guhyasamaja_commentary_by_aku_sherab_gyatso_and_geshe_jampa_gyatso_guh_gjg03

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Monday afternoon, 2 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 35) says:

Therefore, the tradition of practicing sutra and tantra in one sitting is a distinctive characteristic of Tsongkhapa’s approach. To this day, in central Tibet and in Tsang, the reading of tantric texts in the scholastic monasteries is discouraged. Furthermore, at Gyüme Tantric College it is said that monks must not bring philosophical texts in their reading text carrier ! In this monastery, however, the Yamantaka sadhana was made part of recitations right from the start, so the tradition of a comprehensive union of sutra and tantra – which is the true intention of the master himself – has been established.

In the scholastic monasteries the reading of tantric texts was not permitted, whereas in the tantric monasteries the reading of the philosophical texts was not permitted. There is a reason for this as these rules were made by the great masters who founded the monasteries, for example, Lama Tsongkhapa for Ganden Monastery Jamchen Choje for Sera, and Jamyang Choje for Drepung. It was necessary in order to prevent the monks from wishing to study both but instead not gaining a good understanding of either sutra or tantra and in the end not being able to explain either. Thus, these rules were made to ensure that the monks studying the philosophical texts, for example, would study them well, and only at the conclusion of their studies would they enter a tantric college and study tantra. After that they could become abbots, throne-holders, and so forth. On the other hand, those monks who from the beginning enter the tantric colleges, memorize texts, and take the examinations on the generation and completion stages cannot become abbots and so forth.

“ In this monastery” refers to the monastery of Aku Sherab Gyatso, perhaps Tashi Kyil which had a tantric section. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

It is thus important to ensure that the following aspirational prayer comes into reality:

May the monks be immersed in the three higher trainings, May they be learned, industrious, and their hearts filled with compassion and love, May they penetrate well through reason the definitive And provisional meanings of the scriptures, And may the Buddha’s teachings, such as the two stages , flourish in this monastery.

May the face of the earth be filled with learned and adept masters Who, having trained in the common paths, possess the three vows, And whose yogic practices of the two stages become like the king of mountains; May they be realized through ripening empowerment and liberating paths of generation and perfection stages.

It is said that many of the tunes of the sadhanas of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka were actually sung by the master himself. My teacher told me that he has heard from senior monks of the monastery about the story of how the master, when singing the line “May the earth be filled with learned and adept masters,” would perform specific hand gestures to go with the tune.

“The three higher trainings” are the higher training in morality, the higher training in meditative stabilization, and the higher training in wisdom. The prayer makes the wish that they be learned, that is, skilled in the texts, and venerable, that is, pure in morality. One who is venerable is one accords with the three Dharma baskets, whose actions of body and speech are concordant, and whose behavior conforms with the norms of society and the rules of the monastery.

“The definitive and provisional meanings of the scriptures” refers to the two truths, the provisional or interpretative meaning being the conventional truth and the definitive meaning being the ultimate truth. Alternatively it refers to the interpretative scriptures which require interpretation, and the definitive scriptures which do not require interpretation. 
“May the Buddha’s teachings, such as the two stages, flourish in this monastery” refers to the generation stage and completion stage. 
“The three vows” can refer either to the individual liberation vows, the bodhisattva vows, and the tantra vows, or the lay vows, novice vows, and vows of full ordination. 
“Whose yogic practices of the two stages become like the king of mountains” means may the practices of the generation and completion stages become extremely stable.
“Ripening empowerment and the practice of the liberating generation and perfection stages” refers to empowerment, which ripens the continuum that is not yet ripe, and the generation stage and completion stage, which liberate that which is not yet liberated. 
Aku Sherab Gyatso says that one should pray that the earth be filled with such practitioners. 

This concludes the general introduction to the Guhyasamaja Tantra, whereas next the actual explanation of the generation stage begins.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 35) says:

2. Stages of the actual instruction of the experiential guide This has four main sections:

2.1. The basis of those who undertake the practice 2.2. The appropriate site for the practice 2.3. How to gather the requisite conditions for the yogic practice 2.4. The procedure of the practice itself

The ideal support for the practice is a human body possessing the eight freedoms and ten endowments. In addition, such a person should have trained previously in the common paths of the three types of beings, the small, middling, and great. On top of that, one must have received the four empowerments. Someone who has all these attributes is a suitable vessel for the practice of tantra.

Ideally the place in which to do the practice should have been blessed by past masters, that is, it should be place where holy beings have meditated, for example, one of the twenty-four places or one of the thirty-two places. An example of a good place in Italy to practice would be a cave in Assisi where Saint Francis meditated. 
Then the gathering of the articles of yoga is discussed, followed by how to practice, for example, the Foundation of All Good Qualities mentions the four-session yoga. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The first one consists of two sections:

2.1.1. Training one’s mind through the common paths 2.1.2. Being initiated through the four empowerments and protecting the vows and commitments as if they were one’s eyes

To train the continuum in the common paths is the first essential in order to become a suitable vessel for tantra. In brief it is important to understand the stages of the three types of beings that range from guru devotion through the union of Vajradhara. One should begin by properly relying on a spiritual master. One should then reflect upon the precious human rebirth, its meaningfulness, the difficulty of finding it again from the point of view of its cause, its nature, and analogies, and so forth. Then one should reflect upon impermanence, specifically death, thinking about the facts that death is certain, the time of death is uncertain, and at the time of death only the Dharma is of benefit. In short, one should meditate on death on the basis of the nine-round meditation until one gains some experience.

After that one should meditate on the sufferings of the lower realms, that is, the sufferings of the hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals, imagining what it would like to be born in these realms and to actually experience their sufferings. Having thought about these sufferings, one comes to understand that one needs a refuge and on this basis meditates upon the Three Jewels, understanding that there are no other sources of refuge. One cultivates the two causes of going for refuge: fear of the sufferings of the three lower realms and confidence that the Three Jewels are actually able to protect one from these sufferings. One then meditates on the trainings to be undertaken once one has taken refuge by contemplating the law of actions and results. One reflects upon the ten non-virtuous paths of actions and their results, and resolves to engage only in the ten virtuous paths of action. It is important to strictly observe the law of actions and results. If one commits a non-virtue it is necessary to immediately apply the antidote of the four opponent powers: the power of the basis, the power of repudiation, the power of turning away from the fault in the future, and the power of applying all antidotes. The power of applying all antidotes includes many types of antidotes, for example, reciting the hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva, performing mandala offerings, reciting the refuge formula, circumambulating holy objects, making tsa-tsas, and so forth. In addition, one can read sutras such as the Diamond Cutter Sutra, which is for cutting the three mental poisons. 
These are the meditations that are common to small or inferior beings. The meditations common to middling beings include meditation on the four noble truths: recognizing true sufferings, abandoning the true origins of sufferings (actions and afflictions), actualizing true cessations, and cultivating true paths. One meditates on the sufferings of the upper realms, those of human beings and so forth, which include the suffering of suffering, suffering of change, and pervasive suffering. Human beings experience many different types of sufferings. Why is this? It is due to the afflictions, which are the main cause, due to which in turn we create actions. The root of all the afflictions is ignorance. One meditates on the twelve links of dependent-arising in terms of the evolution and cessation of cyclic existence. In this way one meditates the path common to middling beings.
Then one meditates the path common to great or superior beings by meditating on the six causes and one effect in order to generate the mind of enlightenment: recognizing all sentient beings as having been one’s mother, remembering their kindness, determining to repay their kindness, generating love, generating compassion, generating the extraordinary attitude, and generating the mind of enlightenment. In addition, one engages in the practice of the six perfections in order to ripen one’s own continuum and in the four means of gathering disciples in order to ripen others’ continua. 
In brief, training in the common paths means to generate the mind of enlightenment and correct view. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

2.1.1. Training one’s mind through the common paths The first prerequisite that prepares the practitioner is to have trained one’s mind in accordance with the common paths; the second is to have properly received the four empowerments and to observe the vows and commitments thereby taken as dearly as one’s own eyes. Training one’s mind through the practice of the common paths is indispensable in order to practice tantra. “Training one’s mind through the common paths” means that one should be capable of bringing into his or her experiential domain bodhicitta [the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment] and the perfect view of emptiness. In contrast, if you lack even a degree of lessening of attraction towards the concerns of this life – let alone possessing the appropriate attitudes of a practitioner of uncommon small scope – or, [for that matter,] a true renunciation of middling scope, which are preliminary [to bodhicitta and the perfect view of emptiness], there is simply no way that you can be a suitable practitioner of tantra.

Beings of small capacity are of two types: mere small beings and special small beings. A special small being is one who is not concerned with the happiness of this life, but is concerned with the happiness of future lives. A mere small being is one who is concerned only with the happiness of this life, such as fame, food, and so forth, due to which this person is attached to those on his or her own side, and generates hatred for those on the other side.

Tuesday morning, 3 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Nevertheless, owing to our residual practices from past lives and by the force of pure aspirational prayers, today we have encountered the instructions that enable us to attain full awakening without dependence on an accumulation of merits and wisdom for over a period of three innumerable aeons. Also, our thoughts are well turned towards such an instruction. Although one may not have the faculty to actually put into practice such teachings, the very fact that one does not feel skeptical when hearing the clear sounds of the [tantric] teachings is a sign of the fruition of good aspirations.

If one is concerned only with this life one is not a suitable vessel for tantra. Due to having trained in past lives and due to pure prayers, we have encountered the instructions on how to attain enlightenment without needing to depend on the collections of merit and wisdom for a period of three countless eons. Although we do not actually practice the Dharma we do not lack faith in it.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The training of one’s mind through the common paths is the foundation of [the practices of] the two stages and if one already has achieved this, there is no need to review the path again here.  In the distant past, spiritual aspirants were of mature faculty and of high mental acumen ; the thoughts of Dharma remained constant in their minds. Today, this is difficult. So it is crucial that one undertakes a careful review of the entire elements of the path  on the basis of whatever lengths of texts on overview one may use. One can use [Tsongkhapa’s] Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path, or even a single verse, like the recitation of the refuge formula. The master Sönam Wangyal, the guru Manjushri, recommends in his short guide that we should cultivate the right motivation on the basis of a reflection on [Tsongkhapa’s] Foundation of all Excellence. 

