Teaching Sessions on Lineage Practices II ---【The Four Foundations: Special Preliminaries】

Teaching Sessions on Lineage Practices II ---【The Four Foundations: Special Preliminaries】

Guru: His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Sponsor:Taiwan Hwayue Foundation
Date: 2006/12/23~2006/12/26
Place: Tergar Manastery, Bodh Gaya, India
English Translation: Ringu Tulku Rinpoche


First of all, I would like to wish the all the Rinpoches, masters and everyone gathered here good morning. Today I will begin a short teaching on the Mahamudra ngondro practice. These teachings are primarily for people from the East. They requested it. Since it is for them, it is possible that I might speak in Chinese sometimes. 

But there are also others who have come here, Tibetans as well as Westerners. I am very happy that you have come here. We are very happy to see you. We will try our best to make translations into your languages available for you, too. But sometimes I might speak in Chinese, which you might not understand, but that is because this teaching is mainly for the Chinese. This is something you should understand.

All of you might have received this yellow book. The main thing regarding this book is that because there are only four days to give the teachings, because there is not enough time, the usual ngondro teachings and practice cannot be completed. Since I need to finish, I wrote this short ngondro text. On the one hand, the reason for doing this is because it was necessary for this particular teaching.

On the other hand, those you who live in foreign countries are so busy that it is very difficult for you to practice the long ngondro. Therefore I think it is okay for you to do this short Ngondro. But Tibetans who want to do ngondro practice, even if they have received the transmission, do not have permission to do the practice of this particular Ngondro text. This is because Tibetans like short cuts and easy ways, so when they see this short practice you might forget the long ngondro and then make it shorter and shorter. So therefore for Tibetans, even if you received the transmission for this short Ngondro, you do not have permission to do this practice. If you want to practice this, you must ask for special permission. 

Today is the first day, so I will talk about refuge and bodhichitta. Here in your books it says, “Once individuals have purified their mindstreams with the common preliminary practices, they should request empowerment and instruction well from a qualified guru, and then train in the recitation meditation of Mahamudra’s extraordinary preliminary practices as follows.”

There are many different kinds of beings. Some types can practice Mahamudra directly right from the beginning. There are people like that. That is talking in terms of specific, individual persons. But as a general rule, whatever level a person might be on, high or low, everybody has to start with the general four common practices of the Kagyu before doing the extraordinary ngondro practices.

If you don’t train in the common ngondro and arrive a certain type of experience, then there is no use going further into the extraordinary practices. Otherwise it is not useful.

In earlier times, according to the tradition of the Kadampa that comes from Atisha Dipankara, an individual would practice one practice, such as impermanence, until they had completely experienced it, even for their entire lives. If that individual could not come to this experience in their whole life, then at the time of their deaths, they would pray that they might able to continue this practice in their next life. They would make this kind of aspiration.

First you would practice one ngondro practice until that practice became really experiential. Only when you had completed that practice would you begin the second practice. There is that way of practicing, but here according to this system of Mahamudra, in this context you meditate on and train in precious human life. But even if you do not gain the total experience of the precious human life, you can practice impermanence, and through that you can actually come to experience the precious human life. 

There are many different types of people. So therefore you do not have to force yourself to completely accomplish the first practice. Rather you can practice whichever of these four foundations is easier for you, and when you become more habituated with that, then generally you will become habituated or acquainted with the other foundation practices. So therefore you do not necessarily have to go through the meditations on precious human life, impermanence, etc., in order. You practice the one that is most familiar and easy to you first. Then the other common preliminaries will come naturally. If you can do that, that is enough.

Following that, “they should request empowerment and instruction from an authentic guru.” As I explained yesterday, this uncommon Ngondro practice is a Vajrayana practice, a secret mantra practice, and a secret mantra practice is not just receiving teachings, reflecting and then meditating. You have to receive a blessing of the Lama, and unless that happens, experience cannot come.

So therefore when you say that you received the blessings, it’s not just saying that you’ve received blessings from this or that Lama. It’s not like that. It doesn’t happen without proper teachings or the tradition. First you have to receive an empowerment from an authentic lama. As we discussed earlier, if you have received Chakrasamvara or Vajrayogini or some similar empowerment, it is not just a matter of looking at the text and seeing if you understand it. That is not enough.

There are many instructions which are not written in the text but come from the lama’s experience. So therefore we have to receive these teachings and empowerment directly from that authentic lama.

First I will read a bit from the text on refuge and bodhichitta. “First, so that everything you do will accord with the dharma, go for refuge and give rise to bodhichitta in two ways: during meditation sessions and in between meditations sessions. During meditation sessions, leave worldly concerns and other activities aside, sit in a proper meditation posture on a comfortable seat…”

First I will say something about the teachings for meditation sessions. First I would like to say a brief word about “leaving worldly concerns and other activities aside.” These days I’m very busy because of preparations for the Monlam. Therefore I have a lot of responsibilities to think about, which gives me headaches. Sometimes when I have to give an empowerment or some teachings, I have to look inwards and collect myself. But when I reflect, there are so many things to do and so many disturbances, and too many things come up in my mind—lots of thoughts. My mind gets very agitated, so concentration and peaceful stability of mind do not come naturally or easily.

You also have to work in your homelands. You have to work all day long, to think all day long, and this gives you headaches. In such situation or between your responsibilities, you might want to practice the dharma, but it seems difficult. It is very difficult to have very good or authentic practice. That is what I feel.

For that reason, when you practice, you shouldn’t directly begin the practice as soon as you sit down. First you should just relax—let the body and mind relax. This has nothing to do with dharma. Just relax. Relax. 

Once you have relaxed a bit, only then should you begin to practice. Do not necessarily practice for too long, but do a short practice. If do that, you will be able to concentrate and your mind will settle. Your mental stability will become stronger. I think maybe you should just sing a song or listen to a nice song. Then when your mind becomes a little bit settled and relaxed, then you can meditate, and that will be good. 

Next it says you should sit on a comfortable seat. You should get your own seat. Some people talk about special seats, but maybe not everyone will be able to get such a seat. So you will need to find your own comfortable seat yourselves.

After that it says to maintain good posture. This is important. When you start to practice, you can practice first with the mind, or another way is to first work on the body and then work on the mind indirectly from there. First for beginners it is easier to work on your body, and from there work on your mind. So therefore you should have good bodily posture. 

We will start from the bottom and work upwards. First are the legs. It is best to sit in the vajra (full lotus) posture with your legs crossed like this, but that is very difficult. You don’t necessarily have to do in just like this. You can sit with one leg on the other—maybe with your right foot on your left thigh. That is called the half vajra posture. Sitting in half vajra is okay. Another possibility is do not to place either foot on top of the other, just sit with your two feet crossed as usual. That is also okay. I won’t say too much because then it will get too easy, so let us finish it here. 

Then there is the posture for the hands. The mudra of equipoise. The right hand is on top. The left hand is below. The two thumbs touch slightly. 

What’s after that? The main thing is our back. If our back is too hunched, then dullness, which is a fault in shamatha, will arise. If it is too straight or bent backwards, then the wind will rise into the upper part of your body. That is also a problem. Therefore you should not be hunched too far forward or bent too far backwards. You should sit up quite straight.

Bend your neck slightly. Don’t extend it too much, either. If our necks are bent too far forward, it is difficult to breathe. You should be just barely able to see the lines on your neck.

Let your two shoulders be natural. Your armpits should be slightly open. It is said that if you close them, the armpits are a secret place for dullness, so if there is space to let air under your armpits, that helps to prevent dullness.

