Vivid Awareness blog 1

Thrangu Rinpoche in a meeting with the Boulder and Denver study groups suggested that they study his new book, Vivid Awareness. This is then a series of blogs on this fascinating book.

Denver Center Study Group Outline for 8-21-2011 

Quote of the Week: The purpose of Dharma practice is to keep us from falling back into the endless cycle of samsara.

Suggested Dharma Practice for the Week: When you are  following your breath in Shamatha and you become distracted, you simply go back to your breath so you can stay in the present. You can carry this into your daily life so that when you are driving, you turn off the radio and don’t talk to the passengers and simply place the mind on the road. When your mind wanders, you simply return the mind to the road and thus reinforce your Shamatha.

Outline, Comments, and Additions to Chapter One of Vivid Awareness (pages 1-11)

There are only two pictures of Khenpo Gangshar and one is on the cover. As Thrangu Rinpoche explained, the Tibetans were upset with this picture because a phurba is held in the hand and pointed to demons and obstacles to eliminate them, but Khenpo Gangshar is pointing the phurba towards his heart. Khenpo Gangshar said he did this because all the obstacles to practice do not lie outside oneself, but lie in one’s heart. So he is pointing the phurba towards himself.

The destruction of Buddhism during the Cultural Revolution in China was incredible. At the time Tibet had 6,000 monasteries and one-sixth of its male population lived in these monasteries preserving and protecting and propagating the Buddhist teachings. There were also tens of thousands of religious books. All but a few hundred monasteries were completely destroyed, thousands of monks and nuns were imprisoned and tortured, and vast number of books were burned.

Thrangu Rinpoche says that this were the most dangerous time of his life. Tashi Namgyal tells this story of Thrangu Rinpoche’s escape:

“In 1959 when all the trouble started, Thrangu Rinpoche was in his 20s and the other three Rinpoches at Thrangu Monastery were quite old, so all the responsibilities fell mainly on Thrangu Rinpoche. So when the monastery left Kham to go west to Lhasa just ahead of the invading Chinese armies, many people were accompanying Thrangu Rinpoche and his monks. There were thousands going west as refugees when all this great fighting and broke out. They were accompanied by yaks and when it got dark, they would stop and cook meals and set up many tents. So there were thousands camped out and one night a very old lady appeared and nobody knew where she came from. The people said that she was a spy from the Chinese and if they didn’t kill her, then they would not be able to get away. So the younger Tibetans were getting ready to kill her and Thrangu Rinpoche said, “No, you mustn’t do that. The reason the Tibetans were escaping was because they were being killed. So if we were to kill someone, what would we be?” So she wasn’t killed.

The next night when they were camped out eating food around 3 PM a plane flew over the camp and that night the Chinese managed to completely surround the camp with Thrangu Rinpoche. So that night the Chinese opened up with machine guns and the people realized that they were completely surrounded and had nowhere to go. Thrangu Rinpoche shouted, “We mustn’t just sit here, we have to go and escape.” So the machine guns were firing, the yaks were all panicking and the people were running all around running into each other. All the people were jumping on horses to escape. The Chinese were also firing a mortar or cannon and a shell came right down on the place where Thrangu Rinpoche, Zuru Tulku, and Traleg Rinpoche(?) were sitting and landed right next to them with a thump shaking the whole ground, but not exploding.

Now Rinpoche had a horse and a horse attendant, but with all the commotion the horse was panicking and the horse attendant could hold on to the horse. Suddenly a very large monk appear and grabbed the horse and pulled the horse down, got hold of Thrangu Rinpoche and put him on the horse. Because Rinpoche could ride off, he was able to get away. Afterwards, all three Rinpoches were save and everyone was asking, “Who was that monk who saved Thrangu Rinpoche’s life?” It turned out that this monk was the genyan, the protector of Thrangu Rinpoche. The genyan can appear in many different forms: as an elephant, a Indian sadhu, a lama in monk’s robes. This protector is always there and gives help when it is needed.

Thrangu Rinpoche in the first chapter makes a strong case not letting anger rule our mind. He has said that anger is the strongest of the afflictions and the one that can cause the most harm to ourselves and others.

The story of Khenpo Gangshar is quite interesting and since Khenpo Gangshar was born in 1925 and Thrangu Rinpoche was born in 1933, Khenpo Gangshar was only 8 years older than Thrangu Rinpoche.  The prophecy of Khenpo Gangshar is well described and it is interesting that the only other picture of Khenpo Gangshar we have is him raising both hands as in a surrender and telling this students that this is the mudra of the union of wisdom and skillful means. When Thrangu Rinpoche was asked at the Shambhala teaching what had happened to Khenpo Gangshar who remained in Tibet during this time, he said that he didn’t know.

Picture of the Week: Thrangu Rinpoche’s genyan.

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Chenrezig Part 5 

Below is a continuation of the prayer to Chenrezig. If the page is small, just click on it and it should become full size.

We now begin the six realms. Thrangu Rinpoche says these realms are real and not metaphors for situations we encounter in daily life. In the time of the Buddha, the picture of the six realms was posted on monastery entrances (and still are in most Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) and mahasiddhas would go and actually visit these realms and come back and describe them to the local people.

We begin with the lowest realm, the hell realm which has the color black and the letter HUNG. There are six syllables in the Chenrezig mantra Om Ma Ni Ped Me Hung.The people in the hell realm ended up here because of excessive anger. Anger is especially destructive because hurts other people and when we are very angry, we are usually out of control.

Next are the hungry ghosts (Sanskrit pretas) who in previous lifetimes were extremely greedy and stingy. They are depicted symbolically as having enormous stomachs and a throat the size of a needle so nothing can ever satisfy them.

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The animal realm are the actual animals on this earth. Since the Buddha classified all animals as sentient beings (ie having a mind), the Buddha was one of the first ecologists.

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I have always found the problems of samsara for humans as described in the Chenrezig sadhana as interesting—poverty and busyness.

the Jealous gods have many of the pleasures of the gods of samsara (not to be confused with deities), but because of their intense jealousy of them, they suffer a great deal. Metaphorically, they are depicted trying to cut down the wish-fulfilling trees of the gods, because they don’t have these.

If one has very great karma, but not the realization to transcend samsara altogether, one can be born in the god realm. Things are very pleasant here and the gods enjoy this rather than practicing dharma and as a result they fall from the god realm into a much more unpleasant lower realm and this causes a great deal of suffering.

There is one more post on Chenrezig which describes the visualization of the actual mantra recitation.


Chenrezig Part 4 (7/4/2011)

As promised in the Thrangu Meditation Group, I include a long, detailed explanation of the Chenrezig practice which was given by Khenpo Tashi Gyaltsen who was traveling with Michele Martin in the US giving teachings. These are the teachings he gave at the Vajra Vidiya Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado.

Teachings on the Four-Armed Chenrezig Practice

Khenpo Tashi Gyaltsen

Crestone, CO. December 7 – 8, 2002


            The text that I will be presenting is called the All-Pervasive Benefit for Sentient Beings and it was composed by the great master and yogi Tamten  Gyalpo. The commentary that I will be using was written by the 15th Karmapa Khakhyap Dorje. So this is the framework for this weekend’s teachings.

            The first section is the preliminary of going for refuge.


                        Until I reach enlightenment

                        I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Supreme Sangha.


            Next we will look at the commentary by the 15th Karmapa. If one is practicing Chenrezig, what does one do when first waking in the morning? One’s first thought upon awaking is that in front of one, in the midst of glorious, pulsating rainbow lights, one visualizes the form of Chenrezig. There are also various lamas, yidams, yoginis and so forth but the essence of all of them is Chenrezig. It is most important to feel that Chenrezig is actually present in front of oneself and one has the strong feeling that Chenrezig is capable of protecting all sentient beings, to give refuge to each and every sentient being.

            In the commentary of the 15th Karmapa it says that one needs to have the faith that one can place all of one’s hopes in Chenrezig. One also feels the longing to take refuge in Chenrezig as one has a trusting faith that Chenrezig can actually give one this protection and refuge. So with this kind of faith where one places all of one’s hopes and longings in Chenrezig, one takes refuge. Also with a completely trusting faith, one turns one’s mind towards Chenrezig. One has the faith that Chenrezig can protect one from all forms of suffering, described as the sufferings of birth, sickness, aging and finally death. One has faith that Chenrezig can protect one from these sufferings and guide one through all difficult situations. To Chenrezig, one gives all of one’s faith and trust.

            Within the Buddhist teachings one hears constant references to body, speech and mind. Of these three, the mind is the most important as it is the mind that one works with during practice. Any positive action that is done physically is initiated through a virtuous or wholesome mind. So it is very important to have an aspiration in that whatever one does the result of that action will be to bring all sentient beings to the level of full awakening. In this way whatever one does, in spite of outward appearances, if the motivation behind the action is that of pure bodhicitta to bring all sentient beings to full awakening, then the action is considered positive action. Understanding in this way, one goes for refuge through saying:


                        Until I reach enlightenment

                        I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Supreme Sangha.


Again one says this prayer of going for refuge with the faith that in going for refuge to the Three Jewels; they can actually give one refuge and protection.

            Next is the development of bodhicitta, which is covered in the next line which reads:


                        Through the merit of accomplishing of the Six Perfections

                        May I achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.


            One has previously generated the presence of Chenrezig in the space in front of oneself and this image of Chenrezig is radiating infinite numbers of light rays. This is the first part of the visualization and the second part of the visualization is to visualize all of the six classes of sentient beings; hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, the demigods and the gods. One imagines all of these beings from the smallest insect to the largest being; all of them are visualized as the objects of one’s practice. Chenrezig is radiating infinite numbers of light rays to infinite numbers of sentient beings who are benefited through this practice.

            One then reflects upon these infinite numbers of sentient beings that they all wish to attain happiness and to avoid suffering. There is not a single sentient being who does not wish for this. Even the smallest sentient being seeks warmth, protection and food in order to sustain its life and this is their form of wishing for happiness. These beings are continually searching for this happiness but instead of creating the causes, which would bring about happiness, they instead create the causes for suffering. These causes are created by engaging in the various negative actions, which you are all familiar with. These are the ten non-virtuous actions such as killing and telling lies, the negative actions connected with body, speech and mind.

            If one engages in any of the ten non-virtues the fruition of it will be suffering. Even though one wishes for happiness to come, if one is engaged in actions that lead to suffering then one will have to experience that suffering as the fruit of the negative activities. Likewise if one is engaged in positive actions, the fruition will be happiness just as the fruition of negative actions are the various forms of suffering. The classic example for this is the planting of a seed. If one plants a seed then from that seed a sprout will arise of the nature of that seed. If one plants a rice seed one does not get barley but rice. Likewise if one plants a corn seed, one gets corn not squash or some other plant so there is an inexorable cause and effect present.

            However most living beings do not know the connection between cause and effect. They do not see that virtuous actions lead to happiness even though they wish for happiness. Because of this they commit the various negative actions and must then experience the result of them, which are the various forms of suffering. One reflects on all of the different types of suffering that beings are experiencing in the six different realms of being, the suffering of heat and cold in the hell realms, the sufferings of hunger and thirst experienced by hungry ghosts or the various sufferings of animals caught for food, made to work and so forth.

Not one of these sentient beings has not been a good mother to one, nurturing one and being most helpful. When mothers are spoken of it is ideal mother, the nurturing and helpful mother not a negative type of mother. So it is important to keep this in mind. All of these sentient beings in one of our previous lives has been kind to us in this way, by being nurturing, kind and giving us what we needed when we needed it so that we grew up in a positive manner.

So one visualizes all of these different types of sentient beings, thinking of them as having been very wonderful, selfless and altruistic to one over endless lifetimes. Yet all of these beings who have been so kind are now undergoing tremendous sufferings in the various realms. In response to this one generates through meditation a very strong desire to bring them all to the level of awakening.

One then asks, “Am I really able to do this at my stage of practice?” If one is honest with oneself, one knows that one does not currently have the ability to help all these sentient beings. What does one do? One way is to perform this practice of Chenrezig and in doing so, one will eventually become inseparable from Chenrezig, the same as Chenrezig. One at that point would then be able to benefit beings greatly. So it is important to realize that right now one does not have the capacity to benefit all beings and so commits oneself to the practice so that in the future one will become like Chenrezig and truly be of benefit to all sentient beings.

One might then think, “Well, I cannot possibly become like Chenrezig as I am just an ordinary human being!” At one time in the beginning, Chenrezig also was an ordinary sentient being. However he generated bodhicitta wishing to be of benefit to all sentient beings and slowly through the practice over a long period of time, he was able to attain the fruition of the practice, benefiting many sentient beings. Also the Buddha was the same in that in the beginning he also was an ordinary sentient being. The sutras say that when the Buddha was born in the hell realm, he generated the great bodhicitta to be able to benefit all sentient beings and this was the beginning of the practice we are doing now. Through many lifetimes, the Buddha developed that bodhicitta to the point where he became fully awakened.

            The important point here is that one should not be downhearted or depressed feeling that all of this is beyond what one can do because all of the great Buddhas and yidams were like us at one point. It was through the practice that they were able to achieve the result of full awakening. Once having attained the result, having become Chenrezig, then one will be able to benefit sentient beings in an immense way. When one arrives at the first bodhisattva bhumi or level, one is able to benefit hundreds of thousands of sentient beings.

            In this way in the practice, after one goes for refuge, one then generates bodhicitta, the mind of awakening wishing to bring all sentient beings to the level of full Buddhahood. Generating bodhicitta here is very important not only at the beginning of this Chenrezig practice but in whatever practices one does such as circumambulating a stupa or advanced practices such as Mahamudra or Dzogchen, all of them begin with the generation of bodhicitta, wishing to bring all sentient beings to the level of full awakening. So this is the basis for all spiritual practices from the very initial practices all the way up to the most advanced practices.

            Practices are usually divided into three parts. First is “making the connection” which are the introductory practices of refuge and bodhicitta. Second is the main practice, which includes recitation of the mantra and finally is the dedication of the merit. So the beginning part of the practice, going for refuge and generating bodhicitta, is extremely important.

            How does one visualize this altruistic intention so that it permeates the mind completely? One has generated Chenrezig in front surrounded by all sentient beings and one visualizes Chenrezig radiating infinite numbers of five-colored light rays that enter into and dissolve into all sentient beings. From this pure bodhicitta, in an instant it eliminates many kalpas of the karmic effects of negative actions, replacing it with great merit.

            In receiving this light from Chenrezig and entering their being, all of the suffering that sentient beings know is eliminated. So one imagines that in all of the six realms all of the various types of suffering that beings undergo, all of that is eliminated. The light also dissolves into oneself giving the blessings of Chenrezig.

            To finish the traditional presentation of this first part, the benefits of this practice are now taught. For the benefits of practicing the Mani, the short name for the Chenrezig mantra, it is said that by just hearing the Mani once, one will not be reborn in the lower realms. If one actually performs the practice then one can be reborn in the pure land, the Western Pure Land of Sukhavati or Dewachen.

            As Buddhist, the practice is extremely important and being able to perform this practice of Chenrezig, one should feel extremely fortunate that one has made a connection with this practice. If one thinks of all of the sentient beings that there are in all of their different forms, one has had the fortune of being reborn as a human and this is very rare compared to all of the other types of rebirth. Within the human rebirth, one has the great fortune to be a to practice some form of religion and within this one has become a Buddhist, which is also very special. Within Buddhism one has had the great fortune of entering the gates of the Mahayana. Finally within the Mahayana, one has the great fortune of practicing Chenrezig, which is a truly wonderful practice to be performing. So indeed one is extremely fortunate to have had all of these opportunities.

            I think all of this has been possible because of having set down habitual patterns in our previous lives and because of that our mindstreams are open to these opportunities. So let us conclude this introduction to the practice and move on to the main section of the practice. Later we will practice this together so that the images on this practice will become set in your minds. One needs to practice this because if one only hears of the practice without an opportunity to actually practice then it will not settle into your mind clearly. So to make this practice strong within your minds I would like to first explain each part of the practice and then we will actually practice visualizing it.

            In the text there is a part that reads:


                        On the crown of my head and that of all sentient beings pervading space

                        Is a lotus and on a moon is a HRIH.


I have completed the discussion of the beginning section of the practice of going for refuge and generating bodhicitta, which is the foundation for the rest of the practice. So do not forget about that as I move on to these other parts.

