Teachings at Kadampa Center

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kadampa Center, Raleigh, USA (Archive #1955)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kadampa Center, Raleigh, NC, USA, on May 3, 2014, days prior to that year's Light of the Path retreat. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

In Chapter One, Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains the importance of practicing the good heart and the role of parents in guiding their children. Rinpoche continues in Chapter Two with a teaching on emptiness, then discusses his mother's incarnation and the benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. In Chapter Three, Rinpoche gives a commentary on the Eight Verses and advises techniques for meditation on emptiness.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Italy. Photo: Piero Sirianni.
Where Is the Real I?
Actualizing the True Path

One of the gurus, Kyabje Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, is a great scholar, a great meditator [and in] reality an enlightened being. Kyabje Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche explained the four noble truths ... true suffering and the true cause of suffering, from where it came. Because suffering came from a cause, it is not permanent; it is not independent; it’s dependent arising. It depends on cause and conditions, so it is dependent arising.

[Suffering] came from the cause—karma and delusions—therefore this shows that it can be ceased. It happened due to cause and conditions, so due to another cause and conditions it can be ceased. If it is ceased then the result, true suffering, can be ceased. That’s how we can achieve the true cessation of suffering.

We can achieve the true cessation of suffering because there’s a true path which exists, not only in the words of the scriptures, but it exists still in the holy mind of the present meditators and present practitioners who actualize the realizations, who actualize the true path, the wisdom directly realizing emptiness, ultimate truth.

The direct perception of emptiness, that depends on, first we need to realize ultimate truth, that which is the wisdom realizing emptiness. This is exactly contradictory, it is the remedy for the way the ignorance, the false concept, the ignorance, the way of holding the I; the way ignorance is holding the I. The wisdom realizing emptiness is the remedy; it’s exactly the opposite to the false concept, the ignorance, the false mind, the way of apprehending the I which is totally false, the wrong way. The wisdom is exactly the opposite of that, it’s contradictory, it’s the antidote, it’s the exact opposite to that ignorance, the way of apprehending or holding the I.

The real I never came into existence—from beginningless rebirth, from beginningless cyclic existence or cycling rebirth it never existed. The real I as it appears to the ignorance and as it is apprehended, as it is believed, it never existed, it never came into existence from the beginningless rebirth. It never came into existence for even one second. It never existed that way in the past and it will never exist in that way in the future .

The Aggregates Are Not the Real I

The body, the aggregates, are not the real I; neither the body nor even the mind is the real I. Even the group—the association of the body and mind—is not the real I. The association of body and mind, that together, even that is not the real I. The real I cannot be found. If you look for it you can’t find it; from the tip of the hair down to the toes, it cannot be found anywhere.

Many people might think that the mind is I. They think the mind is the real I that we believe in one hundred percent, but it’s not that. If the body is the I, the real I, then all the limbs would be I, and however many atoms this body has, all that would be I, and there would be billions, zillions of I's here. This wouldn’t be one person; this would be a billion, I don’t know how many atoms my body has, I don’t know.

So for someone with a taller body or who is fatter, then there would be so many Is, so many, so many I's. [Laughter] When a person becomes thinner by exercising, by taking medicine or whatever, then there would become less I's.

When the person shaves the hair, there would be many I's, there would be many thousands of I's that fall off. Then the many thousands of I's would have to reincarnate. Therefore, the mistakes would arise. So many mistakes would arise, it’s a continuation.

Also, there are six [sense] consciousnesses and 51 mental factors. There would be six I's for the six sense consciousnesses and for the 51 mental factors, there would be also 51 I's and so there would be all that.

And then one year has 365 days, so there would be all those consciousnesses—there would be 365 I's. Then one day has 24 hours so there would be 24 I's. And how many minutes, 60 minutes, therefore in one hour there would be 60 I's during that time, so there would be 60 I's or consciousnesses. And then how many seconds, there would be that many I's. So many mistakes would arise.

