The Nature of the Mind
These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Twenty-Eighth Kopan Meditation Course in November 1995. Included are oral transmissions of the Heart Sutra, the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer, and Pabongka Rinpoche's Heart-Spoon.
The continuation of our mind did not begin with this present physical body. If the continuation of the mind began with this body, then when this body was formed, since this mind and this body, this association of body and mind is in nature of suffering, this container experiences pain, is a container of all the problems, and since this is a causative phenomenon, since it has a changeable nature, changeable by causes and conditions—when this body began, and the mind associated with it, with which it began, the first second is a result, so what is the cause of that? The first second of these actualized aggregates is a result, so there should be a cause before that. There should be a cause of this. Since the result is itself in the nature of suffering and there has to be a cause, the cause that comes before this, which creates this, which produced this, becomes the creator of these aggregates, which are in the nature of suffering.
So, no way God created this. God should be in the nature of compassion. These aggregates are in the nature of suffering, are the container of all the problems, and there is no reason for God to create such suffering for the beings in the very first place. If the God created the suffering it means, it is saying that God does not have compassion, doesn’t have loving kindness, it becomes that.
The reasoning that parents’ minds are emotional minds, they have delusions, disturbing thoughts, doesn’t become the logic why your own mind has all these emotional problems, why these aggregates are in the nature of suffering. First of all, one’s own mind is not part of the parents’ minds. It is not a continuation of the parents’ mind. The mind did not come from their mind. One’s own mind did not come from their mind.
If one’s own mind is part of their mind it means one’s own mind is their mind. Your mind is their mind. And that means you are also parents. You are also father, you are also mother. It’s like Buddha manifesting into a male and female, various aspects. Then there is a daughter who is also father. You see, if you are the daughter, then you are also the father because your mind also came from father. Then if you are the son, you will be the old mother too. So, if your mind is part of their mind or your mind came from them, this is what happens. Then, this way, you are born to yourself. When you give birth to another child, when you give birth, then you say you are giving birth to yourself. Anyway, many unrealistic mistakes arise, not according to experience, so many mistakes.
And also, even though the parents have emotional minds, there are many stories and examples of parents being ordinary sentient beings, who have all the delusions, but enlightened beings or higher bodhisattvas, arya bodhisattvas reincarnate, get born to these parents.
Even a child who has no anger at all, whose nature of mind is only patience …
… can be born to a mother who has much anger, quality of her mind is not like that, opposite. Or whose mind is very egoistic but bears a child who is very compassionate in nature, who has bodhicitta or a very compassionate nature, having bodhicitta or more thought of benefiting others, a child whose nature of mind is very different from the parents’ minds. There are many examples of this happening, even from the child time, having so much experience or knowledge that the parents do not have. There are so many proofs that it is not continuation from the parents’ minds.
This mind, which is formless and colorless, whose nature is clear and perceiving objects, is a result, a causative phenomenon, a result; what happened at the very beginning of this life, the very first second of this life’s mind, after taking place in the fertilized egg in the mother’s womb, since this is a causative phenomenon, since this is what happened, a result, there is no way it can be caused by a physical body. Similarly, empty space cannot be caused by earth; empty space cannot be the result of substantial phenomena.
The very first second of mind, which is in such a nature, since it is a causative phenomenon, changing by causes and conditions, it has to have a cause and that cause has to be of the same nature. The cause just before that, the cause just before the mind taking place on the fertilized egg, has to be same nature, same continuation, same nature.
Now the essence is even in our life, depending on…not only are there many people who remember, who can see past and future lives, even in our life we have experienced, depending on how one takes care of one’s mind, what you do with your mind, how you take care of your mind, depending on what kinds of actions of body, speech and mind one does sometimes the mind becomes more clear, we can remember more things. Sometimes the mind becomes more unclear even in normal life. Generally in life sometimes the mind has more clarity, can remember more clearly, and sometimes more forgetful, more unclear, depending on how we take care of our minds, depending on what kinds of actions we do. That affects our mind and because of that it is sometimes clear, sometimes unclear.
Same thing with someone who is meditating, it also goes up and down. When the person practices well or protects the mind well, there is more and more clarity. Also due to immoral actions and so forth, depending on what kind of actions one does, then mind becomes more and more obscured, more and more unclear, more and more forgetful. We get experience of the quality of mind degenerating—clarity, clear perception is gone and the experience of degeneration develops. Many things in this life we forget, we don’t remember. But also one can make the mind more clear and remembering. So everything, the negative side and the positive side of the mind are causative phenomena. Both are depending on what kind of causes and conditions there are, the mind becoming affected.