            In this practice one does not need to think about purifying oneself, one just immediately visualizes Chenrezig above your crown. In Tibetan Buddhism there is a measure of an elbow length which is the distance of how far above your crown to place this visualization. In this visualization, first visualize a white, eight-petalled lotus and then in the middle of the lotus are the stamen. On top of the stamen visualize a full moon disc, literally a fifteenth day moon that is very full and radiant. On top of this moon disc is the white syllable HRIH, which is opalescent like a pearl. The syllable HRIH radiates infinite numbers of light rays. So there is the lotus in the middle of which is a full moon and on top of the full moon is a white HRIH radiating pearly light.

            As one is visualizing this one does not think of it as being a solid object like this table but one imagines it to be like the reflection of the moon in water. So it is not something solid and concrete but has the quality of appearance yet at the same time is empty. So it is an empty appearance, something not truly existent like a solid, concrete object. In all generation stage visualizations one thinks of the deities in this way as not being made up of flesh and bone but rather bodies composed of rainbow light. If one thinks of the example of the reflection of the moon in water, there is an appearance that is radiant and reflected but if one tries to grasp it there is nothing to take out of the water. So this is a metaphor for how one experiences these visualized appearances. Another metaphor that is used is a rainbow in the sky.

            The next part of the visualization is that the HRIH, which is radiating light rays, makes offerings to all of the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, yidams and so forth in all of the vast realms. So imagine that going out with the light rays are offerings to all of the Buddhas etc.

            The second part of this visualization is to now turn one’s attention to the six realms of the sentient beings surrounding one. The light rays enter and dissolve into all of the various types of sentient beings eliminating all of the various types of sufferings that they experience. So the first part is making offerings to all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the second part is the transformation of all sentient beings with the elimination of all of their sufferings by the light rays.

            In the next part then one imagines that these light rays that have radiated out to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas invokes their blessings which come back also in the form of light rays which dissolve back into the letter HRIH. As they dissolve into the letter HRIH, instantly the HRIH transforms into the form of the Four-Armed Chenrezig. So there is the radiation of light rays out to all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas where their compassion and blessings are invoked which come back in the form of light rays to the letter HRIH. They dissolve into the syllable HRIH, which is transformed into Chenrezig.

As one becomes more familiar with the practice one is also then able to visualize this happening to other sentient beings at the same time. One visualizes the sentient beings surrounding one as becoming purified. As one becomes further developed into the practice one can imagine this happening for increasing numbers of sentient beings who surround one. Slowly one can imagine infinite numbers of sentient beings being transformed into Chenrezig.

The form of Chenrezig that one is visualizing has four arms and is white in color. This white is like the sunlight reflecting off of the snow on the mountain peaks, a brilliant white color. The text continues:


                        From the HRIH on the lotus

                        Appears the noble Chenrezig.

                        He is clear white and radiates five-colored lights.

                        He gazes with compassionate eyes and a beautiful smile.


                        He has four hands; the first two joined in prayer

                        The lower two hold a crystal rosary and a white lotus.

                        He is adorned with silk and jewel ornaments

                        He wears an upper robe of deerskin.


            We are very fortunate to have a thangka of the Four-Armed Chenrezig here in the shrine on the right and to the left is a thangka of the thousand-eyed, thousand-hand Chenrezig, which is another practice. This practice is good in that the image is easy to remember and goes easily right into your minds. This is much better than just saying it in words.

            If one looks at this image, the upper two arms of Chenrezig are forming a prayer mudra and inside of the palms is an azure-blue wish-fulfilling gem. In the lower two arms, the right hand holds a crystal rosary and the left hand holds the stem of an eight-petalled white lotus. He is also adorned with jewels and silks. If one looks at his crown he is wearing a jeweled tiara, on his ears are earrings, on his arms he wears bracelets and armlets, around his waist is a jeweled belt, around his neck he wears three different lengths of necklaces and finally he wears anklets.

            As for the silks, one holds his head ornament in place, a silk scarf around his shoulders and he wears a red silk with a golden design over his lower body. He wears the skin of an animal related to a deer called a sita (SP?), which symbolizes not harming or compassion. He wears it not because he kills animals but as a symbol of compassion as a deer does not harm any other animal. These are his ornaments, which are traditionally divided into the golden ornaments and the silks.

            So to review the visualization. One imagines an eight-petalled lotus and foot and a half above one’s head. On top of the lotus is brilliant white full moon disc and on top of that is the syllable HRIH. The syllable HRIH radiates brilliant light to all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, invoking their compassion and their blessings radiate back to the syllable HRIH transforming it into the Four-Armed Chenrezig. Chenrezig is a brilliant white like the sun reflecting off of the snow mountains. He has four arms with the two upper hands joined in front in the mudra of prayer with a blue wish-fulfilling gem and the lower two hands hold a crystal rosary in the left hand and an eight-petalled white lotus in the right hand. One then imagines the ornaments of jewelry and silks.


                        His crown ornament is Amitabha, Buddha of Boundless Light.


            The visualization continues and on top of Chenrezig’s crown ornament is the Buddha Amitabha, Boundless Light representing the head of Chenrezig’s Buddha Family. On a Buddha’s head there is the ushnisha and within that is where one usually visualizes the head of the Buddha Family for the deity one is visualizing. The Buddha Amitabha looks just like Shakyamuni Buddha except that Amitabha is red in color. He has the same begging bowl, his hands are in the same meditation mudra and wears the same robes as the Buddha Shakyamuni.

            So this visualization forms the basis for the rest of the practice. This is the home base so to speak for the rest of the practice. One needs to remember that even though this is appearing it is empty at the same time. The form is not truly existent but is empty appearance like a rainbow.


His legs are in the vajra posture.


            All of the Buddhas are visualized in the vajra posture.


                        A stainless moon is his backrest.


            This points to the lights radiating from in back of Chenrezig so that one sees a halo-like effect around his image.


                        He is in the essential nature of all of those in whom we take refuge.


            So Chenrezig is in the essential nature of all of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

            One then imagines that the Chenrezig that is residing above one’s head radiates light rays of five colors. The light rays are mainly white but the others are red, yellow, blue and green. These are infinite in number and they into and dissolve into all the sentient beings visualized around one. Through the power of these light rays, they eliminate all of results of the ten non-virtuous actions that they have performed as well as the effects of the “boundless five actions,” which are killing one’s mother, father, Arhat, spilling the blood of a Buddha or creating a schism within the Sangha. These actions are called “boundless” because if one performs one of these actions, upon death one immediately takes rebirth in the lowest, worst hell realm (Avici).

All of these negative actions are immediately cleared away by the power of Chenrezig’s light rays. So any of the non-virtuous actions from beginningless time that sentient beings have committed are purified. These light rays first purify all sentient beings and then they enter oneself and all of one’s previous negative actions from beginningless time are also purified. The dön or harmful spirits of misfortune and illness are also purified.

As a result of this purification all sentient beings and oneself become pure white in color, pristine, clear pure white beings. All sentient beings and oneself are then transformed into Chenrezig; one becomes equal to the Four-Armed Chenrezig Who Benefits all Sentient Beings.

We have now arrived at the point in the practice, which is called the dag kye (or bdag bskyed) or the self-visualization. Traditionally there are two forms of deity visualization. One is dun kye (or mdun bskyed) which is a front visualization, which was done in the beginning of the practice, visualizing Chenrezig in front of oneself. Now at this point in the practice one switches to the dag kye or the self-visualization. In this one’s own awareness itself manifests as the form of the deity and one becomes inseparable from Chenrezig himself.

Not only do the light rays eliminate all of the negative actions, they also eliminate the obscurations. Traditionally there are two types of obscuration that are taught, the kleshas of afflictive emotions and thoughts and the cognitive obscurations or the obscurations to omniscience. Both of these obscurations are purified and of these two the most difficult to purify is the obscurations to omniscience, the cognitive obscurations. The kleshas or afflictive emotions and thoughts are also purified by the Arhats on the Foundational path but they do not completely purify the obscurations to omniscience as those are only eliminated on the tenth bodhisattva level.

When one reaches the first bhumi, one becomes a bodhisattva. What does this mean? This means that one does not again take rebirth under the power of any of the kleshas so one is not reborn in samsara due to the power of the kleshas. An example of this is Nagarjuna who attained the first bodhisattva bhumi. On the first bhumi there are various different abilities that one attains such as being able to meet a Buddha directly. One can also visit a hundred different pure lands, help a hundred different types sentient beings and so forth. As one moves up the various bhumis one is able to increase the level and scope of one’s activities in twelve categories. This happens until one reaches the tenth bhumi, which is the level of Chenrezig. The eleventh level, the All-Pervading Light is the level of Buddhahood and at this point all of the afflictive thoughts and emotions, all of the obscurations to omniscience and all of their habitual patterns are eliminated. One has attained the level of full awakening or omniscience.

One visualizes all of this happening by the force of Chenrezig’s emanated light rays. So light rays emanate from Chenrezig and they purify all of the negative actions as well as the two types of obscurations along with their habitual patterns. This happens for all sentient beings and oneself. With this complete purification, all sentient beings and oneself become inseparable from Chenrezig.

Up to this point one has visualized the lights radiating from Chenrezig perfectly purifying all beings and oneself, turning all sentient beings as well as oneself into Chenrezig. Next one imagines that the whole environment around one is transformed into the pure land of Dewachen or Great Bliss. All sentient beings from the smallest insect to the largest animal have the very nature of bodhi and no longer have any of the characteristics of their ordinary forms. So one visualizes them in the perfect form of Chenrezig. All sounds, whether the speech of humans or the sounds of animals, all turn into the natural sound of the mantra of Chenrezig. As well, the natural sounds of the elements such as the sound of wind or water are transformed into the sound of OM MANI PADME HUM.

All together there is a three-fold transformation of the environment into the pure land of Dewachen, the transformation of all of beings into Chenrezig and all of the sounds naturally become mantra. This is very important. First one visualizes oneself as Chenrezig and then visualizes the three-fold transformation of environment, inhabitants and sounds. It is on the basis of this complete transformation that one accumulates the mantra practice. This is very important. If one knows this, the basis of the practice, then as one gains experience in the practice, one can get up in the morning and take the practice to this point. Then one wants to accumulate numbers of the mantra then one can just begin it from here; one can begin the mantra practice at this point where everything has been transformed.

At this point there is a short praise:


      Lord of whitish form not tainted by any flaw

      Whose head a perfect Buddha crowns

      Gazing compassionately on all beings,

      To you Chenrezig, I prostrate.


The text says to repeat this three times but Khenpo says to repeat it twenty-one times. One can actually repeat it as many times as one’s time allows. One recites this praise and then one starts the mantra recitation.

      So after reciting the praise one starts with the recitation of the mantra. If one wants to focus on accumulating large numbers of the Mani then one takes the practice this far and starts in on the mantra repetitions. If one wants to focus on the meditative aspect then one continues with the rest of the practice.

      Up to this point we have covered the preliminary part of the practice and the basis visualization for the rest of the Chenrezig practice. Let us dedicate the merit of this session. (End of session)



      Second Session



Let us briefly review the practice up to this point. We worked with transforming the environment, all sentient beings and ourselves. Above our heads was Chenrezig and in the beginning we took refuge and generated bodhicitta. Chenrezig blessed us and all sentient beings with the result that all sentient beings and ourselves became inseparable from Chenrezig. We then visualized all sentient beings as great bodhisattvas, generating the very pure vision. All sounds both natural and being-made were transformed into the sound of the Six-Syllable Mantra of Chenrezig.

All of one’s thoughts and consciousnesses did not remain in its ordinary state but they were transformed into the enlightened thoughts of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. One’s mind became inseparable from the minds of the Buddhas, having the same way of knowing and knowledge. In this way one’s body, speech and mind were transformed into enlightened body, speech and mind. One’s ordinary thoughts for example are transformed into the primordial wisdom that is all-knowing.

This kind of transformation of the aspects of one’s body, speech and mind is known as purifying the realm and this is the technical term found in the Vajrayana practices. The essence of this in terms of this practice is the transformation of all beings into Chenrezig, all sound into the mantra of Chenrezig and all thoughts transformed into primordial wisdom. One imagines that one’s own as well as all sentient beings’ mode of knowing is inseparable from the way that Chenrezig knows the world. So this kind of transformation is the basis for the practice of working with mantra as everything is totally transformed.

If one looks closer at the actual practice of reciting mantra then it is said that in working with the mantra one is able to close rebirth to the lower realms. Not only this but one also arrives at Dewachen or Sukhavati and from there accomplish complete realization.

So in working with mantra, each one of the syllables of the Six-Syllable Mantra is connected with one of the six realms and in working with them one closes the door to rebirth in that particular realm. So this is the benefit of engaging in this practice.

Now we will look at the letters individually and examine them from various aspects, what they represent, what effect and so forth. OM MANI PADME HUM is the mantra and so the first syllable is OM. Each syllable has its own color, a wisdom that it relates with, a klesha that is eliminated and so forth; a very systematic presentation such that if one gets the order for one syllable it is repeat for the rest.

OM is associated with the color white and the OM represents the union of all five wisdoms, the five primordial wisdoms, the mirror-like wisdom, and the wisdom of equality, discriminating wisdom, all-accomplishing wisdom and the wisdom of the Dharmadhatu. OM is nature of all of these wisdoms combined into one and it is the creative expression or play (activity) of this wisdom that gives rise to the syllable OM. From among the Six Paramitas or Six Perfections, OM is the perfection of dhyana or stable concentration. From among the five kleshas or poisons, OM conquerors pride and from the six realms, OM closes the door to the god realm. The suffering of the god realm is knowledge of falling into the lower realms of rebirth. The gods temporarily know happiness but as they also still have karma left to experience, when the karma that allowed them to be reborn as a god is exhausted, they then take rebirth in a lower realm. This is the suffering of falling from a high rebirth to a lower realm.

This is all related to the Five Dhyani Buddhas and each of them relates with a specific direction and OM relates to the southern direction. The pure land that is associated with the southern direction is the Glorious Pure Land and the Dhyani Buddha of that pure land is Ratnasambhava. To summarize OM, the color is white, the primordial wisdom is the combination of all five, it conquerors the klesha of pride and overcomes the suffering of falling into the lower realms from the god’s realm. In the future one will be reborn in the southern Glorious Pure Land that is presided over by Ratnasambhava.

Knowing the benefits of what the practice will bring generates one’s interest in the Chenrezig practice knowing that if one does the practice then this is what the results will be. Therefore one will be more prone to do the practice and the analogy is that of someone very poor. If one tells a poor person that out in the field there is a golden vase filled with jewels and if the poor person is convinced of its existence, they will go search for it with certainty. If they are not convinced then they might half-heartedly search while again if they are convinced they will persist until they find the treasure. So this is like knowing for sure or trusting that this practice will bring wonderful benefits, encouraging one to practice vigorously and frequently.

The next syllable is MA, which is green in color. Of the Four Immeasurables or Brahmavihara it is related to love or loving-kindness. From among the Six Paramitas, it is related to the paramita of patience and from among the five wisdoms, it is related to the All-Accomplishing Wisdom. MA functions as an antidote to the klesha of jealousy and from among the six realms, it closes the door to rebirth in the asura realm.

The suffering of the asura realm is being belligerent, always fighting with the gods and this type of suffering is overcome by the syllable MA. In the cosmology of the realms, there is said to be a wish-granting tree whose roots are in the asura realm but whose fruit is only in the realm of the gods. The asuras want the fruit of the tree but are unable to get to it so they are jealous of the gods for having all of the fruit so they are constantly fighting to get the fruit. The gods are more powerful and can heal their wounds spontaneously with their amrita so they can always defeat the asuras and this cycle continues endlessly. So the suffering caused by jealousy and being belligerent is overcome by practice with the syllable MA.

The pure land related with the syllable MA is the pure land found in the northern direction called the Perfection of Activity. This pure land is presided over by Amoghasiddhi. To summarize the attributes of the green syllable MA. It is related to the infinite love of the first Brahmavihara and the paramita that it is related to is that of patience. It purifies the affliction of jealousy from one’s mindstream and it prevents rebirth in the realm of asuras. It overcomes the suffering associated with belligerence and the wisdom that it helps bring about is the All-Accomplishing Wisdom. In the future the pure land that one will be reborn in is the Perfection of Activity which is presided over by Amoghasiddhi.

One might be confused as to all of these pure lands and exactly where will I be reborn? There are many pure lands because there are differing aspirations and differing afflictions that sentient beings are working on. Whatever rebirth is most appropriate for one will be where one is reborn. Because of this the Buddha did not teach just one way of arriving at the pure lands but he taught many different ways of practicing to match the different abilities and inclinations of each sentient being.

