guhyasamaja_commentary_by_aku_sherab_gyatso_and_geshe_jampa_gyatso_guh_gjg04

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Monday afternoon, 9 February 2003

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 51) says:

There are two traditions on the question of whether or not to generate the boundary mark into a deity. If convenient, as suggested by Changkya Ngagwang Chöden, visualize as the four directional guardian kings  either the four posts placed in the four directions or those placed at the four outside corners of the chamber, or simply the four sides of a square post. Alternatively, a single post can be visualized as Pagkyepo,  the directional guardian of the south. Although this is a more pervasive custom, one can also generate the mark into any of the other three guardians.

There is a tradition of generating the boundary marker, a heap of pebbles, as a deity and another tradition in which it is not generated as a deity. One can generate either a heap of pebbles in each of the four directions, or a heap at each of the four outside corners of the room, or the four sides of a single post as the four directional guardians: Dhritarashtra, Virudhaka, Virupaksha, and Vaishravana. However, it is also possible to visualize a single post as Virudhaka (Pagkyepo), the directional guardian of the south, or as one of the other three guardians.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

When Hortsang Rinpoche was the throne-holder [of Tsongkhapa at Ganden], Pari Dhamchö and myself went to do the drawing of a lingam for the iron-fortress burning rite. On our way, we saw a boundary mark inscribed with a large “BAI,” on top of which was a small flag. On this flag was written a verse beginning with “May the great king Chensang and his retinue...” Damchö remarked that, although the verse is eloquent, how meticulous is a tradition where the name of King Chensang is associated with a large BAI! Thus, he was criticizing the practitioner’s sloppiness. It is therefore vital that you carefully research all aspects of the tradition and acquire a full knowledge before you enter into a retreat. Everyone has access to customs through seeing and hearing about the traditions, but I have also seen cases where people act as if they have never seen these practices before. One should not behave in this manner. 

For the iron-fortress burning rite it is necessary to draw a lingam in the shape of a human being. When Pari Dhamchö and Aku Sherab Gyatso were on their way to do this, they came across a boundary marker topped by a flag. On the face of the boundary marker was written BAI and on this flag was written a verse beginning with “May the great king Chensang and his retinue…” Damchö said that while the verse was well composed it was strange to see the syllable BAI conjoined with it. It showed that the person who was doing the retreat did not have a refined practice. For this reason, Aku Sherab Gyatso says it is important to study well before engaging in a practice, that is, to examine the tradition well and to clear up any doubts.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

If one follows the custom of generating [the boundary mark] into the action deity or a protector guardian of the appropriate mandala, you could generate it into Vignantakrit. Otherwise, one could also generate it, in the contexts of all three meditational deities such as Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka, into the Yama King Kalarupa, the lord over the three world systems, the protector who is bound by a special oath to Tsongkhapa. Thus both of these two systems exist in the oral tradition. You can leave the deity undissolved until the completion of the entire retreat or, alternatively, you can dissolve the deity and visualize it back into a boundary mark and view it thus. In any case, since the nature of the boundary mark has been imagined as a deity, one should remember the deity of the boundary post when making torma offerings, and also entrust activities to the deity.

In the case of Guhyasamaja one should generate the boundary marker as Vighantakrit (Abolisher of Interferences). In the cases of all three deities, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka, one can also generate it as Kalarupa, the protector bound by a special oath to Lama Tsongkhapa. Kalarupa is both a meditational deity and a protector, however both these aspects are emanations of Manjushri.

Having generated the boundary marker as a deity, when one makes the torma offering one should remember this and make offerings to this deity and request him to perform the enlightened activities. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The boundary post should not be disturbed in any way. If you haven’t generated the boundary sign into a deity, it is vital that you should relate to it as a reminder of your commitments. You must not go beyond the mark, and others who have not been included in your sphere of the essential circle of people should also not be allowed to cross beyond the post. You should view it as a reminder that within its boundary there is no room for mundane concerns of this life,  or self-cherishing thoughts, or perceptions and apprehensions of ordinariness. Rather, it is a symbol calling attention us to never neglect the common and uncommon practices. This is how the tradition instructs us. That  this is vitally important is attested to by the stories  of Lochen Rinchen Sangpo, Gyalse Thokme, and Kharak Gomchung, who all attached posters [relating to the importance of these points] on their doors.

One should not move the boundary marker to another place. Even if one does not generate the boundary marker as a deity one should not pass it when in retreat. Prior to beginning the retreat one should think that certain people will be allowed to enter inside but not others, and then not allow the latter inside the boundary. One should also not allow concern for this and future lives, self-cherishing, and the appearance of and adherence to ordinariness to come inside the retreat boundary. In other words, one should make a strong determination to not allow such thoughts to occur. The boundary marker should also be a symbol reminding one to not give up the common and uncommon practices. That this is important is attested to by the biographies of Lochen Rinchen Sangpo, Gyalse Thokme, and Kharak Gomchung who wrote this on their doors. Kharak is a place in the Tsang region of Tibet, while the person’s name is Gomchung (Small Meditator), which does not necessarily reflect his meditation achievements. For example, there are those who have great titles, but their practice is small.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As regards the scriptural source for this practice of setting the boundary, unless we cite the example of the “stake deities” (phur lha), no sources exist in the tantras of the new translations. Therefore, the previous Künkhyen [Jamyang Shepa] stated that erecting the boundary mark is to determine the line between the outer and inner boundaries. Some say that when the great Tsongkhapa was in Lhasa at the Monlam Prayer festival, he would insert fifteen flags for the fifteen directional guardians on pieces of dough and then make the torma offering. They say that this is the source of the practice; but this appears to be nothing other than the practice of propitiating the stake deities. Thus, apart from this there is no explicit scriptural source for the custom.

The stake deities or dagger deities refer to the practice of planting daggers in the four cardinal and four intermediate directions when, for example, making a sand mandala. Excluding the reference to these deities, there is no source for the boundary marker in the new translations of the tantras. Therefore, the previous Künkhyen Jamyang Shepa stated that one erects the boundary mark to determine the line between the outer and inner boundaries. The first Künkhyen Jamyang Shepa was Ngawang Tsundu and the second was Jigme Wangpo. Even nowadays during the Monlam Prayer festival there is the custom of sending the monks of Drepung Ngagpa kangtsen to offer tormas in the four directions.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As is the case both in Sakya and Kagyü traditions,  some Geluk lamas  also follow the practice of collecting some “boundary pebbles.” Thus, before you actually enter into retreat, you collect several pebbles and divide them into two groups to represent the transactions of people coming in and going out of the set boundary. Although this is not essential, one can leave these pebbles at the base of the boundary post. So when transactions do occur, at that point, you should cultivate the thought that no obstructive forces from outside penetrate, and no inner attainments are lost to the outside. You entrust this task to the pebbles. In the above way, then, set the boundary  of your retreat place. 

There is a tradition regarding the collecting of boundary pebbles in the Sakya, Kagyu, Jonangpa, and Nyingma traditions that is also followed by some Gelugpas. Whenever one has a visitor one sets out a pebble at the base of the boundary mark, and then when he or she leaves one takes it away. There is also the tradition in which each of the assistants of the retreat brings a stone to the meditator. Having set the outer boundary, one next sets the inner boundary.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Be seated on your cushion and reinforce your deity yoga meditation. By sprinkling mustard seeds  towards the four directions, recite the mantra OM SUMBHANI SUMBHA HUM, GRIHANAN GRIHAN HUM, GRIHANAN PAYA GRIHANAN PAYA HUM, ANAYA HO, BHAGAVAN, VIRYA RAJA, HUM PHAT. While doing so, snap with your left fingers in the four directions. For Guhyasamaja practice,  circle the snapping clockwise; for Chakrasamvara, do it counter-clockwise. 

One sits on the cushion and once again remembers to visualize oneself in the aspect of the deity. One can either sprinkle mustard seeds that have been previously mantrified or sprinkle them while reciting the mantra. The mantra SUMBHANI differs in the case of different deities, for example Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja. In some cases the mantra ends with ANAYA HO BHAGAVAN VIDYA RAJA HUM PHAT and in others with OM ANAYA HO BHAGAVAN BHAGAVAN VAJRA HUM HUM PHAT. In the case of Guhyasamaja it is: OM SUMBHANI SUMBHA HUM/ GRIHNA GRIHNA HUM/ GRIHNA PAYA GRIHNA PAYA HUM/ ANAYA HO BHAGAVAN VIDYA RAJA HUM PHAT. In the case of Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka one recites the above mantra while snapping the fingers of the left hand in the four directions clockwise and sprinkling the mustard seeds with the right hand, whereas in the case of Chakrasamvara one snaps the fingers in the four directions anticlockwise The mustard seeds are the entity of the ten directional guardians or a multitude of wrathful Vighantakrit deities who chase the interferers away to the limits of the ocean.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

By reciting “From the HUM at my heart …”, etc., meditate on the common protection circle.

While reciting “Myself in the form of the deity, at my crown appears, from OM, a white wheel marked by OM at its hub; ...”, etc., touch your left ring finger to your crown, throat, and heart  and bless your three doors – i.e., body, speech, and mind.  

One meditates the common protection wheel, beginning with visualizing a HUM at one’s heart. There are two protections wheels, one of which includes ten or eleven wrathful deities. One then blesses one’s three places by touching the crown of the head, throat, and heart with the left ring finger, thereby blessing one’s three doors into the entity of the three vajras. At the crown is an OM from which comes a white wheel marked with OM, at the throat from a red AH comes a red lotus marked with AH, and at the heart from a blue HUM comes a blue vajra marked with HUM. The meaning of blessing one’s three doors into the entity of the three vajras that one’s body, speech, and mind become the exalted body, speech, and mind of Guhyasamaja.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

While holding the vajra in your [right] hand, touch the cushion and recite the mantra and imagine the seat and ground beneath you, including the great earth base, turning into the nature of a diamond. Thus recall the liberating deeds of the Buddha when he conquered the forces of Mara at Bodhgaya. These practices are known as setting the inner boundary. There is also the custom of not performing any rites other than simply focusing single-pointedly on the deity yoga itself when undertaking the retreat of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Yamantaka.

Holding the vajra in the right hand and the bell in the left hand, touch the cushion with the right hand and think that the seat and the earth below the cushion becomes the nature of vajras and recite OM AH VAJRA ASANA. This is called “the blessing of the seat.” While doing this one should remember how the Buddha, while sitting under the bodhi tree, subdued the maras in the evening.

