By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche


I’m just going to talk a little bit on the pervasive suffering. The aggregates, they are five: the aggregates of form, feeling, recognition, compounding aggregate, and consciousness. They are under the control of karma and delusions, previous karma and delusions and they are the contaminated seeds of later suffering and delusion. This is called pervasive compounding suffering. As I told you, often His Holiness says they are controlled by karma and delusions, so that is why they are pervaded. The five aggregates are pervaded by suffering, this body and mind are the nature of suffering, pervaded by suffering, the contaminated seed of suffering and delusion. Because of that also they are pervaded by suffering, these aggregates are the nature of suffering, because of that. The logic is that. 


Lama Tsongkhapa explained it in the Lam-rim Chenmo. For example a person who carries a heavy burden has no happiness. Then these aggregates, the burden of these aggregates, since we have to carry the burden of these aggregates, as long as we have to carry the burden of these aggregates there is no happiness. So, pervasive suffering covers, pervades, all the sufferings, and it is the root of the suffering of pain and suffering of change. So therefore, we must meditate so much on the sadness of the pervasive compounding suffering (Tib: kyabpa duje kyi dugnel). In the Lam-rim Chenmo Lama Tsongkhapa said, even if you achieve human or deva body, human or deva realm, not only desire realm but form realm and formless realm, it is not beyond pervasive compounding suffering. Therefore, either deva or human body, desire realm or form realm and even formless realm – it doesn’t say that here, but I added it – you think it is pleasure, happy. Thinking this is pleasure, happiness, is wrong, perverted. Thinking this is pleasure, this is happy is wrong. In reality there is no happiness, again you get reborn, you get born in the lower realms. So at the end it is bad. Then Kyabje Pabongka says, even the higher realms, even the happy transmigratory beings with a deva and human body, you should look at it as lower realms and get very upset, even though it is higher realm. (And by looking at) the deva and human realms as lower realms, you should get very sad. 


Then, in the Four Hundred Stanzas Aryadeva mentions, for the learned ones, even the higher realms are similar to hell and they generate fear. For those learned ones, it is rare to not have fear towards anything in samsara. Then, maybe in Letter for a Friend (Lobtring) by Nagarjuna, it says, as much as you regard all the transmigratory beings, as much as you generate the recognition that they are happy, a happy realm, as much you think like that, that much the mind becomes extremely heavy, dark with ignorance. Because as much as you think sentient beings are happy, as much as you recognize that, what happens in reality, is you get totally ignorant. It is not happiness but only suffering, so, in reality, that much your mind becomes so heavily dark, ignorant. Now the opposite; as much as you recognize all transmigratory beings are suffering, then that much the darkness of your ignorance becomes thinner and thinner. That much the darkness of your ignorance gets thinner and thinner, so it gets eliminated. As much as you think transmigratory beings, or material possessions, are beautiful, wonderful, as that recognition of them increases, that much you are attached, your attachment becomes like a flame and then becomes extremely big, uncontrollable. Then, as much as you meditate they are ugly, or not interesting, as much as you meditate on that, look at that, increase seeing them as ugly, that much your extremely flaming attachment gets weaker, and is destroyed. As much as you look at them as uninteresting, suffering in nature, as much as that increases, that much your attachment which is like flaming gets destroyed. Holding the perfections of samsara as happiness, grasping at them as happiness, exaggerating them as wonderful, beautiful, desirable, from beginningless rebirths: the antidote to the mind becoming habituated to that is to train the mind in looking at them as suffering in nature, uninteresting, bad. If you meditate like that, then the attachment rising by holding them to be pleasure and wonderful gets destroyed. If you don’t meditate in that way, ignorance and attachment increase. That becomes turning the wheel of samsara; turning the wheel of samsara all the time. So therefore it is most important to meditate on the shortcomings of samsara.


