Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Soquel, CA USA 1999 (Archive #1055)

This book is an edited transcript of Lama Zopa Rinpoche's teachings at a three-month Vajrasattva retreat held at Land of Medicine Buddha, from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The teachings cover many lamrim topics, purification practices, mantras, pujas and more.

Chapter 48: April 27


Questions and Answers

Good evening. Is there one question?

Ven. Marcel: Rinpoche, if sentient beings are infinite, if infinite buddhas’ minds can see all sentient beings, if buddha cannot see the beginning of sentient beings’ lives, I wonder how buddha can see infinite sentient beings if their numbers are limitless?

Rinpoche: Buddha doesn’t have any defilements. There are no defilements to block a buddha’s seeing infinite sentient beings.

Ven. Marcel: So “infinite” means not just a great number? I’m just wondering exactly what the definition of infinite is. Does it mean there are always more or is it actually such a large number that it can’t be counted?

I think sometimes people use the word “infinite” because the number is too big to count.

Rinpoche: I would say that yes, there are infinite sentient beings. It is not just a word; in reality, there are numberless sentient beings. But that doesn’t mean that their lives have to have a beginning.

Ven. Marcel: Rinpoche, we also had some discussion about the expandability of karma. This example in the scriptures that if you kill an insect and it’s not confessed, then after fifteen days it becomes the same weight as having killed a human being...

Rinpoche: ...you get the same heavy karma as if you had killed a human being. Even though you haven’t killed a human being, the negative karma from having killed that tiny insect increases until after fifteen days it has become the same as if you had killed a human being.

Ven. Marcel: If somebody kills an insect in the very beginning of his life when he’s very young, and he kills a human being when he’s very old, then the karma of having killed the insect will be stronger at that time?

Rinpoche: Yes, I would think so. According to what Pabongka Rinpoche says, it has to be like that. The negative karma of killing an insect as a child and not purifying it could end up being much heavier than killing a human being when you were eighty years old. But it also depends on what kind of human being you killed. If it was a holy being that you killed, for example, the karma would be heavier. However, I think the karma of having killed one insect as a child and not purified it would be much heavier than that of killing an ordinary human being later, as an adult.

Ven. Neil: The question was also, Rinpoche, if for example, one kills another human being, the karma is to be reborn in hell. It seems that one has created the karma to take one rebirth in hell, which will last for millions or billions of years, and then on top of that, as the days, years, lifetimes go by and this karma is not purified, the karmic result is expanding more and more. Then, for example, if this karma ripens after three billion years, one will have to experience an inconceivable number of rebirths in hell, each of which will last millions or billions of years. All from killing one insect. Or does the expandable result mean that one ends up getting just one hell rebirth from that single, unpurified action?

Rinpoche: The expandability of karma means that you do experience the result of a particular karma many times, but this doesn’t include then creating the result similar to the cause, one of the four suffering results of a complete karma—then creating the same negative karma again. The expandability of karma refers just to the direct results of one negative karma. In dependence upon how heavy the karma is, you then experience the suffering that results from that negative karma many times in one life or in many lifetimes. In his Letter to a King, Nagarjuna says, “If you cheat one sentient being, as a result you will be cheated in one thousand lifetimes.” This is because karma is expandable.

Similarly, as you may remember from Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand or other lamrim texts, if somebody criticizes a monk by saying to him disrespectfully, “You’re jumping around like a monkey,” it creates the cause to be born as a monkey for five hundred lifetimes.

Thus, karma is expandable, but this doesn’t include consideration ofcreating the result similar to the cause, which means that each complete negative karma again produces four suffering results, one of which is creating the result similar to the cause, so that the process is endless. Unless you purify the negative karma, you experience the karmic results endlessly.

Taking medicine for intestinal infection

Ven. Marcel: Rinpoche, there’s a question about whether viruses and bacteria are considered sentient beings? And can we then take antibiotics?

Rinpoche: This question has been asked many times! I cannot say with certainty that they are sentient beings. However, we can discuss the question in relation not only to bacteria but to bigger sentient beings, worms.

Many of the young Kopan monks get intestinal worms, and Lama Yeshe used to get everybody to take worm medicine.

Later, during a question and answer session in one of the early courses at Manjushri Institute—I think it might have been a course led by Venerable Marcel—someone asked whether it was permissible to take worm medicine. At that time Geshe Jampa Tegchog was teaching the philosophical part of the course and Geshe Kelsang was teaching lamrim.

Geshe Jampa Tegchog, who was the abbot of Nalanda Monastery for many years, is now the abbot of Sera Je Monastery, which has more than two thousand five hundred monks.

In response to this question, Geshe Jampa Tegchog said, “You are not permitted to kill worms. Buddhism has never permitted killing.” Some people then got upset with Geshe-la’s answer and brought up the fact that Lama Yeshe had permitted the taking of worm medicine. Some confusion arose during this question and answer session.

The lamas used to eat together, and at lunchtime Geshe-la brought up what had happened during the discussion. I don’t think Lama Yeshe was there at that time. Geshe-la said that he was going to have to talk differently the next time he did a question and answer session. He was going to make an adjustment. Geshe-la said he was going to tell the people that according to Buddhism you can’t take worm medicine, but that according to the general world situation you can take medicine for worms. He was planning to say this in the question and answer session.

So far, I myself haven’t ever taken any medicine for worms. It seems to me that the worms disappear after some time even without taking medicine. I think they die. I think that perhaps you have the karma to have worms for a short time but not the karma to have them all the time.

When that karma has finished, I think that the worms just leave the body. Maybe they just say goodbye! I remember taking worm medicine when I was in Buxa, because a doctor checked and gave it to me, but I don’t remember taking any since I first returned to Nepal from India.

My personal experience is that even though there are worms, they disappear after a while, even without worm medicine. I am just telling you of my own experience.

Basically, I think it depends on the capacity of each individual. You have to see that your life will definitely be more beneficial for other sentient beings if you kill the worms. The bottom line is that you have to try as much possible to make even that action of killing become virtue.

Even if you have to take the medicine and end their lives, at the very least you have to make your action become virtue. And as much as possible, you have to make your action beneficial for the sentient beings that are going to be killed.

I cannot make a generalization that it is okay to kill. I cannot say that. However, I would like to say that if it has to be done, at the very least you must attempt to ensure that your action becomes virtue, Dharma, and that it is as beneficial as possible for the sentient beings you are killing. If you have to do it, do it in this way. You have to do something for those beings, for their happiness, for their good rebirth or whatever.

Perhaps each time you take worm medicine you should make food or money offerings to the monasteries where there are thousands of monks.

Perhaps you should build a stupa, a very large one—one stupa for each worm! Perhaps you should sponsor as many stupas as the number of worms that you kill! I am joking a little here, but you need to do something.

I mean, killing is involved and you need to ensure that your mind is not completely selfish when you do it. Those worms are also sentient beings. I am not sure about bacteria, but worms are sentient beings.

Therefore, they all want happiness.

I think I mentioned earlier in the retreat [Chapter 34, Tuesday, March 2] that one of the texts mentions that attachment to sex causes you to be reborn an intestinal worm. I don’t remember which text it was (I should have written down its name), but it is an authentic source.

Perhaps it is one of the thought transformation teachings of the Kadampa geshes. Anyway, it is not the kind of text written by an ordinary person that we come across nowadays.

