Visualization of the merit field
I will go over the description of the visualization, which is in verse. Reading it is very effective for the mind.
Lha dang mi yi chö päi dzä
Ngö su sham dang yi kyi trül
Kün zang chö trin la na me
Nam khäi kham kün khyab gyur chig
May divine and human offerings,
Both actually arranged and mentally emanated,
Become clouds of the finest Samantabhadra offerings,
Filling the entire realm of space.
“In front of oneself, in the center of an ocean of clouds of all-pure offerings…” Kün zang chö trin means “clouds of all-pure offerings.” There are two ways to interpret all-pure offerings. One is in regard to bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s method of offering, which is explained in a commentary on Lama Chöpa. The same method is used for mandala offerings. Twenty-five or so beams are emitted from the one offering, at the tips of which are bodhisattvas holding offerings. Again from these offerings many beams are emitted manifesting many bodhisattvas with offerings. In this way the whole of space is filled. But here it relates to tantric practice, and “all-pure” is to be understood as referring to your transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness manifested as various offerings which fill all space. It means that the nature of the offerings is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. These offerings that you are offering to the merit field are not stained by the wrong conception grasping at true existence. They are pure in that sense, and also that they are of pure appearance. You, the merit field and the offerings are all three the appearance of the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. So, the offerings are pure in that the ordinary impure appearance and ordinary conception have been stopped. Clouds of offerings expresses that there are many, as does an ocean.
What you are is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. That itself is the resultant Yamantaka’s holy mind, the dharmakaya, so that itself is the absolute guru. Your own mind, the deity’s holy mind and guru’s holy mind are all three oneness; you, the deity and the guru are one. You are this, and your transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness manifests as various offerings which fill all space.
Also in Lama Chöpa [LC 9] the visualization of the second merit field starts with bliss and voidness:
De tong yer me lha lam yang par
Kün zang chö trin thrig päi ü
Lo ma me tog drä bü yong dze
Dö güi pag sam jön päi tser
Dong nga bar wäi rin chen thri teng
Chu kye nyi da gyä päi teng
In the vast space of indivisible bliss and emptiness,
Amidst billowing clouds of Samantabhadra offerings,
At the crest of a wish-granting tree,
Adorned with leaves, flowers, and fruit,
Is a precious lion throne ablaze with gems,
On which is a wide lotus, sun, and full moon.
De tong yer me lha lam—“In the center of clouds of all-pure offerings, in the space of bliss and voidness...”
The clouds are extremely white like piles of white curd. These white clouds are not like the ordinary ones we see outside in the sky; they are the appearance of the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, same as the offerings. In the center of these clouds of offerings are eight lions supporting a radiant jeweled throne, two on each side, with tails toward each other and upturned faces looking at Lama Tsongkhapa. The significance of the way the lions are looking, with one eye up and the other one forward or downcast, is as His Holiness explained in the Lama Chöpa commentary. The more precisely you can do your meditation the more you will enjoy the sadhana. The less complete it is, the more aspects you miss, the less enjoyment you will find. Then it is more boring, and after some time, not knowing that it is due to your lack of understanding, the question will arise, “Why am I doing this?” Then doubt in the benefits of the meditation will come. Firstly, strong faith in karma is one of the things which makes the practice enjoyable. Another thing is that the stronger your bodhicitta is, the more compassion you have, if you are doing the practice for others, there will be much more enjoyment. And especially if you can do the whole practice with the awareness of emptiness, that will it the most interesting! If in addition to that you can generate bliss, then you will have great excitement. Then you will want the session to be longer, or you will not be able to wait to start the next session. Other people will follow the schedule, but you will not be able to wait!
On the throne are a variegated lotus and sun and moon discs. To each side of that throne is a similar one. The central throne is a little higher than the other two. On it sits your own guru, a transformation of the transcendental wisdom of all the victorious ones, which is of the same taste as the dharmadhatu—the absolute nature. The wisdom one-pointedly abides in the absolute nature, like having poured water into water—oneness. The transcendental wisdom of all the victorious ones, the buddhas, eternally inseparable from the absolute nature; of the same taste as, or oneness with, emptiness, through having completely cut off the subtle dual view.
One’s own guru, the dharmakaya of all buddhas, who is not separate from Lama Tsongkhapa, manifests as Jamgön Chökyi Gyälpo Tsongkhapa, the Pacified Savior, Dharma King, Tsongkhapa. This aspect is not separate from all the direct and indirect lineage lamas, and the various aspects of deities, the sutra-aspect buddhas, the bodhisattvas, the dakas, dakinis, protectors—those various aspects which have different labels.
Lama Tsongkhapa has a youthful white holy body but with a red complexion which symbolizes that it is a transformation of the unification of method and wisdom. His hands are in the mudra of turning the Dharma wheel. One hand signifies the revelation of the causal Paramitayana and the other the revelation of the resultant Vajrayana. It also symbolizes that there is no contradiction between emptiness and dependent arising. When lamas give commentaries or other teachings they begin with a certain prayer during which they have their right hand in the mudra of expounding Dharma. It means the same thing. Three fingers are held upwards: the first finger signifies the revelation of the graduated path of the lower capability being; the second finger the graduated path of the medium capability being; the third the graduated path of the higher capability being. Revealing these three teachings generates these three paths in the mind of the disciple by leading him through the three paths consecutively, and hence to enlightenment, the unification of the holy mind and holy body. The two fingers forming a circle signify the unification of the holy body and holy mind, enlightenment.
One's own guru also is a transformation of the transcendental wisdom of all the buddhas, which is of the same taste in dharmakaya. Previously I mentioned the transcendental wisdom of all the buddhas being of the same taste in the absolute nature related more to the objective reality. That transcendental wisdom one-pointedly abides in the absolute nature of all existence, forever inseparable from it, oneness with it, like having poured water into water. In Maitreya Buddha’s teaching Dodëi Gyän20 it says:
The unimaginable beams of the sun’s orb disperse
And there is the action of the sun illuminating the world;
Likewise, in the sphere of faultlessness uncountable numbers of buddhas are merged,
And perform the action of illumination through transcendental wisdom.
“Faultlessness” means without obscurations. Here the beams of the sun which illuminate the world is a simile for the transcendental wisdom of all buddhas being of the same taste in the dharmakaya.
Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo, referring to Maitreya Buddha’s teaching Dodëi Gyän, gave this example: the waters of all rivers go into the ocean. If you take one drop from the ocean it contains the water of every river, every stream, from every city, because all the water that went into the ocean is mixed. In the quotation from Maitreya Buddha it says that in the dharmakaya all the buddhas are merged and are performing one action; that action is the transcendental wisdom illuminating the sentient beings’ minds. Like a drop of water taken from the ocean, the guru is a transformation of the transcendental wisdom. An appearance of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha or Vajradhara is an appearance of however many deities or buddhas there are throughout the ten directions—all the various manifestations having different aspects and different labels. So, this guru is the embodiment of all those; all the buddhas are in essence one. So transcendental wisdom manifests in the aspect of Jamgön Chökyi Gyälpo Tsongkhapa, the Pacified Savior Dharma King Tsongkhapa. This is one aspect but is inseparable from all those manifold aspects. They are not separate from each other; it is one aspect which is inseparable from all other aspects.
The aspect is of having a youthful white holy body with a red complexion; this signifies that it is a transformation of the unification of method and wisdom. He shows the mudra of turning the Dharma wheel, which signifies that the causal yana and resultant yana are non-contradictory, and also that emptiness and dependent arising are non-contradictory. With his hands in that mudra at his heart he holds the stems of upali flowers. The upali flower symbolizes the thought of loving kindness and compassion. On one is a sword, the sword which cuts off the ignorance which seals our bondage. If you are packing something you tie a strong knot to seal it, which does not allow it to come open. Similarly when you stamp a seal onto an envelope it prevents it from being opened and seen by those who are not supposed to see it. The sealing of our bondage is similar: because of our ignorance of not knowing the absolute nature of the I, attachment binds us to samsara. Ignorance stabilizes that, seals that. Attachment is one factor, but ignorance is the main thing which causes us to be trapped in samsara, to be stuck like an elephant drowning in mud. It causes us to continue to experience bondage, not allowing us to be liberated from it. This is the function of ignorance. So this is the sword which cuts off the unknowing mind sealing our bondage.
On the other upali is a text, each syllable of which proclaims the way to meditate on the complete path to enlightenment. Lama Tsongkhapa holding the text signifies that he reveals only pure teachings which have been well examined using the three methods of analysis: whether or not the teaching is harmed by a direct valid mind, or harmed by an inferential valid mind, which can be of two types—depending on reason or depending on faith. The latter means having a realization through faith in what Buddha said. An example is teachings on karma, such as the one which says that one has received the body of a happy transmigrator in this life through having practiced moral conduct in past lives, or has wealth in this life due to having practiced charity in past lives.
