Kopan Course No. 08 (1975)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1975 (Archive #089)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Eighth Kopan Meditation Course at Kopan Monastery, Nepal in 1975. The transcripts are lightly edited by Tsultrim Davis.

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

Section Two: Lectures 6 to 10

LECTURE 6:  November 12, 1975 (evening)


When Atisha was at the palace, himself with the decoration, the ornaments, of the deity Heruka, and accompanied by eight female and male naked, tantric yogis, acting crazy, running around the palace, at that time everybody decided that he had given up the life of the king. They were crying, then the father said, “Oh, son, when you were born, I saw such wonderful signs. I thought that you would take the place of a king, and so I was very happy! How is it now that you have the thought to live in forest?” Atisha said, “What are you saying?” It sounds like the student talking when he goes back to the West. “What are you saying? If I take the position of the king, I may be together for a short while with my father’s mind during this life, but in all the future lives we wouldn’t recognize each other, son and father.” What he was saying is this would be a great mistake with no benefit.

“If I definitely obtain the path to enlightenment, then in all the future lives happiness will arise. Therefore, please give me a chance.” He requested this from his father, then his mother said, “Which can be most beneficial? Wherever he wants happiness, let’s allow him to practice Dharma and pray to always be together in the future.” Then the mother gave permission. Then, Atisha, the next day at dawn time, along with all these female and male yogis, left for the forest to the presence of the guru called Awaduti, who then taught him the Madhyamaka teachings, the Middle way teachings, which explain shunyata or voidness, and also the very subtle points of karma. So, then from the age of twenty-one until twenty-nine Atisha lived the life in the form of a yogi in the presence of that Lama Awaduti. He listened to Dharma and he checked, tried to understand, and he meditated and practiced Dharma like this.

His family was very rich in that time. Just inside in the family’s palace there were 1,000 people and 25,000 swimming pools and 720 beautiful parks and many other things. The palace was surrounded by seven fences, and inside there were 363 bridges and 1,025 golden banners on 13 golden roofs. But Atisha left all these things like throwing away toilet paper, as did Guru Shakyamuni Buddha.

Besides the guru Awaduti, with whom Atisha spent a long time, about seven years, there were many other gurus who had found realizations. With them, Atisha practiced so much Vajrayana teachings, and he became very, very learned in all the philosophies, in all the teachings, then after sometime, he thought, “There’s nothing left, there is no tantric teaching that I don’t know.” Then in a dream a dakini appeared—this is a Sanskrit term meaning sky-goer—and when he had this dream he again thought, “I’m the most learned, there is no tantric teaching left that I don’t know.” When he was thinking like this, his guru called Lama Rahularuda all of a sudden, with his psychic power, without any resistance from the walls, appeared in Atisha’s room. He said, “What are you doing? By leaving the sentient beings, you should take the renounced life. You should take ordination to benefit the teachings and for many other sentient beings.” Also Heruka actually appeared to Atisha in space and persuaded Atisha’s mind to take the ordination, and so did Shakyamuni Buddha and also Maitreya Buddha.

After receiving instructions from his guru, and having many dreams like this, from this abbot he took ordination when he was twenty-nine. He followed 157 gurus and received teachings on Vinaya, the philosophical teachings that explain about the discipline, about the moral conduct, the different levels of ordination. He perfectly understood all these things, and he was wondering which path is quicker to achieve enlightenment. Then while he was wondering like this, one of his gurus called Rahula, who was living in those black mountains, with his psychic power discovered that Atisha was wondering this. So he came and told Atisha that seeing deities of the mandala, flying, having clairvoyance, having firm concentration, and having many general realizations was easy, just like rain falling. He said, “You should train your mind in compassion and the bodhicitta, in the loving and compassionate mind of bodhicitta. Keep the compassionate Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, Tugje Chenpo, in your mind. Make the vow that, ‘Until the samsara ends, until the suffering of the sentient beings ceases, I am going to work for the sentient beings.’ You should make vow like this.” This is the instruction given by his guru.

Also, one other time Atisha was going around Bodhgaya, the center of the India, the holy place where Buddha, where Shakyamuni Buddha, took the form of receiving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. On the walls there are paintings, and as he was going round the stupa, those buddhas were questioning to the other one, asking, “What is the quickest way to receive enlightenment?” Another time there were two girls questioning and giving answers, asking, “I wish to receive enlightenment quickly, what Dharma should be practiced?” And the other saying, “Practice bodhicitta.” He tried to listen to those things, and hearing this, he gained much understanding, much understanding. Like, when you pour this from one container, here, into another container there, he gained so much understanding from these who he realized to be his gurus, the deity Heruka, instructing him, manifesting in such ways.

Just a little bit of talk in the visualization of the Guru Shakyamuni Buddha:

There is a big difference, generally, in the visualizations done by buddhas and by ordinary people. Most of what we visualize is a cause of ignorance and of attachment. Many times our visualization causes attachment to arise, causes suffering in the mind, anger, jealousy, pride, ignorance, to arise. Most of what we visualize is the cause of problems. It is the object of the three poisonous minds. Instead of decreasing the delusions, it increases the delusions. The visualization of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is very different from those normal visualizations that we do, what normally appears to us. However much we try, visualizations of Shakyamuni Buddha only become the cause of decreasing the delusions, decreasing the three poisonous minds, instead of increasing the superstitions.

It only becomes a method to cut off the dualistic mind. There is a big difference, big difference, for instance, while, you are angry, if you just concentrate on Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, even a painting, something. Just watch, concentrate on that… very peaceful looking, very much relaxed… and the anger just automatically goes away. When you look at it, whenever you watch, you feel peacefulness and relaxation, peacefulness in your mind, wanting to be like that, with a very calm feeling. Not like pictures that we see in Time magazine, in the movies, on TV, not like that. The effect of this object is completely different, different, like this.

Even just without talking about how it is helpful for realization and to receive enlightenment, while you are looking at the effect that you receive in your mind, that is the power of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s knowledge. However much we visualize Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, there is always benefit, it leaves an impression each time you try to see the statues, the thangkas, the paintings of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Every time there is benefit, looking at the figure of the buddhas—no danger, only benefits. It only persuades your mind to obtain the knowledge that they have. Each time, as we visualize, it leaves so many impressions on the mind, it creates karma, as the wish to become like that arises. It creates karma to see real buddhas and to always receive teachings directly from them. It creates karma like this.

An example is like this. In previous time one person who was traveling, he stopped on the way and he spent the night in a temple. It was kind of dark, and he had a light in front of him. He was facing the wall, and fixing his shoes. Then, some time as he was taking rest, as he was looking at the wall, he saw a figure of some beautiful paintings, Shakyamuni Buddha there, beautiful. So, he kept on looking, then he thought, “How wonderful, how beautiful this painting is, this figure, how beautiful it is. How wonderful it is if I could become like this.” Each time as he looked at him, he thought this.

Then, because of the impression that he left on his mind, this karma, then, after some time, in the future, he was born in India and he became one of the Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples, an arhat called Sharipu. Usually in the paintings in the center around Guru Shakyamuni Buddha there are two arhats standing, he is one. So, in that life, he was always with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, receiving teachings directly from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. Then, also at the death time, you know, remembering Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. At such a most dangerous time it is extremely helpful. It makes much less worry at death time. And also after death a person whose life has ended with the memory of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha doesn’t experience a suffering rebirth, a lower rebirth again, but is again born as a human being, meeting the Dharma. The visualization of the Guru Shakyamuni Buddha yoga purification will be repeated during the meditation time, but I mention just briefly. It will be repeated again with more details, and we’ll repeat the mantras together.

One reason why we have to visualize, while we have to rely on the practice of visualization, besides practicing meditation, besides mind-training, besides practicing meditation, why we have to visualize like this, is because only understanding the meditation subject is not enough. That is not enough, that isn’t enough, just like this.

If you want to have apricots, if you want to grow them in your garden, just having the seeds is not enough. You should pour water, have other help. By pouring water on the ground, it makes the seed ready to produce the stems. Just like this, to actualize the Dharma path within our mind depends on receiving blessings, from the guru-buddha. Just like, in order for the seed to grow to produce the plant, it needs water, like this, we need water to make the seed ready. This depends on receiving blessings, and receiving blessing depends on having the devotional hole in the mind. If there is no devotional hole in the mind, then there is no way to receive the blessing. That depends on creating merit and purifying obscuration. Therefore, we have to make the Guru Shakyamuni yoga purification, totally like this.

However, to totally actualize the whole path to enlightenment within our mind, we cannot make it alone. We have to depend on the perfect guide, the enlightened beings, Shakyamuni Buddha, so we request and made purification by visualizing Guru Shakyamuni Buddha like this. The first thing is the motivation, and that will be repeated. The space between Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and you, where you visualize, is the distance of a long prostration, floating above, above the ground, in same level of your head. Then the throne, and the lotus, then the sun and moon, not like statue, not made out of brass and wood. Every time that you visualize, you should think it’s really there, radiant like a water bubble, very transparent.

