When you go around holy objects such as stupas, the first and most important thing is your bodhicitta motivation. You can also think about impermanence and death, that you have received a human rebirth this one time and you can die at any time. Lama Tsongkhapa mentions that the rarest rebirth is the perfect human one, so think this can end at any time, it can end today—any time.
Therefore, think, “I must go around the stupa and practice Dharma in order to not be reborn in the lower realms, but rather, to get a perfect human rebirth. Not only that, but also to be free from samsara, and not only that, to be free from lower nirvana and to achieve great liberation, full enlightenment for sentient beings.”
The greatest benefit, the most meaningful life, is to not harm sentient beings—from one sentient being to numberless sentient beings—and to benefit them and bring them happiness.
Think, “I must free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to peerless happiness, the total cessation of the obscurations and completion of realizations—enlightenment—by myself alone. I must do that quickly, because the six-realm sentient beings are in the most unbelievable suffering. I cannot stand this for even one second, therefore I must achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.
“Therefore, I need to generate the path to enlightenment and in order to do that I need to purify the defilements, the negative karmas collected since beginningless rebirths with my body, speech and mind. In particular, from beginningless rebirths I have broken the pratimoksha vows, bodhisattva vows and tantric vows; I have created the heavy negative karma of harming the holy guru’s holy body, breaking the advice, disturbing the holy mind, generating nondevotional thoughts and belittling the guru. Therefore, in order to purify right away, I will go around the stupa.”
In your heart, make sure that you mainly go around the holy object for sentient beings, not for your own happiness. It is the means to become free from the oceans of samsara and achieve enlightenment.
Now, with that motivation of bodhicitta, if you go around the statues, stupas and scriptures of Buddha, then with each step you collect merit more than the sky. The merit you collect is unbelievable, unbelievable.
While you are circumambulating a holy object, for example, a stupa, you can do this meditation:
Think that this is in aspect a stupa, but it is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for example. This is what I think. You can think in this way about whoever is your root guru, whoever you have received teachings from. You can also think that the stupa is the numberless past buddhas, present buddhas and future buddhas, as well as all the objects of refuge, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and all the statues, stupas and scriptures.
While you are going around the stupa, think beams are emitted from it and sent to you as well as to the numberless hell beings, the numberless hungry ghosts, the numberless animals, the numberless humans, the numberless suras, the numberless asuras and the numberless intermediate state beings. At the beginning, mainly purify yourself, then later, halfway through, purify the sentient beings. For example, for one circumambulation, half is to purify you, then half is mainly to purify others. That is the meditation for physical circumambulation.
Now there is speech circumambulation. You can recite this Buddha’s name and mantra:
CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ RIN CHHEN GYÄL TSHÄN LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
To Bhagavan, Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Complete Buddha, Precious Victory Banner, I prostrate.
oṃ namo bhagavate ratna ketu rājāya / tathāgatāya arhate samyak saṃbuddhāya / tadyathā / oṃ ratne ratne mahāratne ratna vijaye svāhā
By reciting this, one circumambulation is equivalent to ten million circumambulations.
LA MA TÖN PA CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SANG GYÄ PÄL GYÄL WA SHA KYA THUB PA LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO
To Guru, Teacher, Bhagavan, Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Complete Buddha, Glorious Conqueror Shakyamuni, I prostrate.
oṃ namo daśadik trikāla sarva ratna trayāya / namaḥ pradakṣā supradakṣā sarva pāpaṃ viśodhani svāhā
You can recite the Buddha’s holy name and mantra any number of times: one mala or twenty-one times, or while you are doing the first circumambulation.
There are five benefits when you recite this Buddha’s name and mantra:
- You receive the benefit of having prostrated and circumambulated to all the buddhas, Dharma, Sangha of the ten directions and of the three times, past, present and future;
- All your negative karma collected from beginningless rebirth is purified;
- You will quickly achieve full enlightenment;
- You won’t be harmed by enemies and interferers;
- You will be free from the disease and spirit harm.
Make sure you don’t miss doing this; it’s so important.
Then you can recite one, two or three malas of Vajrasattva mantra. After that, recite the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names, which you can count. When you have finished and feel regretful, you can recite any prayer you want and that you know, like the King of Prayers. You can read the Vajra Cutter Sutra while you go around, or In Praise of Dependent Arising by Lama Tsongkhapa, or any other praise to Buddha. There are different praises to Buddha and you can recite any of them. [Find links to these practices in the FPMT Catalogue.]
If you are doing one, two or three circumambulations, something like that, for a short time, then at the end think everyone becomes enlightened. You become enlightened; everyone becomes enlightened.
If you have received a Chenrezig initiation, for example, you can visualize yourself and all beings as Chenrezig. If you have received a great initiation, either Kriya Tantra, such as Thousand-arm Chenrezig or Medicine Buddha, or any other initiation, or whichever Highest Yoga Tantra deity you are practicing, you can visualize that you and all sentient beings become that deity. You become enlightened; everyone becomes enlightened. Then dedicate the merits.
The mind circumambulation is visualizing beams of light emitting from the stupa and purifying your mind, also having compassion for sentient beings and devotion to the guru. It appears as a stupa, but in essence it’s the guru. That means it is all the buddhas—numberless past, present and future buddhas.
In a more elaborate way, if you’re going to circumambulate more, at the end of each circumambulation visualize that the sentient beings are purified and become enlightened. First, visualize that the hell beings are purified and become enlightened.
At the end of the second circumambulation, visualize that all the sentient beings are purified and become completely enlightened, especially the hungry ghosts.
After the next circumambulation, again think all sentient beings are purified and become enlightened, especially the animals.
After that, at the end of the next circumambulation, think all sentient beings are purified and become enlightened, especially the human beings.
The next one, at the end think all sentient beings are purified and become enlightened, in particular the suras.
Then after the next circumambulation, all beings are purified and become enlightened, especially the asuras.
Again, at the end of the next circumambulation, all sentient beings are purified and become enlightened, especially the intermediate state beings.
You can take the obstacles of the sentient beings’ karmic view and your own karmic view of the guru. Visualize beams of light are emitted from the stupa or holy object and all the obstacles are purified.
Think the obstacles to fulfilling the guru’s holy wishes are completely finished, the guru’s wishes all succeed and the guru has a long life. All the obstacles are pacified. Then the merits are dedicated for all the holy wishes to be successful and for the guru to have a stable life, forever.
If you are still going around, dedicate the merits for the teachings to last a long time and the obstacles to that are pacified. Beams of light are emitted from the stupa or holy object, pacifying those obstacles to the teachings. Dedicate for the teachings to last a long time and spread in all directions.
If you are still going around, dedicate for the Sangha, so their obstacles are removed, they have a long life and are able to serve sentient beings and the teachings of the Buddha. All their obstacles are pacified and all their wishes to preserve the Buddhadharma and spread the Dharma and benefit sentient beings are successful.
Dedicate the merits for the benefactors’ obstacles to be purified, for their long life and for all their wishes to serve the Sangha and the teachings to succeed.
If you have a particular person to pray for, then visualize beams of light are emitted purifying their heavy sicknesses and pacifying any other obstacle. Then dedicate for the success of all their wishes.
You can think like that, dedicate the merits in that way. These are just some ideas.
Thank you very much.
With much love and prayers ...