My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Shakyamuni Buddha said in the collection of teachings called the Dhammapada:
Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts
Suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.
Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts
Happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.
All existence comes from the mind. The mind is the principal and the preliminary. An example of this is by generating a good heart and then speaking [with that pure mind] to somebody, happiness follows, just as a shadow follows the body.
All existence comes from the mind. The mind is the principal and the preliminary. An example of this is by generating a bad mind and then speaking [with that impure mind] to somebody, suffering will follow, just as the heavy cart follows the ox. For example, in India, on top of the cart there is a very heavy load, like iron, and also humans are sitting on that. The cart is extremely heavy and then the ox is beaten by people, but it still has to keep walking until it can’t walk any more.
The happiness mentioned above is not only this life’s happiness; it means happiness for many hundreds of lifetimes, such as five hundred or even thousands or millions of lifetimes. The suffering mentioned above is not only this life’s suffering, but also after this life. So [if we speak or act with a pure mind] we won’t experience that suffering; we won’t get reborn in the lower realms, as a hell being, a hungry ghost or animal and then have to experience the suffering there for an unbelievable length of time. Depending on how heavy the negative karma [of speaking or acting with an impure mind] is, we could be [in the lower realms] for many eons.
It is just one time that we have received this perfect human rebirth and it can end at any time. We can’t even say that we will be alive tomorrow or tonight; we don’t have omniscience or even ordinary clairvoyance, so we can’t see the future. We only have this opportunity right now, being alive, therefore we need to practice exchanging ourselves with others.
The great holy being, the Indian pandit from Nalanda, the great bodhisattva Shantideva said, “If we do not exchange ourselves for others, we cannot be enlightened.” That means we cannot achieve the peerless happiness, which is the total cessation of gross and subtle obscurations and the completion of all the realizations. “Even while we are in samsara, there is no happiness”—there is no happiness in our future lives and even the works of this life cannot succeed.
If I do not actually exchange my happiness
For the sufferings of others
I shall not attain the state of buddhahood
And even in cyclic existence shall have no joy.
– Bodhicaryavatara, Ch. 8, v. 131
Cherishing the I causes all suffering for oneself and other sentient beings.
Cherishing others causes all the happiness for oneself and other sentient beings.
This means the happiness from beginningless rebirths, now and all the future happiness, including liberation from samsara and the peerless happiness, enlightenment. Sometimes this can be recited as a motivation.
LC 94: Cherishing myself is the doorway to all loss,
While cherishing my mothers is the foundation of all qualities.
Hence I seek your blessings to make my heart practice
The yoga of exchanging myself for others.
The teaching which has the same meaning is, “The chronic disease of cherishing the I, by seeing that this is the cause of all the undesirable sufferings and problems, all the past, present and future sufferings and problems.” So, put all the blame on that. That means when any unfavorable problem arises, immediately blame the self-cherishing thought, as it comes from that. “Keep this in mind and please grant me blessings to destroy the great demon, the self-cherishing thought.”
“Cherishing the mothers, the sentient beings, brings all the happiness, and seeing that is the doorway to receiving infinite qualities”—the happiness from beginningless rebirth, now and in the future, including peerless happiness, enlightenment, and all the realizations—“Even the sentient beings, who are numberless, appear as my enemy”—meaning that everyone turns into our enemy—“May I be able to cherish them more than my life.”
LC 91: This chronic disease of cherishing myself
Is the cause giving rise to my unsought suffering.
Perceiving this, I seek your blessings to blame, begrudge,
And destroy the monstrous demon of selfishness.
LC 92: The mind that cherishes mothers and places them in bliss
Is the gateway leading to infinite qualities.
Seeing this, I seek your blessings to cherish these transmigratory beings
More than my life, even should they rise up as my enemies.
So the purpose of circumambulation is not just to avoid being reborn in the lower realms and to achieve a higher rebirth—a deva or human rebirth. It’s not just to be free from samsara and achieve lower nirvana, the everlasting happiness. There are numberless living beings in each of the six realms, so every hell being, to free them from the sufferings of samsara and bring them to the peerless happiness, enlightenment, buddhahood. Same thing, there are numberless hungry ghosts, numberless animals, numberless human beings in numberless universes, also numberless suras, numberless asuras and numberless intermediate state beings, so to free everyone from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment by myself alone.
Think, “Therefore, to be able to do that perfectly, without mistakes, I must achieve the state of omniscience. Therefore, I need to actualize the stages of the path to buddhahood. Therefore, I am going to circumambulate, to purify all the defilements and obstacles and collect the necessary conditions, the merits.”
With this bodhicitta motivation you walk around the holy objects, the stupas, statues and scriptures, any holy objects, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, then with each step you collect endless skies of merit. So that is the motivation.