As for your eyes and nose, let them be natural. Do not look too far away, but not too near either, because that is also uncomfortable. Look straight naturally in front of you, in the space in front of you.

There are lots of points about posture but briefly these are more or less the main things. You can also look them up in books and understand it from them also. It’s not necessary for me to tell you everything.

Now we’ve come to the actual field of refuge:

“Before me in the sky is Guru Vajradhara,
Surrounded by the gurus of the lineage of meaning and blessings
And the gurus with whom I have faith and dharmic connections.
In the front are the yidams, to the right are the buddhas.
Behind is the sacred dharma; to the left, the sangha.
All are surrounded by ocean-like retinues of their own kind.
My mothers, sentient beings, and I stand before
The eyes of all the sources of refuge.
One-pointedly we go for refuge and arouse bodhichitta.”

First of all, “Before me in the sky” means that you don’t have look up into the sky or you don’t have to look down on the ground. It’s more or less straight in front of the spot between your eyebrows, not to the right or left. That is the level you look at in terms of up or down: straight ahead. In terms of how far away it is, the field of refuge should be far enough from you that when you stand up to do your prostrations, your shadow does not fall on it. That is how far away it is. It is neither too far nor too close—not so near so that your shadow falls on it. That’s how far away you visualize the field of refuge. 

In its center is a jeweled throne supported by lions. You have to visualize this jeweled throne supported by the lions. It is okay to visualize as many lions as you want. Some people visualize four lions. Visualizing four lions represents the four fearlessnesses. Some people visualize eight lions, which is symbolic of the eight qualities of power.

In any case, these lions are not like paintings but are three-dimensional. They are very lively. They’re alive, living and breathing. Their eyes are reddish, their claws very sharp. They have turquoise manes or whatever—they can be turquoise or not. So they have manes and tails, and in Tibetan we say they are chilewa. This means they have a live expressions. They should be glorious. The thing is they are very lively and glorious. 
You can visualize the type of lions that we can actually see, or you can visualize Tibetan lions. No one has ever seen a Tibetan lion, but there are drawings of them. You can visualize whichever, both are fine. In any case, they represent the four fearlessnesses or the eight qualities of power. You should visualize the lions who represent this. If I talk too much about lions, I’ll turn into a lion myself and roar like a lion.

Now, don’t visualize the throne as being to small. If it is too small then you will feel it is will not hold everyone. All the lamas and deities will not be able to sit on it. Therefore it should not be too small. Also, if it is too high and too big, you won’t be able to see all of it. If it is too big, you won’t be able to get your mind around it. There’s a danger of that happening. So the way it should be is that when you look, you should be able to see it all in front of yourself. But when you look at it deeply, it is immeasurably vast.

It is like looking at the stupa in Bodhgaya from far away. It almost looks like something you can hold in your hands. But when you actually go there, it’s huge. So this is like that. When you look at it, you can see it all, but actually it is immeasurable—very huge. 

Also to signify or to symbolize the two accumulations—the accumulation of virtue and the accumulation of wisdom—this throne has to be very finely decorated with all sorts of jewels and precious stones. You can imagine this for yourselves, but that is the sort of square, jewelled throne you should visualize. On top of that throne in its center, there is another, smaller throne, which is also supported by eight or four lions. On top of that is a lotus flower, which represents not being defiled by the defilements of samsara. And then to represent skilful means and wisdom, relative and ultimate bodhichitta, there are sun and moon seats. On top of the sun and moon seats is Vajradhara, your root guru whom you primarily meditate on. 

How do we visualize guru Vajradhara? Who do we visualize? In the Gelugpa system, for example, they talk about Offerings to the Gurus, which are very important. In these, they visualize that the main central figure of the field of refuge has four qualities. The lama is your kind root guru, and they are also Lobsang Drakpa (Tsongkhapa). They are also the Buddha Sakyamuni and Vajradhara, the teacher of the Vajrayana. So they say you should visualize this lama who has one essence and four aspects. 

The way I think, in Kagyu practice, we consider that our own root gurus are the most important. You visualize your own root guru in the field of refuge as Vajradhara. Generally that’s okay—there’s nothing wrong with that. If you visualize your root guru, it is said that there are many benefits. Blessings come easily and swiftly. But this is in terms of each individual’s own particular practice. If we look from the general point of view of the Karma Kagyu school or lineage, if you look from the Karma Kagyu general teaching and the Buddha’s general teaching point of view, then maybe a few more aspects should be added.

In my opinion, if you look at the Karma Kamtsang very deeply, the Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa and all the other Karmapas represent the Karma Kamtsang teachings. The Karmapa becomes the most important. He is the main holder and the main source of the teachings of the Karma Kagyu. If the followers who practice this lineage are like a country, then he’s the father of the country. He’s the father of the Karma Kamtsang. So therefore whatever practice we do, it’s important to remember that. If we don’t remember that, then when we look at the Kamtsang teachings, the teachings become less powerful and the harmony might decrease. That wouldn’t be so good.

This is because some students, like some Chinese students, think, “This is my teacher,” and then only directly relate to their own teacher and no one else, as if there were nobody else. Don’t do that. Vajradhara should be your own kind teacher and because this is from the Kamtsang tradition, he is the Karmapa, too. He should also be the Buddha Shakyamuni because the Buddha Shakyamuni is the source of the Buddhadharma. So if you don’t consider him important, then you are not even a Buddhist. Therefore he is the master of Buddhism, Shakyamuni. Then he is the teacher of mantra, Vajradhara. The teacher or master of vajrayana is Vajradhara. So therefore he should also be viewed as Vajradhara. If you can look at this Vajradhara from all four points of view, then whether you look from the Buddhist point of view, the Vajrayana point of view, the Karma Kamtsang point of view, or the point of view of your own particular practice, then it will be good, I think. This is not that I have the name of the Karmapa, so I am trying to inflate the Karmapa’s name. That’s not the point. This is what I think. 

To his right and left, and in front of and behind him are the lamas of the lineage of the meaning of realization and the lineage of blessings of practice. Even if you haven’t come to any particular realization, there is the lineage of practice. There are the lamas with whom you have dharmic connections. Even if you don’t have a dharma connection with them, there are lamas you are connected to through faith and devotion. You should visualize them in this way.

In the front are the yidams—the yidam deities for whom you have devotion or feel a connection. But from the point of view of this lineage, we visualize the yidam Vajrayogini. On the right are the buddhas: the Buddha Shakyamuni and all the other Buddhas. Behind is the dharma. The dharma is both dharma scriptures and realization. These are the truths of cessation and path, but in any case visualize that they take the form of books and volumes. On the left of Vajradhara is the sangha—the bodhisattvas and also buddhas. Sometimes many buddhas appear in the form of the Buddha’s followers in the sangha. All this is the source of refuge. 

The spot where all these sources of refuge are looking is before them. They are looking in front of themselves, slightly down but not too far below. They are looking at all sentient beings, together with ourselves, who are the main people.

All these sentient beings come in many different types—humans, animals, devas etc. There are two ways of visualizing them. One way is to visualize that all these sentient beings are in the particular forms of whichever realm they are from—they are in their own forms. Another way to visualize is that all these sentient beings at this moment are in the form of human beings. Whichever you want is okay. If you visualize them as beings in the own form of their realms with their own kind of sufferings or whatever, then it is easier to experience a strong feeling for them. If they take the form of human beings, then it is also good karma and creates a good interconnection by which they will be born as human beings. So there is no particular difference between these two. 

