Praise It says in the Karmamala
Make the whirling gestures of the five families.
To describe these in brief, the ultimate dharma body of the buddhas is endowed with the twofold purity—both the primordial, natural purity of the basic space of phenomena and the freedom from all incidental
conceptual elaborations of subject and object. While not wavering from this vast equality, the buddhas appear to disciples in the symbolic forms of great wisdom, in whatever way is befitting. They manifest the various displays of the central and retinue deities, whether peaceful and adorned with the major and minor marks or wrathful and terrifying, mesmerizing with their dances.
However, although they manifest in this way, the buddhas ultimately lack even the slightest material existence, both in appearance and in essence. With one instance of their perfectly melodious speech they can instantaneously reveal the countless ways of the Dharma to their innumerable disciples, each according to the disciple’s inclination. At the same time, their speech is ultimately the invincible voice of indestructible
resonance, beyond words and effort. With their wisdom mind that knows things both as they are and in their extent they instantaneously perceive all that can be known in the three times. In essence, nonetheless, they never waver from resting evenly in equality, the nature of which is beyond perceived and perceiver.
They have mastery over inconceivable qualities such as the ten powers, the fearlessnesses, and the unique attributes. Still, essentially they remain in one taste, inseparable in the three times from undefiled basic space. Their inconceivable enlightened activity to benefit beings in any way necessary extends constandy and spontaneously to the innumerable beings in need of guidance for as long as cyclic existence lasts. At the same time, they are utterly free of any effort or thought-movement.
These constitute the supreme qualities of the inexhaustible ornament wheel of enlightened body, speech, mind, qualities, and activity, while the supporting and supported mandalas manifest as their specific expression. Here you should bring to mind the symbolism of every aspect of these mandalas as described in your particular text, and while doing so, sing vajra songs of praise.
Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the inherent equality of the object being praised, the subject offering the praise, and the act of praising, considering that in ultimate truth it is the innate, intrinsic wisdom of your own mind—great bliss, simplicity, awakened mind without beginning or end—that appears in the symbolic form of the mandala circle.
(1) vivid appearance,
In terms of the authentic path of definitive perfection, vivid appearance includes seven aspects:
These, however, can all be understood by reading the detailed explanations in Illuminating Jewel Lamp: Essential General Points on Approach and Accomplishment, composed by the lord guru of unmatched kindness, whose very name is difficult to mention, the true and definite great vajra holder Perna Garwang Lodro Thaye. Since I am writing this text as a supplement and act of reverence to it, I hesitate to say anything more.
To summarize though, all of these points come down to visualizing the supporting and supported mandalas perfectly complete in a single instant. At first, hold in mind the general appearance of the central figure’s form, and then scan through the specific features, from the crown protuberance down to the throne, including the subtle details of the body, symbolic implements, ornaments, and garments. When these appear vividly,
visualize the central figure completely in one moment. Then proceed from there until you can rest evenly while keeping the entirety of the supporting and supported mandala in one-pointed focus, like a star or planet appearing in a clear lake. Otherwise, beyond
After you have become adept in this practice, train in acquiring the eight measures of clarity and stability. Among these, first are the four measures of clarity. The visualization should be distinct, meaning it should be
unblurred down to the pupils of the eyes. It should be alive, meaning there should be the sharpness of awareness, empty and lucid with an awake quality, rather than a lethargic state that lacks the intense clarity of awareness. It should be vibrant, meaning it is not made of mindless matter like a rainbow, but rather all features, even down to the pores of the skin and single strands of hair, are suffused with omniscient wisdom. Thus,
it is radiandy present, with the bright quality of the senses manifest a hundredfold. Finally, it should be vivid, appearing to your mind as if it were directly in front of you, rather than a conceptual speculation concerning the deity’s form.
Of the four measures of stability, the first is unwavering, meaning not wavering due to laziness, absent-mindedness, etc. The visualization should be unchanging, meaning that it does not become, for instance, blurry or vague. It should be utterly unchangeable, meaning though you remain composed for a
long time, subde thoughts will not disturb you. Finally, it should be flexible, meaning that you are able to visualize anything just as it should be, such as the color of the body, the face, arms, movement or stillness, or the projection and absorption of light rays. Vivid appearance refers to having attained these eight measures of clarity and stability.
Stable pride refers to the pride we take in joining ground and fruition, as was explained in detail above. The main point, in short, is to take pride in being the deity you are practicing, the universal splendor of the wisdom of all buddhas, who has eradicated all flaws and perfected all qualities. This is not a simple pretense but an acknowledgment of how things are. Our innate body, speech, and mind are primordially the essence of
the three vajras, and so everything that manifests out of them—our concepts, aggregates, elements, and sense sources— are primordially pure, nothing other than the manifestation of the deity. Therefore, since there is
no deity to meditate on and accomplish elsewhere, we can have pride—i.e., confidence—in the realization that we, as the meditators,are no different from the deities we are practicing. If in this way we understand how to reach the innate by keeping such pride continuously, vividly, and without clinging to it, we can follow the authentic swift path.
The object of purification, in this case, includes ordinary, impure experience, as well as grasping pride that fixates in an impure manner. The former is purified by vivid appearance, and the latter by recollecting purity; training in these transforms them respectively into pure vivid appearance and pure stable pride.
In terms of specific details, though, if a meditation deity has one face, it represents the single sphere of the dharma body, while one with three heads symbolizes the three bodies of enlightenment, or the three gates to
complete liberation. Two arms symbolize the unity of method and knowledge, four symbolize the activity to benefit beings via the four immeasurables, and six symbolize the six wisdoms, which are the five plus inconceivable wisdom. Two legs represent not dwelling in either extreme of existence or tranquility, while four represent the four legs of miracles.
Being white in color symbolizes the mirrorlike wisdom and being unstained by faults. Yellow represents the wisdom of equality and the unfolding of the supreme qualities. Red represents discerning wisdom and a loving, compassionate concern for the welfare of the beings in need of guidance. Green represents
In terms of the symbolic implements, the vajra is a symbol of the unconditioned, the wheel symbolizes cutting through disturbing emotions, the jewel signifies qualities emerging, the lotus is a symbol of being unstained by defects, and the crossed-vajra and sword indicate unobstructed activity. The bell is a symbol of emptiness, nonarising basic space. The kapala symbolizes sustaining bliss and nonconceptual wisdom. The
khatvariga staff shows liberation within the expanse of the three bodies of enlightenment. The curved knife symbolizes cutting birth and death at the root. The large horn is a symbol of conquering the four demons with great wisdom and then subduing, or offering up, cyclic existence. When the deity has a male appearance it represents skillful means and immutable great bliss, while a female appearance represents knowledge and
emptiness suffused with the excellence of all aspects. The union of male and female symbolizes that bliss and emptiness are beyond unity and separation. Beyond this, you should meditate on the specific associations of purity as described in your particular text.
In conclusion, the main point is that the qualities of enlightenment are naturally and spontaneously present within our innate nature. Whatever qualities a deity may have, they are pure as the essential nature of that deity. In short, your thoughts are pure as the deity, the deity is pure as wisdom, and wisdom is the dharma body of enlightenment, discernment free of subject and object. While the dharma body has no characteristics
whatsoever, such as a face or arms, its inconceivable qualities can still manifest with features of a face, arms, and ornaments. In this way, the dharma body is the dominion of spontaneously accomplished enlightened activity. You should, therefore, keep in mind that the deity you are concentrating on in meditation is pure and free from the slightest concrete, material existence. You should, of course, remember these points about
purity when you are chanting through a liturgy, but in this context in particular you should train in the specific points of purity with sincere conviction. After developing a solid conviction in them, rest evenly in meditation while maintaining the pride and vivid appearance of the deity as they were described above.
The basic identity of the meditation deity is the wisdom of bliss, clarity, and emptiness, which relate to three aspects of training. First is to draw out the melting bliss by meditating on the male and female deities joined passionately in union. Second is to train in the clear appearance of the deity’s form
within that physical and mental experience of bliss. Third is to train in vivid pride unspoiled by clinging. When you seal your practice with these key points, it is an incredible method for letting any mandala manifest as the dharma body.
Even if you are unable to do this, when you are training in the development stage of vivid appearance, recollection of purity, and stable pride, it is vital to be free of thoughts that cling to something as truly there. You should do this with an understanding that the visualization is empty, in essence, while by nature it is like a rainbow or a moon reflected in water, appearing while lacking real characteristics. Sealing the development stage with the completion stage, in this way, is the method for manifesting any mandala as the dharma body. It becomes a path that joins the two accumulations since the appearances of the relative development stage gather the accumulation of merit while the ultimate accumulation of wisdom is accrued through embracing those appearances with thorough insight into their nature, the unconditioned absolute. Moreover, it is a
complete and unmistaken path in which method and knowledge are unified. This is to say that it incorporates the two bodies of enlightenment—the appearing form body and the empty dharma body—as well as the two truths: the method of relative appearance and the knowledge of ultimate emptiness. Understand that this is the special quality of the profound and swift path of mantra.
