E-letter No. 73: June 2009

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Auckland, New Zealand November 1990 (Archive #717)
Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, Lake Arrowhead, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

Dear LYWA Friends and Supporters,

I hope you are well. Thank you for receiving and reading our monthly e-letter.

Thanks to your kindness, things are going well here. We appreciate the generosity of those who responded to our recent appeal. As that contains news of our current activities I won’t repeat it here. We are, however, counting on your continued generous support to be able to accomplish our projects on behalf of the kind sentient beings, so if you have not yet been able to respond, please take a moment to do so and kindly let me know. Thank you so much.

Prayers for Rinpoche
We recently received the following notice from the FPMT International Office. As you probably know, the Archive is affiliated with the FPMT and Lama Zopa Rinpoche is our spiritual head. This advice came from Khadro-la, a female oracle from Tibet who has a strong spiritual connection with Rinpoche. If you can help out with these practices for Rinpoche’s good health and long life, please do so. Thank you again.

Dear Friends,

As you know, from time to time, we check for Rinpoche’s health and obstacles in general.

Khadro-la’s advice is for all the students of Rinpoche to recite 700,000 Mitukpa mantras. This is important to do from the side of the students. The end date for the practice is Monday 13 July 2009.

The Mitrugpa practice for Rinpoche’s long life is downloadable. [Find links in the FPMT Catalogue.]

Another thing we have to do remove obstacles is to make a 14-foot high statue of Nagarjuna. It will be made in either stone or bronze and will be sited on Maitreya Land in Bodhgaya. The cost is being finalized, but you can make a donation for the Nagarjuna Statue in Bodhgaya here.

Please then dedicate strongly for Rinpoche to have long, healthy and stable life, and for the immediate removal of any obstacle to the accomplishment of His holy wishes.

Thank you,

Doris Low
Centre Services Director

New Audio On the Web
We have just posted the audio recordings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings titled "Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's Kindness" given in Taiwan in 2007. Included is a section on making offerings to the Buddha, the purpose of a Dharma center, and the benefits of carrying the Golden Light Sutra or Diamond Cutter Sutra. As always, they are accompanied by the unedited transcripts.

Prayers For World Peace
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has specifically recommended the recitation of the Sutra of Golden Light to help all of us develop the qualities of loving kindness and compassion in the face of these increasingly difficult and violent times. The worldwide community of nuns and monks of International Mahayana Institute (IMI) will offer recitations and prayers, including the Sutra of Golden Light as part of International Sangha Day on July 25th, 2009. You can participate in the recitation, make dedications or offer support.

Thank you again for your kind support, and once more, we leave you with another teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Much love,
Nick Ribush

The Nature of Ignorance
There’s no basis at all for the concept of true existence, this ignorance that is the root of the whole of samsara. On the basis of ignorance and attachment and the karma motivated by them, we experience all the sufferings of the six realms. The concept of true existence, however, is completely unnecessary. Things do not exist independently but in dependence upon causes and conditions and upon their base and the mind that labels them. While things are empty of existing from their own side, they appear to have existence from their own side, and we believe that appearance to be true. By believing in the concept of true existence, of a truly existent I and truly existent aggregates we are creating the root of samsara, the root of suffering. We are creating ignorance when we start to believe as true the things that appear to our hallucinated mind as having existence from their own side.

Ignorance is not independent; it is a dependent arising. Ignorance is not what scientists might call "instinct." Ignorance is not spontaneously born from its own side; it’s something that we create. We create this ignorance each time we believe in the appearance of things as existing from their own side, as not being merely labeled. Each time we believe that appearance to be true, we are creating the ignorance that is the root of all other delusions: ignorance of Dharma, anger, attachment, pride, doubt, and wrong views. This ignorance is the basis of all delusions, of all karma, and of all suffering.

The harm caused by this ignorance—all the sufferings of the six realms of samsara—is unbelievable. This ignorance also doesn’t allow us to have ultimate liberation, the cessation of all these sufferings and their causes. All this inconceivable harm comes from ignorance. Not only do you yourself experience suffering but you also cause suffering to other sentient beings; you harm numberless sentient beings. All this harm comes from this ignorance of the nature of the I and the aggregates.