So you visualize it as big as a mountain, like Mt. Everest. You can visualize Buddha with robes, beautifully adorned, like that. You can visualize the hand position like this, the left hand holding the bowl with the nectar inside, and for the right hand, the right fingers touching on the seat, like this. Then the robes, not tight, not like our robes, but very natural, and they don’t touch the holy body.

He is radiant, with beams reaching all the sentient beings, in all the realms. Then, in those light rays, visualize so many tiny Guru Shakyamuni Buddhas, coming out to work for sentient beings, and some Guru Shakyamuni Buddhas going back, absorbing into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy body after working for the sentient beings. He is angry, but smiling, looking as if he thinking, “You, son, if you wish to, receive the enlightenment.” I think it’s like that, like that.

The first thing is the white light, purifying. Then, second thing, the yellow light coming, and receiving the knowledge of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy body, speech, and mind. Then after that, while you are reciting mantra, you become oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, in the voidness, and out of this your mind becomes oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha—you appear in the manifestation of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, and you send rays to all beings, purifying all beings. They all become Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, like this. Then, after that, dedication. Anyway, it will be repeated, at this time just repeat the prayer and mantra.

This mantra has much benefit. The extremely kind, the great bodhisattva Khunu Rinpoche, not in the form of a monk, living in the eight precepts, a great bodhisattva, we received the mantra from him and he explained the benefits. Negative karma that was created for 84,000 eons can be purified. “TADYATHA OM MUNÉ MUNÉ MAHAMUNAYÉ SOHA.” It has much benefit.

One different thing… yesterday night, as you people were reciting the mantra here, I thought these animals around here, the dogs, should also hear the mantra. It leaves so much impression on their mind, to somehow contact the Dharma in future lives.

Lama Ton pa ... [Rinpoche recites prayer and mantra, while students speak after him.]

[Transmission of mantra]

The translation of the prayer is in the pamphlet. So, you can understand: TADYA THA means “such this.” OM includes the holy knowledge, the infinite knowledge of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha holy speech, holy mind, holy body. OM, the knowledge of the Buddha’s holy speech, body, holy mind.

MUNÉ MUNÉ: MUNÉ, MUNÉ is tub-pa, tub-pa. Tibetan term is tub-pa, tub-pa means power, power, control. Having control over the lower rebirth, the lower suffering rebirth. This means free from the lower suffering rebirth. Second MUNÉ, control, free—that is, free from samsara, having control of the samsara, free from samsara.

Then the third one, MAHAMUNA-YE, the third one is “great, great freedom,.” That is, free from dualistic mind, free from self-cherishing thought, because even if one is free from samsara, one isn’t necessarily free from self-cherishing thought. That includes free from self-cherishing thought, from dualistic mind, that disturbs one from receiving enlightenment.

So, free from dualistic mind, free from self-cherishing thought, having control over those very thoughts, those obscurations. Like this, briefly saying “TADYATHA OM MUNÉ MUNÉ MAHAMUNAYÉ SOHA.” “May the blessings take root in the heart, in the heart, in the heart.”

Anyway, what is the correct way, is if you understand the perfect English in your mind, if you understand the meaning, the more you understand the meaning is more important. Many times it is written MUNI MUNI. Khunu Rinpoche, he advised to say “MUNÉ MUNÉ,” that “MUNI MUNI” is incorrect. I have been reciting “MAHAMUNA-YE SVAHA,” as I heard according to my sense, so intellectually I thought maybe “MUNÉ MUNÉ” because the other one is “MUNI MUNI” so maybe the last is correct, intellectually.

[Ge wa di… Dedication prayers]

LECTURE 7:  November 13, 1975 (evening)

As the highly realized, the great, Lama Tsongkhapa said in the precious teachings, called The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, “The essential meaning of all the teachings of the buddha, the path that is admired by the buddhas and bodhisattvas and the fortunate ones who desire the boundless state, liberation—that I will explain according to my ability.”

So, as Guru Tsongkhapa said in his precious teachings, the teaching The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, what is the essential meaning of all the Buddhadharma, the path that is admired by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the door for all the fortunate ones who want to receive the boundless state, nirvana? To enter the door, I am going to try to explain, the three principal paths, the renouncing mind of the lower rebirth, the lower suffering rebirth. Renunciation is explained in the subject of the gradual path of the lower beings and the subject of the gradual path of the middle beings. And bodhicitta, the door of the fortunate ones who desire nirvana. Also the right view, the middle way view that is devoid of the two extremes. In order to receive enlightenment, without depending on the gradual path, there is no way.

So therefore, it is necessary to actualize these three principal paths within our mind. Actualizing these three principal paths depends on how to follow such teachings explaining the gradual path to enlightenment, the lam-rim. So before listening to these teachings, it is necessary to cultivate the pure motivation. Even during the motivation time, if you can remember this great bodhisattva, Atisha, it’s very helpful. The great bodhisattva Atisha’s disciple, called Dromtönpa, asked his guru Atisha, “What, are the results of the action done with ignorance, anger, attachment? And what is the result of the action that is not possessed by these three delusions?” So, Atisha answered that question: “The actions done possessed of these three, one of these three, cause suffering, lower rebirth. Actions done not possessed of these three delusions cause rebirth in the upper realms.” However, even if one can remember the teachings, it only persuades our mind to perform right motivation, in order that the action does not become the cause of samsara, only becoming the cause of nirvana.

So therefore think, “Only releasing myself from the samsaric suffering is not sufficient, there are numberless other mother sentient beings who are extremely kind all the time. They are continuously suffering without having Dharma wisdom and method, so it is my responsibility to make all the sentient beings be released from suffering, and lead them to the most sublime happiness, enlightenment. To be able to do that, first I should achieve enlightenment, that should be obtained, that should be obtained with this life. As I have received the perfect human rebirth from my side and have met the teachings, and the leader leading in the path to enlightenment, while I have this chance I must obtain thisobject. In order to obtain the highest aim, I am going to listen to the profound teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment.” Then, when listening to the teachings, think “These are the Mahayana teachings that lead the fortunate one to enlightenment, well expounded by the great philosopher Nagarjuna and Asanga. They are the profound teachings, the essence of the great pandit Atisha and the Dharma king of the three worlds, great Lama Tsongkhapa’s infinite knowledge extracted. They include all the essential points of the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, and all these teachings are set up for the for the gradual practice of one person achieving enlightenment. By this gradual path all past, present, and future buddhas received enlightenment.”


Now, this commentary on the gradual path has four outlines as a beginning. The first one is the qualification of the author Atisha, which includes the stories of his perfect caste, how he found knowledge, and after he found realization how he benefited the teachings in India and in Tibet. As he was wondering, “What’s the quickest way to receive enlightenment?” and going around the holy stupa in Bodhgaya, the various transformations were telling him advice as he was going around. In one of the holy places on one side of the Bodhgaya Stupa, there is one stone house, one holy place inside, and there is one Guru Shakyamuni Buddha statue made of ivory. That statue was talking to Atisha, saying, “If you want to receive enlightenment quickly, you must train your mind in bodhicitta.” So Atisha thought, “Who has the complete teachings on bodhicitta?”

So, during that time, as he was searching around, he heard about Guru Serlingpa, Lama Serlingpa, whose name was far famed, and was the holder of the teachings on the bodhicitta. So he decided to go to Serling in order to receive the complete teachings on bodhicitta, in the presence of that Guru. He made the trip to the country called Serling, and it took him thirteen months. On the way, the mara, the evil being called Garab Wangchug who had mischievous thoughts, who wanted to destroy the teachings, who doesn’t want to spread the teachings to the world, he thinks, “If Atisha goes there, receiving teachings, then he will spread so much teachings in the world.” So he wanted to interfere. Then he sent a very violent, very wrathful air to sink the boat, to sink it in the ocean, or to take it in the wrong direction, to push the boat and take in the wrong way, and sea lions to be obstacles, and thunderbolts from space. One pandit Sanyingpo, the “Essence of the Earth,” prayed very hard to persuade Atisha’s holy mind. Then Atisha went in concentration, very wrathful looking into concentration on this deity, on this protector, in female aspect and male aspect, wrathful looking, different protectors, and they appeared in different manifestations to protect him from sinking. This was not like black magic, but with much compassion. He controlled all the maras, the evil-doers who try to disturb him, and they couldn’t really disturb Atisha.

After  thirteen months then he reached a place called Serling. He didn’t go straight to see Guru Serlingpa but stopped to rest where Serlingpa’s followers were making retreat. He was checking with the followers of Serlingpa, whether he has achievement of bodhicitta, how much he is rich in the realization, in the oral teachings, in the logic, in the experience of philosophical teachings, his principal practice. There are many, many ways of checking.

