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Explanation of Atisha's Lamp for the Path to

Enlightenment
unedited transcript

Session One: The Initial Scope


This text was written by Atisha, a great Indian master who lived about a thousand years ago. He
had studied in Indonesia, the island of Sumatra; hed made a long journey there, a very difficult
journey. Buddhism had spread there long before and he went there particularly to get the
teachings on compassion and bodhichitta and these type of topics from this famous master who
lived there. Those teachings were not so strong in India at that time, so some of those lineages he
brought back.

He was at one of the great Indian monasteries in north India, Vikramashila. And he was invited
by the king of western Tibet to come to Tibet because there was a lot of confusion about
Buddhism at the time and they wanted him to help to revive it. There are various versions of the
history: theres the so-called pious Buddhist version of it, the holy Buddhist version; then theres
a more historical version of what actually took place:

There had been a repression of Buddhism about a hundred and fifty years earlier, but actually it
was a movement against the monasteries there and the excessive policy of the previous king.
This previous king had assigned many houses and villages to support the monasteries and to
support the monks and no money was coming into the government and so this was a problem. He
was a bit of a religious fanatic. And so his brother assassinated him and took the throne this
was the infamous king Langdarma.

And he closed the monasteries, but he didnt destroy them and he didnt kill all the monks or
anything like that, so libraries were still very much intact when Atisha came. But, in any case,
what happened was that there werent great centers of learning, and so over the years after the
empire of Tibet broke apart and so on, then the people no longer really understood terribly much
about the teachings. That was the situation. And they had some very strange ideas about what
Buddhist practice was, taking many things in the teachings, particularly concerning tantra, very
literally in a way that it was never quite intended.

So it was at this time that a king in western Tibet, Yeshey-wo, decided to invite translators and
sent people down to India to learn the languages and eventually he invited Atisha. Theres a long
story in the Buddhist histories of the sacrifice of King Yeshey-wo in order to bring Atisha to
Tibet. From a historical point of view, it seems quite doubtful that that actually occurred; but it
doesnt really matter. In any case he got to Tibet through a great deal of hardship, particularly by
one of the next kings, the nephew of Yeshey-wo called Jangchub-wo; thats the disciple
mentioned in the text.
And he stayed there for quite a few years and he helped to clarify a lot of misunderstanding. So
he was one of the main figures for whats called the second flourishing of Dharma in Tibet. And
he wrote this text there in western Tibet and, as he said, also to hopefully help the Indians. This
text is considered a very important text for a whole genre of literature or teachings that came
afterwards called lam-rim, the graded stages of the path to enlightenment.

These stages can be presented in many different ways; you find them in all four traditions of
Tibetan Buddhism. And although the content is the same of this graded path in all four traditions,
the actual structure with which its presented is slightly different. The structure that Atisha uses
are these three scopes of spiritual aim. This was then followed in the Kadam tradition, which
traces from Atisha, and then the Gelug tradition, which was the renewed Kadam tradition after it
had split into many branches. And the same structure of these three scopes is also used in one of
the Kagyu traditions, the Shangpa Kagyu.

So, anyway, a little bit of its background. Atisha starts here:

I prostrate to the Bodhisattva Youthful Manjushri.

He gives the name in Sanskrit and then the name in Tibetan and here in our Western languages
the name is A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. The tradition is always to give the Sanskrit
title first and presumably he wrote it in Sanskrit. Out of respect, you give the Sanskrit title first,
then you give the Tibetan. And the standard Indian texts always start off with a homage or a
prostration. Manjushri is the embodiment of the wisdom or clarity of mind and understanding of
all the Buddhas. Often prostration is made to him at the beginning of texts.

Promise to Compose

In the West we often have a little summary in the beginning of some sort of article that says
whats going to be in it; this is also the Indian tradition. So Atisha gives whats called the
promise to compose. It says what hes going to write about.

