Instructions on the Longchen Nyingthig Preliminary Practices to the Great Perfection By Chokling Jigme Palden Rinpoche
Instructions on the Longchen Nyingthig Preliminary Practices to the Great Perfection By Chokling Jigme Palden Rinpoche
Translated by the Rigdzin Community translation committee.
Published by Tharlam Drönme Foundation © 2012 Tharlam Drönme Editions, Switzerland.
Instructions on the Longchen Nyingthig Preliminary Practices to the Great Perfection
NAMO GURU BYE!
The transmission of enlightened intention of the victorious ones and the symbolic transmission of the vidyadharas,
In the expanse of the exhaustion of phenomena, you have found the enlightened intention of dharmakaya. In the space of clear light, you have seen the appearances of the realms of sambhogakaya. In the eyes of living beings, you appear as the nirmanakaya that benefits living beings. O Dzogchen teachers, before all of you, I respectfully prostrate myself.
O precious lama of great kindness, incomparable allpervading lord,
O ocean-like assembly of yidams, dakinis and dharma protectors,
All of you, who have perfected the three secrets1 since primordial times, please heed me: May I enter the path that delights the victorious ones! These common outer and inner preliminaries to the path
Are the writings of Kunkhyen Longchenpa’s lineage, which gather all the Buddha’s teachings; They are the pith instructions, the practice with which one can attain enlightenment in one lifetime. Here I shall give pith instructions explaining the profound crucial points of these preliminary practices, together with additional advice. I shall present their profound and marvellous meaning in a way that is clear and easy to understand, repeating the unmistaken words of my incomparable lama.
O lamas of the three lineages, joyfully grant your blessings!
O lama, lord of the families, I beseech you to hold me with your compassion!
O dakinis, doctrine-holders, joyfully grant your permission!
1 Vajra Body, Speech and Mind (Footnotes are all translator’s notes).
Here I have written down the instructions on the clear and extensive preliminary practices—common outer and inner ones—that condense the profound essential meaning of the utterly lucid primordial wisdom, the supreme path of Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig 2. These are the unmistaken words of my kind and holy incomparable lama, whose name is hard for me to utter, as he is equal to all the buddhas in qualities, and his kindness is even greater. I have written this down in an appropriate length that fits these present times, in a way that is clear and easy to understand, complete and without error. This text has three parts: the outer or common preliminary practices; the inner or uncommon preliminary practices; and, as part of the actual practice, the profound instruction of the swift path of Phowa. 2 In Eng.: Heart Bindu of the Great Expanse of Great Perfection.
The common or outer preliminary practices consists of the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara—the difficulty of finding the freedoms and advantages, the impermanence of life, the defects of samsara, and the result of actions—the benefits and qualities of liberation as well as the explanation on how to follow a spiritual teacher.
The explanation on the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara is preceded by the exposition on the proper motivation and conduct to have while practising or listening to the dharma.
There are two kinds of motivation that we should have
while listening to a teaching: the vast intention of bodhicitta and the vast means of the Secret Mantra. As for the first, we should think as follows: among all the living beings abiding in samsara since beginning-less time, there is not even one who has not been our father or mother. When they were our parents, they constantly took care of us with great kindness. Although these beings want nothing but happiness, they do not know how to perform the ten virtuous actions, which are the causes of happiness. In addition, they do not know how to abandon the ten harmful actions, which are the causes of suffering. Their deepest wishes and their actions are therefore in complete contradiction. Considering how sad their condition is, we should think: “I shall teach, listen to, meditate on and practise the profound holy dharma for the sake of all beings. By doing so, I will establish them in the state of temporary happiness of gods or humans, as well as in the state of ultimate happiness of buddhahood.” This motivation is indispensable whenever we perform a virtuous action, no matter how major or minor.
In the beginning, we should arouse the motivation of bodhicitta and thus embrace our virtuous actions with skilful means. During the actual practice, we should remain without conceptual reference and thus ensure that
this virtue will not be destroyed by circumstances. In conclusion, we should fully seal with the dedication and thus make sure the virtuous quality will constantly increase. These are the “three supreme methods”. It is indispensable to apply them for any virtuous action we may perform.
As it is said:
What makes an action positive or negative is not its appearance or its size, It is the good or bad intention behind it. Therefore, when listening to a dharma teaching, it is crucial to have the attitude of bodhicitta, which is to have a pure motivation devoid of any selfish concern, solely focusing on the welfare of all beings, our mothers of old.
As it is said:
All phenomena are circumstantial, They therefore depend entirely on one’s aspiration. Either when teaching, listening, meditating on or practising the dharma, we should not view appearances as ordinary or impure. Instead, we should listen to the teaching while visualising the “five perfections”.
We should see the place as the perfect abode: the pure realm of Akanishta, the unexcelled dharmadhatu. We should visualise the lama as the perfect teacher: the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. We should think that the audience is the perfect assembly, of the nature of male and female sattvas and deities of the lineage of mind-to-mind transmission of victorious ones, and of the lineage of symbolic transmissions of vidyadharas. We should visualise this or any other of the infinite pure realms. We should do so knowing that appearances are truly a pure realm by nature, and not thinking that we are making up something that is not. For instance, the lama is the embodiment of all the buddhas of the three times. His3 body is the sangha, his speech is the dharma, and his mind is the essence of buddhahood, hence, he embodies all the Jewels. In addition, the lama’s body is the lama, his speech the yidam, and his mind the dakini. He thus embodies the Three Roots. Furthermore, the lama’s body is the nirmanakaya, his speech the sambhogakaya, and his mind the dharmakaya. For this reason, he is the embodiment of the Three Kayas. The lama is also the emanation of all past buddhas, the source of all future buddhas and the 3 To simplify, we will use “he” or “his” referring to the lama, but the Tibetan does not specify if the lama is a male or a female.
representative of all present buddhas. As it is said:
The lama is the buddha,
The lama is the dharma,
The lama is also the sangha.
The lama is the one who accomplishes all. The lama is the glorious Vajradhara. Concerning us, the assembly listening to the dharma, our foundation is the buddha nature or sugatagarbha. We have the support of a precious human body and we have the fortunate circumstance of having met a spiritual friend. As we are applying the instructions of means of the Secret Mantra, we are buddhas to be. As the Hevajra tantra says:
Sentient beings are actual buddhas. However, stains temporarily obscure them. When those stains are cleared away, they become true buddhas.
Secondly regarding the conduct, there are two kinds, those to be abandoned and those to be adopted.
We must first abandon what we call “the three defects of the pot” described as follows:
Not to listen is the defect of a pot turned upside down, Not to keep in mind is the defect of a pot with a hole in it,
To be mixed with afflictive emotions is the defect of a pot containing poison.
While listening to the dharma, we should be like a deer attracted by the sound of the vina, who, fascinated, does not even notice that a hidden hunter is shooting a poisoned arrow. In the same way, we should listen to the teachings without letting any other thoughts interfere, with the hairs of our body standing straight up, our eyes wet with tears, and our hands joined together palm to palm. Instead, if our body is physically present at the teaching but we let our mind get lost in the outside, this is not beneficial at all.
In this regard, Buddha Sakyamuni, the Great Sage, said himself:
I taught you the path of liberation, But you should know that liberation depends upon yourself.
In addition, the peerless Dagpo Rinpoche stated: If you do not practise the dharma according to the
The dharma itself will later become the cause of being born in the lower realms.
As for the attitude we should abandon while listening to a teaching, it is important to always avoid arrogance and remain humble. We should also not lack devotion, as it is said that without devotion, the entrance door to the dharma is closed. Therefore, among the four kinds of devotion, we should embrace the irreversible one. Lastly, it is crucial not to lack effort. It is our superior, medium or inferior efforts in the dharma that will make us become superior, medium or inferior dharma practitioners. So, if we do not devote efforts to the dharma, our practice will be a mere appearance and will not be of any benefit.
For the sake of some words of dharma, our Teacher the Buddha gouged holes in his own flesh, filled them with oil and planted thousands of burning wicks to make offering lamps. He also jumped in a fire pit, pounded thousand of iron nails into his body and faced hundreds of other hardships to request the teachings. As it is said: Even if you have to cross mountains of fire and razorblades,
Search for the holy Dharma until you die!
Now, we have a human life with the freedoms and advantages, we have met an authentic lama and we have the opportunity to receive profound instructions: this is the result of the merit accumulated during countless eons. Therefore, we should listen to the dharma teaching with a joyful and happy mind, making the resolution to face heat, cold or no matter what difficulties might appear.
As it is said:
O noble child, you should consider yourself as a sick person,
The dharma as a medicine,
The spiritual friend as a skilful doctor And the diligent practice as the way to cure your disease.
In all the realms of samsara, nothing is beyond the nature of the ocean of suffering. We should therefore consider ourselves as a sick person who is tormented by the disease of the three poisons of afflictive emotions—the causes— and the three kinds of suffering—their results. The authentic lama is like a skilful doctor. If we accomplish whatever the lama instructs and practise the holy dharma as a medicine, we shall liberate ourselves from the illness
of karma, afflictive emotions and suffering. Now that I have briefly introduced these verses which state what is to be adopted, I will explain how to put their meaning into practice in a daily basis. First of all, at the moment of going to sleep, we meditate upon the essence of our kind and supreme root lama—the lord of all families—indivisible from Guru Rinpoche. We visualise him in the centre of our heart, in the form of a luminous white letter ah, in the centre of an illuminating lotus flower. We then fall asleep in that state, without letting any other thought interfere. As we wake up in the early morning, we visualise in the space in front of us our root lama in the form of Vajradhara of Oddiyana, surrounded by an entourage of dakas and dakinis. We think that they call us and wake us up from our sleep with sounds of damarus and chants of mantra.
Then, we sit up while visualising our body as a pure realm with its corresponding deities4. At this moment, we think that our lama moves upwards through the 4 It is considered in the Vajrayana that the body is the abode of numerous deities residing in the different channels.
central channel, from our heart to the space above the crown of our head. There, he joyfully abides. At this point, sitting in the correct body posture, we expel the stale breath nine times. We then take a short rest and leave our consciousness in its natural state. Having become a suitable vessel for meditation, we bless our speech by reciting:
“OM AH HUNG! From the letter RAM in the speech chakra arises fire, consuming my tongue […]5” If we wish, we can also recite Calling the Lama from Afar, and other supplications such as the one beginning with: “One who’s kindness is great bliss it self […]6”. The best is to also recite The Gradual Supplication to the Lineage Masters.
Now, for the common preliminary practices, we start by reciting:
From the blossoming lotus of devotion at the centre of my heart […]7
5 OM AH HUNG CHE WANG RAM YIG LE JUNG ME SEG NE […]
(All transliterated quotes come from the root text of the Longchen Nyingthig Ngöndro).
6 GANG GI TRIN GI DE CHEN NYI […]. 7 NYING Ü DE PE GE SAR SHE PAR NE […].
While we recite this, we should contemplate on the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara as follows.
The eighteen freedoms and advantages consist of the eight freedoms from the eight states without leisure and of the ten particular advantages. No matter how we think of it, either from the angle of causes, examples or numbers, we see that finding a precious human body endowed with these freedoms and advantages is extremely difficult.
For instance, to describe the number of beings in each of the six classes of existence, we use the following comparison: There are as many beings in the hells as there are particles of dust on Earth, as many hungry ghosts as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges, and as many animals as there are snow flocks in a storm. On the other hand, there are not more gods and humans than the particles of dust that can abide on a fingernail. Therefore, we should think of the inconceivable sufferings of birth, sickness, cold, hunger, thirst and so forth, which pervade these realms. We should realise how
precious and inconceivably beneficial is the opportunity of having found a human life with all the qualities required to practise the dharma. T h e i m p e r m a n e n c e o f l i f e Although we have found such a precious human body, we should know it to be impermanent. The external world itself, although it appears to be so hard and solid, is also destined to vanish. In the end, seven fires and one deluge will destroy it and not even a particle will remain of it. It is the same for all living beings: of all those who are born, no one will stay alive forever.
Similarly, for us, it is absolutely certain that we will have to die. But the moment of death is so uncertain that none of us can be sure that we will not die even tonight. In addition, we are completely unaware of the circumstances that will cause us to die. Our life is so impermanent; it resembles a butter lamp in the wind. T h e d e f e c t s o f s a m s a r a Since it is certain that we are going to die, we should
remember that nothing but the pure dharma will help us at the moment of death. Our karma—all our actions— will not disappear but will follow us. If, due to our harmful actions, we would happen to take rebirth among the three lower realms, there, the suffering of pain8 would simply be unbearable. And even if, due to defiled virtuous actions, we are reborn among the three higher realms, we will surely have to endure the suffering of change. In fact, nothing in samsara is beyond the allpervasive suffering of conditioned phenomena. In addition, we should be aware of the fact that, unless we manage to free ourselves from this great ocean of suffering now, we will not have any power to decide where to take rebirth in the future. Therefore, we must follow the pure and sublime path and liberate ourselves from samsara in this very lifetime. We should always think as expressed in the following prayer: O foremost guru, connect our mind to the dharma! O foremost omniscient one, do not let us follow the wrong paths leading downwards!
O foremost kind lama, be indivisible from us! While reciting the root text on “the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara”, it is extremely 8 Lit.: The suffering of suffering.
important to make our practice effective by remembering the meaning of the words we are reciting. In this way, with the firm certainty that the practice’s power comes only from the kindness of our lama—the lord of all the mandalas—we must cultivate an intense renunciation to samsara and tame our own mind.
As we mentioned previously, it is indispensable to include the three supreme methods in all our virtuous actions.
As it is said:
Virtuous actions are like a medicinal tree, All that comes from them will be positive. Negative actions are like a poisonous tree, All that comes from them will be destructive. If we practise virtuous actions while applying the three supreme methods, ours and other’s virtue will become very powerful and will constantly increase. In all our lives, we will never be born in the lower realms or in any wrong condition. We will obtain the temporary happiness of fortunate rebirths as gods or humans. At the end, we will attain the ultimate happiness of the state of Buddhahood.
In conclusion, if we are a righteous person practising the dharma, no matter where we are, we will be endowed with virtue and auspiciousness and the deities will constantly protect us. If, instead, we know about the law of cause and effect but have only little belief in it, even if we study the dharma, we will not be able to truly put it into practice.
Please bless me and all other living beings like me engaged in harmful actions,
So that we may merge our mind with the dharma! Teach us the law of cause and effect of actions! O holy scholars and great practitioners, accept us as disciples!
O lama, may we practise and accomplish your words! Show us the unmistaken supreme path to liberation! O peerless lama, at your feet I prostrate myself!
First of all, what we call “liberation” means to become free from samsara, the ocean of suffering, and to attain the levels of shravaka, pratyekabuddha or perfect buddhahood.
The first cause leading to liberation is to prepare our mind by reflecting on the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara, starting with the difficulty of finding the freedoms and advantages. The second cause is to complete all the practices, starting with the taking of refuge, which is the foundation of all paths, up to the actual practice. The benefits of each of these practices are explained in each particular chapter.
Whether we attain the level of shravaka, pratyekabuddha or perfect buddhahood, the result is free from the precipitous path of the suffering of the three realms of samsara. How joyful is that!