Next is the syllable NI which is yellow in color. If one speaks of the various activities of body, speech and mind at the level of a Buddha, NI represents the essence of all three of those activities, the wisdom vajra that incorporates all of the enlightened activities of a Buddha. From among the paramitas it represents the paramita of discipline or ethics and the suffering that it is able to overcome is the suffering experienced in the human realm of birth, sickness, aging and death. These four types of suffering that are experienced by humans can be eliminated through working with the syllable NI. It can conquer all of the five kleshas associated with the Five Dhyani Buddhas.

It is associated with the realm of Akanishta, the highest level of rebirth. The word Akanishta means “nothing higher” and the deity who presides here is Dorje Chang or Vajradhara. Vajradhara is also called “The Sixth One,” as he is the overlord of the other five Buddha Families. There is no direction associated with this syllable as from the point of view of the Akanishta realm; it is beyond any limitations such as directions.

To summarize the syllable NI, it is yellow and represents the wisdom vajra combining all of the enlightened activities of body, speech and mind of the Buddhas. Among the paramitas is it is related with ethics and in its activity it frees one from the sufferings of the human realm of birth, sickness, aging and death. NI conquerors all of the kleshas. It is associated with the Akanishta pure land, which is presided over by Vajradhara and the syllable is not associated with any particular direction as Akanishta is beyond directions.

The next syllable is PA and is azure or sky blue in color. From among the Four Brahmaviharas or the Limitless Meditations, it is related to equanimity, the fourth one. The wisdom related to the syllable PA is the Wisdom of the Dharmadhatu and the paramita is that of Prajnaparamita. From among the five poisons or afflictions, it conquers bewilderment or ignorance. PA blocks rebirth into the animal realm. This applies to all of the syllables but if one conquers the cause for taking birth then one will not have to experience the result. The cause for rebirth in the animal realm is bewilderment or unknowing so that if one conquers unknowing then one will not experience the result of the cause, namely rebirth in the animal realm. The suffering experienced in the animal realm is that of being devoured by other animals or being used for work by humans. In general it is said that PA blocks rebirth in the lower realms but in particular it blocks rebirth in the animal realm from among the three lower rebirths. The direction is the middle or central location and the pure land associated with this direction is called the Densely Arrayed Pure Realm so in the future one will be able to take rebirth there. The Buddha who presides over this pure realm is Vairochana.

So again to summarize: The syllable PAD is azure blue and from among the Four Limitless Meditations it is associated with equality. Its primordial wisdom is the Wisdom of the Dharmadhatu and the paramita is the perfection of deeper knowing or prajna. The syllable PAD conquers bewilderment and rebirth in the animal realm. In the future one will be able to take rebirth in the Densely Arrayed Pure Land, which is the pure land in the middle direction, and the Buddha who presides there is Vairochana.

The next syllable is ME and is red in color. From among the Six Paramitas it is related to the paramita of generosity and it closes the door to rebirth to excessive desire and greed. This excessive desire and greed are the cause for rebirth in the realm of the hungry ghosts and so ME protects one from this type of rebirth. The suffering experienced in that realm is hunger and thirst. The primordial wisdom ME is related to is the Discriminating Wisdom and in the future the pure land one can take rebirth in is the western pure land of Sukhavati or Dewachen, the Land of Pure Bliss. The Buddha Amitabha presides over this pure land.

To summarize the syllable ME: it is red and related with the paramita of generosity. In conquers excessive desire and greed thereby blocking rebirth as a hungry ghost, suffering from hunger and thirst. It transforms into the Discriminating Wisdom or the Perfectly Distinguishing Wisdom and it is associated with the pure land of Sukhavati where Amitabha presides.

The last syllable is HUM, which is black in color and from among the Four Brahmaviharas, it represents compassion. Of the Five Wisdoms it is the Mirror-like Wisdom and from the five poisons it conquers dualistic perception. Within dualistic perception if one further refines it, it conquers anger or aversion. Of course the root of anger or aversion is seeing someone or something as different from oneself, a dualistic perception so in general HUM conquers dualistic perceptions. If hatred or aversion arises within one’s mindstream then one is reborn in a hell realm.

The suffering that it conquers is that of heat and cold and Khenpo quickly mentioned the names of the eight hot and eight cold hells. In the hot hells it is as if that entire land were made of iron and when iron is heated is becomes red hot. The landscape of the hot hells is made up of similar red-hot iron so there is no place to go where one does not get burnt. The other extreme is the cold hells where it is so cold that the land splits open. In these cold hells one’s own body cracks open from the cold so there is tremendous suffering in the hell realms. One can avoid those sufferings through the practice of the HUM.

There is an inner logic here as the letter HUM represents from among the Four Limitless Meditations compassion. Compassion is the direct opposite of anger so by meditating on compassion this allows one to overcome the negative side of anger. The wisdom embodied by HUM is to overcome dualistic thought, which is a necessary precondition for anger to arise. The pure land that one will be able to be reborn into is the Truly Happy Pure Land and this is presided over by Akshobhya, the Immovable One.

To summarize HUM: It is black in color and from among the Four Limitless Meditations it represents limitless compassion. The wisdom is Mirror-like Wisdom and from among the five poisons it overcomes aversion but it also overcomes the deeper dualistic perception. It blocks rebirth in the hell realms where one is reborn due to hatred. It protects one from the sufferings of extreme heat and cold and it allows one to be reborn in the pure land of True Happiness, which is presided over by Akshobhya.

So this has been a brief explanation of each of the six syllables and what the benefits are for practicing each of them.

To review up to this point, we have gone over the benefits of the six syllables and then one does the branches of actually reciting the mantra. If for some reason one does not have the time to finish the rest of the practice, the visualizations and so forth, one can recite the MANIs at this point and then one performs the dissolution followed by the dedication.

At the beginning one took refuge, generated bodhicitta and then meditated on the deity. At the beginning of the practice one sees oneself as ordinary and at a distance of a foot and a half above one’s head, one visualizes an eight-petalled lotus in the middle of which is a full moon disc with a white HRIH on top of the disc. The syllable HRIH radiates infinite rays of light, which make offerings to all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. This invokes their mindstreams to release blessings back to the syllable HRIH. Light rays from the HRIH also radiate to all the sentient beings of the six types, blessing and purifying them. Instantaneously the HRIH transforms oneself and all beings into the Four-armed Chenrezig. As Chenrezig one is pearly white in color with four arms with the upper two held at the heart in the prayer mudra and enfolding a wish-fulfilling gem. The lower right hand holds a crystal mala and the lower left hand holds the stem of a lotus. One is ornamented with all of the gold jewelry and silks and on one’s crown is the Buddha Amitabha who is just like Buddha Shakyamuni except he is red in color.

As Chenrezig one radiates infinite numbers of rays of light which pacify all of the different types of sufferings. For oneself it pacifies all of one’s previous negative actions and obscurations along with their habitual patterns. In this oneself and every single living being becomes inseparable from Chenrezig just as water poured into water. One imagines that the environment surrounding one becomes the Western Pure Land of Sukhavati and all of the sentient beings are bodhisattvas. There are the Eight Close Offspring of the Buddha, the eight Mahasattva bodhisattvas such as Chenrezig, Manjusri, Samantabhadra and so forth. All sentient beings are imagined as being transformed into one these eight Mahasattva bodhisattvas. All sounds, whether natural or man-made are transformed into the sound of mantra.

One has contemplated on the benefits of mantra which is usually a study one does before one practices and then while actually practicing, one lets that study and reflection come to mind. The more one studies the more one remembers and the more one practices, the details one realizes but do not force yourself.

One then recites the MANI mantra and if one is pressed for time, one at that point after the mantra recitation dissolves the deity and one dedicates the merit. So one can either perform a short form of the practice or an extensive form of the practice.

During the stage of dissolution at the end of the short form of the practice, one imagines that the Chenrezig above one’s head radiates infinite light rays, which travel to all of the pure lands in all of the different directions. They connect with all of the enlightened activities in all of those Buddha fields. The enlightened activities in turn dissolve into light, which dissolves back into the Chenrezig above one’s head. In turn Chenrezig dissolves into light, which dissolves into oneself. One in turn dissolves into light and then dissolve into emptiness. One then rests within emptiness and this emptiness is beyond existent, non-existent, both or neither. Emptiness is beyond all the extremes of conceptual thought that one can think about it, which are exhausted in these four categories. So one moves beyond all conceptual categories and rests within emptiness.

If one is doing Dzogchen practice then one could say that one is resting within pristine awareness or if one is doing Mahamudra practice, one rests within the essential nature of mind. In Dzogchen practice one usually refers to rigpa and in Mahamudra one usually refers to sems nyid [mind-in-itself]. If one is focusing on Madhyamika then one rests in the mind free of mental elaborations, free of mental constructs, which is the key term in that tradition. One rests then without moving from that state of emptiness whether it is a Mahamudra understanding, a Mahasandhi understanding or a Madhyamika understanding.

If one has not done these practices and this is unfamiliar to one then what one can do is to reflect that the environment and all the living beings within the environment appear as in a dream or being as like an illusion. One reflects upon this as their actual nature. If one reflects on a dream, whatever appears in a dream, whether it is animate or inanimate, they are all perceived in the dream as being real. However when one awakens there is nothing of any of dream appearances so it has all been a creation of one’s own mind. In a similar fashion one reflects that all the experiences one has during the daytime as being like a dream, not truly existent or concrete but like dream images. This is way of working with emptiness if one has not been exposed to the more advanced practices.

If one can it is good to rest evenly within Mahasandhi or Mahamudra. To summarize the dissolution; lights radiate from Chenrezig in all of the directions, connecting with all of the Buddhas in all of the different realms of the ten directions. All of those realms dissolve into light which in turn dissolves into the Chenrezig above one’s head. This in turn dissolves into light, which dissolves into oneself as Chenrezig and one then dissolves into light. This light in turn dissolves into emptiness. This is called the withdrawal or dissolution stage and is similar no matter what deity one is practicing. If one is practicing Mahakala, the dissolution stage is the same and so if one knows this then one knows how to do this for all of the deities. Actually the stages of practice that we have discussed today are the same for all of the deity practices. In all practices one begins by going for refuge and generating bodhicitta. One then enters into the generation stage of self-visualizing as the deity and then in the third stage one recites mantra. The fourth stage is the dissolution stage and the fifth is the stage of dedication. So one will find these five stages in any deity practice whether it is Manjusri, Kalachakra or Tara. They all contain these five stages. This makes it simple as if one learns the basic stages or categories of the practice then one can add in the particulars into the five categories enabling one to be able to perform the practice of any deity.

From the three viewpoints of Mahasandhi, Mahamudra and Madhyamika, they are all basically resting the mind without any objective reference point. This is the basic description of the emptiness that one rests within. This is free of the four extremes of existence, non-existence, both or neither; it is free of thinking of things as empty or non-empty, free of any sort of mental construct. Many teachers have been here teaching on Mahamudra so today I would like to briefly speak on Dzogchen. If one speaks about Mahamudra and Dzogchen then within Dzogchen there are two main divisions, trekchö or cutting through and tögal or leap-over.

The first section of trekchö is not much different than the Mahamudra explanations of the mind, as they are basically the same. In the Mahamudra Prayer of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje speaks of the pristine awareness of Dzogchen as being the same as the Mahamudra mind practices. Today in order to make an auspicious connection with you, I would like to explain four lines of Dzogchen practice.

When one is in meditation after having dissolved all appearances into emptiness, one needs to know how to rest within this emptiness. One can use the terms Mahamudra, Dzogchen or emptiness but when speaking of these terms it is important to know how to rest in meditation within emptiness. These explanations that are the oral instructions related to the Mantrayana have an infinite benefit to them because in practicing these instructions, in one life and in one body one can attain the level of Vajradhara.

Of these three ways of practicing I will explain a little on the Dzogchen way of practice. Within the Dzogchen tradition there are nine different vehicles or different levels of practice. The peak of these nine levels is Atiyoga or Dzogchen. So what are these nine vehicles that are spoken of? They are enumerated into three groups of three. The first three are the Sravaka, Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva Vehicles. The second group of three is Kriya, Upa and Yoga Tantra. The third group are Maha, Anu and Ati so Ati is the ninth or highest, the most supreme. Ati is also translated as Dzogchen, which in English is the Great Perfection or Completion.

Atiyoga is a very easy way to practice, as one does not need to make any great effort to perform it. This refers to the time when one is resting in meditation within emptiness. Of course in the post-meditation state one needs to go about with one’s everyday activities but this meditation is described as an effortless kind of meditation.

First one meditates as close to the full lotus posture as one can comfortably get and all of you are familiar with the nine points of the posture according to the Vajrayana tradition. The posture here is a little bit different and is called “the posture of the oral instructions.” The differences are that instead of one’s hands being placed in the meditation mudra, they rest upon one’s knees. Traditionally one looks down towards the tip of the nose with one’s chin tucked in a little. Here one’s chin rests normally and one gazes straight ahead.

The essence of both Dzogchen and Mahamudra practices is to look at the essential nature of the mind. In Mahamudra practice you are familiar with being told to look for where the mind comes from or from where does thought arise and where does it go. One watches one’s mind in this way to see deeper into it. This type of meditation is very beneficial and becomes the basis for the practice.

Within the Dzogchen tradition there is another way of working with the mind and there is a four-line verse that summarizes it. It says that in just practicing or studying these four lines the benefit can be infinite. So in order to give us the habitual pattern so that we can do this practice, I will explain this verse.


      Do not follow after thoughts of the past,

      Do not bring thoughts of the future here [in the present]

      Maintain a state of mind free from distraction and apprehension,

         which is the naked, essential nature of emptiness itself.

      This is the present transparent awareness.


In order for this to make sense in English I moved the order of the verses around but Khenpo will probably follow the order of the verses in Tibetan.

      For beginners as far as the body posture is concerned, it is important to lengthen the body, to lengthen the spine. Some might translate this as making the spine straight but the spine has natural curves in it so one does not want to try to force those curves away but the feeling is of the body being lengthened. If one’s spine is crooked then what one is taking up is obstacles not beneficial practice so in the beginning it is especially important to have a sense of one’s body being lengthened. It is said that if the body rests lengthened then the nadis in which the wind energies flow will be straight. If the channels are straight then the winds will flow freely and if the winds are flowing freely then one can realize the essential nature of the mind more easily. So there is a direct correlation between one’s bodily posture and how one’s Vajra Body is able to function, enabling one to realize the essential nature of one’s mind more easily.

      The main practice is to look into the essential nature or essence of the mind and one needs to have faith in one’s essential nature of the mind. When one begins this type of meditation there are many concepts that will arise in the mind and it is difficult not to have these arise in the mind. So many different things will come into the mind and it will be difficult to remain resting within the nature of the mind, as these concepts will seem to proliferate. So this is why in the first line of the verse it says do not follow after thoughts of the past. Past memories will enter the mind and one must not follow after these thoughts, pulling you off of your meditation. In the same way do not bring thoughts of the future here, planning what will do after practice.

One needs to rest in this is the present transparent awareness, to rest in the present moment. How does one rest in the present? One rests without any artificiality, without any contrivance. It is said that the nature of the present mind is the nature of the Three Kayas or the three dimensions of mind, the Dharmakaya (the essential empty nature), the Sambhogakaya (the luminous nature) and the Nirmanakaya (the nature of unceasing compassion). This is a Dzogchen way of explaining these Three Kayas.

One needs to have faith that all of this naturally resides within one’s own mind, that it is naturally present in the same way that oil permeates a sesame seed. So it is important not to be drawn off into the past or future but to maintain the clear and present nature of the mind that is the essence of the Three Kayas.

This is also a key point of practice that is shared by both Dzogchen and Mahamudra. This is that if a negative thought arises, one does not think that one needs to stop it or that if a good thought arises, one feels that it is wonderful. One simply looks directly at the essential nature of the mind, resting without any artifice. Both Mahasandhi and Mahamudra share this key point of the oral instructions. For example if one is meditating and a memory of New York City arises, one does not try to stop the thought. One simply turns and looks into the essential nature of the one who is having this thought.

This is a very key point. One does not look at the thought itself but one turns back to look at the source of where that thought arose, the one who is having this thought. If one can do this and relax within the space that is created by turning one’s mind into the source of thought, which is the nature of thought itself then n example for what happens is like that of waves on the surface of the ocean. If the wind that churns the ocean subsides, then the waves also subside and the ocean remains clear and transparent. In the same way if the winds of the concepts are not stirring one’s mind then the mind will be able to rest clearly as one is neither bringing the past nor the future to mind.

