Dzogchen View of Tantric Ngondro
Whatever the practice in which we engage, relative truth and absolute truth are co-existent. Method and wisdom are co-existent. Experiences and emptiness are co-existent. Because this is the nature of the reality we experience, the practice of tantric ngöndro exists as a method for realizing the beginningless enlightened state.
The final phase of Tantric ngöndro, Lama'i Naljor, is the quintessence of this method. In the practice of Lama'i Naljor you reach this level of wisdom when the Lama dissolves and becomes one with you. At this point you remain in the absolute nature of things, which is the actual state of meditation as it is [as it is transmitted in the Dzogchen teachings.
At the beginning of the tantric ngöndro we invoke the presence of the Lama. Since the Lama is the one who exemplifies both the qualities of path and goal, we acknowledge the Lama as the beginning and end of all practice.
After having begun by acknowledging the Lama, we consider the difficulty of gaining human form [in terms of having the conducive circumstances to practice]. This form is the basis of the spiritual path of liberation and is therefore precious and worthy of great respect. If you do not value the situation in which you have found yourself, then you will not make use of your precious circumstances and a great opportunity will be squandered.
Then we consider impermanence and death. Everything that exists is subject to change and dissolution. Even though you die you don't find freedom simply by losing your physical form. You just go on circling in samsaric vision, taking countless other forms according to your patterned perception. The nature of samsara is the experience of suffering which arises through the attempt to maintain the illusion of duality. We contemplate upon that.
Then we reflect upon our conditioning and the pattern of our karmic vision. We recognize the manner in which our perception and responses are all governed by dualistic conditioning that is so difficult to undermine.
These are called the Lo-tog nam-zhi -- the Four Thoughts which turn the mind to practice. Their purpose is to encourage the attention away from compulsive patterning and re-patterning. It is important to dwell on these Lo-tog nam-zhi at the beginning of the practice in order to generate the appropriate motivation for practice.
Practicing in this way is like smoothing out a ploughed field to make it even and ready for sowing. Then we need to sow the seed itself. To sow the seed is to receive Refuge; to generate bodhicitta; to offer kyil-khor [for the accumulation of causes conducive to the fulfillment of method and wisdom and purification through Dorje Sempa recitation. These practices are like seeds sown in the ground [made ready by the contemplation of the Lo-tog nam-zhi.
From the perspective of the relative condition [in which we find ourselves] it is not possible to realize the absolute nature of reality without relating with what is relative. Without using the relative situation as a basis you cannot realize the true nature of the Mind. In the same way, without this relative practice, you cannot directly apprehend the nature of emptiness. The relative and absolute co-exist -- they go hand in hand; it is really very important indeed to realize this.
Let us now look at Refuge. At the external level there are what are called the K?n-chog Sum : sang-gyé, ch? and gendün buddha, dharma and sangha. Sang-gye is the source of ch?. Those whose minds are turned towards ch? are gendün.
Because we exist in duality we experience illusory dissatisfaction. Because of this, we take Refuge in order to be freed from the experience of self-generated dissatisfaction. Due to misapprehending our true nature [because of the delusory appearances that arise when the various elements coalesce in accordance with patterns of dualistic confusion this human body becomes the container of endless dualistic projections. It becomes a source of attachment, in terms of supplying delusory definitions of existence. This attachment remains very strong until you see the true nature of existence. Until you are completely freed from the delusion that your body validates your existence, dissatisfaction will continually color your experience. Because of this, K?n-chog Sum exist as a focus of Refuge.
So, externally speaking, one should take Refuge in sang-gyé, ch? and gendün with devotion. But internally, sang-gyé, ch? and gendün are symbolic. They are a profound and skilful way to lead us out of this self-created illusory samsara.
From the Dzogchen point of view, sang-gyé, ch? and gendün are within us. On the absolute level, this mind of ours, which is empty of all referential co-ordinates, is in itself sang-gyé rigpa -- radiant self-luminosity. Externally, ch? manifests as sound and meaning: you hear it and you practice it. But from an internal point of view, ch? is empty. In essence, it is the unceasing, unobstructed, self-luminous display of rigpa -- primordial Mind. Externally, gendün comprises those whose minds turn towards the ch?. But internally, gendün is the all-pervading, all-encompassing aspect of Mind.
They are all fully accomplished within us. However, since we do not recognize this, we need to take Refuge in the external sang-gyé, ch? and gendün. When you really practice tantric ngöndro properly you visualize Padmasambhava with fervent devotion; you perform prostrations in humility with your body; and you recite the Refuge formula with your speech. Then, when you sit silently at the end of your practice [and dissolve the visualization into yourself] you realize that all these three things -- subject, object and activity -- are none other than rigpa! The meditation is oneself; Padmasambhava is one's own creation. Just remain in the nature of rigpa. Other than rigpa, there is nothing to find!
Shakyamuni Buddha said in the Do-de Kalpa Zangpo, 'I manifested in a dreamlike way to dreamlike beings and gave a dreamlike ch?, but in reality I never taught and never actually came'. From the viewpoint of Shakyamuni Buddha never having come and the ch? never having been given, all is mere perception, existing only in the apparent sphere of suchness.
As regards the practice of Refuge, the relative aspect is the object of Refuge to which you offer devotion and prostrations and so on. The absolute aspect is without effort. When you dissolve the visualization and remain in the natural effortless state of mind, the concept of Refuge no longer exists.
The generation of chang-chub-sem bodhicitta or enlightened thought means that if we just act for ourselves alone we are not following the path of ch? and our enlightenment is blocked. It is of the utmost importance that we generate enlightened thought in order to free all beings from samsara. Beings are as limitless as the sky. They have all been our fathers and mothers. They have all suffered in this samsara that we all fabricate from the ground of being. So the thought of freeing them from this suffering really is very powerful. Without this, we have the deluded concept that we are separate from all sentient beings.
The enlightened thought [in the words of the chang-chub-sem vow is: 'From now until samsara is empty I shall work for the benefit of all beings who have been my fathers and mothers'. So from the relative point of view, there are sentient beings to be liberated, there is compassion to be generated, and there is the 'I', the generator of compassion. The way of generating and showing compassion is actually explained by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Such is the relative chang-chub-sem.
So in this relative practice of chang-chub-sem, you visualize all beings and generate the enlightened thought. You try to free them from all suffering until enlightenment is reached. You recite the generation of chang-chub-sem as many times as your practice requires. The instruction [according to the teachings on the development of chang-chub-sem is that you must exchange your own happiness for the pain of others. As you breathe out you give all
your happiness and joy [and even their causes to all sentient beings. As you breathe in you take on all their pain and suffering so that they can be free of it. This practice is also very important. Without the development of chang-chub-sem and without freeing ourselves from our attachment [to the form display of emptiness we cannot attain enlightenment. It is because of our inability to show compassion to others and because of being attached to the concept of ourselves that we are not free of dualism. All these things are the relative aspects of the practice of chang-chub-sem.
As regards the absolute aspect of chang-chub-sem, Shakyamuni Buddha said to his disciple Rabjor, "All phenomena are like an illusion and a dream". The reason why the Buddha said this is that whatever manifests is subject to change and dissolution; nothing is inherently solid, permanent, separate, continuous, or defined. If you see the world as solid, you tie yourself up with a rope of entanglement and are constrained and pulled [like a dog] by compulsion as your lead. You get drawn into activities that can never be finished, which is why samsara is apparently endless.
You might think that because samsara is like a dream, perhaps enlightenment is solid and permanent. But Shakyamuni Buddha said that nirvana itself is like a dream -- an illusion. There is nothing that can be named which is nirvana; nothing called nirvana which is tangible.
Shakyamuni Buddha said this directly: "Form is emptiness". For instance, the moon is reflected in water, but there is no moon in the water; there never has been! There is no form there that can be grasped! It is empty! Then Shakyamuni Buddha went on to say: "Emptiness itself is form". Emptiness itself has appeared in the manner of form. You cannot find emptiness apart from form. You cannot separate the two. You cannot grasp them as separate
entities. The moon is reflected in the water, but the water is not the moon. The moon is not the water, yet you cannot separate water and moon. Once you have understood this at the level of experience, there is no samsara. In the realm of realization there is no samsara or nirvana! When speaking of the teaching of Dzogchen, samsara and nirvana are just another dualistic concept.
But when looking at this moon in the water, you may say: "But it is there, I can see it!" But when you reach for it and try to touch it -- it's not there! It is the same with the thoughts that arise in Mind. So if you ask: "How has this actually come about?" you need to consider that everything comes from interdependent origination. So what is this interdependent origination? It is simply that the moon and water do not exist separately. The clear water is the primary cause, and the moon is the secondary or contributory cause. When these two causes meet, then this interdependent origination manifests. It is the coincidental appearance of the primary cause and the contributory cause.
To put it directly, the primary cause or basis of samsara is duality -- the artificial separation of emptiness and form. From this all manifestations become contributory causes within the framework of karmic vision. They meet together and bring about the manifestation of samsara [as long as we attach to the form display of emptiness as a
definition of being]. Everything that we experience as samsara exists only within this interdependent pattern. You must be quite sure of this! When you go further [and examine the nature of interdependent origination you find that it is none other than emptiness. Therefore, apart from emptiness, there is no ch?. The ultimate view of Thegchen Mahayana is emptiness, but this viewpoint does not exist in the lower teachings.
If you really look into your experience of existence with the eye of meditation, you begin to see everything as the play of emptiness. Phenomena [as referential co-ordinates] become exhausted and you finally arrive at their essential nature, which is emptiness. But, having said this, you might be led to say: 'In that case we should not need anything'. But
whether you need anything or not is up to you. It simply depends on your mind! Just dryly talking of emptiness is not enough! You must actualize it and then see for yourself. If your mind is really empty of referential manipulation, then there is no hope, no fear, no negativity -- your mind is free of that! It is like waving your hand in the sky! Whatever arises is completely unobstructed.
The purpose of meditation is to remain in this natural state. In that state all phenomena are directly realized in their essential emptiness. That is why we practice meditation. Meditation purifies everything into its empty nature. First we must realize that the absolute, natural state of things is empty. Then, whatever manifests is the play of the dharmakaya. Out of the empty nature of existence arise all the relative
manifestations from which we fabricate samsara. You need to understand quite clearly how things are in reality and how they appear in terms of duality. It is very important to have this View, because without View your meditation becomes dull. Just simply sitting and saying: 'It's all empty' is like putting a little cup upside-down! That little empty space in the cup remains a very narrow, limited emptiness. You cannot even drink tea from it!
It is essential to actually know the heart of the matter as it is. In the absolute sense there are no sentient beings who experience dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction is as empty as the clear sky, but because of attachment to the form display of emptiness, interdependent origination the relative sphere of things becomes an illusory trap in which there are sentient beings who experience dissatisfaction. This is the meaning of samsara.
In expressing the essential quality of the Great Mother, emptiness, it is said: 'Though you think of expressing the nature of the Heart Sutra you cannot put it into words'. It is totally beyond utterance, beyond thought, beyond
concept. It was never born. It has never died. If you ask what it is like, it is like the sky. You can never find the limit of the sky. You can never find the center of the sky. So this sky-like nature is symbolic of emptiness: it is spacious, limitless, and free, with infinite depth and infinite expanse.
But having said this, you might say: 'So my own rigpa, the nature of my own mind, is like the sky, free from all limitations'. But this is not it either! It is not just empty. If you look into it there is something to see. 'See' is just a word we have to use in order to communicate. But you can see that. You can meditate on that. You can rest in that, and whatever arises in that spacious condition. If you see the true nature of emptiness and form as non-dual -- as it really is -- this is the mother of all the Buddhas. All this chatter has been an elaboration of the absolute chang-chub-sem.
Next is the purification through Dorje Sempa. In the absolute sense there is nothing to purify, no one who could purify you, and no purification. But since beings are apparently unable to leave it at that, matters become a little bit more complicated. Obscurations and dualistic confusions arise as the consequence of clinging to the form display of emptiness.
In the illusory perception of this grasping at the form display of emptiness, we subject ourselves to endless dissatisfaction. Because of this, purification becomes a relative skilful means. In order to purify our delusions, Dorje Sempa yab-yum arises from your own true state of rigpa and the flow of
nectar from the secret kyil-khor of their union completely purifies your obscurations. You enter into the envisionment and recite the hundred-syllable mantra; and this is the means of purification. In the natural state of things [in the state of what is] everything is pure from the very beginning -- like the sky. This is the absolute purification of Dorje Sempa.
Now we come to the offering of the khyil-khor cosmogramme or mandala. The khyil-khor is offered for the accumulation of auspicious causes. Why do we need to accumulate auspicious causes? It is because of grasping at the form display of emptiness that illusory samsara has come about; so we need to practice giving everything up. Because there is the illusion that there is a way of purifying illusion, we can utilize this as a relative skilful means. Because you can purify there is also a way of accumulating auspicious causes. When you offer 'my body, my possessions and my glories', this is the relative, symbolic offering of the khyil-khor. From the absolute point of view, these things are empty, like the clear empty sky. So if you remain in the state of primordial awareness, that is the absolute khyil-khor offering and the absolute accumulation of auspicious causes.
Then there is the practice of Lama'i Naljor. Due to clinging to the form display of emptiness, the Lama appears as the one who inspires purity of mind. He or she is the object towards whom one feels purely. Because clinging obscures the mind [and because you feel purity of perception toward the Lama both you and the Lama appear to exist in the sphere of dualism [as if the fundamental nature of your Minds, within the sphere of dharmakaya, were different]. Therefore, externally, you visualize the Lama with great devotion. Then you receive the empowerment of his or her non-dual condition.
These are all the external, relative practices of Lama'i Naljor in which you have invoked the wisdom presence of the symbolic apparent Lama. Then you recite the vajra words: "The Lama dissolves into light and unites with my very being . . . See! The one taste of rigpa and emptiness [rig-tong] is the actual face of the Lama!"
If you ask where the absolute Lama is, he or she is nowhere else but there -- in the absolute nature of the Mind! The absolute state of rigpa is where the Lama is fully accomplished as primordial wisdom and clear space. Simply continuing in the awareness of how it is, is the Dzogchen practice of Lama'i Naljor.
Approaching the Guru
Why do we need devotion? Generally speaking, we need devotion because we need enlightenment. In one way, enlightenment can be understood very simply as a release from certain obsessions and hang-ups. Until we are free from these obsessions and habits, we will wander endlessly in samsara, going through all sorts of anxiety, suffering, and so on.
The cause of all these sufferings is our fundamental insecurity. We are always wondering whether we exist or not. Our ego, or rather our attachment to the idea of self, is completely insecure about its own existence. Our ego may seem strong but it is actually quite shaky. Of course, we do not ask such questions consciously, but we always have a subconscious feeling of insecurity about whether we exist.
We try to use things such as friends, money, position and power, and all the everyday things that we do, like watching television or going shopping, to somehow prove and confirm our existence. Try sitting alone in a house and doing absolutely nothing. Sooner or later your hands will reach for the remote control or the newspaper. We need to be occupied. We need to be busy. If we are not busy, we feel insecure.
But there is something very strange in all this. The ego searches constantly for distraction, and then the distraction itself becomes a problem. Instead of helping us to feel reassured, it actually increases our insecurity. We get obsessed with the distraction and it develops into another habit. Once it becomes a habit, it is difficult to get rid of. So in order to get rid of this new habit, we have to adopt yet another habit. This is how things go on and on.
In order to undermine this kind of habitual pattern, Lord Buddha taught us many, many different methods. Some of these are very skillful methods, such as overcoming the emotions by making friends with them. Even a single word of the Sakyamuni Buddha can liberate us from all these obsessions and habitual patterns. Take, for instance, the teaching on impermanence. When many of us, including myself, hear teachings on things like impermanence, the precious human body, and love and compassion, we tend to dismiss them as very simple and preliminary. But this is because we do not actually understand them.
Training the Mind
In order to achieve this wisdom, first we have to make our mind malleable, workable—in the sense of being in control of our own mind. As Shantideva said, if you want to walk comfortably, there are two possible solutions. Either you can try to cover the whole ground with leather—but that would be very difficult—or you can achieve the same effect by simply wearing a pair of shoes. In the same way, it would be difficult to train and tame every single emotion that we have, or to change the world according to our desires. In fact the basis of all experience is the mind, and that's why Buddhists stress the importance of training the mind in order to make it workable and flexible.
