Teachings at the Kadampa Deities Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
(Archive #1413)

These teachings were given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at a retreat held at Institut Vajra Yogini, France, from 18 April to 11 May 2003. The retreat was on the four Kadampa deities, however, Rinpoche taught on a broad range of lamrim topics. Read the first six discourses, lightly edited by Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching in Singapore, 2010. Photo: Tan Seow Kheng.
6. Meditation on Emptiness

Do not commit any unwholesome actions.
Engage in perfect, wholesome actions.
Subdue your mind thoroughly.
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

As Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche says, this stanza shows the four noble truths. “Do not commit any unwholesome actions” shows true suffering and the true cause of suffering. “Engage in perfect wholesome virtue” shows the true path and “Subdue your mind” shows the cessation of suffering. The stanza concludes with "This is the teaching of the Buddha."

However, I think that the actual teaching of the Buddha is a universal teaching. It’s just a matter of understanding [the four noble truths.] If we don’t understand that, the Buddha’s teaching looks like something peculiar or particular, but if we understand it, we can see that the Buddhadharma is a universal teaching; the four noble truths is a universal teaching. If we don’t understand delusion and karma, then maybe the Buddha’s teaching doesn’t become universal, however it becomes universal when we come to know and become familiar with karma—that happiness comes from our own positive actions, our virtuous actions and virtuous thoughts, and all our life problems and suffering come from our nonvirtuous actions, our negative actions and negative thoughts.

Through our own experiences we come to know the effects of our positive actions and positive thoughts and the effects of our negative actions and negative thoughts. We know that suffering comes from our unrighteous or mistaken actions and mistaken thoughts, and happiness comes from our correct actions, our positive actions and positive thoughts, the healthy mind. Through our own experiences we know that the negative effects, the immediate effects, come from the unhealthy mind, the mistaken thoughts. This is universal.

Just as doctors explain where an illness comes from—the common circumstances or causes—similarly, the teaching of the Buddha becomes universal. We come to know this as we understand delusion and karma more deeply, as we learn more about our own mind, about delusion and karma, the cause of the sufferings—the cause of death, what creates or what produces death, old age, sickness and rebirth, what produces or creates rebirth, reincarnation.

Delusion and karma come from the mind; they don’t come from outside. The main cause is the mind, so we need to learn more about our own mind, about delusion and karma, and about the path, that which is, of course, explained in the texts.

The actual path which ceases our own delusion and karma and suffering is our own mind, our own positive mind transformed into total detachment from samsara, from the samsaric perfections, by having developed the wisdom realizing the ultimate nature of the I, the aggregates—the root—and then phenomena. When we develop the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness we directly cease the defilements.

First of all, there are intellectual defilements, the delusions, but by actualizing the right-seeing path and the path of meditation we can cease the simultaneously-born delusions. Those defilements, including the seeds of delusion, are ceased. When there are no mistakes, when there are no disturbing-thought obscurations, including the seeds of delusion, we achieve the true cessation of suffering on this mental continuum. The ultimate nature of the mind is the true cessation of suffering and this is achieved after having ceased all these disturbing-thought obscurations, including the seeds of delusion.

It’s all scientific and is according to those who have correctly practiced, as the Buddha’s teaching says, and who actually experience this. By actualizing those paths they are able to remove the defilements step-by-step. Those practitioners are the real scientists of the mind, removing the cause of suffering and achieving everlasting happiness.

Therefore it is a universal thing when we come to know the subject; it’s nothing kind of strange, it’s a universal thing when we come to know that. However, even though it is a universal thing, it is not mentioned clearly or completely like this in every religion.

Only the Buddha’s teaching mentions the fundamental path, the four noble truths. This is the teaching of the Buddha, what the Buddha taught. This is the way the Buddha liberates sentient beings; this is the basic method shown by the Buddha to liberate us sentient beings.

like A star, a defective view, a butter lamp flame, an illusion

Look at all the causative phenomena—including our own life, possessions, people surrounding us, family members and so forth, form, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, these enjoyments—look at these like a star.1

They are there but the next minute they’re not there, they’re gone, like a shooting star. This example shows impermanence, that these causative phenomena are in the nature of impermanence.

