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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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General Introduction to the Initial Scope
Teachings of the Graded Path (Lam-rim)

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche I
translated by Alexander Berzin
edited by Samaya Hart
Huizen, Holland, May 1980

[Lightly edited transcript of an incomplete recording]

Day Two: Karma and Refuge

Continuation of Refraining from Using Divisive Language

Yesterday, we were speaking about the fifth destructive action, which is using divisive language. We have already covered the three destructive actions of body and the first of speech. We were discussing the second destructive action of speech, using divisive language.

The basis for divisive language is a group of individuals who are either harmonious or not harmonious. The reason there are two bases is because you could cause a group of harmonious individuals to be separated, and likewise, a group that is already not harmonious could become even worse. The intention involved includes a motivation, a disturbing attitude, and recognition. The recognition is the actual correct perception of the status among the various people that you are speaking to. The disturbing attitude could be attachment, anger, or closed-minded ignorance. The motivation would be to cause people who are not harmonious to not be able to get together, or to cause people who are harmonious to part.

The action could be any type of speech, whether it is true or not. You could either say nice words or something nasty. There are many methods involved. The conclusion of the act is when you have actually caused a big division among them; when there is a big separation or gap between them.

Refraining from Harsh Speech

The next destructive action of speech is using harsh and abusive language, saying cruel things. This as well involves a basis, an intention, an action, and a conclusion. The basis is a person who has hurt you or has hurt a friend or relative of yours, and who you feel will hurt them again in the future. So you are very angry with them. The intention involved is the motivation to actually say something harsh. The words involved could either be true or not. It could involve any type of harsh words. For instance, to call a physically handicapped person a “cripple” would be a true statement, but it is cruel. To call someone who is not physically handicapped a “cripple” is an example of harsh speech that is false. It could involve both pleasant and unpleasant words. You could call somebody a dwarf, and make fun of him or her. You could say to someone who is dark-skinned, with pleasant sounding words, sarcastically, “ How light skinned you are!” Or you could make fun of a poor person by saying how rich they are. If someone is not a Buddha, you could sarcastically call him or her a Buddha. That is a cruel way of speaking to someone using pleasant-sounding words. The act is completed when the other person actually understands what you say.

Refraining from Idle Chatter

The next destructive action of speech is idle chatter, to just say meaningless things. It also involves a basis, intention, action, and conclusion. The basis would be any type of meaningless and pointless speech. The rest of it is similar to what we have just discussed, except for the conclusion. No one actually has to understand what you’ve said. Just to actually say something stupid, something meaningless, completes the action. For instance, to read meaningless fiction out loud would come under the category of idle chatter where it is done for no purpose at all.

Refraining from Covetous Thoughts

The next types of destructive actions are mental. The first is covetous thoughts, thoughts with which we wish to possess what other people have. The object is any possession belonging to somebody else, their money, their wealth, their material things, their house, etc. It could be anything. The type of thought is to look at these things and to wish that you could have that too. The action is completed when you actually decide to do something to try to get what this other person has.

Refraining from Thoughts of Malice

The ninth destructive action is to have thoughts of malice or wishing harm to others. The basis involved is the same as in harsh and abusive language. Namely, somebody who had hurt you or your relative or friend, who you felt would hurt them again, and who you are angry with. The motivation would be the feeling that you want to punch or hit the other person, or hurt them in some way. The action is completed on a mental level, when you actually make the full decision to act out the thought of malice. “I am going to go up to this person and punch them in the face,” or “I can’t stand it if I don’t smash this person.”

Refraining from Thinking with a Distorted View

As for thinking with a distorted view, the basis involved has to be something that is so. It is to deny something that is true. For instance, to insist that there are no future lives when it is the case that there are future lives, or to insist that there is no such thing as a relation between cause and effect, or to insist that happiness does not follow from acting positively and constructively. All of these would be examples of thinking with a distorted view, of denying what is true.

Impulses (Karma) and Pathways for Impulses (Karmic Paths)

There are various points that you can investigate further. All seven of the seven destructive actions of body and speech are a type of impulse, as well as the pathway for that impulse. Whereas the three types of mental destructive action are pathways for that impulse, but they themselves are not impulses. The actual definition of karma is an impulse to do something. The impulse itself is a secondary mental attitude, and not actually a pathway of an impulse. This is a technical differentiation, which can be analyzed further.

In the future when you have a skilled Geshe here, this is a good thing to ask about. To ask various other types of questions about things in the sky or whatever is not very profound. If you do a practice and recite mantras and so on, after a while the answer to questions like these will become very clear to you without having to actually ask learned persons. In terms of asking about the moon and so on, the answers become clear on the basis of reading and studying the texts. I am just explaining little things to the side here. There is not enough time to go into detail on all these matters.

The Heaviness of Actions

There is also the difference in the heaviness or lightness of actions. When someone who is accustomed to doing destructive things all the time, for instance a slaughterer, even does a small destructive action it is very heavy. For instance, by its nature, idle chatter is the lightest of all ten destructive actions, but as we engage in it all the time, because of its frequency it becomes quite heavy. For instance, even if you have a great number of very thin sheets of paper they become very heavy. Furthermore, if you do an action with a very strong intention, it becomes heavier. Likewise, if you do a negative or destructive action, and you don’t feel any regret or don’t apply any of the other four forces to purify yourself, the negative potential you build up is quite heavy.

