Refuge (Audio and Unedited Transcripts)

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Maitreya Instituut, Holland 1990 (Archive #375)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these teachings during a refuge ceremony at Maitreya Instituut, Holland, in August 1990.

Learn more about refuge in Refuge in the Three Jewels, the seventh module of FPMT's Discovering Buddhism at Home. Refuge in the Three Jewels, a booklet compiled on the advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, is also available from FPMT Foundation Store.    

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in front of the Lawudo Lama's cave at Lawudo Retreat Centre, Nepal, 1978. Photo: Ueli Minder.
Benefits of Taking and Living in Vows

So, yeah I think maybe first we recite, we do purification with Shakyamuni Buddha mantra, visualizing.

[Shakyamuni Buddha prayer]

So we recite the mantra by visualizing Shakyamuni Buddha, at the same time remembering his qualities, having completed the mind training in compassion and perfect power and omniscient mind and all other realizations the Buddha has, and remembering the kindness that Buddha has set up different levels of pratimoksha vows, different vows for the lay people and then different level of vows for the ordained ones, beginning with the refuge vow, pratimoksha vow, then there's the bodhisattva vow, then there's tantric vow. These are the, so, without the pratimoksha vow, the vows, precepts to achieve liberation for self, without this practice, no way to achieve liberation. So this is the main source, the vows, the precepts, are the main source of achieving liberation, creating the cause to actualize the graduated path to liberation, one need to accumulate a lot of merit and purify. So, and stop creating the obstacles again, the negative karmas, which becomes obstacle to achieve the realizations of the path to liberation. So by living in the vow, in the precepts, it purifies the past negative karma and also one do not create obstacles again, negative karma, which obscures the mind again, so one doesn't do that, again obscuring the mind again, on and on, so one doesn't do that. So one doesn't create obstacles again to achieve realizations, one doesn't create obstacles for happiness, happiness this life, future lives, liberation, enlightenment. So these are the benefits of living in the vow, precepts, in the moral discipline.

So, only this way then there's happiness. By living in the moral discipline or precepts then this way also it helps by making this condition, it helps to control the mind, one doesn't engaged, involved those cause of the problems, non-virtues, killing and such and such, those, stealing and telling lies, so forth. So while one is living in these precepts one doesn't get involved in those things so therefore, so that is, living in the vow, which is the cause of happiness, not creating obstacles again, only creating happiness, cause of happiness, and this is the way of really giving freedom to yourself, this is the real way of giving freedom to oneself, this is the real way of loving to oneself, why? Because what you are doing is, which brings happiness to oneself so that's the real way of, which brings happiness not only day-to-day life but happiness future lives, liberation, enlightenment, even the ultimate happiness, which definitely makes you to achieve these results.

So this is what you are doing so therefore this is really way of loving to oneself, the best way, the real correct way of loving to oneself, and this is the way of giving freedom to oneself. When we are involved, when we are not living in the vow, and there's no discipline so mind is always, also as we don't live in the moral discipline, there's no vows, discipline, discipline is not promised, not taken, vow is not taken, so the mind, there's not much protection for the mind, so then whenever the delusion rises, as the mind have been familiar with the delusions, has been friends with the delusions, have been under the control of delusions from beginningless rebirth, so therefore in our everyday life, always, constantly, so easy mind to be overtaken by delusion, possessed by delusion. So therefore constantly that happens, so delusion rises constantly and takes over the mind, so then constantly then there's non-virtuous actions, actions of body, speech and mind become non-virtuous constantly.

So in this way, it's not giving freedom to oneself. In this way, when one's mind is overtaken by anger, that time that action is not giving freedom to oneself, giving the freedom rather giving to oneself, you are giving the freedom to the anger. Similar, so when the mind is so much occupied by dissatisfied mind, desire, then that time not giving freedom to yourself, you are giving freedom to desire, to the dissatisfied mind. So because of that you don't give freedom to yourself, you don't free yourself from the dissatisfied mind desire so then how the life constantly become dissatisfied or unhappy, like that. So same thing for ignorance.

So, when we are living in the vow, precepts, moral discipline, when we are living in such a protection, such a number of vows that we are living, to not steal, to not tell lie, to not kill, this and that, the refuge vow and so forth, so we are abandoning a certain number of negative karmas, so that is, we are preventing all the suffering results of those negative karmas, as you remember I mentioned before, each complete negative karma has four suffering results, as I mentioned at the beginning of the course, so, this much number of vows when we take we abandon that many negative karmas, so, by, you have to know that by creating negative karma, killing, whatever it is, telling lie, once, then that has four suffering results, even once, and this means already we prepared to experience the problem in the future lives, when we are born as a human being, besides the lower realms. Next time when we are born as human being again experiencing, as a result of past sexual misconduct, then again experiencing relationship problems, disharmony and separation and then again engaging in sexual misconduct in the next lives, doing the action again, so like this, and then the suffering place, which is to do with the place, things like that.