Rab rib [defective view] is described in some texts as a visual hallucination, like the hair falling down when we eat food. We have a vision of hair falling down into our food, some texts explain it like that. Here it’s showing that phenomena appear as permanent to our hallucinated mind or appear to exist from their own side but it’s not true because their nature is impermanent. It’s not true because they have an impermanent nature. They are changing, decaying, not only day-by-day, not only hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, second-by-second, but even within every second they are changing, decaying.

Also, they are empty of existing from their own side, because without mind, without mind knowing phenomena, without knowing phenomena, shepa, nothing of these objects exists. Without mind there’s no label, so no way to exist. We can see even from that how everything exists as merely imputed by the mind.

So how is rab rib translated here?

Student: Here it says mirage.

Rinpoche: Mirage? I think that’s French, mirage.

Student: This is English.

Rinpoche: English! I thought it’s French mirage. There might be different mirage, French and American mirage, Spanish mirage. Anyway, I’m joking. Rab rib. [Inaudible comment from student.] That’s OK, but it’s not precise, according to the Tibetan language, it’s not precise. Faulty vision is a general translation.

[Student says that it’s translated as “cataract.”]

Rab rib? Oh, I see. I couldn’t understand. Rab rib is not a cataract. A cataract is a white thing, so a cataract is not the vision. A cataract is this white thing. There’s no translator here? No translator? Has anybody has seen the translation? 

[Inaudible comment from a student.]

When you put eye drops in your eyes, when you have your eyes checked or for glasses or something, and you put the eye drops then you have this hazy or blurred vision—not blood, blurred. At the dusk time, it’s not clear, it’s shimmering at the dusk time, not clear, so that’s also rab rib. It’s also used like that. When somebody’s eye is defective, not having a clear view, then this is rab rib. You see something but it’s not clear, it’s kind of veiled; you see something but it’s not clear. Anyway, we are not going to spend one hour on rab rib, finding out about rab rib.

In one text, a commentary on this stanza, “This is a teaching of the Buddha,” it uses the example of the hair falling down; having a hallucination of the hair falling down, that is rab rib.

Then, look at these causative phenomena as having the nature of impermanence. They can be stopped at any time, like a flickering light. Like a flickering light that can be stopped at any time, or like a candle or butter lamp, that which is in the midst of the wind, that can be stopped any time. Meditate like that, looking at the causative phenomena, our own life, including this body, possessions, people surrounding us, our family members, our enjoyments, the six sense objects—these can be stopped any time.

But we have to understand why we have to meditate like this. Of course, it is to achieve the highest enlightenment and before that, liberation from samsara. To achieve that, the highest is to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, but before that to achieve total liberation from the whole entire suffering and its cause, delusion and karma. To be totally free forever from the negative emotions, all the delusions, these wrong concepts and karma—the actions that are motivated by that.

By cutting the delusions, by cutting the disturbing, negative emotional thoughts, these delusions, then we don’t create negative karma so we are saved from the lower realms. We are saved from the most unbearable sufferings of samsara—the suffering of the hell realms, the most unbearable suffering of the hungry ghosts and the most unbearable suffering of the animals—so we are saved from reincarnating into those unfortunate realms. And in our day-to-day life we can control or make ourselves free by not allowing these disturbing negative emotional thoughts—ignorance, anger, attachment—to arise. So in every moment, every day, we have peace, we have independence and we have freedom. We have peace, happiness in our heart, in our life.

Suddenly when we reflect on these things, the nature of these causative phenomena, immediately when we reflect on these causative phenomena—how they are in the nature of impermanence and how they appear, recognizing that they are a hallucination, not true, as I mentioned before. We think phenomena are permanent, that it’s always going to be like this, forever. We think it’s always going to be like this, that we will have this body all the time or these possessions, these people, that they will be always like this. We think our family members or our friends will always exist; we will have them all the time. When we do not analyze, when we do not meditate, we have this concept of permanence, however, the way things appear is not true and also the real one existing from its side is not true.

Another example is to look at things as an illusion. That means the way they appear, to look at them like an illusion. This subject may come up another time, but anyway I want to mention this, since I’m talking here about this point.

