Teachings from the Mani Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Eudlo, Australia, 2000 (Archive #1261)

"Because we have met the Buddhadharma, and especially this method—the practice of the Compassion Buddha and recitation of his mantra—it is easy to purify negative karma and collect extensive merit and thus achieve enlightenment. We are unbelievable fortunate." 
      — Lama Zopa Rinpoche, from his invitation to join the retreat.

This title is out of stock, but you can find links here to the ebook version.

Monday, December 25


While you are chanting, you can look at the meaning of the prayer in English. Or you can just read the prayer in English.

Visualize your root virtuous friend above your crown, with the recognition that in essence he is all the Buddhas. In order to guide you—to liberate you not only from the sufferings of the lower realms but also from the oceans of samsaric suffering and to bring you to enlightenment—all the Buddhas manifested in this human aspect. Think, “All the Buddhas manifested in this ordinary aspect, which shows faults and suffering, in accordance with my impure mistaken mind.”

Calling the Guru from Afar is basically a meditation on the kindness of the guru. Each verse describes the extensive kindness of the guru, and you then make requests for the fulfillment of your wishes.

[Rinpoche chants the abbreviated Calling the Lama from Afar (p. 16).]

“May I not generate heresy for even one second toward the holy actions of the glorious guru, and with the devotion that sees whatever action is done as pure, may the blessing of the guru enter my heart.”

You can then meditate on the guru entering the heart or melting into light. Those who have received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, such as Vajrasattva, can visualize that the guru absorbs into their heart in the same way; those who haven’t received a great initiation can visualize that the guru melts into white light and is absorbed at the point between their eyebrows. Your own body, speech and mind are blessed into the vajra holy body, vajra holy speech and vajra holy mind.

It is said in the teachings that if you have received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, you can do the absorption through the crown into the heart. If you haven’t received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, it is normally advised that you visualize the guru melting into light and absorbing at the point between your eyebrows. The same applies to the absorption of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha. After you have done the practice of refuge or the visualization of purifying negativities and receiving qualities, the refuge merit field in front of you melts into light and is absorbed at the point between your eyebrows. That is the normal instruction given in the teachings. When you are visualizing other deities, at the end, the deity returns to the natural abode or absorbs within your heart. If you haven’t received a great initiation of Highest Yoga Tantra, you visualize that the deity melts into light then absorbs at the point between your eyebrows.

“From now on, whatever actions I do—eating, walking, sitting, sleeping, working and so forth—and whatever life I experience—up or down; happy or unhappy; healthy or unhealthy; whether I have cancer (or any other disease) or I don’t have cancer; whether my life is peaceful and harmonious or I have difficulties such as relationship problems; gain or loss; rich or poor; whether I receive praise from others or criticism; whether I am living or dying, or even born in a hell realm—the main purpose of my life is not just to be rich, healthy, peaceful, or to be free from cancer and other problems and live a long life. The meaning of my life is to be useful to others. Therefore, from now on, may whatever actions I do and whatever life I experience, including being born in the hell realms, be most beneficial for all sentient beings. May everything be most useful to all sentient beings. And what is the most useful thing? To cause all sentient beings to achieve full enlightenment in the quickest way possible—and that happens by my achieving enlightenment.”

One particular dedication can be done in each session.

We can now do the next dedication. [The group reads “Just as the brave Manjushri…perform the noble bodhisattva’s deeds.” (p. 79) in Combined Jorchö and Lama Chöpa Puja.]

The particular emphasis of the first dedication is the meaning of life. It emphasizes that the purpose of life is not just to avoid the experience of difficulties in life, such as relationship problems, disharmony with others, obstacles to our Dharma practice and so forth. This dedication reminds us that the meaning of life is something else. For ordinary people success in life is defined in terms of how much money—how many billions of dollars—a person makes each year. This is what ordinary people mean by a good life; this is how they see the meaning of life. It has to be carefully explained that this is not sufficient, that it is wrong to regard only benefit in this life as meaningful. The meaning of life is something higher than that, something more special than that.

This dedication verse helps you to see that and also reminds you that whether you have a happy or unhappy life, whether you have problems or don’t have problems, whether you are living or dying, and whether you are born in a pure realm or a hell realm, with compassion you should make everything useful for other sentient beings. Whether you experience success or failure, you make it useful through your compassion for others, through your thought to benefit others. By achieving enlightenment and then enlightening all sentient beings, you make everything most beneficial for all sentient beings. And that comes about through bodhicitta, through compassion for others.

You transform whatever happy and unhappy experiences happen to you, then utilize them in the path to enlightenment, so that all those experiences become the cause of happiness for all sentient beings. That is what this dedication is expressing. Through this dedication we are reminded of this essential practice. This way of understanding the meaning of life and of living our life brings the greatest happiness and fulfillment. It brings the greatest satisfaction in life and also the highest happiness of enlightenment.

