind can continuously concentrate on the absolute nature of reality, it can analyze the absolute nature. This is what it means by the realization of higher seeing or penetrative insight.

To achieve this realization, as the foundation, we must first achieve shamatha, or tranquil abiding. Without achieving shamatha, we can’t control the distractions of meditation, such as sluggishness and the scattering thought, agitation. This cannot be stopped without actualizing the meditation called shamatha, tranquil abiding.

To be able to achieve shamatha, again the foundation or preparation is the moral conduct, discipline. By virtuous action, we protect our body, speech and mind, that we keep our body, speech and mind away from creating negative action. That, simply put, is what is called moral conduct, or virtuous discipline. We can also say it is not nonvirtuous discipline! Protecting our actions of body, speech and mind from doing virtuous actions. [GL] Nonvirtuous discipline is not allowing our body, speech and mind to create positive action. Making a vow to protect ourselves from good actions, that is nonvirtuous discipline. Like, for instance, if we vow “I want to become a fisherman, hunter or a butcher,” we are making a vow that protects us from not killing. Those are nonvirtuous disciplines. Disciplining ourselves to be longer in suffering realm.

Conversely, with the higher practice of moral conduct, we are kept away from the cause of the delusions. It stops external distractions, and because outside distractions get stopped, inner distractions, the delusions, don’t arise. As a result, a person who live in virtuous discipline keeps him- or herself away from external distractions.

By diminishing external distractions, internal distractions, delusions do not arise. Usually, because of external distractions, internal distractions arise. But with moral conduct the mind becomes quiet, tranquil, it becomes relaxed, calm. Living in virtuous discipline keeps us away from external distractions and internal distractions. Because of that, we can quickly achieve shamatha, tranquil abiding. It becomes very easy to achieve this by having the foundation, the higher practice of the moral conduct. Shamatha controls delusions; it doesn’t let them arise. Moral conduct controls the gross inner distractions. Then shamatha, that realization, controls even the finer ones.

The higher seeing realization completely destroys the I-grasping ignorance. How does it destroy completely the I-grasping ignorance? By realizing the emptiness, by realizing the absolute true nature of the self, by discovering the false view, realizing the emptiness of the self. How can that happen? How can it be achieved? By recognizing false I, the I that the I-grasping ignorance believes!

It is like a person who took drugs, whose mind is hallucinating. While his mind is hallucinating, he sees all the ground around him as full of worms, squirming. The whole of the ground around him is moving with worms. Then, as the effect of the drug causing this hallucination wears off, he sees that there are no worms, and it is just the ground. Seeing the worms was an effect of the drug.

That is the way it works, the way ignorance is destroyed by following the path, or by practicing Dharma. That’s how the delusions, disturbing negative thoughts have an end. That is how the delusions can be ended, through the Dharma practice.

I think I’ll stop here. Pipi break.

Do you have any questions?

[Student: question inaudible]

Rinpoche: She is asking why I make prostrations. The purpose of prostrating before sitting on the throne is a psychological method, it is the lamas’ method, the practice by the lineage lamas of the teachings on the gradual path to enlightenment.

You see, all actions should be virtuous actions. So if your actions are possessed by delusions, what happens is such there is a great danger of pride when you give a talk, when you sit on the throne. When others are sitting lower, when you are sitting higher, there’s a danger of pride arising, then if the action of sitting on the throne is possessed by pride, it is nonvirtuous action. I think pride and also inflation, the mind which is inflated, thinking “I’m a great teacher or I’m this and that.” You see, the mind becomes full, inflated, an inflated mind.

Also if the teacher comes to the teachings with an impure motivation, such as attachment, seeking only the pleasure of this life, and expecting material offering, or reputation, or with greed, all kinds of things like this, then, if one has a motivation like this it doesn’t become a pure action, it doesn’t become of benefit to the minds of the disciples, even though you’re talking about Dharma.

On the part of the guru who is giving teaching, even if there’s no pure motivation to give the teachings, the loving-compassionate thought of enlightenment, at least the action of giving the teachings should not be motivated by a mind seeking only the pleasures of this life, fame, material offerings and things like that. That’s at least what the mind should be.