If you lack this understanding and take up a one-sided development stage as if it were concrete and material, it will not become a path to enlightenment, but only a terrible impediment that binds you to cyclic existence. If you meditate on a peaceful deity as if it were materially existent, you will be born
as a god in the desire realm, while if you meditate on a wrathful deity in this way, you will be reborn as an evil worldly spirit or a powerful demon like Rudra. In the annals of the Secret Mantra tradition there are stories of this actually happening.
To conclude, it is important to practice the development stage with the three elements of vivid appearance, recollection of purity, and stable pride for as long as possible without becoming weary and fatigued. When you do become weary, begin the recitation.
In most unelaborate daily practices and in the tradition of the higher yogas, the section from blessing and empowerment up until the praises is often omitted. This is not problematic since the identity of the wisdom being is sublime ultimate truth, the innate essence of your own mind, in which the seven riches— basic space, wisdom, enlightened body, speech, mind, qualities, and activities— are spontaneously present. As well, all
conceptual phenomena that manifest as its expression—including the aggregates, elements, and sense sources—are the sublime relative truth, remaining primordially as the circle of the deities in the three seats of completeness.
Furthermore, when you take this as the path and meditate on the mandalas of support and supported, that is the samaya being. The wisdom being and samaya being remain primordially indivisible, like gold and its golden color or turquoise and its blue color. To train in meditation in accord with this fact is the absorption being. Therefore, if we can understand that these three are, by nature, one identity, we will not fixate on the
wisdom being as superior and the samaya being as inferior. Once we no longer make such concepts, the act of sealing, receiving empowerment, and the other parts of the process of purification are not necessary; the invitation, offering, praise, and so on are complete within the essence.
The Buddha himself cannot find
Anything that is not the Buddha.
In The Marvels it is explained:
Of primordial, spontaneous equality
There is no need for conceptual stages
Like inviting and requesting to depart.
Similarly, The Two Segments declares:
You and the deity are coemergent.
It also says:
In the nature free of constructs.
No need to request them to depart.
Nothing good you should do, or bad you should not.
And that that mandala is within you,
There is no need to create what was never created.
(1) a general presentation of the key points of the four stakes that bind the life force,
(2) aspecific explanation of the relevant visualizations, and
(3) a description of the extra concluding rituals.
The Four Stakes That Bind the Life Force
That bind the life force are not planted,
Practice will never be fruitful, like running in place.
The way to capture the life force of all glorious ones
Is to understand one point and attain the life force of all,
And, without having to catch its reflection
In all the thousands of pools of water,
Attains the life force of them all.
In this quote, “running in place” means to undergo a pointless hardship, like a child who is tricked with an empty promise. The life force of the entire development stage is contained in the “four stakes that bind the life force,” an instruction that works like a set of stakes in binding our body, speech, mind, and actions to the enlightened body, speech, mind, and activity of the bliss-gone ones.
In the stake of absorption you begin by focusing one-pointedly on the appearance of the deity, for example a drawing inside a skull, as a support. By training like this, you can progress through all of the five meditation experiences, manifest the three types of objects, and let the intense clinging you have to your ordinary body be perfected into the form of the deity.
Of the five meditation experiences, the first is the experience of the movement of thoughts, which is to recognize thinking. It is like a waterfall cascading over a steep cliff. The next is the experience of the attainment of a slight easing of thoughts, like water rushing down a narrow ravine. Third
is the experience of familiarity with the tiring out of thinking, like the movements of an old man. Fourth is the experience of stability, with only a slight formation of thoughts, like a pond undulating in the breeze. Last is the experience of perfection of unwavering self-control, like an ocean free of waves.
By training in this manner you can manifest the three types of objects in the following way. First, the mandalas of support and supported appear vividly clear to the mind. This is called “appearing as an object of imagination.” Second, by the power of training in meditation the deity’s form appears as an
object of your senses, which is known as “appearing as an object of perception.” Finally, when the energetic mind is matured into the form of the deity, others will, on occasion, directly perceive your body as the form of the deity you are visualizing. This stage is called “appearing as a tangible physical object.” I have heard firsthand the vajra holder Khyentse Wangpo say that this last stage is when you truly attain the level of a matured knowledge holder.
The way that the three principles of purification, perfection, and maturation apply to this has already been explained above, so it is unnecessary to repeat it again. Nonetheless, to serve as a convenient reminder in the present context, I will quote the words of the Omniscient Sri Nirmanakaya in this age of strife:
In terms of samsara, this process will purify and refine away the habitual patterns related to the body, as they relate to the four types of birth. In terms of buddhahood, the fruition will be perfected within the ground. Here the fruition is the inconceivable secret of enlightened body, which is beyond
having a face, hands, or marks, yet can appear in any form whatsoever, in whatever way is needed to guide beings. In terms of the path, the web of pure channels will be refined into the deity. This, in turn, will mature one for the practices of the completion stage, in which the vital points of the vajra body are penetrated.
The stake of the essence mantra will be explained later. Briefly, it means to chant with your attention one-pointedly focused on the essence mantra that revolves around the awakened life force (the seed syllable) within the three-layered beings. You carry out the recitation of a certain number, such as one hundred thousand for each syllable of the mantra, or else for a certain time span of months or years, or until a sign appears, such as
From a samsaric perspective, this process will purify the nature of the sounds we use to communicate, the habitual patterns related to the ordinary speech of beings. In the pure context of buddhahood, the fruition will
be perfected in the ground. Here the fruition refers to the inconceivable secret of enlightened speech, which transcends sounds, words, and expressions, yet appears in a whole range of forms, such as the infinite number
of teaching vehicles. In the interim, in terms of practice, this process will purify the nature of ordinary speech and the subtle energies into the essence mantra. This, in turn, will mature one to carry out the completion stage practices in which one relies on the energies, as taught in the father tantras.
Third is the stake of unchanging realization. Whether you practice a peaceful or wrathful yidam deity, such the Great Glorious One, a hybrid deity, or an oathbound protector appearing in the form of a mundane or wisdom deity, you must realize that it is none other than your own mind. This realization will
mature you into its very essence: the great equality of the deity and reality. Moreover, everything external and internal, the universe and inhabitants that you visualize as the mandala of support and supported, is simply a mental manifestation and possesses no other reality.
The nature of mind is primordially the identity of the three bodies of enlightenment. Its essence is empty, the dharma body. Its nature is lucid, the enjoyment body. Freed upon arising, with no clinging, it is the emanation body. Manifesting as its expression are the male aspect of relative appearance,
In short, in the naturally present mandala of appearance and existence as manifest ground, material appearances are enlightened body, sounds are enlightened speech, and thoughts are enlightened mind. Within this mandala, the nature of all phenomena is primordially enlightened. This is the realization we should take up, the view of the natural state. In this way we can bind all concepts that fixate on a distinct duality—self and
other, samaya and wisdom being, practice and goal, pure and impure—within the nondual expanse of equality. This is not only the life force of the development stage, but the completion stage as well. It is the sole crucial and indispensable key point throughout every aspect of the development, recitation, and completion stages. The Advice of the Great Glorious One pronounces:
And the whole range of peaceful and wrathful deities
Are none other than one's own mind.
Are completely perfect, the retinue of the Glorious One.
Accomplishing the Great Glorious One
Will not bring supreme accomplishments,
Only the ordinary, and one will end up like Rudra.
A practitioner who possesses this stake can practice
Whichever results he seeks, supreme or mundane,
Will automatically, spontaneously emerge.
In terms of samsara, this process will purify the negative mind and its habitual patterns that are present as self-aware, natural clarity. In the context of buddhahood, the fruition will be perfected in the ground, this fruition being the inconceivable secret of enlightened mind, reality free from the complexities of thought and perception, as well as all the various forms this inconceivable clairvoyance can take. In the interim, in the
context of practice, by familiarizing yourself with the reality of nondual appearance-emptiness, you will be matured for the completion stage meditations on bliss, clarity, and nonthought, where one relies on the mind of awakening, in both its ultimate and relative forms.