Tuesday morning, 10 February 2004

When one does the retreat of Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka one should not do any other rituals or other commitments related to the practice of other deities on the retreat cushion.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

So, either on the 29th or the 30th day of the [lunar] month, you should make all these preparations and at noon, you should undertake the practice of guru yoga, its length or brevity depending upon your convenience. You should also cultivate the appropriate mental state through training in the common paths, e.g., reinforcing your practice of going for refuge and so on. You should cultivate the fervent thought: “Before death – the law of impermanence – makes me no more, I shall ensure that this precious human existence does not go to waste. I shall, until I attain the state of perfect union and in particular during this life, this year, this month, this day, and this session, ensure that I do not let myself be led astray by frivolous activities, procrastination, emotions of strong aversion, and attachment. I shall commit myself to undertaking the practice as taught in the scriptures.” This is how you should strengthen your motivation during all sessions.

Having gathered all the necessities for the retreat one should begin the retreat on the 29th or 30th of the lunar month. One should begin with either the extensive or short guru yoga, respectively the Lama Chopa or Ganden Lha Gyema, or alternatively either the long or short versions of the Six Session Guru Yoga. One should go for refuge and generate the mind of enlightenment, and then train in the common paths by reciting the Foundation of All Good Qualities or the Condensed Points of the Stages of the Path. One should determine not to waste this precious human rebirth but to make it meaningful before death arrives. Since we are distracted, lazy, and have attachment and hatred, we need to determine to not allow our mind to come under the control of afflictions when encountering objects. It is important to develop a strong motivation at the beginning of all sessions.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Early dawn is said to be the time when the deities of the Pure Realm visit the world of the four continents and observe the sentient beings. It is for this reason and also since the Guhyasamaja mandala deities are invited from the Akanishta realm that it is considered auspicious to begin the actual sadhana practice at dawn on the first day of the [lunar] month.

It is said that in early morning the deities of the pure realms visit the world and observe sentient beings. Usually when we do retreat there is an initial session in the evening, however the mantras recited during that session are not included in the mantra count. One begins to count the mantras only from the session of the following morning. The Guhyasamaja mandala is invoked from Heavily Adorned, a part of Akanishta (Not Low).

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 55) says:

2.4. The procedure for the actual practice [of the sadhana] itself The procedure of the rites of the [actual sadhana] practice consists of:

2.4.1. Preparatory practices 2.4.2. The actual practice [of the sadhana] 2.4.3. The concluding activities

There are three stages of the rites of practice: the preparatory practices, the actual practice, and the concluding activities.

The first one, i.e. preparatory practices, is composed further of:

2.4.1.1. Common preparatory practices 2.4.1.2. Special preparatory practices

The preparatory practices are further divided into the general and specific, or common and special.

The first one, i.e. common preparatory practices, consists of:

2.4.1.1.1. Instantaneous self-generation 2.4.1.1.2. Consecration of the inner offering 2.4.1.1.3 The preliminary offerings and torma rite 2.4.1.1.4. Consecration of the self-generation offering 2.4.1.1.5. Vajrasattva meditation and recitation

The general preparatory practices include the instantaneous self-generation.

The Self-Generation Rite of the Glorious Secret Assembly, The King of Tantras says: Instantaneous Self-Generation 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, embraced by Sparshavajra who resembles myself. We are both adorned with the eight jeweled ornaments. Our upper bodies are draped with divine shawls and our lower bodies are clothed in flowing divine silk skirts.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

2.4.1.1.1. Instantaneous self-generation The significance of undertaking an instantaneous self-generation at the beginning of a sadhana is because right at the beginning [of the sadhana], the inner offering has to be blessed, and this cannot be done by an ordinary person. It has to be done by someone [who is firmly] within the yoga of deity practice. In the sadhana rites of Yamantaka and Chakrasamvara, the word “instantaneously” is explicit. Though this is not the case here [in the Guhyasamaja sadhana], the process itself should be instantaneous.

Why does one generate oneself as the deity? It is in order to bless the inner offering since one cannot bless it while in one’s ordinary aspect but must be abiding in the deity yoga.

In the case of Yamantaka and Chakrasamvara the word “instantaneously” occurs explicitly saying: “Instantaneously I arise in the body of…” On the other hand, while the word “instantaneously” does not occur explicitly in the case of Guhyasamaja, it is implied. One first transforms everything into emptiness. Then one abides in the exalted wisdom realizing that all phenomena, outer and inner, are empty. From within that empty state one generates the divine pride thinking “I am the truth body.” Then from the empty state one arises as a blue light, one cubit in height, and thinks “I am the enjoyment body.” Then that blue light takes on the form of the actual deity, Vajra Hatred, with three faces, six arms, and so forth, and one thinks “I am the emanation body.” In this way one does a complete meditation on the generation stage by taking death as the path to the truth body, the intermediate state as the path to the enjoyment body, and birth as the path to the emanation body. 
Having generated oneself as a deity one can then bless the inner offering. One transforms the basis for the inner offering, the nectar pill and so forth, into emptiness. Then from the empty state the five meats and five nectars are generated. They are then blessed into nectar, multiplied, and made inexhaustible and uncontaminated. 
Then one offers the preliminary torma. It too is transformed into emptiness, generated as nectar, and blessed prior to being offered to the respective deities of the preparatory rites whose tongues are blessed into a one-spoked vajra that becomes a tube of light. 
Then one offers the outer offerings and inner offering and then offers praise. Then one blesses the offerings for the self-generation, argham, padyam, and so forth. Then one does the Vajrasattva meditation-recitation, which differs in accordance with the deity. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In this regard, it is mistaken to think that it is this flesh and blood body of ours that is generated into a deity, and that it is this deluded and afflicted mind that is generated into a buddha’s wisdom mind. What is required is that the continuum of our deluded mind needs to be cut and that our body and its basis, i.e., the psychophysical aggregates, must all be purified into emptiness, the absence of inherent existence. From within that emptiness appears a beam of blue light, about an arm’s length, which then gradually manifests into a deity with face, arms, etc. in accordance with the process described in the sadhana. This is the same even for the shortest version of the generation rite.

One purifies the body into emptiness and cuts the continuum of the afflicted mind. One rises from the empty state as a blue light, one cubit in height. It then transforms into the deity with faces, arms, and so forth. The self-generation is the same whether one does a short or long sadhana. Therefore, it is not correct to think that this is not done in the case of a short version.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The aspects of emptiness and radiance of the blue light represent the illusion-like yoga and therefore must embrace the practices of both the method and wisdom facets [of the path]. This, however, is not to say that one can never visualize one’s body as a deity body; at the beginner’s stage, however, it is vital to generate into a deity following a dissolution into emptiness. For if one meditates upon oneself as a truly existing deity without any understanding of the view of emptiness, there is no difference between this and [the lustful] who hold an illusory woman to be real! This has been suggested in the six chapter of [Chandrakirti’s] Guide to the Middle Way. Therefore, all meditations of the deity must arise from [an initial] purification into emptiness.

Emptiness is wisdom and the appearance of blue light is method, whereby both the practice of method and the practice of wisdom are complete. It is not that one cannot visualize one’s body as a deity body, however in the beginning it is important to transform it into emptiness prior to generating it as a deity.

The sixth chapter, Gone Afar, of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way recounts the story of how a father and son went to see a magic show. The magician emanated a beautiful woman from piece of wood by blowing mantras on it and tricking the eyes of the spectators. The son generated strong attachment for the woman and asked his father to arrange for him to marry her. The father said that this was not possible as it was only an illusion, whereas the son insisted that she was real. For a similar reason, the deity must arise after first being purified into emptiness. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Furthermore, since it is bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, that determines whether or not a deed becomes a cause for the attainment of buddhahood, it is essential to have at least a simulated generation of this altruistic intention. There are many stories about how when one engages in deity meditations devoid of even a simulated bodhicitta and an unshaken conviction in the truth of the view of the non-substantiality of all things,  one can take rebirth in inferior states of existence. There is thus the danger of creating the conditions for samsaric birth, even though one may be engaged in the practice of the two stages.

As meditation on emptiness alone will not lead to the enlightenment of a buddha, but only to the enlightenments of hearers and solitary realizers, it is necessary to have the motivation of the mind of enlightenment. In that case that one lacks a contrived mind of enlightenment and a contrived conviction in the view of the lack of true existence, meditating on the deity just becomes a cause for rebirth in the bad migrations. There are stories of people who have been born as spirits and so forth as a result of their practice of the two stages. For example, it is recounted that once during an assembly in one of the great monasteries, a huge Yamantaka with nine faces, sixteen legs, and thirty-four arms appeared and walked toward the monks. All the monks were terrified. It is said that Ekajati appeared and went off to a distance and called out to him “Elder brother!” However, Yamantaka did not even turn around. Ekajati then went behind him and, seeing its entrails, understood that it was a spirit. Ekajati pulled out its heart and it fell down dead. Ganden Monastery now keeps a moment of silence during the assembly on the anniversary of this event.

Tuesday afternoon, 10 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Therefore, think thus: “In order to lead other sentient beings to buddhahood, I first need to attain full enlightenment myself. For this purpose, I shall engage in the practice of the two stages.” Without losing the vibrancy of this thought, you then recite “Instantaneously…” This constitutes the reinforcement of one’s view of emptiness. This is what the oral tradition advises us.

Whatever the case may be, the sense of “I” arises only in dependence upon our [psychophysical] aggregates,  either collectively or individually. There is no way that the thought of “I am” can arise in a total vacuum, independent of the aggregates. This is attested to by the passage

Apart from aggregates, its grasping does not occur.

In order to lead other sentient beings to buddhahood one must first attain enlightenment oneself and in order to do this one must meditate the two stages. While maintaining this motivation one should recite the lines in the sadhana of the instantaneous self-generation, which act to remind one of the view, that is, the lack of inherent existence of phenomena. When someone appears to us, that person appears in dependence on either an individual aggregate or the collection of aggregates appearing. The appearance of another person depends mainly on the appearance of the form aggregate since we do not perceive the other aggregates – the feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness aggregates. Therefore, the person appears to us in dependence either on a part of the body, for example, the head, appearing or on the entire body appearing. For example, when Sherab appears to us, he does so in dependence on his body appearing to us, for example, due to the particular way he walks we identify him as Sherab. Therefore, without depending on the appearance of his body, Sherab does not appear. In dependence on the expression of his face, for example, an unhappy expression, we can infer the feeling aggregate of suffering. If, on the other hand, the expression of the face is happy we can infer the presence of happy feeling. However, these feelings are inferred in dependence on seeing his face or in dependence on seeing his bodily posture, that is, his body language.