Since, out of all the various paths, we have entered the path of Mahayana, all practices—the ten positive actions, the four concentrations, the four formless states, calm abiding meditation or profound insight—should be performed with the sole wish to attain perfect buddhahood. We should also always apply the three supreme methods: to arouse bodhicitta at the start, to remain in a non-conceptual state during the practice itself and to seal with prayers of dedication at the end.
In all the sutras, tantras and pith instructions, there is no mention of anyone attaining Buddhahood without relying upon a lama. As it is said: Without the presence of lamas,
Even the term “buddha” would not exist. There are three steps. First, we must be skilful in examining a lama. Secondly, we must be skilful in following a lama. In the end, we must be skilful in learning the realisation and conduct of the lama.
First, before establishing a spiritual connection with a lama, we should carefully examine him and be certain that he is fully qualified.
The lama’s mind-stream should be pure, so he should not have violated any of the three kinds of vows—the outer vows of individual liberation, the inner vows of bodhicitta and the vows of Mantrayana. He should have studied extensively and not lack knowledge of the sutras, tantras and their commentaries. His mind must be infused with love and compassion to the point that he cares for the infinite living beings like a mother for her single child. He should be an expert in the outer doctrine of Tripitaka, as well as in the inner rituals of the four tantras of Secret Mantra. Having practised their meaning, he should have actualised the qualities of renunciation and realisation in an extraordinary way. He should be generous, use pleasant words, and act in a meaningful way, in accordance with his teaching. In brief, he should possess what we call “the four means of attracting the fortunate students”.
In fact, in these present degenerate times, it is very difficult to find a lama who perfectly gathers all the qualities traditionally stated in the teachings. Yet, if we follow a lama, it is essential that he is someone who has mastered the meaning of all the tantras of the ground, path and fruition of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana. He must also have obtained all the signs of approach and accomplishment such as actually seeing the face of the deity. He must have perfectly realised the meaning of the fundamental nature of phenomena. In brief, his mind
should be liberated through realisation, and based on it, he must have obtained the power to liberate others’ mind-streams through his compassion. In this regard, the Great Master of Oddiyana said: For a student not to examine his lama is like drinking poison,
For a lama not to examine his student is like jumping off a cliff.
Our lama is the one upon whom we rely life after life and who shows us what to adopt and what to reject. Therefore, he must be like a father or a mother towards the infinity of living beings and have an equal love, free from attachment or aversion. He should be like a swift river of compassion, caring for all living beings that are as limitless as space. He should be particularly compassionate for those that are in great suffering and without protection. As it is said: The lama is the great boat carrying us beyond the ocean of existence.
He is our true and unfailing guide on the supreme path.
He is the rain of nectar that extinguishes the fire of our karma and afflictive emotions. He is like the sun and moon dispelling the darkness of our ignorance.
A lama possessing these qualities equals all the buddhas in compassion. Those who make a positive connection with him will attain enlightenment in one lifetime, and those who establish a negative connection with him will eventually see the end of samsara. As it is said:
A lama possessing all the required qualities is equal to all the Buddhas.
If even those who harm him establish a connection with the path to happiness,
On those who entrust themselves to him with sincere faith,
The qualities of higher realms and liberation will fall like rain.
As it is said:
Among the three ways of showing reverence to the lama,
The supreme one is the offering of one’s practice. Therefore, the superior way of pleasing the lama is to practise exactly as he has taught. It is to apply all his teachings with great diligence and courage, without any hypocrisy or pretence. The medium way of showing
reverence is to serve him by entirely devoting our body, speech and mind to him. The inferior way is to give him material offerings. Therefore, although it is very powerful to offer without stinginess all the wealth, great or small, that our lama may wish for, among the three ways of pleasing the lama, practice is certainly the supreme one. In addition, we must always keep our devotion and have the pure perception of seeing everything he does as positive. No matter how disconcerting our lama’s behaviour may be, we should know it to be an expression of his skilful means.
The lama is the most sublime of all sources of refuge and the supreme basis for accumulating merits. Especially, when he is giving an empowerment or a teaching, the extraordinary qualities of wisdom, love and power of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three times and ten directions enter his mind-stream and he becomes indivisible from them. Therefore, to have an intense devotion and confidence in him at this time brings along infinite blessings, and to offer him any wealth, either great or small, with a pure intention on such an occasion is more powerful than hundreds or thousands of offerings performed at other times.
In the deity practices of the generation stage, there are many different forms of particular deities upon which to
meditate, but the essence of all of them is none other our own root lama. If we practise while being aware of that, blessings will swiftly enter our mind. Even during the perfection stage, it is solely through the power of our devotion to the lama and his blessings that primordial wisdom can arise in our mind-stream. These practices actually consist of giving birth to the primordial wisdom of the lama’s realisation within us. Therefore, at all stages of the practice, including those of the generation and perfection stages, the essence of what has to be realised is embodied in our lama. That is why the sutras and tantras describe the lama as the Buddha in person. As it is said: Why is the lama the refuge and the field of merit? It is because the outer and inner yogas of accomplishing the lama
Condense the essence that is to be accomplished in the practices of generation and perfection stages. That is why all the sutras and tantras say he is the buddha himself.
In fact, the most important lama for us is the one with whom we have been connected since previous lifetimes. When we first meet this lama, hear his voice or even merely hear his name, our body hairs stand up, tears come to our eyes, and for an instant, all our perceptions are transformed. If we feel such thing, it means that we
have met the lama to whom we are connected since previous lifetimes and in that case, there is no need to examine him.
In the past, for Jetsün Milarepa, hearing the name Marpa alone was enough for an extraordinary devotion to arise from the depth of his being. He thought: “I must meet this lama and become his disciple, even at the cost of my own life.” It is in a similar way that the Bodhisattva Sadaprarudita9 followed the Bodhisattva Dharmodgata10, and that the great pandit Naropa followed the great master Tilopa.
Finally, when we follow our lama, it is extremely important to do it with an honest mind, free of hypocrisy and deception, and to remain without any wrong views towards his behaviour. In this regard, even telling the smallest of lies to our lama is a very severe fault. In the past, while the student of a mahasiddha was himself giving a teaching to a large crowd, his lama passed by, dressed as a beggar. The student felt ashamed to prostrate himself before his lama in the middle of the crowd, so he pretended not to see him. In the afternoon, as soon as the gathering was over, he went to his lama 9 In Eng.: Ever Weeping.
10 In Eng.: Noble Dharma.
and prostrated himself before him. The lama asked: “Why did you not prostrate before?” He replied that he had not seen him. At this very moment, his two eyes fell on the ground. He immediately apologised and told his lama the truth, who then blessed him and returned him his eyes.
Therefore, we should, always and on every occasion, follow our lama with the three kinds of devotion and carefully examine ourselves.
Although I have met a holy master, I betray him due to my negative mind.
Although I have found the supreme path, I am lost, falling off the cliff.
To me and other living beings with an evil character like me,
Please grant your blessings so that our mind-stream will be tamed by the dharma.
This was the instruction on how to follow a spiritual master. Thus, this completes the explanation on the common preliminary practices.
The uncommon preliminary practices contain six parts: taking refuge, generating bodhicitta, the meditation on Vajrasattva, the offering of mandala, the accumulation of the kusali, and the practice of Guru Yoga. Firstly, to take refuge, we should have the attitude of great beings, thinking: “In order to liberate myself and all other living beings from the frightful sufferings of samsara, I shall solely seek refuge in the lama and the Three Precious Jewels.”
As the sutras say:
It is only through his devotion that Shariputra realised ultimate nature of phenomena. In general, the instructions on the taking of refuge, the foundation of all paths, consists of the three following points: the explanation on the benefits of taking refuge,
the explanation on the different kinds of taking refuge, and the explanation on the training of taking refuge.
While taking refuge is the gateway to all the dharma practices, the gateway to taking refuge is devotion. Therefore, first of all, it is crucial to give rise to a stable devotion in our mind-stream.
Devotion itself can be classified into three kinds: devotion based on awe, devotion based on desire and devotion based on trust. If we have superior faith and devotion, the compassion and the blessings of the lama and the Three Jewels will enter into us in a superior way. Likewise, if our faith and devotion are medium, we will be able to receive their blessings and compassion in medium way. If we have only a little faith and devotion, we will not receive more than little blessing and compassion in our mind-stream. And if we have no faith and devotion at all, the lama and the Three Jewels’ blessings and compassion will not enter us at all. If we do not have devotion, even meeting the Buddha in person will not bring benefit. Just like we can see in the
ancient stories such as the one of the monk Sunaksatra11 and of Devadatta12, the Buddha’s cousin. As it is said: If you think of the Buddha with devotion, no matter who you are
He will abide right in front of you, And will grant you empowerments and blessings. When we manage to give rise to an extraordinary devotion, through its power, we will receive the blessings of the lama and the Three Jewels and perfect realisation will emerge in our mind-stream. At this moment, we will be able to perfectly comprehend the meaning of the fundamental nature, and we will naturally feel a great trust and an irreversible and extraordinary devotion for the lama and Three Jewels. In that way, the realisation of fundamental nature and confident devotion always help each other.
In this regard, it is said that Dagpo Rinpoche once asked his master Jetsün Milarepa when the time would come for him to guide a sangha. Jetsün Milarepa answered: “After some time, by seeing the essence of your mind very vividly, quite differently from how you experience it now, realisation will arise in your mind-stream. At this time, you will perceive me as a true Buddha and a very 11 In Eng.: Good Star.
12 In Eng.: Blessed by the Gods.
firm devotion will arise within you. That is when you should guide a sangha.”
The only real sign that the blessings and compassion of the lama and the Three Jewels have entered into us is the presence of confidence and devotion in our mind-stream. As it is written in The Precious Garland13: The realms of living beings are infinite And so should be your desire to benefit them.
There are different ways of taking refuge according to the different vehicles. In the common vehicle, we take refuge considering the Buddha as the teacher, the dharma as the path and the sangha as the companions on the path. Within the extraordinary vehicle of the Secret Mantra, in general, we go for refuge by offering our three doors to the lama, by relying upon the yidam and by taking the dakinis as companions. More specifically, within the swift path of the Vajra Essence, the tradition of the sublime means, we take refuge by using the channels as the nirmanakaya, transforming the winds into the sambhogakaya and purifying the bindus as the dharmakaya.
13 A text gathering Nagajurna’s advice to a king.
As for the infallible and ultimate refuge in the vajra fundamental nature, we should practice according to the meaning of the recitation in the root text. This taking of refuge consists of giving rise, within our mind, to the wisdom that is present in the enlightened mind of our objects of refuge, which is the great indivisibility of empty essence, natural luminosity and all-pervading compassion. The ultimate and unmistaken way of taking refuge is to recognise the inner absolute lama—our own rigpa14 of great bliss.
For the practice of taking refuge itself, we must visualise the objects of refuge in the form of the field of accumulation as described in the following lines. First, no matter where we are, we should see the ground as a beautiful and delightful pure realm made of various precious stones, on which is a wish-fulfilling tree with five branches, wonderfully abundant with leaves, flowers and fruits, adorned with garlands and bells, all made of jewels.
14 The innermost nature of mind, devoid of ignorance and dualistic fixation.
On the central branch of this tree, which fills the entire space, is a throne of precious stones supported by lions. On top of it is a multicoloured lotus, a sun and a moon one above the other. On this seat abides the embodiment all the buddhas, the incomparable treasure of compassion, our glorious root lama in the form of Vajradhara of Oddiyana. He is of blue complexion and holds a vajra and bell. He is in union with the White Yeshe Tsogyal, who herself holds a curved knife and a skull-cup. Adorned with silk and bone ornaments, he is sitting in the vajra posture.
Above their heads, we visualise the root lineage of Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig in the following order: first the dharmakaya Samantabhadra, then the sambhogakaya Vajrasattva, the nirmanakaya Garab Dorje, the master Manjushrimitra, the vidyadhara Shri Singha, the erudite Jñanasutra, the great pandit Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava from Oddiyana and his three heart disciples—the dharma king Trisong Deutsen, the great translator Vairochana and the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal—and finally the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam and Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa. We visualise them all with all their respective ornaments and attributes. We visualise them abiding one above the other, with their heads almost touching the throne of the one above, all the way down to our incomparable and compassionate kind root lama Mangalam Shastram15.
In this way, we visualise all the past lamas of the Dzogchen lineage one above the other. Around, we also visualise all the holy root lamas of the lineage, the yidam deities of the mandalas of the Six Major Tantras, as well as the dakas and dakinis of the Three Abodes.
On the tree’s front branch presides Buddha Sakyamuni with the buddhas of the three times, all in nirmanakaya form. On the branch at the right of the main lama, abide the bodhisattvas of the Great Vehicle such as the Eight Close Sons. On the left branch abide the members of the noble sangha of shravakas such as Sariputra and Maudgalaputra. On the branch behind abides the Jewel of Dharma in the form of red volumes of text, arranged one on top of the other. They naturally emit the sound of the Sanskrit alphabet. In addition, the entire space is completely filled with an ocean-like assembly of oathbound dharma protectors arisen either from karma or primordial wisdom.
We should think that they all truly abide in front of us, as supreme guides who lead and take care of us with infinite wisdom, love and power. We also visualise our father of this life on our right and our mother on our left. Before us are all the harmful beings, whether with or without 15 Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche physical form. And all around us are all the living beings of the six realms.
Then, with our body, we join our hands in devotion. With our speech, we utter the verses of going for refuge. With our mind, we think with great devotion: “I may go up or I may go down. I may experience happiness or suffering. I may meet good or evil. I may get sick and suffer. O precious lama, Three Jewels, no matter what arises, I have no one else but you. I have no other protector or shelter, no other hope or refuge. So from now on, until I attain enlightenment, I will solely put my trust and confidence in you. I have no other refuge or hope than you.” In this way, with an intense longing, we recite: “To the essence of the Three Jewels and the Three Roots of the sugatas16 […]”
While visualising the field of accumulation previously described, we accumulate a hundred thousand recitations of the verses of taking refuge and perform prostrations at the same time. At this moment, we visualise that we manifest as many emanations of our body as there are atoms in the universe. In this way, we think that all the living beings of the three realms simultaneously perform prostrations with their body, speech and mind filled with devotion.
16 KON CHOK SUM NGO DE SHEG TSA WA SUM […].
Regarding the prostrations, we join our hands together and place them on the crown of our head, on our throat and at our heart, thinking that we respectively purify our body, speech and mind of their obscurations. When we place our forehead, two hands and two knees on the ground, we think that we are cleansing the obscuration of the five afflictive emotions and that we obtain the blessings of body, speech, mind, qualities and enlightened activities.
It is also said that when we get up to prostrate ourselves again, it is inappropriate to stay bent over. It is even said that the fully ripened effect of doing prostrations without standing straight up is to be reborn as a hunchbacked dwarf.