That’s why, in order to control pride, the psychological method is to trick the mind, to cheat it of pride. The technique that has been given by the lineage lamas is to visualize before you get on throne Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and all the lineage lamas, on the throne, all the merit field, visualize the whole thing on the throne, then you make prostrations. Also when you sit down, with the right hand on the throne, if the throne is high you to imagine it lower, you are putting it down lower. That also overcomes pride.

Then as you sit on throne, you visualize all the lineage lamas one after one from whom the teachings were handed down, then the root guru from whom you have received the teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment is at your heart. That is to bless the mind, to make the mind pure, and for also the teachings to be effective. There are many purposes for this.

And also, as you sit on throne, you snap your fingers like this. That is to remind yourself of impermanence, that you and all the compounded phenomena—everything—changes in each split second and the sound of the finger snap also shows also shunyata, emptiness.

As you do that you, the guru, should remember that all the compounded phenomena, all the causative phenomena, yourself and others, the whole thing, are like a star, a mirage, a flickering flame of a butter lamp, an illusion, a drop of dew, a water bubble, a dream, a flash of lightning and an autumn cloud.


You should cultivate a pure motivation in order to make the action of listening to the teachings a pure action, making it the cause of happiness. If you can make the motivation virtuous by renouncing the nonvirtuous motivation, then you don’t let the action become a cause of suffering. This is something extremely important. This is what we have to do right away, this moment, with every action of body speech and mind. What we wish is happiness, so therefore it is extremely important to be careful on this point. Therefore, I often repeat the motivation.

Just as a poisonous fruit is the result of a poisonous seed and a medicinal fruit and all the branches come from the root of the medicinal plant, all the suffering of life arises from the nonvirtuous actions of the body speech and mind, and the nonvirtuous actions in turn arise from the mind. From what type of mind? From the nonvirtuous mind. The mind which is possessed by those disturbing negative thoughts: anger, attachment—seeking only the pleasure of this life—or ignorance. Conversely, all the happiness, all the perfections, of this and all future lives arise from virtuous actions and this is produced by the mind. What type of mind? By the virtuous mind, the mind not possessed by attachment, anger and so forth. Now you can see, all your happiness, and your whole entire suffering, the whole thing is created by your own mind, not by God. If you are happy, it is created through the power of your own good mind. All the problems and suffering you experience, now, is created only by your own mind, by your own bad thoughts.

Therefore, you see, mind is the base, mind is the field, your mind is the field from where all your suffering arises, the field from where the entire temporal and ultimate happiness, everything, arises. The whole thing is completely dependent on your own mind, so the whole thing is completely dependent on you, on what you do with your mind, on how you take care of it. The whole question of whether you’ll have a happy or a suffering life all the time depends on how you take care of your mind. So, your own mind is the creator of all your happiness and suffering of your own life.

Practicing meditation, practicing Dharma is done to take care of your mind. The essential purpose of these methods is to make your own mind good. By developing your mind in virtue, then you see, any happiness that you want you can receive.

It is necessary to recognize this most important point. It is extremely important to know way to use your meditation. Generally, not only with meditation, but with any kind of work, it is extremely important that any kind of work you do in your life becomes a method to attain happiness; it becomes a cause of happiness. It is necessary that this should be the focus of an action, the place you want to strike, like the target of an arrow, the point you are aiming for. If you are cutting a tree with an axe, there is a certain place where you cut; you don’t just chop anywhere.

In meditation and in any kind of daily-life work, especially if you practice meditation, it is extremely important to focus on the goal and to use it to diminish the delusions as much as possible. That is the only way. You can understand it is the only way. This is very scientific; it is not exaggerated, you can recognize this with your own experience. If you try it, it works. By experimenting you will see this is the only way you can attain happiness.

Nonvirtuous actions lead to suffering. For instance, a person has a short life having, dying in the mother’s womb, or not living long, dying as a child before he becomes old. Perhaps the way he dies is by being shot, by being killed by other people. Such things are caused by the nonvirtuous actions, and those nonvirtuous actions were done with nonvirtuous thoughts, either in previous lives or in this life. Shortage of life is the karmic result of having causes others shortage of life, such as killing somebody. He has created this karma by causing the shortage of life to other human beings or other non-human beings.

