Burning Offering to Dorje Khadro

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Dharamsala, India 1986 (Archive #638)

This commentary on the Dorje Khadro Burning Offering practice was first given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Tushita Retreat Centre, Dharamsala, India, in July 1986. It is based on a commentary written by Pänchen Losang Chökyi Gyältsen and includes teachings on the preliminaries, the actual body and the completion. Transcribed and edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.

You can find links to the Burning Offering to Dorje Khadro sadhana and The Preliminary Practice of Dorje Khadro in the FPMT Catalogue. The sadhana was translated by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, Ven. Jampa Zangpo, and Ven. Thubten Donyo (Nick Ribush) in 1975 under the guidance of Lama Thubten Yeshe. The sadhana was first published by the International Mahayana Institute, Nepal, 1975.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche making offerings to Dorje Khadro, a deity associated with purification.
Commentary: Introduction

First we are going to take refuge to Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who is the embodiment of all the objects of refuge. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is the absolute guru, the embodiment of the absolute guru, which has a relation to the relative guru. Buddha is the object of refuge, the guru, the dharmakaya, the omniscient mind, to say it in a simple way. Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is the embodiment of all Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha. You can also think that the guru's holy body is Sangha; his holy speech, Dharma; and his holy mind, Buddha.

Your own future result-time Buddha or dharmakaya, is the continuation of this present mental continuum. The aggregates on which we label I, on which the self exists, are divided into mind and body. Mind is a formless phenomena, the nature of which is clarity, and which has the ability to perceive objects. Just speaking very roughly, dharmakaya is the continuation of this present mental continuum, this present consciousness.

To achieve that dharmakaya as quickly as possible, we need to purify. Dharmakaya is the state of having finished all obscurations and being separated from all mistakes. It doesn't have the slightest hallucination and can see all the past, present and future reality, the two truths of everything.

Anything that exists is defined by the mind, dependent on the mind, the perceiver, the knower. An object exists when it's actualized by a valid true mind. The definition that an object exists is that it is discovered by a reliable mind. The topic of shunyata, the two truths, is explained in detail in Madhyamika.

To exist, things need to be qualified by three things. If they are not qualified by these three things, they don't exist.

1) The base on which you label should be a valid base. In order to exist, anything you think about or talk about, should have, first of all, a qualified, reliable, valid base.

2) It doesn't receive harm from other valid minds.

3) It doesn't receive harm from the wisdom realizing the absolute truth.

An object exists if qualified by these three things.

As an example (maybe not such an interesting one to hear, but it might be good for the memory): if you pick up piles of excrement and go to sell it in the market, saying: "This is gold", nobody will buy it. It cannot function as the valid base of gold. You can't get things for it, not even one biscuit. Excrement can't do the function of gold because it doesn't have the valid qualified base. Even though you label it, it's not sufficient.

Then, you see, other people's valid minds see that as not being gold; they see it as excrement. Gold doesn't exist on that base since it cannot do the function of gold. Because it receives all these harms, gold doesn't exist on that base.

So, since the base cannot do that function, there's no gold on that base. The base is not a valid base; it cannot function as gold and receives all these harms, therefore gold doesn't exist. Since gold doesn't exist on that, the wisdom of absolute truth cannot see the absolute nature of the gold. To see the absolute nature of the gold, gold should exist. The reality of the gold has to depend on the gold; the reality of the gold cannot exist separately from the gold. It's like a person's character: for the person to be outside the room and his personality or character to be inside would not be possible.

Even though people who sell brass calling it gold may be able to cheat other people in the darkness, or hallucinate them with magic, when the people find out they've been cheated, the brass-sellers get into trouble. Without having any wish or choice, they have to do a long retreat with police outside. If, simply by labelling, something can exist, all these problems wouldn't happen.

Your own future mental continuum, the dharmakaya, is all-understanding and has finished all the obscurations which interfere in fully and directly seeing all past, present and future existences. "All existences" means the two truths which are, in common terms, relative truth and absolute truth. Dharmakaya sees clearly every sentient being's characteristics: their minds, capabilities and karma. It sees every single different method that can fit to guide and lead each sentient being to temporal and ultimate happiness.

What I was trying to say before was this: "exist" means existing in the object of knowledge. So, you see, it's dependent on the mind. Without the perceiver, or the knower, the thing doesn't exist. If it exists, it should have a perceiver or knower. There should be a valid mind knowing that object. So "exist" means depending on the knowledge, and depending on causes and conditions. If it is something impermanent, it depends on causes and conditions; if it is something permanent,on parts. Depending on the mind is the basic thing. The perceiver, that which labels, and the base: these cover all existence.