Yet a flexible mind is not enough. We have to understand the nature of the mind. This is very difficult to do, precisely because it involves the wisdom of realizing egolessness. We have been in samsara from beginningless time. Our habitual patterns are very strong. We are completely deluded. For this reason, it is very, very difficult for this wisdom to appear.
So what is to be done? There is only one way to obtain this wisdom—by accumulating merit. How should we accumulate this merit? According to the general vehicle of Buddhism, the method of accumulating merit is by having renunciation mind, by contemplating impermanence, by refraining from all the causes and conditions that will strengthen the ego, by engaging in all the causes and conditions that will strengthen our wisdom, by refraining from harming other beings, and so on. In the mahayana school, the merit is accumulated by having compassion for sentient beings.
To cut a long story short, if you want enlightenment you need wisdom. If you want wisdom, you must have merit. And to have merit, according to mahayana, you must have compassion and bodhichitta, the wish to establish beings in the state of freedom.
The vajrayana is renowned for its many methods and techniques, some of which are quite easy. The most important one, however, is to have a “sacred outlook.” And guru devotion is the essence of this sacred outlook. It says in the commentary to the Chakrasamvara Tantra that, “Through the blessings and kindness of the guru, great bliss, the realization of emptiness, the union of samsara and nirvana, can be obtained instantly.” This quotation talks about buddhanature.
Generally speaking, the ultimate message of Buddhism is that you possess buddhanature. In other words, you already and quite naturally have within you the qualities of complete enlightenment. But you need to realize this. The fact that you don't have this realization is the reason why you are wandering in samsara. According to Nagarjuna, the Buddha didn't say that you need to abandon samsara in order to gain enlightenment. What he said was that you need to see that samsara is empty, that it has no inherent existence. This is the same as saying that you need to recognize your essential buddhanature.
For example, you may be having a nightmare about monsters. But then suddenly, somebody throws a bucket of cold water over you and you wake up. The cold water doesn't really make the monsters disappear, because there were no monsters in the first place. It was just a dream. But on the other hand, when you are having a nightmare, your sufferings are real, and the person who throws the bucket of water over you is indeed very kind and special. If you have a lot of merit you are able to meet such a person, a person who can throw the water. On the other hand, if you don't have merit, you may never wake up from the nightmare.
The guru lineage originates with someone called Vajradhara or Samantabhadra. Our masters tell us that he is our own mind, the nature of our own mind. This means that when we trace back through the lineage, we actually end up with our own minds, the essence of ourselves. The guru is not some kind of almighty sponsor that we have to worship or obey. The most important thing to understand is that the guru is the display of our buddhanature.
On the ordinary level, one can say that the guru is someone who tells you what to do and what not to do. A small child may not realize that hot iron burns, so his father tells him that it burns and saves him from getting hurt. The guru is doing this for you when he tells you what is right and what is wrong.
In Vajrayana, though, the guru does something even more important. You must have read many, many times that your body, speech, mind and aggregates have all been pure from beginningless time. But we don't realize that. As Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche said, it is precisely because the truth is so simple that people don't understand it. It's like our eyelashes, which are so close that we can't see them. The reason why we don't realize this is our lack of merit. The guru's role is to grant us empowerment and introduce us to this purity—and finally to point out directly the mind's nature.
Putting the Guru to the Test
The great vidyadhara Jigme Lingpa said that it is very important to analyze the guru first. As I said before, we are naturally very insecure people. Because of this we are easy prey. We make all sorts of mistakes that are difficult to clear up later on.
Before you start to follow a guru, you should have a good understanding of the dharma. I don't mean that you have to understand it completely, but at least you should have some understanding. You should analyze, and you should be skeptical and critical. Perhaps you should argue, and try to find fault by using logic and reflection.
But while you are doing this, you should not have the journalist's approach of looking for faults. The aim here is to find the path, not to find faults. So, when you study Buddhism, you should try to see whether this path suits you or not, whether this path makes sense or not. This is very important.
Here's an example. Let's say that we want to go to New York , and we are hiring a guide. We need to have at least some idea where New York is. To take a guide without knowing whether New York is in the east, south or west is what I call the “inspirational disease.” It's not enough just to find the guide attractive—to like the way he looks, talks and behaves. You should have at least some knowledge where New York is, so that if in the middle of the trip he begins to act a little funny, you feel okay because you know that you are heading in the right direction. He may lead you through strange or rough roads, but that doesn't matter if you know you are heading in the right direction.
On the other hand, if you don't know the way at all, you are obliged to place all your trust in this one guide who claims that he can do anything. Maybe if you have lots of merit, you might accidentally find an authentic guide and actually reach New York . But if I were you I would not trust this kind of accidental success all the way. It is good to analyze the path first, and then you can have one or a hundred or thousands of gurus if you like.
Approaching the Guru
What should we do next? One of the great Sakyapa masters, Jamyang Gyaltsen, said, “First you have to think about, contemplate, and manufacture devotion.” You need fabricated devotion, which is to consider that the guru is the Buddha. Make believe, so to speak. After a while, at the second stage, you will really start to see him as the Buddha, without any difficulty. And finally, at the third stage, you will realize that you are the Buddha. This is the unique approach of the vajrayana.
As I said at the beginning, I personally don't have real devotion. I don't see my guru as the Buddha, but I try to contemplate and think that he is the Buddha. This is what we call created or fabricated devotion. In the beginning we consider that all the faults we see in him are nothing but our own projections. But the truth of the matter is that the guru has all the qualities of the Buddha. He is the Buddha, he is the dharma, he is the sangha; he is everything.
We think like this again and again. This may strike you as nonsense, but actually it's very logical—after all, everything depends on the mind. It is because of our delusions that it is initially very hard for us to see the guru as the Buddha. We have to practice and get used to it again and again, and then it will definitely work.
Shantideva has said that if you get accustomed to something, there is nothing in this world that is difficult. Let's say this is the first time in your life that you are going to a bar. You are introduced to someone and, due to some past karmic connection, this person proceeds to give you all the initiations and oral instructions and teachings on how to mix various drinks. Tequila with lemon, martinis dry and sweet—all sorts of details about drinking.
Being a very devoted and diligent student, you practice drinking. In the beginning, it burns your throat, it hurts your stomach, and you get drunk. You vomit and you get up the next morning with a headache. With lots of enthusiasm you keep doing this. This is what we call foundation practice. You keep going to this person, and even though he occasionally gives you a hard time, it doesn't matter. You are a very diligent student. Then one day your mind and his mingle: you know everything about alcohol, you know how to drink. At this point, you are a perfect lineage holder of alcohol drinking. You can then begin to teach others.
The Universality of the Guru
We think that the guru is only good for giving teachings, that the guru is only good for special things but not good for headaches or other problems. This is not the way to think. For every problem that you have, pray to the guru, receive his blessings and you will be free from it. In one Tantra, it says, “Years and years of doing meditation on the development or completion stages, or years and years of chanting mantras, cannot compare with one instant of remembering the guru.”
How should you behave with a guru? As an offering you can think of things like dress code, etiquette, politeness, but it doesn't really matter. However, there are two very important things that you should never forget. The first is that you should never have pride. This is because you are there to learn, to receive teachings, to find enlightenment. As Tibetans say, “A proud person is like a stone.” No matter how much water you put on it, it will never get soaked. If you have pride you will never learn. So it's very important to adopt an attitude of humility.
The second important thing is never to waste an opportunity to accumulate merit. Having merit is so important. When you watch a movie, if you don't know that it's a movie and think it's real, you will go through all sorts of emotional trauma. But if the person next to you says, “This is just a movie,” from then on you will be free from this kind of delusion. On the other hand, if you don't have merit, then just at the moment when the person next to you says, “Look, this is just a movie,” someone behind you might cough very loudly, and you may not hear what the person next to you says. So you miss the opportunity of realization—all because you don't have merit.
Also, if you don't have merit, your ego is always there ready to interpret everything in its own way. Even though the teacher gives you the most important teaching, you will always interpret it according to your own agenda.
So at this point, instead of trying to outsmart the ego, the most important thing to do is to accumulate merit. How? There are lots of different ways. You can wear a tie and look handsome and think “This is an offering to my teacher.” If you are driving at night, when you see the street lamps, you can immediately visualize them as lamp offerings to the guru. If you can't do this yourself, and if you see somebody else doing it, at least rejoice in what they are doing. There are so many things we can do. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche said, “Accumulating merit is so easy, in fact much easier than accumulating non-virtue.”
“In meditation, thought within oneself, you will be revealed your true self.” This is one of the methods of Vajrayana performed to cultivate the mind. You are already familiar with this technique: when you have fantasies, or recall a memory, that is when you are using it…
Vajrayana began to arise as a new movement in Indian Buddhism in the fifth and sixth centuries and emerged in Tibet about the 7 th century C.E. Its prominent symbol is the 'vajra' translated as diamond or thunderbolt. With its emphasis on yogic practices and its reliance on tantric teachings, Vajrayana offers a speedier route to enlightenment . Some of these practices were borrowed or developed from Hinduism, while others were innovations of Buddhist teachers. Vajrayana arose from a group of texts called Tantras that described meditation and ritual techniques for advanced Mahayana practitioners.
Tantric techniques can bring one to enlightenment much more quickly than the many lifetimes required for the bodhisattva path in Mahayana. Tantric texts are said to have been taught by the Buddha to a select group of disciples, though they did not appear publicly until the seventh century. Tantric texts are often very difficult to read without the guidance of an experienced tantric practitioner.
One defining feature of Vajrayana is esoteric practices. Esoteric teachings are often secret, in that a master should only teach them to a prepared disciple. Some esoteric practices do not require one to get rid of all one's desires and attachments beforehand, but actually use human emotion and energy in all its variety in order to go beyond attachments. They work in ways that seem magical or mysterious to outsiders and may create supernormal abilities in the practitioner. Some examples of these practices are: repetition of short potent phrases called mantras or dharanis; complex visualizations, such as sending colored light to multiple realms in the cosmos; and creation of and meditation on mandalas, sacred diagrams of deities or buddha lands. Vajrayana is also noted for focusing attention on many feminine buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities or wives of male deities.
All Buddhist practices lead to one goal: to rid oneself of their ego. But Vajrayana's method of manipulating the ego's extreme intelligence and creativity allows the ego to do the majority of the work to oust itself – Vajrayana does not crush the ego, but lovingly tries to attract a substitution.
Vajrayana's methods provide numerous ways of directing one's heart to open up with energy, compassion, and love, allowing you to more completely become infatuated with meritorious and beneficent deeds, inspiring you to search deeper into your origin and where you are presently. When confronted with mysteries and challenges before you, do not think Vajrayana will punish or reward you for your behavior, but continue to look searchingly inside.
In addition, Vajrayana practice instructs that notions of you being kind, sad, strong, and so on are in fact a very limited perspective - these wrong concepts of yourself are fundamentally not you. Your Buddha-nature, your dharmadhatu, has no limits; therefore treat the infinite nature of dharmadhatu as your self-image, and this will more accurately represent the genuine you.
Penetrating your self-image, Vajrayana's teachings gradually quilt an “infinite concept” of the self that will substitute your ego. This kind of practice cultivates the mind without destroying any part of it by intentionally creating new habits and methods to save people from habitual inflexibility. Regarding our Buddha-nature for example, mercy and other inexhaustible merits can eventually be increased in number and dimension.
Vajrayana also uses approaches that are more close to your natural disposition instead of your usual deceptive views and habits. Not only do Vajrayana methods focus upon yourself, but also the periphery environment in which you live, the confusion of life, and your perception of all phenomena.
Vajrayana study is made more expedient by its use of tantras. The tantric approach more closely resembles your dharmadhatu nature, pure and sacred in its view, and seeks to replace your negative impression and concept of the world.
Most importantly, Vajrayana not only focuses upon the characteristics of the heart, but also considers the question of the body. “Transforming the ordinary body into your present body,” this mentality takes as its foundation the theory that all existent outside, including both joyful and not joyful, beauty, ugliness and so on are all products of one's imagination. These concepts have created habits within us, when these habits become increasingly firm they become our present rough weight and materialist
dependence, for example our so-called feelings (such as hot and cold) and images (such as beauty and ugliness, large and small, etc.) are the aggregates of our rough habits create by our so-called body, whereas our more subtle habits are created by our heart. Through the penetration of our heart by religious practice we can purify ourselves. According to the theory of emptiness, the body should be penetrable through practice to reach purity as well.
Many methods exist to attain the “view” by way of religious practice. Since these tools all come from the master's teachings it would not be appropriate to explain the methods in detail here. Generally speaking, the view seeks to transform your ordinary surroundings into a continuous religious practice. This technique not only allows you to cast off your mediocre view of yourself, but also provides methods that can repair certain aspects of your view, because you must pay
attention to many details; at the same time, it also illuminates the areas that need attention. Usually we believe that we are stranded in the present bodily condition, this is a reason why we suffer hardships; yet this view helps us understand that all things are ephemeral. Because we do not really possess anything firmly.
Usually you may want to freely use the technique of “view”, transforming your view of your surroundings, large and small, and quantities. Sometimes you perceive a jar to be larger than a mountain, sometimes you perceive yourself to be smaller than a small grain of millet, sometimes your view can transform you into many different sizes. You may believe that within each pore holds an entire temple, although the temple is no smaller and your pore is no larger, that is why our experiences are very much dependent upon our perspective. This concept was demonstrated by Milarepa's ability to enter into a cow's horn, demonstrating that his size, inside and outside, which did not fetter his ability to sit inside of a cow's horn. This technique of perspective reveals the limitless possibilities that lie in one's psychology. This should help you in your practice.
If you would like to cultivate a complete perspective, sometimes it is extremely difficult. Similar to trying to burn a pile of shrubbery, you cannot run back and forth trying to grab a hold of new matches trying to light several pieces of leaves at a time and hope to achieve the entire goal; but, if you pile the fallen leaves under the tree, adding hay and small twigs to the pile, a fire will ignite much more easily. According to the same theory, to ignite a life
is like burning a pile of brush, perspective also requires technique - do not focus only on the details, but focus more on special sections. The third eye for example, representing the lotus flower, has a function similar to an ignition; if you focus your attention upon these spots, once they catch fire, your view will extend to every place – thereby absorbing and assimilating multiple dimensions of meaning.
“Assimilation” concerning the arteries, circulation, breath, and clear teaching, in their function to life has intrinsic value. Generally, the body is considered as minor to the mind, the mind is considered much stronger and even the controlling power over the body, the body is in effect a slave to the heart. If it is decided to attempt to move the world, the attempt alone can satisfy the desire of the mind, but not the body. Usually the mind decides on the direction of where to walk, the body only follows, therefore the majority of Buddhist practice is put upon the mind, in particular Vajrayana teaches how the mind and the body can communicate and work together.
One method of practice involving the body is trying to penetration of this view. It seems a little artificial or false to want to make yourself into a very large blue Buddha with three faces six arms and six feet – thus representing the color, the shape, the number, the size and so on of the opposing ties. Speaking of the relative level of the arteries and circulation, we see for example that blood vessels are comparatively more noticeable than tinier
arteries that are infinitesimal and difficult to see. This is just like the mind, generally it cannot see, however in particular situations, the mind is so powerful that it can see – just like an explosion of sentiments can express the mind. Similarly, when the configuration of a certain concept grows stronger it can be experienced, displaying its shape, color, size, and nature; On a finer level, the ordinary eye cannot see on its own, but because of its meticulously fine sensitivity in relationship to the mind that it can sense subtle objects. When the body becomes increasingly meticulous, the distinction between the body and mind decreases.
Vision and Values
All values exist to lead all living beings to understand truth, for example to not encroach upon other people and to not do evil things, this kind of correct behavior tends towards right view which sees…
All values exist to lead all living beings to understand truth, for example to not encroach upon other people and to not do evil things, this kind of correct behavior tends towards what is called the “right view” way. To not know “right view” is to be ignorant. Likewise, to not have correct behavior nourishes greater ignorance. As
follows, to not trespass upon others decreases ignorance and folly. Weakening ignorance by disturbing its strength is one way, while many other methods also exist. In fact, many forms of disciplines are necessary; each method is needed in order to obtain “right view.”
