Training the Mind in the Path to Enlightenment

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Singapore (Archive #702)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these three Dharma talks at Kim Seng Bowl, Singapore, on 13-14 October 1990. Edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.    

Lama Zopa Rinpoche with koala in Adelaide, Australia, 1983. Photo: Wendy Finster.
1. The Graduated Path

What we are doing is the most important thing in life. The purpose of what we are doing here is not just obtaining day-to-day peace of mind or happiness, not just obtaining some temporary happiness or success. We are trying to obtain long-term happiness. We are not trying to obtain just the happiness of a few months, of a few years, of this life, or of our many coming lifetimes. That is all still temporary happiness. One of the most important things we are attempting to do here is to completely cease all suffering. The cause of all the sufferings of rebirth, old age, sickness, death, and all other problems is karma, or action, motivated by ignorance not knowing the nature of the I and the aggregates and other disturbing thoughts. All our problems come from our own mind, from karma and disturbing thoughts. We are trying to use our own mind to cease these. With another type of mind we are trying to cease the type of mind that brings all these endless problems, one after another, from life to life. We are trying to cease the minds that bring this beginningless suffering.

So, what kind of mind can do that? The Dharma that is within our own mind.

The meaning of Dharma means that which holds one from falling down into suffering. Dharma protects, or frees, you from all true suffering, such as death and rebirth, and from the true cause of suffering, karma and disturbing thoughts. Dharma protects you from all true suffering and its causes. So, that is not something external—it’s your own mind. With this mind of Dharma, we try to cease the other minds that bring suffering, the continuation of which did not have a beginning and which we experience endlessly, life after life. We are trying to cease the cycle of death and rebirth, to end suffering completely. There is nothing more important in our life than this work. If we are able to stop suffering rebirth, it means we are able to stop the sufferings of old age and sickness, as well as death. We are able to stop all the problems we experience between rebirth and death and those we experience between death and rebirth. Is there anything more important to do than this?

Not only this, but we are trying to achieve the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, the mental state that is free from even the subtle imprint left on the mental continuum by ignorance, the concept of true existence, and that is perfected in all realizations. We are trying to achieve full enlightenment in order to be able to perfectly guide every sentient being, whose mind is obscured and who is experiencing suffering; to be able to free them from all their sufferings and obscurations and lead them to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. This is the main goal of our listening to, reflecting, and meditating on the path to enlightenment.

There’s nothing more important to do in our life than to achieve the state of omniscient mind, the fully awakened mind, in order to perfectly guide all sentient beings to this state. Being able to do perfect work, without the slightest mistake, for all sentient beings depends on generating the graduated path to enlightenment within our mind. And that depends on developing our mind in the complete path to enlightenment. In order for this to happen we need to purify our obstacles and to create the necessary condition, merit. We need to do these two things to be successful in training our mind in the path, in meditating on the path, which means transforming our mind into the graduated path to enlightenment.

For our listening, reflecting, and meditating to be successful, to be effective for our mind, we are going to recite a praise to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and to the qualities of the Triple Gem: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

[Rinpoche leads recitation of Praise to Shakyamuni Buddha in Tibetan.]

While reciting this praise to the kind, compassionate Shakyamuni Buddha, we should remember the kindness of Shakyamuni Buddha, who has infinite compassion for us sentient beings. First of all, by purifying obscurations and accumulating merit for three countless great eons through practicing the paramitas, Buddha completed training his mind in compassion for all sentient beings and achieved omniscient mind and perfect power When he was a bodhisattva, he made charity of his own body to sentient beings numberless times. Even under one tree, he made charity of his holy body many times to so many other sentient beings: spirits, tigers, ants, and human beings. He gave other sentient beings his limbs, his whole body, and his life. He practiced charity in this way for three countless great eons. When Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was a bodhisattva, he sacrificed his own life, which is so precious, numberless times to other sentient beings in order to achieve enlightenment. He did this to cease all his obscurations and complete all the realizations in order to guide us, the pitiful sentient beings.

For three countless great eons with much hardship, Shakyamuni Buddha then practiced morality. We find it difficult to practice even one vow, but Buddha, with unbearable compassion for all of us sentient beings, practiced the paramita of morality—not only the pratimoksha vows but also the bodhisattva and tantric vows—for three countless great eons. He bore much hardship to achieve the path in order to guide us sentient beings.

For us to practice patience and not lose our temper even one time in a day is difficult. But Buddha, when he was a bodhisattva, practiced patience for three countless great eons to free us from all suffering and its causes and lead us to enlightenment. Buddha also practiced the paramitas of perseverance, concentration, and wisdom, or great insight, as well as method, prayer, and transcendental wisdom.