These worms are just like you in having no freedom to choose their rebirth. Without choice, they are born there in the kaka in the gut. They do not plan to be born there. They are also like you in wanting happiness and not wanting to suffer. Therefore, if you make the decision to take worm medicine, you have got to do something for them. You should at least do some strong practice to purify their negative karma and to pray for them to have a good rebirth as a human being, to meet the Dharma and so forth, as Nagarjuna says in the food offering practice.

The sutra way of offering food involves motivating to take the food not to become fat, not out of arrogance, not to look beautiful, but just to sustain the body to practice Dharma. The tantra way of offering food involves reciting quite a number of mantras and making offerings to the gurus and to the deities, but we have yet to translate that part. Many monks practice the tantric food offering, then do Nagarjuna’s prayer to also offer the food in the sutra way.

At the very end, after offering in both ways, many practitioners do another prayer that says, “At the moment I satisfy the worms by giving them food. Due to this, in future lives may I draw them to me as disciples and reveal Dharma to them.” This means that in future lives, when the worms have become human beings, they will become your disciples and by revealing Dharma to them, you will lead them to enlightenment.

I would suggest that you do some practice like this. Since killing is involved, you have to make your life really beneficial for other sentient beings. Because those sentient beings have to die for you, you have to make your life worthwhile. You have to have a compassionate attitude.

You can’t simply ignore them or think, “Oh, they’re causing disease,” and kill them out of anger. You cannot omit the practice of compassion. I can’t make a generalization about what should be done, but I would say that if you do become involved in killing the worms, there should be compassion in your motivation, which means that killing them will enable you to make your life more beneficial, more worthwhile. There is then some purpose in their dying, especially if you use their death to develop your good heart, your bodhicitta. If you have to engage in killing the worms, this is the best way to do it.

Benefiting insects killed by our car

When Roger bought the red van, which now has all the ten direction buddhas around it, he was very excited. I think he thought he had accomplished something really great. He bought it one evening and came to tell me right away. He was very happy about it and curious as to what I would say. I didn’t go out to see the car immediately, but not because Roger was so excited about it. I saw it late the next morning. For one or two days I tried to think, “This car belongs to sentient beings,” but that didn’t last long.

We then drove all the way from John and Elaine Jackson’s house in California to Geshe Sopa’s place in Wisconsin. On the way there were some sections with no insects, but in other parts, especially where there were cows and fields, a lot of insects died on the car. So many insects died when they flew in front of the car. I don’t know whether the number of insects also had something to do with the time of year it was.

Many insects were dying and we didn’t seem to have much choice about killing them. I was telling the others in the car, “We are creating many, many causes to be born in the Gathering and Crushing Hell.” The Gathering and Crushing Hell is the third of the hot hells, where you are crushed between huge mountains shaped like the heads of the animals or human beings you have killed. You are crushed between the mountains, your blood gushes out like a waterfall, then you revive and are crushed all over again. This goes on and on for an inconceivable length of time, until the karma is exhausted. I said, “I think we are creating many causes to be in that hell realm.”

We stopped somewhere and did many light offerings and prayers dedicated to all the insects that had died on the road. Later on, when I asked if there was anything we could do to stop killing the insects, someone mentioned putting a special plastic screen on the front of the van. It is supposed to give some protection to the insects but I don’t think it helps that much.

Anyway, now the van is covered with mantras. A shop that makes decals used a computer to make all the mantras and the pictures of the Thirty-five Buddhas, Lama Tsongkhapa, Maitreya Buddha, White Tara and so forth. The person who made them put a lot of time and effort into it, especially into the Tibetan writing because he was not familiar with it. You start off with a black sheet, then like carving a rock, you have to cut away the excess until just the shapes of the letters are left. It is unbelievably time consuming.

The person who did the work became very, very interested in the project.

Even though they are not Buddhists, both he and his wife said that this time their work had been very meaningful. I don’t think they have read anything on Buddhism. Once they might have attended a talk given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which could have been the start of their interest in Buddhism. I visited their shop once or twice and they told me this on one of my visits. I was very happy to hear how they felt. You have to have some merit even to appreciate that the work is worthwhile; if you don’t have merit, you won’t recognize its worth. Anyway, I was happy to hear that they realized that this time, the work they were doing was meaningful.

They wanted to make a very large decal of White Tara to keep in the office where they worked. It would make their shop very meaningful, because everybody who came there would see this picture of buddha and thus plant seeds of liberation and enlightenment. This picture of buddha would purify the defilements of anyone who saw it there, including the people who worked in that office every day. Seeing a picture of buddha would make coming into the shop very worthwhile for other sentient beings.

The five powerful mantras

The idea was to have the five powerful mantras used in the practice of jang-wa on the van. [See Appendix 5.] The tantric practice of jang-wa is used when somebody has died, and even if the person is in the intermediate state on the way to the lower realms, you can still do jang-wa and change the direction of the person’s reincarnation. You can cause the person to reincarnate in a pure land or in a deva or human realm. Jang-wa is a skillful tantric practice of purification, due to the power of mantra, the power of concentration and the power of Buddha’s words of the truth.

These five mantras have unbelievable power. If you recite these mantras, blow on sand and then sprinkle the sand on someone’s grave or cremation site, you can affect that person’s consciousness, no matter where they have been reborn. You do not even have to touch the dead body. Simply sprinkling the blessed sand on the grave or cremation site can purify that person’s negative karma and bring them a good rebirth.

These mantras have unbelievable power to purify negative karma.

Within the practice of jang-wa there are different means of purification, but recitation of these mantras is one of the main ones. You use the mantras to bless mustard seeds. Through meditation you hook the people who have died and then you throw the blessed mustard seeds over them to purify them. Finally, you do po-wa to transfer their consciousness to a pure land. After that, if you don’t have ashes or parts of the body, you burn the photograph of the dead person or the pieces of paper with the dead person’s name written on it while meditating on emptiness.

You recite the Heart Sutra from where it says either “...no form, no feeling...” or “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form....”

I think I have already mentioned these mantras at various times in the past—for example, the mantra of Mitukpa, the Immovable Buddha, which you often see on tsa-tsas. If a dying person sees the Mitukpa mantra, they won’t be reborn in the lower realms because seeing this mantra purifies their mind, their negative karma.

All of these mantras have incredible power. Simply touching these mantras to the body of a dying or dead person purifies their negative karma, and they are not reborn in the lower realms. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche explained that the people in Amdo have these mantras written or printed on paper and they rub the paper on the body of anyone who is dying or has died to purify that person’s negative karma.

The Namgyalma mantra, another of these powerful mantras, has unbelievable benefits. I mentioned them already when I was talking about the mantra on the bell at the Ksitigarbha statue, so I am not going to repeat them again. Remember, I mentioned that if the Namgyalma mantra is on a mountain, the negative karmas of all the insects or people who walk on that mountain are purified. If the mantra is on a banner, the negative karmas of the insects or people who are touched by the shadow of the banner are purified, and they are liberated from the lower realms. It is also mentioned that if you have the Namgyalma mantra in your house, the house becomes purified and blessed, and the same applies to your car. It is very good to have the Namgyalma mantra in your car, because any insects or people who touch the car will be purified. The mantras of Namgyalma and Stainless Pinnacle are extremely powerful ones for purification.