Understandably, “the path” when mentioned without explanation can lead to confusion, yet once it has been understood and one's goal has been achieved, “the path” method must no longer be depended upon. But before that moment of comprehension, “the path” is a necessity because of the penetrating logic in its argument and analysis. If you want to fully understand dharma you must first lead a life in practicing “the path” because one's emotions often suppresses one's sense of reason thereby hindering one to see the dharmadhatu naturally. Only by allowing Buddhist practice to penetrate within you can emotions and worry drop away.
Before going any further, we should first understand the meaning of “dharmadhatu” and its root term “dharma.” Dharma has two kinds of meanings; the first kind means truth. Truth has no exceptions and could not be disobeyed; due to such law-like characteristics, in Chinese Buddhist works, "dharma" is translated by the Chinese character Fa that means law. In this light rules and norms that are in accordance with truth and
teachings that illustrate truth are also called "dharma." Buddha's teachings aim at guiding sentient beings to live in accordance with truth; hence it is called "Buddha Dharma" or simply "Dharma." The second kind of meaning of "dharma" is a general noun used to denote anything. In this sense "dharma" resembles "thing" in their linguistic uses. Nevertheless, according to Buddhist teachings there is nothing that has an absolutely
independent existence; consequently, what is meant by "dharma" is not limited to objects or events that are commonly regarded as existent or real. Instead, it could refer to anything thinkable or imaginable, even including products of illusion or delusion. Furthermore, it could also refer to spiritual states that transcend senses and consciousness, and are unspeakable or unimaginable. Under this meaning of "dharma" all dharmas are mutually dependent
causes and conditions of their coexistence. Whatever the ordinary worldly view may be, in this sense of "dharma," all dharmas are equal as one of the dharmas and this equality transcends considerations of their differences in being real/unreal, superior/inferior, or abundant/deficient. In this sense of "dharma" the word "dharmadhatu," literally "realm of dharmas," refers to the collection of all dharmas. "Attaining Buddhahood" means
having transcended all and any limitations that are due to artificial concepts, subconscious activities, desires and feelings, will and attachment, time and space, etc., and having regained the original state of dharmadhatu in harmonious oneness. To a being that has attained Buddhahood dharmadhatu is also referred to as the Dharmakaya, literally "body of dharmas," of that being. Thus we see that understanding the
notion of dharmadhatu plays an essential role in a successful quest for Buddhahood. In order to attain Buddhahood we need to comprehend correctly and thoroughly the full significance of "dharmadhatu." This essay is composed to expound the correct content of "dharmadhatu" and to point out some essential features that are commonly confused with other notions. I hope that this work will help people advance on the right path toward Buddhahood.
Universe is the collection of all things in time and space. Yet dharmadhatu is neither limited by space nor by time. There are boundless sorts of states that are beyond the sphere of time and space; there are also limitless objects and events that are not within the sphere of time and space. Dharmadhatu transcends any limitation; it is much more comprehensive than the universe.
2. All of dharmadhatu coexist as a whole.
It is commonly held to be that that what was in the past are gone, what are at present are transient, and what will come have not yet occurred. Consequently, even though after having accepted the Dependent Origination View that all dharmas are mutually dependent as causes and conditions for their coexistence, one still regards dharmadhatu as a flow
of dharmas—past dharmas have faded away, present dharmas are apparent but transient, and future dharmas have not arrived and are unpredictable. This view of dharmadhatu is under the limitation of the notion of time, and as such it deviates from the correct meaning of the Buddhist dharmadhatu. Dharmadhatu is neither limited by space nor by time. According to the correct view of dharmadhatu all dharmas in the past, all dharmas at
present and all dharmas in the future are all together in the dharmadhatu. Ordinarily people can experience only a minute part of all dharmas at present, and therefore people sustain the view that dharmas in the past are gone and the future is unpredictable. If one practices according to Buddhist teachings and thereby comes out of the bondage of the fixed view of a space-and-time framework, then it is possible to
experience or witness dharmas in the past as well as dharmas in the future. According to biographies of ancient Buddhist sages, some witnessed that the ancient assemblage of Buddha, holy beings and his disciples, in which the teachings recorded in Wondrous Dharma Lotus Sutra were given, had not
dispersed yet. There are also numerous records of valid prophecies regarding important events or personages in Buddhist history. Even though for common people these matters are difficult to believe, nevertheless, among practitioners it is common experiences that knowledge of future events is revealed now and then through inspirations.
All dharmas are mutually dependent and coexist. Distinctions of real/unreal, existent/extinct, apparent/concealed, higher/lower, etc., are based on grasping to appearances as the results of our conscious choices and attachments.
Discriminations made neither increase nor decrease dharmadhatu in any way; distinction making has no significance whatsoever to dharmadhatu. In order to attain realization of oneness of dharmadhatu we need to recognize this point clearly, and relinquish grasping to the habit of making conscious distinctions.
According to the Buddhist philosophy, the heart creates a myriad of things; or more accurately said - myriad things are themselves the heart. Keep in mind, this expression is dependent upon the consciousness of the object to recognize its own being. In truth, the heart and its respective object depend mutually upon one another for existence. They are inter-related, therefore the respective object cannot separate altogether from the
mind process of which it is intrinsically a part. If the object did have real external existence, then one could use intellectual analysis, math theory or scientific laboratories to discover its true condition. But, because this is not the case, therefore one only has his/her own heart from where the phenomenon of dharmadhatu can be experienced.
Although the teacher can help you understand better the dharmadhatu model, their help is only equal to giving you a clearer photograph for you to recognize the dharmadhatu. The teacher is unable to give you the dharmadhatu experience; you alone must penetrate it by leading a life of continual practice. No matter how extensive your
teacher's vocabulary is he/she can only give you an image of the moon's light to look at, or tell you what direction you should face to be able to see the genuine moon. Yet because you cannot look through the eyes of others or know the experience of others you will never be able to truly see the moon until you know it for yourself.
In this case, you would probably suspect that your teacher and education are unnecessary, or that you can depend only upon yourself without the help of others. However, your teacher and his/her lessons are necessary; the lessons can increase your understanding of “the view,” because in obtaining “the view” you will find there are many barriers. These barriers are
extremely ingenious. They can make you misunderstand and cut yourself short of realizing your true potential, completely blinding yourself to your natural disposition. In order to overcome these barriers, you need a more precise weapon, therefore the teacher and the lesson she/she imparts is absolutely necessary.
Dudjom Yeshe Dorje (1904-1987)
Treating the Spirit
Meditation is but thought within ourselves (regardless of good and bad), it generates clear vision and understanding of one's natural disposition, it does not need to dwell in delusions of the past or the future, it is neither infatuated with joyful experiences nor crushed by sadness. It is an extremely balanced condition; in this state, all good and bad, tranquility and sadness, lose their meaning.
Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, commonly known as Dudjom Rinpoche, is the king of all great yogis in the 20 th Century. He is the reincarnation of one of Guru Padmasambhava's twenty-five disciples, Kyeo Chung Lotsawa. Parenthetically, one of Kyeo Chung Lotsawa's previous incarnations was Lingchen Repa, the root guru of the first Gyalwang Drunkpa Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje, for that reason, Dudjom Rinpoche is also known as Dudjom Lingpa.
At the young age of fourteen, Dudjom Rinpoche had already proven himself an able scholar and meditation master. Before Dudjom Rinpoche's birth there had been no yogis or enlightened scholars in his region. Since such time, many of the Rinpoche's students have shown signs of full enlightenment. However, in 1958 the young Rinpoche decided to leave Tibet before the difficult time in the country began. He then dedicated his attention to teaching and
empowering millions of his devotees across the world. His Holiness once said that despite all the activities that he had taken part in back in Tibet , he found the empowerments with the teachings the most beneficial for others. At another time he said that he had tried almost every other way to help beings, but unfortunately due to the lack of positive karma not many of the activities became as beneficial as hoped. Consequently, he said he was no longer interested in any method but teaching and empowering with the blessings of those who would receive them.
Nearing the end of his life, Dudjom Rinpoche began preparation for leaving his relative body and taking a reincarnated form. He told his disciples to prepare for a journey to Pemakod in southwest Tibet that described as a paradise on earth. Yet because Dudjom Rinpoche was at such an advanced age, his disciples had trouble understanding how he planned to travel the great distance from his residence in France to Pemakod. Some of Dudjom Rinpoche's aged disciples even started their journey ahead of time knowing that it could take them at least a year to travel from each of their far-off locations.
Shortly before his death, Dudjom Rinpoche began constructing an infant-sized carriage in which he said he could ride. His disciples still did not understand, yet the next morning they found Dudjom Rinpoche in a full state of meditation that continued for several weeks up to the moment of his body's death.
The young reincarnated form of Dudjom Rinpoche was later found in Pemakod exactly where the Rinpoche wanted himself to be found. Phukhong Tulku, a disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, recognized the child according to Dudjom Rinpoche's detailed instructions on how to recognize the child's father, who would be the Prince of Kanam and a direct descendant of King Trisong Detsen, as well as the mother, Namgyal Drolma. Upon recognition of the child's parents, Dudjom Rinpoche's disciples were both astonished and pleased to witness the child recognizing each one of them and communicating in Dudjom Rinpoche's local dialect from the Gulok region.
Dudjom Rinpoche passed into the parinirvana on January 17, 1987 at his residence in France . I was told by one of the masters who was there serving him that relics of his body were left as a sign of the dissolving of his Nirmanakaya body into the pure space of the Dharmakaya. His relative physical body shrank by almost 85%. His remaining body that he purposely left behind for his devotees is presently placed in a stupa in one of his main seats near the Boudhanath, in Kathmandu , Nepal .
though I believe I have a magnificent connection with this great yogi from both our past lives, somehow due to my lack of some particular positive karma, I did not have the chance to be with him physically in this life. However, I have had the pleasure of receiving some direct instructions on the subject of mind and the entire Terdzod empowerment, among others. On one special occasion I was given a three-word instruction on essential mind, and that was it! I have not the words to explain what actually happened to me at that moment, however, I wish these kinds of yogis and masters, in order to save all of us, would fill the entire world. May I reunite with His Holiness wherever he is now!
ften people disregard the occurrence of death. We want to believe that there won't be a problem, that medical capabilities will allow us to cross over from life to death without difficulty, that for some inexplicable reason our problems can all be solved, but this kind of idle manner negatively avoids the pain and worry that exists from one life to the next gives us only pain and frustration. Impermanence exists and cannot be lengthened any longer.
There will come a time when you will speak your last words, you will breathe your last breath, and you will think you last thought, this will all happen be it quickly or prolonged by a day but will nonetheless happen for each person. Therefore, “the International Society of Tibetology” would like to present Sogyal Rinpoche's The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying chapter called “Spiritual Help for the Dying” as a modern method for every person to find tranquility in their own death and for others. The precious wisdom of Sogyal Rinpoche can help every person when faced with death find healing through spiritual strength.
Sogyal Rinpoche is the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying . Sogyal Rinpoche already has eleven works; each original tour de force is like a jewel made guiding us to understand life and death, and draws from the intellectual sources of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Sogyal Rinpoche profoundly explains in an easy-to-understand approach meditation, cause and effect, reincarnation, ways to provide care by the deathbed, as well as a roadmap on the mind. The spirit of Tibetan Buddhism's classic philosophy is elaborated within this modern work.
Providing Care at the Deathbed
In a hospice I know, Emily, a woman in her late sixties, was dying of breast cancer. Her daughter would visit her every day and there seemed to be a happy relationship between the two. But when her daughter had left, Emily would nearly always sit alone and cry. After a while it became clear that the reason for this was that her daughter had refused completely to accept the inevitability of her death, but spent her whole time encouraging her mother to “think positively,” hoping that by this her cancer would be cured. A that happened was that Emily had to keep her thoughts, deep fears, panic, and grief to herself, with no one to share them with, no one to help her explore them, no one to help her understand her life, and no one to help her find a healing meaning in her death.
Often the dying person feels reserved and insecure, and is not sure of your intentions when you first visit. So don't feel anything extraordinary is supposed to happen, just be natural and relaxed, be yourself. Often dying people don't say what they want or mean, and the people close to them don't know what to say or do. It's hard to find out what they might be trying to say, or even what they might be hiding. Sometimes not even they know. So the first essential thing is to relax any tension in the atmosphere in whatever way comes most easily and naturally.
Once trust and confidence have been established, the atmosphere becomes relaxed and this will allow the dying person to bring up the things he or she really wants to talk about. Encourage the person warmly to feel as free as possible to express thoughts, fears, and emotions about dying and death. This honest and unshrinking baring of emotion is central to any possible transformation – of coming to terms with life or dying a good death – and you must allow the person complete freedom, giving your full permission to say whatever he or she wants.
When the dying person is finally communicating his or her most private feelings, do not interrupt, deny, or diminish what the person is saying. The terminally ill or dying are in the most vulnerable situation of their lives, and you will need all your skill and resources of sensitivity, and warmth, and loving compassion to enable them to reveal themselves. Learn to listen, and learn to receive in silence: an open, calm silence that makes the other person feel accepted. Be as relaxed as you can, be at ease; sit there with your dying friend or relative as if you had nothing more important or enjoyable to do.
I have found that, as in all grave situations of life, two things are most useful: a common-sense approach and a sense of humor. Humor has a marvelous way of lightening the atmosphere, helping to put the process of dying in its true and universal perspective, and breaking the over-seriousness and intensity of the situation. Use humor, then, as skillfully and as gently as possible.
I have found also, from my own experience, that it is essential not to take anything too personally. When you least expect it ,dying people can make you the target of all their anger and blame. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says, anger and blame can “be displaced in all directions, and projected onto the environment at times almost at random.” Do not imagine that this rage is really aimed at you; realizing what fear and grief it springs from will stop you from reacting to it in ways that might damage your relationship.
Sometimes you may be tempted to preach to the dying, or to give them your own spiritual formula. Avoid this temptation absolutely, especially when you suspect that it is not what the dying person wants! No one wishes to be “rescued” with someone else's beliefs. Remember your task is not to convert anyone to anything, but to help the person in front of you get in touch with his or her own strength, confidence, faith, and spirituality, whatever that might be. Of course, if the person is really open to spiritual matters, and really wants to know what you think about them, don't hold back either.
Don't expect too much from yourself, or expect your help to produce miraculous results in the dying person or “save” them. You will only be disappointed. People will die as them have lived, as themselves. For real communication to be established, you must make a determined effort to see the person in terms of his or her own life, character, background, and history, and to accept the person unreservedly. Also don't be distressed if your help seems to be having very little effect and the dying person does not respond. We cannot know the deeper effects of our care.
Showing Unconditional Love
A dying person most needs to be shown as unconditional a love as possible, released from all expectations. Don't think you have to be an expert in any way. Be natural, be yourself, be a true friend, and the dying person will be reassured that you are really with them, communicating with them simply as an equal, as one human being to another.
I have said, “Show the dying person unconditional love,” but in some situations that is far from easy. We may have a long history of suffering with the person, we may feel guilty about what we have done to the person in the past, or anger and resentment at what the person has done to us.
So let me suggest two very simple ways in which you can release the love within you toward the dying person. I and my students who work with the dying have found both these ways to be powerful. First, look at the dying person in front of you and think of that person as just like you, with the same needs, the same fundamental desire to be happy and avoid suffering, the same loneliness, the same fear of the unknown, the same secret areas of sadness, the same half-acknowledged feelings of helplessness. You will find that if you really do this, your heart will open toward the person and love will be present between you.
The second way, and I have found this even more powerful, is to put yourself directly and unflinchingly in the dying person's place. Imagine that you are on that bed before you, facing your death. Imagine that you are there in pain and alone then really ask yourself: What would you most need? What would you most like? What would you really wish from the friend in front of you?
If you do these two practices, I think you would find that what the dying person wants is what you would most want: to be really loved and accepted.
I have often seen also that people who are very sick long to be touched, long to be treated as living people and not diseases. A great deal of consolation can be given to the very ill simply by touching their hands, looking into their eyes, gently massaging them or holding them in your arms, or breathing in the same rhythm gently with them. The body has its own language of love; use it fearlessly, and you will find you bring to the dying comfort and consolation.