In the context of refuting the self, the Supplement to the Middle Way says: 

Therefore, a self which is different from the aggregates does not exist Because, excluding the aggregates, apprehending that is not established. [6.124ab]

This means that without depending on the appearance of the aggregates of a person, specifically the form aggregate, there is no apprehension of the person. However in the case of the formless realm, the being is designated on the basis of the other four aggregates, mainly the discrimination aggregate, since such beings do not possess a form aggregate. Thus, the beings of Infinite Space, Infinite Consciousness, Nothingness, and Without Discrimination Not Without Discrimination appear in dependence on the discrimination aggregate.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

At our current level of existence, when the gross physical body composed of the elements and when the gross levels of mind, such as the six consciousnesses, operate [in their normal ways], the very subtle consciousness and body remain non-manifest. But at the time of death, when all levels of the gross consciousness dissolve, the subtle energy and mind, which are the essential natures of the four aggregates, become active. Thus, there are two levels – subtle and coarse – both within our body and our mind. Since the sense of “I” designated upon the gross aggregates [and that designated] upon the subtle aggregates do not co-manifest at any given moment, there is no consequence of an individual person’s mentality becoming two separate streams of consciousness. This point is stated in the Lamp Thoroughly Illuminating the Five Stages [by the great Tsongkhapa]. At both levels, there exists the possibility of perceiving mind and body indivisibly as the mixture of milk and water.

In the current context, however, the sense of “I” that we focus on [in the generation meditation] is not exclusively that which is based upon the subtle mind and body. Nor is it exclusively the one that is designated upon the gross levels of mind and body. Rather, it is that sense of “I” that is designated upon the aggregates without any discrimination between the subtle and the gross. [In other words] the basis of this designation is the indivisible unity of both the gross and subtle levels of body and mind. It is this sense of “I” together with its designative bases that are purified into emptiness. 

That which is functioning presently is the coarse body composed of elements and the coarse mind composed of the collection of six consciousnesses. The coarse body is the body that is composed of the organs or containers of the sense powers, for example, the eye ball. The six consciousnesses are the eye consciousness which sees forms, the ear consciousness which hears sounds, the nose consciousness which smells odors, the tongue consciousness which tastes tastes, the body consciousness which perceives tangible objects, and the mental consciousness which cognizes phenomena. When they function the very subtle body and mind remain dormant. On the other hand, when the coarse elements dissolve at the time of death, the subtle mind of death becomes manifest. At the time of death the coarse elements in the body dissolve into each other: earth into water, water into fire, fire into wind, wind into consciousness, and consciousness into appearance. Just as the coarse elements dissolves so do the coarse consciousnesses, that is, they lose their ability to function.

Thus, the body and mind as well as the I are of two types: the coarse and subtle. There is an I that is designated upon the coarse body, a coarse basis of designation, and an I that is designated upon a subtle body, a subtle basis of designation. Since at the time one of the two – the I designated on the coarse aggregates and the I designated on the subtle primordial wind and mind – is manifest the other abides dormant, the person and the continuum do not become different. In other words, there is no distinction of an I designated on coarse aggregates and an I designated on subtle aggregates, there is just an I designated on the aggregates. It is like when water is mixed with milk they cannot be discriminated separately. It is said that only swans can separate milk and water, in that they can drink the milk while leaving the water. 
The I together with its basis of designation is purified in emptiness. Then, from within that emptiness one arises in the body of the deity. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Therefore, the previous Künkhyen [Jamyang Shepa] writes the following in his Generation Stage Guide:

Having dissolved suddenly into light, without distinguishing between the subtle and gross levels, the sense of “I” together with its designative bases…

That one dissolves suddenly into light means that one dissolves into emptiness. This is because between the two – the object clear light and the object-possessor clear light – here it refers to the clear light that is the object, that is, emptiness.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The idea of “suddenly dissolving into light” is the same as “disappearance into the sphere of emptiness.” The meaning [of this] is the dissolution of the perception of an autonomous “I” – “I did this and that at that time,” “I shall do this and that in future,” “I am doing this and that at present.” All of these acts of past, future, and present appear as evident in this one “I.” Therefore in the meditational manuals [known as] Guides to the View texts, one finds such expressions as “the solitary, discreet ‘I’,” “‘I’ that is tangible and real,” “‘I’ that is self-sufficient,” and “‘I’ that is the essence or the orb of my being.”

Is there an autonomous I that is able to set itself up? There certainly seems to be such an I. We think “In the past I did this and that,” for example, “I was young. I went to school. I graduated” and so forth. One also thinks “In the future I will do such and such”; for example, “I will be a teacher. I will be a judge. I will be a lawyer. I will be a doctor. I will be a politician.” With respect to the present we think “Now I am typing. I am listening.” and so forth. Therefore, there seems to be a past, present, and future I. The Guides to the View says: “the solitary, discreet ‘I’,” “‘I’ that is tangible and real,” “‘I’ that is self-sufficient,” and “‘I’ that is the essence or the orb of my being.”

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

To the innate apprehensions of self-existence, “I” appears constantly as an autonomous entity, and this perception arises through a conception of mind and body as undistinguished and through the conflation of the designation with its designative bases.  Yet we fail to recognize this fact. There are also different instances in which the sense of “I” arises within us. For example, I can have the thoughts that “I did this when I was a child” and “I did that when I was an adult.” Similarly, I may think “I am going to that place this year,”  and “This is what I shall do when I become old.” Thus it is clear that the sense of “I” can appear undistinguished in relation to this or that state of one’s bodily existence.  Similarly, the thoughts “I shall sit,” “I shall eat,” “I shall sleep,” etc. occur in us, revealing how the senses of earlier and later “I”s are assimilated.  

The I constantly appears to us as self-sufficient, but we do not recognize this. Why do we have the appearance of a self-sufficient I? It is the manner in which the I that is the object of negation appears to us. While it appears like this, we do not recognize it to be an object of negation. The I and the aggregates appear to us without differentiation, thus we think “I sat,” “I ate,” “I slept.” The I of the past and the I of the future are mixed together and are not perceived to be separate.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thus the Ocean of Reasoning [by Tsongkhapa] states:

Ascertain that the “selves” of the individual states of a sentient being’s existence are instances of that “self” [i.e., the “self” as generality].

In general one thinks “I” or “self.” However, that self has many instances, for example, the self that is a hell being, the self that is a hungry ghost, the self that is an animal, the self that is a human being, the self that is an antigod, and the self that is a god. Thus, there are many different instances of the self. In establishing the relationship between a generality and a particularity there are five factors to be taken into consideration.

Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom says that there is a self that has come from the past to the present life, a self that goes from the present life to the future live, a self that is dependent upon the present aggregates, and a self that pervades all the instances of self. Is the self that has come from the past to the present life the present person? It is not. For example, if in the past one was a god, the self that was a god is not the present human being. The self of the present is the self of a human being. Does this self go to a future life? It does not, because if it did the self that is a human being should go to the future life. Thus, there are three selves: a self that comes from the past to the present, the present self, and the self that goes from this life to the future life. There is a mere I or mere self that pervades all these selves. Therefore, it is the mere self that goes from this life to the future life.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thus, without distinguishing between the subtle and gross aggregates, the designative bases, and also without distinguishing between the subtle and gross levels of “I,” the designated, dissolve them into light.

One dissolves the coarse and subtle aggregates (the basis of designation) and I that is designated on them into light, that is, into emptiness.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

To assist in visualizing the process, one can compare this to how a breath is drawn inwards and then completely disappears when you blow on a silver mirror. If one meditates only on the absence of the appearance of “I,” there is not much difference between this and meditating on an empty space. Therefore it has been instructed that one must reflect on the absence of substantial reality [of all things]. Of course the melting into light is a means to assist in dismantling the perceptions of substantial reality, but if one possesses the perfect view of emptiness, already all perceptions of the relative world [of multiplicity] have ceased, insofar as the perspective of the inferential cognition of emptiness is concerned. This dissolution of perceptions of the relative world is also known as the “absence of perception.”

If one blows on a mirror, one’s warm breath leaves a film on the mirror that then gradually retracts toward the center and then disappears. Similarly, when one does the dissolution of the mandala the environment dissolves from the outer edges into oneself; then one’s body dissolves from above and below into the seed-syllable at the heart; that seed-syllable, for example, HUM, dissolves from the bottom upward, the vowel shabkyu into the small A, that into the HA, that into the head of the HA, that into the crescent moon, that into the drop, that into the nada, which then disappears. At this point one remains absorbed in meditative equipoise on emptiness.

If one meditates on the mere emptiness that is the non-appearance of the I, there is not much difference between this and meditating on space. Therefore, one must meditate on the emptiness of true existence. In short, one should not just meditate on the non-appearance of the I, but should meditate on the emptiness of true existence. The dissolution or melting into light, that is, purifying into emptiness, is done in order to make the appearance of true existence vanish. In other words, at that time there is no longer the appearance of true existence.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As the following [from Chandrakirti’s Guide to the Middle Way] states,

For [your belief in inherent existence] entails that emptiness causes the disintegration of all things; but this cannot be right …

If non-appearance means that conventional phenomena do not appear to an inferential cognizer, it follows that emptiness causes the disintegration of all things. This citation from Chandrakirti’s text occurs in the context of the three reasonings. When emptiness is realized, nothing else, that is, no conventional phenomenon, appears. For this reason, some says that emptiness causes the disintegration of all things, including actions and results. However, this is not right.

Wednesday morning, 11 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 59) says:

The objects of the relative world are not empty in the nihilistic sense of there being nothing at all; rather the [objects] cease to exist from the perspective of a specific mind state. For example, although right now the perceptions of central and western Tibet and China may not occur in one’s mind, these places still exist [in reality]. Similarly, what is required here is the perception of mere emptiness within which all appearances of substantial reality of things are absent. A “non-implicative negation” refers to the kind of absence we find when we speak about the absence of a pot in front of us. Here, the absence of a pot coincides with the non-perception of a pot. Thus such a negation is defined as “that statement which simply negates its contrary.” Therefore, to assist your visualization, dissolve your sense of “I,” together with its designative bases, into light and place the mind unwaveringly on that absence.

