Nyung-nä Practice: Prostrations and Offerings

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Aptos, CA, USA (Archive #1214)

These teachings on nyung-nä practice were given by Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche in Aptos, CA, in July 2000. Edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron.

For more advice on nyung-näs, see Rinpoche's Online Advice Book and Nyung-nä Teachings at Lawudo.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in meditation on Saka Dawa at Chenrezig Institute, Australia, May 25, 1975. Photo: Wendy Finster.
Nyung-nä Practice: Prostrations

The benefits of hand prostrations

It talks here about a stupa, but putting your palms together to a statue of Buddha is actually the same. The White Lotus Sutra says that anybody who pays homage with their body just one time to the holy object of a stupa containing a relic by putting their palms together or prostrating with even the five fingers of one hand or respectfully bowing their head for even one second and, even with a distracted mind, simply expresses the words, “I prostrate to Buddha,” will achieve enlightenment. Here it actually mentions a stupa of Buddha, which signifies Buddha’s holy mind, but it also applies to any statue of Buddha, which signifies Buddha’s holy body, or scripture of Buddha, which signifies Buddha’s holy speech.

It’s basically saying how powerful any holy object of Buddha is. All these small actions of respect immediately become causes to achieve enlightenment. This is said in the holy Dharma, the White Lotus Sutra.

The sutra Clarifying the Various Karmas says that simply putting your palms together to a stupa has ten benefits. Buddha told this to a Brahmin child called [Nensel]. Usually, in Tibetan, nensel means parrot, the bird that can imitate human language. It’s possibly a nickname for that child.

What are the ten benefits of putting the palms together to a holy object, such as a stupa and so forth? As I mentioned before, this includes a statue or a scripture.

First, one will achieve birth in the family of a great king.

Second, one will achieve an extensive form. In other words, one will have a beautiful color and shape and have perfect limbs, organs, and senses.

Third, one will be surrounded by extensive servants and helpers, who will fulfill one’s wishes.

Fourth, one will receive extensive offerings.

Fifth, one will receive extensive service.

Sixth, one will receive extensive wealth.

Seventh, one will receive extensive listening to Dharma.

Eighth, one will have extensive devotion.

By having extensive wealth, you can collect extensive merit and benefit other sentient beings, as well as the teaching of Buddha. Through listening extensively to Dharma, you achieve extensive understanding. From more listening comes more understanding. The result is less ignorance. That means that when you practice Dharma, because you have less ignorance and more understanding, your practice is more correct. When you practice Dharma, you have more wisdom to know what is right and to be practiced and what is wrong and to be abandoned. Since you have more wisdom, when you practice, you make fewer mistakes. That’s the benefit. It is then easy to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment. With more understanding of Dharma, you can also benefit others more.

Without devotion there’s no foundation for the realizations of the path to enlightenment. Devotion is the foundation. Without devotion you cannot receive the blessings of the guru-deity, and without the blessings of the guru-deity, you can’t achieve realizations. Without realizations you can’t complete your work.

Arhats are totally free from samsara. What is samsara? As Lama Tsongkhapa explained in his Great Commentary of the Steps of the Path to Enlightenment, [Lamrim Chenmo] samsara is the path of the continuity of the contaminated, or defiled, aggregates produced by karma and delusion.

There are five paths to achieve liberation from samsara: the path of merit, preparatory path, path of seeing, path of meditation, and path of no more learning. After you achieve the third path, the path of seeing, where you have the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, or ultimate nature, you don’t create any new karma, any new cause of samsara.

The Mahayana path to achieve enlightenment also has five paths. According to the Mahayana path, when you achieve the third path, the Mahayana path of seeing, with the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, you, as an arya bodhisattva, have totally abandoned, or overcome, the cycle of death and rebirth. You are totally free from rebirth, old age, sickness, and death. But in the five paths of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, path, to achieve liberation from samsara for self, one who has achieved the path of seeing doesn’t have that capacity. It is after you achieve the path of meditation that you are then free from samsara, that you have overcome the cycle of death and rebirth. But according to the Lesser Vehicle path, here, after achieving the path of seeing, you don’t create new karma, the cause of samsara.