That we don’t remember past lives, that we cannot see the future and that we don’t remember past lives, is a similar situation, how the mind is being obscured. First of all, we don’t remember many things from childhood, then we can’t remember our birth, how we came out of mother’s womb, can’t remember; then more distant time, can’t remember the experience of being in mother’s womb, can’t remember. Like that then, how the mind came into the womb, from where, it doesn’t remember. Even coming out of mother’s womb we don’t remember.
Because you are taken care of by this person, and you are told that this is father and this is mother, you are taken care of by them and you are told this is father and this is mother. But from our own side we don’t remember clearly. With out own knowledge we don’t remember I came from this mother’s body, or that my mind was conceived in her. From our own side we don’t remember, even this knowledge, without relying on, believing what other people say, with your own knowledge to remember born from mother or able to remember with your own knowledge that this is father and this is mother. Then going beyond this life, of course it becomes more difficult.
As the continuation of the mind has no beginning, the continuation of the delusions is the same, it did not have beginning. The cause of suffering, the continuation of the delusions doesn’t have beginning. Because of that, experiencing samsaric suffering—the continuation of this did not have beginning. This life’s ignorance has causes, we are born with the ignorance not realizing the ultimate nature of the I, we are born with this ignorance. Why we are born with this ignorance is because in the past lives we did not actualize the Dharma, the true path and true cessation of suffering, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, the true path, and the cessation of the delusions and suffering. We did not actualize the remedy that removes, that ceases the delusions and the imprint, the seed of the delusions. We did not actualize this path, which liberates us from suffering by removing the delusions, the cause, the delusions and their imprints. So nothing happened. We didn’t do anything for the delusions in the past lives. We did not get to cease them. So this life we were born with, for example, ignorance, the concept of inherently existent I.
So it goes on like this. The continuation of this delusion, the root of samsara, the concept of inherently existent I, this continuation does not have beginning. This life’s ignorance is continued from past life’s ignorance, that life’s ignorance is continued from another, came from another past life’s ignorance, and so on like that. The continuation of ignorance does not have beginning.
The main thing is we didn’t, the whole thing why we are still in samsara, experiencing all the problems, even though the continuation of the life, our rebirth, life, did not have beginning, why we are still suffering is because we didn’t get to the ultimate refuge: actualizing the Dharma, the path, within one’s own mental continuum, didn’t happen yet. That didn’t get done. The ultimate refuge, actualizing the remedy, the path, true path and true cessation of suffering, didn’t get done in past lives. If we did get that done, if we had completed those paths, then in this life one doesn’t have to experience the suffering of samsara.
Taking refuge, now, becomes a very serious matter or serious practice, very fundamental, like the earth is used for many things, roads, houses, to grow food, crops, plants and so forth; the earth is used for so many things, for happiness. So many things, so many different ways it is used for enjoyment, for the happiness of life.
By relying on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, putting into practice what Buddha advised, the guidance that Buddha has shown, starting from the beginning of Dharma practice: protecting karma, avoiding non-virtuous actions or karma, the cause of suffering and obstacles, and then transforming the actions, creating virtuous actions, cause of happiness and cause of success.
Relating to the lam.rim, the graduated path of the lower capable being, realizing the shortcomings of the ten non-virtues, which are some examples of negative karma, basic examples, the ten non-virtuous actions, then realizing the benefits or the profit, the good things that one experiences by engaging in, practicing the ten moralities, which make to achieve happiness beyond this life—not only peace and happiness in this life but mainly happiness beyond this life, good rebirth and so forth in the life after this¬—then practicing Dharma, the three higher trainings, the graduated path of the middle capable being.
If one is proceeding on the lesser vehicle path, the five paths to achieve liberation for oneself—the path of merit, path of conjunction, right-seeing path, path of meditation and path of no-more-learning—by actualizing the right-seeing path one is able to cease…within that there are details, however, just a rough idea, by actualizing the right-seeing path one is able to remove 160 obscurations or delusions. Then by actualizing the path of meditation one removes again a certain number of delusions.
