Lama Zopa Rinpoche Essential Extracts

By Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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In this podcast we focus on teachings of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, on topics of the Graduated Path to Enlightenment, the lamrim. The lamrim is a textual tradition that organizes Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings into a complete step-by-step path to enlightenment. Each episode is an extract of a longer teaching, capturing the essence of what Rinpoche taught.

Episode Date
Believing in a Real I Creates the Root of Samsara
There is no such thing as a “real I,” and subsequently, it is not possible for anything to be a “real mine,” Rinpoche says. In the first second, our mind merely imputes I on our aggregates. Then, in the next second, this I appears back to us as one hundred percent true, and we believe it. We trust that something is there from its own side. This becomes the basis for many delusions to arise and creates the root of samsara. For this reason, we need to collect much merit and continually purify negative karma. However, the most powerful thing we can do is to correctly follow the guru and thereby receive the blessings of the guru in our heart. The teaching for this episode was recorded on April 11, 2018, at Great Stupa Of Universal Compassion, Australia. 
Oct 03, 2022
Because We Can’t Stand Suffering for Ourself or Others, We Must Take Refuge
Whether we understand the qualities of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha or not, if we open our hearts to them and rely on them, we will have an unmistaken refuge—like catching hold of a rope when we are about to fall into a fire. When we come to understand how Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha free us from samsara and bring us to enlightenment, our faith will become more and more stable. Rinpoche explains that Refuge begins by considering our own situation until we can’t stand being in samsara for even a second more. Next we can think of how numberless other sentient beings have also been experiencing the sufferings of samsara from beginningless rebirths. Like us, they don’t like suffering but create the cause for suffering, without end, day and night. Thinking of this helps us generate compassion for ourself and others who are numberless. Because we can’t stand this situation for ourselves or others, we must rely on Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha strongly, from our bones, with all our heart. The teaching for this episode was recorded on September 16, 2017, at Light of the Path Retreat, United States. 
Sep 19, 2022
The Guru Appearing in Ordinary Form Is Most Kind to Us
Our gurus appear to us according to our impure karma, in an ordinary aspect, showing mistakes and having delusions. Because of this ordinary aspect, we are able to see the guru, communicate with the guru, and receive teachings and advice. Without their manifesting in this ordinary aspect we would remain lost in samsara, like a small child abandoned in a desert. We could not become free from the lower realms, from samsara, and from the lower nirvana, nor could we achieve the great nirvana of enlightenment. Because every second that our guru appears to us in an ordinary aspect is most unbelievably kind and precious, we should cherish our guru as more precious than the numberless buddhas. The teaching for this episode was recorded on April 6, 2018, at Great Stupa Of Universal Compassion, Australia. 
Sep 05, 2022
A Long Life Should Be Used to Benefit Others
The purpose of taking a long-life initiation is not to gain more time for creating negative karma through harming ourselves and other sentient beings. Rather, the purpose is to pacify life obstacles and to use the resulting long life to collect virtue, to abandon the causes of suffering, and to purify the negative karma already collected. Most importantly a long life should be used to benefit others. We have taken this human body to free others from suffering and cause them happiness. By cherishing others, they give us enlightenment. On the other hand, by following self-cherishing thought, we won’t succeed even in accomplishing the works of this life. To fulfill the purpose of our life, we need to have a good heart. That will make us happy and then we can make others happy. The teaching for this episode was recorded on September 22, 2019, at Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore. 
Aug 22, 2022
From Birth to Death We Believe in the Hallucination Projected by Ignorance
What would it be like to experience the world without the hallucination of true existence being projected onto everything we experience? We need to become a buddha for this to happen, Rinpoche explains. Right now the gross negative imprints left by ignorance from beginningless rebirths decorate whatever appears to us—form, sound, smell, taste, tangible object—making it appear real but it is actually a total hallucination. In reality, it is merely imputed by the mind. From birth to death everything that appears to us is a total hallucination, like watching a movie produced by our karma and then believing everything, including the I, is real. All of the problems of life arise on the basis of this hallucination. Our ignorance creates suffering, this is why we need to eliminate it. A buddha does not have this. Practicing mindfulness of emptiness in daily life is the most important awareness. After one realizes emptiness, all that has been appearing as real, including the I, is understood to not have even an atom of true existence. The teaching for this episode was recorded on June 30, 2019, at Ganden Buddhist Centre, Latvia. 
Aug 08, 2022
The Real Enemy Is Our Self-Cherishing Thought
All of our failures, problems, illnesses, and suffering from beginningless rebirths come from cherishing ourselves, Rinpoche warns. If we want happiness, we must start cherishing others. If someone harms us, instead of blaming them, direct the anger toward the real enemy—self-cherishing. This way, there is no anger toward others, no external enemy for us to harm and kill, and we can put the blame where it belongs, our own mind. This is like shooting a long-range missile exactly on target, causing the enemy (the self-cherishing thought) to burst into a thousand pieces. Less anger means more happiness, more peace. Cherishing others is the root cause of happiness for ourselves and others, all the way up to enlightenment. The teaching for this episode was recorded on December 10, 2017, at Kopan Monastery, Nepal. 
