The Form, Mantra, and Ritual of Avalokiteshvara
by Kalu Rinpoche
Written by Kalu Rinpoche for Densal.
Translated by Chöchi Nyima.
Densal Vol. 3 No. 4.
Through the refinement of spiritual discipline in developing the two accumulations (Merit and deepening awareness) over many incalculably long kalpas, the far shore of ocean-like Enlightenment and Buddha activity is reached. This is complete Buddhahood, the epitome of the four kayas and the five aspects of panoramic awareness, involving the actualization of Dharmakaya for one’s own benefit, and for the benefit of others, unremitting activity through the two Form kayas for the welfare of transmigrating creatures. The exalted Avalokiteshvara is the emanation or natural embodiment of non-referential Compassion for limitless numbers of Sentient beings in the ten directions: this is the supreme Compassion in the minds of
innumerable Buddhas abiding in pure realms in the ten directions.
The eleven faces indicate that Avalokiteshvara is of the same unique intention as the Buddhas in having attained the absolute level of the eleventh Bhumi, which is called “Total Illumination.”
From the one thousand arms of the Form emanate one thousand Chakravartin monarchs, who establish sentient beings in higher states of existence and Liberation through spiritual concepts such as the ten kinds of virtuous activity and The Six Paramitas, and secular concepts such as the sixteen points of good citizenship, and so forth.
From the one thousand eyes emanate the one thousand Buddhas of this fortunate kalpa, who have separated from what is negative and fully matured what is positive, and so epitomize myriad qualities: the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks of perfection of Form; the sixty melodious aspects of speech; and the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, the eighteen distinctive qualities, the twenty-one categories of inexhaustibility, and the other aspects of Enlightened Mind.
Through these unimaginable, secret faculties of Form, speech, and Mind, Sentient beings are disciplined in whatever way necessary. The Buddhas assume divine forms symbolic and indicative, thereby involving the subjects of their discipline. These subjects have supe- rior, inferior, or mediocre sensibilities in the quest for Buddhahood through the gradual stages of the Ten bhumis and the Five Paths. This quest is accomplished by means of the path of The Six Paramitas, the four methods of influencing others positively, the thirty-seven ele- ments conducive to Enlightenment, and others of the eighty-four thousand collections of Dharma.
Avalokiteshvara takes various forms: the one-thousand-armed and one-thousand-eyed Form, Namkha Gyalpo (King of Space), Khasarpani, Dorje Rabjam, Donyo Zhakpa (Amoghapasha), Gyalwa Gyamtso (Jinasagara, the red Form in union with feminine consort), Pema Tsuktor (Lotus-crowned), Yizhin Khorlo (Wish-fulfilling Wheel), Khorwa Dongtruk (Stirrer of the Pit of Existence), the four- armed Guide of Transmigrating Creatures, and so forth.
To hear the names and dharanis of this unimaginable array, or even think of these forms, will pacify the eight or sixteen kinds of fear due to ill- ness, demons, legal punishment, and so forth. Ultimately, this will pacify all the sufferings of the cycle of Rebirth and lower states of existence, and bring about the attainment of the goal of enlighten- ment through the gradual traversal of the levels and paths. In par- ticular, the Fasting ritual (nyungne) has spread widely throughout all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. It is based on the Mandala of the one-thousand-armed, one-thousand-eyed Form, which pertains to the Lotus family of the kriyatantra and derives its lineage from Gelongma Palmo.
Its store of Blessing is great, due to progressive transmission by only those siddhas who were blessed by an actual meeting with Supreme Compassion (Avalokiteshvara).
The benefits and virtues of such practice need hardly be men- tioned to those familiar with the key elements of the phases of creation and fulfillment in tantric Meditation. If one session of this two- day ritual is faithfully and devotedly performed in its phases of prepa- ration, actual practice, and conclusion, it is said that one will be reborn as a God in the realm of the four guardian kings (the lowest level of desire-realm gods). If two sessions are performed, one will be reborn in the next highest God realm of the Thirty-three, and so on progressively. If eight perfect sessions are performed consecutively, it is said one will attain existence in Sukhavati (the pure realm of Amitabha Buddha) immediately upon departing from this Life. It is the promise of the Exalted One (Avalokiteshvara) that the person who performs this ritual once will not fall into lower states of exis- tence.
It is further stated that through the pure performance of the ceremony of this Fasting ritual, one is liberated from lower states of existence. Due to the increasing strength of positive forces, rainfall is regulated and crop harvests are always excellent. Negative and malevolent forces are pacified; fears of frost and hail are soothed. Negative tendencies of Body, speech, and Mind are purified, and cyclic existence is shortened by forty thousand kalpas. Even the neg- ative Karma of committing the four basic downfalls and the five actions entailing immediate retribution upon Death is cleansed and purified.
Since they were uttered by eleven million Buddhas, the long and short dharanis of Avalokiteshvara have great benefit and Virtue: to read or use them is to be taken into the care of the sugatas (bud- dhas).
At all times, illnesses are cured; one is freed from the threats of enemies and favored by rulers. One is immune to pestilence and Weapons, untimely Death due to poison, and so forth. The fear and horror of the after-Death experience is pacified, and one will attain existence in the pure realm of Sukhavati, meeting face to face with the sugatas. It is stated that the negative actions of the four basic downfalls (taking Life, stealing, lying, and sexual misconduct) and the five acts entailing immediate retribution upon Death (killing one’s father or mother or Guru, inflicting harm on an Enlightened being, or causing schisms in The Sangha) will be cleansed by these mantras. All who see, hear, think of, or touch the Dharani of Lotus- crowned (Padmoshnisha) will cleanse even the karmic obscurations that cause Rebirth in the lowest Hell (such as the above five acts entailing immediate retribution upon Death). These beings will never fall into lower states of existence, but achieve the status of Chakravartin monarchs for one hundred thousand kalpas.