For one who is proceeding on the Mahayana path, by actualizing bodhicitta, entering the Mahayana path of merit and conjunction, then paths of right-seeing, meditation and no-more learning, without going through the lesser vehicle path, someone who is entering the Mahayana path straight… as regards ceasing or removing the delusions it is the same. Actualizing the Mahayana right-seeing path, the Mahayana path of meditation, that is the same—and on top of that by actualizing the Mahayana right-seeing path, 100, maybe 200 (number is confused in my mind), or 112, that many subtle obscurations. Also by actualizing the Mahayana path of meditation, the same number of subtle obscurations get removed or ceased.
After one has achieved the right-seeing path, this aryan path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, one has overcome death. When the aryan transcendental path, the right-seeing path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness is actualized one has overcome death. One does not experience suffering rebirth, sickness, old age and death after having achieved the aryan path. The aryan beings have completely abandoned these things.
The numbers of the subtle obscurations are not confused in the text but confused in my mind… what is removed by actualizing the Mahayana right-seeing path and Mahayana path of meditation, 116, 112, I think, but it should be checked.
So this is what taking refuge means, by taking refuge and practicing these things what happens to your mind ultimately, so that you can free numberless sentient beings from all their suffering and lead them to peerless happiness, full enlightenment. Having achieved those infinite qualities, after oneself became Buddha, whose holy body, holy speech and holy mind has infinite qualities, one can do perfect work for all sentient beings.
The essence of what I am saying is on the basis of taking refuge and actualizing the path. It didn’t happen so far, that is the whole problem. So by taking refuge, relying upon Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, one proceeds in this path. Then you complete, you finish your work. You finish your meditation, you finish your work.
Just one time… after having achieved true path and true cessation of suffering, after removing the delusions and their seeds or imprints, again reincarnating, again experiencing samsara is impossible, it is impossible. Once one becomes enlightened by completing the path it is impossible to again come down, to experience suffering again.
Dharma practice is just one tiny work. It is not like worldly activities, samsaric activities, which are repeated over and over, which have no beginning and no end, no matter how much you repeat them they have no end. It is not like that.
All this is the benefit of taking refuge. For one’s own benefit and for the benefit of all sentient beings there is nothing more important than this in the life. Therefore it is extremely worthwhile to put every effort, all effort into this as it is just one-time work, one time—once it is completed there is nothing to repeat.
Taking refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is not only to be free from this life’s problems, from emotional problems or some difficulties in this life, not just that. Taking refuge is not just to not reincarnate in the lower realms in the life after this, to not suffer, it is not just for that. Delusions and karma, the cause of suffering of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth—as I mentioned before we need to be liberated from these. As long as we are not liberated from delusions and karma we continually get stuck in samsara and experience suffering, so therefore we need, by taking refuge to Dharma, we need to actualize Dharma, the path, in our mind.
For that someone has to reveal the path. Naturally, when we take refuge in Dharma, relating to lam.rim, the graduated paths of the lower capable being, middle capable being and higher capable being, renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness, and on top of that the tantra path… to take refuge in Dharma and actualize this path in our mind, someone has to reveal the path. Buddha has revealed the path, so naturally we take refuge in the Buddha.
Just these two, Buddha and Dharma is not enough. We need to rely on Sangha, the helper to actualize the Dharma within our minds. Like very severe patients, to be able to recover well from disease, need to rely on medicine. For that they need to rely on the doctor’s diagnosis and guidance, to give the unmistaken treatment and medicine, to receive that you have to rely on the doctor. That is not enough: you need a nurse to help, to follow up. The nurse will take care and help you to follow the doctor’s guidance.
Same here, in order to be free from samsara we need to rely upon all three, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The Hinayana, or lesser vehicle way of taking refuge is with two causes: an understanding fear of samsara, how samsara is in the nature of suffering; and faith in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha by knowing their qualities, if one goes for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, how they guide oneself. By knowing their qualities, with these two causes: understanding fear, useful fear, beneficial fear (because this fear makes you free from samsara) with this and knowing that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha have the qualities and powers to liberate oneself from this samsara, from the cause of samsara, delusion and karma. Then, with these two causes in your heart, completely relying upon Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, is the Hinayana way of taking refuge.
The Mahayana way of taking refuge has an additional cause. On the basis of those two causes, you know how your own samsara is in the nature of suffering, and on the basis of that understanding fear of your own samsara, you feel compassion towards other sentient beings, others who are in samsara, how they are suffering. This is the additional cause, compassion.
With these three causes you rely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, to free all sentient beings from all suffering and its causes and lead them to happiness and enlightenment. With these three causes, the third one being compassion for all sentient beings, one relies upon Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This is the Mahayana way of taking refuge.
