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.

Wednesday, August 23rd: Part A

[Prayers before teachings]

Do not commit any unwholesome action, engage in perfect, wholesome actions, subdue one’s own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha.

Look at the causative phenomenas like star, like the vision of the defective eye, or the vision of the defected eye, distorted view, like the…here, marme. Mar is butter, means like lamp, so marme, butter lamp, so like illusion, like the water dew, like water bubble, like dream, like lightning, like clouds.

So here, one’s own body, possessions, the surrounding people, family or whoever, the surrounding people, so forth, all the rest causative phenomenas, look at them like star .

So daytime, when the sun rises, you don’t see star. So, so all these phenomenas, the mere gathering, the base to be labeled, base to be labeled this and that, so the mere gathered, the base to be labeled, say, merely gathered, merely labeled, merely appeared, so on that merely gathered, then merely imputed, merely appeared, so in Tibetan it’s tsog-tsam [?], the base to be labeled, _ tsog-tsam [?], _duk-tsam then nak-tsam.

So that’s how it is with the whole entire phenomena including the hell, enlightenment, liberation, samsara, everything, that mere gathered, base to be labeled, that’s gathered, then merely imputed, then merely appeared, mere appearance, you see.

So this, [pause] this, what the children play, these pieces. So you put together, jigsaw puz.., you put together and then, depending which line, depending which shape you make, so you put like this, and you put like that, so, merely gathered, say, the base to be labeled, that’s mere gathered, then, mere imputation, A, and then mere appearance. Then after the mere imputation, the mere appearance, the appearance A, so then you take that apart, in pieces, then you put, so you make a circle, change, take that apart and then you put, you make it like this [showing] circle, then the mere, say, the base to be labeled, duk-syi , so the duk is the label, syi is base, and duk is labelled, base to be labeled, tsog-tsam [?] mere gathering, merely gathered.

Merely gathered, then mere imputation, merely imputed, dak past, merely imputed, then after that, mere appearance O, because, why you have appearance O is because, why there’s appearance O that’s because the mind, what is imputed, the label what is put, or what is imputed is O, so that’s what is imputed because of that design, circle, you see, design. So, after that there’s appearance O, circle.

So, so for all that, so then you practically take it apart, and then you put, then you make pieces, like this [Rinpoche shows students], so you change the shape, then the merely gathered, the base to be labeled, then merely imputed, then appearance.

So all this, so you can do, take it apart then make another one, then, say, you see, different imputation and different appearance according what your mind labeled, you have view of that according to what your mind labeled, what is imputed, then you have view of that appearance. 

So before your mind imputed A, O, Z, any of those, so forth, any of those, there’s no, say, [pause] there’s no appearance that this, there’s no appearance even though that the design is there, circle like this [shows] and line like this, even though these designs are there, but you don’t have appearance that this is Z, that this is zero, that this is O, or that this is Z. You don’t have view, you see, before your mind imputed. Even though that this design is there, but you don’t have the appearance that this is O, that this is Z, so that.

So like this, like this, like this all the rest of the phenomenas, all the rest of the phenomena, the hell, enlightenment, liberation, samsara, every single phenomena is like that. There’s merely gathered, the base to be labeled, then due to that, then mere imputation, then only after that, then you have that appearance.

So there’s all this evolution, there’s graduate evolution, these three things doesn’t happen at the same time, it’s very subtle, so you don’t, it’s very subtle, so we don’t, we’re not aware that it’s graduate, you’re not aware because it’s very subtle, in a very short time, you see, so we’re not aware the evolution.

So looks, to our hallucinated mind it appears, say, according to our hallucinated mind, say, how it appears, see, the minute when you see that phenomena, say, the, say, for example, going back to the syllables, A, say, from very beginning, you know, see, A, seeing A, seeing O, seeing Z, so forth, all the rest of the phenomena, like that, and even that, not merely labeled by mind and existing from its own side, so total opposite, so no awareness, no awareness, totally, totally, so first seeing the base, then one’s own mind, depending what kind of base you see, then your mind discriminate, label, make up the label, then third there’s appearance to you.