And you see yourself in the middle of all these sentient beings. Sometimes you visualize your enemies in front of you, your father and mother on your right and left, and then all others around you. Whether you visualize it like that or not, the main thing is you are in the middle of all this. You are in the middle, but it’s not like being in the middle of a big crowd. It’s as if you are on top of a big mountain where you can see all around. When you look around you, before your eyes where you can see them are gathered all sentient beings. Otherwise when you do your prostrations you don’t remember or can’t see whether the people around or behind you are doing prostrations or not. You are in the middle, but when you look around, you can see everybody around you, all sentient beings. That’s how you should visualize. When you are practicing, if you can see them, it is easier to conceive.

Another problem is if you do the practice in a small room, all these beings can’t fit inside your tiny room. It is difficult. In a big hall like this, you feel like many people can fit, but if you practice ngondro in a very small room and look to the right and left, then all these people cannot fit in such a small room. You might feel something like that.

That is because we usually use our five sense organs too much and think that if we are thinking of something in our minds, it must be outside somewhere. But really what we think of does not really have to be out there. When you practice and first think that everyone is around you, and it seems good, so then you look around and think whether they’ll fit, we think they probably won’t all fit. When we look with our eyes and use our five senses, it’s as if it has to go from here to here. The five senses have limits, and so we think things must go from one limit to another. Because there is this limit, when we think of something in our minds, it’s as if it has to have a limit, like our five senses. That is not easy. So you don’t have to look at the walls or doorposts or such things. You don’t need to do that. If you do that, it will get worse. Let your mind relax. It’s like in a dream where a lot of things can fit even in a small room. It should be something like that. Don’t make your five sense organs the main thing, but let your mind be the main way you concentrate. If you do that, your concentration will become better. 

This is probably enough for today. Now it is 12 o’clock, isn’t it? Tomorrow we will see each other again. Tomorrow’s refuge, isn’t it? Tomorrow we will talk more about it and do the refuge ceremony. But yesterday when we did the empowerment, we said, “Refuge, refuge,” and “Fa shi, fa shi,” so there is not much more to say.



I’d like to give my greetings to the respected Rinpoches, masters, members of the sangha, and everyone else assembled here. 

First, today I will talk about going for refuge. Should I speak in Tibetan or in Chinese? In any case, we have translation into several languages, so it should be OK. Because there’s not too much time, I will speak Chinese as much as I can. Sometimes I’ll also speak in Tibetan, and you may be able to listen the English translation on your FM radios. If everything works, that’s great. If not, there’s nothing to be done, otherwise we won’t finish.

The first thing to talk about is going for refuge. When we say “going for refuge,” there are two words: refuge and going. The first, refuge, is the unmistaken support. The support that is not mistaken. That’s what it means.

Going means that when we ourselves are faced by whatever different fears or dangers, then we need to look for someone who can give us protection, and when we find them, we need to follow them and ask them for protection. 

If I speak both Tibetan and Chinese, it’s very difficult. What should we do? Is this mike working right? 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Now continuing from yesterday, 

“One-pointedly we go for refuge and arouse bodhichitta.
All sentient beings and I go for refuge to the buddhas.
We go for refuge to the yidams.
We go for refuge to the buddhas.
We go for refuge to the dharma.
We go for refuge to the sangha.
Go for refuge in the five jewels as many times as possible. Maintaining this same visualization, give rise to bodhichitta:”

When you say this prayer at this time, there are 5 refuges. When we talk about the Dharmapalas or Dharma protectors, the wisdom Dharma protectors, then there are the six jewels. But in this instance, the source on which I have based this practice presents only five refuges. There are not six. Therefore I will follow this example, and there are only five jewels. The wisdom protectors are not specifically in the field of refuge. Why aren’t they there? From one perspective, ultimately it is appropriate for us to take refuge in the wisdom dharma protectors. However, in terms of how they appear or show themselves, the wisdom dharma protectors are beings that great lamas can command or who protect yogis, but do not appear as a source of refuge. So therefore according to some lamas, these protectors are not a source of refuge when they take the form of protectors. That’s the reason why they are not specifically here. That’s how it is.

Now I should speak some Chinese. [His Holiness speaks Chinese.]

They aren’t included in the field of refuge, but that doesn’t mean that they do not appear as protectors around the field. It is not that they cannot be visualized around the field of refuge; it’s not like that.

Perhaps I should talk about refuge. Some of you would like to take refuge, and if we talk about it, it makes a good connection, so I will talk a little bit about refuge. So I will say something about refuge. When we talk about refuge, we have to talk about the causes of refuge. Refuge has two causes: fear and faith. 

When somebody is fearful, afraid of suffering such as all-pervasive suffering and the others, then they wants to find refuge. When we know and understand that the three jewels have the qualities and ability to protect us from what we fear, then we naturally want to take refuge in them. For that reason, these two are absolutely necessary in order to seek or go for refuge. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

What is fear? It is the problem, that which inspires us to seek refuge. It is something that instigates us to seek refuge. But the real cause or the source of refuge is faith. I think we should wonder whether going for refuge out of fear is authentic refuge. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

To talk about the sources of refuge, there are three: the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha. When we go for refuge to the Buddha, we think of him as the teacher, the one who shows the path. We go for refuge to the buddha thinking of him as the teacher who shows the path. When we go for refuge to the Dharma, it’s the way, the method to free ourselves from dangers and problems. Likewise, we think of the sangha as our companions on the path when we go for refuge to it. 

But even if we go for refuge to the Buddha, if we do not see the dharma as what can actually free us from suffering and practice it, we will not attain liberation. 

Likewise, even if we see the importance of the dharma and start to practice, if we don’t have the sangha, the spiritual friend; if we don’t have the support of the sangha and our dharma friends—the authentic dharma friends being the spiritual friend or teacher—then our minds will be confused from the beginning of the path, we will not be able to understand what we should take up and what we should abandon. Therefore we definitely have to have all three sources of refuge. All three must be present. It is very important that all three be present when we take refuge.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese. Short conversation with Khenpo Tengye. Speaks Chinese]

What should I say next?

What are the benefits of going for refuge? When we go for refuge, what is the benefit? We need to speak about both the benefits and the disadvantages. When you go for refuge what the benefits are, the benefits of refuge…

Can you hear the English all right? Is it OK? Anyone who wants to answer, please do. English is work? No? I don’t know. OK.

What the benefits are is… There are a whole lot of benefits. Among them, the most important, the one that is most beneficial for us ordinary individuals, is that after we have gone for refuge, if we turn our attention to the three jewels… Can you hear? If you do an action with the Three Jewels as an object, even if we don’t have the right kind of positive aspiration, even then because of the power of the object, because the object is very powerful, those actions with the three jewels as their object can become a cause that results in enlightenment or Buddhahood. 

This is important, isn’t it? Sometimes we think we should have a positive aspiration or intention, but it can be difficult, can’t it? So therefore even if there is something where we don’t have to do it ourselves but the object is powerful, our strength of mind increases, doesn’t it? That’s a great benefit, I think. That’s the benefit of refuge.

After this, wouldn’t it be good for me to say something about the refuge precepts? Usually we have to talk about refuge first and then the precepts. However, maybe it is good to know what to do first, and then you will know whether it is something that is suitable for you or not. When you know that, you will be able to decide whether or not to take the refuge vow.

There are two types of precepts: the shared and specific. The first of these are the specific precepts. There are two types specific precepts: what not to do and what to do. The first is what you do not do. The first is what to refrain from, and second are the precepts on what to do. For ordinary, samsaric people, there are more things that we need to stop doing. The things we need to take up and do are fewer, so for that reason we talk about what to stop doing first. 

