In Praise of Dependent Arising (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Sydney, Australia (Archive #881)

Teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Sydney, Australia, in 1993. Rinpoche gives an oral transmission of Lama Tsongkhapa's text, In Praise of Dependent Arising, and teaches on emptiness, karma, and the benefits of bodhicitta.

Click on the audio links to listen online and read along with the unedited transcript. The praise is now freely available as a PDF file, produced by Piero Sirianni, for viewing on your mobile device or computer.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Mexico, January 2000. Photo by Brian Halterman.
Essence of Dharma, Purpose of Life

I wanted to express that I'm very happy to meet all those whom I met numberless times before and those who are first time to meet. So I would like first to thank. And before the discourse, going to recite some meditation prayers. First taking refuge to the kind compassionate Buddha and praise to the Triple Gems, and then looking at, meditation looking at all the causative phenomena in the nature of transitory, trying to be aware in that, then after that the Essence of Wisdom, the meditation prayer, then the direct meditation on the whole graduated path to enlightenment. So like this as a preliminary, to plant a seed of the whole path of enlightenment. Just by hearing the words of the meditation, the words, that which is expressing the whole complete path to the peerless happiness, the full enlightenment. Then after that, then not sure what comes. [Rinpoche recites Shakyamuni Buddha prayer in Tibetan.]

Do not commit any unwholesome action or any harmful action, and to engage in perfect wholesome action or perfect, the complete beneficial action... [pause]

In order to eliminate the cause of all the problems, so these two verses why Buddha said, why the kind compassionate Omniscient One advised this way, that is not just to torture oneself. Not just putting oneself into prison, or rules, just to torture, not like that. That to free oneself, it's a means of freeing oneself from the problems of life and to achieve happiness, temporary, ultimate happiness, so for this purpose, to be free from undesirable, to be free from what one doesn't like, to be free from those things and to have those happiness, peace, desirable things, for that success, to achieve temporary happiness and especially ultimate happiness, for that purpose, Buddha, the Omniscient One, the kind, compassionate Omniscient One advised this, so that ourselves as sentient beings can be free from all undesirable things and can have all the desirable things, all the happiness, peace one is looking for, that one is wishing.

Then, how to do this? Then that depends on the mind. It has to come from the mind. Avoiding harmful actions and the actions which one does to become only beneficial actions, then that depends on subduing one's own mind. So, freeing one's own mind from all the harmful thoughts. Pacifying all those harmful thoughts, all those unhealthy minds, all those disturbing thoughts, that which is disturbing oneself and that which is disturbing towards all other living beings, the numberless living beings.

So enlightened, the Compassionate One said that "subduing one's own mind is the teaching of the Buddha." However, this verse contains the four noble truths: the true suffering and true cause of suffering, the cessation of the sufferings and the true path. So it is one stanza which contains essence of the whole entire Dharma, essence of all the meditations. [Rinpoche chants in Tibetan.]

Look at all the causative phenomena: I, body, mind; friend, enemy, stranger; all the possessions, all the surrounding people; look at them like the star shooting: the star is there, then the next minute when you look at it it's not there. All these causative phenomena, including power, reputation and so forth, all these things, they are in the nature of transitory, like the stars, like the shimmering, for the defected eye senses, like shimmering. Appearing like this. Then like that, like the flickering light, flame, that which can be stopped at any time, like the flame flickering in the midst of the wind, that it can be stopped any time, so all these causative phenomena are like that, that it can be stopped at any time.

Like illusion. Like the water dew, those drops of water on the plant in the mornings or due to misty, so like that, that it can be dropped at any time. Those drops of water on the plant. So like this, these causative phenomena are in the nature of transitory.

Like the water bubble. The water bubble can be popped at any time. Can't trust that it can last for this many hours or for this many minutes, cannot trust. So similar: these causative phenomena, like a water bubble, that which can be popped at any time. So that these causative phenomena also that they can be stopped at any time as they are in the nature of changing within every second by cause and conditions, so that these causative phenomena can be stopped at any time.

Then like a dream: it happened and gone. Appearance happened but it's gone, finished. What we see in the dream, traveling or living with the family or all these things, having so much wealth, whatever, having party or whatever. So the appearance happened and it's gone, so like that, that these causative phenomena are like that. For a short time there is these appearances but cannot trust that they can last a long time. That these things can be stopped at any time, like the dream.