Often we forget that the dying are losing their whole world: their house, their job, their relationships, their body, and their mind – they're losing everything. All the losses we could possibly experience in life are joined together in one overwhelming loss when we die, so how could anyone dying not be sometimes sad, sometimes panicked, sometimes angry? Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggests five stages in the process of coming to terms with dying: denial, anger,
bargaining, depression, and acceptance. OF course not everyone will go through all these stages, or necessarily in this order; and for some people the road to acceptance may be an extremely long and thorny one; others may not reach acceptance at all. Ours is a culture that does not give people very much true perspective on their thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and many people facing death and its final challenge find themselves
feeling cheated by their own ignorance, and terribly frustrated and angry, especially since no one seems to want to comprehend them and their most heart-felt needs. As Cicely Saunders, the great pioneer of the hospice movement in Britain , writes: “I once asked a man who knew he was dying what he needed above all in those who were caring for him. He said, ‘For someone to look as if they are trying to understand me.' Indeed, it is impossible to understand fully another person, but I never forgot that he did not ask for success but only that someone should care enough to try.”
It is essential that we care enough to try, and that we reassure the person that whatever he or she may be feeling, whatever his or her frustration and anger, it is normal. Dying will bring out many repressed emotions: sadness or numbness or guilt, or even jealousy of those who are still well. Help the person not to repress these emotions when
they rise. Be with the person as the waves of pain and grief break; with acceptance, time, and patient understanding, the emotions slowly subside and return the dying person to that ground of serenity, calm, and sanity that is most deeply and truly theirs.
Don't try to be too wise; don't always try to search for something profound to say. You don't have to do or say anything to make things better. Just be there as fully as you can. And if you are feeling a lot of anxiety and fear, and don't know what to do, admit that openly to the dying person and ask his or her help. This honesty will bring you and the dying person closer together, and help in opening up a freer communication. Sometimes the dying know far better than we how they
can be helped, and we need to know how to draw on their wisdom and let them give to us what they know. Cicely Saunders has asked us to remind ourselves that, in being with the dying, we are not the only givers. “Sooner or later all who work with the dying people know they are receiving more than they are giving as they meet endurance, courage and often humor. We need to say so…” Acknowledging our recognition of their courage can often inspire the dying person.
I find too that I have been helped by remembering one thing: that the person in front of me dying is always, somewhere, inherently good. Whatever rage or emotion arises, however momentarily shocking or horrifying these may be, focusing on that inner goodness will give you the control and perspective you need to be as helpful as possible. Just as when you
quarrel with a good friend, you don't forget the best parts of that person, do the same with the dying person: Don't judge them by whatever emotions arise. This acceptance of yours will release the dying person to be as uninhibited as he or she needs to be. Treat the dying as if they were what they are sometimes capable of being: open, loving, and generous.
On a deeper, spiritual level, I find it extremely helpful always to remember the dying person has the true Buddha nature, whether he or she realizes it or not, and the potential for complete enlightenment. As the dying come closer to death, this possibility is in many ways even greater. So they deserve even more care and respect.
Telling the Truth
People often ask me: “should people be told they are dying?” And I always reply: “Yes, as quietly, as kindly, as sensitively, and as skillfully as possible.” From my years of visiting ill and dying patients, I agree with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who has observed that: “Most, if not all, of the patients know anyway. They sense it by the changed attention, by the new and different approach that people take to them, by the lowering of voices or avoidance of sounds, by the tearful face of a relative or ominous, unsmiling member of the family who cannot hide his true feelings.”
I have often found that people instinctively know they are eddying, but count on others – their doctor or loved ones – to confirm it. If they don't the dying person may think it is because family members cannot cope with the news. And then the dying person won't bring up the subject either. This lack of honesty will make him or her feel only more isolated
and more anxious, I believe it is essential to tell the dying person the truth; he or she at least deserves that much. If the dying are not told the truth, how can they prepare themselves for death? How can they carry the relationships of their lives to a true conclusion? How can they take care of the many practical issues they must resolve? How can they help those who are left when they are gone to survive?
From my point of view as a spiritual practitioner, I believe dying to be a great opportunity for people to come to terms with their whole lives; and I have seen many, many individuals take this opportunity, in the most inspiring way, to change themselves and come closer to their own deepest truth. So by kindly and sensitively telling people at the earliest opportunity that they are dying, we are really giving them the chance to prepare, and to find their own powers of strength, and the meaning of their lives.
Let me tell you a story I was told by Sister Brigid, a Catholic nurse working in an Irish hospice. My. Murphy was in his sixties, and he and his wife were told by their doctor that he did not have long to live. The following day Mrs. Murphy visited her
husband at the hospice, and they talked and wept all day long. Sister Brigid watched as the old could talk and frequently broke down into tears, and when this had gone on for three days, she wondered if she should intervene. Yet the next day the Murphys seemed suddenly very relaxed and peaceful, holding hands and showing each other great tenderness.
Sister Brigid stopped Mrs. Murphy in the corridor and asked her what had taken place between them to have made such a great change on their behavior. Mrs. Murphy told her that when they found out her husband was dying, they looked back over their years together, and many memories came back to them. They had been married almost forty years, and naturally they felt enormous
sorrow, thinking and talking about all the things they would never be able to do together again. Mr. Murphy had then made out his will, and written final messages to his grown-up children. Al of this was terribly sad, because it was so hard to let go, but they carried on, as Mr. Murphy wanted to end his life well.
Sister Brigid told me that for the next three weeks Mr. Murphy lived, the couple radiated peace and a simple, wonderful feeling of love. Even after her husband died, Mrs. Murphy continued to visit patients at the hospice, where she was an inspiration to everyone.
This story shows to me the importance of telling people early that they are going to die, and also the great advantage of facing squarely the pain of loss. The Murphys Knew that they were going to lose many things, but by facing those losses and grieving together, they found what they could not lose, the deep love between them that would remain after Mr. Murphy's death.
Fears About Dying
I am sure one of the things that helped Mrs. Murphy help her husband was that she faced within herself her own fears of dying. You cannot help the dying until you have acknowledged how their fear of dying disturbs you and brings up your most uncomfortable fears. Working with the dying is like facing a polished and fierce mirror of your own
reality. You see in it the stark face of your own panic and of your terror of pain. If you don't look at and accept that face of panic and fear in yourself, how ill you be bale to bear it in the person in front of you? When you come to try and help the dying, you will need to examine your every reaction, since your reaction will be reflected in those of the person dying and will contribute a great deal to their help or detriment.
Looking at your fears honestly will also help you in your own journey to maturity. Sometimes I think there could be no more effective way of speeding up our growth as human beings than working with the dying. Caring for the dying is itself a deep contemplation and reflection on your own death. It is a way to face and work wit it. When you work with the dying, you can come to a kind of resolution, a clear understanding of what is the most important focus of life. To learn really to help those who are dying is to begin to become fearless and responsible about our own dying, and to find in ourselves the beginnings of an unbounded compassion that we may never have suspected.
Being aware of your own fears about dying will help you immeasurably to be aware of the fears of they dying person. Just imagine deeply what those might be: fear of increasing uncontrolled pain, fear of suffering, fear of indignity, fear of dependence, fear that the lives we have led have been meaningless, fear of separation from all we love, fear of losing control, fear of losing respect; perhaps our greatest fear of all is fear of fear itself, which grows more and more powerful the more we evade it.
Usually when you feel fear, you feel isolated and alone, and without company. But when somebody keeps company with you and talks of his or her own fears, then you realize fear is universal and the edge, the personal pain, is taken off it. Your fears are brought back to the human and universal context. Then you are able to understand, be more compassionate, and deal with your own fears in a much more positive and inspiring way.
As you grow to confront and accept your own fears, you will become increasingly sensitive to those of the person before you, and you will find you develop the intelligence and insight to help that person to bring his or her fears out into the open, deal with them, and begin skillfully to dispel them. For facing your fears, you will find, will not only make you more compassionate and braver and clearer; it will also make you more skillful, and that skillfulness will open to you all kinds of ways of enabling the dying to understand and face themselves.
One of the fears that we can most easily dispel is the anxiety we all have about unmitigated pain in the process of dying. I would like to think that everyone in the world could know that is now unnecessary. Physical suffering should be kept to a minimum; there is enough suffering in death anyway. A study at St. Christopher's Hospice in London , which I know well and where my students have died, has shown that given the right care, 98 percent of patients can have a
peaceful death. The hospice movement has developed a variety of ways of managing pain by using various combinations of drugs, and not simply narcotics. The Buddhist masters speak of the need to die consciously with as lucid, unblurred, and serene a mental mastery as possible. Keeping pain under control without clouding the dying person's consciousness is the first prerequisite for this, and now it can be done: Everyone should be entitled to that simple help at this most demanding moment of passage.
Another anxiety of the dying is often that of leaving unfinished business. The masters tell us that we should die peacefully, “without grasping, yearning, and attachment.” This cannot fully happen if the unfinished business of a lifetime, as far as possible, is not cleared. Sometimes you will find that people hold onto life and are afraid to let go and die, because they have not come to terms with what they have been and done. And when a person dies harboring guilt or bad feelings toward others, those who survive him suffer even more deeply in their grief.
Sometimes people ask me: “Isn't it too late to heal the pain of the past? Hasn't there been too much suffering between me and my dying friend or relative for healing to be possible?” It is my belief, and has been my experience, that it is never too late; even after enormous pain and abuse, people can find a way to forgive
each other. The moment of death ahs a grandeur, solemnity, and finality that can make people reexamine all thei rattitudes, and be more open and ready to forgive, when before they could not bear to. Even at the very end of a life, the mistakes of a life can be undone.
There is a method for helping to complete unfinished business that I and my students who work with the dying find very helpful. It was formulated from the Buddhist practice of equalizing and exchanging the self with others, and from the Buddhist practice of equalizing and exchanging the self with others, and from the Gestalt technique, by Christine Longaker, one of my earliest students, who came to the field of death and dying after the death of her husband from leukemia. Usually unfinished business is the result of blocked communication; when we have been wounded, we often become very defensive, always arguing from a position of being in the right and blindly refusing to see the other person's point of view. This is not only unhelpful, it freezes any possibility of real exchange. So when you do this exercise, begin it with the strong motivation that you are bringing up all your negative thoughts and feelings to try and understand them, to work with them and resolve them, and finally now to let go of them.
Consider now that a real change takes place, so the person is far more open and receptive to listen to what you have to say, more willing than ever before to share honestly, and solve the problem between you. Visualize vividly the person in this new state of openness. This will also help you feel more open toward him or her. Then really fell, deep in you
heart, what it is you most need to say to the person. Tell him or her what the problem is, tell the person all your feelings, your difficulties, your hurt, your regret. Tell him or her what you haven't felt safe, or comfortable enough, to say before.
Now take a piece of paper and write what you would say, all of it. Then, when you have finished, immediately begin to write what he or she might say in response to you. Don't stop to think about what the person used to say: Remember that now, as you have visualized, he or she has truly hear you and is more open. So just write, see what comes spontaneously; and allow the person, in your mind, to express completely his or her side of the problem as well.
Search yourself and see if there is anything else you need to say to the person- any other hurt feelings or regrets from the past that you have been holding back or have never aired. Again, each time after you have stated your feelings, write a response by the other person, writing down just whatever comes into you mind. Continue this dialogue until you really feel there is nothing more you are holding back, and nothing more that needs to be said.
To see if you are truly ready to conclude the dialogue, ask yourself deeply if you are now able to let go of the past wholeheartedly, really able, satisfied by the insight and healing that this written dialogue has given you, to forgive this person, or to feel that he or she would forgive you. When you feel you
have accomplished this, remember to express any last feelings of love or appreciation you may have been holding back, and say goodbye. Visualize the person turning away and leaving now; and even though you must let go of him or her, remember that you can keep his or her love, and the warm memories of the best aspects of your relationship, always in your heart.
To come to an even clearer reconciliation with the past, find a friend to whom you can read your written dialogue, or read it out loud by yourself at home. Once you have read this dialogue aloud, you will be surprised to notice a change in yourself, as though you have actually communicated with the other person, and actually cleared with them all the problems you have been having. Afterward you will find it far easier to let go, to speak directly with the other person
about your difficulties. And when you have really let go, a subtle shift in the chemistry between you and the other person will take place, and the tension in the relationship that has lasted so long will often dissolve. Sometimes, amazingly, you can even become the best of friends. Never forget, as the famous Tibetan master Tsongkhapa once said, “A friend can turn into an enemy, and so an enemy can turn into a friend.”
It is not only the tension that you have to learn to let go of, but the dying person as well. If you are attached and lcing to the dying person, you can bring him or her a lot fo unnecessary heartache and make it very hard for the person to let go and die peacefully.
Sometimes the dying person can linger on many months or weeks longer than doctors expected and experience tremendous physical suffering. Christine Longaker has discovered that for such a person to be able to let go and die peacefully, he or she needs to hear two explicit verbal assurances from loved ones. First, they must give the person permission to die, and second they must reassure the person they will be all right after he or she has gone, and that there is no need to worry about them.
When people ask me how best to give someone permission to die, I tell them to imagine themselves standing by the bedside of the person they love and saying with the deepest and most sincere tenderness: “I am here with you and I love you. You are dying, and that is completely natural; it happens to everyone. I wish you could stay here with me, but I
don't want you to suffer any more. The time we have had together has been enough, and I shall always cherish it. Please now don't hold onto life any longer. Let go. I give you my full and heartfelt permission to die. You are not alone, now or ever. You have all my love.”
A student of mine who works in a hospice told me of an elderly Scottish woman, Maggie, whom she visited after her husband, close to death, had already fallen into a coma. Maggie felt inconsolably sad, for she had never spoken to her husband about her love for him, nor said goodbye, and now she felt it was too late. The hospice worker encouraged her, saying that although he seemed unresponsive, perhaps he could actually still hear her. She had read that many people who appear to be
unconscious can in fact perceive what is going on. She urged her to spend some time with her husband, telling him all she wanted to say. Maggie would not have thought of doing this, but she went ahead and spoke to her husband of all the good times they had shared, of how she would miss him, and of how much she loved him. At the end, once she had said her goodbyes, she told him, “It is hard for me to be without you, but I don't want to see you suffer any more, so it is all right for you to let go.” Once she had finished, her husband let out a long sigh and peacefully died.
Not only the one who is dying, but his or her whole family has to learn how to let go. Each member of the family may be at a different stage of acceptance, and this will have to be taken into account. One of the great achievements of the hospice movement is to recognize how important it is to help the whole family face their own grief and insecurity
about the future. Some families resist letting their loved ones go, thinking that to do so is a betrayal, and a sign that they don't love them enough. Christine Longaker tells these families to imagine that they are in the place of the one who is dying. “Imagine you are standing on the deck of an ocean liner, about to set sail. You look back on the shore and see all your family and friends waving goodbye. You have no choice about leaving, and the ship is already moving away. How would you want the people you loved to be saying goodbye to you? What would help you most on your journey?
Sometimes people ask me, “What should I say to my child about the death of her relative?” I say to them to be sensitive but tell the truth. Don't let the child think that death is something strange or terrifying. Let her take part as far as possible in the life of the dying person, and answer honestly any questions the child might pose. A
child's directness and innocence can actually bring a sweetness, lightness, even sometimes a humor into the pain of dying. Encourage the child to pray for the dying person, and so feel that he or she is really doing something to help. And after the death has taken place, make sure that you give the child special attention and affection.
When I think back to Tibet and the deaths I witnessed there, I am struck by what a calm and harmonious environment many of them occurred in. This kind of environment, alas, is often lacking in the West, but my experience over the last twenty years has shown that it can, with imagination, be created. I feel that wherever possible, people should die at home, because it is at home that the majority of people are likely to feel most
comfortable. And the peaceful death that the Buddhist masters advise is easiest to obtain in familiar surroundings. But if someone has to die in hospital, there is a great deal that you the loved ones can do to make that eath as easy and inspiring as possible. Beign in plants, flowers, pictures, photographs of loved ones, drawings by children and grandchildren, a cassette player with musical tapes, or, if possible, home-cooked meals. You might even get permission for children to visit or for loved ones to stay overnight.
