Teachings from the Mani Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Eudlo, Australia, 2000 (Archive #1261)

"Because we have met the Buddhadharma, and especially this method—the practice of the Compassion Buddha and recitation of his mantra—it is easy to purify negative karma and collect extensive merit and thus achieve enlightenment. We are unbelievable fortunate." 

Lama Zopa Rinpoche, from his invitation to join the retreat.

This book is available as an ebook from online vendors and as a PDF file. LYWA members can download the ebook for free from our Members' area. You can also listen to the audio recording and read the unedited transcript for the evening session on Friday, December 22, 2000.

Sunday, December 24


I thought to do the short Calling the Guru from Afar [p. 17]. Those who like to chant in Tibetan can chant it in Tibetan and those who like to read in English can read it in English—or you can do both.

Visualize your root virtuous friend, with the understanding that he is one with all the Buddhas.

[Rinpoche very slowly and beautifully chants the abbreviated Calling the Lama from Afar.]

“Please grant me blessings not to give rise to heresy for even one second toward the holy actions of the glorious guru, and with the devotion that sees whatever action the guru does as pure, may I receive the blessing of the guru in my heart.”

You can see whether you can fit the English words to the chanting.

Those who have studied, read or heard the lam-rim have some idea of the extensive sufferings of the beings in each realm: the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings. All the sufferings are explained in detail in the lam-rim, so that you can meditate on them easily but extensively. Since the lam-rim and the sutra teachings explain the sufferings in detail, you have the general idea of how to reflect on them and develop strong compassion for those beings while you are reciting the mantra. You can also use the motivations that I gave the other day.

Those of you who have come to join the retreat and recite OM MANI PADME HUM but haven’t studied the lam-rim, the basic teachings that are the essence of the Buddhadharma, and have no idea of the bodhicitta meditations, need to do something else, in accordance with your capacity. Of course, you can reflect on all sentient beings and wish to free them from all suffering and its causes and bring them happiness. Then, in regard to happiness, you can think to bring all sentient beings not only temporary happiness but especially ultimate happiness, and within the category of ultimate happiness, bring them not just liberation from the suffering of samsara but the sublime happiness of full enlightenment.

It is also good to ask yourself, “Why do I have to do this?” There are two reasons. One very important reason is that sentient beings do not want suffering and want happiness. The other reason is that this is the purpose of your life. It is for this purpose that you put so much effort into surviving in every hour, every minute, of your life. The conclusion is that there are two reasons: this is what sentient beings need, so you should help them; and this is the meaning of your life.

You then think of as many sufferings as you can that are happening in the world. Think of all the wars that are happening right now in different countries. Then think of all the problems experienced by individual people. Think of all the cancer and AIDS. Millions and millions of people are experiencing cancer, AIDS and other sicknesses. Think of those who are in hospital experiencing various sicknesses. Think of those who are having heart attacks right now. Think of those who are in comas. So many people are having operations right now, and it’s unsure whether they are going to survive or die today. Also, think of all the sick people at home. Then think of the people experiencing poverty, famine and unemployment. Reflect on all those things.

There are so many who are suffering. Even if you haven’t studied Dharma, you know of so many problems that the world is experiencing or that individual sentient beings are experiencing. There are oceans of problems just among human beings. There are so many that you can think about. Even if you have never studied or meditated on lam-rim or read Dharma books, you know of so many sufferings that people are experiencing.

Reflect also on the sufferings of animals, those that you can see, that you remember or that you know about. Wish to free them from all those problems and for them to never ever experience problems again, which is the ultimate happiness of liberation. Think, “To bring them all temporary and ultimate happiness, I’m going to do the meditation-recitation of Compassion Buddha.”

I am talking here particularly for new people. Of course, those who have studied and know the lam-rim can meditate very deeply and elaborately following the lam-rim outlines, which include all these sufferings. There is so much that you can meditate on.

To reflect on the various problems is very effective, even for those who know lam-rim, because when you think of the sufferings of other people, you’ve got to do something. And what are you going to do? At the very least, through meditation, you can purify them of the causes of their suffering and pray for them, and the most extensive benefit that you can offer others is to develop compassion within you for all sentient beings. You recite the mantra for that purpose.

Here I am explaining particularly for those who haven’t studied Buddhism. Think of the various problems that you know. You don’t need religious faith to do this. You don’t need religious faith to understand the suffering of somebody with cancer. You know how many people are dying from cancer and from AIDS. The world is full of problems, and you see this every day on TV and in the newspapers. You can do the meditation for the benefit of all the people who are suffering, and also for you yourself to develop compassion.