Some of the experiences, results of this karma were collected in the previous lives of the person and some were collected in this life. We see and hear many times a about people who were shot in early life by other people. Sometimes it happens very quickly, without taking much time. Sometimes even within one year, even within one month, within one week, the person who shoots other people is then shot by other people. Similarly, people who have stolen things from other people experience having things stolen in this life. It is not necessary to experience it in this life, but for some karmas that are very heavy, the result is experienced by the person in the life, he starts to experience it in this life.

There are some results of the karma that the person doesn’t experience it in this life, if it is not ready to be experienced. This is like a seed which is planted in the ground, but is not ready to sprout yet. The result will be experienced a the future life unless the person has purified the negative karma, the cause of suffering, in this life.

Heavy negative karma, whose result will be experienced in this life, is collected connected with beating your parents, beating your father and mother, scolding your father and mother, killing your father and mother. Karma in connection with parents is heavy negative karma because of the object. That kind of karma is very powerful as it is with doing actions with a negative mind to holy beings, such as enlightened beings, bodhisattva, arhats, beings who have attained the minds of the loving-compassionate thought of enlightenment. In relation to such beings, you create very heavy karma. Then cheating and telling lies to parents, all those negative actions are very heavy, and the suffering that the person experiences even in this life is very powerful.

There have been many examples of a person who, in his early life, did not take care of his parents. He beat them and did many bad things to them, or else he cheated them and lied to them. He did all kinds of things with a negative mind, not with a positive mind, not with a beneficial thought, not wanting to benefit. There are many examples of people who experienced the result in this life. Sooner or later their eyes became blind or they becomes very poor, things like that. There are different problems; it depends on what negative karma they created.

If a wife can never control her husband or the husband can never control the wife, if they can’t get along, that is the result of the negative karma of sexual misconduct in a previous lifetime.

Negative karma in relation to friends and family in a previous life, created by nonvirtuous thought, with a jealous mind causing misery to other people. In this life you can see many families fight every day.

Then, for a long time some countries experience much enjoyment, then all of a sudden things go wrong. There is no more water, the crops fail, there is no more enjoyment. Or from being rich, it becomes poor and there are many thieves in the country, many storms, much hail, no more rain. The normal food becoming scarce. These are caused by the nonvirtuous action of stealing, which is created by the people in the country who were stealing the crops, either created in this life or in a previous life.

One time I heard a man talking about the place he came from, saying how terrible it was there now, how there were no more crops growing and there were many problems, which is result of the negative karma of stealing, When I said that, he said that it was true, the people in his country used to steal so much, they used to rob so much. So, it’s possible for the karma to ripen in this lifetime.

There are so many stories of people like this, explained in the teachings by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, telling of different sentient beings’ karma, by creating such-and-such a cause, the result was experienced in this life.

In a previous life in India, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha went to give teachings to the sentient beings. On the way, he discussed the karma of the sentient beings, human beings, animals. Sometimes his followers see people or animals who are suffering so much, having a terrible life. They can see in the shape of animals, that they are very fearful, having a very fearful body. Many times the disciples asked Guru Shakyamuni Buddha about the karma of the sentient beings, why one was in such trouble. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha can see clearly all the details about the karma of this life, of all the previous lives.

Also sometimes Guru Shakyamuni Buddha went to a certain place where there was great suffering. People, such as fishermen, had terrible trouble from very fearful animals. With his psychic power, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha could see and explain the karma to the people. In the teachings, there are many explanations about karma.

Anyway, as you develop your mind through meditation practice you can understand karma. As you make purification, as you purify the ignorance, you can see karma clearer and clearer still. Sometimes when you have purified enough, you attain the psychic power to remember your past and see the future. At that time you can clearly see your karma. Even though at the moment you cannot see our karma, we cannot see the cause, we can certainly experience the result.

Therefore, it is extremely important to have a pure motivation, this time, to listen to the Mahayana teachings with the pure motivation of bodhicitta. Think, “Therefore I’m going to listen to the Mahayana teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment for the benefit of all the kind mother sentient beings.”

I think we’ll have a pipi break.