Wishing Your Eminence, a very Happy Birthday.
Blessed we are, to be a member of Geykuel Drukdra led by Your Eminence;
Grateful we are, to Your Eminence for taking us under your guidance;
Thankful we are, to Your Eminence for giving us opportunities to benefit all beings in our own small ways under your guidance and blessings;
May we have the merit ...
Wishing Your Eminence, a very Happy Birthday.
Blessed we are, to be a member of Geykuel Drukdra led by Your Eminence;
Grateful we are, to Your Eminence for taking us under your guidance;
Thankful we are, to Your Eminence for giving us opportunities to benefit all beings in our own small ways under your guidance and blessings;
May we have the merit to be always connected with your Eminence for all lives to come. Once again, the Geykuel Drukdra, devotees and students would like to wish Your Eminence, a very Happy Birthday and offer our prayers for Your Eminence’s Long and Healthy Life.
TASHI DELEK LA!
Introduction to the Three Traditions of Buddhism (Yanas) and Qualities that a Guru should possess
(From a teaching on the three Yanas during the Dragon Yogis Retreat held in Bhutan in 2015 and teaching on Guru-Student Relationship in Vietnam in 2013)
Introduction to the Three Traditions of Buddhism (Yanas) and Qualities that a Guru should possess
(From a teaching on the three Yanas during the Dragon Yogis Retreat held in Bhutan in 2015 and teaching on Guru-Student Relationship in Vietnam in 2013)
1.1 Essence of Theravada tradition
In Theravada, mind wise - renunciation is very important, and practice wise -Vinaya (discipline) is of utmost importance, especially the discipline of body and speech. In Theravada there are no mind vows. The vows are called “Pratimoksa” which means self-liberation. These vows are focused on the discipline of the body and speech, such as how do you walk, how you talk, etc. Pratimoksa focuses on taming the mind by taming the body and speech. The goal in this tradition is to be liberated from the sea of suffering. Basically, followers of this tradition want to be free of samsara and suffering but they do not have the desire to become Buddha for the sake of all sentient beings. The highest level achievement of this tradition is called Arhat (Drachompa). ‘Dra’ means enemies, in this case our negative emotions and ‘Chompa’ means to destroy – To destroy our negative emotions. An Arhat is someone who has destroyed all negative karma and emotions, who is free from samsara but they are not Buddha. I am not saying that they don’t benefit sentient beings but the wish to become enlightened for the sake of sentient beings is not there.
Begging tradition in Theravada practice. Monks of Theravada tradition is not allowed to engage in activities that will lead to arise of negative emotions. For example, they are not allowed to look at women in the eyes, not allowed to touch gold, not allowed to wear slippers, etc. They have to walk bare feet and they have to go begging for food. A monastery of Theravada tradition cannot have kitchen because having a kitchen and the need to cook will lead to the need to buy food, store food, have money to buy food which could lead to the desire to cook delicious food and get angry if the food is not delicious. Why are they going begging for food and how does it help in enhancing their practice? We should understand that they are not doing it out of desperation but they are doing it consciously to reduce their negative emotions. When you are walking around begging for food with no assets, there is nothing to boost your ego and no reason to get angry. Even while begging, they can beg only in the first three houses and if they don’t get food in the first three houses, then they have to go back empty stomach. That is why the Theravada monks are not vegetarian. But there is no negative karma because the owner does not know that you are coming and he did not kill for you. It is meat but it was never intended for you. Even Buddha was not a vegetarian. Of course he was Buddha and he is at a totally different level and even if he ate meet, he can liberate but the reason why Buddha was not a vegetarian was because he was going around begging. When you beg, you cannot demand for what you prefer. For example, I cannot come to your house to beg and say I came to beg for food and it must be vegetarian, otherwise I will not accept it. How can you say like that- begging and at the same time demanding with conditions? If you get delicious food today, it is very good but no need to get excited because you don’t know what you will get tomorrow. If you don’t get delicious food also, it is ok, tomorrow you may get delicious food. So the desire and attachment to food slowly reduces. For us, we have so much desire for delicious food, for that we kill tons of animals.
Another example is: when you have a good hairstyle and nice long hair, deep inside, you are little bit proud of it. Now if you shave it off, there is no reason to feel proud of it anymore. If you are going in a nice car, say a Land Cruiser, actually if you think about it, 100 years ago, it was good horses, now basically you are going in a 21st century version of a horse and you care about it so much that you would feel angry or upset if someone scratched your car.
Basically the point is that when you discipline your body- not touching gold, walking bare feet, begging for food, shaving your head, all these physical body and speech disciplines, which lessens your desire automatically controls your mind and gradually helps to tame your mind. Naturally, what you don’t see, you don’t desire for it. How can you have ego when you are walking around begging for food. How can you have so much attachment when you are allowed to have only two sets of clothes? So you don’t need to worry about having money for clothes, thinking how to get a nice watch, etc. You are not allowed to have a kitchen so you need not worry about the taste of food. Sometimes having a lot of money, can lead to attachment, pride and anger. But when you don’t have anything, automatically the negative emotions get controlled. Of course Theravada practitioners do meditation but the body and speech discipline vows, the Vinaya is the most important. For example, if I say, don’t get angry, it is difficult to control anger but if I say don’t kill, you can stop. Keeping these vows strictly automatically helps to tame the mind and that is the key.
1.2 Qualities of a Guru for Theravada tradition
Now what kind of a Guru do you need if you follow this tradition? You need a Guru who keeps his vows very well. For example, in Theravada, you can give a Bikshu and Bikshuni vow only after 10 years. So basically your Guru needs to be a very good Bikshu or Bikshuni, who keeps his/her vows very pure and who is disciplined. Only if he/she keeps the vows, he/she can give you the vows. In Theravada, Guru is someone who gave you the vows and a very senior monk. You don’t need to see your Guru as a Buddha or a Bodhisattva but definitely you have to respect your Guru. In the Theravada tradition, older the monk, more senior he is because older means you have kept the vow for more number of years. Since discipline is the most important, you go by the age. So a Guru for the Theravada tradition should be very learned in the Vinaya, keep the vows, and very disciplined.
2.1 Essence of Mahayana tradition
In Mahayana, body and speech disciplines are important but the most important is Bodhichitta, the mind discipline. The essence of Bodhichitta vow is to stop us from being selfish. As soon as you have a selfish thought, you are breaking the Mahayana vow. Bodhichitta actually means selflessness. While trying to keep the Mahayana vow, Theravada vows are also important because Theravada vows are mostly to do with prevention of negative action - stopping ourselves from harming others and Mahayana is about benefitting sentient beings. However, among the ten non-virtues, the seven non-virtues of body and speech are acceptable in Mahayana tradition as long as total selflessness is there, which is the essence of Mahayana. The reason why Mahayana practitioners do not go around begging is because the priority is selflessness. It is said that as long as selflessness is there, other Theravada vows like not touching gold, not looking at women can be allowed.
In Mahayana, whatever we do such as think, eat, sleep, walk, laugh, talk, etc. we do it not for oneself but for the sake of all sentient beings. For example, I drink water so that I survive and can practice dharma to help sentient beings. Selflessness means to do everything for the sake of mother sentient beings and nothing for oneself. Selflessness actually works very well in taming the mind because this is key in getting rid of our negative emotions. When you have the thought that whatever I do - my chanting, meditation, may it benefit all mother sentient beings and help them reach enlightenment, even if you get angry, it is easier to forgive.
Why do we have pride and ego – it is because we make ourselves more important than others. If you are selfless and truly care for all mother sentient beings, you will not make yourself more important than others. You will not be harming other people for your own benefit because you will not be more important than others. Why are we jealous - It is not because the other person is so beautiful but it is because we love ourselves so much and we feel like we are not as good as the other person. That is why we get jealous. If you are selfless, you will not be getting jealous because how can you get jealous of someone whom you love so much equally to yourself. If your son and daughter are doing well, you will not get jealous because you love your son and daughter. Similarly, if you have such selfless Bodhichitta mind, how can you get jealous, how you can feel proud and angry when you love them so much that their happiness and joy means so much to you. Why do we get angry? Anger arises when the other people are not fulfilling our wishes, not respecting us. These negative emotions come from selfishness.
In Mahayana practice, eating meat is not allowed. When we believe that all sentient beings are parents of our past lives, how can we eat them and say I want to benefit mother sentient beings. How can we take the life of another being, harm them for our enjoyment of ten minutes with tasty food and say I am practicing loving kindness? If we cannot stop ourselves from harming others, how can you say I will kill but I will liberate them and do life release. How can you selflessly benefit other beings like this? It is not really a true practice. Normally, for strict Mahayana practitioners, not only do they don’t eat meat, they also do not wear leather made products. This is because Bodhichitta, loving-kindness is the main essence of this tradition. That’s why I say we are so selfish. When it comes to ourselves, even if our nail is broken, we cannot bear the pain. However, when it comes to others, we can take their life. Why is it like this? It is because of our selfishness.
It is said that when Jangchub-sempas (Bodhisattvas) look at people who upset them, they look at these people like how a mother looks at her crazy child. When a mother looks at her crazy child, the mother knows that the child has no control over his/her behavior. Similarly, we are also out of control because of desire. For example, when we talk so much, we have no control over our mouth; when are getting angry, you can’t sleep, you want to kill someone, this means you have no control over your anger. With strong desire, insecurity and fear also comes. So Jangchub-sempas look at the people who try to harm them like their sons and daughters who have gone crazy and in return love them even more. A Jangchub-sempa thinks like this – “All sentient beings are my parents of past lives, but they don’t recognize me. It is out of ignorance that these people are trying to harm me. May they never go through suffering because this act of theirs. May they be liberated.” The Mahayana practice will focus very much on selflessness. Once you have selflessness, it is so strong that physically touching things does not give rise to desire. For example, generally speaking, Mahayana monks are not supposed to touch gold but if it is for the benefit of others, you are allowed to touch gold. This is because you cannot get attached to gold when you can only think of how you can benefit other sentient beings with this gold. Another example is that, when you have money, you don’t mind giving all you have to your children whom you love so much. You have no attachment when spending on them. This is because you love them so much. Similarly, Bodhisattvas love all sentient beings so much like a mother loves her child. For Mahayana practitioners, wealth does not make them egoistic and corrupted but for them it is to use the wealth for the benefit of others. Bodhisattvas can be born as a master, a teacher, a cleaner, even as a bee, they can be born as anything. Since bodhichitta is the key practice of a Mahayana practitioner, a lot of things that are not allowed for Theravada is allowed for Mahayana provided total selflessness is the basis for the action and speech.
2.2 Qualities of a Guru for Mahayana tradition
A Mahayana Guru has to have two qualities. Firstly, the Guru should be highly learned in the Mahayana sutras and teachings and; secondly, the Guru should not give up Bodhichitta even at the cost of his own life. What it means is that even at the cost of his life, he will never be selfish. Selflessness and loving kindness is the most important quality. He must keep the bodhichitta vow.
