E-letter No. 72: May 2009

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Auckland, New Zealand November 1990 (Archive #717)

Dear LYWA Friends and Supporters,

I hope you are well.

CPMT meeting
As I mentioned in last month’s e-letter, I recently attended the FPMT meeting at Institut Vajra Yogini, in France. The picture here, taken by my wife Wendy, captures Rinpoche giving a spontaneous 15 minute teaching at a stupa about how, when you see flowers, you should not just admire them but offer them--at a minimum just bring your guru to mind and mentally offer the flowers.

While at CPMT I gave a brief presentation of the state of the LYWA. You can read about our current projects here. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your kind interest.

In the meantime, the latest FPMT news has been issued.

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Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Mani Retreat
Our new book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s The Heart of the Path, continues to inspire people. We were able to offer Rinpoche more than 200 copies, which he gave to people at the CPMT meeting and the Mani Retreat that is going on at Institut Vajra Yogini now. If you would like to participate in the retreat from afar, you can do so here, where you can also see video or listen to audio.

This retreat continues a series of Mani retreats that Rinpoche has inspired. The first of these was held at Chenrezig Institute in Australia in 2000, and the LYWA book Teachings from the Mani Retreat chronicles the teachings given by Rinpoche during this retreat. This book is currently out of print, but you can read the entire book online or download a pdf.

What's New on the Web
We continue to make improvements and add features to our website. Thanks to all of you who have offered helpful feedback since we launched our new site last October. Our newest feature allows website visitors to search our Archive database, the database which holds information about every teaching currently stored in the Archive. Perhaps you attended a teaching and are curious as to whether or not it's ever been transcribed or published; or perhaps you want to know if there's a teaching on a certain topic or practice; our new search screen will provide all this and more. Check it out!

We have just posted the audio recordings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings before a Mitukpa initiation given in Taiwan in 2007. As always, they are accompanied by the unedited transcripts. The recording of the remainder of the teachings given over the two days was not good enough to publish online, but it was able to be transcribed, so we've also published a lightly edited version of all the teachings for you to read online. (All were transcribed and edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.) 

Good Projects to Support
Thank you so much to all those who kindly responded to our special appeal for the Kalachakra stupa I’m trying to build at Kurukulla Center, where I’m also director. We are getting closer to our target; please help out if you can. Helping build a stupa is of great benefit.

And, we recently heard about the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change which can be found on www.ecobuddhism.org. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the first to sign this important document, and you can visit the website to add your signature to the document as well.

Thank you for your kindness. Here’s a great teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on the mind.

Much love,
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Nick Ribush
Director

The Nature of Mind
What is the mind? It is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind in dependence upon the phenomenon that has no color, no shape, and no material substance. It is different from the body, which has color and shape and is substantial. The consciousness of the body, or the body sense, experiences objects, but the body itself doesn’t perform that function.

Clearly perceiving objects is what defines the mind. The basic definition of mind is that which is clear and able to perceive objects. Clear doesn’t necessarily mean that the way the mind sees an object accords with reality. Here clear means simply seeing an object clearly, whether rightly or wrongly. For example, from a distance somebody in a department store might see a store mannequin as a real person, because the shape and posture of the body are like those of a normal person. Somebody could look at a mannequin and think, “Oh, there’s a person there!” They give the label “person” to the mannequin because it has the shape of a person, and they then believe in their label. The mannequin then appears to them as a real person, even though in reality there’s no actual person there, from the top of the head down to the toes. It’s simply a mannequin. An actual person doesn’t exist there. First of all the person sees the base, the shape of a human body; because of that they label “person” and believe in that label. It then appears to them as a person. Even though that appearance is not true, it is a clear appearance to their mind.

Another example is someone with bile disease* seeing a white snow mountain as yellow in color. Even though the appearance of a yellow mountain is not true, it’s clear to that hallucinated mind. It is similar with the effects of datura and other drugs. Because of the effect of a drug, someone can see the whole ground as crawling worms. Even though it is not true, what appears is clear to that hallucinated mind.

Here in the definition of mind, clear doesn’t necessarily mean that the object you’re seeing accords with reality. Whether it’s a false object or a true one, it appears clearly to the mind.

Just as there’s no such thing as objects appearing clearly to the body, there’s no such thing as objects appearing clearly to rocks, trees, and other substantial things. Clear has to do with perception. Rocks, trees, and other substantial things don’t have perception; nothing appears to them. Perception has to do with the mind. Appearance is a production, or creation, of the mind. The body and these other substantial things have only form; they don’t have perception. The mind has perception; it is only to the mind that things appear.

