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.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Taos, New Mexico, 1999. Photo: Lenny Foster.
Prologue: Rinpoche's Invitation to Join the Mani Retreat

The benefits of reciting the Compassion Buddha mantra are infinite, like the limitless sky.

Even if you don’t have much intellectual understanding of Dharma, even if the only thing you know is OM MANI PADME HUM, still the happiest life is one lived with an attitude free of the eight worldly concerns. If you live your life with that pure attitude free of attachment clinging to this life and spend your life just chanting OM MANI PADME HUM—this six-syllable mantra that is the essence of all Dharma—that’s the purest Dharma.

It looks very simple, very easy to recite, but when you think of the benefits, it’s not simple at all. Here I’m going to mention just the essence of its infinite benefits.

Reciting this Compassion Buddha mantra once completely purifies the four defeats of breaking the four root vows of self-liberation [pratimoksha vows] and the five uninterrupted negative karmas.1

It is said in the tantra Padmatrawa that it purifies the four root falls and the five uninterrupted negative karmas, and that all other negative karma without exception also gets purified.

It is also said in the discourse called Exalted Eleven-Faced One,

Bhagawan (Destroyed, Qualified, Gone Beyond), my heart mantra has such great miracle power that by reciting it just once, the four root downfalls of self-liberation are purified.

If you recite this mantra precisely, as explained in the text, there is no question that you will receive all these benefits.

It is also mentioned in the tantras that you achieve the four qualities of being born in the Amitabha Buddha and other pure lands; at the time of death, seeing Buddha and lights appearing in the sky (meaning white light or different colored clouds); devas making you offerings; and never going to the lower realms [the hell, hungry ghost and animals realms]. You will go to the pure land of Buddha or be reborn as a happy transmigratory being.

It is also written in the tantric text Padma Chöpen gyi Gyud:

Sons and daughters of the race, whoever recites even once the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM while thinking of me or just remembers or keeps [the mantra] on their body purifies the five uninterrupted negative karmas, the five close uninterrupted negative karmas 2 and all other negative karmas and abandons the eight realms where there is no opportunity to practice Dharma: hell, preta, animal realm and so forth.

One will not experience suffering of body, speech and mind. One will be free from fears of vicious animals, cannibals, human beings, non-human beings and sickness. One will actualize the meaning of the Dharmakaya; one will see the holy face of Great Compassion, the Rupakaya.

When one who recites ten malas a day goes swimming, whether in a river, ocean or some other body of water, the water that touches that person’s body gets blessed.

It is said that up to seven generations of that person’s descendents won’t get reborn in the lower realms. The reason for this is that due to the power of mantra, the body is blessed by the person reciting the mantra and visualizing his or her body in form of the holy body of Chenrezig. As a result of such practice, the person’s body becomes so powerful, so blessed that it affects the consciousness up to seven generations and also has the effect that even if that person dies with a non-virtuous thought, he or she is not reborn in a lower realm.

Thus, when a person who has recited ten malas of OM MANI PADME HUM a day goes into a river or an ocean, the water that touches the person’s body gets blessed, and this blessed water then purifies all the billions and billions of sentient beings in the water. So it’s unbelievably beneficial; this person saves the animals in that water from the most unbelievable suffering of the lower realms.

When such a person walks down a road and the wind touches his or her body and then goes on to touch insects, their negative karma gets purified, and it causes them to have a good rebirth. Similarly, when such a person does massage or otherwise touches others’ bodies, those people’s negative karma also gets purified.

Such a person becomes meaningful to behold; being seen and touched becomes a means of liberating other sentient beings. If a person who has done a nyung-nä well is standing on top of a mountain and is seen by someone down below, the negative karma of the person below gets purified.

Some of these benefits are mentioned in the tantra Thuk-je Chenpo Tön-shak-pe Gyü.

This means that even the person’s breath touching the bodies of other sentient beings purifies their negative karma. Anybody who drinks the water in which such a person has swum gets purified.

Quoting from a tantric text, a very high Amdo lama, Kungthang Jampel Yang, said,

If you are able to request from the heart, if you just do nyung-nä for one day and recite the six-syllable mantra, even though you have created the negative karma to be reborn in the hell realm without break and burn there for years equaling the sand grains of this big earth, those karmas get purified.

Kungthang Jampel Yang also said,

You have collected limitless negative karma during beginningless rebirths and even in this life may have transgressed the three vows, collected negative karma with your gurus, vajra friends and the holy objects of the Three Rare Sublime Ones, and carelessly used polluted food and so forth [food offered by people with devotion or which was offered to the Sangha community by people with faith]. Abiding thus on the precipice of the hell realms, when you meet such Dharma as this, if you have a mind, you have no choice. You must put all your capacity into this practice.

It is also written in the sutra called Sa-ma-to Go-pe Do:

If this six-syllable mantra is written by hand on rocks or on stone walls and men, women or children or any other sentient being touch it by hand or simply look at it, through merely seeing it they become bodhisattvas of the end of samsara.