He is wearing the three robes, which may refer to the shemthab, namjar and chögö. The three robes signify that he is living in pure moral conduct; for males the highest practice according to pratimoksha is keeping the two hundred and fifty-three gelong vows. He is wearing a pandit’s hat the color of well-refined gold. A teaching which has been checked using the three types of examination is very pure, and the hat being a color similar to well-refined gold signifies that. The hat being very high and pointed symbolizes having realized the highest view. Without talking about other doctrines, there are eighteen different schools in Buddhism. The tenets can be listed as Vaibhashika, Sautantrika, Cittamatra and then the two subschools of Madhyamaka—Svatantrika and Prasangika. The purest view is that of the Prasangika, which really cuts the root of samsara—ignorance. So, it signifies that Lama Tsongkhapa has realized the highest ultimate reality with respect to persons and phenomena.
Lama Tsongkhapa and the two disciples are seated in the vajra position to show that they have actualized unification in the essence of the four vajra postures. There is the unification with learning, but here it refers to the unification of no more learning, that is, enlightenment. The names of the four postures are: the drop posture, wind posture, vein posture and the body posture. The drop posture refers to retaining the drops. Blocking the hole with the downward moving wind in the form of a syllable is the wind vajra posture. The vein vajra posture refers to the meeting of the veins of the father and mother. The body posture refers to the syllables that one decorates the secret places with during the embrace at the time of unification. There are three recognitions, and these practices come at that time.
At the heart of Lama Tsongkhapa is the father Manjushri, with orange beams radiating from all his holy body. At Manjushri’s heart is the yeshe sempa, the transcendental wisdom being, Dorje Chang (Tibetan), or Vajradhara (Sanskrit), like a radiant blue jewel. At Vajradhara’s heart is a concentration being, blue syllable HUM, like an eternal flame. This is the sempa sum tsig, a translation of which could be “pile of three brave-minded beings.” My guess is that “brave” means having attained the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, the holy mind of dharmakaya. The derivation of sempa is: sem is the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness; and sempa is an expression meaning brave through having achieved that. A person who has bodhicitta is brave because he has the thought of wanting to bear, or being able to bear, the hardships of working for sentient beings; that is a sempa. A person who chooses to do the hardest work for others, who takes on the responsibility himself, is a “brave-minded” bodhisattva. Here sem relates to the dharmakaya, the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness; and sempa is brave in having that. This is my own interpretation.
On the right throne is the sublime arya being, the Savior of the World—which means Avalokiteshvara—in the aspect of Gyaltsab Dharma Rinchen, the elder disciple. He has the aspect of an older person with a very peaceful expression. At his heart is a four-armed Chenrezig, and again a Vajradhara and HUM—the pile of three brave-minded beings as before. What this means is that he is Chenrezig, but in the form of Dharma Rinchen. He is an embodiment of Chenrezig.
On the left throne is the Owner of the Secrecy in human form, Khädrub Mawäi Nyima,21 youthful, in the relaxed dancing position—the way Tara sits. When those who are learned debate, they sometimes assume such postures. At his heart is the Owner of the Secrecy, Vajrapani, wearing a blue scarf. The aspect of Vajrapani which is most common to us is called Korwachän. As before there is the pile of three brave-minded beings.
Lama Tsongkhapa and the two disciples are sitting in front of you showing by their expressions that they are pleased with you. The words to convey this could be more poetic, as they are in Tibetan, but I cannot make them that way; from me they are like hail, or hard as rocks!
That is the first visualization.
Absorption of transcendental wisdom
Visualize the pure realm of Tushita above the merit field. This is the method for the elaborate practice of the Hundred Deities of Tushita guru yoga explained by Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo. You are on the northern side of Mount Meru, which has four levels. The asuras are situated on these four levels. The first level is called öchän, the second level dawäi trengwa, the third näzangpo, and the fourth miyowa.22 On the top of Mount Meru is the deva realm called “Thirty-three.” Higher above that is the deva realm called Thabdräl,23 “Release from Fighting.” That is the place we should escape to, where there is no fighting! But it is temporary. Above that is another deva realm called Tushita. But the pure realm of Tushita is separate from that—just like a city and its monastery. The Tushita pure realm is higher than the ordinary Tushita deva realm. It is the place from where the thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon descend.
This holy place is the place of “one-lifetime bodhisattvas.” That might mean that those who become bodhisattvas having been born in Tushita become enlightened in that same life. The base of the pure realm is golden with round designs in lapis lazuli. It is very smooth like the palm of the hand and very comfortable. I am not sure whether there are kookaburras or not! Or kangaroos! His Holiness Zong Rinpoche told the story that one day in Varanasi when the monks were doing examinations Professor Upadeva, who gave a talk at the Third Dharma Celebration (in Delhi), asked His Holiness Zong Rinpoche whether there are cars in the pure realms. Maybe it is full of taxis and buses! Anyway, it is without undesirable things; there is no ugliness, no discomfort, there are no rocks or thornbushes or things like that. When you walk it is like walking on those soft beds in the West. If you step on one it goes down and then lifts up. I have not got used to the beds, so for me sitting on the hard floor is much more comfortable and relaxing.
It is full of parks of beautiful flowering plants. In the teachings it says they have huge flowers. There are many beautiful lakes and swimming pools. There are wish-granting trees which grant whatever enjoyment one asks for. The wind moving the trees gives off the sound of Dharma. As you can see in paintings, the trees are well decorated with flowers and small bells. At the bottom of the lakes is not ordinary sand but jewel sand, tiny pieces of sparkling jewels. There are various beautiful birds flying around continually making very enchanting sounds of holy Dharma. The air is completely filled by sweet scents. Just thinking of the pure realm Tushita brings incredible joy to one’s heart. You should think that you are experiencing the complete enjoyments of the pure realm.
In the center of this is the Victorious Palace, the Dharma celestial mansion “High Banner,” which is beyond compare with any king’s palace, or even the deva realm palaces in regard to quality and beauty. In front of this Dharma celestial mansion is the Kungarawa Yiga Chödzin.24 In monasteries, like for example in His Holiness’ temple, there are shelves where the scriptures are kept which are called kungarawa. So in front of the High Banner is the kungarawa called yiga chödzin which means “the joyful mind of holding Dharma,” where Maitreya Buddha gives teachings. In the center of the Kungarawa Yiga Chödzin is a jewel throne uplifted by the eight snow lions. On this sits the Substitute of the Victorious One, the Unconquerable, Maitreya Buddha. “Unconquerable” because Maitreya Buddha conquered the disturbing thoughts and even the subtle dual view. We can say that now we are defeated by the disturbing thoughts and by the subtle dual view, but Maitreya Buddha has completely destroyed them. The Savior Maitreya Buddha’s holy body is like refined gold, and from it beams having the magnificence of one hundred thousand suns are being emitted in all ten directions.
He has one face and two arms, and his hands are at his heart in the mudra of turning the Dharma wheel, the same as Lama Tsongkhapa. He is holding the stems of two naga trees, both of which have flowers: on the right is a wheel and on the left one a vase called rilpa chilug, the water vase. I think there is a story related to Brahma which I think His Holiness Zong Rinpoche explained. After gelongs have taken lunch during a puja they pass this vase of water to clean their mouths, which means they should not eat after that. Thousand-arm Chenrezig holds the same type of vase in one of his hands.
He is adorned with precious jewels and divine scarves. On his crown is the stupa of enlightenment. It is the same type of stupa as the one at Kopan containing Lama’s relics—this shaped stupa is called the Stupa of Enlightenment and it is the essence of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. There are eight different types of stupas. It is like Tara having Amitabha on her crown. Many deities have one of the Dhyani Buddhas as a crown, which can be seen on some statues. It means that even when one becomes enlightened one still respects the virtuous friend because one attains enlightenment, the state of having completely ceased all obscurations and their stains and having achieved all the qualities, due to his kindness in revealing the teachings. So Tara and Chenrezig having Amitabha on their crowns means Amitabha is their guru. Similarly Maitreya Buddha having Guru Shakyamuni Buddha on his crown shows that Shakyamuni Buddha is his guru.
He is seated on the throne as though on a chair, which indicates that he has the intention of descending to this, the southern continent, right this minute. It is like an important person seated on a chair sort-of about to stand up to come to help you. His holy face is looking at you with a smile of extreme pleasure.
To the right of Maitreya Buddha is Lama Atisha in the aspect of the deva’s son Namkhe Drime, Stainless Space.25 To the left is Lama Tsongkhapa in the aspect of the deva’s son, the Son of the Victorious One, Gyältshab Jampäl Nyingpo. These are the holy names by which they are called in the pure realm. Also there is Lhodrag Drubchen, Great Yogi of Lhodrag, in the aspect of a deva’s son called Drime Özer. He was one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s gurus. Lhodrag Drubchen attained Vajrapani, so is an emanation of Vajrapani. You may remember from Lama Tsongkhapa’s life-story that when he was going to India in order to examine the teachings more closely he met Lhodrag Drubchen on the way who told him not to go. Lama Konchog told me that there is a request prayer to this great yogi Lhodrag Drubchen in the requesting prayer of the lineage lamas. As this yogi is an embodiment of Vajrapani, Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo used to tell those with paralysis to recite that requesting verse.
