Cutting the root of suffering

“Whatever the object of the mind is—the I, the action, the object, form, sound, smell, taste, tangible object—the whole thing appears to us as real. There is a real car, a real road, a real sky, a real shop, real ice cream, real money. On the road there is a real red light, a real yellow light, a real green light. In the real gompa there are real flowers, real thangkas, real statues. Everything is real from over there.

It is a creation, a projection, merely imputed by our mind, but we have no idea of that. We have no idea that it is only a hallucination coming from over there. We see it from there as real. This “real” thing does not exist; it has never existed. It has never come into existence and it does not exist now.”


If we are able to meditate in this way, looking at all this as like a dream, an illusion, a mirage—all the different examples—then it becomes very interesting. There is nothing to become attached to because it is not real.

For example, if we recognize a dream as a dream, there is nothing to be attached to and there is nothing to be angry about. In a dream, somebody abuses us but if we can recognize the dream as a dream, the abuse does not bother us at all. Similarly, some object of desire appears in our dream, but recognizing it as just a dream, we are not agitated. Nothing disturbs us; our mind remains utterly peaceful. Anger and attachment do not arise, so we have a very, very interesting life.

Because things appear to us not as a dream but as real from their own side, which is how it has been since beginningless time, realizing emptiness is vital. It is more important than any job, than all the money in the world, than anything. To cut the root of suffering, ignorance, and be free forever from the oceans of samsaric suffering, there is nothing more important than realizing emptiness.”

“This is true of every sentient being who has not realized emptiness. Hell beings are the same; animals are the same; humans have better brains but they too are the same in this unless they have realized emptiness. No matter whether it is a king, a president, a scientist or whoever, everybody believes this I to be real, to be true.

Because we believe this I to be real, attachment to the I arises and, when somebody does something undesirable, anger erupts. That wrong concept of a real I is the root of all suffering—the suffering of rebirth, the suffering of old age, the suffering of sickness and the suffering of death. Having to become old comes from this; having to die without choice comes from this. Cancer and AIDS come from this. It is the root of the suffering of change, of all the temporary pleasures that never increase and never last.

Those two sufferings—the suffering of pain and the suffering of change—come from pervasive compounding suffering. Because our aggregates are under the control of karma and delusion they are pervaded by suffering and the contaminated seed of delusion. Because there is a continuity of consciousness from past lives, our mindstream carries the imprints of the karma we have created, which compounds this life’s and future lives’ suffering. Meeting desirable and undesirable objects, attachment, anger and ignorance arise, which motivates karma, which leaves an imprint on the mind, and then that produces future lives’ suffering. So, pervasive compounding suffering, the foundation of those other two sufferings, comes from this wrong concept of a real I.

Samsaric happiness can neither increase nor give us any real satisfaction, no matter how much effort we put into it. The happiness of Dharma, on the other hand, lasts and increases, and when we achieve enlightenment it is completed. Therefore, no matter how difficult it is, Dharma practice is extremely worthwhile.”

“Wherever we look in samsara there is so much suffering. The root of it all is this incorrect concept that believes that the I is real from its own side. It is formless, colorless and shapeless but the result of this wrong concept is the unbelievable sufferings of the six realms. The suffering we humans must endure is bad enough but that is nothing compared to the suffering of the other realms. All of this comes from something that is formless, colorless and shapeless.”

“In exactly the same way as we are suffering, there are numberless other sentient beings who are also suffering: numberless hell beings, numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings, numberless gods, numberless demigods and numberless intermediate state beings. We are lost, but that is nothing. We are just one being. There are numberless other beings continuously suffering in samsara.

Therefore, it is not enough to achieve the blissful state of peace, nirvana, for ourselves alone while there are numberless other beings that need our help. We need to help all sentient beings.

As I have often said, we have eyes and limbs so that we can run and grab the blind person who is walking toward a precipice, mistakenly thinking there is a road there. That poor stumbling sentient being cannot see the precipice, so it is up to us. That is the first reason for helping sentient beings: because we can—they are suffering so much and we are capable of helping them.

The next reason for helping sentient beings is that all our happiness comes from them.”

“All our past, present and future happiness, including nirvana and the great nirvana, enlightenment, comes from our good karma. And our good karma is the action of the buddhas.

There are two actions of the buddhas: one is the buddha’s holy mind and the other is with us sentient beings, our own good karma. We create positive actions only because we understand karma—the cause of suffering and the cause of happiness—and our understanding of karma is the result of having been taught by the buddhas.

A buddha’s actions come from a buddha; a buddha comes from a bodhisattva; a bodhisattva comes from bodhicitta; bodhicitta comes from great compassion; great compassion is generated by contemplating the suffering of all sentient beings. Therefore we can see that we can attain enlightenment only by depending on the kindness of sentient beings.

The mind of great compassion—the cause of bodhicitta and thus a bodhisattva and thus a buddha—can only be generated by understanding the suffering of each and every sentient being. Every sentient being must be included: every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every god, every demigod, every intermediate state being. Not even one is left out. That is their great kindness.”

“Therefore, great compassion comes from the numberless suffering sentient beings; bodhicitta comes from the numberless suffering sentient beings; bodhisattvas come from the numberless suffering sentient beings; buddhas come from the numberless suffering sentient beings—therefore, a buddha’s actions come from sentient beings. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the refuge objects we always pray to, come from sentient beings. They come from every single suffering sentient being.”

“On the other hand, for bodhisattvas, the thought of being born in the hells for sentient beings—even for one sentient being—brings them unbelievable joy and happiness; much greater happiness than an arhat experiences achieving nirvana.”