Also, the I would have no color. The mind has no color and no shape, therefore the I wouldn’t have any color, the I wouldn’t have any shape. The I would not have any shape of male or female; I would not have any shape—fat or skinny or all that, or short or long—there wouldn’t be any shape because the mind has no color, no shape. We can’t say, “Oh, that person’s mind is too long,” or “Oh, that person’s mind is short.” The mind doesn’t have shape; the body has that, but the mind doesn’t have it. If the I had shape we could say, “Oh, that person’s I is too long” or “Oh, that person’s I is too short.” There’s no such thing; it’s not like that because there’s no color and no shape.

So then you wouldn’t need food. Why? You don’t have shape, you don’t have a stomach. You don’t have a shape, so why do you need food? Why do you need to work? What do you work for? What? Why do you work? You don’t need food, you don’t need a house, because you don’t have shape. You don’t have a shape so you don’t need a house and you don’t need food. So then many mistakes would arise. [Rinpoche laughs]

The other mistake is if the I is one with the aggregates, and there’s only one I, there would be only one aggregate. There wouldn’t be five aggregates, there would only be one aggregate if there was one I, so that mistake would arise.

Also, when the consciousness leaves the body, there would still be so many I's. When the body’s there and the consciousness has left, there would be so many, there would be billions of I's. I don’t mean ice, I don’t mean the ice, snow ice, I don’t mean that, I’m not talking about that. [Laughter] Don’t misunderstand! I’m not talking about the ice; I’m talking about the I.

Even when the consciousness has left [the body], there would be—I don’t know how many atoms—billions or zillions of I's there, even when the consciousness has left. The person’s not dead—there are still many I's living—the person’s not dead as long as there’s a body. Even though the consciousness has left, as long as there’s a body there are many, many I's or people living there. There are so many Is, so many people, that’s a billion, zillion, I don’t know, a trillion or however many atoms that make up a person. So it becomes very strange, like that. Then mistakes arise.

So there would be consciousness, the consciousness with the I. Then the one like that, which would have continuity from life to life, there would be reincarnation [of that.] There would be a zillion, a billion, zillion I's that do not have reincarnation. There would be many billions, zillions of I's that do not have reincarnation.

The person would not have reincarnation and would not have the experience of suffering and happiness in a different life. They would not have the experience of suffering or happiness. Why? Because they do not have a cause. They do not have a cause—the reason for happiness or suffering, right from birth. They wouldn’t have happiness, they wouldn’t have suffering, because there isn’t a cause. So that person would be independent, that person would be permanent, they wouldn’t have a cause or condition. [Rinpoche snaps fingers]

So it doesn’t fit our experience. It’s contradictory to our experience. We can believe that but it’s contradictory to our experience, so our belief is wrong. We don’t experience that; we don’t function like that. All those I's would experience suffering or happiness or indifferent feelings, but they wouldn’t have a cause.

What we experience right there at birth depends on a previous cause, so there is reincarnation. That’s why the experiences happen—the cause was created before that. There’s suffering or happiness right at the beginning, and the cause is created before that, in a past life. So there’s the past life, the intermediate stage and the life before that, so all those I's would reincarnate also.

The Real I Can’t Be Found Anywhere

That real I can’t be found, from the tip of the hair down to the toes—nowhere can we find it. Neither can we find it in the channels of the body. Neither can we find it inside the channels or outside the channels, we can’t find it anywhere. We can’t find the I in the head; it cannot be found in the head. It’s neither in the head nor in the chest; we can’t find it in the chest.

Normally in the country, in the world, if somebody accuses us or when we express how happy we have been or how sad we have been, we point here to our chest. Normally we point here if we’re talking about I. Normal people in the world point here at the chest. If we say, “I’m so happy,” or something, we point at the chest. We don’t point at the knee, we don’t point there. We don’t point there, saying, “Oh, I’m so happy.” We don’t point at the feet, saying, “Oh I’m so happy,” or “I’m so sad.” We don’t point somewhere else—at our hands or our limbs, our teeth or our ear or something—we don’t point at that. We point at our chest.

But I heard that in Japan when they talk about I, they point to the nose. I’ve forgotten, I got mixed up, do they point at the head?

Student: They point to their noses and say ‘Watashi-wa’. [Japanese for “I”] They point to their noses.