An inconceivable number of beings from the ten directions are gathered there to hear Maitreya Buddha’s spontaneous teachings, the incredibly enchanting melodies of the Prajnaparamita scriptures. Not only are the surrounding buddhas and bodhisattvas gathered there able to hear, even you can hear so clearly. And you can clearly hear the enchanting sound of the holy Dharma even from the wish-granting trees being moved by the wind and the songs of the various birds. The meanings of the words appear in your mind and you generate the path. You experience the perfect fragrances of the pure realm.
Meditate very clearly so that all the decorations and qualities of the beings and the place are as if you are actually seeing them, as if you have actually gone to the pure realm.
Once you have visualized the pure realm of Tushita make a very strong request from your heart to Maitreya Buddha and the surrounding buddhas and bodhisattvas: “Please, please guide me also.” The Tibetan word for “please guide” is je zung te; what it means is the wish for help in attaining the position of someone like a king or prime minister or president or whatever. In this context it is the request to be guided, not just from some problems, but to the state of omniscient mind the buddhas have reached through developing the mind by training in the path.
Visualizing the pure realm as very beautiful and very desirable is a technique to generate a strong wish to be there right now. Generating such a wish is a method of transferring the consciousness to the pure realm. This is also a practice for transforming the impure environment into a pure realm. As you practice the yoga method Hundred Deities of Tushita daily, you will think of the pure realm of Tushita and each time generate the wish to be there, so each time it will plant a seed, or prepare you to be born there at the time of your death. Each time you generate the wish it makes the karma stronger and stronger and stronger. It is like making a plant grow quickly and strong by putting water and minerals on it every day. The basic cause for being born in the pure realm of Tushita is to study Maitreya Buddha’s teachings and practice them.
At the heart of Maitreya Buddha is the transcendental wisdom like a very clear reflection of the infinite knot, one of the eight auspicious offerings, appearing in the very clear shiny golden mandala base. On this is a heap of white clouds, like we see in the paintings, the essence of which is compassion which feels as unbearable the sufferings of we sentient beings in this southern continent and wants to free us from our sufferings.
In the center of that cloud inseparable from your own kind root guru is the Dharma King of the Three Realms, Tsongkhapa, the father and sons, as the three piles of brave-minded beings. All the buddhas’ omniscient minds, compassion and power are embodied into one—the Dharma King of the Three Realms, father and sons, the three piles of brave-minded beings, sempa sum tsig, as I described before in regard to the samaya being. You should visualize as if you are actually seeing them at Maitreya Buddha’s heart.
Gan dän lha gyäi gön gyi thug ka nä
Rab kar zho sar pung dräi chu dzin tser
Chö kyi gyäl po kün khyen lo zang drag
Sä dang chä pa nä dir sheg su söl
From the heart of the savior of the hundred deities of Tushita,
On the peak of a cloud resembling a clump of extremely white fresh curd,
King of Dharma, omniscient Losang Dragpa,
Please come here together with your sons.
A translation: “I am requesting you, the Dharma King, Omniscient One, Losang Dragpa, and sons, who are seated on the top of the water holders like piled-up white curd, to descend here at this place, from the heart of the savior of the hundred devas of Tushita.”
“Water holders” means clouds. Say the prayer slowly, melodiously and with strong dauntless faith. You should think that it is as if you have gone to the pure realm and are making the request like this. I think the Tibetan word kyema is an expression of sadness: “I don’t have the fortune in this life to come to your pure realm and actually meet you; therefore, please come down to the southern continent, Dzambuling, to be my guide, my savior, my refuge.” Say this prayer with this wish, and dauntless immutable faith. Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo says that if you say this prayer slowly and with very sweet chanting there is no need for any doubt at all as to whether Lama Tsongkhapa will instantly come before you. Lama Tsongkhapa in Tushita hears and will instantly descend in front of you. Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo goes on to say, that the reason there is no need to doubt that Lama Tsongkhapa will descend before you right away when you say this prayer is that even before you become enlightened, when you have achieved the great path of merit you achieve the concentration of continual Dharma. At this stage you obtain the five types of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance of physical sight is such that one can see phenomena and sentient beings even hundreds of pagtshä distant. I think eight gyangdrag is one pagtshä, and one gyangdrag is five hundred arm-spans.26
When Lama Atisha showed the aspect of having an illness such that he could not control his bowels and he excreted in his bed, Dromtonpa his translator served him with great devotion by cleaning the bed and taking away the excrement. One day as Dromtonpa was taking care of Lama Atisha in this way he achieved the clairvoyance of being able to read the minds of sentient beings as far away as an eagle can fly in eighteen days. Due to the power of his service to his guru so much negative karma was purified and he accumulated so much merit. Similarly, the clairvoyance of the eye allows one to see very far. The practitioner who achieves the great path of merit has these clairvoyances. There are five Mahayana paths; the first one, the path of merit, has three stages—small, medium and great—the final one being the great path of merit. With the clairvoyance of the deva’s ear we are able to hear very distant sounds, even many paktses distant. As one who has achieved the great path of merit is able to hear sounds from afar, it is impossible that Lama Tsongkhapa’s omniscient mind cannot see that you are invoking and requesting him. That is what Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo is saying. It is very effective. These practices are more meaningful and enjoyable if you know the reasons that they work, rather than just following the rules of a tradition and invoking this and that.
After that the transcendental wisdom that you have visualized at the heart of Maitreya Buddha descends: Lama Tsongkhapa onto Lama Tsongkhapa’s crown, Gyaltsab Rinpoche onto Gyaltsab Rinpoche’s crown, Khedrup Rinpoche onto Khedrup Rinpoche’s crown. They are absorbed, they become oneness, and that oneness is stabilized. That is the meaning of DZA HUM BAM HO.
If you are going to do the practice of offering the bath you should do it at this point.
The condensed practice for accumulating merit and purifying the obscurations is the seven-limb practice and mandala offering. Lama Tsongkhapa, in the Great Commentary of Lamrim, said:
In degenerate times such as these, when we listen to teachings we cannot comprehend;
When we try to reflect on the meaning of the teachings we cannot understand;
And when we try to meditate we cannot generate the realizations.
So at this time the essential advice is to attempt to purify the obscurations, to accumulate merit, and to make requests.
That is the essential thing to do, so you should put the most effort into this. That is the answer to the difficulties and problems. Otherwise, however much you try, however much you do retreat, however much you listen and study the scriptures, nothing happens, no change takes place in the mind. However many times you listen to lamrim or thought transformation teachings—those extremely skillful meditations for transforming bad conditions into the path to enlightenment—no change happens in your mind and in your behavior. If nothing is improving, this is the solution.
Gen Jampa Wangdu used to advise me to think this way. The conclusion he came to through his own experience was that no matter how much you listen or speak, the main thing is to purify the karmic obscurations. This is true, because the reason nothing is happening, why no experience or realization of the graduated path to enlightenment comes in your mind, is because it is blocked by the obscurations, the negative karma. As Geshe-la says, without the obscurations this mind would be omniscient; with them it is not. Actually the omniscient mind is a subtle mind, but speaking generally it is like this. Without obscurations you would be a buddha now; but since you have an obscured mind you are not a buddha, but a sentient being. It is differentiated by this. By doing strong purification progress will happen in your mind; the realizations of the paths and bhumis will come.
If you wish to take the essence of having this body, and if you do not become enlightened with this body of very brief life in this degenerate time, the best thing is to at least achieve a valid base for the title “bodhisattva” by generating bodhicitta before death. That is the most meaningful thing that can be achieved with this body if you cannot achieve stages such as simultaneously-born bliss or clear light. The most beneficial thing you can do for all sentient beings is to develop your mind by training in the lamrim through listening, reflecting and meditating.
King Indrabhuti, who became enlightened in his brief lifetime, was asked, “What should be done to quickly achieve enlightenment?” He gave this advice: “Practice the seven limbs.” Then he explained how important this is by using the simile of a carriage: if any of the seven critical parts is missing it cannot perform the function of transporting things; likewise, if any of the seven-limbs is not practiced one cannot achieve enlightenment.
Requesting the merit field to remain
That sentient beings can develop happiness, and the extent to which they can develop it, depends on the existence of the teachings of Buddha and the development of those teachings. And that depends on the holders of the teachings, the holy gurus, who implant the teachings within one’s own and other sentient beings’ minds. This includes the buddhas of the three times, including Lama Tsongkhapa, who manifested in an ordinary aspect. If the gurus manifest in a higher than ordinary aspect we would not be able to see them due to not having the karma. We do not have the karma to see the buddhas if they do not manifest in ordinary aspect, and if they manifest in a lower aspect we would not recognize them as a virtuous friend and would not have the opportunity to receive teachings. So, their present aspect is exactly according to the level of our own karma. Since we have no merit to see a higher aspect than this, even if Maitreya Buddha or Manjushri or Tara are in front of us, the only way we can see them is according to the appearance of our own mind, our own karma. Therefore they take ordinary aspects; that is all that can appear to us. That is the reason we make this request.
