Amitabha and White Tara Initiations and Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Taichung, Taiwan (Archive #1604)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave these teachings during Amitabha and White Tara long-life initiations and retreat at Shakyamuni Center, Taichung, Taiwan in February 2007. The teachings include the lung (oral transmission) of the Amitayus mantra and the long-life sutra. Lightly edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.

The Index Page provides an outline of the topics discussed in each of the lectures. Click on the headings below to go directly to a particular lecture.

You can also listen to the audio files and read the unedited transcripts here.  

Bodhisattva Vows; Amitabha Practice

This initiation practice comes directly from Amitabha Buddha, as well as from Chenrezig and Vajrapani. I think here you need to visualize the lama in front as Amitabha Buddha, with Chenrezig on the right side and Vajrapani on the left.

Now, the bodhisattva vows. If you haven’t taken bodhisattva vows in the past and cannot take the entering vow now, you can take the wishing vow, which involves avoiding the four black dharmas and practicing the four white dharmas. If you are unable to take even this, you should at least generate a strong motivation thinking, “I am going to practice more compassion toward other sentient beings than before.” You should at least make that determination.

Please repeat the prayer of taking refuge, and then take the bodhisattva vows. Those who have taken them in the past can take them again, thus restoring what has been degenerated and increasing what has not been degenerated.

Kön chhog sum la dag kyab chhi

So, the lama, Amitabha Buddha, and His Holiness Chogye Trichen Rinpoche and all the other lineage lamas of this initiation are sitting there. Then, with your whole heart, you rely upon Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Kön chhog sum la dag kyab chhi (2x)

Next is confessing. Think, “I confess all the negative karmas collected with my body, speech and mind during beginningless rebirths up till now.” While you are reciting this, think that everything is completely purified. Not a trace of negative karma is left on your mental continuum.

Dig pa tam chä so sor shag (3x)

Next is rejoicing. While you are repeating this line of the prayer, feel great happiness in your heart about all the merits you have collected in the past, your present merits and the merits you will collect in the future. After that feel great happiness about the merits of the three times collected by other sentient beings and by buddhas.

Dro wäi ge la je yi rang (3x)

We are going to do it in the shortest way, so to conclude we’ll say the last line:

Sang gyä jang chhub yi kyi zung

So, think, “To achieve enlightenment myself for the sake of sentient beings, I am going to take the bodhisattva vows.”

I actually talked a lot about the motivation, but then didn’t get to say it at the beginning of the initiation. Anyway, most of you have heard lam-rim and have received initiation many times.

You must generate bodhicitta, wishing to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. Taking the initiation is not for yourself, but for the sake of each and every other sentient being, for their happiness, for them to achieve enlightenment. Think, “Therefore, to achieve enlightenment I am going to take the Amitabha ‘long-life and attaining the pure land’ initiation.”

Here, even if you have the realization of bodhicitta, if you don’t live in the bodhisattva vows, you can’t achieve enlightenment with just the realization of bodhicitta alone. Without living in the bodhisattva vows you cannot achieve enlightenment. Therefore, you must take the bodhisattva vows to achieve enlightenment and to be able to enlighten all sentient beings. Think, “Therefore, I am going to take the bodhisattva vows.” Those who are taking the vows should think in this way about whichever vow they are taking.

Those who cannot take the vow for the first time should think, “I am going to generate more compassion for other sentient beings than before. From now on I am going to generate more compassion for others.”

Sang gyä jang chhub yi kyi zung (2x)

At the third repetition, those taking the vows should think, “I have received the bodhisattva vows in the presence of the lama, whom you have meditated on as inseparable from the deity, of all the lineage lamas and of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas gathered around like clouds gather in the sky.”

Sang gyä jang chhub yi kyi zung

As soon as the bodhisattva vows are taken, as mentioned in Bodhisattvacaryavatara by the great bodhisattva Shantideva, in every second you collect limitless skies of merits. Feel great happiness about this, thinking, “Taking the bodhisattva vows has made my life most meaningful, most productive, most beneficial, for all sentient beings.” As I usually mention, as soon as you have taken the bodhisattva vows, whatever merit you collect every day increases millions of times.