If they dying person is a Buddhist or a member of another faith, friends could make a small shrine in his or her room, with inspiring pictures or images. I remember a student of mine, Reiner, who was dying in a private ward in a hospital in Munich . A shrine had been created for him a with pictures of his masters on it. I was very moved by it, and
realized how profoundly Reiner was being helped by the atmosphere it created. The Buddhist teachings tell us to make a shrine with offerings when a person is dying. Seeing Reiner's devotion and peace of mind made me understand just how empowering this can be, and how it can help inspire people to make their dying a sacred process.
When a person is very close to death, I suggest that you request that the hospital staff do not disturb him or her so often, and that they stop taking tests. I'm often asked what is my attitude toward death in intensive care units. I have to say that being in an intensive care unit will make a peaceful death very difficult, and hardly allow for
spiritual practice at the moment of death. As the person is dying, there is no privacy: They are hooked up to monitors, and attempts to resuscitate them will be made when they stop breathing or their heart fails. There will be no chance of leaving the body undisturbed for a period of time after death, as the masters advise.
If you can, you should arrange with the doctor to be told when there is no possibility of the person recovering, and then request to have them moved to a private room, if the dying person wishes it, with the monitors disconnected. Make sure that the staff knows and respects the dying person's wishes, especially if he or she does not wish to be resuscitated, and make sure
that the staff knows too to leave the body undisturbed after death for as long as possible. In a modern hospital, of course, it is not possible to leave the body alone for the three-day period that was customary in Tibet , but every support of silence and peace should be given to the dead to help them begin their journey after death.
Try and make certain also that while the person is actually in the final stages of dying, all injections and all invasive procedures of any kind are discontinued. These can cause anger, irritation, and pain, and for the mind of the dying person to be as calm as possible in the moments before death is, as I will explain in detail later, absolutely crucial.
Most people die in a state of unconsciousness. One fact we heave learned form the near-death experience is that comatose and dying patients may be much more aware of things around them than we realize. Many of the near-death experiencers reported out-of-the-body experiences, from which they were able to give surprisingly accurate detailed
accounts of their surroundings and even, in some cases, of other rooms in the same hospital. This clearly shows the importance of talking positively and frequently to a dying person or to a person in a coma. Conscious, alert, and actively loving care for the dying person must go on until the last moments of his or her life, and as I will show, even beyond.
One of the things I hope for from this book is that doctors all over the world will take extremely seriously the need to allow the dying person to die in silence and serenity. I want to appeal to the goodwill of the medical profession, and hope to inspire it to find ways to make the very difficult transition of death as
easy, painless, and peaceful as possible. Peaceful death is really an essential human right, more essential perhaps even than the right to vote or the right to justice; it is a right on which, all religious traditions tell us, a great deal depends for the well-being and spiritual future of the dying person.
Spiritual Help for the Dying
I first came to the West at the beginning of the 1970s, and what disturbed me deeply, and has continued to disturb me, is the almost complete lack of spiritual help for th eddying that exists in modern culture. In Tibet , as I have shown, everyone had some knowledge of the higher truths of Buddhism and some relationship with a master. No
one died without being cared for, in both superficial and profound ways, by the community. I have been told many stories of people dying alone and in great distress and disillusion in the West without any spiritual help, and one of my main motivations in writing this book is to extend the healing wisdom of the world I was brought
up in to all men and women. Do we not all have a right, as we are dying, not only to have our bodies treated with respect, but also, and perhaps even more important, our spirits? Shouldn't one of the main rights of any civilized society, extended to everyone in that society, be the right to die surrounded by the best spiritual care? Can we really call ourselves a “civilization” until this becomes an accepted norm? What does it really mean to have the technology to send people to the moon, when we do not know how to help our fellow humans die with dignity and hope?
Spiritual care is not a luxury for a few; it is the essential right of every human being, as essential as political liberty, medical assistance, and equality of opportunity. A real democratic ideal would include knowledgeable spiritual care for everyone as one of its most essential truths.
Wherever I go in the West, I am struck by the great mental suffering that arises from the fear of dying, whether or not his fear is acknowledged. How reassuring it would be for people if they knew that when they lay dying they would be cared for with loving insight? As it is, our culture is so heartless in its expediency and its
denial of any real spiritual value that people, when faced with terminal illness, fell terrified that they are simply going to be thrown away like useless goods. In Tibet it was a natural response to pray for the dying and to give them spiritual care; in the West the only spiritual attention that the majority pay to the dying is to go to their funeral.
At the moment of their greatest vulnerability, then, people in our world are abandoned and left almost totally without support or insight. This is a tragic and humiliating state of affairs, which must change. All of the modern world's pretensions to power and success will ring hollow until everyone can die in this culture with some measure of true peace, and until at least some effort is made to ensure this is possible.
By the Bedside of the Dying
A friend of mind, who had just graduated form a famous medical school, started work at one of the larger London hospitals. On her very first day on the ward, four or five people died. It was a terrible shock for her; nothing in her training had equipped her to deal with it at all. Isn't this astonishing, considering she was being trained
to be a doctor? One old man was lying in his bed, staring at the wall. He was alone, with no family or friends to visit him, and he was desperate for someone to talk to. She went over to him. His eyes filled with tears and his voice trembled as he asked her the last question she expected to hear: “Do you think God will ever forgive me
for my sins?” My friend had no idea at all how to respond; her training had left her completely unprepared for any spiritual questions. She had nothing to say; all she had to hide behind was her professional status as a doctor. There was no chaplain close by, so she just stood there, paralyzed, unable to answer her patient's desperate call for help and for reassurance about the meaning of his life.
She asked me, in her pain and bewilderment: “What would you have done?” I said to her I woul dhave sat by his side, held his hand, and let him talk. I have been amazed again and again by how, if you just let people talk, giving them your complete and compassionate attention, they will say things of a surprising spiritual depth, even when they think they don't have any spiritual beliefs. Everyone has their own life wisdom, and when you let a person talk you allow this life wisdom to emerge. I have often been very moved by how you can help people to help themselves by helping them to discover their own truth, a truth whose richness, sweetness, and profundity they may never have suspected. The sources of healing and awareness are deep within each of us, and your task is never under any circumstances to impose your beliefs but to enable them to find these within themselves.
Believe as you sit by the dying person that you are sitting by someone who has the true potential to be a Buddha. Imagine their buddha nature as a shining and stainless mirror, and all their pain and anxiety a thin, gray mist on it that can quickly clear. This will help you to see them as lovable and forgivable, and draw out of you your unconditional love; you will find this attitude will allow the dying person to open remarkably to you.
My master Dudjom Rinpoche used to say that to help a dying person is like holding out a hand to someone who is on the point of falling over, to lift them up. Through the strength and peace and deep compassionate attention of your presence, you will help them awaken their own strength. The quality of you presence at this most vulnerable and extreme
moment is all-important. As Cicely Saunders wrote: “The dying have shed the masks and superficialities of everyday living and they are all the more open and sensitive because of this. They see through all unreality. I remember one man saying, ‘No, no reading. I only want what is in your mind and in your heart.'”
I never go to the bedside of a dying person without practicing beforehand, without steeping myself in the sacred atmosphere of the nature of mind. Then I do not have to struggle to find compassion and authenticity, for they will be there and radiate naturally.
Remember, you can do nothing to inspire the person in front of you if you do not inspire yourself first. So when you don't know what to do, when you feel hardly able to do anything to help, then pray and meditate, invoke the Buddha or any other figure whose sacred power you believe in. When I'm faced with someone going through terrible suffering, I call down with
fervor the help of all the buddhas and enlightened beings, with my heart completely open to the person dying in front of me, and compassion for their pain filling my being. I invoke as intensely as possible the presence of my masters, the buddhas, of those enlightened beings with whom I have a particular connection. Summoning all my
powers of devotion and faith, I see them in glory above the dying person, gazing down at them with love, and pouring down light and blessing on them, purifying them of all their past karma and present agony. And as I do this, I keep praying that the person in front of me should be spared further suffering, and find peace and liberation.
I do this with the deepest concentration and earnestness, and then I try to rest in the nature of my mind and allow its peace and radiance to permeate the atmosphere of the room. Many, many times I have been awed by the sense of sacred presence that then established itself very naturally, and which in turn inspires the dying person.
I'm now going to say something that may surprise you. Death can be very inspiring . In my experiences with dying people, I have found that I have surprised myself by the way in which my prayer and invocation transformed the atmosphere, and I myself have had my faith deepened by seeing how effective this invocation and prayer and this presence of the buddhas are. I have found that being by the bedside of a dying person has made my own practice far more powerful.
Sometimes I see that the dying person also feels this atmosphere of deep inspiration, and is grateful to have provided the opportunity for our reaching, together, a moment of real and transformative rapture.
Always when you are with a dying person, dwell on what they have accomplished and done well. Help them to feel as constructive and as happy as possible about their lives. Concentrate on their virtues and not their failings. People who are dying are frequently extremely vulnerable to guilt, regret, and depression; allow them to
express these freely, listen to the person and acknowledge what he or she says. At the same time, where appropriate, be sure to remind the person of his or her buddha nature, and encourage the person to try to rest in the nature of mind through the practice of meditation. Especially remind the person that pain and suffering are not all that he or she is. Find the most skillful and sensitive way possible to inspire the person and give him or her hope. So rather than dwelling on his or her mistakes, the person can die in a more peaceful frame of mind.
To the man who cried out: “Do you think God will ever forgive me for my sins?” I would say: “Forgiveness already exists in the nature of God; it is already there. God has already forgiven you, for God is forgiveness itself. ‘To err is human, and to forgive is divine.' But can you truly forgive yourself? That's the read question.
“Your feeling of being unforgiven and unforgivable is what makes you suffer so. But it only exists in your heart or mind. Haven't you read how in some of the near-death experiences a great golden presence of light arrives that is all forgiving? And it is very often said that it is finally we who judge ourselves.
“In order to clear your guilt, ask for purification from the depths of your heart. If you really ask for purification, and go through it, forgiveness will be there. God will forgive you, just as the father in Christ's beautiful parable forgives the prodigal son. To help yourself to forgive yourself, remember the good things you have done, forgive everyone else in your life, and ask forgiveness from anyone you may have harmed.
Not everyone believes in a formal religion, but I think nearly everyone believes in forgiveness. You can be of immeasurable help to the dying by enabling them to see the approach of death as the time for reconciliation and reckoning.
Encourage them to make up with friends or relatives, and to clear their heart, so as not to keep even a trace of hatred or the slightest grudge. If they cannot meet the person from whom them feel estranged, suggest they phone them or leave a taped message or letter and ask for forgiveness. IF they suspect that the person they want to pardon them cannot do so,
it is not wise to encourage them to confront the person directly; a negative response would only add to their already great distress. And sometimes people need time to forgive. Let them leave a message of some kind asking for forgiveness, and they will at least die knowing that they have done their best. They will have cleared the difficulty or anger from their heart. Time and time again, I have seen people whose hearts have been hardened by self-hatred and guilt find, through a simple act of asking for pardon, unsuspected strength and peace.
All religions stress the power of forgiveness, and this power is never more necessary, nor more deeply felt, than when someone is dying. Through forgiving and being forgiven, we purify ourselves of the darkness of what we have done, and prepare ourselves most completely for the journey through death.
Finding a Spiritual Practice
If your dying friend or relative is familiar with some kind of meditation practice, encourage him or her to rest in meditation as much as possible, and meditate with the person as death approaches. If they dying person is at all open to the idea of spiritual practice, help the person find a suitable, simple practice, do it with him or her as often as possible, and keep reminding the person gently of it as death nears.
Be resourceful and inventive in how you help at this crucial moment, for a great deal depends on it: The whole atmosphere of dying can be transformed if people find a practice they can do wholeheartedly before and as they die. There are so many aspects of spiritual practice; use your acumen and sensitivity to find the one they might be most connected with: it could be forgiveness, purification, dedication, or feeling the presence of light or
love. And as you help them begin, pray for the success of their practice with all your heart and mind; pray for them to be given every energy and faith to follow the path they choose. I have known people even at the latest stages of dying make the most startling spiritual progress by using one prayer or one mantra or one simple visualization with which they really made a connection in their heart.
Stephen Levine tells the story of a woman he was counseling who was dying of cancer. She felt lost because, although she had a natural devotion to Jesus Christ, she had left the church. Together they explored what she might do to strength that faith and devotion. She came to the realization that what would help her renew her connection with Christ, and find some trust and confidence while dying, would be to repeat continuously the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Saying this prayer opened her heart, and she began to feel Christ's presence with her at all times.
The most valuable and powerful of all practices I have found in caring for the dying, one which I have seen in astonishing number of people take to with enthusiasm, is a practice from the Tibetan tradition called phowa (pronounced “po-wa”), which means the transference of consciousness.
Phowa for dying people has been performed by friends, relatives, or masters, quite simply and naturally, all over the modern world—in Australia , America , and Europe . Thousands of people have been given the chance to die serenely because of its power. IT gives me joy to make the heart of phowa practice now available to anyone who wishes to use it.
I want to emphasize that this is a practice that anyone at all can do. IT is simple, but it is also the most essential practice we can do to prepare for our own death, and it is the main practice I teach my students for helping their dying friends and relatives, and their loved ones who have already died.
First make sure you are comfortable, and assume the meditative posture. IF you are doing this practice as you are coming close to death, just sit as comfortably as you are able, or practice lying down.
1. In the sky in front of you, invoke the embodiment of whatever truth you believe in, in the form of radiant light. Chose whichever divine being or saint you feel close to. If you are a Buddhist, invoke a Buddha with whom you feel an intimate connection. If you are a practicing Christian, feel with all your heart the vivid, immediate presence of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, or the Virgin Mary. If you don't feel
linked with any particular spiritual figure, simply imagine a form of pure golden light in the sky before you. The important point is that you consider the being you are visualizing or whose presence you feel is the embodiment of the truth, wisdom, and compassion of all the buddhas, saints, masters, and enlightened beings. Don't worry if you cannot visualize them very clearly, just fill your heart with their presence and trust that they are there.
May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought and done,
3. Now imagine that the presence of light you have invoked is so moved by your sincere and heartfelt prayer that he or she responds with a loving smile and sends out love and compassion in a stream of rays of light from his other heart. As these touch and penetrate you, they cleanse and purify all your negative karma, destructive emotions, and obscurations, which are the causes of suffering. You see and feel that you are totally immersed in light.
1. To do this practice even more simply, begin as before by resting quietly, and then invoke the presence of the embodiment of truth.
3. It dissolves and merges with the presence.
Through this practice you are investing your mind in the wisdom mind of the Buddha or enlightened being, which is the same as surrendering your soul into th enature of God. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche says this is like casting a pebble into a lake; think of it plummeting down into the water, deeper and deeper. Imagine that through the blessing your mind is transformed into the wisdom mind of this enlightened presence.
Choose whichever one of these versions of the phowa feels most comfortable, or has most appeal for you at any particular moment. Sometimes the most powerful practices can be the most simple. But whichever one you choose, remember that it is essential to take the time now to become familiar with this practice. How else will you have the confidence to do it for yourself or to others at the moment of death? My master Jamyang Khyentse wrote, “If you meditate and practice in this manner always, at the moment of death it will come easier.”
In fact you should be so familiar with the practice of phowa that it becomes a natural reflex, our second nature. If you have seen the film Ghandi , you know that when he was shot, his immediate response was to call out: “Ram… Ram!” which is, in the Hindu tradition, the sacred name of God. Remember that we never know how we will die, or if we will be
given the time to recall any kind of practice at all. What time will we have, for example, if we smash our car into a truck at 100 mph on the freeway? There won't be a second then to think about how to do phowa, or to check the instructions in this book. Either we are familiar with the phowa or we are not. There is a simple way to gauge this: just look at your reactions when you are in a critical situation or in a moment of crisis, such as an earthquake, or a nightmare. Do you respond with the practice or don't you? And if you do, how stable and confident is your practice?
I remember a student of mine in America who went out riding one day. The horse threw her; her foot got stuck in the stirrup, and she was dragged along the ground. Her mind went blank. She tried desperately to recall some practice, but nothing at all would come. She grew terrified. What was good about that terror was that it made her realize that her practice had to becomes her second nature. This was the lesson she had to learn; it is the lesson, in fact, we all have to learn. Practice phowa as intensely as you can, until you can be sure you will react with it to any unforeseen event. This will make certain that whenever death comes, you will be as ready as you can be.