Oh, I see...pipi time.

[Short break. Discussion during break below.]

…So however, as I was talking about Guru Serlingpa, this is useful. Actually I am talking about the autobiography of Atisha. How he tried to control his mind, how he searched for his guru, how he saw life, you know, how he saw the essence. Personally when you read these things it is the same as instruction on how to practice Dharma, how to search for a guru. It looks like an autobiography, but it’s an instruction, telling us how to do it. When you read an autobiography of, for instance Milarepa, you know, it is like that. So anyway, what I am saying is, my point is, one reason to describe this is, like this, by understanding autobiography we understand how to search for a guru. We understand, you know, how to practice Dharma. Also we understand why his autobiography says that bodhicitta is the quickest way to receive enlightenment. This is teaching us, you know. It is telling us that bodhicitta is the quickest path to enlightenment. So everything is for us, for our life. So actually it is instruction, Dharma instruction, you know, it has to do with this life. So, very useful, you know. The person who has more disciples, the person who has thousands, millions of disciples, then just because of the reputation of that person, how many disciples he has, you just follow without checking his knowledge. Many people are like this—just follow after other people because of the reputation and many people following…

We have dogs, like this, you know. In the monasteries, you know, suddenly there are many dogs, many dogs, you know. So one dog thought, “Something has happened there,” so he ran, you know, he ran. So other dogs thought, “Oh he ran, so there must be something,” and then the rest of the dogs ran together even though there was nothing happening.

In one of the forests, there’s a bunch of monkeys, and one monkey was nearby the water, and maybe he was drinking water, I’m not sure, I can’t remember. So the branch of tree dropped on water. “CHAR!” like this, on the water. So this monkey, you know, this monkey that was nearby the water completely got scared, you know. There’s no time to look, there’s no time to watch what happened there. “CHAR!” he heard, you know. All of a sudden, “CHAR!” So all of a sudden his manner was completely scared and no time to look at, check up. He just ran away. He thought, “There is animal called CHAR,” you know, “a very big, huge animal,” and told all the monkeys, “There’s a big, there’s a very fearful animal called CHAR!” So then all the monkeys got scared. They went to the water, they all went to the water. . .Then I don’t know what happened. If I can remember afterwards, then I will tell you.

However this means that you should not believe whatever other people say. You should not believe right away. You should check up whether it’s real, whether it’s correct or not, you know. You should check up. If you believe, then there’s danger that you get cheated, that you get disappointed when nothing happens, you know. So this is not only in the Dharma, also in the world, in life. Like this.

It is also normal people, ordinary people, you know, who are not checking the person, not checking his life, his practice, his understanding, whether the path can lead to the goal where you want to reach. Just because he can speak beautifully or he’s wise in poetry, they follow.

…So talking about Atisha’s autobiography, it teaches us.

Then the disciples of Serlingpa explained to Guru Serlingpa, “There’s such a great, wise, incomparable man called Dipamakara Srijuana, Atisha, who has 125 disciples, who came across the ocean and they went through much difficulties through these thirteen months. They came to receive the Mahayana Thought Training teachings.” Then the Guru Serlingpa, he also told the disciples, “Such a wise, such a learned person coming in our country is extremely good. We must make procession to him.” I think I will leave it there.

Then the meditation. First you make the breathing meditation. Then after that the Guru Shakyamuni yoga purification, spending more time purifying yourself. Maybe recite the mantras for some time. Then afterwards, you just relax, you remain quiet, but you concentrate on the stream of light, the white light and the yellow light coming, purifying all the negativities, all the sickness, all the wrong conceptions, delusions, and all the negative karmas. Even without reciting mantra also you can concentrate like this, feeling quiet, silent, oh like this.

Atisha’s Guru, Serlingpa, told the disciples, “We should make a procession for his coming.” Then Atisha and his followers, as they were coming closer to the palace, Guru Serlingpa himself and 535 followers carried offerings.

This was just like the time when Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was leaving India. When Guru Shakyamuni Buddha went to another place, he was always surrounded by many arhats. The way they walked automatically led people to have a kind of respect, or devotion. So it was with Atisha. All of them were very happy to receive him.

Then, along with Atisha himself, and the other pandit, Sanyingpo, there were many other pandits who were learned in all the five great knowledges. And also with Atisha there were other monks who were very learned in the Tripitaka teachings, the three basic teachings. And they all had put on the robes according to the Vinaya teachings with the equipments they hold, and also the pandit hat. They also held an animal tail, white, that you carry in the hand. Also those surrounding pandits were not close to Atisha, having space between. Like this, they went to the palace of Serlingpa.

Everything became so perfect. A black protector is one who disturbs the Dharma practitioner, who disturbs the meditation. The white protector helps the teachings for the practitioner. So even those white protectors in the countries were very happy, and they made flower rains.

Then Atisha, as he met Serlingpa, filled up a jeweled pot with various jewels—gold, silver, pearl, and lapis—then he offered it to the hand of Lama Serlingpa in order to hear the teachings bodhicitta, the Mahayana Thought Training.

Serlingpa’s house is called “White Palace Having the Silver Umbrella.” So, Atisha went there and Guru Serlingpa gave the teachings, the beginning of the Abhisamayalamkara. For about twelve years Atisha and Guru Serlingpa were very happy, became very close, and Atisha received the technique of the special teachings, and completed the understanding of the teachings and completed the meditation practice during those twelve years.

Then, in the presence of Lama Serlingpa, Atisha received incredible bodhicitta through exchanging oneself and others. So Guru Serlingpa inaugurated Atisha to be the holder of the teachings, and he told Atisha, “You don’t stay here, you don’t live here. You must go to the northern country, the Snowland. Go to Tibet and guide the followers in the path to enlightenment.” Atisha was living in the 253 precepts purely. Also he was observing also the bodhicitta precepts. There are eighteen root vows and forty-six branch vows. He was observing all purely and also the bodhisattva precepts. And not only that, the Vajrayana precepts, the root vows, the fourteen root vows. Atisha never had the experience of sleeping one night with the negativities of breaking precepts. That’s how he purely observed the precepts. He never broke even a small Vinaya rule. The Vajrayana precepts are much more strict than the bodhisattva’s. There are various branches, like rain falling so easy to break, you know, sort of like rain falling.

How he takes care of his precepts is just like this. In Tibet we have the animal, yak, you know, the big animal. This animal has so much attachment to their tails. In the forest if their tail got stuck in the bushes, even if there’s a danger of life, he dare not run away by cutting the hairs on the bushes, you know. He doesn’t want to lose the hair there.

Also he had shamatha realization and penetrative insight. On the basis of shamatha realization, he had the realization of the wisdom realizing shunyata. Besides that, he also had tantric realization, very firm concentration. There are the gradual path of becoming and the path of fulfillment.

Atisha benefited so much for the teachings, there and in Tibet. In India there was much danger of degeneration of the teachings, and there was a big debate. He defeated all of wrong followers three times. As they were defeated they all entered the teachings of the Buddhadharma.

Even now in India there are various sects and groups. Atisha understood all of them. He had no partisanship. He became the owner of all the teachings, sutra and tantra. During those times, as there was much degeneration, he came and gradually the teachings started to spread into Tibet. But there was no teaching of lam-rim, teaching that explains the gradual path, so people found many contradictions. Those practicing sutra criticized tantra, and those practicing tantra criticized sutra. So they became like hot and cold. Where there is hot there cannot be cold, where there is cold there cannot be hot. Peoples’ minds became confused like this.

During that time it was very difficult to spread the pure Buddhadharma, and the kind Lha Lama Yeshe Ö was not happy that this was happening in Tibet. So in order to spread pure Dharma he sent twenty-one very intelligent students to India to invite pandits to Tibet. So, many of them died of fever and heat. The two that were left could not invite Atisha, so they went back and explained to the king that there’s no contradiction between sutra and tantra, according to how the pandits of India practice. They said there was one pandit in a place called Vikramashila who could benefit them. This was Atisha. As the king heard this all his doubt went away. Just by hearing the name of Atisha incredible devotion arose in his mind.

He sent another translator, pandits, and eight other people with gifts of gold to invite Atisha from India. Again they couldn’t invite him. So the Dharma king wanted to invite Atisha himself, and he set off. One of the irreligious kings knew he was going to walk to the teachings and caught him, and said, “If you don’t give up Dharma, I can’t release your life.” The irreligious king put the king of Tibet in prison. One of the king’s nephews came to rescue him but he was told that in order to do so he would have to bring gold the size of the king’s body. He went to find it and came back with 100 golden coins. But still the other king told him to bring gold that equals his body. Again the nephew went out and came back with more gold. But the other king said he was missing gold the size of the head.