The essential methods for accumulating merit and purifying obscurations are the seven-limb practice and the mandala offering. Accumulating merit and purifying the obstacles is the cause of being able to generate the graduated path to enlightenment, so this is another reason to request Lama Tsongkhapa to have a stable life for one hundred eons, as is mentioned in the prayer. When Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen heard someone making the prayer, “May His Holiness live for one hundred years,” he said it should not be said like that but rather the request should be to live for 10,000s of 10,000s of years. Even if in reality it may not be possible to live so long, but to pray in this way is auspicious for His Holiness to remain in this aspect longer.
We request the guru to have a stable life in order to accumulate merit. As I mentioned, for people who have not met and so do not know Buddhadharma, and therefore do not practice, all their temporal happiness such as excellent surroundings, helpers and wealth, is basically from good karma created in the past; they are enjoying the result of past good karma such as having practiced moral conduct, charity and patience. Sometimes it can be the result of actions done out of compassion or loving kindness in this life; some people who have a good heart experience the results of actions done through cherishing others and helping them with a sincere heart, and things like that. So if these sentient beings do not meet the Dharma in this life and so do not get to know about karma and do not practice abandoning the cause of suffering and creating the cause of happiness, they just finish the merit which they created in the past. If a person has worked very hard for some years and collected some money but does not think of the future and use it to earn more, if he just lives on what he has saved, when it is finished he will have nothing left and will meet with difficulties.
These sentient beings are like that; the way they pass their lives is by finishing the little merit which they accumulated in the past, without using the present good results such as their wealth, surroundings and precious body of a happy transmigrator. They do not take any essence from having these things; they do not use them to accumulate more merit for the temporal and ultimate happiness of future lives through to enlightenment. Then when that little merit is finished, what is left is the negative karma. Since there is then no strong merit for receiving a body of a happy transmigrator able to practice Dharma, what is left is the powerful nonvirtuous actions, so it only remains to take an unfortunate body of a suffering transmigrating being. Those sentient beings may not think that they are religious persons, but all their happiness, comfort and everything comes from having accumulated merit. The opportunity to do so arose because of the teachings; if the teachings had not been revealed they would not have had the chance to accumulate merit because they would not have known the methods for creating happiness. In this way the sentient beings’ happiness is dependent on the teachings.
It is said by the lineage lamas in the lamrim teachings: “Sentient beings’ karma and the buddhas’ actions have equal power.” If our happiness and suffering were not in our own hands completely in the hands of the buddhas, there would not be any sentient beings left, because the buddhas would not allow us to remain as sentient beings even for a split second. For them it is unbearable that any sentient being is obscured even for a split second.
This is an effective way to recognize the kindness of the virtuous friend. Without the existence of this ordinary aspect that you have the karma to see, to receive teachings from, and to communicate with, there would be no way for yourself and other sentient beings to hear teachings. Then there would be no way to understand the meanings of the words, and no way to develop the realizations within your mind and the minds of other sentient beings, thus no way to create the causes for temporal and ultimate happiness. So that is why it is so important to request them to have a stable life.
One lama, I think it was Chän Ngawa Lodrö Gyältshän,27 said in the lamrim: “It is incredibly fortunate to see the guru as a human being, rather than as a dog or a donkey.” You may recall some stories related to this. Just think about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the present living guru, who is in an aspect which we can see. But although His Holiness has manifested as a human, not an animal, if he was in the aspect of being sick, of having obstacles, then we could not receive teachings again. So we would not have all these incredible opportunities, which are unbelievable. I met one of the representatives who has worked for His Holiness for twenty years and he said to me on the day of the long-life initiation, “This time His Holiness gave an incredible amount of time to teach the Westerners.” He was very surprised that His Holiness had given so much time to teaching, because His Holiness is so busy that actually there is no time. It was true of that time and of all the past times. So, if he had taken a human form with obstacles we could not receive teachings. So we are incredibly fortunate. We should realize how unbelievably fortunate.
Even receiving teachings from the many other lamas both in the West and the East is basically due only to His Holiness’ kindness. If His Holiness had not done the holy action of coming out of Tibet there would be no opportunity even to receive teachings from other lamas, and therefore no opportunity for us to practice. Practicing Dharma, or His Holiness’ advice, or His Holiness’ teaching, is the means of defeating the delusions. There is no way of defeating the delusions other than through Dharma practice.
Dün gyi nam khar seng thri pä däi teng
Je tsün la ma gye päi dzum kar chän
Dag lo dä päi sö nam zhing chog tu
Tän pa gyä chir käl gyar zhug su söl
In the sky before me, on a lion throne, lotus, and moon,
My perfect, pure guru smiles with delight.
Supreme field of merit for my mind of faith,
Please abide for a hundred eons to spread the teachings.
It says: je tsün la ma gye päi dzum kar chän. Je tsün means venerable, a description of the qualities of the lama. Je tsün la ma summarizes the graduated paths of the beings of the three capabilities. Je, the graduated path of the lower capability being; tsün, the graduated path of the medium capability being; la ma, the graduated path of the higher capability being, which includes the Paramitayana and the tantra path. So, it means the lama has completed or gone beyond the graduated paths of the beings of the three capabilities; which means he has achieved the two kayas, the unification of the holy body and holy mind.
“Jetsun lama in a smiling, pleased aspect, seated on the lion throne, lotus and moon disc in the space in front of me: I am requesting you to live for hundreds of eons...” Like the “hundred” in Hundred Deities of Tushita, this is an expression of many; it does not mean just one hundred.
To mention it again, in order to be able to fulfill the wishes of all sentient beings, to free them from all obscurations and lead them to enlightenment, we need to develop an understanding of the meanings of the words of the teachings and their complete realization. To achieve that we need to accumulate merit, the cause, as I mentioned at the beginning. Therefore, it says here “to be the sublime field of my devotion and merit.” The most powerful field, from which one can receive the most extensive merit, is the guru. As a field of merit the guru is even beyond one’s parents, the Sangha, arhats, bodhisattvas, and even the three times’ buddhas. It is effective to recall the story of the bodhisattva Tagtu ngu, the Always Crying One.28 While practicing just Paramitayana, not tantra, because of cherishing his guru Chöpak more than his life and offering him service for seven years, he accumulated the merit which normally takes two countless great eons to accumulate in the Paramitayana. That was because he received merit from the highest among the merit fields, the virtuous teacher.
Those of you who worked very hard, who had the opportunity to offer service, who bore the hardships of heat and cold, hunger and thirst while Lama Yeshe was alive, should feel extremely fortunate. You accumulated unbelievable merit by having been able to correctly devote to the virtuous friend. There are three types of correct devotion to a virtuous friend through action: obtaining his advice, offering respect and performing various services, and making material offerings. Best is obtaining advice and putting it into practice. Lama gave advice on how to do retreats and on how to work in the centers—it is the same thing. Even if you were not living with Lama, or not around him every day, by serving him even when distant and putting into practice the advice that was given, it was the same thing, and it gave opportunities to accumulate so much merit. So, we should remember that and feel highly fortunate.
I used to think like this especially when Lama for some years kept talking about passing away. I am just expressing the thoughts which used to come—that even a small service such as cleaning or something, if not done now while there is this incredible opportunity to accumulate the highest, most extensive merit, will not be able to be done later even if one has the wish. Such thoughts used to come, but I did not do anything. Now Lama is no longer in that aspect, so there is no opportunity to serve Lama now. I am referring to the highest field of devotion and merit. If you were able to do something that Lama advised in the past—a practice or work or whatever—by recalling it and rejoicing, your merit increases. So, you should feel very fortunate at having been able to offer services in the past and even now continue to do what Lama advised and wished in general, or something particularly related to you. It still accumulates the same extensive merit. As you say these prayers you can think you should do such practices and not miss any opportunity.
Recognizing that all of your happiness, all good things, are dependent on only the guru, and seeing how extremely important it is to not separate from the guru, request him to have a stable life, with a strong mind. Like, for example, a desperately ill patient having an unbelievable need for the one doctor who may be able to cure him, who everybody says is the most skillful, who is beyond compare. If oneself were that patient and met such a doctor, one would beg him from the heart to please, please not go away until one’s disease is cured. In this degenerate time, sentient beings are so difficult to subdue and oneself could not be subdued by all other buddhas and bodhisattvas, so that you were left without a savior, without a refuge. So with the thought, I don’t have anyone other than you to rely on, and having realized his kindness, make a strong request for him to have a stable life.
If you had cancer or leprosy, or some contagious disease that other people are scared of, the wish to receive help from the doctor able to cure it would be so strong in your heart. But, such a disease is just of this body and will last for some months or years. Now, the cause of all these problems that need so many things to cure them, such as doctors, hospitals, medicines, operations and so on, is the disturbing thoughts whose continuity does not have a beginning. That is the real disease which is always present; we are requesting the object of devotion, the merit field, to have a stable life in order to cure this completely. Actually there is no comparison with our need for the guru who reveals the teaching, who is the doctor who cures the disease of the disturbing thoughts; he ends the true sufferings which did not have a beginning. The effect of the ordinary doctor who can just cure cancer or other diseases to do with this body is completely overshadowed. Think like this and then make a strong request for him to have a stable life.