How can we use this practice to help someone who is dying?
Do this practice throughout your loved one's illness, and especially (and most important) when the person is breathing the last breath, or as soon as possible after breathing stops and before the body is touched or disturbed in any way. If the dying person knows you are going to do this practice for them, and knows what it is, it can be a great source of inspiration and comfort.
Sit quietly with the dying person, and offer a candle or light in front of a picture or statue of Buddha or Christ or the Virgin Mary. Then do the practice for them. You can be doing the practice quietly, and the person need not even know about it; on the other hand, if he or she is open to it, as sometimes dying people are, share the practice and explain how to do it.
People often ask me: “If my dying relative or friend is a practicing Christian and I am a Buddhist, is there any conflict?” How could there be? I tell them: You are invoking the truth, and Christ and Buddha are both compassionate manifestations of truth, appearing in different ways to help beings.
I strongly suggest to doctors and nurses that they can also do phowa for their dying patients. Imagine how marvelously it could change the atmosphere in a hospital if those who were ministering to the dying were also doing this practice. I remember the death of Samten In my childhood, when my master and the monks were all practicing for him. How powerful and uplifting it was! My deepest prayer is for everyone to die with the same grace and peace that he did.
I have formulated this essential phowa specially form the traditional Tibetan practice for dying, and it incorporates all the most important principles. So it is not only a practice for dying, but it can also be used both to purify and to heal; it is important for the living, and for the sick as well. If a person is going to be healed, it will assist that healing; if a person is dying, it will help them and heal their spirit in death; and if the person has died, it will continue to purify them.
If you are not sure whether a person who is seriously ill is going to live or die, then whenever you visit them you can do this phowa practice for them. And when you go home, do it again. The more you do it, the more your dying friend will be purified. You never know if you will see your friend again, or if you will be present when he or she actually dies. So seal each visit with this practice, just as a preparation, and go on doing the practice in whatever spare moments you have.
Dedicating our Death
From the Tibetan Book of the Dead:
O son/daughter of an enlightened family, what is called “death” has now arrived, so adopt this attitude: “I have arrived at the time of death, so now, by means of this death, I will adopt only th eattitude of the enlightened state of mind, loving kindness and compassion, and attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings who are as limitless as space…”
Recently one of my students came to me and said: “My friend is only twenty-five. He's in pain and dying of leukemia. He is already frighteningly bitter; I'm terrified that he'll drown in bitterness. He keeps asking me: ‘What can I do with all this useless, horrible suffering?'”
My heart went out to her and her friend, Perhaps nothing is as painful as believing that there is no use to the pain you are going through. I told my student there was a way her friend could transform his death even now, and even in the great pain he was enduring: to dedicate, with all his heart, the suffering of his dying, and his death itself, to the benefit and ultimate happiness of others.
I told her to tell him: “I know how much pain you're in. Imagine now all the others in the world who are in a pain like yours, or even greater. Fill your heart with compassion for them. Andy pray to whomever you believe in and ask that your suffering should help alleviate theirs. Again and again dedicate your pain to the alleviation of their pain. And you will quickly discover in yourself a new source of strength, a compassion you'll hardly be able to now to imagine, and a certainty, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that your suffering is not only not being wasted, but has now a marvelous meaning.”
Then imagine that their illness and tumors leave their body in the form of smoke, and dissolve into your illness and tumors. When you breathe in, you breathe in all their suffering, and when you breathe out, you breath out total healing and well being. Each time you do this practice; believe, with complete conviction, that they are now healed.
As you approach death, think continually to yourself: “May I take on the suffering, the fear, and loneliness of all others all over the world who are dying or will die. May they be all freed from pain and confusion; may they all find comfort and peace of mind. May whatever suffering I am enduring now and will endure in the future help them toward a good rebirth and ultimate enlightenment.”
I knew an artist in New York who was dying from AIDS. He was a sardonic character and hated institutional religion, although secretly some of us suspected he had more spiritual curiosity than he admitted. Friends persuaded him to see a Tibetan master, who immediately understood that the greatest source of his frustration and suffering was that he felt his pain was of no use to himself or to anyone else. So he taught him one thing, and one thing only: the Tonglen practice. Despite some initial skepticism, he did practice it; and al lhis friends saw he went through an extraordinary change. He told many of them that, through Tonglen, the pain that before had been pointless and horrific was now infused with an almost glorious purpose. Everyone who knew him experienced firsthand how this new sense of meaning transformed his dying. he died in peace, reconciled to himself and his suffering.
If the practice of taking on the suffering of others can transform someone who has little experience of practice before, then imagine what power it has in the hands of a great master. When Gyalwang Karmapa died in Chicago in 1981, one of his Tibetan disciples wrote:
By the time that I saw him, His holiness had already many operations, some parts of his body removed, things put inside him, his blood transfused, and so on. Every day the doctors discovered the symptoms of some new disease, only to find them gone the next day and replaced by another illness, as if all the diseased in the world were finding room in his flesh. For two months he had taken no solid food, and finally his doctors gave up hope, It was impossible for him to live, and the doctors thought the life-supporting systems should be disconnected.
But the Karmapa said, “No, I'm going t olive. Leave them in place.” And he did live, astonishing the doctors, and remaining seemingly at ease in his situation – humorous, playful, smiling as if he were rejoicing at everything his body suffered. Then I though with the clearest possible conviction, that the Karmapa had submitted himself to all this cutting,
to the manifestation of all those diseases in his body, to the lack of food, in a quite intentional and voluntary way: He was deliberately suffering all of these diseases to help minimize the coming pains of war, disease, and famine and in this way he was deliberately working to avert the terrible suffering of this dark age. For those of us present, his death was an unforgettable inspiration. It profoundly revealed the efficacy of the Dharma, and the fact that enlightenment for the sake of others can actually be achieved.
I know and I firmly believe that there is no need for anyone on earth to die in resentment and bitterness. No suffering, however dreadful, is or can be meaningless if it is dedicated to the alleviation of the suffering of others.
We have before us the noble and exalting examples of the supreme masters of compassion, who, it is said, live and die in the practice of Tonglen, taking on the pain of all sentient beings while they breathe in, and pouring
out healing to the whole world when they breathe out, all their lives long, and right up until their very last breath. So boundless and powerful is their compassion, the teachings say, that at the moment of their death, it carries them immediately to rebirth in a Buddha realm.
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge. a passage
For those desiring the further shore.
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
Until everyone is healed.
Just like space
May I always support the life
Of all the boundless creatures.
And until they pass away from pain
May I also be the source of life
That reach unto the ends of space.
TAKING REFUGE IN THE THREE TREASURES
Leader: Even through ages of myriads of kalpas hard is it to hear such an excellent, profound and wonderful doctrine. Now we are able to hear and receive it. Let us thoroughly understand the true meaning of Tathagata's Teaching.
WHO TAKES REFUGE?
Refuge is based upon three qualities:
1. Renunciation This is the quality of being tired of ordinary existence, having concern about the lack of meaning in our life, and experiencing a deep feeling that something is missing. When these feelings have become sufficiently strong, we are willing to consider an alternative to the usual refuge we take in material things and ordinary relationships with family and friends. These common sources of refuge are not in any sense negative or bad in themselves, but are not capable of providing ultimate peace and happiness.
2. Orientation Having recognized that our common sources of refuge are futile, and cannot afford us the security and peace we seek, we turn our minds to an entirely authentic alternative - Buddha, the teachings regarding the path to the realization of Buddha, and the inspiration of those who have already accomplished the path. This alternative refuge can be summarized here as a clear mind, completely pure and open heart. Since the meaning of this is multi-layered, it is important for each person to accept whatever their starting point is. Where we are is, in fact, the only workable situation at hand.
3. Determination This is the active intent to pursue this alternative to ordinary existence. It has often been said that we need to cultivate our determination to the extent that we are willing to hold onto it even if our life is threatened.
FRAME OF REFERENCE
In the Mahayana tradition, the frame of reference has two aspects.
1. Duration of the vow In the Mahayana, the vow embraces the totality of experience. That is, it is in force for all experience, for all time, until enlightenment takes place. Since there are no time boundaries, we take the vow with the intention that it will be active in future existences.
2. Motivation behind the vow Again, in the Mahayana, we take the vow with the intent and firm wish that whatever results from this will benefit all beings. This motivation, called bodhicitta, is of great importance in the Mahayana.
SOURCES OF REFUGE
1. Buddha is the one who shows the way. The outer meaning of buddha is the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Having accomplished complete enlightenment, we say that he "showed the way." Without his example and teaching we would not have the opportunity to practice the Dharma. The inner meaning of taking refuge in the buddha means to acknowledge and accept that our ultimate security and peace can and will be found only in our
own mind, in the empty, clear awareness that is our primordial heritage. By clearing away the incidental stains of confusion and the sleep of ignorance, this empty, clear mind with all qualities of buddha nature fully developed becomes self evident. It is the intense feeling that no external reference will be a source of ultimate peace that drives us to take refuge in the buddha.
2. Dharma is the path. The outer meaning of dharma is the vast collection of teachings which have come down to us through the centuries. This includes the sutras, the tantras, the commentaries composed by later masters, and all the texts, oral instructions, guidelines, and sayings. These are called the instructional Dharma.
The inner meaning of dharma is something which happens when compassion, impermanence, non-self, emptiness, and other theoretical concepts become qualities we know experientially. They become part of our make-up and interaction with our world of experience. So, the instructional Dharma is mere words until actualized in our experience.
3. Sangha are the companions and guides for the path. The Sangha is two fold. First, there is the noble Sangha. This refers to great bodhisattvas such as Avalokiteshvara, Tara, Manjushri, and others, figures who represent high levels of spiritual attainment who inspire and guide us through both their symbolic example and through [[visionary
experience]]. Second, there is the Sangha of human individuals. This refers to the actual people from whom we learn how to practice and with whom we share our experience and derive support and guidance. In the broadest sense, Sangha consists of all those individuals making the same journey as ourselves. The point here is not to create a structured community, but a companionship where we can and do receive support and guidance from each other without becoming dependent on others for our practice and well-being.
1. The guru is the source of inspiration. The guru is our actual human contact, whose example inspires us and in whose presence we feel directly the effect of awakened mind. That presence awakens something in us, a sense of being something more than simply habitual patterning. This explicit recognition is, in a sense, the essence of
empowerment and blessing. When this is clear in us, we have no choices but to travel the path, so the guru is the source of this inspirational blessing. Further, refuge in the guru means not only our own guru but the gurus of the transmission lineage, since each of them plays a role in this awakening of our own potential.
2. The yidam is the source of attainment. The yidams, meditational deities, are expressions of awakening mind. Through our meditation practice, we form a close personal relationship with them and their energy suffuses our being and experience of the world. In effect, we become the yidam and cease to experience the world as ordinary habituated beings. This free understanding and increased scope of skillful action contain both the seed and fruit of attainment.
3. The protector is the source of enlightened activity. The protectors are further expressions of awakened mind, expressions which arise in the world around us, in our experience, and act as reminders to be awake. This
constant play of activity which creates conditions for us to practice and averts disruptive conditions can be very direct and dramatic or very subtle and seemingly inconsequential. A cardinal principle is the more messages we miss, the louder they become. This manifestation of awakened mind is often depicted in wrathful forms to illustrate the tremendous power and immediacy of awakened mind when it manifest directly in our world of experience.
THREE ACTIVITIES TO STOP
2. Harming other beings The key here is intent. It is obviously impossible not to harm others in the course of life in the modern world, whether it is driving and watching bugs smash on our windshield or getting a contract or job which
someone else was trying for. The essential point is that we don't harm people or beings intentionally as much as possible. Where it is clearly necessary for health, nutritional or other reasons, we do what we have to with full knowledge and full acceptance of responsibility. Shuffling off extermination of cockroaches onto someone else, for example, in no way reduces our involvement.
3. Associating with non-spiritual people The essence of this point is to recognize that in having taken refuge, our basic orientation in life is different. That is, we are internally committed to the cultivation of awareness or buddha nature, and thus our goals and purpose are significantly different from someone who feels, for example, that money is everything. Thus, while we may do business, have friendships, etc. with many people holding such ideas, we don't allow their perspective to influence what is at the heart of our own life.
THREE ACTIVITIES TO DEVELOP
3. Respect and support for the sangha The first point here is to honor, respect, and support those who have taken monastic ordination regardless of their actual ability or character. The monastic sangha has been the base of the
teaching through the centuries and will continue to play an important role. The second point is to honor, respect, and support those from whom we receive guidance and instruction. As Gampopa said, 'the human teacher is the most important one since we initially have no contact with other avenues of guidance.'
THREE GENERAL POINTS
1. Offerings and respect for the Three Jewels The form this takes is a matter of personal inclination. There is definite merit in maintaining a shrine in one's home, but, perhaps equally, taking the time on a daily basis to reflect on refuge and the role of the three jewels in one's life is also effective. To make actual monetary or physical offerings and to express one's respect physically as in bowing are important points; they prevent subtle and not so subtle patterns of pride and attachment from remaining fixed.
2. Repetition of vow on daily basis The most important point about refuge is not to forget that one has made this commitment to oneself in the presence of a teacher. The vow serves as a reminder that we have, in fact, taken our spiritual awakening as the foundation of our life.
3. Work with a spiritual friend and follow the way of the Dharma These are the practical steps. A key point here is that refuge be viewed as part of the path rather than an enthusiastic response to an initial impulse.
Student: In the Longchen Nyingthik ng?ndro, in the small text after the bodhicitta verse, it says: 'Meditate as much as you can on absolute bodhicitta, the union of shamatha and vipashyana, guided by conviction in twofold egolessness.' Could you talk about that, please?
Rinpoche: Well, I will be talking about that for my entire lifetime. Bodhicitta has two aspects, relative bodhicitta and ultimate bodhicitta, and relative bodhicitta also has the aspects of wishing and entering. Ultimate bodhicitta is actual meditation on emptiness, and that's what they are talking
about here: the unity of vipashyana and shamatha. We call it emptiness meditation, but if you have certain instructions from your masters on remaining in this mind of the present moment, that is ultimate bodhicitta. Remaining in the present moment mind, your attention is not rushing after the past and the future. That is ultimate bodhicitta. There is no ultimate bodhicitta other than that.
S: At the end of the Vajrasattva practice it says, 'This is awareness-emptiness, in which the entire mass of thoughts involving what is to be purified and what purifies has not been inherently existent from the very beginning.' Can you talk about that a little?
R: Always begin with bodhicitta mind, that you are practicing this not for yourself. If you are a king-like bodhisattva, you think, ' My practice is not only for me, but for all sentient beings.' If you are a shepherd-like bodhisattva, you don't think about yourself at all, 'I'm doing this for all sentient beings. And myself? Who cares whether
I get enlightenment or not. That's not my agenda at all.' You want to have that kind of bodhicitta. When you practice, be it this practice of Vajrasattva or the so-called precious guru yoga, the practices are all illusion. The whole
path is illusion. The result is illusion. That is so important to remember again and again. But as a beginner, it is so difficult to remember, so the masters have very kindly and skillfully included completion stage practice as part of all practice, even refuge. When you practice prostrations, you can beg, cry, yell, and in the end it dissolves into you. That's quite special. I don't think you can go to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and cry and yell, and in the end the wall dissolves into you. You wouldn't expect that.
R: Keep on asking me this, also in the years to come, this is about your practice, Mahamudra and Mahasandhi or Dzogchen. Right now, you imagine that Vajrasattva dissolves into you and you then just look at the mind of that very moment. That very moment, that split second. Of course, your mind will begin to wander so then you do the next stage. That's all you can do at the moment. Don't rush. It's good enough. I will not explain more than that because if I do, then it will become theory and this theory will bother you in the future. It's kind of difficult.
On aspects of humility
R: When you associate with the world, you should eventually learn to associate without hope and fear. Initially, from worldly beings' point of view, it may seem that you are going crazy. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is someone like that. Instead of saying to you, 'Oh, you look very nice, you look beautiful,' he would say to you, 'Oh, my god, you look
miserable!' because he does not have so much hope or fear. But actually you might feel released from a certain tension. Someone like him has no agenda or worries that someone would be disappointed. Like, 'I might lose my disciples or my friends.' You might first think that he's being really nasty, but I think he's just being himself. What do you think?