The activity stake of projection and absorption involves the creation of a miraculous display that brings the coundess enlightened activities one desires under one’s command. The basis for accomplishing this is the visualized deity and mandala. Here you, as the deity, emit rays of light of the color that corresponds to a particular activity from the awakened life force of the seed syllable, the mantra chain, and your various body
parts. In doing so, the two goals are fulfilled, and the universe and its inhabitants are united with the three mandalas. The focus in the visualization of projection and absorption is redirected according to what you seek
If the nail of the various projections and absorptions is lacking, You will not accomplish your goal just visualizing one thing. But if you know how to direct the projection and absorption, Then by practicing even the lowest tedrang spirit You will have unhindered activity and accomplish all deeds.
In a samsaric context this process will purify and refine away all ordinary forms of physical, verbal, and mental activity, such as defeating enemies, caring for loved ones, business, agriculture, and so on. In the pure context of buddhahood it will perfect the fruition in the ground, meaning all forms of inconceivable activity related to enlightened body, speech, and mind. In the interim, in the context of practicing on the path this will
mature one for the completion stage, in which one trains on the path that purifies intentional efforts to accomplish the twofold benefit spontaneously. At this stage there is an ordinary path that entails a reference point
and relies upon physical, verbal, and mental activities, as well as the practice of luminosity, which involves the direct realization of nonreferential wisdom. Through this all that appears and exists will be purified into bodies of light.
If you can penetrate the key points related to the instruction on the four stakes, you will come to see the deity’s form firsthand and so capture the life force of enlightened body. You will also accomplish true speech, thus capturing the life force of enlightened speech. You will gain control of the natural state, thus capturing the life force of enlightened mind. Your body, speech, and mind will merge in one taste with the enlightened body, speech, and mind of the bliss-gone ones, and so you will attain the life force of all samsara and nirvana. Finally, you will develop the power of wisdom and master the manifold enlightened activities.
Moreover, since the stake of unchanging realization is the view, it is also the ground. The stake of deity absorption is the meditation. The stake of the essence mantra is also an aspect of meditation, but implicitly the
conduct as well; together these make up the path. The activity stake of projection and absorption constitutes the fruition since it brings about the supreme and common spiritual accomplishments and takes enlightened activity as the path in the present. Moreover, we should understand that they are all originally a unity, not different or separate from one another, nor are they alternating stages. In the words of Khepa Sri Gyalpo
As the great purity and equality of reality itself, this unchanging realization is the enlightenment of space and wisdom. Its own display is the union of development and completion, which appears naturally as the relative mandala of vajra space. Within this state one trains by transforming empty sounds, the natural sound of mantra, and by manifesting the enlightened activity of projection and absorption. Great wisdom, the
enlightened body, speech, and mind of the buddhas, is free from deliberate effort and conceptual complexities. At the same time, it accomplishes the twofold benefit spontaneously. This fruition, which is here in this very moment, is what is known as the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra, the vehicle of fruition.
By realizing the view of the ground—that the circle of wisdom is the equality of samsara and nirvana—one gains mastery over the life force of both existence and peace. Through the path of meditation, the circle of deity and mantra, one masters the life force of both development and completion. Finally, by engaging in the spontaneous accomplishment of the twofold benefit mastery is gained over the life force of the
inconceivable, great skillful means. To give an example, when Rahula swallows the moon out of the sky, he naturally takes hold of all its reflections as well. In the same way, just by knowing these instructions on the four stakes that bind the life force, one will be able to practice all the inconceivable key points and intents of both sutra and tantra simultaneously.
► Knowing the emptiness of one taste is the key point that destroys clinging to reality and attachment to true existence. Knowing appearance and emptiness to be a unity is the key point that perfects the two accumulations simultaneously.
► Being freed from clinging to the sublime deity is the key point that prevents errors in the development stage. Perfecting all that appears and exists as the manifest ground is the key point that eliminates dualistic fixation on self and other.
Meditation arriving at the fruition is the key point of not searching for enlightenment elsewhere
► Oneness in the expanse of reality is the key point that purifies clinging to the samaya being and wisdom being. Realizing the sovereign lord of the one hundred families is the key point of practicing one deity and accomplishing them all.
These are the eighteen major key points. As there are even more than this, however, these are the “life force of the life force.” Since they bind even the life force of the other three life forces, they are utterly indispensable and, therefore, placed first.
KEY POINTS FOR THE STAKE OF ABSORPTION
► Developing the strength of speech is the key point for assuring that all that one says benefits others.
► Perfecting enlightened activity is the key point of effordessly benefiting others.
► Ripening and liberating those in need of guidance is the key point for upholding the lineage.
As oudined here, these four fundamental practices contain forty key points, which subsume the entire range of key points that pertain to the path of the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra. Without them, any path is sure to be nothing but a lifeless corpse.
Generally speaking, recitation mantras essentially consist of vowels and consonants, the syllables of method and knowledge. Moreover, all of the vowels and consonants arise from, and have as their essence, the syllable A, the inexpressible source of all expression. The syllable A is unborn and, in the ultimate sense, primordially devoid of conceptual constructs such as birth, remaining, and cessation, reference point, or coming and
going. For this reason, and because of being a natural equality, it is the dharma body, in the sense that all phenomena, as nothing but mere labels, are originally enlightened and possess no intrinsic nature. This is described in The Tantra of the Secret Essence:
A is beyond reference points such as
Everything is just labels, and all buddhas
This type of absorption is opened up by means of the inexpressible syllable A, so that the various vowels and consonants that are formed verbally appear. Since these expressions are unceasing and by nature originally enlightened, they are the enjoyment body. The same text declares:
A itself appears in manifold forms,
As KA and the rest of the forty-two letters.
The names of these sounds are all-inclusive
In this way, the unborn and unceasing basic space gives rise to collections of syllables of great skillful means that take on amazing and incredible appearances through various emanations. These, in turn, form the basis of all the purely relative and conventional names, words, and expressions. Moreover, they constitute the great miraculous display that reveals the coundess ways of Dharma, in every way necessary, for those in need of guidance. These syllables are the sublime speech of the enlightened emanation body. The same text also mentions:
Incredible! This amazing and wondrous
Miraculous display of the forty-five syllables,
Ultimately, syllables have no substantial existence but are mental manifestations that, from the very moment they arise, have no inherent existence. The nature of mind is primordially empty and devoid of identity, never wavering from great equality free of constructs. Syllables are, therefore, also beyond the scope of dualistic mind, and remain as the wisdom mind of the enlightened emanation body. As it says in the same text:
Beyond extremes, with no identity or reference point.
The syllables never waver from this state, yet their unobstructed display of interdependent appearances emerges as the various shapes and forms of symbolic letters that produce words and names. These magical syllable clouds produce a compassionate display that emanates in every possible way, such as seed syllables for developing deities and physical representations of scripture. This is how syllables manifest as the enlightened emanation body, performing an infinite activity to benefit beings.
The tantra continues:
Yet with names and words of color and shape
They create and manifest a manifold display.
Finally it explains:
Who appear throughout the four times and ten directions,
Are complete within the forty-fivefold mandala
Of syllables culminating in KSA.
More specifically, the mantras that we recite are effective because they are blessed with four types of establishment. First, they are established by the essence of reality itself since all syllables are primordially established as the essence of equality and great emptiness. Second, they are established by their nature since the nature of each is unfailingly established to appear in its own unique way. Third, they are established through
blessings since the buddhas, who have mastery over all phenomena, have blessed certain mantras—from one syllable to many—by revealing in them the magical displays of wisdom itself. Finally, they are established
with potency, similar to medicine or wish-fulfilling jewels, since mantras have an unfailing and unimpeded power to bring about spiritual accomplishment. For these reasons there is no short-term or ultimate goal unattainable through the power of mantra It is crucial then to take this confidence in the indivisibility of deity and mantra into the recitation and carry it out with one-pointed devotion. A tantra highlights this:
Do not divide them in two!
It also mentions:
If you practice with solid trust,
The sky may disappear, but it is impossible
How could one fail in practicing
They have never failed, and they never will.
In short, the wisdom of enlightenment can manifest in any possible way to the minds of beings in need of guidance. Whether a buddha appears in actuality to guide beings as such, or whether he appears as something ordinary to guide them in a mundane way, there is no qualitative difference since they are both the wisdom display of a single buddha. In the present context we are discussing how the buddha can manifest in the form
of a mantra in the perception of ordinary beings. Furthermore, when the deity appears direcdy through accomplishment of the mantra, it is simply the case that the deity had previously manifested as the mantra. Then, through the process of practicing, the mantra remanifests as the deity to bestow spiritual accomplishments to the disciple. So it is of utmost importance that we develop confidence in the indivisibility of deity, mantra, and our minds.