“The two stages” are the generation stage and completion stage. If one already has a natural understanding of the common paths there is no need to make requests to obtain this. In the past people had sharp faculties and their mental continua were ripe, therefore they constantly thought to practice Dharma, whereas this is very rare nowadays.

Sönam Wangyal says to meditate on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Foundation of All Good Qualities from the beginning to the end. One should recite it slowly while meditating on the meaning. In short, in either an extensive or brief way one should do a glance meditation that encompasses all the stages of the path. One can do this either combined with the short Foundation of All Good Qualities or the longer Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path, both texts by Lama Tsongkhapa. Lama Tsongkhapa composed a short, middling, and extensive exposition of the stages of the path. Alternatively one can meditate on the refuge prayer combined with a glance meditation on the stages of the path:

I go for refuge until enlightenment To the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Supreme Assembly. By my practice of generosity and the other perfections May I become a buddha for the benefit of all migrating beings.

Having gone for refuge to the Three Jewels one promises to practice the six perfections, generosity and so forth. One does this in order to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all migrating beings. While reciting this formula one should think of this purpose. Also when reciting “by my practice of generosity and the other perfections” one should think about how to engage in the practice of generosity, morality, and so forth.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

My refuge and mentor,  Vajradhara, often says that one must receive instructions on lam-rim to cultivate the right attitude for the preparatory initiation ceremony.  He also used to give a brief but complete teaching on lam-rim at the point of generating “the mind of all-encompassing yoga” during an empowerment ceremony , and would say that the same must be done as a preliminary to the instructions on the guide to the two stages. 

Aku Sherab Gyatso’s teacher would give teachings on the stages of the path as part of the preparatory rite of an empowerment. Then during the empowerment, at the point of generating “the mind of all-encompassing yoga,” he would also explain the stages of the path. The stages of the path or lam-rim refers to the meditations for the beings of lesser capacity which turn the concern away from the happiness of this life toward the happiness of future live, the meditations of the beings of middling capacity which turn the concern away from the happiness of future lives toward the attainment of liberation, and meditations of the beings of great capacity which turn the concern away from attaining liberation for oneself alone and toward the attainment of enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Likewise, teachings on the stages of the path should be given as a preliminary to a commentary on the two stages. In this way the student first trains the mind in the common paths, after which comes the preparatory rite and then the four empowerments.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Although we may be obstructed now, we expect to soon receive a teaching that is swift and will bring the goal close to us. This is analogous to someone who desires to go to a house that is beautiful and full of riches but is stopped by the stone fence outside and keeps hitting the stone fence, without analyzing how to get to the house and open the door!

We may hope to receive a teaching that will allow us to quickly attain enlightenment, but this is like someone who seeing a house full of riches waits outside at the wall wishing to go inside but not analyzing how to open the door.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Many might have the thought that lam-rim refers to a volume of texts that is appropriate only for some humble meditator up in the mountains, while those of higher cognitive faculties must read and study other texts of sutra and tantra. But all the teachings are embodied in lam-rim and we must understand that all learning, contemplation, and meditation are [in actual fact] practices of lam-rim. If you can at least place less importance on the concerns of this life and take the fate of the next life with greater seriousness,  and if you can entrust your well-being with a single-pointed mind to the Three Jewels and have a little regard for the laws of karma, you can make a [genuine] beginning in your Dharma practice. 

Some think that the texts on the stages of the path are only for hermits living on a mountainside. That is, they think that the stages of the path are to be practiced by someone else, not themselves, and are to be practiced separate from the two stages. They think that those of sharp faculties, rather than practicing the stages of the path, should read the great treatises on sutra and study tantra. However, the meaning of all of these texts is to be understood as included in the stages of the path. Therefore, one should listen to teachings on the stages of the path, think about them, and meditate on them. If one does this, one is practicing the stages of the path.

One should lessen one’s concern for this life and consider future lives to be more important. Then one should place one’s trust in the Three Jewels, and take into consideration the law of actions and results. Through understanding that virtue brings happiness and non-virtue brings suffering, one will abandon non-virtue and engage in virtue. In this way one will actually begin to practice the Dharma. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There is no [immediate] possibility of a Dharma practice for someone who gets perturbed when the concerns of the next life are regarded as more important than those of this life. Yet some, feeling that people like themselves simply do not have the faculty to engage in the mental discipline, may therefore put effort into recitation of mantras. In such cases, too, if the mantra recitation is done for mundane purposes, the deed may become non-virtuous ! We learn this from the teachings of Atisha. When one has generated a genuine sense of repulsion towards the concerns of this life, only then does one’s spiritual practice becomes the path of initial scope. This then is the initial, thus the lowest, level of Dharma practice.

There are those who become angry when hearing that future lives are more important than this life. Such people are unable to practice the Dharma. Also some people think that they are unable to do this and therefore recite mantras, such as OM MANI PADME HUM, motivated by the thought to gain the happiness of this life, that is, to be happy, to become rich, to be free from sickness, to find a partner, and so forth. However, Atisha taught that if one does this, the action of reciting mantras becomes negative or non-virtuous. On the other hand, when one generates repulsion toward this life, one’s Dharma practice becomes the path of a being of lower scope or capacity. This is the lowest level of Dharma.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 38) says:

The peerless master Atisha wrote his Lamp on the Path when invited to Tibet by the Tibetan kings. The uncle and nephew [Yeshe Ö and Jhangchup Ö] requested him to compose a treatise that would be of benefit for the people of all Tibet. Thus began Atisha’s reform of the Dharma in Tibet, which led to the establishment of the following convention: “If one’s path accords with this [Lamp on the Path], it is then a practice of Dharma. If it does not, it is not.”  In the Lamp on the Path, all aspects of the path are subsumed under the practices of three “scopes,” as indicated by such lines as “When someone, by means of the following...” 

When Yeshe Ö was on his way to India to invite Atisha to come to Tibet, he was imprisoned by the king of Tibet, Kalang Gyelpo. Yeshe Ö’s nephew Jhangchup Ö went to the prison where he was told that if he could collect enough gold to equal the bodily size of Yeshe Ö, they would release Yeshe Ö. Jhangchup Ö went off to collect this gold and later returned to the prison to tell Yeshe Ö, through a hole in the prison wall, that he had found gold equal in size to his body but was missing that equal in size to his head. Yeshe Ö told him not to give this gold to the king but to use it instead for the Dharma as he was prepared to give up his life for the sake of Dharma. Jhangchup Ö took this gold to India and used it to invite Atisha to come to Tibet. Atisha arrived in the Ngari region and remained there for three years. There he was requested to compose a teaching specific to the mental dispositions of Tibetans who were hard-headed and difficult to tame. In response he wrote his Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipatapradipam). At the end of the three years Atisha was due to return to India, but was unable to due to a conflict on the border. In order to keep Atisha in Tibet, Jhangchup Ö had the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment translated into the Indian language and brought it to the abbot of Nalanda. Reading this text, the abbot realized the benefit that could be accomplished by Atisha remaining in Tibet, and praised this composition which was precise yet contained all the stages of the path. Thus, he gave his permission for Atisha to remain in Tibet and also asked him to compose a commentary on his own text, which Atisha later did. Due to Atisha having composed this text, the Dharma which had degenerated in Tibet was restored. For this reason it is said: “It if accords with this, it is a teaching of the Buddha and a practice of the Dharma. If it does not accord, it is not.” This is similar to a written report that summarizes the outcome of a meeting. In the Lamp on the Path, all aspects of the path are condensed the practices of three scopes. This text (translated by Ruth Sonam in Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment by Geshe Sonam Rinchen, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, 1997) says:

Know that those who by whatever means Seek for themselves no more Than the pleasures of cyclic existence Are persons of the least capacity.

This verse indicates the beings of small scope. Such people have given up the strong concern for this life but still look for the happiness of future lives. The Lamp on the Path says:

Those who seek peace for themselves alone, Turning away from worldly pleasures And avoiding destructive actions Are said to be of middling capacity.

One who turns away from the happiness of cyclic existence and turns toward the happiness of liberation is a being of middling scope. The Lamp on the Path says:

Those who, through their personal suffering, Truly want to end completely All the suffering of others Are persons of supreme capacity.

This verse indicates beings of great scope.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

If we thus take into consideration this critical need for seriously taking the fate of the next life as of primary importance, we can infer that there are many instances where someone may appear externally to be immersed in Dharma yet, in reality, there is no genuine Dharma – not even the size of a sesame seed – present in that person’s heart!

There are those who have the appearance of Dharma practitioners who may have some concern for the happiness of future lives but do not have a good understanding of the Dharma.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

When one has gained realization of this [initial] level, one may attain higher rebirth in the future life.  However, one still remains within the bounds of suffering engendered by conditioned existence, an existence determined by karma and mental and emotional afflictions.  For such an existence is characterized by transience, dissatisfaction, emptiness, and absence of self-existence. Although we regard someone who is powerful, rich, and famous as having achieved success, this may only be true to a mind afflicted by attachment and hostility.  When you depart to the next life, there is [actually] no difference between a universal monarch and a small insect, such as an ant – both must follow the path laid by their [own personal] karma. 

When someone sets aside concern for the present life and generates concern for the future life it is possible to be reborn with a support of the happy migrations, that is, with the body of a human being or god. However, that rebirth is still a true suffering, that is, a collection of the four attributes of being impermanent, suffering, empty, and selfless. The support of a happy migration is impermanent because it changes momentarily. It is a suffering because it is produced by other, that is, by actions and afflictions. It is empty because it is empty of a permanent, partless, and independent self. It is selfless because it is not self-supporting substantially existent. When a phenomenon is characterized by these four attributes it is a true suffering. Such a phenomenon has not gone beyond pervasive compounding suffering.

