Heart Sutra Retreat (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Genting View Resort, Malaysia (Archive #1048)

The following are teachings from a Heart Sutra retreat held in Malaysia in 1997.

The teachings include oral transmissions of the Vajrasattva mantra and the Heart Sutra and teachings on rebirth, bodhicitta and emptiness.

Training the Mind in Lamrim; Bodhicitta

... the other thing is, you see, everyday life then this way becomes extremely meaningful, like that.

So now, so this is what is called taking the essence day and night, in the lam-rim prayer it talks about, in the lam-rim prayer which we often recite, that it's highly meaningful and difficult to find again and that death can happen at any moment, then conclusion is, so therefore I must take the essence in my life, to take the essence all day and night, all the time should take the essence, the conclusion. So, how to do that is this way.

So now, just meditating on the words, just meditation alone on the path itself that's not sufficient without the preliminary practice collecting merit and doing purification and purifying the obstacles which interfere to have realizations and collecting, practicing those preliminaries to collect merit, which are necessary conditions and then the guru yoga practice or one-pointedly praying to, with guru yoga mind, with guru devotion one-pointedly praying to the guru that, in order to receive blessings. So, you need these preliminaries. So in order to be successful in the, in order to open your heart, in order to have realizations, the meditation to be successful one need to do those three other preliminary practices, so there's four, as Lama Tsongkhapa asked Manjushri, What is the way to achieve enlightenment quickly? Manjushri answered that, to practice the means to collect merit, the mandala offering, so forth, and then means to purify the obstacles, the Vajrasattva and so forth. Then, one-pointedly requesting the guru, then that is another one. Then, the actual body, mind training in the meditation, in the path, in the steps of the path to enlightenment. So this is Manjushri's answer to Lama Tsongkhapa's question as regards to achieve full enlightenment.

So therefore, in this book How to Meditate, example, there's short preliminary practices, very short preliminary practices, means to purify the obstacles and to collect merit and to receive blessings, the guru yoga, by visualizing Shakyamuni Buddha, in that aspect, that essence, that aspect. So at least something like this, short practice, which has the heart of the practice, the essence, so it's extremely essential, so on the basis of this then one study Dharma, then, learn as much as possible, studying, learning from others, learning from qualified teachers and also oneself studying from, if possible from unmistaken books, Dharma books, the correct, so like that.

So here, so there will be very qualified teacher, geshe, that, to come to Malaysia to teach, whom I knew for many years in India at Buxa, in West Bengal, about seven or eight years, many years lived in the same house, in the same building. The rooms are divided by curtains, by just the bamboo or just old Indian cloth, rooms are divided by curtains so it makes rooms like that. So all the monks are refugees, whatever, 1,500 about like that, refugees, escaped from Tibet. So anyway, so learned and very simple, very good monk. So, who spent all his life in the monastery from very young time, dedicated learning and actualizing, practicing. So it's not just a scholar, words. So, but he may speak a few Chinese words, I'm not sure, he may be speaking a few Chinese because he's from Amdo, from the lower place of Tibet so not sure, anyway. But anyway we have translator here .

So without the mind training, without meditating on lam-rim, without mind training in the lam-rim, the steps of the path to enlightenment, then all these other chanting mantras and all this and that, all those other rest, they are branches, it's not the main thing, it's not the main practice. They are all branches. So, you leave out the main practice, meditating on the whole path to enlightenment, you leave out that then you spend a lot of time doing a lot of those other, the main practice becomes those other things, chanting mantras and so forth, reading some Dharma texts and chanting mantras or meditating on the deity or something, so those are not the main practice, branches; the actual body of the practice, the main one is meditating on the steps of the path to enlightenment, as I explained before. So it's like, otherwise, as Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo explains, the great enlightened being, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, explains, you cherish the branches, you leave out the main trunk.