The nephew went to the prison and called the king, and the nephew said it is better to pass away in a country where there is Dharma than live under such a sinful king. He explained about the gold and told the king to continue to pray to the three jewels while he continued to search for the gold, and to have strong will. The king told his nephew, “Even if I die, continue the work I started.” And he told him he didn’t feel it was worthwhile to continue to live. He said, “From beginningless previous lifetimes I have never died for the Dharma. This time, even if I die, it is very good. Don’t give even a handful of gold to the irreligious king. Take the gold and go to India and bring Pandit Atisha.” The nephew had a very hard time leaving the king, suffering like that. But thinking of sentient beings in Tibet and the teachings, and Atisha, strong will arise and he left for India.

The meditation this time is similar. Spend more time on the last part visualizing the mantra, seed-syllable at the heart, and then purifying other sentient beings. Spend more time first in purifying yourself, and secondly purifying other sentient beings. Those are the two points. When you visualize the seed-syllable mantra, that is MUM, your mind is oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy mind in the manifestation of the seed-syllable MUM. You visualize the mantras, the oneness with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy mind in the manifestation of the letters. Actually this mantra, the formation of the mantra is like this. When you read the mantra, you are like the MUM, the seed syllable of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s holy mind, sending beams to all beings purifying, like this. To all beings who have obscurations. You can visualize beings in the form of humans, infinite like the earth, even animals.

LECTURE 7a:  November 13, 1975 – Discussion During Pipi Break

[During a pipi break, Lama Zopa was asked by the students about negative feelings they were experiencing. To explain this phenomenon, Lama Zopa made the following comments.]

Sometimes a person might seem quite happy without having the slightest interest in spiritual things, in Dharma. Perhaps he’s building a house or fixing his car. Anyway, he’s doing something that makes him too busy to think of anything else. Because of that, he’s not aware that there is something wrong within himself and doesn’t feel that this is so. But should he realize his mind and check it with different methods, being more concerned with the internal environment rather than the outer. He’ll find many things wrong and many uncomfortable feelings. As he tries to feel, he becomes more aware, within all these will appear to be much stronger. As he concentrates his mind like this, he’ll find much that he was not aware of when he was so busy working.

This is a simple example of how we can see more and more clearly, how negative our mind can be. As we discover more and more attachment, ignorance, pride and so on, we see ourselves as increasingly negative. One thing about the Dharma in general, and the teachings on the graduated path to enlightenment in particular, is that, as we practice, make meditation on it. Our mind is made more aware: aware of our life, aware of our mind itself. These teachings can be likened to a mirror. A mirror shows us our body: what is wrong with it and what is right with it, which part is ugly and which is beautiful, where it is not clean and where it is. Similarly, the teachings, especially the lam-rim meditations, are the mirror of our mind. Usually we use a mirror to keep ourselves beautiful and clean. Like wise, we should use the teachings to perfect ourselves and purify our mind. The lam-rim mirror allows us to remove inner ugliness and beautify our mind, with realizations of Dharma knowledge.

Since we use the teachings as a mirror, it is natural that, as we practice, that is as we meditate on the teachings, we shall see ourselves—our mind and personality—more and more clearly. We shall recognize our good points and the proper actions that we do, and we shall recognize also our bad points and mistaken actions. This is how it works. In simple terms, it is analogous to when we wash dirty clothing. When we do so, the dirt is supposed to come out and we should see it coming out. It is definitely true, isn’t it? To clean the clothes we have to remove the dirt. Perhaps before we start washing, we might not think that these clothes are particularly dirty. Even once we’ve commenced, we might still have the idea that, “There’s not so much dirt here, these clothes are okay.” But this is only because we don’t see much dirt. However, when we scrub them well in hot water with good soap, so much dirt comes out. Enough to make us vomit! Had we seen all this dirt before, we wouldn’t have worn these clothes! So much dirt the water is all black, the laundry bench is all black. Anyway, what happens naturally is that as we begin washing, the dirt comes to, begins to come out, and as we continue washing we see more of it.

We never check our mind because we lack Dharma wisdom. Consequently we are unaware of the condition of our mind and the nature of our behavior. Therefore, normally we live comfortably with our delusions of greed, ignorance and hatred. Moreover, despite overwhelming assumptions to the contrary, we constantly make mistakes, our minds contain virtually nothing positive. We are very egocentric and possess extremely strong delusions. We always believe that we are good. Intuitively, each of us thinks, “I am so good. I am not negative. I am always good. I never make mistakes.” Whenever we think of ourselves, simultaneously we have the idea, “I am good, much better than others.” This is just like wearing very dirty clothes without realizing how dirty they are. When we practice meditation, especially lam-rim and specifically checking, analytical, meditation, we are washing our mind.

As we begin to wash our mind with the water of the lam-rim teachings, we grow increasingly aware of the nature of our mind, and see much more of what it contains. Hence, it is natural that we discover more and more how full of attachment and anger it is and feel, “Oh, my mind is so negative.” This, then, is exactly the same as the clothes washing analogy. The more we wash, the more dirt comes out—much more than we suspected was there. But many people don’t recognize that this is inevitable at the beginning of the practice and that is naturally how the mind starts to develop. They don’t understand that seeing much negativity is a beneficial effect, and in fact, evidence of how useful correct meditation can be. Furthermore, having meditated and discovered a growing number of delusions and their mind correspondingly more negative, they instead draw false conclusions. They believe that the teachings are the cause of suffering. “This teaching makes me more negative. Previously I was good, positive all the time. There was nothing wrong with me before. Now I’m completely black.” By interpreting the beneficial effects of the teaching as harmful, they blame it for their shortcomings. This way of thinking is exactly the same as that of a person who doesn’t know how to wash clothes. “Now I’m washing these clothes with hot soapy water, but there’s more dirt coming out. Perhaps I’m not cleaning them, maybe this doesn’t help. Maybe I shouldn’t use soap and water to wash these clothes.” Such conceptions are identical, there’s no difference what so ever.

When we meditate on voidness it is especially true, and only our feeling of self-existence grows stronger. The more we meditate on voidness and the more accurate our meditation becomes, the greater becomes our understanding of shunyata, the voidness of the nature of the object, and the closer our mind approaches to the realization of it. At the beginning of this process it is only natural that we see and feel our “I” and other objects as increasingly self-existent. However, this is only temporary. The name of the teaching, “The graduated path to enlightenment,” itself explains the method. The instructions on how to wash clothes say, “First the stains, and finally even the bad smells. Then the clothes are perfectly clean.” Just as this is a gradual method, so too is the meditation process.

Also, there are hundreds of thousands of different meditations, but practicing meditation is not just picking up some soap and applying it without water to the clothes we wanted to clean. It would not be of benefit, and could even lead to greater problems. The same thing can happen if we do not understand and practice the fundamental aspects of the lam-rim teachings, the mind renouncing samsara, the enlightened attitude of bodhicitta and realization of shunyata. Then we are likely just to pick up something like “Kundalini Yoga” or “Raising the Kundalini” or “Chakra-Nadis” or some so-called “tantric” meditation, and try to practice it, which is like putting soap on the dirty clothes without water. In this way we can’t remove any dirt. Thus we can see why it is called “The graduated path to enlightenment” and how important it is to understand and practice a gradual method such as these teachings. The root text of all such teachings was composed by the great Indian pandit Atisha in the eleventh century, after he came to Tibet. Why did he write something like this? Compare it to making a pizza. Somebody goes and buys all the ingredients, flour, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and so on. Someone else prepares and cooks the whole thing and puts it, steaming hot, in front of you. All you have to do is come to the table, sit on a chair and eat it. As far as you’re concerned that’s the only effort you have to put into it. Similarly, Atisha’s teachings, Lama Tsongkhapa’s commentary, and all the other lam-rim teachings and commentaries are ready to practice, just the ready-made, well-cooked pizza is waiting to be eaten.

Guru Shakyamuni Buddha showed 84,000 teachings to counteract the 84,000 delusions from which ignorant beings suffer. Within these teachings are many divisions and sub-divisions, but all have been arranged and simplified so any individual can practice gradually and progress steadily towards the achievement of enlightenment, the omniscient and infinitely compassionate mind. This lam-rim teaching explains exactly what to do in the practice. It shows you how to study and what meditation to do when you start. What to do in the middle, and so on, all the way up to enlightenment. From beginning to end, the whole path is clearly laid out. All you have to do is make the effort to practice. Just as you eat the ready-made food. So the adjective “graduated” is very significant. It is so very important not to get confused or hassled. I mean, if everything you need to make a pizza is there in the kitchen, flour for the base, mushrooms, and all the other bits and pieces, but you don’t know how to put it together, you’re in trouble. Although none of the necessities are missing, for you it’s difficult to make because you don’t know the graduated path of the pizza!

From the time that Atisha wrote this precious text, sincere aspirants have not found too complicated to follow the path to enlightenment. The person who studies, understands and practices these teachings knows the gradual process for controlling the mind and attaining permanent, sublime happiness.

