Not Believing in Inherent Existence Brings Peace

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Archive #398)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching at the 19th Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 1986. This excerpt from Lecture 1 of the course is lightly edited by Gordon McDougall and Sandra Smith. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Bern, Switzerland, 1990. Photo by Ueli Minder.

The main thing we have to be aware of when we think about the atomic bomb is that it exists in mere name, it is merely imputed by the mind. So the atomic bomb, which appears to exist from its own side without depending on the base and thought labeling—which appears to us as an independent bomb—is empty, it is a hallucination.

Similarly, in all existence in everyday life, we always have these three: the “I” or the self, the action and the object. In everyday life, nothing exists in the slightest from its own side, except what is merely imputed on this basis by thought. Nothing exists in the slightest from its own side, therefore, the conclusion is that there is nothing to cling to; there’s nothing to grasp at or be attached to. There’s no reason to get angry or to feel jealousy or pride. There’s no basis for pride, for example, feeling pride in educational qualities that do not exist from their own side, over somebody who has a lower education.

If we think about evolution, we are aware that all these things exist in mere name and are merely imputed by the thought on the base. It’s okay just practicing awareness of this evolution, so we can understand the way things exist; by the power of practicing awareness of how things are dependent arising—that they depend on the base and the thought merely imputing on the base. So practicing awareness of this with effort, we need to think that things do not exist from their own side. The answer comes from the depth of our heart—the understanding awareness that the subject, action and object that appear to exist from their own side do not exist. This appearance is a complete hallucination; things are empty.

In this way, there is so much relaxation, tranquility and calmness in the mind and things don’t bother us. People or the environment cannot disturb our mind. There is no space in the mind for anger or the dissatisfactory mind of attachment to arise; we can’t find any reason for it. This mind creates disharmony in our relationships and brings a lot of problems and dissatisfaction in our own life, and there is no reason for this mind to arise. Instead of seeing reasons for dissatisfaction, we feel the opposite and problems don’t arise.

Awareness of dependent arising also stops the ignorance that results in constant clinging to the subject, object and actions. We cling to the appearance that subject, object and action exist from their own side, but they are completely empty and not the slightest atom exists. So, in this way, although we have not yet received the ultimate liberation, we are completely free from the cause of suffering—the disturbing thoughts that produce karma. If we have ceased the cause of suffering completely, it is impossible for the disturbing thoughts to arise again. Even if this ultimate liberation has not happened; even if we have not achieved this yet, practicing awareness of this is like liberation, compared to some-one who is suffering and who does not practice awareness of dependent arising of the nature of things—the subject, action, and object—in everyday life. We completely believe in the hallucinations of the world and completely grasp onto these, so our life becomes miserable, with anger, attachment, pride, jealousy and doubt. So many things are confused and we are unable to benefit others. Not only are we miserable and confused, but it interferes with our ability to benefit others.

For example, if we are depressed, we cannot do things and it is difficult for us to talk to others and to help others. However, if we constantly practice awareness, especially of dependent arising, the nature of things, it becomes the best protection from the sufferings of the life. In this way we give ourselves so much freedom.

When our mind is calm, it’s very easy to achieve concentration, with less distraction, and if we achieve concentration very easily, then there is quick success of the realizations. So in this way, in day-to-day life, with the practice of awareness—the virtuous thought of the awareness of dependent arising—we don’t create the karma to take rebirth again; the karma that throws us into samsara in future lives. We do not take the aggregates caused by karma and disturbing thoughts—the container of all problems, the originator or the base from which the problems arise. So in this way, it stops. Then we are able to quickly realize the emptiness of the “I,” the aggregates. By developing the wisdom of emptiness, in this way we are able to stop the continuation of the aggregates—samsara, which means cycle or cycling. These suffering aggregates are under the control of karma and disturbing thoughts, joining from one life to another life, always like this from life-to-life, so this gets stopped. By ceasing these, there is no circling of the suffering of rebirth and death. Once we cease rebirth, there is no death. There is no suffering of death, as well as all the problems between rebirth and death. Old age, sickness and so many other problems completely cease. So, this is the essential, the very basic, the most important meditation if we really wish to be free from problems and their cause; if we do not wish to die.

In my experience of the West, everything is there, but what people have not found or actualized, is how to stop death. Western people have actualized many other things, but the most important thing is missing—they have not tried to stop experiencing death. That is what I normally think, when I go to the markets and the department stores, and see all the machines and things.

In order to stop death, to never experience death or rebirth, we have to realize the cause. We are ignorant of the cause of rebirth and death, the true cause of suffering, which is a mental factor that exists within our own mind. It does not exist outside, separately from our own mind. It does not exist as something else apart from our own mind. We are ignorant of the nature of mind and how things depend on the mind; that the main creator of suffering and happiness is the mind. As long as we point out the main creator of happiness and unhappiness as an outside object, an external thing, then even if we know all the teachings of the Buddhadharma, all the teachings of sutra and tantra, even if we have studied all the five treatises and all the tantric teachings extensively, even intellectually, even if we know all the words—as long as we believe the creator of suffering is not ourselves, but somebody else or some outside object, then I think the problems are still the same, even though we have all the intellectual understanding of the teachings.