After practicing the six paramitas for three countless great eons, Shakyamuni Buddha achieved enlightenment and then revealed the unmistaken path. There are three levels of path, or three vehicles: the Lesser Vehicle path, Paramitayana path, and tantric, or Vajrayana, path. Buddha revealed all these unmistaken paths, with the ultimate aim to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment. From our side at this time we have met the unmistaken teaching of the Buddha. As I recite this prayer, remember the kindness and compassion of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Do not commit any unwholesome actions,
Enjoy accumulating perfect virtue,
Subdue your own mind:
This is the teaching of the Buddha.

This verse contains the four noble truths. Do not commit any unwholesome actions contains true suffering and true cause of suffering, which we have to abandon. Enjoy accumulating perfect virtue contains true cessation of suffering and the method to achieve that, true path. You enjoy life by practicing these two.

However, the whole point is to subdue your own mind. Why? Because all the suffering doesn’t come from outside—it comes from your own mind. Happiness also has to come from your own mind. Therefore, the method is to subdue your own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha. All happiness comes from Dharma teachings, because subduing the mind itself is the teaching of the Buddha, of the fully enlightened one. By subduing our own mind, we achieve all happiness. That is how we achieve all happiness from the teaching of the Buddha. Whether or not you use the Sanskrit term Buddha, the main thing is to think of the meaning of fully enlightened. Those people who find the term Buddha limited can use the term fully enlightened being, someone who has ceased all the faults of the mind and completed all the realizations, or good qualities.

Impermanence is another important teaching of Buddha. When we look at our own body, possessions, relatives and the people around us, friends and enemies, we apprehend them as permanent phenomena, which is opposite to the reality. The reality of all these things is that they are impermanent, changing within every second by causes and conditions. They are becoming older, decaying. Because of this, they can be stopped at any time by causes and conditions. This is the nature of causative phenomena.

The fundamental problem is that we live our life with the concept that these things are permanent. We look at them as permanent and expect them to be permanent. This concept is what makes life difficult. We look at these things in the wrong way, as something that they are not. We look at these impermanent things as permanent, we apprehend them to be permanent, and we expect them to be permanent. Having this concept is the fundamental problem of life. We look at things in this way, but we don’t experience them in this way. What we experience in our daily life is something else; we experience change, decay, things not lasting. When we have this fixed concept of permanence and then experience something else, we find it a shock. Our mind becomes crazy. We have a nervous breakdown and want to commit suicide. Many mental and physical sufferings arise from this.

When we look at impermanent things—our own life, our possessions, our relatives, the people around us—as permanent, the result is only samsara and no liberation. The result is only suffering and no happiness. But if we look at our own life, our body, our possessions, and the people around us in accord with their reality, there’s happiness in our life and liberation. With this awareness there’s freedom in our life. We free ourselves from these wrong concepts and the resultant problems. With the concept of permanence, we put ourselves in the prison of samsara; we put ourselves in suffering. It has completely to do with our own mind. One mind gives us joy and freedom from moment to moment. With this awareness, since the concept of permanence, ignorance, anger, attachment, and the other delusions don’t arise, we are giving freedom to ourselves every moment of every day. We are giving peace to ourselves. The concept of permanence, the concept of true existence, and other wrong concepts only give us problems. Instead of giving us freedom, they give us only problems. They lead us only to suffering. Mindfulness of impermanence, of how things are changing within every second and can be stopped at any time, gives us freedom from moment to moment in our daily life. It especially gives us the ultimate freedom of liberation, the complete cessation of all suffering and its causes.

All these things—our own life, our body, our possessions, the people around us—are impermanent in nature; they are changing within every second by causes and conditions and they can be stopped at any time by causes and conditions. Because of this, there is no reason to give rise to ignorance, to the concept of permanence and other wrong concepts. There is no reason to give rise to anger. It has no basis. And there’s no reason to give rise to the dissatisfied mind of desire. There is no basis for this unhappy, painful mind. With this awareness of how things are impermanent in nature, since we don’t find any reason to give rise to anger or desire, there is immediate happiness. It gives us immediate release from the tension in our heart from desire and the other painful minds. Even from day to day there’s happiness and satisfaction in our heart.

The other point is that my body is not the I and my mind is not the I. When we say “my mind,” the I is the possessor, or owner, and the mind is a possession that the I owns. The possessor, the I, and the possession, the mind, cannot be one. There’s no way that the possessor and the possession can be one. Since the possession is the object that the possessor, the subject, possesses, they cannot be one. When we say “my mind,” the expression itself means that the mind is not me, not the I.