When negating the object of negation, true existence, conventional phenomena do not appear to the mind, however it is not that they do not exist at all. For example, although central and western Tibet and China do not appear in the perspective one’s mind, it is not that they do not exist. One should strive to realize the emptiness of true existence of phenomena, that is, rather than true existence appearing to the mind it is the emptiness of true existence that dawns. True existence is a non-affirming negative, meaning that having negated the object of negation nothing else appears in its place. For example, following the statement “There is no pot on the table” only the absence of pot appears to the mind, nothing else appears to it. One dissolves the I and its basis of designation into light, that is, into emptiness, and sets the mind on the emptiness of true existence.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Should one wish to be more elaborate, [one can] follow the process of ascertaining the four essential points [of emptiness] such as “identifying the object of negation,” etc., as described in the Guide to the View literature. When you have arrived at an absence through such analysis,  imagine your mind as indivisible with that emptiness. Thus you should be able to have the “appearance” aspect [of your meditation on emptiness] arising into a deity form, while the essential mind remains [totally] immersed within the expanse of emptiness.

When meditating on emptiness more elaborately do so as described in the Guide to the View literature. One meditates on the four points: ascertaining the object of negation, ascertaining the freedom from being one, ascertaining the freedom from being many, and ascertaining the pervasion. First one identifies the object of negation, the I that appears to be independent. Then one identifies the reason or sign: “because it is free from being one and many.” Having realized that it is not a truly existent one nor a truly existent many, one realizes that it does not exist truly. In this way one arrives at a complete understanding of emptiness. One’s own mind and emptiness become indivisible. While the mind is single-pointedly absorbed on emptiness, the factor of appearance arises as the form of a deity. In other words, one transforms everything into emptiness and from that empty state one arises as the deity.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[Generally speaking,] every instance of a cognitive act has both an aspect of “apprehension” and an aspect of “perception.”  A good illustration of this is one’s consciousness in dream states. At the level of apprehension, what is experienced [subjectively] is only a dream, yet at the level of perception there is the multiplicity of appearances, such as a [perception of a] mountain, a forest, a house, etc. Here [in the visualization] too, at the level of apprehension your mind should abide [single-pointedly] in emptiness while at the perceptual level there should be the appearance of a deity form.  

Although the text says “To the side of ascertainment of that dream consciousness nothing other than sleep appears,” sleep does not appear to a dream consciousness. If Aku Sherab Gyatso were here today one could argue with him because while mountains, forests, and so forth can appear to a dream consciousness, sleep does not appear to it.

What is ascertained is emptiness and what appears is the body of the deity. One purifies into emptiness, and from the empty state one arises in the body of the deity. In short, while the mind is absorbed in emptiness, one arises in the body of the deity. This occurs in all sadhanas. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Furthermore, there must be the underlying motivation of love, compassion, and the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment, even though the immediate impetus may be one’s understanding of emptiness. Your experience should be such that your mind is indivisible from that very absence arrived at through placement of your mind in emptiness, just as water poured into water.

The causal motivation should be love, compassion, and the mind of enlightenment. The temporal motivation is the view of emptiness. Thus, one begins the practice motivated by love and so forth, and then motivated by the view of emptiness one transforms all into emptiness and arises as the body of the deity. Thus while the mind ascertains emptiness, what appears to it is the body of the deity. The mind ascertaining emptiness is the temporal motivation, while another mind visualizes the deity; these are not the same minds.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

This, then, is also the meaning of the passage [from the Guide to the Middle Way] that begins with following:

Hence they originate perfectly from emptiness…

All compounded phenomena arise from the emptiness of inherent existence. This is what we should understand, it is not that emptiness is a cause that produces other phenomena.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

At all times, one should train in the perception of all appearances as manifestations of pure visions deriving from the illusion-like yoga, within which the wisdom cognizing emptiness arises with a form of a deity. Since the emptiness of mind that has the potential for perfect enlightenment is the “naturally present buddha nature,” when all pollutants are cleansed, the emptiness of everything – i.e., the environment and the beings within it – will appear as deities. Although it is difficult to convey this idea through words alone, I have spoken about this [a little] here, thinking that these are the instructions of my gurus.

Having meditated upon emptiness and arisen in the body of a deity from emptiness, one should train on all occasions in seeing everything as pure, that is, as the body of the deity, the mandala of the deity, and so forth. In short, whatever one sees is the body of the deity, whatever one hears is the sound of the mantra, and whatever one thinks is the mind of the deity. One should train in this pure appearance.

The mind that is empty of true existence that is suitable to become enlightened is the naturally-abiding lineage. The mind itself is the developmental lineage, whereas the emptiness or reality of that mind is the naturally-abiding lineage. Are there minds that are not suitable to become enlightened? There are, for example, the minds that are concomitant with attachment, hatred, the wish to steal, and so forth. 
The Sublime Continuum sets out nine analogies for the adventitious stains that cover the mind, their nine meanings, and the nine minds themselves. These are discussed in detail in the Ornament for Clear Realizations. 
When the adventitious stains are removed, the emptiness of the environment and inhabitants appears as the sport of the deity. In other words, when the adventitious stains are removed one becomes enlightened and whatever appears is the environment of the deity, the body of the deity, and so forth. Perhaps it is better to say that it is the exalted wisdom realizing emptiness that appears as the sport of the deity and so forth. 
Aku Sherab Gyatso says that by it is difficult for a sound generality to arise due to mere signals, but that he has taught this based on the instructions of his lama. An image that appears to conception due to sounds is called “a sound generality.” On the other hand, a mental object that appears due to already having seen or understood an object is a meaning generality. Therefore, Aku Sherab Gyatso is saying that due to these indications it is difficult even to have a mere sound generality. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Throughout the entire sadhana rite, it is vital that one proceeds through the various visualization sequences while remaining undistracted from the awareness of emptiness.  In this way, everything will then [naturally] appear as mere constructs of thought.  If, in contrast to perceiving the deity appearance as illusion-like and empty of substantial reality, your visualization of the deity takes place while the glue of grasping at substantial reality  still remains evident, your meditations  cannot be of any help in cutting off the root of unenlightened existence.  But, on the other hand, if your visualization is enforced by the view [of emptiness], meditation on the various visualization sequences can become powerful in destroying the root of cyclic existence.  Therefore, in order to cut off the root of unenlightenment, it is essential to have the wisdom that is in direct opposition to grasping at substantial reality [of things and events]. 

During the rite from beginning to the end one should maintain the view of emptiness. For example, with respect to the generation of the mandala in the case of the Guhyasamaja there are the thirty-two deities and so forth that must be generated, during which time one should not lose the ascertainment of emptiness. The deities are male and female, have different colors, mudras, and so forth, this is the meaning of “ various visualization sequences” or “manifestations that are the appearance factor.” All of them should appear as merely designated by conception. In other words, the deity wheel should appear illusory-like and empty of true existence. If, on the other hand, one meditates the deity wheel without weakening the strength of the conception of true existence the deity meditation will not act to cut the root of cyclic existence. Contrarily, if one’s deity meditation is conjoined with the view of emptiness, the various manifestations will act to cut the root of cyclic existence. In short, if one does the visualizations conjoined with the view of emptiness they will act to cut the root of cyclic existence. This is because in order to cut the root of cyclic existence a consciousness that is directly contradictory to the mode of apprehension of true existence must be generated. Valid Cognition says: “Without refuting its objects, one cannot abandon it.” This means that without negating or harming the object of the conception of a self of persons one will not be able to abandon the self of persons. For example, if someone were frightened by seeing a snake in a corner of the room and another person were to say that it is not a snake but a coiled rope, that person will become free from fear. On the other hand, if someone were to say that there is no elephant in the corner that will not help the person who is frightened of the snake. This is because the conception of an elephant and the conception of a snake are different.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[In view of the above], the questions raised by the great Indian pandits concerning the impossibility of cutting off the roots of cyclic existence through the meditation on the “relative” mandala of deities  certainly have great significance. In response, Buddhajñanashri  writes in his Sadhana of Samantabhadra (Drup thap kun sang):

Apart from the mind of ordinary conceptions, There are no sufferings of existence and becoming ; To that which is the embodiment of the profound and the vast, No conceptions [of ordinariness] arise.

The Indian pandits raised questions regarding the ability of the meditation on the conventional deity wheel to cut the root of cyclic existence. The ordinary mind fabricates sufferings, that is, suffering is created by conceptions. “The sufferings of existence” are the sufferings of cyclic existence. What is their origin? It is the mind. This is because it the mind that generates afflictions due to which one creates actions, as a result of which one wanders in cyclic existence. In this way, all sufferings arise from actions. It is said in sutra: “All three worlds are mere mind.” This means that the three worlds are created by the mind. Due to such statements there arose different schools of thought regarding who or what is the creator of the world. Some say that it is Vishnu, others Ishvara, others the general principal, others a different generality, and so forth. Due to different dispositions people are more inclined to believe one rather than another, even without studying. However, when they are asked “Is mental unhappiness created by Vishnu, Ishvara, or the general principal?”, they are unable to answer.

The nature of the profound, emptiness, and the vast, the deity mandala, do not appear to conceptions. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

He thus points out that there exist in the generation stage meditation both the profound – the practices pertaining to the ultimate truth – and the vast – the practices of visualizing the cycle of deities – [dimensions of the path]. He suggests that because of this combination, such a meditation is forceful in undermining both the perception and apprehensions of thoughts that grasp at substantial reality [of all things]. This is how we should understand the significance [of the above lines].

When meditating the generation stage if both the view of emptiness, the side of ascertainment and the deity mandala, the factor of appearance, are present this will harm the mode of apprehension of the conception of true existence and the factor of appearance. This is because the profound view, the side of ascertainment, cuts the adherence to true existence, whereas the deity wheel, the vast, the factor of appearance, cuts the appearance of true existence because at that time only the deity wheel appears. Therefore, meditation on the generation stage that combines emptiness and the deity wheel is effective in damaging the mode of apprehension of the conception of true existence and the factor of appearance.

Wednesday afternoon, 11 February 2004

Since the mere absence of perception arrived at through the dissolution of one’s body into light is [strictly speaking] not [the final] emptiness, it is vital that there should be the additional factor, namely the cognizance of emptiness. [This is the cognition that] no thing or event is established inherently and objectively from the designative bases.  From within that emptiness appears a beam of blue light , the height depending upon one’s convenience of visualization. Focus on this and cultivate the thought “I am”  and strive to have as much clear perception as possible. 