The positive potentials that can be built up by acting constructively can also be very heavy or weak. If you don’t become angry, then the positive potential remains strong. If the object of your positive action is a spiritual master, your parents, or the Three Jewels, the positive potential becomes very heavy. Likewise, if you do something negative or destructive toward them, the negative potential built up is very heavy.

When we think of these points, what we need to do is to decide to do all the strongest and heaviest types of positive, constructive actions, and to avoid the heaviest negative ones. If you had the same amount of lead and gold, you would want add to the gold and not the lead. Likewise, in terms of these positive and negative potentials, if you have two amounts that are equally heavy, you would want to keep the positive potential and leave behind the negative.

In terms of the presentation of the three negative actions of body and the four of speech, the first of these actions are heaviest. The ones that follow are lighter by nature. Since everyone cherishes their life the most, to kill is the heaviest of the destructive actions of body, whereas to just deprive someone of their possessions by stealing is less heavy, and to commit sexual misconduct with them would be the lightest of these three. The same is true for the destructive actions of speech. The heaviest is lying and then using divisive language; using harsh language and idle chatter are progressively lighter. It is just the opposite with the destructive actions of mind. The first ones are lighter and the latter ones heavier. Of the three, having covetous thoughts is the lightest, then having thoughts of malice would be heavier, and thinking with distorted views would be the heaviest.

It is extremely important to restrain yourself from committing any of the ten destructive actions, and to try to practice the ten constructive ones. In the past, there was one very skilled and learned Geshe from Mongolia. He was a very precious master who became the abbot of one of the tantric colleges. I myself received teachings from him. Once a nobleman came and asked this great master about voidness. The master said, “Forget about voidness, you need to stop being such a thief.” This was because he was aware that this nobleman was robbing. Some members of the aristocracy may occasionally make offerings to the members of monasteries, but they also often get their money by exploiting the public and keep most of it for themselves.

Now we have discussed the heaviness and lightness of various actions.

The Results of Actions

The ripened result that follows from all these destructive actions is the same, a rebirth in one of the worst states as a hell creature, a ghost, or an animal. There are two types of results corresponding to their cause. There are those that correspond to the cause in terms of your experience, and those that correspond to the cause in terms of your instinctive behavior. This was discussed yesterday in terms of killing. The result that corresponds to its cause in your experience would be that you yourself would have short life filled with sickness.

The result of using harsh and abusive language is that other people always yell and say nasty things to you, and you always have to hear nasty language. The result of idle chatter is that no one will listen to what you have to say. No one will pay attention to you, or take your words seriously. If people always do listen to what you say, it is the result of having abandoned idle chatter. If you have strong covetous thoughts, the result will be that you will be a person of great attachments and desires. As a result of thoughts of malice, you will be a very hostile and angry person. The result of having distorted thoughts is that you will be a very closed-minded and ignorant person.

The result that corresponds to its cause in terms of your instinctive behavior for each of these destructive actions is that from childhood you will be instinctively drawn to repeat these actions. As we explained yesterday, the comprehensive result of not killing is that the land in which you are born will be one in which the food will be very rich and powerful. Likewise, the medicines will be very effective. The comprehensive result of stealing, of taking what is not given, is that in the land where you are born the crops will be very poor. There will be a very small yield, there will be very little rain, and a great deal of dust and so on. The result of improper sexual conduct is that the country where you are born is very dirty and filthy, a place where there is refuse and filth all around.

The result of lying is that when you plant fields, for instance, nothing results in the way you had planned. The result of divisive language is that in the country where you are born, the land will be very uneven; there will be deep ravines and gorges. It will be very difficult to go anywhere. From using harsh and abusive language, the country will have many thorns and rocks and the environment will be very harsh. As a result of idle chatter, the crops will be crazy. You will get crops at the wrong time of year, or nothing will grow at the proper time of year.

The comprehensive result of having covetous thoughts is that everything in the country quickly starts to break down, whatever nice things you have just fall apart. The comprehensive result of malice is that the country will have much disease and plagues. The great Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, predicted that in the future many new diseases would come that had no previous names and that there would be no medicines or cures for them, and this would be because of strong thoughts of malice and hatred. We find this to be true. Many modern diseases are affecting mankind. The comprehensive result of distorted views is that the resources of a country will become depleted. A country might have had very good water, trees, mines, wealth, oil and so on, and but all of this runs out.

The comprehensive results of the constructive actions would be the opposite of these. From not killing, the country will have medicines that are very strong and effective, and very rich and nutritious food. You can figure out the rest of the comprehensive results of the constructive actions by just taking the opposite of the comprehensive results of the destructive actions.

The Strength of Potentials

Also, there is a difference in the strength of the potentials built up by actions according to four different parameters of factors. There is the field, which refers to the person who is the object of the action; the basis, which refers to the situation of the person committing the action; the item involved in the action; and then the state of mind involved.

In terms of the first of these, the field for the action, actions become very strong when they are aimed at the Three Jewels and at spiritual masters. They also become very strong when they are aimed at those who are similar to spiritual masters or lamas, and that refers to people who tell you what is positive and what is negative. Any person who gives you sound advice is like a spiritual master or lama. Likewise, parents are a very powerful field for actions, because no matter what type of action you do directly toward them, whether positive or negative, it becomes very strong. Even if you only help such people in a small way, still it builds up a very strong positive potential. Even if you only do something a little bit negative and destructive toward them, it builds up a very great negative potential.