So, so here, basically, in our daily life, [long pause] the I that we, day and night, constantly, the I that appears to you, whether this merely labeled I, whether the I is appearing merely labeled or whether the I is appearing not merely labeled by the mind, real one, in the sense existing from its own side. Whichever way the I appears, merely labeled or not merely labeled, it all came from the mind, came from one’s own mind, you can see.

And the aggregates, say, the difference is that, other one, the merely labeled one, it exists; not merely labeled one, the I which appear merely labeled, that which exists appearing not merely labeled by mind, that real I, that is non-existent, appeared not merely labeled, that is a hallucination, so that real I is the non-existent one. So the difference is that. But both came from the mind.

So same, the aggregates, the general aggregates and the body, mind, whatever, whatever, the general aggregates, body, speech and mind, the general aggregates, the base to be labeled I, so that this merely labeled one which exists, and that which is not merely labeled, the real one, both, that which is non-existent, both came from one’s own mind, that what one, say, appears or what one see came from one’s mind.

From there down to the atoms of the body, down to the particles of the atoms, and the particles of those atoms, so going like that, so all that which is merely labeled and that which appear, that which, say, appeared not merely labeled by mind, that which is real, real atom, that particle, atom, however, same, so all came from, say, those which are non-existent, totally non-existent, all that which are totally non-existent, the real atom, real particles, atoms, say, real in the sense existing from its own side, so, all that, say, those appearances are hallucination, so it came from one’s own mind, so completely.

And includes consciousness, going, you know, say, going back the, say, so the, this consciousness from life to life, consciousness from beginningless rebirth up to enlightenment, your consciousness from beginningless rebirth up to enlightenment, up to omniscient mind, all the different life consciousness, then this life consciousness.

Then, say, how many, you see, this life has, all those part of consciousness, and then the 12 months, all those consciousness, all those months, one year, all those consciousness, then that many weeks, so, consciousness, that many days of consciousness, that many hours of consciousness, that many minutes of consciousness, that many seconds of consciousness, then split seconds of consciousness, so however, so that.

All these merely labeled by mind, the body and mind, phenomena, that which is formless, because formless so colorless, shapeless, but which nature perceiving object, say, which has nature of clarity.

So that’s the base to be labeled mind, so all those seconds of consciousness and split second of consciousness, however, merely labeled by the mind, merely labeled by thought, so that also came from the mind. And that which appeared real mind in the sense existing not merely labeled by mind, hallucination, that which, that real mind not merely labeled, so came from the mind, projected, say, by the mind, came from the mind.

So same, form, sounds, form, ugly form, beautiful form, indifferent form, whatever form that we see, different colors that we see, [long pause] so every kinds of form, say, [very long pause] any shape, any color that we see. [Long pause]

So exactly the example before, the jigsaw puzzle, the puzzling jigsaw, so how that, like that example I mentioned, so all this came from the mind. [Long pause]

If a child who is not taught, who is not taught the colors of light: this is white, this is white, you see, in the road, you see, the car road, the green light, the red light, green light, red light, say, what’s the other one, yellow light? So, anyway, the short one, what? Orange.

[Students: Yellow].

So whatever you say, so anyway, you see, a child, let’s think a child. A child who is not taught name and colors, child sees that, child sees that light, but hts the child hasn’t labeled it "green light’, "red light’, these things, the child hasn’t labeled because the child is not yet educated their names, names of those colors, the child is not educated, you see, not taught yet.

So I don’t know what the child sees. What does the child see? [Some people are throwing out ideas] What? He sees all everything the same? All the different color lights, the child sees the same? Do you remember when you were a child how you see? When you’re not taught those labels. Huh?

Student: There were no lights.

Rinpoche: So nothing exists for the child, nothing exists for the child, for the child who is not, who is not taught any label. So nothing exist for the child. What about milk? Does milk exist for the child to drink? Milk exists, but chocolate doesn’t exist.