The benefit of this practice of requesting the virtuous friend to live a long life is that negative karmas accumulated in connection with him such as having disturbed the holy mind, which will prevent you from seeing a virtuous friend in future lives, are purified. Doing the practice of the seven limbs is the same as doing a long-life puja. The result is that you achieve the vajra holy body. And, by the way, long life for yourself!
It is not sufficient just to be able to request a stable life or perform a long-life puja or whatever for your gurus; that alone is not sufficient. The purpose of requesting them to have stable lives is for them to reveal the teachings and for you to put the teachings into practice. Otherwise, there is no reason.
It is said that if you have a mandala, you should put five heaps on the base and offer a visualized throne. Visualize that you are offering the throne not just with your one body, but with numberless replicas of yourself filling entire space. When you have finished the request the throne you are offering is absorbed into the merit field’s throne, and think that the merit field has accepted the offering with a pleased mind. Also Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo explained in his lamrim teaching that you can transform replicas of yourself holding a throne equal to the number of buddhas and other beings in the merit field you have visualized, such as that of Lama Chöpa or the Hundred Deities of Tushita. If you cannot do that, then do it with just this one body. The merit you gain is proportional to the number you visualize.
The next verse is the limb of prostration: “Your holy mind which is the wisdom seeing all the objects of knowledge.”
She jäi khyön kün jäl wäi lo drö thug
Your holy mind has the intelligence that understands the full extent of objects to be known.
All objects of knowledge are included in the two truths.
The two truths
There are two bases, the absolute truth and relative truth. The absolute truth is a truth for the holy wisdom as it sees reality: as non-truly existent, or empty by way of true existence. In English the term absolute truth is very short; in Tibetan it is longer: dön dam den pa. Dön is the object, the reality, which is empty of true existence. Dam is the subject, the wisdom; it means holy. Den pa means it is true for that wisdom as it sees it. So, dön dam den pa means “that which is true for the holy wisdom.”
The conventional truth is that which is true for the all-obscuring mind— kun dzob den pa. Kun means all, which here refers to the emptiness; dzob means obscuring, which is the function of the ignorance; den pa means it is true for that as it sees. So, the meaning is the phenomena which are true for the ignorance holding true existence as it sees them. Because of that function, ignorance is called “all-obscuring.”
So, for the wisdom that sees the reality of the I, its emptiness of a truly existent I is true. Now, the I itself, on which the reality is dependent, is true for the ignorance, the all-obscuring mind holding true existence, as it sees the I. That is a brief explanation of the definitions of the two truths, word-by-word.
Why is this ignorance holding true existence called “all-obscuring”? The function of ignorance is that it obscures realization of the emptiness of the I and the aggregates—all emptinesses. The ignorance holding a truly existent I sees the I that is merely labeled on the aggregates by thought, the actual I which really exists—which performs all activities from morning until night like eating, sleeping, sitting, and walking, which experiences happiness and suffering, which suffers in samsara, which will become enlightened, which practices Dharma, which creates the cause of suffering, which creates the cause of happiness—but sees it as existing from its own side. It sees the I that is merely labeled on the aggregates but sees it in a different aspect—as not merely labeled, as completely existing from its own side.
It is like when two people look at a third person and one sees that person as very kind, the other as cruel. Both of them see the one person, but they see different aspects. Thinking about this example is helpful for guru yoga practice.
In Tibet a teacher had two disciples who returned to their monastery from a distant place. They had spent days walking on foot. When they reached their teacher’s house he gave them some cold tea. One disciple thought, “How unbelievably kind our teacher is that he especially made the tea very cold for us since we are so exhausted.” He felt much gratitude in his heart. The other disciple thought, “We have traveled so long and are so exhausted, but he didn’t even offer us hot tea,” and he got very angry. Both saw the same teacher, but in different aspects—one as very cruel, the other as very kind. That is an example for your guru yoga practice. As I mentioned, it depends so much on how you interpret the situation. Things are very much dependent on one’s own mind.
So, ignorance holding a truly existent I sees the I that is merely labeled, but as existing from its own side, and believes that is one hundred percent true. The wisdom realizing emptiness of the I sees the I as empty of existing from its own side. The ignorance holding the truly existent I and the wisdom realizing the emptiness of the I are complete opposites. The wisdom sees no existence of the I from its own side at all, not even an atom. Ignorance sees the I which is merely labeled as existing from its own side; wisdom sees the I that is merely labeled as empty of existing from its own side, empty of being truly existent. It realizes the reality on the I, the emptiness on the I.
The expression “emptiness on the I” has great meaning. If you are able to recognize the object of refutation on the I—true existence on the I—you can understand the emptiness on the I. It is like first seeing a person and then labeling “bad” or “good” on that. There appears to be true existence on the I which is in fact merely labeled. If you are able to recognize the object of refutation on the I, when you hear “emptiness on the I” it makes great sense. Otherwise saying the word “on” does not have any meaning.
That is why the development of this wisdom realizing the emptiness of the I is able to completely eradicate the root of samsara, which is the ignorance holding the I as truly existent. The particular quality of the holy mind is that this wisdom sees all existence, kun dzob den pa, the truth for the all-obscuring mind, and the truth for the holy absolute wisdom. These are the two bases, and the two paths to practice are method and wisdom. What is achieved by realizing these bases through listening, reflecting and meditating on them, and thus developing the wisdom/method path, is the rupakaya and dharmakaya. These perform actions for the benefit of sentient beings without the slightest mistake. Until we become enlightened, except during equipoise meditation concentrating one-pointedly in shunyata, during which the dual view is absorbed but not cut off, whenever phenomena appear they appear as truly existent. This is so even for arya bodhisattvas and arhats. Before we become enlightened, when we directly perceive shunyata we cannot see the conventional truth: at the time we are concentrating on the emptiness of the I we cannot see the conventional I. But when the conventional I becomes an object of the mind we cannot concentrate on the emptiness of the I. While we are a sentient being we cannot directly see both truths—the absolute nature of the I and the I—at the same time. Only a buddha can directly see both truths at the same time; a buddha’s omniscient mind while seeing the absolute nature of the I or the aggregates, of everything, sees all conventional truths at the same time. Or, while seeing all the conventional truths, at the same time sees all the absolute truths. There is no dual view.
Regarding our experience of the I now, right this minute: when we look at the I it appears that the I is existing from its own side, and that is what we cling to. That is the I which appears to us when we think of our real self, when we say “I”— “I do this,” or “I do that.” We see the I as separate from emptiness, separately from the reality of the I. Now we do not see the I as the same in essence as the reality of the I. So presently we have a dual view. I am not referring to some reality in space, but the reality of the I. We see them as if they are separate. In reality they are not separate, but that is how it appears to us, and that is what we cling to. Buddha does not have this dual view of the conventional truth I appearing as separate to the reality—the emptiness of the I—at all. It is only a buddha’s holy mind which sees both truths—sees the I while directly seeing the emptiness of the I; and likewise for every single existence. So a buddha’s wisdom, while abiding in the emptiness of all existence one-pointedly, like the oneness of water poured into water, inseparable from the emptiness and having completely cut off the dual view, manifests as the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya in billions of billions of various aspects to guide each and every sentient being. In this manner a buddha gives teachings and works for sentient beings with the holy body, the holy speech and the holy mind. Think about how a buddha sees all existence, but particularly remember that without having dual view a buddha directly sees both truths. That is a quality of a buddha’s holy mind which sentient beings, even tenth bhumi bodhisattvas, do not have.
In the Heart Sutra it says form is empty, emptiness is form. One can relate that to the I in a similar way: I is empty, emptiness is I. Check the I; is there an I separate from the aggregates in the hills, on the table, in the cupboard where you keep clothing, or in a box, or in the bank!? There is some doubt as to whether that meditation is analysis of emptiness. Other than the aggregates there is nothing which is the base of yourself, I, and Geshe Sopa Rinpoche used to say that just searching for the merely labeled I on these aggregates is analyzing emptiness, even without distinguishing between that and the truly existent I imputed on top of it. But I think some people might say that if you are not searching for the truly existent I, just the merely labeled I, it is not analysis of emptiness, because to be analysis for emptiness firstly you have to posit the truly existent I, that which is non-existent, and then analyze; as in reality the truly existent I cannot be found on these aggregates it does not exist, so that is an analysis of emptiness. It is absent right there where it is appearing as truly existent.
If someone asks, “Where are you?” why do we say, “I am in India, Dharamsala, at Tushita,” and specifically on this cushion—or on the floor if we do not have a cushion! Even if we do not have any experience of why we say we are at Tushita by understanding through meditation or intellectually, still our conviction of this is very strong. However, there is no reason at all to say that we are in Dharamsala, at Tushita, sitting on this cushion, other than that the aggregates are here now. This association of body and mind, these aggregates, which is labeled a human being, is presently in India, in Dharamsala, at Tushita, on this cushion. So even if we cannot give another reason due to a lack of understanding or experience, the reason is simply because these aggregates are here right now sitting on this cushion. The I is merely labeled on these aggregates by thought, and as the aggregates are in India, at Tushita, on this cushion, so we say, “I am now in India, at Tushita, on this cushion.” In this way from morning until night we label “Now I’m getting up, now I’m meditating, now I’m washing, now I’m eating breakfast, now I’m going to the toilet,” and so on according to what the aggregates, the base, are doing—what the body is doing, or what the speech is doing or what the mind is doing. “Now I am exhausted; now I’m having dreams,” and so on. We label I on the aggregates depending on the action being done. So, the I exists by virtue of nothing more than each time being merely labeled on the aggregates by the thought; that is all.