In terms of the basis, if someone has taken vows, then their actions become very strong. On the basis of having the vows of a layperson, a novice, or a fully ordained monk or nun, their positive and negative actions become stronger. Especially if you do some sort of constructive action on the basis of a dedicated heart of bodhichitta, a heart dedicated to others and to achieving enlightenment, that action becomes extremely strong and potent. If you start the day by thinking, “How wonderful it is that I did not die during the night. Now that I am awake, this morning I am going to dedicate my heart to others and to achieving enlightenment. I am going to be as positive and constructive as possible,” then whatever you do all day will be carried by the force of your strong intention, even if you don’t remain mindful of it all day. So it is important to start the day with a very positive intention like that. Potentials become strong in terms of their intention.

That last example was an example of the fourth point. To go back now, an example of the third point, the item involved, is as follows: In terms of being generous, if you give others teachings and spiritual measures, it is much stronger than just giving them something material. The fourth point, about the strength being determined by the state of mind involved, was just mentioned. For instance, if you just make an offering of one flower with the aim of benefiting an infinite number of beings, the positive potential built up becomes proportionately vast. It is important, then, to set a very strong positive intention at the beginning of whatever you do. Namely, it is very important at the beginning of each action to have a heart of bodhichitta, and the wish that what you do be of benefit to all living beings. At the end of the day, likewise it is very important to actually dedicate the positive potential that you’ve built up during the day, by offering it for the achievement of enlightenment in order to be able to benefit everyone.

In this way, the intention that you set in the morning and the dedication that you give at night are extremely important. If before you go to sleep, you set the intention to be very positive and constructive, and to try to work as much as possible for the benefit of others the next day, the entire night will be very positive since it will be carried on with this strong intention. If you pass your days and nights in this positive and constructive way, you will actually be able to complete the path of spiritual training and live a full life.

The Eight Ripened Good Qualities of a Precious Human Life

When you think about safeguarding yourself from committing these ten destructive actions, you need to consider the fact that you have achieved this precious human life now, as the result of having safeguarding these constructive actions in the past. In order to be able to achieve enlightenment in the most efficient and easy way, it is necessary to have a human basis, a human body, which has complete eight ripened good qualities. These are to have a long life; to have a pleasing physical appearance; to have a very good family background or caste into which you are born; to be wealthy; to have very credible speech, so that what you say is believable; to be very powerful and influential; and to have very strong physical body, great stamina and a very strong mind or great willpower. The final one is, being a man, because between being male or female, often the circumstances are such that men have an easier time devoting themselves to Dharma practice – at least traditionally that was so.

Each of these has a function. With a long life, you will actually be able to complete all your studies and practices. If you are good-looking, others will be attracted to you, and will come and listen to what you have to say. If you are someone from a royal family, then others will naturally listen to what you say; they will follow your suggestions. If you have great wealth, others will be attracted to you, and you will have the resources and ability to do a great many positive things. If you have credibility of speech, others will listen to what you say and believe you. If you are very influential and powerful, then others will follow, and accept what you say. If you are reborn as a man, then you have less interferences and hindrances in your practice. If you are very strong, then you have the ability to do great tasks, like Milarepa building his nine-story tower.

Each of these good qualities has a cause. The cause of having a long life is to refrain from killing, saving the lives of creatures, nursing the sick and giving medicine to those who are in need. The cause for being born good-looking is to offer butter lamps to the Three Jewels, to offer clothing, jewelry and ornaments to others, and not to be angry or jealous. The cause for being reborn in a good family or social class is to always be respectful of spiritual masters and parents, as well as those who are very learned and have great qualities. Another cause is to not be pompous, but to be humble and respectful. The cause for being wealthy is to give whatever is needed, food, clothing, money and so on, to those who are in need, even if people do not ask. The cause for having credibility of speech is to not commit the destructive actions of speech: lying, harsh language, divisive speech, or idle chatter. The cause for being very influential and powerful is to have made prayers to the Triple Gem, specifically to have all good qualities and to be influential. The cause for being reborn as a man is to not castrate animals, to rejoice in the strength and abilities that men have for uninterrupted practice, and to recite of the names and praises of the bodhisattvas like Manjushri and Maitreya. The cause for having very great physical and mental strength is to accomplish actions that others are not able to do or feel they cannot do.

It is important to try to offer prayers to be reborn with a human life that has all of these qualities complete, and to do the various types of positive and constructive actions that will bring them about. It is also important to use such a body and such a life in a constructive manner if you have one, because if you use your life to be a destructive and negative person, it becomes even worse. It is important to have a full and complete prayer to gain the type of human life that you can then use for positive purposes. If you wish to do a meditation to build up good habits of mind, think about all the various qualities that you have, and rejoice and feel happy about them. And take the essence of this life and make a life with all these opportunities meaningful. Do not waste it; use it to benefit future lives. When you get that type of realization, it is the initial level of motivation.