In a text he composed, the very learned Sera-je Geshe, Geshe Jampa Chödrag, says,

Thus, by meditating on the holy body of Compassion Buddha just once, hearing the holy name just once or memorizing it or seeing the six-syllable mantra written or just touching it by hand, one gets protected from spirits called de and spirits called za, which cause paralysis, from yamas, evil vicious animals, diseases, dangers and harm from human beings and non-human beings, and whatever wishes of this life one has—such as for long life, wealth, power and so forth—get fulfilled exactly as wished. Then the five uninterrupted negative karmas and so forth, such as extremely heavy negative karma collected during beginningless time, get purified, and one receives good rebirths in all one’s future lives. And one is able to see Compassion Buddha’s holy face and so forth.

If it is said that there are such limitless skies of benefits from remembering the qualities of Arya Compassionate-Eyed One and remembering the kindness and blessings and even just reciting the holy name, then one must attempt to practice, making offerings and requests and so forth.

These comments come from a text by Geshe Jampa Chödrak, and I also say the same thing.

We are unbelievably fortunate to have met the Dharma and to have the opportunity to do recitation and meditation on the Compassion Buddha. It is an easy way of purifying whatever negative karma we have collected in not only this life but in many previous lives as well.

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 to achieve enlightenment. We are unbelievably fortunate.

Therefore, there is nothing more foolish than not taking advantage of this great opportunity. Normally, we get continuously distracted and waste our lives. Not only that, but all actions done with ego and the three poisonous minds of anger, attachment and ignorance create negative karma, the cause of suffering. In all existence, there is nothing more foolish than using this perfect human body to create only suffering.

In places such as Tibet, Nepal, India and Ladakh, there’s a well established tradition of doing the Compassion Buddha retreat and reciting one hundred million OM MANI PADME HUM mantras. The one held at Chenrezig Institute is the first such retreat in the West and the first in the FPMT organization. This is to happen at Chenrezig once each year—only once each year!

If you’re feeling guilt in your life, you can overcome it through the purification of attending this retreat.

The retreat is not just chanting mantras with sadhanas, but also includes taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts, if not every day, at least frequently. Whatever merit you collect that day increases 100,000 times. This becomes such a quick and easy way to purify, collect extensive merit, achieve enlightenment and liberate sentient beings from unimaginable suffering and bring them to enlightenment quickly.

Whoever attends a mani retreat is unbelievably fortunate. Even if you can’t attend the whole retreat, you can participate for two months, one month or at least a few weeks. You can do even just one week. I especially hope that this retreat will also be established in Mongolia, since their main food is meat and so many animals are killed there every day. This practice is a great help in purifying that. After our temple in Mongolia has been built, I hope that thousands of people will attend mani retreats there. I would also like this retreat gradually to be established in other parts of the West as well.

This retreat also blesses the country where it is held and brings so much peace, happiness and prosperity to the land.

Even if you know the teachings on how to meditate on bodhicitta, you still need to receive the special blessings of the deity, Compassion Buddha. You receive these by doing the meditation and recitation we practice in the mani retreat. Therefore, recitation of OM MANI PADME HUM is one way to actualize bodhicitta–to transform your mind into bodhicitta and make your meditation on bodhicitta effective.

Generally, according to my experience, in my home Solu Khumbu in the Himalayas of Nepal, there are people who live their lives chanting OM MANI PADME HUM but have no idea of the three principal aspects of the path–renunciation, bodhicitta and the right view of emptiness–not even the words. Even though they can’t read and don’t even know the alphabet, they have great devotion to compassion and bodhicitta and live their lives reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. Such people are warm-hearted, very kind, very compassionate. This is proof from my own experience that reciting this mantra has the effect of transforming the mind into a good heart and compassion.

Without bodhicitta, you cannot cause all happiness for all sentient beings. You cannot do perfect work for all sentient beings, and you cannot achieve the complete qualities of the realizations and cessation, even for yourself.

Thus, everyone is most welcome to join the one hundred million OM MANI PADME HUM mantra retreat.

Composed by Lama Zopa Rinpoche during a stay at Deer Park Buddhist Center, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, July 2000. Scribed and edited by Lhundup Damchö.

1 These are karmas so heavy that they ripen immediately as a rebirth in the hell realm upon the exhaustion of the karma of this life. The five are: killing one’s mother, killing one’s father, drawing the blood of a Buddha, killing an arhat and causing disunity among the Sangha. [Return to text]

2 The five close uninterrupted negative karmas are similar to the five uninterrupted negative karmas but slightly less grave. Nevertheless, they also result in rebirth in the hell realm upon the exhaustion of the karma of this life. These five are: killing a bodhisattva dwelling in certainty (i.e., one certain to achieve enlightenment within one hundred eons); killing an arya; destroying a stupa, monastery, temple etc. with hatred; raping a fully-ordained nun who is an arhat; appropriating the property of the Sangha. [Return to text]

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