When you hear the word "exist", it itself has a basic meaning: objects exist by depending on things. When we hear "exist", it means dependent. It gives the understanding in the mind of dependent arising. Dependent. Dependent on the mind because there is a knower saying it exists. Dependent on the base, on causes, conditions and parts. Anything that exists is dependent. By depending on, it exists. That's dependent arising: by depending on things, objects exist.

By depending on the base that can function of 100 rupees, the same paper with all the figures and whatever drawing there is, you can get things which cost 100 rupees by giving that money. On that particular paper which has got those figures, 100 rupees exists and is able to function. "Able to function" means you can use it; you can get things which cost that much. Even though 100 rupees is merely labelled by people's thoughts, they agreed to accept, to believe, that it is 100 rupees. First of all they got an idea, then actualized a base and labelled it "100 rupees".

This is very good to keep in mind if you want to realize shunyata, if you want to liberate yourself and others from suffering and the true cause of suffering. There's no way to liberate others from suffering without revealing the teachings of shunyata.

Even if there's the paper, the drawing, and all the numbers with however many zeros, if you show it to some primitive person who doesn't know that this is 100 rupees, who hasn't been introduced by anyone before that this is 100 rupees, he has the appearance of the paper with all those things but doesn't have the appearance of 100 rupees. This is because he hasn't labelled 100 rupees from his own side. Then as he believes what he's taught about what 100 rupees is, he labels: 100 rupees comes into existence for him and he has the appearance of 100 rupees.

That's why so many times there are these words: "things don't exist from their own side." The appearance of the 100 rupees comes from the mind of that person. Buddha's teaching of the two truths is talking about reality; it's very clear, scientific and logical, not made up from religious faith.

You can see how things come from mind. Before there was a base, but only after he labelled is there an appearance of 100 rupees. By the force or the control of mind, 100 rupees exists. It came from that person's mind. This example is very useful to control not only ignorance, but also attachment and anger. Of course, in general, anything which destroys the ignorance of true existence is the most powerful remedy, like an atom bomb, to destroy other wrong thoughts, but this method can also be used specifically against different delusions.

Apply this experience when the mind has become too dissatisfactory, too much troubled, which results in a lot of confusion to other sentient beings. It leads to disharmony, quarreling and even to killing each other, to wars. Due to one person not controlling his mind, war, the biggest danger to the world, results.

The beautiful object which appears to you is exactly the same as the previous example of the 100 rupees. Before you label: "That is beautiful", there's no appearance of beauty. First, the mind labels: "That is beautiful", and then there's an appearance of beauty that appears completely as if it's not labelled by thought. That's the reality, but it's not what appears. What appears is opposite: something which exists neither on that base nor anywhere. The beautiful person that is unlabeled and exists from its own side is completely empty,, a hallucination. The merely labelled appearance came from your own mind, and on top of this there is truly existent beauty, not merely labelled but existing from its own side. That is what you cannot find if you search from the top of the hair to the feet. You cannot find that truly existent beauty either inside or outside.

Why does the truly existent appearance happen, even though it doesn't exist at all? Even though it's completely empty? Why does it have to appear to us? Why can't we live our lives without hallucinated appearances like that? Put it this way: if you plant a seed in the ground, it grows. What you have recorded in the negative of a film, the machine projects. Putting the machines together gives the projection of whatever is on the film.

Why things appear in the wrong way, why they appear as something other than how they exist in reality; why, even though they're merely labelled, they appear as not merely labelled but as truly existent, is because of the mistake of not realizing shunyata in past lives. We didn't develop the wisdom to cut off the wrong conception, the ignorance grasping at things as truly existent. We didn't eliminate it by realizing shunyata.

We've planted seeds on the I - some schools say the consciousness, some say the I - and, like a film, there's a potential there so it can be projected. Because of that potential, it projects. There's the habit. Now you can see that this truly existent beauty is a projection of ignorance. Before, it was merely labelled and came from your mind, but now it's truly existent. That can't be found there. What you are clinging to is your own creation. You are not clinging to something which exists from its own side, even though it appears that way.

Think: "This object of my mind is my own mental creation. I'm attached to my dream." It's the same as a magician transforming people and things, and thinking they're real. It's the same with sense objects - they are your own mental projection. If you follow this way of thinking, the attachment disappears, like clouds in the sky or a rainbow. There's no difficulty in the mind any more. Your own mind, tied to the object and suffering so much, is released from that. Either there's the suffering of separating from and losing the object, or of not having it; even if the object is there, there's the suffering of tightness, of being mentally tied to the object. That mind obscures the open clear mind; it obscures seeing reality. It makes the mind unbelievably gross. It gives no space to experience reality, and to have realisations.