Besides the way that things are appearing to one's own mind as real one, it appears like as if it has nothing to do with one's own mind, the mind which sees objects, without analyzing according to our view, if you look at our view, we have the view that these objects, the way they're appearing to us, the objects that we see, the way that they're appearing to us is nothing to do with one's own mind, the mind which perceives the objects. The object exists from its own side without depending upon our perception, or our mind. So all these things are like dream, like illusion, that is not true, all are completely empty.

So all these causative phenomena are like the lightning. The lightning came and gone. It happened in one second and during that time, while the lightning is happening, suddenly you see many objects. One can see one's own human body and the surrounding people, the place, the materials, there's this appearance. While there's lightning there's this appearance for a few seconds, just happened but then again becomes dark. Again this bright appearance stopped. So like that. That these causative phenomena can be stopped at any time, like lightning.

Like the clouds in the sky. While we are looking at the clouds, they are changing. Constantly they are changing. Not only changing their shapes, changing within every second by cause and conditions. And while one is looking at it, changing shapes, it is disappearing. It is there, but while you're looking at it, it is disappearing. H/e, next minute when you look at the sky the cloud is not there. So like that all these causative phenomena, the nature of these causative phenomena are like that, like the clouds in space, in the sky. All these are in the nature of transitory.

So, when we keep our mind in the awareness, being aware in the nature of these causative phenomena like these examples: that they do not last, that they're changing within every second by cause and conditions, because the existence of this depends on another cause and conditions, so the decay, change, also happens due to another cause and conditions. That these things get stopped, also by depending on cause and conditions. So this thing can happen any time to these causative phenomena.

So when we practice mindfulness in these things suddenly there's no reason, suddenly there's no place for confusion, suddenly no space in our mind for the confusion. Suddenly the confusion that we have in the life, suddenly it's stopped. When we practice mindfulness in this, when we remember this, when we keep the mind being aware in the nature of impermanence, it immediately cuts off the depression, the deep depression that one is going through, that due to some, what one expected, what attachment expected didn't happen, didn't succeed, so forth, what the self-cherishing thought expected didn't succeed, didn't happen. So then experiencing depression. It immediately cuts off the mountains of problems that one feels, that one believes, "I have a serious problem," one feels problems like mountains. That which suffocate oneself, which makes it even difficult to breathe, which squeezes oneself, one's own life. So that one feels, one is not free, that I'm not free. Almost that one cannot move. That one's life is sunk in the problems, like drowned in a quagmire of problems.

By remembering the nature of the phenomena, these: I, body, mind, so forth, life, belongings, friend, enemy, stranger, so forth, by remembering the nature of impermanence, immediately, as it is mentioned in the sutra, these verses, it suddenly, it immediately cuts off these problems, all these confusions. All of a sudden you are free from problems, those mountains of problems. The next minute it didn't make any sense. So by remembering impermanence, that one couldn't see any reason to create these problems. Before remembering impermanence, looks like there's serious problems in the life, but by remembering impermanence, next minute, you're free. One is completely free. One discovers it was nonsense. The way how one has been thinking, has been believing, by remembering impermanence, one doesn't see any reason, it becomes nonsense.

By remembering impermanence, which is the nature of these causative phenomena, there is great tranquillity in one's own heart, immediately there is peace in one's own heart, calmness. So when we do not remember the nature of these causative phenomena, the impermanence, that these things can be stopped at any time, then there's no protection to one's own life, there's no protection to us. There's no protection to our mind. So then delusion: anger, dissatisfied mind, attachment, ignorance, so forth, they take over. They defeat us. They take over our mind. Like the Communist Chinese took over Tibet, the delusions took over the mind. Invade the mind . Because as one does not practice mindfulness in the nature of the phenomena, such as impermanence, and emptiness, the ultimate nature: emptiness, so since there's no protection of these things, this mindfulness, the practice of the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment: renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, so the delusions took over our mind, then one becomes a slave. Delusion uses one's own body, speech and mind as a slave to work for them. So one becomes a slave to the delusions. /

/and this way it doesn't give any peace in our heart. So just a short time, concentration, remembering, looking at the reality of these causative phenomena as I mentioned before.

That all these causative phenomena: I, action, object, enemy, friend, stranger, all these things, the possessions, so forth, are changing within every second by cause and conditions; because of that, that these things can be stopped at any time by cause and conditions.

[Rinpoche chants in Tibetan.]

I prostrate to the Aryan Triple Gem.... [Recitation of Heart Sutra in English; Rinpoche chants migtsema; The Foundation of All Good Qualities in English, followed by long and short mandala offering; refuge and bodhicitta]

So, the purpose of living, our purpose of living, why we have this time, why we have taken this precious human body, that is to free every sentient being from all the sufferings and to lead them to happiness, especially ultimate happiness, the everlasting happiness, so that is the purpose of our living, why we live. Why it is important to live, survive. Why should we survive? What is important about it, to survive, every day, every hour, every minute, why we should attempt to survive, why we are surviving for. Why we make so much expenses for the life, that this body which has a few inches? A few feet , made a mistake, a few feet, I think few inches would be the baby, I think .