An I which is anything in the slightest beyond that is what is non-existent; it is non-existent, and as it is non-existent we have to realize that emptiness. If we feel that there is something beyond being merely labeled, that is what is called the object of refutation. Therefore, the I is empty of existing without depending on the base and the thought which labels. Now we can see that such an I is non-existent; there is no such I at all, from the hair down to the feet. This I is empty of existing from its own side because it is merely labeled by thought. So, having realized that this I is empty of existing from its own side, no matter how much we may try to believe that I does not exist, without choice this realization is the cause for the resultant conviction that the I definitely exists on these aggregates under the control of name, or, in other words, under the control of mind. Without choice unshakable, definite understanding arises in our heart very powerfully that the I exists on these aggregates. Having realized that the I is empty of existing from its own side we will not cling to the view that the I exists from its own side, and with that awareness we will see the I as existing, but from the side of the mind.
Having realized emptiness, we then realize that the I is merely labeled on the aggregates by the thought, which is the conventional truth. So, firstly we realize the absolute truth and subsequently the conventional truth; realizing that the I is empty of existing from its own side being a cause, the result which arises from that experience is the realization that the I is merely labeled on these aggregates by thought; in other words, is a dependent arising. So, first we realize that the I is empty, and as a result of that, we subsequently realize that the emptiness is I. That I which we saw is empty of existing from its own side is not non-existent—it exists. How? By being merely labeled on the aggregates by thought—a dependent arising. So, when we have that subsequent realization of the conventional truth I, we realize that emptiness is I.
These words, “I is empty, emptiness is I; form is emptiness, emptiness is form,” indicate the middle way. They cut off the two extremes, which are nihilism—that I and forms are non-existent—and eternalism—that they exist from their own side. “I is empty” cuts off eternalism, and “emptiness is I” cuts off nihilism, so this indicates the middle way. A buddha’s holy mind sees the two truths—the absolute and the conventional truths—directly at the same time. Only a buddha has that holy mind.
The second line of the prostration stanza is: “The holy speech which expounds well becomes ear ornaments for the fortunate beings.”
Käl zang na wäi gyän gyur leg shä sung
Your holy speech, with its excellent explanations, is an ear ornament for those of good fortune.
“Fortunate beings” refers to bodhisattvas; they are the really fortunate beings because they have bodhicitta. So, Lama Tsongkhapa’s well-expounded teachings become the ear-ornament for even tenth bhumi bodhisattvas. Even they need to hear it. When we take an initiation, at the beginning the “guru action of vajra” comes out and asks the vajra disciples, who are seated at the eastern door on the central prong of the vajra, “Who are you and what do you wish for?” What that means is which race do you belong to and what is your wish? We should be of the Mahayana race, which means having bodhicitta, which depends on integrating the graduated paths of the beings of the three capabilities.
The base is the graduated path of the lower capability being which starts from guru devotion and the contemplation of the perfect human rebirth, which has three great possibilities which can be achieved and which will be difficult to find again. Death is definite and the exact time of death is uncertain, and if the mind is full of unpurified negative karma we will take an unfortunate rebirth of a suffering transmigrating being. The basic solution to that is refuge: relying upon the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and practicing the protection of karma, the basic Dharma that Buddha taught. That is the basic solution for protecting oneself from the true cause of suffering and the true sufferings. Then we develop renunciation, which is aversion to the whole of samsara, and then we generate bodhicitta on the basis of those realizations.
Then what we should be wishing for is the very essence of the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra path, that which makes it possible to achieve the unified state of no-more-learning, the Vajradhara state, which is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, in this very brief lifetime. So one answers: “I am a fortunate one and would like the great bliss.” So “fortunate being” has the same meaning in these two instances.
Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching is an ear-ornament even for the tenth bhumi bodhisattvas who are near to achieving enlightenment. Even they find Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings of interest.
The next line is: “The holy body is beautified with glorious fame.”
Drag päi päl gyi lham mer dze päi ku
Your holy body is radiantly beautiful with glory renowned.
I think this word lham mer means like an undisturbed butter lamp, very radiant and still. Buddha’s holy body is likened to a golden lamp; the flame itself or the reflection of the flame in a golden pot. His Holiness Zong Rinpoche used to say that it refers to the omniscient mind having taken a form like a calm, clear lamp. I think lham mer has the connotation of being very tranquil and magnificent. Even the tenth bhumi bodhisattvas have some aspect that is “uninteresting”—they still have she drib the obscurations which disturb the achievement of omniscience, which are uninteresting, which prevent them from having good fame, or a good reputation! The arhats, such as Sharipu and Maugalgyipu29 and tenth bhumi bodhisattvas have something one can say is uninteresting, the she drib, the subtle obscurations, the four causes of an unknowing mind; they cannot completely see all the subtle karmas. Only a buddha’s holy omniscient mind can. So, being “beautified with glorious fame” is a quality only buddhas have. Lama Tsongkhapa’s fame is that of having finished all the uninteresting things, being without even a single stain.
Usually in prayers the admiration of the holy body comes first, that of the holy speech second, and that of the holy mind third; that is the tradition. But here in the Ganden Lha Gyäma practice the particular advice is to first admire the holy mind. In regard to oneself accumulating merit through admiring Guru Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy mind, holy speech and holy body, the purpose of doing it in this order is that Manjushri is the embodiment of the wisdom of all-understanding, the holy mind of all buddhas, and Guru Lama Tsongkhapa is an embodiment of Manjushri, in essence the all-understanding of the holy mind of all buddhas. Likewise in the practice of Vajrabhairava, offering the scented water to the heart comes after the offering of water for cleansing the feet; in other practices it comes after the light offering. The reason is the same: the all-understanding holy mind of all buddhas is embodied as the wrathful Manjushri. By firstly expressing and admiring the qualities of the holy mind of Guru Lama Tsongkhapa you receive the blessing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy mind first. If you practice this, by the blessings of Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy mind your Dharma wisdom will develop. Likewise by praising the holy speech, the blessing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy speech will enter your speech and through that your speech will be blessed. You will gain courage and develop the wisdom that understands the meanings of the words; then you will be able to explain the meanings of the words of the Buddha’s teachings without doubt or fear.
Similarly, by praising Guru Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy body the blessing of his holy body will enter your own body. Then even in the midst of an ocean of realized and learned people you will be glorious and without any doubts, fear, or timidity. Like, for example, how His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives teachings, or how His Holiness Ling Rinpoche used to teach—glorious, and roaring the sound of the teachings, which means being able to explain the teachings powerfully. As Milarepa did. This is talking about the benefits to the practitioner from prostrating to Guru Lama Tsongkhapa and expressing the particular qualities of the holy mind, holy speech and holy body.
The last line of this verse is: "To you whom it is meaningful to see, hear and remember, I prostrate."
Thong thö drän pä dön dän la chag tshäl
To you who are meaningful to see, hear and remember, I prostrate.
The direct translation into English is a little strange, so I will elaborate. So, just from seeing the guru our obscurations get purified and the strong delusions stop arising. Like when we are in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, due to the blessing or the magnificence of the holy body our strong disturbing thoughts do not arise. So, it is meaningful in this way. Also, just by seeing the holy body we have the wish to become like that holy being. Generating the wish to be like that plants an incredible impression on our mind and creates the cause to become, relating it to Lama Tsongkhapa, Guru Lama Tsongkhapa. Just seeing the holy body gives great protection and accumulates much merit, and we receive blessings for devotion to arise and to see the qualities of the holy body.
Many people when they saw Lama Yeshe, or if they did not meet Lama, even from a photograph, felt his warmth and experienced happiness. People new to the Dharma, or who had not heard any Dharma, and also Tibetans, recognized Lama as somebody who cares for others and is very sincere.
When I first arrived in India I was at Buxa refugee camp. A Mrs. Beatty, who may have been the second Western woman to become a nun in the Tibetan tradition after Tibet was overtaken by the Chinese, was ordained by His Holiness Karmapa. The first woman to be ordained died in Darjeeling; I think she took refuge from, or was ordained by, Domo Geshe Rinpoche. Mrs Beatty started schools for young lamas of the four sects in Dalhousie and Delhi. I attended her school in Delhi for six months, but I do not think I learnt anything! I do not remember much about it; we had English class for one hour, and then Hindi. But I put more effort into English—I do not know why! I would fill up my notebook in order to get a new one! After returning from class we would throw the books aside and in the evening would fill them up with big letters for homework because we enjoyed getting new ones.