(1) Having prostrated most respectfully to all the Triumphant


of the three times
To their Dharma and to the Sangha community,
I shall light a lamp for the path to enlightenment,
Having been urged by my excellent disciple, Jangchub-wo

The Triumphant are the Buddhas. The teachings always start with prostration, we pay
homage; so he starts with prostration to whats called the Three Supreme Gems. Theyre called
gems because theyre very rare and theyre very precious, and we call them in Sanskrit the
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Ill explain that a little later what thats referring to. Then he says
hell light a lamp for the path to enlightenment thats the actual title of the text trying to
illuminate whats going on on that path.

And he was requested by this king that followed Yeshey-wo, Jangchub-wo; he was requested by
him as his disciple to write this. That indicates a basic Buddhist principle, which is that a
Buddhist teacher only teaches when requested, except under exceptional circumstances, when
there is an exceptional disciple and the teacher sees some special connection. Then a teacher can
offer to teach, but normally the disciple has to request. Its not a missionary type of religion the
teacher tries to push on people.

In the second verse Atisha says more specifically what hes going to write about. He says:

(2) Since (practitioners) come to have small


intermediate, and supreme (scopes),
They are known as the three types of spiritual persons.
I shall therefore write about these specific divisions,
Clarifying their defining features.

When you talk about the Buddhist spiritual path, there are different spiritual scopes that one
passes through, and often this is referred to with different levels of motivation. But this word
motivation, I dont know about in your language, but in English it doesnt quite give the
correct meaning here. When we talk about motivation in our Western languages, were talking
about the psychological or emotional reasons of why we do something youre motivated by
greed or by anger or by jealousy or these sort of things, or by love and compassion.

But although those are important factors to examine whats the emotional state that is motivating
us to do something, particularly our spiritual practice, thats not what the Tibetan word is
referring to. The Tibetan word is referring to the aim: what it is that youre aiming for, the goal.
And so when we follow a spiritual path, our goals are going to grow. This is what its talking
about when he says that come to have these different scopes of aim. He uses a word that
means that they develop, they grow, from one spiritual aim to another.

What this implies is two things: it could be that there are various people that you might meet who
have one or another of these spiritual aims, but thats not really the main point here, to go and
classify people according to their spiritual aim. But the fact that it says the small, intermediate
and supreme scopes its not like theyre value judgments of others, but its referring to an
organic process that each of us needs to go through in order to mature on the spiritual path.

Its like a flower opening: it starts small and then intermediate and then its wide open. In this
way it grows larger and larger and more full. Likewise, the scope or aim of our practice similarly
may start very small, very limited. It might be, for instance, that I have a lot of problems and Id
like to be happy, somehow improve things. And that may be how we begin; it may be the aim to
become happier. But as we grow and mature on the spiritual path, our minds and our hearts open
more and more and our scope, our aim becomes wider and wider.

This is what Atisha says that he will speak about, about these levels of growth. And what is very
important here is that, although for various reasons we might be naturally inclined to one or
another of these scopes, it is very important for a stable spiritual path to actually go through each
of these levels. There are some people who very naturally are very loving and thinking of helping
everybody and so on, which is very nice. And we might think that, This is the advanced scope,
Mahayana, so I can skip the first two levels. I dont really need that because Im advanced. I
already have an advanced level of aim.

There are a lot of people who go even worse. They see all this tantric stuff with these various
figures and they hear Buddhist propaganda about that, like the advertising outside a movie
theater advertising the movies makes it look really exciting to draw people in, so that they should
see it. Some people present tantra like that. People were doing that at the time of Atisha. This is
one of the reasons why the king invited him, and they do that today as well, Im sorry to say. And
people might feel, Oh, Im attracted to that, so I dont have to do anything that comes before
that. Im an exceptionally advanced person.

But if we do that and just immediately jump into either regular Mahayana practice or tantra
Mahayana practice, without really seriously working on these initial levels, then we have quite
serious problems on the spiritual path. We not only dont have a foundation, but we dont have
any roots in the ground. And so what were doing in the end turns out not even to be Buddhist,
but often becomes some sort of Disneyland fantasy trip, in which we go off into our tantric
fairyland. Atisha states here very clearly that the spiritual path is one of gradual growth, maturity,
as I said, like a flower. So, he says hes going to write about these divisions and clarify their
defining features.