If one recites these mantras with concern for one’s Destiny after Death, one will attain existence in Sukhavati or Ngönga (the eastern pure realm of Akshobhya Buddha). If sand on which the mantras have been recited is cast on a corpse or skeleton, this will effect Liberation even though the deceased may be already born in a lower state of exis- tence. Innumerable benefits and virtues such as these are described.
The benefits and virtues of the six-syllable Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum are myriad. Though the Transcendent Accomplished Conqueror (Buddha) could with psychic Power enumerate the num- ber of raindrops falling in a twelve-year period, the benefits and virtues of one repetition of the six-syllable Mantra could not be enu- merated. Though the drops of water in the rivers and oceans of the Universe could be individually enumerated, the benefits and virtues of one repetition of the six-syllable Mantra could not be described.
Though the atoms of the base of the Universe and the central moun- tain could be individually enumerated, the benefits and virtues of one repetition of the six-syllable Mantra could not be enumerated. If one recites and utters this six-syllable Mantra of awareness, all fears of illness and Suffering, legal punishment, untimely Death, and so forth are pacified. The length of one’s Life is extended and Merit increased; Wealth and possessions are abundant. Even at Death, the door is closed to the taking of a lower state of Rebirth among the six kinds of transmigrating beings. One will be born in contact with the Dharma in a human or godly existence with freedom and opportu- nity for spiritual development. Should even the breeze touching someone reciting the Mantra touch another sentient being, that other being will eventually attain Enlightenment.
Any future exis- tence will incorporate a Noble Form, pleasing speech, and Noble ancestry, and will include such qualities as: the experience of states of Meditative absorption, longevity, and successful activity to bene- fit other creatures; an abundance of followers, Wealth, and Wisdom; the realization of all goals to which one aspires; and becoming a child of the Victorious Ones through one’s worship of the sugatas.
If the Mantra is spoken within hearing of a dying person, or recited over a corpse or skeleton, immediately the Consciousness of that being will be liberated from a lower state of existence, reborn in a higher one, and will attain Enlightenment. In such ways, the ben- efits and virtues of reciting the Mantra are said to be incalculable.
Moreover, the upavasa ordination of the eight precepts taken with the Mahayana motivation towards supreme Enlightenment is of extremely great benefit.
These eight are:
Having given up the taking of Life, one will not be reborn in Hell
states and in all existences will enjoy Noble ancestry, longevity, and strength.
Having given up stealing, one will not be reborn in hungry Ghost states and in all existences will enjoy riches and increasing opportunity, and be free from enemies and poverty.
Having given up sexual indulgence, one will not be reborn an animal or in stupid and shameless states and in all existences will
enjoy excellence of Form and Morality.
Having given up lying, one will not be born in environments with extremes of temperature or unpredictable circumstances, and in
all existences will enjoy enabling speech and the affection and Interest of all.
Having given up taking Intoxicants, one will not be born in states of helplessness or Insanity, and will enjoy sharp intellect and vast Wisdom, straightforwardness, and the acclaim of all.
Having given up Food at inappropriate times, one will not be born in a lower state of existence, and obscurations due to unskillful activity associated with eating will be purified. One will not be born in environments where Food and drink are difficult to obtain, and in all births will enjoy moderation in eating and an abundance of Food
Since one has little pride or arrogance and does not take high thrones or seats, one will enjoy the Interest of all and the diminishing of the strength of the emotions. One will be born with great and Noble ancestry, in places where one is honored by everyone.
Having given up ornamentation as a sign of seductive intent or frivolity, one will be born in a godly state with abundant sensualenjoyment.
Having given up all manner of song, dance, and music as dissipating and distracting, one will not hear disagreeable sounds or voices, but will hear the Sound of the holy Dharma. One will enjoy Noble Form and agreeable speech and gain Mastery over the vast melodic qualities of an Enlightened being’s speech.
In such ways, one’s qualities become incalculable. Should such precepts as these eight be kept for even one twenty-four hour period, all negative tendencies previously reinforced are purified and attenuated, all positive ones are developed further and further.
Whatever aspirations are made are realized; one will experience the state of Sukhavati, and so forth. These incalculable benefits and virtues were stated by The Buddha.
This Fasting ritual (nyungne) consolidates all such extremely marvelous elements into one format. The ordination of the eight upavasa precepts of the Mahayana forms its basis.
The ritual is a kriy- atantra rite of the Lotus family, focusing on the one-thousand-armed, one-thousand-eyed Form of Avalokiteshvara according to the system of the nun Palmo: it also involves the stages of recitation of Mantra and Dharani. Performing this ritual on auspicious occasions has an incalculably greater effect. During the fourth lunar month of Vaishaka (May-June) comes a triply-auspicious occasion commemo- rating the birth, Enlightenment, and Parinirvana of the Bhagavan (Shakyamuni Buddha). Further, there are particularly auspicious dates commemorating occasions when gurus of the lineage of this Fasting ritual had visions of, and received Blessings from, Avalokiteshvara. This is an explanation of the Form, Mantra, and rit- ual of Avalokiteshvara.