This is how we should simultaneously accumulate prostrations and refuge a hundred thousand times. As for the meaning of the verses of the recitation, although they are called preliminary practices, they are in reality an actual practice of the perfect path. With this practice alone, we can attain the bhumis and paths of the primordially pure spontaneous perfection. This is a particular quality of this sublime path. Therefore, we should always consider the practice of taking refuge as our yidam. When we walk, we should
meditate the deities of refuge in the space above our right shoulder, as a support for our circumambulations. When sitting, we should meditate them in the space above our head, as a support for our supplications. When eating or drinking, we should meditate this assembly of deities in the centre of our throat and offer them the first portion of our food or drink. When sleeping, we should meditate them in the centre of our heart and thus transform our confusion into clear light.
When going for refuge, we meditate our father on our right and our mother on our left, while we meditate the enemies and obstructors in front of us. We may wonder why we give more importance to our enemies and than our own parents. It is because for us who have entered the door of the Great Vehicle, the cultivation of patience is of paramount importance. And as it is said: If there is no one to make you angry, Towards whom will you practise patience? It only based on the harm that our enemies and obstructors bring us that we can practise patience. So if we examine well, our enemies and obstructors are of even greater kindness than our own parents. In reality, our parents only teach us the hypocritical manners of this worldly life. In that aspect, their kindness to us is
therefore not that great. Instead of being ungrateful to our enemies, we should take them as the basis of our meditation on patience.
In fact, the great yogi Jetsün Milarepa himself met the dharma because his uncle and aunt had stolen all his property and possessions. It is therefore thanks to them that he could meet his lama and later realise the indivisible state of Vajradhara in a single lifetime. As the omniscient king of dharma Longchenpa said: Through harsh adverse circumstances, we encounter the dharma
And find the path to the immutable. So thank you hardships!
Through pressure from others, we turn to the dharma And find the essential meaning. So thank you, all of you who urge us to it!
In this regard, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa also stated: When illnesses and obstacles strike your body, they are the broom that cleanses your negative actions. When an enemy behaves wrongly towards you, he is a cause of great progress in your practice. When somebody blames you unfairly, he is a whip that urges you to virtue.
As these are the masters who destroy your attachment and clinging,
You have to recognise that their kindness is impossible
As they bring forth immeasurable benefits and qualities, it is important to be perseverant in applying these key points on the taking of refuge, the foundation of all dharma practices.
Although I am following the Three Jewels, my confidence is very low.
Although I am engaged in the three kinds of trainings, I am forsaking the observance of vows. Please grant blessings, so that me and other living beings devoid of courage like me, Would find irreversible devotion! Please instruct us on taking refuge, the foundation of all paths!
With your great wisdom, you have actualised nirvana.
With your great compassion, you took the responsibility of all the beings of samsara. With your skilful means, you realised the indivisibility of samsara and nirvana.
O incomparable lama, at your feet I prostrate myself.
The instructions on generating supreme bodhicitta17, the root of the path of the Great Vehicle, has three parts: training the mind in the Four Immeasurables, giving rise to supreme bodhicitta and training in the bodhicittas of aspiration and application.
Throughout our succession of rebirths since time without beginning, all living beings pervading the entire sky have had all sorts of connections with us. So those who are now our enemies have been our friends or relatives in the past; and those who are close relatives have in turn been our enemies. In that sense, enmities and friendships are very unstable. We do not know at all who will be our enemy or friend in our next life or even in this one. Reflecting on this, we should give rise to equanimity in 17 In Eng.: the mind of enlightenment.
our mind and thus become free from attachment to close relations and aversion to enemies. In addition, considering that all living beings have been our parents and have shown us great kindness in past lives, we should attempt to repay their kindness by arousing love—the wish for them to be happy—and compassion—the wish for them not to suffer. Finally, we should arouse joy, which means to rejoice whenever living beings encounter happiness or manage to avoid suffering. This is in brief the mind-training of the Four Immeasurables.
The bodhicitta of aspiration is to think, while taking all the objects of refuge as witness: “In order to liberate all living beings and establish them in the state of everlasting happiness, I will ensure, by all means, to reach perfect enlightenment.” Then, the bodhicitta of application is to think: “For this purpose, I will follow this profound path, train in the conduct of the bodhisattvas and diligently work for all beings dwelling in samsara.” Staying inseparable from this thought, we recite three or more times the words of the bodhicitta prayer. In fact, even if we cannot recite these verses on a daily basis, by simply
giving rise to the bodhicitta of aspiration and application, the purpose will be accomplished. If we wish to, at this point, we can also train in the practice of mentally exchanging ourselves with others. It is particularly important to meditate on tonglen, which consists in giving our happiness and taking others suffering while we follow the rhythm of our breath going in and out. Finally, it is essential to meditate on the ultimate bodhicitta, which is to meditate on the union of calm abiding meditation18 and profound insight meditation19 and find certainty in the two kinds of selflessness 20.
In the tradition of the Great Vehicle, we are supposed to be the refuge and the protectors of all the infinite living beings. So what if, instead of helping these beings, we kill them to use their flesh and blood? If we then offer these to the bodhisattvas, who are constantly protecting beings, what could be worse or dirtier than this as an offering? In this regard, it is said in the scriptures of the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra: 18 Shamatha.
20 Selflessness of the person and selflessness of phenomena.
I have gathered offerings of meat and blood without respecting the scriptures,
What could displease the lion-face Tramen deities more than this?
To the local dakinis I ask for forgiveness. In fact, the five kinds of meat that are suitable samaya substances for the Mantrayana are flesh of humans, horses, dogs and so forth; in brief, it has to be flesh that is unstained by the negative karma of killing for the purpose of eating. Therefore, when we gather meat and blood as offerings, we must do it according to the scriptures.
If, instead, bound by discrimination between clean and dirty, we consider human flesh or dog flesh as unclean or inferior and consider the flesh of an animal killed for being eaten as delicious and healthy, we are going against the five samayas of adopting. As it is said: Breaking the five samayas of adopting Is to discriminate between clean and dirty and to act carelessly.
Therefore, when we examine flesh in terms of clean and dirty, we are transgressing the five samayas of adopting. What we call “substances of clean flesh” must come from a living being that has not been killed for its flesh. Instead, it is the flesh of a being that exhausted his
lifespan and died of old age, out of his own karma. It can also be the flesh a being that died because of sickness or any other negative circumstance. These alone are the kinds of flesh that we are allowed to use. The incomparable Dagpo Rinpoche said: When you present the warm meat and blood of a freshly killed animal to the mandala, All the wisdom deities faint in horror. It is said that when we invite the wisdom deities and offer them the flesh and blood of a being that has been killed for its meat, it is like offering to a mother her child that has been killed. The buddhas and bodhisattvas always lovingly care for all living beings of the three realms, just as a mother cares for her only child. So it is impossible to please the victorious ones by offering them the flesh and blood of innocent animals that have been slaughtered.
We should also recognise that the infinite living beings have been our parents and feel that, as children, it is simply impossible for us to eat our parents’ flesh. This is the pure motivation and conduct that we must adopt. In essence, we can divide bodhicitta into two: relative and ultimate. Relative bodhicitta itself is subdivided into the
bodhicittas of aspiration and application. Concerning these last two, it is said in Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva21:
You should know that the distinction between them is exactly as the difference between having desire to go and actually going somewhere.
In order to go to a place like for example Lhasa, we first have to think: “I will go to Lhasa”. Making this wish to go somewhere is similar to giving rise to the bodhicitta of aspiration, which is to think: “I will establish all living beings in the state of perfect enlightenment.” Then, when we prepare for the journey and actually travel to Lhasa, this is similar to engaging in the training of the six paramitas22 for the purpose of establishing all beings in the state of perfect enlightenment. This is to train in the bodhicitta of application, similar to the actual action of going somewhere.
As for the six paramitas, we describe their essence as follows. Supreme generosity is to be without attachment. Supreme discipline is pacifying our mind. Supreme patience is to remain humble. Supreme diligence is to give up all activities. Supreme concentration is to rest in contemplation, leaving the mind in a non-fabricated state. Supreme wisdom is to be free of the clinging of 21 Skt.: Bodhicharya Avatara.
22 Or transcendent perfections
considering things to be real.
While both bodhicittas of aspiration and application belong to relative bodhicitta, ultimate bodhicitta is the direct realisation of the meaning of emptiness, the profound primordial wisdom free from all elaborations. In order to give rise to bodhicitta, we should think: “Having aroused the mind of supreme enlightenment for all living beings, I will train in the powerful conduct of former bodhisattvas, the heirs of the victorious ones. For that, I will display diligence as vast as the infinity of living beings wandering in samsara.” With this in mind, we recite these verses of the root text: “Ho! Mesmerised by all the various appearances, which are like the moon reflected in the water, Beings wander uninterruptedly in samsara. In order for them to rest in the expanse of clear light, their own rigpa,
I arouse bodhicitta23 in the state of the Four Immeasurables”.
When the time comes to conclude the practice session, we visualise that our great longing and devotion cause 23 HO NA TSOK NANG WA CHU DE DZUN RI KYI […].
innumerable rays of light to radiate from the assembly of deities of the field of accumulation. Through these, we are purified of all the actions we have accumulated during many lifetimes. We and all living beings, like a flock of birds scattered by a stone, dissolve into the field of accumulation.
Finally, from the extremities, the deities of the assembly gradually melt into light and dissolve into the lama in the centre, the embodiment of the triple refuge. The lama in turn melts into light and gradually dissolves into us. We meditate that, through this, the ultimate bodhicitta that is present in the enlightened mind-stream of the assembly of deities—the objects of refuge—arises vividly in our mind-stream.
To conclude, we recite the following dedication prayer: May the precious supreme mind of awakening Not yet born arise!
May that born never decline,
But increase forever more!24
As well as the prayer starting with : Just as Manjushri the brave25 […]. In short, this instruction on generating bodhicitta gathers 24 CHANG CHUP SEM CHOK RINPOCHE […]. 25 JAM PEL PA WO […].
the essence of all the 84,000 gates of dharma. Practising this alone is sufficient, while if we lack it, we will certainly be lost. It is similar to what we call “the white medicine that alone can cure a hundred sicknesses”. As it is said:
Of all dharmas, the ultimate one is emptiness infused with compassion.
Realising the meaning of emptiness, the fundamental nature of phenomena, is the antidote to all the afflictive emotions.
However, some of us may wonder why there are people who claim to have realised emptiness, and yet have not managed to decrease their negative emotions. According to Jowo Atisha, these are certainly nothing but meaningless pretences. If we have truly realised emptiness, we should resemble a spear thrown in the sky. We should become free from the precipitous path of hope, fear and dualistic clinging. Therefore, at all times and on all occasions, we should train by various means to give rise to even the smallest experience of genuine bodhicitta in our mind-stream.
Moreover, the holy lama who gave us the pith instruction on bodhicitta is the one who has shown us the door to the perfect path of the teachings of the Great Vehicle. Therefore, compared to other lamas who have taught us
on other topics, his kindness is even greater. In this way, it is said that when Lord Atisha uttered the name of his lamas, he would generally fold his hands at the level of his heart. But whenever he would hear the name of his lama Jowo Serlingpa he would join his two hands on the crown of his head and cry. When his students asked him why he was making such difference between Jowo Serlingpa and his other lamas. He replied: “Since all of my lamas have obtained the accomplishments, they are not different in qualities. But in the kindness they have showed me, there is an important difference because the little bodhicitta I have in my mind-stream comes from Jowo Serlingpa’s compassion. So there is no way I could ever forget his kindness.”
It is certainly necessary to make sure that bodhicitta, love and compassion arise in our mind-stream. Ultimately, as long as bodhicitta has not ripened in our mind, even if we recite the verses several hundred thousand times, it is highly improbable that we would accomplish our goal. If we first take the commitment of bodhicitta in presence of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and then fail to accomplish it, it would be like deceiving them. How could there be a bigger fault than that? It is therefore very important to always abandon any hypocrisy towards living beings and to make constant efforts to arouse bodhicitta in our mind-stream.
There are three meditations to train in the bodhicitta of aspiration: to consider ourselves and others as equal, to exchange ourselves with others and to cherish others more than ourselves. The training in the bodhicitta of application consists of the practice of the six paramitas. Firstly, for the bodhicitta of aspiration, we train in the meditation of considering ourselves and others as equal. For that, we must train to recognise that constantly cherishing ourselves alone is the source of all our suffering. In fact, if we are in the ocean of suffering of samsara, it is because we cling to a “me” and an “ego”, while in reality there is no “me” or “ego”. At present, we only wish for our happiness and we hope not to encounter even the slightest suffering. But we do not know how to practise the ten virtuous actions, which are the causes of happiness. We do not know how to abandon the ten non-virtuous actions, which are the causes of suffering. Our deep wish and our actions are therefore in complete contradiction. That is why it is said:
Being in samsara is like sitting on the tip of a needle, There will never be any comfort or happiness.
Secondly comes the training in the bodhicitta of application, which consists of the six paramitas. The first five paramitas—generosity, discipline, patience, diligence and concentration—are all aspects of the practice of skilful means. The sixth one, wisdom, belongs to the accumulation of primordial wisdom. Transcendent generosity
Concerning this first paramita, there are three kinds of generosity: giving material things, giving the dharma and giving protection from danger. The generosity of material things itself is of three kinds: ordinary giving, great giving and extraordinary giving. Ordinary giving refers to the giving of any material object, be it even a tiny bit of food. The purity of the motivation actually matters more than the amount that is given. The Confession of Downfalls even speaks of “the positive effect for the future of giving a mere mouthful of food to a being in the animal realm.” Due to the victorious ones’ mastery on skilful means and their great compassion, it is said that, through the power of dharani mantras and other techniques, we can benefit pretas, as numerous as the grains of sand of the Ganges river, by giving a even a drop of water or a single grain of barley. For instance, the offering of the three white and the three
sweet substances26 brings great benefit to the pretas that feed from smell. Spirits that would otherwise prey on the lives of others can be temporarily satisfied by the smell of the burnt food offerings. In addition, their minds are liberated by the giving of dharma27. Due to this, many beings are thus protected from a deadly danger28, which constitutes giving protection from fear. The practice of burnt offerings therefore includes the three kinds of generosity. Such practices of burnt offerings as well as offerings of water tormas are at the same time easy to perform and very effective.
The Great Siddha Tilopa stated: We should give what we are the most attached to! Since our greatest attachment is ego-clinging, If we realise the two types of selflessness, The seed of existence ceases.
In regard to the great giving, Machig Labdrön said: 26 The three white substances are curd, milk and butter. The three sweet substances are sugar, molasses and honey. 27 During the ritual of burnt offering, “Giving the Dharma” is usually included in the form of verses summarising the Buddha’s teaching such as “Do not commit a single negative action. Cultivate an abundance of virtue. Tame this mind of yours. These are the teachings of the Buddha.”. 28 Of being killed by these spirits.
Offering your horse or bull is worth a hundred other offerings.
Offering your child or partner is worth a thousand. Offering you own body is worth a hundred thousand. There are different examples showing the generosity of giving what we are the most attached to. A prince29 gave his body to a tigress, while Master Nagarjuna offered his own head to the son of king Dechö. The dharma king Trisong Deutsen offered the queen as a mandala to the second Buddha Padmasambhava. Although these conducts of bodhisattvas are not within our reach for the moment, we should train to be free of attachment and to mentally give our body, life-force and all our possessions to living beings. We should also make aspiration prayers so that we will be able to actually perform such actions in the future.