According to the Hinayana path, for the meditator who has achieved the fourth path, the path of meditation, their aggregates, which are suffering in nature because they’re produced by karma and delusion and contaminated by the seed of delusion, do not continue. Here we’re talking about the aggregate of mind, the mental continuum, the mental consciousness. Generally speaking, the mental consciousness is the sixth consciousness. From the four schools of Buddhist philosophy, the Mind Only school talks about seven or eight consciousness. The seventh consciousness, the Base-of-All, is the base of all samsara and nirvana. According to the Mind Only school, imprints are left on the seventh consciousness.

Generally, however, the sixth consciousness is the mental consciousness. What I’m trying to clarify is why Lama Tsongkhapa said, “the path of the continuity of the contaminated, or defiled, aggregates produced by karma and delusion.” So, for the meditator who has achieved the path of meditation, their aggregates do not continue. There’s no continuation because by having actualized that path, they have ceased the seed of delusions, which is in the nature of imprints on their mental continuum. There’s no more cause to reincarnate, for the continuation of the aggregates from that life to the next. It doesn’t happen since it is karma and delusion that would again cause the continuation of that samsara, those aggregates, which are suffering in nature, to circle to the next life. For the meditator who has achieved path of meditation, there’s no continuation of their samsara to the next life. That’s the last.

Here, path in the path of the continuity of the aggregates specifies that. The aggregates of a meditator who has achieved the path of meditation do not continue; they don’t have to reincarnate again in samsara. So, adding path clarifies that. Just because somebody has a samsara, aggregates that are suffering in nature, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will reincarnate again.

But for us, if we’re unable to complete either the Mahayana or Hinayana five paths in this life, or the path of meditation, according to the Hinayana path, or the path of seeing or of meditation, according to the Mahayana path, the continuation of our aggregates will circle to the next life. The continuation of that samsara will circle. Until we stop that continuation, there’s continual samsara, continual suffering reincarnation and continual suffering death. In addition, you experience all the suffering of whichever realm you are born into.

Human beings have eight types of sufferings. To give a clear, general idea of how each of these is suffering, all the various problems are summarized into five: the five types of suffering of rebirth, of old age, of sickness, of death, of the aggregates, of being unable to find desirable objects, of being unable to get satisfaction even after finding them, of the fear of having to separate from desirable objects after finding them. The sufferings of human beings can be summarized into six or eight types.

The desire realm devas, the asuras and suras, have their own sufferings. The asuras are jealous of the greater wealth and power of the suras. In the Wheel of Life, you sometimes see a tree growing, with fruit. The top part, with all the fruit, is in sura realm, while the root is in the asura realm. So, the suras enjoy all the fruit, and the asuras are jealous of that. The suras and asuras have so many wars. For the suras, whatever body part is cut, apart from the neck, grows back again. The suras also send elephants with six tusks, which do a lot of harm to the asuras. Their suffering is fighting, and the weaker ones are kicked out by the more powerful ones.

Their major suffering is the signs of death. They have five major signs of death and five nearing signs of death. When it’s time for them to die, due to karma they hear a sound from space that says, “You’re going to die after seven days.” Many changes then happen. The devas dislike their bed. I think sometimes something similar also happens with human beings as one of the signs of death. Somehow you can’t relax in your bed, but always want to go somewhere. At that time, the flower garlands that the devas wear, which normally don’t become old, become crumpled, withered, or fall. Usually the devas don’t sweat, but at that time their bodies sweat and become dirty. These changes, which normally they don’t experience, now happen to them. Due to karma, at that time they also remember their past life. They see where they came from and where they are. They see that their present sense pleasures are a million times greater.