In Mahayana, sometimes we talk about Guru as a Bodhisattva but never as a Buddha. Bodhichitta is the wish to get enlightened for the sake of all mother sentient beings. Now within Bodhisattvas also, depending on the strengths of their bodhichitta, we say (i) Bodhichitta like a king - I want to first become king and then I will take care of my subjects. This means that I want to first become Buddha and then I will benefit the sentient beings like Manjushiri; (ii) Bodhichitta like an oarsman – Like an oarsman, I will cross the water body together with the passengers in the boat. This means that I want to benefit myself and all sentient beings together like Chana Dorji (Vajrapani); (iii) Bodhichitta like a shepherd – meaning who first goes and makes sure there is no wolf and then makes sure all the sheep are fine and goes after the herd protecting them. This means that first I will benefit all sentient beings and only after all beings are liberated, I will get enlightened like Chenrigzig (Avalokiteshvara). That is why Chenrigzig is called Jangchub-sempa Phagpa Chenrigzig because he promised that till every sentient being is enlightened and the world is empty of samsara, he will not become Buddha. That is why Chenrigzig is the example of the great Bodhisattva. This does not mean that Avalokiteshvara is not a Buddha (Sangay) but it just shows his commitment when they were beginning on this path. It is like if you fall from a cliff, you will die even if you say I don’t want to die. Similarly, even though Chenrigzig said he does not want to become Buddha but if he is doing all the practices and creating the condition to get enlightened, then he will become Buddha and he has become Buddha in terms of qualities of accomplishment of wisdom and compassion.
3.1 Essence of Vajrayana tradition
The main focus of Vajrayana practice is to stop or transform our ordinary conceptual mind by skillful method of visualization (keyrim) and realizing the non-fabricated nature of the phenomenon (zogrim), through the practice of realizing the calm and abiding nature of the mind.
To be a practitioner of Vajrayana, to some extent you have to be a practitioner of all three Yanas. Especially for beginners like us especially, on the outside we have to keep the body and speech discipline and have bodhichitta. Philosophy wise, Mahayana and Vajrayana, are same but there is a difference in the method. Actually you can say Vajrayana is a part of Mahayana. You have to have bodhichitta - selflessness is very much required. On top of that, the main practice in Vajrayana is the transformation of mind through visualization and remaining in the calm and abiding meditation which is to remain in the unfabricated nature of the mind.
The reason why Mahayana practitioners practice Vajrayana is because it is said that Mahayana is a great practice but to become a complete Buddha it takes about 3 countless aeons. Vajrayana is recommended for those people who have a very strong Bodhichitta, and they want to become enlightened immediately to benefit sentient beings within one to sixteen lifetimes. In Vajrayana, it is said that you can get enlightened within 16 lifetimes if you don’t break samaya. In Vajrayana, it is about blessings and skillful method. If we do not have a good understanding of Mahayana, it is very complicated and confusing. Vajrayana is a practice that gives you the ability to get enlightened much faster through skillful method. However, Vajrayana is said to be very complicated. It is a practice in which either you go up or you go down. There is no middle way. It is like a parachute, you reach very fast but you either go down or you go up.
What is ordinary conceptual mind that creates our visualizations in this samsara?
Ordinary conceptual mind is the mind that makes us understand things as per the samsaric visualization. This means right now you see this temple as a temple, beautiful watch as beautiful, men as men and women as women, feel cold as cold and hot as hot. Why do you want to stop the conceptual mind? This is because the main source of disturbance to the clear and empty nature of mind is the conceptual mind. For example, let’s say a watch, right now you don’t desire for it. Suddenly, someone says that it cost Ngultrum One Hundred Thousands. Then, you start thinking and suddenly you have this desire to get it. When something is worn by famous beautiful people, you also feel it is very beautiful. So after this concept, desire, anger, jealousy comes. We are not realizing it, but we are living in a conceptual world.
Living in the samsaric visualization all the time. We are living our life visualizing everything. If you say, we are not visualizing, then what is an enemy? Does any enemy inherently exist? No, it is our hatred that makes an enemy exist. So when we see him, we feel upset. Another person sees this same person as his friend so he feels happy when he sees him. The difference in this person is how we see him. Even husband and wife relationship is a very strong visualization. Before marriage, you don’t care what he is doing but from the moment you say he is my husband, visualization starts after that….then you start asking, where are you going, what are you doing, very painful, angry. Before you didn’t care, now you care so much - this is samsaric visualization. My husband, my house, my car, my enemy - very strong visualizations and attachment is very strong, emotions, then karma. So we are visualizing all the time. Right now with 100 people in the room, I am seeing a lot of people in this teaching hall this is also visualization. Maybe tomorrow, I go and give teaching to 10000 people and feel this is a small crowd. We are visualizing all the time, good, bad, happy, beautiful, and ugly. Even the self, if you really check, it is not there but you have visualized it so well such as our identity, ego, etc.. When you say Mr. X. oh yes yes why? Because we have visualized him so well. You are not born as a director, army, wife, so now why are you tagged that way? It is because our visualization is so good. We have to know that we are visualizing all the time. And depending on one’s concept of what is wrong and what is right, emotions follow. This shows that different people have different visualizations.
Another example of ordinary concept is how we label things. We label what is fashion nowadays. If we look at the fashion of dressing from the olden days, now it looks funny. This is because concepts have changed. Right now your hairstyle may look very fashionable but 15 years down the line, it will look old fashioned. Because the concept has changed. Fashion does not have reality. A Vajrayana practitioner can become the President or the Prime Minister of a country and it is not a problem but the moment he believes that I am the President that is ultimately existing, he has broken his Vajrayana vow. Basically what is a President? A President is made when many people vote for him and decide that he is the president. If tomorrow they decide, he is not then he is no longer the President. Where has the President disappeared? He was never there, it was a conceptual conditional thing.
A story of how different people have different concepts and different visualizations. Once a British leader led an expedition to Tibet in the olden days. There was a prophecy in Tibet that some foreigners will come to the country and bring lots of changes to the culture and so on in a negative way. So when they saw the British for the first time, they were very scared because they always thought that everybody has black hair and black eye like us. So when they saw yellow hair and green eyes, the Tibetans got culture shock and were very upset. In Tibetan tradition, there is a culture that whenever we want to chase away something, we clap to drive away the evil forces. It is said that all the Tibetans in the community stood up and lined up and started clapping to drive away the British team. And the British soldiers felt so happy saying we are being welcomed. They felt that Tibetans are so welcoming to the expedition force. So depending on the culturally created concept, one way clapping is to chase away but for another, it is welcoming.
A spiritual journey for you, a circus parade for another. Nowadays, when we are travelling to give teachings, we are going by so many cars, with lots of people in a group. If you are a practitioner, you should understand that this is also a visualization. Maybe for us it may seem like a very good way of respecting the dharma, respecting the Master and accumulating merit. Very good, if you respect the dharma why not, tremendous merit will be accumulated. During Buddha Shakyamuni’s time, when a Master was invited, there were no cars so they used elephants and chariots. But you should not get excited about these things. This time when we were going around, I could see that many tourist were taking photographs of our parade. Maybe from their point of view, we are like a circus parade you know. For them it is fun, interesting. That is their visualization. Different people have different visualizations. So what have you understood today from this? The emptiness of what we consider great. We consider such a parade as great and tourist consider it as fun. Then what is the truth? The truth is that, it is neither the one that we think nor the one they think. It is beyond good and bad.
Marketing is another good example of visualization. When people do marketing, what they are actually doing is teaching us how to visualize very well. That is why when a famous star advertises a car and walks very nicely showcasing it, we do not mind paying one million dollars for that car because we are trained to visualize it as a car worth that much.
Vajrayana vow. Vajrayana is like going to the heart of the matter. It is like rather than saying I don’t want the pain, it is saying let’s look at the pain and understand the true nature of pain. Pain, beauty, etc. is a concept and we should understand its true nature. The problem is never with the things but it is with our concept of how we project. Let’s say gold or diamond. From the Theravada point of view, don’t touch the gold or diamond because when you are allowed to touch, then you get the desire. From the Mahayana point of view, with Bodhichitta, it is how I can use the diamond to help the sentient beings and not feeling proud that I have a diamond. For a Vajrayana practitioner, if you see diamond as a diamond, you have broken the Vajrayana vow. A Vajrayana practitioner is not allowed to see diamond as diamond. Basically, this is to say that the diamond does not say that it is expensive but we say diamond is expensive. The society collectively with its concept label diamond as very expensive and nice and after we label it, we believe in it and then desire for it. From the Mahayana point of view, we have to check whether we are attached to something or not, and from Vajrayana point of view, we have to check whether we conceptually think that diamond exist as it appears to be. The concept of 100% existence, the dualistic concept – this is the killer in Vajrayana.
How can one understand the true nature of things through Vajrayana practice?
Vajrayana involves two methods – (i) visualization and (ii) dissolution. Visualization is to visualize everything as pure and dissolution is to remain in your unfabricated nature of mind.
Samsaric and pure visualization. Samsaric visualizations make us drown deeper and deeper in samsara, which makes us angry, jealous, sad, etc. In order to change the samsaric visualization, we need another visualization. Pure visualization is visualizing everybody as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas instead of ordinary people and visualizing all our surroundings as pure land. Pure visualization is an antidote to the samsaric visualization that is so strong in us. Instead of visualizing that I am staying in a very nice hotel and being proud of it, visualize that it is a pure land. Tomorrow even if you sleep on the road, you visualize that also as pure land. So whether it is your house or a nice hotel or on the road, it doesn’t make any difference to you. The difference between samsaric visualization and Vajrayana visualization is that samsaric visualization creates problems- beauty gives rise to desire, hatred gives rise to anger, and that makes us accumulate karma and samsara. Vajrayana visualization is called the pure vision because instead of having a strong concept of what is clean and what is dirty, entire place is pure land and everyone is visualized as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This visualization has no reason to create negative emotions. If you don’t do the pure visualization very well, it is difficult for you to understand the samsaric visualization.
Progress on the path of pure visualization – the first step in Vajrayana practice. It is said that as your visualization becomes better and better, it becomes true. However, it is difficult to immediately visualize everyone as Buddha and Bodhisattva. So we should try, and try as we chant and practice, then improve over time and one day we will be able to do it. The first sign of progress in visualization is when you will be truly able to see what you visualize. That is what you start to experience because the world is what you are visualizing. It is said that people who practice Buddha Amitabha a lot, after sometime time they see everybody as Buddha Amitabha and every sound is heard as Om Ami Dewa Hri. After a long time, even others see that person as Buddha Amitabha (this is a high level practice). This is the short term goal. If you visualize all sounds as Om Mani Pedme Hung, after some it becomes like that. Mother of His Holiness does Om Ami Dewa Hri so much that she says that when she hears a language that she does not understand, she hears it as Om Ami Dewa Hri. After you practice a lot, as you progress, you will not only see yourself but all others as the Buddha that you practice.