If you recite the mantra of the deity Stainless Beam seventy-three times after somebody has died, that person will definitely be liberated from the lower realms and be able to reincarnate in the higher realms, the realms of the happy migratory beings. If you recite the heart mantra, which is half the length of the root mantra, eighteen thousand times, and then build a stupa, all your wishes will be fulfilled. I thought to put this information in Mandala magazine, because stupas are now being built in many places. If the people building the stupa recite this mantra eighteen thousand times before they build the stupa, it is very powerful; all their wishes will be fulfilled. Buddha himself explained this in the Kangyur, the many hundreds of volumes of sutra teachings, although I don’t remember in which volume. There is a section that talks about the infinite benefits of making a stupa. Buddha also explains the benefits of all the mantras that I have just mentioned, as well as those of the other mantras that go into a stupa. Putting the mantras into a stupa makes the stupa unbelievably powerful in benefiting sentient beings. It is just amazing! It doesn’t apply just to big stupas; you can use them even in small ones.

If a group of people is building a stupa, everybody in the group should recite this mantra before they start building. This would be extremely powerful and so good. I started to recite them one day but my laziness didn’t allow me to do more than a few hundred.

Another of the mantras is the Wish-granting Wheel mantra. I have read of the unbelievable benefits of reciting the mantra, but I have yet to see a picture of this deity. The mantra is very short: OM PEMO USHNISHA VIMALE HUM PHET. If you recite this mantra seven times every day, you will be born in a pure land when you die. And if you recite it and bless incense, whether stick or powder, by blowing on it, people are healed by smelling the burning incense. Here the healing comes through purifying the other sentient beings’ negative karma, through purifying their mind, which is the most important healing. Purifying the mind then helps to heal any sickness. If you recite this mantra and then blow on your clothes, wearing the clothes brings healing; wearing the clothes brings purification. And if the cloth is made of silk, wool, or the skin of an animal, reciting this mantra also helps that animal, no matter where it has been reborn, by purifying that animal’s negative karma.

The other deity is Kunrig, which is white in color with three faces.

Kunrig is not a Highest Yoga Tantra deity; I think it belongs to either Yoga Tantra or Charya Tantra class. Kunrig is known as “the King of the Deities for purifying the lower realms.” Even if someone has already been born in the lower realms, if you do Kunrig practice or puja, they will be liberated from the lower realms. There is a story that when a deva died and was reborn in one of the hell realms, King Indra didn’t know what to do, so he asked Buddha for help. Buddha then manifested as this deity Kunrig and granted the practice of the Kunrig jang-wa. The deva was then liberated from the lower realms. The practice of jang-wa was originally done with Kunrig, then later the pandits, those great holy beings, used various deities to do jang-wa. Both Kunrig and Mitukpa are used in jang-wa practice.

I think I have now mentioned the five powerful deities, although the five might have become six!

On the van we have the mantra of Stainless Beam, but the mantra of Stainless Pinnacle might not be there. I’m not sure. There is also the Medicine Buddha mantra, which has incredible benefit, as well as OM MANI PADME HUM. There is also a very short mantra which when seen purifies 100,000 eons of negative karma.

A quotation from either a sutra or tantra—I’m not sure which—mentions that one of the benefits of the Wish-granting Wheel mantra is that by walking underneath it, you purify one thousand eons of negative karma. That’s why this mantra is normally put above doorways. Quite a number of years ago in Malaysia I wrote out this mantra and asked somebody to make many copies of it. Then later, in Taiwan, many, many small red cards were printed with a copy of the Wish-granting Wheel mantra and a picture of Lama Atisha’s stupa. Many were given out to people so that they could put one above the doorway to each room. In this way anybody who passed through the doorway would be purified. It is said that Lama Atisha’s stupa protects from pollution—not so much external pollution as mental pollution. It stops pollution from negative karma and degenerated samaya vows from affecting the minds of those living in the house.

Anyway, my idea in putting all those mantras on the van is to purify all the insects that come on the van. Also, any water or dust that comes off the van will have touched the mantras and will then go down on the ground to touch insects and worms, which will be purified and liberated.

After touching the mantras, it becomes holy water or holy dust. Even human beings who see the mantras get purified. The point of the mantras is to benefit other sentient beings as much as possible.

Blessing the feet

Anyway, I thought to take this opportunity to mention the blessing of the feet. I think that the Nalanda prayer book contains the various mantras for blessing the speech, blessing the mala and blessing the feet, blessing the toes. I think that some people do this practice every day. It is very good to bless your feet, especially if you are walking in the bush or trekking or doing work that requires you to walk over the ground. Recite the mantra OM TRE TSARA GHANA HUNG HRIH SOHA seven times, then blow or spit on the soles of your shoes. It says to blow on your feet, but I would say that it is better to blow on the soles of your shoes because it is your shoes that directly touch the insects. It might help to blow on your feet, but I think it is better to blow on the soles of your shoes. It is especially good to do this if you have to walk through fields of grass, where there are so many insects. It is unbearable to walk through grass fields because you step on so many insects; as you walk you can see so many insects jumping around to try to escape. This is why it is very good to recite this mantra. When I remember, I do this practice when from time to time I have to walk across fields with many insects. It might look a little funny to other people, but we should try to take the opportunity to recite the mantra and then spit on the soles of our shoes. Cover the whole sole with spit. This is in case you step on any insects, because it means that you can benefit them by causing them to be born in the higher realms.

I think this practice comes from the tantric root text Jam-pal tsa-gyü, but I’m not absolutely sure.

You can do the same practice with the tires of your car. Recite the mantra then spit on the tire surface that will touch the ground. You can spit all the way around on the surface that will touch any insects and worms. By doing this, even if you unknowingly kill insects, you will still benefit them by purifying them and helping them to have a good rebirth. Such mantras have infinite benefits. Perhaps the benefits can be explained or translated at some later date.

I haven’t really checked the benefits of the mantras for blessing the speech in the source texts. Understanding the benefits would give more faith in the practice and inspire us to use the mantras. Knowing which sutra or tantra text is the source of the practice would also give us more faith. The sources are mentioned in the Tibetan prayer, and it would be good if that information was added to the translation.

Sufferings of the Pretas

Before talking about the water practice in relation to pretas and to Dzambhala, before you learn how to become a billionaire, I thought to mention a little about the sufferings of the pretas. Before learning how to become a billionaire, you first have to have the suffering of the pretas!

I will read what Pabongka Rinpoche has explained in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand [p. 380], where he gives some details about the great suffering of the pretas.

The general sufferings of preta beings are listed as six: extreme heat, extreme cold, hunger and thirst (their heaviest sufferings), exhaustion and fear (which is fear of being stopped from getting food and water by karmic guardians).

Also, even if a preta sees some food, it is difficult for them to get it because they have to compete for it with many hundreds or thousands of other pretas. When, after many hundreds or thousands of years, a preta finally sees a tiny bit of food or a drop of water, they have to fight a crowd of hundreds or thousands of other pretas for it. You will have an idea of what it is like if you have ever given food or money to the beggars in Bodhgaya in India. Like the beggars in Bodhgaya, thousands of pretas crowd around so that any food is difficult to get. This also causes fear.

The place where the pretas, the hungry ghosts, live is simply unimaginable.

There are no grass, trees or water—nothing! There are absolutely none of these things. It is said in the lamrim that the whole ground is like a red-hot copper pot, because it has been burnt by the sun. It is extremely hot. Without considering any of the other sufferings, just think of this one suffering. The ground in the preta realm is nothing like that around here, where we live, where everything is green and there are grass and many trees. The ground there is scorched by the sun and extremely hot to the touch, and the pretas have to live their whole life in such a place. The thought of even this one suffering is unbearable. When we feel hot we can use fans or air conditioners or drink iced water. We can always have ice in everything: ice in our tea, ice in our coffee, ice-cream.