While the I, action, object, all the phenomena, the way they exist is merely labeled by the mind, but as soon as they are merely imputed by our own thought the ignorance apprehending phenomena as truly existent leaves a negative imprint on the mental continuum. There’s a negative imprint left on the mental continuum by the past ignorance holding phenomena as inherently existent, as existing from their own side not merely labeled by mind. This negative imprint projects the truly existent appearance, right after the I, action, object, phenomena, whatever it is, right after it is merely imputed by our own thought. Immediately after that, this negative imprint on the mental continuum left by past ignorance—not just any ignorance but this particular ignorance apprehending phenomena as inherently existent—so that projects the truly existent appearance, the hallucination, on the merely labeled phenomena.

Therefore, it is logical, by analyzing you can believe that; it’s logical how things are merely labeled by the mind. It’s logical, you can agree, by doing analysis you can see things are merely labeled by mind. But why don’t they appear back to us as merely labeled by mind? Why do things not appear to us as merely labeled by the mind twenty-four hours a day or even right after the mere imputation? Why don’t they appear back to us as merely labeled by mind? That’s because it’s blocked by that hallucination.

Therefore, for us, the merely labeled I becomes the truly existent I in our point of view, in the view of our mind, especially after, not only it appeared, but as soon as it appeared, the minute it appeared inherently existent, truly existent, then we let our mind believe it, apprehend that it’s true. Not only has it appeared but after it has appeared we let our mind hold on to it, thinking that this is a hundred percent true. So this is the biggest suffering or the biggest problem, the foundation of all our samsaric suffering. The last thing, after the appearance, we let our mind believe that, apprehend that it’s true and that’s what cheats us for our whole life. That’s what has been cheating us from beginningless rebirths up to now. We let our mind believe in this truly existent appearance, which is a total hallucination, as if it is true, as if it is reality.

This has been the greatest harm. This is what didn’t let us be free from samsara, so we die and are reborn and then we experience all the sufferings in that realm and then die again and again in the six realms, again and again, one after another, like this. In each realm we are born and we experience all the sufferings and then die, so this has happened numberless times, since time without beginning, from beginningless samsara.

like a magician

Ignorance is like a magician, the ignorance that left negative imprints on our mental continuum is like a magician. The negative imprints left on our mental continuum are like a magician who uses mantra or some substances to hallucinate people. We are illusioned, so we are like the audience that the magician has illusioned.

Ignorance, like the magician who uses a substance or mantra power, by leaving negative imprints on the mind, the mental continuum, ignorance has illusioned us, so there’s truly existent appearance. When we believe it’s true then it’s as if for us, for our mind, in the view of our mind, in the view of our concepts, we think this is a truly existent I, a truly existent body, a truly existent mind. So everything becomes truly existent form, truly existent sound, truly existent smell, truly existent tangible objects, so everything is made real.

But there’s no such thing at all, not even the slightest atom. All this is totally empty, including the I, but we make it up like that, especially letting our own mind believe it is true. So everything is made up, the total opposite of reality. [We think] it’s nothing to do with our mind, it never came from our own mind; that’s very gross, that’s an extremely gross level. [We believe] it’s nothing to do with our own mind, it never came from our own mind, even though the hallucination totally came from our own mind. What is merely labeled came from our own mind, what exists came from our own mind, including the hallucination. Everything came from our own mind.

That’s the reality, the evolution, but we believe that it’s nothing to do with our own mind. How it appears to our own mind and how it’s believed is that it’s nothing to do with the mind, it never came from our own mind, it’s not merely labeled by the mind.

Here, ignorance is like the magician and the negative imprint left on the mental continuum is like the mantra or certain substances used by the magician—substantial phenomena that has the power to cause hallucinations for the people. With that we are illusioned, everything appears truly existent and then we believe in that, just as the audience believes what they see after the magician performs—they believe all the hallucinations are a hundred percent true. I mean, these things don’t exist, they are like a dream, but the audience actually believes they exist.

So here it’s like an illusion. I just used that example to relate to oneself, like that to meditate. Maybe it’s good to meditate on emptiness like that, not to immediately meditate on emptiness, because it’s difficult to do that straight away; for us it’s difficult to get into emptiness without [familiarity.] For somebody who has realized emptiness and is familiar with that, maybe it’s different, but for us, first we can look at what is empty, so we think that truly existent phenomena are a hallucination and we look at them as an illusion.