The Four Aspects of Approach and Accomplishment
The second part covers two topics:
(1) setting a foundation for the recitation and
Continue to visualize yourself as the samaya being of any particular yidam deity, applying the three principles of vivid appearance, recollection of purity, and stable pride. At your heart visualize the precious domelike citta made of light. This may be a translucent, maroon-colored octagon, the shape of two cymbals pressed together, or else an orb of five-colored light. In its center is the wisdom being, sitting on a throne made of the
sun and the moon. The wisdom being may be a likeness of yourself as the deity, or else bereft of ornaments and implements. In some cases this is framed in terms of an emanation and the source of the emanation, for instance Amitabha in the heart center of Avalokitesvara, or Varahr in the center of Yeshe Tsogyal. You should visualize all of this according to your text.
In the wisdom being’s heart center visualize a vajra, or the appropriate symbolic implement of the buddha family, resting upright. In the center of this implement may be a stacked sun and moon, or else only a moon in the case of peaceful deities, or a sun in the case of wrathful ones; it is about the size of a split pea. On this seat is the absorption being, the core awakened life force of the main deity. It is in the form of a seed syllable,
such as HRIH or HUM, depending on the yidam. The syllable is the same color as the deity, shines brighdy like a candle flame, and stands upright, facing the same direction as the deity. The mantra garland is arranged around this syllable.
In some practice manuals you visualize yourself as the samaya being with the seed syllable and mantra garland in your heart center. However, there are also manuals without a wisdom being or symbolic implement. So you should always follow your particular text.
The syllable we visualize can be in the Tibetan script, since the Tibetan language subsists primordially as the essence of vajra speech. The profound mystery of the buddhas’ wisdom and miraculous display, moreover, connects to all beings in need of guidance in an equal manner. The difference between
Sanskrit and Tibetan lies only in the shapes of the letters. Otherwise, there is no discernible difference, like one language being holier than the other. Therefore, simply use whichever script most easily comes to mind; there is no need to convert it to something else.
The mantra garland should be arranged so that it begins in front of the seed syllable, the core awakened life force. The letters of the recitation mantra should be miniscule, as if drawn with a single fine hair, and shine brighdy as they rotate around the seed syllable. The other details should be sought in your specific text. Mantra garlands that spin clockwise should be facing outwards, so that they are readable from the outside, with
the syllables upright and arranged in a counterclockwise sequence. As the mantra spins in a chain, the leading syllable, such as OM, will therefore be next to the final syllable, for instance HUM or HRIH. Long mantras
should begin with the first syllable in front and facing inward, and then coil two or three times around like a snake, so that the final syllable is at the outside, direcdy in front of the first. When reciting with this type of visualization, it should rotate clockwise so it is readable from left to right.
Mantra garlands that spin counterclockwise should also stand upright and start in front of the awakened life force, but run clockwise and face inward, and thus be readable from the inside. If a mantra is long, it should coil from the inside out as described just above. These mantras should then spin counterclockwise during the recitation. Generally speaking, for male deities the mantra garland spins clockwise, while for female deities it spins counterclockwise, but this distinction cannot be made categorically; you must look to your own text.
For mantra garlands that do not actually spin, but project and absorb light while they remain stationary, the direction the letters face is the opposite of above. For these, the central factor is whether they are arranged with the letters running clockwise or counterclockwise. This should be taken case by case.
The first style of visualization is the arranged recitation, which is the aspect of approach, and is likened to a moon with a garland of stars. In this style you repeatedly bring your attention back to the seed syllable, the mantra garland, and the projection and absorption of light. Eventually all of the deities begin to let the mantra resound in their voices, and the syllables of the mantra, each making its own particular sound, rise slightly
above the disc. At first it is merely the light from the syllables that is revolving. Then the mantra garland itself begins to revolve increasingly faster, and eventually projects light. As this light saturates your body, think that it clears away all illness, demonic influence, negativity, and obscurations, including even their latent tendencies.
The second style is the palanquin recitation, the aspect of close approach, which is likened to a spinning firebrand. In this style a second mantra garland emanates out of the mantra in the heart center. One syllable follows the previous without touching it in an uninterrupted chain, resounding with the mantra’s sound. Like a spinning firebrand, the mantra chain emerges from the mouth of the wisdom being and then the samaya
being before entering the mouth of the female consort. Stimulating her wisdom mind, it courses through her body and emerges from her lotus, from which it enters the male consort followed by the wisdom being through their vajras. Traveling upward, it produces an exhilarating rapture, the great bliss of the mind of awakening. Finally, imagine that it dissolves back into the seed syllable in the heart center, at which point you
If done for too long, however, it can create an obstacle by transferring energy to the upper part of the body. To prevent this from happening, visualize the mantra garland traveling the other way from the male
consort’s vajra into the female’s lotus, then out of the female’s mouth and into the male’s, before it dissolves into the seed syllable in his heart center. Just as before, visualize the mantra garland then reemerging and proceeding to revolve uninterruptedly. This is called the “palanquin,” or “sedan,” recitation. It creates an experience of nonthought, leads the life energy into the central channel, and prevents any obstacles deriving
from energy moving into the upper body. If performed for too long, there is a risk that the subtle essence might weaken and the clarity of the visualization might fade. So it is ideal to practice these two in alternation,
visualizing the mantra as it revolves toward you in the morning and dusk sessions, and away from you in the midday and afternoon sessions. Both of these are called the “spinning style” recitation. This style can also be applied when there is a frontal visualization as well. Simply project and absorb the mantra garland back and forth between you and the frontal visualization.
Third is the recitation of projection and absorption, the aspect of accomplishment, which is likened to a king’s emissaries. By reciting the mantra, light rays of the five colors stream out of the awakened life force and mantra garland, filling all of space. Innumerable goddesses bearing offerings then emanate from the tips of the light rays, making countless gifts to delight the victorious ones throughout space, along with their
offspring. The deities are overjoyed and in a state of stainless bliss; all of the spiritual accomplishments and the blessings of enlightened body, speech, and mind shower down like rain. These take the form of white, red, and blue light, or else bodily forms for enlightened body, seed syllables for enlightened speech, and symbolic implements for enlightened mind, which dissolve into your body, speech, and mind. As they do so, think
that the two obscurations, as well as their habits, are purified; the two accumulations in their entirety are completed; and the four empowerments are attained all at once. This is the visualization of gathering the blessings for one’s own benefit.
Then light rays stream out again, striking the sentient beings of the six classes and three realms, and instantly purifying them of all their karma, negativity, disturbing emotions, and their particular forms of suffering. Imagine as well that the listeners, self-realized buddhas, and bodhisattvas are
freed from their cognitive obscurations, and that all beings’ body, speech, and mind are transformed into the three vajras. This is the recitation of enlightened activity for the benefit of others. In this context you should also know how to perform the visualizations for any of the four activities that you wish to carry out.
The aspect of great accomplishment is likened to a beehive that has burst open. In this style imagine that light rays project from the deity and the mantra, transforming the universe into a celestial palace, its inhabitants
into the circle of deities, all sounds into the nature of mantra, and all thoughts into the play of wisdom. This is the recitation of the nonduality of self and other, which should be carried out in a state of nonfixation.
There are different ways to apply these four styles of recitation, such as in sequence or by focusing on one of them in particular, so it is important to see how they are presented in your particular text.
The fifth style is according to the special tradition of oral instructions, which is sufficient, in itself, for both approach and accomplishment. In this style, as you visualize yourself as the yidam deity before you begin the recitation, imagine that above you sits Guru Padmasambhava wearing the attire of Vajradhara, surrounded by multitudes of masters of the instruction lineage. Imagine that your sincere devotion rouses his wisdom mind, so that white, red, and blue light emerges from the three places of his body, forming a nectar that flows into you through the crown of your head. As it then saturates your body and purifies your obscurations,
think that all the blessings of his wisdom mind penetrate you, so that you attain the spiritual power to swiftly accomplish every deity and mantra. With this in mind, chant one hundred or so of the VAJRA GURU mantra, and then dissolve the guru into yourself. Afterwards, carry out the consecrations of speech and of the rosary, etc.
Once this is done, continue to visualize yourself as the deity and imagine that a recitation mansion, complete in both supporting and supported aspects, emerges from your heart center into the space in front of you. The seed syllable and mantra garland in your heart center then emit light rays and mantra garlands that revolve between you like a spinning firebrand. Now the tip of your tongue projects a great mass of light that
gathers in the sky, presenting sublime Samantabhadra offering clouds of great bliss to the conquerors and bodhisattvas throughout space, who appear to be pleased and satisfied. This causes them to manifest out of
the dharma body and become active, throughout space, as form bodies appearing like the mandala of deities you are practicing. They then enter the deities in the recitation mansion like a mass of falling sesame seeds and merge inseparably with them. The deities then emit light rays of enlightened body, speech, and mind that dissolve into you.