Do not let a concept generate another concept such as this thought is good or bad. Do not try to stop “bad” concepts nor encourage “good” ones. One simply looks into the essential nature of the one who is generating the concepts, the mind that brings concepts forward. One might have the thought that, “My mind is resting.” This again is a concept. Do not get involved with such a concept but turn and look into the essential nature of the one having the concept.

These are the oral instructions on how to remain without artifice or contrivance. The way to do this is that whatever arises in one’s mind, whether it is a virtuous or negative thought, whatever is present, one simply looks into the nature of the mind for where such a thought arouse. This in itself will allow the process to subside and allow one to look into the essential nature of the mind. At times the thought may occur, “Oh, I am practicing well.” At that point one must again turn back into the mind that is generating that concept, looking at its essential nature.

Sometimes a blank state of mind arises where nothing at all is present within the mind. When one has this state of mind, look into its nature. Basically this instruction is to rest within the nature of the mind and then when a concept arises, one does not get involved with the content but rather one looks into the nature of the mind generating that concept itself. By doing this one will be able to maintain this practice of looking into one’s nature.

One has practice Mahamudra or Dzogchen meditation after the dissolution stage and when one rises from that meditation, one enters the post-meditation phase. At this point one dedicates all of the merit accumulated by performing the practice, all of the merit one has accumulated in the past and whatever merit one will accumulate in the future. One dedicates all of this so that all sentient being may attain the perfect level of Buddhahood that is omniscience. The best way to dedicate one’s merit is called the Three Wheels or the Three Aspects in which one does not bring to mind the one who is offering, the offering nor to whom it is being offered. In order to dedicate in this way one needs to understand emptiness which is difficult in the beginning. So for beginners there is a dedication prayer that says:


      Just as Manjusri and just as Samantabhadra

      Have dedicated

      So too will I dedicate.

Here one brings to mind all of the Mahasattva Bodhisattvas who have been able to make this perfect type of dedication and by modeling oneself after them, one makes one’s own dedication. In this way one takes on some of their perfection.

      A dedication of one’s merit is very important to perform because it is said that if one has a mere second of anger, it destroys all of the merit that one has accumulated. This type of teaching is given for example in Dza Paltrul Rinpoche’s Words of My Perfect Teacher in Chabalkernka’s [SP?] commentary on the Bodhicaryavatara and also in Gampopa’s The Jewel Ornament of Liberation. In all of these texts it is explained that it is very important to dedicate one’s merit so that one will not lose the benefits of the practice that one has performed. The example that is often given is that of an ocean. If one takes the single drop of one’s merit and place it in the ocean, then the water from that drop will exist as long as the ocean exists as it is blended with all of the other water. In the same way if one dedicates one’s merit to the attainment of Buddhahood then it will sustain one until one actually attains the level of Buddhahood.

      So dedication is very important and if one has not realized emptiness then one cannot use the method of the Three Wheels. In this case one brings to mind one of the Mahasattva Bodhisattvas such as Chenrezig, Manjusri or Vajrapani and use the dedication of just as they have dedicate their merit so too do I dedicate my merit. One needs to do this from the very depths of one’s heart. All Buddhist meditation practice relates to the mind so one needs to reach into the depths of one’s own mind to make this dedication. If one can do this and dedicate all of one’s merit to all sentient beings’ attainment of full awakening then that is perfect dedication.

      The benefit of meditating upon Chenrezig, who is understood to be the embodiment of all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and if one can work with one’s mind in this way then one of the many benefits is that one will be freed from the consequences of any of the Five Limitless Actions that one has committed. (End of Session)


Third Session


      Today we will review the practice and after the review we will sit and meditate. The practice starts with going for refuge in the first two lines and the second two lines are the generation of bodhicitta.


Until I reach enlightenment

                  I take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Supreme Sangha.

                  Through the merit of accomplishing of the Six Perfections

                  May I achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.


The visualization accompanying these four lines is that one imagines oneself and all sentient beings as surrounding one. In front is Chenrezig, who is brilliantly white like the sun striking a snowfield. He has four arms and he is filled with the wisdom that knows everything. He is also filled with great love and compassion for all sentient beings as well as the ability to engage in enlightened activities that will benefit all beings. So he is filled with great wisdom and great compassion as well as he is embodied with all enlightened activities.

      One reflects that all sentient beings and oneself are stuck in the sufferings of cyclic existence and are experiencing all of the sufferings found within samsara. One generates the feeling that Chenrezig is one who can liberate all sentient beings and oneself from this suffering so therefore one takes refuge in Chenrezig.

      One now focuses on the generation of bodhicitta. Here one reflects that all of the embodied beings in the six realms, who are infinite in number, have at some point within the vast expanse of time, have been one’s father and mother. In that capacity they were extremely kind and good to one but now they are experiencing tremendous suffering. Because of this, one feels deeply the wish to liberate all of these beings from their suffering and to bring them into pure happiness, pure bliss. One reflects that in one’s current situation one is unable to accomplish this but if one performs the practice of Chenrezig then one will come to full awakening. At the point of full awakening then one will be able to vastly benefit all sentient beings so one makes the commitment to perform this practice of Chenrezig in order to bring all sentient beings into full awakening.

      As one recites the verses, do so slowly and as one is reciting the verses, bring to mind the visualization and the motivation for taking refuge and for generating bodhicitta. Chenrezig then radiates infinite rays of white light, which enter into all sentient beings, liberating them from their suffering. These lights also enter into and dissolve within oneself transforming one’s whole being, eliminating all of the negative actions and obscurations that one has.


                  On the crown of my head and that of all sentient beings pervading space

                  Is a lotus and on a moon is a HRIH.

      From the HRIH on the lotus

      Appears the noble Chenrezig.

      He is clear white and radiates five-colored lights.

      He gazes with compassionate eyes and a beautiful smile.


      He has four hands; the first two joined in prayer

      The lower two hold a crystal rosary and a white lotus.

      He is adorned with silk and jewel ornaments

      He wears an upper robe of deerskin.


                  His crown ornament is Amitabha, Buddha of Boundless Light.

His legs are in the vajra posture.

                  A stainless moon is his backrest.

                  He is in the essential nature of all of those in whom we take refuge.


At this point one is not yet Chenrezig. Chenrezig was first visualized in front and now he will be visualized on top of one’s head. At this point one visualizes an eight-petalled white lotus at the crown of one’s head and in its center is a full moon disc on top of which is a white syllable HRIH. The HRIH is a pearly opalescent white, which radiates innumerable rays of light. These light rays make offerings to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas reminding them of their compassionate commitments to all sentient beings. Blessing come back from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the form of light rays which dissolve into the syllable HRIH. These light rays in turn radiate out to all sentient beings of the six different realms and oneself. Whatever sufferings that are known by sentient beings are eliminated. As a result of this the HRIH above the crown of the heads of all sentient beings and oneself transform into Chenrezig.

      Chenrezig is again a brilliant white color with four arms, the first two in the prayer mudra holding a wish-fulfilling gem and the lower right hand holds a crystal mala while the lower left hand holds the stem of a white lotus whose bloom is over his left shoulder. He wears all of the ornaments of a Sambhogakaya, the golden jewelry and the silk clothing. He is seated in the full vajra posture. Even though he appears, he has no solid existence but is rather like a rainbow or a reflection. On his crown ornament is Amitabha who is identical to Shakyamuni Buddha except he is red in color.

      Infinite numbers of light rays radiate out from Chenrezig entering and dissolving into all sentient beings as well as oneself. These eliminate the obscurations, both afflictive and cognitive, and no matter how long one has had them nor how dense these obscurations may be, the light rays are able to eliminate them all in a single instant. An example for this is an abandoned house. No matter how the house has remained in darkness, the moment a candle is lit within the house, the darkness is instantaneously eliminated. In the same way, the light rays radiating from Chenrezig are able to instantly eliminate all of the obscurations and negativity that one has accumulated since beginningless time. Not only the negativities but also the ignorance that has clouded the mind since beginningless time is eliminated by the radiation of light rays from Chenrezig.

      As soon as these lights that radiate from the Chenrezig above one’s head strike oneself, one’s mindstream is completely purified as well as the mindstreams of all sentient beings. Whatever negativity one has accumulated or whatever obscurations, even the subtlest cognitive obscurations are all eliminated and one becomes inseparable from Chenrezig. All of the qualities that Chenrezig has, one now also has and one’s physical form is no longer an ordinary physical form but the form of Chenrezig. One’s speech becomes mantra and one’s mind is filled with the great compassion of Chenrezig, not the ordinary conceptualizing mind but pure compassion.

      One’s environment, the outer world is transformed into the Western Pure Land of Sukhavati and all sentient beings abide within this pure land as bodhisattvas. Sentient beings no longer cycle within samsara but are reborn in Dewachen as bodhisattvas.

      Next are four lines of praise to Chenrezig.


      Lord of whitish form not tainted by any flaw

      Whose head a perfect Buddha crowns

      Gazing compassionately on all beings,

      To you Chenrezig, I prostrate.


In the Tibetan, first is a reference to a jewel, meaning a lord or Chenrezig. Next is a phrase meaning not stained or tainted by any flaw so it means that Chenrezig is stainless or flawless. Not only that but he is also endowed with all of the wonderful enlightened qualities of a Buddha. Lastly is a reference to white color referring to Chenrezig’s white form.

      The second line starts with a reference to the perfect Buddha and a head ornament so this refers to Amitabha who resides in the crown of Chenrezig. This is followed by references to compassion and eyes meaning that Chenrezig is always gazing about compassionately with his always open eye of wisdom towards all sentient beings. From among all of the deities Chenrezig is the very embodiment or essence of compassion. Other deities embody other qualities such as Manjusri embodying wisdom. All of the loving-kindness and compassion of the Buddhas is embodied in Chenrezig, who in turn continually, without break, gazes upon all sentient beings with loving-concern and compassion.

If one works with this practice then it will increase one’s own loving-kindness and compassion within one’s mindstream. The essence of the Mahayana Dharma, the very core is loving-kindness and compassion so this practice of Chenrezig is truly the core of the Mahayana. For example if one has a great deal of anger and one performs this practice then through the blessings of this practice, one’s anger will slowly diminish being replaced by loving-kindness and compassion. This is because Chenrezig is the very embodiment of compassion.

In the final line one prostrates to Chenrezig. One can recite this praise a single time, three times or twenty-one times depending on what fits into the practice.          If one is performing a single session of practice then this is the point where one performs the mantra recitation.  However long one recites mantra is fine; sometimes one is pressed for time so a short session is fine and if one has more time, a longer session is also fine. One can also recite the mantra at other times of the day while not formally engaged in this particular practice. In this case bring to mind the wish to benefit all sentient beings and then while say driving, one can recite MANIs while driving. Any time can be used to recite mantra by first bringing to mind the altruistic motivation. A good place to begin memorizing this practice is with the four lines of praise, which one can then recite prior to any recitation of MANI.

For generating bodhicitta, compassion is extremely important and there is a famous story about Asanga when he was doing his meditation practice on Maitreya, which demonstrates the importance of compassion. Asanga was a great bodhisattva who lived in India around the fourth to fifth century CE. He went into retreat on Maitreya, a tenth level bodhisattva who is the future Buddha for this world-system and who resides in Tushita heaven. Asanga practiced in isolation for three years without any sign of success and so he went back into retreat for another three years. Again there were no signs of success so he left his retreat discouraged. On his way he came across a man trying to break a rock with iron implements. There was a great stack of used and worn-out implements that he has already used as the man had been there for years trying to cut through this rock. This example of perseverance inspired Asanga to back into retreat.

He stayed in retreat for another six years with again no signs of success so he again broke his retreat discouraged after twelve years of practice. Asanga came across a female dog with festering wounds filled with maggots who was undergoing great suffering. Within Asanga’s mind tremendous compassion arose for the suffering of this dog and he puzzled over how to best help her. If he removed the maggots they would die and if he used a stick to remove the maggots he would hurt the dog. He decided that if he used his tongue to remove the maggots that it would not harm either the maggots or the dog. So he closed his eyes, stuck out his tongue and leaned towards the dog to remove the maggots. No matter how much closer he moved towards the dog he never came into contact with her. Finally his tongue touched the ground and Asanga opened his eyes. Standing in front of Asanga was Maitreya.

Asanga asked, “Where have you been? I have been meditating on you for twelve years and you did not appear. Why do you appear now?” Maitreya responded, “I was always there but your obscurations were too thick and prevented you from seeing me. It was only when you generated this unbearable compassion for the dog that your obscurations were eliminated, allowing you to see me.”

So in this way, it was not until Asanga actually generated great compassion that he was able to attain the fruition of his practice, which was to see the deity directly. Maitreya took Asanga to Ganden where he stayed for fifty years and he taught Asanga the teachings on the Paramita Sutras, which discuss compassion and emptiness. This story points out that one needs to develop an uncommonly strong compassion when one is practicing to achieve the results of that practice. Not only for the practice of Chenrezig, but whatever practice one is engaged in, the generation of great compassion is what allows the fruition to occur. It is important to have this compassion for all sentient beings and until this type of compassion arises, one will not achieve the result of the practice.

In the beginning when one first starts a practice, it is difficult to give rise to this tremendous type of compassion so one needs to apply great effort in the beginning. When one’s mind is sluggish or disinterested, one needs to make a strong effort to turn one’s mind to the practice and to make aspirational prayers for the arising of this special compassion. In the beginning one will not achieve the results of the practice right away so one needs great diligence and commitment to practice.

Another example for how this all works is if one has an illness of bile. When one is jaundiced and one looks at a white snowfield, one sees it as yellow. If one then takes medicine to rid oneself of the illness then one will no longer see the yellow snowfields but the white that has always been there but had been obscured by one’s illness. Through this analogy, it is said that practicing is like taking medicine in that it clears away what prevents one from seeing what is truly there. So as one practices, gradually over time one’s obscurations and negativities are reduced and the clarity of one’s mind gradually becomes clearer and clearer. In the beginning though for these results to happen right away is impossible so diligence and enthusiastic effort at the beginning of a practice are extremely important.

As one engages in the practice it becomes easier; it is easier to work with one’s afflictions and it is also easier to generate clear, powerful visualizations. One’s ability to generate clear visualizations increases, as one becomes more familiar with the practice. Therefore one should engage in this practice of Chenrezig as much as is possible, having complete faith in Chenrezig, knowing that Chenrezig is always looking out for oneself. This mind of faith is used to visualize Chenrezig and to recite the MANIs. So perform as much practice as you can and if at times all you can do is to recite the MANIs then just perform that. Memorize the four lines of praise, recite those and then recite the MANIs. It is important to practice within one’s abilities and time, realizing that one has a precious human rebirth and that one needs to take full advantage of this opportunity through practicing.

There was once a Kadampa practitioner who decided to look at his mind to see whether he had good thoughts or bad thoughts. On his right side he placed a container with black stones and on his left he placed a container with white stones. Every time he noticed a negative thought he placed a black stone in the container and for every positive thought such s compassion, he placed a white stone in the container. When he first started looking at his mind in this way, the container of black stones filled rapidly while the other container had only a single stone. This showed him that he really needed to develop his practice of compassion so he made great effort to engage in virtuous activities and to be mindful of positive thoughts. Slowly the number of white stones increased and the number of black stones decreased. Over time as he worked in this way, he finally came to the point where the black container was empty while the white container was filled. So this is how one is to practice; it is a gradual process that develops over time.

Patrul Rinpoche, the great Nyingma teacher, when he went to bed … (End of tape with gap)

Sometimes practitioners in Tibet feel that they have done many practices and accumulated great merit yet the Chinese came in and destroyed the country, how could this have happened? While this happened countries and people who ignore spiritual practice have done very well. Sometimes it seems that people who engage in negative activities are prospering while those involved in spiritual practices are having all sorts of difficulties. Why is it that this is happening in this way since the teachings say that one who performs wholesome activities will experience happiness? The Buddha explained in a Sutra that there are four different kinds of ways for virtue and non-virtue to be experienced.

The first way is that what one performs in this life is experienced in the next life. The second way is that it will be experienced in four lifetimes after this rebirth. The third way is that one experiences the result of one’s actions in this very life so this is the maturation of activity that one can see as it happens in this life. Finally the fourth way is that through the practice of virtue, one need not experience the result at all. So in the case of persons engaged in negative activities who seem to be prospering will experience the results of their negative deeds in future lifetimes. There is a verse from Pema Karpo which says,” Of those who commit great negative actions will be reborn within the hell realms, those who engage in virtuous activities, like a great fire, that practitioner will eliminate all obstacles.”