The generosity of giving the dharma is to try to direct others’ minds towards spiritual practice by giving them empowerments, teachings or reading transmissions. However, to work for the good of others, without first getting rid of our own selfish desires, would be nothing but a show. In this regard, when Atisha’s disciples asked 29 Which was one of Buddha Sakyamuni’s former incarnations.
him when they would be ready to teach and work for the benefit of others, he replied:
You will be able to guide students once you have realised emptiness and attained clairvoyance. You will be able to work for their benefit once you will no longer think of your own benefit. You will perform the transference of consciousness for a dead being once you have entered the path of seeing. As for giving protection from danger, the Buddha taught that saving lives is the most beneficial of all relative good actions. Therefore, whenever we have the power to do so, we should prevent others from hunting and fishing, buy animals that are on the way to being slaughtered and save the life of any dying fish, tortoise or snake. Generosity constitutes one of the most essential points of Tantric samayas. As it is said in the Vows of the Five Families:
The samaya of the Ratna Family
Is to always perform the four kinds of generosity. Transcendent discipline
The first discipline consists of avoiding negative actions. This means rejecting like poison the ten negative actions of body, speech and mind, unless they are for the benefit
The discipline of practising virtuous actions is to constantly create as many sources of good for the future as we can by always doing positive actions of all kinds, regardless of how insignificant they may seem. Transcendent patience
As for the paramita of patience, it first refers to the patience of bearing others’ mistreatment. Even if others may beat, rob, insult us or slander us behind our back, instead of getting annoyed and reacting angrily, we should respond with loving kindness and compassion. This will bring about great benefit. If we instead lose patience and give way to anger even a single moment, it can destroy the effects of the good actions we have accumulated over a thousand kalpas. As it is mentioned in The Way of the Bodhisattva:
Positive actions accumulated for a thousand kalpas Such as performing generosity,
Or offerings to the Sugatas,
Are all destroyed by a moment of anger. And:
No evil is similar to anger,
No austerity can be compared to patience. Therefore be persistent
And meditate on patience in every possible way. Thus, thinking of the negative consequences of anger, we should diligently meditate on patience at all times and in all circumstances.
Padampa Sangye said in this fashion: Hatred towards enemies is a delusion caused by karma,
Therefore, give up anger and mischievous intentions, O people of Dingri!
It is also said:
By practising patience, you can perfect the accumulations in a very powerful way, So you should see the one who harms you as your own lama.
If no one stirs up your anger, towards who would you ever practise patience?
The teachings also mention that acting out of anger for a single moment is worse than a hundred actions motivated by desire.
The noble Kadampas of the past had four aims:
Base your mind on the dharma,
Base the dharma on a beggar’s life, Base this beggar’s life on death, Base your death on the solitude of an empty cave. Nowadays, we believe we can practise dharma alongside our worldly activities of this life, without needing the slightest determination or facing hardships in the practice, all the while enjoying comfort, well-being and popularity. We even say: “That is a good lama, he knows how to combine dharma and worldly activities.” But how could there be any way to merge dharma with worldly life? Those who are proud to be doing so are very likely to be leading a good worldly life, but we can be certain that they do not practise the pure dharma. To claim that we can accomplish dharma and worldly life at the same time is like saying that we can sew with a double-pointed needle, gather fire and water in the same container or ride two horses in opposite directions. All these things are simply impossible.
How could any ordinary being ever surpass the Buddha? He himself found that it was impossible to practise dharma and worldly life side by side. Instead, he left his kingdom behind, like spit in the dirt, and went to live on the banks of the River Nairanjana. There, he practised asceticism for six years, feeding on only a single drop of water and a single grain of barley every day.
We can also look at Jetsun Milarepa’s example: when he was practising, he ate nothing but nettles and his whole body looked like a skeleton. The fact that he practised dharma with such determination and facing such austerities shows that it is impossible to follow the dharma and worldly life together. The siddhas of the past have all attained the accomplishments by practising with courage and austerity, discarding all the activities of this life. No one ever became accomplished by practising the dharma alongside the usual activities of worldly life and enjoying comfort, well-being and popularity. However, if we consider the activities of the noble Avalokiteshvara for example, no matter what outer form these might take, they are aimed solely at the welfare of living beings. Therefore, from Je Nyetri Tsenpo until the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama30, all the kings of Tibet have put their commitment of bodhicitta into action by holding both religious and political authority of the kingdom. In that way, they have accomplished very vast benefits to living beings, using whichever means was required.
30 Nyetri Tsenpo was the first king of Tibet, and it is said that since then, all the kings of Tibet were emanations of Avalokiteshvara.
The last aspect of patience is to face the profound truth without fear. When we receive teachings on the natural state of profound emptiness, we should try to comprehend their true meaning without giving rise to negative views. This is particularly important when we receive crucial instructions on, for instance, the natural Great Perfection beyond all activity and effort, on the Twelve Vajra Laughs beyond the effects of good and bad actions, or on the Eight Great Marvellous Verses. To have wrong views towards these teachings or to criticise them is what we call “the negative action of rejecting the dharma.” It can cast us to the depths of hell for innumerable eons. As one confession text says: I confess having committed an act even more negative than the five acts with immediate retribution: that of rejecting the dharma.
As for the paramita of diligence, first comes what we call “the armour-like diligence”. When we hear the stories of the lives of great masters, buddhas and bodhisattvas, when we hear of the deeds they performed and the hardships they went through for the dharma, it is very
important not to be discouraged. We should never think that they were only capable of achieving what they did because they were buddhas and bodhisattvas, and that we will never be able to do the same. We should instead remember that they all became accomplished because they acted in that way. Since we are their followers, we have no other choice but to do as they did. So we should make every effort to practise the three kinds of diligence. Someone with exceptional intelligence but only a little diligence will only be an inferior practitioner. On the other hand, someone with little intelligence but extraordinary diligence will become a superior practitioner. As it is said:
No intelligence, no power
Or wealth can ever help
Someone lacking of diligence.
It is also said:
Do not be satisfied with only a little bit of practice Performed for a few months or years! Do not hope for realisations to come swiftly, But resolve to meditate until your death! Transcendent concentration
If we wish to experience bliss, luminosity and a nonconceptual state, it is crucial to remain in places where
there is nothing to make us busy: no distractions, no commerce, no fields to be worked, and no childish friends. We should simply find comfort in the company of birds and wild animals, and eat the ascetic food of spring water and leaves. Doing so, our rigpa will naturally become clear and concentration will develop by itself. Without enemies or friends, we can be free from the chains of attachment and hatred. Such places possess all possible qualities.
There, we should gradually practise the different meanings of meditative concentration, such as the concentration of the tathagathas, which consists of abiding in a non-conceptual concentration on the fundamental nature of reality.
Through the wisdom that comes from hearing the teachings, we should recognise our negative emotions. Through the wisdom that comes from reflection, we should keep the afflictive emotions under control. And through the wisdom that comes from meditation, we should destroy the enemy of afflictive emotions once and for all. Finally, within our own primordial wisdom rigpa, we should gain confidence in the meaning that is beyond thoughts and expression and thus realise profound emptiness.
In conclusion, it is crucial to give rise to the altruistic intention of bodhicitta. If, instead, we do not manage to make it arise in our mind, everything we do will always be for selfish purposes. In that case, no matter how much effort we put in cultivating positive actions and discarding negative actions, it will never lead us to buddhahood.
As it is said in The Way of the Bodhisattva: Childish people work for their own purpose, Buddhas work for the purpose of others. See the difference between these two! What else is there to say?
Jetsun Milarepa said:
If you perfectly give up ego-clinging, There is no other generosity than this. If you perfectly give up hypocrisy, There is no other discipline than this. If you perfectly transcend fear of the ultimate meaning,
There is no other patience than this. If you perfectly remain inseparable from the practice, There is no other diligence than this. If you perfectly abide in simplicity free from
There is no other concentration than this. If you perfectly realise the natural state, There is no other wisdom than this. Although I have trained in the six paramitas, I have remained selfish.
Please bless me and all the small-minded beings like me,
So that we may train in the supreme bodhicitta. This was the instruction on arousing the supreme bodhicitta, the intention of the Great Vehicle, the root of all paths.
Generally, there is no harmful act that cannot be washed away with practices of purification. As the great masters of ancient times said:
There is nothing good about negative actions, Except that you can purify yourself from them through confession.
Of all negative actions—be they breaches of Pratimoksha vows, of the inner training of bodhicitta, or of samayas of the Secret Mantra—there is not even one, however serious, that cannot be washed away by confession. In the sutras, there are several stories illustrating that point. For instance, it is said that the Brahmin Atapa, who was known as Angulimala or Garland of Fingers, killed nine hundred and ninety-nine people, but then cleansed himself of those actions through confession and
attained the state of Arhat in the same lifetime. There is also the case of King Ajatashatru, who had killed his own father, but later repaired his crime through confession. Finally, he attained liberation, after having experienced the sufferings of hell only for the time it takes a ball to bounce once.
As Lord Nagarjuna stated:
Someone who has acted carelessly, But later becomes careful and attentive, Is as beautiful as the bright moon emerging from the clouds,
Just as Nanda, Angulimala, Ajatashatru and Shankasa.
To purify ourselves, it is indispensable to perform practices of confession that include the antidotes of the four powers31.
As far as these particular preliminary practices are concerned, the power of support consists in relying upon Vajrasattva by meditating in the following way. First, we 31 The antidotes of the four powers are the power of support, the power of regret, the power of commitment, and the power of action as an antidote.
utter the syllable ah, symbolising the unborn fundamental nature. We continue by reciting the verses of the root text starting with: “I am in my ordinary form: above my head32 […]”. Then, we think that all phenomena, arisen from subject-object duality and dualistic perception, become like the sky, empty and void of self-nature. Within this state of pure empty essence, we consider with compassion all those who have not realised it. Arousing the intention to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all beings, we establish the following visualisation. We are in our ordinary form. In space, a forearm’s length above our head, there is an open white lotus flower. According to the elaborate instructions, the lotus has a thousand petals. In the more condensed version, the lotus can be of eight petals only. Upon this flower, we visualise a full-moon disc with a syllable hung at its centre. This white hung radiates resplendent rays of light. While we take refuge in Vajrasattva and arouse the bodhicitta of aspiration and application, the hung is instantly transformed into our glorious root lama, the incomparable treasure of compassion, the essence of all the victorious ones of the three times. He appears as Vajrasattva—the lord of all buddha families—in the
manner of the jewel that embodies all33. Vajrasattva’s complexion is brilliant white, with the thirteen ornaments of sambhogakaya, which consist of the five silken garments and the eight jewels. The five silken garments are a head-ornament, a blouse, a long scarf, a belt and a skirt. The eight jewel ornaments are a crown, earrings, a short necklace, armlets, two long necklaces34, bracelets, anklets and rings. Vajrasattva is sitting in the vajra posture. With his right hand, he holds a vajra at his heart; while with his left, he rests a bell on his hips. Vajratopa35, the female aspect, is also white and embraces him with her legs crossed around him. Their bodies are mere empty appearances: they are non-substantial, like the reflection of the moon on the water. At the same time, they are clear and vivid, like a rainbow appearing in the sky. On the level of clarity, this visualisation should not be like a material object, inert or inanimate. On the level of appearance, every detail, even the pupils and the white of the eyes, should vividly appear. 33 This means that we visualise him without any other deity or entourage.
34 One longer than the other, counting as one. 35 Tib. Nyema Karmo
Maintaining this visualisation, we pray to the lama Vajrasattva with a one-pointed and irreversible devotion, asking him to grant us refuge and to purify us of our harmful actions. We supplicate him with tears of devotion in our eyes, thinking: “Please consider us! Cleanse me and all the infinite living beings from all the negative actions we have accumulated with our three doors!”
It is indispensable to confess all our harmful actions in that way. However, it is said that if we lack the intention of bodhicitta, even confessing our negative actions and downfalls with the four powers of antidotes will not be truly effective. We might be able to slightly wash these negativities away but we will not totally purify ourselves of them. On the contrary, if we come to have a deep and genuine intention of bodhicitta in our mind-stream, no matter how many harmful actions we may have committed in the past, they will all be naturally washed away.
It says in The Way of the Bodhisattva: Like, when facing great danger, I would entrust myself to a brave man,
If I have committed even extremely serious negative actions,
I shall entrust myself to bodhichitta and be instantly liberated.
Why, then, would a thoughful person not rely on it? Like the fire at the end of time, It will surely consume instantly all great negativity. T h e p o w e r o f r e g r e t The power of regret is to feel remorse for all the negative actions that we have committed in the past. We should therefore recognise our negative actions as such. Then, with great regret, shame and fear, we should confess whatever negativity we, as well as the infinite living beings, have accumulated with our three doors since beginningless lives.
Like someone who has just swallowed poison, we should feel strong regret towards all negative actions we have committed—be they the ten non-virtuous actions, the five crimes of immediate retribution, the transgressions of the outer pratimoksha vows, of the inner bodhisattva’s vows or of the secret tantric vows of vidyadharas. We should confess them without keeping anything secret or hiding anything.
The power of commitment is to be determined not to ever perform any negative action again, even at the cost of our life. It is said in The Prayer to be Reborn in Sukhavati:
Without taking commitment for the future, there is no purification.
So, from now on, I vow never to do any negative action again,
From the root text, we recite from: “Ah! I am in my ordinary form: above my head […]” until “Wash them away till not a single one remains36”. Then, in the heart of Vajrasattva, male and female aspects indivisibly united, we visualise a lunar disc, upon which is a white syllable hung, as fine as if written with a single hair. While we recite the hundred syllable mantra as a supplication, an infinite flow of wisdom nectar of great bliss, white and luminous, streams down. It pours through the consorts’ wisdom bodies and passes through their point of union, like nectar whirling around the stem of a lotus. From there, it enters our body through the crown of our head. 36 AH DAK NYI THA MEL CHI WO RU […] MA LÜ CHANG WAR DZÄ DU SÖL.
As the nectar fills our body, all our sicknesses pour out in the form of blood and pus, like particles of earth washed away by a powerful stream. In the same way, all the negative forces and spirits are expelled in the form of insects, fish, frogs and snakes, and all obscurations of negative actions are washed away in the form of smoke and black liquid. The earth beneath us opens up in the shape of a triangle. At the bottom, nine storeys under the ground is the lord of death, appearing as a red bull, along with millions of male and female karmic creditors. They open their mouths and hands, and fill their stomachs with these substances that pour out of our body. We should think that this averts all circumstances of untimely death.
The best is to recite the hundred syllable mantra a great number of times. In the medium case, we should recite it a hundred times. In the least case, we should not recite it less than twenty-one times. This is the power of the applied antidote. It is crucial to gather these four power antidotes. If we do not gather them all, our practice becomes as ineffective as a car without all of its four wheels.