In the lam-rim there’s a story about how all the wealth in the human world put together can’t be compared to a single ornament, a necklace or an earring, of a deva. One deva ornament is so unbelievably valuable, that even all the human wealth put together cannot match it. Devas have unbelievable sense enjoyments. So, when they see where they now are and that after this they have to reborn in one of the lower realms—in the hell, hungry ghost, or animal realm—where there are none of these enjoyments, they experience so much suffering. Therefore, they mentally suffer. As Chöden Rinpoche recently said, they suffer more than those in the hells. Rinpoche said that the hell beings have greater physical suffering, but the devas are mentally in hell. The five signs of death and five nearing signs of death are their main suffering. I don’t remember the nearing signs of death, but they are explained in the lam-rim teachings.

There are also devas in the form and formless realms. They don’t have the suffering of pain: heat, cold, hunger, thirst, old age, sickness, and so forth. They also don’t have the suffering of change, the external sense pleasures, which don’t last and the nature of which is only suffering. The suffering they have is the aggregates. The devas in the form realm have forms, but the aggregate those in the formless realm have is only the mind. So, the aggregates of even those in the form and formless realms are suffering in nature; they’re the production of karma and delusion, they’re contaminated by the seeds of delusion, the imprints, and those aggregates become the foundation of future-life sufferings, because the continuation of those aggregates circles to the next life.

Symbolism of hand prostration

It’s sometimes translated as “truth body,” but it’s “holy body of essence.” It means the ultimate nature of the omniscient mind. When you put them together, it’s the dharmakaya; the dharmakaya includes both. The merit of virtue, or method, causes you to achieve the rupakaya, Buddha’s holy body. That is the dharmakaya transformed into what sentient beings can see and communicate with. The higher form is the sambhogakaya and the lower form is the nirmanakaya.

We collect the merit of virtue, or method, with compassion, simply by thinking of the sufferings of sentient beings; with loving kindness, wishing sentient beings to have happiness; with renunciation, or detachment to samsara and samsaric perfections; with making charity; with the practice of morality, such as by taking precepts. Wisdom becomes the cause of dharmakaya and the other five paramitas—charity, morality, patience, perseverance, and concentration—become causes to achieve the rupakaya, Buddha’s holy body.

Therefore, you need to complete these two types of merit. It’s like a one million dollar project—you need one million dollars. Here you need to achieve the two kayas in order to liberate numberless sentient beings from suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, you need to complete the two types of merit. The more merit you collect, the easier and quicker it is to achieve the two kayas.

When we do prostrations, first we need to generate a motivation of bodhicitta, as I mentioned this morning. It’s then very powerful. Combining bodhicitta with impermanence and death makes the motivation very powerful. With a strong thought of impermanence and death, that death can happen at any moment, you think that you must purify all your negative karma and defilements right now. This is besides the bodhicitta motivation. It makes the purification become very powerful. If possible, your bodhicitta motivation should be combined with impermanence and death.

Putting your palms together like this shows the complete path to enlightenment. I think I also explained this last time. The left hand signifies the path of wisdom and the right signifies the path of method. The Hinayana path has method and wisdom. Renunciation and so forth are part of the path of method. The path of wisdom is the wisdom realizing emptiness, which directly ceases the ignorance that is the root of samsara, as well as all other delusions and the seeds of delusion. The path of method doesn’t directly cease delusions, the cause of suffering, but it helps to cease them. It acts as a support. So, these two hands signify the wisdom and method of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, path to achieve liberation from samsara.

They also signify the Mahayana sutra wisdom and method, which refers to bodhicitta and the five paramitas other than wisdom. They also signify the wisdom and method paths of Mahayana tantra, or Vajrayana. There are four classes of tantra, and each class of tantra has paths of wisdom and method. The first class of tantra is Kriya Tantra, which is what we’re practicing. The Compassion Buddha belongs to Kriya Tantra. Kriya Tantra has the path having sign and the path not having sign. The path having sign is the path of method and the yoga not having sign is the path of wisdom, the yoga where you actually meditate on emptiness.