Whats really a little bit odd, I must say, is that Atisha only spends one verse each on the initial
and intermediate scopes and all the rest of the text is on the advanced scope. He wrote a
commentary, his own commentary to this text, and even in that commentary he doesnt write
anything about the first two scopes. He says thats discussed elsewhere. It really raises a
question: why did he write it like that? Whats going on here?

We find that the teachings which would need to be filled in for this initial and intermediate
scope, we find them already in quite an expanded form in the next major lam-rim type of text
that was written thats Gampopas Jewel Ornament of Liberation. That was written I didnt
do my homework very well, I dont remember how many years afterwards Atisha was a
contemporary of Marpa, who lived a little bit afterwards, and Gampopa was the disciple of
Milarepa, who was the disciple of Marpa. So it must be about a century later it was written.

Anyway, Gampopa is famous for having combined the lineages of Kadampa, what followed
from Atisha, with mahamudra lineages. What that means is that Gampopa didnt make up the
teachings for these initial and intermediate scopes. Even though Gampopa doesnt use those
terms he doesnt speak about the three scopes its the same material, but he doesnt use that
structure. But what it implies is that those teachings were there in the Kadam tradition. So that
means that they needed to have come from Atisha.

Therefore the logical conclusion is that Atisha taught much more extensively about the initial and
intermediate scope while he was in Tibet, but he didnt really write about it here because, as he
says in his commentary, its elsewhere. What he puts here are basically the bodhisattva teachings,
which were what he went to Indonesia for, to Sumatra, to bring back. So this was what he felt
was more rare to write down.
Why I mention that is I think its wrong logic to conclude from the text that since initial scope is
one verse, intermediate scope is one verse, and then advanced scope is sixty-four verses, to
conclude from that that the first two scopes are really very trivial and unimportant and we dont
have to spend much time on them. That, I think, is false logic.

So, what are the defining characteristics of these three levels?

Initial Scope

(3) Anyone who takes keen interest in himself or hersel


(Achieving), by some means, merely the happines
Of uncontrollably recurring samsar
Is known as a person of minimum spiritual scope.

Initial scope is aiming for the happiness of samsara, only the happiness of samsara for oneself
alone. So, we would think, when you look at the lam-rims that follow from this, that this is a bit
different here, because in the later formulations, where its spelled out a little bit more fully, it
says quite specifically that the initial scope is aiming for improving future lives. And when we
see here improving the happiness of samsara, wouldnt that include happiness of samsara in
this lifetime?

And since samsara would include both this life and future lives, we might think that both of these
aims happiness in this life and happiness in future lives would be included here in the initial
scope. As I say, thats a very, very crucial point to the spiritual path, because we read: What is
the dividing line between spiritual persons, somebody into the Dharma and somebody not into
the Dharma? And the dividing line is if youre more interested in improving future lives than
this life.

Working just to improve this lifetime... Well, an animal does that as well. Theres nothing terribly
spiritual about a squirrel putting away nuts to survive the winter thats to be happy and improve
this lifetime. Or somebody building a house to be happy in this lifetime, thats not particularly
spiritual. An actual spiritual person is one that is thinking in terms of improving future lives.

This presents a major obstacle for most of us Westerners, because most of us dont believe in
past and future lives. We do have in our Western religions discussion of an afterlife, going to
heaven or hell, but one really wonders how many people who approach Buddhism believe in
heaven or hell.

So, one has to look at this word samsara which is used here, uncontrollably recurring
samsara I call it here. It actually is talking about rebirth that occurs over and over again and we
have no control over it.

Now, I make a distinction between Dharma-Lite, which is like Coca-Cola Lite, and Hard-Core
Dharma, The Real Thing. And Hard-Core Dharma, The Real Thing, is talking about rebirth. It
absolutely assumes that everybody believes in past and future lives. I believe they take that so for
granted that they dont even discuss it. Dharma-Lite is what we in the West often feel much more
attracted to, which is talking about the practice of Dharma basically in this lifetime and the scope
of our practice being restricted to this lifetime.