So, this body, which has one fathom, anyway, which has a few feet, h/e, for this small body one makes so much expenses, that we work so hard to take care of this, that we keep our life so busy just to take care of this body, which has a few feet. This small body, h/e, so what is it for? Why we do this, why it's so important. That , all the expenses we make to build a house, so much expenses done to have a place, a house for this body. All the time even to have the place for this body, to protect this body, as months go, as years go, from childtime, from birth time, so how much expenses done even for the place, just for the place to protect this body, to take care of this body. Then there are so many thousands, as months go, as years go, dollars, so much expenses for food and other things, then if one get sick, for medicine, so much from birth time. So much unbelievable expenses to take care of this body, for one's own life. Then the childtime parents send, our parents send us to school from childtime, so many years we spend our life, sacrificed our life in school, college, university, in education, again to take care of this body, to have comfort for this body, to take care of this body.

So now, all these things, so with the thought, with the attitude, loving kindness and compassion towards other sentient beings, with this thought to benefit other sentient brings, by knowing the purpose of life is to free all sentient beings from all their sufferings and to lead to happiness, especially the everlasting happiness that never gets degenerated, that they experience forever, so by knowing the purpose of life, the purpose of living, the thought to do service, to fulfill, to do these works for other sentient beings, so with this thought then everything it gives meaning. Living the life with this thought, by knowing the purpose of life, to live one's own life for other sentient beings. To survive for whom? For other sentient beings. H/e to do service freeing others from suffering, to obtain happiness for other sentient beings, the numberless sentient beings. So living the life with such this attitude that gives meaning to everything, it gives purpose, it gives meaning of every day survival, it gave purpose, it gave meaning why we survive every day, every hour, every minute, so why we make so much expenses, just unbelievable, just thinking of the place without thinking of the other expenses, how much we spend to, for one's own life, to take care of this body, unbelievable, so much. H/e with this thought to benefit other sentient beings, living the life with this thought in our everyday life it gives meaning to all these expenses that we've done, taking care of this body in this life, it gives purpose to everything. Otherwise, living the life without this thought, attitude, then everything's completely empty, all the effort, the lifetime effort, h/e, expenses, everything becomes, has no meaning, empty, wasted, completely wasted. That...

I just remembered something, in Taiwan, when you go to monasteries, nunneries, if they serve food, then you cannot leave anything in the container, in the plate or bowl. Even the oil, you have to lick. Even one tiny rice, you have to eat everything, even the oil you cannot leave, after having the vegetables, you have to lick even the oil because, it's the rule of the, it's regarded very,regarded, if it's left then, without...

…so you must eat, you can't leave anything, eat even the oil, should be licked.

So there's one very strict monastery, so one time the president or prime minister of Taiwan came to the monastery. So the president didn't know much the style or the rules. So I think the president left some food there, so the master scold to that president, he scolded very much "How you can do this?"

So when we were going to one nunnery, so it was quite a long journey from Taipei, so there is a place where you stop, there's a place, maybe halfway through, where people stop to have food, also they bring from home and they eat there or something. So we were taken by the father of the families who had the meditation center in Taipei, the father who let, who allowed to use their place for a meditation center. So the father was explaining to me this is how, before going to nunnery the father was advising us how to behave in the nunnery, the monastery. So you cannot leave anything, you have to lick, things like that. And then if you leave, it is regarded very bad. So bad, the juice or something. Then I said, I don't remember, maybe he asked, "This is our tradition, what about your tradition?" So I explained to him that actually, if, I mentioned to him that it is same, that whether you throw in the garbage or whether one eats with the delusions, if one eats the food with the negative attitude, it's the same wasted, same as put in the garbage. Only what makes it worthwhile is if you eat food with the positive attitude. This is what is regarded, maybe I mentioned according to the Dharma it is like this. However, the father didn't say anything after that. I said, "It's the same thing, throwing it there or throwing here, as long as the motivation is a negative motivation; it's the same wasted, the food." He wasn't arguing much. Then, went in the nunnery, so I licked, I tried to follow, I tried to follow the tradition. Then it seems the father got a little bit upset because maybe somehow didn't fit or I'm not sure.

So however, [long pause] maybe here we have a break. Okay, thank you so much.