So however it is mentioned that, it is said even just doing the direct meditation of lam-rim, going over the prayer mindfully, this is much more meaningful than counting number of mantras like many hundred million mantras. So what is more meaningful? That much and then even just doing the direct meditation on lam-rim, this one, direct meditation on lam-rim is much more meaningful than that many number of reciting mantra many hundreds of millions of times.

And also it is mentioned that your seeing Buddha and meditating on lam-rim, what is more meaningful? Meditating on lam-rim is more meaningful than even seeing Buddha. Why the great enlightened being Pabongka, why he is telling this is because just by seeing Buddha you don't become enlightened like that, you need to actualize, you need to generate realizations of the path to enlightenment, from guru devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta, the whole path to enlightenment, one need to actualize in order to achieve enlightenment. Just by seeing Buddha [snaps fingers] you don't become enlightened like that, in that second. As soon as one see Buddha, one become enlightened like that, it doesn't happen. One has to actualize the path to enlightenment. Still you have to do that. Even one see Buddha. So therefore, the reason why Pabongka is saying more meaningful to meditate on lam-rim than even seeing Buddha, it means that.

So it's good reading Dharma books, some chanting or reciting mantra, doing those preliminary practices, it's good but you left out the main practice, you left out the main body of the practice, training your mind in the steps of the path to enlightenment, the main one is left out, then just doing the practices which are branches, so that is what great enlightened Pabongka is saying is that, it is good but that kind of life is not that much meaningful than meditating on the lam-rim, the steps of the path to enlightenment. It's good but it's not that meaningful.

Just having a vision of Buddha still doesn't mean that person, that doesn't mean one will never get reborn in the lower realms. It is good, able to see Buddha, have vision of Buddha, but just having vision of Buddha alone doesn't mean one doesn't get reborn in the lower realms. But if one has realization of impermanence-death, lam-rim realization, then that helps to not get reborn in the lower realms, such as emptiness, these things, no question about bodhicitta. So even one see Buddha but if one does not practice lam-rim, even one had vision of Buddha but if one did not practice lam-rim, then one could again create, again engage in many negative karmas, so therefore still, so that makes to be reborn in the lower realms.

So, we have to know all these various practices, means, those chanting mantras, worshipping to Buddha, and prostrations, or making all these holy objects and temples so forth, reading Dharma books, all these means, all these are for, chanting om mani padme hung, all this is to support, to have realization of the path to enlightenment, from guru devotion up to enlightenment, especially to have bodhicitta, so all these various practices are to help to have realization of the whole path to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta, support for that. So this is what we have to keep in our, this is what we have to understand, what we have to keep in our mind. So this way then we know, in our heart then we know what is the main practice, so main practice is the bodhicitta, the main practice is mind training in the path to enlightenment. Others are to support for that, to make possible that.

So to make the life really practical, most beneficial to others and really to make possible to achieve enlightenment, so in that case then not meditating on the lam-rim, on the path, not studying the path to enlightenment, not meditating on that and spending the life practicing those other branches as a main, then the life is not that much wise.

So, then if one has achieved realization of the guru devotion, the renunciation to this life and impermanence-death, so forth, then one train the mind next one, the renunciation to the future samsara. Then after that, bodhicitta, mind training in bodhicitta, so whichever the bodhicitta, the door of the Mahayana path to enlightenment, so there's two techniques, the way to train the mind, one way to train the mind in bodhicitta is seven techniques of Mahayana cause and effect, one is equalizing and exchanging oneself for others. So there are two techniques to develop, to have realization of the bodhicitta, the altruistic mind of enlightenment, seeking enlightenment for the benefit of the sentient beings, the numberless sentient beings. So one has to develop one's mind step by step.

Then there's other one, the samatha, calm abiding, to achieve the, the main technique to achieve one-pointed concentration, to have perfect meditation, so to train the mind to achieve realization of samatha, the calm abiding. Which contains techniques to cut the obstacles to meditation, scattering thought, attachment-scattering thought and the sinking thought, the two obstacles for concentration, to have perfect concentration. Then on top of that, tantra, Highest Tantra, then the generation stage and completion stage.