When we look at them as an illusion, we ourselves, our actions, objects, that means the I is empty, the actions are empty and the objects are empty. Relating the illusion, connecting the illusion to the truly existent I, the real I appearing from there, the real action appearing from there, the real object appearing from there, connecting the illusion to that. Then we get the idea, then we get the understanding in our heart that they’re empty. Then there’s a possibility to reach emptiness, the opportunity to see emptiness.

Ultimate bodhicitta stanza

The stanza from the Seven-Point Mind Training  on the subject of emptiness,2 the meditation on emptiness in this stanza is very powerful because it covers all phenomena.

Look at the phenomena as like a dream; reflect that phenomena are like a dream. Again, the understanding we get is that phenomena are empty. By looking at phenomena as like a dream, the understanding that we get as a result in our heart, we know that they’re empty. So this, and then yul, the object, and yul chen, knowing phenomena—that which perceives the object.

Analyze the unborn awareness, analyze the nature of unborn awareness—the mind, knowing phenomena, the nature of that, knowing phenomena truly, it doesn’t exist truly, it doesn’t exist from its own side. So it is born, but it is not born truly. It’s not born from its own side, it’s born from cause and conditions. It’s not born without cause and conditions, therefore it’s not truly born, it’s not truly existent. Looking at that nature, so that’s emptiness, so you look at the yul chen, knowing phenomena which perceives the object, so look at the nature of that, which is also empty. So all the phenomena comes in yul and yul chen, the object and subject, it is within that.

Even the antidote—this is my own translation, so you have to check. It’s an independent translation so you have to check. [Rinpoche laughs] Even the antidote is naturally free, liberated or free. So the person, the meditator, even the meditator, the antidote, is naturally free. This means free from the true existence, so even the meditator is by nature free from true existence.

It’s like the phenomena are unstained; as mentioned in the self-initiation text near the end, it says that samsara is pure, unstained by true existence, so it’s similar. So even the meditator is naturally free from true existence. Then place the mind in the essence of the path, the base of all, so it should be like this. “Place the mind” means to concentrate on the essence of the path, while things are the base of all.

“The base of all” is where everything came from, where the I came from, where everything came from—everything came from emptiness. If there were no emptiness, there wouldn’t be suffering, there wouldn’t be the cause of suffering, there wouldn’t be liberation and there wouldn’t be a path. If there were no emptiness, then nothing would exist. Because they are empty that’s why they exist. Because suffering is empty, it exists. Because the cause of suffering, delusion and karma is empty, that’s why it exists. So, place the mind in the essence of the path, while everything is the base of all, while everything is empty, the emptiness from where everything comes.

Then next one, in the break time of the session—it’s not saying the break time from Dharma, practicing Dharma, break time from happiness, it’s not saying that; break time from making the life meaningful, it’s not saying that. So it means the break time from sitting meditation, the session. What we should do or what we should practice is in the session time do like that and in the break time from the session, then we should be the illusory person, [the creator of illusions]. That’s how we should practice mindfulness while we are active, for example, driving a car, talking to people, cooking, doing prayers or fighting.

I think that time, if you can remember you’re an illusory person then I don’t think you will have any reason to fight. Then your fighting becomes just playing a game, because there’s no anger. The anger is gone, so your fighting becomes just joking, just acting, like theater, because the anger is not there. After meditating that you’re an illusory person, this illusory I, that means everything is illusory. The person whom you are talking to is illusory, fighting is illusory, then the anger ceases. When you look at yourself as illusory, as an illusory person, and the other person as illusory, that kills the anger. That has killed the anger; there’s no reason for anger to arise. It doesn’t make any sense for anger to arise, it’s nonsense.

It’s the same when you have strong desire, when overwhelming desire arises. If you are able to do this meditation then again it becomes the medicine for desire, the most powerful medicine, like an atomic bomb. It is the medicine for desire, the antidote, healing the desire, so again you cannot find desire, it doesn’t make any sense for desire to arise.

Anyway, it just became a side talk, this talk about illusion. But this verse is from the Seven-Point Mind Training. It is a very good one to memorize and to apply in daily life. You can use that one teaching as a technique to meditate on emptiness, a technique. So, looking at causative phenomena as illusion, like illusion.

