The Hallucinating Mind

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #996)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at Kopan Course No. 27, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov-Dec, 1994.

This is an excerpt from Lecture Four of the course. Lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche after the first US course in California, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

The wisdom that perceives the object in a way completely opposed to ignorance is not just any wisdom. It perceives the ultimate nature of phenomena, that which is emptiness, the absence of inherent existence; that things are devoid of, or empty of, existing from their own side.

According to our perception, according to our mind, the nature of phenomena that actually exists looks like it doesn’t exist. The nature of the phenomena that exists, which is emptiness, according to our perception, according to our mind, looks like it doesn’t exist. What exists looks like it doesn’t exist. What we believe to exist, according to our perception and according to our mind, actually doesn’t exist. So it’s completely the opposite to how it really is. So far, for me and for many of us, this is how it has been.

Then, we have to go back from here to the subject of guru devotion. If we are arguing or debating, there are so many examples of our mistaken thought—we think, “I could see this; I have actually seen this and that.” The hallucinatory mind actually sees so many things, but they are all mistaken. All these things—I, action and object, everything—are all empty of existing from their own side. Ignorance, the hallucinatory mind, actually sees everything as inherently existent, as real, as appearing from there.

Using the logic that “I actually see the object” doesn’t become the logic to prove that object exists. It doesn’t prove that object exists, that how it appears is true in reality. Just saying “I actually see it,” doesn’t become the logical reason to prove that object exists, that it is true as we see it; that it is true as it appears. Thinking, “Because I see it, because it appears to me, even the word I actually see;” all this doesn’t actually prove that what appears as true accords with reality. It doesn’t prove that it exists, that it accords with reality. That reason doesn’t cover this.

All these mistakes arise [from believing this.] Like the example I gave, if we use the logic that this is reality because this is how it appears to us or this is how we see it, then when a sick person hallucinates due to having been given a powerful drug, then that will also apply. While under the influence of the drug, all sorts of things appear, but even though that sick person sees them, that does not prove they exist.

While the power of the drugs has not gone away, has not degenerated, some people see very frightening appearances and some people see very peaceful, very desirable appearances, such as a mandala. This depends on the person’s karma, their state of mind. Somebody else can have very terrifying appearances, for example,, by eating datura, seeing the whole earth, all the ground as worms; seeing everything moving, all the ground.

I myself haven’t taken datura yet. [Rinpoche laughs] But one student who went to Lawudo, who went to the mountain where I go sometimes to have a good sleep; one very tall American guy spent maybe six months at Lawudo. He had a tent and he used to move to different spots around Lawudo, the mountain. One time he asked me whether he could put his tent on the roof of the rock, above the cave, so I said okay. There are dogs next to the cave and another dog a little bit below. At night time when he was sleeping, he moved his head on the pillow, which was the same material as his sleeping bag and it made a noise. The dog was a little bit far down, but I think it thought it was taking responsibility for the house. It was very sensitive to noise, so it heard the sound the pillow made. Each time the American moved his head, he made a noise and each time the dog barked. Because of that, he couldn’t get to sleep, but the dog’s barking came from the noise he was making. I don’t think he realized he was disturbing the dog. [Rinpoche laughs] I think he didn’t realize that.

Anyway, he told me he got so angry he even had the thought to kill the dog. [Rinpoche laughs]

I think he wanted to move the dog’s place far away, something like that, I’m not sure. Anyway, my sister wanted to move it back. I don’t remember exactly, but he rubbed the dog’s house, which was just a piece of wood. I think in order to not move the house back, he rubbed the piece of wood with the dog’s kaka. [Rinpoche laughs] He’s a very nice guy!

Nobody had electricity up there. Now there is electricity in Namche Bazaar. I think in some parts there is now electricity, but at that time—quite a number of years ago, when I was spending the whole summer building the monastery—at that time maybe the Australian government was trying to build a power station down below Lawudo. I think they started to build it, but a flood came from the mountain. A lake burst and flowed down the mountain, washing away many houses and people. Many of those near the river were washed away. One time, a big mountain lake overflowed and washed away what they had built down there for the electricity. Anyway, nobody had electricity, but he had electricity in his tent because he used a solar panel. When there was good sunshine he put the solar panel outside the tent, so at night he had electricity in the tent. Inside the tent there was electricity; inside the tent was very pleasant. [Rinpoche laughs]

Anyway, not when he was on the roof of the cave, but when he was living somewhere else, far from the cave, he found some datura growing there. So he cooked a pot of the datura. I didn’t know this. After a few days he came down to tell me, but only after he had gone through all the experiences. [Rinpoche laughs] He said that he had even died. It was quite a number of days before he came, otherwise we wouldn’t recognize him, we wouldn’t know. Anyway, he took some datura and cooked it in a pot. After eating the datura he heard so many noises, like people talking. And the whole ground, all the dirt, started moving, you know, everything was alive, filled with creatures, all the dirt was moving. I think he had a very hard time. [Rinpoche laughs] His lips got cracked and his mouth became very dry. I think he had a very hard time. He had a very hard time, a very difficult time. Then maybe I think he met an Italian student who was retreating there—not at Lawudo but in the next village, called Gandopa, where we used to get water from the stream. At that time there was an Italian student there in retreat and somehow he went to see him. I think that might have helped.

So anyway, the main thing is the datura; the main topic is that he had eaten datura and he had this experience. That’s the main point. With his hallucinating mind, he actually heard all these people talking—he heard so many noises—and with his hallucinating mind, he actually saw all the dirt moving, becoming living beings. He saw it, but it was not true.

It’s the same thing when we have a dream and we see things: having a wedding party, getting married, having many children, receiving millions of dollars and so forth—all these things. In the dream, the hallucinatory mind actually sees these things, but just because we see these things doesn’t prove that they exist. It doesn’t mean they are true.

If they were true then all these things we see in the dream—the things our own hallucinating mind actually sees —after we wake up from our sleep, then there should be all these children, or there should be millions of dollars. Whatever we saw in the dream should exist; we should see all those things even after we wake up from the sleep. If it can happen like this, then these things cost nothing. We just go to bed, we just go to sleep, and it costs nothing to have weddings or parties. We just go to bed and that’s it. We don’t have to pay anything;, we don’t have to buy a lottery ticket or anything to get millions of dollars. We just go to sleep and that’s it. Then we have all these things after we wake up from our sleep.

The conclusion is that now it becomes clear that this line of reasoning doesn’t prove that things exist. What we actually see, what actually appears to us, all this doesn’t prove—this reason doesn’t cover, doesn’t prove that it exists, that it is like that in reality.

Then also, on top of this, there are many things we don’t remember. We don’t even remember how our own consciousness was conceived in our mother’s womb. We don’t remember that. All our experience in our mother’s womb, being in our mother’s womb for nine months, we don’t remember that. Even how we were born most people don’t remember. Most of us don’t remember how we came out, even our time of birth. There are so many things that we did in our life that we don’t remember; that we experienced but we don’t remember.

There is no question about the future. We can’t see a hundred percent what’s going to happen to us in the next hour. We can’t tell. We can’t see what’s going to happen to us in the next hour, so there’s no question about the future. The things that exist that we can’t see are infinite.