Jul 25, 2022
Disrespecting the Virtuous Friend Brings Eons of Suffering, Devotion to the Virtuous Friend Brings Enlightenment
What is the “virtuous friend?” Rinpoche explains that the virtuous friend is all the holy actions of all the buddhas. These manifest in our own guru, therefore, to disrespect our guru—with anger, heresy, complaints, negative thoughts, and so forth—is to disrespect every single buddha. There is no suffering result heavier than this. Likewise, belittling our guru causes us to suffer for eons. On the other hand, without a guru, we cannot receive the blessings of the buddhas. Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are embodied in the guru to whom we go for refuge. By pleasing our guru, we please all the buddhas. The more we correctly follow our virtuous friend with strong devotion, the less obstacles we will encounter and the more quickly we will achieve enlightenment. The teaching for this episode was recorded on April 06, 2018, at Great Stupa Of Universal Compassion, Australia. 
Jul 11, 2022
The Real Meaning of Practicing Dharma Is to Renounce This Life
What does it mean to practice Dharma? Renouncing this life, Rinpoche says. Anger, ignorance, pride, relationship issues—all of these problems come from attachment to this life. Practicing Dharma means renouncing this attachment like throwing out poison because of all the harm it can cause us. People who don’t understand might think, “I’m giving up my happiness if I give up attachment. Giving up attachment is worse than being in prison.” However, what actually happens is we are giving up the root of all our problems in order to experience much happiness. Dharma practice is not just reading texts, reciting mantras, meditating, circumambulating, doing retreat, or living in a monastery—we have to renounce our attachment to the pleasures of this life. If we don’t understand this, nothing we do will become Dharma. The teaching for this episode was recorded on October 21, 2018, at Nagarjuna C E T Madrid, Spain. 
Jun 27, 2022
Any Activity Can Be a Mindfulness Meditation on Emptiness
Whatever we are doing, even while at the beach or the supermarket, we can engage in one of three mindfulness meditations on emptiness, Rinpoche suggests. For example, we can be mindful that everything we are experiencing is a total hallucination, like a dream in which things appear but are not there. Or we can be mindful that everything that appears to us as real is totally empty of existing from its own side. Or we can be mindful that everything exists in mere name and is merely labeled by the mind. In this way, there is nothing to cling to or get angry at. We suffer so much and so many delusions arise on the basis of believing that the hallucination we experience is real. By realizing that everything is empty, we destroy our delusions. The teaching for this episode was recorded on August 12, 2017, at Thubten Norbu Ling Center, United States. 
Jun 13, 2022
Every Single Thing Comes from Your Mind
Hell, enlightenment, samsara, nirvana, what is true and false come from our mind. Whatever we see and hear, whatever we touch and smell, if someone likes us or is angry with us, whether we experience anything as good or bad from birth to death—all of this started with our mind. It came from our karma—the mental factor intention, Rinpoche says. On top of that, our mind imputes good and bad, the next second there is the appearance of good or bad, and then we believe it is real good or bad. This is why Buddha said, “The mind is the creator.” Normally people think that everything they experience came from outside, from others, and has nothing to do with the mind and so anger and attachment arise creating karma over and over. This is a total hallucination and what we experience as good or bad is our interpretation, from our mind. The teaching for this episode was recorded on May 10, 2018, at Great Stupa Of Universal Compassion, Australia. 
May 30, 2022
See the Guru’s Ordinary Aspect as One’s Own Lack of Merit
If we want more profit in our lives and less loss, we must see the guru as a buddha. In order to do this, the thought seeing their qualities as pure must be so powerful that it overwhelms the thought seeing their shortcomings or mistakes. When our guru seems to make mistakes, one way to view this is to think that due to our own lack of merit, we cannot be subdued by a guru showing a pure aspect so they must show an ordinary aspect having mistakes to benefit us, Rinpoche teaches. This is more precious than the whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels because it becomes a cause for not only stabilizing our devotion but for developing it further. The teaching for this episode was recorded on September 01, 2017, at Light of the Path Retreat, United States. 
May 16, 2022
By Changing the Channel of Your Mind, You Can Stop Problems
We can change our minds in a positive way to mitigate problems; or we can also follow negative thoughts, our ordinary mind, to experience more problems. Using the analogy of the mind being like a television, Rinpoche says that we can change the channel of our mind to enlightenment or hell, to samsara or nirvana, to happiness or problems. Rinpoche explains how the mind and body are totally different phenomena. The mind has no beginning; it continues from life to life. „Mind“ is merely labeled on that which is clear and percieves objects; therefore, there is no real mind. The emptiness of a real mind is buddha nature. Because of this ultimate nature of the mind, the obscurations are not one with the mind and can be removed. In this way, all sentient beings can become free from suffering forever and achieve enlightenment. The teaching for this episode was recorded on November 16, 2018, at Gendun Drupa Centre, Switzerland. 
May 02, 2022