The fact that all of you are here means that you have realized that just to spend all of your time working is not enough. You have taken time out to come here and listen to spiritual teachings. This is an indication that you have already had a small type of realization. To come here at all is based on realizing something. Don’t think that realization or insight means you will be able to fly through the air, or be able to leave your footprint in a rock. If that were so, then people like myself who have been practicing for more than sixty years would all have those types of powers. Don’t think that there is any great wonder in being able to do these types of things either. There are people who do the various meditations on the energy-winds and breathing exercises who can levitate and are able to move through the air. To do that is no big deal. To actually refrain from doing any of the ten destructive actions is a much more difficult accomplishment.

The Necessity of Refraining from Destructive Actions as Preparation for Tantra

When Atisha was invited to Tibet, the spiritual king Jangchub-wo (Byang-chub ‘od) requested him to teach about cause and effect. The King said, “Please don’t give us a very deep and complicated teaching on tantra.” This pleased Atisha very much. To actually meet with the tantric teachings and to receive initiations and so on does in fact plant very good instincts and seeds. It is a very constructive thing to do if you have the opportunity. It is very fortunate to be able to do that. The way to approach it is, however, is to do the practices of the initial level very well in terms of refraining from the various types of destructive actions. Then on that basis, go on to the more vast levels of motivation, and eventually develop a dedicated heart of bodhichitta – a heart that is completely involved with others, and to achieve enlightenment to be able to help them. If, on that basis, you enter into the practice of tantra, it becomes a speedy and effective method for reaching enlightenment.

Tantras, the hidden measures to protect the mind, are a vehicle of practice that deals with the results. The sutra teachings, the usual themes of practice, involve causes. You can’t really approach a vehicle that deals with the results unless you have already explained the vehicle that deals with the causes; you cannot get results without causes. If you start on the basis of the vehicle that deals with causes, and then go on the vehicle that deals with the results, this diamond-strong vehicle of tantra becomes a very speedy and effective vehicle for achieving enlightenment.

If you hear that these tantric methods are a very speedy path for achieving enlightenment, and you just want to take an empowerment and practice it immediately, it will be difficult to get anywhere with it. For instance, although an airplane flies very quickly through the sky, you can’t get on the airplane in mid-flight. The only way to get on the speedy airplane is to go through all the preliminary steps of getting your ticket, going through customs, going on the moving sidewalks in the airport, the steps, the little shuttle, going up the stairs up the plane, etc. You approach it in this gradual fashion. If you want to get onto a speedy vehicle to enlightenment, it is important to go through these first steps to get onto this fast vehicle. Namely, it is important to refrain from committing the ten destructive actions. From there you’ll have a steady and firm approach to the speedy vehicle.

Even if these representations of Manjushri, Chenrezig and Maitreya were to come alive and speak to you, this is the type of teachings that they would give to you. If you have already trained yourself and practiced very well, all these very deep and profound instructions would be ready to be given out. If you don’t start out on the basis of learning about how to refrain from acting destructively, not only are you not going to able to get teachings from Manjushri and Maitreya, we won’t even be able to see them or have proper visions of them. If you do actually practice these very well, there will come a time when you actually will meet these various great beings directly, face to face.

There were a set of three brothers, who were the disciples of Atisha and his disciple Dromtonpa (‘ Brom-ston-pa). One of these three was called Puchungwa (Phu-chung-ba). He always did very intensive meditation practice. He practiced very intensely for nine years, giving up normal human food. He lived up in the mountains gathering the droppings from herds of animals. The droppings contained undigested tsampa (barley grain). He would cook this up and make a soup. Once he came down from this intensive practice to go to Lhasa to see the very great and famous statues in the main temples. While he was coming into town, he saw the Twenty-one Taras coming along with him. He said to them, “I am a monk and it really does not look very nice for all you women to come into town with me.” They told him, “You don’t have to worry. Nobody else can see us.” When he went into Lhasa and saw all the great statues in the temples, they actually spoke to him.

When he first went up to his mountain retreat, he would roll together the grasses that grew in the meadows, and burn these as an incense offering. Having made such pure-hearted offerings in the earlier part of his life, later in his life he was able to make offerings of incense of very precious medicinal substances. One stick of incense would be worth about six hundred dollars.

Working up to, and Doing Actions

There are various classifications concerning karma or behavior. Certain actions are worked up to and then actually done; some are not built up to, but actually done; some are built up to and not done; and some are neither worked up to, nor done. These are points that you need to write down. They are very interesting and important things to learn about so that in the future when you have a teacher here you can ask for more details. It would take too long to go into in detail at this time.

Intentions and Actions

It is possible to have a wholesome intention but an unwholesome action, an unwholesome intention but a wholesome action, both an unwholesome intention and an unwholesome action, and a wholesome intention and a wholesome action. If you can, you need to have both the intention and action be wholesome or noble. As an example of having a wholesome intention and doing an unwholesome action, when you are trying to teach someone something and they don’t learn, although your intention is to help them, your action might be to beat them or scold them. An example of an unwholesome intention, but a wholesome action would be preventing somebody from being able to accomplish something by distracting them – for example, by taking them on a picnic or sightseeing or to do something pleasant that would pass their time so they don’t accomplish what they want to. Your intention was an unwholesome, but your action was wholesome. It is easy to give examples where both the action and intention are wholesome.

