Kopan Course No. 35 (2002) (Audio and unedited transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #1410)

The following are excerpts of the teachings given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the 35th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2002. The audio quality is only fair, but it gives a sense of the unique style of teachings given during this very popular course.

You can also read an edited excerpt, The Kindness of Other Sentient Beings, which was included in the July 2003 monthly e-letter.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Sera Je Monastery, Mysore, India, 2013-2014. Photo: Bill Kane.
Introduction and Motivation


Good evening. So I thought I just chat tonight, just chat a little bit.

Those who heard Dharma already in the past, from teachings, read, have read, have some knowledge what Buddhism is and some never heard or have heard or never heard, any idea what the Buddha teaching is. However, I think make decision, having made the decision to come from so far, from very far, to Nepal, to Kopan, anyway, come very, very far, you know, with all the expenses, like stopping job, preparing many months before, your earning or living, the job stop that and thinking that this is more important to learn meditation, to learn meditation, to learn Buddhadharma. So coming over from very far here in Nepal, at Kopan Monastery to do course I think that, I would say it’s the best decision you have made. It’s the best decision you have made. That’s what I would like to comment. Best choice you did in the life.

I mean, to start with, you know, especially to develop or to grow the mind, the human mind which has all the potential, by having this precious human body that gives all the freedom or opportunity to develop the mind, to develop the mind in the path and complete the path. It’s not just on… this is not just ongoing, with no ending, no end, never finish the work, meditating, never finish purifying, never finish doing practice of purification; never finish doing the practice of collecting merit; never finish meditating, it’s not like that. there’s end to that. There is .. you do it, you continue it, there is completion. You see, you finish your purpose of meditating, there is no more to put effort, to meditate, you know, to practice Dharma. There is end for that. There is completion.

It’s not like works of this life. Work of this life it’s stop by death, you know, without a choice but otherwise there is no end for meaningless work, works of this life, works of attachment, there is no end. There is no completion. And works of samsara there is no end. As it didn’t have beginning, you know, works of samsara, following the delusion, ignorance, anger, attachment, did not have beginning. We do that from beginningless rebirth, still did not finish, didn’t end. That’s why, still we do not, still we didn’t get out, still we didn’t get overcome the cycle of death and rebirth, old age, sicknesses, circling of the sufferings, so far we didn’t get overcome. So like that.

But here Dharma, but here Dharma practice has end. You continue till you complete. So there is difference. It’s not endless thing to practice. So you practice Dharma, there is a goal, you can achieve the goal, to finish, your work is finished. Your work, the purifying the mind and ceasing the delusion, defilements and completing the path, completing the realization, there is end for that.

Then without any effort, motivation, that, spontaneously, spontaneously, naturally, spontaneously you work for sentient beings, by manifesting various forms with the body, speech and mind and you become Buddha, like limitless sky you manifest to sentient beings and spontaneously, naturally benefit the sentient beings until everyone become enlightened, that which is the ultimate aim of our life, purpose of living or practice. Purpose for living, purpose to be alive for this human body, and purpose of practice, meditation.

So in our life there is no greater objective, there is no greater objectivity or there is no greater goal to achieve than that, liberating the numberless living beings who want happiness, who do not want suffering and who need your help. You have to free them, you have the opportunity to help this time, because you have receive body this time, which enables you to understand Dharma, to learn Dharma, able to practice, able to actualize path. So they, they need your help. They are dependent to you. So there is no greater objectivity or goal or greater success in this, in the life to achieve, than benefit others. And in the life there is nothing greater than, there is nothing greater to enjoy the life than working for this goal, liberating sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them in full enlightenment. Not just bring happy, not just bring the temporal happiness, you know, which is of nature of suffering, but bringing ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara, and especially full enlightenment, the peerless happiness.

So there is no … in the life there is no greater enjoyment than this. There is no greater happiness than this in the life, working for sentient beings. For that purpose, to be able to, to be able to do that perfectly then to achieve this goal, full enlightenment, complete the path, ___ of one’s heart. So there is no more important practice than that, there is no more … there is no greater happiness than this in your life to, to practice or work for enlightenment, which working for sentient beings.

