Merely Labelled by the Mind
by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

The following is an extract from a teaching given by Ven. Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at Root Institute in Bodhgaya in January 1994. The teaching was delivered in English.

In our daily life, if we receive harm from other sentient beings or from our environment, through habituation our mind recognizes only suffering and generates dislike. A very insignificant thing such as how a person moves or how they look at you then becomes a big disturbance and causes great pain in ones heart. Whichever way the mind is habituated or addicted, it develops in that way and recognizes everything as either positive or negative, interpreting things as problems.

It is said in the teachings that if someone visualizes the whole of space filled with skeletons, then due to this mind training they will eventually have the actual experience of skeletons. You can thereby see the power of the mind.

This means that life is not hopeless, life has all the potentials to develop the mind through mind training. Even though now we have only impure minds with impure appearance, suffering minds with only suffering appearance, through mind training we can develop pure appearance. Any place that appears to the mind can appear as inside the Mandala, the appearance of pure wisdom, the Deities holy mind.

"For a Buddha there is no impurity,
no matter what object meets their senses,
no suffering, only happiness and the experience of bliss"

Anything that appears can appear as the Deity. Even before becoming Enlightened one can achieve this appearance. For a Buddha there is no impurity no matter what object meets their senses, no suffering, only happiness and the experience of bliss. To a completely purified mind, Buddha's holy mind or the mind of a great yogi who has achieved the clear light and illusory body, those who have complete control over the inner and outer elements, then even the things such as excrement which appear so dirty to our impure minds will appear as pure enjoyment nectar. All this is due to mind training, the development and transformation of the mind.

Whatever appears to ones own senses, one always finds something wrong, all appearances become negative as one's own mind has labeled everything as unpleasant and everything appears as a problem.. This is due to not recognizing that ones mind has been habituated in this way of blaming the external. The way things appear to the mind become one's own enemy.

If you analyze, you can see that what makes one develop anger is one's own concept, and not something from outside. The mind of attachment labels bad or harmful, and then there is the appearance of bad and harmful. Actually this is related to attachment to the ego. From this appearance of bad or harmful, anger arises.

If a person is angry at one and tries to harm one, then in the view of attachment they become an object to reject. The same person, however, in the view of patience becomes an object that one needs. Their anger becomes the reason why they are so kind, because they allow one to develop the mind towards Enlightenment, particularly in the paramita of patience. Without that angry person, one does not have the opportunity to practice.

With a stranger or a friend their is no anger, so there is no opportunity to practice. It is only with a person who has anger towards one that one has this opportunity to practice patience, to practice Dharma and to achieve Enlightenment in order to free every sentient being from suffering and lead them to happiness.

Without practicing patience there is no way that one can achieve full Enlightenment, and no way to offer infinite benefit to all sentient beings. The only person who gives one the opportunity to practice Dharma is the person who has anger towards one. For this person themselves, it may be very harmful, but for oneself the anger becomes very important. That person becomes so precious, so unbelievably kind and so important. They become more precious than billions of dollars or a mountain of diamonds because these things do not provide you with the opportunity to practice patience.

"The only person who gives one the opportunity
to practice Dharma is the person
who has anger towards one"

Without the existence of a person having anger towards one, one will always follow ego. This person gives one the opportunity to destroy that ego and the inner enemy, the only enemy, one's own delusions. Thinking this way, one can feel kindness from the depth of one's heart for that person. By relying on that person one can eliminate all mistakes of the mind, complete all realizations and achieve full Enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. This person becomes very precious, like the virtuous friend.

Ones attitude becomes like a TV channel, because depending on which way one turns ones mind, the appearance of the world becomes either positive or negative. One channel shows pleasant things and the other shows fighting and war.

What makes one get angry is nothing from the outside, it is one's own concept, ones way of thinking. Everything comes from ones own concepts, ones own mind makes one get angry, ones own mind labels things as harm. If one did not label, there would not be the appearance of harm and one would not believe in that. First the concept labels and then it believes in that label.

This is the same for attachment. For example if one is attached to the body, then think that just a little bit below the skin their is nothing to be attached to. Everybody is the same inside, blood, bones pieces of flesh tied up by veins, so it is only the outside that is the object of attachment. The skin cheats and deceives ones mind. What one is looking at is only coming from ones own mind, one is looking at a hallucinated appearance of the mind. Without the mind labeling skin, hair or face, their would not be the appearance of skin, hair or face, and their would not be any concept believing in that.

Due to past life imprints and depending on the culture of the country where one lives, their is the concept of beauty and ugliness, so objects appear in certain aspects. Everything one sees is immediately labeled by the mind, then the appearance comes and one sees things according to the label one has created. Continuously in daily life one creates phenomena according to what the mind labels, then one has the appearance and then the experience of happiness or suffering. It is one's own concept labeling, then believing in that label which creates one's life, one's happiness and one's suffering.

The conclusion is that you are looking at your own vision, through completely wrong view, believing that appearances are one hundred percent existing from their own side and becoming attached to that appearance. This is the cause of samsara.

This teaching has been lightly edited by Tony Simmons who takes full responsibility for any errors that may have occurred. The identity of the transcriber is unknown.