Next, the mantra syllables in the sky before you emanate innumerable light rays. The light pleases the multitudes of root and lineage knowledge holder masters, arouses the bodhisattvas out of their equanimity to benefit beings, and inspires courage in the mother dakims. It also incites the oath-bound Dharma protectors into action, rouses the listeners and self-realized buddhas from their state of cessation, subdues the haughty
mundane spirits, and menaces the demonic and extremist adversaries. It overpowers the misconceptions of all beings in the three realms and annihilates malicious enemies and obstructors. Finally, the light dispels the obscurations of all beings, in every time and place, completely fulfilling their temporary and ultimate wishes, and establishing them all at the level of the yidam deity.
Then, one last time, light streams out, transforming the outer universe, all at once, into a celestial palace, the inhabitants within it into male and female deities, and perfecting it all—the entirety of appearance and
existence—into the mandala of the deity you are practicing. The natural sound of the secret mantra you are chanting then resounds in the voices of all the deities, and from spinning mantra garlands everywhere throughout space. The sound, which resounds throughout the universe, is as loud as a thousand lightning bolts thundering at once, a hundred thousand giant mountains collapsing, or a meteor strike.
The light that radiates and swells from the mantras corresponds in color to that of the main deity. Alternatively, the light may be of multiple colors, in which case it is dark blue in the center, maroon in the east, deep yellow in the south, dark red in the west, and dark green in the north. With all this in mind, carry out the recitation in a state of one-pointed concentration.
This description applies when the central deity is wrathful. For peaceful deities the basic framework is the same, while the light should be soft, and there should be an arousal of bliss. Moreover, you should chant the mantra with a melodious tune, as beautiful as the voice of Brahma. Throughout all of the above recitation visualizations you should understand how they unfold within the single taste of great wisdom and bring all of appearance and existence under the sway of natural awareness. Doing so, you can use them as a way to attain all the blessings and spiritual accomplishments one can wish for.
When breaking from a session, imagine that the seed syllables and light rays in the sky—along with all of appearance and existence manifested as the divine mandala—dissolve into the recitation mansion. The deities in the recitation mansion then dissolve into you, so that your physical radiance and splendor increase exponentially, and your body becomes entirely filled with miniature forms of the deity you are practicing. This can be
applied to the recitations of each of the principal and retinue deities. As per usual, to make up for mistakes in the mantra recitation and to stabilize its effectiveness, at the end of the session chant the vowels and consonants, the “Essence of Dependent Origination,” and the hundred syllables three times each.
This condensation of the oral instructions of the knowledge holders in the lineage of the Early Translations is the heart-extract of the omniscient Jampel Gyepa. There are many other common and unique details,
including the general and specific points for practicing the three roots, as well as the visualizations for pacifying, increasing, magnetizing, wrathful activity, protection, exorcism, and slaying. You should learn these from the primary recitation manuals and receive thorough instruction on them from your teacher. If you then practice them in secrecy, you will reach the pinnacle of the two spiritual accomplishments.
Generally speaking, there are many different ways to recite mantras. You can do vocal recitation and chant loudly and clearly, or chant softly, using the lips, tip of the tongue, and vocal cords only slightly. There is silent recitation, in which you hold your breath while focusing your attention on the form and sound of the mantra. Then there is also a technique called mental recitation, in which you do not hold your breath, but simply
keep in mind the form or the sound of the mantra. There is also another style called vajra recitation. In vajra recitation you make the sound HUM as you breathe out from the nada of the seed syllable, while projecting
light rays or bodily forms to accomplish the twofold benefit. You reabsorb these as you breathe in while making the sound OM, and dissolve them into the nada as you make the sound AH while holding the breath. Here, however, we will only concern ourselves with vocal recitation.
You should learn about the requirements for a qualified rosary for counting, the way to consecrate it, and the manner of counting with the rosary for different activities from other general manuals. I will not go into them here for fear of being long-winded. In terms of the main points of recitation technique, the Great Master of Uddiyana has said,
Recite with undistracted concentration.
Should you become distracted elsewhere,
Even reciting for an eon will bring no result.
will not lead to any great spiritual accomplishments but merely lessen your verbal obscurations a bit. It is therefore vital to chant in one-pointed concentration with your attention focused on the vivid appearance of the deity and the projection and absorption of light rays from the mantra garland, without straying onto other things.
If you know such details, you should also be sure to utter the sounds from the correct place of articulation, with proper aspiration and pronunciation. Moreover, you should avoid certain faults, such as chanting the individual syllables too fast or overly slow. You should not shorten the long syllables or elongate the short ones, and be sure not to add excess syllables or leave any of the actual syllables out. Also, do not recite too loudly or quietly. When you are in session you should not interrupt the recitation by yawning, spitting, or engaging in excess conversation.
The Awesome Flash of Lightning mentions these things:
Not too loud and not too quiet,
Not too fast and not too slow,
Not too rough and not too weak,
Enunciate the syllables in their entirety.
There should be no distraction or idle talk,
Nor interruptions by yawning and the like.
For the expert with no doubt of the meaning
The spiritual accomplishments are near.
Nonetheless, even without knowing the associated meaning, you can recite with one-pointed faith and sincerity, and still the great spiritual accomplishments will emerge just as they ought to. It continues:
But the accomplishments linked to that meaning
Are still close to the fool who has faith.
There is a reason why mantras in Sanskrit are not translated into Tibetan, those in Tibetan mixed with Sanskrit are not translated completely into Sanskrit, and those in the symbolic language of the dakinrs or other
foreign languages are not recreated or translated for the sake of communication. The rationale is that, in leaving them as they are, we do not alter the actualization of the true speech uttered by the ones who first articulated them. In fact, it is said that analyzing the practices of Secret Mantra only distances you from spiritual accomplishment. As it is explained:
No accomplishment will occur if you scrutinize
Though accomplishment may be otherwise near,
When you entertain reservations,
Waver in resolve, or slip in your faith,
You will undoubtedly regress.
Most mantras we recite involve an invocation of the deity through utterance of its name. For instance, if we translate the six-syllable mantra, we are calling out to Avalokitesvara by name: “O Jewel Lotus!” Or in the SIDDHI mantra we are invoking Guru Rinpoche’s heart commitment: “Vajra Master Padma, please confer spiritual accomplishment!” In truth, distinctions like invoking or not invoking, hearing or not hearing, and near
and far do not apply to wisdom deities. Nonetheless, by reciting wisdom-knowledge mantras—which are the enlightened speech of all buddhas, and the nature of the dharma body—we gradually deplete our obscurations and come ever closer to realizing the deity of the fruition. In doing so, we naturally suffuse ourselves with the wisdom deity’s blessings.
As briefly mentioned above, the best gauge of recitation is achievement of the signs of accomplishing the deity, whether in actuality, in a vision, or in a dream. This is called indicative recitation. Second best is temporal recitation, where you recite for the length of time recommended in your particular text, for instance half a year. Otherwise, the third option is numeric recitation, in which you chant the mantra of the primary deity in the
mandala one hundred thousand times for each of its syllables. Then you would chant the mantras of the other mandala deities each a tenth of the number of the main mantra. On top of this, you chant an amending
number of ten percent of each mantra, meaning for each hundred thousand mantras you chant, you add 11,111. In certain other explanations, you chant one hundred thousand per syllable if the mantra is fifteen syllables or less, and ten thousand per syllable if it is thirty syllables or more.
The main presentation above is the way of counting in the age of perfection. It is sometimes taught that this should be doubled in the age of three-quarters perfection, tripled in the age of half perfection, and quadrupled in the age of strife. Essentially though, the important thing is that we practice in accord with our personal levels of insight and concentration.
When doing recitation practice, moreover, it is said that you should insert the “one thousand verse,” an offering and praise made after each thousand mantras. Nonetheless, if you fail to do that, you can instead make the offering and praise after you complete the recitation. At that point you would also chant the vowels and consonants, the hundred-syllable mantra, and the “Essence of Dependent Origination” in order to mend any
broken commitments of body, speech, and mind. This also amends for recitation mistakes, such as mantras chanted in excess or left out, and stabilizes the effectiveness of your practice. You should also receive the spiritual accomplishments and so on as laid out in your text. Beyond this, you should become familiar with all the activities during session breaks, including proper retreat behavior, from the writings of the great saints
of the past where they are described in detail. In particular, you should study the lord guru’s Great General Guide to Recitation and other similar texts. It is important that we put these details into practice.