Rinpoche: A le! I see. Yes, I got mixed up. I see. Yeah, Japan’s very different. I think maybe, otherwise, the rest of the world is the same, we point at our chest. But in Japan, they point to the nose. That’s very interesting; it became kind of their organization. I don’t know when they started, but I’m sure somebody might have started that, pointing to the nose. Then it became kind of normal in the country. First, one person must have started.

But the question is, why point to the heart? Why point to the chest? Not the heart bumping, not pointing here, but normally people in the world point here. If we’re happy or sad, or if somebody accuses us, we say, “Oh me! You’re telling me!”

Why do we do that? Why do we do that, in the world? Why do we point to the chest? When somebody accuses us or calls us [names], why do we point to the heart—not the heart, but the chest?

Student: Because we feel emotions there.

Rinpoche: Emotion.

Student: We feel emotion there in our body.

Another student: And also since ancient times, people believe the soul is in the heart.

Rinpoche: Ancient times?

Student: Since ancient times, people believed the soul was in the heart. So our soul is the airs in our heart, and when we sneeze, our soul goes out of our body. That’s why people say “God bless you” quickly, so the devil doesn’t jump in. That is the old custom.

Rinpoche: What is the soul? Is the soul the same as the Hindu atman? You know, the permanent I, atman is the permanent I. Is that the same connotation as soul?

Students: Yes.

Rinpoche: So for our I, there’s no death? Is there death?

Student: No.

Rinpoche: What’s your name? [Wendy] Is the soul I or not?

Wendy: According to Western belief, yes.

Rinpoche: The soul is I?

Wendy: Yes.

Rinpoche: So I never dies? I never gets reborn and never dies?

Wendy: No, it goes to heaven or it goes to hell. That’s it.

Rinpoche: So the I never dies?

Wendy: No, it’s permanent.

Rinpoche: I never gets reborn? I never dies?

Wendy: That’s right. They say we’re in heaven eternally or we’re in hell eternally after we die, and there’s no other variation. As far as I know, please correct me if I’m wrong, I believe that’s the same in the Jewish tradition and also in the Muslim tradition. I’m not sure about the Eastern, but I’m sure about Hinduism.

Rinpoche: Oh, yes. Hindus believe atman is the permanent I.

Wendy: I think they believe that atman reincarnates, but I’m not sure. You know more than I do.

The I Depends on Cause and Conditions

Rinpoche: No, no. They believe in the atman, they believe in the permanent I. That’s why in Buddhadharma, in Buddhism, there are four schools of Buddhist thought. The four schools are Vaibhashika school, Sautrantika school, Mind Only [Cittamatra] school and the Madhyamaka school.

There are four schools and basically in all the four schools, the basic belief is that the I is impermanent, not permanent. The I is impermanent, depending on cause and conditions; it changes by being under the control of cause and conditions, it changes, like that. The I is impermanent—that’s one thing.

And the I is not existing alone. In Hinduism they believe the I is existing alone, but in Buddhism we do not believe that. It’s empty or devoid of existing alone, it’s non-existing alone. All that depends on cause and conditions. Without depending on cause and conditions, existing alone, it’s not that; there’s no I existing alone. Then there is none existing with its own freedom, without depending on parts, and none existing with its own freedom. All the four schools believe that.

There are eighteen schools within the Vaibhashika school. Vaibhashika doesn’t believe the I is impermanent, but is neither permanent nor impermanent. That assertion is still different from Hindu, as they don’t believe the I is completely permanent, but they also don’t believe the I is completely impermanent, inexpressible.

So that particular school, the Vaibhashika school, [believes that.] Otherwise, all the others believe that’s the basis of the belief, the basis of realization, the basis of understanding. The  very first thing, the very basis, is discovering that the I is empty, non-existing permanence, existing alone, existing with its own freedom. So the freedom is non-existing. Like that, the I that exists is changing, changing. It is under the control of cause and conditions; it is impermanent.