Most of the time was spent sight-seeing in Delhi, which was sponsored by people from various Western countries who visited our school and then chose a group to take. On Saturdays and Sundays we played with the children of Western embassy people. Then I got TB and had to stay in a hospital. When I graduated from that school we were taken to meet Nehru. Domo Rinpoche and his brother and, I think, Mrs Beatty were there. One woman, who I think must have been Indira Gandhi, gave us presents. I think Nehru gave us pamphlets on Indian schools, which he had presented when he was visiting Western countries, and a pen each. Then we were given cold drinks. Before we were taken in to see Nehru we waited in a very tiny room, and then were taken into a courtyard or something. He was lying on a bed, already looking very old. After my stay in hospital I decided to go back to Buxa to continue my studies—only I did not study!
Mrs Beatty found sponsors for everyone who asked, lay or ordained; she was unbelievably kind. She took care of the sick and the poor people of all classes. She found a sponsor for me, one old mother who was, I think, over eighty years old. She took care of me for the seven years I spent at Buxa, paying for my medicine and milk while I was in hospital and at school. I think all the expenses were covered by her. I only found out later. After staying with Geshe Rabten I stayed with another teacher called Yeshe, who passed away. After that I met Lama Yeshe and took teachings from him. She took complete care of me as if I were her child; I do not think she had any children—maybe she was a widow. I used to write her letters by myself, just whatever came to mind, and ask her to correct them and send them back so I could get some practice at English. Then, I think to make me happy because she thought I was so worried about my English, she wrote to me saying that nobody in London speaks correct English! There was really no other way to learn. Sometimes I went to the Indian offices after their lunch, when they usually sleep or rest for two or three hours, to learn some English! I think I took up their rest time. His Holiness Ling Rinpoche’s secretary had given me a book on business practices, how to buy things or something like that, which I used to take to the offices.
The main point is that I sent a picture of Lama to the cousin, who is still living. In the picture Lama was with a group of other monks and people, so she did not know which one was Lama, but later she said that she got a very warm feeling from the one who was Lama. So that is what “meaningful to see” means.
Regarding being meaningful to hear, just think of Lama Tsongkhapa’s lamrim teachings and his text on the five stages, the commentary on which we received from His Holiness the Dalai Lama—those are Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy speech. Whether we are able to generate those realizations in this life or not, incredible seeds are planted, so it is meaningful to hear them. It is an incredible preparation for achieving the five stages. His Holiness, and our present gurus from whom we receive teachings, are the embodiment of Lama Tsongkhapa, so it is meaningful to hear their holy speech. It was similar in the case of Lama Yeshe: each time you saw Lama and Lama spoke to you your mind was so happy; you left Lama with a very happy mind, feeling very satisfied. The dissatisfied mind became satisfied through just seeing Lama and exchanging a few words. It is all one: Lama is the embodiment of Lama Tsongkhapa. You can think of that when you say this prayer. Even though we did not see that manifestation of Lama Tsongkhapa in Tibet, we can read Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy speech every day, in the lamrim and other scriptures. The teachings that Lama Tsongkhapa taught and composed are well-examined, without the slightest mistake. They are all based on reliable sources, the great yogis and pandits who gave the most reliable teachings, and are also well-examined, in other words, given through his own experience. So they are very clear. His teachings are not only a scholastic reference to the pandits’ texts but are validated by his own experience. Therefore it is very meaningful to read Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Even of you cannot practice, just by hearing them a seed is planted which definitely leads to enlightenment.
Even to recall Lama Tsongkhapa is meaningful. Why? It protects one from the dangers of samsara and from being bound to the lower nirvana, the blissful state of peace. Leaving aside other problems, even at the most critical time—when death happens—if we are able to remember Guru Lama Tsongkhapa with devotion it saves one from being reborn in the lower realms. As it is mentioned in the teachings, remembering the guru is the best powa, the transference of the consciousness to a pure realm; if one can do that it is impossible to be born in a lower realm. In that way it is meaningful to remember.
It is meaningful to see a holy body such as that holy body, to hear holy speech such as that, and to remember the qualities of the holy mind. You can also relate all three to each one. It says in the section on prostration in the elaborate Ganden Lha Gyäma prayer:
In order to achieve the three vajras, I prostrate respectfully
with body, speech and mind whilst recalling the three secrecies.
The three secrecies refers to the secret qualities of the holy body, holy speech and holy mind which are qualities only of buddhas, such as the eighteen unmixed dharmas which are qualities of the holy mind of dharmakaya.
Yi ong chö yön na tshog me tog dang
Dri zhim dug pö nang säl dri chab sog
Ngö sham yi trül chö trin gya tsho di
Sö nam zhing chog khye la chö par bül
Pleasing drinking water, various flowers,
Fragrant incenses, lights, scented waters, and so forth,
Oceans of cloud-like offerings, both actually arranged and mentally emanated,
I offer to you, the supreme field of merit.
“I am offering beautiful drinking water and various flowers, incense, light and scented water, both actually performed and mentally transformed oceans of offering clouds.” Clouds indicate space, and ocean is an expression of infinity—the entire space filled with offerings. Chö trin gya tsho di— “to you the supreme field of merit.”
As at the beginning of the lamrim prayer in Lama Chöpa [LC 84]: Zhing chog dam pa je tsün la ma la—“the guru is the highest, or best, field of merit.” The most supreme. Why? Because the greatest merit, which is what we want to accumulate, is received by performing virtuous actions with respect to the guru; hence he is the supreme field of merit.
So, you yourself are the deity, and according to this particular practice I am explaining, you are Yamantaka, father and mother embracing. There are both actually performed offerings and mentally transformed offerings. So, you yourself are bliss and voidness and your bliss and voidness manifests in the form of the various offerings carried by goddesses. Each offering is infinite. The drinking water offering carried by the relevant goddesses fills all of space. Likewise for each one. Also your bliss and voidness is manifest as the offering goddesses. Also the object of offering, the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, is bliss and voidness. Similarly, when you eat food or drink, yourself, the deity, and the guru are oneness. What you are is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss/voidness, so the food that you are offering is also the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss/voidness. Offering that increases your transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss/voidness. In other words, the food itself is the guru’s holy mind, the transcendental wisdom, the great bliss. You are also that. From the meditation of blessing the food you can understand why the essence is the guru’s holy mind, the great bliss inseparable from voidness. It is the same when you make offerings to the merit field. Your own transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness is transformed into the offerings.
You can do the transformation in a simple way, everything at once. If you are doing mudras you can think of each one separately. Transform all together if that helps your concentration, or makes it easier. Each time you make an offering with a mudra visualize clearly and think that it generates infinite bliss in the holy mind of the merit field. As each offering is finished absorb that into your heart. The most important thing to concentrate on in regard to offerings is having a clear visualization of the offerings and to imagine having generated infinite bliss in the holy mind of the merit field. The merit field cannot experienced more or greater bliss, but through visualizing this the practitioner himself accumulates more merit and is able to quickly have the same experience of the complete pure transcendental wisdom of great bliss inseparable from voidness, dharmakaya. It creates the cause to experience that sooner within oneself.
I want to emphasize that it is your own transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness which is transformed into the various offerings. It is actually the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, but because it appears as various forms it receives various labels—this is drinking water, this is a flower, this is this and that, this is a goddess—merely labeled by the thought on those appearances. Similarly, yourself as the deity Yamantaka or whatever, as well as the object—the merit field or whatever—are imputed with different names. Have the awareness that each of these three are merely labeled; all three are one thing—the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. You are the guru, the merit field is the guru, the offerings are also bliss and voidness—they were transformed from your heart so they are of the same nature. In this way it is easy to feel that things are merely labeled, that they are dependent arisings. It is very important to concentrate on this because it is so helpful for realizing shunyata. It makes it easy to understand “merely labeled,” subtle dependent arising.
So do it very slowly. This is very important when you chant the prayers as the purpose of chanting is to give us time to meditate. The chanting itself becomes an offering, the accumulation of merit with speech. Especially if the chanting is melodious! In this way we are making offerings of the body, speech and mind: your mind transforms and makes extraordinary offerings, your body makes offerings with mudras, and your speech by chanting mantras or offering prayers.
I find it very effective to perform offerings in this way: whatever offering you have, whether it is just one bowl of water, or one flower, or incense stick or whatever, first offer it to all the holy objects in the east—to all the statues which are in the east, then to all buddhas and bodhisattvas in the east. Think this generates great bliss in their holy minds. Then offer to all the holy objects in the north, the numberless statues and also the living buddhas and bodhisattvas, which generates great bliss. Then offer to all the holy objects in the west, the images and all the living merit field, the buddhas and bodhisattvas, which generates great bliss. Then to the south, and then in all directions including up and down. If, for example, you have a mug of tea, offer it to all the statues and beings of the merit field, all the holy objects, and all the living merit field in the ten directions, which generates great bliss in their holy minds.