With this attitude, you know having this goal, having this goal in the life, it beautifies, it beautifies everything, it beautifies your whole life, gives meaning to, gives meaning to … each breathing, breathing in and out, in twenty-four hours your are breathing in and out, gives meaning, gives meaning, each minute survival, being alive gives, it gives skies of meaning. Very moment the life, very minute, very second of life … in the life, makes so … for this purpose, sleeping, eating, you know, even doing job, to make money for … to be able to practice, to be able to help others, however, gives meaning to, gives meaning, makes life so rich, gives meaning to everything whatever you do. Every single drink, every single spoon of food, eating, very single chapatti, , eating like chapatti, spending the life eating, spoon of rice, eating dahl, anyway I am joking. So it gives meaning to everything. Gives purpose like limitless, like limitless sky, the purpose, gives meaning to everything, what we do, with this attitude, with this goal, you see, having all sentient beings in your heart to, to work … to benefit them. All the travelling that you for this purpose, every money that we spend, every rupee or every dollar that we spend for this purpose and every step that we make, it gives so much meaning, limitless skies of meaning it has. So like that.

So what I want to say, it is extremely kind of you to come here to learn meditation, from very far, coming from very far. This is what I would like to say.

Why? Why? This is the answer, that what you have been doing, since your coming here, what you have been doing, this is the answer to the, this is the answer, best answer to solve your own problems, to achieve happiness for oneself, to bring peace and happiness each of your, each of your, you know, individual lives, to achieve peace and happiness, to achieve peace and happiness, now and in the future this is the best. And not only that to benefit, the life is to … our life, as I mentioned before is to benefit others. To benefit others. Why we are born, is to benefit others, you know, born as human beings, why we took this body that can communicate, can learn so much is to benefit others. So you can’t really benefit others if you, if your mind, if, with selfish mind you can’t benefit to others, with the ignorance you can’t benefit others, it becomes obstacle to benefit. Self cherishing thought is obstacle to benefit others. Self cherishing thought becomes obstacle for the happiness of other sentient beings, which use to accomplish happiness for other sentient beings. It is the main enemy, selfish mind is the main enemy for you to help others, to accomplish happiness for other sentient beings. That’s the main enemy, the selfish mind, doesn’t allow.

Then the other one, the other one is ignorance that limits, makes limitation to benefit other, for you to benefit others. It interferes to develop your capacity, you see, to develop compassion, to develop wisdom. So with ignorance, anger, and attachment cannot be actualized, with this mind cannot benefit others. So anyway, to be able to benefit other sentient beings one, we need … our own mind trained, in a simple way of saying, peaceful, well-tamed mind, those disturbing thoughts subdued. With the mind, the realizations, opposite to ignorance, opposite to selfish mind, opposite to attachment, opposite to anger, those positive thoughts, those are healthy mind, those peaceful mind, healthy mind, not sick mind, healthy mind, you see, not sickness of attachment, not sickness of anger, not sickness of those emotional thoughts, you see, ignorance and chronic disease, ego and self cherishing thought that has been there from beginningless rebirth, chronic disease, the ego, self-cherishing thought.

The good heart, bodhicitta, good heart, opposite to the selfish attitude, and then wisdom, opposite to ignorance.Then opposite to attachment, contentment, satisfaction, having satisfaction in the heart, mind is content, you know, having satisfaction, detachment, that peaceful healthy mind. Because of detach, so because of detach so no worry, no fear. Mind has no worry, no fear. Free from all the expectation, so no worry, no fear. Free, very happy, peaceful. Then tolerant, patient mind, peaceful mind, that happy, peaceful, healthy mind, patience, opposite to anger. So anyway, so if the mind is not in this positive, in this positive mind, these realizations, can’t really benefit to others, can’t really benefit to others.