Before we do the ceremony of refuge and precepts, just one or two words on the precepts: what it means, the very essence or reality of what it means, especially practicing Mahayana teachings—the main goal is to not harm others. The main aim of taking precepts, which means living in morality, is to obtain happiness for others, because that is the goal of our life. The ultimate goal of our life is to obtain happiness for other sentient beings. Cherishing other sentient beings’ happiness, thinking how important it is for others to have happiness and to obtain that peace and happiness for others. That is the main aim of our life, always to think this, always to have this in our heart, to live the life with this thought.
In order to cause happiness, in order to obtain happiness for others, to benefit others, depends on stopping giving harm to others. If we can’t stop giving harm to others we cannot benefit others. We cannot develop our mind to benefit others. For that, the method here involves practicing morality and taking precepts.
By the way, through this, you achieve all your happiness—by the way. So you shouldn’t think “What about me?” Shouldn’t think, “All the time all the sentient beings’ happiness, only sentient beings’ happiness, only others, but what about me? What happened—completely left out me? What about my happiness, my peace, my satisfaction?” All these things come; all one’s own happiness now and in the future, comes by the way.
In short it is like this. The very essence is this, what it is and what it does for oneself and others is this.
Even in day to day life, without talking about shamatha, calm-abiding, those things, just in normal daily life, how much one can meditate, how much one can concentrate also depends on morality. It depends on how much one lives a good life, with sincerity and moral actions. Depending on how one lives the life, how much one can concentrate, meditate, the quality of meditation follows from that, depends on that. This is also a very logical thing.
Somebody who, in the day, is not protecting karma, engaging in many non-virtuous actions, unrighteous actions, who lets go of the mind, like when riding a horse, instead of controlling and guiding the horse with the reins, you just let it go wherever it wants, in jungles or on precipices or in people’s houses or in the department store, just let it run anywhere. That doesn’t become peaceful, it leads to many problems. If you let the horse go without guiding or controlling it you encounter many problems.
Like that, without protecting the mind, if one just lets go, without controlling the delusions, the emotional mind, if there is no morality in the actions of body, speech and mind, even one cannot do the daily life meditation properly, even to start is difficult. It even takes time to start the meditation, so difficult for the mind to come back to meditation.
Of course, for shamatha, calm-abiding, as it is mentioned in the teachings, this is the best cause. The more purely one lives the more easily one achieves shamatha realization, calm-abiding. If one has achieved this, completed the nine stages, the similar shamatha or the real one, the fully characterized real one, whichever one, then wherever you place your mind in concentration, as Lama Tsongkhapa said, just like a mountain, it is so stable, however long you want to concentrate, the mind can stay on that object, concentrate on that like a mountain, without distraction. It is so easy to keep the mind in virtue after this, without needing much effort. Generally, it is like this.
Then also how the death is going to turn out, whether it will be a peaceful death or a violent death. Whether it is going to be a death with a lot of regrets, when the death comes there is a lot of regret, a lot of sad mind, a violent death, going through a lot of emotional turbulence, the mind going through so many difficulties. Whether it is going to be a very frightening death or a very peaceful death, a happy death, a very happy death, at least with no worry at the time of death; how it is going to turn out depends on how we live the life, how much sincere morality we practice in daily life.
Even the death time is the result, how the death is experienced is the sign of how one lived the life, how much morality one practiced. This is without talking about the basis of all the realizations, support for developing the mind in the path to enlightenment. Living in the precepts means less or no obstacles for developing the mind in the path.
The other thing is the bodhisattva vow is taken up to enlightenment but the Pratimoksha vows (the lay vows, the five lay precepts or any of the five or eight lay precepts, or those ordinations of renunciation) are taken up to the death. That means a person who has taken a precept, whether lay or ordained… normally I say, for example, an ordained person who doesn’t do many preliminary practices, doesn’t engage in many intensive practices or study hard, even if that person doesn’t do other practices, what the person does is just eat, sleep, make kaka and peepee, but by living in the vow constantly day and night, if the person is not engaged in other practices, but by living in the vow constantly day and night, even while the person is eating, sleeping, walking, or even unconscious, even the person falls into a coma for many years, but since that person is living in those vows, those precepts, constantly the person accumulates merit all the time, even during a coma, even during sleep.