Harmful and Beneficial Results

Another division of four is the following: There are actions that are superficially of benefit but of harm in the long run; those that are superficially of harm but of long-term benefit; those that are beneficial both superficially and long-term, and those that are harmful both superficially and in the long-term. If something is both superficially and long-term beneficial, you need to do it. If something is superficially harmful but long-term beneficial, that you can also do. If something is initially of benefit but harmful in the long run, it is something that is better not to do. If something is of no benefit in the short or the long run, don’t do that at all. All of you are very intelligent and sharp, so you can immediately comprehend these things.

The Four Principles of Actions

Another division of actions is fourfold: the certainty about actions; the point of increase of actions and their results; if you have not done an action then you don’t meet with its effects; and if you have done an action then it will not be in vain, there will be a result.

The certainty factor is that if you have done something constructive, the result will definitely be happiness. And if you have done something negative or destructive, the result will definitely be suffering, problems or unhappiness. For instance, when you plant rice, you don’t get peas. The increase factor is illustrated by what happens when you plant one kernel of corn: you get a very large amount of corn. From one small positive action, a great deal of happiness can follow, whereas from a slight destructive action a great deal of problems can come.

Here is an example of the certainty factor. People were constructing a stupa – a relic monument. A worker on the project had a lot of difficulty with the work, and he was always complaining. When the stupa was finished, he looked and said, “After all, it was a good thing,” and felt very happy. He used his salary to buy a special bell that he offered for the top of the stupa. At the time of the Buddha, he was reborn as the person known as Beautiful Voice. He had a lovely voice, but his body was completely repulsive, very small and deformed. His voice was so beautiful, however, that even the animals nearby would stop to listen when he chanted. Once, the local king came to visit Buddha. He heard the beautiful voice of the monk and asked to be able to meet him. The Buddha said, “You would be better not to meet him.” But the king insisted and so the Buddha took him to meet the monk. When the king saw how ugly and deformed he was, and asked why he had such a beautiful voice and such an ugly body, the Buddha explained his past life.

Here are some examples of the increase factor. A person told a monk, “Your voice is just like that of a dog!” As a result, he was himself reborn as a dog five hundred times. You have to be very careful not to call people names, or be harsh and abusive toward them, because with just a slip of the tongue you could make a very disastrous mistake.

Among the disciples of the Buddha, the one who was especially well known for his wisdom was Shariputra (Sha-ri’i bu). Many lives before that, he had been reborn as a postman. Once he spent the night in a temple that had very beautiful murals of the Buddhas. When he lit a lamp to be able to mend his shoes, he was able to see the images of all the Buddhas. As a result, he was reborn with such great awareness.

The next factor about karma is that if you have not done an action, you will not meet with the result. But, if you have committed an action, it is just a matter of time before you will meet with its result. However, if you have done something positive, anger can destroy the positive potential you have built up, and if you have done something negative, if you honestly admit that it was wrong and apply the four opponent powers, you can purify yourself of that negative potential. Aside from that, you have to experience the results of what you have done. Anger can completely destroy the ability of your positive potential to act as a root for happiness. The way that this happens is similar to when you take exposed film through an x-ray machine in an airport; it completely destroys and erases the image on the film.

Once there was a queen, Tsunmo Sangmo (bTsun-mo sNgo-bsangs-mo) who went with her lady servants on a picnic. Where they were picnicking there was a small shrub with a nest of some small pheasants. The queen and her attendants set the bush on fire, and killed all the birds for fun, but one maid servant had gone off to fetch water and was not involved. Later, at the time of the Buddha, the queen was reborn as a man who took robes and achieved the state of an arhat with various types of miraculous powers. The maidservant was born at the same time, and she also became a monk, but did not achieve arhatship. As a result of the potentials built up from their previous actions, one day, the house they were living in caught on fire. The arhat who had been the queen still had some negative potentials left over from that previous action, and was unable to use his miraculous powers to fly away. He died in the fire. This is an example of the factor that if you have built up a certain potential, that will not have been in vain, you will experience its results. The monk who had been the maidservant was able to escape from the burning house through a drain where the water was leaving the house. This is an example of how if you have not done a certain action, you do not meet with its results.

The question arises: How can an arhat still have some negative potential left over? This can be understood in terms of how you apply the various opponent forces for purifying yourself. If they are applied completely well and correctly, it is possible to purify yourself of all the negative potentials completely. But if it is not done exactly correctly, then there can still be a little bit of negative potential or impurity left.

Gaining Confidence in the Truth of the Teachings on Karma

This is a very excellent topic, karma, the laws of behavior and its results. You can read more about it in a sutra called The Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish (mDdo mdzangs-blun, Skt. Damamuko-nama-sutra). The various accounts in that text are very pleasant to read. You gain confident belief in all these things about cause and effect based on scriptural authority. It’s not something that can you prove by pure logic alone.

If you ask how we can have confident belief in the Buddha’s scriptural authority, it is based on thinking about what the Buddha said about voidness, reality. Those teachings are correct. If you think about it, you can prove everything that he said by logic. If you can gain confident belief based on logic that what the Buddha said about reality is correct, then, based on that, you can also have confident belief that what he said about cause and effect is likewise true.