The mere absence of appearance of the dissolution of the body into light is not emptiness. In addition, it is necessary to think that all phenomena are merely designated by name and are not established from the side of the basis of designation. In this case the body is the basis of designation, that is, it is designated by name and does not exist from its own side. Thus, the meaning of emptiness is “merely designated by name.” One remains absorbed on emptiness and from that empty state arises as a beam of blue light like an illusion. Its height accords with one’s preference. Then on the basis of this blue light one develops the divine pride of being the enjoyment body thinking “I am the enjoyment body.” One should have as clear appearance as possible.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

This body is not your ordinary corporeal form composed of flesh and bones; rather, it is a body of light,  best illustrated by the metaphors of a rainbow, rays of sun, a crystal ball,  or the flame of a butter lamp. Once you have this image of the body of light clear in your mind, you can then gradually visualize the distinct shapes of face, arms, etc. This, then, is the basis of a deity visualization, so ensure to have this well within your mind.  When this basic element is lacking, it is difficult to eliminate from within one’s meditation the [lurking] sense of one’s body as corporeal, composed of flesh and bones.  This is what the teachers tell us and it certainly appears to be an experiential observation. 

The body of the deity is not composed of subtle particles, but is immaterial and the nature of light, similar to a rainbow, the light of the sun and moon, and so forth. A rainbow is beautiful from a distance, but when approached cannot be touched. Likewise, the body of the deity should be visualized as subtle. It can also be visualized as being transparent like crystal or similar to the flame of a butter lamp. One should generate the deity with the respective arms, legs, and so forth. This is the basis of the meditation, and should appear well to the mind. In this way one meditates the taking of birth into the path to the emanation body. If one does not do this, it will be difficult to stop the appearance of a material body of flesh and blood.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thus the dissolution into emptiness represents dharmakaya, arising into a blue light from within that represents sambhogakaya, and arising into a deity form represents nirmanakaya.  For advanced practitioners – i.e., practitioners of highest capacity  – this much is said to be sufficient in undertaking a complete meditation on taking the kayas  into the path. For the beginners, however, this is difficult; still the practice will leave [positive] imprints. Thus when you say “I, as Vajra Wrathful...,”  you should visualize the complete deity form together with the consort as the rest of the sentence states. This is also the same for the visualization of the remaining deities. [The principal deity is] Akshobhya, who is in a peaceful countenance with a slight expression of fierceness. This indicates his significance as a counter-force to anger and that he is in nature the wisdom of indivisible bliss and emptiness arising into a deity form to eliminate the forces of anger. The color of his body is deep sky blue; it is not pure black, rather a blue tinged with blackness. “Black, white and red” should be read as [referring to] first the root face, second, the right face, and third, the left face. This procedure for identifying the color of the faces is the same for all the other deities of the Guhyasamaja mandala.

When meditating on taking the three bodies into the path, one first purifies everything in emptiness and then abides in the exalted wisdom realizing emptiness with the divine pride thinking “I am the truth body.” From the empty state, one rises as a blue light and with divine pride thinks “I am the enjoyment body.” Then one arises in the body of the deity, that is, as Guhyasamaja, and with divine pride thinks “I am the emanation body.” In this way one respectively takes death into the path to the truth body, the intermediate state into the path to the enjoyment body, and birth into the path to the emanation body. Although this is difficult for beginners, it deposits latencies.

Then one does the self-generation. All the deities of the mandala of Guhyasamaja have three faces and six arms. One instantaneously arises as Vajra Hatred, embracing a consort. In the tantric colleges they say “I arise as Vajra Hatred,” without the word “instantaneously.” He is given the name Vajra Hatred because he is the counter-force to hatred. In other words, the exalted wisdom of inseparable bliss and emptiness manifests as this deity in order to counter hatred. 
Akshobhya has a peaceful countenance with a slight expression of wrath. The color of his body is blue like the sky, it is not pure black, but rather dark blue. The three colors “black, white, and red” refer to the root face which is black, the right face which is white, and the left face which is red. Similarly in the case of the other deities, the three colors refer respectively in this order to the root face, the right face, and the left face. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The life-supporting wind  has multiple colors, which are represented by the multiple colors of the faces, while the black root face symbolizes the emphasis that the Guhyasamaja Tantra places on the illusory body. The right face symbolizes the illusory body and the right channel, while the left face symbolizes the clear light and the left channel. The root face symbolizes union and the central channel. Again, the white color symbolizes “appearance,” the red, “enhanced appearance,” and the black symbolizes “approaching attainment.” Collectively, the three represent the [perfect] union. 

The life-supporting wind (the vitalizing wind), which has various colors, is represented by the various colors of the faces. Because the Guhyasamaja Tantra emphasizes the illusory body the root face is black in color. The right face represents the illusory body and the right channel. The left face represents clear light and the left channel. The root face represents union and the central channel. In this way, the faces of three colors represent the three channels. In addition, the white face represents white appearance, the red face represents red increase, and the black face represents black near-attainment. All three represent union. In short, the three colors represent the entire completion stage – appearance, increase, near-attainment, as well as the illusory body, clear light, and union. Thus meditation on the three faces presents the complete stages of the completion stage, or it presents the illusory body, clear light, and union. One should keep this in mind when reciting the sadhana.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Of the six arms, the three right arms symbolize the three “emptyings” of the sequential order, while the three left arms represent the three “appearances,” together with their medium winds, associated with the reversal order.  As one sees multiple heads and arms in some [fine] Mongolian china, or like a spear with multiple handles  when reflected in a silver mirror, one should imagine the multiple heads [of the deity] as one not obstructing the other. All of these should be perceived in the nature of light and not composed of flesh, bones, and blood. 

The three empties of the forward order are represented by the three right arms. There are a total of four empties: empty, very empty, great empty, and all-empty. The first three are the objects of the consciousnesses of appearance, increase, and near-attainment. In the case of the forward order, earth dissolves into water, water into fire, fire into wind, wind into appearance, appearance into increase, and increase into near-attainment. These last three are the three empties.

The three left arms represent the three appearances of the reverse order together with the winds that are their mounts. The reverse order is to go from clear light, to black near-attainment, to red increase, to white appearance, to wind, to fire, to water, and to earth. 
From one shoulder come three arms, like fine Mongolian cup or like a spear with three handles reflected in a mirror. While three objects would obstruct each other from abiding in the same place at the same time, all three are reflected in the mirror without obstruction. Similarly, because all the arms and so forth are the nature of light, not the nature of flesh, blood, and bones, they do not obstruct each other, although they originate from a single shoulder. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 63) says:

The first right hand holds a five-spoked vajra at the heart, which is Akshobhya’s emblem ; the second holds a wheel of either eight or twelve spokes, which is Vairochana’s emblem; and the third holds a red lotus, Amitabha’s emblem. The first left hand holds a bell at the heart, which is Vajradhara’s emblem; the second holds a jewel, which is Ratnasambhava’s; and the third holds a sword, Amoghasiddhi’s emblem. This [symbolism of the emblems] is similar also to [the description of] other deities. For example, in the case of [the description of] Vairochana, “the right [arms holding] a wheel, a vajra, and a lotus” etc. shows that he holds his own emblem in the first right arm; but it shows that he also holds the emblem of the [remaining of the] six buddha families. This is to indicate that although in appearance, the deities assume the specific form of their own buddha family, in reality they are all embodiments of all buddha families and are thus the lords over all [buddha] families. 

The deity, Akshobhya, has three faces and six arms. Each of his hands holds a different implement. In his first right hand he holds a vajra, the respective implement of Akshobhya. The second right hand holds an eight or twelve spoked wheel, the third right hand holds a red lotus. The three left hands hold a bell, a jewel, and a sword. Similarly, while all deities hold the six implements of the six buddha families, their first right hand holds their respective implement. Thus, that they hold all six implements symbolizes the fact that each one of them has the nature of all six lineages or families.

Thus, in the case of Vairochana his first right hand holds a wheel, his respective implement. His second hand holds a vajra, the implement of Akshobhya, and his third right hand holds a red lotus, the implement of Amitabha. Similar to Akshobhya, his first left hand holds a bell, his second left hand a jewel, and his third a sword. 

Thursday morning, 12 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

“Consorts resembling oneself” means the same as “consorts born of one’s own natural expression.”  They are, like the reflection of one’s body,  part of the same single continuum and share a similar number of faces and arms and adornment of ornaments. The consort with a peaceful expression is called Vajradhateshvari, and the one who possesses a slight expression of fierceness is Sparshavajra. The “father” [male] is seated cross-legged  and is embraced by the “mother” [female] in the lotus position, which represents the union of method and wisdom and the union of the buddha body of reality (dharmakaya) and [body of] form (rupakaya). Both the father and mother are adorned with jewel crowns, earrings, a necklace, arm bands, garlands, bracelets, anklets, and a skirt. These eight precious ornaments signal mastery over eight qualities, such as generosity and so on.  

“Consorts resembling oneself” means a knowledge woman who appears to oneself. Thus, the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness manifests as a knowledge woman with whom one enters into union. In the case of Guhyasamaja the consort is the nature of exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness, not a consort of flesh and blood. She is like of a reflection of oneself in a mirror or one’s shadow appearing on the ground, in the sense that both a reflection and a shadow are similar to oneself. She also has three faces and six arms. Both the male and female consorts have the eight types of ornaments and wear silk garments. The consort with a peaceful expression is called Vajradhateshvari, while the one who possesses a slight expression of wrath is Sparshavajra. In general Guhyasamaja’s consort is Vajradhateshvari.

The male is seated in the vajra position and is embraced by the mother who is in the lotus position, her two legs wrapped around his body. This represents the union of method and wisdom, and the union of the truth body and form body. At the time of the path, method and wisdom are unified, whereas at the time of the result the truth body and form body are unified. Both male and female have eight ornaments: a jewel crown, earrings, a short necklace like a choker, armlets, a long necklace, bracelets, anklets, and a sash. Here they are said to represent the eight thoroughly completed excellent qualities of generosity and so forth, whereas they are usually said to represent the ten perfections. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Their hair is raised upwards and tied in individual plaits with their tips turned inside and tied around with bands at two points, forming what is called a “top knot.” This can also be done without having the hair woven in plaits. From the top of the hair hang down pearl strings suspended in loops and half loops, forming a surrounding net-like [ornament]. Crowning this at the top is a jewel or a five-spoked golden vajra. At the center of this [ornament] is, like a reflection in a mirror or a jewel-studded ornament, either a thirty-two spoked jewel wheel or a thirty-two spoked vajra, which symbolizes the channel centers at the crown.