This makes it easy for those who have never heard lam-rim teachings or have no idea about Buddhism. They then having something they know that they can think about.

Also, if you can’t concentrate well or are falling sleep, it might help to have a lam-rim book in front of you to read. With your mouth you can recite the mantra while you read the lam-rim text. Your mouth chants OM MANI PADME HUM, but you read Dharma texts on whichever lam-rim meditation you want to do. It then becomes very rich, very meaningful.

Also, it might be helpful to have some idea of which meditation you are going to do, “This session I’m going to do this meditation and that session I’m going to that meditation.” Make a program of meditations for the different sessions. Because you then have some - thing to think about, there’s no restlessness. Because your mind is set up with a lam-rim meditation, you do not become restless. Also, instead of your mind being distracted, your recitation of mantra becomes rich and meaningful because you are accompanying it with lam-rim meditation.

Or you can first start with the common meditation that is mentioned in the text [p. 105], sending beams to purify and enlighten all sentient beings and then making offerings to all of them. You can then meditate on the divine pride of yourself as Chenrezig and on clear appearance. At the same time look at yourself as Chenrezig, in the aspect of the deity’s holy body, as an illusion; it appears to be inherently existent but it is not true. You can always begin each session with this, then do other meditations. Or you can do different meditations in each session. This makes the mantra recitation much more enjoyable, as there’s so much to do that you don’t become restless. It also helps to stop you from falling asleep.

I don’t want my talking to become the session. We should at least recite a few mantras, a few syllables….

First generate the motivation: “The purpose of my life is to free all sentient beings from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment; therefore, I must achieve enlightenment; therefore, I’m going to practice the yoga of eating, making food offering and charity to sentient beings.”

As we’ve just done the sadhana, you yourself are Chenrezig. All the food in the kitchen is purified in emptiness. (You can recite “OM SVABHAVA SHUDDAH SARVA DHARMAH SVABHAVA SHUDDHO HAM” or simply purify it in emptiness.) Then, while it is empty, your wisdom understanding emptiness is transformed into an extensive jeweled container, inside of which is an OM.

You have to understand the reason for visualizing OM. OM is made up of three sounds: “AH,” “O” and “MA,” which symbolize Buddha’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind. You can now understand the way the blessing is done. The OM manifests in uncontaminated nectar, which in this way is blessed in the essence of Buddha’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind. Actually, it manifests in numberless oceans of uncontaminated nectar.

If you have visualized the merit field surrounding Compassion Buddha—all the direct and indirect gurus, buddhas and bodhisattvas, Dharma protectors and so forth—they are all included in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Make offering of numberless oceans of uncontaminated nectar to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with strong recognition that the essence is your root virtuous friend. Generate infinite bliss within them. Put your palms together and prostrate to them.

Make offering of numberless oceans of uncontaminated nectar to all the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions, imagining that their essence is your root virtuous friend. Generate infinite bliss within them. Prostrate to all of them.

Make offering of numberless oceans of uncontaminated nectar to all the statues, stupas, scriptures and thangkas in all the universes in the ten directions, imagining that their essence is your root virtuous friend. Generate infinite bliss within them. Prostrate with your palms together to all of them.

Make charity of numberless oceans of uncontaminated nectar to every single hell being, every single hungry ghost, every single animal (including the ants), every single human being, every single asura being, every single sura being, every single intermediate state being. They all fully enjoy the nectar and are liberated from all their suffering, including its causes. They all become enlightened in the aspect of Compassion Buddha. Visualize every hell being, hungry ghost, animal, human, asura, sura and intermediate state being as Compassion Buddha.

We collected limitless skies of merit—or good karma, the cause of happiness—with our motivation of bodhicitta. We collected limitless skies of merit by offering to all the beings in the merit field, with Compassion Buddha, Guru Avalokiteshvara, as the principal figure. We collected limitless skies of merit by offering to all Buddha, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions. We collected four times limitless skies of merit by offering to all the stupas, statues, scriptures and thangkas of the ten directions. We collected seven times limitless skies of merit by making charity to all the sentient beings. (The hell beings are numberless, the hungry ghosts are numberless, the animals are numberless and so forth, so we created seven times numberless merits.)