A story of how visualization became real. There is a story that in the past there was one Indian Master. He didn’t know how to do visualization very well. He did not know how to visualize Guru Rimpoche, the mantras. He was a buffalo herder before he started practicing. So the Guru said, if you cannot visualize Guru or Chakrasamvara, you can visualize a buffalo horn on your head. With so much respect for his Guru, he visualized a buffalo horn on his head very nicely respecting his Guru as pure vision. For a few years, he visualized the horn and after a few years he could feel the horn on his head. When he went around, he had to bend down to pass through and he could feel it, not sure if others could see but he felt it. Then the Guru told him that you didn’t have horn but now because of visualization you have horn. What is the truth? The truth is beyond having or not having. That is the middle path- Madhyamika. By nature, everything is in the Madhyamika - in the middle path, non-fabricated nature, but by concept of fabrication, it becomes either of the two sides - yes it exist or no it does not exist, good or bad, beautiful or ugly.
Why start with the visualization of your Guru as a Buddha?
Trying to visualize everyone as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and everything as pure land is difficult in the beginning. That is why, we say first start with the Guru. See the Guru as the Buddha. As a Vajrayana practitioner, whatever activity the Guru does, even if the Guru jumps up and down or the Guru may be very decent, however the Guru may appear and behave, you have to visualize as a pure Buddha’s activity. If you are Mahayana practitioner, you can ask the Guru about why he or she is doing this and that. If you are a Vajrayana practitioner you cannot say that. You can check your Guru before accepting as Guru. However, if your Guru asks you to do something that is not possible for you to do at all, then it is said that you can do three prostrations for purification and there will be no negative karma for being not able to follow that command of your Guru. However, this is applicable only for situations that are beyond your control and when not in line with the essence of the tradition. You have to be mindful that this cannot be used as an excuse such as for example, to not do your daily practices out of laziness. And when you visualize like that, you do get the merit of praying to the Buddha. Even relatively speaking also, it is said that in the degenerate time, enlightened beings will manifest in the form of human beings. After Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of Drukpa lineage passed away, relics of Avalokiteshvara were found on his back bone. So not only visualization wise but even in relative truth, we are fortunate to meet Avalokiteshvara in human form.
Pure visualization is a process to realize the ultimate non-dualistic nature of the mind. We start with the Guru, but it should not stop with the Guru. Slowly, the pure visualization should extend to our dharma brothers and sisters, then all sentient beings and after sometime whatever they do, whether good or bad, you have to understand that good and bad is my own concept, my samsaric visualization. Then we should have a pure vision to all sentient beings. The long term goal of pure visualization is to understand that, earlier on it was samsaric visualization, now it is Vajrayana visualization. But both are equally conceptual and equally not real. This step will lead us towards the next step which is emptiness, shunyata- realizing that ultimate reality is beyond all concepts and beyond all duality. That is the ultimate goal. Pure visualization is not the ultimate goal but a step and a process to realize the ultimate non-dualistic nature of the mind.
Dissolution - the second step in Vajrayana practice. The dissolution practice comes after the pure visualization practice. During this stage, you dissolve the Guru into yourself because ultimately, the Guru is non-other than your own non- fabricated nature of your mind. Then you remain in the present moment without fabricating. And when you remain in that state, you realize that good and bad is inherently not there in the nature of your mind, but we have fabricated it. We can see the true nature of things only by remaining in the un-fabricated nature of mind. At this stage, everything is understood as the middle path, the union of yes and no; existing and non-existing. When we try to remain in the non-fabricated nature of mind, we are trying to understand the true nature of phenomenon. Once you understand the true nature, then definitely there is no dualistic concept which gives rise to desire, anger, jealousy. When these negative emotions are not there, samsara will not be there. That is the focus of Vajrayana practice.
Why does Vajrayana Buddhas wear ornaments? The reason why Theravada and Mahayana Buddhas usually don’t wear ornaments and Vajrayana usually wears ornaments like earrings, necklace, etc. is because the path is different. Vajrayana is not about giving up things, rather it is about understanding the true nature of the things. It is about understanding the non-dualistic nature of all phenomenons beyond both attachment and detachment. Rather than saying and believing that diamond is good, it is to understand the true nature of diamond, which is beyond good and bad. That is more important for Vajrayana practitioners. It does not mean that one tradition is wrong. According to different tradition, the essence is also different. For Vajrayana practitioner, instead of rejecting desire and anger, you try to realize the nature of desire which is clear and empty. For example it can be bumpa (ritual vase) or vajra made of gold. These two have different makes but the nature of both is gold. Even though anger and jealousy look like different negative emotions, if you understand the nature of these emotions, it is clear and empty. Nature of compassion is also clear and empty. When the five negative emotions (anger, jealousy, desire, pride and ignorance) are recognized, these are the five wisdoms and called the five Buddhas (yeshey nga). That is why true Vajrayana practitioners are very hard to judge from outside. Vajrayana practitioners can be monks, nuns, yogis, yoginis, lay people, anyone as long as they are able to control or prevent, the ordinary conceptual mind.
It is important to understand our own level of realization. Among the three Yanas, Vajrayana is the most difficult. However, when people do not understand the three Yanas properly, there is a misconception of Vajrayana being easy to practice - I can drink alcohol, do whatnot things, do whatever I want and no need of discipline. But that is not true. Yes, if you reach the level of Lam Drukpa Kuenley, then you can do what you like because you have reached a level, which is beyond the concept of life and death. But we are not at that level. That is why when we criticize, we say “I don’t know whether your realization is like Guru Rinpoche but your behaviour is like Guru Rinpoche”. That means behavior is like eating meat, drinking alcohol, acting like you are highly realized when you are not. The great Master Jo Atisha said that - he never broke the Hinayana (Pratimoksha) vow; he broke the Mahayana vow few times a day because the moment you get angry on somebody, the moment you give up on somebody, the moment selfish thoughts arise, Bodhisattva vow is broken; Vajrayana vows are broken many times a day- the moment you see beauty as beauty, diamond as diamond, house as house, the vow is broken. That is why Vajrayana vow is very difficult to keep. That is why even though we are Vajrayana followers, as beginners, it is better to start with the Pratimoksha practice with some discipline. Before you become a good practitioner, you should at least be a good person first. That is why it is important to first develop body and speech discipline not to harm others and then develop bodhichitta. Then progress on to Vajrayana practice to understand the non-dualistic nature of things, which is nothing to do with the outside but with the mind.
Why is it recommended to have one Guru and follow one lineage?
In Vajrayana we say, devotion to my Guru with pure vision and respect towards every master and every lineage. It is recommended to follow one lineage because each lineage has so many profound teachings for all levels (beginners, middle, until enlightenment) if you really want to practice. If you receive a lot of teachings here and there but not practice any properly, then it is like dogs which go everywhere but don’t practice. You can say I belong to everybody but belong to nobody. How can you even have the time to go around like that? Then, after you receive a Vajrayana teaching from a Guru, you have to have a Buddha like vision for that Guru. So how can you have Buddha like visions to so many Gurus? How can you follow the command of so many Gurus? That is why it is recommended to have one Guru first (not forbidden to have more than one).
The importance to keep the samaya. At our level, it is difficult to have pure visions and therefore, it is recommended to have one Root Guru and follow one lineage to avoid breaking Vajrayana samaya. If you break the samaya, even if you receive 1000 initiations, you will never receive any blessings. Rather you might even go in the negative direction with the karma of breaking of samaya. If you receive teachings from so many masters and don’t practice, you are breaking the samaya. Then there is no enlightenment for you at all. When His Holiness comes to Vietnam and gives teachings, so many auspicious signs appear. It is because - you have devotion; of course His Holiness’s blessing is always there; and because Vajrayana is very new here so no samaya are broken yet, it is very pure right now. His Holiness comes here only once a year and whatever His Holiness instructs, you all practice. That’s why right now the blessing is answered really fast and signs are very clear. Slowly it will disappear if samaya are broken. That is why as a beginner, it is recommended to follow one lineage and one Guru because of our lack of capability of pure vision.
Guru is the best person to crush our Ego. From my experience, I can say that for example, if someone says to do something, you will always ask why do I have to do this work? I don’t want to do the work and so on. In a way this Guru-student relationship is very good. If you cannot respect and be humble to one person who is your Guru, then how can you be humble to other sentient beings? How can you respect all sentient beings? How can your ego go down? Right now, in many cases, our ego goes down only for our Guru – that is good. Gradually, you will also do the same with other people and do things to benefit others and say I don’t mind. Why, because Guru trained you. Some Gurus say that Mahayana Gurus are always on time but Vajrayana Gurus are always late. Actually in a way it is a technique because when you go and see a Guru, if the Guru immediately says welcome and extends a lot of courtesy, you feel a little proud thinking I am quite a special disciple. You feel like you have a special connection. On the other hand, if the Guru makes you wait for one or two hours, your feeling of ego goes down and that is good. Guru’s job is not to boost your ego, but to reduce the ego, which you already have so much. When my Guru made me wait for long hours, I feel it is a great teaching. Because if I can wait for a few hours for my Guru, then I can wait 15 minutes for others without a problem. If I cannot wait ten minutes for my Guru, other people forget it.
3.2 Qualities of a Guru for Vajrayana tradition
Generally speaking, a Vajrayana Guru should have both Vinaya vows and bodhichitta. A guru can be a lay person also and not necessarily have to be a famous Guru provided the Guru possesses the following qualities:
Must have a very good relationship or samaya with his own Guru; this means to have pure vision towards one’s own Guru. If he does not have a pure vision towards one’s own Guru how can he teach us? That is why we say the lineage has to be very pure and unbroken. Through the lineage, the blessing is there; the teaching is there.
Should be skilled in the Vajrayana practices of visualization, chanting, and teaching.
If possible, he should have fully realized the Mahamudra – the nature of the mind. Even if he has not realized the true nature of the mind himself, he should at least be able to introduce you to it and recognize it which means he should be someone who has been introduced to the nature of his mind by his teacher. When one reaches the first level of Bodhisattva, the first Bhumi, that time one truly see the shunyata. After every bhumi, one sees it more and more clearly- the clarity increases till one become enlightened.
A recap of the Three Traditions:
 Ref: Wikipedia- Samaya is a set of vows or precepts given to initiates of an esoteric Vajrayana Buddhist order as part of the abhiṣeka (empowerment or initiation) ceremony that creates a bond between the guru and disciple.
 An example of realized nature of mind and able to recognize and introduce is as follows:
Teaching on Buddha Amitabha (Sangay Yoepamed) and His Pure Land (Dewachengi Zhingkham)
How to positively help the deceased and the dying ones through Buddha Amitabha practice ~ Gyalwa Dokhampa
1. Cultural and Spiritual values
We should realize that our culture is about how we liv ...
Teaching on Buddha Amitabha (Sangay Yoepamed) and His Pure Land (Dewachengi Zhingkham)
How to positively help the deceased and the dying ones through Buddha Amitabha practice ~ Gyalwa Dokhampa
1. Cultural and Spiritual values
We should realize that our culture is about how we live this life. For example, what do we do - when we have a new born, when a couple is getting married, when someone dies, what prayers do we do daily, how do we live in this world, how do we maintain our relation with our family members. We should understand why do we do things in a certain manner and what is the meaning?