Then because doing again, there's another result which one does again the action, then again that has four suffering results, then one of the results is doing again next life, then that has again four suffering results, then one of them is doing again so then goes on and on like this, endless. So therefore, if one lived in the vow to abandon for example even just one, killing or sexual misconduct or something, even just one, then all those four suffering results one do not experience, as one do not create negative karma, one do not experience those four suffering results of one negative karma. So that means next lives you don't experience the result doing the action again, negative karma again, you don't do that, so that means in the next lives you don't experience those problems and again next lives you don't create the negative karma again, so you live in the vow, you don't do in next lives.

So the good one is always, the positive side there's always positive, there's positive action has all the four positive good results, so life to life, there's always positive one experiences life to life, like that, then ultimate, enlightenment. So therefore you can see, this way we are giving freedom, when we take vow, refuge vow or precepts, when we take vow, when we live in the vow, we are giving freedom to ourselves - why? Because we are creating the cause of happiness of this life, especially happiness of future lives, so we are creating the unmistaken cause for success, so this is the way, even we want success in this life, this is the unmistaken way to have success, for happiness of this life, it depend on virtue.

So, for example, by stealing, by killing others, by stealing, things like that, you might get other people's power or other people's possessions, you might get it, but having the comfort by receiving other people's possessions by stealing, that is the result of past life virtue, of course that comfort is happiness, so the cause of that is past virtue. This happiness is not caused by stealing, by killing other people, it just became a condition but not the main cause. The main cause is because past lives there's some virtue created, so this life the person experience comfort, happiness, having wealth and so forth, power, so by stealing, killing that person, the method, the way this life received those things, possessions or things like that, the stealing, killing, is just a condition, it's not the main cause. Then it can be condition for the comfort, happiness.

So now, this present action of stealing, killing, so forth, now by doing this one has started, one has created the cause for unsuccess, unsuccess this life, unsuccess future lives, created the cause, by doing non-virtue one create the cause for unsuccess, failure, what comes from this is only suffering, so therefore there's unsuccess or failure.

So therefore when we live in this refuge vow or number of the precepts whatever one take, that become cause of success of this life, future life happiness, especially most important one, the ultimate happiness, even from that, enlightenment for sentient beings. So, by living in the vow we gain, what you get from this, what you gain from this, the profit, so by doing business what profit you get, so the profit, so like that here the profit are these, definitely something, once the cause is done, the virtue, living in the vow, definitely this result comes, the happiness, result comes, one can definitely experience.

So therefore this is how, it's not making yourself, by taking vow it's not making yourself, not putting oneself in prison, not making oneself not having freedom, it is the opposite, giving oneself freedom, giving freedom to oneself, because what you want is happiness, what you do not want is suffering, so, therefore, this is the unmistaken method or work, way of working for happiness, so this is the real way of giving freedom to oneself. So this should be understood, real way of loving to oneself or real way of giving freedom to oneself. So now the other thing to understand is this, now there's big differences by living in the vow, not living in the vow. So, a person now, like this, generally like this, a person, there are different vows for example, a person who promised to be butcher, to kill animals, to be army, to kill people, who promised, who signed, who promised, who took this vow to do army, to kill people, took the vow to kill animals, to be butcher, now these people constantly, because by living in this wrong vow, which harms, so constantly there's negative karma, they are creating negative karma constantly, by living in this vow I'm going to be butcher, butcher means to kill other beings, I'm going to be army to kill people, once the person took this vow constantly there's negative karma, until, up to what, till death, up to what the person promised to do that. So there's constantly there's negative karma. So there's one like this, negative one.