Although we regard someone who is powerful, rich, and famous as having achieved success, this is from the point of view of attachment and adherence in that he or she is attached to power, wealth, and fame. However, when that person dies, he or she becomes just like an ant in the sense that both of them are under the power of their actions. In this way, they are both powerless at this time. In fact, there is no difference between a wheel-turning king and an ant at the time of death, we too are similar. At the time of death we will think “If only I had done this. I only I had not done that.” There is no one who can avoid death. At the time of death only our Dharma practice will be of help, whereas our actions and afflictions will only harm us. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

So when you have generated a genuine aspiration to seek liberation, derived from a deep sense of repulsion towards mundane achievements with the realization that none of this is reliable, then you have entered the path of the middling scope.

All the perfections we achieve in this life are impermanent, therefore we should be repulsed by them. Even if someone becomes the president of a country, he or she may end up in prison. This often happens! Although they once had power, later one they find themselves completely powerless. These situations show us that the perfections of cyclic existence are unreliable. When one generates a genuine wish to become free from the perfections of cyclic existence and to attain nirvana, one has become a being of middling scope.

Tuesday afternoon, 3 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

And since both listeners and self-enlightened beings belong to this level, if one’s thoughts and practice do not accord with this level, how can one be a practitioner of the great vehicle when one is not [qualified to be a practitioner] even at the level of the lesser vehicle?

The hearers and solitary realizers are beings of middling scope or capacity. If one’s thoughts and actions do not accord with those of the beings of middling scope one does not enter even the lesser vehicle (the hinayana), let alone the great vehicle (the mahayana). In short, those who seek liberation alone are practitioners of the lesser vehicle.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 39) says:

Bodhicitta, the altruistic intention, lies beyond this level. When we do not think deeply, bodhicitta may not seem a great challenge. But once we begin contemplating with greater precision, bodhicitta becomes highly difficult, both conceptually and emotionally. Attainment of individual liberation does not constitute the fulfillment of one’s own self-interest, let alone the fulfillment of others’ well-being. Therefore, it is the approach of the great vehicle to seek the attainment of full enlightenment for the benefit of others and to engage in the practice of the six perfections on the basis of generating this altruistic intention. 

The mind of enlightenment (bodhichitta) is above the middling scope. When one does not think about the mind of enlightenment deeply it may seem simple, but when contemplated more precisely it is found to be very difficult. This is because a bodhisattva, one who has generated the mind of enlightenment, is able to give up even his or her own life for the sake of others, whereas we are far from this.

When one seeks self-liberation alone one does not accomplish even one’s own welfare, therefore there is no need to mention that one does not accomplish others’ welfare. Only having generated the mind of enlightenment for the sake of others and then engaging in the six perfections does one become a mahayana practitioner. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The procedure of this path is stated in the following [line from the Lamp on the Path]:

Supreme enlightenment for the sake of sublime beings…

This verse affirms the pledge to present the path, while the subsequent verses, beginning from “With images of the Buddha, drawn and sculptured…,” set forth the procedure for taking the bodhisattva vows and also the stages of engaging in the deeds in general and, in particular, the last two perfections.

The verse sets out the purpose of explaining this subject. What is the purpose of composing Lamp on the Path? It is to enable all sentient beings to attain supreme peerless enlightenment. The verses such as “With images of the Buddha, drawn and sculptured…” set forth the procedure for taking the bodhisattva vows either in the presence of a perfect master or in the presence of an image of Buddha Shakyamuni, our Teacher. Having taken the bodhisattva vows, the Lamp on the Path teaches the way to engage in the conduct of a bodhisattva in general and the last two perfections in particular. The bodhisattva vows consist of eight root vows and forty-six secondary vows. The conduct of a bodhisattva in general refers to the perfections of generosity, morality, patience, and joyous effort. The subject of the perfection of concentration includes the instructions on how to develop calm abiding, which involves the nine stages of mental abiding, the faults, their antidotes, the mental applications, and so forth. The subject of the perfection of wisdom includes the generation of the wisdom regarding the reality of phenomena, that is, the two types of selflessness or emptiness, which are to be analyzed by means of reasoning. Only having understood these subjects should one enter the practice of tantra or mantra.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

This is then followed by the procedure for entering into the path of tantra by first taking the initiations. The text then addresses in brief some questions raised about the relevance of the third empowerment for a celibate practitioner. Therefore, by examining whether or not one’s thoughts are in accordance with the Lamp on the Path, one can determine whether or not one’s mind is [firmly] within the Dharma. This, in essence, is the significance of [Atisha’s] reform of the Dharma in Tibet.

Empowerment should be received from a qualified master, one who has all the requirements. For example, in the case of Chakrasamvara the master himself should have received empowerment, have completed the retreat, and be guarding the pledges and vows. Having received empowerment, one enters into the practice of tantra.

There is a conversation between Atisha and one of his disciples in the Lamp on the Path regarding the conferral of the actual third empowerment, the wisdom empowerment. The disciple asks “Should one abiding in pure conduct (celibacy) receive the actual wisdom empowerment?” The actual wisdom empowerment involves being given a consort with whom one engages in sexual intercourse, whereby the drops descend and are then placed on the tongue of the disciple. In short, in the case of a celibate disciple neither the guru nor disciple should enter into union with an actual consort. Instead this should only be done by means of visualization. This comes in the Lamp on the Path in the context of seven questions. 
To determine whether or not one’s mind concords with the Dharma, one can check whether it is concordant or not with the Lamp on the Path. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Generally speaking, it is necessary to understand the multitude of Buddha’s teachings – be they provisional or definitive – as eventually converging as a means of leading to nirvana. For those of lesser caliber of intelligence, the peerless master Atisha showed how all of these teachings can be subsumed into an individual’s path to full enlightenment. He distinguished between three levels of capacity – i.e., the three scopes – amongst the practitioners of the path. We must understand that on this model, the person who is concerned only with mundane aspirations is excluded from the category of a Dharma practitioner!

All the diverse teachings, the interpretative and definitive, given by the Buddha converge in being a method for attaining final nirvana. Since not everyone is able to understand this, Atisha wrote his concise text, Lamp on the Path, which sets out the practices of the three types of beings. In other words, he composed this text which indicates that all the Buddha’s teachings are a means for a single person to attain enlightenment.

Those who are concerned with this life alone are not included among the three types of Dharma practitioners. Thus, to be a Dharma practitioner one must at least be concerned with future lives. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Later, the Kadampas’ philosophical views suffered degeneration, although their practical teachings on the path remained strong.  So [once again], Tsongkhapa elucidated the entire paths of sutra and tantra within the framework of [Atisha’s own] Lamp on the Path. It is therefore important to undertake an extensive review of the entire elements of the path, say from the beginning of proper reliance on the guru  to the training in tranquil abiding and special insight, based either on the extensive or middle-length versions of The Stages of the Path. If that is not possible, one can use shorter texts like Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path or the Foundation of All Excellence. If we examine even the [long] dedication verses of the Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka sadhanas, we find that a unique feature of Tsongkhapa’s approach is to ensure comprehensiveness  of lam-rim and the two stages [of tantra in all our meditative practices]. Therefore, one should strive by all possible means to implant powerful imprints of the entire path within one’s mind. It would be difficult to find a more effective way of making one’s existence meaningful through one sitting. Tsongkhapa himself writes the following:

Thus for the “causal” and “resultant” Great Vehicles…

Among the Kadampas the side of conduct did not degenerate, whereas the side of view did. How did this happen? It happened due to their view becoming contaminated by the view of the Jonangpas – the view of existence-non-existence, which is that emptiness is an affirming negative phenomenon. However, emptiness is a non-affirming negative that is just the mere negation of the object of negation – inherent or true existence.

Je Tsongkhapa set out the stages of the path from guru devotion through the development of calm abiding and special insight and also taught the two stages of tantra. In other words, he taught the entire path of sutra and tantra. One can do either an extensive glance meditation on the stages of the path or a shorter glance meditation based on the verses of the Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path or the Foundation of All Good Qualities. One can also recite the long dedication prayers from the Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka sadhanas, in which are found all the stages of the path and the two stages of tantra. 
If one sits on a cushion and recites any of these prayers one will take the essence of this human life. 
The causal great vehicle is the perfection vehicle and the resultant great vehicle is the vajra vehicle. Lama Tsongkhapa’s Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path says:

Having generated the common path necessary for The two supreme mahayana paths, the causal and resultant, Rely on a protector, a skillful master, And enter the great ocean of the classes of tantra. Then through reliance on complete and perfect instructions, Make the attainment of your leisures and endowments meaningful. The venerable lama practiced like this. You who desire liberation, should do likewise.

Thus there is a path that is common to both the causal perfection vehicle and the resultant vajra vehicle. One should rely on a spiritual master whereby one can cross the ocean of cyclic existence, just as one would rely upon the captain of a ship to cross the ocean. Lama Tsongkhapa practiced like this, those who desire liberation should do the same.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 40) says:

Therefore, as the General Tantra of All Secrets states,

Omniscient masters are rare in the world…

The advent of a buddha on earth is as rare as the blooming of the udumvara flower. It is said that this flower first grew when the Buddha was in his mother’s womb , produced buds when he was born, and blossomed when he renounced the world. When the Buddha became enlightened and turned the wheel of Dharma, the flower is said to have enlarged into a full, mature flower plant; and when the Buddha entered the final nirvana, the flower died and withered. Thus, although one could see the flower when it was present, because the flower appears only when a buddha arrives in the world, it is said to be extremely rare. The tantric vehicle is said to be rarer still, for out of the 1,000 buddhas coming into the world during this eon, only in the teachings of the fourteenth buddha, Chenlek, and the last buddha, Möpa – who is believed to have made the wish that he be able to follow the deeds of all the predecessors – could there be tantra.

The coming of a buddha to the world is as rare as the blooming of the udumvara flower. When the Buddha entered his mother’s womb the flower first grew, when he was born it produced buds, and when he became ordained, that is, when he simultaneously received the self-arisen vows of a novice and fully-ordained monk, this flower blossomed. When the Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma it fully blossomed. When he passed into nirvana, it withered. This flower is said to only appear when there is a buddha in the world.