And we are not just thinking limited in terms of immediate gratification and happiness, but we
are looking to try to improve our situation later in life, but still in this life. And when we speak
about samsara, we talk about it in terms of uncontrollably recurring situations. I myself
translate it like that. We get into an unhealthy dependency relationship with someone and that has
lots of problems; it doesnt work out, we break up, and then we get into another one. Its the
same dependency again and then that breaks up and then we get into another one. It recurs
uncontrollably thats samsara.

And we turn to the Buddhist teachings in order to help us to break out of this uncontrollably
recurring syndrome because it brings lots of pain and suffering. And we even look at these three
scopes in terms of this lifetime. The initial scope, we want to make things better, a little better;
the intermediate scope, we want to gain liberation from all problems whatsoever, not just make it
a little better; and then the advanced level, we want to help everybody else achieve that same
goal. And that does describe a progression of aims and from a certain point of view we could say
these are spiritual aims. But are they really spiritual aims?

I dont know. Or are they the type of aims that we would also progress through if we were going
to some form of a Western therapy? I think that theres not very much difference here between a
Buddhist training in this manner and a more sophisticated form of therapy. In other words, this
reduces Buddhism to just another form of therapy. And this is what I call Dharma-Lite, like
Coca-Cola Lite, with basic teachings that we all like, which is fizzy like Coca-Cola, Be a nice
person and Dont hurt anybody, and so on. Theres nothing wrong with Coca-Cola Lite. And
this type of Dharma-Lite also, theres nothing wrong with it, its very helpful. But if you look at
the real definitions of what is Dharma practice, thats not quite it.

Hard-Core Dharma, The Real Thing, we talked about these three scopes, is first wanting to
improve future lives, which obviously assumes that we understand and believe in the existence
of future lives, otherwise why would we want to improve them? And of course that requires
understanding past and future lives according to the Buddhist explanation, not according to the
Hindu or Christian or other type of explanations. And then the intermediate scope is wishing to
gain liberation from rebirth completely, no rebirth anymore. Obviously, how can you aim for
liberation from rebirth if you dont even believe in rebirth?

And then the advanced scope is to work to help liberate everybody else from rebirth. Obviously,
if you dont believe in rebirth, why would you help anybody get liberated from it? And if you
look at the highest class of tantra, anuttarayoga tantra, then what were doing is that were
meditating in analogy with death, bardo, and rebirth in order to overcome that and help others
overcome that. If we dont believe in rebirth, what are we doing in tantra practice? Its a
complete joke.

Then we go back to Atishas text. So what is he saying? Obviously rebirth is a very central point,
which is totally taken for granted in the Buddhas teachings. So, if we talk about aiming for the
happiness of samsara in the initial scope, especially since Atisha doesnt spell it out what he
means, we have two possible ways of understanding this. One would be that what he really
means is improving future lives and this is the way that all the later lam-rims that elaborate on
this interpret it. But I think that theres another way of interpreting it, which would be to work for
the happiness of samsara both in this life and in future lives.

However, this wouldnt mean to work only for this lifetime with absolutely no interest in future
lives. But I think that in order to be faithful to the tradition, we would have to say working for
the happiness of this lifetime as a stepping stone on the way to working for the happiness of
future lives. At our stage wed say, I dont really understand the Buddhas teachings on
rebirth...

Actually theyre very complicated. To understand the teachings on rebirth we have to understand
the whole explanation of how mind has no beginning and no end, and wed have to understand
what actually passes from moment to moment, which fits into the whole Buddhist teachings on
there being no solid self. So wed say:

OK, I admit that I really dont understand this yet. I acknowledge that rebirth is very important,
very central for the Buddhist path. I have sincere interest and intention to try to understand the
teachings on rebirth, to learn them, and to really think about them, meditate on it, and try to
understand them so that if I speak in terms of working to improve future lives, that that actually
means something to me on an emotional level. Its not just words and Im not just thinking in
terms of a Christian idea of going to heaven, which is not what Buddhism is talking about at all.
But in the meantime, Im going to do Dharma-Lite and work to try to improve this lifetime as a
stepping stone.