For the dissolution stage, the Chenrezig above one’s head from whom one is inseparable radiates an infinite number of light rays to all the infinite realms of existence in all ten directions. These lights fill all of those realms with light, which then return, dissolving into Chenrezig who also dissolves into light. This light enters into and dissolves within oneself and one in turns into light. This light dissolves into emptiness and one abides within this emptiness that is without any objective reference; it is just emptiness. Another way to name this is to abide single-pointedly in Mahamudra or Dzogchen without meditating on emptiness. If one is incapable of resting in this manner then bring to mind that all phenomena have no inherent nature and are like a dream, a rainbow, an illusion or like the reflection of the moon in water.

I will now give a brief explanation of Dzogchen practice. The basic practice is to maintain an abiding within the essential nature of mind. This also applies to Mahamudra practice as well. This is a practice where one’s attention is not turned outward but turned inward and one look at one’s own mind. One can call one’s own mind the essential nature or pristine awareness, which is the Dzogchen way of naming it. Or one can call it the essential nature of mind, which is the Mahamudra way of naming it. These terms both point to the same thing, the essential nature of one’s mind where one abides. One abides there without any kind of artifice, without any contrivance. One looks into the depths of one’s own mind.

When one first starts this type of practice, many concepts arise, one right after the other just like waves on the ocean. When these concepts arise whether it is a good thought or bad thought, one should neither become happy or upset. If a “good” thought arises one looks into the essential nature of that thought and if it is a “bad” thought that arises, one just looks into the essential nature of that thought. One rests evenly in meditation within the nature of either type of thought. One can also look into the essential nature of the mind from which such a thought arose and then rest evenly. This is a brief explanation of Dzogchen meditation.

In the oral instructions of the Dzogchen tradition it is said that one should perform many short periods of practice because if one extends them too long then one falls into torpor and dullness. The oral instructions therefore say to perform short sessions of practice and due many of them. An example that is used to illustrate this is an old house with a leaky roof such that when it rains drops come down from the ceiling. The length of one meditation session is the time it takes a drop of rain to soak through the roof and drop on to the floor. But this will be followed by another drop so this is an example for many short periods of practice.

There are explanations of the postures used in Dzogchen practice and as explained yesterday, rest your hands on your knees and lengthen your spine. In the traditional Seven Points of Vairochana it is said that one’s shoulders are like a vulture, one’s chin is pulled in like an iron hook, one gazes at the tip of one’s nose, one’s hands are in the meditation mudra and one is sitting in a posture that has some stress in it. This is not the case in Dzogchen practice. In this posture one’s chin is only slightly down and one gazes straight ahead or whatever is most comfortable. One’s tongue should softly touch the palate. It is very important to have the sense of a lengthened spine as that keeps the nadis straight so that the winds flow naturally. Maintaining this posture one looks into the essential nature of the mind.

One can maintain this not only when sitting on a cushion but also when going about one’s daily activities; one can stay focused on the nature of the mind.

Remain without any artifice. When a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thought arises or if there are no thoughts at all, look into the essential nature of that thought. Look into the essential nature of the mind of the one who is remembering this thought. When a thought arises this is a good practice, to look into the nature of the mind having that thought. It is important not to try to stop thoughts or to become attached to ‘good’ thoughts.

When there are outside noises such as barking dogs (there is a dog barking in the background) then one has the thought of a dog barking and one speculates as to why. The ear consciousness goes out to attach to the sound of the dog barking. Look into that consciousness, look into the nature of that consciousness that is aware of the dog barking. Look into any thought that arises in conjunction with the barking dog and look into the essential nature of that thought. Or one can look into the essential nature of the mind from which that thought, that ear consciousness is arising.

After one has finished with the formless meditation, there are three lines to remind one of the sacred outlook.


      Everyone appears in the form of Chenrezig

      All sound is the sound of his mantra

      And all that arises in the mind is the great expanse of wisdom.


One maintains this sacred outlook after the practice session is finished.

      Now one comes to the dedication:


                  Through the virtue of this practice

                  May I now quickly achieve

                  The All-Seeing One’s great state.

                  To this same state, may I come to place

                  Every being, loved one left behind.


These lines can be used for whatever deity practice one is doing by just substituting the deity’s name for Chenrezig’s name. These dedication prayers at the end, one takes not only the merit of this practice but also one dedicates all of one’s merit from time without beginning, all of the merit of the three times. One condenses all of this into the merit one has just accumulated through this practice. Through the power of this, one aspires quickly to attain the level of Chenrezig, the great state of mind permeated by great compassion. One also wishes to place every sentient being, the ones to whom one has a good relationship, troubled relationship or no relationship at all, one wishes to place all of them without one left behind into full awakening.

      This is followed by another dedication prayer to be reborn in Dewachen:


                  With all the merit of these thoughts and words,

                  May I and every being to whom I am connected

                  When these imperfect forms are left behind

                  Be reborn in the Realm of Bliss.


                  Quickly crossing the stages

As soon as we are born there

                  May we benefit all sentient beings

                  Through all of the infinite numbers of realms.


Another prayer follows this:


Through the virtue of having meditated on this deity

                  May we perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom.


Merit is described as a practice that has a point of reference and the accumulation of wisdom is described as practices without a point of reference such Mahamudra or Dzogchen meditations.


                  May we attain the two Supreme Kayas.


The two Kayas are the Form Bodies of the Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya and the Dharmakaya. The Form Bodies arise from the accumulation of merit and the Dharmakaya arises from the accumulation of wisdom.

      The last aspirational prayer deals with bodhicitta.


                  Where bodhicitta does not exist, may it come into existence

                  And may those who have already given rise to bodhicitta

                  May it not be destroyed but remain, increasing and flourishing.


Fourth Session


Question: When visualizing the deity, how large should the deity appear? Again when doing the generation of the deity in front, how big should the deity be and how far away?

Answer: It does not make any difference. The deity can be visualized as large or as small until one develops the clear appearance of the deity. One is training the mind in samadhi through meditating on a deity so one can meditate on the deity to be the size of one’s thumb or the size of the whole sky.  The size of the visualization does not matter as one is training one’s mind to do what one wants it to do so the exact size is not important.


Question: Could you clarify what we are visualizing during the mantra recitation?

Answer: At the time of reciting the mantra, oneself has been transformed into Chenrezig, all sentient beings have been transformed into Mahasattva Bodhisattvas and there is Chenrezig above the crown of one’s head. During mantra recitation one tries to maintain perfectly the vision of the pure land. Stay focused on the reality of all experience as a pure land. If that is not possible, if one cannot hold this pure vision then keep in mind that all beings are bodhisattvas, all sounds are mantra and all thoughts are primordial wisdom. The goal of this practice is to maintain this three-fold purity.


Question: Please explain the letter HRIH?

Answer: Each deity has their own life-force letter and for Chenrezig it is the letter HRIH, which is the essential nature of Chenrezig. One first visualizes the lotus then the moon disc with a HRIH on top, which transforms into Chenrezig so the HRIH is the very essence of the deity.


Question: Given the different levels of compassion, how does one know what level one is at?

Answer: When one speaks from the perspective of great compassion itself, from the essential nature of great compassion itself, there are absolutely no divisions, no categories at all within it. However from one’s own ordinary perspective there are different ways of speaking about compassion. One can refer to the Buddha’s mind as primordial wisdom or the Buddha’s heart as great compassion, in honorific terms or non-honorific terms or one can refer to the Buddha’s omniscience. Another way to speak of this from the ordinary perspective is the aspect of wisdom that knows all phenomena exactly as they are, the nature that knows the dharmata or the ultimate truth of each phenomenon. There is a second aspect, which is that which sees the multiplicity of all phenomena, which is a seeing similar to ordinary perception. For the Buddha there is absolutely no difference between any of these but for one as an ordinary being there is.

      For ordinary persons like ourselves there are two aspects of the wisdom that sees things as they are and the wisdom that sees the multiplicity of phenomena but for the Buddha there are no divisions between the two.

      As to how to know where one’s compassion is developing, if compassion is growing within one’s mind, one can gauge one’s progress by one’s reactions to various situations. For example if you see a dog that has a wound and it brings tears to your eyes or when reflecting on the suffering of sentient beings in the hell realms and this brings tears to your eyes, then this is a sign of compassion arising in your mind. Or for example if you see someone who is injured and compassion arises within you for them, which is a sign that compassion is developing within you. Chandrakirti said that if one hears about someone being injured or being burned by fire, look at the feeling in your mind at that point. If you can hardly bear such a thought or sight, or if tears come to your eyes, then one is developing compassion. If only the thought of compassion arises within your mind but not the trembling feeling of unbearableness then that is a middling level of compassion. If you see an injured being and no thought or feelings of compassion arise then that is a sign that compassion has not yet developed.


Question: Why does Chenrezig hold the mala in his right hand when we use our left to recite mantras?

Answer: There are malas related to each of the five different activities of pacifying, enriching and so forth. Some practitioners change malas depending on the type of practice they are performing. There is different lore as to what these malas should be made of so there is much tradition related to malas. One can use the right hand when reciting mantras. A crystal mala indicates Chenrezig so that is why it is one of his hand implements. This mala is not for counting recitations of mantras but rather is a symbol of the essential nature of the deity holding it. It is not a ‘working’ mala but rather a symbolic mala.

      There are texts that describe which type of mala to use in which type of practice. They describe malas for peaceful deities and malas for wrathful deities. There is also some importance placed on the spacing between the beads. In some practices one pulls the mala’s beads towards oneself whereas in other practices one pushes the beads away from oneself. When working with peaceful deities one uses the left hand and one pulls the beads towards oneself.


Question: It was mentioned that we could start with the mantra recitation without going through the first portion of the practice. Can you just start with the deity in your heart without the front generation and so on?

Answer: You can start with the sense of Chenrezig’s great compassion within your heart. It is better to have short sessions of either Mahamudra or Dzogchen meditation. If one wants to quickly move into that meditation without the active visualization portions, then one can just sit with the feeling of Chenrezig’s great compassion within your heart.

      There are different ways of meditating on deities. If you have the feeling of Chenrezig being in your heart then also visualize in your heart the pure land of Dewachen, focusing on that pure vision as the meditation. For the deities there are practices where one visualizes them above the crown of one’s head, within one’s heart or in front. There is not much difference between them.


      The practice of Chenrezig is very important. It is said that if one even hears the name of Chenrezig then one is very fortunate as the benefits of just that are limitless. If one has faith in one’s mind when one hears the name of Chenrezig, those benefits as well are infinite. One of the benefits is that it will close off rebirth in the lower realms. So I have been able to explain to you a little bit about how to perform this practice of Chenrezig and in the future what is most important is your diligence in performing this practice. If you can continue to perform this practice, it will develop and improve, as you become more familiar with the practice. I am very happy to have had this opportunity to be with you and teach you. Through receiving these teachings we have developed an excellent Dharma connection between us.





Chenrezig Part 3 (7/3/2011)

If we were to simply think about compassion in our Shamatha meditation, it would be very difficult to do. So in the Vajrayana to help in this process tantra was adopted to help in this process. In tantra we do a spiritual practice which usually involves Visualizing a deity who represents the quality we wish to emulate (ie Chenrezig), often listing the lineage holder to establish a link to us (which is absent in Chenrezig practice), making a visualization of a pure land in which to place the deity and the deities retinue (usually in a mandala, but not in the case of Chenrezig), then visualizing the Deity, giving praise to the deity, reciting the mantra of deity, and then dissolving the visualization.

We begin the visualizing Chenrezig and since Chenrezig is a “being of light” he is not visualized as a person with internal organs and every piece of clothing and implement has a symbolic meaning which is meant to strengthen our practice. Below is a brief description of the symbolism and also the prayer to Chenrezig.

Please click on the page if it is small. Quality good enough to download and print.



seven branch prayer (Tib. yan lag bdun pa) - The seven branch practice is (1) prostrating to the Three Jewels, (2) confessing negative actions, (30 making offering, (4) rejoicing in the virtue of others, (5) requesting to turn the wheel of Dharma, (6) beseeching the lama not to pass into nirvana, and (7) dedicating the merit to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.


Seven branches (Skt. saptāṅga; Tib. yan lag bdun pa, Pron. yenlak dün;) The seven branch practice is (1) prostrating to the Three Jewels, (2) confessing negative actions, (3) making offering, (4) rejoicing in the virtue of others, (5) requesting to turn the wheel of Dharma, (6) beseeching the lama not to pass into nirvana, and (7) dedicating the merit to the enlightenment of all sentient beings.


As Chökyi Drakpa says: “The seven branch practice (or the seven aspects of devotional practice) incorporates all the key points for gathering the accumulations.” They are:

  1. prostration, the antidote to pride
  2. offering, the antidote to avarice
  3. confession, the antidote to aggression
  4. rejoicing, the antidote to jealousy
  5. requesting to turn the wheel of Dharma, the antidote to ignorance
  6. requesting not to pass into parinirvana, the antidote to wrong views
  7. dedication of merit, the antidote to doubts



Chenrezig Part 2 (6-29-2011)

Chenrezig (also known as Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit) is an excellent practice to begin with because it is a practice to develop compassion and a practice which is relatively simple and has almost all the elements of a sadhana (puja) so if one can understand the Chenrezig practice one can understand many other sadhana practices. This is why Kalu Rinpoche and the 16th Karmapa recommended that all Kagyu centers do this sadhana practice. In fact when the 17th Karmapa escaped from Tibet in 2000, he began extensive practice and explanation of the Chenrezig to the thousands of Tibetans and Westerners that visited him Darmasala, India.

Chenrezig is the patron deity of Tibet and the Dalai Lama, several of the Tibetan Dharma kings, the Karmapa and others are said to be emanations of Chenrezig.

In the previous post I have included an extensive retelling of the myths and stories of how Chenrezig originated and also an extensive explanation of the symbolism.

In this post I will include the first four pages the short Chenrezig practice with a commentary. We begin with our hands together at the heart for taking refuge.

Click on picture to get it actual size. It is high enough quality, it can be downloaded and printed.

After we have taken refuge and raised bodhichitta (the desire to achieve enlightenment so that we can help all sentient) three time, we begin the visualization which does not have a mudra. Below a picture of Chenrezig.

There are many more pictures of Chenrezig available at NamoBuddhaPub.com.

For the visualization there is no mudra. One tries to keep one’s mind concentrated on the visualization much like one concentrates on the breath in Shamatha. The text mentions the five Buddha families and these will be discussed in detail in a later blog.

Click on picture to get it actual size. It is high enough quality, it can be downloaded and printed.


Chenrezig Part 1 (6-23-11)

In the discussion of Chenrezig at the Thrangu Meditation Group we will not have time to go over the background and the creation stories of Chenrezig. We will also not be able to go over all the symbolism of the 6 syllables. I have found this excellent article below which covers all of these in great detail.


By Brooke Webb


Background on Chenrezig

            The basis for the attainment of enlightenment is the bodhisattva promise. This is the commitment a yogi makes to work tirelessly to free all beings from suffering and bring them to the absolute realization and happiness of Buddhahood. This massive undertaking represents the pinnacle of the Mahayana teachings through which skillful compassion and wisdom are put into action. The Diamond Way (Vajrayana) vehicle works directly and quickly through contact with the realized mind of one’s Lama and by identification with Buddhahood itself. However, the Vajrayana is supported entirely and never separated from the Mahayana view and its noble bodhisattva aspiration. Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is the embodiment of Sangha, the practicing friends who pull, prod, and inspire us to hold the complete happiness of others without exception as the eventual fruit of our successful practice. Being the third of the “Three Jewels,” the Sangha is always portrayed by Chenrezig, who represents all Bodhisattvas and points to the joy-bringing and unselfish motivation that is the foundation of the Mahayana family of practicing friends.   

            Following his full and complete enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in India 2580 years ago, the Buddha gave his first teachings to this world. Lord Buddha’s first discourse was on the surprising topic of suffering and its pervasive effect over conditioned existence. Buddha clarified that the nature of reality as it is experienced by unenlightened beings is continually beset by temporary happiness and pain, which are inextricably connected to causality. How beings experience their lives, their personal joys, sorrows and inevitable losses, have as their basis, prior and continued deluded thought, speech, and action from this and all previous lives.   

