Three Principal Aspects of the Path (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Boulder Creek, CA 2006 (Archive #1567)

These teachings were given during a lamrim retreat held at Vajrapani Institute in Boulder Creek, California, from August 20-23, 2006.

You can view video of the entire teaching on the Land of Medicine Buddha Media Lab on Vimeo.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, 2005.
Sunday, August 20th: Part A

Good afternoon. Now become pilot. I don’t know where it’s going, but anyway... not sure, maybe Africa, or Tibet, or maybe, I don’t know, Uganda, or, I’m joking, anyway. Where it’s going to be taken, not sure.

So first, before we begin preliminary, the meditation prayer for success of teaching, that which [you’re] going to listen, explain, and that you’re going to reflect, meditate, to be successful, so the preliminary practice, meditation, for that, so before that, I would like to say, that, would like to thank, and to say, happy that, that many Sanghas gathered here, and also, as well as lay, that, us all gathered here to do something meaningful in this life, to do something meaningful, beneficial, in this life, while we have this most precious human rebirth, this precious human body, [long pause] that every sentient being has full potential to be totally liberated from the, any types of suffering, any types of unhappiness, and cause of unhappiness, that which is within all those wrong concepts, all those negative emotional thoughts.

Not only that, then to achieve the full enlightenment, the peerless happiness by completing the path, in this mental continuum, the complete spiritual path. In that way, then able to achieve the total cessation of, not only suffering, but all the defilements, gross, subtle, all the gross, subtle mistakes of mind, and completion of all the realizations, to complet.., to reach this point, to reach this, the perfect stage, the great liberation.

So, everyone has, not only human beings, this everyone, even including ants, mosquitoes, even those very tiny insects, very tiny insects that you can see without machine, with this eye you can see, even those very tiny ones, you can see through only with machine, including those, so everyone has this potential in the mental continuum.

But here, this time, we have received this precious human body, which gives all the opportunities, skies of opportunities that, to be able to utilize this potential that we have, the nature of the Buddha, or nature of the fully enlightened, full awakened or fully enlightened being, as it gives all the opportunity to learn, to hear, to learn those meanings, and to be able to meditate, which means, able to transform the mind into the path, to the... this, say, full enlightenment, the perfect state to peerless happiness.

So, as His Holiness often says, so, in this world, you see, human beings have more intelligence than animals, human beings have unbelievable intelligence, but used in the wrong way, to harm, to destroy, used for destruction of the world, to destroy the world, to harm yourself and to harm, yourself one being, and to harm others.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness, Buddha of Compassion, leader of the peace in this world, who gives hope to many millions and millions of people’s lives in the West, not only East, but also in the West, who feel their life is meaningless, hopeless, a guide, holy being, who gives hope [to] many, millions and millions of people, in the West, giving hope in their life. After seeing and hearing His Holiness’s words, that they feel that they have hope in their life, and that their life is not hopeless, that there’s something to be achieved, that they can make their life beneficial to others, to this world, to oneself. That there is something, worthwhile thing to do in the life, some meaningful thing, they learn.

Even few minutes of his teachings, even few minutes of hearing His Holiness’s words, that which come from oceans of knowledge, skies of compassion, to each and every single sentient beings without any discrimination, nationality, or which religion, or you see, whether it’s Tibetan, or not Tibetan, compassion to every living being, without discrimination.

So here, so it’s what His Holiness used to say, so then in this world, a lot of intelligence, but it is used to harm, to harm the world, used. Where, you know, where else if it’s kind of correctly used, the intelligence, then you can benefit, you can bring so much happiness, unbelievable happiness in this world, unbelievable happiness in this world, by one person, who has influence, who has good heart, so can benefit so many millions and millions and millions and billions of people in this world, and animals. By bringing happiness to human beings, bringing happiness to animals, as well, all the insects, living in the water, animals living in the water, living in the ground, all.. they receive so much, they, as they are harming to the, say, destroying one country, or destroying human beings, killing human beings, but by the way, bombs and so forth, so many beings, testing bombs in the ocean, and the land, so many sentient beings, even there’s no human being killed, but so many beings killed, endangered in the water, and in the ground, however, unbelievable, unbelievable.