When we say “the parts of the table,” it means that the parts are not the table. The parts of a table are not the table, and even the whole group of the parts of a table is still not the table.

It is the same when we talk about “my body.” In conversations in our daily life, we talk about “my body,” which means the body is not the I, and “my mind,” which means the mind is not the I.

When we talk about “my aggregates,” we mean the general aggregates, the association of the body and the mind. The aggregate of form is not the I; the aggregate of feeling is not the I; the aggregate of recognition, or discrimination, is not the I; the compounding aggregate is not the I; the aggregate of consciousness is not the I. None of the five aggregates is the I. Even the whole group of the five aggregates together is not the I. From the top of your head down to your toes, the I cannot be found anywhere. None of the aggregates is the I, even the whole group of the aggregates is not the I, and the I cannot be found anywhere on this base, from the top of the head down to the toes. It’s not that the I can’t be found anywhere in this room, but it cannot be found anywhere on these aggregates.

Because this base, these aggregates, exists, it is believed that there is I. Because these aggregates exist, the I is merely imputed by the mind in dependence upon the aggregates. So, the I exists in mere name. Because these aggregates exist, it is believed that there is I. The I exists in mere name, being merely imputed by the mind in dependence upon the aggregates. That’s all the I is.

Even though this particular island country with its city buildings, water, and mountains existed, if nobody had given it the name “Singapore,” if nobody had labeled it “Singapore,” Singapore could not exist. Singapore was not labeled when there was empty space, just the ocean. If “Singapore” had not been labeled by the mind on all these things—city, water, and mountains—Singapore could not exist. Therefore, the way that Singapore exists is in mere name, being merely imputed by the mind. In other words, because this base, this particular island with its city and mountains is existing, it is believed that Singapore exists. By seeing this island, we believe, “I see Singapore.” By having been in this city, we believe “I have been in Singapore.” We just believe that we’ve been in Singapore. It’s a concept.

What exists is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind. In regard to the I, what exists is nothing other than what is merely imputed by the mind. Therefore, there is no real I, no I from its own side. The I from its own side is completely empty.

That somebody is hurting me, a real I existing from its own side, is a completely wrong view, a hallucination. That somebody is using black magic on me, a real I existing from its own side, is a hallucination. There is no such real I from its own side. Since such an object doesn’t exist, nobody can harm it with black magic. Nobody can hurt or kill this I, because such a real I doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist at all. If it existed, we should be able to find it. When we search the aggregates for it, we should be able to find it. But we cannot find it. Therefore, somebody putting a spell on me, on a real I existing from its own side, is a complete hallucination. The real spell and the real somebody using the spell are both completely empty; they do not exist. They are a complete hallucination, like a dream. All these are hallucinations, appearances in daytime dreams.

In the same way, since there is no such real I existing from its own side, there is no way to lose this real I’s friend I. There is no such I and no such friend of this I, because such an I doesn’t exist. Such an I is completely empty. There is no friend of this real I, because there is no such real I to possess a friend. Such a real I doesn’t exist; it is a complete hallucination. How is it possible for such an I to have a friend or an enemy? There is no way. This I doesn’t have friends or enemies, so there is no way to lose a friend.

This I doesn’t experience gain or loss, because such an I is a complete hallucination. There’s no such real I, no I existing from its own side, no unlabeled I, to possess a friend, who then leaves you. This is all a complete hallucination, a daytime dream. Such things as this real I meeting a real friend or losing a real friend don’t exist. And such a thing as being harmed by a real enemy doesn’t exist. There’s no real gain and there’s no real loss. There’s no gain existing from its own side and there’s no loss existing from its own side. That real gain and real loss are hallucinations. It is only that your own mind imputed gain and loss: “My friend has left me” or “My enemy has harmed me.” Your own mind made up the labels “friend,” “enemy,” and “harm.” Your own mind makes up the name, the label, for everything.

From morning until night, from birth until death, everything that we hear about, talk about, and think about is something that is labeled by our mind. From morning until night, from birth until death, we think about something that we have labeled, that we have given a name. We ourselves give the name then think about it. We ourselves impute the names “friend” and “enemy,” then worry about that. We make up the names “harm” and “help.” We make up names for everything; everything is imputed by our mind. Whatever we see is what we have labeled, whatever we hear is what we have labeled, whatever we remember is what we have labeled. From morning until night, from birth until death, everything is something that completely came from our own mind. Subject, action, sense objects, good, bad—sine everything is what we have labeled, everything came from our own mind. Everything, including the I and Singapore, is merely imputed by the mind.