In terms of what we give up, the first is that having gone for refuge to the Buddha, do not go for refuge to worldly deities. Second, having gone for refuge to the dharma, do not act with violence towards other beings. Third, having gone for refuge to the sangha, do not keep negative company. That is what is said. 

First by going for refuge to the Buddha, you don’t go for refuge to worldly deities. 

First you must relax. Relax. Please relax. This is a new building, everything is new. It’s not easy. Please be patient. It’s good that gave us a moment to rest. 

First, when you go for refuge to the Buddha, you don’t go for refuge to the worldly deities. The main reason for going for refuge is that we are afraid, or we don’t want to experience all pervasive suffering, or we are afraid of being reborn in the lower realms in future lives. If we are not liberated, we need to have such fears. Otherwise, if we go for refuge to the Three Jewels out of fear for the difficulties and sufferings of this life, we are not authentically going for refuge. 

We can rely upon worldly deities for the pleasures of this life, to be able to enjoy the pleasures of this life. For other lives than this one, as they do not have control themselves, there is no point in relying upon them. When we say, “Having gone for refuge in the Buddha, do not go for refuge in worldly deities,” it is primarily just as the Buddha said: “If you cannot protect yourself, who else can protect you?” It is our own power, the power of practicing the dharma, that can protect us. That is important. It’s not like anybody else can free us. That is important. 

And also when we say you have to be afraid of suffering, I don’t know how some of you are taking that. Saying that you need to be afraid of suffering is not to say that you must feel suffering. Some think that when we say you should be afraid of suffering, some of you might think that you have to remember suffering, or that you have to create some grand suffering to remember. If you try to do that, then suffering turns into dharma. Buddhism becomes the dharma of suffering. If you only meditate on impermanence and suffering, then suffering becomes dharma. That’s not how we should understand this. When we say here you should fear suffering, it’s not that you have to feel suffering. Rather, you should learn what suffering is. You should understand suffering. It’s not that you have to experience suffering, to create suffering. 

Secondly, when we say, “Having gone for refuge to the dharma, give up harming beings,” this is talking from one perspective. This is only one part of it; the main point is that we have to give up the things that are contradictory to both the path and the cessation of suffering. We have give up the afflictions and obscurations of body, speech and mind. We need to give up bad actions of body, speech and mind, whatever they may be. “Giving up harming beings” doesn’t just mean giving up harm. 

As long as we have the three mind poisons which are the main causes of violence and harm, it is possible that we might cause harm. As this is something to be afraid of, if we do not get rid of the cause itself, it is not okay. They are like a nuclear bomb—we say that we are going to keep it without using it. But we don’t know when it will be used or when it will go off. Our own nuclear bomb is the three poisons of the afflictions that we have in ourselves. They are extremely dangerous. For that reason, we need to discard all of the poisons of our body, speech and mind. 

Third, when we say, “Having gone for refuge in the sangha, do not keep negative company,” what we mean by negative company are those people who prevent us from generating even the slightest positive actions of body, speech and mind. That’s what negative friends are. So these are people who prevent us from doing small positive things. You might think that it would mean people who make big problems, huge difficulties, but we need to pay attention to the small things. The big problems all start with small things. For that reason, we need to recognize that those people who prevent even small virtuous thoughts from arising are negative friends. 

Well, that pretty much finishes the things we need to give up. Next are the things we need to do. I’ve already explained what not to do; there is not much time to tell what to do, so I I do not have much to say about this. Do what you should do. I’ve already spoken about the things that you have to refrain from. So all of you, do what you should.

So now it’s time the refuge vow. It’s time to take the refuge vow. All of that, what I said, has been mere words. Now when you take the refuge vow, it should not just be words. It should be something alive. The words should be moist and alive. You have to feel it, to have this feeling. In order to bring this feeling out, you should combine it with what there is in your being. If you combine the refuge vow with the dharma that you already have in your being, then the feeling will come, I think.

So I should talk about this. Let’s think about it. So, where is the Buddha? Where is the Buddha to whom we go for refuge? If at first you can’t find the Buddha, it’s not possible to go for refuge. Where is the Buddha? When we look at it, maybe, as the Buddha said, the “Buddha” is somebody has extinguished all faults and possesses all the qualities. There isn’t anyone present now who has extinguished all faults and possesses all the qualities, but lamas, the spiritual friends, to whom we are connected, our teachers, are our guides. They are the ones who teach us the path. This spiritual friend becomes a representative of the Buddha, so we conceive of them as the Buddha and go for refuge. 

But this is just as a support for the Buddha. It’s not as if just having a spiritual friend will destroy our negative emotions, the mental poisons. We can’t take the spiritual friend and use them to destroy our negative emotions. What we destroy our negative emotions with is the dharma. 

The dharma is the main thing. There’s lots of things to say about dharma. I have already said the most important things about it. At this point, we all have in our beings a subtle positive mind. We do have this subtle positive mind. We must all have either some faith or some devotion or some bodhichitta. 

From the time we were children, we have had a inherent positive, wholesome intention. We need to remember that and make it into something living. We can remember that and make it manifest. Because of that, we can use that as the beginning of our dharma practice and the beginning of the all paths. The intention “I will do that” is what is important.

I said this before in Mirik, and I would like to repeat it. For instance, if I take myself as an example, I remember what it was like when I was small—maybe 4 or 5 years old. We were nomads, so we occasionally had to slaughter animals. At those times I naturally had very strong feelings like compassion or whatever you want to call it. It would awaken my heart and a strong feeling would arise. I had these very strong feelings when I was about four or five years old. Now I am in my twenties. Since that time I’ve read lots of dharma books and done some dharma practice. But since that time, I’ve never had any feelings of compassion that could be compared with strong feelings of compassion that I had when I was four or five years old.

A single innate, natural quality is better than the thousands of qualities we could create through conceptual practice. If we could remember our natural qualities, such as loving-kindness or whatever, and bring them into our dharma practice, it would be very good, I think.

Then there are the sangha, our companions on the path. There are a whole lot of you here, and many of you are dharma friends. But all of you always say, “Lama, lama,” but you don’t often think about your dharma friends, do you? Remember your dharma friends. Think about how you have connections, connections through the dharma, connections through good samaya, connections through helping each other. Thinking about all this, go for refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha.

There are some Tibetans among you who are taking refuge. They will also go for refuge. Some Tibetans might think this teaching is just for the Chinese and Westerners, it’s not for us. Then you kind of relax and stop thinking, but I’m talking in Tibetan, so I’m trying to talk to you as well. So you have to think about that as well. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese.]

Now repeat after me. [His Holiness gives the refuge vow. The translation of the vow is as follows:]

From now on, I go for refuge to the Buddha. I go for refuge to the dharma. I go for refuge to the sangha. [Repeated 3 times]

Next we will do the refuge ceremony in Chinese language. [Gives vow in Chinese]

My hope now is that those of you who have already taken the refuge vow may develop it further and further, and that those of you who had not taken it, have now received it. Of course when we say received, it’s not that there something new that you get. It’s that you’re making a kind of decision or a commitment. So that’s the power of that commitment. Those who need a new refuge name you please contact the organizers of the teachings; you can get your name by contacting them.

Finally, now that you have received the refuge vow, what is to be expected? What do I hope for from you? What do you have to do? I’ve already said what I could and there is nothing much more to say. I’ve already said what I could about the precepts. That is in general terms.