Anyway, so that’s very, so that is very unfortunate, so unfortunate, so that person becomes, you see, intelligence used that way, for harm, so then that person becomes object to be terrified by the rest of the world, that person becomes object to be terrified by the rest of the world, you see, so that.

Of course, human beings they can talk, they can complain, well maybe not, maybe some countries, maybe they don’t have much power, can’t, how much they suffer, they can’t, doesn’t go, doesn’t reach for, doesn’t come to know in the world how much they suffer, some countries.

But generally, they can express, so many, so many they can try, have meetings, all that thing. But the animals, they cannot express on the T.V., animals they cannot, come on the T.V., express, T.V. station, you see, they cannot come there to express, to explain, [pause] what’s his name, I forget…always see on the T.V., that man, what’s his name, that one who, the one who has usually blue, oh, Larry King!

So Larry King, the one who usually wears blue, blue shirt, and different blue changes, I think I like very much his dress. And then, always, especially the stripes, that’s very special. The other people, usually ties and jackets, you know, tie and jacket, or many heavy things. But here, this blue, the blue one changes, different days, pink, not pink but last night was very different, he had some black, some kind of unusual.

Anyway, animals don’t come to Larry King’s to, doesn’t ask Larry King to interview, to express their sufferings. So all those billions and billions and billions who are dying, suffer so much, you see, don’t have freedom and they can’t express their feelings and their needs.

So one time, the guy from Australia came, the crocodile, huh? [people are offering up names] crocodile hunter, the crocodile hunter not actual hunter, but, what’s his name? [again people offering up names] Steve something. [I think it’s Steve Irwin] I think, I’m sure everybody knows the guy, the nice guy from Australia. He lives near Chenrezig Institute, I heard, near one of our oldest meditation center in Australia, Chenrezig Institute in Queensland; so I heard he lives nearby.

So anyway, so I think last year or something, he came to the United States. So he came to talk, to do interview, he came to talk to Larry King. So he brought snakes, he didn’t bring crocodile that day. So he brought a snake and some….. So he put the snake on the table, Larry King, of course, didn’t have familiarity with snake. Of course he’s a king of experience with the animals, or with the snakes and with crocodiles. So Larry King didn’t have experience being, [with the] animal.

So then he put the snake on the table. So I think it become quite a bit too much for Larry King. So how I saw was Larry King ended up quickly finished the meeting, quickly, quickly packed up. It was too much, you know, animals, those snakes.

Anyway, so what I’m saying is, here, so here, we’re using our intelligence that we have to [pause] to destroy, to [pause] to destroy completely the inner enemy, the self-cherishing thought, ego, and the delusion, the ignorance, anger, attachment, this root, negative emotional thoughts, which always gives you problems, suffering, makes you suffer, not only from birth up to now, up to today, up to this second. Not only that, even life before, like that, from beginningless rebirth, they have been existing within one’s own mental continuum, the enemy, the demon self-cherishing thought, this inner enemy. So, that which harms, makes you suffer, mentally and physically, and then, which makes, which causes to reincarnate, to take rebirth.

Because of rebirth, then old age. And then so on and so.. Because of rebirth, then sicknesses. Because of rebirth, all the relationship problems, so, all the life becomes, life driven crazy by the attachment, desire, you see, and driven crazy by anger, jealous mind and all these, pride, all these things.

So, because of rebirth, then all the suffering on the basis of that, all the suffering. First of all, you see, there’s suffering of unable to find object of desire, so much suffering. Then, after one has found, after one has met, after one has found, achieved, received, then, and then there’s another suffering, another problem, dissatisfaction, you can’t achieve, get satisfaction, can’t get fulfillment, so another problem begins, another suffering begins. After one has, if it’s material possession, after one has received, so worry, fear, worry to lose and fear to lose, unable to, you know, worry, fear to, unable to protect.