For that child, there’s no appearance of that this red color, this is red light, this is green light. The child doesn’t have that appearance that this is a green light, red light. For example, same thing, a child comes in the temple, and you know, look at the statues and paintings of buddhas, so child who is not taught the names of buddhas, names of different buddhas, you see, and so this is similar. Doesn’t have appearance, you know, it doesn’t have appearance that this is Lama Yeshe’s statue, doesn’t see that this is Lama Yeshe’s statue [there’s a statue of Lama Yeshe in the Vajrapani Institute gompa], because the mind hasn’t labeled that this is Lama Yeshe’s statue, hasn’t labeled yet. So there’s no appearance that this is Lama’s statue, and doesn’t see that this is Lama Yeshe’s statue, just, say, so, say, object, something, but doesn’t see particular Lama Yeshe.

So, when the child is introduced the names of the colors—that this is green light, this is red light—so forth, anyway, then the child learned the label, learned the label from somebody, this means red, this means green. This means this, you see.

So doesn’t mean that child does not see red light, green light, but that child does not see that this is green light, child doesn’t see that this is red light; doesn’t have the appearance this is red light, doesn’t have the appearance that this is green light.

So, only after that child is given a thought, the label, then the child’s mind impute, imputes what the child, he or she, was taught, so then put that label on that object, that color and believe in that. So I think that they have to believe in, as well, I think.

Then, I don’t think, if you don’t believe, if you don’t believe in that, what your mind label, I don’t think there’s appearance after that, appearing red light, green light, I don’t think; if you don’t believe the label that your mind put but you didn’t believe, and think.

But if you can see some example, then explain, but I don’t think… To appear, then there has to be, I think, not only your mind put label, but you need then believe in that.

So then, only after this, then there’s appearance of red light and green light, that this is green light, that this is red light.

Then, only after this, then the child sees that this is a red light, then only the child, then, say, only then the child sees that this red light and this is green light. After the appearance, that this is green light, that this is red light, then the child sees that this is green light, red light, after the appearance.

So that means, so that means, you see, what the child see first, before the child, you know, once educated the label, before the child put the label, what the child see is the base, is the base, that’s the base, that’s the base to be labeled green, to be labeled red and so forth, you see.
So what we saw ourselves when we were a child, what we saw first, before we were educated the labels, that’s the base.

Then after somebody introduce you to the labels, then your mind followed to that, then believe in that, then put the labels, your mind made up the labels and believed in that. Only after that, as a result, then there’s appearance this and that, then you see.

So, so here, now, so here now, say, same, exactly the same, the child, you see, first you see something, you see something there and then you are taught the label, you know, this and that. The light is an example, but all the rest of phenomena.

Same, when we learn Dharma, when we learn philosophical teachings, when we’re learning about sufferings, when we’re learning about the path, when we’re learning about the qualities of buddhas, same, that’s same as the child, somebody giving introduction, somebody teaching the, educating all the labels.

So, same in the school, college, university, the whole thing is learning the labe.., we can say, you can say the whole thing is the learning, say, I mean one way you can say, the whole thing’s learning labels. So same thing when we learn Dharma, you see, that which we don’t know about path, say, label.

So here, now, so the child first sees base, then there’s label, then there’s appearance, then you see. So now exactly the same, so for us, you see, with the child, so, you see, so without the base, without the base, you see, so there’s nothing to put the label, it doesn’t exist; even you put the label, it doesn’t exist. Before the base, even you put the label, even you create the label, it doesn’t exist, whether [?] the red light, or green light, or whatever, any phenomena, it doesn’t exist.

So even the base is there, but your mind hasn’t made up the label, label is not given, base is there, but label is not given yet, and then that green or red, whatever, so forth, all the rest of the names do not exist.

So similar, similar what I normally mention, when the parents, get the child, the association of body and mind aggregates is there, but when the parents hasn’t decided the name, hasn’t decided the name, when the name’s not imputed, for example, say, Jim or something, so there’s aggregates there but Jim doesn’t exist that time.

Even they decide the name but the child is not even conceived yet, they already decided the name what to give if they get child, so, in case if they get child, anyway, so…

There’s a story of Dawa Takpa [?], you know, the one, Dawa Takpa [?], one Tibetan person. So he’s very poor and, so one day, so one day he got big quantity of grain, one big sack, huge sack of grain, he was able to achieve, he was able to get big sack of grain, so then he’s very happy, so this big sack of grain, so he become wealthy, happy.