The actual practice
Just by the shape of the stupa, it is called a holy object, because the stupa represents the Buddha’s holy mind, dharmakaya. Then you go around it, circumambulating, and that itself becomes Dharma practice and unbelievable purification and you collect merit, just even from that.
Now here, think this is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the real, compassionate Avalokiteshvara. That means it is all the numberless buddhas, numberless Dharma, numberless Sangha, even the ten-direction statues, scriptures and stupas of Buddha. By thinking in this way, you circumambulate every single holy object in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Thailand, Burma, everywhere, and even the statues in the shops that are for sale, wherever they are in the world. If you are able to go around the holy object with this meditation, you get the merit of having circumambulated every single holy object in the world.
Then from this holy object, the stupa, think that light is emitted, like sunbeams, totally purifying all your obscurations. Then think you generate all the realizations up to enlightenment, including bodhicitta.
Now this is also the same for every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every sura being, every asura being and every intermediate state being. Think they are totally purified of all the obscurations and generate all the realizations up to enlightenment. So with that mind, with that meditation, you go around the holy object.
Before you start to circumambulate, recite this mantra:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ RINCHEN GYÄLTSÄN LA CHAG TSHÄL LO (7x)
[NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA] OM NAMO BHAGAVATE RATNA KETU RAJAYA TATHAGATAYA ARHATE SAMYAK SAMBUDDHAYA TADYATHA OM RATNE RATNE MAHA RATNE RATNA BIJA YE SVAHA (7x)
After reciting this, each prostration and circumambulation is multiplied by one million. I also saw other texts that said more than ten million.
You can also recite OM MANI PADME HUM or any mantra.
These mantras are very powerful and extremely good to recite while circumambulating:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ PÄL GYÄL WA SHAKYA THUB PA LA CHAG TSHÄL LO
OM NAMO DASHA DEKA TRI KALA SARVA RATNA TRAYAYA MAMA PRADAKSHA SUPRA DAKSHA / SARVA PAPAM VISHODHANI SVAHA
There are six benefits when you recite this Buddha’s name and mantra before you circumambulate.
1 and 2. You receive the benefit of having prostrated and circumambulated to all the buddhas, Dharma and Sangha of the ten directions and the three times;
3. All the negative karma collected from beginningless rebirth is purified;
4. You will quickly achieve full enlightenment;
5. You won’t be harmed by enemies and interferers;
6. You are liberated from disease and spirit harms.
It’s good to also go around saying this mantra. Try to train the mind so you are able to memorize and then recite this mantra. First you can read it and later recite it by heart.
“Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by numberless buddhas and numberless sentient beings, may bodhicitta, which is the source of all happiness and success for myself and for every sentient being, be generated in my heart and in the hearts of all the sentient beings. For those who have developed bodhicitta, may it be increased, particularly in the hearts of all my family members.” Then you can think in particular of anyone you want to pray for, a person or a dog, for example.
“Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by numberless buddhas and numberless sentient beings, who are merely labeled by the mind, may the I, who is merely labeled by the mind, achieve merely labeled buddhahood and lead the merely labeled sentient beings into merely labeled buddhahood, by merely labeled myself, alone.”
Offering the sound of the bell to the stupa
At the end of the circumambulations, you can offer the bell to the stupa. The benefit of offering bells or any music to the holy objects, to the guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, statues, stupas and scriptures, is that while you are in samsara, it creates the cause for your voice to become so unbelievable, so interesting, so sweet (for example, like Lady Gaga or someone like that, who is so famous), then many millions and millions of people like to hear your voice and are attracted to it, so then they follow you and you can bring them to enlightenment. Of course, you don’t just have the motivation to make yourself happy—that is the self-cherishing thought. The motivation is to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment, so they follow you. That is the purpose. That is the ultimate result of offering music to the Buddha, as well as to buddha statues, stupas and scriptures. The result is to achieve the perfect holy speech of Buddha, which has sixty qualities, so you need that to enlighten the sentient beings. That is the ultimate goal of offering music.
Think, “I must liberate the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to the full enlightenment, the total cessation of obscuration and completion of realizations, therefore I must achieve enlightenment, therefore I am going to offer the bell, the sound.”
Then offer the sound. You can ring each bell, one after the other. You can ring the small one and after that ring the bigger one, then ring the bigger one, then ring the smaller one and so on, like this. The ringing can go faster and faster. There isn’t a number of times to ring the bells. You can ring them together, then again go one by one, the big one and the small one, or the small one then the big one, then stop.
At the end, dedication. You can do the same dedication I mentioned before. In this way it makes your life unbelievably useful, not only for you to be free from samara and achieve enlightenment, but for numberless sentient beings to be free from the oceans of suffering in samsara and bring them to enlightenment, so your life brings skies of benefit to every sentient being—to every insect, every hungry ghost, every hell being, every animal, every human being. So this is how to enjoy the life.
Thank you very much. It makes your life so worthwhile.
With much love and prayers ...