My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you for your email. Regarding your two-month solitary retreat, what came out best for you to do at that time is to make tsa tsas. Try to make 80,000. You can do this at the nunnery.
First thing in the morning, do Guru Shakyamuni Buddha meditation. There has been a brand-new translation of this, so please use that. Then also in the morning time do prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names three times. Then make the tsa tsas during the day. Each evening do Vajrasattva practice and recite the King of Prayers and then do the dedications that I normally do. [Find links to these practices in the FPMT Catalogue.]
When making tsa tsas with the nuns, the materials they use are earth or clay, so you have to be very careful that the images you make do not have broken noses or bubbles or missing parts of the holy body. They have to be perfect, otherwise you create negative karma. If there are imperfections then you need to fix them right away. That is part of the practice, so each one you make is best quality.
Do Chenrezig and Heruka tsa tsas for your two-month retreat, along with the morning and evening prayers that I mentioned above.
Make sure your motivation before making the tsa tsas is to free every sentient being—the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings; not even one insect is left out, not even one lice—to free them from the oceans of samsara’s sufferings and bring them to enlightenment. Think, “I must achieve enlightenment, therefore I have to actualize the path, therefore I need to create extensive merits and purify, therefore I am going to make these tsa tsas.”
So you have to learn how to make the tsa tsas first. You can ask the nuns to help you. They use earth for the tsa tsas, so it’s very easy when making them for the image to be missing a nose or other things. You have to fix them as much as possible and not create incomplete or damaged buddhas. You have to learn how to do it correctly.
In the West we make tsa tsas with plaster, so it’s a different method, but still there are a lot of problems. In the Aptos house we have a pressure machine (a paint shaker machine and pressure tank) and we put the tsa tsas in that while the material is drying. That makes the images perfect, with no bubbles, because it shakes the mold as it is setting so all the bubbles disappear.
There is also a booklet published by FPMT on how to make tsa tsas. That is very good to read and become familiar with. [Find links to The Preliminary Practice of Tsa-Tsas eBook and PDF in the FPMT Catalogue.]
With much love and prayers ...