It depends on cause and conditions, and does not exist alone. It depends on parts and does not exist with its own freedom. That’s the very foundation, that’s the very basic Buddhist discovery, the belief—though there can be wrong belief—but it’s a discovery, a realization, a fact. What was I saying?

The Four Seals

There are also the four mudras or the four seals. They are that contaminated phenomena are in the nature suffering; that contaminated phenomena are impermanent in nature; that contaminated phenomena are empty of self-existence, and the cessation of suffering, the sorrowless state, is great peace. The sorrowless state, the cessation of suffering, is great peace.

These are the four seals. Causative phenomena or  compounded phenomena  are impermanent in nature; contaminated phenomena are in the nature of suffering; the phenomena are empty, no self; and the sorrowless state, cessation, is great peace. These are the four great seals of Buddhism. The four seals also includes that the I is impermanent, so it’s like that.

Going back, now the question is, somebody said the emotional I. We point to our chest because of emotion, right?

Student: We feel our emotions in our chest.

Rinpoche: But why don’t the emotions come from the head? Why don’t we feel the emotions in the head, because the brain is where the I is supposed to be? I’m just putting forward the basis for debate.

The brain is supposed to be the main one. So why are the feelings, the emotions, not in the brain? The brain is the main office, the main government. [Laughter]

Student: When we’re upset, we start feeling that our heart beats faster or we breathe heavier, and so we feel that more in our chest. I think that’s where it comes from. When we’re happy, we feel it here also, in our chest.

Rinpoche: When you’re happy, what?

Student: When somebody’s happy, when I’m happy, I feel it in my chest and also in my head.

Rinpoche: Huh? I didn’t hear.

Ven Roger: She said she feels happy in her chest and also in her head.

Rinpoche: I see. Also under the feet? Also in the feet? In the nose? What about the nose, because the Japanese point here. The Japanese point here. Maybe some people in the world point to the ear. Who knows? They would have the emotions in the nose. [Laughter]

Student: Maybe there’s some sensation in the nose. It’s possible.

Rinpoche: What about sensation in the toes?

The real I cannot be found from the tip of the hair down to the toes, nowhere. If we look for it, we can’t find it—inside the chest, nowhere. If we look for it, we can’t find it anywhere. If we look for the real I, we can’t find it anywhere.

Normally it’s not in the stomach, normally it’s not in the head. Normally it’s not in the stomach and it’s not in the neck, but normally we point to the chest here, and also inside the chest. If we check, we can’t find it anywhere in the chest. The real I that appeared—the I which has been appearing that way and we one hundred percent believe in that—we can’t find the real I. If we look for it, we can’t find it anywhere.

Did the scientists point out where the I exists?

Student: No.

Rinpoche: Huh?

Student: They’re still looking for it.

Rinpoche: I think that is very, very, very, very interesting. So far they haven’t said anything about the I. That’s very, very interesting. I don’t know what Einstein would say. I think he said something, but I’ve forgotten. The scientist, Einstein, did mention about learning Buddhism; he did mention learning Buddhism.

Student: I think what Einstein said is that if there was any religion that would agree with science, it would be Buddhism.

Rinpoche: He said?

Student: Yes.

Rinpoche: A lé. Yeah, I think that. Yes, I heard something like that.

Is the I in the Brain?

Student: But you’ve mentioned for counter-arguments that the I is in the brain. Why isn’t the I in the brain, aside from the fact that there’s no I? If we were to assume there is an I, why couldn’t we say it’s in the brain? That’s more conventional.

Rinpoche: This brain?

Student: Yeah.

Rinpoche: You’re not talking about past life brain?

Student: No, right.

Rinpoche: Not future life brain; this life’s brain?

Student: Right.

Rinpoche: Today’s brain? You’re saying the brain is the I?

Student: Yeah.

Rinpoche: So when this brain’s gone, OK?

Student: Yeah.

Rinpoche: So the I is gone, right?

Student: Right.

Rinpoche: OK, so that I has no continuation?

Student: Right.

Rinpoche: It has no past life and no future life?

Student: Right.

Rinpoche: That I? So you don’t have past life or future life?

Student: Right.