Even if you try to train your mind in the path, you're overwhelmed by the dissatisfactory, attached mind. It doesn't give you any opportunity to even remember the meditation subject. To defeat the dissatisfied mind, shunyata is very powerful; it gives you space in the mind. It's like when you meditate on compassion you feel space for other people.
For anger, also do this meditation on shunyata, on how things are dependent arisings. Meditate on the two truths. Think the same way as I just explained about objects of attachment. You are angry with this ugly person, with the way he looks at you, with the way he puts his words together. On that, you've labelled "bad". Even if you haven't labelled the word "bad", the person is appearing that way, as bad and ugly. It's so painful to the mind.

It's very clear that there is no way he's bad from his own side. It's very clear that the appearance comes from your own mind. If you think in this way, then as before, you don't find any reason to cling to your own wrong-conception projection. When you find yourself arising anger and thinking to harm others, you feel completely silly. You feel that it's nonsense. "I'm fighting with my own projection that I've created. I want to fight with and kill what I've created. I want to kill myself!" Then there's no choice - the anger disappears. You find it completely silly.

This is also a powerful way to cut off the jealous mind. Meditating on dependent arising and emptiness is like an atom bomb; it immediately brings mind peace. It stops these unbearable, painful minds and gives space so that there's mental relaxation, happiness and release from suffering.

The purpose of saying this is to actualize your future dharmakaya now. Not only because you are suffering, but especially because other sentient beings are suffering and need your help. And the other sentient beings who are suffering are numberless. Because of that, we need to actualize dharmakaya right now.

With this dharmakaya you can perfectly guide sentient beings with perfect methods all the time, without the slightest mistake. The quicker we achieve dharmakaya, the quicker we actualize it through the practice of Dharma, the quicker we can guide sentient beings, and the shorter they suffer. The longer it takes, the longer other sentient beings have to suffer. Even one sentient being suffering is too much. Shakyamuni Buddha, by achieving enlightenment uncountable ages ago, has already liberated uncountable numbers of sentient beings from samsara and led them to peerless happiness, to enlightenment.

If we had become enlightened by practicing Dharma as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did, by now we could have liberated countless sentient beings from the sufferings of samsara and led them to peerless happiness, to enlightenment. But because we didn't practise like that, because, in the past, we didn't change our minds from the selfish attitude to cherishing others, and are always living with self-cherishing thought and following it, so far the mind has been completely empty of realisations and qualities. Besides not having the qualities of Buddha, there's not even a quality of the bodhisattvas or arhats. There's not even the quality of shi-nä, calm or tranquil abiding.

Besides being unable to help others and free them from suffering, even we ourselves are suffering, caught in the quagmire of samsara. We are not liberated from samsara, not free from suffering. This is the result of the mistake of following the selfish attitude. If we had done as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha did, if we had changed our minds much earlier, then by now, so many sentient beings who are dependent on us would be enlightened. They would be free from samsara, in ultimate happiness. But because this change of attitude didn't happen, they've had to suffer until now. You can understand this by using Guru Shakyamuni Buddha's life story as an example. He became enlightened countless aeons ago by changing this attitude, and so has led uncountable numbers of sentient beings to temporal and ultimate happiness, especially ultimate happiness.

So now, in order to become Buddha ourselves, the result-time Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we need to change our selfish attitude to the attitude which is the source of all happiness, ultimate and otherwise, for ourselves and others. Achieving Dharma within our mind, the true path and true cessation of suffering, is the result-time refuge. Through achieving that, we become Sangha and through that we achieve our own result-time refuge object: Buddha.

Then we can guide sentient beings perfectly. For that reason we need to rely upon the cause refuge of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha: Dharma, which is in the holy mind of Buddha and Sangha, the realized beings. By the power of these objects and, from our side, putting effort and relying upon them, we are able to actualize our own result-time Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

When we change our attitude from the selfish attitude to cherishing others, bodhicitta, that is holy Dharma. But to have the holy Dharma we need to rely upon the cause refuge of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and to receive blessings within ourselves. Actually, when we are able to do the practice of controlling the self-cherishing thought, that is receiving blessings. Being able to control the self-cherishing thought itself is the action of Buddha. Being able to do that is the action of Buddha which is within our minds.

To actualize this Dharma within us, we need to purify the obstacles; we need to purify the negative karma, obscurations, downfalls and degenerated samayas. Here, the particular purification method is Dorje Khadro, offering sesame seeds to the Buddha Dorje Khadro. Relying on Dorje Khadro is a particularly powerful method to purify obscurations and negative karma.

I thought to give the explanation of this practice of Dorje Khadro since there are no commentaries available in English. Even if you can't actually receive the commentary from a lama, at least there'll be material available that can help you develop clear understanding so you know how to do the practice. So I thought to go over the commentary in a little bit more of an elaborate way and explain whatever I can understand from the text.