The deity’s hair is made into braids formed of three strands of hair. They are pulled upward and tucked inside, and then tied around at two points. The hair can also be tied up without being braided. In this way the topknot is formed. From it hang pearl ornaments in loops and half loops. More precisely the topknot is composed of three layers. The pearl net begins half way up the top level and hangs down over the middle level. Another pearl net begins there and hangs down over the lower level. The very top is crowned with a vajra or jewel. At the center is a thirty-two spoked jewel wheel or a thirty-two spoked vajra, symbolizing the thirty-two channel centers at the crown. It is similar to a reflection in a mirror in that being the nature of exalted wisdom it is unobstructive and cannot be touched.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

On his head, [the male deity] is wearing a crown of an eight-spoked wheel, with three spokes each in the front and the back, and one each on the sides above the ears. If one were to look from the perspectives of the individual faces, it would appear as if there were three spokes above one’s head. Since the three heads emerge out of a single neck trunk, only one wheel is needed. On all three heads are jewel ornaments, surrounded by the endless knots, from which protrude the images of the five buddha families: Akshobhya in the center, Vairochana and Amitabha on the right, Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi on the left. For those belonging to the Vairochana family, Vairochana [should be visualized] at the center and in his [usual] place [i.e., east] is Akshobhya and so on. Similar changes apply to other deities as well. This is the reason why there is divergence in the location of the buddha families in the rites pertaining to the “entry into the mandala with [the giving of] the apparel of the deity.”  

On the top of the head is an eight-spoked wheel. If one looks at any one of the three faces only three spokes appear above it because one does not see the spokes above the ears and the three spokes behind. The three heads come from a single neck, therefore there is only one wheel. The deity wears a crown, like that given during an empowerment, which has five images that protrude slightly outward, Akshobhya being in the center, Vairochana and Amitabha on the right, and Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi on the left.

When Akshobhya is the principal deity of the mandala, he is in the center, in the east is Vairochana, in the south is Ratnasambhava, in the west is Amitabha, and in the north is Amoghasiddhi. When Vairochana is the principal, he is in the center, in the east is Akshobhya, in the south is Ratnasambhava, in the west is Amitabha, and in the north is Amoghasiddhi. When Ratnasambhava is the principal deity, in the center is Ratnasambhava, in the east is Akshobhya, in the south is Vairochana, in the west is Amitabha, and in the north is Amoghasiddhi. When Amitabha is the principal, in the center is Amitabha, in the east is Akshobhya, in the south is Ratnasambhava, in the west is Vairochana, and in the north is Amoghasiddhi. When Amoghasiddhi is the principal deity, in the center is Amoghasiddhi, in the east is Akshobhya, in the south is Ratnasambhava, in the west is Amitabha, and in the north is Vairochana. In short, the one who moves is Vairochana. 
The crown has the five images: in the center is Akshobhya, on his right is Vairochana, on his left is Ratnasambhava, on the far right is Amitabha, and on the far left is Amoghasiddhi. 
During an empowerment, the initiates are given the apparel of the deity – upper and lower garments, the crown, pendants, vajra, bell, and so forth – prior to entering the mandala. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Between the wheel spokes are suspended pearl strings, forming full and half loops, down to the level of the eyebrows covering the wisdom eye. As the youths in India wear flowers over their ears, the deities wear blossoming utpala flowers over their ears, with the stems facing to the rear. Silk ribbons are let down from them with a knot tied at the front. The hair, wheel, and so on do not obscure each other.

Suspended from one spoke to another are pearl strings, forming full and half loops. They cover the forehead down to the eyebrows and therefore cover the wisdom eye which is located in the center of the forehead; for example, White Tara has a third eye in the center of her forehead.

Just as young woman in India tuck flowers behind their ears to make themselves beautiful, similarly the deities have utpalas tucked behind their ears. Silk pendants hang down. The hair, wheel, and so forth do not obscure each other as they are all the emanated appearances of exalted wisdom. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The earrings are made of round jewels in the shape of white conch rings and studded with three jewels topped with half five-spoked vajras. From these hang pearl strings, forming a net of full and half loops. Although all the faces have ears, only the ears of the root face have earrings.

The earrings are made of round jewels and so forth. They are set with jewels and vajras. From them hang pearl strings. Only the root face has earrings, whereas all the faces have ears.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The jewel necklace is made of three to five rosaries of beads ; at the front is either a vajra or a sixteen-spoked wheel, symbolizing the [throat] channel center. It is adorned with a net of pearl strings reaching down to the level just above the heart. There are differing explanations about how the pearl strings are woven, e.g., that they are woven in a double string, in triple, in strings of five, strings of eight, and so on. To ensure that the beads do not get loose, there is a knot in the shape of a cross at the base at the top. Arik Geshe once said that the crucial point is to master the visualization, not to acquire the detailed knowledge of a jeweler, which is only essential if one is making the ornaments! Otherwise, there is the danger of pretense.

The necklace is made of three or five rows of jewels that circle the neck. At the front is a sixteen-spoked vajra or wheel representing the sixteen channel-petals at the throat chakra. The pearl strings can be either two, three, five, eight, and so forth. The beads are attached in the shape of a cross.

Arik Geshe was a well-known contemporary of Aku Sherab Gyatso. He was from a nomad family. It is recounted that he once went to the region of Phari in Amdo, where there was a well-known, but proud, lama called Wolong Pandita. Arriving in the area, Arik Geshe sent a message to this lama’s monastery asking whether he could visit him. Wolong Pandita gave orders to the monks of the lhabrang to make preparations for the visit, but said that he himself could not be present to meet Arik Geshe and left for another place. Arik Geshe was received by the monks but expressed his disappointment at not finding Wolong Pandit there. He was showed the rooms of the lhabrang, and found that the building was well constructed. However, he said that something was missing, that there should be an iron ring on the two sides of each of the corners of the roof. When Wolong Pandita returned he asked what Arik Geshe had said and was told what Arik Geshe had said. He interpreted this to mean that Arik Geshe was scolding him saying that when Wolong Pandit died he would need the iron rings to carry the building with him! Or that it meant that he was lacking the ring of faith. 

Thursday afternoon, 12 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

At the wrists are bracelets made of pearl strings, the loops hanging towards the arms. Around the ankles are anklets made of pearl strings, with the loops suspended downwards. One can also visualize similar ornaments around the elbows and above the knees, but this is not necessary. “Arm bands” (se mo do), “worn to make offerings,” (cho chir thok) and “se ral kha” all mean the same thing. In vernacular usage, these are called se ro jhe. Therefore, careful attention to vernacular language can help shed light on the meaning of some scriptural terms. [The arm band] is made of jewel rosaries with three to five strings; at the front or at the rear is either a vajra or an eight-spoked wheel.  From this are suspended pearl strings forming a net of full and half loops around both the right and left arms, reaching down to just above the elbows. 

The deity has ornaments at the wrist (the joint of the hand) and the ankle (the joint of the foot), like the bracelets and anklets worn by Indian women. One can choose whether to visualize ornaments on the upper arm and on the knees. The so-called “arm band” (se mo do) is actually a shoulder band that crosses the chest in an X. It is made of three or five strings of jewels. At the front and in the back is an eight-spoked vajra or wheel. From it hang pearl strings that descend below the right and left shoulders.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

By “garland” is meant a garland made of various jewels and precious stones of various sizes that hang from the neck. [In the Tibetan word do shal, for a garland,] “do” suggests the equality of both right and left sides, and “shal” suggests something suspended downwards. In some Tibetan books, there is a mention of two white and red shals. 

There is a garland (or necklace) made of jewels of various sizes. Do means equal, meaning equal between the right and left shoulders. Shal means hanging. Perhaps this word also refers to a silk scarf that hangs down.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The skirt  is made of pearl strings with a vajra or a sixty-four-spoked wheel at the front, representing the navel channel center. From this hang jewel strings in lines of eight and from which hang sixteen strings.

The belt is made of pearl strings and is adorned at the front with a sixty-four-spoked vajra or wheel, representing the sixty-four channel-petals of the navel chakra.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The upper part of the body is adorned with a silk robe worn like a shawl, with the ends over the shoulders. It is also said to be similar to a Mongolian dress that has no collars, somewhat like Atisha’s upper robe. The lower garment resembles the costumes worn by masked dancers, flat squares both at the front and the back with many folds on the two sides. 

The upper garment is like a shawl (or the zen worn by monks and nuns) wrapped around the shoulders, or like a scarf worn by the Nepalese that is rolled around the shoulders. It is similar to a Mongolian dress that does not have a collar, or that worn by the brahmins in India who are called “Indian pandits.” The lower garment is like that worn in ritual dances (cham) and ends below the knees.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The word “with an opening” (char wa) has been given many explanations in the commentaries, but in essence it refers to a way of wearing the garments so that during the union of the father and mother, the garments can be easily opened and thrown to the sides. My guru suggested this meaning. Because at the time of sexual union, the tiger-skin worn as a loincloth has to be opened, in the hymn to Chakrasamvara entitled Mixing the Colors of Space, one reads

He holds suspended an open loincloth of tiger skin.

The lower garment is easy to put on and take off, like a blanket used to cover the knees that can be easily put to the side and opened. It is made in this way so that during sexual union the garments can be easily opened and thrown to the sides.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

To signify their nature as being that of uncontaminated wisdom, there are varieties of divine garments. Generally, divine garments are said to possess eight distinctive characteristics, such as that when touched they can be held under a finger, when unfolded they can pervade space, they are soft, thin, and light, etc. This is how the oral tradition coming from Segyü Dorjechang describes them; I heard this from Kyapgön Dorjechang when he gave the initiations pertaining to the Maitri cycle [of teachings].

The garments are the nature of uncontaminated exalted wisdom and are made of various cloths that are the substances of the gods.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

This is a good illustration of how the entire mandala and its deities can appear within and can be encompassed inside a seminal point,  the size of a mustard seed. 

When one is able to meditate the entire supporting and supported mandalas inside a drop the size of a mustard seed one has culminated the subtle generation stage. At this point one enters the completion stage.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thus by focusing upon the body and the transcendent mind of the omniscient, which are by nature light, clear and transparent, such that one can see the inside from the outside and the outside from within, one should cultivate clear appearance and the identification “I am.” While placing your mind thus, you should meditate. If you are ignorant of the actual method of deity meditation, you could encounter the same fate as the person who, after meditating on Yamantaka, could not come out of his cave because his [buffalo] horns kept getting caught at the cave’s mouth! This is the story mentioned in the mind training texts. Therefore, it is crucial to dissolve one’s body into clear light and meditate everything as manifestations of that pristine cognition. It is not our current body [of flesh and bones] that is being meditated upon as a deity; rather the conventional notions and perceptions of [everyday] ordinary identity are brought to a cessation and the mind is placed upon emptiness. In the least, one should meditate on the deity from a state of non-perception, i.e., a mere absence. This is true for all four classes of tantra.

