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Formal Practices in a Time of War

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 At this time of deepening international tension, many members of the Shambhala community have sought advice on specific forms of practice that would be beneficial to all. The Sakyong has suggested that those wishing to devote aspects of their meditation and contemplation specifically towards the present situation in the world could include the following in their individual and collective practice.

These chants do not need to be done daily or in any mechanical way. Rather than trying to push people when times are busy and have only a few people show up, it is better to wait until there is a common inspiration to gather together and do them. This could be, for example, when war breaks out or when a war situation becomes worse. People can also do these individually at home, whenever they wish.

The staff at the Shambhala International office in Halifax has just completed a week of doing these practices together. Experiencing challenges at work and concerns about the tensions in the world, we have all appreciated this time together and plan to continue with the practices before we begin work each morning. We are practicing according to the following format:

Morning chants:
Four Dharmas of Gampopa
Seven Line Supplication
Supplication to the Takpo Kagyü
Shambhala Homage


Formal Practices in a Time of War (one gong before each practice):
Heart Sutra (1x with drum)
Four Immeasurables (pdf)
Chanting the Names of Manjushri (pdf) (3x)
Pacifying the Turmoil of the Mamos (1x)
Dedications of merit

You can incorporate any or all of these practices into your own group or individual situations, fitting them into the context of your practice, morning or evening, and according to the time you have. If you are a shamatha student and want to include the mamo chant, try to get a copy through your local center. Otherwise, omit this chant and do any or all of the other three.

We offer these more detailed instructions for group practice and some background information on the newly translated Names of Manjushri (which replaces the previously posted Praise to Manjushri).

Procedural details

Recite The Heart Sutra once with the drum. This opens the ground of emptiness and removes obstacles.

In a group practice, the umdze reads the introductory paragraph for the Four Immeasurables alone, as well as the title of each of the following four paragraphs. The group recites in unison each of the four paragraphs and contemplates each one for at least 2 minutes (more if time permits). Everyone chants the last verse and sits for a few moments.

The tantric text, Chanting the Names of Manjushri (Manjushri-nama-sangiti), is traditionally chanted at the Tibetan New Year. It is chanted by everyone over and over, for as many as a 100,000 or even a million times

It is a praise of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom (prajna) and an aspiration that sets up auspicious conditions now and in the future. It also purifies one's spiritual commitment (samaya) and any transgressions of that commitment. In this way, it can heal divisions or troubles in the sangha. Overall, reciting it accumulates tremendous merit.

There is a strong lineage connection between Manjushri and Shambhala. The first Rigden King of Shambhala, Manjushri Yashas, was an emanation of Manjushri, and all the Rigdens are considered to have this wisdom energy as their basis. Moreover, the wisdom energy of Manjushri is connected to our present Sakyong, as the first Mipham was also an emanation of Manjushri.

In the Werma Sadhana, there is reference to "the weapons of prajna." In this sadhana, the Rigden King holds a sword, which is the same as the sword of Manjushri, the sword of prajna. In the Shambhala teachings, prajna is also related to the Great Eastern Sun in our heart.

In these difficult times, fear may arise. What is fear? Fear is basically a lack of prajna. When we are afraid and do not see clearly what is, either on a relative or absolute level, this creates even more fear. To quell this fear, we open up the Great Eastern Sun in our heart and let it shine forth. This arouses confidence through connecting to the energies of lungta and drala. We then take our seat and hold the sword of prajna, just as the Rigden does.

These verses were selected by the Sakyong. Chant them slowly, from your heart. You can recite them only once, or do as many recitations as you have time for. We are chanting them three times as a group. There is no number requirement, but it would be good to keep track of the number of recitations you do.

The Pacifying the Turmoil of the Mamos chant is done before Shambhala Day to purify the remaining karma at the end of the year; however, it can be done at any time. Through chanting it, we recognize the ever-present negative forces that exist to be quelled. This chant can continue to be done by all community members. There is no need to include the practice of Vajrayogini, Vajrakilaya, or the Confession liturgy in a group practice with both tantrikas and shamatha students. Keeping this simple is best in a community situation.

Protector Principle, an article by the Dorje Loppön Lodrö Dorje, may help provide some context for shamatha students doing the mamo chant.