Although the teachings of Dharma are rare in the world, the tantra teachings are even more rare. Of the 1,000 buddhas who will come to this world in this fortunate eon, three of them have come and gone and we are presently in the period during which the teachings  of the fourth buddha, Shakyamuni, remain. After him only the eleventh buddha and the last buddha will teach the tantra, but they will do so only from the point of view of reasoning. Each of the past buddhas made a prayer or promise saying “When I become a buddha, I will do such-and-such.” The buddha Chenlek is the supreme emanation body of Lama Tsongkhapa. Just as Buddha Shakyamuni did, this buddha will also teach the tantra because Lama Tsongkhapa propagated tantra in this world. The last buddha will also give tantra teachings because he made the promise “I will do whatever the previous 999 buddhas have done.” This includes that done by Buddha Shakyamuni, which includes having taught tantra. Other than this, it is not said that the other buddhas will teach tantra. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

This last possibility is again only inferred ; for all the others there are no prophecies in sutras or tantras [of any of them teaching tantra]. Also [it is said] that although the Buddha taught the Dharma in a multitude of realms, of the twelve parts of the earth, he taught tantra only in this world of Jambudvipa. On this earth, as well, there are beings among the three types of birth who do not have the appropriate conditions for attaining buddhahood within a single lifetime. It is therefore only human beings who are womb-born, who possess the physical constitution composed of six elements, and are endowed with the ideal conditions of leisure and opportunity to attain full enlightenment within one lifetime.  

The Buddha after attaining enlightenment gave teachings on tantra only in one of the twelve parts – the four main continents and the eight subcontinents – of the world. In short, the Buddha only taught tantra in Jambudvipa, the southern continent, and did not teach it even in the southern subcontinents.

Those born from any of the three types of birth source – birth from an egg, birth from heat and moisture, and miraculous birth – are unable to attain enlightenment in a single lifetime. Only a human beings born from a womb (the fourth birth-source) and possessing the six elements – the three white elements from the father and three red elements from the father – are able to attain buddhahood in a single lifetime. In addition, the eight freedoms and ten endowments are necessary given that meeting with the Buddha’s teachings is included among the five circumstantial endowments: a buddha has come to the world, he has taught the Dharma, the Dharma still remains, its followers still remain, and there are those who help Dharma practitioners. We have all of these endowments. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Furthermore, we have encountered the teachings of the Buddha. We have had the great fortune to meet with the vajrayana [the adamantine vehicle], which is rarer than a buddha. Furthermore, we have found the teachings of great Tsongkhapa, which enable us to engage, in one sitting, in learning, contemplation, and meditation pertaining to all [key] aspects of sutra and tantra. As the saying goes, “Chew with your gums even if you do not have any teeth left!” We should strive with all our efforts at this juncture when we have been given, just this once, such an opportunity.

In addition, we have met the vajra vehicle, which is even rarer than a buddha. We also have the opportunity to hear, think about, and meditate on sutra and tantra in a single sitting. We have also met with the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. While we find ourselves in such a rare situation we should be like an old man who even though he has lost all his teeth goes on chewing with his gums in order to survive. In short, we should strive by all means to practice the vajra vehicle. It is not enough to know the Dharma, one must also put it into practice by integrating it with one’s mind, that is, by using it to tame the unsubdued mind that is like a crazy elephant. In order to tame such an unruly mind it is necessary to study the tantra as much we possibly can.

Wednesday morning, 4 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There are, of course, countless beings in countless realms who are objects of Buddha’s teachings, but it is only the ordinary beings of this earth who are endowed with the appropriate conditions for attaining buddhahood within a single lifetime or six  lives. It is only these beings who are said to be capable of practicing the teachings that extract the essence of the dakinis’ exalted wisdom. Such a Dharma is certainly unique and excellent and possesses a lineage uninterrupted from Vajradhara to one’s root guru. But it is not adequate for the teachings to be profound; it is vital that your heart is compassionate. One may desire buddhahood through covetousness, but this can only become a part of one’s mundane endeavor. 

The tantra teachings are the essence of the viras and dakinis’ exalted wisdom and enable even ordinary beings to attain enlightenment in one time or sixteen lifetimes. Since the teachings were passed down in an unbroken lineage from Vajradhara to one’s root lama, these instructions are special or distinguished. It is not enough that the Dharma is profound, one’s thoughts should be good, that is, one should be motivated by the mind of enlightenment. If one desires to attain enlightenment for oneself alone, it is out of covetousness. Also if one thinks to study the Dharma for oneself alone that too is out of covetousness.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In view of this, it is extremely rare to have the three things – a human existence of leisure and opportunity, [the state of] having met a spiritual teacher, and [the state of having] encountered the teachings of sutra and tantra – come together in such an auspicious way. 

We have a support of the leisures and endowments, have met a spiritual friend, and have met the sutra and tantra teachings. We are free from the eight non-leisures: the four non-leisures of non-humans and the four non-leisures of human beings. The four non-leisures of non-humans are: birth as a hell being, birth as a hungry ghost, birth as an animal, or birth as a long-lived god. We are also free from the non-leisure of being deaf and mute, as well as from the non-leisure of sustaining a wrong view, the non-leisure of being born as a barbarian in a border land, and the non-leisure of being born in a dark eon when a buddha has not visited the world. In this way we have the eight freedoms or eight leisures which are their opposites. In addition, we have the ten endowments, the five personal and the five circumstantial endowments. In addition to these eighteen qualities, we have met a virtuous spiritual friend and have the opportunity to study all the teachings of sutra and tantra. These three are perfectly auspicious.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There is a story about Gya Geshe when he was the disciplinarian of Gyüme Tantric College. It is said that one day when the gong rang, he saw a few monks running away to avoid having to attend the congregation. He shouted at them: “You don’t need to run away – you might actually soon come face to face with the states of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka!” There is no real certainty about when one might die. We do not even have the guarantee that we will not die tonight! What use do we have of those worldly riches? Thinking thus, we can gradually overcome our attractions to the concerns of this life. [Through] recognizing that there is no security even if we are to be reborn as the gods Brahma or Indra, we can overcome attraction to the concerns of the next life.

A disciplinarian is responsible for ringing the gong to announce the beginning of an assembly or congregation. One day while doing this the disciplinarian saw some monks running away and called out “You don’t need to run away. Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka are holding implements in their hand with which they are about to hit you!” It is not certain when one will die, it might happen even tonight. When one dies, what use will all one’s excellences be? All the material things of this life are impermanent, thinking this one will turn slightly away from the attraction to this life. If one also thinks about the fact that even having attained the high status of rebirth as Brahma or Indra there is no certainty, one will also turn away from the attraction to future lives. For example, even if someone becomes president of a country, such as the USA, there is still no certainty that one will remain president, one will still have to die. Other famous people, such as the popes of the past, are no longer alive. Also our ancestors, those on our father’s side and those on our mother’s side, have all passed away. Therefore, while the body of a human being is very precious it does not remain for long. Thinking about this we will turn away from the concerns of this life.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

It is crucial to ensure that one’s practice of Dharma does not remain mere words; rather, one’s heart and mind should be turned towards the Dharma. It is of course due to the great kindness of our spiritual teachers that even at an old age we can recite mantras and the texts of tantra. But without even slightly overturning attraction to mundane concerns,  it is difficult to turn the thought towards Dharma. Because of this fact, the Buddha spoke about the preciousness of human existence, of death, and of impermanence. There may be many human existences of leisure and opportunity about, but as far you are concerned there is only one; the rest belong to others. Who can know whether or not there is going to be a next one? Often, even a dying person departs with the thought that he will not die on this day! Therefore, you should first combine contemplation on preciousness of human existence and life’s transient nature. 

Due to the kindness of spiritual teachers even the elderly are able to recite mantras and so forth. However, we should also turn toward the Dharma, that is, put our minds into the practice of Dharma. But as long as we do not turn away from attraction to this life it will be difficult to turn toward the practice of the Dharma. For this reason the Buddha taught the subject of the precious human rebirth and death-impermanence. Therefore, meditation on the stages of the path is important. The first teaching that the Buddha gave was on impermanence and also as his last teaching he taught impermanence by showing the aspect of passing into nirvana. Because it is important, we too should think about death and impermanence. Death is imminent therefore we need to make sure that we do not waste this precious human rebirth. The Nyingmapa’s say “First of all there is death-impermanence.” This is because if one does not think of death, one will not think to practice the Dharma. It is just like the fact that we do not think to eat when we are not hungry, whereas as soon as we feel hungry we begin to think about food. We should not act like that with respect to the practice of the Dharma.

Although it may appear that there are many people with a precious human rebirth, for example, the forty or fifty people right here in this room, in reality our own precious human rebirth is just one. We do not have more than one precious human rebirth. The rebirth that we have right now cannot be replaced like buying a new cup when an old one breaks, although nowadays some parts of the human body can be replaced! It is not certain what will happen after this life, we do not know what kind of rebirth we will take. Even people who are actually dying still think that they will not die today. In this way time passes and suddenly death arrives. 
One should reflect upon the precious human rebirth combined with death-impermanence as this will act to enhance one’s Dharma practice. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text 43) says:

This could then be followed by the generation of bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment. Of all the aspects of the training in the common paths, the most important is the cultivation of the thought to lead all sentient beings to buddhahood. In fact, all the sets of discourses  were taught for the sake of this. Buddhas come to the world also for this sake and, by resorting to all kinds of skillful means, they teach the Dharma.  All of these teachings are encompassed in lam-rim. It is lack of this [lam-rim] practice that often prevents us from experiencing the results of practicing tantra, those positive benefits stated in the texts. Therefore you should strive to generate, even at the level of simulation, bodhicitta – the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. 