We can have ice in every drink. To think of living in the place where the pretas live is unimaginable. Just thinking of it is so terrifying that you have to purify the negative karma to be born in the preta realm that you have created during beginningless past lives. It is so terrifying to have any karma to be born in the preta realm that you have to purify it immediately.

The bodies of pretas are unbalanced, because their limbs are not of the same size. Their heads are big, with hair that sticks out in all directions, like tufts of grass. Their faces are covered with wrinkles. Just thinking of their wrinkles should make us feel the need to purify. Since we don’t want to have a single wrinkle on our face, we need to purify any karma we have to be born as a preta. Because we don’t want even a tiny wrinkle on our face, especially on our nose, we need to purify immediately all such karma we have created not only since our birth in this life but during beginningless rebirths.

Pretas also have very tiny necks. I think it is explained in Lamrim chen-mo that a preta’s neck is as thin as a hair from a horse’s tail. Anyway, it is extremely thin and cannot support the large head. The stomach is as huge as a mountain and the limbs are like bamboo stalks. The Tibetan term jang-ma refers to the fine slivers of bamboo that are bound together to make brooms. The limbs are so thin that they can barely support the body. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says that pretas have a hundred times more difficulty standing up and walking than very old people in the human world. Pretas also have an uneven number of limbs.

Because pretas are unable to find a drink for many years, their bodies have no moisture, not even any blood or lymph. They are like a dry log wrapped tightly with very dry red leather. Their muscles and veins are all dry, so they’re wrapped in very dry skin. When they move about and their limbs touch each other, there is a sound like two dry sticks or two rocks hitting each other. Sparks also fly out.

Pretas receive no food or drink for hundreds or thousands of years, therefore, they suffer extreme hunger and thirst. Because they still live in the hope of finding food and drink, they have no choice but to go to look for it. But their bodies are so weak and pitiful that when they do go to look for food, they are easily exhausted.

While looking for food, whenever they see the yamas they get so frightened that they feel as if their whole body will disintegrate. They feel incredible fear. In the heat of summer, even the moon feels hot to the pretas; due to their karma even moonlight burns them. And in the cold of winter even sunlight makes the pretas feel cold. Usually the sun warms and the moon cools, but for pretas, due to their karma, it is the opposite.

In this way, they suffer incredibly from heat and cold.

These are the six general sufferings of pretas. We will now consider the particular sufferings of individual types of preta beings.

Pretas with outer obscurations

Pretas with external obscurations see water, trees laden with fruit and so forth in the distance, but when, after battling exhaustion and other great hardships, they finally reach that place, the water or food has disappeared.

There is nothing there. After overcoming all their exhaustion, their fear of meeting yamas on the way and other incredible hardships, they reach their destination only to find that the food they saw has become non-existent.

Pabongka Rinpoche also says that when some pretas reach the food, they find armed guards protecting it, not allowing them to get any. I guess the guards are like those police who carry all kinds of weapons when controlling crowds. On top of all their already unbelievable suffering of hunger and thirst, at that time the pretas experience inconceivable suffering from despair and physical exhaustion.

Pretas with inner obscurations

Pretas with inner obscurations are sometimes able to find food, but even when, after undergoing many hardships, they do find some, they cannot eat it because their mouths are as tiny as the eye of a needle. Even if a little food does go into their mouths, they cannot swallow it because they have knots in their necks. It is extremely difficult for any food to reach the stomach. Some pretas have a goiter in their necks and have to drink the pus that oozes from it.

Pretas with food and drink obscurations

When some pretas with food obscurations eat food, it transforms into a flaming iron ball that is one with fire. For some, the food transforms into the husks of grain, pus or their own flesh. Even when they manage to find some food, when they actually start to eat it, the food turns into these things. I guess the karma suddenly changes.

Many years ago, I visited a home in Spain for the severely disabled. I was with Piero, an old student from Italy, who was a monk at that time and traveling with me as my secretary, and Merry Colony, who was a nun. I think I probably said that I wanted to see the home. In the past, I sometimes used to go to see old people’s homes or homes for the disabled. It is very helpful for the mind. It inspires you to practice Dharma—for a short time, anyway! Seeing how some human beings suffer, how they don’t have even a human body with complete senses and organs let alone a perfect human body with which to practice Dharma (let alone mentioning Mahayana tantra), can inspire you to practice Dharma.

I think the home was in Barcelona, and was run by Catholic nuns. At that time, Carmen and her husband Alberto were the directors of Nagarjuna Center in Barcelona, and Carmen had previously worked as a nurse in that home. It is only through such a connection that you are allowed to visit the home. Carmen made the appointment for our visit.

In one room, there were teenage girls tied into frames with four wheels, because they couldn’t walk, and their arms were covered with leather so that they wouldn’t bite their own flesh. There were a few of them just moving back and forth on these wheels. I just remembered this when I mentioned the pretas that eat their own body. You might not believe such pretas exist, but since there are even human beings who do this, why should there be any doubt about pretas?

Anyway, since I brought up this story, I’ll mention a little more.

Right at the beginning, before we visited the children, the head nun warned me that some of the children might try to scratch my skin because it is not white. Since the children have no idea about people who are not white, they might scratch black skin to see if the black color comes off. In one section of that home, one child actually did that to me.

The whole place is really amazing because most of the adults and children there have no hope of getting better. They will simply spend their whole life living in that home with other people taking care of them. I think they might have cleaned the home before we arrived; it was very clean. We saw one little girl who was horribly disfigured. I don’t remember the details clearly, but I think that her eyes were tiny and it seemed as if her nose and mouth were missing. One of the nurses lifted her up and kissed her and generally showed her affection. I mean, this little girl was the opposite of beautiful. I think the staff try to show the children that they are not frightened of their disfigurements, that they don’t regard them as ugly or dirty or bad. This little girl said goodbye to us. Piero was totally freaked out when he saw this little girl’s face.

When we came down to see the head nun after our visit, she told us that they never ask anybody for help; they ask only God. She said that God gave them all the help they needed. She said that even when people come with money they don’t accept it. This is what she said, but I am not sure about that. I told her, “What you are doing and what Buddha says we should do, to cherish and to serve others, are the same. Here you are putting it into practice.” I then gave a donation of ten dollars or a hundred dollars. It might have been ten dollars, I think, as it couldn’t have been a hundred dollars. I made a prayer, and I told her that the money was to help the home to benefit the children. Anyway, that piece of news is now finished.

It is really great that the nuns are able to take care of those children for whom there is no hope at all. No matter how many years they live, the nuns just take care of them every day.

When some pretas eat and drink, even if the food somehow passes through their neck, when it reaches their stomach it turns into molten iron. The Tibetan term tog refers to a type of hard metal, but I don’t know the exact translation. I think the huge cauldrons in which soup was cooked for thousands of monks in Tibet were made out of tog.

When many thousands of monks from Sera, Ganden, Drepung and other monasteries would gather for Mön-lam, huge containers made of tog, perhaps a kind of iron, would be used for the soup. Instead of quenching the preta’s thirst and stopping their hunger, anything eaten turns into hot liquid iron when it reaches their stomach. Instead of benefiting them, the food gives them immense additional suffering. And even if the food reaches the stomach and doesn’t turn into molten iron, it can never satisfy the preta because their stomach is so big; the food can never fill their stomach.

Another type of preta has flames of hunger coming from its mouth.

The Tibetan term for this preta is de-me. De is hungry ghost and me is fire, so it could be translated as “flame ghost”. In Buxa and certain other parts of India, you often see these pretas at nighttime in the forest. We saw many flames in the forest from the place where we used to debate. I think these pretas might also be in remote deserts, where it is very hot, the ground is copper-colored and nothing grows. This is my guess, anyway.