When we think in this way of the very nature of things, we see that so much of our fear, worry, tension, and depression are unnecessary. We created them without any real reason. Unnecessarily, we just made up all these problems. When we are aware of the reality, of how I, action, object, friend, enemy, stranger, and so forth do not exist from their own side, we find that so much of our worry and fear is nonsense.

When our mind is aware of the ultimate nature of things, at that time we are giving freedom to ourselves. When we have this awareness in our everyday life, we are cutting the root of suffering. When we really analyze the very nature of the things that we talk about and think about, such as the I, we see that they are nothing other than what is merely imputed by our mind. So, everything is empty from its own side. Mindfulness of this gives liberation and enlightenment. It ceases all the faults of the mind. This wisdom that realizes the ultimate nature of things is the one that directly removes all the faults of the mind, all the gross and subtle obscurations. This is what makes it possible for the continuation of our consciousness to become omniscient mind.

In our daily life when our mind is not aware of the ultimate nature of things, we follow the concept of true existence, the ignorance that apprehends everything as existing from its own side. At that time, with this concept, we are putting ourselves in the prison of samsara. We are creating the cause of suffering when we live our life with the concept of true existence, but when we live our life with mindfulness of the ultimate nature of things, we are guiding ourselves to liberation and to enlightenment.

The conclusion is that everything is empty. All these things—I, action, object—which look real, or unlabeled, to be existing from their own side, are completely empty from their own side. Therefore, there is no basis to give rise to ignorance, because things do not exist in that way. Things do not exist independently or from their own side. Because of that, there’s no basis for getting angry or for having an unhappy, dissatisfied mind of desire in relation to friends, possessions, and so forth. There’s no purpose in that.

So, this is the basic teaching of the Buddha.

We are now going to recite The Heart Sutra, The Essence of Wisdom. Even if you don’t understand the meaning of The Essence of Wisdom, please concentrate at least on the sound, as this will leave much positive imprint on the mind. This helps us, sooner or later, to understand the extensive meaning of The Essence of Wisdom and to be able to actualize emptiness only, the ultimate nature of things. By realizing the meaning of The Essence of Wisdom, emptiness, the ultimate nature of things, you are then able to cut off the root of the whole of samsara, of all suffering. Meditation on The Essence of Wisdom, awareness of the teachings of emptiness, is like an atomic bomb that destroys samsara, that destroys the disturbing thoughts.

It is explained in the [Lankavatara Sutra] that memorizing even one stanza of a teaching on emptiness creates far greater merit than offering to the buddhas worlds filled with the seven precious jewels and equal in number to the sand grains of the Ganges River. The Ganges is a very large river, so it has numberless sand grains. The merit from offering that many worlds filled with jewels is very small compared to the unbelievable merit from memorizing even one stanza of a teaching on the ultimate truth. Even having interest in the teachings on emptiness purifies the heavy negative karmas of the ten nonvirtuous actions—killing, stealing, and so forth—and of having degenerated morality. It is emphasized very much that we should attempt to listen to, reflect, and meditate on teachings on emptiness.

We will just read The Essence of Wisdom. Those who do not understand the meaning should just concentrate on the sound of the prayer, which will itself become meditation.

[Rinpoche reads The Heart Sutra in English, then the Lion-faced Dakini practice.]

This is a teaching of the whole graduated path to enlightenment. Again, everybody should concentrate on the sound of the prayer so that it leaves an imprint of the whole path in the mind and makes preparation to receive all the realizations and to achieve enlightenment. Hearing this teaching brings you closer to enlightenment.

[Rinpoche reads The Foundation of All Good Qualities in English, followed by recitation of Shakyamuni Buddha’s mantra.]

When we feel compassion for somebody, whether a person or an animal, we wish that being to be free from suffering. When our compassion is strong, we don’t simply wish for this but do something about it. We ourselves take responsibility for freeing that sentient being from their suffering. By having compassion we at least stop giving harm to that sentient being.

In a couple, even if both the husband and wife don’t have compassion, if at least one of them has compassion, the other person has more peace. If the wife has compassion and practices the good heart even though her husband doesn’t, she doesn’t retaliate even if he is a bad-tempered, selfish person. Therefore, he has more peace. Not receiving harm from her is peace that he is receiving from her. So, she is responsible for his peace. Even his mind can then gradually change. Because of her example as a strong Dharma practitioner, someone who continuously practices compassion and the good heart, he can also gradually transform his mind into the good heart. As he follows her example, he can slowly practice the good heart. When both of them practice the good heart, there will be incredible harmony and peace in their lives.