What I have to say from my personal point of view is this. I’ve given you the refuge vows, but I don’t have the particular expectation that having given you refuge, you develop good practice, and in the future become very diligent and become a Buddha with an ushnisha on your head and wheels on your feet. If it happens, that’s great, but I don’t have a particular expectation of that. If I had that expectation, then I should have one, but it hasn’t grown yet.

Primarily, in this world groups and associations are very important. Groups and associations. If we do negative things in a group, then everyone we are associating with does negative things, and that is harmful to the world. But if we do positive things together, then it is helpful to the world. 

Now many of you have gathered here and I’ve given you the refuge vows. I wish that all of you become more responsible and develop more courage to work for the benefit of this world. I hope that your courage becomes stronger and that each of you feels as if you not only intend to do something positive to benefit the world, but that you can actually do something more than just have the intention. That is the expectation with which I have given you the refuge vows.

So for your own part, develop loving-kindness and the intention to benefit other beings. Try to bring more happiness first to your own family, then to society and then to the whole world. That’s my personal expectation of you now that I’ve given you refuge. That concludes going for refuge.

We talked a little bit about bodhichitta the other day during the empowerment. The phrase “generating bodhichitta” means generating a state of mind. It’s not “generating words,” is it? So you should generate bodhichitta. Each of you, for your own part, should put some effort into developing love, compassion and bodhichitta. All people have the seed for love, compassion and bodhichitta. It’s just something we need to improve; there’s nothing new to buy. So all of you for your own part, please meditate on it. 

Next I’ll say a few things about prostrations. First I will explain them in Chinese, and then in Tibetan. So shall I speak in Chinese first? First I’ll speak in Chinese.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese.]

Now I’ll speak briefly in Tibetan. Our time’s nearly up, isn’t it? 

When we do prostrations, there are three types of prostrations: prostration with the mind, prostration with speech, and prostration with the body. When you fold your hands and bow your head down, that’s the prostrating with the body. When you recite words of homage and praise, that is prostrating with speech. When the mind remembers the positive qualities and faith arises, that’s prostrating with the mind. If you think that faith and devotion in the mind and reciting prayers are not prostration, and that moving your body alone is the prostration, there’s no problem with that. This is because the Sanskrit word for prostration is Namo. Namo can mean prostrating, and it can also mean showing respect, so there is no problem. 

There is a story about this. In 1925, there was a butcher in one part of China who, at the time of his death felt great faith in the Buddha and raised one hand to his heart out of faith. About nine months afterwards, all the members of his family members had the same dream. They all dreamt of the father of the family who had just passed away, and he said, “Tomorrow, I’ll be born as a piglet with a human hand for one of his paws in your neighborhood. Please protect me.”

The next day it actually happened. The family members pooled their money, bought the piglet, and offered it to a monastery to save its life. This is possible because it was the effect of showing respect with just one hand. And if that’s the benefit of showing respect with one hand, you can hope for great benefits from doing it with two hands, right?

The actual meaning of prostrations is really excellent. In terms of the sutras, the best way to accumulate virtue is the seven branch practice. Prostrations fulfills be all seven branches.

Showing respect with our body, speech and mind is prostrating. The aspect that pleases all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas is offering. We talk about the four powers, right? Among these is the power of support, and relying on the power of support to purify our misdeeds, obscurations and downfalls is confession. The joy we feel from making offerings and purifying our misdeeds is rejoicing. Because of that, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are pleased, and therefore they give turn the wheel of Dharma and remain without passing into nirvana. This aspect of them staying and teaching the dharma is the branches of asking them to turn the wheel of dharma and not to pass into nirvana. Then dedicating all these roots of virtue towards the attainment of buddhahood is dedication. 

Next is the way we prostrate. I’ll talk first about how we join our hands. Your fingertips should touch. But leave an empty space in between your hands. Then stick your thumbs inside there. The shape that makes is like the shape of a flower bud that has not yet blossomed, right? In the morning, the Indian children sell flowers, right? So look closely at those. To explain this, the empty space between your palms represents the Dharmakaya. The shape of the two hands represents the form kaya. The right and left hands represent the skillful means and wisdom. When we are doing positive things, that’s what they represents. When we do negative things, they can represent the maras and obstacles. In this context, they represent skilful means and wisdom. Joining these two together, it creates the conditions that through the union of wisdom and means, those who haven’t begun the path begin. Those who’ve begun it, remain on it and develop it further and further. 

First you place your joined hands at your forehead, and then you put them at the level of your throat, and then you put your folded hands at the level of your heart. Putting them there shows that you remember the Buddha’s qualities of body, speech and mind and that his body, speech and mind have been purified. This becomes a cause for purifying obscurations. 

In the future when you are doing the refuge practice, you will do prostrations, right? When prostrating, you can do either a full prostration or also do a half prostration, which is to touch the five points of your body to the ground. There are many types of prostrations. Full prostration are primarily from the tantras. The half prostration, with the five points on the ground, is sometimes called the five-point mandala. This is the general Buddhist prostration. Whatever prostration you do is fine. If you do full prostrations, that’s fine. If you do half prostrations, that’s fine. If your knees aren’t very good, you can kneel on the ground, touch your joined palms to the three places and bow down. That should be OK. You don’t have to stand up but can remain kneeling. 

In any case, that’s how you prostrate. Now normally when you do prostrations, you have to do 100,000. But some foreigners complain about prostrations—my back hurts, my knees hurt, they say a lot. If you can do 100,000 prostrations, that’s really good, but you don’t have to. If you can do one hundred thousand, that is great, but if it becomes really annoying and difficult, if it disturbs your mind, then it stops being dharma practice. So maybe when you practice this particular ngondro that I have composed, you do not absolutely have to do one hundred thousand. But maybe we can set a minimum, such as one thousand or ten thousand or fifty thousand or something like that. This is only applies to my ngondro text. I’m not talking about other texts; this has nothing to do with them. If you can do one hundred thousand, then you could do not just that but two hundred thousand. If instead of doing one hundred thousand you do two hundred thousand, that would be most welcome.

The most important thing about prostrating, what we need from doing prostrations, is that we show respect through the appearance of our body and speech, the signs of our body and speech. It should show pure conduct with our body, speech and mind. If that happens, it is a prostration. If it does not, it’s not a prostration. If a student can prostrate in a way that shows this, the number is unimportant—they will gather the accumulations. The main purpose will be filled. One Tibetan lama once said that you can tell how much faith somebody has by the way they prostrate. Sometimes when you see Tibetans prostrating, it’s really scary. It’s like, vroom! It seems really scary. Prostrations must show faith and purity.

That is how it is. Thank you.



Yesterday we talked about what to do during the sessions of refuge and bodhichitta practice. I will tell Mingyur Rinpoche the gist of the practice between sessions and he can explain it to you. There’s not very much time, so explaining it will be Mingyur Rinpoche’s job. 

Now it is time to talk about Vajrasattva practice and mandala offering practice. When we talk about purifying negative actions, we talk about four powers. The powers of support, regret, the antidote and resolve are taught to be the four powers. The easiest of these is probably the power of support, I think. 

[His Holiness speaks in Chinese.]

The reason why the power of support is the simplest is because the power of support is to rely on the Three Jewels. We rely on the field of merit. Although our intentions and conduct may not be completely pure, the power of the support is very helpful. For instance, when we confess our negative deeds, our confession may not be completely perfect or authentic, but if we rely on the support of the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, the wisdom of the support makes it easier to get rid of our negative karma. Maybe it’s like that.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

And regarding the purification of negative deeds, many people think that when we talk about purifying negative deeds, we must think, “I killed an insect, so I must confess that.” Or maybe, “I killed a tiger; I’ve got to confess that.” Or else they think, “I killed a person, so therefore I have to confess that negative deed.” They think in that way. That’s very good. 