So he hang this big sack of grain in his room, hang with the ropes to the ceiling, ceiling or the beams, however.

Then moon came, moon arising, nighttime. So moonlight came through the window. So he was thinking, he said, oh, now I have this big sack of grain, he was very happy, he thinks to get married, then if I get married, I will have child, what name to give him. So he tried to think very hard, what name to give.

So then suddenly he saw this moon rising, moon beam, the beam of moon coming through the window. Oh, now see, call Dawa Takpa [?]. Moon, Takpa’s firmness, firmness, moon firmness, Dawa Takpa.

So suddenly he saw the beams of the moon, you know, light from the moon come through the window. So then he called Dawa Takpa, called this. He was so excited. He found this name, so excited. Then he, with a stick, then he got a stick and then he stood up and danced, he was so happy. And the stick hit the rope, and then the big sack fell on him and died. So anyway, this is side talk. In the lamrim teachings, I don’t know, must be somewhere, I think, subject, I don’t know, maybe, say graduated path of the middle capable being, or graduated path of the lower capable being, maybe related to minimum _ [not clear], or something like that.

So, anyway, so even the parents, they decide the name or the mind label name, but the child not even conceived yet.

So anyway, so that time, the child, that Jim doesn’t exist, even the label is put but there’s no base; Jim doesn’t exist that time, so both times, see, either way, the Jim doesn’t exist. There’s the base and there’s no label, the mind hasn’t labeled "Jim". Jim doesn’t exist. And then mind has labeled "Jim" but there’s no base. So that time, Jim doesn’t exist.

So Jim came in existence only, so there’s the base and mind, the minute, the second the mind merely imputed "Jim", then Jim came in existence. So that, so here, so here you can see, so here you can see Jim exists but it’s empty. So here you can see totally, so here, with this simple meditation analysis, you can see, nature of Jim is, what it is, what it is is merely imputed by mind, merely imputed one, merely imputed one, so that’s completely empty of existing from its own side. 

So the Prasangika’s right view, the Middle Way view, here, so when you see the appearance, dependent arising and emptiness unified, it’s one, unified, only one phenomena, the emptiness and the appearance, dependent arising, so here Jim, the appearance, the dependent arising, Jim and emptiness unified. There’s Jim existing, merely imputed one, and it’s empty.

So when you realize that, you see, the three principal teachings, three principal path, so that time, then the right view is completed.

So here, so here, what I was going to say is this. [Long pause] So exactly the same, exactly the same for us who knows red light, green light, all this, you see, labels, who has already learned, so exactly the same like that, but we don’t, we’re not aware. And the graduate, exactly the same, like the child.

So first you see the base, then put the label, then appeared, then see, as it happened to child. The child, so same, while we’re driving car, so, say, oh, this is red light, so before your mind labeled red light, before your mind labeled red light, red light, should not drive, should stop. So your seeing red light came from your mind, the red light that you see came from your mind. That is very important, that is very important to understand, very important education, this came from one’s mind.

That, so, what makes, what makes you, what makes your mind to choose the particular label "red light"? What causes, what causes your mind to choose particular, your mind to choose red, particular label "the red light"? What causes?

So if you’re putting red light, if you’re labeling red light on the red light, you see, say, if you’re labeling red light on the red light, then it become endless, then you have to label red light on that red light; on that red light, then you have to label "red light", so, endless.

So in the Madhyamaka subject, if the aggregates is the I, if the aggregates is self, base to be labeled "I", if that itself is the I, then you label I on the I. If the aggregates itself is the I, oneness with the I, itself, then, you see, then what’s the point to label "I" on the I, then becomes endless. That’s the, say, debate, the, what mistake will arise. If the aggregates is itself is the I, then it doesn’t make sense. If it’s already I, then why you label I on the I? Then it becomes endless. Then you have to label I again, so that’s what it says there. So same thing. Normally one label on something which is not, on the base which is not that, base which is not the label, base which is not that label that you put.