Rinpoche: In that case, when you were conceived in your mother’s womb, at that time, feeling suffering or happiness, whatever, that doesn’t have a cause. Is that permanent or impermanent? Is that dependent arising or independent?

Student: You mean the suffering of being born?

Rinpoche:  Yeah, when the mind is conceived in the mother’s womb, that feeling of suffering or happiness, that is independent or dependent arising? That’s another question. The other question is whether that first experience is impermanent or not?

Student: You asked about what the scientists would believe, I would think the conventional idea, the notion, is that these would be independent arising and it would be the first experience. When we are in the womb, that would be independent arising, so that would be our first experience. I’m not entirely sure. I’m getting corrected here, so maybe I’m wrong here.

Rinpoche: Huh?

[Talk among the students]

Another student: I believe the scientific point of view would be that it would be dependent, depending on the genetic predispositions of your inheritance, your genes. So it would be dependent arising on what you inherited from your parents.

Rinpoche: Can you say again?

Student: I think the scientific view is that it would be dependent on the inheritance received from your parents and their prior generations. It would be genetic.

Rinpoche: You mean the I?

Student: Yes, what’s called the I, the consciousness, is what it’s been referred to.

Rinpoche: OK, the consciousness came from the parents? Consciousness came from the parents?

Student: Yes.

Rinpoche: The consciousness was the parents’ consciousness before?

Student: No, it comes from the genetics of the parents and also from the environment. That is the conventional point of view.

Rinpoche’s Mother's Incarnation

Rinpoche: OK, OK. What about my mother? She was a nun, ordained with the Western Sangha by His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s elder tutor, a long time ago. She has passed away. During her lifetime in Solu Khumbu, in the old times we didn’t have any shops,  to buy even needles. Needles had to come from very far away. Also spoons, we didn’t have any shops to buy these things, so spoons were very precious. Spoons and needles were regarded as very precious. The clothing had plastic buttons and the buttons were regarded as very precious in the old times in Solu Khumbu in the Himalayan mountains.

My mother had a shirt with plastic buttons and during my mother’s time all those plastic buttons were taken out and put in a glass bottle. When my mother was reincarnated, close by, at a nearby place, near the cave that I go to sometimes. I don’t remember, but it’s supposed to be my past life’s cave. Before, I think three lamas or six lamas, I’m not sure, recommended and through observation, the last one, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, the head lama of Nyingma,1 found that I was a reincarnation of the [Lawudo lama], and that was one way of checking.

And then, so what happened? Where was I?

Students: Buttons.

Rinpoche: Ah yeah, I got lost. I was going to tell [a story about] my mother, then suddenly [my story] came out in there, so I got lost.

I was talking about Solu Khumbu near Mount Everest, and the cave. I think [my mother’s reincarnation was born] maybe half a mile or one mile or something from Lawudo, where I got to stay in the cave, half a mile or more than half a mile from there, something like that.

There’s one hermitage, and a great, great, great yogi in the Nyingma tradition lived there in the past. There’s also one cave there. There’s a married lama, he’s not a monk, who lived there, and my mother  reincarnated to his son.

Later, it was checked by other monks—the other monks who we call fortune tellers, who do observations, divinations—but the main thing is Kyabje Trulshig  Rinpoche, the great lama, checked. He did the checking and then he said that boy was my mother’s incarnation.

One thing is this, after the incarnation was [recognized] we did the enthronement at Kopan Monastery in Nepal. There were 300 monks, and maybe now 400 nuns or less than 400 nuns or something—at that time I don’t know how many there were. So the boy was enthroned. I attended the celebration there and the boy was four years old at that time.

[He was] amazing, amazing. Whatever he said, when I listened, whatever he said was so sweet, so sweet. It was something so sweet. It didn’t matter what he said, I wanted to hear the next words. I wanted to hear just whatever he said next, something like that. It was incredible, his voice had that feeling, it was like that for me. I wanted to hear the next words that he said and I had to wait for that, to hear the next words.

After he was enthroned he went back to Solu Khumbu, the Sherpa [region], in the Solu Khumbu district. This is where people go to climb Mount Everest and [many Sherpa guides] recently died. How many? Sixteen, yeah.2 Anyway, those [Sherpas were] from places around where I was born, around those places.