Like a dew drop

Now, the next one, again impermanence, like dew in the mornings on the plants. This drop of dew can fall down at any time, it can drip down at any time. Again, it’s reminding us that causative phenomena are in the nature of impermanence and can stop at any time.

There’s one special plant at Lawudo, called taktu ngu, always crying, one plant whose name is “always crying.” And it’s not green. My uncle—I have many uncles, but one of the uncles, the small one, the small uncle; I think quite a few already died—so he introduced me, just behind Lawudo, not behind but a little bit up, toward the hermitage where the old lama lived, where there’s Merry Colony’s cave, where she lived. That’s right. And a little bit farther there’s Harry Rinpoche’s cave. [Rinpoche laughs]

Actually there [in Harry’s cave] you can’t stand up your body, you walk like this, something like that, I didn’t actually go very far inside but you can’t really stand up, you have to bend the whole time, you have no opportunity to stand up your body. And there’s nothing, just rock; down below rock. He had a bed and underneath, because he has understanding of technology, how to keep warm, so he made a fire somewhere and then the smoke went through a pipe which was under the bed, then I think maybe it went outside, so this was how he kept warm. This was his method to keep warm in the cave, but I didn’t go inside. I don’t think, you couldn’t really comfortably stand up.

But in Merry’s cave, one very good monk, a fully ordained monk, a very good monk lived there.

One day, I think I was maybe, I don’t know, four or five, I’m not sure, three, four or five, around that, I think. So one day the people wanted to examine me, to see whether I was the incarnate lama of Lawudo or not. His name, who was supposed to be my past life, his name was also Lama Yeshe, he was called Lama Yeshe. So the people wanted to do an experiment on me to see whether I was the incarnation of that lama or not, so anyway, I was taken on somebody’s shoulder from my home to Thangme Monastery.

That day in the gompa they were doing a very big puja. All I can remember is all the monks lined up on their seats and they had big drums lined up, that’s what I can remember. The head lama, the founder of that monastery, the Thangme Lama, was a very good-hearted, very generous, very good-hearted lama. He was not a monk, he was a married lama, a ngagpa, somebody who had received many, many teachings and initiations from Trulshik Rinpoche’s root guru from Tibet, and then who spent his life doing many retreats and many preliminary practices. Then he gave initiations and teachings to others. So he spent his life like that, but he was very good-hearted, so it brought happiness to see him, to look at his face and his whole person. He looked like the long-life man, for those who are familiar with the long-life man, with a white beard and bald head, a very fortunate person, kind of appearing like that.

The lama was sitting on the throne and all the monks were doing puja. You would go through the main gompa door and on this side wall there was one Buddha in the center, on this side wall of the gompa. Beside the main altar there was a life-size Buddha, one of those ancient art pieces I think, and then there were the monks’ seats.

The very good monk who had lived in that cave—where Merry also lived, I think maybe for one year was the longest time, and did mandala offering or preliminary practices—that lama was sitting right in front of that Buddha and there were other lamas. So I was put on this lama’s lap, and then there were a few people, I think probably maybe the previous Lawudo Lama’s son might have been there, and maybe a few people from different monasteries or something.

Then there were big piles of cymbals, I think maybe this size; they brought cymbals from different monasteries and they were piled up like that. So this lama, this monk, asked me, “Which is your cymbal?” He meant the cymbal of the Lawudo Lama. I had no idea. [Laughter] No idea. So I pointed like this. When I was a child I didn’t talk much. Of course, I talked to the other small boys that I played with, but usually I didn’t talk much. Anyway, I pointed to one of the cymbals and they said that was correct. Then they spread out the cymbals and the same lama on whose lap I was sitting asked, “Which is yours?” Then I pointed somewhere there, I had no idea, but anyway they said it was correct. I think it’s just karma.

Anyway, the main thing is, I was going to mention about the grass, the direction where the grass was found, so that’s why I mentioned those hermitages, so then that’s how it came out.

So the lama who lived in that cave, Merry’s cave, so anyway, just close to that, there is one plant—it’s not green, it’s like a dried plant, brown and dried, but that’s the nature of the plant—that has dew on it all day long. It’s the nature of the plant. That’s why it’s called “always crying one.” The name of the plant is "always crying one" because it has dew on it for twenty-four hours a day.