The preta with the worst suffering of all is the drul-geg. Pabongka Rinpoche tells the story of Ananda, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s attendant, seeing such a preta when he was outside engaged in his daily activities.

He met a female preta with three knots in her neck, and she had five terrifying sounds coming from her mouth. It says here that the three knots cause these pretas unbelievable suffering, that there is no limit to their suffering.

Next comes a quotation about the sufferings of preta beings from Nagarjuna’s Letter, followed by one from Chandragomin’s Letter to a Disciple and another from the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso.

Pabongka then says that we can’t be sure that by this time next year we won’t be born as one of those preta beings. The causes for rebirth as a preta are miserliness with your possessions, great covetousness and having such strong attachment to your own possessions that you have to keep checking them again and again. I can see that I myself have created some causes to be born as a preta through being heavily attached to things and looking at them again and again.

Another cause of rebirth as a hungry ghost is interfering in other people’s attempts to make charity. Perhaps someone is practicing generosity and you interfere, saying such things as, “Oh! You are giving too much” or “They don’t need it.” Other causes are stealing others’ wealth and taking away things that belong to the sangha. Pabongka gives an example of this second one at the beginning of his explanation of refuge. If someone wants to offer even a slice of butter to the sangha—butter is a common offering because it is used to make Tibetan tea—and has already dedicated it to the sangha and you say, “Oh, that is too much. The sangha don’t need it,” you are taking away things that belong to the sangha, because the person has already dedicated it. Also, when money offerings are given to the sangha by a benefactor, if you take extra for yourself, you are taking what has not been given.

You have to understand that the disciples to whom Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo gave the teachings contained in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand were mainly monks. Of course, there might also have been many lay people listening, but you have to understand that the presentation was given in terms of monks living in monasteries. Even though the examples often refer to sangha, you can still relate them to similar situations outside of a monastery. It can easily happen that when someone has already given something to someone else, you tell them that the other person doesn’t need it. Such instances don’t occur only in monasteries.

If Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo had been teaching in the West, his presentation would also have been related to Western people and the Western lifestyle. Since he taught mainly monks who lived in monasteries, his presentation was mainly related to their life. Once you understand that the basic points on karma are similar, you can also relate them to the lay life. There are many similar situations in lay life.

Another cause of rebirth as a preta is to call someone a preta. In the West you would not do this, but you might call them a ghost. In Tibetan, insulting someone by calling them a preta easily happens.

Insulting a member of the sangha by calling them a preta causes rebirth as a preta for five hundred lifetimes.

Pabongka Rinpoche then says that when pretas with three knots are able to receive a drop of water, it is because in the past those pretas were not miserly in giving water to other sentient beings. You dedicate the drop of water with the powerful mantra given by Buddha, OM JVALA MIDAM SARVA PRETA BHYAH SOHA. Because of the power of the mantra and because of their past karma of being generous with water, those pretas, who have the heaviest of preta sufferings, are able to receive one drop of water. They have the karma to get just one drop of water but are unable to enjoy more than this.

Next comes the story of Lobpön Sangye Yeshe, a yogi who used his psychic powers to go to the preta realm. There he met an extremely pitiful female preta with five hundred children. She gave Sangye Yeshe a message for her husband, who had gone looking for food in the human world. She said, “Twelve years have passed since my husband went to look for food, and during this time I have had five hundred children. I am experiencing incredible hardship and suffering, as I have not had even one drop of water during this whole time. O master, please tell my husband to return quickly with whatever food he has found in the human world.”

The yogi then said, “There are so many pretas there, so how will I know which one is your husband?” She replied, “Oh, he has particular characteristic. He is blind in one eye and has only one arm and one leg. And even the arm and leg he has are not healthy.”

When the yogi went to the human world to check among the pretas, he saw one that exactly fitted her description, so he passed her message to him. The husband said, “What she says is true.” In other words, he really wished that he could have returned as quickly as possible; he could not bear the fact that his search had taken so long. He continued, “I have looked for food for twelve years and I have found only this.” In his hand he was holding a very small piece of dried phlegm. “I haven’t found any other food other than this, so I regard this as extremely precious.”

The preta was able to find this small piece of phlegm because one bhikshu, one fully ordained monk, who was living in his vowed morality had spat the phlegm on the ground and recited a mantra to dedicate it to the pretas. A crowd of pretas then fought for the phlegm and the husband won. He told the yogi this story. The phlegm had dried out completely, and the preta kept it as his prized possession.

Pabongka says that if we are not careful with our lives, we cannot be sure that a time won’t come when we have to lunch on dried phlegm.

Another story concerns Uttara, a novice monk. Twenty-five years after his mother had died, Uttara met a terrifying preta. He was so frightened that he started to run away. The preta then said, “Don’t run away!”

Uttara asked, “Who are you?” The preta replied, “My only son, I am your loving mother. I have been born here among the pretas, who have no food or drink. Since my death twenty-five years ago, I have never seen any water. Forget about seeing food—I haven’t even seen a damp mark on the ground.”

When I read about the sufferings of the pretas, I feel happy that I have been trying to do a little water charity to the pretas. I can rejoice by thinking, “Oh, this little bit of water charity that I have been doing must be really good for the pretas since they are suffering unbelievably. It must be very beneficial for them because it is fulfilling their immediate needs.”

However, making water charity to the pretas and reciting these mantras are done not just to enable them to find water and to alleviate their hunger and thirst. The very important benefit that this water charity has is that not only does it stop their hunger and thirst, but it also liberates them from their all their preta suffering—some of the mantras and visualizations have the power to purify their negative karma and thus liberate them from the suffering of the preta realm and cause them to achieve a higher rebirth. That is the real benefit; that is what they really need.

Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says that in terms of merit gained, you collect greater merit from making charity to one preta than from making charity to three galaxies of sentient beings. (There are different ways of counting this, but I don’t remember at the moment. I have heard the explanation quite a few times, but I still don’t remember it!) And making charity to one preta with flames coming from the mouth collects far greater merit than making charity to all the other general pretas. This is because this particular type of preta has much more suffering than the general pretas. Then, giving just one drop of water to a preta with three knots collects far greater merit than making charity to the pretas with flames coming from the mouth. In terms of material charity to sentient beings, giving one drop of water to this type of preta collects unbelievable merit—the most merit of all.

Of course, the main point is not how much merit you collect. The main reason for doing this practice is because the pretas need it. Since numberless pretas are experiencing unbelievable suffering, they need this charity of food and drink.

Water charity to the Pretas

First I will explain how to make water charity to the pretas, which is part of the practice of the one hundred torma offerings. After that, I will talk about offering water to Dzambhala [see Appendix 4].

First, of course, you have to generate a motivation of bodhicitta.

Think, “Every single hell being is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment. Every single preta being is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment. Every single animal is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment. Every single human being is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment. And it is the same with every single asura, sura and intermediate state being. Every single one of them is the source of all my past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment.”

Bring every single one of them into your heart by thinking of their kindness and of how precious they are.