LECTURE 8:  November 14, 1975 (morning)

“The perfect human rebirth is extremely difficult to find. If there is no benefit created in order to receive rebirth, to obtain success for others, if there is no benefit created in this life, how can it be possible to reserve the perfect human rebirth human rebirth in the future life?”

Just this one stanza contains much details. It contains the common meaning and the meditations, however what the great pandit Shantideva is instructing, what he is saying, is that we received this perfect human rebirth, and being attached to gaining the happiness in this life and use the life only to control the enemy, we spend our lives wandering around. There is no difference between the life of the animal and us. We should create some benefit that helps in the future life. Those are the things that ordinary people do. So, what can benefit? We should create some benefit for the future life, but what can benefit the future life? That’s only Dharma.

So, beyond this life it is extremely difficult to find again such a perfect precious human rebirth. Therefore, we have this one that we received and we have to be very careful with it. To create great benefits in this depends on practicing, following the gradual path to enlightenment. To follow this gradual path to enlightenment, before listening to this teaching, it is necessary to cultivate to pure motivation.

Oh yeah, then, briefly if one can think like this, it is very good: “Only releasing oneself from samsaric suffering is not sufficient. There are numberless sentient beings who are extremely kind to me all the time, and they are continuously suffering without having Dharma wisdom and method. It is my responsibility to make them released from all their suffering and lead them to the most sublime happiness, enlightenment. Therefore, I must receive enlightenment, therefore I am going to listen to the profound teachings of the gradual path to enlightenment, for the benefit of all the sentient beings.

That is the Mahayana teachings which leads the fortunate ones to enlightenment. It is well expounded by the carriers of the lineage, the great pandits Nagarjuna and Asanga. They are profound teachings, the essence of the great, unequaled pandit Atisha and the Dharma king of the three worlds, the great Lama Tsongkhapa’s infinite knowledge. It includes all the important points of the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and all these teachings set up for the gradual practice of one person achieving enlightenment. This gradual path is the one path through which all past, present, future Buddhas have received enlightenment. The commentary on the graduated path to enlightenment is in four outlines. The first one is the qualification of the author, which means the great bodhisattva Atisha, and then the qualifications of the author in order to show the pure reference, in order to increase devotion. Then the qualification of the teachings, then how to explain and listen to the Dharma, and how to lead the actual disciple in the path to enlightenment. Like this there are four main outlines.


Then, the biography of Atisha. That was how the king of Tibet had suffered and his nephew was trying to invite Atisha in Tibet. Then Jangchub Yeshe Ö the nephew of the king of Tibet, because the king gave up his life, to fully establish Dharma in Tibet, and to invite Atisha for the happiness of the sentient beings in Tibet, Jangchub Yeshe Ö developed incredible will to complete the king’s wishes. The king made observations about who was capable to invite Atisha from India, he prayed to the Triple Gem, and then he made observations. One translator, Nagtso Lotsawa, a Tibetan, always he came there in the observation. So, while he was in another place in Tibet, in one temple, his mind was relaxed, he was kind of relaxed and peaceful, and he was invited by the king to the upper place of Tibet, and Jangchub Ö thought he may not promise to go to India. So he made much offering to him, tried to please his mind, so that he would accept to go to India

He explained to the translator Nagtso Lotsawa how the Buddhadharma is degenerated and all the people with negative wrong conceptions have more power, and all the learned ones were passing away, and how difficult it had been to invite Atisha to Tibet. With such an unbearable feeling he gave 700 golden coins to Nagtso Lotsawa, to offer to Atisha with the message: if you don’t come, Atisha, if you don’t come to Tibet, your compassion is finished.

Saying this, the king was crying, and Nagtso Lotsawa couldn’t reject him. So he accepted to go to India. Then he, with 700 golden coins, left to India, and the king went with Nagtso Lotsawa for several miles. He said, “You the Bhikshu, you the monk, please do my work, even this time if it is difficult. When you come back, for your kindness I will repay.”

[Pipi time]

When making an actual vehicle, train, or airplane, as you learn to build them you can progress better and better and make the vehicle quicker and quicker. So, in Dharma practice, your mind control starts gradually. Without having the knowledge of making airplanes or vehicles, or the understanding of how they work, you cannot make them. Like that, the mind is the same. Practice and mindfulness are gradual. Even you don’t, even if you don’t feel oneness with the mother, there are so many pure ways to do this. Forget about feeling oneness with mother, as I said, forget about that. Even just to do things without attachment, that is very difficult. Just simple thing, to engage in action, of either speech or body or mind, without attachment, even that first step is very difficult. Without attachment, to do things, to act is very difficult. Then secondly, without self-cherishing thought, that is more difficult. So, before, before trying feel oneness with mother, before you reach that level, there are so many other things that we have to control.

Then, Nagtso Lotsawa arrived in Nepal. He met a man who advised Nagtso Lotsawa, “You look like you are going to such a far place, to obtain great wealth? If you say this, your great work can be obtained.” He was taught to repeat while traveling, “Kun.chog.sum la chag.tsal.lo,” which means “Prostrating to the Three Jewels,” and then there wouldn’t be difficulties on the way to India. Nagtsa Lotsawa asked the man who he was, and the man told him he would know gradually.

Atisha’s closest heart disciple is called Dromtönpa, and he is the embodiment of the compassion buddha Avalokiteshvara. Dromtönpa manifested sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a man, sometimes as a child, in different forms, to help Nagtso Lotsawa get to India. He asked questions and gave advice, for the travelers to not have any dangers and to not incur any interference to reach India and to invite Atisha.

They went to India, they reached a place called Vikramashila, where Atisha was. Outside of the door they reached there was a pandit called Gyatsoen Senge, who asked Nagtso Lotsawa, “You the Tibetan people, where did you come from?” Then they answered that they came from the upper place in Tibet, called Ngari. The pandit who spoke Tibetan told Nagtso Lotsawa to leave his luggage and so on with a boy and sleep comfortably, and that at the second dawn-time, the doors will open. Nagtso Lotsawa gave gold to the small boy, who was the guard at the gate, and the body said, “You can trust your best friend; sleep well.” Nagtso Lotsawa was surprised, and thought the boy was not ordinary and trusted him. At dawn the door opened and two boys came out carrying good to eat. They spoke in Tibetan nomad language.

Nagtso Lotsawa explained where they were from and asked where the boys were going, and the boy said he was Tibetan and going to Tibet. He said, “We Tibetan people have such big mouths, and an attitude that is very relaxed. Tibetans can’t hide the important talks, can’t keep secret, which is a mistake. Things like this, they can’t hide.” He meant that Tibetans just talk to anyone they meet about their important plans, they can’t hide anything. After some time the boys left. Then tomorrow, they met an old man carrying a stick, asking Nagtso Lotsawa where he came from and where he is going. So they explained, “I came to invite Atisha from the upper place in Tibet,” and he asked, “Where is the pandit called Gyatsoen Senge? Where is his house?”

The old man, like the boy, again began to talk about how Tibetans talk too openly from their heart, and asked how can any important work be accomplished if they talk so freely. He said Tibetans don’t have knots, like neck-knots keeping them quiet, and said, “It’s okay that you explain this to me, but you should not explain to other people, except Atisha.”

They followed the old man, and arrived at the house, and the old man and the boy from yesterday were the same, just different manifestations. They went into the house and met the pandit Gyatsoen Senge and made a gold offering. They explained the situation to him. He told them, “You appear to be my former disciple except I don’t recognize you. You must not tell any other people that you are going to invite Atisha. You must tell other people that you came here to study.” Then he mentioned an abbot called Ratna-agara [Ratnakarashanti], with much power, who was the master of Atisha and that it would be difficult to make him listen.

Then Nagptso Lotsawa requested from the abbot to study, and offered gold. They asked about Atisha, and the abbot said, “If we don’t have Atisha here in India, where Buddhadharma came from, the fortune of the sentient beings will decrease.” He explained this very sweetly. So, for a while they had much difficulties, not seeing Atisha. But the embodiment of Avalokiteshvara has arranged many auspicious conditions for Atisha to come to Tibet. It is very difficult for them to see Atisha, VERY difficult. But one day they made a gold mandala and offered it to Atisha.

Then Gyatsoen Senge explained how the king of Tibet is a bodhisattva, and how the Dharma was degenerating there as a result of the actions of the previous king, Young Ox, [Langdharma] who had horns growing on his head. He explained their suffering and difficulties, and requested Atisha, “Please help with your compassion, please come to Tibet.”

Atisha said, “The king of Tibet is a real bodhisattva. Padmasambhava and the other two who brought Buddhadharma to Tibet are all transformations of bodhisattvas. Lhalama was also a bodhisattva, so I can’t break the bodhisattva order. Also the Tibetan people have wasted so much possessions, how I pity you the Tibetan people. I am old, I now have become very old. Also, I have many keys,” because at this time, Atisha was taking care of the monastery, keeping all the keys. “I am not sure whether I can go to Tibet, but I can check. You keep the gold for a while.”