There are three types of medicinal grass and I think a sort of holy grass. So there’s this one and two other kinds of grass. This one is called taktu ngu, "always crying." Then the other type is drowa tenpa [?], "liberating sentient beings," and another one is called kunsang. It seems maybe the one main place where it grows is in China, but it grows only in holy places. It grows only in holy places, not just any place. It grows only in very blessed holy places. I think it grows in China but I’m not sure where exactly, maybe at Chenrezig’s holy place, the Potala, in China, I’m not sure. So far I didn’t get that grass. I asked many people to look for it. Maybe it grows at the Heruka holy place; in Tibet there are three Heruka holy places, one is the holy body, one is the holy speech and one is the holy mind. So there are Mount Kailash, Lapchi and Tsari in Tibet—these three are the main holy places of Heruka.

Pilgrimage to Tsari

Tsari, one of the places in Tibet, sounds like a very, very difficult place to make a pilgrimage. I think there are three circles around the mountain, so there’s a big circle, then another circle, then another one on top, so three circles. I think you do maybe the bottom one, the long one; I don’t know about the top. However, you have to give up your life, you have to sacrifice your life, you have to renounce it completely; you can’t really tell whether that day you would be alive or not because there’s no such thing as a road. The [native people] guide you, they take you into the jungles, over the rocks and through the jungles. I think they got used to living in that place and with their long knives they cut the wood while they are going through; they cut the wood and make a kind of path for the people, so they guide them.

At Deer Park, Geshe Sopa’s place in the US, there was one geshe, Geshe Thapkay, who went on a pilgrimage to Tsari, Heruka’s holy place in Tibet, before he entered Sera Je Monastery. This geshe and a few other people, including one mother and daughter, went there. He said that sometimes you had to lie down, because there were cliffs like that. You had to lie your body down and then go through. It was very risky and every day you could not tell whether you would be alive that night or not, so like that.

One day there was a bridge and I think maybe rain came and it was slippery. The others were able to cross, but the mother and daughter were walking on the bridge when the daughter slipped and fell down into the very deep river. I think probably it was a very violent, very deep river. There was nothing they could do, no way to save her.

It is said that if you circumambulate the mountain one time at the Heruka place, Tsari, in bare feet, because it’s very cold and there is so much hardship, a lot of negative karma, many defilements get purified, then after you have finished the circumambulation you achieve clairvoyance. So much negative karma and defilements are purified, then your mind becomes very clear and you are able to have clairvoyance.

I think His Holiness Zong Rinpoche went for pilgrimage there and at every place Rinpoche stopped and did tsog offering. If you are practicing Heruka deity then this is what you do—at every place there you stop and do tsog offering.

During that time, while His Holiness Zong Rinpoche was making pilgrimage, in Lhasa there was one girl who was walking with bare feet; she was a khadroma, a dakini, so she was telling people that at that time a Heruka had come to Tsari. When people checked who was at Tsari at that time, they found out that His Holiness Zong Rinpoche was there making pilgrimage on this mountain. There are other reasons for saying that His Holiness Zong Rinpoche is Heruka, but this is one of the reasons.

So maybe this grass is growing there; it only grows in those very blessed holy places. It is said that during the daytime smoke comes from this grass and at nighttime flames come from this grass. It has an unbelievable, unbelievable scented smell, so however many cloths you cover the plants with, it cannot stop the scented smell, which you can feel from a distance. This is healing grass, holy grass.

There is ancient Chinese ink, black ink which has a very deep, scented smell. I remember when I was with my uncle, the second one who taught me the alphabet, he used to expose it from time to time and it had a very deep, scented smell. In the texts there are blessed pills and certain mantras for healing, mantras to eat, so it is advised to write those mantras with this Chinese ink. I think the main thing is not the ink, but the ink is mixed with this holy grass and in this way it produces an incredible scented smell, and I think that heals the sicknesses. Nowadays maybe in China I think it seems difficult to get. But if you can get this, it can be used for healing sicknesses.