So depending how much one can, every day whether one train the mind in two types of meditation or three types of meditation, one from tantra, while one is training the mind in sutra path, in one of these three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment, then on top of, from this, including calm abiding, then how many one is able to train the mind in every day, how many meditations from sutra, then on top of that, also one can train the mind in tantric path, so depending on one's own capacity, so then at least one, so have to start from sutra so at least even one can't train the mind in a few different meditations, then at least start with one, to train the mind to have realization of that meditation. So this is the way how to go about to enlightenment. The purpose of attempting, training the mind two different meditations or three different meditations, it's because life is short and so if one try two different meditations then in case if you haven't achieved this then there's possibility to achieve the other one; if not that one, then the other one . So at least to have some realization, before death happens to have some achievement, that is the advice, that is the skill of Pabongka, by the lineage lamas of the path.

Then, overall, even the bodhicitta realization comes much later according to category, but from the very beginning when you begin to practice Dharma, you practice with the motivation of bodhicitta, so which means overall try to live the life with the motivation of bodhicitta, not only when you meditate, do prayers, but even all other activities, doing job, walking, sitting, sleeping, as much as possible, so try to do everything with the thought of benefiting for other sentient beings, even though the actual realization comes much later, after the renunciation, but you begin the Dharma practice from the very beginning with that thought. So this way every time when one generate a motivation of bodhicitta, one collect merit like sky, merit, good luck, like sky. Then also since the activity, doing sadhana, chanting prayer, reciting mantras, done with bodhicitta, so each mantra, each syllable, how many times you recite om mani padme hung, if one recite one mala of om mani padme hung with the thought of benefiting other sentient beings, with bodhicitta, then with each mantra you collect merit, good luck, like sky, limitless like sky. With each mantra, om mani padme hung, if you recite with the thought of benefiting for other sentient beings, so with each mantra, you collect merits like sky. So one mala, in case that there's 108 beads, so with each mantra, as you recite each mantra, you collect that many times, 108 times merit like sky.

So then also other times, other activities, since they are done with the motivation of bodhicitta, with the thought of benefiting other sentient beings, because sentient beings are numberless, so therefore, whatever you are doing, reciting mantra, or doing service, eating, walking, sitting, doing job, so forth, so one did all these things to benefit for other sentient beings, so sentient beings are numberless so therefore when you generate the motivation, numberless merit. During the act, as it is done, like the mantra, same, then also numberless merits one collect. So this way the life becomes most wise one, in the spiritual practice, the richest life, your inner life becomes richest one, not empty.

I think can be said more fortunate than arhat, I think that can be said. Arhat, the one who is completely liberated from samsara, but because there's no bodhicitta practice, no bodhicitta realization, so takes inconceivable time, unbelievable long length of time to achieve enlightenment. So even Buddha has shown, even after a long time, incredible length of time, then even Buddha has shown the Mahayana teaching but that their mind is so much habituated in being in the bliss, being in the blissful state of peace, so much habituated in that, and so get distracted by that, so much habituated to that, so kind of mind get drawn to that. It's like the people who are so habituated in the habit of smoking or drinking or something, so forth, so much habituated for so many years, so that now very difficult, extremely difficult to give up, to cut, still it draws back. So like that, so arhats, so difficult to generate compassion, practice bodhicitta and also they are free from suffering, they themselves are free from suffering, so because of that more difficult to generate compassion for others.

[end of tape]

[recitation of Shakyamuni Buddha mantra]

Yeah, if there's one question? If there's one question, one and a half.

Student: [inaudible]

Rinpoche: The animal will be staying there. Stay in the comfortable room. No, that doesn't, the habit, it doesn't, there's habit from other lifetimes, being animal, there's habit from other lifetimes. Because there's no rebirth, whatever different types of animal there are or like Eastern person, Western person, different nationalities, whatever different nationalities there are, anyway all this...