When training in the common path, the most important point is to train in the mind of enlightenment, the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. In fact, the Buddha taught all 84,000 aggregates of Dharma in order to lead sentient beings to enlightenment. The buddhas also come to this world for this purpose, and teach the Dharma with diverse means, turning clockwise or anticlockwise depending on the need. While the buddhas are turning around sentient beings, they check whether or not they are ready to be ripened. When the buddhas see that a sentient being is ripe they manifest themselves and give teachings.

All the teachings are condensed in the teachings on the stages of the path, the lam-rim, which is set out in a series of stages for the purpose of subduing the unruly mind. If one engages in the practice of tantra without cultivating the mind of enlightenment it will not bring the benefits that were explained. Therefore, even if one is not able to generate an uncontrived mind of enlightenment one should at least generate a contrived or simulated mind of enlightenment.  

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Whether or not one succeeds in one’s spiritual endeavor and whether or not one’s path is complete depends on one’s motivation. It is stated in the Abhidharmakosha that to have the thought “I shall commit this” is to engage in a “mental act,” and its execution is the actual “intended act.” It states further that if an act is committed but lacks the preceding “mental act,” such an action remains incomplete for the “course” of the action was not completed. This is true also in the case of a virtuous deed.

One should be motivated by the mind of enlightenment in all one’s virtuous actions and in order to complete the path. Prior to any action one generates a motivation, which is the action that is intention (sems pa’i las), and then one actually engages in an action of body or speech, the intended action (bsam pa’i las). In other words, at the time one engages in a non-virtuous action of body or speech there is the temporal motivation, which is called the intended action. There are cases in which an action is both done and accumulated, done but not accumulated, not done but accumulated, and neither done nor accumulated. If an action is done without being preceded by an action that is intention it is not a complete path of action. For example, when without a motivation, that is, without an action that is an intention, one strikes someone on the head. Since that person experiences pain it is a negative action. The Vinaya says that if a fully-ordained monk hits a person even with a stalk of grass, although there is no harm to the other person that monk still commits the transgression (ltung byed) of hitting. Also if without a motivation one insults another person saying “How dirty you are!” it becomes a non-virtue, but not a complete path of action. This is because the action that is an intention – the motivation – is missing.

It is similar in the case of application in virtue. For example, if one sits in meditation posture without a positive motivation, such as the mind of enlightenment and so forth, that is, without an action that is intention, and verbally recites a mantra, that action of speech is virtuous but is not a complete virtuous path of action because the motivation is lacking. Likewise, if one does a virtuous action of body, such as prostrating in front of a statue, but without any motivation it also does not become a complete virtuous path of action. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

To sum up: You should consider the fate of your next life as more important than this life; the state of liberation as more important than a higher rebirth; and, of the three types of liberation, [you should recognize] the unsurpassed liberation of full enlightenment as supreme.  You can cultivate the profound thought that you must attain enlightenment within this very life for the sake of helping others. In this way, you should endeavor, as much as you can, to make your life most meaningful before this precious jewel [i.e., human existence] goes out of your hands forever. 

Between this life and the future life, the future life is more important. Also between the future life and liberation, liberation is more important. Also between the three liberations – the liberation of a hearer, the liberation of a solitary realizer, and the liberation of the great vehicle – the liberation of the unsurpassed enlightenment of the great vehicle is more important. To attain it one has to train in the thought to attain enlightenment in this very life. By doing this, in every instant one accumulates the collections. Right now this precious human rebirth is like having a wish-fulfilling jewel in our hand which, although we should hold it very firmly, we tend to constantly let go. Instead we should take its essence and not waste it.

Wednesday afternoon, 4 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

2.1.2. Being initiated through the four empowerments, protecting the vows and commitments as if they were [as dear as] one’s eyes As a second prerequisite to prepare the practitioner, he or she should receive the four pure initiations from a qualified master, [by means of] an empowerment that is capable of implanting the seeds of the four buddha bodies. A “pure initiation” is that which possesses the following features: its [meditative] practices remain undamaged throughout its lineage; all the elements of the rites are in accordance with the scriptures of the tantra; the motivations of the initiates are pure; and [finally] the initiates are not simply there sitting in the congregation, but seeds are being implanted within them as a result of having correctly introduced the meaning of the empowerment ceremony. To ensure these [conditions] is important.

It is then necessary to receive the four pure empowerments from a qualified spiritual friend who possesses the ten pairs of qualities as set out in the Offering to the Lama (Lama Chopa). However, since in this period of degeneration it is difficult to find a master who possesses all ten qualities, it is enough for him to possess even just five of the ten qualities. In short, the lama must himself have received the four empowerments previously, he must be abiding in the vows and pledges, his continuum must be filled with compassion, he must be endowed with patience, and he must have strong despair with regard to cyclic existence.

During the four empowerments the lama says “Now you have received such-and-such,” whereby the seeds of the four exalted bodies are deposited on the continuum of the disciple. A pure empowerment is one in which the rituals accord with the tantric scriptures and the way of practicing and so forth accord with the lineage gurus. These features are from the side of the lama. From the side of the disciple, he or she should have a pure mental continuum, that is, be free from the three faults of an improper vessel – one that is upside down, one that leaks, and one that is dirty. Most ordinary beings are attached to mundane activities, their wisdom is dull, they are disturbed by jealousy, and they pass their time in trivial activities. It is necessary to be free from all of these, that is, one should be free from attachment to mundane activities, have sharp wisdom, be seeking excellent explanations, be free from jealousy, and be patient and compassionate. 
In addition, it is not enough just to sit among the other initiates, like a rabbit in their midst, in order to receive the empowerment. One should also understand meaning of the empowerment in order for seeds to be deposited. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There can be differing levels of empowerment equal to the number of initiates. That is to say, if there were twenty-five initiates, there would be an equal number of initiations. In other words, each person receives initiation according to his or her capacity. Therefore, it is crucial that you pay close attention when you enter the gateway of tantra. These days, right from the start – that is, when children are literally just able to eat – they are taught various rites and texts. Nobody appears to mention anything about the need for initiations. Also many people seem to mistake the sprinkling of water from consecrated vases at gatherings of hundreds and thousands of people as conferring initiations.

When a lama gives an empowerment to twenty-five disciples each one receives empowerment in accordance with their capacity, that is, in dependence on their capacity to visualize (mos pa). In addition, it is also important believe in the empowerment, thinking “Now the seed to actualize such-and-such has been deposited.” It is important to listen carefully when entering the practice of tantra.

There are those who having merely memorized texts perform rituals in people’s homes in order to receive offerings but without having received empowerment or done the approximation retreat and so forth. There are also those who think that when they obtain the vase water in the midst of a large assembly that they have received the vase empowerment, however that alone is not enough. If this case even a cow on which water was sprinkled during the empowerment would receive empowerment. Similarly, there are those who think that when they receive a long-life pill during a long-life empowerment, for example, that of Amitayus, and eat it that they receive empowerment. Years ago when Dudjom Rinpoche was giving an empowerment in Bodinath, Nepal, I remember seeing many people who during the empowerment sat outside the hall drinking and eating, as if they were having a picnic. This series of empowerments was given over a couple of months and in the evening these people would enter the hall where a monk would place the vase on their heads, after which they would circumambulate the hall and then leave. In this way they thought that they had received the empowerments. People also do this when His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives an empowerment in Bodhgaya and other places in India. Aku Sherab Gyatso is addressing his remarks to such people. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thubkan Rinpoche is reported as having made the following statement:

In the tantras, it has been stated that those who engage in the rites of entering into the mandala either without proper initiations or, although initiated, without having performed the rites of “approximation,” etc., incur the downfalls of bompo, the secondary transgressions.

It has also been stated that transgression of a secondary precept of tantra is more serious than the transgression of one of the cardinal precepts of pratimoksha, the individual-liberating moral discipline.  

In short, committing one gross infraction (bompo) of tantra is heavier than committing the four defeats of the individual liberation vows.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[Therefore,] I once asked the all-knowing Changkya: “Today, there are so many monks in both the Upper and Lower Tantric colleges who have no initiations,  yet they participate in the rites of mandala, self-empowerment, fire-burnt offerings, etc. Do these acts accrue merits or demerits ?” He [Changkya Rinpoche] replied: “Since the Upper and Lower Tantric Colleges are the custodians of the Omniscient Master’s [Tsongkhapa] tantric teachings, there are no demerits in these rites being performed at the congregations. But at the individual level, even the monks of the Upper and Lower Tantric colleges should not engage in such deeds elsewhere.” I too feel this is the case. Sometimes I feel that perhaps he [Changkya] did not find anything else to say!

There are monks who belong to the tantric colleges who without having received empowerment or having done the approximation retreat perform the mandala rites, the self-empowerment, the burnt offering ritual, and so forth in an assembly. Aku Sherab Gyatso once asked Changkya whether these monks received benefit or shortcomings. Changkya replied that since those who belong to the tantric colleges are obliged to participate in these rites even though they have not received the empowerment and so forth, they do not create any demerit. However, when these ceremonies are performed at least eight or ten of the monks who are present should have received the empowerment and so forth. In addition, the monks of the tantric colleges who do not have the empowerment, have not done approximation, and so forth should not perform self-empowerment and so forth on their own through thinking that they can do so because they are monks of a tantric college. In the past there were quarrels in the tantric colleges about this subject and in the end it was taken to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his tutors to decide. It was concluded that these monks could perform the rites during an assembly but that if they were to do them on their own they would break the rules of the monastery. When those who have not done the approximation perform the self-empowerment in an assembly, they can recite the ritual together with the tunes and so forth but during the vase empowerment and the rest they should not think that they are empowered to do such-and-such nor that they have purified such-and-such. In short, they should not visualize themselves as receiving the empowerment.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In view of this, it is vital that once we have achieved real experience from training in the common paths, even if we have already embarked on the practice of tantra on the basis of having received initiations before, we should once again take from a qualified master an initiation that is capable of planting the seeds of the four buddha bodies within us. When the predecessor [the previous Dalai Lama] visited Segyü monastery, he is reported to have said that the initiation that the previous Künkhyen had received was adequate. So, if an initiation received in the past by the previous Künkhyen is being subjected to such scrutiny, what need is there to talk about the initiation received by others?