Any culture, which has a mix of Buddhism, has so many spiritual reasons behind what we do as a part of our tradition and culture. It is entirely about how you live your life in conjunction with the practice of Buddha dharma. Therefore, if we lose our culture, we are losing our entire way of living. Nowadays, people give more importance to modern education and don’t care much about their culture. I am not saying this is wrong. There is nothing wrong with modern education, which is important to survive in this world, but if you forget your culture, then our children and grandchildren will actually not learn how to live this life. Such as - how do we handle when our loved ones die, how do we pray and what do we do when we have a baby? All of these will be forgotten. Sometimes, when we say choe (spiritual practice), it seems like we have to do so many things but it is actually a part of our life. For example, how we talk to our spouse in the morning when we get up, how we talk to our neighbours and our office mates. If we can merge the practice of Buddha dharma in our daily activities, and on top of that do the prayers, this is a life of prosperity. Personally also, I handle things that happen to me as a Buddhist practitioner but at the same time, I learn how to use computers and Internet, which is important in this age. This is just my personal opinion.
I am talking about culture because it is related to today’s teaching – How to face death? What do we do when we are dying or when others are dying? How can we help them? Imagine if in future, our children do not know what to do when we die, there will be no prayers done for us which is a part of our culture and tradition and spiritual believe. They may hire someone who does the rituals after a person’s death as a part time job and that person may do some dances and so on. At that time, we are the sprit who has died. With this condition, how can we receive help from a part time ritual performer when we need so much help? When we are dead and going through so much difficulty, how can a person like that truly help us?
The purpose of today’s teaching is to understand - how to pray for a dead person, how to pray when we know we are going to die even if no one else is around, what should we do and what kind of practices we should do at this very important time in our life.
2. The two greatest fears during the time of death
From the dharma point of view, the experience of dying has two great fears – (i) the fear of losing things and (ii) the fear of the unknown path.
The fear of losing things due to our strong attachment – Let’s start with an example. Tomorrow if someone comes and by force takes away your job, your belongings, savings and everything that you have for which you have worked for many years, it will be immensely painful and scary. Even to get a divorce or say the loss of our iPhone is so painful. At the time of death, it is not only our belongings that we have to leave behind but we have to leave behind even this body that we are born with. With this fact, imagine how much pain and fear we will experience at the time of death. However, people should not feel that thinking of death is scary. Rather, thinking of death and losing things should and will make us appreciate this life more, enjoy life more and life will have more meaning. In the ‘Book of Living and Dying’ particularly in the bardo (intermediate stage) teachings, it is mentioned that, when people die, the being remains unconscious during the whole of the first day due to the shock of its separation from the physical body. After the being becomes conscious, it takes almost 4 days to realize that he/she is dead. During the first four days, - they talk to their family members and want to make a normal conversation but family members do not respond to them; they want to use things but they cannot. They don’t know why people cannot hear them and why no one is responding to them. During this time, people alive cannot see them but they can see people and can even read minds. During this time, if they see that their hard earned wealth is misused, it is of so much pain to them. Therefore, this first four days is the most painful period. When the dead being feels anger, jealousy and other afflictive emotions, they see strong winds, thunder storms, windstorm, loud noises and experience very scary things. Such experiences in the intermediate stage are actually projections of our own afflictive emotions. When we are alive we have a body which seems real and we can also imagine so many things which is called reality imagination. What is happening to our body is real, what we can see is real, but what we imagine is not real. But after death, there is no body. Therefore, our thoughts are projected as our experience. When we feel anger, it is manifested into storms. All fearful things are projected by our own mind. Within 49 days, most of the beings will be reborn except for some that get stuck in the intermediate stage for a very long time. During the 49 days, Buddha’s of the five directions come to teach us and bless us but, most beings run away from the Buddha’s at that time. This is because right now when we are alive, we always imagine Buddha as a statue, which is not alive, and pray to the statue. In addition, our devotion is mixed with a little bit of doubt. We do not really have the belief that Buddha Amitabha really does exist. Our belief is very much lacking with mix of doubt and our visualization is very static. We should know that every time we pray, Buddha Amitabha comes to bless us. Buddha Amitabha is real in the pure realm of Dewachen (Sukhavati). Then why can’t he move? This is why even when Buddha comes, we feel scared and run away. This is why it is important to familiarize and visualize Buddhas as real and alive (smiling, speaking, moving, showing loving kindness) and not like a statue.
In order to reduce the pain of losing things due to our strong attachment at the time of dying as well as after death, what we can do now is to understand that objects that we have around us are not something that we can hold on to forever. Everything is changing every second. We should understand that they are impermanent by nature. For example, let’s look at our own body. Is our body the same that we had five minutes ago? You will say it is the same. But actually that is not correct. Our body is going through change every second which is beyond our control. It is not like suddenly after 50 years you have become old and till then you were young. We are getting old every second. It is same with a building. Every second it is undergoing change with deterioration and the coming together of condition for it to fall down is a continuous process. We are holding on to something only by our mind but nothing can really be held on to. You can appreciate and enjoy our body and material wealth when we are alive and also benefit others. Holding on to something as if it will be forever with you is an illusion. And actually the more we hold on to something, fussier we become and more irritated we become from anything. For example, if we hold on to our body so much, everything irritates us - too hot, too cold, even breaking a nail. When you have a pimple, you cannot go out because you are so much worried that others will see it. In reality, I don’t think anybody will come so near to you to see your pimple and most of the time, nobody will even notice it. But when you are so concerned about your pimple, you waste your whole day.
Another example I can share with you is when I visit Europe, there are many old castles and historical buildings. For me, when I look at a 400 years old building, I feel quite funny. 400 years ago, the owner must have been Sir so and so and then after 50 years another owner comes in power and must have said ‘this is my castle’ and everybody at that time must have said yes to confirm his belief. All along, actually, there is nothing but to say this is my castle and people have agreed to it and you feel like you own it forever. I am not saying you have to give up everything. Basically, it is the mind that has to give up. Remember that attachment is not only to do with materialistic richness. Whether you have a lot property or not does not matter. You can get attached to your one shirt or your bag and it is the same attachment. Irrespective of the materialistic value, if you have attachment, pain is the same and therefore, a fear is also the same. It is key to understand that ATTACHMENT is the one, which we need to reduce so that the pain is not there. Now what can we do to reduce attachment at this stage? What we can do now is - in Vajrayana we say mandala offering. What it really means is that we have to do offering to the Buddhas. Actually we cannot offer anything in real. Buddhas do not need anything from us but we need to train our mind. Therefore, we should visualize offerings and offerings can be anything. For example, if you are a Director of a company, you can say I offer my position and status to the Buddha. This is because status, power and family are things that we can be attached to. This is a way to reduce our attachment.
We should know that everything that happens today is tomorrow’s dream. For example, just now we enjoy and laugh together, but this will be a memory by tonight. Our material possession is like a dream. With this essence of impermanence, rather than holding on to it, in this life and at the time of dying which will cause so much suffering, we should offer our body, wealth, status and the entire universe to the Buddha Amitabha. Pray for the acceptance of these offerings for our sake, for our accumulation of merit and to reduce our attachment.
One day, when my root teacher was in Nepal, he saw an old lady doing circumambulations and when he was trying to listen to her, he heard her praying and wishing for so many things. From what he was hearing, all her moenlams (aspirations) were for this life only. Although she was already in her 80s, she was still praying for her long healthy life, prosperity for her family, success of her family’s business and good education for her grandchildren and so on. And only one aspiration was not self-centered where she said may my root teacher live a long and healthy life. But she never prayed to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. This shows that even when we reach the age of 80, we humans never realize that we have to die but still feel like we have so many more years to live on this earth. We never remember the impermanence of everything including ourselves. Whether we are young or old, we have to die one day and therefore, it is so important to accumulate merit. We have to do offerings for the prosperity of this life but we should never forget that we have to die one day and ask ourselves where will we be born after we leave this body? In one way we feel like this life is long but when we think of the many lives to come, this life is so short. Believing in the cause and condition, whatever good deeds we do, whatever merit we accumulate, we should not only think of this life but also of the future lives. The day when death comes our way, our family members, our status and title, our wealth and popularity has to be left behind. At this time, only the negative karma of our bad deeds and the positive karma of our good deeds will accompany us. Our next life is determined according to our karma. Therefore, when we do choe/practice dharma, it is very important to remember our next lives. The cremation ground is never empty and we are all same, although some go there young and some old. Irrespective of our age, we always forget impermanence and the inevitability of death. Therefore, always remember that while this life is important, afterlives are equally important.
The fear of the unknown path- not knowing where are we going next - If we don’t believe in rebirth then I guess maybe you think that after you die, chapter is closed. And I hope that for their sake that it is true and that there is nothing after this life because if there is and if they are not prepared for it, then definitely that is going to be a big problem. One master said that whether there is anything after death or not, better be prepared for it. In case there is something, you are prepared for it. And if there is nothing, it does not matter. Now what can we do to address the fear of where are we going next, the fear of the unknown path. This is where the Buddha Amitabha practice comes in.
3. Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land (Dewachengi Zhingkham)
When Buddha Amitabha was a Bodhisattva, he made a prayer that “when I become Buddha, may I develop a Pure Land called Amitabha Pure Land (known as Sukhavati in Sanskrit) where even ordinary beings with defilements can be born because of my practice for eons and eons as long as they have the thought to be born in the Pure Land and develop the connection with me with devotion and belief”.
There are three important tasks for all the Bodhisattvas before they attain Buddhahood. These are: (i) accumulation of merit (sonam and yeshey ghi tshog) through practice of generosity, prostrations, etc.; (ii) meditation and; (iii) benefit countless number of sentient beings. The Buddha builds his Pure Land (zhingkham) through his moenlam (aspiration). It is said that it is difficult to be born in the Pure Lands of other Buddhas but because of the wish of Buddha Amitabha who said that even beings who are not yet enlightened can be born in his Pure Land, it is less difficult to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha.
If we think that the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha is like a heaven with enjoyment all the time and lifetime vacation, then we are wrong. It is not like that. It is a place with perfect conditions to enhance our spiritual practice. In the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha, you receive teachings from Buddha Amitabha and many other Buddhas, and practice and then get enlightened.
It is important to believe that Buddha Amitabha is living in the western direction many planets away from this universe. It is equally important to know how the Pure Land looks like and visualize the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha (available in sutra), the land of happiness. Buddha Amitabha is in the center with Chenrezig (Buddha of Compassion) on his right and Vajrapani (Chana Dorji) on his left in the presence of Jitsuen Drolma and Guru Rimpoche. Tshepamey (Amitayus) and Buddha Amitabha are the same. It is called Tsepamey when it is with ornaments. If we pray to Buddha Amitabha while we are alive, our life will be longer with no sickness, fulfilling all our wishes and when time of our death comes, he helps us to be born in his Pure Land. As portrayed in the visualization of the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha, the Tsawai Lama (Root Guru) of Jitsuen Drolma (Tara), Chenrigzig (Buddha of Compassion) and Guru Rimpoche is Sangay Yuepamey. That is why there is a Buddha Amitabha on the crown of Chenrigzig and Jitsuen Drolma. Guru Rimpoche is Buddha Amitabha’s Thugsey (Heart Son). When we say Guru Pema Siddhi Hung, Pema signifies that Guru Rimpoche is from the lotus family. Therefore, whoever we pray to is all the same. The most important aspect of praying is to accumulate merit and tame our mind.