It is important to have a stable visualization of a body that is the nature of light and completely transparent such that one can see the inside from the outside and the outside from inside. Exalted wisdom is the basis of this visualization, upon it one establishes the divine pride thinking “I.” It is recounted that there was a meditator who had such a strong visualization of himself with Yamantaka’s horns that he could not pass through the door of his cave! One should dissolve one’s body into clear light, and meditate on the appearance of exalted wisdom.

To meditate the deity from a state of the absence of appearances can be understood as either meditating the deity from within the state of the non-appearance of true existence or from within the state of the non-appearance of conventionalities, given that one meditates the deity from within the state of emptiness. That one meditates the deity from within the state of emptiness is common to all four tantra classes. That the deity is the display of the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness is unique to the fourth tantra class alone. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In order to make it easier to perceive [the deity] in the nature of light and light rays, first visualize a blue light. If one wishes to engage in the practice of generation stage meditation, one should never be separated from the deity yoga during all periods, i.e., both during the actual sessions and during after-session periods. Furthermore, it is not adequate merely to have visualizations of the deity, but internally one must possess (a) the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment, (b) the understanding of perfect emptiness,  and (c) the perception of everything as manifestations of the pristine cognition of great bliss.  This is vital even in the contexts of brief rites, such as making offerings and torma consecration. If one continually cultivates familiarity with a yoga that is an indivisible unification of method and wisdom, it becomes easier to have clear perceptions [of oneself as a deity], for we know that due to our [long] habituation, thoughts and perceptions of ordinary [everyday] existence  arise within us naturally. 

It is important to arise in the nature of light and light rays. One meditates a blue light, this being the meditation on the enjoyment body. however, one first purifies everything in emptiness, cultivates the exalted wisdom of emptiness, and thinks “I am the truth body.” Then from the empty state one arises as a blue light. This is easy as it is similar to the color of the sky. When meditating the generation stage one should practice deity yoga during the session and between sessions. During the session one becomes Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Yamantaka with all the faces, arms, and so forth complete, then between sessions one visualizes oneself in the simple form of the deity with one face and two arms. In other words during the session one recites the sadhana whereby one visualizes oneself in the aspect of the deity complete in all its parts. Then at the end of the session one absorbs the environment and mandala into oneself, oneself absorbs into emptiness, and then from emptiness one arises as the deity in the simple form with one face and two arms. This is the sense of never being separated from deity yoga both during and between sessions. However, to have the aspect of the deity is not enough. In addition, one should have the mind of enlightenment, correct view, and see everything as the sport of the exalted wisdom of great bliss. This is important when doing the offerings and torma offering, for example, the offerings and so forth are to be seen as the sport of the exalted wisdom of great bliss, not as ordinary substances.

By familiarizing with this it becomes easy, just as we are presently familiar with the self-cherishing attitude. Similarly, Shantideva said: “There is nothing that does not become easy due to familiarity.”

Friday morning, 13 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Throughout the sadhana, there are many visualization sequences, but what is most important is never to be diverted from the awareness of everything as a play of the indivisible union of bliss and emptiness.  It is therefore profoundly significant to undertake the practice of instantaneous self-generation at the start of a sadhana. In the past, [there was the custom] that after the instruction on the instantaneous self-generation was given, a period of seven days  was set aside for the disciples to meditate. Once they gained some experience , it was reported to the teacher. The rest [of the sadhana] was also taught in accordance with the level of the disciple’s capacity, such that when the “commentarial guide” was completed, the “experiential guide” was also effected. After that, the meditation was undertaken in one stretch and in a condensed form throughout the year, months, and so on. It is for this reason that there is the custom of giving an extensive description of the body colors, hand implements, and ornaments, etc. when the “guide” is first [given].  

It is important to maintain the yoga of the inseparable two truths: the conventional truth, which is the illusory body, and the ultimate truth, which is the clear light. The illusory body is the factor of method. When meditating oneself as a deity one should not think that the body of the deity is a material body of flesh and blood, but that it is a body of the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness that is unobstructive and cannot be touched. The basis of the body of the deity is the wind with five light rays. One first transforms everything into emptiness and then meditates on emptiness with a blissful mind; this is the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness. It is important to never be separated from the sport of bliss and emptiness when meditating the deity.

In the past the disciple would meditate for seven days and more on the instantaneous self-generation, that is, on the meditation on the three bodies: taking death as the path to the truth body, taking the intermediate state as the path to the enjoyment body, and taking birth as the path to the emanation body. The main point of the instantaneous self-generation is the taking of birth as the path to the emanation body. The disciples would meditate on this until they gained some experience of this and then would offer their realization to the lama. Then the teaching on the remaining rituals of the sadhana would be given in accordance with the capacity of the disciple. This includes the blessing of the inner offering, blessing and offering the preliminary torma offering, entrusting the enlightened activities, blessing the external offerings for the self-generation, and so forth. 
When the commentary was complete, the disciple would meditate for years and months in one stretch. For this reason there is the tradition of giving an extensive explanation of the deity, the colors, implements, and so forth, at the beginning.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

These days, however, people simply go through [the sadhana] rite swiftly in one stretch, during a couple of sessions, as if one is riding a galloping horse with a spear in one hand! This is not right. Many oral instructions are today already recorded in print, making them appear daunting. There is thus the danger of causing people to become overwhelmed when too elaborate an explanation is given. In brief, if you train in the [meditative practices of] the generation stage through constantly reviewing, the knowledge and experience of the perfection stage can become almost a by-product. In this way, the seeds for [perfect] union may be implanted within your mental continuum.

Nowadays people recite a sadhana as if riding a galloping horse while throwing a spear. We do a little bit of practice for a short time and then expect to be able to fly! While human beings need to obtain high realizations in order to be able to fly, animals such as birds and insects such as bees can do so without any realizations whatsoever!

Many oral instructions have been written down, but they can be rather overwhelming. However, if one meditates the entire generation stage including the three bodies, then the realizations of the completion stage will naturally arise by the way. In short, meditating the generation stage deposits seeds for union on the mental continuum, which when they encounter conditions will blossom forth like a flower. 

The Self-Generation Rite of the Glorious Secret Assembly, The King of Tantras says:

Blessing the Vajra and Bell The vajra is method and the bell is wisdom. Both are the nature of the ultimate mind of enlightenment.

[*Hold the vajra with the right thumb and ring finger while saying:] OM SARVA TATHAGATA SIDDHI VAJRA SAMAYE TISHTA E SHA TAM DHARAYAMI VAJRA SATVA HI HI HI HI HI HUM HUM HUM PHAT SVA HA

[*Hold the bell with the left thumb and ring finger resting on the left hip while saying:] OM VAJRA GHANTA HUM

[*Contemplate:] I shall please Vajrasattva and so forth.

[*Hold up the vajra while saying:]
HUM Excellently holding the vajra, Which separates sentient beings from confusion, Is the dharma action that liberates. Therefore, hold the vajra with delight.

HUM HUM HUM HO HO HO

[*Hold the vajra up or at the right hip, and ring the bell such that the clapper hits the eight directions inside the bell while saying:] OM VAJRA DHARMA RANITA PRARANITA SAMPRARANITA SARVA BUDDHA KSHETRA PRACALINE PRAJNA PARAMITA NADA SVABHAVE VAJRASATVA HRIDAYA SANTO SHANI HUM HUM HUM HO HO HO SVAHA

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

THE CONSECRATION OF VAJRA AND BELL As a signal [reminding you] never to forget the [need for] the comprehensive practice of method and wisdom [elements of the path], you should uphold [the ritual implements of] vajra and bell. [With regard to] the right hand, the vajra [held by it] represents method; to ensure that you do not forget the importance of cultivating all aspects of the path, without exception, pertaining to the practices related to method, you should uphold the vajra. The left hand and the bell [held by it] represent wisdom, and to ensure to never forget the importance of the practices of wisdom, you should uphold the bell. [In general] the ordained monk wears the three robes to remind himself of his monastic vows. [Similarly,] the initiates uphold the vajra and bell during an empowerment ceremony as a signal not to forget the symbolism of the wisdom of method and wisdom. And, as a signal not to be distracted from one’s perception and identity as deities, the initiates are given the apparel of the deity. So, with [full] awareness of their [profound] symbolism, you should consecrate the vajra and bell.

The right hand represents method and the left hand wisdom. Similarly, the vajra held in the right hand represents method and the bell held in the left hand represents wisdom. This is to be remembered at all times. This is similar to the fact that wearing the three Dharma robes reminds fully-ordained monks and nuns “I am a monk” or “I am a nun.”

During an empowerment the apparel of the deity – the vajra, bell, upper and lower garments, and so forth – are given to each of the disciples if there are sufficient vajras and so forth. If there are not enough, the disciple simply visualizes being given them. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Thus all the elements of method – from proper reliance on the spiritual teacher at the beginning to the final attainment of the highest union of no more learning – are all represented by the vajra. Similarly, all the elements of wisdom are represented by the bell. This, in brief, is the meaning of the passage “Vajra is method and ...” Furthermore, the two elements, method and wisdom, are not isolated from each other; rather one should possess an indivisible union of the two dimensions.  Thus the text reads “Both are in the nature of the ultimate bodhicitta.” 

All the side of method from proper devotion to the lama through union are represented by the vajra. All the side of wisdom from proper devotion to the lama through union is represented by the bell. This is said in the oral tradition, and was also said by Ling Rinpoche, the elder tutor of His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama.

Method and wisdom are not separate. That both are the nature of the ultimate mind of enlightenment refers to the definitive meaning vajra and bell. Therefore, there is an interpretative meaning vajra and bell and a definitive meaning vajra and bell. The vajra that is made of metal, crystal, and so forth is the interpretative meaning vajra. The holding of the interpretative meaning vajra represents the definitive meaning vajra, the exalted wisdom realizing emptiness by means of great bliss. In terms of isolate that exalted wisdom has five names: the of mirror-like exalted wisdom, the exalted wisdom of equality, the exalted wisdom of individual investigation, the exalted wisdom of accomplishing activities, and the exalted wisdom of the sphere of phenomena. Similarly, the interpretative meaning vajra has five spokes that represent these five exalted wisdoms. The five exalted wisdoms exist at three times: at the time of the base, at the time of the path, at the time of the result. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In the Vajrayana system, the “ultimate bodhicitta” refers to the pristine cognition that is the union of bliss and emptiness, namely method and wisdom. Thus the ultimate bodhicitta in the context here [in Vajrayana] is a name for the “EVAM that is the indivisible bliss and emptiness” or the “EVAM that is the indivisibility of the two truths.”