So that’s why parents giving, that’s why parents are taking time to, taking time what best name to give, because even the child is conceived, the aggregates are there, if there’s already Jim, from the time of conception it’s already Jim, from the time of birth in the womb, conception time, already Jim, then, say, why do you need to, say, then, why child parents, why it takes so much difficult to, say, looking for best name, or, then there’s no purpose to, say, going through the books, going through the list of names, books, what name to be given, so anyway, so there’s no meaning, already Jim, so does not make sense, you don’t need to say Jim of Jim.

Similar, say, similar, say similar, say if the American president , if the aggregates, if the aggregates, the association of the body and mind, the aggregates, the collection of the five, if that is American president, you see, the aggregates, you see, itself president, then you see, then you see, when the aggregates, association of body and mind, when that’s happened in the mother’s womb, even that time, then you see, American president, say, already American president.

These aggregates is the base to be labeled, "president", the Bush, you see, aggregates, you see, if that’s American president itself, that aggregates, then, you see, you know, when that aggregates, you know, in the mother’s womb, when that happened association of body and mind, then that time would be already say American president , American president, so the American president is now in the womb, the mother’s womb for nine months, good-bye.

So anyway, then people have to wait. The White House has to wait. Anyway, so, say, so similar, if the American president, you see, not exist, not exist merely imputed by mind, if it exists, not exists merely imputed by mind, existing from its own side, not merely imputed by mind, then, so it appears to us, to our hallucinated mind, hallucinated mind appearing like that, you see American president not merely labeled by mind, existing from its own side. It appears and then for us, some of the people, then believe, you know, believe it’s true, believe it’s true.

So, so according to that, if that is true reality, then same, because it exists from its own side, so then that means when the, say, when the consciousness, when the Bush consciousness took place on the fertilized egg, when the aggregates happened there, so when the aggregates actualized in the mother’s womb, then you see, in other words, American president is the same, without aggregates is president, or the president exists from its own side, then same, not merely labeled by mind, then, same will be that from birth you get president, you see, like that. So doesn’t need to be, doesn’t need election, doesn’t need to vote, doesn’t need election, doesn’t need to spend all this so many millions of dollars, say, doesn’t need to look for sponsor, so many millions of dollars, people to vote if the view is correct what we believe, what appears to us and the way we believe. If that is correct one, then, doesn’t need to vote and spend many millions of dollars to get elected, so it’s already from birth time, president. So, so all this mistake arises.

So anyway, going back, so what makes us, what causes us to choose this particular label "red", not rat, "red", sorry, I just said "rat", "red", "red color", so what causes, what causes? So that is very important question, very important question, what causes to label "red", and "green", this red color.. What causes? That’s very important. So what causes? What causes us to label "red"; this is red, now I can go. Sorry, sorry, red, maybe that becomes sometimes! So, red, stop; green, go.

Anyway, so what causes? What causes our mind to label? What is it that, what causes us to choose this particular label "red", "green"? Huh?

[Student: inaudible]

Rinpoche: What about, what about object, one group agree that label, another group do not agree that label, what about that? So, then, one group agrees, one group don’t agree that label, use different label. So what about that?

Student: They have a different label for the same base.

Rinpoche: So then, so then what would you decide? So one group do not want to label that one, something else. Another group label that one. So what would you do? You make your own?

Student: [Some people do.]

Rinpoche: So you believe which one? You believe none, or do you believe, you follow one of the groups?

Student: I think there could be many labels for the same base.

Rinpoche: I’m not talking about the base. That’s not the question. The question is not the base; the label.

Student: I agree with the one I was raised with, the one that I have in my culture, the one I was taught. If someone teaches me something better, _ [unclear]

Rinpoche: Somebody teaches better? You mean better color?

Student: At first I was a child, and it was said, green light go, red light stop, it’s a little book, and that’s what I learned. But then, later on, the scientists said, it’s a vibration, that your eye perceives, it’s a specific frequency and that’s red, and so that became red light, it’s more _, more of a label.

Rinpoche: Frequency of what? Vibration. But all the color has frequency of vibration. So what makes you decide the color, so, still that doesn’t become the reason to label why red, no green. Some green, some red.
Student: Convention?

Rinpoche: Yeah, that’s right.

Student: [some students talking at the same time, discussing]

Rinpoche: Well, not quite, not quite. So here I’m saying, what causes to, what is it that specifically, that makes your mind to label that’s red color, and that’s green color. What is it?