For somebody who is living in the 36 vows, 36 merit is accumulated all the time, day and night, all the time, even during sleep, even during a coma, all the time 36 merit is accumulated. Somebody who is living in 23 precepts, constantly, until the death, that much merit is constantly accumulated, received. Somebody who is a bikshuni, fully ordained, the same, about 363 or 365 merit always collected. I guess there is no 1000-precepts.
Even if the person doesn’t engage in any other practice, just living in the vows makes the life very rich, very meaningful. It means that person has stopped that number of negative karma, that number of harms to other sentient beings. It means that person is giving that much peace to the world, to other sentient beings. That person has stopped giving that many kinds of harm to other sentient beings, negative karma that harms others directly or indirectly. That itself means giving that much peace to others. Even if that person is living in an isolated place, in a cave, not seeing anybody, but what benefit does the world get from that person? I think maybe not so much in the west, this question is mainly in the east. Many people believe people living in a nunnery or monastery or isolated place, not mixing with people, not working in the city, not doing public service, living by themselves in a monastery or nunnery, the solitary place, there is no benefit to the world. People who do not understand Dharma think this way.
However, what benefit the world gets is this: that many negative karmas that person has stopped giving others and that much happiness and peace is given to the world, to other sentient beings.
Therefore, you should understand, those who are taking precepts, whatever number of precepts you are taking, either all the five or from those any precepts you are taking, you should know it means this many negative karmas, this many harms are stopped giving to the numberless other sentient beings.
“This means I am giving this much peace and happiness to the sentient beings. This is my contribution to world peace. This is my most practical contribution, help, to world peace. Not only this one planet, but peace for all sentient beings.” This is very important to recognize, to realize.
There is a story of the four harmonious brothers, four animals. I think it must have been in India, that country had a lot of development and economic change, economic development. The rain came at the right time for the crops, which grew well. A lot of development happened in the country. So the king thought, “This happened due to me.” And some ministers and other people thought they did it. One minister suggested, “Why don’t we ask a sage who has clairvoyance, who can tell due to whose effort the country is well-developed, with so much peace and happiness and enjoyment?”
They went to ask a saint who had clairvoyance and the saint said, “It is not due to the king and so forth, it is due to the four harmonious brother animals living in the forest: the elephant, monkey, the rabbit and the bird. These four lived in the five precepts and it spread to other animals.”
I think actually the bird is Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s embodiment, the elephant might be Kungawa [Ananda], Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s attendant, the one who always accompanied the Buddha, then Nyi gyä [Shariputra], and the other one I don’t remember, maybe ... [Maudgalyana], I’m not sure. They decided the younger ones would respect the elders and live in the five precepts. They decided to spread them to the other animals. The elephant decided to spread the precepts to other elephants, the monkey to other monkeys, the rabbit to other rabbits and the bird to other birds. Due to living in morality the whole economy changed in that country, there was a lot of peace and happiness, and the rains came at the right time so there was no damage. Crops grew well and there was so much enjoyment.
There are other stories of how living in the eight Mahayana precepts and so forth benefited a country, how it brought a better environment and economics, life becoming easier, not having scarcity of food and so forth. There are stories that are explained in the teachings. So this is another way to think, how living in morality and not harming others is able to benefit, to develop the country, having great enjoyment, much peace and happiness.
In the countries where even the lay people are living in the precepts, also practicing the eight Mahayana precepts, having sangha in the country, living in morality, there is great benefit to the country, to develop enjoyments, the economy, peace and happiness and so forth.
It is said by Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, in regards these two things that I mentioned are needed for refuge, when the sangha do the confession together two times each month, they recite the sutra taught by Buddha as regards the vows, talking about the shortcomings of not keeping and the benefits of keeping them, what Buddha explained. During that time they ring a special wooden thing called a gendi, to call the monks to the ceremony. Instead of hitting a gong they hit that wood.
Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, the author of Liberation in the Palm, said when they do the ceremony, even making the sound with the wood benefits the country. I myself have seen a few times in different places, when this sound comes suddenly, there was no rain before, suddenly rain comes. Things like that. I myself have seen a few times.
It benefits the country because of this ceremony of purifying and restoring the vows. This sound makes the other living beings in the area happy—devas, the white-side devas, who help those human beings who are practicing Dharma, doing good things. It makes the devas happy and other beings, the nagas and other higher beings, devas and so forth. I am sure it is also of benefit to them too. It makes those other beings happy and due to that there is an immediate effect even on the weather, the environment.
What Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says in his teachings, not in Liberation in the Palm but in other teachings and what I have seen, go together. It benefits the country to have sangha members; it makes the country very valuable, very precious, having the lineages of ordination in the country. That makes the place a central Dharma place. It means all other sentient beings in that country have an opportunity, if they want to practice the lay vows or ordained vows they have an opportunity. So it gives an opportunity for others to achieve liberation from samsara, to achieve enlightenment.
Now, the next one, which you have been waiting for…
As I often mention, since the vow is taken, whatever good karma one does by making offering to the Triple Gem or by making charity, creating good karma in relation to sentient beings, by having taken precepts, whatever good karma one creates in everyday life becomes many hundred thousands more. Any good karma one accumulates becomes so much more. It’s like business, like selling 100rps cost material—you bought a piece of bone or a bowl for 100 rps, then you sell for 1,000 or many hundred thousand rupees.
As it is mentioned in the sutra by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the Sutra of Heaped Flowers, or Piled Flowers, three galaxies, that many planets... I think it is the sentient beings of 3000 universes, maybe it can be said galaxies but I’m not sure it should be changed—each sentient being becomes a wheel-turning king, extremely powerful and rich. Then each of them offers a light offering to the Buddha made of Atlantic oceans of butter and Mt. Merus of wax. Then one person who is living in the vow makes a light offering with butter the size of a mustard seed and wax the size of a hair, and offers it to Buddha. This person making a light offering, who is living in the vow, accumulates much more merit, far greater merit than all those other three galaxies or 3,000 universes of sentient beings who become wheel-turning kings, most powerful and rich kings, and make light offerings to Buddha of oceans of butter and Mt. Merus of wax.
There is a huge difference in merit accumulated between the person who is not living in the vow and the person who is living in the vow. There is a huge difference, in the daily life when they create negative karma. sorry, not … there is something there but here I am talking about good karma! In the daily life it makes a huge difference when you accumulate merit, whether the person is living in the vow or the person is not living in the vow. It also depends on the number of vows the person holds in daily life. The difference in merit is so much, it increases, becomes an incredible number.
That makes closer to achieve enlightenment. When you finish accumulating the two types of merit, merit of wisdom and merit of fortune, that time one achieves the rupakaya and dharmakaya, when you've finished the work, when you're finished accumulating the two types of merit.
Achieving enlightenment, achieving rupakaya and dharmakaya, holy body and holy mind of the Buddha, depends on finishing the work of accumulating these two types of merit, wisdom and method. Therefore, accumulating extensive merit becomes very important, very important.
So now those of you who are taking precepts decide what number of precepts you are going to take. Those who are unable to take any of the five precepts, who wish only to take refuge, only refuge vow, that also can be done. Usually when I give refuge, taking refuge in Dharma involves not harming others. Therefore normally I emphasize at least maybe to take the vow to not kill others. If you cannot take this vow (it doesn't mean you have to take only this vow to not kill) if this is difficult, if another precept from the five is easier, then you can take that one, to abstain from any of those negative karmas, any of those actions that harm others.
The precepts are also done on the basis of taking refuge.
First, three prostrations to the little statue of Buddha and the large statue of Buddha, by thinking they are the actual living Buddha. When our mind is purified, then that time we see actual living Buddha. At the moment we see a statue, but when our mind is more purified, when our mind is more developed, we see Buddha. This, what we see as a statue now, at that time we actually see Buddha and we can hear teachings direct, we can hear teachings from him at that time.
Normally what we see, what appears to us, how things appear to us, how we see things, is dependent on quality of our mind, how pure and how impure. So depending on that, that much we see pure, that much we see impure, that much pure and impure appears. We see that much pure and impure appearance.
So with this, please make three prostrations.
Then again three prostrations to the lama who gives refuge precepts. Then after this, if you can kneel down you kneel down, like when you take Eight Mahayana precepts; if you can't kneel down then you can sit in the normal way.
Think, this samsara, this association of the body and mind, these aggregates are caused by karma and delusion. Not only that, this is contaminated by the seed of disturbing thoughts and due to this delusion rises again, motivated karma, and leaves imprints on the mental continuum. This seed imprint is the cause of the future samsara. So the future of samsara is actualized. It gets actualized, gets created or formed. That's how this present aggregates samsara becomes cause of future samsara. The continuation of this present samsara becomes the cause of future samsara. This continuation, this samsara, joins to the next life's samsara and the continuation of that joins to the next life's samsara. So it circles from one life to another like this. These aggregates, this samsara, are contaminated, defiled, and cause delusions to rise, which cause the future samsara, form the future samsara.
Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo explained that without choice, without freedom, came this burden, the defiled aggregates, causing delusion, circling in the six realms from tip of the samsara down to the hell, the unbearable suffering state, continuously circling like this. That which circles like this is samsara.
Until we realize this pervasive compounding suffering, how this is pervasive, compounding suffering, we cannot have perfect, complete, real renunciation of samsara. Until we are free from this samsara, while we are not liberated from this samsara it's like a naked body carrying a huge load of thorn bushes, tied with rope around the body.
This samsara is like fruit filled with worms, inside filled with worms, or like the water in the ocean or a tank that is contaminated with poison. These aggregates, contaminated with the seed of delusion, are like that.
When you come to realize that water is contaminated with poison, you become very afraid to drink. You immediately try to avoid the water, immediately renounce that. Or that the fruit that is filled inside with worms, contains poison or something that harms, is dangerous for one's own health, you immediately throw it away, immediately escape and throw away. So like that.
Until one gets liberated from this whole entire samsara, one will have to experience suffering continuously without a break of even one second. There has not been even one second’s break, especially from the pervasive compounding suffering; there hasn't been one second’s break from that, since beginningless rebirth.
“This time I have met the virtuous friend. I have met the Buddhadharma. I have received a perfect human rebirth with which I have an opportunity not only to be liberated from samsara but to achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings. Therefore, now for that I am going to take refuge by relying on the Buddha as the founder of refuge, Dharma as the path and Sangha as helper, to actualize the refuge, Dharma, the path, in my mind.”
There is the absolute Buddha and conventional Buddha. Absolute Buddha is the dharmakaya, Buddha's holy mind; conventional Buddha is the rupakaya, the aspect of the holy body, those forms that the dharmakaya manifests; that is conventional Buddha. With this complete reliance on Buddha we take refuge to both.
Then we take refuge to the Dharma: absolute Dharma, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness and the cessation of suffering, and the conventional Dharma, the scriptures.
Then the Sangha: absolute Sangha and conventional Sangha. Absolute Sangha is whoever has realization of the two truths. The conventional Sangha are four fully ordained members who don't have this realization of the absolute Dharma realization but are living in the pure vows. This is conventional Sangha. That means you are taking refuge to any Buddhist, whether they are Theravadin or Mahayana Buddhists, living in full ordination.
Relying upon these is many hundred thousand times more then relying upon external medicine, external nurse and doctor. Here the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, by removing, ceasing the delusion and karma, all the inner cause of the suffering, liberate oneself completely from all the suffering.
Please repeat… sorry I didn’t mention! Gonso sol… after that please mention your name, Da …..
The next one is taking refuge in Dharma. (Rinpoche in Tibetan)
The next one is taking refuge in Sangha. (Rinpoche in Tibetan)
Usually it is specified what number of precepts one is taking. If one is taking only refuge, it's called Upasaka refuge ordination, only upasaka refuge ordination. If one is taking the five lay precepts or only one, two, three or whatever, then it is Upasaka ordination with one precept etc.
Those who have already taken Upasaka vow or higher ordination should not generate the thought of receiving the lower vow. I heard, what is usually said is that taking the lower vow makes to lose the higher ordination, although taking the eight Mahayana precepts is exceptional. So those who have taken higher vows must not generate this thought of taking the lower vows. Otherwise, just taking refuge and relying on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is what we are supposed to have all the time, refuge.
I will recite just one name, but in your heart you can think of whichever one is taking.
Now please repeat your name.
(Rinpoche in Tibetan)
At the end of the third repetition, when I say ------ that time, without wandering mind, one must generate the thought that “I have received only refuge with the vow, or Upasika, the ordination vow, one precept, two precepts or whatever one is taking. Generating the thought, “I have received” is very important. Whether you receive or not is defined by that. So one has to make sure of that.
Then, from that time, up to the third repetition, instead of saying [Tibetan -----] it changes into lopon. That means the master who is the leader of the disciples. How? by giving the refuge vows. Then the disciple practices and that leads the disciple in the path to liberation, liberation from samsara. That's how, at that time, that master becomes the lopon, leading the disciples in the path to liberation, leading to liberation.
(Rinpoche in Tibetan)
Please repeat your name.
(Rinpoche in Tibetan)
So now, that's fine. Then only those who are taking precepts need repeat this. It is saying, “As the previous Arhatas abandoned, abstained, changed their minds and abstained from those negative karmas, I will abstain also from those negative karmas.” In the heart for what reason? For the benefit, for the happiness, the benefit of all sentient beings.