“Due to all these merits, and the past and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by others, may I, the members of my family, all the students and benefactors of the FPMT, as well as all other sentient beings, never be separated from the Triple Gem, always collect merit by making offerings, and receive the blessing of the Triple Gem, which is all the realizations from guru devotion up to enlightenment, especially bodhicitta and clear light. May all these realizations be actualized within my own mind and in the minds of all sentient beings without the delay of even a second.”

Here, because we’ve collected so many times limitless skies of merit, we should dedicate again in the following way. If we don’t dedicate the merit, it can be destroyed by our generating heresy or anger. An atomic bomb can harm the animate and inanimate world, killing many millions of people, but our heresy and anger are much more destructive. An atomic bomb is nothing when compared to the danger from our negative thoughts of anger and heresy.

“ Due to all the past, present and future merits collected by me and the merits of the three times collected by others (which exist but do not exist from their own side), may the I (who exists but does not exist from its own side) achieve Compassion Buddha’s enlightenment (which exists but doesn’t exist from its side, which is empty) and lead all the sentient beings (who exist but do not exist from their own side, who are empty) to that enlightenment (which exists but does not exist from its own side, which is empty) by myself alone (who exists but doesn’t exist from my own side, who is totally empty).”

I left out the chanting—the prayer should be done before the dedication.

la ma sang gyä la ma chö
de zhin la ma ge dün te
kün gyi je po la ma te
la ma nam la chö par bül

Yesterday I did the offering too early—I thought it was the last session before lunch.


“From now on, whatever action I do—eating, sleeping, walking, sitting, working and so forth—and whatever life I experience—up or down; happy or unhappy; healthy or unhealthy; whether I have a life-threatening sickness such as cancer or don’t have any sickness; whether I have problems in my life, such as relationship problems, or have no problems; gain or loss; rich or poor; whether I receive praise and people like me or I receive criticism and people are negative toward me; living or dying, and even if I am born in the hell realms—the main purpose of my life is to be beneficial to other sentient beings. Therefore, may whatever I experience in my life from now on be most useful for other sentient beings. And what is the most useful thing? That which causes all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment in the quickest way possible. From now on, may all my actions and experiences in life become the cause for all sentient beings to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.“

Now read “jam-päl pa-wo…” in English. [Group reads “Just as the brave Manjushri…bodhisattva’s deeds.” (p. 79) in Combined Jorchö and Lama Chöpa Puja).]

“Due to the merits of the three times collected by me and the merits of the three times collected by others, may I, the members of my family, all the students and benefactors of the FPMT, as well as all other sentient beings, meet and actualize the complete teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, the unification of sutra and tantra, in this very lifetime without the delay of even a second. May this teaching spread in all directions and flourish forever, and may I cause all this to happen.”

So, thank you very much. When you finished, I had just begun my session. So now I have to finish….

The reason that after chanting OM MANI PADME HUM slowly, I then recite it a little more quickly and then very quickly is because I heard that some very new people were having difficulty in reciting the mantra. It is just to give you some idea of the way to chant OM MANI PADME HUM, and it is actually meant to be recited together.

Of course, strictly speaking, as mentioned in retreat instructions, mantra recitation should be free from eight mistakes: reciting too slowly, too fast, with the words not clear, and so forth.

Reciting with different rhythms is to give some idea, especially to the very new people, of the way to recite the mantra. Even if it’s not possible for you to recite the mantra fast at the moment, the general idea is to make it go faster and faster.


“The savior of us transmigratory beings abides magnificently,
Having achieved the five holy bodies and wisdoms,
And with the compassion that benefits others,
Manifests in whatever aspect subdues us:
To you, I offer the five sets of five.
May we transmigratory beings achieve the five holy bodies and wisdoms.

The “five sets of five” are the five medicines, five grains, five jewel s, five scented smells and five essences.

So far I haven’t found the detailed names of all these substances— I might find them later in a different text. They might be the ingredients in the Kriya Tantra or Highest Yoga Tantra pills that go into the vase water. Maybe the many substances in those pills are the five sets of five, but I’m not sure. I checked in one text, but I didn’t find the names.

You can put the five grains, for example, in one container, and then offer it on the altar in front of Chenrezig. When you recite the verse, you offer one container of jewels, one container of perfumes, or scented smells, and so forth. I’m not sure about the five essences, but they might be milk, curd, butter, honey and sugar. You make offering of the five sets of five to Compassion Buddha.