And I think that Atisha has phrased this defining characteristic of the initial scope so that it
would allow that second interpretation, even though thats not the standard Tibetan interpretation,
because now we have to get into a quick debate if working for the happiness of samsara did
not also include the happiness of this life, then the absurd conclusion would follow that this life
was not samsara. That we cant accept.

Its for that reason that I speak of these stages of Dharma-Lite and Hard-Core Dharma. And I
think thats very important for us Westerners approaching material like Atishas text, otherwise
we get really a very unstable idea of what hes talking about. We could just leave it totally in
terms of, Hes just talking about this life; forget about future lives or anything like that, but
really from a great deal of experience that Ive seen of Buddhism in the West, thats not The Real
Thing, it doesnt go in the proper way. Theres something missing, very strongly missing here.

So, what are the teachings of the initial scope? I dont want to spend a great deal of time on the
initial and intermediate scope, because Atisha doesnt spend so much time. So lets do it in brief.
Basically, what one needs to do in order gain the happiness of samsara alright, so were talking
about improving this life and future lives we need to have whats usually called refuge.

Refuge is too passive; it implies going to Buddha and saying, Oh Buddha, help me, save me,
and then were saved. Its not that at all. But rather it means a safe direction in life, so its
something active. We go in that direction, we have to go in that direction, and going in that
direction is safe in that we save ourselves from problems. And what indicates that direction?
Three Rare and Supreme Gems. The Dharma is the main thing. Dharma is talking about the total
removal of all problems and their causes and the state of mind that will eliminate them and the
state of mind that results when these problems and their causes are eliminated. Thats the third
and fourth noble truths we refer to the teachings of the four noble truths the state of the
problems being removed and the mind that removes them and has them removed. Thats what
were aiming for.

Now, that doesnt just exist abstractly; it has to exist on the mental continuum of somebody. So,
the Buddhas are those who have achieved this in full and they teach us how to do that ourselves.
And when we talk about the Sangha, this is the community of highly realized beings who have
achieved this goal in part, not completely yet, but in part, because theyve had nonconceptual
cognition of voidness, of reality. So theyre very, very advanced. This is what is going to be the
first thing that we need in order to gain the happiness of samsara. We have to have a safe
direction in life and a clear direction of what are we doing in life, what are we aiming for, what is
the purpose of our lives.

People often trivialize refuge into a little ceremony where you cut a piece of hair and repeat
some words in Tibetan and get a Tibetan name and thats it and now youve joined the Tibetan
Buddhist club and you can wear a red string around your neck. That is so unbelievably trivial
that its a joke. Really having a safe direction in your life, knowing what that direction is, clear
about it, and being confident that its possible to achieve this goal and confident that I can
achieve it myself, not just these Buddhas in the past, and then actively, Im going to put that
direction in my life. This is what Im working toward. My life has a meaning, has a direction,
this is a huge change in life, an unbelievable change in life.

So, first thing in order to gain the happiness of samsara, we need to have some positive safe
direction in our life. Were working to get rid of our problems and their causes and to get this
state of mind that will remove them and that has them removed from it the way the Buddhas
have done in full, completely, and the way the Sangha have done partially. Now, to do that, to
achieve this goal, we need some conducive circumstances, circumstances that are favorable for
this. So first of all we have to look at our situation now and if we have favorable circumstances.
Its called the precious human life.

We need to appreciate that, recognize it and appreciate it. And we have to take advantage of it
and use it to follow this path, because it will end someday, death will come for sure. Now, if we
think in terms of Hard-Core Dharma, then once we die, theres going to be rebirth and things
could be a lot worse. We could be born in a situation, like being born a cockroach, in which we
have no real chance to improve our situation. As a cockroach, everybody who sees us just wants
to step on us. Thats not very nice. Because we want to avoid that, we need to really do
something now to prevent that. And that brings us to the teachings on karma.