If possible, always turn to the west side where the sun sets and prostrate to the west side. Buddha Amitabha is not a Buddha of the past but he is still living. He is the longevity Buddha and lives for a very long time. The Pure Land is made of gold, silver and precious stones, a place where whatever we wish for comes true and all sounds are of dharma. The landscape is extremely beautiful. Beings there live for thousands of years and have the opportunity to listen to teachings and practice.
If we think carefully, this earth has so many different landscapes, which are not manmade, but these are there because of some cause and conditions. Therefore, if the earth can exist, why not Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha that has been built because of Buddha Amitabha’s practice and his wish not exit.
The Ngotshar Sangay Moenlam (an Abridged Prayer for Rebirth in Dewachen) is very popular in the Himalaya region. Terton Trulku Migyur Dorji, at the age of 13, saw the entire Buddha Amitabha Pure Land in his vision and Buddha Amitabha himself taught this prayer. This is why this prayer is very sacred.
4. Can ordinary people like us who are not enlightened be born in Buddha Amitabha Pure Land?
Yes, we can. This possibility is not because we are great practitioners and we have worked so hard. But it is because of Buddha Amitabha’s hard work and his aspiration for the enlightenment of all beings. Unlike us, who do some prayers and practice once in a year, Buddha Amitabha practiced for three eons. He practiced the six paramitas (generosity, discipline, patience, perseverance, full concentration of meditation, and wisdom) for lives and lives and he has made it so easy for us to be born there.
4. a) Buddha Amitabha said that any being who has not committed the following five worst actions maybe born in his Pure Land.
Being disrespectful to the different yanas (different vehicles of Buddhism) especially the ones which you are not following is also a great sin. This is because this can lead to the deprivation of the opportunity for many others to follow the dharma path. You want to get to Buddha Amitabha’s Pure Land following the Buddha’s teachings and at the same time disrespecting the dharma, which causes deep misunderstanding for other people.
Therefore, as long as we have not committed the above mentioned grave sins, people like us who do both good and bad deeds, such as tell a few minor lies, drink a little bit and at the same time do some prayers - we can be born in the Dewachengi Zhingkham. This is not because of our karma but it is because of the immense hardships that Buddha Amitabha went through till enlightenment, which is of immense difficulty.
While we pray that may all good things happen to me after we go on a pilgrimage, Bodhisattvas pray that after I get enlightened, may I benefit all sentient beings to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. It is because of the wish of Buddha Amitabha that makes it easier for all beings to be born in his Pure Land. However, it is not possible to be born there just by the hard work and prayer of Buddha Amitabha. We cannot be born there just by sleeping and relying on Buddha Amitabha. If this was the case, then there is no cause and condition. For example, even if other people have cooked delicious food, without your own effort to put it in your mouth, the food will not automatically get in your mouth. The existence of good food is because of the other person who has cooked it but for it to be in your mouth, you have to make the effort of putting it in your mouth.
4. b) Likewise, to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha, we have to have three conditions as follows:
One should have a Bodhichitta mind. This means that when you pray to Buddha Amitabha, you cannot pray for only yourself to go the Pure Land. Or even worse is thinking, I want to go but don’t let that other person come whom I hate. Rather, you have to pray that may I and all sentient beings be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha, receive teachings from Buddha Amitabha and then get enlightened because even if we are born as human beings, we may or may not encounter dharma and we have to go through a lot of sufferings.
One should have the devotion to Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land. It is very important to have the devotion and visualize Buddha Amitabha’s Pure Land while practicing. Buddha Amitabha said that when we talk, pray, he listens and understands. Visualizing is important to familiarize oneself with the existence of the Pure Land. For example, some children do not want to come to dharma teachings but parents can force them to bring them here. Even though their mind is somewhere else, their body is here. But when we are dead, there is no body. So the mind goes where it wants to go. At that time, if the mind does not believe in Amitabha Pure Land, it will not go there. After we die, we do not have a body and our mind will go wherever it wants to go. Because of our attachment to this world, we will only be thinking of this world which will result in getting stuck in this realm. After we die, if the mind wants to go, it can reach the Buddha Amitabha Pure Land in one second. Therefore, the more we visualize the Buddha Amitabha Pure Land when we are alive, the more we will be thinking about it and this will help us to think of it even after our death. It is like if I am always thinking of going for shopping, I will definitely go one day. The mind will definitely take the body. Similarly, if we always think and visualize Buddha Amitabha Pure Land, we will know where to go when we die. And the mind will definitely take us there. However, if we doubt the existence of the Pure Land, even if we are born there, for 500 years, even if we can hear the Buddha’s teachings, the lotus flower through which we are born will not open and we cannot see his face.
That is why the second condition, which is to have devotion and visualization of Buddha Amitabha Pure Land in the west direction is very important.
Dedication of merit. Every time we do something good, it is very important to dedicate the merit for positive karma. Karma is like energy, which can be used for anything. If you pray to become rich, you will become rich but the prayer will not take you to Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. That is why dedication of merit is very important. You have to direct your karma to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. For example, when we offer butter lamps, we have to pray that by this light offering to the Buddha, I and all sentient beings when we are dying, when we are confused and lost in the darkness of intermediate stage, may the lamp guide me and all sentient beings to the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha. We should understand that if we are born in Dewachengi zhingkham where Buddha Amitabha resides with Drolma and Guru, we have the opportunity to receive teachings, practice and strengthen our spiritual practice. Therefore, we should dedicate our merit to be born there. Pray that with my prayers today, may I be born there and benefit all sentient beings and lead them to be born there.
These above three conditions are important because right now our sem (mind) is inside our body. Therefore, even if our mind does not want to do something, we can be forced to do things by our body. When we die, we do not have a body. Therefore, if our mind can have the devotion to be born in the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha, we can go there. This is why it is very important to develop that devotion. We should not be attached to the worldly happiness and rather should have the desire to be born in the Pure Land.
Practicing (reciting Dewachengi Moenlam - Aspiration Prayer of the Pure Realm of Sukhavati) supports the development of our devotion and the wish to be born in the Pure Land. Practicing while alive helps us to realize that we have done everything in this life, and now we have no attachment to this worldly existence; and may I be born in the Pure Land. You should realize that everything that I had in this life is like a dream and I offer everything to Buddha Amitabha.
5. Important things to remember at the time of death
When a person is about to die, I always tell them these:
Do not get attached to family members (parents, siblings, and children) and materialistic wealth. While we are alive and living together, we have to be good to each other but when we are about to die, we should remember that everything is impermanent and should not have attachment. Suffering comes because of attachment and attachment is because we do not contemplate on impermanence. We feel that it is nice to have everyone around when we die and say good-bye but this may cause the dying person even more sadness. Milarepa said “I don’t want anyone around me when I die. I will practice and remember my root Guru at that time. I do not want anyone crying.” When we are dying, our possessions such as wealth, family, everything is like a dream. We say ‘Junor Long-ched’ which means wealth to use. The word “Long-ched” means ‘able to utilize’. Whatever wealth we have is for using during this lifetime. After our death, someone else will use it. That is why we should realize that all that we have is only for using during this lifetime including this body which is everything to us in this life. This is very important to be realized at the time of death.
The mind at the time of death - For example, it is important to get ready to go to a place say the town. It is equally important to know which path to take to reach the town from a junction. If we chose the wrong direction at the junction, we will go to a wrong place. Similarly, it is important to pray and accumulate merit while we are alive but the time of death is also very important to ensure we reach the place we aspired for. If we get angry and die, it may lead us to be born in hell realm. The period between the time of death and next birth is the time when this life is finishing and before the ripening of our karma for the next life. If we make a mistake at this important junction, we may be born in lower realms. Therefore, at the time of death, it is important to contemplate on realizing the impermanence of this life and getting rid of attachment. We should also purify (shakpa) our negative deeds at the time of death.
It was said by Buddha Amitabha that if we practice the “Aspiration Prayer of the Pure Realm of Sukhavati (Dewachengi Moenlam)” prayer every day, he himself will come to rescue us from lower realms during the time of death. When we do this prayer, always remember that “I have to die one day and when I die, I will not be attached to all my material possessions and relations and I pray to be born in the Pure Land. Please bless me.”
Visualize Buddha Amitabha in front of us on a lotus flower on the sun and moon. As we chant “Om Ami De Wa Hri”, rays coming from the Buddha’s body, cleanse all defilements of body, speech and mind of all beings on my right and left.
We should confess our negative deeds and purify them for all beings.
Then all beings transform into light and dissolve into the heart of Buddha Amitabha.
After the dissolution, stay in the nature of your mind.
Do this not only for ourselves but for everyone. When we do good things to others, it is a training for ourselves to become a good person.
Finally, once again please remember that the greatest fears when we die is the fear of losing things caused by attachment and the fear of the unknown. In order to reduce attachment, we should practice offering and understand that everything is impermanent. In order to overcome the fear of the unknown, we should practice Buddha Amitabha. This is one way of how Buddhist practitioners handle death.
Basically, whenever if you receive some Buddhist teachings, you might notice that every master might give different teachings – there is Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Then even within Vajrayana also there are many lineages. Sometimes, you might even wonder and so ...
Basically, whenever if you receive some Buddhist teachings, you might notice that every master might give different teachings – there is Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Then even within Vajrayana also there are many lineages. Sometimes, you might even wonder and some people tell me that it is very confusing to be a Buddhist. In Vajrayana, there are so many different paths, different practices…they don’t even know what to practice. They wish it would be simpler. In a way, they are right. It is confusing especially at first. Buddha Shakyamuni had given 84000 different teachings because we all have different types of personalities and different emotions. For example, today all of you guys are dressed very differently. Some are wearing white shirts, some are in casuals, some in fashion. So that is because we all have a different sense of style, different desires. So if we give one t-shirt and ask you all to like it, all may not like it. So if Buddha Shakyamuni gave only one teaching to all, it may not have been suitable to everybody. His kindness led to give so many teachings. That is why Buddha Shakyamuni had given 84000 different teachings because we all have different types of personalities.