In regard to Highest Yoga Tantra, the left hand signifies the extremely subtle wisdom of clear light and the right hand signifies the method, the illusory body. Putting the two hands together means practicing method and wisdom cooperatively. In Hinayana, Mahayana sutra, and Mahayana tantra, especially Highest Yoga Tantra, method and wisdom are practiced cooperatively. The special quality of tantra is that one mind practices method and wisdom together; in all the others you practice method and wisdom cooperatively but with separate minds. That’s why, with practice of Mahayana sutra, you have to collect merit for three countless great eons, and it takes such a long time to achieve enlightenment.

In tantra, one mind practicing method and wisdom together is incredibly fast, like a rocket, a jet airplane or some other sophisticated machine. An airplane can go much faster than a car. Because of this skillful means of one mind practicing method and wisdom, tantra is like an airplane that goes faster than a car. Because of this, you don’t need to collect merit for three countless great eons in order to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. You collect that much merit but it doesn’t take you three countless great eons. You can collect all that merit within one life, even within a few years. The great skill of tantra is a very quick way to finish collecting that merit. It is especially because of Highest Yoga Tantra that Milarepa, Lama Tsongkhapa’s disciple, Ensapa, and so many others were able to achieve enlightenment in one life, even within a few years.

So, putting your palms together like this has the whole path to enlightenment; it has the three levels of path that Buddha taught: the Lesser Vehicle path, the Mahayana sutra, or Paramitayana, path, and the Mahayana tantra path.

When you put your hands like this, the empty space inside is the dharmakaya, and then hands are the rupakaya, Buddha’s holy body. This is our objective to be achieved: the unification of dharmakaya and rupakaya. This is our goal. Putting our palms together like this signifies our goal, what we want to achieve.

Putting the two palms together also signifies the base, the two truths. All phenomena are included in these two, conventional truth and ultimate truth. So, the I is conventional truth and the emptiness of the I is absolute truth. The entire subject of Buddhism is contained in the base, the two truths, the path, method and wisdom, and the goal, rupakaya and dharmakaya, or the holy body and holy mind of Buddha. So, that covers everything. All phenomena, everything that exists, comes in the base, the path, or the goal.

When somebody who has studied the whole path to enlightenment puts their palms together, it becomes like a meditation on the whole path.

The two thumbs signify offering a jewel. You don’t prostrate with your palms flat together.

The great bodhisattva, Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, gave an extensive commentary on bodhisattva Shantideva’s teaching, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During the teaching to us, many incarnate lamas and many, many geshes, Rinpoche explained.../

/...At that time you meditate from your side that the guru manifested in all this. What it’s saying is that the absolute guru, the dharmakaya, the holy mind of all the buddhas manifests to us to liberate us from all suffering and its causes and bring us to enlightenment. The absolute guru manifests through or in these ordinary forms, these human beings, the virtuous friends, to guide us to enlightenment. This is the understanding behind saying that they are all manifestations of the guru.

Then here you prostrate to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha of all the ten directions. Then here you prostrate to the statues, stupas, scriptures, and thangkas of all the ten directions. So, you can do that meditation.

You can now see that without understanding the eight or ten benefits of putting your hands together—or even one hand—to respect a holy object, just putting your hands like this to a holy object doesn’t mean much. I mean, you collect merit but other than that you don’t get much feeling. But it’s different once you know these important benefits, especially that of enlightenment.

For example, think of all the holy objects in this room. In one picture of the Guru Puja merit field there are many thousands of holy objects, so when you prostrate to that one picture, you create those eight or ten benefits thousands of times. There are so many holy objects here, including actual relics of the Buddha and many great enlightened beings. Anyway, there are hundreds of thousands of holy objects in this room. When you put your hands together like this by thinking of all these holy objects, you create those eight or ten benefits so many hundreds of thousands of times. Simply by putting your palms together to all these holy objects in this room you create hundreds of thousands of causes of enlightenment and of liberation from samsara.

It is the same when you do this to all the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and to all the statues, stupas, scriptures, and thangkas that are not just here, but in any universe in all the ten directions. So, you create numberless causes of enlightenment, of liberation from samsara, and of good rebirth in future lives. It’s a question of how skillfully you meditate when you do prostration. How much merit you collect, how much your prostration becomes a quick means to achieve enlightenment, and how powerfully you purify your negative karmas depends on how skillfully you meditate. It now makes great sense when you prostrate like that.