So, today is the first day of Buddha performing miracles to tame the suffering sentient beings, one of the twelve holy deeds. This is one of the great Buddha days. Any practice you do to purify or to collect merit on each of the next fifteen days is increased 100 million times. One prostration to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha becomes 100 million prostrations; one mantra becomes 100 million mantras; one light offering becomes 100 million light offerings. If you recite the Heart Sutra, Diamond Cutter Sutra, Arya Sanghata Sutra, Golden Light Sutra or any other precious holy text that collects extensive merit and purifies all heavy negative karmas, it becomes 100 million recitations. So, whatever practice you do is increased 100 million times, especially in these days. At this time we have the opportunity to practice for fifteen days; at other times it is just for one day. This is an unbelievable opportunity. This retreat, this practice for purification and long life, was arranged according to these special days of Buddha. This is the reason it is happening now.

Normally we don’t take or don’t have the freedom to take such an unbelievable opportunity, especially for fifteen of these special Buddha days. Therefore, we should attempt as much as possible to make prostrations and offerings and do the various practices to purify, collect merit and meditate on the path, on emptiness, bodhicitta or whatever. We should put as much effort as possible into these practices.

Also, we should especially rejoice that there are so many sentient beings who are practicing and collecting so much merit. Do especially the practice of rejoicing. Every time you rejoice in your own merits, your merits double. You then rejoice in the merits of other sentient beings, including the bodhisattvas, and of the buddhas. There are numberless sentient beings, numberless bodhisattvas and numberless buddhas. If you rejoice in the merit of other beings with a lower level of mind than yours, you collect much more merit than they do. If the being’s level of mind is higher than yours, you then get half as much merit as they collect in one day. For example, as mentioned by great enlightened Pabongka, if you rejoice in the merit one bodhisattva collects in one day, you collect half that much merit in one second. But if you don’t rejoice, collecting that much merit would take you tens of thousands of years. So, Pabongka Rinpoche is giving us some idea of how long it would take to collect that much merit without rejoicing.

Think here of how there are numberless bodhisattvas and other sentient beings and numberless buddhas. You can then imagine how much merit we will collect by rejoicing.

Think, “My life has become so fruitful.” Feel great happiness at having all this opportunity. Lastly, think, “Taking the bodhisattva vows and living in them are my offerings for world peace.” This is your service, your dedication; this is what you offer all sentient beings, particularly those in this world. Feel great happiness.

Now comes creating the base for the actual body of the initiation, which involves you, the vajra disciple, visualizing yourself as the deity, Amitabha Buddha, with Chenrezig on the right side and Vajrapani on the left. According to the basic scriptures of tantra, those who haven’t received any other higher initiation, not even a lower tantra great initiation, cannot visualize themselves as the deity. You can visualize the deity in front to receive the blessing but you cannot generate yourself into the deity. You are qualified to do this only if you have received a great initiation of either Highest Yoga Tantra or one of the lower tantras.

However, Denma Lochö Rinpoche said that you can visualize yourself as Shakyamuni Buddha even if you haven’t received a great initiation because Buddha is the founder of the present Buddhadharma. Denma Lochö Rinpoche said that it might be okay in this case even if you haven’t received a great initiation. Rinpoche permitted beginner practitioners to visualize themselves as Shakyamuni Buddha when they do the practice of Shakyamuni Buddha guru yoga. Otherwise, with Medicine Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and other deities, Rinpoche said that you need a great initiation to visualize yourself as that deity.

If you have received in the past a great initiation of either a lower tantra or Highest Yoga Tantra, you can now visualize yourself as Amitabha Buddha, with the two other deities. You then visualize OM at your crown, AH at your throat and HUM at your heart. Beams are emitted away and invoke Amitabha Buddha from the pure land….

[Rinpoche gives the Amitabha Buddha initiation.]

Amitabha’s begging-bowl is filled with transcendental nectar and with long-life pills. Think that Amitabha, Chenrezig and Vajrapani are seated above this, then when it is absorbed within you, think that you become fortunate to be reborn in the Amitabha pure land and to have all the enjoyments of the pure land.

The long-life milk nectar has mixed into it a very precious long-life pill from Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, a leading Nyingma lama, who is a guru of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and from whom I also took teachings. Rinpoche is one of the great holy beings of this world. At the end of every year Rinpoche goes to Maratika in Nepal, where Padmasambhava achieved the realization of immortality, to do a retreat for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s long life. Maratika is a very powerful place, with Padmasambhava’s long-life vase. You succeed in getting whatever you pray for there. The common Tibetan people don’t know what to pray for, so when they go there, those who don’t have children pray to have children. After they have made this prayer there, they go back home, have children and then come back to Padmasambhava’s long-life vase, to give thanks.