In the mantra system the ultimate mind of enlightenment is the exalted wisdom of indivisible bliss and emptiness or the exalted wisdom of indivisible method and wisdom. In the sutra system it is defined as the exalted wisdom single-pointedly placed on the vanishing of duality with respect to complete enlightenment that is conjoined with method, the conventional mind generation and the practice of the six perfections. “Conjoined with” means “to be accompanied by.” Therefore, in the sutra system ordinary beings, as well as hearer and solitary realizer superiors, do not have the ultimate mind of enlightenment as it exists only from the first ground of a bodhisattva through the buddha ground.

The ultimate mind of enlightenment of the mantra system is the EVAM of indivisible bliss and emptiness. The syllable E represents method and the syllable VAM wisdom, or E represents the sign of the male consort and VAM represents the sign of the female deity. From the union of the two signs, the bodhichitta melts, producing the bliss that realizes emptiness. This is the exalted wisdom of indivisible bliss and emptiness. It is also called the EVAM of the indivisible two truths. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[Circling of] the five-spoked vajra upwards symbolizes the five buddhas, and downwards, the five buddha consorts, or the five dakinis.  The lotus petals [on the vajra] symbolize the channel centers  of the male and female deities; the eight sides of the hub of the vajra represent the eight channels inside the spaces [i.e., the secret sites] of father and mother.  The eight sides of the bell tongue, i.e., the clapper, symbolize the eight spokes of the channels at the tip of the jewel [i.e., the male deity’s organ].  The empty space inside the bell represents the mother’s space, while the bell-handle  symbolizes the father’s sign, and so on. 

The five upper spokes of the vajra represent the five tathagatas: Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi, and Akshobhya. The five lower spokes represent the five female tathagatas or the five dakinis, who are the five consorts of the tathagatas: Mamaki, Lochana, Tara, Pandaravasini, and Vajradhatishvara.

The eight lotus petals at the hub of the vajra represent the eight chakras of the male and female consorts. The eight sides of the vajra hub represent the eight channels inside the space, that is, the secret place, of the female consort. The eight sides of the clapper represent the eight channel-petals in the center of the jewel of the male consort. The empty space inside the bell represents the space of the female consort. The vajra handle of the bell represents the sign of the male consort. When we hold the vajra and bell we should remember all this symbolism. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

So you should hold the vajra and ring the bell correctly, with full awareness of their symbolism relating to all the essential aspects of the path of two stages, as explained in [Khedrup Je’s] A Delightful Feast for the Yogis. If you do this, you will leave [positive] imprints that cover the entire path, namely from beginning with proper reliance on the teacher to the [realization] of union. You will also create the auspicious conditions for leading all sentient beings on the path that is a comprehensive union of method and wisdom. [Otherwise], as the all-knowing Khedrup Je states, ringing the bell with no particular thought or awareness is not too dissimilar from a bell ringing on the neck of a cow! And those who regard the loud playing of cymbals and beating of drums as more significant than ringing a bell [at sadhana rites] do so out of a false understanding.

Therefore, one should hold the vajra and bell knowing the symbolism of the meaning of the vajra and bell as explained by Khedrup Je. In this way one will leave latencies of the entire path from guru devotion through union. It will also be an auspicious sign that one will lead all sentient beings to the union of method and wisdom. Ringing the bell without investigation and analysis is like the ringing of the bell on the neck of a cow, which merely indicates to the owner where the cow can be found when it is out of sight and also keeps beasts of prey at a distance.

There are some who think that playing drums and cymbals loudly is better than ringing the bell, however this is a misconception. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realizations states] 

As the person [manipulates] the ropes tied to a water-extracting-wheel…

and, as it is also stated in the “Far Gone” [section in the sixth chapter] of [Chandrakirti’s Guide to the] Middle Way, the yogi’s awareness is instantaneous. In a similar manner, ensure that by reflecting on the symbolism of the vajra and bell, all the elements of the method and wisdom practices are complete in your meditative sessions so that they are perfect from start to completion. In the perfection vehicle system, the bodhisattva’s practice is complemented by wisdom. Such an approach that engages in the path by bringing together all six perfections within the practice of each individual perfection is described as an “armor-like practice.” This is said to be a synonym for the “path of a bodhisattva.” There [i.e., in the Perfection of Wisdom literature], it is stated that within every instant all the aspects of method and wisdom, such as generosity and so on, must be complete. This is the same point [underlined by the symbolism of the vajra and bell].

The analogy of the water-extracting wheel indicates that if one knows the subject matter well it is similar to the fact that just by the touch of a foot the mechanism begins to turn and draws up water. In the past in India there were foot-pedaled water pumps consisting of a wheel and buckets which drew water up from a well. Similarly, if one knows the points of the path well, reflection on one point brings all the rest to mind. A bodhisattva on Gone Afar in the instant of a complete action is able to enter meditative equipoise on emptiness. While hearers and solitary realizers foe-destroyers remain in the absorption of cessation for eons, when a bodhisattva enters it even for one instant it is more beneficial because it completes the two collections.

Method and wisdom should be present from the beginning of the sadhana to the end. When we sit down and begin the session we should do so with the awareness of the indivisible method and wisdom and then keep this awareness until the end of the session. This is similar to the bodhisattva who in the perfection vehicle combines the practice of each perfection with the other perfections. In other words, when practicing generosity he combines it with all six perfections, this being called the armor-like practice. In this way, there is the generosity of generosity, generosity of morality, generosity of patience, generosity of effort, generosity of concentration, and generosity of wisdom. It is similar for the other five perfections. When one knows this well, the bodhisattva can complete all six perfections in the practice of any one of them. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 71) says:

In the sutra system, method is identified with compassion, the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment for the sake of all beings, etc., while wisdom is identified as the understanding of emptiness. In the context of unsurpassed yoga tantra, illusory body is the method, and the ultimate clear light, the wisdom dimension. [One could say that] the great and industrious Milarepa attained the supreme state [of buddhahood] within a short period of time because he was able to effect the entire aspects of the method and wisdom paths within every moment [of the path]. Such achievement of completion depends on enquiry and meditative practice ; hence, the importance of both learning and contemplation.

In the sutra system method is taken to be compassion, the mind of enlightenment, and so forth, whereas wisdom is taken to be the view of emptiness. In highest yoga tantra, method is the illusory body and wisdom is the ultimate clear light. Milarepa attained the supreme attainment in a single life because in each instant he practiced method and wisdom. Since this is dependent on analytical meditation, it is important to listen to teachings and think about them. In short, it is necessary to listen to teachings in order to reflect upon them, and it is necessary to reflect upon them in order to meditate upon them.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

STUDENT: Could Geshe-la please explain whether for the generation stage practitioner, having dissolved all phenomena into emptiness and arising as the deity, the form of the deity appears to inherently exist? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: No. This is because one arises as the deity after having purified everything in emptiness, whereby this suppresses the appearance of and adherence to ordinariness and the appearance of true existence. In other words, the conception of oneself as truly existent is made dormant and the appearance of true existence vanishes.

STUDENT: Could Geshe-la please explain how we are to apply some of the instructions regarding how to gather the requisites for yogic practice? For example, these days most Westerners who will go into retreat will not clean the floor with cow dung and other substances. Are there substitutes? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: Modern-day substitutes are, for example, detergents which are put in water and then used to wash the floor, after which one waxes it. In this way one cleans the retreat place.

STUDENT: In regards to the definitive reading of the passage beginning with “In places of great wilderness…” (outline 2.2), could Geshe-la please explain what is meant by ‘the act of dissolving the five aggregates into clear light’? What practice is this referring to? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: When one recites OM SVABHAVA… one’s five aggregates are purified in emptiness. Thus, “dissolving the five aggregates into clear light” is not to be understood in terms of the object-possessor clear light, but in terms of the object clear light, that is, emptiness. Emptiness is called “clear light.” In short, although it says that the five aggregates are dissolved into clear light it means that they are dissolved into emptiness.

STUDENT: Could Geshe-la please explain where the outer boundary ends and the inner boundary begins? Is the outer boundary related to physical actions, such as people entering the retreat site, whereas the inner boundary is mental? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: The outer boundary is a boundary that one establishes mentally by thinking that one will not go beyond such and such a limit. Alternatively, if one actually sets up a mound of pebbles, that delineates the outer boundary. One should not go outside that boundary. The term “boundary” is discussed in Vinaya in terms of great boundary, small boundary, and mandala boundary. For example, if someone is to take the vows of full-ordination prior to this the great boundary is established during the So-Jong.

The inner boundary refers to stopping hopes and superstitions about being attacked, about receiving reward or gifts, and so forth. If possible, one should stop the appearance of and adherence to ordinariness. 

STUDENT: After setting the outer and inner boundary, one sits on one’s cushion and recites the mantra OM SUMBHANI SUMBHA HUM… ‘etc., for counteracting interferences. When this is done, what is the position of the finger snapping? For Guhyasamaja, is the snapping done in the cardinal directions, or the intermediate directions, or in another way? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: One beings in front, snapping the fingers at the level of the face then one snaps them on the right, then on the right once again but further back behind the ear, and then one snaps them on the left beside the ear. In this way, one snaps in the cardinal directions.

STUDENT: Akhu Sherap Gyatso states, “When you have arrived at an absence through such analysis, imagine your mind as indivisible with that emptiness.” Does one practice mixing the two, or is this a result of one’s deepening meditation and experience with the object? How does a beginner train in this? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: One begins with analysis taking oneself as the subject: “I, as the subject, do not exist truly because I am free from being a truly existent one and from being a truly existent many. I am not a truly existent one because I have parts, and the partless does not exist among objects of knowledge.” Therefore, initially one identifies the object of negation, an inherently existent self. This is the first point – recognizing the object of negation. The second point is to understand that one is free from being a truly existent one, this is understood by the reason “because I have parts.” The third point is “I am free from being a truly existent many because I am free from being a truly existent one.” A truly existent many depends on a truly existent one, therefore if there is no truly existent one there cannot be a truly existent many. This is because the existence of many depends on the existence of one. This is the third point – recognizing that one is free from being a truly existent many. The fourth point is to ascertain the pervasion, that is, if such-and-such is neither a truly existent one or a truly existent many it is pervaded by not being truly existent. By means of this four points of analysis one meditates on emptiness, the unfindability of true existence, and places one’s mind on this absence of true existence. STUDENT: Is placing the mind on the absence of true existence sufficient for the mind to be indivisible from emptiness? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: One mixes the mind with emptiness, like water poured into water.

END

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