So [the incarnation of my mother] came to Lawudo, where my sister was a nun. My sister made a shirt for him; he was small and my sister was using buttons my mother had collected in a bottle. My sister used these buttons to make a shirt and dressed him, then suddenly he said, “Oh, these are my buttons!” He said, “These are my buttons.” He remembered that in the past life she had collected the buttons in that small bottle.

Also, he could remember the animals that we had. We had dzos and cows, and he remembered all those, even those that had died and we had used the skins. He felt very sad because he could remember the animals [that had died.] He could remember all our family members and not only family members, but even two nuns at Kopan who had helped my mother go around the Boudha Stupa, the big stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. When my mother was at Kopan Monastery she went around the stupa every day, almost every day, so the two nuns from Kopan Monastery helped her. When the incarnation met these two nuns, he felt close to them and did not feel shy. He felt close, though he was shy with the rest of the people.

My mother’s best friend, a Sherpa named Ang Puwa, who lives in Kathmandu, and my brother, Sangye, who lives close to Boudha, went to the mountains to see my mother’s incarnation. My mother’s incarnation had been waiting a long time to see them. They went to Lawudo —the name of the cave is Lawudo, where I go sometimes. Ang Puwa was my mother’s best friend. He’s a very kind person and he helps many people in the Sherpa country near Thangme. Now he’s in New York, but he was in Solu Khumbu.

So Ang Puwa went up there. As soon as he arrived at the incarnation’s house, the incarnation immediately called him. Immediately he remembered his friend’s name, Ang Puwa. He said, “Ang Puwa, please have, please have ....” My mother’s incarnation immediately offered wine or tea or something like that. My mother’s incarnation immediately remembered his name, Ang Puwa, and said, “Please have, please have ....” That means drink.

Ang Puwa immediately grabbed my mother’s incarnation [and put the boy] on his lap. Then Ang Puwa cried and cried. He cried so much because the incarnation could remember his name. The incarnation recognized him, and Ang Puwa cried so much and carried the incarnation on his lap. So some amazing things happened.

Also, when my mother’s incarnation was enthroned at Lawudo, when all the people were inside the gompa and he was invited in, he offered a khatag to His Holiness’s throne. He did that, he paid homage to His Holiness. While I was sitting on a low, low throne, he paid homage to that. Then he went up to the altar and paid homage to that, exactly how my mother used to do it every day in the past. He did exactly the same, and then he went around the monastery, around the whole gompa, seven times. My mother used to do that. The incarnation did exactly the same thing, he went around like that. Anyway, that much is enough. He did things very much as my mother used to do, exactly the same, so he remembered all those things very clearly.

And then each time he came to the house he looked for things that belonged to my mother; he looked for things in the room until he found them. We have a prayer wheel and he grabbed the prayer wheel. He offered—he always offered khatag—and he grabbed my mother’s prayer wheel. This was the first prayer wheel we made, I think for my mother to turn while she was sitting on the bed.

In the case of myself, there are many other incarnate lamas who can remember their past lives, they can see others’ past lives, but I don’t have that level of mind. However, what I believe is that when I do meditation and [experience] certain things or have certain experiences, that’s because in the past life I did the practice. It’s a sign of that. That one I can tell, but otherwise my level of mind is low, so I don’t remember.

There are other lamas who can remember, for example, my root guru, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, could remember his past life in Ganden Monastery, Tushita, in Tibet. He could remember that; he could see that. He hadn’t been there, but he could remember it.

Benefits of Reciting OM MANI PADME HUM

Without talking too much, why my mother could remember all the families and could recognize all those things is because in my mother’s past life, she recited OM MANI PADME HUM 50,000 times a day. She recited that mantra 50,000 times a day. The year that she was going to pass away in Sarnath, India—she had been at Kopan for one month or some time, and she said that when she was upstairs she used to recite 50,000 OM MANI PADME HUM, but now she could not recite that much. She went upstairs, then she closed her eyes and chanted without a wandering mind.