So, Trulshik Rinpoche did long-life retreat there and made pills mixed with holy water from there. Rinpoche then blessed the pills. So, this pill is very precious, as Rinpoche did retreat with this long-life pill.

There is also Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche’s inner offering nectar pill, which is extremely precious. Pabongka highly recommended a Sakya lineage pill for inner offering. So, this is the best one. It is used for inner offering and for blessing the mind. This pill is also mixed into this nectar.

Take the long-life pills home to your family or other people. It is good for others to take them. Offer them to yourself and then to others.

Now dedicate the merits of having received the initiation. Think, “Due to these merits may I be born in Amitabha’s pure land at the time of death.” With that thought please repeat this prayer, in which you request that after death, you immediately be born in the blissful Amitabha pure land, where there are limitless qualities and wonderful joy and happiness. Amitabha is there surrounded by Chenrezig, Vajrapani and innumerable buddhas and bodhisattvas. You request to immediately be born there without interruption to the life and to then be able to see Amitabha Buddha. You pray, “By my having done this prayer, may I be able to see Amitabha Buddha. Please, all buddhas and bodhisattvas, bless me so that this happens without any obstacle.”

[Rinpoche concludes the initiation.]

You have now received the initiation. It is now completed.

On the western side is the Amitabha pure land, where the fully-enlightened being Limitless Life Buddha is abiding. Whoever recites that name will be born there in Amitabha’s pure land. At the time of death you will see bhikshus, Sangha, the sign that shows you will be born in Amitabha’s pure land.

During the retreat, tomorrow or the day after, I thought to give the oral transmission of the long-life sutra, which mentions the benefits of reciting the name of Amitabha, Limitless Life, Buddha. I will give the lung of that text. Writing or printing that text has inconceivable, unimaginable benefit. It is one of the causes for great success. I arranged for the Nalanda monks to print the long-life sutra every week to help for the success of the Maitreya Project and all the other projects. As their offering, every week they print this text. Besides that, I’ve also separately printed it quite a few times. To write this text, which they did in the past in Mongolia, collects unbelievable merit. I already have at least two texts from Mongolia, written with pearls, turquoise, ruby or coral, silver and gold. Each line is written in a different color jewel. There are many such texts in Mongolia. Because of the unbelievable benefit, they have written the text in different jewels.

Anyway, I thought to give the lung, or oral transmission of that text. Reading that text is a very powerful means to have long life. Mountains of negative karma are purified. Printing or writing this text is another helpful method for those people who can’t find a job or have many difficulties in life. It is very beneficial in creating lots of merit.

As I mentioned before, I normally recite “To the Tathagata, Savior Amitabha, Limitless (or Unimaginable) Light Buddha, I prostrate. To the Limitless (or Unimaginable) Life Buddha, I prostrate.” Here in the text it is shorter: “I prostrate to the Limitless (or Unimaginable) Light Buddha, Buddha Amitabha. I prostrate to the Unimaginable Life Buddha.” Previously it was light now it is life. Here it says Unimaginable Life Savior. In the text it says Tathagata. So, recite that.

If you recite one mala of the mantra, at the end you say, “May I be reborn in Amitabha’s pure land.” If you recite this every day, you will see Amitabha Buddha in the intermediate state and then be born in Amitabha’s pure land. This is due to the prayer of Amitabha Buddha, as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha explained in many of the texts.

So, please repeat this prayer: “I will follow whatever advice has been given.”

Then, a short mandala.

Jang chhub sem chhog rin po che…

Due to all the merits of having granted and received this initiation and due to all the merits of the three times of self and others, may bodhicitta be generated without even a second’s delay in one’s own heart, in the hearts of one’s own family members and in the hearts of all the students and benefactors, those who sacrifice their lives to the organization to serve others and the teaching of Buddha, and in the hearts of all sentient beings, particularly in the hearts of all the world leaders and of all the Muslims and other people who have thoughts to harm others, to harm the world.

Jang chhub sem chhog rin po che…

Then dedicate all the merits for His Holiness to have a long life and for all His Holiness’s holy wishes to succeed immediately.