So looking at it from a different point of view, there are so many different types of teachings and thus kind of shows, how kind Buddha is. How infinite his compassion is that he showed so many different paths. But no matter what path it is, if you want to understand little bit about the Dharma, we have to know how to draw the essence of all the 84000 teachings. If you know the essence then we will understand all the dharma. So essence of dharma is three things actually. (i) One is do not do negative deeds which are harmful to others, because things that are harmful to others is the cause of suffering to yourself and to others. (ii) Do positive deeds which are beneficial to others which will automatically be beneficial to ourselves. (iii) Third is why do we do negative deeds? Why would I talk kindly to somebody or talk harshly to somebody. It is because of the mind. Mind can be from compassionate mind, understanding mind, loving mind – pleasant things will come out. From a hateful mind, anger mind - negative things will come out. So his third teaching was to tame the mind. Do positive deeds, avoid negative deeds and tame the mind which is the source of …which is the Boss. Mind is the Boss, Body and Speech are the attendants / servants. Even you go to different temples, even if there are 10000 different pujas, essence is within these three. For example, like today we hear because Buddha said that by doing good deeds, you will be receiving the good things. So today and good things can be anything that is done to others, it can be in the form of offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with the good wish to benefit all sentient beings or it can be with the good karma of helping people who are in need. Good karma does not mean that you have to go to Africa to help. For example, when you guys are coming here, in terms of being understanding in sitting arrangement, welcoming others, all these are accumulation of good karma. So all of these offerings are kind of good deeds. And in the path of practice, there is something called purification where we, if we have done negative deeds, we purify it. And then the reason why there are so many offerings – for example, today is little bit less offering you know compared to some other times, if you understood what we visualize, you will get shocked. We visualize dancing girls also as offering. And dancing men, women, car…..everything and these musical instruments which Vajrayana uses so frequently. In a way, you should do prayer very silently, quietly, why make so much loud noise. So the reason for that is, this musical instrument in this day and time is like an exotic but may be a thousand years ago, these were the rock music of the time. So one might ask, if these bells and drums are the rock music a thousand years ago, what is the point of offering such music to Buddha. There are two reasons and none are because the Buddha likes this music. That is not the reason. It is because one is from the karma point of view. From the Karma point of view, whatever we want-- something for example if you want good health, you have to give medicine to others, you have to be the cause of good health to others. If you want to hear good sounds, always good news, good sounds, people not shouting at you all the time, we want a Boss who always speaks nicely to us, like that kind of good sound, we have to in our daily lives speak kindly to others. But in terms of practicing dharma, we offer musical instruments – that is from the karma point of view. Because I told you that Buddha Dharma is about 3 things - accumulating merit, not doing negative deeds and taming the mind. So from the point of view of taming your mind, we offer this sound to Buddha, basically whenever we are offering, you are letting go. Even if you want to offer one dollar to a beggar, we have to let go. So here mentally, we are letting go of the musical sounds, the pleasing sounds to the Buddha. What difference does it make because we human beings – for us we are so attached to the sound which is actually empty. For example, if somebody says you are a very nice person, immediately a big smile comes on our face. After two minutes, is somebody says you are a very bad person, immediately our mood is off and we become sad. Actually whether somebody says we are good or bad, we do not become beautiful or become ugly or fat. That is just a sound. Scientifically speaking, they say that sound is made of small atoms--- there is nothing good, bad or happy about it. It is just our attachment to the sound that gives you happiness and sadness. So by offering the musical instruments to the Buddha, we reduce our attachment of how we are affected by the sound - which we classify as good sound, bad sound, praise, blame, criticism. That is the karmic reason as well as taming the mind reason. And what we enjoy and what we experience, are usually what we call five sensory objects because we have 5 sense. So we like soft touch, we do not like hard touch. We like beautiful objects, we do not like ugly objects. Similarly, sound, taste, smell- we have 5 sensory objects. These are what we want as well as what we desire. That is why offering to the Buddha can be anything that are five sensory objects. That is why now it will make sense in why we offer dancing boys and girls because that is visual attachment – attachment to the visual objects. So we offer the entire beautiful objects – men, women, house- whatever we find beautiful in our eyes can be offered to the Buddha. The point is not that – this is Buddha’s favorite dish but the point is that this is what we desire in terms of karma and that is also what we are attached to - so to reduce the attachment. So that is why we can offer anything that is attractive to our 5 senses. So we can offer, flowers, fruits, clothes, beautiful decorations – all these are offering to the Buddha because this is what we desire and what we are strongly attached to. That is why we offer to the Buddha. See the point is not about pleasing or not pleasing the Buddha, because to Buddha, whether you offer 1 million dollars or a stone, for him it is same. You criticize him or you praise him for 24 hours, it does not make any difference to him. We will accumulate merit or demerits but the Buddha himself will not make any difference. So since the point is about our mind, that is why in the Vajrayana and Mahayana, when we do offering, for example, today we may be having few flowers but in our imagination, we can imagine entire university filled with flowers. We can offer the whole of Hong Kong to the Buddha. Even though Hong Kong is not ours to give, but in terms of visualization, we can do that. And we accumulate the merit because it is from our mind that we do and reduce our attachment also. It works that way.
Now since I talked a lot about Karma, let’s talk a little about the karma. Before we can talk about karma, I think first we have to reflect a little bit. In this world, forget about this world, in this room, every one of us are different. Different in terms of our lifestyle, where we come from, what family we have, our social status. And forget about that—even our eyes and nose are different to some extent. Some have more beautiful nose, some of us have big ears, and some of us are born in the same family but some are better educated, more intelligent, less intelligent – some are square, some are round. All these differences we can see in ourselves and around us. So the questions is why there are such differences. The modern people might say because of my genes or something like that but why is it that you are the one who is born with these genes. Modern scientist can explain how but I don’t know whether till now from my limited understanding, they have not explained the why part? So this “why” part I think from my understanding - there are 3 kinds of answers:
What qualities should purification have? It should have 4 qualities. (i) One is deep sense of regret for the negative deeds we can remember or if we cannot remember also, many past lives we cannot remember, so basically whatever I have done that is harmful to others which comes from ignorance, desire, and anger and whatever I have done from my body, speech and mind, I purify – deep regret. (ii) And the second quality is a vow of not committing such deed again. Maybe whether you do it tomorrow or not, at the time of the purification, this strong commitment is very crucial for the purification practice. First is regret, second is commitment. (iii) Third is taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha especially in Vajrayana is the Vajrasattva which is known as the Buddha of purification - Buddha dedicated for purification. (iv) And the fourth one is doing positive deeds for the sake of purification. For example like in the eastern Tibet, many people used to live a life of robbery and once they hear the dharma, they feel deep sense of regret - they say for the negative deeds I have done by killing people, I am going to do prostration from eastern Tibet to the Lhasa temple or they built a stupa or they make a bridge to help people cross. Whatever certain positive deed dedicated for specific purification itself - Not in general but for purification purpose itself. These four are recommended: regret, commitment not to do it again, taking refuge, doing positive deed dedicated for purification. For example in Bhutan, after they had a short war with the insurgents, the Bhutanese Royal family built 108 stupas as a purification for that war. The repair job is too late after it has fallen on our head. By the time we have got a bloody head or potatoes in our head, its bit too late. So we need to do the repair job before the roof falls down. So that is the reason why we are doing the Green Tara practice today and I think the island is doing the smoke puja tomorrow. It is actually my request to do this for the Hong Kong people in general especially to the people I know, people with whom I have connection with. It is only when we have karmic connection, spiritual connection, we can help directly. Because as you know as a spiritual teacher, there are thousands and thousands of request. And most of the request are not like you know… come to a Champaign party. Most of the request are—someone is very sick, suffering, going through some difficulty, please pray for them. It is of course our duty to do and we do our best, we pray but often times, sometimes it is bit late. The roof has already fallen on their head. And maybe we can help them to recover from the head injury but we cannot rewind the time and put it back like in movies because the karma has already ripened. It is like an apple going back as seed is not possible.
Since I am in the form of spiritual guide, it is my duty to teach them through the dharma, not only the enlightenment which is the ultimate goal but in this temporary life also that they are healthy, happy, and successful and of course most importantly the spiritual happiness but material happiness also importantly needed. I always think that if Buddha Shakyamuni saw someone in front of him hungry, not eaten for 3 days, I don’t think Buddha will say food is not important, enlightenment is important, practice dharma. I don’t think Buddha will say that. Buddha will first give food and clothes and then talk about enlightenment. Similarly when the beings have so many temporary wishes, that is why Buddha Shakyamuni and especially Vajrayana has so many different practices for good health, good life. When I was younger, I used to feel these are all nonsense. But now when I am understanding little bit of difficulties that people face, I truly feel the compassion of Buddha in such different practices, different blessings. So it is my duty to assure as much as possible, positive karma, happiness in this life and next. That is why I requested from 3 years ago starting from Bhutan to all the Bhutanese volunteers, students, to all over Asia which I look after, from now on either the beginning of the year or the end of the year, they must do a practice starting with smoke puja, Tara and dharma protectors as a purification for the coming year, as a purification of their deeds in the past years so that it doesn’t affect their life before the suffering comes. And accumulate the merit so that the coming years and coming lives are positive and filled with happiness. In a way I feel it is true insurance. This is because normally life insurance does not really help because people are already dead. It does not really help the person—he is already dead. It helps the family which is very good but it is not really a life insurance, it is a dead insurance. But this dharma we are practicing is truly life insurance. This inspiration I got from the Himalayan tradition especially Bhutan.
In Bhutan usually towards the end of the year, they do 3 day practice called lochoed which means one year’s accumulation of merit and purification offering to the divine beings. So for 3 days, they themselves also do the chanting, and they ask the monks to come to their house and do prayers and chanting to purify the negative deeds they have done and accumulate positive merit for the coming year. Then after that they finish that, they change the flag on top of their house, so after the loched is a new flag. That’s like a sign. Now it has become a bit of a festival for the house also. But initially it started with that idea. I thought it was very smart. When we are sick, we request many pujas so why don’t we prevent that by doing when we are here, you guys joining the practice together and look forward to a positive year. So this is why which we are going to do annually, the Tara at least once a year, the Tara, smoke puja and Mahakala puja - dharma protectors. So as I was telling you, the essence of Buddhist teaching is not doing negative deeds, accumulating merit. ….. How we do it, in Vajrayana, it can be very elaborate, in Mahayana- it can be in simple ways. Whatever the method, whatever works – goal is the same.
Now third thing is taming the mind. Taming the mind for example -- offering is done to reduce attachment, it is not about giving the object but it is about reducing the attachment. Now why is that important – lets imagine that we have a very nice handbag and 10 years ago, it was very much in fashion. You loved it so much. Who knows, maybe you would have prayed to Buddha to get that handbag. And then you got the hand bag and you are very happy about it. If at that time, somebody stole your handbag, you would be very sad because that’s your favourite handbag and most fashionable. But maybe now after 10 years, it is somewhere under the bed. No value and not in fashion anymore. If someone stole it also, you would say “oh its old, its ok I don’t mind”. I am glad that he didn’t take my new bag. So the point to reflect upon is that the handbag is the same whether it was 10 years ago or now but our attitude towards the handbag is different. Before it was very precious to us, very attached to us but now we do not care so much so even if it is stolen also it does not really matter. Temporarily speaking, through the karma and all, we need good luck, happiness, success, but true happiness and true suffering really comes from the mind. That is why together with accumulation of merit, and purification, taming the mind is very crucial.
Now let’s talk about the Tara practice because it is through the Tara practice – as I told you that there are many ways - thousands of different ways of practicing – ultimately, it is accumulating merit, purification, transforming the mind- whether you are doing Guru Padmasambhava practice or whether you are doing the Theravada Srilankan practice or any practice you do. Basically, essence of any Buddhism are these three: Accumulating merit, purification and transforming the mind. That’s it.