It is similar to the example of two people who went to Lhasa. One person was an alcoholic and the other didn’t drink. In Lhasa the alcoholic met a friend who didn’t drink and so gave up drinking. The other person, who was not drinking before, met a friend who was alcoholic and then became alcoholic. The two of them completely changed their lives after going to Lhasa, becoming the complete opposite of what they were before.

In a similar way, the peace and happiness of the wife depends on the husband and his peace and happiness depends on her. Their happiness is dependent on each other. They are responsible for each other as how their life is going to turn out depends on the other person.

When we practice compassion, we don’t give harm to however many people there are around us, so that is peace that they receives from us. In the same way, when we practice compassion, the many millions of people in our country don’t receive harm from us, so that is peace that they receive from us. Not only that, but when we practice compassion, all the human beings and animals in the whole world don’t receive harm from us, so that is peace that they receive from us. All sentient beings don’t receive harm from us, so that is peace that they receive from us. Not only do all other sentient beings receive peace by our stopping giving harm, but they also receive peace by receiving help from us. When our compassion is strong, we do something; we ourselves take responsibility for freeing others from their sufferings. At the very least we don’t give harm to others. All sentient beings then receive peace and happiness from us.

If each of us practices compassion for the one person or five or ten or however many people there are in our family, they don’t receive harm from us, which means they receive peace. In addition, all the many millions of people and animals in our country and in the world and all sentient beings don’t receive harm from us; they receive peace. Not receiving harm itself is peace that they are receiving from us. On top of this, we then take responsibility for doing something to free them from their sufferings. So, all sentient beings don’t receive harm from us, and they receive peace and happiness from us. All this peace and happiness that sentient beings receive from us is dependent on us.

Therefore, each of us is completely responsible for everyone’s happiness, starting from our family, the people and animals closest to us, and extending to all sentient beings. Each of us is completely responsible for pacifying all the sufferings of all sentient beings and for bringing them happiness. It is completely in our hands. If we don’t develop our mind, if we don’t transform our mind from self-cherishing thought to the thought of cherishing other sentient beings, we will continuously give harm to other sentient beings with self-cherishing thought. The actions that come out of self-cherishing thought harm, directly or indirectly, other sentient beings, starting from the people and animals closest to us and extending from there to all sentient beings. Their receiving harm is dependent upon us. In this way, all sentient beings receive harm directly or indirectly, and from life to life.

We have a precious human rebirth, which gives us all the opportunities to develop our mind in the right path, to achieve the path, from the very beginning of the path, guru devotion or perfect human rebirth, up to full enlightenment. A precious human rebirth gives all the opportunities to generate the whole path to full enlightenment. It gives us all the opportunities to obtain whatever happiness we wish for ourselves and to cause whatever happiness we want to all other sentient beings, from happiness in daily life up to the ultimate happiness of full enlightenment. At this time we have all the necessary conditions. From our side we have received a precious human rebirth or a perfect human rebirth, which is qualified by eight freedoms and ten richnesses; we have met a virtuous teacher who can reveal the path; and we have met the teaching of the Buddha. We have received all the necessary conditions to transform our mind from self-cherishing thought into the altruism that cherishes other sentient beings.

If we transform our mind into the altruism that cherishes other sentient beings, all sentient beings won’t receive harm from us; they will receive peace and happiness. It is completely in our own hands, in the hands of each of us, whether or not we cause happiness to every other sentient being. It depends on our mind, on the kind of attitude we generate. Not only that, but the happiness of the people and animals around us in our daily life is dependent on us. Our own happiness and comfort in daily life are dependent on the kindness of others. Even the happiness that comes from receiving praise or a compliment is dependent on the kindness of others. Our happiness is dependent on the attitudes and actions of others.

It is the same with the people and animals around us. All the happiness and comfort of the people we live with at home and work with in the office is dependent on us. When we smile at them, they are happy. When we look at them with compassion and a loving smile, with an open mind and a sincere heart, it makes them happy; it brings them happiness and comfort in their life. If we respect them, it makes them happy; it brings them happiness and comfort. The happiness of the people and animals around us is dependent on our own attitude toward them, on whether we have a negative or a positive attitude. Our attitude to others manifests even in our physical appearance. According to the attitude we have toward others, our physical appearance is pleasant or unpleasant.