There is immeasurable value and benefit to focusing in practice on one-pointed visualization of the deity and correctly carrying out the recitation— whether numeric, temporal, or indicative. In this life alone you will
pacify obstacles and obstructions, acquire powerful verbal abilities, please the deity and receive its blessing in your mind-stream, complete the two accumulations and thereby have your wishes fulfilled, create an extraordinary link between ground, path, and fruition, and mature your stream of being. In every lifetime hereafter you will be under the care of the sublime deity. Ultimately, you will become fully enlightened within
the expanse of the lord of the family’s wisdom mind. In the short-term, moreover, you will gain mastery over measureless and remarkable activity and spiritual accomplishment, and master the mandala activities in the role of vajra master.
The additional explanation regarding the concluding activities covers four topics:
(2) sustaining the torma,
(3) receiving the spiritual accomplishments, and
(4) apologizing for mistakes.
The “gathering circle” refers to indivisible method and knowledge, and takes the form of a special ceremony. The term derives from ganacakra, literally meaning a circle composed of offerings that form a gathering of great bliss used to cut through the web of disturbing emotions. It consists of several
different types. There is the gathering of worthy people, which is to say, the gathering of method and knowledge in union. Then there is the gathering of plentiful things, which means bringing all the sacred substances of inner Secret Mantra together. Third, there is the gathering of delighted deities,
In this day and age people who can practice the gathering circle in its true and literal sense are quite rare. So we will instead look at how to bring together a sincerely emulated gathering based on a wisdom consort, the way tantric devotees commonly practice these days.
The first step is to prepare the arrangement of articles. Place whatever offering items you have in front of the mandala. This should be according to common procedure and include the outer, inner, and secret feast offerings as well as food and drinks that are suitable as samaya substances. Next, they should be consecrated. For that, sprinkle nectar on the articles and then give rise to the pride of being the primary deity. With this
confidence, imagine that the syllables RAM, YAM, and KHAM project from your heart center. They transform respectively into wisdom fire, wind, and water, which burn, scatter, and wash away all clinging to impure reality. In this way everything is purified into emptiness. Now imagine that a syllable BHRUM manifests from the state of emptiness and becomes a radiant feast bowl, made either out of jewels or a naturally manifest
skull cup. Inside the feast bowl the contents, such as the three syllables, all melt into light to form an elixir. This elixir is the essence of awakened mind and the nature of the five meats, five nectars, and five wisdoms. It manifests, however, as anything that could possibly be desired. Imagining that, increase it to the reaches of space.
Next comes the gathering and invitation. Visualize yourself as the central deity with consort and imagine that your heart center—or else your place of union—projects countless light rays to the Unexcelled Realm and the infinite natural emanation body realms. The light makes these realms burst open like sesame pods as the multitudes of masters and mandalas of the three root deities awaken and manifest in actuality, spreading through and filling up the entire expanse of space.
Then, for the actual gathering offering, there are three parts; the first involves the offering substances. In this, you take the prime, first portion of the feast. Imagine that it is essentially the nectar of stainless wisdom yet appears in the form of goddesses of the six sense pleasures along with an inexhaustible quantity of every possible delightful thing. Make the offering as you imagine this filling all of space.
Second is the offering of apology. For this you take the second, middle, portion of the feast and visualize it as the five nectars. As you offer it, think that the deities are pleased and your bond with them is mended. It also causes you to be purified of concepts, obscurations, damaged and broken vows, and blessed by great wisdom. At this point, you should also chant the hundred-syllable mantra and so on.
The third and final part is the offering of liberation. For this you should set aside an effigy, if you have one, or a triangle, before consecrating the offerings. Now place it in front of the offerings and imagine that the
goddesses of the sense pleasures are reabsorbed back into you in the form of the syllable HUM. Use the effigy as a support for your visualization. Then visualize yourself as the deity and imagine that innumerable light rays and magical emissaries stream out of your heart center. They summon the objects to be liberated, those who meet the ten conditions.
Those who destroy the Buddha’s teachings,
Bring down the prestige of the Three Jewels,
Prevent the sangha from assembling,
Denigrate the Great Vehicle teachings,
Sow discord among the vajra relatives,
Those who transgress their commitments,
Who are compassionless monsters,
And who inflict harm on practitioners:
A Clarification of Commitments presents in this way:
Violators, breakers, and transgressors of commitments,
Those who arrive at the assembly, who are harmful to all,
And those in the three lower realms:
These ten the practitioner should take on.
These are all summoned helplessly before you. You seize them by the heart with a hook, pull them by the neck with a lasso, bind their limbs with a chain, stun them with a bell, and then dissolve them into the physical support. Imagine that they remain there incapacitated and without any divine savior.
Then unify boundless great compassion—which is the ultimate state of mind, emptiness suffused with compassion—and magical illusory concentration. As you do so, let your empty mind manifest in the form of vajra wrath whereby you are the Great Glorious One. The dagger in your hand is the Supreme Son Kilaya, and the effigy is the embodiment of everything harmful. With these three in mind, stab the dagger to the heart of the
effigy. In doing this, you gather all its life, wealth, glory, brilliance, and splendor into a syllable A. Imagine that this syllable dissolves into you, where it becomes the mind of awakening, inseparable from your own vajra life force. This constitutes the transmission of life.
Next, visualize the effigy’s all-ground consciousness in the form of NRI and lift it with the tip of your dagger, where you visualize a HUM. It courses through the dagger’s interior before you propel it with PH AT. This purifies the consciousness of its temporary stains, so that it turns into a subde
sphere that travels to the Unexcelled Realm. There it finally dissolves into the heart center of the Great Glorious One, or whichever is the central deity, thereby being empowered as its son. This constitutes the transmission of purification.
Next you grab the support composed of the habitual aggregates—by the right leg if it is male, or by the left leg if female—and proceed to chop it up. As you work on this, consider the effigy to be, in essence, the three poisons, appearing as a mass of flesh, blood, and bones. Then offer it up as a meal to the primary deity, along with its attendants and emanations. Think that your offering empties the three realms of cyclic existence.
In this way the triple satisfaction is fulfilled. You benefit, as you are satisfied with the nourishment of the enemy’s life-span and merit, which have become your own. The enemy benefits, as he is satisfied in becoming the son of the Great Glorious One and his continuous stream of bad actions and their ripened effects have been cut. Also, the deities benefit, as the large retinue of attendants
and guardians is satisfied in partaking of the flesh and blood of the corpse. Please look to other texts, such as my commentaries on Vajrakflaya and on Visuddha and KTlaya combined, for the extensive version of this. After this it is time to enjoy the gathering offering. First, the vajra helper should make prostrations to the chief of the gathering and offer him the symbolic offering of the substances of method and knowledge. The
master then symbolically accepts these. Next, the vajra helper distributes the feast to the other participants, in order of seniority. Avoid quarreling, chattering, and clinging to ordinary reality within the gathering. Instead, feel satisfied and delighted, yet remain without conceptual grasping as you enjoy the feast.
Imagine that the feast is an offering of nectar that is refined into a pure essential extract by the fire of inner heat at your navel, and then offered to the mandala of deities within your body. In this way enjoy the feast as a
type of “inner burning and pouring.” In addition, make the secret gathering offering based solely on the wisdom consort. Finally, bring to mind the offering of suchness, great bliss free of concepts of the three spheres, in which subject and object are unified as natural awareness, while emptiness and samsara and nirvana are primordially present as the mandala. With the permission of the vajra master or vajra helper you may also perform vajra song and dance while inspired by your practice.
Afterward, collect the residuals without saving or hoarding anything. This constitutes the “impure torma,” to which you add the “morsel offering,” and top off with part of the three prime portions. Next, the vajra helper makes an invocation and the vajra master subsequently spits wine onto the offerings while saying mantras and making gestures. During this ritual the vajra master’s tongue is visualized as Hayagrrva, sporting with his
consort, until a stream of the nectar of awakened mind pours down. This transforms the offerings into nectar and increases them. The offerings are then placed either to the northeast or the southeast of the shrine, on a human hide or something of the sort. You then summon the “residual guests” with mantras and gestures, and offer them things like flowers. In accord with the oath they took in the past in the presence of the Great
Glorious One, command them to partake of the great, stainless, delightful, and sacred substance that is the residual torma and to carry out the activities that practitioners enjoin them to. Next, carry the residuals to a spot that is seventy paces away from the practice place, which is called the “feeding path of demons.” Finally, make aspirations and do whatever other rituals your text lays out.