When we go on pilgrimage to those holy places where there are temples with so many statues, we should prostrate the same way we do here in this room. We should use every single picture, painting or statue of Buddha to create merit, the cause of liberation from samsara, but especially of enlightenment.

Buddha became enlightened for us sentient beings. At the moment we don’t have the karma, the pure mind, to directly see Buddha, receive teachings from him, and to make offerings and prostrations to him. We have the karma to see only representations of Buddha, in the forms of pictures, statues, stupas, and other holy objects. Therefore, the buddhas manifest in these forms that we can see according to our present karma. Buddha manifested in these forms to guide us, to enable us to collect merit and to purify our mind, and bring us to enlightenment. The teachings say that dogs and other animals can’t see these holy objects. Sentient beings with less merit than us, such as pretas and animals, cannot see them.

The great enlightened being, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, mentions in his teachings that these holy objects are manifestations of Buddha, that Buddha manifests to us in these forms. When we see a statue or a painting of Buddha in our own house or somewhere outside, we have to respect it by remembering that Buddha manifested in this form for us to collect merit and purify our mind, to bring us to enlightenment. With this understanding, we should respect these holy objects as actual living buddhas.

Prostrating to the merit field by putting your palms together here on your crown creates the cause to achieve the pinnacle, one of the holy signs of Buddha. There are two categories of the qualities of a buddha’s holy body. One is the thirty-two holy signs, which are certain special shapes of parts of a buddha’s holy body, such as long ears, a pinnacle, a hair between the eyebrows. This white hair is curled to the right and this long. If you pull it out and then let it go, it goes back into place, like a piece of rubber. These particular signs show the realizations, or qualities, that a buddha’s holy mind has. The other category is the eighty holy exemplifications. It means that in the past Buddha created such-and-such good karma, which resulted in a particular shape of the holy body. All the details of the thirty-two holy signs and eighty holy exemplifications are explained in the texts.

When you prostrate here to the merit field, it creates the cause to achieve the pinnacle. Prostrating here causes you to achieve the hair that is between the two eyebrows. Just to achieve these signs you need to collect unbelievable merit. In Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand Pabongka mentions how much merit one has to collect to achieve these holy signs. You need these qualities of the holy body for sentient beings. For example, doctors wear different clothes according to their activities. Soldiers in the army also have different uniforms for different functions. In a similar way, the buddhas have these different signs. You need these holy signs to be able to benefit sentient beings. That’s why you need to create the causes of them.

Prostrating here purifies the negative karmas collected with the body during beginningless rebirths and enables you to achieve all the qualities of a buddha’s holy body. Prostrating here purifies the negative karmas collected with the speech during beginningless rebirths and enables you to achieve the infinite qualities of a buddha’s holy speech. Prostrating here purifies the negative karmas collected with the mind during beginningless rebirths and enables you to achieve the infinite qualities of a buddha’s holy mind.

There are two types of prostrations. In the five-limb prostration, which is the general prostration also done in the Hinayana tradition, your forehead must touch the ground, as well as your two knees and two hands.

The full-length prostration is practiced only in the Mahayana tradition. It’s not the practice of just Tibetan lamas. It is explained in a sutra, Buddha’s teaching, though I don’t remember its name. There’s a reference to it in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka and in the lam-rim teachings of other lamas. This sutra text says, “Prostrate like a tree trunk lying on the ground.” So, the full-length prostration wasn’t just made up by Tibetan lamas. Also, this is also the great pandit-yogi Naropa’s tradition of prostrating.

When you do prostrations, either five-limb or full-length, you have to know the mistakes that are disrespectful and create negative karma. It is said that when you put your hands in fists on the ground, it becomes disrespectful to the merit field and creates the karma to born as yaks, horses, or other animals with hooves. If you spread out your fingers, it makes you to be born as ducks, turkeys, or other animals with webbed feet.