Then he checked up, would it be beneficial or not?

He made requests of Avalokiteshvara and the female aspect of Buddha, Tara. They told him, “If you go, it will be extremely beneficial for the teachings and the sentient beings in Tibet, especially through one disciple, an upasika, living in the five precepts, not a monk. Especially through a disciple like that, Dromtönpa, it will be very beneficial for teachings and sentient beings, but your life will be shortened. If you don’t go to Tibet, you can live until 92 years. If you go to Tibet, you will live only for 73 years, you can’t live longer than that.” So then, Atisha decided in his mind. “If I am beneficial for Tibet, it doesn’t matter, even if my life gets shortened, I don’t care for my life.”

So, such great compassion arose. All the people in India at that time all agreed that the teachings, the Buddhadharma, in India, if Atisha goes to Tibet, will degenerate. So they were all trying, they were all insisting, trying to stop Atisha going to Tibet. Then, because all the people tried to stop him going to Tibet, he pretended that he is going to take pilgrimage. He requested the monastery in Nepal and also in Tibet. The Abbot, who was also happy, accepted, and gave him permission to go to Tibet for three years. He made Nagtso Lotsawa vow to bring Atisha back to India after three years. Then they went to Nepal. Then Nagtso Lotsawa made arrangements and when Atisha was coming on the way people had incredible devotion, all of a sudden, and their mind was subdued.

That is the end of Atisha’s biography, just brief biography. About when Atisha wrote the lam-rim teachings, when he wrote the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, only that small part that of the biography is left. In the afternoon, it is difficult to say if we will complete the whole lam-rim outline. To go through the details, the lam-rim outlines down to shunyata, there is not enough time and also very difficult. Especially since that is in English, like this. So like this, for many reasons, we will not complete all, however, the important parts, we will a little bit amplify and then make meditation practice.

So as you people came from various places, we heard the great bodhisattva Atisha’s story. This is a bodhisattvas’ practice. So I think in the afternoon until that finishes, I will go through that. It’s very, very helpful for the mind. It shows what to practice if a question comes in your mind, such as how to live alone, how to live when you are with a bunch of people and so on. So, I think, Atisha’s instructions, very good, I think, it is short, so, I go through this as I can, during the afternoon session again.

[Ge wa di… Dedication prayers]

LECTURE 9:  November 14, 1975 (evening)

The great bodhisattva Atisha. The title of the teachings is A Bodhisattva’s Jewel Rosary. Ordinary people are beautified by a jewel rosary on the body. But the bodhisattva, by having the achievement of bodhicitta, the bodhisattva text of thought training is like a jewel rosary, it beautifies the bodhisattvas.

Gyar gar kay la means...in the Indian Language. In Sanskrit it is called: Bodhisattva-manyavali. Bodhisattva is as we say. Mani is jewel. Avali is, I think, rosary. In Tibetan language: Jang chub sem pä öser treng wa. The reason why many of the Tibetan texts begin like this, with a Sanskrit title, is because many of the teachings came from India, translated from Sanskrit. And another reason is that Sanskrit is a holy language. During the Buddha’s time the teachings were explained in Sanskrit language. It is recognized as a holy language, hearing Sanskrit terms and mantras blesses the mind. So there are various reasons. Also, to show the pure reference of the Tibetan teachings. Not just created by Tibetans, it shows the lineage of the teachings. It came from India, from those highly realized pandits.

Prostrations to the compassionate ones.
Prostrations to the gurus
Prostrations to the devotional buddhas.

First one means prostrations to Avalokiteshvara. Secondly, prostrations to the gurus. Thirdly prostrations to the buddha who is object of the devotions. Lha la chag tsal lo.

Then comes the subject. Usually in the text, after that comes prostrating to certain holy objects. Why it comes, before the main subject, generally prostrating to the holy objects before explaining the main subject, is generally to create merit and specifically to be able to complete the main subject and not have interference.

To avoid all the doubts, one should certainly take care of the practice.

These are the main words. What he is saying is try to avoid all the doubts, try to have perfect understanding of the teachings. Just intellectual understanding is not sufficient—the practice, attainment, one must have that. The attainment, the practice, if one doesn’t take care of that then in that way it doesn’t matter how much intellectual understanding the person has of the teachings, it is difficult to benefit with that. It is extremely difficult, without practicing, there is no way to subdue the mind, the unsubdued, cruel mind. Then the following subject comes.

Avoid even sleep, drowsiness and laziness. Always put effort.

What he is saying is, it does not mean we should never sleep. What it means is we should take rest at appropriate times, but not in other times. The night time, certain hours that are not for meditating, this is not saying not to sleep at those times, like that. Generally, this subject includes avoiding nonvirtuous sleep, sleep which is not virtuous. Here what it means is straight sleeping. Usually the advanced meditators sleep only certain hours. It depends on the meditators’ practices and wishes, whether they sleep or not, maybe two or three hours at night-time, which is necessary for health in order to practice Dharma, to protect the mind. Also, when they go to bed they make the action of sleeping virtuous. If the person sleeps too much it becomes generally not so healthy. Sleeping so much, at wrong times, it causes one to be unhealthy, to develop ignorance, things like this. Then drowsiness, not having clear mind, fogginess. Kind of like a very drowsy mind, very foggy mind. Nothing clear in the mind, kind of something pressing down. Then laziness. These things, sleeping, drowsiness and laziness, are the main, the one base which disturbs to develop the realizations, the Dharma practice.

Then, the opposite: avoid the sleep and drowsiness and laziness, and always put effort. Always put effort. Where? In the practice of Dharma. Then:

With remembrance, consciousness and awareness…The other thing, not awareness, cautionary, cautious. Is there such a word, “cautiousness?” Cautiousness, cautiousness.

With remembrance and consciousness and cautiousness, protect, always protect, the
doors of the senses.

Like this. To receive the perfect peace, depends on observing karma, observing karma, observing karma. However, it also depends on protecting the doors of the senses. So what, I think what it means is that, I think what it means is always put the—before, it said, always put effort. How to do, how to put effort? Then, I think it means, the answer to that is, I think, the following verses. With the consciousness and with remembrance, consciousness and cautiousness, protect, always protect the doors of the senses.

Only having, only having the remembrance is not enough. There should be consciousness, consciousness. Consciousness that is recognizing what the senses, the doors of the senses, what actions they’re doing . The recognition of actions. What is positive or negative, and how it is done. And “cautiousness,” in Tibetan, tem pak pal yu. However, just, just having, just thinking, just thinking about what the sense doors are doing isn’t enough, if it is negative action. Even though you know that it is a negative action, that you’re doing a negative action, but, but you’re not abstaining. You are thinking it’s a negative action, but you don’t protect. You don’t protect the doors of the senses. You don’t protect the doors of the senses away from that negative action.

For instance, with eyes, if you are looking at the object of, at the anger or attachment, something like this. Then, even though the person knows that is negative action, with attachment, still looking at it. A person thinks it is a negative action, but is not being careful and not being cautious, not having pal-yu, not having the carefulness. So the person keeps on doing that, even though he thinks its negative, but he keep on doing that. Cautiousness or carefulness?

Student: Caution.

Rinpoche: Huh?

Student: Caution.

Rinpoche: Caution. I see. He has caution.

However, probably is more carefulness, carefulness. The person who is pal-yu, he decides, remembering. Besides remembering, he’s doing something, he’s remembering the positive action and recognizing the negative action, what is going on right now, and because of that carefulness, all of a sudden he protects his speech, body, and mind, away from the vices. So I think it means like that, then following the remembering and recognizing.

Then how to do that? How to do that with the remembrance and the consciousness and the carefulness? Always protect the doors of the senses. How to do that, how to do that? Then like three times, again and again, check up the mind. Day and night, three times, again and again, check up the mind. Not check up other people’s minds. Check up one’s own mind! It doesn’t say it here, but I think it means that. So that’s the main thing.

Every day it’s said three times, but, however, it doesn’t mean you should not check up more than three times. I think it says frequently. Yang dang yang, “again and again.” So, anyway, even in the course of the day, even at night time, three times you can do it, I think like this. For instance, beginning of night and middle of night and in the dawn time when you get up, when you come out of sleep. Think like this. If you want to, think about it out three times a night, and then check up the mind. So how to protect senses, how to protect the doors of the senses? With remembering, consciousness and carefulness. That is the way to do it.

The main technique is to check up the mind. Because, you see, without checking the mind you can’t, without knowing, without recognizing, without knowing your mind, you can’t check up, you can’t discriminate, you can’t check up what are your actions. Like the speech, body and mind. What is negative or positive, you can’t discriminate. There’s no way to discriminate without knowing your motivation or without knowing your mind, without checking your mind. So what is positive and negative? First you have to check up your mind. What action you are doing, how to recognize it, how to know about it, whether you are observing karma or not. First you check up the mind. And then from there as you recognize your mind, the creator, then you can discriminate. Because, generally, creating negative karma and also not creating negative karma, does not depends on how the action looks but on determination. It mainly depends on the motivation, the creator, the mind. So that’s the whole thing. Anyway, in the following meditations you, you will have the idea about those fundamental things in the lam-rim teaching.