Although we consider ourselves to have received empowerment and to be practicing tantra, when we gain an actual experience of the common path we should once again receive empowerment. It is recounted that when the previous incarnation visited Segyü Monastery he said that the empowerment received by the previous Künkhyen Jamyang Shepa was enough. Therefore, if an initiation received in the past by the previous Künkhyen is to be subjected to such scrutiny, what need is there to talk about an empowerment received by others? Segyü, Se Tantric College, was established by Dulnagpa Palden Sangpo who was a disciple of Sherab Sengge, the founder of the Lower Tantric College in Lhasa.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Of the initiations, the vase initiation is the preparation for the generation stage, while the remaining three prepare one for the perfection stage. The secret initiation prepares us for the illusory body, the wisdom initiation for the clear light, and the word initiation prepares us for union. Therefore, to practice the two stages, one needs all four initiations. Thus if someone has received only the vase initiation, he or she is empowered only to practice the generation stage, not the actual practice of the perfection stage. Yet there is no practice of generation stage that is complete if the essential points of the perfection stage are not contained within it. 

The vase empowerment empowers one to meditate the generation stage, and purifies the stains of the body – killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. One also promises to refrain from them in the future. The vase empowerment of the Guhyasamaja Tantra has eleven branches.

The three other empowerments – the secret, wisdom-exalted-wisdom, and word empowerments – ripen the completion stage. The secret empowerment empowers one to meditate the path of the illusory body and purifies the stains of the speech – lying, divisive speech, harsh words, and idle talk. One also promises to refrain from committing them in the future. It deposits the latencies to actualize the complete enjoyment body. 
The wisdom-exalted-wisdom empowerment purifies the stains of the mind – covetousness, malice, and wrong view. One also promises to refrain from them in the future. It empowers one to meditate the path of the actual clear light and deposits the latencies to actualize the truth body. The word empowerment introduces the way to achieve the state of union and what it is, that is, the lama says that it is a union of the pure body and pure mind, the union of Vajradhara. It empowers one to meditate the path of the union of a learner – that of the pure illusory body and the actual clear light. It purifies the stains of the latencies deposited by the ten non-virtues committed in the past. 
Therefore, to practice the two stages, one needs to receive all four empowerments. If one receives the vase empowerment alone one is empowered to meditate the generation stage alone. However, there is no way to practice a generation stage that is not a complete practice of the completion stage. This means that one’s practice of the generation stage should become a cause ripening the completion stage, for example, the isolation of body. Previously it was said that prior to actualizing the isolation of body one should have generated the subtle generation stage. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Of course, it is not adequate simply to receive the empowerments; one must also protect as dearly as one’s life the vows and commitments that one has pledged to observe at the initiation ceremony. As regards the actual precepts, if one is abiding within the norms of the individually liberating discipline – the seven restraining precepts of body and speech  – there will be no new transgressions. Of course, the potency of the transgressions committed in the past may continue to increase and carry on its course.

Have received empowerment one must guard the vows and pledges at the cost of one’s life. This indicates that between giving up one’s life and giving up one’s vows, one should choose to give up one’s life. Even though one abides perfectly in the seven abandonments of body and speech one’s negative actions created in the past remain and continue to increase, however one will no longer creates new transgressions.

Thursday morning, 5 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In the context of the action and performance tantras, there are these seven precepts and the bodhisattva vows. However, there is a multitude of tantric commitments mentioned in Lekdrup. In the higher classes of tantra, there are the fourteen root precepts of the yoga and unsurpassed yoga classes, eight or ten bompos, and commitments pertaining to food, protection, and companionship. There is also the requirement to constantly abide within the deity yoga; thus there are many mental precepts. As our minds are under the control of afflictions, it is difficult even to observe the individually liberating precepts, so how much more difficult must it be to observe the two higher vows.

In the context of the action and performance tantras one promises to keep the seven abandonments of body and speech and to guard the bodhisattva vows. In the higher tantra classes, yoga and supreme yoga tantra, there are fourteen root vows and eight or ten gross infractions (bompos), as well as the commitments pertaining to food, protection, and reliance. The commitment of food includes what kinds of food to eat, how to eat, and so forth. The commitment of protection regards the keeping of other commitments. The commitment of reliance refers to the commitment to keep the tantric substances secret, that is, to not show them to others. These substances include the vajra, bell, damaru, rosary, the inner offering, and so forth.

In addition, there is the commitment to constantly abide in the deity yoga, that is, to visualize oneself as a deity at all times. If one does not keep these commitments one commits a downfall of mind. Since our minds are under the control of the afflictions and it is therefore difficult to keep the individual liberation vows, what need is there to mention that it is even more difficult to keep the two higher vows?

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 46) says:

However, this does not imply that because the observance of the precepts is difficult, it is pointless to practice. We should not think like this.

The teacher Buddha is greatly compassionate. According to the Mulasarvastivada tradition, the Buddha is said to have proscribed that the damaging of one’s monastic vows through transgression of any of the four cardinal precepts, if committed with an intention to conceal the act, cannot be remedied. That is, one cannot restore the vows. However, given that the observance of the tantric vows  is difficult, he made provisions so that one can retake the vows even after they have become degenerated. Therefore, a practitioner who is within the vows of individually liberating discipline should, on the basis of observing that discipline, identify the individual natures of the precepts. He or she should also determine the boundaries of transgressions so that when they go against the two higher vows, they can take initiations from a guru. If that is not possible, he or she could retake the bodhisattva vows in the presence of a sacred representation; tantric vows, [on the other hand], can be restored through self-empowerment ceremony.

One should not think that because the vows and commitments are difficult to keep that one should not even take them. Rather one should take them and then with a strong determination strive to keep them as well as one possibly can, as opposed to thinking that it does not matter. The Buddha said that if one commits a defeat together with the intention to conceal it, it cannot be restored. On the other hand, if a fully-ordained monk commits a defeat free from the intention to conceal it he can purify it by engaging in the five inferior activities. For example, when a fully-ordained monk who has been ordained for a long time commits a defeat he must go to the end of the row and sit amongst the younger monks; he must also get up earlier than the others and open the gate of the monastery and then close it at night; he must sweep the monastery, and so forth. Only having become a foe-destroyer can this monk return to his previous seat.

When the bodhisattva and tantra vows are transgressed they can be restored by retaking them. The individual liberation vows cannot be retaken because they are relinquished when transgressed. A fully-ordained monk must know the 253 vows and a fully-ordained nun must know all 364 vows. Likewise, a novice monk or nun must know all 36 vows, and a lay vow-holder should know the five precepts. In this way one will understand their boundaries, that is, what constitutes their transgression. 
When the two higher vows are degenerated they can be restored by taking empowerment from a lama. The bodhisattva vows can also be restored in the presence of an image of Buddha Shakyamuni. While the tantric vows cannot be restored in this manner, if one has previously done the approximation retreat of that deity they can be restored by performing the self-entry, that is, the self-empowerment. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

To take self-empowerment, it is necessary to have undertaken the rite of approximation [i.e., retreat] in accordance with the proper procedures.  Such restoration of the broken vows is not only crucial for the attainment of common and supreme feats , it is also vital for closing off the entrance to inferior rebirths. Of course, when the practitioner  fails to possess all requisite qualifications and, through that, causes a gulf between the practice and the practitioner, it is difficult to experience the merits of the practice as explained [in the texts]. However, there will be benefits, as stated by Vajradhara, if the following factors are present. Namely, that one’s mind is turned towards Dharma practice, one has suppressed attachment to immediate concerns of this life, one views the excellence of the samsaric world as defective and, in addition to these, if one is able to review six times a day the precepts of the three vows. In any case, if every evening one reviews the precepts, takes self-empowerment, and recites the Vajrasattva mantra twenty-one times on the basis of the Vajrasattva meditation, the increment factor of one’s infractions is prevented because one’s precepts are blessed.  In this way, one should undertake the practice, which ensures that one does not live with broken vows  even for a single day. Thus perseverance in the practices of purification and resolution  through such practices as the Six-Session Yoga is indispensable. 

In order to perform the self-entry of a particular deity one must have previously performed the approximation retreat with the necessary number of mantras. In the past it was enough to do 100,000 mantras but nowadays it is said that it is necessary to do three or four times that number. In addition, one must perform the burnt offering ritual at the end of the retreat. Only then can one do the self-entry.

The restoration of one’s vows is not only necessary in order to obtain the supreme and common attainments, it is also necessary so as to close the door to the bad migrations. It is said that when dying if one performs the self-entry, thereby restoring one’s vows, one will not be reborn in the bad migrations. 
When the practitioner fails to possess all requisite qualifications it creates a gulf between the practice and the practitioner, due to which even if one practices one will not experience the benefits that were explained. However, if the mind is turned toward the Dharma and away from the concerns of this life, there will be benefits. Likewise there will be benefits if one views the perfections of cyclic existence as having shortcomings, for example, no matter how high a status one obtains or how much wealth one obtains one can later fall from it. There are six shortcomings of cyclic existence including dissatisfaction, the high becoming low, and so forth. 
One should review one’s vows and commitments in six sessions daily. For example, in the context of tantra there are nineteen commitments, fourteen root downfalls, and eight or ten gross infractions. One should then recite the hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva twenty-one times, whereby any transgressions that one has committed are prevented from increasing. For example, if one were to kill a louse today and not purify this action, the next day the negative karma equals that of killing two lice, the day after that it equals the killing of four lice, the day after that it equals the killing of eight lice, and so forth. One should not just verbally recite the Vajrasattva mantra but should do so together with the application of the four opponent powers. Although the transgression is not purified, its increase is prevented by this practice. However, by doing the self-entry one can actually purify the broken vows. For these reason, it is important to strive in the stages of confession and restraint as found in the Six Session Guru Yoga. The version composed by Pabongka Rinpoche is found in two different lengths, the extensive and the brief. As this method was originally taught by Panchen Losang Chokyi, Pabongka Rinpoche composed this practice on the basis of his teachings. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 47) says: 2.2. [Selecting] an appropriate site for practice The appropriate place of practice [of this tantra] is stated in the tantra [itself in the following passage]:

In places of great wilderness…

There are both provisional and definitive readings of this passage. Generally speaking, the provisional reading relates to the generation stage and the definitive interpretation to the perfection stage. The first type of reading is called provisional because it does not exhaust the full meaning and a more profound explanation still remains to be uncovered. In contrast, the reading that relates the meaning to the perfection stage is called definitive because such interpretation represents the final meaning. Therefore, in the present context [i.e., the passages concerning the place of meditation], although the definitive reading pertains to the act of dissolving the five aggregates into clear light, etc., a provisional interpretation would yield the following. The site should be isolated and free of people’s coming and going, it should be in the wilderness and separated from any human habitat by at least fifteen yojanas, and [should be] a place where wild flowers blossom. These references suggest the appropriate place of a generation stage meditation.