Today we are using the method of the Green Tara practice to achieve these three things. So let’s kind of discuss about who is Tara, what is green Tara? From the Vajrayana point of view, there is the (i) outer green Tara; (ii) inner green Tara and (iii) secret Green Tara. Outer green Tara will be our Guru in the human form. Inner Green Tara will be the historical Tara you know what you see in image. Now who is Green Tara - the historical green Tara - there are many descriptions in sutras. One of the description describes her as the princess many thousands of eons ago and once she invited 500 enlightened monks/ arhats to her palace and offered lunch. Even now we do but it is not so obvious but especially during those times, after you offer lunch to the monks, the monks will ask you, by the merit which you have accumulated by offering lunch, what do you wish for, what do you want us to pray for and dedicate for? In Bhutan they still do that. After you offer tea or lunch, the patron prostrates three times with one knee and sits down and then the chief monk will pray and the other monks will say let it be so, let it come true…..something like that (Ngowa). So in anyway, in the olden days, the arhats said that we will pray for you so that from next life, you will never be born as a woman and you will become enlightened. And Tara’s answer to the arhat was that it is true that I want to become an enlightened Buddha for the sake of all beings, I want to make a difference to them, but I don’t want to become a male in my next life. She answered that enlightenment is not about the male or female, it is about the wisdom and compassion which is beyond gender. Anybody can achieve it. So I want to become a Buddha in a female form as an inspiration to the female practitioners since Buddha is neither male nor female. So that they will also feel that in terms of becoming a Buddha, whether male or female, there is no difference and both can achieve enlightenment. As an inspiration to females, I will become Buddha; so please dedicate it like this. This is what she re-requested. So that was the start of her path to become Buddha. That time that was the first time. For example, today, after we do prayers, we have a strong wish that may I become enlightened for the sake of all beings. Then that is the start of our journey. So that was Tara’s first start on her journey to become Buddha. So after that for many eons, I am not talking years but eons and eons that’s talking from Mahayana point of view, eons and eons of accumulation of merit, practice purification, transformation of the mind through the 6 paramitas and through many eons and practice, she practiced.
And as a Bodhisattva, she noticed that as I was telling you earlier about the hungry man and the Buddha, she noticed that in this world so many people are going through lot of fear and suffering because they have fear of being prisoned, fear of poison, fear of ill health, fear of being killed, fear of robbery, fear of wild animals, and so many fears as well as so many unfulfilled wishes. So much suffering because of fear and unfulfilled wishes. So it was her prayer that because of my Karma of 3 eons, when I become Tara, Tara means liberation, - liberate from fear is the Sanskrit word – just by hearing my name, just by remembering me by my prayer, by my practice, may people be free from any danger, may all their temporary as well as ultimate wish of enlightenment be fulfilled, because I cannot bear to see so many beings suffering because of unfulfilled wishes. Even though from an enlightened point of view, the wishes may be illusory, and they may be nothing, from their own point of view, it is very important to them. When you wake up from your dreams, it is nothing but until you wake up, when you are dreaming, definitely, it is real to you. Fear, danger, happiness, sadness, that’s why you can wake up in tears or in laughter or with a smile. So as long as you are in samsara, definitely Buddhas have to fulfil and in any way that was her aspiration, and her prayers. And all her dedication was for that. So after Tara became enlightened, she became the main practice of all the Masters. She is also known as the Buddha of activity. So actually in the Vajrayana and Mahayana, I think there is no Master who does not practice Tara. Some obviously some not so because for a Buddhist Master also, Dharma activities have to flourish and for mundane person also, their activities have to flourish. The Tara is very much recommended. And there are numerous stories of how by praying to Tara, they were saved from war, prison, disease, so many things and doing the Tara practice, is not made from Himalaya, Tibet or Bhutan. It came from India. So it is more than 1000s of years of practice. In the Nalanda and some of the old temples...I think the Ajanta Alora, we could see the Tara painting there and those are 1000s of years old monastery. So it is a very old practice. There are many stories of some being able to see the Tara directly, receive teaching from her.
For example, in the Nalanda, before there is said to be one Tara statue which is in gesture of talking. That is because there used to be one non-Buddhist who used to always criticize Dharma and especially Tara practice but when he was in the ocean, one day he was nearly drowning and suddenly he remembered Tara and then Tara said usually you don’t remember me but when you need me, everybody remembers Tara. And the Tara came and saved him. And when he reached the shore, the Tara became a statue. So that was kept in Nalanda -- it is said like that. Anyway that kind of story is there. But more near to us, those of you who have been fortunate to meet HH Gyalwang Drukpa, His teacher Ngongtrul Rimpoche, when he was coming from the Himalayas, he was chased after by some armed people so he made a vow that to protect himself and his entourage especially, he will recite the 21 Taras 100,000 times. So every night when he used to clean his robes, the bullets used to fall out – maybe 3, 4, 5. Maybe he was shot but the bullet did not pierce. So many times it happened. So that is very near to us. Anyway when you practice yourself, we ourselves will realize, and even Drukpa Singapore they have been practicing and they were telling me that the day they practice Green Tara, they always see green everywhere. Sometimes I find that we human beings have the tendency to project ourselves on to other people. For example, we might say that if I pray to Tara, probably Tara will not come, probably Tara or any Buddha may be too busy. They have no time for me. Oh I don’t know them very well, I have not been introduced well by a mutual friend. We might feel like that. The reason why we think like that is because that’s how we are. We are so busy ourselves, we do not have time for anybody. If somebody needs something from us, probably, we will say may be next month I will be free. This month I cannot come. So we think that oh Buddha also must be like that. But we have to remember that enlightened beings worked for 3 eons, so that they can benefit sentient beings. And other than benefitting beings, they have no other job or no other side job. That’s their 24 /7 job. So the moment we remember in our Vajrayana tradition, there are certain prayers where we invite the Buddhas, so as soon as we do that, immediately we offer smoke, incense because we know that whether we have the Karma to see them or not, they will definitely come. So they are welcomed with the incense offerings. So as soon as we remember them and recite them, they will come for sure. That’s their job you know. They have no other job. So definitely they will come and they will bless but how much blessing we receive is very much dependent on the strength of our practice, strength of our mind, you can call it devotion, strength of our body, speech ad mind’s efforts.
Today I think not many Professors are in here….Professors may ask a question that “but I thought you said that Buddhism is not about getting blessing from up there. It is about your Karma.” And that’s very true. Actually you know that is why, you need to practice Tara, make offerings to Tara, visualize Tara, chant the Tara mantra. As an example, let’s imagine that Tara is a field, land, earth, soil extremely fertile soil – there are some soil in which rice or fruits will grow only once a year, some soils are so fertile that harvesting can be done twice. Some soil are so hard, only potatoes will grow some are so hard, nothing will grow. So the green Tara because of her own eons and eons of practice and dedication, it is like the extremely fertile soil so we offer small bit of things to her, immediately big flowers come out. Food comes out fast. Not because we are great but because she has done so many eons of practice and Karma to make herself like that - like the wish fulfilling jewel. So we just have to do little prayer to her, practice to her and the benefit is multiple because of her Karma…..we just have to plant the seed. So that is how the entire blessing thing works if we think logically so to speak.
So we talked about Tara. So basically Tara herself has become full of blessing but in order to receive the blessing, we need to accumulate the Karma. So our prayers, our practices, offerings, visualizations all these to Tara- just by simply doing this we accumulate the Karma so that we can purify our negative Karma and accumulate so much Karma that our wishes are fulfilled automatically. Now we have covered the first two kinds of Tara – (i) outer Tara is our Guru in human form; (ii) inner Tara is the historical Tara - the green Tara, the white Tara and now we will talk about the secret Tara. The secret Tara is none other than the nature of your mind. The non-fabricated nature of your mind. So in a way this outer Tara, inner Tara, secret Tara basically brings the Buddha closer and closer to you. Outer Tara may be the Guru in the human form, very far away because human form is a bit far away from us because I am a Chinese, the Guru is Indian, very much conceptually speaking. In one way we can say we are human beings but conceptually we are separated. Then the historical Tara is very near. The Buddha can come anywhere...so little more near and then ultimately, whether it is the Tara which is inseparable from the Guru and the Guru is inseparable from our own nature of the mind. Because ultimately Buddha has to be found within our self. For example, one day, when you get enlightened, nobody will suddenly put something inside you, and then now you become Buddha. You have to realize the nature of your own mind and then you become Buddha. So ultimate point of view, Tara has to be found within our self. In a way, outer Tara- more concepts are there. My Guru is from there, he is knowledgeable, tall, short, with very strong concepts. And then the inner Tara – we do not think from this point of view, handsome, not handsome, and good-looking not good-looking- these nonsense does not come. Conceptualization is very less.
So in Vajrayana, we recommend, to visualize the Guru as a Buddha so that there is less conceptual mind. And ultimately, in every Vajrayana practice, Guru inseparable from the Buddha, will always be dissolved into your heart in the form of a light. And we remain in the non-fabricated nature. So that is to make us understand that relatively speaking , we might say this is good, this is bad, this is happy, sad but ultimately everything is manifested from the mind and the mind’s own nature is free of all these dualistic concepts and that is the Tara- that is the Buddha. In Mahayana, we talk about Buddha nature that is what Buddha nature is. When I was young and people used to talk about Buddha nature, I used to imagine a small Buddha statue inside out heart. But I don’t think it means like that. It just means that our nature of the mind is beyond any dualistic concept and clear and bright and that is the ultimate Tara……that is the Buddha. In order to recognize that you dissolve the Tara or any Buddha practice in Vajrayana- either you dissolve the Buddha into yourself or you dissolve into the Buddha. These are two options.
If you don’t practice and understand the secret Tara and if you pray only to the Tara outside, for example, I am Mr. so and so….I pray to the Tara, I offer to the Tara, without doing the dissolution and without understanding that secret Tara is within yourself --- you will get merit, you will get good luck, happiness, also you can do purification but spiritual qualities, understanding the nature of the mind, realizing the emptiness, enlightenment will never happen even if you pray like that for 1000 years. Maybe because you pray to Tara so much may be Tara will come in human form and teach us the deeper secret Tara. Maybe that is so but by itself, you will get merit and purification but will never get enlightenment. Why is that? Because ultimately Buddha Shakyamuni said relatively, yes Karma and all but ultimately aim of any dharma practice is to realize the egoless self. But when we do not understand the Tara as our self, we are practicing in a very egoistical way. Instead of reducing the “I”, our “I” is becoming stronger in a way. I love Tara so much, I pray to Tara so much, my favorite Buddha is Tara --- so our dualistic concept is getting stronger. May be its dharma dualistic but it is dualistic nonetheless. So instead of reducing our ego, understanding the grasping to the ego, the self-existing idea of ego, our dharma practice kind of reaffirms it or strengthens it. We are convincing ourselves more of our ego. I pray to Tara so much. Tara blessed me so much. Me - - Tara. Ego is becoming stronger. We are not checking about the ego of our self. So to such a practitioner, blessing will be there, merit will be there but enlightenment will not be there. That is why in Vajrayana practice, to understand the secret Tara and ultimately to dissolve the Tara which inseparable from Guru into oneself and remain in the present moment, non-fabricated nature of mind – this is key to the Vajrayana practice. Praying to the Tara and making offerings is the relative path, dissolving and remaining in present moment is the ultimate path. So now we will go to the practice. I will teach something that you can practice in your daily life and not the full sadhana.
