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.

Purpose of Life; Awareness of Impermanence and Death

Yeah, so first I want to say hello to everyone.

Yeah then, this time so I would like to say thank you very much for everyone who came to do the retreat, to practice Dharma, so I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart having put effort into this. Certainly this retreat, definitely, certainly it will make shorter in samsara, to be shorter in samsara, to be much less in samsara, in the suffering realm, that which continuation does not have beginning. So something which did not have beginning, suffering which did not have beginning we are trying to end. So isn't that important job? Huh?

So retreat means that, so retreat means our suffering that which continuation did not have beginning, even Buddha cannot see beginning, we are trying to have end, we are trying to end, something which didn't end yet, so far, we are trying to end, to finish, no more suffering, no more death, no more rebirth, no more old age, no more makeup , no more sicknesses, no more medicine, no more doctors - I'm joking anyway.

So, anyway, to finish all the oceans of human being sufferings, oceans of the worldly gods, suras, asuras, those sufferings, and as well as oceans of hell beings suffering and hungry ghosts, preta beings sufferings and then as well as animal beings, oceans of animal beings sufferings, so that we do not have to experience any more.

So definitely practices what we will be doing during this retreat, meditations and preliminary practices, so meditating on the three principles of the path, renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, listening to teachings on the Heart Sutra, the Essence of Wisdom. All the practices that we are going to do, the result is that. So definitely purifies so many hundreds, thousands, eons past negative karmas, and by meditating, by listening to teachings, makes so much preparation in the mind that to end suffering of samsara soon, to be much closer to the cessation of all the suffering and causes, the karma and delusions. It looks difficult but if one practice Dharma, delusion and karma looks difficult, so like that, like when there is sickness, the sickness itself looks very painful if we just continue to experience but if you take medicine it can be recovered. But if you don't take medicine, if you don't do anything of course you continuously experience, let it to happen, of course it is very unbearable, but if you take the solution, such as taking medicine, correct treatment from the doctor, then you are able to solve that problem.

So similar here as long as we don't practice Dharma, so of course delusion, karma, is very, is so powerful that you are completely controlled by this all the time, but because it's causative phenomena like the sicknesses, which are causative phenomena so by taking medicine you can stop that. Due to another cause and conditions it can be stopped. Similar, by practicing Dharma, since delusion and karma, the cause of the suffering, is causative phenomena, it is not permanent phenomena, so therefore by practicing Dharma, the solution practicing Dharma, then it can be ceased, the cause of the suffering, delusion and karma, can be ceased, can be controlled, can be ceased. So, in this way, then all the suffering can be ceased, can be stopped.

So therefore, during this time, whether one understand what is emptiness or not, by this it is not saying that - anyway, doesn't matter. So even one didn't understand, didn't get clue or didn't idea of what is emptiness, but even one didn't get clue or didn't get the understanding what is emptiness, but there are many other practices, not just meditating on emptiness, so therefore during these two or three days that so much of the negative karma get purified. So much positive imprint will be left on the mental continuum in these few days, in this short time, so much positive imprint will be left, that which, so much preparation will be done in the mind to achieve everlasting happiness, the liberation from samsara, not only that, then highest happiness or the great liberation, the full enlightenment. So there will be so much preparation done on one's own mental continuum for that.

In other words, purpose of our life, meaning, is as I often say not just to solve only one's own problems and to obtain happiness just for oneself; the purpose of one's own life that is to free the numberless of other sentient beings, who want happiness, who do not want suffering, to free them from all the sufferings and to cause perfect happiness towards all sentient beings, including full enlightenment, the great liberation. So that is the purpose of our life, that is the ultimate goal of our life. So therefore, we need to build potential for this, increase or build potential, need to generate the path to enlightenment, method and wisdom generate and develop. So, this is what we are going to do, so what is going to happen during this short time, the few days, is this. So therefore, so this is what to attempt. So therefore, so must attempt as much as possible to do the practices during this retreat.

Yeah, then, so before the discourse then we're going to do the preliminary meditation, prayer, to pacify obstacles and to receive blessings. So, begin with paying homage to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, our kind compassionate Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and Triple Gem.


Do not engage any unwholesome action, that which means any harmful action towards oneself and especially towards other sentient beings.