S: It's very liberating.
R: He may say to you, 'My god, you look terrible. What's wrong with your nose? Has it always been like that?' The amazing thing about someone like him is he will talk like that, but actually a lot of people appreciate it. From the conventional point of view, this is abuse. And he is like that constantly, not just once or twice. But many people are attracted to that, and oddly enough become his followers. As much as people like us are so
ignorant, there is still a little bit of sensitivity left in us that can recognize that somebody's making such a remark out of love, with no hope or fear. So you feel comfortable when you encounter that. Often we meet a person who says, 'Oh, you look wonderful. Oh, you're so this, you're so that.' It might give us a little bit of happiness for a split second, but then we want that confirmation again and again and again. So we feel relief when someone talks to us honestly. But it's rare to come by. There are only a few people like that.
I'd like to make a point. It's slightly complicated, but it is important. It's about humility. As we study Buddhism, a sign of having studied is being subdued and tamed, and a sign of having meditated is to be less emotional. We are talking about developing humility, which is so important, really. Everyone must learn how to be humble - the teachers, the students, practitioners. But, again, humility is subtle. To explain this is going to be a little complicated.
Humility is very much cherished and emphasized in Buddhism and, of course, for that very reason you can say that Tibetan culture also emphasizes humility. But here some people are almost proud of being humble. Actually, almost 99 per cent of Tibetans are proud of being humble. Now some Tibetan lamas, especially those from Golok, a region
that has quite a tradition of producing a lot of great Dzogchen practitioners, tend to be quite straightforward. So they create a lot of scandals within Tibetan society. Tibetans are so proud of being humble and some of these lamas don't appear to be humble. Someone once mentioned to one Golok lama about how fast he could read the dharma texts,
and he answered, 'That's because I have completely purified my speech chakra, look here!' And he then showed how on his tongue there was a self-arising red lotus. Tibetan people who are proud of being humble just think, 'Oh god, this man is showing off again.' But there's another way of looking at it. I think this man is really humble, but in a very, very different way. You see he doesn't have this burden of humility.
That stage of being free from the burden of such artificial humility has got nothing to do with being totally empty-headed or claiming you are a Dzogchen lineage-holder or an incarnation of Deepak Chopra! To distinguish the authentic ones from these people may require a little bit of discernment. Individuals who genuinely are free from the burden of humility are quite amazing. I like such people. But if you are stuck with the burden of artificial humility, you may not appreciate it.
To be safe, I would really suggest that you cherish humility. Carry the burden of humility. That's less risky than thinking about going beyond the burden of humility - which is a little difficult. But if you happen to meet some of these Golok lamas, you will see they are so innocent. When the lama I mentioned says, 'I can read fast because I have no defilement in my speech chakra', it's exactly like Sophie saying, 'I'm a woman.' She has no doubt.
jealousy, especially pride. I suggest you refrain from going where pride can occur, avoid getting involved with pride. After many years of practice you will still notice that pride, jealousy and anger occur, but you will notice that they become shorter. If, at present, you know that you have pride and jealousy, that's already quite good actually. And you should admit that it is pride and jealousy. Of course, a lot of this has got to do with confidence. If you are confident, then you don't have pride and you don't have jealousy.
S: Rinpoche, it seems like some of the practices, because of their elaborate form and mantra, actually bring up more thoughts, they speed the mind up. I find that just by sitting, things calm down. Especially in mandala offering practice I find that I can get completely distracted from the practice for a long time, because of the momentum that's happening.
Meditation has a lot of loopholes and sidetracks and the sidetracks are so subtle. The meditator's greatest difficulty is not knowing whether we are distracted or whether we are concentrating. Especially as we become slightly more mature.
S: Then how do you know?
R: Well, you will know once you are quite good, but somewhere in the middle it's quite tough to know. And
when you know, there's another difficulty: you will not trust what you know. Then our old habits tell us, ‘Oh, read a book, analyze it.' And we will analyze it, reading about Madhyamika. But that is a sidetrack actually. Madhyamika is good to establish the view, but when we practise, we need to have a certain trust also. So this is why I guess the lamas always emphasize practices like the ng?ndro. Patrul Rinpoche gives the example of a wild yak that you tie
with a long rope and you tie this rope to a strong peg. Form meditations like mandala offering are like a peg. In such a practice you can easily tell if you are not thinking about offering body, speech and mind or Mount Meru or clear springs or beautiful garlands or the ladies of garlands, lamps, charm, etc. Instead, if you are thinking about Rome and Paris , you are distracted. It's kind of easy to tell.
practicing because I feel like I'm making it all up all the time.
R: There are many ways. Don't think that this doubt is going to become less; in fact, it's going to become more.
And as you practice more, your doubt is going to become sharper and more intelligent. Right now these doubts are very stupid doubts, easy to answer. Read some books and you will solve this problem, if you really need to. But I would suggest not reading books. The best I know of is that when the doubt comes, again pray to the refuge objects if you
are practicing taking refuge, or else pray to the guru. Pray that this doubt will transform into wisdom. That's the best way and the easiest. Don't think about other methods. You can analyze, read entire books on Madhyamika, and it will help today, but tomorrow there will be new doubts. Then you will have to read another book.
I will give you one piece of advice: when we practice and when we ask for blessings, we tend to think of the great but perhaps remote issues like purifying defilements. But you should pray about what you have now, here, such as loss of inspiration, such as wandering mind, such as not understanding the dharma, stuff like that. Not the general issues. Do you understand what I'm saying?
S. Purify whatever is happening?
R: Yes. It's always better. Of course, the general issues also. You can even think, ‘May I purify all my defilements of the past, present and future.' People do that actually. That's what the text also says. But I always like to include mainly the problems that I have now. Whatever I have. And we have a lot! You can't think, ‘This is such a mundane concern, I shouldn't bother Guru Rinpoche with it.' You shouldn't think that. Guru Rinpoche does
everything. If the kitchen stove doesn't work, you can pray about that also. Guru Rinpoche spans everything from enlightenment to the stove. Or a dispute between two people, especially in such a case. This person Jason may be praying, ‘Guru Rinpoche, please make Heather listen to me.' And Heather is praying, ‘Guru Rinpoche, please make Jason listen to me.' Then you two can talk. In this way, include everything. From time to time remember the illusory aspect, that everything's an illusion, that nothing has any truly existing nature. That way, when a prayer is not answered the very next day, you will not get disheartened.
R: Well, if you are having difficulty, begin to learn to have confidence that they are there. Instead of going through details of their hair, how it falls on their neck and shoulders, the way they hold their knife, whatever…
Forget that! Just think that they are there.
On post-meditation practice
R: Ideally we should be seeing everything as the deity. But that's very difficult for us, so beginners like us should learn to think they're illusion. Now, seeing phenomena as the deity and seeing them as illusion are very connected, but if you were to ask me, ‘Which one accumulates more merit?' then I would say seeing phenomena as the deity. This is the sophistication of the Vajrayana. But, then again, the question arises, ‘Why deity?' Because
phenomena are illusion. You look at Heather, she is totally an illusion, the way you see her is projected by your mind. So think that however she appears in your mind is not really what she is. Based on that, then you think that she is not an ordinary being in the way you perceive her, but she is Vajrayogini. So all the interactions between her and you become more meaningful. Because the Theravada teachers are interested
in liberating you from sorrow they will teach you to think that she is not beautiful, she is a skeleton. And in the
R: When the great Sakyapa masters talk about mind, they say, ‘Look at the mind. The clarity aspect of mind is the sangha; the emptiness aspect of mind is the dharma; the non-duality of emptiness and clarity is Buddha.' This nonduality of emptiness and clarity cannot be expressed, it is beyond expression, that is the guru; that is beyond expression and is actually bliss. It's free from all kinds of effort of trying to express or effort of dualism, basically. And the bliss is the deity. Of course, we have to do temporarily with created deities, but ultimately they are beyond form. They are form, but they are also beyond that. And then, just to finish the whole set, the unceasing mind that is clarity, emptiness, inexpressible, blissful, is the dakini.
POEM FOR DZONGSAR KHYENTSE RINPOCHE
As the pure white light divides to the four colours,
Appearing in the southern continent,
Like a spring morning, a clear sky and white blossoms,
Please remain with us.
YA-TSHEN CH'OG-KI NGODRUP NYEY, Endowed with marvelous supreme accomplishment
KHORTU KHADRO MANGPO KOR. Surrounded by a retinue of many dakinis
KHYED-KYI JEYSU DAG-DRUB KYEE, Following you, I will practice
CHIN-KYEE LAB-CH'IR SHEGSU SOL, Please come and bless me!
THIS CHAPTER is a summary of a commentary on The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer , entitled Padma Karpo (The White Lotus), written by Mipham Namgyal (1846-1912), a celebrated scholar of the Nyingma Buddhist tradition of Tibet. The original Tibetan text of Mipham's commentary is very profound and difficult to understand or to translate, and I have summarized the basic points of his text in this chapter.
The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer is the most sacred and important prayer in the Nyingma tradition. This short prayer contains the outer, inner, and innermost teachings of the esoteric trainings of Buddhism. By practicing The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer according to any one of these trainings, the result of that particular training will be attained.
In this summary there are five levels of interpretation. They are (1) the general or common meaning; the path of the hidden meaning ( sBas Don ), consisting of the next three levels; (2) the meaning according to the path of liberation ( Grol Lam ); (3) the meaning according to the perfection stage ( rDzog Rim ); (4) meaning according to the Nyingthig of Dzogpa Chenpo: the direct realization of the spontaneous ( Lhun Grub Thod rGal ); and (5) the meaning according to the accomplishment of the result. From among these levels of meaning it is proper for a person reciting the vajra prayer to learn and practice the particular level that is suitable to his or her capacity.
I have arranged this summary merely with the hope of being able to indicate that this brief prayer contains different levels of meaning and training, as many followers of the Nyingma teachings who are acquainted with The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer are often unaware of its deeper meanings, But in order to comprehend the complete meaning of the prayer, I urge the readers to read the original text of Mipham Rinpoche.
In Tibet , the Nyingmas recite The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche three times before reciting any other prayers, doing any meditation, or performing any ceremony. Many devotees repeat it hundreds of thousands of times, reciting it during all their waking hours, making it as their main prayer, breathing, life, and contemplation.
HISTORY OF THE VAJRA SEVEN-LINE PRAYER
It is said that these lines are the prayers of invitation of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) to the assembly of feast offerings [The Assembly (Tshog' Khor) comprises Rigdzins (Skt. Vidyadharas), Siddhas, Pawos, (Skt. Dakas, Heroes), and Khadromas (Skt. Dakinis)] by the Dorje Khadromas (Skt. Vajra Dakinis).
Once there came to the monastery of Nalanda heretical teachers, learned in languages and logic, who reviled the Dharma. The Buddhist scholars were unable to refute them. Then most of the scholars had the same dream. In it, Dakini Zhiwa Chog (Supreme Peace) prophesied as follows:
"You will not be able to defeat the heretics. If you do not invite here my elder brother, Dorje Threng Tsal (Vajra Skull-Garland Power, Guru Rinpoche), who lives at the Dark Cemetery , the Dharma will be destroyed."
"How can we invite him when it is so difficult to go there?" asked the scholars.
The Khadroma said: "Set up a great offering on the roof of the monastery, with music and incense, and with one voice recite the vajra prayer." And she gave them The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer . The scholars prayed accordingly, and in an instant Guru Rinpoche came miraculously from the sky. He presided over the Buddhist scholars and
defeated the heretical teachers by means of textual reference and intellectual reasoning. When he was threatened by the magical powers of the heretics, he opened the casket given him by the Lion-Faced Dakini, and he found in it the mantra of "fourteen letters." AH KA SA MA RA TSA SHA TA RA SA MA RA YA PHAT] By reciting it, he eliminated the evil ones among the heretics with a rain of lightning bolts. He caused the remaining ones to enter the Dharma. It is said that the prayer originated from that incident.
Later on, when Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet in the eighth century, he gave it to the king and his subjects. Intending it for future disciples capable of training, he concealed it in many Ters. earth or mind treasures Later, The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer was revealed in the Ters of most of the one hundred great Tertons of the last ten centuries of the Nyingma lineage, again and again, as the heart of the prayers, teachings, and meditation.
THE COMMON MEANING
• Born on the pistil of a lotus:
• Endowed with the most marvelous attainment;
• Following you I practice:
• Please come forth to bestow blessings.
In actuality, Guru Rinpoche is not separate from Samantabhadra (Universally Excellent), who is fully liberated from the beginning as the self-arisen Dharmakaya (the ultimate state). Without moving from the sphere of the Dharmakaya, he is spontaneously accomplished in the Sambhogakaya (the enjoyment body in pure forms), which has five absolute qualities. [The absolute certainties of place,
teacher, disciple, teaching, and time.] He is also the self-arising manifestation in various displays of Nirmanakaya (the manifested body in impure forms), the self-reflection of compassion. This is the actual way in which Guru Rinpoche dwells and appears. It is the display of the Buddhas, and they alone can perceive all aspects of his display.
Eight (or twelve) years after the mahaparinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rinpoche appeared on a lotus in Dhanakosha lake of Oddiyana for the ordinary beings of this world who have good karma. He followed different esoteric disciplines and accomplished various attainments, such as the light body of great transformation ( 'Ja' Lus 'Pho Ba Ch'en Po ). He served devotees of India , Oddiyana, and Tibet through multiple manifestation, such as the eight forms of the Guru ( Guru mTshan brGyad ). This level of interpretation is the way that we, the common disciples, pray to Guru Rinpoche, an extraordinary object of devotion.
THE UTTERANCE OF THE SEED SYLLABLE
THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER
All the qualities and blessings of the three secrets (body, speech, and mind) of all the Buddhas came together in the form of the syllable HRIH, and it dissolved into the heart of Amitabha Buddha. From his heart, a light of five colors spread out and came down on the pistil of the lotus. They transformed into the form of Guru Rinpoche, and he took birth in the manner of the lotus-born miraculous birth.
Line 3. He spontaneously accomplished the twofold benefit (of self and others), and he exhibited marvelous forms, such as the eight manifestations of the Guru. He a chieved the extraordinary attainment of the Vajradhara state, not just ordinary attainment.
Line 6. One should pray with the three kinds of faith, [ Dang Ba'i Dad Pa : faith that cleanses the mind. 'Dod Pa'i Dad Pa : faith that inspires the devotee to accomplish the same attainment as the object of his or her faith. Yid Ch'es Kyi Dad Pa: faith that produces full confidence in the object of the faith.] thinking, "0 Protector, I will follow after you , and I will practice accordingly."
Line 7. "In order to protect beings like myself, who are sunk in the ocean of the three sufferings, you, the omniscient, compassionate, and powerful one, please come to this place for the blessing of our body, speech, and mind with your body, speech, and mind, as iron is transmuted into gold."
THE MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSINGS
GURU means master or spiritual guide, one who is prosperous with excellent qualities; to whom no one is superior. PADMA is the first part of Guru Rinpoche's name. SIDDHI is what we want to accomplish--the common and uncommon attainments. HUM means the supplication to bestow the siddhis (attainments). So, 0 Guru Padma, bestow the siddhi.
THE CONTENTS OF THE PRAYER
THE OBJECTS OF THE PRAYER
Line 1. The place of birth.
Line 2. The way of taking birth.
Line 3. The greatness of his qualities.
Line 5. Retinues.
THE MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSING
THE PATH OF THE HIDDEN MEANING
• The Mind [ Sems Nyid: the ultimate nature and the essential nature of mind, of which Sems (mind) is the deluded mode. In this text, Mind with a capital M denotes the Sems Nyid .] ( ogyen yul ) is the freedom ( tsam ) [from the extremes] of samsara ( nub ) and nirvana ( chang ).
The primordial wisdom is emptiness in its essence (Dharmakaya) ( GURU ), clarity in nature (Sambhogakaya) ( PADMA ), and all pervasive in compassion [power] (Nirmanakaya) ( SIDDHI ) with fivefold wisdom ( HUM ).