Now, in the sense of positive vow, so for example a person who is in a coma, living in a coma, cannot speak, cannot move, person who is unconscious for example, doesn't do anything, so, doesn't kill, doesn't tell lie, that person, doesn't do sexual misconduct, doesn't create problems in other people's relationships, things like that, but you see now, even the person hasn't taken vow, doesn't do these things, but the person doesn't do but since the person hasn't taken the vow, there's no merit, the person doesn't receive merit living in the vow, so that's one thing that one should understand. A person who hasn't taken vow, even the person doesn't do any of these negative karmas, there's no merit, there's no every second, minute, day gaining merit, continuously merit, this is not there, person who don't take the vow. Even the person don't do but there's not this merit. Don't do so that person doesn't experience those sufferings and negative karma, doesn't experience that happens, but the merit, continuously you are gaining merit, like the money that is invested in the factory, bank or company or things like that, stock market that gives profit continuously every month, so like that, here, person who is living in the vow, whatever vow, one vow, two vows, whatever is taken, continuously since the moment, since the second that person took that vow, continuously until death, if the person has taken the vow until death, then continuously, even times when the person is unconscious, they are continuously gaining merit. And even the person, while he is eating, continuously merit, even the person is sleeping, the person is how many hours sleeping, even all the twenty-four hours that person is sleeping, there's merit all the time, the person is gaining merit all the time, if the person has taken one vow, two vows, then, so first we should understand this point. Big differences between taking vow, not doing it, and having taken vow, big differences in the life, as regards meaning of life, it makes big differences, that is very important.

For example, person who hasn't taken vow at all, now, offers, it is said in the teachings that oceans of butter and then have put great mountains, Mt. Meru, or great mountains of wicks, then make offering to the Buddhas. Person who doesn't live in the vow makes big offering, huge offering like this, but now the person who lives in one vow and makes offering to Buddha size of a nail that much butter and wick the size of a needle, put inside and offer to Buddha, now this person's, the second person's merit, offering is very small, but because the person lives in the vow, even one vow, so the merit is much more, so much more, it's like the size of this earth, so much more than the other person who doesn't live in the vow at all, then making huge offering. So the merit it is nothing comparing to this second person's merit, who is living in the vow, even the offering is so tiny. Even the offering is nothing, so tiny. So this one should understand, benefits of living in the vow.

So, huge differences. So, even day-to-day life when you do good actions, you are making charity, giving medicines to sick people, giving food to poor people or dog, to the animals, making charity to fish, to animals or human beings, you are making charity, day-to-day life you are making charity, you are creating good karma with the sentient beings, you are making offering to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, every day, the positive actions that you do, there's big differences in regards the merit, living in the vow and not living in the vow, as I gave this example.

So, one who is living in the vow, even though offering is, even one is so poor, even one doesn't have offering material, but one is living in the vow, so, even though offering is just water, simple water like this, small bowl like this, water, or even one flower or one stick of incense, even giving one tiny rice charity to ants, to one ant, even one is so poor in material, nothing to offer, so even day-to-day life when you offer food to Buddha, before eating, drinking, one cup of water, one glass of water even offering to Buddha, for example, one tiny rice to an ant making charity, however, unbelievable merit one create, so much. By living in even one vow, merit, how much, like size of this earth and then person who doesn't live in vows at all, no matter how big offering the person does, so many number, huge, how rich offering he offers or how much the person makes charity, give sentient beings, the merit is nothing comparing to this person who lives in the vow, who makes such tiny, so small offering, almost nothing. So there's big differences. So this is very important to be known.

So therefore now, this regards the person living in one vow. Now if the person is living in two vows, even more merit, everyday life when the person does a good action, good karma. Then, that person is living five precepts, eight precepts, even much more, then thirty-six precepts, much more, then 253, largest number of merit. Even the action, even a small, even one day, even the person makes one light offering, one tiny light offering, that person who is living in 253 vows or the fully ordained nuns, 360 something like that, 363 or something, I don't remember exactly, so something like that, vows, then even one doesn't do much offering practices, those big offerings, charity and offerings, even one doesn't do so much, but the little that one does, even one day, one tiny light offering or giving one tiny rice to an ant, something, becomes the largest merit the person accumulates, like sky. So, you don't see doing many, many things, outside you don't see, but actually the person, the largest, the more number of vows that person, most number of vows the person is living, merit what the person gains each time is like sky.So then there's bodhisattva's vow, much more than that. Then tantric vow, then even greater, much more. When the person accumulate merit, so much more, million times much more than bodhisattva vow, so like that.

So therefore one should rejoice, by understanding this great profit, benefits what you gain from them, even what you gain from them everyday life, how much it makes the life so rich, unbelievable rich inside, rich in the merit. So that is very important to remember in our everyday life, especially those who have taken these vows, then should, it's very important to remember and take the opportunity. Then, if one degenerate, take again, those which can be taken again, take again, then revive, like that, practice. So there's huge differences like that, taking vow and not taking vow, in the life.

So it is explained in the lamrim, how you can make the life most meaningful, most rich in merit, creating cause of happiness, how to make most rich in creating cause of happiness, in the merit, so there are four things explained. So this is very, very good to understand and to remember if we want to have success, if we want always to have success now and in future lives, up to enlightenment.