If you do as the Buddha advised: develop a kind and warm heart, dedicate your heart to others and to achieving enlightenment, and you develop bodhichitta, then, in fact everything does go very well for you. If you think about what the Buddha said about voidness, and you go through all the lines of reasoning, you find that it is completely logical and correct by means of the power of logic. Based on these points, you can have confidence in the other things that the Buddha said. Otherwise, if you don’t go through this type of process, it is difficult to actually have confident belief in what the Buddha said. If you read things such as The Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish, you will think that it’s just a collection of fairy tales or fables. This whole observance of the laws of karma, the laws of behavior and its effects, is very important.

Taking Refuge – the Buddhas

This whole point of leading your life according to the laws of behavior and its effects is the main point to train in when you take refuge, in other words when you put a safe and sound direction in your life. In order to actually take refuge you need to have a source that can provide that safe direction. There are three sources of safe direction. What are they?

Student: The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Rinpoche: What is a Buddha?

Student: I don’t know.

Rinpoche: A Buddha is someone who is totally clear-minded and fully evolved. Clear-minded is the first syllable of the Tibetan word for Buddha. It means that he has purified his mind of all disturbances and disturbing attitudes. Fully evolved is the second syllable. It means that he has completely gained all good qualities and complete awareness of all things so that he is evolved to the fullest state possible.

The Advent of Buddhas in This World

In the beginning, Buddhas dedicated their hearts completely to being able to benefit all limited beings. They resolved very strongly to become totally clear-minded and fully evolved to be able to do this. This is the way they developed a dedicated heart of bodhichitta. Not only did they dedicate their hearts in this fashion, they worked over three zillion eons to build up a positive potential that would allow them to achieve this state.

In the beginning of an eon, the lifespan of humans is something like a zillion years. The literal word in Tibetan is “countless.” This does not mean it is infinite; it is finite, but is uncountable. Each hundred years, the lifespan becomes one year less, so that eventually the lifespan is ten years. Then it increases by one year every century, until the lifespan reaches eighty thousand years. Then again, it goes down to ten. It goes up and down like this eighteen times, making one intermediate eon. When it goes through a period of these phases they are called the twenty intermediate eons when the universe is abiding, or staying in a certain state. Then another period of twenty intermediate eons follows this, which is the eon of destruction, when the universe gets destroyed or collapses. This occurs, for instance, by the appearance of seven suns that burn for seven days, and burn up everything in the world. Then there is another twenty intermediate eons when the universe is empty, followed by another twenty intermediate eons when a universe starts to be formed, beginning from the wind mandala, the sphere of the ethers. That whole process is a period of eighty intermediate eons, which is equal to one great eon. If you multiply this by a zillion, you get one zillion great eons. The Buddha builds up positive potential for three of these in order to actually become totally clear-minded and fully evolved.

There are great eons of darkness and those of light, when a Buddha actually comes to the universe. The present great eon that we live in is an eon of light, called “ the fortunate eon.” In this fortunate eon, a thousand Buddhas will come as universal teachers. The first three universal teacher Buddhas came when the human lifespan was sixty thousand years, forty thousand and twenty thousand years. I am not exactly certain of these figures, I would have to check in a text. Now it is at the time when the lifespan reached a hundred that the fourth universal teacher came to this universe, namely Shakyamuni Buddha. It was at a time when the lifespan was decreasing.

When the lifespan is increasing from ten back to eighty thousand, there will be the appearance of the universal monarchs who have a wheel of authority, the chakravartin emperors. There are four different types of universal monarchs: those wielding a golden, silver, copper or iron wheel of authority. When the Buddha came, some people lived for a hundred years. Now it is very rare that people live over a hundred. The lifespan is gradually going down. It will eventually reach ten, and then the lifespan will increase again, slowly, over a long period of time. When it reaches eighty thousand, Maitreya Buddha will appear.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Body

We can recognize such beings as Shakyamuni and Maitreya as examples of totally clear-minded and fully evolved Buddhas. Buddhas have various corpuses or bodies. There is the body of deep awareness that encompasses everything (jnanadharmakaya). There are the various form bodies of a Buddha (rupakaya). They include bodies of full use (Sambhogakaya) and emanation bodies (Nirmanakaya). The bodies of deep awareness that encompass everything are something that only the Buddhas themselves can be aware of amongst themselves. Only arya bodhisattvas and above can actually see the bodies of full use. Anyone of lesser attainment cannot meet with them.

As for the emanation bodies or nirmanakayas, there is a supreme emanation body, an emanation body as an artist, and an emanation body as a person. A supreme emanation body is something that ordinary beings can see and meet with. Even though ordinary beings can see a supreme emanation body, in order to actually see one, they have to have very pure karma, very pure actions and potentials. Otherwise, ordinary people like us can’t actually see a supreme emanation body with the thirty-two major signs and the eighty exemplary features. Because a supreme emanation body has already demonstrated the manner of passing away into final release, has already demonstrated parinirvana, there are none around for us to actually see.