And then, so many problems, and then, even it’s a friend, then after one has found, met, then, could not get satisfaction, and then many other, after having met, then so many other problems begins, starts, one experience. Then, worry, fears of separation, there’s all this, always mind in state of that. So never give any peace, that these delusions never give you any peace, and especially self-cherishing thought.

So constantly torture the life, so with these, suffer with so many, with these negative, emotional thoughts so many, then bring so many problems. So because of rebirth, then one experience death.

So even these things, death, that which we don’t want to hear, don’t want to think about, scared to think about death, even doesn’t want to, even though that’s reality of our life, after birth have to die, as mentioned in the teachings, after the…end of the death, end of the birth is death, this is nature of samsara, you see, being under the control of karma and delusion, having taken this rebirth, this aggregates, this time we have body and mind, but not necessarily all the time, this body and mind, and there’s only mind, the…there’s whole entire samsara, you know, in three categories: desire realm, form realm, formless realm, so there’s only mind, no body, aggregates.

So, however, whichever realm you are, the desire realm, where we are now, that we have desire, the external, the five sense objects, and the form realm, formless realm, whichever realm of samsara we are. However, all these are, say, nature of suffering, contaminated aggregates, contaminated seed of delusions and is a production, or creation of the impure cause, the karma and delusion, so like that.

So, say, [pause] until we’re able to remove the seed of delusion, that which is in nature, imprint which is on our mental continuum, until we’re able to do that, from where the cause of death, rebirth, all the sufferings which we experience between, which comes from that, so comes from delusion, karma, and delusion comes from the cause, from that imprint, seed which is left in the mental continuum, so, in our mental continuum, so until we remove that seed of delusion, by actualizing by method, the actualizing the spiritual path, that which directly able to cease, remove the cause of delusion.

So until it’s completely removed, we have to, after death, we have to be, after death, say, after rebirth, then, nature of life, that we have to die. But if you’re able to actualize the path in this life, able to remove the seed of delusion, then you don’t have to reincarnate again.

So question, you see, whether, say, again, reincarnate or not, taking the suffering rebirth, the aggregates, you see, take another one, so which, with that, then again have to experience all the sufferings, whichever that realm is.

So therefore, this is so until we, say, able to remove the cause of seed completely, that seed of delusion which nature of imprint, until we’re able to do that, then as far as one in samsara, the end of the rebirth is death; end of meeting is separation.

So until we’re free from samsara, this cycle of death and rebirth, free from, you see, taking birth again and again, these suffering aggregates, caused by karma and delusion, these contaminated aggregates caused by karma and delusion, so anyway [pause].

So the meeting ends, gathering ends in separation. So family members, we are gathered here, and then, I don’t know when, but we are gathered here now, but I don’t know when, but sooner or later, not long, so not many hours, anyway, so separation. So anyway, even just thinking here, that we’re gathered now this hour, but sooner or later we’ll separate.

So in the family, gathered, consciousness came from, some came from animal realm or from hell realm or hungry ghost or deva realm, human realm, somewhere, some other universe, like that, then you see, took human body and born in the family, so consciousness came from totally somewhere else, took human body, and then, because some connection in the past, so gathered this time, gathered this time. But sooner or later, sooner or later, nature of samsara, it has to, anyway, everybody have to separate. So the gathering ends with separation. So, like that. Whether it is family, couple, whether it’s your guru-disciple, whatever, you see, that’s the nature. And then, material possession, after collection, end of the collection, finish. So, you collect, put so much effort to collect, but then it ends with finishing. So like that. [pause]

So all this, so forth, all this, being higher, higher position, or whatever, being wealthy, the millionaire, zillionaire, billionaire, zillionaire, trillionaire, and, however, even this life become beggar, or, you see, poor; after being high, then become lower, after high position, you know, whether it’s position, same. Or death happens, then totally change, next life, something else, next life totally something else, another universe or not even higher realm, insects or something, like that, so according to karma, totally something else.