Karma is talking about impulses, the impulse that drives us to do something compulsively, and
these impulses come because of habits from our previous behavior. And so if we act in a
destructive manner and theres a lot of teachings on what are the different types of destructive
actions, theres no need to go into detail killing, stealing, lying, thinking constantly, How can I
get what somebody else has? All these sort of things are destructive, which will cause us
compulsively to repeat these type of actions and get into situations where other people act like
that toward us, and generally it causes us to feel unhappy.

Whereas if we act constructively, which means to restrain from acting destructively, then its just
the opposite. One thing I need to point out: just the fact that I dont hunt or fish, that in itself is
not constructive, so thats not the constructive action were talking about. The constructive action
is: when the impulse comes to kill something, like a mosquito is buzzing around your face and
the impulse comes to kill it at that time, to decide not to kill it, because you realize that that
would be destructive and would lead to future unhappiness and difficulties. Its actually
restraining yourself from acting destructively when you want to act destructively thats whats
constructive.

So, if you act destructively it brings unhappiness; if you act constructively it brings happiness.
But when we observe our lives, it doesnt bring that immediately, does it? Somebody steals
something and they never get caught and they get a lot of money and theyre able to buy a lot of
things and are happy. Whats this? Or a monk in Tibet: hes been meditating and doing all sorts
of positive, constructive things and then they get thrown in a Chinese prison and are tortured to
death. Wheres the karma in that?

Or, Ive been such a good practitioner and Ive been trying so hard in my lifetime, and then I get
some horrible cancer and die a very painful death. If one doesnt think in terms of future lives
and just practices Dharma on the basis of thinking of this life, then you have very serious
questions and problems with karma, I was practicing so well and now I got this horrible
cancer, and you think, Oh, the Dharma was useless. I was supposed to experience happiness as
a result of this practice that I did and it didnt work.

This is why its very important from the beginning to have some understanding of future lives,
because karma ripens mostly in future lives; some can ripen in this life, but more in future lives.
Otherwise these teachings are very difficult to really have confidence in.

So, if we want to have favorable circumstances in the future here in the initial scope
particularly in future lives following restraint from destructive actions will help us to achieve
that. But thats not the final goal. The goal of Buddhism is not to be reborn in a heaven or a
paradise: thats not Buddhism. There are many other religions to achieve that. The whole initial
scope actually isnt terribly Buddhist by itself. We can think about, Well, I have a precious life
and I want to use it because Im going to die and I dont want to go to hell, I want to go to
heaven. So Im going to be a good person.

Thats not necessarily Buddhism, is it? One could follow that course and be a Christian. What
makes it Buddhist is that improving future lives is to continue to have conducive circumstances
so that I can achieve this goal that were talking about in terms of safe direction. And we can
practice a valid Dharma-Lite version of this by saying:

OK, Im going to try to avoid destructive behavior now, because I want to continue in this life
to have the circumstances thatll be most conducive for Dharma practice, because death is going
to come. Whatever amount of time I have, I want that to be the most productive for the spiritual
path, and if I just act destructively, Im wasting my time really. But I realize that what I will
experience in this lifetime is not determined or shaped solely by what I do in this lifetime; a lot is
going to be ripenings from past lives. So Im going to try to purify negative karma as much as
possible, realizing that I cant get rid of it completely until I get liberation and liberation is a
long ways away. And Im working like that with this safe direction, working with karma and
so on.

This is the initial aim with the provision that, Yes, I want to understand future lives and I see
that this is a necessary step for working to improve future lives. And if I really want to make
progress on this path, Im going to have to really face this whole issue of rebirth and really look
into it very seriously.

OK, so thats the initial scope. Do you have any questions?

Questions and Answers

Question: Could you read it again, the scope?