Having recited with the key points of the four power antidotes, at the end of our practice session, we think that the Lord of Death and the male and female karmic
creditors are pleased and satisfied. Our karmic debts are removed, material debts are repaid and our killing debts are appeased. We are purified of our obscurations and negative actions. Then, the earth closes again. At this point, we visualise our four chakras, where our channels radially extend, like the spokes of an umbrella. At the level of our navel is the chakra of manifestation, with sixty-four radial channels turned upwards. At our heart centre is the dharma-chakra, with eight radial channels turned downwards. In our throat is the chakra of enjoyment, with sixteen radial channels turned upwards. At the crown of our head is the chakra of great bliss, with thirty-two radial channels turned downwards. Starting from the chakra of great bliss at the crown of our head, the white nectar flows down and completely fills our four chakras and the deities residing there. It then spreads outwards, and fills our entire body, which becomes like a crystal vase filled with milk. Having visualised in this way, we think that we have perfected the accumulations and received the four empowerments: the vase empowerment, the secret empowerment, the wisdom empowerment, and the precious word empowerment. In addition, we are all purified of the four kinds of obscurations: obscurations of past actions, obscurations of afflictive emotions,
obscurations of conceptual knowledge and obscurations of habitual tendencies. In addition, the wisdom of the four joys—joy, supreme joy, extraordinary joy and coemergent joy—arises in our mind-stream. The states of the four kayas—nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, dharmakaya and svabhavikakaya—are established in us. Once again, we supplicate with devotion and intense longing by reciting: “O Protector, me […]37”. We think that the lama Vajrasattva, happy and smiling, grants us his agreement to purify our mind-stream of our negative actions and downfalls by saying: “O noble child, you are purified of your negative actions, obscuration, faults and downfalls 38”.
Then, Vajrasattva melts into a light of great bliss and emptiness. It dissolves into us and we instantly become Vajrasattva, male and female in union. We visualise ourselves with the right complexion, attributes and ornaments, without misplacing anything. This image appears, but is empty at the same time, like a reflection in a mirror.
37 GON PO DAK NI […].
38 RIG GI PHU KHYÖ KYI DIG DRIB NYE TUNG THAM CHE THAK PA YIN NO.
At the level of our heart, we visualise a moon disk with a dark blue syllable hung at its centre. In front of it is a white syllable om, on the right is a yellow benzra, behind it is a red sa and on the left a green tva. >ú om
oe×ò /‰ tva hung
As we recite “om benzra sa tva hung”, we think that from each of the syllables, rays of white, yellow, red, green and blue lights respectively radiate upwards. On the tip of each of the rays are goddesses of the sense pleasures such as the Lady of Charm. From their hands, they manifest innumerable offerings such as the eight auspicious symbols, the seven royal attributes, fringed parasols, victory banners, canopies, golden wheels with a thousand spokes and white conch shells spiralling to the right. They offer these to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas
abiding in the infinite pure realms of the ten directions. As we please them, we perfect the accumulations and become purified of our obscurations. All their qualities of wisdom, love and power dissolve into us. We receive the common and sublime accomplishments. We actualise the four levels of Vidyadharas related to the path and the absolute fruition—the state of union beyond learning. Through this, we establish the auspicious connection to attain the dharmakaya for our own benefit. Then, we visualise that, from the five seed syllables, multicoloured rays of light radiate and touch all the living beings of the six classes. Thereby, the faults, obscurations and habitual tendencies of their three doors are completely washed away, like if a rising sun had dispelled the darkness. The entire universe becomes the Buddhafield of Manifest Joy. In the East is the white pure land of Vajrasattva, in the South the yellow pure land of Ratnasambhava, in the West the red pure land of Amitabha and in the North the green pure land of Amoghasiddhi. All beings become forms of the five families of Vajrasattva. Then, we recite the mantra “om benzra sa tva hung” thinking that all beings in the form of Vajrasattva utter it together. Through this, we establish the auspicious connection to attain the two rupakayas39 for the benefit of others.
39 Sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.
Although there is an infinite number of peaceful and wrathful victorious ones, there is not even one that is not gathered within Vajrasattva. This is why he is called “Vajrasattva, the single deity of the great secret.” Using these crucial points of the skilful means of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana, we can accumulate inconceivable amounts of merit and wisdom in an instant. At the same time, we can benefit the limitless living beings who pervade the entire space.
At the end, when the time has come to conclude our practice session, we visualise that the universe, seen as the Buddhafield of Manifest Joy, dissolves into the living beings, which are in the form of the Vajrasattvas of the five families. They in turn gradually melt into light and dissolve into us. We also melt into light from the outside inwards, and that light dissolves into the om in our heart. Then, the om dissolves into the benzra, the benzra into the sa, the sa into the tva and the tva into the hung. Finally, we visualise that the hung gradually dissolves: the shabkyu into the small ha, the small ha into the body of the ha, the body of the ha into the head of the ha, the head of the ha into the crescent moon, the crescent into the bindu and the bindu into the nada. The nada in turn
vanishes like a rainbow disappearing in the sky. oe!ò nada
head of ha
body of ha
We rest in equanim
ity in the state of non-conceptual simplicity. Then, we think that the universe and living beings vividly reappear as the pure land of Vajrasattva. To conclude, we dedicate the merit by reciting several aspiration prayers, such as the one starting with: “By this merit, may I quickly
Attain the level Vajrasattva […]40” While we recite and meditate on Vajrasattva, it is crucial not to let our mind be distracted by anything and not to interrupt our recitation by ordinary talk. This is 40 GE WA DI YI NYUR DU DAK
DOR JE SEM PA DRUB GYUR NE […]
extremely important for any recitation we may perform. It says in the tantras:
Just as purity is thousand times better than impurity, Concentration is hundred thousand times better than absence of concentration.
In addition, the great master of Oddiyana said: A month of recitation with no other speech Is better than a year of defiled recitation. When we meditate upon Vajrasattva—the lord that pervades all families—inseparable from the essence of our root lama, as explained here, this is a Guru Yoga practice in the manner of “the jewel that includes all”. This is the ultimate practice and we should know that it is impossible to find a method more profound than this one.
I have heard the beneficial oral instructions, but I have left them as mere words.
I have practised a little, but I have been deceived by distractions.
Grant blessings so that I and all other confused beings, May extract the essence of the stages of generation and perfection!
Though you know that the relative truth is fiction, You still gather the two accumulations.
Though you have realised ultimate non-meditation, You still abide in meditative equipoise. Though you have actualised the state of unity, You still cultivate diligence.
O incomparable lama, at your feet I prostrate myself. This was the instruction on the meditation of the lama as Vajrasattva to cleanse all obscurations.
It is impossible to attain the twofold purity41 of Buddhahood without having perfected the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. Therefore, the practice of mandala offering is extremely important. As the sutras say:
As long as you have not perfected the two sacred accumulations,
You will never realise sacred emptiness. And also:
Innate absolute primordial wisdom can only be realised,
As the consequence of having gathered the 41 The primordial purity of essence and the purity free from adventitious defilements.
accumulations and purified yourself of the obscurations
And through the blessings of a realised lama. Know that it is foolish to rely on any other means! The Mahasiddha Tilopa said:
Naropa, my son, until you realise, That appearances arising interdependently Were in reality never born,
Do not separate yourself from the two accumulations, Which are like the wheels of your chariot! In our tradition, when making such offering, we use two different mandalas: the “accomplishment mandala42” and the “offering mandala43”.
As for the offering mandala, the best is one whose base is made of gold and silver. The average one would be made of bronze, copper or brass. If not, any material will be appropriate, as long as the surface is smooth and flat. To accumulate vast merits, the piles used as offerings would in the best case be of precious substances such as gold or 42 Mandala representing a buddha’s or deity’s pure land to whom we offer to.
43 A kind of plate with three rings and a top ornament used to symbolise the universe that we offer.
silver. To prevent diseases, we may also use the six excellent medicinal ingredients such as yellow myrobalan and beleric myrobalan. We can also use grains such as rice, as long as they are clean, without stain, and scented with pleasant smell such as saffron. Concerning the accomplishment mandala, we start by placing five piles. The one in the centre represents our root lama, inseparable from the Great Padmasambhava of Oddiyana, with all the lamas of the Dzogchen lineage abiding one above the other. The pile in front represents the Buddha Sakyamuni surrounded by the one thousand and two buddhas of this Good Kalpa. The pile on the right represents the Eight Close Sons surrounded by the noble sangha of bodhisattvas. The pile on the left symbolises the Two Supreme Shravakas44 surrounded by the noble sangha of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Finally, the pile at the back represents the Jewel of Dharma in the form of volumes of books on a shelf of light. In this way, it is exactly as the field of accumulation we have visualised during the taking of refuge. However, here, we also arrange this accomplishment mandala on our altar. If we do not manage to do so, it is also fine to practice without an accomplishment mandala. 44 Sariputra and Maudgalaputra
For the practice itself, we first visualise the field of accumulation and hold the offering mandala in our left hand and perform “the mandala offering in thirty-seven parts”. When we recite: “Om benzra bhumi ah hung”, we sprinkle saffron water scented with bajung45 with our right hand. Then, we place a large pile in the centre and one pile for each of the four continents while saying: “To the East, Purvavideha […]46”. Starting from the east, we gradually arrange the piles turning clockwise. The East means in front of us, which here is in the direction of the objects of refuge. During this practice of the mandala offering, it is essential to have a completely pure intention and to use clean and pleasant offerings. The common mandala offering of the nirmanakaya consists of presenting Mount Meru with the four continents, and the entire billion-fold universe. We also offer all the heavenly realms of the gods, filled with all the excellences that can be found in the entire universe and among all the living beings. In particular, we offer our body as well as all our possessions and virtuous merit without any restraint.
Above this, we arrange the uncommon mandala offering 45 Ritual preparation made of different substances taken from cows. 46 SHAR LÜ PHAK PO […].
of the sambhogakaya. For that, we visualise the pure land of Gandavyuha Akanishtha 47 with displays of deities’ bodies and primordial wisdom. We then think that clouds of offerings limitlessly appear. In the space above this, we arrange the superior mandala offering of the dharmakaya. For that, we take unborn primordial space as a base for the mandala. On it we arrange piles representing unceasing luminosity and “culminated awareness48”. Then, thinking that every atom of the universe is a buddha realm, we offer the perfect realisation of the inconceivable fundamental nature. We perform the offering as many times as possible, while supplicating with great devotion, thinking: “Help me and other living beings perfect the two accumulations! Help us wash our two obscurations away! Make the qualities of insight and realisation perfectly arise in our mind, and ultimately allow us to enjoy the ocean of the three kayas’ pure realms!”
Just as, if we wish to obtain butter, we must churn milk. 47 Densely arrayed buddha-field of Akanishtha. 48 In Tib.: rig pa tshad phebs, one of the four visions of Dzogchen Thögäl.
If we wish to receive the accomplishments, we must gather the accumulations. Ultimately, to attain the sublime accomplishment is certainly the result of having perfected the two accumulations. As we have previously seen, there is no way we can attain the twofold purity of Buddhahood without having perfected the accumulations of merit and wisdom. In this regard, Lord Nagarjuna composed the following prayer:
By this virtue, may all living beings Perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom, And may they attain the two sublime kayas That come from these.
We can attain the sublime rupakaya49 by perfecting the accumulation of conceptual merit. And we can attain the sublime dharmakaya by perfecting the accumulation of non-conceptual primordial wisdom. Actually, even the temporary achievements of worldly life all come from having accumulated merit. So without any merit, all our efforts, no matter how great, will be useless. The same goes for the practices of wealth deities or dharma protectors. We will not receive any accomplishment from them, unless it is the result of our own past generosity. If the worldly deities of wealth are able to give accomplishments, compared to them, the 49 Corporeal bodies: nirmanakaya and sambhogakaya.
ability, strength and miraculous power of the buddhas and bodhisattvas is hundreds and thousands of times bigger. Since all possessions and wealth come from the result of having accumulated merit in the past, we should remember that a spark of merit is more powerful than mountains of effort.
Since the yogis dwelling in mountains and hermitages do not have any possessions, they offer their own bodies through visualisation. In fact, all the material things, which we accumulate with so much effort and concern, are for the care of our body. So compared to any other possessions, it is certainly our body that we cherish the most. Therefore, to give up the clinging to our body and use it as an offering creates a much greater accumulation of merit than the offering of anything else we may possess. As it is said:
Offering your horse or bull is worth a hundred of other 50 The word kusali means “ beggar”, referring to the hermits who lack all material possessions.
51 Chö, which is how we commonly name this practice, means to “sever”.
Offering your child or partner is worth a thousand. Offering your own body is worth a hundred thousand. In addition, it is said at the opening of the Chö: To wander in frightening places and solitary mountains is the outer Chö.
To cast away one’s body as food is the inner Chö. To recognise the nature of one’s mind is the absolute Chö.
I am a yogi who possesses the three kinds of Chö. In this same quote, we sometimes describe the absolute Chö by saying:
To sever the root once and for all is the absolute Chö. Underneath the field of accumulation previously described, we instantly visualise all the living beings of the six classes, headed by the harmful ones. In general, in practices of offering and generosity, we visualise four kinds of guests:
- The Three Jewels, the guests of samsara and nirvana,
- The protectors, the guests of qualities,
- The living beings of the six classes, the guests of compassion,
- The obstacle-makers, the guests of karmic debts.
We start by reciting from the root text: “Phat! By abandoning the clinging to this body held so dear, the seductive demonic forces are destroyed52 […]”. Here, we must first recognise that our inability to tame the demon of ego-clinging is the cause of roaming in cyclic existence. We must therefore abandon the attachment to this body that we have held so dearly. In our heart, we visualise our mind’s essence in the form of a white bindu, the size of a sesame seed. We then visualise that it flies up through our central channel, and shoots out from the aperture of Brahma to the space on top of our head. Our consciousness becomes the wisdom dakini Tröma Nagmo53, wearing silk and the five symbolic bone ornaments.