However, without knowing the path, for example, if you don’t know how to go to, from here to Kathmandu, lets say, you know, if you don’t know how to go, if you don’t know the road, you can’t, you can’t bring anybody, you can’t guide to, you can’t guide, you know, bring, say, guide, bring to Kathmandu where they wish to be, like that example. You don’t know the road, there is danger you might mislead them. And you don’t know what Kathmandu is. What you don’t Kathmandu look like and anyway … so then depend on what really liberation is, no idea what, what is really liberation is, no idea at all. Then how can one lead sentient beings to the everlasting happiness of the, ultimate happiness, the total liberation from whole entire suffering and cause, delusion and karma. So doesn’t know anything about, then one has no path how to achieve that, how to go about to the liberation. So until one achieve that, it’s all … until one achieve that, one experience suffering continuously from, continuously life after life, life after life. So one will have to experience without end until one achieve that total liberation.

So therefore one needs to, like that cannot, without knowing the path there is no way to guide others to liberation. No way to, you to, no way that you can liberate others, to cease completely the whole entire suffering and cause, delusion and karma, to make it impossible others to experience that, you can’t do that. So one has to learn all the paths, one has to learn one has to understand words, meanings, then by reflecting, meditating then one, then the realization comes. Then your mind transforms into the path to liberation, the whole path to liberation, your mind becomes the path, your mind become path which ceases the, which ceases the defilements, the delusion and karma, gross defilements. Then using the subtle defilements, say … then able to achieve enlightenment.

The path that, the path that which ceases all the defilement, it’s your own mind, the actual one is not from the outside, path that liberates you, that’s your own mind that transform into path. So all these realizations. Path of merit, preparatory path, right-seeing path, path of meditation, no more learning, so one has to proceed in these five paths to liberation and one has to proceed to able to achieve enlightenment, in order to liberate numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them in full enlightenment, five Mahayana paths and the ten bhumis, following the Paramitayana path. And to bring the sentient beings, to bring the sentient beings to full enlightenment quickly, then on the basis of what is revealed from the lesser vehicle teachings, the four noble truths, on the basis of that then Paramitayana teaching. Then on the basis of that one practices tantra, to be able to enlighten sentient beings quickly, so that they don’t have to suffer long time in samsara. So the method is oneself to achieve enlightenment quickly. So for that reason one practices tantra which offers that skilful means to cease the defilements quickly. Like that, in that way then able to achieve enlightenment quickly.

Then there are four classes of tantra—Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Anuttara Yoga Tantra, Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra—so the last one, the fourth one and then that from one’s own side even one, from one’s own side to achieve enlightenment, not(?) benefit for other sentient beings, even one, even oneself has to born in the hell realm and suffer, how long? Equaling … for eons, equaling number of the … how many eon, how many eons? Equaling number of the drops of ocean, Pacific Ocean. From one’s own side to achieve enlightenment for other sentient beings, even one has to suffer in the hell realm for that many number of eons, one … I can do that. but the sentient beings, from the side of the sentient beings suffering even for one second in samsara is so unbearable for me, I can’t stand, just like suffering for eons but being in samsara suffering for eons for one second can’t stand it, so unbearable. So therefore I need, therefore I need them to bring to enlightenment as quick as possible. For that I need to achieve enlightenment as quick as possible.

By practicing lower tanta, you can achieve enlightenment within one life which is so much quicker than Paramitayana path, Paramitayana path. By practicing only Paramitayana path, you have to collect, you know, in order to achieve enlightenment you have to collect merits for three countless great eons, for incredible length of time you have to collect merit, and in that way, that to complete path and receive enlightenment. It didn’t, it doesn’t offer, Paramitayana path doesn’t have, it doesn’t have the greatest skill that makes you to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. So it takes incredible length of time.