Answer: The verse is:

(3) Anyone who takes keen interest in himself or hersel


(Achieving), by some means, merely the happines
Of uncontrollably recurring samsar
Is known as a person of minimum spiritual scope.

All that Atisha says is: working by some sort of method to gain the happiness of samsara for
oneself. But obviously hes not talking about, Just get rich by any means that you can, cheating
others and so on, in order to be able to buy everything and be happy. Actually it raises a very
interesting question, What is the happiness of samsara? Thats something to think about. What
do we mean by happiness? I want to be happy. What actually is that happiness that were
looking for? Thats a topic to contemplate by oneself.

Question: Thats a good question because if you steal some money and build a house for your
old mother, you can be happy from that.

Answer: If we steal money and build a house for our old mother, we will be happy? Again, I ask
the question, What is that happiness that you experience? How long will it last? And what is
that feeling like? Im sitting in my room and I dont feel very happy. I dont particularly know
why, but I dont feel very happy, I feel unhappy, and Id like to feel happy. Well, what is it that
we would like to feel? And what would make us feel that? And would it last? As I say, its not a
question to answer just like that, superficially. And when Atisha says by some means, does he
mean by destructive means?

It gets into the teachings on karma; its very complex. The act of stealing the money has given
you one type of result you got the money. Now, as a result of that, you built a house and your
old mother has a house. And seeing your old mother now have a nice house, you feel happy. But
from a Buddhist point of view, when we talk about happiness coming from a constructive action
and unhappiness coming from a destructive action, theyre not talking about this type of result.
What youre talking about is more like a mechanical result: you steal the money and then you
have money thats the mechanical result of the action, thats not the karmic result of the action.

You could build a house and your mother could hate it. Whether your mother likes the house or
dislikes the house, thats a result of her karma. And whether you feel happy at that or not is also a
result of your karma; its not the result of the action. The action of stealing just enabled you to
build the house; what you feel is something else. You could still have lots of arguments with your
mother and not be very happy.

Question: So it means it doesnt matter what happens, but just how we feel about it?

Answer: No, thats not what Im saying. What Im saying is: what happens and what we feel
about it can be coming from different causes.

You could steal the money, you get the money, you try to build the house, but the house
collapses. Theres lots of things: the house could burn down, all sorts of things, its very
complicated. And each of those things comes from a karmic cause. And thats not just talking
about the mechanical cause of you knocked over the lamp and the house caught on fire.

Any other questions?

OK, then lets end here for the evening. Tomorrow Ill speak, again just briefly, on the
intermediate scope and then well get into the rest of the text, not just spend all our time on this.

So, the way we end is with a dedication and this is very important when we think in terms of
karma. If we do something positive or constructive, like listening to a teaching, trying to
understand it we wanted to go to the movies, but we restrained ourselves and came here
instead, or whatever theres a certain positive force that is built up by this constructive action.
Thats usually translated as merit, which, at least in English, is a very silly word, because it
sounds as though, Well, I got three points for coming here, and we keep score and at the end,
maybe, if we get enough points, well win the game. Thats not what were talking about, but
theres some sort of positive force, energy.

Now, what does positive karma do? It will ripen into the happiness of samsara. So if we dont do
anything after we do something constructive, if we dont dedicate it, then that positive force will
automatically contribute to improving samsara. We can use the analogy of a computer. The
default setting on our internal computer is that the positive force gets saved in the improving
samsara folder. If we want it to contribute to achieving enlightenment, you have to actually save
it in the enlightenment folder.

You have to press the button and save it in the enlightenment folder, otherwise its
automatically going to go in the samsara folder. So thats the dedication, saving it in the
enlightenment folder. So thats what we do at the end. We say, Whatever positive force is
built up, may that contribute to achieving enlightenment to be able to benefit all. Its giving a
push in that direction to that energy, to that positive force, so that its not just going to contribute
to being able to have an interesting conversation about this over a cup of tea and everybody will
be entertained thats improving samsara, no big deal.

We think, whatever positive force has built up from this, may this truly help us and contribute to
achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all.