Motivation for taking refuge
Even the Omniscient Ones cannot see the beginning of our suffering; they cannot see when our experience of the general suffering of samsara and the particular sufferings of the lower realms began. So, it is beginningless. There is no time at which this suffering began.
Any disease or any other problem that we experience in samsara is nothing new. Numberless times before we experienced all these problems that we are experiencing in this life and that we see others experiencing. They are nothing new. It is not something that we are experiencing for the very first time. It is not that is impossible for such a thing to have happened in this life, so we feel a great shock. In reality it’s not like that. All these are nothing new. Whatever problem we experience or that we see others experiencing, we have experienced ourselves numberless times in our past lives.
And any samsaric pleasure that we experience or see others experiencing is nothing new. We have experienced such pleasures numberless times during beginningless rebirths.
So, to reincarnate again in samsara is like jumping from one fire into another. You will have to experience the same problems again. Therefore, it is still difficult to see the end of suffering, the end of samsara. At this time, like a dream, I have received a perfect human rebirth, which is very rare to find, I have met a virtuous teacher, which is very rare to find, and I have met the teaching of the Buddha, which is very rare to meet. At this time I have met these three rare things. So, while I have all the necessary conditions to practice and to accomplish the path, if I don’t make it possible in this life on this body to achieve full enlightenment, the state of omniscient mind, I will have to experience the suffering of samsara endlessly.
Who has the perfect power to save me and all other sentient beings from the entire suffering of samsara? Only the guru-Triple Gem who are abiding in front of me. I must achieve enlightenment for the sake of all mother sentient beings, therefore I’m going to take refuge. With the determination to be free from my own samsara, compassion for all the other beings who are caught in samsara like I am, and with devotion to the Triple Gem, with these three causes of Mahayana refuge, I am going to completely rely upon guru, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. I’m going to rely upon them with my whole heart.
[Verses 2 to 3]
Think that you have purified all the particular negative karmas and obscurations accumulated in relation to guru, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and that all their qualities are received within you and within the sentient beings around you.
[Verses 4 to 6]
“For the sake of all mother sentient beings, I become/achieve the guru-deity, and I will then lead all sentient beings into the supreme state of the guru-deity.” [Verse 4] This is generating general bodhicitta.
Next comes generating special bodhicitta, the special motivation to practice tantra, especially Highest Yoga Tantra, not only to achieve enlightenment, but to achieve it in one life, which is the meaning of the first “quick.” This is quicker than achieving enlightenment by practicing the sutra path, the Paramitayana path. Here, the motivation is to achieve enlightenment not just in one lifetime, which can be done by practicing the lower tantras, but in the brief lifetime of the degenerate time, which means within a few years.
One finds it unbearable to see other sentient beings suffering in samsara. Even for them to be caught in samsaric suffering for one second is like they are suffering for many eons. Think, “From my side, even if I have to be born in hell and suffer there for eons equal to the drops of water in the ocean or the atoms of the earth in order for sentient beings to achieve enlightenment, I can do that. But from the side of the sentient beings, for them to be caught in samsara and to suffer even for one second is like they are suffering for many eons—it is unbearable for me. Because of this, I must actualize primordial enlightenment, the state of the guru-deity, quicker and quicker. I must do this not just within one life, which is the definition of the first ‘quicker,’ but within a few years, in this brief lifetime of the degenerate time, which is the definition of the second ‘quicker.’ I must liberate all sentient beings from all their sufferings and lead them to the great bliss of the state of full enlightenment. For that reason I am going to practice the yoga of the profound path of the guru-deity.”
After this, the refuge merit field absorbs into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha who then absorbs into you. Those who have received a Highest Yoga Tantra initiation can do a brief meditation on the three kayas, then generate into the deity. You then begin the practice of the four pure results: your own body is transformed into the deity’s pure holy body; the place is transformed into the pure place, the mandala, which is the appearance of the deity’s transcendental wisdom; the enjoyments are transformed into the highest, purest enjoyments; and your actions are transformed into the highest, purest actions. You radiate light rays to all sentient beings and purify them.
[Verse 1, then verses 7 to 14, 16, 15, 17]
Those who are not familiar with the subject can read this part in English; those who are familiar with its meaning can chant it.
[Verses 18 and 19]
The first verse is prostrating to the guru as the sambhogakaya and remembering the guru’s extensive kindness. The second verse is prostrating to the guru as the nirmanakaya and remembering that section of the explanation of kindness. The next verse is prostrating to the guru as in essence the dharmakaya. Remember the extensive kindness of the guru in guiding you to enlightenment, as contained there in that verse.
Meditate on the subject of each verse in relation to each of your virtuous friends. Prostrate to and remember the extensive kindness of each one.
This next verse [verse 21] is prostrating to the guru by looking at him as in essence the embodiment of the Triple Gem, all the buddhas, Dharma and Sangha. By looking at the guru in that way, you then do prostration and remember his extensive kindness, especially the way that the guru guides you.