Then engage in perfect wholesome action, which means perfect beneficial action that which causes only happiness towards oneself and especially towards other sentient beings. So the way to do this is by subduing one's own mind, by guarding one's own mind from the delusions, so that's what it's saying, Subdue one's own mind and this is the teaching of the Buddha.

So next one, the essence to recollect the nature of our lives, the impermanence and death, and that constantly change, decaying. One's own life, body, possessions, surrounding people, enemy, friend, so forth, all these causative phenomena are changing, decaying, they do not last even within every second, even within each second. So that these things can be stopped any time.

[long pause]

Just two, I think night before last, maybe last night, I think, so I got mixed up the times. I think last night, anyway, so at the dinner, the other night, that did not, one couple that I knew some time ago, friend of Moon, so at the dinner table there were some business people. People around who have well accomplished wealth, so anyway, so one person, the husband of the family was talking to them that, Oh such and such this person died and such and such a person died by helicopter recently somewhere and such and such a person died by car accident or something, this and that, so a few people he mentioned who died recently. Some by car accidents or broke legs or this and that, quite a number of things. So anyway, there's not talking some years ago - not like that. This is recent things, just recently happened, so everybody was kind of shocked.

So of course when you hear death, it's kind of, especially if one doesn't expect or doesn't meditate or doesn't read the teachings on impermanence and death, which is the nature of life. This is not the first time to experience, the impermanence-death is not the first time to experience, this is not the first time this life, it's not the first time to experience, which is part of, which is shortcomings of samsara, that we experience numberless times, time without beginning, rebirth, samsaric rebirth without beginning, we experienced numberless times, this is not the first time to experience death, impermanence-death.

So, [pause] so it becomes big shock to the mind, it's the nature of life but because you don't meditate and one doesn't read the teachings on that or doesn't meditate, doesn't expect, but it's something that even you don't try to think of it, even one try to not think of it, it doesn't help because it's part of, it's nature of the life that one has to go through. Until we overcome the cycle of death and rebirth by our mind, not by machines, not by medicine, some medicine or machines, but by our mind, so to be able to overcome, to be able to have control over this, to be able to be free from this, to abandon this, to be free from this, the cycle of death and rebirth of the samsara, then we need to actualize, we need to approach our mind to that level of path. In the Lesser Vehicle path, one need to achieve arya path, when one achieve arhatship then one has control over, one is free from this, then one, when we achieve, according to Mahayana path, when we achieve the arya path, the third right-seeing path, Mahayana right-seeing path, then we have overcome, that time then we are free from the cycle of death and rebirth. Then that time we have overcome this.

There are five paths to achieve full enlightenment, the third path, Mahayana right-seeing path, and then in tantra, the Mahayana secret mantra, Vajrayana, then Highest Tantra, there is two stages, generation stage and completion stage, so completion stage, so there are five categories, the isolation of body and speech and mind, that which is clear light, then illusory body, then unification of those two, then the unification of no more learning. So when you achieve, when you have achieved the clear light, after having achieved the clear light, then you have overcome death, then you experience no more death, the suffering death and suffering rebirth, which means samsaric death and rebirth.

So until one develop one's own mind up to those levels of path, then one has to experience the cycle of death and rebirth. As it is mentioned in the teachings, by achieving the arya path, the Mahayana arya path, the right-seeing path, since from this time then the bodhisattva, the arya being, has completely abandoned, is free from the rebirth, old age, sicknesses, the death.

So therefore, so that these people, so these things happened, already happened impermanence-death suddenly [gap in recording] happening every day in the same country, in the same city, in the same world, in the same country, in the same city, it's every day happening, day and night. So now, so therefore we are unbelievable fortunate that so far it didn't happen to us. It's a miracle.

Maybe put it this way - it's magic! Magic is more clear , it's not black magic, I don't mean it's black magic, maybe not black magic. Anyway, it's magic that we still survived, nothing happened to us. And on the top of this, surviving, yes, it's magic, yes it's very, well, one way it's extraordinary, it's magic.