But what is even more important than that, is that if we first make a commitment or a hope, a vast commitment or hope, and then later do something bad that contradicts that, it is much more problematic—that’s much more harmful. In general it is bad to kill a person or other being, and confessing that is good, but if you first make a big commitment or hope in your mind and later do something that goes against your own hope or commitment, that is a greater harm; it is worse. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Therefore, for example, if you kill an insect—for instance, if someone sees a bug and says, “I’m going to kill that bug,” and then steps on it or squashes it with their hand, they feel no immediate harm or some negative effect. There is no immediate negative result. Suffering will come, but it doesn’t come immediately. In general, it is wrong, but there’s no immediate great harm. 

This is because when you kill an insect, it just happens kind of spontaneously. It’s not something that you prepared beforehand and kept in mind before doing. Therefore since there’s no particular intent, it doesn’t have such a great impact on us. We kill a lot of insects, but we don’t particularly feel like we have killed a lot. But when we make a strong commitment or wish and then do something contrary to it, committing such an action is much more harmful to us because we had made the commitment and had made the aspiration and hope. That is something we had kept for a long time, and when we go against that, the harm is much worse. For that reason, violating the three vows is far more harmful than killing insects, etc. If we first take a vow, make a commitment, and then later do something contradictory of that, that is more harmful to ourselves.

At this point the way we know whether the negativity is strong or not, is not because somebody like the Buddha said this is very harmful or that is not harmful. It’s not like that. To tell how strong the negativity is, look in your own being. Looking in your own being, you see how harmful it is. I think that’s what we have to think of: if you look directly at it and see that it made a big impression or strong experience, then it probably was very harmful. I’m speaking directly here.

If that action brings some very strong negative experience or some strong movement, then it was probably a grave wrongdoing. If you do the action but it doesn’t create a strong negative experience, a strong impression on you, then it becomes a smaller negative action.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese.] 

When we confess our negative deeds the most important thing to do is to think, “I have done this or that negative action.” Thinking it is this specific action, this specific misdeed that I have done, we confess it specifically and that is extremely good. We should remember our past misdeeds and confess them specifically; to do that is good. If we do that, then our confession becomes something authentic and complete.

But when we make a general confession we do not need to identify each and every one of the negative deeds we have done before confessing. So it is good to confess generally all of the things we have done, everything negative from beginningless time until now generally—all the negative things that we have done, under the power of the three poisons. Doing that is good. This is because it is extremely difficult to individually identify each and every misdeed. For instance, if I talk about myself, I don’t remember committing any very big, very strong negative deeds when I was young, but I must have done lots of small negative things. I don’t remember them all. So we are all the same: we’ve done many bad things but don’t remember them. However, we’ve done nothing negative that was not mixed with or motivated by the three poisons of the negative emotions. So if we confess everything motivated by the three poisons, all of these negative actions, whether we remember them or not, can be purified.

There are primarily three conditions for committing negative deeds. There is king-like ignorance and minister-like aversion and attachment. That is because ignorance or delusion pervades all the other negative emotions. Because of ignorance, we see things wrong and that creates inaccurate conceptions. Because of these inaccurate conceptions there are the other negative emotions. It’s just as our sense of touch pervades our bodies, ignorance is present in all negative emotions. That’s the reason why it is called “king-like.”

When we say “minister-like,” there are lots of different negative emotions under the influence of ignorance, but the main ones—the ones with power that we act upon—are aversion or attachment. So therefore they are like the ministers—they’re “minister-like.” 

So therefore whatever negative deeds we do, it is impossible that they not be supported by aversion or attachment. These are the conditions; they motivate the actions. So in terms of the conditions or motivations, all misdeeds are one of these three: those we do out of ignorance, out of aversion, or out of attachment. When we are as disgusted by all these wrongdoings committed out of the power of the three poisons as if they were vomit and confess them, then we can truly purify them. 

When we talk karma in terms of what commits it, then there is karma of body, speech and mind. In terms of who commits them, actions are committed with body, speech or mind. Any kind of negative action has to be done with one of these three—with the body, speech, or mind. So to classify them in terms of how they are committed, there are actions of body, actions of speech, and actions of mind.

If we classify karma in terms of how we do the actions, there are three types: those which we do ourselves, those which we ask somebody else to do, and thirdly those others have done which we rejoice in. The ones we have done ourselves are very clear: they are what we actually did. In terms of those we ask others to do, asking others to do negative deeds is more harmful than those deeds you actually do. We can somehow pretend that we ourselves are not doing anything negative while at the same time asking somebody else to do something. It’s worse because two people are committing negative actions. We commit the negative action ourselves, and the other person also commits it. It becomes two negativities and is more harmful.

Rejoicing in someone else’s negative deeds is when someone does something negative and we think, “That’s very good! That’s really good! He’s really great! It’s very good!” If we think in that way and rejoice in that, the power of that negative thought creates the wrong. It is the same negativity for ourselves as for the other person. It’s not as if the misdeed the other person did is divided in half and we get one half. The person who rejoices in the negative deed gains the whole misdeed, the entire negative deed. They don’t get only a part or half of the deed; they gain the entire negative deed. So it is the same as doing it yourself. 

So now we should read from the Vajrasattva practice. 

“To purify negativity and obscurations, first, during meditation sessions, recite:”

“First” means during the sessions. 

“Above the crown of my head, on a lotus-moon seat,
Is Guru Vajrasattva, white in color, adorned with ornaments,
With one face and two arms,
Holding a vajra with his right hand and a bell with his left, and seated in vajra posture.”

[To translators] Read that.

At this point, before you do the Vajrasattva practice, you have to go through the entire refuge and bodhichitta practice. As I described earlier, during your sessions, even if you are doing Vajrasattva practice separately, you must recite refuge and bodhichitta beforehand. First recite the refuge and bodhichitta well, and then recite Vajrasattva practice. 

It says “Above the crown of my head.” When you say “my,” it is you in your ordinary form. We have to think of ourselves as the ordinary person that we are now. You do not have to visualize yourself as a deity or anything like that, because our wrongs and negative deeds are done in this ordinary form. Because our ordinary form is faulty, it is easier to remember that we have done wrong. When we committed misdeeds, we did them in an ordinary form and it is in that very form that we visualize ourselves. 

When we say “Crown of my head,” it means about 12 finger-widths above the crowns of our heads—in the space 12 finger widths above our heads. Vajrasattva is seated on a lotus flower to represent that he is not defiled by the faults of samsara. The lotus is white in color—a white lotus with eight petals. On top of that seat, visualize a moon disc which is by nature relative bodhichitta and is round like the full moon. This looks like the white moon we see when we look from the earth up at the moon. Modern scientists have gone near the moon and taken photographs that show the moon as a dark sphere, but we don’t visualize it like that. It is white and shining. 

To explain it in detail, the white color is relative bodhichitta, the source of all positive deeds. That is why it’s white in color. It is a full, complete circle that represents that our compassion extends equally, without prejudice, towards all sentient beings. That’s why it is a circle. Because it cools our strong, burning sensations of selfishness, it is cool to the touch. Because it brings complete benefit for others, it radiates light. We need something like that. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Then on top of that, visualize Vajrasattva. Immediately visualize Vajrasattva. I think it’s okay not to visualize any letters or radiation of light or anything like that. In a split second, you visualize Vajrasattva’s complete form. Visualizing like that should be OK.