Quite a number of years ago I was asking different people to find this grass. My idea was to make blessed pills, so I thought this would definitely help, that it could heal AIDS, and that was my main aim for trying to get this grass. Even just a tiny bit in pills, whatever size; with even just a tiny bit of that, it becomes incredibly powerful, healing. Not only for AIDS but for cancer and other incurable diseases, though this would be priceless. It can be very powerful and can heal many other things. Not only can it heal sicknesses, but this is holy grass and it only grows in very blessed places or holy places, so it blesses the mind very easily. The effect of eating that grass is that it naturally transforms the mind, because it carries the blessing so it affects the mind and it becomes very easy to feel renunciation of samsara, impermanence and death or whatever you meditate on; it’s easy to feel. Even for the animals when they go to the mountains if they eat this grass [they receive blessings.]

Lama Pasang, who lived near Lhasa and has now passed away, was one of two students of Lama [Thubten Yeshe]. There is Lama Lhundrub,3 who is the abbot now of Kopan Monastery, and the other one, Lama Pasang, who helped for many years doing the external buildings, looking after the buildings and shopping, all the external things. At his home near Lhasa, a place called Ngeymo, it seems on the mountains in that area that they may have this grass growing. So sometimes the animals don’t go out; they stay in one place, standing all day long without moving and they cry. The family believes, “Oh, this animal has eaten this grass from the mountain.” It affects the mind, renunciation, like that. Lama Pasang told me they have stories, how the people recognize that.

I thought this would help so much, especially for AIDS, because I was thinking about how to help, what could be done for AIDS. Anyway, coming back from all those side talks.

So I was using this example, the dew can drop down at any time, so looking at the causative phenomena as transitory like that. So then from there I started talking about the three types of grass, “always crying one,” “liberating sentient beings” and the grass called “kunsang.” If you eat this grass, because it is holy blessed grass, it affects the mind when you die and you don’t get reborn in the lower realms. So that’s what is mentioned I think in Pabongka’s teaching.

Like a Water Bubble, A Dream, Lightning, a Cloud

Then, look at causative phenomena like a water bubble, which can be popped at any time. Look at causative phenomena as having the nature of impermanence, that can be ceased any time.

Then, like a dream, again here, looking at causative phenomena like a dream. So relating to the same thing here—what we see in the dream appears real but it’s not true. So same, these causative phenomena appear to our mind as real ones existing from their own side but it’s not true, they are empty.

Then, like lightning. Again here, these causative phenomena are like lightning—during the lightning [strike]—here it’s showing the nature of impermanence. The duration of lightning is very short, so during the lightning you see the people around you, your own body, you see things vividly while there’s lightning, in the nighttime when there’s lightning. You see things vividly then they are gone. They appear, then they are gone. Like that, the appearance of this life, having all these material possessions—how much property we have, how much wealth we have, how many friends, family members, children and so forth, including our own human body—all this is appearing now, but like lightning it appears then it’s gone.

When we die, the day when the death comes, [Rinpoche snaps fingers] at that time it happens exactly like lightning. All this happened but then it’s gone, it just became a memory, so it’s exactly like lightning. During the lightning, many things vividly appear but then they are gone. They appear but in the next minute they are gone. It’s like that here—all the appearances of this life happen but then they are gone. The appearances of this life can be stopped at any time. All these things appearing vividly—including our human body, everything, all the sense objects, all these beautiful things, whatever, all these appearances of this life—can be stopped any time. So like lightning. It has great meaning, looking at the causative phenomena like lightning.

Then like a cloud. Phenomena are there but the next minute they are not there. Or while we are looking at something, it is changing. It cannot stay; while we are looking at it, it is changing, disappearing. So here it’s showing the transitory nature, because causative phenomena have a transitory nature, using the example of a cloud.

Here, as I mentioned before, while there’s strong anger arising we should remember this—either the transitory nature of our life or that it’s like a dream, like an illusion, rab rib, that the way things appear to us is not true, that they are empty right there. So meditating in either of these two ways, then suddenly our unbelievably strong anger—our problem, this strong anger—suddenly we find no reason for it to arise, suddenly we can stop it.

We are angry with somebody and we believe that person harmed us, we have interpreted their actions as harmful or abusive. Whatever label we have given to that harm, whatever different name, abuse or whatever; however we criticized or whatever label we put, how we interpreted that action, suddenly there’s no reason for anger to arise.