As I’ve already said, the general definition of the characteristics of the mind is that which is clear and able to perceive objects. Clear means in the sense of seeing objects clearly, though not necessarily in accord with reality. Generally, the mind sees an object clearly, whether that object is appearing falsely or in accord with reality. So, that which is clear and able to perceive objects refers to both the hallucinated mind and the valid mind. This definition refers to both an ordinary sentient being’s mind and to a fully enlightened being’s mind, which is free from all hallucinations.

The nature of the mind is clear light. The mind doesn’t exist from its own side. The mind that appears to exist from its own side is completely empty of existing from its own side. The mind that exists is simply the mind that is merely imputed by the mind in dependence upon the base to be labeled “mind.” That base is not the body, but the shapeless, colorless phenomenon that is clear and able to perceive objects. In dependence upon that phenomenon “mind” is merely imputed by the mind. How does the mind exist? The mind exists in dependence upon that base, that phenomenon that has the qualities of being non-substantial and clear and able to perceive objects, and the thought that labels it. In dependence upon these two, the base and the thought, mind exists.

So, what is the mind? It is nothing other than what is merely imputed by thought in dependence upon this particular phenomenon with this nature and function. Since the mind is merely imputed by thought in dependence upon this base, the mind is completely empty of existing from its own side. This is the clear light nature of the mind.

It is the clear light nature of the mind that gives us the potential to achieve any happiness that we wish. It is the clear light nature of the mind that gives us every hope. It gives us the opportunity to be completely liberated from all problems, from true suffering and true causes of suffering, and to actualize the clear light nature of the mind. It is because of this clear light nature of the mind that we can achieve ultimate happiness, besides temporary peace and happiness in our daily life. This is what gives us the opportunity to end the entire suffering of samsara, the continuation of which did not have a beginning. It is the clear light nature of the mind that gives us the possibility of ending the continuation of suffering, of samsara, even though it does not have a beginning.

Besides achieving liberation, ultimate happiness for self, we can completely cease even the subtle obscurations, the imprints left on our mental continuum by the ignorance holding the concept of true existence and other disturbing thoughts. In this way our mind can become completely pure, without any faults. It becomes omniscient mind, which can directly see all past, present, and future existence.

Because of this clear light nature of the mind, we have every hope of obtaining any happiness that we want. No matter how strong our ignorance, anger, desire, self-cherishing, and other delusions are and no matter how much heavy negative karma we have created, these things are not permanent; all these obscurations are temporary. Like fog in the sky, they are not permanent; they will not always be there. They are dependent arisings. In dependence upon causes and conditions, fog happens and obscures the sun or moon and the sky. Then, in dependence upon other causes and conditions, such as the karma of sentient beings and wind, the fog goes away.

It is the same with a dirty cloth. The dirt is temporary, not permanent. In dependence upon causes and conditions, the cloth becomes dirty, and then in dependence upon other causes and conditions, the cloth can become clean. In dependence upon soap and water, the dirt will go away.

In dependence upon causes and conditions, a mirror can be covered by dust, so that it can’t give a clear reflection. But in dependence upon other causes and conditions, the dirt can be removed, so that the mirror can give a clear reflection. One small mirror can give a clear reflection of a whole city.

In a similar way, no matter how strong our delusions are or how much heavy negative karma we have created, like fog in the sky or dirt in a cloth or dust on a mirror, they are not permanent. Our mind is temporarily obscured, because the nature of our mind is not one, or mixed, with our delusions and negative karma. No matter how black with dirt a cloth is, because the cloth is not one with the dirt, it can always be cleaned. No matter how thick the dust on a mirror is, the mirror can always be cleaned. Like this, no matter how strong our delusions are and how heavy the negative karma we have created, since our mind is not one with them, there is always hope; there is always the potential for our mind to be separated from these obscurations. Our mind can become completely pure, free from all these obscurations, all these causes of suffering.

First, the ultimate nature of the mind is clear light; the mind is empty of existing from its own side. Because of this, the mind is not mixed with the obscurations, with the delusions and negative karmas. Second, realizing the ultimate nature of the I and of the mind eradicates ignorance, which is the basis of anger, attachment, and all the other disturbing thoughts. Realizing the ultimate nature of the mind ceases ignorance, the concept of a truly existent mind, and all the other delusions, all the other wrong conceptions, that are based on it. It then ceases the negative karmas produced by these delusions, as well as all the sufferings that arise from these delusions and negative karmas.

By developing method, or compassion, along with this wisdom realizing the nature of the I and the mind, you are able to completely cease even the subtle obscurations of the mind. In this way your mind becomes completely free from all faults and perfected in all realizations. Such a mind is a fully enlightened mind, a buddha’s mind.

*Note: Tibetan medicine regards diseases as disturbances of the basic humors of wind, bile, and phlegm. Bile disorders are related to the liver.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching in Auckland, New Zealand, October 1990. Edited from the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive by Ailsa Cameron.