The second of the subsequent rituals is the sustaining of the torma. For this, first invoke the assembly of mandala deities to manifest out of basic space by reminding them of their sacred commitment. Then remove the protector torma from the row of tormas and sprinkle it with medicine and rakta. Next, consider the essence of the torma to be the flesh, blood, and bones of the enemies and obstructors. Transform it mentally into the
form of stainless wisdom nectar and increase it. Now imagine that nonarising basic space gives rise to self-manifest oath-bound protectors of the three tantras who appear with their entourage of numerous haughty spirits. Remind them of their strict past oath and then offer the torma to them. You should do so outside while commanding them to carry out the four types of enlightened activity unimpededly. At this time, if you wish
to throw a curse, you should visualize the torma as being made of disease, weapons, and poison, and imagine it being projected in the direction of the hateful, destructive enemies, who are annihilated beyond a trace. Subsequently, sprinkle the torma for the earth goddesses with the select medicine used to rinse the torma vessel, and consecrate it with the three seed syllables. This torma is offered to the twelve primary protectresses
of Tibet and Kham. On an inner level, they are the very embodiments of the twelve links of dependent origination being naturally purified, while externally they have a steadfast presence. Offer the torma to them along with their hundredthousandfold entourage of menmo goddesses, and enjoin them to carry out the activity that ensures the welfare of the Snowy Land, from its interior to its borders.
After this, perform the horse dance. Suppress the object of your focus below the torma vessel, which you turn upside down and visualize as the central mountain. Seal it with the vajra, and then carry out the dance activity. While imagining that the entire universe with its inhabitants consists of multitudes of male and female wrathful deities corresponding to the particular activity, for instance Noble Supreme Steed Heruka,
perform the dance in the nonduality of method and knowledge. Imagine that through this the particular activity— whether pacifying, increasing, magnetizing, or wrathful—is accomplished in the short term, and that ultimately all concepts dissolve into basic space beyond reference point, where they manifest as enlightened bodies and wisdoms and the music of great bliss.
Next among the subsequent rituals is receiving the spiritual accomplishments, which is usually done after one has completed the practice of approach and accomplishment. I hesitate to say much here about the extensive way to receive the accomplishments, which is better learned from the specific recitation manual of the mandala you are practicing. So here I will just give a rough overview of what happens at the very end of your activity text.
When you reach the conclusion, visualize the accomplishment torma as the deity, and then supplicate it with devotion and invoke its resolve. As you do so, the main places of the principal deities send out blessings of enlightened body, speech, and mind, as well as all spiritual accomplishments, which take the form of the three syllables and light rays. Imagine that these dissolve into your three places, purifying your obscurations of
body, speech, and mind, and granting you every blessing and spiritual accomplishment. Then touch the accomplishment torma to your three places, or else taste the inner offering of nectar and place a drop of it on each of your three places. Afterward, rest evenly in innate equal taste.
I am completely deficient as a practitioner, lacking any insight and concentration, and therefore have not gained confidence in your oceanlike realization and conduct. I have fallen prey to dullness and agitation. My concentration has been hazy, my recitation sloppy, and I have left out elements of the ritual. I have not assembled all the sacred articles and substances, and I let those I have assembled become polluted. In these and
many other ways I have transgressed many general and specific root and subsidiary commitments. In the presence of all of you, oceanlike gathering of gurus, hosts of mandala deities, and my spiritual brothers and sisters, I admit and confess to any and all faults I have committed. Please cleanse and purify them so they do not turn into temporary or lasting obscurations.
With this in mind, chant a specific apology or else the generic hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva. Afterward, either dissolve the wisdom being or request it to depart, whichever is appropriate, and then dissolve the samaya being. Alternatively, according to the unique and special approach of unexcelled mantra, you do not request the wisdom being to depart but rather dissolve the samaya and wisdom beings indivisibly.
The practice of enlightened mind corresponds to its object of purification, which is the process in which a child, after growing old, dies and then reemerges. You now dissolve the world and its beings into the protection circle and then gradually into the tip of the seed syllable, which symbolizes the
outer and inner stages of dissolution that occur at the moment of death, as well as the luminosity of the dharma body in the death state. Afterward, in the breaks between sessions, you arise from this state as the deity, which parallels the existence of the intermediate state.
The steps in the process of purification are as follows. First, train as much as possible in the practices of deity and mantra as explained above. Then, when you are no longer able to continue the practice, perform the
dissolution stage. It is said that if you did not cling to thoughts of a sublime deity during the preceding development stage, you can perform the dissolution stage all at once: simply let the entire mandala of support and supported vanish instantaneously like a rainbow fading into the sky. Then rest evenly within the great and supreme dharma body of the indivisible two truths, holding nothing in mind.
If the case is otherwise, however, you will have to subsequently dismande the mandala. In that case, first imagine that light from your heart center causes the entire pure external universe and its inhabitants to dissolve into light, which merges with the protection circle. Next, the inner layered elements gradually dissolve into the protection circle, which in turn dissolves into the charnel grounds. These dissolve into the celestial palace,
the palace into the retinue, and the retinue into the primary male and female consorts, who dissolve into the wisdom being in the center of the heart. The wisdom being dissolves into the absorption being, the seed syllable of the awakened life force, which itself dissolves gradually upward until reaching the tip of the syllable. After that fades away, rest evenly in the expanse of original purity, free of constructs, thoughts, and reference points. This eliminates the extreme of eternalism.
Afterward, utter the mantra by which you reappear in the form of the main deity, like a fish leaping out of the water. Bless the three places of your body, don “the armor for physical protection” and so on, and proceed to bring all experiences and activities onto the path as the play of the enlightened bodies
Here the result of purification is the manifestation of the form bodies of buddhahood, which constitutes the enlightened activity of the dharma body. Since the wisdom of the dharma body is also the essence of basic space, the form bodies dissolve back into it. Generally speaking, the wisdom of the dharma body is characterized by unconditioned simplicity, so, of course, it is essentially beyond any notion of something to dissolve
or a process of dissolution. Still, the term “dissolve” is applied because of something seemingly disappearing in the perception of others, those in need of guidance. The reemergence illustrates the continuous
reappearance of the form bodies in accord with the particular propensities of the beings in need of guidance. In addition, this matures you for the higher path, as it creates a foundation for the ability to reemerge in the unified illusory body after having established the universe and its inhabitants in luminosity during the practice of the fourth empowerment.
Though the explanations up to this point have clearly emphasized the development stage, in fact they have been suffused with the genuine oral instructions of the precious Early Translation lineage. In this way they present a path of unified development and completion, as I have pointed out above. The crux of the matter is that all conceptual phenomena that appear internally or externally, including the aggregates, elements, and
sense sources, are primordially the great divine circle of all-encompassing purity, the three seats of completeness. It is not that they become this way, or are newly crafted as such through the path of purifying obstacles and discards. The Tantra of the All-Creating King proclaims:
There is also a song that says:
In this way, all conceptual phenomena are pure as the deities, whose bodies are forms of the wisdom of equality. Here “wisdom” means the naturally present wisdom of the nature of mind, which does not divide into concepts of subject and object and is originally and utterly pure as the essence of the vajra mind of all buddhas. Once we resolve our view in a way that is in tune with the true state of things, we can meditate and gain
experience. In this way, the illusory nonexistent appearances of samsaric phenomena, on one hand, as well as our clinging to them, on the other hand, are all naturally purified. Thereafter, all appearances become a manifestation of great wisdom with a nature of bliss, clarity, and emptiness. At that point we can resolve that all outer and inner conceptual phenomena are an expression of our own minds, while the nature of mind is
primordially the form of the deity. When that happens, there is no deity apart from our own mind, no mind apart from the deity, as mind and the deity’s form are a unity. All experiences and activities are sealed by illusory empty lucidness free of fixation.
Everything that appears physically is the illusory form of the deity, appearing while lacking true existence, lucid while free of thought, blissful while free of clinging, the embodiment of the indivisible essence of dharma
body, appearance of enjoyment body, and activity of emanation body. As we then train in this type of pure perception and take it as our path, all appearances become natural appearance, and all of emptiness, natural emptiness, while the union of appearance and emptiness manifests in divine forms as the circle of all-encompassing purity.
Similarly, all internal and external sounds—whether pleasant or unpleasant, made by animate or inanimate things, including verbal expression and breathing —are primordially nonarising empty sounds, the invincible enlightened speech of the conquerors, the great melodious resounding. There is no sound, speech, or utterance apart from mantra, no mantra other than sound, speech, and utterance. When we seal all sound, speech,
and utterance in the animate and inanimate world with the vajra recitation of nonarising empty sound, breath and mantra indivisibly united, they become unbound as the inconceivable mystery of enlightened speech: echolike, invincible, empty resounding.