I’m not going to go over the meaning of all the offerings; I think I explained them here some time ago when I gave a Chenrezig initiation. I’ll just give you the verses for offering the eight substances, the seven signs of royalty and the eight auspicious signs. These verses can be recited right after the verse for offering the five sets of five. These offerings can also be set up around the deity’s mandala.

From what I have mentioned during these past days, please do not think that I am saying that I am the deity. But if disciples from their side visualize or meditate in this way, they receive blessings and also enlightenment. They achieve all the realizations and full enlightenment, which is the cessation of all the faults of the mind and the completion of all the realizations. It has been mentioned because it has great benefit. All realizations come from the root, guru devotion.

“By offering the seven precious signs of royalty,
May I be victorious in the war with the four maras
And achieve the complete power to propagate the Mahayana teaching,
In order to quickly lead transmigratory beings to ever lasting supreme happiness.”

This is like Guru Shakyamuni Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who have total control over whatever way Dharma, sutra or tantra, needs to be taught to sentient beings.

This is a brief prayer to offer the seven signs of royalty. If you want to offer the seven individually and recite the benefit you receive from each one, you can do the verses from the Vajrayogini self-initiation. You offer each royal sign, then dedicate for sentient beings to achieve a specific benefit. When you want to make each offering more specifically and elaborately, you can use the verses for the extensive offerings from the Vajrayogini self-initiation, Heruka Lama Chöpa or the Yamantaka self-initiation. All the extensive self-initiation texts have the offering of each of the seven signs of royalty, along with its specific dedication for sentient beings. It is very nice to do.

If you want to do it in the briefest way, you can recite the verse above, which is just put together from here and there….

Next comes the offering of the eight auspicious signs and the eight substances. These are all offered to the guru during a long-life puja, with verses that mention what each one signifies and what qualities we disciples are requesting to achieve in order to be able to do extensive work for sentient beings and for the teaching of Buddha. By offering them, you receive the various benefits that are explained in the teachings. During a long-life puja, for each of the various offerings, it is said, “By offering this, this happens.” It is the same here. By doing the practice of meditating on and offering each individual object, you achieve the benefits signified by each one. It’s incredibly auspicious, and a preparation, due to dependent arising, to achieve those qualities.

I will translate as the Tibetan verses are written. There are two basic ways to translate, one way is to translate backwards and the other is to translate forwards, so that the verse follows the Tibetan line by line. Sometimes that is a little easier.

“Just by being touched, seen, heard or remembered,
These eight auspicious signs blessed by the Victorious Ones
Eliminate all inauspicious things and grant perfect sublimeness.
By this virtue, may I quickly and effortlessly achieve

The collections of the qualities of cessation and realizations and the works for others.”

“The Victorious Ones” means the buddhas, and “perfect sublimeness” means all the qualities of buddha. “The works for others” actually refers to the four tantric activities of peace, increase, control and wrath, which one needs to do for sentient beings.

I will write down the names of these auspicious substances in Tibetan.

While reciting the verses, visualize all these offerings if you can. Visualize numberless of each of the seven royal emblems, so that the whole sky is filled with king’s ministers, horses, wish-granting jewels, Dharmachakras, and the rest. Or at least offer what you have arranged on the altar.

Do the same thing with the eight auspicious signs and substances. Visualize the whole sky filled with the eight auspicious signs and substances, and offer them. And the dedication for what you want to achieve by offering these things is there, in brief, in the verse.

Rather than offering just drawings of each object, you can offer actual figures of the horse, the elephant, the conch shell and so forth. You can set up those elaborate offerings on the altar.

The seven signs of royalty are usually cast in silver or drawn on cards, but recently I started to actually buy figures of horses, elephants and so forth from shops. I did this for long-life pujas for both Geshe Sopa Rinpoche and Ribur Rinpoche, as it makes the offering more elaborate. I also did this with the eight substances, but one of them, gi-wang, is very difficult to find. This substance comes from human beings, cows and elephants and is used in medicines and also, I think, in incense. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s not musk. It is usually said that if you take this substance from a human, you have to take it out while the person is asleep. Gi-wang also comes from cows and elephants. It is very rare and expensive, but the rest of the substances are easy to obtain.

I saw that when a long-life puja is offered at Namgyäl Dratsang, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s temple, the actual substances are offered rather than drawings of them. I think this is also done in the Sakya tradition. In most long-life pujas drawings of the substances are offered, but at Namgyäl Dratsang they offer the actual crab grass, mustard seed, sindura and so forth. I thought it would be better to offer the actual substances rather than just the drawings of them. During long-life pujas I now try to perform the offerings by using the actual substances.

So, I think that’s all. Thank you very much.

Next Chapter:

Tuesday, December 26 »