So especially from life to life, after a human being, then, animal….so it can be a lower being, animal, or hell, or hungry ghost, any of those, so, especially within life to life, then it’s unbelievable what change happens to that mind. The body totally change, but not continuity, but the mind, you see, continuity. That same mind, which was human being, which had a human body before, then, next is something else, so like that.

So here, what I’m going to say, so we’re going to do here is to destroy, to totally cease, make it completely non-existent, this enemy, this inner enemy, this delusion, this demon, this self-cherishing thought that harms, that has been harming you, torturing you, and all the time, giving you problem all the time, even this life.

And then on top of that, as I mentioned before, previous life, from beginningless rebirth, then, it’s very terrifying, if you think of that.

So, so this, [pause] so this is, so these delusions are terrorists; self-cherishing thought is terrorist, most harmful terrorist, and then this ignorance, anger, attachment, all this, very cheating mind, very deceiving, looking nice, but totally cheats, deceives you and, totally makes you, yourself to totally lose, so very cunning, very deceiving mind, like a person, bad friend that has been cheating you many years and now you find out, now you discover after so many years, you find out that you have been cheated. Then you don’t want to see anymore, you don’t want to see anymore, you want to completely destroy, you want to completely destroy that person, full hatred, thinking, you know, how many years the person, even one time cheating, even one hour cheating, very angry, harm, kill back, harm back, retaliate back, no question about many years cheating.

Now here, this attachment, delusion, cheating us, cheating oneself, and not just from birth, now, but cheated oneself from beginningless rebirth, time without beginning, time without beginning, it has been cheated, that has been cheating oneself…self cherishing. From time without beginning, from beginningless rebirth, and that’s why we’re still suffering as a result. As a result, still we, say, we have suffering body and mind, suffering body, and mind, still, we’re not free from this.

Not like the Arhatas, who completed liberated from suffering. All the high bodhisattvas, who has spiritual body, who has totally abandoned the suffering rebirth, old age, sicknesses, death caused by delusion and karma, which they have completely abandoned and which they are totally free from.

You know, even we didn’t become Buddha, or fully enlightened being, but didn’t become even bodhisattva, high bodhisattva who don’t experience those sufferings, or not even Arhat, who is free from all this suffering of samsara, so, you see didn’t achieve even those…even that level, say.

So, that’s why still we have suffering body and mind, not free from samsara. [Long pause] So, as His Holiness often says, as you remember that, the attachment, looking like….I don’t remember the exact words, but somebody who is affectionate to you, kind of, say, kind of like, say, affectionate, or loves you, so appears like that, believes like that, and that one fault(??). The anger looks like a big support, ones’ own big support, like you rely upon somebody, weak person depending on somebody who is very strong to defeat others or someone who’s harming, then you rely on somebody very strong, like that, like strong support, behind you something very strong support, something like that. Something like that, I mean, not exactly, I’m not sure, as His Holiness said, so like that. Actually it’s not realizing that the shortcomings, how it is harmful, not having discovered, and then, so appearing, believing like this.

So, however, the 84,000 teachings of Buddha, antidote to the, like medicine, to the sicknesses of the mind, various sicknesses of the mind, like the delusion, so based on the ignorance, anger, attachment, so then, then the branches from each one, so many delusions, branches from this roots.

So Buddha taught 84,000 teachings, like medicine for all those delusions to cease completely, these delusions which cause of all the sufferings, so the 84,000 teachings taught by Buddha, which is integrated into lam-rim, the stages of the path to enlightenment, composed by great, holy being, Lama Atisha, from where the title lam-rim, the stages of the path to enlightenment, started.