Then following subject comes:

One’s own vices should be renounced. Don’t seek others’ mistakes.

You see that usually it’s like this. We ordinary people, we try to hide as much as possible one’s own vices, and try to announce as much as possible other people’s mistakes. That kind of mind is also involved in self-cherishing thought, involved in attachment. Indirectly you want to prove that “I am good,” by telling others’ mistakes. However, it depends on how you talk. Then we create negative karma.

So however, the main fault was not checking the mind. Why these things happen, why we are doing these things is mainly because we are not checking the mind. Atisha is saying like this. So here:

One’s own knowledge should be hidden and one should announce others’ knowledge.

So what Atisha is saying is that instead of hiding, instead of hiding one’s own vices, one should hide one’s own knowledge. And instead of announcing others’ mistakes, one should announce others’ knowledge. Announcing one’s own mistakes doesn’t cause problems for oneself and others. Also hiding one’s own knowledge and announcing other people’s knowledge, does not cause problems, it only brings peace in one’s own mind and in the minds of others. So this is what I think what Atisha explained.

Avoid material receiving and respect. And always avoid fame or reputation.

Actually it means the object of the senses, material possessions, happiness that we experience. Actually, the problem is not that, but the main, the biggest problem is the mind, the delusions. Here it means avoid material receiving and respect offering, and always renounce fame. Which means reputation, always renounce the reputation. The person who doesn’t have these things is renounced. The problem is the mind. That itself is where the suffering comes. Since the person doesn’t have attachment, since the person has renounced attachment to these things, his mind is not clinging anymore, not attached.

So we cannot say a person who has everything, we can’t judge from our side that he’s not renounced.We can’t judge that he has attachment or has clinging. There’s a relationship between this subject and the other subject. As I said before, the reason we announce as much as possible our own knowledge and hide our own mistakes, and try to announce as much as possible others’ mistakes and hide as much as possible others’ knowledge, that is because of the attachment. If you opened the door of the mind and went inside and searched way down there, sitting there is the attachment expecting, “I will receive reputation, I will receive material offering, I will receive respect from other people.” The whole thing is caused by attachment.

What makes you to do like this? To create negative karma in various way like this? What Atisha is instructing here, revealing one’s own mistakes, hiding one’s own knowledge, all these things are completely opposite to the attachment. They are like weapons to destroy the attachment.

One should have small desire and be well content. And one should repay the kindness.

That means one should have small desire and satisfaction. Whatever quantity of material, one should be satisfied with that, and not expect more. Then repay the kindness done by others. This is not the same as usual ordinary people think. With ordinary people there is this partisanship, discrimination. When they repay, they repay with attachment. They repay with attachment. Something like, “If I help like this, I will receive help sometime.” Or they are helping one person, but at the same time harming another person. That kind of thing. This doesn’t mean repaid kindness done by others, Atisha does not mean like that. It doesn’t mean that one should ignore others, it also doesn’t mean this. However, there’s not one sentient being who has not been kind to us. So here it is saying to repay the kindness. That means, we should repay the kindness of ALL the sentient beings. Then here it says:

Meditate on love and compassion and keep firmly the bodhicitta.

Keep firmly the bodhicitta. So that’s relationship. Sometimes it sounds funny when I hear my own language. There’s a connection: to be able to repay the kindness of all the sentient beings equally, without achieving bodhicitta, one cannot repay other sentient beings. So to be able to repay like this, one must receive bodhicitta, one must not lose it. One should keep it firmly. Receiving bodhicitta, or staying firmly, depends on the continual existence of the love and the compassion. To receive the bodhicitta depends on meditating on love and compassion. There are different, lesser vehicle paths of love and compassion, but that can be purified afterwards in the path of the Mahayana meditation.

Avoid the ten immoralities and always keep firmly the devotion.

The English doesn’t seem that perfect, but “always keep firm devotion” means, maybe one day you have devotion, like a cloud in space, then it is gradually changing. After a few minutes, it fades. Not like this. The devotion should be developed stronger, stronger and it should be kept always same. Then before that is “renouncing the ten immoralities.” That’s also a connection: in order to receive bodhicitta, through meditation on the love and compassion, it’s not easy. It’s not easy, without enough observing karma. You need the discipline. Why is there need of discipline? Because, without discipline there’s so much distraction. Like mainly the delusions. If one observes the karma, those distractions get stopped by observing karma. “Avoid the ten immoralities and always keep the devotion firmly.” So it’s very clear. Receiving this realization depends on observing karma, such as the ten immoralities, and always having devotion to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It’s basically talking like this. Without devotion, there’s no way to receive bodhicitta. No way to receive compassion, the realization of compassion and love, no way. No way to develop this.

Anyway, the time has also left.

[Ge wa di… Dedication prayers]

LECTURE 10:  November 15, 1975 (morning)


Before listening to the Dharma, it is necessary to cultivate the pure motivation. How to cultivate the pure motivation? We need to be as the great pandit called Chandrakirti.

Chandrakirti was a great holy being, and when he was in Nalanda, when there were many thousands of pandits, it became his turn to be manager of the monastery, to look after the cows. Normally the other managers keep the cows in the monastery and milk them, but when it comes to his turn he sent all the cows in the mountains. The other people were complaining, “How can he make offerings of milk to the monks? He sent all cows to the mountains.” But Chandrakirti drew a picture of a cow on the wall and he milked the drawing, and made offerings to the monks. He was a great holy being who had perfect, infallible realization of shunyata, he have our mind in control.

As he said in his holy teachings, the Madhyamaka teachings, Following the Middle Way, “While one has the freedom, if one does not hold it and falls in the precipices, becomes under the control of others, after that, who will help one get out?” The meaning of these teachings is, while we have freedom or chance, whatever that means, we are released from the unfree states, where there is no chance to practice Dharma, and have the freedom to practice Dharma.

So, while we have this freedom, the second meaning of the second verse, if it’s not held, not taken care of, it is a waste. We must not waste this freedom. We must obtain the ultimate happiness, the happiness in the future lives, and not fall down in the precipices of the lower realms. Since we fall down in the precipices of the lower realms, then we don’t have control anymore, we don’t have freedom anymore. Becoming under the control of others, if you fall down in the precipices of the suffering lower realms, you become under the control of the sufferings. Completely, we are completely controlled by the sufferings, no freedom, no freedom to practice Dharma.

There is no chance to even hear the sound of Dharma. Who can guide me from that suffering? While we have freedom this time, we must work to benefit future lives. The best work is trying to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of other sentient beings. That depends on practicing Dharma. The best way to practice Dharma, the quickest way, is to follow such this gradual path to enlightenment. Therefore think: “Releasing only myself from the three samsaric sufferings is not sufficient, there are numberless sentient beings who are extremely kind to me and continuously suffering without having Dharma wisdom and method. It is my responsibility, alone, to release them from suffering and to lead them in the most sublime happiness, enlightenment. To do this, first I must achieve enlightenment. To do that, I must completely realize the graduated path to enlightenment. To do that, I am going to listen to the profound teachings on the gradual path to enlightenment.”

The subject for listening is the Mahayana teaching that leads the fortunate ones to enlightenment. It is well expounded by the great philosophers Nagarjuna and Asanga. It is a profound teaching, as it is the essence of the great bodhisattva Atisha and the Dharma King of the Three Worlds, the great Lama Tsongkhapa’s infinite knowledge extracted. It includes the 84,000 teachings shown by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha All of these teachings are set up for the gradual practice of one person’s achieving enlightenment. By this gradual path, all past, present, and future Buddhas have received enlightenment.

This commentary on the gradual path to enlightenment has four outlines, the author, the qualification of the teachings to increase devotion in the teachings, how to listen and experience the teachings, and how to lead the actual disciple in the path to enlightenment.

Part of the subject is the qualification of the great bodhisattva Atisha. How he took the perfect caste, and how he found the general knowledge and realization of the path, and then, how he benefited the teachings. So, the last one, how he benefited the teachings and the sentient beings, who are in India and in Tibet. How Buddhism was established in Tibet by the first king, about Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, and how the people in Tibet have wrong conceptions, and the Indian pandits who came and spread wrong conduct and wrong conceptions. They explained this to Atisha, crying, “Atisha, you the compassionate one, the followers of Tibet who are very poor, please, please give profound teachings and ...”

You know, when Western readers read Lobsang Rampa’s books, the feeling what they get, when they read about the kundalini thing, tantra and those things, I can’t put exact English word, but the feeling is like that. Reading that they get interested, but really, can’t really use it to control the mind right away. They think it’s wonderful, remarkable, but can’t use right away.