With a single blow of the curved knife in her right hand, Tröma Nagmo—the visualised form of our consciousness—slices off the skull of our inanimate body at the level of the eyebrows to make a skull-cup. She picks it up and places it on a tripod made of three human skulls, each as large as Mount Meru. Having cut our corpse into pieces, she puts it into the skull-up. Beneath the skull-cup, we visualise a syllable ah, from which burns a primordial wisdom fire. Above the skull is a white 52 PHAT LÜ CHE DZIN BOR WE LHA DÜ CHOM 53 The Black Wrathful Mother.
syllable hang, turned upside down. This hang gradually melts into light, dripping drops of nectar. hang
As we recite “om ah hung”, we think that through the power of the syllable om, all the impurities of our corpse emerge in the form of a purple steam, which is then scattered away by a high wind coming from behind. With ah, the corpse is transformed into nectar of primordial wisdom, which increases inconceivably. By the power of hung, it is transformed into everything that could be wished for. Thus, our corpse becomes of the nature of primordial wisdom nectar and manifests as a celestial treasure of clouds of offerings possessing hundreds of tastes and thousands of nutrients. As we keep on repeating these three syllables, the buddhas of the five families melt into light and dissolve into the nectar. In addition, from the heart of ourselves as Tröma Nagmo, millions of activity-dakinis manifest. They perform offerings to the assembly of deities of the field of accumulation. Then, to each living being of the six classes of existence, they offer a skull-cup full of nectar, which is transformed into everything they wish
As the deities’ wisdom minds are filled with immaculate bliss, we and all living beings perfect the two accumulations, purify ourselves of the two obscurations and obtain the two accomplishments. Finally, the remainders are transformed into everything one can wish for and are offered and given to the four types of guests. First, we perform the White Feast. This consists of offering to the deities of the field of accumulation the three white and three sweet substances, as well as the eight auspicious signs, the seven royal attributes and an inconceivable array of manifested substances. The deities partake of these offerings by drinking the nectar through their hollow tongues, which have the forms of the implements they each hold in their hands, such as a vajra, a wheel, a jewel, a lotus or a crossed vajra. Secondly, we offer the Mixed Feast. As explained previously, we offer everything one can wish for, thinking that we manifest an inexhaustible celestial treasure. Through the power of our meditation, we perform acts of generosity to the guests of compassion, the living beings of the six classes, as well as to the guests of karmic debts, which are the different types of obstructors such as male
king-spirits, female dremo spirits, flesh-eating demons, executioner spirits, and male and female karmic creditors. We think that, by this act of generosity, millions of them are completely satisfied and fulfilled. Thirdly, for the Red Feast, we visualise that our skin is spread out, covering the entire universe. On it, we place and offer mountains of our flesh, oceans of our blood, and plains covered with our bones. Additionally, within a skull-cup placed on a tripod made of three human skulls, we visualise the remainders in the form of an inexhaustible treasure of desirable objects, fulfilling everyone’s wishes. Thus, all the different guests equally receive everything they could wish for, such as eyes for the blind and so forth. This inexhaustible treasure of enjoyment will abide until all of them attain enlightenment.
With these visualised offerings, we repay all our karmic debts. We also neutralise all kinds of harm and evil intentions. Our bodies are transformed into immaculate rainbow-like forms of deities. Our minds become the non-conceptual dharmakaya, the incarnation of fundamental nature. Lastly, the thoughts of dualistic fixation—the concepts of the givers, those that are given to and the objects that are given—all vanish within the fundamental empty nature of mind, the space of clear light Great Perfection. The three spheres54 rest in the fundamental uncontrived state free from characteristics. As it is said:
Neither deity, nor demon: this is the confidence of the view.
Neither distraction, nor fixation: this is the crucial point of meditation.
Neither acceptance, nor rejection: this is the crucial point of conduct.
Neither hope, nor fear: this is the crucial point of result.
I understand that there is no self, but I still have gross concepts of self.
I have the wish to renounce dualistic fixation, but I constantly have hopes and fears. Bless me and those like me who believe in a self So we may realise fundamental nature, the absence of self.
54 The object, the subject and the action.
If we wish to practise the dharma genuinely, it is extremely important to first seek an authentic and fully qualified spiritual master. Then, it is crucial to try our best to do whatever he says and to supplicate him from the very depths of our heart, considering him as a true buddha and cherishing him as much as our own eyes. As it is said in the sutras:
It is only through devotion that ultimate truth can be realised.
You may know the whole Tripitaka, but that will not be of any use without confidence and devotion to your lama.
Particularly in all the different paths of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana, the lama has unique and paramount importance. As the tantras say: Compared to meditating on a hundred thousand different deities for ten million kalpas, It is better to think of one’s lama for a single instant. Therefore, in our tradition, it is crucial to rely on a perfectly realised lama, whose lineage is like a golden chain unstained by broken samayas. We consider him as a true buddha and supplicate him with full confident devotion. By doing so, our mind will merge completely with his, and realisation will arise by the power of his blessings being transferred to us. As we have already seen:
Innate absolute primordial wisdom can only be realised,
As the consequence of having gathered the accumulations and purified yourself of the obscurations
And through the blessings of a realised lama. Know that it is foolish to rely on any other means! In addition:
Better than meditating for a hundred thousand kalpas On a deity with all the major and minor marks Is to think of one’s lama for even an instant. Better than a million recitations of the approach and accomplishment practices
Is a single supplication to the lama. And it is also said in the Array of Ati: If one meditates on one’s kind lama Above the crown of one’s head, in the centre of one’s heart
Or on the palm of one’s hand,
One shall receive
The accomplishments of a thousand buddhas. Drikung Kyobpa Rinpoche said:
If the sun of your devotion does not shine On the snow mountain of the lama’s four kayas, The stream of his blessings will never flow. So diligently give rise to devotion in your mind! As the kindest Lord of Dharma55 said: If you recognise your own nature, you will see birth as a manifestation of the nirmanakaya lama; You will perceive the clear light of the moment of death as a manifestation of the ultimate dharmakaya lama,
And you will see the bardo as a manifestation of the sambhogakaya lama.
In your heart, you will remember your lama, who is the liberation of confusion within fundamental 55 The author’s root lama Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Thanks to the illusory pith instructions of the relative symbolic lama,
The ultimate dharmakaya lama will be inseparable from you,
And you will feel in your heart the confidence of having united your mind with his wisdom mind. Since Guru Yoga is the ultimate crucial point of all the paths of actual practices, we should at all times and on all occasions take it as the core of our practice. As for this particular practice of the profound path of Guru Yoga, there are three stages: the visualisation of the field of accumulation, offering the seven branches and the resolute supplication.
To transform all our perceptions into a pure land requires a courageous mind. Here, we should begin by visualising everything that appears to us as the palace of Lotus Light, complete with all its characteristics. For us to become a suitable vessel for the empowerments, to give
rise to the primordial wisdom of bliss and emptiness, and in order to create an auspicious connection between lama and disciple, we consider ourselves as having the nature of the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal. In form, however, we visualise ourselves as Vajrayogini, who is red, with one face, two arms and three eyes, gazing longingly at the lama’s heart. “Longingly” means that Vajrayogini is impatient to be with the lama, in a state of great devotion, not distracted even for an instant by anything else. With her right hand, she is playing a small skulldrum held up in the air, awakening beings from the sleep of ignorance and confusion.
Her left hand is resting on her hip, holding the curved knife that severs the root of the three poisons. She is naked except for her bone ornaments and garlands of flowers. We visualise her clearly appearing but insubstantial, like a rainbow shining in the sky.
Suspended in space, an arrow’s length above our head, is a fully blossomed lotus of multicoloured jewels, with a hundred thousand petals. Upon it are a sun and a moon disc of the exact size of the lotus’ pollen bed. On this throne sits the embodiment of all the sources of refuge, our glorious root lama in the form of the Lake-Born Guru of Oddiyana.
Guru Rinpoche is of white colour, tinged with red. His complexion, as one of an eight year-old boy, is brilliant
and resplendent. He is vividly staring with wide-open eyes. He wears the white secret garment. On top of it, he wears a red garment, the gown of a male tantric practitioner, a red monk-robe with drawings of golden flowers, and a maroon brocade cape. He has one face and two arms. With his right hand at his heart, he displays the threatening mudra and holds a golden vajra. With his left hand in the gesture of meditative absorption, he holds a skull-cup filled with wisdom nectar of immortality and containing a long-life vase. In the crook of Guru Rinpoche’s left arm, he holds a khatvanga trident, the hidden form of his consort Mandarava. The khatvanga’s three prongs symbolise the essence, the nature and the compassion. Below them are a dried-up head, a fresh one and a rotten one representing respectively the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. The nine rings looped over its prong symbolise the nine vehicles. Its silken ribbons of the five colours represent the five primordial wisdoms. In addition, it is adorned with hairs of dead and living mamos and dakinis, as a sign that he has subjugated them all.
On his head, Guru Rinpoche wears the hat called The Lotus that Liberates upon Being Seen, also known as The Petalled Hat of the Five Families. This hat has two layers, inner and outer, symbolising the union of the generation
and perfection stages. It has three points representing the three kayas. It is of five colours, symbolising that he works for the benefit of beings through the five kayas. It has a sun and a moon representing skilful means and wisdom. Its border is blue representing the unlimited samaya. On top, it has a vajra as a symbol of unmoving concentration, and a vulture’s feather, which symbolises the realisation of the highest view and the culmination of practice.
In this way, he is dressed with the garments of greatness, resplendent with a half-wrathful half-smiling expression. He is seated in the posture of royal ease. Around him is a luminous rainbow sphere encircled by a lattice of a myriad of bindus of the five colours. Within this luminous expanse, as a display of our root lama’s great primordial wisdom mind, appear the Eight Vidyadharas of India, the Twenty-Five Great Disciples of Tibet—the king and his subjects—as well as all the pandits and siddhas of India and Tibet who have attained the level of vidyadhara. In addition, there is an infinite array of the peaceful and wrathful deities of the Six Major Tantras, as well as the dakas, dakinis, dharma protectors, wealth deities and terma guardians of the Three Abodes, all gathered like clouds.
We visualise them luminous and empty at the same time, like a rainbow or the reflection of the moon on the water.
As we meditate in this way, all our ordinary thoughts naturally cease. Then, we recite the Seven-Line prayer, the vajra supplication to the dharma king of Oddiyana. This prayer is the root of all recitations, the king of all prayers. It is sufficient to recite this prayer alone. It is the basis for accomplishing all the common and sublime siddhis. If we practise Guru Yoga using this Seven-line Prayer, blessings will pour down like rain. Therefore, it is crucial to practise according to this instruction, which is easy to understand and includes everything. So we recite with intense devotion and longing: Hung! On the north-western border of the land of Oddiyana […],
As we recite these lines, we think that, according to his past commitment, Orgyen Pema Thötrengtsel56 quickly comes in person from the south-western border of the Glorious Mountain of Chamara. He approaches accompanied by an ocean of victorious ones, lamas, yidams and dakinis as numerous as sesame seeds bursting out from an opening pod. They dissolve into the samaya deities previously visualised, becoming indivisible and of one taste with them.
56 The Lotus Garland of Skulls of Oddiyana, a name of Padmasambhava.
As we recite “Multiplying my body as many times as there are atoms in the universe57 […]”, we manifest as many bodies as there are atoms in the universe. In this way, we offer our prostrations with great respect of body, speech and mind, thinking that the infinite living beings are prostrating with us. In fact, it is extremely good to accumulate the hundred thousand prostrations at this time. In that case, we visualise ourselves as Yeshe Tsogyal and take as the object of our prostrations the Second Buddha of Oddiyana—the lord of the ocean of vidyadharas—surrounded by the noble vidyadharas of Tibet and the ocean of dharma protectors. The offering
Then, we present the lama and his entourage with offerings of different sorts, both real and imagined, mentally multiplying them to fill the entire space. The confession
We confess all the harmful deeds and downfalls we have committed since beginningless lives until now, whether 57 DAK LÜ SHING GI DÜL NYE DU […].
we remember them or not. We apologise for the ten negative actions of body, speech and mind, the five crimes with immediate retribution and five crimes that are almost as grave, the four serious faults and the eight perverse acts. In brief, feeling all the negative actions we have accumulated as if we had ingested poison, we confess them with intense regret. After that, we imagine that all our wrong actions gather together in the form of a black heap on our tongue. We then visualise that infinite rays of light radiate from the body, speech and mind of the deities of the field of accumulation. These lights touch our tongue and wash away all our defilements without any remaining, like sun rays evaporating a dewdrop.
Finally, from the depth of our heart, we take the strict vow that from now on, even at the cost of our own life, we will never commit any negative deeds. Rejoicing
We rejoice in all the positive actions and virtuous qualities that are performed, whether they correspond to the path of inferior, medium or superior individuals, whether they are at the level of relative or ultimate truth, or whether they belong to samsara or nirvana. Free of jealousy, we rejoice in all of them thinking that we too
shall perform such virtuous deeds. As Chagme Rinpoche wrote:
When we hear about virtuous actions done by others, If we cast out all negative thoughts of jealousy And truly rejoice from the depth of our heart, It is said that the merit we gain will be equal to theirs.
Exhorting the great beings to turn the wheel of dharma
It is of great benefit to exhort the buddhas to turn the wheel of dharma. Therefore, we request all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, as well as the shravakas and pratekyabuddhas of the ten directions to turn the wheel of dharma and teach the three or nine vehicles. We supplicate them to teach in accordance with the different faculties of all the beings to be guided until samsara is completely emptied.
Requesting the great beings not to enter nirvana Mentally manifesting many emanations of ourselves, we supplicate the holy beings not to enter nirvana but to remain until samsara is emptied saying: “Until samsara has been emptied
Remain with us and do not pass into nirvana58!” The dedication
Following the example of Manjushri, we dedicate to all beings the merit of all virtuous actions of the three times, performed by ourselves or others, including the action we are doing now. For that, we recite from the root text: “All the sources of merit accumulated in the past, present and future,
I dedicate as a cause of great enlightenment59.” At the end, we seal the dedication in a state of nonconceptual wisdom.
In fact, we should never forget to dedicate the merit at the end of any positive act, great or small, performed at any time or on any occasion. It is said that any source of merit not dedicated in this way will bear fruit only once and will then be exhausted. While if it is dedicated to ultimate enlightenment, it will never be exhausted, no matter what happens. It will instead increase and grow until perfect buddhahood is attained. As it is said: Unless you conclude your accumulations of merit and wisdom with aspiration prayers, 58 JI SI KHOR WA MA TONG PAR
NYANG NGEN MI DA SHUG SÖL DEB
59 DÜ SUM SAG PE GE TSA KÜN
CHANG CHUB CHE PÖ GYU RU NGO
Just like if you find a wish-fulfilling jewel but do not rub it,
You will never get the result you wish for. So persevere in always concluding with the dedication!
It is the power of dedication that determines whether our positive actions will lead to complete enlightenment or not. All the conditioned virtuous actions we accumulate, even immense ones, cannot lead us to liberation if we do not direct them with the dedication. On the contrary, we shall obtain liberation if we dedicate all of them. As Jetsun Milarepa said:
Between the hermit meditating in the mountains And the benefactor that provides for his livelihood, There is a link that will lead them to buddhahood together.
The core of that link is dedication. We should also apply to our dedication the wisdom of leaving the three spheres in a state free of conceptual reference. A dedication stained by clinging to these three spheres as real is said to be a “poisoned dedication”. In this particular case, the three spheres are: the source of merit to dedicate, the being for which it is dedicated, and the goal towards which the dedication is directed. On the contrary, a dedication performed while realising
the lack of true existence of these three sphere is said to be “non poisonous”. As that may not be possible for ordinary people like us, we should think that we are dedicating the merit exactly in the same way as the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the past did. This ensures that the three spheres will be completely purified during the dedication. At it is mentioned in The Confession of Downfalls:
I fully dedicate all merit in the same way as the buddhas of the past did.
And as we recite in The Prayer of Noble Conduct60: Just as Manjushri The Brave
And Samantabhadra know how to dedicate, I shall train following in their footsteps And perfectly dedicate this merit.
The resolute supplication is the means for us to become accomplished as the essence of the four vajras. In fact, to attain the states of liberation or complete omniscience 60 In Tibetan:
JAMPEL PAWÖ JITAR KHYENPA DANG
KUNTUZANGPO DE YANG DE SHIN TE
DE DAK KÜN GYI JÉ SU DAK LOP CHING GEWA DI DAK TAMCHE RAP TU NGO
depends on the realisation of co-emergent primordial wisdom within our mind-stream. The arising of this realisation solely depends on the lama’s blessings. In turn, for these blessings to enter our mind, it depends solely on our confidence and devotion.