Then Lama Tsongkhapa wrote the most extensive commentaries on that, and so many other lamas wrote commentaries on that, on the stages of the path to enlightenment with their own experience, with their own experience, not just a scholar, wise, say learned in the words, but with their own realizations, with their own discoveries, with their own proof, whole path proved, themselves actualized, proved to themselves through the practice, through the correct practice, as Buddha himself did, achieved full enlightenment; completed the path and achieved full enlightenment, so that. [pause]

So now here, this lam-rim that Lama Atisha made so simplified was so vast, 100 volumes, now here, simplified and made very clear how to go about enlightenment, how to complete the spiritual path, from where to begin, from where to begin the path, so you have very clear direction of your life. This gives very clear direction of your life, how to go about to full enlightenment. That this is not just mere belief, that this is not just mere belief, [pause].

Like some other religion, that if you, say, if you jump, make a hole down there, and then, fire, put trident in the hole, then you jump from the roof, you jump from the roof on the trident, in the hole where there’s a trident, so then, trident, you see, the trident, so center one goes through the crown, and the other point comes through the shoulder, other one comes through other shoulder [i.e. one gets impaled]. So if that happened, then you achieved liberation; if that happened, by jumping, like that, so there are many things like this.

Then, there’s no one, after death, there’s nobody who explained, oh, I achieved liberation! I did that, and I achieved liberation. There’s nobody who proved, you never hear even one sentient being, who followed that path, achieved liberation, or explained all the experiences, there’s no follower who followed that belief, there’s not even one, and things like that.

So, just only the, so similar, similar, so similar, similar the philosophy, somebody who is not Muslim, then by killing that, you go to heaven. Somebody who is not your religion, then by killing that, you go to heaven, or things like that, or, however. But I’m not sure, because among them, they kill each other, it’s not a question, another religion. The same religion, they kill each other. So that I’m not sure, whether that makes you still go to heaven or not, I’m not sure. Among the same religion, you kill each other, but still you go to heaven, so that, I’m not sure, so idea going to heaven.

So, anyway, maybe the heaven Iraq, to be born there again. So example, like that, you see. So after death, there’s nobody who explained, the experience of liberation, that you achieved, what it is, how is it, anyway, so there’s nobody, nobody who explained or, so there are so many things like that. So it’s not like that here, it’s not just mere belief.

That Omniscient One, kind, compassionate Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, he himself, explained like a map guide, all details, how to go about to liberation, cessation of all the suffering, and the causes, delusion and karma, cause of all the suffering, and how to go about enlightenment. So like a very detailed map, so explained everything as he himself experienced, and so all those teachings Buddha taught, many hundreds of volumes of teachings, talking about the path, ceasing the cause of suffering, delusion, defilements, achieved enlightenment.

So the great, so many great pandits, those great pandits, then they analyzed, like a scientist they checked Buddha’s path, revealed by Buddha, all those hundreds of volumes of teachings they analyzed by reasoning, like scientists checking.

So, and then, yogis, then, they put into practice, and achieved,had the same experience, achieved enlightenment, as the Buddha did. So they correctly practiced as the Buddha explained and had same achievement as Buddha did.

So therefore, even nowadays, even nowadays, you can see, say, even nowadays you can see, even, say, cannot meet that pandit, that yogi now, who wrote all the incredible teachings, commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings, even you don’t meet that same being now in that aspect, but we see the caves, we see the monasteries, we see the caves, places where they practiced, where they achieved the different attainment, like Milarepa, so Lama Atisha and Lama Tsong Khapa, so many, from different countries, many great holy beings, meditators happened and achieved, so many achieved full enlightenment, and so many wrote their experiences, so many wrote their experiences.