            Buddha Shakyamuni pointed out that all beings are motivated by a single common goal; above all else we seek to find happiness and avoid suffering. Having attained complete insight into karma, the causes behind both the good times and bad which all experience, Buddha went on to teach the means by which one may be obtained and the other avoided. Shakyamuni Buddha gave both the causal [Sutra] and fruitional, [Mantrayana] teachings on the practice of Loving Eyes or Chenrezig. Through discourse he taught the slower Mahayana means to accomplish this great bodhisattva’s practice. To his yogi friends he directly transmitted the fast acting tantric method to actualize the powerfield of Chenrezig. In this way Buddha gave these and countless other methods to accomplish the complete welfare of both others and ourselves and to transform everything into joy bringing insight.   

            The Bodhisattva known as Loving Eyes, Chenrezig (Tib.) or Avalokitesvara (Skt.) is the meditational deity of Tibet. His mantra, OM MA NI PE ME HUNG has been incorporated into every aspect of human activity throughout the country. Today the practice of the Buddha of Compassion is fast taking root in the West. There are innumerable different aspects of Chenrezig with 108 recognized forms of the deity. How this bodhisattva originally manifested is the subject of differing historical perspectives.   According to Buddha Shakamuni himself, as taught in the White Lotus Sutra, Chenrezig was at one point just an ordinary person such as you or I. Eons ago it was said that there was a king named Gyalpo Sergi Mijon who ruled a strong Buddhist country. One of the king’s minister’s sons at that time attained the state of full enlightenment and was known as Tathagata Rinchen Nyingpo. This Buddha predicted that the king himself would become the Buddha Amitabha. He foretold that the king’s elder son would become the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Chenrezig. As forecast, these events did occur and the son, having attained awakened compassion, was reborn in the pure land of the Potala, where he works continuously to liberate beings from the web of samsaric pain and suffering. As a bodhisattava on the highest level, Chenrezig exists within the Dharmakaya, the all-pervading wisdom of space itself. He manifests on the clarity level to those whose realization has awakened.   

            Another version of the deity’s origin, outlined in the text known as the Mani Khabum, describes the advent of Chenrezig in the relative world of phenomena. From his pure land Dewachen, the Buddha Amitabha saw the need to increase his activity toward benefitting others. From his right eye he emitted a beam of white light and from his left a ray of green. From these sprang forth respectively the manifestations of the deities Chenrezig and Tara. Chenrezig took form within the kingdom of a ruler known as Zangpochock, “Sublime Kindness.” He was discovered seated on a lotus and lamenting the unbearable suffering of beings. Taking the young boy for his son, the king made inquiries of Amitabha regarding the appearance of the beautiful young man. “The child is an emanation of the activity of all the Buddhas,” answered Amitabha. “He is the one who accomplishes the benefit of all beings, the one who makes joyful the heart of all Buddhas, his name is Chenrezig, the noble sovereign.”   

            In the presence of Amitabha himself, Chenrezig took a vow to free beings from suffering, regardless of the realm they were in and bring them to awakening. Should he break this promise he wished that his body be split into a thousand pieces. In deep meditation Chenrezig emitted beams of different colored light to the six realms of suffering, sending emanations of himself to benefit others. Legend has it that three times Loving Eyes was able to empty the three lower realms of their occupants. After kalpas of meditation the great bodhisattva opened his eyes and saw that once again the lower realms were chock full of suffering, and decided the task was beyond even his ability. In accordance with his vow, Chenrezig split into a thousand pieces. Amitabha now set to work reconstructing the broken bodhisattva and aimed to bolster his noble resolve. This time Amitabha endowed him with nine peaceful and one wrathful face crowned with his own head. In addition a thousand arms with a wisdom eye on every palm was bestowed in order to empower the benevolent emissary’s activity to the full. Along with the added appendages, Amitabha gave Loving Eyes the mantra, OM MA NI PE ME HUNG, as the means to transmit his transforming power.   Loving Eyes may actually be seen from three points of view. First as a yidam, a light and energy manifestation inseparable from one’s Lama’s fully awakened mind. In this form Chenrezig appears as a meditation deity conferring fully realized Buddha wisdom directly to the mind of the meditator. Second, Loving Eyes may be seen as a symbol depicting kindness and compassion itself. In this regard all acts of kindness, generosity, etc, as well as those people who embody such qualities may also be seen symbolically or actually as the activity of Loving Eyes.   In the third case, the meaning of Chenrezig points to the very nature of mind itself. Through insight it can be understood that all manifestation is the magical and dreamlike play of uncreated mind, that self and other are delusional and fixated constructs of relative mind and its unconscious and habitual clinging to the appearance of both an ego and an external existent reality. When we recognize that “self” and “other” are part of an enlightened and inseparable whole, it becomes obvious that like Chenrezig, we cannot separate the good we wish for ourselves from that we wish for others. In this way mind itself becomes motivated by the wish to see all beings receive the highest joy we once wanted only for our “selves.” From the view of understanding our mind to be uncreated, continuous and aware space, and that “other” appears as the vivid clarity within that space, the field of our compassion becomes limitless as all beings as well as ourselves actually appear as buddhas from this perspective of mind’s highest view.


Emanations of Chenrezig

   Chenrezig or his manifestations have appeared in the world through emanations, recognized among whom was Songtsen Gampo, Tibet’s first Buddhist king, (617-698) as well as Padmasambhava, (8th Century) who established the Dharma there. Among others to be recognized as Chenrezig is the Dalai Lama. He is someone who embodies the qualities of the pacifying four armed aspect of Avalokitesvara. The Gyalwa Karmapas through their seventeen incarnations are also considered to be the emanations of Loving Eyes. It is said that the practice of the great yogi prior to his recognition as the First Karmapa, the first consciously reincarnated teacher, was that of “Gyalwa Gyatso,” a profoundly mystical red form of Chenrezig in union with consort. This Buddha aspect was one of five special Tantras, which Naropa had foretold would be brought from India to Tibet by a student of Lama Marpa’s lineage. These teachings were given by the yogini Khandro Karpa Sangpo to Tipupa, who passed them to Milarepa’s student Rechungpa. In this way Karmapa received and practiced this highest Maha Anutara Tantra and in essence became Chenrezig himself.   

            During the life of Buddha Shakyamuni, it is said that Avalokitesvara manifested as one of his main disciples. He plays an important role in many discourses including the Heart Sutra. In this teaching, at Lord Buddha’s request, Avalokitesvara gave the well known discourse on ultimate reality to his dear friend Shariputra and many others, “…Form is empty; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form also is not other than emptiness. Likewise, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness are empty. Shariputra, all phenomena are merely empty, having no characteristics. They are not produced and do not cease. They have no defilement and no separation from defilement.” Avalokitesvara continued as a spokesman for the sangha and those aspiring only to benefit others. “Bodhisatvas rely on and abide in the perfection of wisdom; their minds have no obstructions and no fear. Passing utterly beyond perversity they attain final nirvana. Also, all the buddhas who reside perfectly in the three times having relied upon the perfection of wisdom become manifest and complete buddhas in the state of unsurpassed, perfect, and complete enlightenment.”   

            In another sutra it is recorded that Buddha Shakyamuni prophesied that this beloved heart son of his, Avalokitesvara, would in the future subdue the barbaric inhabitants of Tibet and lead them along the path to enlightenment.   In general, the mandala or power-field of a buddha or aspect of Buddhist wisdom springs forth from its very seed syllable and mantra. In this way the sound vibration embodying a particular buddha and that aspect’s energy and wisdom qualities as well as activity are inseparable. Such is the case with the mantra of Chenrezig, OM MA NI PE ME HUNG, which is commonly referred to as the “six syllables.” By saying the mantra of Chenrezig one activates his compassionate activity for the benefit of both others and oneself. The positive results of doing so may be more than one could realistically imagine. It was the “Second Buddha,” Guru Rinpoche or (Skt: Padmasambhava) who, at the behest of King Trisong Deutsen firmly established the Buddhadharma in Tibet. He advised the King and his subjects in no uncertain terms on the benefits of invoking the activity of the Great Compassionate One. It was he who designated Chenrezig as the main deity of the Tibetans.   Before leaving the land of snows Guru Rinpoche gave a lengthy discourse to then King Mutig and his assembly. He began, “Listen, King of Tibet, nobility and subjects!   OM MA NI PE ME HUNG is the quintessence of the Great Compassionate one, so the merit of uttering it just once is incalculable.   A single sesame seed can multiply into many, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once is even greater. All needs and wishes are granted when you supplicate the precious wish fulfilling jewel, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once is even greater.  It is possible to count all the grains sown on the four continents, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once cannot be counted. It is possible to count the drops of water in the great ocean, one by one, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once cannot be counted. It is possible to count each hair on the bodies of all animals in existence, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once cannot be counted.   OM MA NI PE ME HUNG. The Six syllables are the quintessence of the Great Compassionate One. It is possible to wear down a mountain of meteoric iron that is eighty thousand miles high by rubbing it once every aeon with the softest cotton from Kashika, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once cannot be exhausted. OM MA NI PE ME HUNG. It is possible to calculate the merit of creating a stupa made of the seven precious substances filled with relics of the buddhas of all world systems and making constant offerings to it, but the merit of uttering the six syllables just once cannot be calculated.”   

            Guru Rinpoche elaborated further on the benefits of Chenrezig practice:   OM MA NI PE ME HUNG “The six syllables are the quintessence of the mind of noble Avalokiteshvara. If you recite this mantra 108 times a day, you will not take rebirth in the three lower realms. In the following life you will attain a human body and in actuality you will have a vision of noble Avalokiteshvara. If you recite daily the mantra correctly twenty one times, you will be intelligent and able to retain whatever you learn. You will have a melodious voice and become adept in the meaning of all the Buddhadharma…”   The great Siddha Guru advised his followers to invoke Loving Eyes in all situations:  “…Compared to any medical treatment or cure, the Six Syllables are the strongest remedy against sickness and evil.”  He continued:  “The virtues of the six syllables are immeasurable and cannot be fully described even by the buddhas of the three times. Why is that? It is because this mantra is the quintessence of the noble bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who continuously looks upon the six classes of beings with compassion. Thus recitation of this mantra liberates all beings from samsara.”   

            It is said that the mantra of Chenrezig encompasses all of Buddha’s teachings and embodies his enlightened essence. In this way the mantra is endowed with the capacity to purify our mind from the veils which obscure it. These veils are comprised of two primary obscurations, our disturbing personalized emotional reactions and our stiff and fixated way of seeing “reality.” Together these factors comprise what is known as ignorance and this is the reason we continue to think, do, and say the things which through cause and effect eventually ripen as pain. Chenrezig in essence is compassion itself wedded to the ultimate nature of mind. These can be seen as corresponding to the forms of awakened altruism. In Tibetan this is known as bodhichitta. First is absolute bodhichitta, which corresponds to emptiness, in which reality is directly experienced as being essenceless, unsubstantial, and unreal. Second is relative bodhichitta, which is the heartfelt wish to benefit others without limit. Relative bodhichitta may spring forth from absolute boddhichitta when it is recognized that all beings are inseparable from our own awareness and beingingess. Together these comprise emptiness and compassion. These relative and absolute aspects can also be seen as the union of wisdom, compassion, and the means to attain them. On the highest level they are the meeting of bliss and space, the jewel and the lotus, male activity and female wisdom and the dissolution of all delusion.   


Symbolism of Chenrezig’s body

The body of Chenrezig is white and stainless like snow reflecting direct sunlight. He is depicted as having four arms which symbolize the four immeasurables: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, as well as the four buddha activities of healing, increasing, fascinating and protecting. Two hands hold a wish-fulfilling jewel to his heart, which fulfills the hopes of all. His outer right hand holds a crystal mala drawing all beings to liberation. The lotus flower he bears in his left hand symbolizes the opening to all the buddha realms. The moon at his back symbolizes the radiance of his enlightened state. His five colored silks represent the five wisdoms. The deer skin over his left shoulder is symbolic of this animal’s kindness, strength, and gentleness. At the level of Chenrezig’s heart rests an open lotus flower at the center of which is the seed syllable HRIH, meaning kindness. This is also the seed syllable to invoke the activity of Buddha Amitabha.


The Meaning of the Six Syllables

Surrounding this syllable are the six syllables shining lights to the realms of samsaric existence. OM is brilliant white, MA is green, NI is yellow, PE is blue, ME is red while the letter HUNG is black or a deep blue. Above Avalokitesvara, seated on a lotus throne sits the red Buddha of Limitless Light, Amitabha, appearing as dazzling as a mountain of rubies in the light of a thousand suns. He holds the bowl of liberation in his lap. OM MA NI PE ME HUNG.   

            Following OM, which represents the body of all Buddhas, the six syllables mean literally, “The jewel is in the lotus.” It is the end of all duality, in which meditator, the object of meditation and the act of meditating become an inseparable whole. Experiencing others as inseparable from oneself and observing the conditioned suffering of their mind is what engenders Buddhist compassion rather than the bleeding heart variety.   

            In our present dimension of experience beings are reborn according to their ripening karma. The practice of the six syllables closes the door of painful rebirth in the six realms of cyclic existence, known as samsara. OM closes the door on the world of gods whose realm springs from extreme pride. MA closes the door on jealousy and the demigod realm. NI closes the door on attachment and the predominant desire state gripping the human realm. PE transforms the dullness and stupidity of animal rebirth. ME empties the realm of the pretas or hungry ghosts and transforms their overpowering greed. Lastly, HUNG empties out the hot and cold realms of paranoia stemming from anger and rage where suffering is beyond imagination and seems to last and last.

            These states may be looked at figuratively or literally and they can all be seen within the human condition itself.   The syllables also have their specific purifying effect. OM purifies the veils of the body. MA purifies the veils of speech. NI purifies the veils of mind, while PE purifies the veils of conflicting emotions. ME clears the veil of habitual latent conditioning while HUNG removes the veil obscuring knowledge. The six syllables are an invocation of the body, speech, mind, qualities, activity, and totality of all buddhas respectively.   

            The syllables also correspond to the six perfections or “paramitas.” These are generosity, skillful conduct, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom or realization.   OM invokes the activity of Ratnasambhava, MA that of Amoghasiddhi, NI invokes Vajradhara. PE calls forth Vairochana, ME, Amitabha, while HUNG invokes Akshobya.               Finally the six syllables are linked to six wisdoms. They are in fact the fully transformed aspect of our disturbing emotions all of which spring primarily from ignorance and secondarily from attachment and aversion. OM is the wisdom of equanimity, MA the wisdom of activity, NI the wisdom born of itself, PE, the wisdom of Dharmadatu, ME, discriminating wisdom, while HUNG is the mirror like wisdom. The six syllables utterly transform the appearance of phenomena such as physicality, movement, heat, liquid, and relative dimension into empty, aware space and the experience of co-emergent wisdom, pure intuitive insight and understanding.   



            The great poet and yogi Patrul Rinpoche advised his followers: One deity, Chenrezig, embodies all Buddhas; One mantra, the six syllables, embodies all mantras; One dharma, bodhichitta, embodies all practices of the development and completion stages. Knowing the one which liberates all, recite the six syllable mantra.   

            As your life runs out like the setting sun sinking away, death closes in like the lengthening shadows of evening. Now what’s left of your life will vanish as fast as the last fading shadows; There’s no time to waste—recite the six syllable mantra.   If you check your mind over and over again. Whatever you do becomes the perfect path. Of all the hundreds of vital instructions this is the very quintessence; Fuse everything into this one single point, and recite the six syllable mantra.   The practice of Chenrezig’s mantra is available for one and all. However, to be truly effective it is necessary to receive refuge, empowerment and oral instruction from a qualified Lama or teacher. In this way all conditions are optimized to invoke and realize the full potential of the deity’s benevolent power. One may continue to practice even while expecting such transmission. OM MA NI PE ME HUNG.   

            The Sangha comprises the active practitioners who are pursuing the path of the Bodhisattvas. Chenrezig represents the consummate altruist who works for others without limit. Since beginningless time beings have appeared to continuously reincarnate within the various realms and dimensions of existence. From this understanding comes the knowledge that all beings without exception have been our kind and protective mothers at one time or another. Opening our eyes we see that these same beings are still caught in the net of conditioned suffering. What choice does the intelligent person have but to work diligently to repay the previous kindness that was given? Some skillful detachment and patience may be in order when those same mothers can appear today as our detested enemy or oppressor. Ever more the reason for gratitude towards them.   All of us, from the great down to those with microbe like bodies or intelligence have the Buddha nature. The human condition, although temporary, is considered in Buddhism to be the optimal vehicle to recognize and activate all of mind’s qualities. It is only karmic dust, which obscures the clarity of our Buddha nature. It is said that the karmic debris of countless eons of lifetimes can be eradicated by the practice of the six syllables and by invoking one’s enlightened lama as being inseparable from the form and activity of Loving Eyes. Forgoing the great opportunity to practice, the great wheel of samsaric appearances continues to turn and we may lose that most rare and valued quality of being human, which is freedom itself.                           