Now, the lower tantra, by practicing lower tantra, the Charya Tantra, Annuttara Yoga Tantra … say, Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Annuttara Yoga Tantra, by practicing that it makes you to achieve full enlightenment in one life but it cannot … by practicing that you cannot, just on that you can’t achieve enlightenment in brief lifetime of degenerated time. You see, in a brief lifetime of degenerated time. Degenerated means life much shorter. Then brief lifetime is even much shorter. In a brief lifetime of degenerated time. So because the lower tantra doesn’t, doesn’t have the … the skill that, the skilful means to actualize clear light, the clear light and illusory body, the unification of those two. Doesn’t have skill to make possible to … to actualize this path, such as the clear light. Didn’t have that method, which is quickest method to achieve enlightenment, it doesn’t reveal, the path didn’t have.

But the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra path has that technique, has that method. So that by practicing that, that means, basis of the lesser vehicle, what … lesser vehicle teaching shows, the four noble truths and then the Paramitayana path, on the basis of that then the practicing the Maha-anuttara Tantra, then one is able to achieve, practicing that, by practicing that correctly then one is able to achieve that complete path, which comes in two … the preliminary, the graduate generation stage, which has gross and subtle, which comes in two parts—gross and subtle. Then the graduate completion stage, the second one, the isolation of the body, speech and mind, isolation of mind that which is clear light, then this illusory body, unification of those two, then unification of no more learning, like that.

So what I was saying before, so without knowledge of the, without knowledge of all these paths, different levels, different levels of path, without knowledge of all this, and without, and without oneself having realizations of this path cannot, cannot, cannot do perfect work for other sentient beings. Cannot, cannot do perfect work for other sentient beings. To be able to reveal the path, to be able to reveal the path, to be able to reveal the method exactly that it fits to their level of mind, level of mind, characteristic of their mind, level of their karma, according to their karma, according to the level of their merit, like that then you have to bring them to, from happiness to happiness to enlightenment. So cannot, cannot do perfect work for the sentient beings.

So that’s one of the reasons why I say … why I said that you made the best decision coming here to learn meditation. So what you have been learning, and what you have been meditating is the foundation, the essence, lam rim, the essence of the path to enlight… not only to liberation but to the great liberation the full enlightenment. What you have been meditating, what you have been learning is the essence of path. The integration of 84,000 teachings taught by Buddha, the integration of the all the paths, you see, in the essence, the renunciation samsara, bodhicitta, and the right view. The very important, the whole teaching, the whole path, the very essence, the foundation of tantra. Foundation of tantra practice quick path to enlightenment. Like the ground before we grow, like the ground before we build the house, like that.

So, how important it is, how important this is, to benefit for other sentient beings, to help other sentient beings, how important it is, how essential it is, by developing, my meditating, by transforming your mind, into this path. The essential path that without renunciation nothing for it to becomes cause of, to achieve liberation, including meditation, including the action practicing meditation, doing meditation, then all the rest of the activities that, all the rest activities that we do in our daily—eating, walking, sleeping, sitting, doing job, all these things, nothing becomes, even including action of, even including the action doing meditation, nothing becomes cause to achieve liberation, liberation even for oneself.

Then without right view nothing of this becomes, nothing of this becomes remedy to samsara. Nothing of this can cut, direct remedy to delusion, particular the ignorance, unknowing mind. While the I, while the self, I, the mind and body, so forth, these aggregates—form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, their nature, their nature is empty of existing from its own side. That’s the ultimate nature. That’s how things are. But our hallucinatory mind, ignorance, projected truly existent appearance, appearing truly existent appearance, you know, our hallucinatory mind, the wrong concept, the ignorance, decorate hallucination, like we decorate the carpets on the floor or we decorate pictures on the wall, like decorate, cover the table, this brocade. So anyway, decorate, cover up our hallucinatory mind, ignorance decorate hallucination, inherently existent appearance or truly, another word of expression, truly existent or existing by its nature. When you look at the phenomena or the how the phenomena, including the I appears, existing by its nature, existing from its own side. A real one appearing from there. So all these, so all that path is hallucinations, all that path is projected, all these are projected from one’s, by one’s own wrong concept, hallucinatory mind, the ignorance.