After that, think, “I must take the total responsibility for all of them upon myself. I must free all the hell beings from the three types of suffering;

I must free all the hungry ghosts from the three types of suffering. I must free all the animals from the three types of suffering. I must also free all the human beings, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings from the three types of suffering. I must free all sentient beings from the three types of suffering of samsara, as well as their causes, and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, I myself must achieve enlightenment. For this reason, I am going to make water charity to the pretas.” (Or if you are doing Dzambhala practice, say, “For this reason, I am going to do the water offering to Dzambhala.”) It isn’t that you have to make the offering to Dzambhala before you can make water charity to the pretas, but the water carries more blessings if you first offer it to Dzambhala and then give that same water to the pretas. The practice then becomes more powerful and effective for the pretas. This is what Ribur Rinpoche said. Previously I didn’t do Dzambhala practice; I just made water charity to the pretas. Somehow I happened to talk with Ribur Rinpoche about the water charity to the pretas, and Rinpoche then advised me that it would be better to do the Dzambhala practice first. That is how I started the Dzambhala practice.

Before that I didn’t do the Dzambhala practice. I did the water charity to the pretas because I read about some of its unbelievable benefits and because they really need it. The practice is not just about our collecting merit; the pretas actually need our help. I mean, when you think of their suffering, there is no choice; you have to do the practice.

If you wish, you can generate the motivation, do the Dzambhala practice first, and then make charity to the pretas with that water.

Actually, all these practices have already been translated into Chinese by the Chinese translator from Shanghai, who is translating Geshe Sopa’s lamrim commentary into Chinese. It will also be published in English, and will be the largest lamrim commentary in English in the world. The root text, Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim chen-mo is also being translated into Chinese in a style that will be easy for the general public to understand.

There is an existing translation, but it is written in classical Chinese, which is very difficult for ordinary people to understand. We are sponsoring this project. Geshe Sopa’s commentary represents more than twenty years of teaching. I think that Geshe-la started this commentary the very first time that we visited the United States, in the mid- 1970s. I think it was around that time that Geshe-la founded Deer Park Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Before that, he was just teaching at the university. There was no actual center and very few disciples. People would be introduced to Buddhism at Kopan then go to America to learn from Geshe Sopa, so the center was formed.

You already have an English translation of the Dzambhala practice [see Appendix 4], so I will read the oral transmission of it in Tibetan. I received the oral transmission of the Dzambhala practice and of the practice of making water charity to the pretas, which is just a small part of the practice of the one hundred torma offerings, from His Holiness Ling Rinpoche. There is a complete text of this in Dharamsala. I will give the oral transmission of this practice, along with the Dzambhala.

So think, “No matter what, I must achieve enlightenment in order to enlighten all sentient beings. Therefore, I am going to take the oral transmissions of the Dzambhala practice and the practice of making water charity to the pretas.” [Rinpoche gives the oral transmissions in Tibetan.]

It would take a lot of time to translate all the prayers, and in any case they have already been translated, so I’m not going to do it again. I will just explain the meditations.

When I do the practice, I usually visualize myself as the Thousand-arm Buddha of Compassion with nectar flowing from the hand. But I guess that you can also think that you are the Buddha of Compassion with one face and two arms and seated in the vajra posture as visualized in the very beginning of the nyung nä practice, when you have to generate yourself as the Buddha of Compassion before you bless the action vase and the offerings. This aspect of the Buddha of Compassion is similar to that of White Tara; the only difference is that there are no eyes in the hands or the feet. Otherwise, I think the position is the same.

Alternatively, you can visualize the Buddha of Compassion in the resting posture, the posture of royal ease. This aspect also has one face and two arms and is seated on a moon disc. The right hand rests on the right knee in the mudra of granting sublime realizations and the left is stretched out behind on the moon disc. You can visualize whichever aspect you like.

You visualize that nectar comes from the palm of the hand, but physically, you pour water from a jug, kettle or watering can. A watering can with a long spout is very good for Dzambhala practice and for making water charity to the pretas since it allows you to pour the water in a very fine stream, which is the preferred way of offering it. If you don’t have time, you can offer the water more quickly in a thicker stream.

For the water charity to the pretas, the container from which you pour should have a lid. You cannot use just any container that is around.

It should be covered because pretas get very anxious when they see an empty container or a container that is only partly filled. Therefore, any container you use should be covered unless it is full and there should not be empty containers around when you do the practice. It is also good to do the practice in a clean place. This is advised for the one hundred torma offerings. Some pretas cannot come to dirty places. Also, there shouldn’t be any sparkling lights where you are doing the practice as these lights will make the pretas run away.

The torma charity or the water charity can generally be done at any time of the day, though some specify that it should be done in the morning when the sun rises and others that it should be done at night.

Different lamas give different advice. According to Lama Atisha, since pretas always need food and drink, the practice can be done at any time.

However, the torma charity to the pretas should be done before eating a meal, and this advice might also apply to the water charity. After you have eaten a meal, the pretas become scared because your body then becomes powerful and radiant. Another thing is that you should not smell of onion, garlic or other black foods. If the pretas smell these foods on your breath, hands or body, some of them will run away and won’t get the torma or water that you are trying to give them. Therefore, it is good to do the practice in the morning before having a meal. If you have eaten, wash your hands before doing the practice.

Pretas are also so pitiful that they become frightened if they see the eyes of humans. For them, a human faces is like the face of a lion, something very haughty and intimidating. When my alphabet teachers did this practice every morning, they would wear a piece of animal skin with a fringe that covered their eyes. Ribur Rinpoche explained that when Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo did this practice he would wear very long black threads that completely covered his face. You can make something with black threads that at least cover your eyes.

When I stopped at Bangkok Airport on one of my recent trips from India or Nepal, I found some yellow hats and bought a small one for Brian and one big one. I wrote various mantras on the hat, including OM MANI PADME HUM, the Wish-granting Wheel mantra, which purifies one thousand eons of negative karma each time you go underneath it, and another mantra which when seen purifies 100,000 eons of negative karma. The hat was covered with mantras. I then had somebody sew black thread around the brim of the hat. The last time that I went to see Ribur Rinpoche in Washington, I thought I left the hat there. I didn’t have one to use so I started to use the small one that I gave Brian, which also has mantras all over it. At that time the hat that I bought for Brian became useful. The big hat was later found in one of the suitcases.

When you pour the water, hold your left hand against your breast in the mudra of granting refuge and snap your fingers as you recite OM AH HRIH HUM, the mantra for the general pretas, over and over again. Think that you are the Buddha of Compassion and that your body is the size of a mountain. Pour the water from the container into the receptacle from the Dzambhala practice. Think that nectar flows from your hand and relieves the suffering of the numberless pretas. The nectar instantly cools their suffering of heat and they feel incredible peace and pleasure. Not only that, but it also goes into their mouth, purifies their negative karma and defilements, and brings them satisfaction. The nectar not quenches their thirst but also purifies their minds.

Then recite OM MANI PADME HUM as you make charity to the pretas with flames coming from the mouth. Again, do three things simultaneously: recite the mantra, snap your fingers and allow the water to drip from the container into the receptacle.

To make charity to the pretas with three knots, recite OM JVALA MIDAM SARVA PRETA BHYAH SOHA. Jvala actually means flame, but in the text it says that this mantra is for the pretas with three knots. As you recite the mantra, snap your fingers and at the same time give one drop of water—do these three things together. In the previous two offerings [to the pretas in general and to those with flames coming from the mouth] you poured the water into the receptacle from the Dzambhala practice; here you allow the water to drip outside the receptacle into the body of water or onto plants or the ground. Recite the mantra, snap your fingers and drip the water many times to make water charity to the pretas with three knots.

Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says here that if you recite this very blessed mantra OM JVALA MIDAM SARVA PRETA BHYAH SOHA, snap your fingers and offer one drop of water outside of the receptacle, the knots in the preta’s throat are instantly released and the drop of water goes into their stomach giving them great pleasure and satisfaction. It has this great benefit.

As I have already said, I am not going to translate the prayers because I have already translated them.

Water charity to the intermediate state beings

The next practice is called Yeshe Karda. Yeshe means transcendental wisdom; kar means star and da can mean either shooting or arrow. You visualize yourself as Chenrezig and visualize the deity Yeshe Karda on your right hand. Yeshe Karda has a green-blue holy body; her right hand is in the mudra of granting sublime realizations and her left is in the mudra of concentration.

Nectar flows down from the palm of Yeshe Karda’s hand as well as from the rest of her body. The nectar flows over all the sentient beings, but in particular over the pitiful intermediate state beings; they are all fully satisfied by the nectar. Hold the water in a container in your right hand and, snapping the fingers of your left hand, recite the mantra OM JNANA AVALOKITE SAMANTA PARANARAMI BAWA SAMAYAMAHA MANIDURU DURU HRIH DAYA JALANI SOHA seven times and pour the water. Then recite the dedication, “By making this water charity to all the samsaric intermediate state transmigratory beings, may they be liberated from all fear and suffering and go to a pure land.”

It is extremely good to do this practice when you are at the beach or near a river, lake or even a swimming pool.

The other mantras I recite are not mentioned in the practice; I have added them to make the practice more powerful. The first time, along with the OM JNANA AVALOKITE... mantra, you can recite OM MANI PADME HUM as many times as possible times, blow on the water, then pour it back into the ocean, river or other body of water. The text doesn’t say to blow on the water, but I think it would be better if you did. Meditate that all the water appears as uncontaminated nectar to all the pretas that are seen by buddha’s omniscient mind. Think that all the pretas drink the nectar and are fully satisfied by it. Also, they are completely liberated from all their suffering, negative karma and defilements and all become enlightened in the aspect of the Buddha of Compassion. Visualize all of them as the Thousand-arm Buddha of Compassion.

Reciting this mantra (OM JNANA AVALOKITE...) and pouring the blessed water back into the ocean has the power to enable all the pretas to actually see the water and drink it. The special benefit here is that not only are they relieved of all their preta sufferings, but also that their mind is purified and they achieve a higher rebirth. This is a very important benefit that the pretas receive when this practice is done. This is a practice for all pretas. When you go to the beach, you must take the opportunity of doing this practice, because the ocean is the largest body of water.

Due to the power of the mantra given by Buddha, the preta beings are able to see the whole ocean as nectar and to drink it; they are then able to be liberated.

Then take another container of water and again recite the mantra OM JNANA AVALOKITE... seven times. You can support the container with your left hand and hold the handle with your right. Then recite the Medicine Buddha mantra a few times and blow on the water. Do the same meditation and pour the water back.

Take another container of water, recite the mantra OM JNANA AVALOKITE...seven times, then recite the Namgyalma mantra a few times, blow on the water, then pour the water back.

For the fourth round, repeat the same process but recite the Mitukpa mantra. For the fifth round, recite the Kunrig mantra—Kunrig is the king of the deities for purifying the lower realms. For the sixth round, recite the Wish-granting Wheel mantra, OM PEMO USHNISHA VIMALE HUM PHAT. For the seventh, recite the Stainless Pinnacle mantra. You can also recite the Stainless Beam mantra.

Each time you take some water, recite the mantra OM JNANA AVALOKITE... seven times, recite in turn a few of each of the other seven or eight extra mantras, blow on the water to bless it, pour the water back and meditate that the whole ocean appears as nectar to all the pretas.

I have added these extra mantras because if you bless the water with these powerful mantras and pour it back into the ocean, the whole ocean is then blessed and all the billions and billions of sentient beings that live in the ocean are purified. The water purifies all their negative karma, and even that of the people who play in the water. If we recite these mantras and throw the water back into the ocean, the negative karma of any sentient being touched by that water will be purified. Reciting those extra mantras has this unbelievable benefit; it has the power to bless the water and to purify all those sentient beings. And incidentally, you purify your own negative karma. If you see some water when you are traveling, if you have time to stop and do this practice, it is extremely good. And if you have a swimming pool, you can do this practice in your pool.

Water charity to the Nagas

After the Yeshe Karda practice, the text next mentions visualizing Mitukpa to purify the nagas. Visualize that nectar flows down from Mitukpa’s right hand to all the sentient beings of the six realms, especially the nagas. Again, while reciting the Mitukpa mantra seven times, pour the water and snap your fingers. All the sentient beings of the six realms, including yourself—and especially the nagas, who are suffering so much—are purified. As I mentioned before, the main cause of rebirth in the animal realm as a naga is taking vows and then degenerating them.

The particular function of Mitukpa is to purify the negative karma of broken vows—pratimoksha as well as all others. Mitukpa practice is very powerful for that. Therefore, because rebirth as a naga is the result of having broken vows, Mitukpa practice is especially beneficial for nagas.

Finally, dedicate the merit as already translated there in the practice.

When you finish the water offering to the pretas, think that all the pretas have been totally purified of all their defilements and become the Buddha of Compassion. Here, you can think that all the nagas and the rest of the sentient beings of the six realms are purified of all their defilements and become Mitukpa. My feeling is that reciting the Mitukpa mantra at the beach has particularly great benefit because of all the nagas there.

Making water charity to the pretas is actually a cause of wealth. As mentioned in the Madhyamika, “From morality one receives a good rebirth and from charity one receives wealth.” Making charity to other sentient beings is a cause of wealth. Because of the nature of the karma, making charity becomes the cause of your success in this life and in all the coming future lives. You are able to fulfill your wishes and receive whatever you need for both your Dharma practice and to benefit others.

Water offering to Dzambhala

Did I mention before how Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, came to manifest as Dzambhala? No? What happened was that one day, when Lama Atisha was traveling in India—I’m not sure where, perhaps where Buddha cut his hair or around Bodhgaya; anyway, some place associated with Guru Shakyamuni Buddha—he saw a man dying of starvation on a sandy river bed. Lama Atisha felt such unbearable compassion for the man that he wanted to cut some flesh from his own body to help the man to survive. The man, refusing his offer, said, “I don’t want to eat the flesh of a monk.” Lama Atisha replied, “I understand. In particular, you should not eat the flesh of an arya being.” Lama Atisha was an arya being, one who has realization of true path, of the path of seeing and the path of meditation.

Lama Atisha was disappointed that the man wouldn’t accept his offer.

He lay down on the sand and suddenly a very bright light appeared.

When Lama Atisha looked up, he saw the Thousand-arm Buddha of Compassion, who said, “Don’t worry. I have a method to relieve the poverty of sentient beings.” The Buddha of Compassion then manifested as Dzambhala and taught various practice for alleviating the poverty of sentient beings.

Thus, Dzambhala is the Buddha of Compassion, not some ordinary, worldly, wealth-granting god. The Buddha of Compassion manifested as Dzambhala to grant wealth, to relieve the poverty of sentient beings. The practices of the Dzambhala wealth vase, torma offering to Dzambhala, water offering to Dzambhala and recitation of the Dzambhala mantra came from Chenrezig as methods to relieve poverty.

There is a white Dzambhala, a yellow Dzambhala, a black Dzambhala and a red Dzambhala. Also an Australian Dzambhala, an American Dzambhala, an LMB Dzambhala, a Californian Dzambhala!

White Dzambhala rides a dragon and has four dakinis around him.