The supreme emanation bodies have the crown protrusion (ushnisha) on top of their heads. They have the imprint of a Dharma wheel on the palms of their hands very prominently. Their shoulders are raised like that of a lion. These days officials with uniforms have epaulettes on their shoulders, don’t they? Perhaps they are supreme emanation bodies, who knows? They have copper-colored nails, which is not something that they get from putting on nail polish. Their lips are very red, without having to put on any lipstick. The have a curl of white hair in the middle of their brow which if pulled can never be pulled all the way out; it just gets longer and longer. If you study the great texts, you will learn what all these major and minor signs are. In addition, their body is completely enveloped in a halo of light. This is a light that can outshine any other type of light, no matter how far away it might be. For instance, the gods have halos and are very radiant, but compared to a Buddha, they are like small candles next to a large phosphorescent lamp.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Speech

As for the enlightened speech of a Buddha, it has sixty special qualities. For instance, when a Buddha is speaking, the people in the front of the audience don’t hear his voice as being tremendously loud, and the people in the back don’t hear his voice as very soft. Everybody hears it at an equal volume. Likewise, if there is a large audience of people from different countries, the Buddha just speaks with one language, and everyone can understand him in his or her own language. He has no need for translators.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Mind

As for the enlightened mind of a Buddha, there are twenty-one categories of his understanding and awareness, which is completely unassociated with any confusion, (uncontaminated wisdom). This becomes a very extensive subject. One of the categories is the thirty-seven factors leading to a purified state. There are also the eighteen qualities not shared with the lower Arhats and so on. There are twenty-one categories each with different subsections.

All these qualities, such as the major physical features of a Buddha, are the result of a tremendous amount of positive potential that has to be built up over three zillion eons. Even if a supreme emanation body of a Buddha were to come before us, since we do not have pure karma, we don’t have pure potentials, we would not be able to actually see him. As for emanation bodies as persons, this is something that we actually can see and meet. For instance, there is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is Avalokitesvara. He is the emanation body of a Buddha in the form of a personage. Even so, there were some Geshes, who, when His Holiness was seated on a throne, were unable to see him. The fact that we were actually able to see His Holiness is very fortunate.

Here is an example of an emanation body as an artist. There was a king of the heavenly musicians who felt that he was the best musician in the universe. He was very proud and arrogant. He played a lute with a thousand strings. The Buddha manifested himself as an artist, a musician, and challenged the king to a musical contest. They would remove one string at a time from their lutes to see who could continue playing. Eventually they each only had one string left. Then the Buddha removed the final string from his instrument and continued to make beautiful music. When the king removed the last string, he was unable to make any music, so his pride was lessened. This is an example of an emanation body as an artist.

The Buddha Jewel

When we speak of the Buddha refuge, you need to think of a clear evolved being as any of these bodies. In terms of our practice, it is important to recognize all the various representations of Buddhas, like these paintings and pictures here, as actually being Buddhas. When we practice, there are five actual paths of the mind. The first is called an accumulating path of mind. This has three levels: small, intermediate and great. When you actually achieve a great accumulating path of mind, you will be able to hear and receive teachings from all these various representations of the Buddhas. It is said that when we meet these various paintings and representations of the Buddha, if we do so in a proper fashion then it is of more benefit than meeting an actual Buddha. Therefore, it is important to be very careful. Now you find pictures of Buddhas and enlightened beings printed everywhere, in newspapers and so on, and if you are not careful about how you treat and regard these representations of the Buddhas, there will be difficulties.

The Dharma Jewel

The Jewel of the Dharma refers to all of the qualities of the enlightened mind of a Buddha. This is the actual Dharma refuge. When we are practicing, we need to recognize all the various scriptural texts as being the actual Jewel of the Dharma. It is important to treat the various letters and writing in which the Dharma can be expressed, in any alphabet, respectfully. Don’t wrap garbage in the newspaper. That is very disrespectful and negative. It is important to be respectful of the printed word.

Likewise, when you have loose-leaf Dharma texts, if there is a great wind, and you have to prevent the pages from being blown away, then it is permitted to put a rosary on top of the pages. But otherwise don’t put anything on top of the books. Likewise, when you turn the pages, don’t stick your fingers in your mouth to wet them. Rather, if you have to wet your fingers to turn the pages, put a small bowl of clean water to the side and dip your fingers in that. It is important to put covers on the books so they don’t touch bare surfaces. Likewise, don’t step on top of or over your books. It’s all right to put books above or on top of statues on a shelf, but don’t put statues on top of or above books.

The Sangha Jewel

The Jewel of the Intent Community (Sangha) is any highly realized being or arya, a person who has had nonconceptual cognition of voidness or reality. In general, four fully ordained monks constitute Sangha. Only one, two, or three monks do not. When we are practicing, we need to recognize anyone who is wearing the robes of the Buddhist order as being the actual Sangha.

The Jewel of the Buddha is the one who actually gives the teachings, and indicates the safe direction to take in life. The Jewel of the Dharma is the actual source of safe direction, it is the actual refuge; when you put all these spiritual measures into practice, it actually does provide a safe and sound direction in life. The Jewel of the Sangha are people who help you and are companions in leading a life with a sound direction. If I give an account, it will make it easier to understand

Once there was a child of the gods named Stiramati (Blo-gros brtan-pa). He was a god in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods. Everything is extremely beautiful there. Everything is made of precious gems. There is no dirt or any impurity. It is spotless. This god led a perfectly happy life and never had any suffering or problems. When he was close to dying, the flower garlands that he wore faded and died, and his body started to give off a very offensive odor. All his god friends would no longer come near him. Among his friends, only those who were really very stable and steady would have anything to do with him. They would just stand at a distance and look at him. This god had the ability to see that all the positive potentials that he had built up were now depleted, and that now, as a result of the negative potential that he had left, he would be reborn in one of the worse states of rebirth. He saw that not only would he fall to one of the really worse states of rebirth, but also after that he would be reborn as a pig. At this thought, he had the worst mental suffering that you can imagine. There is no greater mental pain than that experienced by such a god.