In regard to counting five holy bodies, or kayas, there is the Svabhavikakaya, the ultimate nature of the omniscient mind, of Buddha’s holy mind; the Dharmakaya (or ye-she chö-ku, in Tibetan), the transcendental wisdom of the omniscient mind; then the manifestations of this, the Rupakaya, which has two divisions: the Sambhogakaya (or long-chö tsob-kyi-ku, in Tibetan), the holy body of complete enjoyment, and the Nirmanakaya, the holy body of transformation. There are these four kayas.

In counting five kayas, it seems in one text one great Amdo lama counted the general term “chö-ku.” Chö-ku, or Dharmakaya, which is sometimes translated as “truth body,” has two divisions. Ngo-wo nyi-ku, or the holy body of nature, is the ultimate nature of the omniscient mind, which is totally free from temporary obscurations (as opposed to the ultimate nature of our mind, which is not free from the temporary obscurations); and ye-she chö-ku, or the wisdom body, is the transcendental wisdom of the omniscient mind itself. When five kayas are counted, the general term “chö-ku” is mentioned. There are two types of omniscient mind: one that directly sees the ultimate nature, or absolute truth, of all phenomena and one that directly sees the conventional truth. So, maybe “ye-she chö-ku” refers to the omniscient mind that directly sees the ultimate nature of phenomena and the general term “chö-ku” refers to the omniscient mind that directly sees conventional truth phenomena. It could be that, but I’m not sure.

We also request the five wisdoms. We offer the five sets of five— five medicines, five grains, five jewels, five scented smells and five essences—then express the wish for what we want to achieve by making the offerings: “May we transmigratory beings achieve the five holy bodies and wisdoms.”

There is also an offering mantra to offer these sets of five: OM PANCH PANCH VIMALA PUNDZA MEKA AH HUM. In Hindi “panch,” as in “panch rupees,” means five. At the end of each offering verse there is a mantra. When you offer the divine dress, the offering mantra is OM BENZA WA TRA YE AH HUM SOHA. When you offer ornaments, the mantra is OM BENZA ALAMKARA WA PUKANI AH HUM SOHA.

When you offer the vase, you pour out a drop of water, visualizing that you purify the karmas and delusions of the sentient beings of the six realms and that they then generate bodhicitta in their minds. This is as it is said in the prayer. Think that with the drop of water, all sentient beings purify all their karma and delusions and receive the moisture of bodhicitta. The offering mantra is OM BENZA KALASHA AH HUM. Then, when you offer these five sets of five, the mantra to recite is OM PANCH PANCH VIMALA PUNDZA MEKA AH HUM. In your mind, think that you offer to the merit field the various offerings that are set up on the altar.

It is also very good to offer the eight auspicious signs and the seven king s’ reign. There is also a verse for this offering, but I haven’t found it yet. I will have to look for it in another text. We can also set up these offerings on the altar. It would be good to put many offerings around the mandala. At the moment we have only the mandala, but maybe later we can have umbrellas and banners, the eight auspicious signs, the seven king’s reign, the eight substances, and so forth. It would be very, very good to actually make the umbrellas and banners and put them on the altar around the mandala.

Each of the seven king’s reign has its own signification, which is why they are given during initiations. It is an auspicious preparation to achieve each of the qualities of Buddha that they signify, which then enables you to do perfect work for sentient beings. It is the same h e re. Offering them to Chenrezig signifies achieving those qualities. And it is the same with the eight substances that we offer during long life pujas. Each one has a different dedication for the achievement of the qualities that enable us to do perfect work for sentient beings. It’s a very good practice, and we can do the same here.

I will look in another text for those offering verses, because they are very good to do. They are usually in self-initiation texts. Before the actual initiation, there are extensive offerings as a preliminary, which shows the importance of collecting merit. At the beginning you make extensive offerings to yourself clarified as the deity. If they didn’t have a special purpose, there would be no reason for the extensive offerings of the seven royal emblems and so forth to always come during self-initiations.

In the mother tantra practices of Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini, for example, there are the sixteen goddesses carrying various offerings. If it didn’t have an important purpose, why would it be there? Because you have nothing to do and feel lonely, so you do it to fill in your time? It is not for just filling in time, like the many retired people who have nothing to do in their life so they do something outside in the garden or go for a walk somewhere or fix this and that. They just spend their days in this way; otherwise, they are bored and don’t know what to do with themselves. Making these offerings is not just to pass the time and fill in your day; there has to be a very important reason that offerings come in every practice. So, it would also be very good to have the extensive offerings here.

[Dinner bell rings in the background.] Oh, there is the bell offering. Okay, I will stop there….

Next Chapter:

Monday, December 25 »