Moreover, when we release all the good and bad thoughts that occur to our minds into innate naturalness, they remain as the primordial essence of the vajra mind of the conquerors. Therefore, in the expanse of mind nature’s nondual equality, great bliss free of constructs, discard and remedy are of a single taste. This is the basic state of things as it is. This state naturally expresses itself through an unceasing display of diverse
manifestations: such is the way things appear in their extent. The way things are and the way they appear are essentially a unity. They are an inseparable equality as the identity of inexpressible and innate wisdom. This is also the nonconceptual wisdom mind of the buddhas. Thus, there is no buddha mind apart from this naturally lucid nature of mind, and no mind of innate lucidness other than the buddha mind.
In the expanse of the great perfection free of concepts—the equal taste of mind and appearances—samsara and nirvana are of equal taste, and the phrase “ground of delusion” has never even been heard of. When we
cross decisively into this great primordial purity, all thoughts and appearances manifest as great wisdom. Therefore, this, in fact, subsumes all the key points of the completion stage of vajra mind, and is itself the crucial point of the special path of the great perfection.
At the outset we must distinguish conceptual mind from awareness. First, recognize the nature of mind directly. This means to realize that your present awareness itself—free of thought and concept, uncontrived, and unspoiled—is naturally present wakefulness, the wisdom mind of the primordially pure dharma body. Then decide on one thing, which means to sustain the continuity of your present fresh awareness—the fourth part
without the three—in which thoughts of the past and future are absent. Finally, gain confidence in liberation, in which thoughts are naturally and tracelessly freed as soon as they arise—like waves dissolving back into the ocean—and sensations subside into the basic ground. All of these profound points about the view, meditation, conduct, and fruition need to be learned, in detail, from a teacher.
While training in this way, it is vital that we practice, throughout all sessions and breaks, by means of the tenfold understanding of mantra, and supported by the six commitments. The knowledge holder Jigme Lingpa has outlined the tenfold understanding as follows:
(5) all lands and places are like a city of spirits;
(8) the various meditative absorptions are like bubbles surfacing on a lake;
(2) Create favorable circumstances that aid you in meditation practice.
(3) Give up any unfavorable, adverse circumstances
This fifth point means that you should not accept and reject when it comes to the yidam deity, but realize instead that no matter which deity you practice, the wisdom mind of all buddhas is the same. By simply
meditating on one, you are meditating on every buddha. There are no buddhas to meditate on other than realizing your mind. Since the yidam deity is also a projection of your mind, there is nothing separate to meditate on or accomplish. In short, all buddhas are embodied in the yidam deity. Whether you meditate on many different yidam deities or on one alone, they are all projections of your mind.
(6) Maintain confidentiality about the deity you are practicing, its essence mantra, and the nature of your practice and conduct. Keep them utterly secret from those who are unsuitable to hear about them.
Here what we are dedicating is everything positive in the past, present, and future, represented by the training in the development and completion stages that we have now carried out correctly in all its preparatory, primary, and concluding parts. The goal to which we dedicate this is the state of Vajradhara, the sovereign buddha of the sixth family, the embodiment of the five wisdoms and the four bodies of enlightenment, which is
to say, complete and perfect enlightenment that does not dwell in either of the two extremes. We dedicate this goodness to all sentient beings throughout the reaches of space so that they may attain the result of
unexcelled wisdom. It is dedicated in a nonconceptual manner devoid of subject or object of dedication, considering that in ultimate truth the nature of everything is nonduality. At the same time, on a purely relative and conventional level, there is a dreamlike illusory experience of someone doing something, an object of that action, and a virtue being carried out, though in truth there is no reality to them.
In harmony with this, chant the verse of dedication while thinking sincerely and one-pointedly: “Just as the conquerors who appear in the past, present, and future, as well as their spiritual heirs, dedicate, I too dedicate this virtue completely to unexcelled enlightenment.” The value and benefit of dedicating in this way is such that your accomplishments become inexhaustible. This is described in The Sutra Requested by Sagaramati:
When a drop of water falls into a great ocean,
It will remain until the ocean itself dries up.
Next, while suffused with the attitude of the mind of awakening, make pure aspirations for the vast benefit of everyone. Recite the aspiration verse from your specific text and make the ten great aspirations: to worship the buddhas, to uphold the sacred teachings, to always display form bodies, to enter into every realm, to complete the perfections, to bring sentient beings to maturity, to purify realms, to act out the activity of the
bodhisattvas, to only behave in a meaningful way, and to attain great enlightenment. Make these prayers and countless others. Then chant “The Aspiration of Excellent Conduct” spoken by noble Samantabhadra and any other suitable aspiration, for example, that the teachings may flourish.
Finally, imagine that the mandala deities, along with all buddhas and their spiritual heirs throughout every time and place, proclaim the true words of auspicious prayer, sing melodious vajra songs, and rain down a great cascade of heavenly flowers. With this in mind, join in their auspicious prayer, sing, play music, scatter flowers, and so on. In this way, no matter what situation we encounter in the four times and ten directions, may even the word “adversity” never be heard, and may excellent prosperity and auspicious signs proliferate as our hopes and aims are fulfilled according to our wishes.
This description has purely followed the style of practice called “devoted training.” The part up to and including the three samadhis constitutes “approach.” The visualization of oneself as the main deity constitutes
“close approach.” The visualization of the female consort, including the consecration of the secret space, along with the complete visualization of all the retinue deities, constitutes “accomplishment.” Finally, the empowerment, sealing, invitation, and so on up to the recitation, offering, and praise constitute “great accomplishment.” This is described in The Tantra of the Great Practice of KTlaya:
It is said that just carrying out the practice correctly in this manner during one single session—complete in all its preparatory, primary, and concluding parts— garners an eon’s worth of the accumulations, which is
evidence of the incredible richness of skillful means present in Secret Mantra. The fact that a sharp-minded person of superior intelligence and diligence can gather three incalculable eons’ worth of the accumulations in one lifetime comes down to the same key point. Therefore, it is crucial that we strive solely in this approach. The other fine details of how to engage in the four aspects of approach and accomplishment and their proper practice can only be understood from the writings of past masters and especially from the instructions of the lord guru.
So perhaps I’m still fortunate at the end of the dark age.
What is the use of long explanations and verbosity—
Does that style even impress modern-day people?
Both those living today and those yet to come,
I focused on the ease of understanding as I wrote this.
So what more can I hope for than to lend a small hand
To uneducated beginners like myself?
When life is so short, and sudden mishaps abound, We can’t expect to stay long in this degenerate time.
And do not squander your lives, my friends.
Since no one can cover the vast span of all there is to know, Why not apply whatever you have learned?
It is said, not just once, but in many secret tantras,
So now that you have acquired the freedom to choose, Strive as much as you can on the path of the two stages.
In order to assist people who are as dull-witted as me I made the aspiration to compose a text that would serve as a supplement to The Great General Guide to Recitation. That text is authored by the lord guru and great vajra holder Lodro Thaye, the emanation body whom the Buddha himself prophesied to be a regent of the Sage in the northern land. He was an assembler of the scriptures on the definitive secret and none other than the lord of secrets, Vajradharma, in person.
Moreover, the supreme emanation body Kunzang Lodro Shenpen Thaye and, more recently, the diligent practitioner Jamyang Losel also both encouraged me with persistent and sincere requests. Finally, my younger brother, Tubten Geleg Gyamtso, and the eminent Lama Shingkyong advised that it would be good to compose it soon.
Even though the elements in my body were disturbed and ravaged me with the force of an ocean, I could not ignore these requests. So I brought the moonlike compassion of the Three Jewels to mind and decided to write.
Thus I, Gyurme Perna Namgyal from Shechen Monastery, authored this text at the Demchog Tashi Gepel Hermitage. May it bring all beings to the level of the all-pervading Lord Vajrasattva in a festival of supreme spiritual attainment, and may this cause the precious, essential teachings of the definitive secret to remain long and flourish.
Jigme Lingpa, Patrul Rinpoche, and Getse Mahapandita. Deity, Mantra, and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra. Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2006.
Shechen Gyaltsap IV and Rinchen Dargye. A Practice of Padmasambhava: Essential Instructions on the Path to Awakening. Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2011.
Kunsang, Erik Perna, and Marcia Binder Schmidt. Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2005.
Padmasambhava. Advice from the Lotus-Born: A Collection of Padmasambhava‘s Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and Other Close Disciples. Translated by Erik Hein Schmidt. Kathmandu, Nepal: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1996.
Or visit us online to sign up at shambhala.com/eshambhala.