He went to the king of the gods, Indra (brGya-byin), and begged him to help, to give some sort of method by which he could escape this fate. Indra said, “I am sorry; I don’t know any way to help you avoid this. But I will take you to see the Buddha. He has the best methods.” He went to the Buddha and the Buddha gave him the instructions of the goddess or personal deity called Ushnisha Vijaya (rNam-rgyal-ma). She is one of the three long life deities. She has a body white in color with three faces and eight arms. He did all the practices. When he died, not only did he not fall to any of these worse states of rebirth, but also he was reborn in even a higher heaven than he had been in before, known as Tushita (dGa’-ldan, Ganden), the Heaven of Pleasure. Indra was unable to see him because he can only see the heavens at his level or below. When he asked Buddha where this god had been reborn, Buddha told him that he was reborn in Tushita Heaven.

By this example, we can see that the Buddha is the teacher, the one who actually showed the safe direction to take. The actual thing that provided the safe direction was the practice that this god did, that of Ushnisha Vijaya. This is the example of the Dharma Jewel. The one who helped him find and take this direction in life was the king of the gods, Indra. So he is an example of the Sangha Jewel.

Concluding Advice

If you want to meditate on something, to build up a good habit of mind, you need to visualize His Holiness the Dalai Lama before you, representing all the Buddhas, and make many requests to him for inspiration. Say OM MANI PEME HUNG, and imagine lights and so forth coming from him, and purifying you of your negative potentials.

As for very practical points of practice that you need to try to adopt in your daily behavior, the main ones are that when you wake up in the morning, you need to set a very strong positive intention: “Today I am going to be a positive and constructive person and I am going to try to do things to benefit others.” At the end of the day, you need to think of all the positive things that you have done and then dedicate the potential that was built up for the benefit of everyone, and for your achieving a state of total clear-mindedness and full evolvement to be able to benefit everyone. This whole subject matter of taking refuge is very important. Tomorrow I will tell you more about it.

Do you have any questions about what I said today?

Student: What is the Dharmakaya?

Rinpoche: The Dharmakaya is the omniscient mind of a Buddha that encompassing everything. As was explained, there are twenty-one categories of special types of deep awareness unassociated with any confusion. This would include the ten forces, the four states of freedom from fear and so on. If we went into detail about all of these, it would take a great deal of time. It is very extensive. But as examples, the ten powers that a Buddha has, are for instance, knowing the appropriate and inappropriate consequences of various actions, knowing the results that will follow from all actions, knowing the spiritual paths that will lead everyone to their goals and so on.

As for the four things that a Buddha has no fear about: he has no fear about stating that he has abandoned all faults, about saying that he has attained all positive qualities that there are to be attained, etc. It does not matter how large an audience a Buddha has in front of him. He is able to say with no fear, with total confidence, that he knows everything. One brahmin named Kapila (Ser-skya) went to all the surrounding villages, and took one grain of rice from each, making a special note on each of them. He brought a huge basket of these grains of rice in front of the Buddha and said to the Buddha, “You know everything. Do you know where these grains of rice come from?” The Buddha said, “Yes.” The Buddha told him where each grain came from as it was held up, until they had gone through the entire basket of rice.

In the days of the Buddha, there were enormous trees. Again, a brahmin wanted to test the Buddha, so he went to one of the trees and counted all the leaves. It took him a couple of months. Then he went to the Buddha and said, “You are so smart. You know everything. How many leaves does this tree have?” The Buddha was immediately able to give him the exact number.

It is very difficult for you to be able to read my mind, and, likewise it is difficult for me to be able to read your mind. But it is impossible to know the mind of a Buddha, and what that is like. Even the bodhisattvas who have a tenth-level mind, the highest of the ten stages, cannot know what the mind of a Buddha is like. If you want to really study all the different qualities and aspects of the jnanadharmakaya, the body of deep awareness of a Buddha that encompasses everything, you need to study one of the texts by Maitreya called a Filigree of Realizations (mNgon-rtogs rgyan, Skt. Abhisamaya-alamkara). The eighth chapter covers this subject matter in great detail. If you really don’t know all the good qualities of a Buddha, it is difficult to have real confident belief in a Buddha. An account comes to mind from Tibet.

In Tibet, the Ganden Throne-holder is a very high position. The one who holds that throne is considered a very precious lama. He has a golden-colored umbrella over him wherever he goes. I asked Rinpoche if he really had this umbrella wherever he went, and Rinpoche said I need not be such an idiot, of course he did not have it when he went to the toilet. One day, an old woman was visiting Ganden Monastery, when the Ganden Throne-holder walked by in procession. A monk standing next to her said, “Look, there’s the Ganden Throne-holder.” Thinking that the Ganden Throne-holder was the umbrella, she pressed her palms together respectfully and said, “I take refuge in the Ganden Throne-holder.” After the procession, she turned to the monk and said, “ Wasn’t that a lovely old monk walking underneath the Ganden Throne-holder?”

So, we need to be able to recognize for sure what a Buddha actually is. Let’s end here for today.

[The recordings of the following days of the discourse are missing.]