For example, if you have leprosy disease, infection, if it is sprinkled with cold water then you feel pleasure. Of course that doesn’t last forever, it doesn’t continue forever and doesn’t increase, it is for the time being. When salt water is sprinkled, then there is pain, the suffering of pain. When those two, cold water and salt water, are not sprinkled, there is indifferent feeling, you have indifferent feeling, equanimous feeling, contaminated equal feeling, contaminated – with – the – seed – of – delusion equal feeling. So that is also suffering: that infection which has equal feeling, contaminated equal feeling is also suffering. That is also suffering. That is not suffering of change, not suffering of pain, but it is pervasive compounding suffering. That is pervasive suffering. Equanimity feeling, the contaminated seed of delusion and karma, contaminated seed of suffering, that is causative suffering. The equal feeling is causative suffering.  


Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche explained there are infinite ways to think of the suffering of samsara, mainly the pervasive compounding suffering. The formless realm has Limitless Sky, Limitless Consciousness, Nothingness, and the Tip of Samsara. So, from Tip of Samsara down to hell, Unbearable Torment, the pervasive compounding suffering, these aggregates caused by karma and delusions, wherever you are reborn from Tip of Samsara down to Unbearable Torment hell, it is the nature of suffering, completely the nature of suffering. These aggregates are completely in the nature of suffering: so you should realize this from the depths. Then if you find that by doing analytical meditation well, then you see these aggregates like a disease, like leprosy disease, like an infection, pain, these aggregates, the deva’s body, even in a dream you have no desire to get a deva’s body. Like His Holiness always says, not in the same context, even in a dream, when there is something to do with sex His Holiness thinks I’m a monk, even in a dream His Holiness often says that. Even in a dream you do not get the desire to have a deva’s body: as long as that doesn’t happen to you, then you don’t get real definition of renunciation, you don’t get real renunciation. Until you get the thought like that, feeling like that, your seeking liberation is mere words. That is what Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche said. Even not desiring deva realm in a dream, even in a dream you don’t think that, you see totally in suffering nature.  


Pervasive compounding suffering, pervasive has several different ideas. One meaning is from Tip of Samsara down to Unbearable Torment hell realm state all the aggregates are pervaded by suffering, nature of suffering, totally nature of suffering, caused by karma and delusions, under the control of karma and delusions and contaminated seed of later suffering and delusion (later means future, suffering and delusion). All, all the aggregates, are pervaded by suffering, pervasive from the Tip of Samsara down to Unbearable Torment. That is one definition of pervasiveness. Then another one, as I told, if you have leprosy disease, you put cool water there is pleasure, you put salt water there is suffering, when there is neither there is equal feeling, the contaminated seed of karma and delusion. So all pervaded by suffering, all three sufferings are pervaded by suffering, in the nature of suffering. It causes the two other sufferings, it compounds and generates the two other sufferings, that is why it is called duje, compounding; it compounds the other two sufferings, it makes them arise. It is suffering, even the happy feeling, no question about suffering and pain, also equal feeling, all are the nature of suffering. Because they are the nature of suffering therefore they are called suffering. Generally, only the desire realm has suffering of pain, the desire realm includes lower realms, human being, and desire realm devas. Now the happy feeling up to form realm, that which is achieved through samatha: you achieve firm contemplation, first level, second level, third level, fourth level. Form realm has four firm concentrations (samten) and the happy feeling exists up to the third firm contemplation. Then equal feeling: all the three realms – desire realm, form realm, formless realm – have it, and it exists from the fourth firm contemplation up to the four absorptions of the formless realm, including the top one, Tip of Samsara. All the four levels of formless realm have [only] equal feeling. From Tip of Samsara down to Unbearable Torment hell state it is covered; so pervasive, it is pervaded by suffering. So these are little bit different ways to think of the meaning of pervaded.  


Extracted from the teachings of Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche in Maitreya Institute, Loenen (Netherland), in July 2015.
Slightly edited by Ven. Chantal Tenzin Dekyi.