There are two types of isolated places: the isolated and the greatly isolated, or wilderness and great wilderness. The greatly isolated is a place that is fifteen yojanas from a town, whereas the isolated is only one krosha from a town.

The provisional or interpretative meaning of this verse is that it describes a place for meditating on the generation stage. However, the definitive meaning is that it refers to the dissolution of the five aggregates into the clear light. The provisional or interpretative meaning is a meaning that still needs to be further explained, whereas the definitive meaning is a meaning that does not require further explanation. 
An isolated place is free from the coming and going of people, this is the provisional or interpretative meaning of this verse. It is one krosha (500 armspans or about .9 kms) from a town. The Treasury of Manifest Dharma says:

Subtle particles and [3.85d] Minute particles , similarly, Iron, water, rabbit, sheep, ox, and Sunray particles, louse eggs and What comes from them, likewise, [3.86] A finger span – the higher one being a multiple of seven. Twenty-four finger widths are a cubit. Four cubits are a fathom. Five hundred of them are [3.87] A krosha, this being asserted in regard to an isolated place. Eight of them are called “a yojana.” [3.88ab] Thus, an isolated place is one krosha from town. On the other hand, a greatly isolated place is fifteen yojanas from a town. There are eight kroshas in one yojana. These calculations are based on measurements of particles, including the particles of dust stirred up by a rabbit and so forth, not the actual armspan of a human being. One armspan is composed of four cubits, and one cubit is twenty-four finger widths.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Furthermore, the line

At cross-points where two roads join, or under a solitary tree…

suggests [appropriate sites]. “Crossroads” refers to the point where two roads intersect to form four ways, while a “solitary tree” is said to be one whose shadow does not touch another tree nor does the shadow of any other tree fall upon it. “With one symbol” is a reference to sites in India where Shiva’s representation [lingam] is present. In Tibet, in its place Rva Lotsawa suggests a site called “tse tup,” which must have some Indian source. These are the places appropriate for a comprehensive practice of the yogas.

A crossroads is a good place for meditation. Another good place is under a solitary tree. Another place is where there is “one sign,” that is, where there is a lingam, a representation of Shiva. The equivalent of a lingam in Tibet is a lab tse tup, a pile of stones, that is, a cairn, that marks a mountain pass and so forth and is often adorned with prayer flags. This term could also refer to the pile of stones that mark the boundaries of plateaus and so forth.

Thursday afternoon, 5 February 2004

As for highly realized ones, those who are undeviated from their single-pointedness, meditating in places of great distraction such as a marketplace, etc., can actually enhance the force of one’s yogic practice. For beginners, however, it is vital to have a site that is free from obstacles, where conditions can be acquired easily, and a place that is appealing to one’s mind.  Therefore it is crucial to choose a place that is conducive not just for a blissful sleep but for meditative absorptions and the practice of the yogas. It is for this reason that even in the monasteries the disciplinarians, in their pronouncements, strongly object to laughter, loud talk, and playing of music. Because noise is like a disturbing thorn for those immersed in study, contemplation, and meditation and a cause for the loss of concentration, it is prohibited. So we can see that for a practitioner, there is the issue of appropriateness with respect to place, company, actions, and so forth. For these reasons, it is vital that we follow the advice given by the protector Nagarjuna to King Suhrllekha :

Reside in sites that are conducive [to Dharma practice]…

The places of practice for yogis were described before, however for those with high realizations even a busy market place can be a suitable place of meditation as for them distractions, noise, and so forth become factors enhancing their single-pointedness. However, beginners, ordinary beings like ourselves, should meditate in a place that is free from unfavorable conditions, where favorable conditions are complete, and that is favorable to one’s mind. Unfavorable conditions are noise, crowds, risk of flooding, risk of attacks by beasts of prey and bandits, and so forth. Another unfavorable condition is a place that is humid, due to which one can easily become ill. Favorable conditions are places that are appealing to oneself, where there are harmonious companions, and where necessities are easily obtained. Ones companions should be people whom one likes and include a retreat assistant who is able to understand one’s signals so that there is no need to talk. In case sickness occurs it must also be easy to find a doctor, medicine, and so forth. These conducive conditions are not just in order to have a comfortable sleep but are to enable one to accomplish the meditative stabilization and yogas, therefore one should choose the place carefully.

When someone is hearing, thinking, or meditating noise is like a thorn in that it creates discomfort or distraction. The disciplinarians in the monasteries say that there should be no yelling, playing music, and so forth for the reason that this would disturb those who are meditating. However, this does not refer to playing music as part of puja. Also when monks leave their rooms and go to public places in the monastery they are told not to shout to each other. This is because it would harm those who are trying to meditate in their rooms. 
In short, the place, one’s companions, their behavior, and so forth should appeal to one’s mind. This is similar to what Nagarjuna says in his Letter to a Friend: 

By dwelling in a favorable place, Relying upon holy beings, naturally making good prayers, And also having previously created merit, You will possess the four great wheels. [61]

Nagarjuna wrote this letter of advice to his friend King Decho Sangpo, telling him that he had the bases of the four wheels of the mahayana: to be abiding in a favorable place, to be relying upon holy beings, to have made good prayers, and to have accumulated merit in the past. These four are also mentioned in the last verse of dedication of the Lama Chopa which says:

May I in all lives, through the force of this merit, Never be separated from the four wheels of the Great Vehicle And accomplish all the stages of the path – Renunciation, bodhichitta, perfect view, and the two stages.

To abide in a favorable place includes both the actual place as well as one’s companions. To be relying upon a holy being means to be devoting oneself to a spiritual master. To have made prayers is not just to have made any prayer but is to have made stainless prayers. To have accumulated merit means to have accumulated merit in the past, as a result of which the king now has this high position.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 49) says:

2.3. How to gather the requisites for the yogic practice In regard to how to gather the requisites of the yogic practice, regardless of whether one is undertaking the meditative practice of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Yamantaka, one should be taught from the first stage of the meditative practice. So, at a chosen site – around the midpoint of a mountain, the point where the valley begins and also where the morning sun light hits – one should erect a small mound of pebbles. This is called setting the outer boundary. Inside this, one should consecrate offerings and tormas. The procedure for cleaning one’s meditation hut and the environment is akin to those recommended in the lam-rim texts. However, the expression used to describe [this act] is different. In the tantras, it is referred to as “cleansing and dusting the mandala.” In India, a square or round platform is built from earth, which is anointed with a mixture of cow dung and other substances and thus cleansed. Also in the vinaya texts, there is a recommendation to fully ordained monks to prepare an anointed platform , which is referred to as a mandala. Whatever it may be, one must dust and clean one’s meditation chamber and the platform for arranging the offerings. One should sprinkle flowers on the platform. Anointing it with cow dung helps counter obstacles, while sprinkling the mixture of five nectars assists expediency in bringing powerful attainments. Arrange a painting or sculptured images of the buddhas as objects of worship. Set out articles of commitment, such as the scepter [vajra] and bell, and also arrange the offerings and tormas for the mandala. The inner offering should be prepared [as well].

At the place half way up a mountain where the morning sun strikes, make a small mound of pebbles, thereby establishing the outer boundary of one’s retreat place. Inside it, accomplish the offering torma. While the teachings on the stages of the path (lam-rim) explain to clean one’s room, the tantra teachings say to clean the mandala. In India the mandala is a platform made of earth and stones that is either round or square in shape. Smear the platform with the five products obtained from cows: dung, urine, yogurt, milk, and butter. Nowadays in India people rise early and make a mixture of earth, dung, and water which is then spread on the floor. It is allowed to dry and then the place is actually quite clean and smells of medicine. Also when blessing a statue one applies the five cow products to the inside of it until it forms a layer like leather. Also when preparing to a do a burnt offering ritual one cleans the hearth with the five cow products. The Vinaya also tells fully-ordained monk to anoint their seat, that is, meditation place, with the five cow products, which is then called a mandala.

In short, one should clean one’s room and altar, as well as the offering bowls. Then one should scatter flowers there. This is still done in India, where after cleaning their homes they scatter flower petals about before inviting the deities. Similarly, in the West people throw flower petals on a newly married couple. 
One smears the five cow products for the purpose of pacifying interferences, and sprinkles the five nectars in order to quickly obtain the attainments. 
Set out representations of the exalted body, either a painting or statue. Also set out the commitment substances, such as the vajra, bell, damaru, white mustard seeds, and dark gurgul (frankincense). One should also arrange a torma offering, which will be offered to the mandala, and the inner offering. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

It is stated in the texts that in India this [torma offering] can be prepared by using clean water mixed with flour or any other similar substances. Some say there is no textual basis for the Tibetan custom of making tormas of various shapes. 

Also in India any substances such as flour, clean water, and so forth were suitable. In other words, fine powder such as tsampa (roasted barley flour) and so forth can be made into heaps on the altar as an offering. The practice of making torma offerings has a valid basis in that it is recounted in some of the biographies of Indian masters that they would come together to offer sets of a hundred torma offerings of one cubit in height on a daily basis in order to pacify interferences. But perhaps the shape of these tormas is not mentioned in the tantra texts. These shapes accord with the particular activity – pacifying, increasing, controlling, or wrathful – that is required.