When we look at the cause of all this unbelievable harm, it’s something that doesn’t make sense. This ignorance believes in something that doesn’t exist. It believes in an I that doesn’t exist and in a body and mind that don’t exist. It doesn’t see the I that exists or the body and mind that exist, but believes in an I that doesn’t exist and in a body and mind that don’t exist. It also believes in sense objects—forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects—and objects of mind that don’t exist. It doesn’t see what exists and believes in something that doesn’t exist. When a table is covered with a tablecloth, we can’t see whether it is made of wood or some other material. Like a tablecloth on a table or a carpet on a floor, hallucination covers the merely labeled I, the merely labeled body and mind, the merely labeled senses, the merely labeled sense objects. Hallucination covers the whole of samsara and nirvana, which are merely labeled. There’s a truly existent cover over all these things, which are merely labeled. There’s a hallucination, or projection, of true existence, of independence.

This ignorance that believes things to be truly existent, as they appear to be, tortures us. This wrong concept allows many other delusions to arise, which produce karma and all the sufferings of the six realms, which we continuously experience, one after another. There is no beginning to the continuation of this ignorance. During beginningless samsaric lives, this ignorance has allowed us to experience the sufferings of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth and all the rest of the sufferings.

By realizing emptiness, the ultimate nature of the I and the aggregates, we eradicate this ignorance, this false thought. As long as we don’t do this, delusions will arise and motivate karma, and we will experience the sufferings of the six realms. We will always be going through the cycle of death and rebirth, which will then have no end. There is no liberation until we realize emptiness, which eliminates this ignorance.

Nobody forces us to believe in this ignorance. There’s nobody saying, "I’ll kill you if you don’t believe that things are truly existent!" There’s not a single reason that we should believe this false view. It’s something we have no need for, and it’s something that doesn’t make any sense. It’s childish nonsense. During beginningless rebirths, however, we have been living with this ignorance, which believes to be true these things appearing to us as independent, as having existence from their own side, even though they are merely labeled.

When we analyze the very root cause of all suffering, we find it is senseless. Without any real reason, we simply believe in a false view. Even though things do not exist from their own side, they appear to us to exist that way, and we believe this false view to be true. Things appear that way due to our hallucinated mind, just as due to the effects of drugs on their senses, people can hear others talking even when there’s nobody there or see things upside down or in different colors. Due to the effects of disease, drugs, or mantra power, people can see many things that aren’t true, and then believe them to be true.

This ignorance interferes in your bringing all sentient beings to liberation and to the everlasting happiness of full enlightenment. You can’t reveal the right path from experience unless you have the wisdom realizing emptiness. By not allowing you to develop this wisdom, this ignorance harms you and all sentient beings, directly or indirectly. This ignorance not knowing the nature of the I is much more harmful than millions of atomic bombs. If we were to remove this ignorance, this concept of a truly existent I and truly existent aggregates, and cease its imprint, no matter how many atomic bombs there were, they couldn’t harm us. Why not? Because we wouldn’t have this gross, suffering body. Without this ignorance and its imprint, there’s no cause to have such a body, which is suffering in nature and can be harmed. No matter how many atomic bombs or other weapons there were, they couldn’t give us the slightest harm as we wouldn’t have this suffering body, and there’s no way physical weapons could harm our mind, which is formless, colorless, shapeless.

The danger from atomic bombs and other external weapons is nothing compared to the danger from our ignorance, which believes, while the I, aggregates, and so forth do not exist from their own side, that they do exist from their own side. The most dangerous thing is to follow this ignorance for a day, an hour, a minute, or even a second. If we don’t have negative karma, weapons alone can’t cause us to be born in the lower realms. But if we have negative karma, even if we aren’t killed by weapons, we will be born in the lower realms, where there is the heaviest suffering. This ignorance of ultimate nature is the one that created this suffering body and mind, the container for so many problems.

Therefore, we need to realize emptiness. To wait even one second to do this is too long—it’s like waiting for eons. The concept of true existence doesn’t allow you to bring the numberless sentient beings to liberation and to full enlightenment, and it makes you continuously harm other sentient beings, directly or indirectly. Without thinking about others but just about yourself, you receive unbelievable harm from this ignorance. It causes you to be born in the six realms and tortures you with all these sufferings. No matter how much poison we could swallow, the harm from that would be nothing compared to the harm from this ignorance that we have been keeping in our mental continuum. It’s like keeping in our mind something that is more harmful than numberless atomic bombs and all other weapons, more harmful than all external poisons. This ignorance gives us harm numberless times greater than that from all external dangers.

Since we haven’t eliminated this ignorance, it is extremely urgent that we realize emptiness and that we practice awareness of emptiness in our everyday life. We have to hear about, study, and meditate on emptiness. We should meditate on it not only during our meditation sessions but during our daily life. We have to practice awareness of emptiness as much as possible.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching in Auckland, New Zealand, October 1990. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ailsa Cameron.