She couldn’t read the alphabet, she hadn’t learned that, she didn’t learn that. She did not learn the alphabet and she couldn’t read, but she had a hundred times more compassion than I did. Even though I can read and I can speak a little bit, she has compassion. She couldn’t read anything, but she had compassion for others a hundred times more than I did. She had much more compassion and that’s the reason.

When she was at Tushita, Dharamsala, we had pancakes in the morning for breakfast. She would cut the pancake in half and she would eat half, then she would put the other half in her pocket and carry it down to where His Holiness lives. She would go around His Holiness’s palace, the monastery, where there are many, many holy objects. So you can go around the mountain, you can circumambulate to purify the mind and collect extensive merits.

There were beggars on the road, and she took the half she hadn’t eaten and put it in her pocket, then she gave it to the beggars. Of course, half was for her and the other half—this much was for a beggar. She couldn’t share with all the beggars; she had to give the pancake to one beggar, it could not be shared. So she did that.

She used to recite OM MANI PADME HUM 50,000 times a day, and so she could remember her past life. She could remember so many things because she recited OM MANI PADME HUM. For example, however  many atoms this table has, reciting OM MANI PADME HUM has that many benefits. Wow, wow, wow. The number of atoms in the ocean can be counted, but the benefits [of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM] cannot be counted. Even the past, present and future buddhas cannot finish explaining the benefits of OM MANI PADME HUM. The sand grains can be counted, but the benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM cannot be counted. The benefits are numberless; they cannot be counted.

It’s unbelievable. Even reciting OM MANI PADME HUM, especially with bodhicitta, the ultimate good heart, to benefit all sentient beings, we collect more than skies of benefits.

Therefore, for example, how many atoms this table has—that my mother’s incarnation can remember the past life, all these things, that benefit is small, that’s like one atom. From this big table which has many atoms, this is a small part. That benefit is like a small part of this table—that the incarnation can remember past lives and can remember the families and many things, all those things. So there are  infinite benefits of reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. That benefit that the incarnation could remember [past lives], it came from that.

Also she was ordained as a nun, so like that. But the incarnation, somehow we didn’t have parents and we didn’t have much good karma, so he passed away when he was young, so it was like that.3 But if that incarnation was in good hands, he could be unbelievable, he could be a beneficial practitioner, a very good lama.

Sorry, I think the time is gone. I was supposed to explain the Eight Verses. [Laughter] So I will just do the lung and read it. I will do the lung in English.

At Kopan I had a big book, like a dictionary, by an American professor who went to many parts of the world, but not Tibet, the middle part or I don’t know. He went to many countries and did research among young people who could remember their past life. There were old people who could remember their past life but it was mostly young people, I think. He made a big thick book, but I don’t have it. We had the book at Kopan library. I got it many years ago. He sent it to me. I don’t remember who the person was, but I think maybe he sent me that book.

Through ordinary clairvoyance we can remember, we can read, we can see others, but especially through meditation, shamatha. The main thing that causes clairvoyance is shamatha. Lama Atisha mentioned this in the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, also the Six Yogas of Naropa mentions that this causes clairvoyance, being able to understand the past and the future.

If we have real clairvoyance we can remember the past and see the future. Especially through meditation, the mind becomes cleaner and more pacified, more subdued, more purified. Then we are able to see—like water which is very dirty at the beginning and later becomes very transparent. Like that, the mind becomes very clear, pacified, purified, then we can see the past and future.

We are sentient beings because the mind is obscured. When the obscurations are gone, we are buddhas. So it’s dependent arising.


1  Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche (1924-2011) fled Tibet in 1959 and established Thupten Chöling monastery in Solu Khumbu, Nepal. An important Nyingma teacher in recent times, he became the head of the Nyingma school in 2010. Read a short biography here. [Return to text]

2  An ice avalanche on the western side of Mount Everest in April 2014 killed sixteen Sherpa guides. [Return to text]

3 Rinpoche’s mother’s incarnation, Ngawang Jigme, passed away in hospital in Kathmandu on October 27, 1999, at the age of nine, after suffering a head injury in south India a few months earlier. [Return to text]