Or suddenly, that very painful relationship problem that stops us getting to sleep; we are unable to eat food, we can’t find taste in the food; we can’t fall asleep, we can’t enjoy our life, we can’t relax, we can’t rest, this month and for years, when we meditate like this, when we think of this verse of the Buddha’s teachings, immediately, it’s stopped. We cannot find any reason for that painful mind, desire or a jealous mind to arise, and suddenly that relationship problem is stopped. Or any other problem to do with the disturbing emotional mind; any problem stops right there. A grudge that we hold in our heart; if somebody abused us, we think, “Somebody did this to me,” and we put that negative label on that person’s action, so this immediately gets stopped.

However, the essence is here. Samsara is created by the mind, by our own concepts. Liberation is created by our own mind; enlightenment is created by our own mind, hell is created by the mind, happiness is created by the mind, suffering is created by the mind, problems are created by the mind, by our concepts, by our way of thinking. So these verses tell us how to stop the mind which creates the suffering, the mind which creates samsara, the mind which creates the sufferings of the lower realms, rebirth. And then we can transform the mind which creates enlightenment, liberation from samsara, happiness of future lives and even in our day-to-day life, moment-to-moment peace. Thinking in this way, as the Buddha advised, if we practice mindfulness in our daily life in this way, then what we get is day-to-day, moment-to-moment peace of mind, happiness, freedom from all the problems, emotional problems, also happiness of future lives and liberation from samsara. Practicing like this with the good heart also becomes the cause to achieve enlightenment.

So that’s it, I think. [Laughter]

Every day, every hour, every minute, every second, by having this precious human body we have a choice whether to go to enlightenment or to hell; whether to go to samsara, the continuity of samsara, or to liberation; whether to receive the body of a happy transmigratory being or the body of a suffering transmigratory being after this life. Even moment-to-moment whether we want to have peace or whether we want to have problems, there’s a choice; by having this human body we have a choice. So then it is up to our own thoughts, our way of thinking, it’s depending on that. So everything depends on the secrecy of our mind, which way we think.

Eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, doing our job, whatever we do, even drinking one cup of tea, depending on how we think, it can become the cause of enlightenment, the highest, we get the greatest benefit, profit, or it can become the cause of the hell realm. It can be the cause of liberation or the cause of samsara; the cause of happiness of future lives or the cause of the lower realms. So even the action of drinking a cup of tea can make a huge difference depending on what kind of attitude we have. Our way of thinking while we drink that cup of tea decides the result, it decides the effect so it makes a huge difference.

Same thing, when we are sleeping, so when we are about to go to sleep, same thing. All those hours of sleeping can become the cause of enlightenment or the cause of rebirth in the hell realms; the cause of receiving liberation from samsara or the cause of samsara; the cause of happiness of future lives or the cause of the lower realms, like that. It depends on what kind of thought, what kind of attitude or thought we have when we go to sleep, so it makes a huge difference in the result, the karmic result.

So like this, any action we do in daily life, even while we are sitting on our meditation cushion here, even while we’re sitting here on our meditation cushion, depending on what kind of thought arises while we’re sitting here, same thing again. We create enlightenment, we create hell, we create samsara, we create liberation, we create happiness of future lives, we create the lower realms. It depends on what kind of thought arises, even while we are sitting here on the meditation cushion for one hour.

That means everything—happiness or suffering—is dependent on the root, our own mind, the attitude, so everything is dependent on oneself. Oneself is the doer, the creator of all this. No one else, only oneself is the creator of all this.

These verses are the way to subdue our own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha, so these are the techniques to protect our mind from delusion.

So that’s it. Maybe recite the King of Prayers?


Notes

1 The following verse, often quoted by Rinpoche, is from the Vajra Cutter Sutra:

A star, a defective view, a butter lamp flame,
An illusion, a dew drop, a water bubble.
A dream, lightning, a cloud:
See all causative phenomena like this.
[Return to text]

2 This verse from the Seven-Point Mind Training root text is below:

When stability has been attained, impart the secret teaching:
Consider all phenomena as like dreams,
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
The remedy itself is released in its own place,
Place the essence of the path on the nature of the basis of all.

In the period between sessions, be a creator of illusions. [Return to text]

3 Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrub Rigsel (1941–2011) arrived at Kopan Monastery to teach the young monks at Lama Yeshe's request in 1973. He was acting abbot from 1984 to 2001, when he was officially appointed abbot and remained in that position until two months before he passed away in September 2011. [Return to text]