If in qualities, our root lama is equal to the buddhas and could not possibly surpass them, in kindness towards us he is definitely superior. We should find certainty in that and entrust ourselves entirely to the lama with all our mind and heart.
We should think: “O my kind root lama, from now until I attain enlightenment, no matter if I face happiness or suffering, good or bad circumstances, I have no one else but you. Even if I happen to see the buddhas and bodhisattvas abiding in the pure realms of the ten directions, it is only through you. O lama, if I can receive the blessings of the deities I have devotion to, it is only through the blessings of the yidam’s wisdom body entering your mind, and you granting them to me in turn. My devotion shall remain one-pointedly towards you. O lama, only you know!” In this way, we totally abandon any other hopes and give rise to devotion until the hairs of our body stand on end tears burst from our eyes and all our thoughts are directed to the lama.
Having no other thought than the lama, in a state of changeless confidence and intense devotion, we recite the supplication from “Precious venerable lama […]” until “O great Lotus-Born Lord, only you know! 61” Then, we concentrate on reciting the Vajra Guru mantra, as a prayer invoking the lama’s mind. After every hundred repetitions, we recite once again the prayer starting with “Precious venerable lama […]”.
Halfway through the time we have for our recitation, we proceed to the invocation of accomplishments. For that, we say, after each complete mala of mantra-recitations, the prayer beginning with “I have no other hope but you” until “O Powerful One, purify me of the two obscurations!62” At the end of our recitation of mantra, we recite “EMAHO! In the heavenly realm, free from dimensions and extremes […]” until “May they all attain buddhahood together!63”. At this moment, we think that the universe and living beings—the palace of the Copper-coloured 61 JE TSÜN GURU RIN PO CHE […] JE TSÜN CHEN PO PE JUNG KHYEN
62 DAK LA RE SA SHEN NA ME […] DRIB NYI JONG SHIK NÜ THU CHEN.
63 EMAHO GYA CHE CHOG LHUNG TREL WE SHING KHANG NE […] THAM CHE CHAM CHIG SANG GYE THOB PAR SHOK”
Mountain and the mandala of the dakas and dakinis of Oddiyana—entirely dissolve into ourselves, the nature of Yeshe Tsogyal in the form of Vajra Yogini. We perceive all sounds as the spontaneous sound of mantras. In a secret level, we abide in the natural liberation of all that arises in the mind, knowing thoughts to be traceless like a bird’s flight.
While remaining in that state, we end by reciting the supplication to the lineage lamas and remembering their qualities. Through our intense longing and devotion, the assembly of lamas dissolve from the edges into the root lama Guru Rinpoche, attaining buddhahood in the essence of the four vajras.
At this point, we receive the four empowerments following the visualisation of the root text. First, we think that a syllable om, of a brilliant crystal colour, appears on the lama’s forehead. Rays of light emanate from it and penetrate the crown of our head. These purify us of the effects of the three negative actions of the body—taking life, taking what is not given and sexual misconduct. They also wash away all the obscurations of our channels, from which the body develops. Then, we
recite the lines beginning with “The blessings of the vajra body enter into me64 […]” and we think that the potential to attain the state of nirmanakaya is established in our mind-stream.
From the syllable ah of brilliant ruby red colour in the lama’s throat, rays of light radiate and enter our throat, purifying us of the effects of the four negative actions of speech—lying, slandering, harsh words and idle chatter. They also wash away all the obscurations of our subtle winds, from which speech develops. At this moment, we recite the lines beginning with “The blessings of vajra speech enter into me65 […]” and we think that the potential to attain the state of sambhogakaya is established in our mind-stream.
From the syllable hung of sky-blue colour in the lama’s heart, rays of light radiate, enter our heart and merge completely with our mind, purifying us of the effects of the three negative actions of the mind—covetousness, wishing harm on others and wrong views. They also wash away all the obscurations of our subtle essences, from which mental processes develop. At this moment, we recite the lines beginning with “The blessings of vajra mind 64 KU DOR JE CHIN LAB SHUG […]
65 SUNG DOR JE CHIN LAB SHUG […|
enter into me66 […]” and think that the potential to attain the state of dharmakaya is established in our mindstream. Finally, from the hung in the lama’s heart, a second hung comes forth like a shooting star. It touches us and mixes completely with our mind, purifying it of all the karmic and conceptual obscurations of the ground-of-all consciousness, which underlies body, speech and mind. At this moment, we recite the lines beginning with “The blessings of vajra primordial wisdom enter into me67[…]” and we think that we receive all the empowerments that we have not yet received and that we renew those we have already received. The potential to reach the state of svabhavikaya, the ultimate result, is established in us. With this, we become completely purified of the karmic and conceptual obscurations of our alaya consciousness68 as well as of the karma of subtle afflictive emotions. The blessings of self-appearing immutable clear light of primordial wisdom, similar to a vajra, enter into us. We receive the absolute empowerment of the inexpressible and inconceivable nature, symbolised by the crystal and the mirror. We become suitable vessels to meditate on 66 THUG DOR JE CHIN LAB SHUG […] 67 YE SHE DOR JE CHIN LAB SHUG […] 68 Lit.: “ground-of-all” consciousness. It is the foundation of all karmas and habitual tendencies.
Cutting Solidity69 or the Primordially Pure Great Perfection. The seed of vidyadharahood of Spontaneous Accomplishment of the Two Purposes is planted in our mind-stream. The potential to reach the ultimate results, the state of svabhavikaya and the Youthful Vase Body, is established in us.
At the end of the session, we recite with devotion and ardent longing the prayer beginning with “When my life comes to its end […]”, until “I beseech you to fulfil my wishes70.” At this moment, we think that Guru Rinpoche, smiling and with eyes filled with compassion, agrees to grant all our wishes. Then, a ray of warm red light radiates from his heart. When it touches us as Vajra Yogini, we are transformed into a sphere of red light the size of a pea, which shoots up towards Guru Rinpoche like a spark merging with his heart. We rest in meditative equipoise within that state.
At the moment of our death, we can apply this visualisation of dissolution or dzogrim and thus mingle our rigpa with fundamental space. If we can expire while abiding in this meditative absorption, this is the supreme of all the transferences of consciousness, which is called 69 In Tib.: trekchö.
70 NAM SHIK TSE YI THÜ JE TSE […] SAM DÖN DRUB PAR DZE DU SÖL
“affixing the seal of the view of dharmakaya”. If we wish to perform other practices of transference of consciousness, it is also best to do it at this point. It is said that training on transference of consciousness at this moment of the practice is the easiest and the most effective way. And even if the transference of consciousness is not successful, we can be liberated by remembering the three practices71 during the bardo. Finally, we visualise that, from the sphere of light within our heart, rays of light of the five colours radiate. They go through the central channel up to our root lama—the lord of the mandala and of all buddha families—abiding above our head. We then remind ourselves that the lama is the union of appearances and emptiness and the embodiment of the three kayas. In that state of empty luminosity, free of clinging, we visualise him again, brilliant and splendid. At the end, we invite him to come, through our central channel, and abide in our heartcentre, on top of a blossoming lotus, a sun and a moon. We rest our mind, merging it with the lama’s wisdom mind and we recite:
“Glorious and precious root lama, Seated on a lotus in my heart;
71 Perceiving appearances as deities and pure lands, sounds as mantra and thoughts as wisdom (Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary].
Kindly take me under your care, And bestow the accomplishments of body, speech and mind!72” With this prayer, we beseech our kind root lama to merge our mind with his wisdom mind. And we pray to him to grant us all his blessings and accomplishments so that we may be able to uphold the teachings and benefit living beings in a very vast manner. Then, we recite:
“O glorious lama, towards your lifestyle, May wrong views not arise even for a moment! Seeing all your actions as perfect, through such devotion, May your blessings enter my mind73!” In this way, we pray that we may never have wrong views towards any of the lama’s actions, be they related to the dharma or not. We pray to be able to consider all his deeds as similar to the action of the compassionate captain, when he killed The Black Man with the Spear74, or as similar to the conduct of the Brahman Khye-u Karma, who had a sexual relationship with a brahman’s daughter75. We pray that through this complete pure 72 PALDEN TSAWE LAMA RINPOCHE […] KU SUNG THUG GI NGÖDRUB TSEL DU SÖL
73 PELDEN LAME NAMPAR THARWA LA […] LAME CHINLAB SEM LA JUGPAR SHOK
74 To prevent him from killing five hundred bodhisattvas and being born later in the hells.
75 To prevent her from committing suicide.
perception, we may receive the lama’s blessings. Finally, we recite:
“During all my lifetimes, O perfect lama, May I never be separate from you! Enjoying the glory of the teachings!
And perfecting the spiritual qualities of the paths and stages; May I swiftly attain the level of Vajradhara76!” With this, we pray that we may never be separate from the supreme lama, during all our lifetimes, from now until attaining buddhahood. We also pray that we may receive the teachings, perfect the qualities the ten bhumis and the five paths and quickly attain the state of Vajradhara.
As it is said:
If one does not expose its history People will commit the fault of not believing In the definite teachings of the Great Secret. Therefore, in order for the disciples to gain confidence, it is necessary to explain the source of the lineage and its history.
76 KYE WA KÜN TU YANG DAK LA MA DANG […] DORJE CHANG GI GO PHANG NYUR THOB SHOK
Concerning this text, it is mainly based on the unmistaken speech of my kind root lama77, whose name I do not dare to utter, the dharma-king Buddha Vajradhara in person who assumed a human form for the sole purpose of guiding living beings. I have also gathered the core meaning of the well-known The Words of my Perfect Teacher, composed by Dza Patrül Rinpoche, Vajradhara in person. As it is said: The view should be according to the scriptures and reasoning,
And the conduct should be according to the place and period.
For this reason, I have explained this in suitable length— not too condensed or detailed—and in a way that is easy to understand and assimilate.
As for myself, in the presence of my kind root lama Vajradhara—the lord of all mandalas and buddha families—I had the chance to fully taste the nectar of his wisdom-mind’s essence. I have also served him through the three manners of pleasing the lama, for as long as he was on earth benefiting beings. He himself stated in a letter that I possess the noble richness of devotion. I have never done anything that has displeased him even 77 His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
a little. I have tried to delight him in many different ways, such as offering him, without attachment, all my wealth. Therefore, I am certain that there has been absolutely no degradation of samaya that could stain the golden thread of his lineage, whose blessings are unsurpassed.
Getting back to the instruction on Guru Yoga, it is crucial to recite the mantra ten million times, plus three hundred thousand times more to restore those that we may have not recited well. Some people do not complete this number, not giving great importance to these preliminary practices. Others consider the actual practices so highly and imagine they can do the practices of the generation and perfection stages78 without having taken the time to practise the preliminaries properly. As it is said:
Using your tongue before you have understood Is like stretching your legs out before your bed is warm.
To practise the preliminaries without going right to the end makes no sense at all. Even if small signs of “warmth” can occur momentarily, they will remain 78 In Tib.: kyerim and dzogrim.
unstable, like a castle without foundations. Yet, in particular cases, with the gathering of certain causes and conditions, it is not impossible that a predestined person, who has trained his mind in previous lives and follows an authentic lama, would realise everything at once. In general, it is also not suitable to drop the preliminaries when we have already started the actual practices, thinking that they are only preliminaries and therefore no longer necessary. By giving up the preliminaries, which are the foundation of the path, we cut off the very root of dharma. It is like trying to paint a fresco on a wall that has not been plastered. Therefore, at all times and in all circumstances, we should be truly certain of the importance of these preliminaries and make effort in practising them.
It is particularly crucial to focus on the practice of Guru Yoga—the gateway to blessings—and to make it the very heart of our practice. Since our kind root lama embodies the essence of all the buddhas of the three times, it is extremely important to generate a stable confidence and to remember him at all times.
However, we should learn to recognise and only follow those lamas who are truly qualified, unlike myself who is lama in name alone. On the other hand, there are also lamas who, such as mine, are universally known for being fully qualified. It is not necessary to examine lamas like them, as their qualities are such that all those who make a positive connection with them attain buddhahood, while even those who make a negative connection with them will ultimately be liberated from samsara. Although I see my kind lama as a real buddha, I am not able to merge my mind with the dharma and my afflictive emotions are very coarse. Although I can utter pointless chatters about view, meditation and conduct,
I have not realised the ultimate and I am unable to hold the lineage.
Although I know that all the beings of the three realms have been my parents,
I have not liberated my mind-stream and bodhicitta remains a mere aspiration for me. Bless me and those with evil karma like me, So that in this life and all others, We may follow our spiritual friend, Be gentle and confident, and merge our mind with the dharma!
This was the instruction on Guru Yoga, the gateway to blessings, the powerful method to give rise to the wisdom of realisation.
Supreme is your compassion for confused beings. Supreme is the way you embrace evil beings as your disciples.
Supreme are your skilful methods with those that are to be tamed.
O incomparable teacher, at your feet I prostrate myself.
There are five different kinds of transference of consciousness:
1. Superior transference to the dharmakaya by affixing the seal of the view
2. Middling transference to the sambhogakaya through the union of generation and perfection stages
3. Lower transference to the nirmanakaya through immeasurable compassion
4. Transference for ordinary beings using three metaphors
5. Transference for the dead with the hook of compassion.
Superior transference to the dharmakaya through the seal of the view
Those to whom the unmistaken view of the uncontrived fundamental state has arisen and who have become familiar with it during their lives, can, at the moment of death, apply the practice of the primordial purity of Cutting Solidity. They can use the crucial instructions on the outer expanse of space and on the expanse of rigpa, and so they can transfer their consciousness into the expanse of dharmakaya.
Middling transference to the sambhogakaya through the union of generation and perfection stages Those well accustomed to practising the generation and perfection stages together as one indivisible yoga, and fully trained in seeing the form of the deity as a magical illusion can, when the hallucinations of the bardo arise at
the time of death, transfer their consciousness into the wisdom kaya of union.
Lower transference to the nirmanakaya through immeasurable compassion
Those who have received ripening empowerments of the Secret Mantra, who have faultless samayas, who have aspiration towards the practices of generation and perfection stages and who have received instructions on the bardo can do as instructed in the following verses: You must interrupt the entry to the womb and remember to turn back.
This is a moment demanding determination and pure perception.
Those practising this transference must block any negative entry into an impure womb. Driven by great compassion and based on practising the path of taking rebirth as a nirmanakaya emanation, they transfer their consciousness to a place of rebirth in one of the pure lands.
Transference for ordinary beings using three metaphors
This transference consists of considering the central channel as a path, the essence of one’s consciousness in the form of a red syllable hri as the traveller, and a pure land of great bliss as the destination. Transference for the dead with the hook of compassion
Yogis with sublime realisation, who have mastery over mind and appearances and who are able to see consciousnesses in the bardo, can perform this kind of transference, either for a being on the point of dying or for one already in the bardo.