What he is saying is like this. He requested Atisha, “Please guide the Tibetans by explaining refuge and karma, a practice that contains the whole body of the Buddhadharma.” Nothing is missing, very easy to practice, which can benefit all the general Tibetan people. He asked questions about how to follow the bodhisattva vow, in order to do that whether this depends on the pratimoksha ordination. And also he asked, “The person who has not received initiation, can he be explained tantra teachings?” And he asked if a person who is celibate, living in ordination can receive the transcendental wisdom ordination? And without the vajra guru initiation, can one do the Vajrayana practices. And without living in the Vajrayana precepts, can one give initiation. Also about the tantric pujas.

As Atisha, as Atisha received these questions, he was EXTREMELY happy. Atisha was extremely happy. Then he said, then all of a sudden said, “By prostrating to all the three time buddhas and the dharma and the sangha, the followers with devotion, as I am persuaded by the noble follower Jangchub-wa, I am going to clarify the lamp of the path to enlightenment.”

Pipi time. Thank you.

[Student asks question…]

Rinpoche: How you see right now your own “I,” how do you see? how do you see?

[Student responds…]

Rinpoche: Separate from that pillar, that post, then, what else? Separate, then what else? Cannot be only that, cannot be only that.

Student: Who created the post?

Rinpoche: I see. We are not talking about, now, whether the post is created. Now we are talking about just the conception of yourself, conception of the self, we are checking. So, anyway, do you feel, the way how you see yourself, do you feel kind of obscured, do you feel your “I,” do you feel your self obscured, or not like that? How do you feel, that what you are feeling now, that gives the answer. That gives the answer to your question, so, that’s why I am asking. You didn’t find yet?

Maybe you think tonight, tonight okay? Tonight, you are no lights out, instead thinking!

Atisha wrote the precious text called Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, in three pages, which contains the pure view of sutra and tantra and commentaries.

So, with the question and answers, with the question and answers Atisha wrote this Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, these teachings. Then, as he has written this teaching, then all of a sudden all the wrong dharmas disappeared. He did great work for the teachings, in am upper place in Tibet called Ngari for three years. When that three years was almost finished, Nagtso Lotsawa had promised in the presence of the abbot to bring Atisha back. So he worried. Atisha kept saying, “Soon there will be one upasika.” Atisha was invited by one benefactor, and while Atisha was away from the place, Drom Rinpoche, the upasika, came.

Drom Rinpoche couldn’t wait in Atisha’s room. “To meet my Mahayana guru I would rather prefer to see him in the first second, in the earlier second, not in the later second, so I couldn’t wait.” So he left Atisha’s room. Wherever Atisha, is Dromtönpa followed after, saying “Wherever he is, I am going.”

As he was looking for Atisha, they met in the path, and he made long prostrations. As soon as Dromtönpa went in the presence of Atisha, then Atisha he put his hand on the head of Dromtönpa and in Sanskrit language he blessed him so much, he said so many auspicious prayers. At the benefactor’s house he said, “I need food to share for my upasika.” He gave that to Dromtönpa. Atisha never ate meat, so therefore during that day the food was tsampa and butter together. Dromtönpa received the tsampa and the butter, he ate the tsampa, but did not eat the butter. The butter he kept, and at night time, he made a butter lamp offering to Atisha that lasts a whole night, and all the time Atisha was in Tibet, every night he made a butter lamp offering which lasted all night.

Atisha gave initiations, the lineage, to Dromtönpa. Dromtönpa became the first disciple of Atisha, and then as they were coming to India through Nepal, there was a war. In the road, as they planned to come to Nepal, there was a big war. The road was blocked and they couldn’t go. During that time, Dromtönpa tried to invite Atisha to another part of Tibet, but Nagtso Lotsawa, the other pandit, tried to take Atisha back to India. Because there was a war they couldn’t go, and Nagtso Lotsawa worried because he had promised the abbot. But Atisha said, “Don’t worry, you tried from your side, there is no vice because of the war.” Then Nagtso Lotsawa was EXTREMELY happy.

Then they all decided to go to other places in Tibet. So, actually, there was kind of a fortune, just like Tibet was over taken by Chinese and the Tibetan lamas had the chance to spread Dharma in the West. They sent messengers to India why Atisha couldn’t come, and how Atisha has made great benefit for the teachings and the people in Tibet. They made another request to the abbot, and also gold, and the abbot said since Atisha has been that much beneficial, maybe perhaps Atisha can be longer in Tibet.

In those times in India many new books came out in one year. The pandits checked them all in an assembly. They sat in a line and passed them from one to one, checking up. So with Atisha’s teachings it was the same, and they all discovered it doesn’t have any mistakes, that it was faultless teachings. The king also gave gifts to Atisha for writing this teaching. The king also announced that this teachings can spread. If there are mistakes in the meaning of the words, even if it is grammatically correct or well-written, they tie it to the tail of a dog and lead the dog around the city and criticize the person who wrote the book, but Atisha’s teaching was faultless. So, during this time it was very difficult to write a book, not like in the West that everyone can write whatever they think. Since they have some words they can easily come to some people and make a book, it was not like that.

As a result of this all the pandits said, “It is extremely good that Atisha has been in Tibet, and also, by the way, it has been extremely good for the Indians also, because if Atisha did not go Tibet he wouldn’t have written the teachings, there wouldn’t be any cause to write these teachings.” So, because he went to Tibet and wrote this teachings, so because of that, also the people who are in India, they have chance to study, they have chance to have great understanding, to have such great understanding from this teachings.”

Then the abbot of the monastery said if pandits admired so much of his work, Atisha was welcome to live in Tibet. Also, if it is the benefit of sentient beings, so then Atisha can live in Tibet. Then the abbot asked for commentary to these teachings, and Nagtso Lotsawa received the letter. He was extremely happy, he thought, “The heavy load that I had been given by the Abbot has gone away.”

And then Dromtönpa, as he was taking Atisha to another place in Tibet, announced all the important people to make prostration. According to the position, power, possession, all the people and the lamas put on their clothes and the hats, they put some kind of round hat. So, in such clothes they came riding on horses. Then, when Atisha saw all this, the great people, lamas coming with the clothes according to their position, he hid his head. He covered, he covered his head with robe, saying “Now so many Tibetan devils are coming, many Tibetan ghosts.” Then all those great lamas came from the horse and they put their robes on, according to Vinaya teachings, and Atisha was very happy, and also he signaled with the hands, understanding what they were saying. He turned the Dharma wheel in the center of Tibet. In upper Tibet he stayed three years, in a place called Nyentang he spent nine years, and in another place in Tibet he spent five years. So, in total he spent seventeen years in Tibet.

Then like this just briefly talking. He gave the lam-rim teachings to Dromtönpa. To other followers he gave tantra, Vajrayana teachings. So Dromtönpa thought, “Why do you only give me lam-rim teachings?” Atisha said, “I couldn’t find another person to whom to give the lam-rim.”

That first lineage of the great lam-rim [Classical Lineage]comes from the Kadampa Potowa, to Sharawa, and many other followers. These followers are called the Kadam Zhungpawa. Kadam is the followers of Atisha. Ka means “order,” dam means “practice.” Zhung means like a man who goes in the big street. So these are the like the followers who go in the big street, they study lam-rim by studying the philosophical teachings. The second is the lam-rim Tenrig [Lam-rim Lineage]. That started from Goenpawa. These followers are called the Kadampa lam-rimpa. There is also a lineage which is explained according to the special techniques of the gurus, the third lineage of the lam-rim teachings [Instruction Lineage]. This is again from Atisha’s followers Chengawa and Chayülwa. So three lineages happened.

So, I think it is about time, the part with Atisha’s story that’s briefly finished. One thing, the reason why I explained this, it’s kind of quite a long story, biography of Atisha, but if you know this story, it is also very useful, when you meditate on the lam-rim teachings, when we read the text. When read the text, sometimes we feel lazy, mind is lazy. But to think how many people, the pandits, buddhas, bodhisattvas, how much they suffered, how much they went through, though many difficulties, renounced their life, for these lam-rim teachings, when we think of our suffering, our difficulty, the pains we have in our body, these things are not important.

They don’t become anymore important, then you get energy. You get so strong, thinking, “If so many of them suffered, went through much difficulties, to invite Atisha to write this, to have these teachings, why can’t I bear difficulties to practice, to actualize these teachings? It is not written only for the Tibetans. I’m sure Atisha didn’t pray to benefit only the Tibetans. I’m sure he prayed for Westerners too. If Atisha did not pray this would not happen. So his purpose was to release me, to guide me from suffering, so how can I be lazy? That is cruel, ungenerous of me.” Thinking like this is very useful, it only builds energy, so it is very good.

[Ge wa di… Dedication prayers]