Recite the prayer, then pour water on the head of Dzambhala while snapping your fingers and reciting the mantra OM PADMA KRODHA ARYA DZAMBHALA HRIH DAYA HUM PHAT. Ribur Rinpoche explained the reason for pouring the water on Dzambhala’s head—there might be more details in the text, but all I remember is that at the time Devadatta threw rocks at the Buddha, the Buddha was surrounded by Dzambhalas. The rocks hit the white and yellow Dzambhalas on the head and the black Dzambhala on the stomach, wounding them there. Therefore, we offer water on Dzambhala’s head, and in return, Dzambhala gives prosperity, wealth. In the text, the poetic term nyäl-dro’i gyun-po is used for “water.”

However, Dzambhala is the Buddha of Compassion and this is the story. I think that Buddha probably manifested in this way to help sentient beings by giving them this method to practice water offering to Dzambhala. It is not possible for the Buddha of Compassion, an enlightened being, to experience suffering. Anyway, this is why you offer the water on Dzambhala’s head or stomach.

As in the general practice of offering, if you visualize Dzambhala as inseparable from the guru, you accumulate more merit when making the offering. You can also think that your offering fills Dzambhala’s holy mind with bliss as extensive as the sky and inspires him to immediately help to fulfill all your needs.

Ribur Rinpoche gave me one very nice small statue of Black Dzambhala, which came from Tibet. When Rinpoche gave it to me, he said to the statue, “Now you go to him, now you go to him....” I also have one small Yellow Dzambhala statue that was maybe bought in Dharamsala. It was given to some Tibetans in Dharamsala to be painted gold, but now even the eyes are covered with gold. You can’t see the eyes clearly because of the gold. Just recently, a White Dzambhala on a dragon came from Nepal. I ordered it from Rajesh, who is the best painter of gold and who has now started to make statues. He made the statue very nicely, except that he made Dzambhala’s face wrathful, like Palden Lhamo’s or Mahakala’s. Dzambhala’s face should be fat with round eyes like Namtöse [Vaishravana], the protector of morality.

Think that Dzambhala is totally inspired to bring immediate success to whatever projects you have, as well as to relieve all other sentient beings from poverty immediately by giving them everything they need.

I usually try to think that Dzambhala is totally inspired to immediately bring about the success of the Maitreya Project, the building of the 500-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha, by giving everything that is needed to actualize the statue. I also think that Dzambhala is inspired to immediately give everything that is needed to bring extensive benefit to the teachings and to sentient beings. However, you can think like this in relation to whatever projects you have in mind. First think of your main project, then after that think that Dzambhala is inspired to immediately bring extensive benefit to the teachings of the Buddha and to sentient beings, which covers everything, through giving everything that is needed.

I have been telling people that these two small statues of Dzambhala have the responsibility of building the 500-foot Maitreya Buddha statue.

They are very small but their job is huge.

Next comes water offering to Yellow Dzambhala. There is a prayer to recite that requests the granting of realizations; this has already been translated, so you can read it in the text. You then recite the mantra, OM DZAMBHALA JALANDRAYE SOHA.

At the end you recite a verse of prostration and request. It says, “Sentient beings are tormented by the fire of the actions of miserliness, so together with all other sentient beings, I go for refuge to you from life to life. With the flowing nectar rain of jewel treasure, please pacify the suffering of poverty of sentient beings.”

After you have finished the practice, you sprinkle the water in each of the four directions and in the center [Rinpoche uses ring finger as in sprinkling the inner offering]. Think that the poverty in the minds of all sentient beings has been pacified. Then take a little bit of water at the end as a blessing. Then say, DZAMBHALA SIDDHI PALA HO.

Make charity to the pretas with the rest of the water. Ribur Rinpoche said that to do this is very powerful and has more blessings.


At the end, dedicate first of all for bodhicitta, as usual. Then dedicate specifically for the long lives of the virtuous friends and for the immediate accomplishment of all their holy wishes. “Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may I be able to obtain immediately everything needed to fulfill the holy wishes of all my virtuous friends.

“Due to this merit, may I be able to actualize immediately everything that is needed by the sangha to complete their Dharma practice, both realizations and scriptural understanding, and to preserve and spread the Dharma.

“May I also be able to actualize immediately everything that is needed by those sentient beings who are experiencing material poverty, as well as everything that is needed by those who are experiencing poverty of Dharma.” (You should do this specific dedication, because your purpose in doing the Dzambhala practice is to help others and to serve the teachings of Buddha.) After that, do any of the dedications in A Daily Meditation Practice, but the main ones I would choose are: “Due to all the merits of the three times, may anyone who sees me, touches me, remembers me...” and “From now on, may whatever kind of life I experience, even rebirth in the lower realms, be most beneficial for all sentient beings, causing them all to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.” You don’t have to do all the dedications in the booklet; choose any one of them you like.

Or you can do the dedication that I often use, in which you request for this and that to happen just through your being in this universe, world, country, area or place. Dedicate for everyone to have perfect happiness; to find solutions to all their problems, including the various sicknesses; to never ever be reborn in the lower realms; and to achieve all the realizations of the path, especially bodhicitta.

Another very important dedication is, “Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, from now on in all my future lifetimes, may I be able to offer benefit as extensive as the sky to all sentient beings as the Buddha of Compassion does by having the same qualities within me as the Buddha of Compassion has.”

After that, recite ge-wa di...and seal the dedication with emptiness.

At the very end, it is extremely important to dedicate for the flourishing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Always do this dedication at the end of every practice session. Dedicate to actualize the complete teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa, the unification of sutra and tantra, within your own mind in this very life; in the minds of all the students and benefactors of this organization, especially those who sacrifice their lives offering service to others and the teachings through this organization; and in the minds of all other sentient beings. You can do this dedication for the spreading and flourishing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings in the minds of all sentient beings elaborately or briefly. You should do this dedication for the flourishing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings at the end of any practice because if the teachings exist for a long time, sentient beings will have the opportunity of achieving happiness. Without the teachings of buddha, sentient beings have no chance of achieving happiness.

Ven. Chantal: Rinpoche, I have a question. Rinpoche said that Yeshe Karda is blue-green, but the translation says that Yeshe Karda is “extremely red in color,” so it is very confusing.

Rinpoche: Oh, I see. Yes, there is great confusion! Unbelievable confusion! The confusion is so big that it doesn’t fit in Paris—I’m joking.

Pabongka’s commentary says that Yeshe Karda is blue-green, but the prayer says that Yeshe Karda is extremely red. Maybe the deity has different colors. I think you can visualize whichever color you like, whichever color suits you more.

The water charity to the pretas and the Dzambhala water offering are now finished. Tomorrow, if there is time, we might go through the nine attitudes from the guru devotion section of Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim chen-mo. The prayer that I translated is not from there, but from a text by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol, whose main guru was the abbot of Reting. I don’t remember this abbot’s name, but he composed many texts, including a commentary to Wheel of Sharp Weapons. However, the nine attitudes are also explained in Lama Tsongkhapa’s lamrim.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness; may the three lower realms be empty forever; may all the bodhisattvas’ prayers be accomplished immediately; and may I be able to cause all this by myself alone.

“Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas and all other sentient beings, which are totally empty from their own side, may the I, who is also totally empty from its own side, achieve Vajrasattva’s enlightenment, which is also totally empty from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are also totally empty from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is also totally empty from its own side, by myself alone, who is also totally empty from its own side.”

[Multiplying mantras etc.]

Then dedicate for the flourishing of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings.

Good night.