By taking refuge there are three particular precepts to be practiced and three things to be abandoned. Then there are about seven or eight general advices, such as when we eat or drink in everyday life, we first make offering to Buddha. Then before going to sleep and in the morning when we get up, we make three prostrations to Buddha, the triple gem. Before going to bed, three prostrations doesn't mean only three, generally it means three but if you are doing prostrations with the Vajrasattva practice or in the morning with the Thirty-five Buddha Confession it becomes much better.
Then, practice compassion towards other sentient beings and rely upon the holy beings. Listen to the holy Dharma so that when one is in danger of creating negative karma, try to control the mind. All these are Buddha Shakyamuni Buddha's general advice. Because Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is so compassionate for us sentient beings, Buddha has advised this in our daily life, so that it makes our lives very meaningful, it accumulates much merit and we purify the obscuration and negative karma. Then there's support to develop the mind in the path to enlightenment. Since you have all read the book that I put together about refuge and the precepts, I don't need to go through that. But if you haven't, please read it. There are also benefits explained.
I think that it's, then, please make three prostrations.
Finally we do dedication. Dedication lasts until next year.
Due to all the past, present and future merits accumulated by oneself and all buddhas, bodhisattvas, and sentient beings, due to all this merit, may myself, family, all the students, all sentient beings, be able to complete the paramita of morality by keeping it without mistakes, keeping it purely and without pride.
Then please dedicate all these merits accumulated by oneself and by others. May the bodhicitta, which is source of all the happiness, success for oneself and for all sentient beings, be actualized in one's mind, in the mind of others, and in those where it is generated, may it be developed.
Due to all this merit collected by me and others in the three times, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness, and may the three lower realms be empty forever. May the bodhisattvas’ prayers succeed immediately, and may I be able to cause all this by myself alone.
Due to all the three times merit accumulated by oneself and by all the buddhas, bodhisattvas and sentient beings, from now on, all my actions of body, speech and mind, never become the slightest harm to anybody. My actions, including whatever life I experience, happiness or suffering, rebirth in hell or the human realm, whatever I experience, having cancer, not having cancer, and so forth, living or dying, whatever I experience, whatever happens to my life, may all these actions and experiences become only the cause for the sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible, become only the cause of the sentient beings’ happiness and to achieve enlightenment the quickest possible.
Then please dedicate one very important one for the long life of His Holiness Dalai Lama, who is the holder of the whole entire Buddhadharma in this world and source of happiness of all sentient beings, to have long life and all the holy wishes to succeed, and all the rest of the holy beings. Then also Panchen Rinpoche’s incarnation, which is recognized by His Holiness Dalai Lama, of whom it is not sure what happened. For nothing to happen to the life, and to have a stable life; to be able to benefit sentient beings as in their past lives they prayed.
All this opportunity that we have received by coming here to Kopan Monastery, being able to do the course and to accumulate all this merit, everything, is particularly due to our guru, Lama Yeshe, who is kinder than the three-time buddhas. Due to his kindness, all this happened, all these opportunities we have received.
Lama Osel Rinpoche, who is incarnation of Thubten Yeshe, we have some obstacle now, unable to come back to the monastery from Spain. So however, to have a long life and able to benefit extensively all sentient beings, like Lama Tsongkhapa, like Lama Atisha, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha by having all the qualities from now on in all the life times.
Then dedicate the merit by sealing with emptiness: due to all the past, present and future merit accumulated by myself and by all buddhas, bodhisattvas and sentient beings, which are empty from its own side, may the I who is empty from it's own side, achieve Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment, which is empty from it's own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are empty from their own side, to that enlightenment as quick as possible by myself alone.
Then, to actualize Lama Tsongkhapa's complete path, the unified sutra and tantra, the pure path, within your own some mind, in the minds of your own family members, in the minds of all the students in the organization and to flourish, to spread and to flourish, to exist a long time, to flourish in all the directions.
Thanks so much, it's ok. Oh, here's the book I was talking about. So each person can come up.
The remainder of the tape, to about half way, consists of Rinpoche having many whispered, informal short chats. The first with the Canadian audience member who handed him the book, then a large number of others. These chats consist mainly of Rinpoche asking each person their place of origin and thanking each. There is conversation and much laughter in the background and much loud laughter from Lama Zopa Rinpoche.