THE UTTERANCE OF THE SEED SYLLABLE
THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER
Line 2. Pema, the lotus, signifies the ultimate sphere (Dharmadhatu), the nature that is to be realized. It does not dwell anywhere and is pure from the beginning, just as a lotus is unstained by any impurity.
"Kesar," the pistil, signifies the luminous, vajra intrinsic awareness ( Rig Pa'i rDo rJe ), which is the means of realizing the nature. The spontaneously accomplished, self-radiant intrinsic awareness, primordial wisdom, is blossoming with clarity; so it resembles the pistil of a lotus.
As the stem ( Dongpo ) holds the pistil and the petals of a lotus together, the self-arisen, great blissful primordial wisdom dwells as the union of the ultimate sphere ( dByings ) and primordial wisdom ( Ye Shes ), and it is the ultimate nature of the mind or the innate luminosity of the mind.
Line 3. Mind is the spontaneously born, luminous Great Perfection (Dzogpa Chenpo), the primordial wisdom of the absolute nature, the meaning of the fourth empowerment, which is marvelous . It is present spontaneously as the basis of the Mind of all the Buddhas, the attainment of the supreme siddhi , the state of Vajradhara.
Line 4. Mind is the basis of all the Buddhas of the three times, who have blossomed forth like lotuses, the ultimate nature; so it is renowned as the basis of Pema, the Buddhas . This is the recognition of Pema Jungne as the absolute Buddha.
Line 5. In that primordial wisdom there are inconceivable qualities of attainment which, if divided into their varieties, include the five types of primordial wisdom ( Ye Shes lNga ). Primordial wisdom of the ultimate sphere, mirrorlike primordial wisdom, primordial wisdom of evenness, discriminating primordial wisdom, and all-accomplished primordial wisdom So, in the uncovered space of the ultimate sphere, numerous manifestative powers of the intrinsic-awareness primordial wisdom are emanating as its attributes ceaselessly.
Line 6. To realize the nature of nondual primordial wisdom ( Ye Shes ) and to perfect it through contemplation with unchanging confidence , which is great wisdom ( Shes Rab ), is expressed as "I will follow after you, and I will practice."
Line 7. If one has become experienced in and has ascertained this ultimate nature ( gNas Lugs ) by realizing the view (lTa Ba) and perfecting that realization through meditation, one will transform all the attachments to impure appearance into the pure essence [ Ngo Bo is translated here as "essence" Generally, Ngo Bo , Thig Le of light, and Thig Le (semen) of physical body all could be translated as "essence," and it is therefore confusing. So in this text I am translating the Ngo Bo as "essence," Thig Le of physical body in the perfection stage as "essence," and the Thig Le of light of Thal as "thig-le."] of primordial wisdom ( Ye Shes ).
Or, if one could not attain primordial wisdom, then in order to receive the blessing of the path in one's own mind, one aspires as follows: "May I realize ["May I realize" is the significance of "Please come" in the prayer. Being a quotation from Pramanavarttika in Mipham Rinpoche's text, Shegs ("to come") has the meaning of "realization" ( rTogs ).] the ultimate nature ( Ch'os Nyid ) by dissolving subjective-objective duality into it, as waves of water into water, through the blessing powers of the instructions of the Lama and through study and reflection.
MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSINGS
The primordial wisdom's nature is luminescence ( Rang bZhin gSal Ba ). It is spontaneously accomplished Sambhogakaya, with a ceaseless display of power. Yet it is not separate from the ultimate sphere. So it is PADMA , the lotus, which means not stained by relative characteristics.
The inseparability of that essence and nature [The inseparability of Ngo Bo and Rang bZhin , sTong Pa and gSal Ba , Ch'os sKu and Longs sKu , Guru and Padma .] is the universal compassion, which arises in the samsaric and nirvanic display ( Rol Pa ), fulfilling the wishes of all the endless beings, which is SIDDHI or attainment.
HUM--awakens the self-arisen innate wisdom.
• This primordial-wisdom essence is with ( kor ) many ( mangpo ) kinds of energy ( rLung ) and essence ( Thig Le ), which are manifestating in the empty sphere ( khadro ) of the channels as animations ( khortu ).
For those who are unable to realize the absolute primordial wisdom ( Don Gyi Ye Shes ) through the trainings elucidated in the path of liberation, it could be achieved through the most extraordinary trainings of the path of skillful means.
THE UTTERANCE OF THE SEED SYLLABLE
THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER
In that vajra body, on the right side is the red roma (Skt. rasana ) channel in which the sun energy ( Nyi Ma'i rLung ) moves about, decreasing the essence (Tib. Thig Le , Skt. bindu ). On the left side is the white Kyangma (Skt. lalana ) channel in which the moon energy ( Zla Ba'i rLung ) moves about, increasing, cleansing, cooling, and pacifying the essence.
Line 2. The lotus ( pema) signifies the eight-petaled Dharmachakra of the heart ( sNying Ka Ch'os Kyi 'Khor Lo ), The pistil ( kesar ) signifies the essence (or semen), the vital essence of the five elements. The stem ( dongpo ) signifies the uma (Skt. avadhuti ) or central channel in which the primordial wisdom energy ( Ye Shes Kyi rLung ) flows about.
Line 3. Within that cycle of channel, energy, and essence the extraordinary vital essence ( Dvangs Ma ) of the vajra body--and originating simultaneously with them from the beginning, like camphor and the smell of camphor, dwells the luminous essence (' od gSal Ba'i Thig Le ), which is unstained great bliss, the self-arisen primordial wisdom.
So it is very marvelous . This luminous essence is the inseparable union of bliss and emptiness that transcends thoughts and description, and it is the spontaneous accomplishment of the supreme siddhi, Vajradhara.
Line 5. That primordial-wisdom luminous essence, Padmasambhava, is with many essences and energies ( rLung ) as its manifesting power ( rTsal ) of the great essence of primordial wisdom itself. These are manifesting in the space of the empty hollows of the central channel and smaller channels as their animations . If one applies the training on skillful means, the cycle of vajra body arises as the great blissful primordial wisdom of luminous essence.
Line 6. "I will follow after you, and I will practice" signifies, first, that it is the training on understanding and accomplishing the nature of the vajra body ; and second, the primordial wisdom of great bliss through the profound trainings with characteristics ( mTshan bChas Kyi rNal 'Byor ) of the perfection stage ( rDzogs Rim ), which include practice on the heat yoga ( gTum Mo ), the trainings through the supports of inner or outer vajra consorts. These trainings will bring the result of admitting the karmic energies and mind into the central channel, and realizing the state of illusory body, luminous absorption, and dream yoga, because of the force of physical exercises, discipline of energies, and mental concentration on the subtle essences ( Phra Mo'i Thig Le ).
Line 7. Through the training of skillful means, one transforms all the existents into the attainment of the nature of the immaculate great bliss of the vajra body, and transforms them into the mandalas of the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas. To attain the great bliss of the vajra body, all the habitual inclinations of the changing karmic energy--the cause of samsaric appearances, due to the mind defiled by thoughts with characteristics--dissolve into the central channel of changeless primordial wisdom, and are bound to the changeless great essence, the very ultimate sphere of the basis. So, Come (attain) to the Dharmakaya , the ultimate sphere of the basis.
THE MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSINGS
ACCORDING TO THE NYINGTHIG OF DZOGPA CHENPO: THE DIRECT REALIZATION OF THE SPONTANEOUS PRESENCE
• The light of the pure ultimate sphere and the light of emptiness thig-le ( pema) with the vajra chains--the power of the intrinsic awareness--( kesar ) are present for us. Upon ( la ) firmly stabilizing intrinsic awareness on them through contemplation ( dongpo ),
Natural, self-arisen primordial wisdom dwells primordially as the ultimate nature ( Ch'os Nyid ) of the mind. However, because of the impactedness of karma and emotional afflictions, the ultimate nature has been covered and its face ( Rang Zhal ) could not be observed.
THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER
HUM signifies the essence of spontaneously accomplished thal, the self-arisen primordial wisdom. Thal brings about the vision of the true face of self-arisen primordial wisdom from the state of spontaneously accomplished luminous absorption, even for us ordinary people, if we follow the instructions of this supreme yana.
Line l. Orgyen yul signifies the light of the heart ( Tsita Sha Yi sGron Ma ). The youthful body in a vase ( gZhon Nu Bum sKu ), the radiant thig-le of primordial wisdom, dwells invisibly ( Nub ) in the space of the vajra body, the inner ultimate sphere ( Nang Gi dByings ).
Chang is the outer ultimate sphere , the clearly appearing space, the cloudless sky. Tsham , the channel of the two outer and inner spheres, is the water light of the eyes ( rGyang Zhag Ch'u Yi sGron Ma ).
Line 2. Through the water light of the eyes , in the outer ultimate sphere, appears the pure sky--blue, clean, with nets of rainbow rays beautified by circular thig-le, like mirrors. All these are the light of the pure ultimate sphere ( dByings rNam Dag Gi sGron Ma ).
Then, by gaining experience at that, the light of emptiness thig-le ( Thig Le sTong Pa'i sGron Ma ) in red--clear, round, and clean--will arise like designs on water made by throwing a stone in a pond. These two lights ( sGron Ma ) function as the ground, a container, or a house. They are both signified by the pema (lotus).
Kesar (pistil) signifies the vajra chain ( rDo rJe Lu Gu rGyud ), which is the power of intrinsic awareness ( Rig gDangs ). It is the essence of the light of self-arisen wisdom ( Shes Rab Rang Byung Gi sGron Ma ) and the self-radiance of the actual intrinsic awareness, primordial wisdom.
Dongpo (stem) signifies stabilization of the ultimate sphere ( dByings ) and the intrinsic awareness ( Rig Pa ) by confining the power of intrinsic awareness ( Rig gDangs ) in the realm of the ultimate sphere and pressing the point ( gNad gZhi Ba ) through the thought-free natural mode of intrinsic awareness ( Rig Pa Rang Bab rTog Med ). By getting experience in ( la ) those skillful means,
Line 3. One will achieve the four confidences gradually and will accomplish the marvelous visions of the direct realization of the ultimate nature ( Ch'os Nyid mNgon gSum ), the development of experiences ( Nyams Gong 'Phel ), and the perfection of the intrinsic awareness ( Rig Pa Tshad Phebs ). After that, one will achieve the state of dissolution of (all dharmas into) the ultimate nature ( Ch'os Nyid Zad Pa )--the supreme attainment, the state of Vajradhara--in this very life.
Line 5. Though not moving from the state of evenness of the light of self-arisen wisdom, there will be spontaneous emanation of manifesting power ( rTsal ) of that self-arisen wisdom, in the form of many clear and moving rainbow rays, thig-les, and small thig-les in the space .
Line 6. At that time all these developments are the mere power of intrinsic awareness. So, one contemplates on the luminous absorption of the four natural contemplations ( Chog bZhag bZhi ) in the unmodified natural vision of original purity ( Ka Dag ).
Line 7. By practicing like that, may I purify all the phenomena produced by the impure karmic energy into the expanse of indestructible primordial wisdom to attain the rainbow vajra body of great transformation ( 'Ja' Lus 'Pho Ba Ch'en Po ).
THE MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSINGS
The path of innermost essence of the luminous absorption is the extraordinary training, as it meditates on the result, the Buddhahood itself, as the path of training. So, it is supreme (GURU) , and immaculate (PADMA) , and the ultimate attainment in this very lifetime (SIDDHI) . Amazing (HUM) !
THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE RESULT
HUM--invokes the primordial wisdom.
• The esoteric training awakens one's tantric lineage ( ogyen yul ) of the Mind that ( kyi ) transcends the juncture ( tsam ) of sinking ( nub ) in the samsara and liberating ( chang ) from it through
THE OBJECT OF THE PRAYER
Line 1. The country of Oddiyana ( ogyen yul ) is a source of tantras, and the definition of the word Oddiyana is "going by flying." In tantra, the awakening of one's tantric lineage ( sNgags Kyi Rigs Sad Pa ) of one's own mind and attaining liberation from the swamp of dualistic ( gNyis sNang ) appearances of samsara is very swift, like flying.
By awakening the mind, one transcends the juncture ( Tsam ) of samsara and nirvana by liberating ( chang ) it from sinking ( nub ) in the mud of samsara, purifying it from all the defilements, and dissolving illusory appearances into the ultimate sphere.
Line 2. The attainment of the purity of all sound as the mandala of speech ( Pema ), the perfection of all thoughts as the mandala of mind ( kesar ), and the maturation of all appearances as the mandala of body ( dongpo )--the three secret aspects ( gSang Ba gSum ) of Buddhahood--and ( La ).
Line 3. The primordial wisdom of the attainment, which is oneness and evenness, is marvelous ( yatsen ). When one realizes this, it is the attainment of the indivisibility of the basis and result, the supreme attainment (chogki ngrub), the state of Vajradhara.
Line 4. This attainment is renowned ( zhesu trag ) as the absolute Padmasambhava ( pema jungne ), Line 5. And its nature is that it does not stray from the primordial ground. Yet from the primordial wisdom, there arise ( kor ) infinite ( mangpo ) functions ( dro ) of manifestations of samsara and nirvana, as boundless as the sky ( kha ), appearing as its power ( khor ).
Line 6. If, having realized the meaning of the nature and reality of this attainment, one then remains in it without being diverted, then just as no stone can be found on an island made all of gold, so all the impure appearances will come to an end, and only primordially pure appearances will arise. One will attain liberation from all the bonds of karma and from the emotional afflictions. All good qualities will be accomplished spontaneously and effortlessly, and one will attain the Dharmakaya stage permanently. So it is the remaining ( dagdrub kyee ) in the realized state ( jesu ) of the primordial purity ( khyekyi ).
Line 7. All phenomenal existents arise in the form of the mandala of the four vajras Vajra body, vajra speech, vajra mind, and vajra primordial wisdom of the Buddhas.] ( chinkyee lab chir ), the blessings of the primordial wisdom of one s own mind. This attainment arises as the result of attaining ( shegsu sol ) the primordial basis, the ultimate truth.
THE MANTRA FOR INVOKING BLESSINGS
CONCLUSION OF THE PRACTICES
First, the practice of The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer as Guru Yoga, according to the common meaning, will cause the arising of the profound primordial wisdom. By learning the crucial points of the paths of liberation, skillful means, or great perfection from a qualified Lama and practicing them diligently, one will achieve confidence in the realization, the result itself as expounded in the teachings, and will reach the state of Vidyadhara (knowledge holder).
With unshakable faith, visualize Guru Rinpoche, the embodiment of all refuges, on the crown of one's head. Pray to him strongly with The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer . By the nectar pouring down from the body of the Guru, all the illness, bad karma, and sufferings of one's body, speech, and mind are washed away in the form of pus, blood, insects, soot, and offal. At the end, one's own body dissolves, like salt into water, and then the liquid goes down into the mouth of Yamaraja, the Lord of Death, and other creditors of karma beneath the ground. Believe that it has satisfied all of them and that all the debts are cleared. At the end, one should regard them all as having vanished into emptiness.
Again, visualize your own body in the form of the radiant body of a divinity whichever form you like. In the heart of the divinity, at the center of an eight-petaled lotus, the Lama comes down from the crown of your head and becomes one with the indestructible essence (bindu), the primordial wisdom. Then one should remain in the blissful primordial wisdom.
The postmeditative period should be treated as follows: all appearances viewed as a pure land and as divinities, food and drink as offerings, and the activities of sitting and walking as prostration and circumambulation. When you sleep, you should visualize the Guru in your heart. In all daily activities you should try to transform everything into virtuous practices without interval. It is important to visualize the Lama in the sky before you and to present offerings, offer praise, invoke his mind, and receive the blessings of his body, speech, and mind. This is because generally the good qualities of the higher realms of liberation, and especially the development of realization of the profound path, depend only on the entry of the blessings of the Guru into one's own mind.
In order to attain the absolute primordial wisdom in one's own mind, one must become familiar with the teachings given in the sutras and tantras in general and, in particular, with the instruction on the direct introduction ( Ngo 'Phrod ) to the absolute primordial wisdom ( Don Gyi Ye Shes ). And, according to one's experience, realization, and ability, one should meditate on any of the paths of liberation or skillful means that is appropriate for oneself. By doing this, one will achieve the fulfillment of both the temporary and the ultimate result.