In general, to perform the transference for a dead being, one must have attained the Path of Seeing. As Jetsün Mila stated:
As long as you do not perceive the truth of the Path of Seeing,
Do not perform transference for the dead! However, the exact moment to perform this transference of consciousness is when the outer breath has stopped while the inner breath is still continuing. So anyone who is a little experienced in the instructions on transference, and who knows the right moment to apply it, can perform it at that very moment. It is extremely beneficial for the dying and can prevent rebirth in the lower realms. It is like a traveller that is set on the right path by a companion.
Transference is more difficult once mind and body have already become completely separated. It must then only be performed by a yogi who can see the dead person in the bardo and who has obtained complete mastery over his own mind. In this case, the yogi can easily influence someone in the bardo, since the consciousness has no longer a material body. For this reason, the transference performed for a being in the bardo itself also possesses the power to send the his consciousness to a pure realm. Nowadays, people, who are lamas or tulkus in name only, often practise rituals of transference for the deceased. If they perform them with the motivation of the love and compassion of bodhicitta and with no selfish consideration at all, there are great chances that, by the power of their bodhicitta, they can really help the deceased without obscuring their own minds. As it is said:
To be the guide and teacher of others While you have not reached liberation’s shore yourself, Is just as pointless as
Giving your hand to someone drowning while you yourself are drowning as well.
This crucial instruction on transference of consciousness is essential for practitioners who have not attained stability on the path, or for those who have committed numerous harmful actions. For anyone possessing these pith instructions, however serious his or her negative actions may be, the gates of the lower realms are assuredly closed. Even those who have committed one of the five crimes with immediate retribution, and would otherwise fall straight downwards, will definitely not be reborn in the lower realms if they meet this instruction. The tantras say:
Even one who has committed the five crimes with immediate retribution
Will be liberated by this path
And will not be stained by those negative actions. And:
If you know how to follow the pathway of your central channel
To the feet of your father, the genuine and qualified lama,
Seated on a sun and moon on top of your head, You will be liberated, even if you have committed the five crimes with immediate retribution. The Great Master of Oddiyana said: Everyone knows how to attain buddhahood through meditation,
But I know a teaching for attaining without meditation.
The great pandit Naropa said:
The nine gates are openings for samsara, But one gate is the gate to Mahamudra. Close the nine gates, open up the one, And have no doubt that it leads to liberation! The instructions are in two parts: first the training on transference and then its actual application.
Once we have received the explanations on transference, we should persevere in training over and over again until signs of success appear.
Now, while all our body’s channels, winds and bindus are unimpaired and vigorous, it will be quite difficult to perform the transference. However, when death comes to us, or when we are very old, it will become much easier. It will be like a fruit on a tree in autumn, which, when ripe and ready to drop, will fall by one merely coming near it.
The time to actually apply the transference of consciousness is when the signs of approaching death have appeared, when we know that there is no turning back and that the process of dissolution has already begun. It is not convenient to do it at any other time. As the tantras say:
The transference should be performed when the right time comes.
If one performs it at an inappropriate time, that will kill the deities.
There are different stages in the process of dissolution. To make it easy to understand, we can divide it into the dissolution of the five sense faculties, the dissolution of the four elements, and the phases of clarity, increase and attainment.
When a change occurs in the way we perceive forms with our eyes, sounds with our ears, smells with our nose and sensations with the rest of our body, when, unlike before, we perceive them in an unclear or confused way, that means that the process of dissolution comes to its end. At that moment, the introduction to the transference should 79 This refers to killing the deities that abide within one’s own body by shortening one’s lifespan through practising the transference prematurely.
be given. And if someone can perform the transference of consciousness, that is certainly the right moment to do so.
Then all the blood of our body gathers together in the life-channel and three drops trickle one after the other into the centre of our heart and with three long sighs, the outer breath suddenly ceases. At that moment, the white bindu or semen that we received from our father swiftly moves downwards from the top of our head. As the outward sign of this, we perceive a whiteness similar to a moonlight in a cloudless sky. As the inward sign, our consciousness experiences luminosity and the thirty-three kinds of thoughts of anger cease. This state is called “clarity”.
From our navel, the red element or “blood” that we received from our mother swiftly moves upwards. As the outward sign of this, we perceive a redness similar to sun rays shining in a cloudless sky. As the inward sign, our consciousness experiences bliss and the forty kinds of thoughts of desire cease. This state is called “increase”. When the red and white bindus meet in our heart, our consciousness enters between them. As the outward sign of this, we perceive a blackness similar to a cloudless sky in complete darkness. As the inward sign, our consciousness experiences a state without any thought
and we faint into utter darkness. This state is called “near-attainment”.
After this short blackout, we emerge into an experience similar to an expanse of sky devoid of those three previous conditions. This is the “clear light of the time of the ground”. If we recognise it as our own nature and rest in absorption within it, this is what we call “superior transference to the dharmakaya”. It is buddhahood without going through the bardo. After that the bardo of dharmatha or absolute reality and the bardo of becoming gradually appear. But these will not be described here because they are related to the instructions on the actual practice. For those of us with only little experience of the path, the exact moment to apply the transference is at the beginning of the dissolution process. At that time, we should thoroughly cut all attachment to this life, arouse great courage and tell ourselves: “Now that I am dying, based on the instructions of my lama, I will send myself to the pure realms like an arrow shot by a giant”.
Before starting, we settle on a comfortable seat, with our legs crossed in the vajra-posture and our back completely straight. First, we should go through all the preliminaries, starting from Calling the Lama from Afar and continuing up to the end of Guru Yoga. Then comes the main visualisation.
First, we visualise that our body instantly becomes Vajra Yogini’s wisdom form. She is red, with one face, two arms, two legs together, one foot slightly raised in the “walking posture”. Her three eyes are looking towards the sky. With the right hand high in the air, she rattles a small skull-drum that awakens living beings from the sleep of mental dullness and fundamental ignorance. With her left, she holds at her hip a curved knife that utterly severs the three poisons. She is naked with a garland of flowers and bone-ornaments. We visualise her similar to a rainbow in the sky, appearing though devoid of substance, luminous though devoid of reality. This is the outer empty enclosure of the body. Then, we visualise the central channel, at the centre of our erect body, like a hollow pillar in an empty house. It is called “central” channel because it stands at the very centre of the body, without leaning to the left or to the right. It has four characteristics. It is blue like a film of indigo, symbolising the immutable dharmakaya. It is as soft as a lotus petal, symbolising the tenuousness of the
obscuration of habitual tendencies. It is luminous like the flame of a sesame-oil lamp, symbolising the dispelling of the darkness of ignorance, and it is as straight as a reed, indicating that it never leads to lower or wrong paths. At the upper end, at the level of the aperture of Brahma at the top of our head, the central channel opens widely like an open skylight. This symbolises that it is a pathway to higher rebirths and liberation. Its lower end is closed off four fingers below the navel without any opening, to symbolise that all the entries to samsara and lower rebirth are blocked. This is the inner empty enclosure of the central channel.
Now, we visualise in the central channel at the level of our heart, a knot similar to one of a bamboo stem. Above it, we visualise a bindu of prana80, of light green colour, active and vibrant. On top of it is the essence of our mind in the form of a red syllable hri, fluttering and quivering. This is the support of our rigpa-mind. ZA;!
Then, one cubit above our head, we visualise a jewelled throne, held up by eight great peacocks. Upon it is a 80 Prana or lung in Tib.: wind or subtle energy.
multicoloured lotus, a sun and a moon. On this threelayered seat is our glorious root lama, the incomparable essence of the buddhas of the three times, the lord of great compassion. He abides in the form of the bhagavan and protector Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. His complexion is red, like a mountain of rubies lit up by a thousand suns. He has one face and two hands, resting in the gesture of meditative absorption, holding a begging bowl filled with primordial wisdom nectar of immortality. He wears the three monastic robes, the attire of a sublime nirmanakaya observing pure conduct. He also bears the thirty-two major and eighty minor physical marks such as the prominence at the crown of the head.
On Amitabha’s right is the noble Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of all the victorious ones’ compassion. He is white, with one face and four arms. His two upper arms are joined, palm-to-palm, at the level of his heart. With his lower right hand, he holds a crystal rosary, while with the lower left one, he holds the long stem of a white lotus. On Amitabha’s left is the Lord of Secrets, Vajrapani, the embodiment of all the victorious ones’ strength and ability. He is blue, holding a vajra and a bell with his two hands crossed at the level of his heart. Both Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani wear the thirteen ornaments of the sambhogakaya. Around these three principal deities abide all the lamas of the lineage of the
profound path of transference, gathered like a mass of clouds in a clear sky. They abide as the great guides who will lead all of us living beings to the pure land of Great Bliss.
Then, we recite and visualise according to the text, starting from “My ordinary body becomes Vajra Yogini’s form […]” down to “Gazing at space with her three eyes.81” Then, we recite from “In the centre of her body stands the central channel […]” down to “Her body with all the major and minor marks.82”
With great confidence and devotion, the hairs of our body standing up and with tears in our eyes, we then recite as many times as possible the prayer beginning with: “O Bhagavan, Tathagata […]” until “I perform offerings to you; I take refuge in you.83” After that, we recite three times in full, the prayer beginning with: “Emaho! In this place, the absolute Akanishtha which is my own projection84 […].”
81 RANG NYI ZHI LÜ DOR JE NEL JOR NE […] CHEN SUM NAM KHAR ZIG
82 DE KHONG Ü TSA U MA […] TSEN PE DZOG PE PHUNG POR SEL
83 CHOM DEN DE THE ZHIN SHEG PA […] CHÖ DO KYAB SU CHI-O
84 E MA HO NE RANG NANG THÖN GYI OG MIN […]
Now, for the ejection itself, as we recite “Hri, hri” five times from the back of our palate, the red syllable hri— visualised as the support for our rigpa-mind—is lifted upwards by the vibrating green bindu of prana, which quivers and rises higher and higher. As it emerges from the aperture of Brahma at the top of our head, we utter “Hik!”. At that very moment, we think that our consciousness—the syllable hri—is ejected upwards, like an arrow shot by a giant, and dissolves into the heart of Buddha Amitabha.
We then visualise again the hri in our heart and start the process again with the same visualisation and uttering “Hik!”, either seven or twenty-one times. In other traditions, one says “Hik!” during the ejection of consciousness and“Ka” for the descent. But in our tradition, we do not let the consciousness descend. After that, we recite three times the prayer starting with “Bhagavan […]” and ending with “May we be born in the land of Sukhavati85”. Then, as before, we perform the ejection again.
When we have trained repeatedly in this way and have 85 CHOM DEN DE […] DE WA CHEN DU KYE WAR CHIN GYI LOB
come to the end of our practice session, in order to seal it in the five kayas, we recite “phat” five times. Then, we rest in equanimity within the state of the uncontrived fundamental nature.
Afterwards, all the lineage lamas on top of our head dissolve into the main figure, the Buddha Amitabha. He, in turn, melts into light and dissolves into us. We are transformed into Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life. He is of red colour and has a single face. With his two hands in the gesture of meditative absorption, he holds a long life vase filled with wisdom nectar of immortality and adorned with a wish-fulfilling tree. He wears the thirteen sambhogakaya ornaments. At this point, we recite “Om amarani dziwen tiye soha” a hundred times. This is particularly necessary in order to prevent the practice from affecting the duration of our life span and in order to pacify obstacles that might threaten it. However, it is not necessary to do so if we perform the transference of consciousness for a dead person.
As for the signs of success in the training on transference, it is said in the scriptures:
The head aches; a drop of pus oozes out; At the crown of the head,
A grass stalk can softly be pushed in.
We should practise with perseverance until these signs appear.
Unlike other practices such as those of generation and perfection stages, these instructions on the profound path of transference do not require a long training period. Signs of success will certainly come within a week of training. This is why it is called “the teaching for attaining buddhahood without meditation”.
C o n c l u s i o n
In brief, it is said regarding the preliminary practices: By solely practising this path of the preliminaries with devotion and pure samaya and bringing it to perfection, you will surely reach the Copper-Coloured Mountain, even without performing any actual practice. In this pure realm, you will attain the level of Samantabhadra, going through the path of the four vidyadharahoods faster than the sun and moon travel.
As the omniscient dharma king Longchen Rabjam and his spiritual son Jigme Lingpa both said in their infallible vajra speech:
If you become experienced in these preliminary practices in a proper way, you will gradually go through the actual practice, starting by the path of the Vase Empowerment, which is the vidyadharas’ generation stage of visualising peaceful and wrathful deities. Then, you will travel the path of the Secret Empowerment with the practices of pranas and inner heat. This will be followed by the path of the Wisdom Empowerment, the hidden meaning of the path of skilful means. Finally, you will go through the path of the fourth empowerment, the practices of primordial purity of Thregchö86 and spontaneous presence of Thögäl87 with all its branches. Practising their condensed essence, you will actualise the indivisible state of Vajradhara in one lifetime. You should put effort in applying these methods. Whoever we are, we should not focus on the beauty or the poetry of words, but rather on the crucial advice and instructions of our venerable lama. We should receive the sublime teachings, which are similar to amrita nectar, with the intention to find the means to establish, in this very lifetime, all our mothers the living beings, in the four states of vidyadharahood.
You, whose exquisite songs of realisation attract the mind of the fortunate ones,
O my kind lama, sublime embodiment of the victorious ones,
86 Cutting Solidity.
87 Direct Crossing.
With the sole wish to delight you, I perform the offering in seven branches.
May your lotus feet forever abide on the vajra throne! From now on and in all my lives, O lama, my sublime protector, may I never be separated from you!
May you liberate my conceptualisations and clinging to characteristics into the space of primordial purity, And may I actualise the four visions of spontaneous presence in this very lifetime! May I attain the citadel of the Youthful Vase Body, the space of fundamental nature, And may I actualise the fruit of the four visions of Dzogchen!
With your swift compassion, take care of the infinite living beings, which pervade the entire space! Display power and force in a skilful way to tame those that are difficult to tame!
May your entourage, students and benefactors see their authority and wealth increase! Having marvellously perfected mine and others’ purposes,
May I actualise the qualities exposed in the holy beings’ life stories!
I have written this text down for people of these present
times, whether from the East or the West, who possess positive karmic connections and who have performed aspiration prayers in past lives. Without ever being separated from the three supreme methods, I have composed this with the noble motivation to benefit those who long to practise the Buddhist teachings in general, and more particularly the Secret Mantra. Four great sublime masters, in their enlightened intention of primordial wisdom, have commonly recognised me with certainty as the reincarnation of Chokgyur Lingpa, the crown ornament of the great treasure-discoverers. But in reality, I am only an old man whose five poisons of negative emotions burn like fire.
I, the Tibetan beggar Orgyen Jigme Palden, composed this in Switzerland, which is endowed with happiness and wealth, and is a hub for world peace, on the noble tenth day of the first month of the Tibetan year 2136, or the Cow year, 2553 years after the passing of the Buddha.
Although I have not perfected primordial wisdom and knowledge,
May this greatly benefit beings!
May all living beings, whose number is as infinite as the sky,
Attain the unmistaken level of vidyadhara in this very lifetime!
May they perfect the four visions and perfectly actualise fundamental nature!