When we talk about Vajrasattva, first I have to say what Vajrasattva means. Vajra can mean many different qualities; there are many meanings for the word Vajra in Sanskrit. The main meaning is that this is the nondual wisdom of the Buddha’s mind. It’s something which is not defeated by the four maras. It’s very strong and impregnable. Because it has that nature, it’s called vajra. 

And sattva means that although he has overcome the subtle cognitive and afflictive obscurations and actualized the nondual union of form and wisdom, he displays the form kaya and continuously works to benefit of beings. There is no weariness or getting tired of working for the benefit of others. That’s why he’s called sattva, or courageous or brave. 

Vajrasattva is white in color. He is white in color because one feature of the most subtle wisdom wind is that it is white in color. Therefore he is white in color. He is also peaceful and smiling. It is important that he be peaceful and smiling. It is very important to meditate on him as having an expression. Sometimes when we think of him as unmoving and still, like an image or a statue, there is no particular feeling. So if we meditate that he is actually living and smiling, then it feels like we are really seeing him. And you should imagine that he is smiling at you, the yogin, in particular.

There are two reasons why he has to be smiling. One is to represent that it is something very difficult to attain. It is not easy to find the intention to practice dharma and purify all our negativities. Now we have this opportunity and we are purifying ourselves now, and to show that this is difficult to find, the bodhisattva Vajrasattva is happy, delighted, and thus smiling. 

The second reason is because he is trying to guide or instigate us. He is smiling in encouragement. The reason is that there is nothing about us that is particularly pleasing. We don’t really have any qualities that would please him. For example, if a mother had only one child who does not listen to their mother and behaves badly, first the mother gives advice and then even beats them, but none of that works. So the mother has nothing to do but laugh. Other than stand there laughing, there’s nothing that she can do. 

In the same way, we are very drawn towards negative deeds and our mind is not particularly drawn towards positive deeds. So therefore the bodhisattva, Vajrasattva can do nothing but smile. That’s to encourage us to go in a more positive way. If I say too much, I’ll almost about to say the bodhisattva is going crazy. Maybe it’s better not to say too much. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

I can’t say much, so in brief, he has two hands. His right hand holds a five-pointed vajra. The left hand holds a bell. The vajra is at his heart center. The bell is on his left thigh. Visualize him like that. There are so much in all this. The posture he is sitting in is the vajra posture. 

“Clearly visualize at Vajrasattva’s heart center a moon disc, upon which sits a HUNG, encircled by the mantra garland. Supplicate Vajrasattva, and visualize that when you do so, a stream of amrita fills his enlightened form and then comes out from his right big toe into the Brahma aperture at the top of your head. All your obscurations and past negative actions, embodied in a substance that looks like ink or dark smoke, leave your body as all of your body’s parts are filled with amrita. While doing this visualization, recite Vajrasattva’s mantra as many times as you can.”

In Vajrasattva’s heart center, there is a moon, upon which there is a syllable HUNG. The HUNG is the size of the thumb. If you look at it, it’s the size of a thumb, or you can also visualize it as big as a human body—that would be OK. If you look from afar, it’s the size of a thumb, or it could be the size of a human. You can do either—whichever is easier for you. 

Then concentrate on that while supplicating. Because of the power of our sincere prayers to purify our misdeeds, amrita flows down from his body. It’s not like when we sweat—some people think that it dribbles down like sweat, but that would be really strange. Vajrasattva’s form is not solid like ours. It’s like a clear crystal or a rainbow. His form is like a rainbow which is not solid. 

The amrita flows from his body into us. That’s something to think about. The amrita flows in through the crowns of our head, filling our body, and all our misdeeds and obscurations become like ink or black smoke and dissolve into the ground. When the amrita fills our body, all the previous misdeeds and sorrows in our beings are eliminated, and our minds are filled with courage, bravery, strength and hope. We should think in this way. 

We could either purify ourselves through visualizing radiating lights or the flow of amrita. 
Maybe visualizing nectar is stronger. This is because when we take a bath or a shower, we think we are washing away stains, right? Otherwise with light, there’s just more dust, and we don’t really think of ourselves as getting cleansed. So here we think that the amrita flows down and cleanses us like water, and we think that all our negativities have been purified. 

At this time, pay good attention to the visualization; meditate on it well. When we recite the mantra, it’s good to recite it without thinking too much. 

[His Holiness recites the mantra.]

“Then, confess your past negative actions and vow not to perform them again by reciting the following:

Noble Ones who know and see everything, think of us.
Under the power of the three poisons from beginningless time,
With our bodies, speech and mind we have broken
The three vows and the Victors’ commands.
We admit and confess these downfalls and misdeeds.
We will not do them again. May we not experience their results.

Saying this, confess and resolve not to repeat your misdeeds.”

When you say, “Noble Ones who know and see everything, think of us,” the reason “Noble Ones” is plural is this: We have primarily visualized the guru Vajrasattva—Vajrasattva indivisible from our root guru. He is the main witness. But also remember all the other lineage lamas and bodhisattvas and think of them as witnesses, too. There’s no need to visualize them. Just think of them—think to yourself they are there—and make them your witnesses as well. 

We say that we are confessing and purifying all the negative things we have done in the past, and we make a promise for the future. This is primarily making the resolve not to do them again. Just as with vows, if we make a promise not to do something negative but then do it again, it’s like telling a lie. Not only did we do a negative deed, but we lied to the Buddhas, and that is an additional wrong. We have to be careful about that. 

“Vajrasattva says, ‘Your misdeeds are purified,’ and is pleased. He melts into light and dissolves into you.”

Then at the end, we think that the lama Vajrasattva says, “Now you have been purified.” Vajrasattva is overjoyed and dissolves into light. He must be really pleased and delighted. This time Vajrasattva really feels, “Oh, yes you have really done it well. You have done very well, it’s good.” He is very pleased. We should feel that. 

When we talk about Vajrasattva, purifying ourselves is when our innate wisdom appears as the deity. We visualize this, and our misdeeds are purified through the power of our practice. It’s not that some god from outside appears, blesses us, and purifies our negative deeds. That is not how it is. The buddhas and bodhisattvas are like examples, and when we take them as examples and imagine them, our natural wisdom and means arise as the male and female deities. This then becomes an excellent way to purify our misdeeds. It’s not anything else—it would be really difficult for some god to come, sprinkle water on us, and purify our negativity. If we could be purified in that way, we all would have been purified long ago.

The most important thing about being purified by Vajrasattva is that it is the way we focus our minds. Whether we are able to or have the power to purify ourselves through the strength of our wisdom and methods depends mainly upon us individually and also on the blessings of the lineage. 

And then let your mind settle in a uncontrived state of mind. Relax your mind. This is trying to create tendencies towards the meditation of Mahamudra, and it is possible that it might help awaken our wisdom. 

To close, I have a few words to say. This is not particularly connected to this teaching, but there’s something I should say. 

Today is Christmas, isn’t it? Christmas may be a Western, Christian celebration, but it is not only a Western celebration. It is a holiday of joy and happiness in society in general. For me, too, it has been a great Christmas. In Buddhism, we say that all sentient beings throughout space are our fathers, our mothers, our brothers and sisters. At Christmas, they all get together, right? Today all these fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers have come together, and I have got to know many people I didn’t know before. I’m really happy about that. So today I really feel that I’m really celebrating Christmas. 

So as part of my aspiration that all you be happy, I have made some drawings that I would like to give you as presents. In particular, I have written some Chinese calligraphy for you. All you Chinese people can take them home, and I hope that you will have a very good New Year celebration. 