But then one way of thinking [pause], yeah, if one, the survival, being alive, survival, if this is used to abandon the cause of suffering, non-virtue, and to practice the cause of happiness, the virtue, the good karma, then really that life is special, then really magic, that worth, especially able to benefit for other sentient beings, able to use your life to be beneficial for others, to be useful for others, then by practicing good heart towards others, then the life that one has been survived or being alive, is really special, is really extraordinary, really worthwhile. Otherwise, surviving just, without practice of good heart, then even without Dharma practice, so the life did not become beneficial even for yourself, even for your own happiness. Life has been used, since one doesn't protect one's own mind, doesn't practice Dharma, then the attitude of life is always non-virtue. If you let it go, whatever happens, let it happen, then the old mind that we have is delusion, ignorance, anger, and attachment. The old mind, if we just let it happen, let be myself, you let to be yourself, then what happens is so…

[tape ends]

…your old self, what happens is, the mind what has been habituated is delusion, ignorance, anger, attachment, from beginningless rebirth until now, what the mind has been familiar or has been habituated, living together with the delusions. So therefore, if one let to be oneself, the old self, the old mind, then what happens one becomes continual samsaric being, one become continual circler, so then suffering has no end, your suffering of samsara has no end, becomes endless. So if one let oneself to be what you are.

So therefore, when we analyze like this, so if one doesn't get to practice good heart, if one doesn't get to practice even Dharma, then I think, abandon at least the cause of the suffering and practice correct cause of happiness, the virtue, then in this way then at least there's some benefit to yourself, now and in the future, especially the future, the long run, in all the future lives, by the way even this life. The life one is benefited by the way also in this life. So without this, the life, how long one live, how long one is able to live, survive, able to survive, by making so much expenses on this body, to take care of this body, by making thousands of dollars, ten thousands of dollars, making so much expenses to take care of this body, even one is able to make this body healthy and able to live for a long time, hundreds or even thousands, even one is able to live for thousands of years, the life become useless, life become completely empty and useless. Not only useless but harmful because the way the life is used is only to create negative karma, cause of the suffering, so the life is used only to create the cause to harm to oneself, now and in the future. So therefore, in one way, just being alive doesn't mean, kind of it doesn't mean anything, because has no meaning, no purpose in that way.

So however the conclusion is that, so many people in the world, in the same country, in the same city, died, that last year, last month, last week, yesterday, today, so so many people haven't met Dharma, they died without having met Dharma. So many hundred thousands of them died without having met Dharma, without Dharma wisdom, what is the right thing to practice, what is the wrong thing to abandon, the cause of happiness, unmistaken cause of happiness, unmistaken cause of suffering.

So therefore without any opportunity to practice and to purify negative karma, without any opportunity at least to purify the past negative karmas, so even that didn't happen. Just only created additional negative karma in this life, besides past negative karmas. But nothing happened, nothing got purified because haven't met Dharma, so therefore no opportunity to practice anything, besides having opportunity to meditate on lam-rim, the renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, leave aside opportunity to practice Mahayana, the secret mantra, Vajrayana, tantra, so didn't get opportunity to leave at least the imprint by listening to teachings of the Buddhadharma, which makes great preparation in the mind by planting at least the imprint to achieve the liberation from the samsara, the great liberation, the full enlightenment. So therefore we are extremely fortunate that we have this opportunity to practice Dharma, especially to practice lam-rim, the steps of the path to enlightenment, the heart of the whole entire Buddhism, or the Buddha's teachings.


So having met unmistaken teaching of the Buddhadharma, what one is going to practice, what one is going to devote one's own life is something unmistaken, something that doesn't cheat you, doesn't mislead you. If it's practiced it only brings to liberation from samsara and the state of omniscient mind, full enlightenment. It brings, it leads you only to the happiness.

[long pause]

So going to read the Essence of Wisdom.

[Recitation of Heart Sutra in English]

..their minds have no obstructions, no far - no fear! I said "no far" . Anyway, as long as it's something which exists, then it's okay, doesn't matter. But if I say some word that doesn't exist maybe, as long as something exists then that means it has to be empty, so it's okay "no" . As long as some word comes out some phenomenon which exists then it's okay .

[Continues recitation, Lion-face Dakini]

So we visualize the Manjushri and then when we do Heart Sutra meditation then it's good to visualize, good to also practice Manjushri, since that is the deity of wisdom, embodiment of all the Buddhas' wisdom.

[Praise to Manjushri]

Then we do morning prayers .


[pal den tsa wai...]


The lam-rim prayer.

[Foundation of All Good Qualities]

So I do the oral transmission of the Essence of Wisdom tonight.

[short mandala, sang gye cho dang....]