Friday morning, 6 February 2004

In short, the scriptural source for torma offerings is the scriptures of Nalanda Monastery in India.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In any case, the substance for the tormas should be such that for an advanced yogi the “five meats” and the “five nectars” should be gathered in actuality and should be purified, transformed, and enhanced in accordance with the rites of consecration. Beginners can use substitutes such as amla for the “great meat,” etc. and thus prepare the inner offering using the medicinal mixture. Alternatively, one can mix well already prepared “nectar pills” [in the inner offering]. You can make dough elephants and visualize [the elephant] dying of natural causes, then use the dough to make a torma. There are different torma substances for the differing rites, e.g., of pacification, of enrichment, and so on.

The five meats are human flesh, dog flesh, horse flesh, elephant flesh, and ox flesh. The five nectars are urine and so forth. An advanced yogi should actually collect these substances and then purify, transform, and increase them in accordance with the root tantra of Guhyasamaja. The sadhana says “OM SVABHAVA… Everything becomes empty. From the empty state…,” whereby the substances are purified in emptiness. Then from emptiness come the five meats having the aspect of horse flesh and so forth and the nectars having the aspect of urine and so forth. They are then transformed, that is, they are not left in their ordinary aspect but are transformed into the entity of uncontaminated nectar. Then they are increased or multiplied, that is, the nectar is made to become inexhaustible.

While high yogis can use the actual substances, beginners should assemble various types of fruit, such as aru, as substitutes for the great meat and so forth. Alternatively they can use an authentic nectar pill. They can also make dough into the shape of an elephant, think that the elephant dies from natural causes, and so forth. The same can be done for the four other types of meat, the dog flesh and so forth. 
There are different torma substances for the respective actions of pacification, increase, control, and wrath. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As for the shape of the torma, according to the customs of the Lower Tantric College and the oral tradition coming through Künkhyen Jamyang Shepa, it should be of a round shape . This should be surrounded by thinner tormas  equal to the number of the retinue deities. However, if you wish to be less elaborate, you could also represent the retinue deities by simply surrounding the main torma with round flat pieces of dough attached on the sides.  The Segyü [monastery]’s custom also seems to be similar to this.

According to the Lower Tantric College (Gyu Me) for Guhyasamaja there are three round white tormas, for Chakrasamvara there are three round red tormas, for Thirteen Deity Yamantaka there are thirteen triangular tormas with a flat part facing front. When the tormas are put on a wooden platform on the altar they are either all white or all red, they are not mixed. On the other hand, the Upper Tantric College (Gyu To) mixes the red and white tormas on the same platform as they make white tormas for the landlord spirits.

When done elaborately, one makes tormas equal to the number of deities in the mandala, for example, in the case of Guhyasamaja there would be thirty-two tormas. When done less elaborately one can just make small pieces of dough that are squeezed between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. The custom in Segyü Monastery is also similar to this. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

For torma offerings to the directional guardians, general torma offerings to the dakinis, torma offerings to the action yama deities,  the preliminary torma offering, and also the torma offering during the self-generation, the set of offerings for enjoyment such as the two water bowls, etc., should be arranged from the right. And, if possible, arrange new offerings such as the four waters at every new session. If this is not feasible, adjust according to your convenience.  If you wish to generate the boundary mark into a deity, prepare a white torma for this, together with a few flattened round dough disks called “buttons” or small pyramid-shaped dough pieces to renew the torma. Also prepare well the tormas for the interfering forces and a white torma [to befriend the local spirits]. 

One should arrange torma offerings to the ten or fifteen directional guardians depending on the context. When a torma is offered separately for the dakas and dakinis it is white in color. There is also the torma for Karmayama (action yama), that is, Kalarupa, which is red in color, triangular, and is called “sha zug ma” (sha gzug ma) which refers to the way in which the meat is cut. Then there is the preliminary torma offering that is offered when one is about to start a retreat.

For the self-generation one sets out “the two waters and five secondary enjoyments,” that is, the two waters, flowers, incense, light, perfume, and food, beginning from one’s right. Music is not set out because one offers music by playing the cymbals and so forth. For the directional protectors one offers four waters, water for washing the face, water for washing the feet, face-cooling water, and cleansing water. If possible one should make new offerings in each session. If this is not possible one can just add a drop of water to each bowl. 
If one has generated the mound of pebbles that is the boundary marker as a deity, one should offer a white torma for this deity and everyday add a small pyramid-shaped dough piece, made by squeezing the dough, flour mixed butter, between the thumb, index finger, and middle finger. 
The torma offering for the interferences (bgegs gtor) is to prevent obstacles to the retreat. One also offers a torma to the landlord spirit, exhorting him to prevent harmful beings from entering inside the retreat boundary. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

A proper accumulation of all the external conditions of a yogic practice will ensure that outer auspiciousness reflects the inner auspiciousness, and vice versa. [There is a correlation between the two.] For example, it is said that facial appearances of the human beings of the Earth mirror the shape of the physical planet that we inhabit. Based on these considerations, make sure that these auspicious conditions are created within your own mental continuum.

The shape of Jambudvipa is similar to the shape of a shoulder-blade, and so too are the faces of the human beings of this continent. When the yogic requisites are accumulated this is an external auspicious sign that reflects the inner auspiciousness.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Prepare a cushion that is slightly higher in the back. Underneath this, draw a vajra; this accords with the liberating deeds of the Buddha.  It is alright to draw the “immutable sign” [i.e., swastika] instead. On top of this, spread out kusha grass and multi-knotted durva grass. In the afternoon, when the sun reaches about the halfway point of the mountain in the front, bless the torma for the interfering forces, together with the broom.  Expel all the negative forces that hover around the substances and offerings as if they are sent out as scapegoats.  Although this is not essential, one could [imagine] expelling them in between white and black doors. Then, offer tormas to the locally residing constructive spirits,  and request them to protect you against obstacles and help accumulate the positive conditions [for meditative practice]. 

One should set out a thick cushion (‘bol gdan), the back of which should be higher in order to prevent laxity and to ensure that the channels in the body are upright. Underneath the cushion draw a vajra or a swastika, the latter being the usual custom nowadays. Although the swastika is usually associated with the Nazis, they actually took the swastika from Indian symbolism.

Place kusha grass under the cushion; as this grass is straight it is an auspicious sign that one’s mind will be clear. The durva grass is an auspicious sign for long life. 
The torma offering for the interferers should be offered in the early evening, when the rays of the sun illuminate the upper half of the mountain in front of one’s meditation place while the lower half is in shadow. The dust that was collected before when one swept the room should be taken out together with the torma for the interferences. When one takes the torma outside one should offer it as a bribe, thinking “Since I am giving you whatever you need, food, clothing, a dwelling, and bedding, do not come here.” One can also do the ritual in which one makes the shape of a person who is harming one from dough, complete with the various organs represented by various substances, and then carries this outside to a distance. In this way, one asks the spirits of the white side who reside in the area to help one.
The text says that one can imagine dispelling them between white and black doors, however I am not sure what this means. 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

STUDENT: Could Geshe-la please explain whether anger can be used as a means of generating bliss in the path? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: Taking anger into the path is to show the aspect of anger, even though one is not actually angry. To take anger or hatred into the path means to make it into an aid to the path by showing the aspect of anger. Due to this, the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness can be generated. When we, on the other hand, are angry do not have any happiness or bliss, rather the mind is completely disturbed and we are unhappy. In short, in this context although one does not have anger or hatred one shows the aspect of being angry in order to benefit others.

STUDENT: Could Geshe-la please explain whether anger can be taken into the path with the Guhyasamaja practice? And if not, what is the significance of it being classified as desire-transmuting and not as anger-transmuting? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: The sadhana of Guhyasamaja begins with “ Instantaneously I arise as blue-black Vajra Hatred with three faces – black, white, and red – and six arms holding a vajra, wheel, and lotus in the right, and a bell, jewel, and sword in the left; and embraced by Sparshavajra who resembles myself.” In this way anger or hatred seems to be used in the path.

STUDENT: What is the measure of having received an oral transmission? Could an animal receive an oral transmission? Could a deaf person receive a transmission other than the oral? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: Animals cannot receive an oral transmission because they do not understand the meaning. STUDENT: Then what is the difference between an animal and a person who does not understand Tibetan? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: Westerners, although they do not understand Tibetan, are intelligent. This is the main difference between human beings and animals. Similarly, when Tibetans recite mantras, such as the hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva, which are in Sanskrit they do not understand the meaning. In short, animals do not receive the oral transmission, whereas Westerners who do not know Tibetan do since later they can come to understand the meaning.

STUDENT: What are the qualities necessary for one to give an oral transmission? Would merely receiving the oral transmission, without attaining results in one’s practice, empower one to pass it on to others? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: In order to give an oral transmission oneself should have received the oral transmission, it is not necessary to understand the entire meaning of the text.

STUDENT: Akhu Sherap Gyatso says that ‘listening to teachings on the guide serves two purposes: It introduces to you the instructions and you receive the transmission of the blessings.’ Does this mean that what is actually transmitted during an oral transmission are the blessings of the lineage? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: I think that is right.

STUDENT: The second outline in Sherap Gyatso’s text reads: ‘2. Stages of the actual instruction of the experiential “guide”’ (khrid). Could Geshe-la please explain the different types of guides? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: I am giving an explanatory commentary. An experiential commentary or guide is one in which the lama explains a subject after which the disciple meditates on it, and only when the disciple has gained an actual experience of the subject does the lama teach more. A practical commentary or guide involves explaining part by part and is likened to taking off one’s skin thereby revealing the various organs of the body. This name (literally red commentary or red guide) comes from the technique used in the field of medicine to explain the various organs.

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guhyasamaja_commentary_by_aku_sherab_gyatso_and_geshe_jampa_gyatso_guh_gjg03.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/01 07:49 (external edit)