If our attitude is negative, if we are angry or have a dissatisfied, self-centered mind only concerned about seeking our own happiness and thinking “When I can be happy? When I can be successful? When I can be free from my problems?,” that uptight mind manifests in an unpleasant appearance and an unpleasant vibration. Other people don’t feel that we are kind and warm-hearted; we don’t have a good vibration. As our heart is closed toward others, other people don’t find it easy to communicate with us; they can’t make a connection. If we live our life with negative attitudes, since our actions are disrespectful and careless toward other sentient beings, we harm others. Our attitude disturbs the minds of others, making them unhappy.

The day-to-day happiness and comfort of the people and animals around us is dependent on our own attitude. We can see very clearly how each of us has universal responsibility. We are responsible for the happiness of all sentient beings, starting from the people and animals around us.

Among all the different levels of happiness, the highest is full enlightenment, the mental state that has ceased all obscurations and is perfected in all realizations. Full enlightenment, this state of peerless happiness, of complete peace of mind, is what sentient beings are missing and what they need. Even though sentient beings mightn’t know about or talk about enlightenment—they mightn’t know that such a peerless happiness exists and can be experienced—it is what they are looking for. You can understand this from their everyday lives. When they do business they always look for the highest profit. When they buy clothing and other things—even the food to make one meal—they buy the best quality they can.

From this you can understand that what they are looking for is the longest-lasting, highest happiness, so what they need is the peerless happiness of full enlightenment. You yourself are completely responsible for bringing the happiness of full enlightenment to all sentient beings. To be able to do this, you need to know the different characteristics and levels of mind of every sentient being and every single method that fits each sentient being and be able to reveal the different methods to each sentient being, as their level of mind develops, in order to guide them from happiness to happiness, to full enlightenment. It is only the omniscient mind that can see all this. Therefore, to be able to perfectly guide all sentient beings to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, you yourself first need to achieve omniscient mind.

In order to achieve full enlightenment, you need to generate the graduated path of the being of higher capability, the root of which is bodhicitta. And to generate the graduated path of the being of higher capability, as a preliminary you need to generate the graduated path of the being of middling capability, the root of which is renunciation of the whole of samsara. Generating that depends on actualizing the graduated path of the being of lower capability, the root of which is cutting off clinging to this life.

There are three types of beings of actual capability. The first one, on the basis of training their mind in guru devotion, seeing the guru as Buddha, actualizes the meditations on perfect human rebirth (its usefulness and the difficulty of finding one again), impermanence and death, and the sufferings of the three lower realms. By meditating on these subjects and actualizing them, one is then able to free oneself from worldly concern, from attachment clinging to this life.

The motivation is one of renunciation of this life, and the aim is to receive the body of a happy transmigratory being, a deva or a human, in the next life. The methods to achieve this are to practice refuge and protecting karma. Protecting karma means abandoning the ten nonvirtuous actions by realizing their shortcomings—the sufferings they cause—, living in vows that abandon the ten nonvirtues, and living in the ten virtues. This is the path of the being of lower capability.

The next motivation is much higher than the previous one. On the basis of renunciation of this life, one cuts off clinging to the whole of samsara, the suffering realm, by realizing its shortcomings, true suffering and true cause of suffering, karma and disturbing thoughts. The aim is to achieve liberation for self, the cessation of true suffering and true cause of suffering for self. To achieve this aim one practices the method, the path of the three higher trainings: the higher training of morality, concentration, and great insight. This is the path of the being of middling capability.

The being of higher capability, on the basis of having renunciation of the whole of samsara, then generates bodhicitta. When this practitioner, having full renunciation of their own samsara, then looks at how other sentient beings are experiencing the sufferings of samsara, it causes them to generate great compassion in their mind. From great compassion then arises bodhicitta, the altruistic wish to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. The motivation of this being of great capability is bodhicitta, and their aim is to achieve full enlightenment for the sake of other sentient beings, to be able to do work perfectly for all sentient beings, who equal the extent of the infinite sky. In order to achieve this, the method they practice is the conduct of the bodhisattvas, the six paramitas.

A being of great capability who practices tantra, or Vajrayana, on the basis of a fundamental motivation of bodhicitta and practice of the paramitas, then takes initiation. In regard to a Highest Yoga Tantra path such as the Yamantaka, or Vajrabhairava, the best practitioner is one who already has realization of the three principal paths to enlightenment: renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta, and correct view, or emptiness. The best way to practice tantra is with these three realizations. In this way one is then able to achieve enlightenment in one brief lifetime of a degenerate time—in other words, within a few years—as Milarepa, many of Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciples, such as Gyalwa Ensapa and Chökyi Dorje, and many of the lineage lamas of mahamudra did. Many yogis and pandits achieved enlightenment within a few years them. By having realization of the three principal paths to enlightenment, one then practices tantra. In this way one is able to succeed in the practice of tantra, which means one is able to achieve enlightenment quickly.