Also, after you prostrate you must stand up straight, not bowed over. You shouldn’t keep your body bent over while you’re doing prostrations. Sometimes in the monasteries in the East, monks stay bent over as they quickly do prostrations because they haven’t checked the texts well. Anyway, it seems bending your body over like this is one of the mistakes. If you do that, it creates the karma to be born as camels or other animals with rounded backs. Maybe also pigs, but I’m not sure. Maybe also inch worms.

If there’s space, you must do full-length prostrations, because the reason you are doing prostrations is to collect merit. Therefore, if there’s space, we must take the opportunity to create as much merit as possible by doing full-length prostrations. Your body should cover as much ground as it can. Of course, if you have a short body you can’t make it longer, but if you have a tall body you can cover that much more ground. Maybe those of us who have short bodies when we later achieve those bhumis, or high levels of the path, can manifest a very tall body...

One great meditator explained that when we do full-length prostrations, we should circle our arms around so that we cover a lot of ground. We cover so many atoms under our body.

There in another very important benefit of doing prostrations that we should remember in our everyday life. Buddha mentioned in the Lankavatara Sutra that for each atom of the earth our body covers when we lie down to do a prostration, we create the cause to be born as a wheel-turning king for one thousand lifetimes. Not just one time, but one thousand lifetimes. Why is the example of a wheel-turning king used? It’s because to be born as a wheel-turning king one time you need to collect inconceivable merit. A wheel-turning king is the most powerful king in the world, in the universe. There’s no other king who can match the wealth and power of that king.

There are wheel-turning kings who rule one continent, two continents, three continents, or four continents, who have control over even the deva realms. Those wheel-turning kings who are bodhisattvas can benefit so many other sentient beings so much with all their wealth and power.

Doing prostrations doesn’t cause you to be born only as a wheel-turning king—Buddha used this example to give us an idea of how much merit we collect, because to be born a wheel-turning king one time we need inconceivable merit. For each atom under your body you create the merit to be born as a wheel-turning king for one thousand lifetimes. Now, when you do prostrations, you don’t cover just one atom. There are an inconceivable number of atoms from here down to the bottom of the earth. The taller or fatter we are, the more atoms of earth our body covers. People with long hair cover more ground when they do prostrations. That’s one special advantage of having long hair. It is also the same with long nails. It is one time that having long hair or long nails becomes meaningful. Having long hair and long nails become very meaningful when you use your body to prostrate to Buddha because you then collect inconceivable merit.

There are an inconceivable number of atoms from here down to the bottom of the earth. Therefore, you can see that when you do a full-length prostration, covering that many atoms means that you create causes to be born as a wheel-turning king for one thousand lifetimes equal to the number of the atoms. You collect that much merit.

You can then dedicate that merit to achieve enlightenment, so that you are able to liberate all sentient beings from all their sufferings and bring them to enlightenment. After having collected this extensive merit, you then dedicate it to develop your mind in the path to enlightenment and thus free numberless sentient beings from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment. It helps you to quickly succeed in this. It is very important to remember this in our daily life.

So, I have explained the meditation you do when you put your palms together in prostration. Another very important part of the meditation comes when you lie down. As you start to lie down, think, “I’m prostrating, starting from here, to all the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and all the statues, stupas, scriptures, and other holy objects in the ten directions, who are all the guru.” From your side you think that they are all the guru. That’s the meditation. It then also becomes a guru yoga meditation. By thinking of the guru when you prostrate, you then collect the most extensive merit. You collect much more than prostrating simply thinking of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha or of statues, stupas, scriptures, and thangkas. If you prostrate by thinking of the guru, you collect much more merit. There are numberless Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and numberless statues, stupas, scriptures, and thankgas; if you think all of them are the guru and then prostrate, you collect the most extensive merit. Think this as you start to lie down, and then prostrate.