So many of those caves, still their stories not lost, still there’s so many in the world, you see, that one can visit, that one can make pilgrimage, and inspires, it inspires so many sentient beings, constantly arise devotion to that enlightened being, and inspires to give up delusion, renounce selfish mind and these delusions, renounce, and so to have, to attain, to complete the spiritual path to liberation, to enlightenment, so inspire to engage in practice, and gives hope that you can definitely do that, gives so much faith and hope by reading their life stories, how they achieved enlightenment, how they practiced, and how they achieved, how they succeed in attaining the path, so all those places where you feel, receive so many blessings by being there, being in those places, you receive so much blessings, calm and peaceful mind, and receive so much blessing, that very easy to meditate, being in those places, so easy to meditate without much effort, without much effort, the mind just naturally comes in meditation, meditation that, so sadhanas, whatever you’re doing there, without much effort, other places you need effort, here very easily able to think, able to meditate, or however, have experience, so like that, because they bless the place, they had attainment, these places, so because of that, made so much prayer the place to be beneficial for sentient beings.

So up to now, not only in the past, even now, there are so many, from different countries, many meditators, still, even now, actualizing the path, having realizations. Not only that has happened in the past, thousands of years ago, or few hundred years ago, not only that.

Even now, those who are correctly practicing, they are attaining the path, even now, so it is happening. So that’s the proof, that’s the proof how you can trust, that you can trust.

So the other thing is that, of course, before one learns the meditation, heard the teachings, before one meditates, practice, of course you can’t tell, you can’t prove. But, even you don’t have realization, if you have realization, of course, even you don’t have realization, even just reading the teaching, even just by reading the teachings of Buddha, those great pandit, yogis, those great bodhisattvas, their commentaries, their experience of the path, even just by reading, it helps your mind, you discover and you’re able to bring calmness, or you’re able to control your mind, even by just reading, able to control anger, able to control desire, all this, negative emotional thoughts, even by reading, it has deep benefit to the mind, just even by reading.

And then if you meditate, especially when you meditate, definitely when the mind is in that state of, when the mind is, during that time, during that time, while one is meditating, those different types of meditation, for example, while one has so much, say, emotional problem, so the anger, somebody who harms, somebody who provoke, somebody abuse you, strong desire to those who praise you or who help you, who praises you, or, say, so when the mind is like this, say, attachment to somebody, grasping, then somebody angry, so then, when you do the meditation, equanimity, foundation for bodhicitta, letting go I, [pause] letting go I, cherishing I, renounce others, which is source of all the harms, sufferings, now, in the future, to you, to yourself, the one person, and harm, suffering, directly, indirectly, numberless other living beings, they receive from you directly or indirectly from life to life, they receive harm from you, from you because the cherishing I, renouncing, do not care others, renouncing others.

So that is the effect, what it has, what it does to you, life to life, and, what it does to, effect what others sentient beings receive, direct or indirect, numberless other sentient beings, from beginningless rebirth, not just this life, from beginningless rebirth, and it will continue like this, harming to yourself, harming to numberless sentient beings directly, or indirectly from life to life. So now, letting go of I, cherishing others, so, you see, here, totally opposite, from that, letting go of I and cherishing others, you achieve all the happiness, all the temporal happiness, ultimate happiness, liberation, full enlightenment, so all the happiness you achieve. You the one person, achieve all the happiness, and numberless sentient beings, they receive happiness, direct, all the sentient beings, they receive happiness from you, from your good heart,cherishing others, directly, indirectly.. So then, even now like this, but, you see, so eventually, that you the one person, able to liberate, able to cease numberless other sentient beings, their suffering and causes and bring them in full enlightenment.

So you, the one person, change the mind, attitude, self-cherishing, from cherishing I into cherishing others, then the effect is that you’re able to achieve all the happiness up to enlightenment. For you, the one person, then the numberless sentient beings, they receive. Even not directly, indirectly, eventually liberate them from all the suffering and causes and bring them in full enlightenment.

So this is what you would do, say, effect that you’re able to, extensive benefit, numberless sentient beings you’re able to offer, they receive from your, the good heart, cherishing others.