One takes initiation from a qualified vajra master. The initiation ripens the mind and gives permission to practice tantra, the path of secret mantra.

What is it that makes it possible to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime? This is the same with all four tantras. Tantra has four different levels: Action Tantra, Performance Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Highest Yoga Tantra. Shakyamuni Buddha, by manifesting in the form of Vajradhara or another deity, revealed the four levels of tantra in accordance with the four different capacities of mind, or intelligence, of sentient beings. It is possible to achieve enlightenment in one life with all these tantras.

Tantra has a special method that enables one mind to practice method and wisdom together. Your mind focuses on yourself clarified as a deity, and at the same time that mind understands that the aspect of the deity doesn’t have nature, which means not having a truly existent nature. The one mind focuses on oneself in the aspect of a deity and is also aware of the ultimate nature of the deity, that it doesn’t have a truly existent nature, that it’s empty. This is called the wisdom of nondual clarity and profundity. This one mind unifies method, focusing on the deity’s holy body, with wisdom, awareness of the ultimate nature of the deity’s holy body, that it does not exist from its own side. Since the one mind practices method and wisdom together, this one mind creates together the cause of the dharmakaya, the holy mind of a buddha, and the cause of the rupakaya, the holy body of form.

This one mind practices method and wisdom together and creates the cause of the dharmakaya and the rupakaya. Because of this one is able to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime by practicing tantra. In the sutra practice of the Paramitayana path, without tantra, one practices method and wisdom cooperatively but sutra has no method of one mind practicing method and wisdom together. In sutra one practices both method and wisdom, but the special skillful means of one mind unifying method and wisdom is not mentioned. Therefore, in order to achieve enlightenment by practicing sutra alone, one has to practice the six paramitas for three countless great eons.

Tantra has the special skillful means that enables one mind to practice method and wisdom together. Because of this, even with the lower tantras—Action, Performance, and Yoga—one is able to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. This happens by prolonging the life through attainment of the common realization of immortality. You prolong your life so that you live for one thousand years and then achieve enlightenment. But with Highest Yoga Tantra, such as with this deity Yamantaka’s path, you don’t need to prolong your life; you are able to achieve full enlightenment in one brief lifetime of a degenerate time, in a few years.

Highest Yoga Tantra has two paths: generation stage and completion stage. In generation stage, one mind practices method and wisdom together, focusing on the deity and understanding that the deity is empty of existing from its own side. Focusing on the deity becomes preparation for the illusory body of the completion stage and focusing on the aspect of the deity being empty of existing from its own side becomes preparation for the clear light of the completion stage. During the generation stage, this one mind practicing method and wisdom together becomes preparation for the unification of the clear light and illusory body. And unification of the clear light and illusory body becomes preparation for the unification of no more learning, a buddha’s holy body and holy mind.

In Highest Yoga Tantra what makes it possible to achieve enlightenment within a few years is the second stage, the completion stage. The completion stage has two things: the illusory body and clear light. In regard to the completion stage, there are body seclusion, speech seclusion, mind seclusion, illusory body, clear light, and unification. These five stages are explained.

Actualizing the subtle mind of clear light is what makes it possible to achieve the peerless happiness of full enlightenment in one brief lifetime. Highest Yoga Tantra has the methods to cease all the gross minds and to actualize the extremely subtle mind of clear light. Mind can be divided into gross mind, subtle mind, and extremely subtle mind. The extremely subtle mind is the one that manifests during death, before taking the rebirth of an intermediate state being. The mind that is within the body just before the rebirth of the intermediate state is the extremely subtle mind. At the time of death, the gross minds are absorbed, and this extremely subtle mind is manifested by karma. It manifests at other times, but just for a short time. Through meditation one can cease all the gross minds and actualize the extremely subtle mind, what is called “the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness.” This extremely subtle mind of clear light goes to enlightenment. All the gross minds have to be stopped; they don’t go to enlightenment. Highest Yoga Tantra is the only one that has the technique to stop the gross minds, which interfere with the manifestation of the extremely subtle mind and the achievement of enlightenment. Why is it that only this extremely subtle mind goes to enlightenment? Because enlightenment, the state of dharmakaya, is not a gross mind. It has nothing to do with the gross mind. So, this is what enables us to achieve enlightenment in one brief lifetime.