So anyway, I mention here that, so one thing is this, one thing what makes action to accumulate most merit is by the body, by the person living in the vow, that is one, person living in the vow is one which makes the actions to accumulate inconceivable merit, makes the positive action, makes the virtuous action, the merit what one accumulate great, extensive, so that's one thing, that is one method. Every time when one, the merit what one accumulate becomes extensive, inconceivable merit, by the person living in the vow. That is one thing. That is one method.

Then, second method is by motivation. So, each time when we do our action, each time when we make offering to the Triple Gem and each time when we create good karma with the sentient beings by helping to somebody, giving things to somebody, some sentient beings, animals, to eliminate their suffering, problems, or to obtain happiness for them, or however, whether we are doing consultation to their problems or giving material to them, cup of tea for them or making charity, giving something, a biscuit or fruit, something to other sentient beings, making charity, however, giving something to other sentient beings, however, every time if we do this with the motivation of bodhicitta, then we gain infinite merit each time, each time we help other sentient beings, we give things to other sentient beings, if we do out of bodhicitta, infinite merit each time. So that is very, very important if we are looking for success, now, from now on up to enlightenment, then, this is what we should do. Even one doesn't have realization of bodhicitta, but try to remember, the motivation, it's very important to not lose the opportunity to gain infinite merit each time. So, when we motivate with bodhicitta then naturally the action become virtue, by that, purest virtue, best virtue. So that is second method to accumulate infinite merit.

Then, third method to accumulate infinite merit, extensive merit, that is, so whenever you make offering to the statues, scriptures, holy objects, stupas or actual living Buddhas, bodhisattvas, all the time, as much as possible to remember or meditate that they are embodiment of one's own guru. So here, in regards, so starting from parents, then ordinary sangha, who don't actual realization Dharma, wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, so those who are ordained ones living in the ordination, the ordinary sangha, those groups. So first of all, parents, the powerful object; second, sangha, those who don't have actual refuge, Dharma, actualized, ordinary sangha are more powerful. Then, bodhisattva more powerful, then Buddha more powerful, then after Buddha, then guru. It's not the guru what normally, people who have title guru, guru, not that. Here this sense guru means like same as Guru Puja means related to one's own virtuous teacher from whom one has received Dharma contact, and that guru, not generally in the world who has title guru, not that one.

So in regards the field, power of field, power of object, among these, all these are powerful objects. If you create any smallest negative karma with them, because object is very powerful, so one start to experience in this life, the problems of that, suffering results of that negative karma. If one does a small good thing, small positive action with these objects, because these are very powerful objects, so, the positive karma also becomes very heavy, the positive karma becomes very powerful. So you start to experience the result happiness even in this life.

So, among these, highest, most powerful object is one's own virtuous friend. So that power, how that person get this power, because the most powerful object for that disciple, is in regards to accumulate merit is when that disciple make the determination, that is my guru, I am taking the teachings, initiations, vows, lung, oral transmission from that person, when that person, with this determination, this way then making Dharma contact with that person, receiving Dharma contact, so this way then that person becomes guru. So this person making Dharma contact to that person, the disciple making Dharma contact to that person, that one, which makes that person to be guru, that is the one that which gives all the power, the most power, that makes the guru, the being, most powerful object for that disciple, to accumulate merit or to create negative karma.

So, therefore since this is the highest, most powerful object, so if one accumulate merit with this object, one accumulate infinite merit, largest, greatest merit. So therefore when one make offering to the statues, scriptures, stupas, or actual holy beings then Buddhas, bodhisattvas, then if one meditate or remember that all are embodiment of guru, one's own guru, then each time one accumulate infinite merit, largest merit, each time when one make offering to Buddha, that many number of Buddhas as one make offering, by thinking guru, then one accumulate, even to one statue or even one by thinking guru, then one make offering, then one accumulate most extensive merit. So therefore, then there's inconceivable if one makes offering by thinking all the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, then it's inconceivable. So that is the third method how to make the life most meaningful is to accumulate merit infinite sky.

Then, fourth, in regards giving things, the material and Dharma, in regards giving there are substantial, physical things then there's giving Dharma. So in regards things that you give to others, that you accumulate most extensive merit, that is giving teaching. So it said that, I don't remember a hundred percent but it says giving teaching even one stanza to one sentient being, the merit is so much more than whole realm or whole world completely filled with jewels, and then you give, then you offer to the sentient beings, so comparing that much giving, that much merit of giving to the sentient beings, the merit of that much things giving to the sentient beings and…