With the previous verse, you prostrate to each guru by looking at him as the embodiment of all Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, then remember his extensive kindness in guiding you in that way.
With the next verse [verse 22] , you look at your virtuous friend as the embodiment of all the buddhas of the ten directions and how, in that way, they guide you. By remembering the extensive kindness in that way, you are then prostrating to the guru.
With this verse, we are prostrating by looking at all the buddhas in all the ten directions as the embodiment of our own virtuous friend. By manifesting in the various forms of the deities, the buddhas guide us in different ways by eliminating obstacles and enabling us to achieve realizations and other forms of success. In this way, they lead us to enlightenment. Also, in a similar way, without the buddhas there would be no statues, stupas, Dharma scriptures and other holy objects. Since all the buddhas of the ten directions are the embodiment of our own virtuous friend, the absolute guru, the primordial, simultaneously-born transcendental wisdom of the dharmakaya, the completely pure holy mind, all the statues are also the embodiment of our own virtuous friends.
Even all these holy objects came from the guru, are the embodiment of the guru, the absolute guru, the original creator. Every single merit that we accumulate by making offerings to statues, stupas, and scriptures comes through the kindness of the virtuous friend. With the buddhas and with these holy objects we can purify any negative karma that we have created, even very heavy ones, and again this comes about through the kindness of the guru. Even if we have created very heavy negative karma, everything can be purified by prostrating and so forth to Vajrasattva, the Thirty-five Buddhas and other holy objects. All this is by the kindness of our own virtuous friend. With this last verse, prostrate to the virtuous friend by meditating in this way.
Next we make offerings. Visualize as many as possible of each offering. Visualize numberless offerings, so that the whole sky is filled.
[Verses 23 to 31]
Offer numberless of each offering. Fill the whole sky. Offer numberless of each offering and generate infinite bliss in their holy minds. With quotations and logic, generate the devotion that sees your own virtuous friend as a fully enlightened being, then make offerings and generate infinite bliss in their holy minds. This is the meaning of “guru puja.” “Puja” means pleasing the virtuous friend.
“Due to the merit of having made this mandala offering, may I, my family, and all sentient beings, be able to actualize without the delay of even a second the stainless path of the pure teaching of Lama Tsongkhapa, which is living in pure morality and having the brave attitude to do the extensive bodhisattva’s deeds and the yoga of the two stages, the essence of which is the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness.”
[Verse 33 to 37]
Here you can recite twenty-one Vajrasattva mantras to purify. [Sang gye chö dang... 3x; then recitation of Vajrasattva mantra]
Guru Vajrasattva says, “Son of the Race, all your negative karmas, obscurations, and degenerated samayas were completely purified.”
Generate strong faith that everything has been completely purified. There is not the slightest cause to be born in the lower realms or to get cancer, AIDS, or any other disease. Think that all your negative karmas, obscurations, degenerated samayas, all the obstacles to your achievement of the realizations of the graduated path to enlightenment have been purified. Not the slightest trace of them exists.
Then make the commitment not to commit the negative karmas again. “From now on I am going to protect the gross samaya vows that I am able to protect. The subtle samayas that are extremely difficult for me to keep, I will protect for one day, one hour, one minute, or at least a few seconds.”
Guru Vajrasattva then melts into light and absorbs into your heart.
[Verse 38 to 39]
Now we do the practice of rejoicing, which collects infinite merit each time. First we are going to rejoice in our own merit of the three times. First we should make clear the understanding that without good karma there is no way to have success, no way to experience happiness, whether temporary or ultimate. Good karma is so precious and important and so necessary for success and for happiness. Think, “I have accumulated numberless merits in the past, I am accumulating merit in the present, and I am also going to accumulate merit in the future. How wonderful it is!” Keep on rejoicing by repeating, “How wonderful are all the merits of the three times that I have accumulated.”
Like reciting a mantra, you can count twenty-one, half a mala or one mala by repeating over and over, “How wonderful it is!”
Now rejoice in the merits of other sentient beings, especially the bodhisattvas. How wonderful are all the merits of the three times accumulated by other sentient beings, especially the bodhisattvas. Because they can enjoy so much happiness—temporary and ultimate, including enlightenment—from each merit, how wonderful it is!
“May I be able to accumulate as much merit as they have in order to benefit each sentient being.”
[Verses 40 to 42]
Taking bodhisattva and tantric vows
Before doing the Vajrasattva practice, it is good to recite the prayers of taking the bodhisattva vows and tantric vows to revive the vows that have been degenerated. I forgot to recite them at that time, so we are going to recite them here. Those who have taken the bodhisattva and tantric vows before can think that they are taking them again. After the prayer is finished, think that the bodhisattva and tantric vows that have been degenerated are now revived, then feel great happiness that you have stopped the continuous creation of the causes to be born in the hot hells and so forth through having degenerated vows. Taking the vows again stops the creation of those causes to be born in the hot hells. Taking the vows again and thus making them pure brings you closer to enlightenment. [Taking of bodhisattva vows in Tibetan]
Think, “I have received pure bodhisattva vows in front of the whole merit field. The vows that had previously been degenerated have now been revived.”