The reason we practice tantra is that we feel it is unbearable that other sentient beings are suffering in samsara. From our own side, even if we have to be reborn in hell and suffer there for eons equal in number to the drops of water in the ocean to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, we are prepared to make that sacrifice and experience that. But for sentient beings to experience suffering in samsara for even one second is like they’re suffering for many eons. We feel it is unbearable. For that reason, we need to achieve enlightenment very quickly. For that reason, we take a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, which allows us to train our mind in the two stages: generation stage and completion stage. The generation stage allows us train our mind in the completion stage, the clear light, illusory body, and so forth.

The other thing that enables you to achieve enlightenment very quickly is that you visualize now what you will become in the future. In the future, when you become enlightened, you will have the pure holy body of a deity, such as that of Yamantaka, the wrathful aspect of Manjushri, Buddha of Wisdom. Visualizing and meditating on the holy body of the deity now purifies so much negative karma and accumulates extensive merit. Also, when you become enlightened, the environment becomes a pure place, a mandala. Visualizing and meditating on the mandala now purifies many millions of eons of negative karma and accumulates extensive merit.

When you become enlightened, you also perform pure actions, sending light beams to purify sentient beings. By meditating on that now, in such a short time you finish the work of accumulating extensive merit, so much more merit than in the sutra practice of tong-len, in which you take upon yourself other sentient beings’ sufferings and give your own happiness, body, and so forth to other sentient beings.

When you become enlightened, you also have pure enjoyments. By visualizing and meditating on them now, you again perform great purification and accumulate much merit. The tantric practice of meditating now on these resultant four purities quickly finishes the purification of negative karma and the work of accumulating extensive merit. This is how you can become enlightened quickly by practicing tantra.

These are the general benefits of tantra, how it enables you to achieve enlightenment quickly.

The other point is the particular purpose of practicing this deity, Yamantaka, an extremely wrathful manifestation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. Manjushri is practiced to develop wisdom. There are peaceful, wrathful, and extremely wrathful aspects of Manjushri. There are two main benefits to taking Yamantaka initiation and practicing the Yamantaka path. One benefit of doing the meditation-recitation of Yamantaka is that it helps us to develop wisdom, Dharma wisdom. It helps us to develop all the different types of wisdom: great, clear, quick, and profound. Not only that, but Yamantaka is incomparable in pacifying obstacles. Yamantaka is the most powerful deity in pacifying obstacles to success in Dharma practice, in tantric practice, in achieving method, the illusory body, and wisdom, the clear light, for the sake of sentient beings. Yamantaka is practiced to pacify obstacles to success in achieving the clear light and illusory body, which enables us to achieve the unification of no more learning, the unification of the holy body and holy mind, or enlightenment.

Manjushri gave this advice to Lama Tsongkhapa, who received teachings and instructions directly from Manjushri, like a disciple receiving advice from a guru. One of the pieces of advice was to practice Yamantaka for success in the practices of clear light, which are mentioned in the Chakrasamvara teachings, and of the illusory body, which are mentioned extensively in the Guhyasamaja teachings. This is a general benefit of taking a Yamantaka initiation.

Even if we don’t have actual realization of renunciation, bodhicitta, or emptiness, we can take the initiation and practice tantra with at least some effortful experience of bodhicitta. This means that by thinking of the reasons and meditating on them, we feel a wish to renounce samsara and to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. Even though we don’t have the actual realization, we have some kind of experience. With at least this experience, we can practice tantra.

At the same time as we practice tantra, we should practice guru yoga. When we meditate on the deity, we should see the deity as inseparable from the guru. This is guru yoga meditation, and it enables us to receive blessings in our mind. Receiving blessings then enables us to actualize the fundamental lam-rim paths of renunciation, bodhicitta, and emptiness more quickly in our mind. The reason meditation-recitation of the deity is important is that it enables us to receive blessings. In this way we can actualize the common path, the lam-rim, which then helps us to actualize the tantric path.

The final point is that tantric teachings are not available all the time. Of the one thousand buddhas that will descend on this earth, only three will teach tantra. In the time of the fourth buddha, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, there are tantric teachings. The seventh buddha, who is an embodiment of Lama Tsongkhapa, is also supposed to give tantric teaching. And when the last buddha descends, there are supposed to be tantric teachings. Even though one thousand buddhas will descend, only three of them will teach tantra. Therefore, to meet tantric teachings is extremely rare, much rarer than meeting a buddha.

Practicing tantra has infinite benefits.