Untying the Beginningless Knot

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Bodhgaya, India (Archive #1872)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche discusses the appearance of true existence in this excerpt from a teaching given at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, on January 26, 2012. Edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Delhi, India, January 2009. Photo: Ven. Roger Kunsang.

The truly existent appearance is a projection, a hallucination, we have had for beginningless rebirths and will continue to have until we achieve enlightenment. We believe one hundred percent that this appearance is true, that all this—truly existent I, truly existent action, truly existent object, truly existent phenomena—is reality. Generally speaking, this view of I, action, object, of all phenomena, is what we have to realize is false; this is what is to be negated. This real I, this truly existent I, this I existing from its own side, is what is to be negated; this is what doesn’t exist. As soon as you recognize this real I, you then have to analyze whether or not it exists. It takes just a moment for you to find that it doesn’t exist at all. It doesn’t exist at all. However, it’s not that, once you analyze it, that concept of true existence gets scared and runs out the door. It’s not like that.

You have been holding this concept of the I, of a real I existing from its own side, from beginningless rebirths. From beginningless rebirths, from the birth of this life, from this morning, you have been believing that this I really exists, that it’s really there. Then suddenly you recognize that it is a hallucination. Even though you have been reading and reciting the words of Buddha’s teachings about ultimate truth, the emptiness of the I, and truth for the all-obscuring mind (kun dzob den pa, in Tibetan), the I that exists, for a long time, suddenly you recognize the hallucination, the false I. This happens due to intensive practice of purification, which purifies the negative karmas and defilements, the obscurations, with the support of collection of much merit. Along with that, you make strong request to the guru with dauntless faith that the guru is buddha. Due to your strong request and your strong guru devotion, the blessings of the guru then enter your heart. Rainfalls of blessings enter your heart.

You might not have to do much meditation. You just do intensive practice of purification, with the support of collection of great merit, as well as make request to the guru with very strong guru devotion (by looking at the guru as buddha from your side, as a result, you then see the guru as buddha); you then receive blessings. At that time you don’t need many hundreds or thousands of pages of scriptures. Even a few words of your lama’s speech, of an enlightened being’s speech, then make great sense. It’s as if you’ve suddenly learnt the secret technique to untie a knot—a knot that has been there for beginningless rebirths.

It can happen with just a few words: “There’s a vase on the vase,” “There’s a blue color on the blue color,” “There’s I on the I.” Just those words, “There’s I on the I,” can bring realization. First there is the merely labeled I, the I that exists. Second, there is another I on that first I; another I is projected on the merely labeled I. That I appears to be truly existent, to exist from its own side, to exist by its nature. But that’s the I that doesn’t exist, that’s not there at all. So, you suddenly realize there is I on the I.

Look at this thangka! It is exactly the same with the blue brocade around this thangka: there is a blue color on the blue color.

Then look at the ceiling! You see that there’s a ceiling on the ceiling, a ceiling existing from its own side. The way you see the ceiling is different from before. The way you now see the ceiling, the blue color, the I, is different. Very different. You’re seeing things in a way that you have never seen them before in your life, in your beginningless lives. Suddenly, with just a few words, you have this experience.