Now those who have taken tantric vows, can also take the tantric vows. [Taking of tantric vows in Tibetan.]
Think, “I have received pure tantric vows in front of the whole merit field. The tantric vows that have been degenerated in the past have now been revived.”
Think that you are taking the vows to quickly achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
[Recitation of migtsemas]
[Recitation of verses 43 to 52 in English; kyö ni la ma...; verse 54; recitation of mantras]
Here there’s the practice of the guru entering the heart and then reciting mantras at the heart. [Further mantra recitation]
Now comes the tsog offering, with first the blessing of the tsog. [Verse 55]
We will leave out the elaborate visualization of the tsog and just do the invocation. [Verses 61 to 63A]
With each verse we make offerings to the different groups: first to all the direct and indirect lineage lamas, then to Vajrayogini, all the deities, the Triple Gem, the dakas and dakinis and the protectors, and then to all sentient beings. With each verse we should meditate that our making extensive ocean-like nectar offerings causes them to generate infinite bliss in their holy minds. That is the very essence of the meditation of offering tsog. It doesn’t matter whether you simply visualize nectar or whether what you bless into nectar you later transform into the shape of the cake or other food that you are offering.
[Verses 64 to 67; then repetitions of verses 63 to 67; 68 and 69]
We now do The Song of the Spring Queen, in which we request the experiences of the Highest Yoga Tantra path from the dakas and dakinis.
[Verses 70 to 75; then verse 77]
Please read the lam-rim prayer in English. After each verse meditate that the realization of that meditation is generated in your mind and in the minds of all sentient beings.
[Stages of the Path is read in English; Dedication; verses 118 to 122 in Tibetan]
Due to all the past, present, and future merits accumulated by me and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may bodhicitta, which is the source of all happiness for me and for all sentient beings, be generated in my own mind and in the minds of other sentient beings. May those who have already generated bodhicitta develop it.
Due to all the past, present, and future merits accumulated by me and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, which are empty from their own side, may the I, which is empty from its own side, achieve enlightenment, which is empty from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are empty from their own side, to that enlightenment, which is empty from its own side.
Due to all the past, present, and future merits accumulated by me and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may I, my family, and all sentient beings in all our lifetimes always meet perfectly qualified Mahayana virtuous friends and always do actions of body, speech and mind that only please the holy mind of the virtuous friend, and may I be able to fulfill the holy wishes of the virtuous friend immediately by myself alone. (The practice of this prayer is the root of all success, up to enlightenment.)
Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated by me and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may any sentient being who hears me, touches me, remembers me, talks about me, or thinks about me, just by that never be reborn from that time in the lower realms. May they be liberated immediately from all disease, spirit harms, negative karmas, and obscurations and quickly achieve enlightenment. (Please dedicate in this way.)
Please dedicate the merits of tonight’s offering of tsog and other practices of accumulating merit to the receiving of rain in those areas that need it. May the people and animals immediately accomplish their wish to receive the rain that they need. May all their disease, spirit harms, negative karmas, and obscurations be purified; may they never be reborn in the lower realms and quickly achieve enlightenment. This does not mean only here but also Ethiopia, where millions of people are dying of starvation, and the many other places that have drought. May all these areas receive rain and the crops grow well, and the food not cause them to be unhealthy. May all the diseases in the world be pacified and may there be an immediate end to all famine, war, fighting, and torture. May everyone experience great peace by generating bodhicitta, the good heart, in the mind.
Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated by me and by other beings, especially the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may all the father and mother sentient beings have happiness and may I be able to cause that by myself alone. May the lower realms be empty of beings forever and may I be able to cause that by myself alone. Wherever there are bodhisattvas, those holy saints, may all their prayers be accomplished immediately and may I be able to cause that by myself alone.
As the buddhas of the three times have dedicated their merits and the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra and Manjugosha, I will dedicate all my merits in the best way to quickly enlighten all sentient beings.
Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated by me and by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, may the pure teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa be actualized within my own mind and in the minds of my family, all the other students and all other sentient beings in this very lifetime. May we be able to spread these teachings to all sentient beings and lead them to enlightenment as quickly as possible. May we receive all the necessary conditions to do this without any obstacles.
Also dedicate for Inta’s daughter, who is not well, to recover immediately, and for the whole family to have long and healthy lives. May they be able to succeed in all their wishes that accord with the Dharma. May they receive only perfect human rebirths in all their lives and then quickly achieve enlightenment.