As I mentioned earlier, just by thinking of Buddha and making an offering by throwing a flower or something has inconceivable merit. Making one offering to one buddha has ten benefits when summarized. But here we are making offerings to all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, all holy objects in the ten directions. So even if you do not go to Bodhgaya to make offerings and accumulate merit because of the fear you might get sick or something—fearing to go to the East thinking, I might get diarrhea or “happy-titis”!—if you make offerings in this manner from the room where you are sitting it is the same. Of course, there is more merit accumulated if you bear all the hardships of going to a holy place. As His Holiness Serkong Rinpoche used to often mention, it is purification. If it rained heavily and you became wet, and the car broke down and you had a lot of difficulties, Rinpoche used to say, “Oh, this is very worthwhile, this is very good.” Rinpoche used to look at it in a positive way and say it is very good because when one goes on pilgrimage and a lot of troubles come and one has to bear a lot of hardships while traveling it is great purification. Rinpoche used to use the situation positively, as a practice, rather than condemn it. Making an offering to one buddha has unbelievable merit, but with this method offering just one small container of water or one mug of tea, or one stick of incense, or one light, has greater merit because the object to whom we offer includes all the statues in India and Tibet, all those on this earth and even in other realms, all the holy objects in the ten directions.
Also, each person has an altar, which means many holy objects, so you are making offerings to each of them using this method. So even if you are not at Bodhgaya or in Lhasa you are still making offerings to all the holy objects in these places, which has unbelievable merit. Making offerings in your room by-the-way as you move about in your break-times by just simply thinking, “I’m offering this to all these holy objects,” is meritorious. Especially if you think each of them is the embodiment of all gurus, buddhas, Dharma and Sangha, it has more merit. Then having many pictures and statues of the merit field in the house becomes meaningful. The purpose of keeping thangkas and such things is for you to purify and accumulate merit. So if you make offerings as often as possible, just in passing, with every bit of time you find, having an altar and keeping thousands and thousands of pictures filling your entire room becomes worthwhile!
Of course, before you offer you should generate a strong motivation of bodhicitta. Also, when you generate bodhicitta and make offerings instead of thinking of them as “my offerings” it is very good to think, These offerings which I have received belong to, came from, the sentient beings, so I’m offering them for the sake of the sentient beings. I think that is very important. If you think, These are mine, if you feel you possess them, it breaks the bodhisattva vows. So generate bodhicitta at the beginning in that way. It helps one to be aware that the reason one has this incredible opportunity to make offerings is due to the kindness of sentient beings.
The following is the elaborate way of making the four types of offerings related to the four types of initiation.
There are higher offerings and highest offerings: lana yöpäi chöpa and lana mepäi chöpa30 mean “peerless offering” and “highest offering,” which is all our virtue transformed into various offerings and offered to the merit field, as in Lama Chöpa. Memorizing the words of the holy Dharma, putting the teachings into practice, generating and practicing bodhicitta, is the highest offering.
In the elaborate Ganden Lha Gyäma it says:
The positive, or white, action of study and practice,
The realizations of the three higher trainings and of the two stages
And all the merit accumulated by me and by all others,
Is immaculately transformed into beautiful clouds of offerings:
Please accept these and bless them to be unceasing.
In other words, the realizations of the three higher trainings that we have are transformed into various offerings and offered to the merit field.
But if we are not practicing any of the three higher trainings and do not have lamrim realization, there is nothing to transform into offerings. In that case if we think of the meaning while saying the prayer it makes us kind-of sad. There is nothing to transform. We should transform the offerings then offer them to the merit field, while examining the meaning of the prayer in our mind.
The holy ingredients, whose natures are the five dhyani buddhas and the four mothers,
Are purified and transformed and increased by the beams of the three vajras emitting and absorbing.
By being offered this ocean of nectar
May you be highly satisfied and pleased.
Having transformed the mudras of zhing kye, ngag kye and lhän kye
And absorbed them into the mother of Vajradhara
Through the enjoyment of the bliss of embrace
May all the surrounding beings be satisfied by the bliss without regression.
You may know of these three types of mudras from the Vajrayogini or Chakrasamvara practices: those who have generation stage realizations, those who have the realization of clear light and simultaneously-born bliss, and those who have realized unification. The “bliss without regression” means without delusion.
Whilst the simultaneously-born great bliss, the holy mind unified with the holy body,
Is abiding in the emptiness of all existence, like the sky,
It manifests like a rainbow in manifold forms;
May you be pleased by this offering of the vajra enlightenment.
Offering is specifically a remedy for miserliness. The result is to have control over sense enjoyments, as Lama Tsongkhapa had, so that sense enjoyments cannot disturb us. We will receive whatever we are seeking. During initiations when offerings are made to the vajra disciple, particularly during the preparation, it is to be understood that from that time on any sense enjoyments can be utilized to develop bliss and voidness within ourselves without them becoming a cause of suffering, without the mind being stained by samsara. That means without the sense enjoyments becoming the cause for craving to arise; rather, becoming the skillful means to generate bliss and voidness, and so to quickly cut off the dual view. Similarly, when we make offerings to the Triple Gem especially in Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra practice, they are made with the pure appearance of them having the nature of bliss and voidness. That becomes a method to quickly complete the two types of merit and become enlightened, after which all sense objects have a pure appearance, nothing appears as ugly or undesirable. Any form is beautiful, any sound interesting, any taste in the nature of great bliss. Anything that appears, appears in purity. Doing the offering practice in this way becomes the cause of achieving that result.
When performing offerings, you can offer to the merit field not only those you have made at the altar and those mentally transformed, but you can offer all the beautiful flowers, lakes, parks, the sun and moon—all the beautiful things which are your own karmic appearance, the various sense objects you see in your view. You can think of all those. When you offer light you need not necessary think only of the one or two butter-lamps you have lit, but however many lights you have on in your room. The clearer and brighter the light is, the better the offering. If it dispels more darkness the effect is greater. The external effect is greater so the inner effect of dispelling ignorance and developing wisdom is greater.
When I travel, especially when I stay in hotels, I think it is a waste to not use all the lights! Especially if the place is cold it helps in keeping warm. Anyway you have to pay for however many days one stays, so this is a way to make great business in accumulating inconceivable merit for much temporal and ultimate happiness. You can offer as many lights as you can see in the rooms.
Make offerings to every single holy object and every actual living bodhisattva and buddha in the ten directions. That also includes the many holy objects such as pictures and statues found in every practitioner’s room. Firstly, making one offering to one buddha has unbelievable merit. And secondly, as I explained before, the internal phenomenon of karma is much more expandable in comparison to external things. I gave the example of how from one small bodhi tree seed thousands of branches and thousands of thousands of seeds come, but that is nothing compared to how karma expands. So each time you make an offering of even one tiny flower, or one incense stick, think that you are making an offering to every single holy object and actual living holy beings in all ten directions.
When making offerings to the Triple Gem you can think like this: as you are generally performing the practice of offering in relation to tantra, specifically Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra, you yourself are the deity in the nature of the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. The light or whatever you are offering is purified in shunyata, becomes emptiness, and becomes a pure offering having three qualities, which you may remember from the explanations on offering in Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra. I think the three qualities are similar in kriya tantra. Anyway, that can be understood from the prayer. You can think that the light, which is the transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness, dispels all sentient beings’ wrong conceptions and darkness of ignorance, and eliminates their two obscurations and generates the whole path in their minds. Similarly with incense: the incense becomes emptiness and then you see it as a pure offering—the incense of transcendental wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness. Its scent purifies the sentient beings’ two obscurations and generates the whole path and enlightens them in the essence of the deity that we are practicing. That is in relation to the sentient beings. Regarding the holy objects, it generates infinite bliss in their holy minds.
20 Wyl: mdo sde’i rgyan. [Return to text]
21 Wyl: mkhas grub smra ba’i nyi ma. [Return to text]
22 According to Liberation, the four levels of the asuras are: (1) Bright, or having Light, Tib: öchän; Wyl: ‘od can; (2) Moon Garland, Tib: dawäi trengwa; Wyl: zla ba’i ‘phreng ba; (3) Excellent Place, Tib: näzangpo; Wyl: gnas bzang po; and (4) Immutable; Tib: miyowa; Wyl: mi gyo ba. [Return to text]
23 Wyl: ‘thab bral. [Return to text]
24 Wyl: kun dga’ ra ba yid dga’ chos ‘dzin. [Return to text]
25 (1) Namkha Drime, Wyl: nam mkha’ dri med; (2) Gyältshab Jampäl Nyingpo, Wyl: rgyal tshab ‘jam dpal snying po; (3) Lhodrag Drubchen, Wyl: lho brag sgrub chen; and (4) Drime Özer, Wyl: dri med ‘od zer. [Return to text]
26 Wyl: dpag tshad and rgyang grags. [Return to text]
27 Wyl: spyan snga ba blo gros rgyal mtshan.[Return to text]
28 Wyl: rtag tu ngu; Skt: Sada Prarudita. The ever-weeping bodhisattva (sada is “always” and prarudita is in “tears”); he is mentioned in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras (Prajnaparamita) and is used as an example of unwavering devotion to the guru. [Return to text]
29 Wyl: mo’u gal gyi pu; Skt: Maudgalyayana. [Return to text]
30 Wyl: bla na yod pa’i mchod pa and la na med pa’i mchod pa. [Return to text]