That is like magician person, that is like magician person. Then you are the, you are like the audience. That magician person hallucinated the, hallucinate the audience’s senses. And audience, the people they see things… the magician person, with his mantras and so forth, a stone or piece of wood or something, by doing the mantra, which hallucinates the audience’s senses. So then the public, the audience they see, anyway, amazing things I think that’s the simplest word, anyway, manifest beautiful man or woman or elephant or yak, you know, you know, beautiful yak, beautiful yak they can create the whole, they can create the whole … they can create whole palace, whole city, they can illusion, they can illusion, they can perform like that hallucination. Like that. They can perform by hallucinating the people’s mind.

So however, so then audience, so yourself, through ignorance like the magician person illusion you, illusion to yourself created all these hallucinations then while everything, I and the, what the mind aggregates – form, sound, smell, taste, tangible objects, all the phenomena they, they exist, they exist but they do not exist from their own side, they are totally empty, that this is the reality how they are. But the magician… the ignorant, this magician person that suggests our mind, that ___ our mind that, how that … it’s illusion to you, illusion, totally illusion to you and you believe this is real. Didn’t know, you have no, you see, no idea, no idea, you don’t know reality what, you don’t reality how things are, no idea at all. So therefore believe all this real, like the audience how they believe, the audience who not knowing this illusion by the magician person but really believing this is real. So exactly, exactly same, exactly same like that.

What I was going to say is, without the right view nothing becomes, nothing can, becomes, you see, during meditation or other activity whatever you do, nothing becomes remedy to samsara, nothing becomes, it cannot cause to cease samsara. It cannot, nothing can directly cease the delusion, particular the ignorance, that very, that … the biggest wrong concept, the fundamental … anyway, foundation of all, the foundation of all other delusions, the biggest wrong concept, hallucinatory mind.

So whatever meditation you do, no meditation, or whatever the rest activities you do, nothing become direct remedy to cut this ignorance. I almost forgot my point. my point, I almost forgot .

So anyway, then the audience, when the people, when they … not knowing this is illusion performed by, illusion performed by the magician person, not knowing that, then believing that that is real, you see, that is, that is the wrong concept, that is ignorance.

So like that, like that, so like that without knowing the very nature of the I, the aggregates, mind and body, the aggregates and the phenomena which is emptiness, emptiness only. Nothing slightest, even atom exist from its own side, nothing there. Nothing exists, even slightest of atom, from its own side. So they exist, they exist but they are empty of existing from their own side. They function in that way. They function while they are empty, they function, they function while they are empty of existing from their, from its own side. They function, existing like causative phenomena, in the death, existing and ceasing, all these things, like born, existing and then ceasing … dying. Birth, existing, death.

However even though the, all the … even though all these phenomena is empty, totally empty of existing from its own side but their functions are happening, they are happening, they are happening while they are empty, they are happening in the, they are happening in mere name, merely imputed by thought, all these functions are happening, it is happening but it’s happening in mere name, merely imputed, merely imputed by thought. Such as cause and effect, anyway, so while everything are empty of existing from its own side then ignorance, the past ignorance left negative imprint on the mental, on our mental continuity and that negative imprint project, project hallucination, project hallucination, as I used the example just before, magician person create the illusion for the people.

So like that, how this ignorance does is, by leaving negative imprint on our mental continuum and that project, that project the hallucination on the, on the merely labelled, on the I which is empty from its own side and which exist in mere name, projected hallucination that the I exist from its own side. Put this cover … remember I mentioned before how the table … brocade, the floor covered by carpet, decorate, you see. Because you haven’t realized, you don’t see, you haven’t discovered, you haven’t discovered, not having realized the very nature of the I, you see, so therefore you have the hallucination, that this hallucination, I existing from its own side, you see, not only, not only appearing that it’s not merely labelled by mind but appearing not merely labelled mind, nothing through your mind, never came through your mind. So appearing like this. So appearing like this. So when the I is appearing back to you, is appearing back something totally different, something … I totally opposite to … totally opposite than reality. Then not only you have this total, not only this totally hallucination …/