There are 21 Taras because Tara has 21 different activities. For example, curing sicknesses, protecting from danger, protecting from bad omen dreams, and protection from spirits. So Tara has 21 manifestations. It is like someone who is so kind and do so many jobs. In the 21 Tara practice, benefit of the reciting, it is said that, if you recite the 21 Tara two times with the devotion and compassion or three times or seven times, in a day either in the morning or evening, whatever your wishes will be fulfilled, protected from any danger, and temporarily all the wishes will be granted and ultimately next like because Tara is also considered the manifestation of Amitabha Buddha also so you will be born in Amitabha pure land. And ultimately get enlightened.
According to your need, Tara has to be visualized differently. For example, when it is general wish fulfillment, then Tara can be visualized as she is right now. Tara’s left hand is holding the Utpala lotus, and the right hand (open palm facing up) is called the wish fulfilling gesture. But let’s imagine that you or someone you know is in danger, then the Tara’s wish fulfilling gesture is changed to the protective mudra, and under the Tara’s protective hand, then you can visualize that ourselves and all sentient beings especially the focus of our prayer should be the person who is in great danger is especially under the protective mudra of Tara. And then we recite the 21 Tara. And when you are sick or somebody is sick, and you want to help, of course under the protective mudra but on top of that we visualize that from Tara’s entire body, nectar drops out. White, bright nectar drops out. And then that seeps into the all the sentient beings including ourselves and especially the sick person’s body like rain. If it rains, and there is sand below, it will seep in. The nectar seeps into the sick person. And then the sick person’s negative deeds are purified, and the initially sickly looking person and now all his sickness getting purified. Now he or she looks radiant, bright and healthy because of Tara’s nectar. With that kind of visualization, you can do the 21 Tara.
SEVEN WAYS OF MAHAYANA ACCUMULATION OF MERIT - 7 methods of taming down negative emotions
Potola - is the pure land of Tara, from there a green letter TAM appears. Visualize the Tara and the letter TAM enters the Tara statue. Now truly the green Tara is in front of us surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. (i) First we visualize that our own body and 1 billion bodies are manifested and we prostrate to the Tara. (ii) Second is whatever we can offer here, some fruits and flowers but in visualization, the entire space, the entire universe is filled with our offering. Offer all 5 sensory objects. Beautiful sight, pleasant sounds, taste, touch,… Similarly offering can also be like that. Whatever is beautiful…anything in the entire universe can be offered. (iii) Third is the purification- whatever negative deeds I have done in the past and the present- I confess before it is ripened, I regret and take a vow that I will not commit again, - I request Tara’s blessings to purify my negative deeds. After that is the rejoicing. (iv) We rejoice in the activities of the Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas. If you see somebody doing Mani and doing one prostration, you rejoice in that. The reason why rejoicing is important is because Buddha Shakyamuni said that if you see someone doing good things, if you feel happy and rejoice and admire them, you get almost 60% of the merit. So when you are sleeping, if your husband or wife is getting up and doing prayers, if you can’t get up its ok you know, you rejoice in their practice. (v) The next is requesting Buddha’s to give teachings. If you really count, Buddha Shakyamuni got enlightened in the 4th lunar month but he gave teaching only on the 4th day of the 6th lunar month. So what was Buddha doing till then? Actually after Buddha got enlightened, for 7 weeks he did not give teaching because he was waiting for somebody to request him. Because that person who request will get tremendous amount of merit. Because he requested how many people would benefit in the future? So that is why he gave teachings only after the Brahma and the Indra offered the dharma wheel and the white conch and then Buddha said ok. And because of that Brahma and Indra accumulated so much merit. So that is why requesting Masters to give teachings –even now there are many Buddha around different paths. So when we visualize requesting them to give teachings, we accumulate tremendous amount of merit. (vi) After that is requesting the enlightened beings to live long. (vii) And then the 7th one is whatever merit I have accumulated from doing prostration, offering and so and so, I dedicate for the temporary and ultimate wish of all sentient beings. These are called the 7 ways of Mahayana accumulation of merit very powerfully and quickly and very easily. You don’t have to go anywhere to request Buddha to live long or offer the golden wheel, we can just through the visualization and aspiration accumulate merit. And these are also called the 7 methods of taming down negative emotions. The prostration is the antidote to the ego, pride. Because when you are proud, what pride means is that, you don’t respect anybody. When you don’t respect anybody means, you do not respect anybody’s opinion. So when you do not respect anybody’s opinion means my opinion is the best. You must follow what I say; what I think is the best. So what is the result? Result is misunderstanding, argument, hatred. So that is why the humbleness – humble does not mean tomorrow you have to buy very cheap clothes and not drive a car- whether you drive a car or ride a bicycle, if you do not respect anybody you are still proud. Humbleness is very much to the mind, to respect other people, when you think you are better than somebody, because you are driving a nice car, then that’s really bad. As long as you have the respect for everyone, I am no more special than any other, we are all human beings, we all want happiness, do not want suffering --- we have that respect as equal, you are a humble person. That is why Buddha Shakyamuni in one of his ..…told the monks that even if you are the most perfect of the monk, in terms of your going bare feet, your begging, your chanting, shaving everything, you don’t break even one of the vows, but if you are proud of it, you are not a perfect monk. If you have the ego/pride, you are not a perfect monk. What is the point of doing all of these things? Buddhist laws are not the law of the government. Government law is that you break it, you are a criminal. That’s it. Buddhist laws are designed to improve us. So the improvement is the key, not the law. Going around begging is one of the methods, but it is not the key. Key is the humbleness. How you reach there is up to you. Vinaya has Vinaya vows, Mahayana has its methods, and Vajrayana has its methods. But key is to reach the humbleness. So that is why the prostration- looks very simple and does not make much sense but when you really do prostration, and when you visualize doing prostration, it will be more and easier for you to understand other people’s opinion and put yourself in other people’s shoe.
White Tara is the Tara of long life.
Basically, the practice of Tara is recommended – different Buddha have different kinds of aspiration. For example, medicine Buddha – when he was a Bodhisattva, he saw many sick people suffering from sickness and of course his main aspiration is enlightenment of all sentient beings but you know it’s like what you are moved by, inspired by to become a philanthropist so similarly Tara was moved by the dangers that people faced and suffering from wishes not being fulfilled. And from the Buddhist point of view, what we are doing is accumulating Karma. Chabjey Dudjom Rinpoche said that rather than putting a mountain of effort, it is better to accumulate a small spark of merit to order to fulfill our wishes because merit can be example like a seed…and our efforts like our smartness, education, strategy like putting water, soil manure. So no matter how much manure we put, how much water we put, if there is nothing inside, nothing will come out. Depending on the strength of the Karma, if the Karma is very strong, lot of positive Karma, wishes are fulfilled without effort. For example, you sleep and tomorrow you win a lottery. If you are born in a nice family, very nice. So that Karma is very strong. When the Karma is medium strength, then we need to put some effort and then results come. When there is no Karma at all, no matter how much effort we put, sometimes nothing ever comes out. Even what used to be working one year or 10 years before, now it no longer works. What works for everybody else does not work for you. That time it is when there is no Karma at all. That is why together with the external condition to fulfill wishes, internally, accumulating the merit and purification is very much needed.
Before one gives the Vajrayana initiation, of course the Master himself, should have received it from a genuine master and between him and his own Guru, the lineage has to be unbroken in the sense that his and his Guru’s relation should be very pure. So the blessing is not just from the Tara, from the Master but from all the lineage Masters who have practiced Tara-- let’s say 100 Masters who have practiced Tara. All the blessings from the 100 Masters is being transferred. So that is why if there is a breakage in the Samaya, the pipe is blocked. Usually when you want to check the Master, how you check usually is ..there are many ways but one way and very important requirement is between your Master and his own master – there should be a very pure Samaya. Other than that before giving initiation, first the entire Tara’s mandala has to be welcomed here. Almost same like human relationship. Now we are talking about relative world. For example, first you welcome a guest and then you offer tea and then ask how are you? Praise to Tara is not to feed Tara’s ego but by praising enlightened beings, may we accumulate merit and may we also learn the habit of praising other people. Usually in our life, how many times we have criticized people, many times. To say somebody is very beautiful girl but nose is little bit too big, very good family but daughter is little bad. Because of our ego, we can’t stand someone better so we either put them down or at least make them equal because of the jealousy we have. So how many times from our heart do we say, what a beautiful person? What a nice family? We can’t say it because the jealousy in us is very strong. So that is why when we praise to the Tara, in a way we are praising to the Tara, actually, it is again accumulation of merit, and training of the mind to praise other people so our jealousy will go down. So then when the Tara mandala is entirely here, then the initiation is given. Body speech and mind blessing, permission to chant Tara, visualize Tara is given and then after that mandala is dissolved. So this is how the initiation works. That is why we have to do the Tara practice.
3rd time focus is for the sick people. People who are not in good health, right hand mudra facing down on the sick person and nectar dropping like rain from the entire body of the Tara and the rain is absorbed by all the sentient beings like a bright white drop of nectar and as soon as the nectar is absorbed by our body, all the negative deeds we have done in the past, which is the inner cause of present sickness, outer is of course the imbalance but inner true cause is the negative karma. When we visualize that ourselves and sick people, they look more radiant more healthy and brighter with more energy and youthful. We visualize like that and recite the 21 Tara.
Now is the making wish time from the merit and the blessings. Visualize offering the entire universe to the Tara and Guru also inseparable from Tara in order to have the merit to receive the Tara’s blessings.
The Tara lineage came from Buddha Shakyamuni himself. And Tara to Ngagi wangchuk and Master Atisha and Atisha brought this teaching to the Himalaya area.
Before receiving initiation, taking refuge and bodhichitta is very important. So in order to have a sense of refuge, it is important to have a sense of renunciation from samsara. For time being we can pray for happiness, good heath, success, good relationship and all of that and there is nothing wrong in that but deep within the heart the long term goal should be “May I and all sentient beings be liberated from the samsara”. That sense has to be there. That is because until that enlightenment is received, there is no end of our problems, it goes round and round. Simply speaking, samsara is our life for example, doing the same thing again and again. Even if a problem is solved, again another problem comes. So no matter how much blessing we receive, and ultimately if that wish is not there then we will be going round and round. So that long term goal, we must have that. So when we are doing Tara practice, temporary wish fulfillment to be free from suffering, ultimately to be liberated to realize the nature of our mind to become enlightened - so that the round and round can be stopped. That wish is called renunciation. Now we will take refuge. Visualize Tara and the Guru as the Tara and then take refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha three times. During the third time, you should have the feeling that now I have received the vows- refuge bodhichitta vow – and together with that if you have already received refuge and bodhichitta vow then it will be confirming, reaffirming because refuge is something we have to all the time. Do it 9 times a day. Morning 3 times, lunch 3 times, evening 3 times
The refuge name is in a way a blessing, in a way it is a bond between the Master, the lineage and the student. For example in the Drukpa lineage, all the names we give start with a Jigme because our root Guru HH’s name is Jigme Pema Wangchen. Having a part of the Guru’s name is a blessing and it is said that by such a name your Guru will recognize you in your lives and lives to come.