On top of that, one very important meditation that is normally emphasized in the teachings is that when you do prostrations you visualize numberless bodies doing prostrations. If you have visualized yourself as Thousand-Arm Chenrezig, it’s then very easy to visualize numberless bodies in the form of Thousand-Arm Chenrezig covering the whole ground in all directions. The ground is covered everywhere, in the four directions and four corners. Even if your body is standing up, in your mind think that numberless replicas of yourself, in the form of Thousand-Arm Chenrezig, are prostrating from all the four sides and corners to all these holy objects or to Compassion Buddha and all the merit field, if that is what you have visualized. You can think in that way: numberless replicas of yourself, Thousand-Arm Chenrezig, are prostrating from all the directions.

As I mentioned this morning, if you visualize one more body doing prostration, it is the same as your actual body having done prostration. You have only one body, but if you visualize one more body doing prostration at the same time as your actual body does prostration, you have done two prostrations. You get the same amount of merit with the visualized body. It logically follows that when you visualize more bodies doing prostrations—hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, billions, numberless—you have done that many prostrations. You get the same amount of merit as if your actual body had done that many number of prostrations. Therefore, to make the prostrations a means to collect extensive merit, the texts explain to visualize numberless bodies doing prostration. It’s an important meditation.

At the end of the prostrations, you do the dedication. Anyway, there’s a dedication at the end of the prayer after prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas.

Bodhicitta motivation

This sentient being doesn’t have any freedom at all. They are like a stick. When somebody beats you with a stick, there’s no point in getting angry with the stick, because the stick has no freedom at all. Since the stick is completely controlled by the person wielding it, it doesn’t make any sense at all to get angry with the stick. It would be totally childish. It is similar with someone who is totally overwhelmed by anger. That person hasn’t got the slightest freedom. They have no control. They are a slave of anger. They are completely controlled and used by anger.

Therefore, uncontrollably, without freedom, the person is suffering. They are never an object to harm in return or to get angry with. They are only an object of compassion’ they give rise to only compassion. This is someone to only help. You must do something to help them, to free them from anger. Forget about harming them. You must do something to benefit them; you must help to liberate them forever from these delusions, the cause of suffering.

In the same way, numberless sentient beings are totally overwhelmed by karma and delusions and have the contaminated seed of disturbing thoughts in their mental continuum. This is why delusions arise and overwhelm them, so that they continuously create negative karma. What sentient beings want is happiness, but this is their nature. They are so pitiful. They themselves have no freedom at all. They are overwhelmed by karma and delusions. They have so many wrong views. They are totally hallucinated.

So, they have been suffering like this from life to life, during time without beginning. During beginningless rebirths they have been suffering this way and they are still continuously suffering. What they want is happiness but they’re ignorant of the cause of happiness. On top of that, they destroy the cause of happiness. Because of ignorance, instead of creating the cause of happiness, they destroy it. They run away from the cause of happiness and create the cause of suffering. They destroy the cause of happiness, merit, like an enemy, and no matter how much they don’t wish for suffering, they keep themselves busy continuously, day and night, creating the cause of suffering. So, that’s how they continuously experience suffering and are devoid of happiness. If they don’t lack temporary happiness, they lack the happiness of future lives; if they don’t lack that, they lack e ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara; and if they don’t lack that, they lack the peerless happiness of enlightenment.

Not knowing the cause of suffering, instead of abandoning it, they continuously run to create the cause of suffering. In this way, they continuously suffer. And sentient beings are the source of all my past, present, and future happiness, all my realizations, up to enlightenment. So, they are the most precious ones in my life. I must free them from all their suffering and its causes and bring them to enlightenment by myself alone. Therefore, I must achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible. Therefore, I’m going to do this nyung-nä retreat for the benefit of all my kind mother sentient beings.

Instantaneous generation

All the lineage lamas absorb into His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who then absorbs into you. You become one; your own mind becomes His Holiness’s holy mind.

It is very satisfying, blissful, in nature. See everything as empty. I, the meditator who is doing the nyung-nä, is empty.

Then instantaneously arise in the holy body of the Great Compassionate One, with one face and two arms.