Taken from: BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.7, 2000 ©2000 Diamond Way Buddhist Centers USA  


Shamatha Meditation Part 2 (6-19-11)

Study Guide and Discussion Topics on Chapter 2 of

A Guide to Shamatha by Thrangu Rinpoche


The need to meditate


We might ask, “If we are concerned with the mind alone, why do we need to think about the view or the ground?” We need the view because we must understand why we meditate. We do not meditate just because it feels good or because we want to have great experiences or something like that. Nor do we meditate just because we want to feel peaceful and tranquil. We meditate because it is possible with meditation to utterly eliminate all our disturbing emotions from the mind. The purpose of meditation is to achieve complete elimination of the afflictions of mind. We meditate because our mind is innately capable of being utterly at peace, completely free of disturbing emotions, and perfectly insightful and discerning. So we meditate to clean our mind. We suffer from bewilderment but this confusion is temporary because it is secondary to the mind’s nature and not an intrinsic part of our mind. Therefore, if we clean the mind through the practice of meditation, this bewilderment can be removed. Since this bewilderment is not what the mind is fundamentally, when the bewilderment is removed, the mind does not disappear. Our experience does not stop and is not superseded by a state of annihilation or nothingness. The qualities of the Buddha include omniscient wisdom of the nature of phenomena and wisdom of the variety of phenomena. The seed of that wisdom is innate or intrinsic to our mind. We meditate in order to achieve that intrinsic wisdom.

— Thrangu Rinpoche from The King’s Doha of Saraha Taken from NamoBuddhaPub.com>free downloads>25 Quotations # 7


Faith and Devotion   Can the Buddhas and Bodisattvas help our meditation and help us to change our negative and unproductive behaviors?

Lineage Prayer—We have already covered it.

Posture in Meditation

The five point posture is (1) body straight and upright, (2) chin slightly bent downwards (3) Legs are crossed (4) body locked into position (5) keep body relatively tight

            The seven point position called Seven Points of Vairochana (one of the five wisdom buddhas) is given on 30-31-32 of the booklet. (1) legs are crossed (2) hands in meditation mudra (see cover of booklet) or on lap or on thighs (3)spine is straight and you aren’t leaning (4) arms are spread (5) neck is slightly bent (ie chin down) (6)tongue touches palate (7) gaze is forward—in shamatha slightly down and in Vipashyana straight ahead.


Mind in Meditation


8. The Nature of Mind

           If we don’t understand the actual nature of appearances, then we are going to continue in samsara. If we do realize the nature of appearances, then we know them to be the dharmakaya and there isn’t any need to look for any other philosophical view.

            If we don’t know how to rest the mind in meditation, then we have to meditate on the mind.

           The mind has three characteristics, which are luminous clarity, awareness, and emptiness. Luminous clarity means that there is an unbroken continuum of the mind. Awareness means we know exactly what it is that we are doing. Emptiness means the mind has no true, solid reality. If we don’t understand these three characteristics, then many different thoughts will arise.

           However, if we are able to rest in a natural, uncontrived state then this is the sambhogakaya.

           As for conduct, we should just deal with whatever occurs and be totally natural without any fixed plan or system. This is called naturally appearing and naturally liberating conduct.

— A Doha of Rechungpa from Rechungpa: A Biography ofMilarepa’s Disciple

General Obstacles in meditation


Zoning Out or Ruminating in Meditation?

Simple Visualizations for Getting Back on Track



In the center of your body, at the level of the heart, you visu­alize a four-petaled white lotus, and resting on the center of that lotus flower, you visualize a small sphere of extremely bright white light. It should be no larger than the size of a pea, and it should be visualized as very bright, even brilliant.

Here you hold your breath. Through holding your breath, you think that you cause this tiny bril­liant sphere of white light to rise up from the lotus in your heart, upward through your body, from which it emerges, shooting up out of the aperture at the center of the top of your head, and continues -to rise until it reaches the highest reaches of space above you. While doing this, you also put more ex­ertion into your physical posture, so that your posture is especially strict, involving even a little ten­sion. You also raise your gaze, so that you are looking upward, and attempt to make your mind very bright, dear, and cheerful.

This meditation is useful if you find that your mind is unclear, torpid or depressed, or when you find yourself uninterested in practice and your mind dull. The mahabrahma samadhi of stability, as it is called, will serve to cheer you up and to clarify, or promote lucidity in, your mind. In the practice of both tranquility and insight, torpor is a problem. But it is especially a problem for practitioners of tranquility, be­cause the practice of tranquility meditation, by its very nature, emphasizes the achievement of stillness, and stillness can, if you are riot attentive, produce a state of torpor.

This technique is introduced at this point to enable, one to maintain stillness while dispel­ling the torpor that can accom­pany it. For the proper practice of tranquility meditation, the mind’s lucidity needs to be at full strength. It should not be weak­ened in any way by the stillness one is cultivating. So this prac­tice helps within the context of stillness to promote and even in­crease the mind’s lucidity.

The second meditation in this section of tranquility instruction is called the subterranean samadhi. It is similar in a way to the previous instruction, except that it is a remedy for exactly the opposite problem.  

Sometimes we find that our minds are unable to come to rest, that we are excited by the thoughts that pass through our minds and cannot let go of them. Generally, this is some kind of pleasant excitement during which you cannot stop yourself from recollecting pleasant things, pleasant memories, and so on. It is like, for example, when you are so excited by something that you cannot go to sleep. This ob­viously disturbs the practice of meditation.

A second, and in some ways similar state, is one in which you are disturbed by thoughts of in­tense regret, regretting things you have done or things that have happened in the past that you cannot let go of. In either case, both excitement and regret are equally disturbing to the practice of meditation, because they cause the mind to become unstable. This meditation—the subterra­nean samadhi—is designed to serve as a remedy or antidote for this problem.

In the center of your body the level of the heart, you visualize a lotus flower as before, except that here, because you visualizing the flower in order to pacify or cool down the mind instead of visualizing it as white, you visualize it as black. Also because you are trying to bring your mind’s energy downward you visualize the lotus flower as facing downward. And then think that resting on the center of the lotus flower which is facing downward—and, of course, now on the underside—is a tiny sphere of black light, again visualize no larger than a pea, so that meditation is sharply focused, Then you think that the sphere black light descends from where it starts out, down through your body, comes out the bottom, continues going down very into and below the ground.

Furthermore, while doing this you think that this sphere of black light is not something physic, light, but very heavy, and that heaviness or weight causes it to descend through and below the earth.

Apply either one of these visualization as needed, depending upon your experience. Any given person will at different times experience both torpor and wildness of mind.

So when your mind is dull, practice the mahabhrama samadhi and when your mind is wild, practice the subterranean samadhi.


From Snow Lion Magazine taken from Thrangu Rinpoche’s The Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning.

Meditating on an Outer Object


Shamatha Meditation Part 1 (6-12-11)

Study and Discussion Notes

A Guide to Shamatha Meditation by Thrangu Rinpoche

(can be downloaded on NamoBuddhaPub.com/free downloads

                                                    Chapter 1 

1.      Does meditation bring about true happiness and how is meditation different from other material things that bring happiness?

2.      What does Rinpoche mean by “as long as thoughts pass through our mind, we will be unhappy.

One Rinpoche I heard said that in Tibet until about 20 years ago, the Tibetans had to only work a few hours a day and this was mostly during the planting and harvest and they had ample time to spend with their families, to go to many religious feasts and celebrations and lots of time to say their mantras and meditate.

Now under the Chinese occupation, the Tibetans all want to have motor scooters, processed foods, electricity, and nice houses and TVs and so they have had to move into cities, take up factory jobs. They now have little or no time with their families, time to have festivals and dancing, any time at all to practice Buddhism because they have mortgages, debts to pay, etc.

3.      What does Rinpoche mean by the short-term benefits of meditation?

4.      What about the subtle channels.

a.       In Buddhism mind and body are very closely interlinked while we are alive

b.      In Tibetan Buddhism there is a physical body (Tib. lus) and then there is a subtle body (ku) sometimes called the vajra body (dorje ku). Vajra body is physical body with the subtle channels (Skt. nadi), subtle drops (Skt bindu) and subtle energy centers (Skt. chakras).

c.       The physical body is what doctors work on. The subtle body is like the body that we work on when we do yoga or receive acupuncture. To work on the subtle body is through the mind with meditation.

5.      How do we purify the disturbing emotions or the afflictions (Skt. kleshas)?

a.       The three main disturbing emotions are: Attachment, Aggression, and Ignorance (of the true nature of reality). The five disturbing emotions are Attachment, Aggression, Ignorance, Pride and Jealousy. These kleshas are translated in several ways: as the five afflictions because their negative afflict us like a disease or as the five emotional obscurations because these emotions obscure our seeing reality correctly or as the five disturbing emotions because they disturb out mind so it cannot be peaceful and think clearly. There are also many other disturbing emotions, but these are the five main ones.

6.      Adsum Rinpoche when asked about the importance of compassion while he was teaching in Crestone said, “However far along you are on the road of compassion, that is how far along you are on the road to enlightenment.”

7.      Loving-kindness, compassion, bodhichitta.

a.       Love or loving Kindness (Skt. maitri, Tib. jampa) One of eleven wholesome mental factors. A sincere wish that others enjoy happiness.

b.      Compassion (short for great compassion which is unbiased. It is compassion for all that comes spontaneously after great practice. (Tib.  ningje  Skt. karuna)

c.        Bodhichitta “mind of enlightenment” is the aspirations to achieve full enlightenment so one can benefit of all beings.

8.      The Four Immeasurables You can say these each day. The blog (Buddhist-Meditation.tumblr.com) has this in English and Tibetan.

a.       May all beings have happiness and it causes

b.      May they be free of suffering and its cause

c.       May they not be separated from genuine happiness, free of suffering

d.      May they remain totally impartial, free of near and far, attachment and aversion

9.      In the questions what does “looking directly at the thought or looking into the thought or looking at the nature of the thought” to pacify the disturbing emotions mean?


The Kagyu Lineage Prayer Part 4 (6-5-11)

**Detachment is the foot of meditation”

These next four verses begins the description of the four common preliminaries. The Four Common Preliminaries are also called the Four Ordinary Foundations or the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. These are described in detail in Thrangu Rinpoche’s Four Foundations of Buddhist Practice  (www.NamoBuddhaPub.com). Traditionally the Four Common Preliminaries are (a) Precious Human Birth, (b) Impermanence, (c) karma  and (d) Faults of Samsara. These four are poetically described in the Preliminary or Ngondro (pronounced “nundro”) text.


This precious human birth,

So favorable for the practice of dharma,

Is hard to gain and easily lost.

So at this time, I must do something meaningful.


The world and all its inhabitants are impermanent.

In Particular, the life of being is like a bubble in water.

It is uncertain when I will die and become a corpse.

Since only Dharma can help me at that time, I must now practice with diligence.


At death there is no freedom and karma takes its course.

As I create my own karma,

I should therefore abandon all unwholesome actions,

And always devote my time to wholesome actions.


Just like a feast before the executioner leads me to my death,

Homes, friends, pleasures and possessions of Samsara

Cause me continual torment by means of the three sufferings.

I must cut through all attachment and strive to attain enlightenment.



      Bengar Zangpo summarizes these four common preliminaries in one verse related to attachment. The reason for this is that the very first teaching of the Buddha in Sarnath (actually, a few hundred yards from where Thrangu Rinpoche built his principal monastery (the Vajra Vidya Institute) taught the Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths are:


(1)     Full understanding of suffering,

(2) Understanding the cause of suffering which is karma and the negative emotions (Skt. Kleshas),

(3) The fact that suffering can be eliminated by following the

(4) Eight-fold path which is: (a) correct meditation, (b) correct mindfulness, (c) correct intention, (d) right view, (e) correct speech, (f) correct action, (g) correct livelihood, and (g) correct effort.

These are elaborated in Thrangu Rinpoche’s booklet The Life of the Buddha and the Four Noble Truths.


** Devotion is the head of meditation


The next four verses summarize the four preliminaries or ngondros. These four Vajrayana practices are done as the first practices done in the three year retreat. A three-year retreat is the traditional way in which advanced tantric practices are taught. In the West in situations with lay people in contrast to ordained monks, the ngondro is taught widely outside of the three-year retreat.


The first Ngondro practice involves visualizing the lineage tree in front of one, reciting a refuge prayer and doing a prostration about 100,000 times. The practice involves the mind (visualization), speech (reciting the prayer), and the body (doing a prostration). One does 100,000 because it is extremely difficult to do this with 100% concentration so one has to do it over and over again. This develops faith in the lineage and a commitment to practice.


The second Ngondro practice is Vajrasattva. In very brief terms we are purifying ourselves by visualizing ourself as ourself and Vajrasattva sitting above us and pure clean amrita coming from him into the crown of our head and washing away all our negative deeds and thoughts that we have had in this lifetime (and even previous lifetimes). We must not think of this as magic because it is our mind that is imagining this and it is our mind that needs to be purified. We are setting up a symbolic way of purifying all our past deeds and if we have faith and devotion and really want to progress along the path, this practice has been shown to be very effective. While doing this practice we are reciting the Vajrasattva purification mantra for about a total of 100,000 times.


The third Ngondro practice is mandala practice which is a practice of developing generosity. Now giving everything physically that we have away to others is good, but it is a little impractical for monks and nuns who possess little or for lay persons with families and mortgages and the like. So in mandala practice we visualize all the delightful and wonderful and expensive things we can and then visualize giving them away 100,000 times while saying an offering prayer and placing heaps of rice on a mandala plate.


The fourth Ngondro is guru yoga practice which is to develop devotion to your guru. This is extremely important because your guru is the only person who can give you the individual instruction (the treasury of oral instructions) which you cannot get from a book or someone else. In the guru yoga practice you visualize your guru and say a devotional prayer to him or her for 100,000 times.


**Non-distraction is the body of meditation.


The next four verses describes the essence of Shamatha meditation which is learning to calm the mind down to such an extent that one can stay undistracted  in one pointed on something for 15 minutes or half an hour or even several hours in meditation.


Since we will be discussing Tranquility or Shamatha (the Sanskrit for the same word) meditation using Thrangu Rinpoche’s booklet A Guide to Shamatha Meditation (which can be downloaded for free from www.NamoBuddhaPub.com) in next week’s blog, I will not discuss it here.


** The nature of thought is dharmakaya


Insight or Vipashyana meditation is fairly difficult to explain because the Foundation vehicle Buddhist use the word differently than the Vajrayana vehicle Buddhist.


For the Foundation Buddhists when Shamatha is practiced intensely, we apply our awareness to every activity in life so when we pick up a spoon we think, “I am picking up the spoon”, when we dip it into the soup, we are aware of the liquid pouring into the depression of the spoon, when we lift it up to our mouth we are aware of curing flowing motion to our mouth, then aware of how wide we open our mouth, the taste as the soup hits the tongue, and then swallowing, and so on. This develops an awareness of everything around us or “panoramic awareness.”


For the Vajrayana Buddhist what I have just described is considered part of advanced Shamatha meditation and is certainly a fantastic meditation we should maintain every second of our life. This continual awareness is the understanding of the relative world around us. However, this relative or conventional level of reality is actually a complicated interaction of appearances which are basically empty and therefore not part of the absolute or ultimate level of reality. The ultimate level of reality is called the dharmakaya so in the Vajrayana the understanding of the true nature of reality is Vipashyana meditation.

** Nothing whatsoever, it arises as everything

As I understand it, “nothing whatsoever” means that all phenomena both external phenomena and internal thoughts and beliefs are entirely empty. If we look for where mind is located or where thoughts come from, or where they reside, or where they go; we discover that they are absolutely nothing whatsoever. They are not like anything else which has substance, a location, is created by measurable factors coming together, and it disintegrates when acted upon by definite external forces. Through complex reasoning, we can show that external phenomena are like this also—although these arguments need a whole blog on just this topic.

Yet, clearly the outside world appears and is real—if we drive our car into a wall, we will definitely see the consequences. We clearly have thoughts and feelings even if they don’t have any inherent reality. Our complete world arises from our mind and so the Lineage Prayer says, “it is nothing whatsoever, yet everything arises from it.”


The Kagyu Lineage Prayer Part 3 5-29-11

Below is a review and elaboration of the Kagyu Lineage Prayer. The prayer is given in the post of Kagyu Lineage Prayer Part I.