Another student: Isn’t it collective karma? In this society where we live now, it’s a universal sign, red is a universal sign for stop. So that’s why when you go to any country, the label for stop is red, whether it’s a light or whether it’s a post, so it’s hard to explain but, but it’s, because how can we all, in this time right now, how can we all know, well, can’t say we all, but most of us know that if we go somewhere and we’re travelling in a different country and we see, we’re on the road, and we see a sign that’s red, we know that that means either stop, or whether it says it in...

Rinpoche: You’re talking about what means the red light and green light but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about red light and green light in the road, you see. You’re talking about what it means, what it’s telling you. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about before, say, before you, yes, the light means that, but then here the discussion is, you see, as I gave example the child, so, from there, that means red light you have to label, you see, what you see you have to label, so, therefore, I’m saying, I’m using the child as an example how things came from the mind, child mind label this and that, then there’s appearance to that child’s mind this and that, then that child must see this and that.

So like that, it’s same to us, it’s exactly same to us, every day of our life. I mean, all the rest of phenomena in our daily life, with all the rest of the phenomena, exactly the same, like that.
So, anyway, so here the question is what makes us to label "this is red light, and this is green light"? What makes us to, our mind to choose these particular label?

Student: Previous thought and action.

Another student: Previous results, something separated it.

Another student: It’s what we’re taught.

Another student: We’re taught to separate at some stage, we’re taught to separate that one thing is red and the other thing is green, and before that nothing separated it for us. Its’s previous experience.

Another student: We learn that label from our parents, from our society. It’s what we’re taught, what we learn.

Rinpoche: Still that’s not the answer. The answer is what makes your mind choose this particular label? Label you have learned. What causes, what is the reason? Yeah, some mothers taught, that’s part of thing, but not the main one.

Student: A child learns that when he labels a red light "red’, he’s able to talk to people, then people can understand, they can communicate.

Rinpoche: Sorry. Can you repeat again?

Student: When I was a child, and I wanted, I learned that if I say "red", that another person knows I mean something. When I use the label "red", another person will know that I’m talking about something that is actually red. So by using a label, I’m able to communicate with people, I can’t communicate with people using a bases.

Student Two: Well if they’re color blind, that wouldn’t work now, would it? Can I say something to that? because I don’t think you separate between the two until something forces you to separate between the two. It wouldn’t occur to you to separate between green and red, until some experience will point out that they, they could separate between the two, and then you start thinking of labels, and then you start defining labels in this moment on the basis of that past experience that separated the two colors for you.

Student Three: I think that would be because you communicated with somebody who already made that distinction.

Student Two: No, it doesn’t occur to you to communicate. You first need to know there are different things, and something will point that out to you. Right?

Student Three: Well, I don’t know.

[Debate continues; Rinpoche listens]

Rinpoche: While you are discussing, there is opportunity to drink the water!

Student Four: I think we’re attached.

Rinpoche: Attachment is related to...[another student interrupts Rinpoche]

Student Four: We’re attached to what happens when we say "red".

Rinpoche: No, not necessary to have. Is there attachment to "enemy’? Because, you see, this is my enemy here. Do you have attachment?

Student Four: We have attachment to label things, though, that we don’t know. That’s how we started to label.

Student Five: Attachment to wanting to avoid the enemy, we say, that’s my enemy.

Rinpoche: That’s right. So you’re talking about, you cannot discover without people talking about the base, without talking the label, right? If show only the base, then doesn’t make clear to other people, right? You remember, you mentioned? Sorry, what’s your name. You mentioned, but you have to talk label, because if you talk only the base, you can’t communicate to other people, remember?

So the base has also name. The base, when you think of base, that’s also label, that’s also name; when you think of the base, that also has name given by your mind.

So however, what I want to tell is this, so get the idea of the child, how, as well as ourselves, the stages, how the evolution takes the sort of, so before you come to know the label, what you see things, so, you see, there’s the base, then you introduce the thought, the label, then your mind imputed, then there’s appearance of that label, then you see that, this is this, you see. So that I’m using as just easier to understand, an example.

So now, that is exactly the same in our daily life. Every moment…