Why is the Lineage Prayer or Lineage Chant Important?

            First of all, it is important to make a distinction between a prayer that one does in a theistic religion such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam and with Buddhism. Buddhism does not believe in God or gods as external beings that help and punish human beings. Rather the Buddha taught that the only path to enlightenment or awakening or true happiness is to work on our own mind—a path of removing the disturbing emotions and thus purifying the mind. There are, of course, persons who can help us—the Buddha, our guru, other spiritual friends, dharma protectors, and the lineage holders. And vajrayana Buddhism also has a large number of deities (I use the word in contrast to gods) who actually reside within us and as we meditate we are removing all the negative emotions and incorrect thoughts so they can actually forth.

            It is important to understand the Kagyu Lineage Prayer because it is chanted everyday in almost all Kagyu centers and before most teachings. Thrangu Rinpoche has said that to do a practice and no not understand what it is about leads to very little benefit. That is why we should study and intellectually understand all the prayers and practices and not just blindly do them.

            Third, this tree shows that Thrangu Rinpoche did not simply sit down and make up all the Buddhist teachings or practices, but is in a long line of accomplished masters handing down these teachings and practices to a gifted student who also mastered all the teachings and practices and so on. It began with the primordial Buddha, then Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Dusum Khyenpa, and then through the 15 Karmapas to the 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje (Skt. Vajra Vidya) who was Thrangu Rinpoche’s root guru and then to us.

            There is an excellent explanation of why and how we should practice by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. Khenpo Karthar was a Khenpo in Thrangu Monastery in Tibet and gave Thrangu Rinpoche teachings when he was young. He escaped Tibet with Thrangu Rinpoche in 1959 and ended up heading Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) in Woodstock, New York. Below is what he said:


The Aim of Practice by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche


“First we need to cultivate a positive attitude in whatever we are doing, whether it be listening to, contemplating, or meditating upon a teaching, or even participating in a worldly activity.

            Attitude is a matter of thinking. Right thinking and wrong thinking differentiate spirituality and materialism. In the material world we study and work hard for such selfish aims as becoming famous. Because we have had a selfish point of view throughout beginningless time, we experience the sufferings of the six realms and are unable to liberate ourselves from samsara.

            Therefore, when we are practicing or listening to the Dharma, we need to develop the pure attitude of wanting to benefit all living beings, not only in a temporary way, but also to ultimately free all beings in the six realms from suffering. This is the positive attitude.

            The aim of meditation practice is liberation from the sufferings of conditioned existence and the experience of ultimate bliss. Whether or not meditation practice will lead to realization really depends upon the mental attitude of the practitioner. If our mental attitude is impure, then it is like mixing poison with food. We can see that food is beneficial for our health, but if it is mixed with poison, it becomes dangerous. Similarly, Dharma is beneficial, but whether our meditation will be effective or not depends upon our attitude.

            One specific meditation practice given by a teacher can lead to different results, depending upon the mental disposition of the student. For example, a student with a positive attitude will have the best result; and a student who is totally unable to develop a positive attitude will have no beneficial result at all, despite his or her practice of meditation. Instead, because of indulging in negative thoughts, this student may experience an increase of conflicting emotions. This serves to prove the importance of attitude.

            You might wonder what type of pure attitude we really need to develop during the stages of listening to, contemplating, and meditating upon the teachings so as to experience the fullness and fruition of our meditation. We must try to develop the altruistic attitude, which begins with the awareness that sentient beings are not only suffering at the present time, but have been suffering endlessly throughout beginningless time. The reason why they are experiencing such beginningless and endless suffering is that throughout beginningless time until now, they have been consistently motivated by the selfish purpose of gaining selfish benefits. They want to experience selfish happiness, pleasure, and joy. In order to experience that selfish happiness, pleasure, and joy, they use the conflicting emotions of anger, jealousy, pride, and so forth. Because of the negative karma they have accumulated due to conflicting emotions, they actually experience more suffering, instead of a greater sense of happiness. Therefore, we must wish to liberate all beings for all time from the causes of suffering. This altruistic attitude of wanting to ultimately liberate all beings from suffering is known as the enlightened mind, or bodhicitta. bodhichitta is very profound and can be very effective if one can maintain such an enlightened state of mind.

            So having first developed an altruistic attitude, please listen attentively. The teaching today is based on the lineage gurus who appeared on this earth. When speaking of them, we need to understand that in the past there have been fully enlightened beings who have appeared on the earth to turn the wheel of the Dharma. It is said that in the future there will be another thousand enlightened beings who will also come for the same purpose.

            We are presently under the guidance of the teachings of fourth Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, who took birth in India and lived 81 years, during which time he turned the wheel of the Dharma three times. From Shakyamuni Buddha, a nirmanakaya aspect of enlightenment, an unbroken transmission was passed down to such great masters as Nagarjuna and Asanga, and they in turn brought the teachings to Tibet, where the four great schools of Tibetan Buddhism developed. All these teachings originated from the nirmanakaya aspect of enlightenment. The origin of the nirmanakaya is the sambhogakaya aspect of enlightenment, and the origin of the sambhogakaya is the dharmakaya. An example of the nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya aspects is that of the clarity and light in this room originating from the clarity and light outside the house, and the clarity and light outside the house originating from the sun. Therefore, the origin of the teachings and the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism is the dharmakaya aspect or that of Vajradhara or Samantabhadra, the realization of the ultimate state of enlightenment.

            We are dependent upon the light outside the house to brighten this room. As I have mentioned earlier, the clarity and light outside originates with the sun. To realize the state of Vajradhara or Samantabhadra is to become like the sun itself and no longer dependent upon the light outside for illumination.”

            This teaching was given by Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at KTD, Woodstock, March 25-30, 1986. It was translated by Chojor Radha, and edited by Tina Armond


Why do Most Practices have a Visualization?           


            Although many centers do not teach the visualization, there is a visualization to the Lineage prayer as explained in Thrangu Rinpoche’s Showing the Way to Liberation (available from NamoBuddhaPub.com).

            When we are doing any kind of practice we are trying to cultivate a pure sacred view and not our ordinary confused samsaric view which is full of conflicting emotions (Skt. kleshas). So we prepare our mind for the practice by imagining before us first emptiness and then visualizing the pure lands. In this case we visualize the lineage tree which contains only pure beings who have attained enlightenment. The enlightened energy seems to flow from above us down through the Brahma aperture and into the central channel. So we often visualize our guru or deity (yidam) such as Chenrezig above our head.

            In the Lineage prayer we visualize the lineage tree (see the previous blog Part 1) in front of us and if you can’t visualize all the persons, you can do the short visualization of visualizing the six main ones—Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, and the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa. In the previous blog these are given and briefly described. In the previous blog I have given the colored Lineage Tree from the Vajra Vidya Retreat Manual, a diagram of where everyone is located, and then two pages of descriptions of these individuals. Similarly, in the short version we can visualize our root guru over our head instead of Dusum Khyenpa.


* “Great Vajradhara …”


The first line mentions the primordial Buddha who is called Vajradharma in Sanskrit and Dorje Chang in Tibetan. He (and obviously the primordial Buddha is neither male of female but beyond those dichotomies) is blue in color being there since the beginning of time like the blue sky, sits in a full-lotus position and has his hands crossed. In the left hand is a bell representing wisdom and in his right hand is a vajra representing skillful means. They are crossed because Vajradhara is the union of these two qualities.

            To explain who Vajradhara is in more detail, I enclose a teaching by Khenpo Karthar:


Vajradhara by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche


“Those who are familiar with the Mahamudra supplication prayer know we begin it by reciting, “Great Dorje Chang, Telo, Naro etc.” It is very important to have an understanding of Vajradhara because everything that comes later is based on this ultimate aspect of enlightenment. If we misunderstand anything now, then we might become confused later. We must be sure that we correctly understand the meaning of Vajradhara, so we can correctly relate to future teachings.

            All the schools of the Kagyupas, Gelugpas, and Sakyapas, the transmission of lineage goes back to Vajradhara. Why it goes back to Vajradhara and not to Shakyamuni Buddha is that it refers directly back to the essence of enlightenment, the origin of the light, which is the sun itself and not just the light of the sun. It is the same in the Nyingmapa tradition, where the teachings do not originate with Padmasambhava or Shakyamuni Buddha, but with Samantabhadra. Since the ultimate source is the dharmakaya, all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism originated with Vajradhara or Samantabhadra. The activity of Vajradhara is to benefit all beings without discrimination or judgment.

            There is sometimes confusion in the minds of new students as to whether either Vajradhara or Samantabhadra is superior to the other. There is nothing that indicates the superiority of one over the other as they are both equal. In a sense, it is a name differentiation. For example, if you are in the East, people think that the sky is the eastern sky; if you are in the West, people think that the sky is the western sky; but the sky is just one. It is not as if the eastern sky is superior to the western sky or that the western sky is superior to the eastern sky, as there is no superiority inherent in the sky being either eastern or western. Both are sky, the only difference being that they are over different parts of the world; it is we who have the idea of “our” and “their” sky. So there is actually no difference at all between Vajradhara and Samantabhadra.

            In one sense there is no difference between the two, but we can note that there are two names. The Sanskrit word “Samantabhadra” in Tibetan is Kuntuzangpo, kuntu meaning “ultimately” and zangpo meaning “goodness.  Kuntuzangpo then is primordially free from any fault, stain, or mental confusion, and therefore is not only presently pure, but also can never be defiled in the future. The Sanskrit word “Vajradhara” in Tibetan is Dorje Chang, dorje meaning “indestructibility” and chang meaning “permanently possessed.” The quality that enlightened beings have realized is within all sentient beings. What is known as Dorje Chang is the full realization and stabilization of the enlightened quality within all beings.

            It can be further noted that when Samantabhadra and Vajradhara are depicted in thangka paintings, one is shown without ornaments and garments, and the other is shown with ornaments and garments. Samantabhadra (Kuntuzangpo) is depicted naked, without ornaments and garments, to symbolize that his state of realization is unconditionally free from mental projection and primordially pure, as is the dharmakaya. Vajradhara (Dorje Chang) is depicted with heavenly ornaments and garments to symbolize his capacity to ceaselessly benefit and fulfill the needs of all living beings through the means of sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya emanations.

            In the Uttaratantra, Maitreya explains that the actual enlightened being is Samantabhadra or Vajradhara, and the emanation aspect of enlightenment is Shakyamuni Buddha, who appeared on the earth. Shakyamuni Buddha himself explained that he had not spoken any words nor had he ever given teachings, and that it was only through the karmic manifestation and karmic capacity of sentient beings that they had heard him teach. Why Shakyamuni Buddha said that he never taught any teachings is that in the dharmakaya or ultimate aspect of enlightenment, he never gave teachings. Shakyamuni Buddha was an emanation and not an ultimate aspect of enlightenment. It was through the emanation or nirmanakaya aspect of enlightenment that people heard different teachings according to their karmic capacity.

            The sun and Vajradhara never actually appear on the earth, it is rather the light of the sun and the emanation of Vajradhara that sentient beings experience through their capacity and purity of mind. For example, enlightened beings are beyond mental conception. Like the sun, they have no wish to shine only on this part of the world or to benefit only here or there, they just simply shine. The luminosity of the sun is perceived in its different aspects by many beings according to their capacity. The beings who have physical form experience the warmth of the sun and are benefited, although the sun did not purposely give that warmth to benefit them. The sentient beings who have bodies experience warmth simply because they have physical form. The light of the sun enables beings to see things clearly because they have eyes. Just as the light of the sun enables those with eyes to see clearly, it is the capacity and purity of mind that enable beings to experience the nirmanakaya aspect of enlightenment. Vajradhara does not actually appear on the earth.

            For that reason, although Shakyamuni Buddha passed into nirvana about 2530 years ago, we are still able to experience his blessing through our devotion, confidence, and practice because the ultimate realization of Buddhahood, the dharmakaya or Vajradhara aspect of enlightenment, never dies. As long as the sun is above in the sky, a temporary cloud may obscure its light, but that does not mean the sun has lost its light; the sun is always shining. Likewise, although there is a very long lapse of time between the passing away of Shakyamuni Buddha and our present age, if we practice diligently with faith and confidence, we are still capable of experiencing the blessing of the Buddha because Vajradhara is still there. The Vajradhara aspect is ceaselessly present.

            The activity of Vajradhara is to benefit all beings without discrimination or judgment, just as it is inherent in the nature of the trees that grow on the earth to burn when set on fire. The nature of any wood, regardless of where it is grown, is to burn; the nature of the activity of Vajradhara is to benefit sentient beings, regardless of what type of living being they may be. It is not only in the Buddha-nature of the Vajradhara aspect of ultimate enlightenment to benefit sentient beings; Buddha-nature is also inherent in all living beings like ourselves as well.

            We can all agree that the nature of wood is that it burns; but it must meet with the cause of burning as it cannot burn itself. Although the Buddha-nature or Vajradhara aspect of enlightenment is within all living beings like ourselves, without meeting the cause to ripen this quality, we are unable to realize it. That is why all the teachers in all the schools emphasize the importance of the lineage gurus who have obtained the unbroken transmission. By practicing according to their teachings, we are meeting the cause to ripen our Buddha-nature.

            Meeting the cause of ripening our mind is necessary to experience the enlightenment of our mind. In the teachings it is said that one butter lamp lights another. It is like having a hundred candles. When one candle is burning, the next candle can also be lit when it meets the flame of the first candle, and then the third candle can be lit when it meets the flame of the second, and the same with the fourth, and so forth. If you leave a candle on a shrine, it cannot light up without meeting a flame; it needs to meet with such a cause.

            Without knowing the meaning of the actual Vajradhara, many students new to the Dharma ask questions such as who the father or mother of Vajradhara are, and when Vajradhara took birth. There are other students who think that Vajradhara is a superior human being living high above in the sky. These ideas stem from a lack of understanding of the enlightenment aspect. Because of this lack of understanding, Vajradhara is believed to exist actually in physical form, abiding above us in some heavenly place, although he is beyond words and conception. Although the state of Vajradhara is beyond words and conception, it is something within ourselves which through our diligence and practice we are able to experience. Vajradhara is not anything separate or different from ourselves.

            When we state that there is no physical form to Vajradhara, the argument can still be made that we can see a dark blue human being who wears ornaments and silks and holds a bell and vajra in thangka paintings. These are all really symbolic gestures to enable students to understand the enlightened aspect. The dark blue color, bell, and vajra symbolize the indestructibility of Vajradhara. The dark blue also connotes his ceaseless activity to benefit beings, and his ornaments symbolize the preciousness of benefiting all living beings.”

            This teaching was given by Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at KTD, Woodstock, March 25-30, 1986. It was translated by Chojor Radha, and edited by Tina Armond.


* Telo, Naro, Marpa etc.

            I have already described these in the previous Blog and have a chart of them. Thrangu Rinpoche has written a book describing each of these lineage holders (available from NamoBuddhaPub.com).


* Karmapa of the three times

            The three times is past, present, and future. Thrangu Rinpoche told an example of knowing in the present and the Karmapa. The Karmapa had lent Rinpoche a Tibetan text which was several hundred pages long. He took it to a copy place in India and they made a copy, but had mixed up all the pages in the original. This text was in 17 chapters and none of the pages were numbered. So Rinpoche and Lobsang spent three days putting the original back together, but found that one page was missing. Finally, Rinpoche had to go the Karmapa with the text and tell the Karmapa that he had lost a page. The Karmapa instead of being very angry, simply took the text, reached into it and pulled out a page and said, “Oh, here it is.”

            There are many more stories about the Karmapa doing miraculous things in the present and some of him predicting the future.


*the Four Greater and Eight Lesser schools

            Gampopa had four main students and these students each formed a subsect of the Kagyu Lineage. One of these four Pagmo Drupa had eight students who formed sects of the Kagyu lineage. The translation four greater and eight lesser schools is not quite correct and should be four closer (to Gampopa) and eight further (from Gampopa) schools.  Below is a chart of these schools taken from The Path of Liberation.


* Masters of the profound path of Mahamudra

            Mahamudra is the primary meditation practice of the Kagyu lineage and it encompasses many important parts: the four common preliminaries, the four special preliminaries, the four special preliminaries, shamatha, vipashyana, and then pure meditation of looking directly at the mind. All of these are implied in this lineage prayer. For more information on Mahamudra I would recommend Thrangu Rinpoche’s booklet A Guide to Mahamudra meditation and also Thrangu Rinpoche’s Essentials of Mahamudra.