First I will give these to all the Westerners and Chinese who have come. I will give them first to the foreigners. If there are enough, then I will give them to the Tibetans as well. If there are not enough, bye-bye! Sorry! That’s it. 



First I would like to say Tashi Delek to all the Rinpoches, masters, and all those who have come here. [Chinese] Good morning. [Korean] I’m pretending I know a lot of different languages. Today I will speak about mandala offerings and guru yoga. 

First are the mandala offerings. I will explain them briefly. The mandala offerings are on page 29. 

“The mandala offering which completes the two accumulations has two parts. First, during the meditation session, there are two types of mandalas: the mandala of accomplishment, the field of focus for one’s gathering of the two accumulations, and the offering mandala, which contains the substances offered. With the first of these, the mandala’s physical base may be made of any suitable material. Visualize that in its center and each of its four directions there are lotus flowers, upon each of which stand eight lions supporting a throne made of precious jewels, upon which is a lotus, sun, and moon seat. On the center thrones sit the gurus, in front sit the yidams, to the right the buddhas, behind the dharma, and to the left the sangha—so are the rare and supreme jewels arrayed. The dharma protectors guard the mandala’s perimeter. While remembering its meaning, offer this seven-branch prayer.”

It is often said that there are both composite merit and non-composite merit. It is very difficult for us ordinary individuals to accumulate non-composite merit. However, whatever stage we are at—the stage of the ground, path or result—we must accumulate composite merit. 

It is difficult for people who do not have much merit even enter the path. Not only that, it is difficult for them to even hear the word “dharma.” Therefore it’s important to gather within our beings the accumulation of merit. Mandala offerings are a way to do that.

The way to make mandala offerings is described in both the sutras and the tantras. Generally, mandala is a Sanskrit word. What it means is to get the essence. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Therefore mandala means to get the essence. So therefore before we offer mandalas, we have to identify what is the essence that we are trying to get. That’s important.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

The essence which we are trying to get is the three kayas of the Buddha—the result that is the three kayas: the dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

So what is the method by which we get this essence? It is to continuously offer mandalas to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Because of that, we slowly, step by step, get rid of the obscurations within ourselves, and eventually we manifest the state where all negative faults are extinguished and all the positive qualities are developed. And that is when we actually get the essence.

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

We should also talk about what the actual mandala and objects we offer are made of. There are three kinds of mandala plates. Here we are talking about the substance of the plate, the actual material it is made of. The best mandala plate is made of gold, silver, or another precious metal. The second best is made of iron, copper, etc. Then the lowest is made of clay, stone, or something like that. Those are the main materials mandala plates are made of. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Mandala plates come in different colors and shapes. Peaceful mandalas are round. Enriching mandalas are square. Magnetizing ones are semi-circular. Wrathful mandalas are triangular. They also have their own colors—peaceful, enriching, etc. mandalas each have their own color. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Regarding the size of the mandala plate, there are many different types of sizes. The minimum size, the smallest one, should no smaller be twelve fingers widths. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese]

Then you make offerings with a mandala that meets these physical characteristics. You need two kinds of mandalas for making offerings: the mandala of accomplishment and the offering mandala. The mandala of accomplishment is the one you arrange as a support. There is also the mandala that you use to actually make offerings. These are the two different mandalas that you need.

It’s explained here that if you already have on your shrine representations of the sources of refuge—the gurus, buddhas, dharma, sangha and yidams—then you don’t need a separate mandala of accomplishment. Whether or not you have an actual mandala of accomplishment, the way you visualize it is as described here in the text. Then you make a very clear, authentic seven branch offering that you really feel in your mind. 

When you are offering one-hundred thousand mandalas, the offering mandala is the most important, and here the mandala offering of seven piles is the main thing. If I try to explain the mandala and the seven piles, the mandala plate represents the golden ground which has been anointed with a wonderful, fragrant scent. To represent the ring of iron mountains, it is scattered with all kinds of different flowers. In the center of that is the king of mountains, Mount Meru, and in the four directions are the four continents. On the right and left it is adorned with the sun and the moon. 

You mentally imagine this as a Buddha field that has been created by the power of the Buddhas’ intentions and aspirations. Through the power of visualizing that you are offering it, wish that all beings may be cleansed of the defiled obscurations and that they be able to enjoy undefiled state of the four kayas. We make the offering with that sort of a focus.

In terms of how to offer the mandala, we have already discussed what kind of mandala plate to use, so we should describe what substances we use to make the piles. If you offer medicinal substances that heal the body, it is said that it will help you to cure bodily illness and have long life. If you make offerings with jewels and precious stones, then it might result in you getting all your wishes fulfilled. 

And if you offer sweet-smelling things, such as rice or wheat which has been perfumed with nice fragrances, then also it might result in being able to lead others or to inspire others. 

When we make these piles, precious stones never get old. But grains or the medicinal substances get old quickly, so we cannot use the same grains or same substances again and again. But jewels and precious stones can be offered over and over again. 

When making the offering, first we hold the mandala plate in our left hand with some grains or precious stones in our palm. If you hold the mandala plate with an empty hand, it does not create good circumstances. We pick up whatever it is we are offering—medicines, grains, etc.—with our right hand, and make the offerings with our right hand. We then clean the mandala plate with the heel of the right hand—the base of the right hand—wiping in a clockwise direction. According to the Kamtsang system, first we wipe the mandala plate twice clockwise and then once counter-clockwise. It is different in the tantras. In the outer tantras you go clockwise, and in the inner tantras you go counterclockwise. So normally we wipe twice clockwise and once counterclockwise, but it is also okay to do it three times clockwise. 

What is most important is that whether you wipe in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, you must wipe with the heel of the right hand. This is the point where the bodhichitta channel is. Because the bodhichitta channel is there, it creates the circumstances for quickly purifying our misdeeds and obscurations and for generating bodhichitta. 

Maybe it is okay to do it three times clockwise. It is okay to do it just three times clockwise or maybe it’s okay to do one counter-clockwise, too. When you do this, visualize that the entire ground is cleared of everything negative like stones, dust, thorns or such things, and spread with precious substances. If we visualize it like this, then it becomes a practice that purifies the world into a pure realm. Such practices that purify worlds into pure realms are taught in the Prajnaparamita sutras, aren’t they? So this represents a practice that purifies the world into a pure realm. 

After cleaning the plate, we put the things we have been holding in our right hand—the grains, etc.—in the center of the mandala plate. If you do not do this, then it can create the wrong circumstances that might lead you to be born into an empty Buddha field—you will be born in a Buddha field, but an empty one. Wrong means it’s a fault. Then you make the seven piles on this as described earlier. In the center is the king of mountains, Mt. Meru and in the four directions are the four continents, adorned with the sun and the moon. That’s it. Do this without visualizing it wrong. 

There are two ways of considering the directions. The direction you are facing can be the east, or the front of the mandala can be the east. There are these two ways: the direction the lamas to whom you are offering are facing, or the way you are facing. 

[His Holiness speaks Chinese.]

If you look at this, then this is in front of you. One way is to say that this is east. Or others say that this, the other side, is east. They say that this is east and make the offering there first. What is the eastern continent Purvavideha called in Chinese? So some people say this is the east.

[Khenpo Tengye speaks Chinese.]

When we say this is the east, the direction we are facing, then it is easier to receive the blessings of the Buddhas. If you make this the east, then it is about offering our body, speech and mind towards all the Buddhas. Whichever you do is fine—the difference is not important.

So we need to visualize Mt. Meru in the center. These days we talk about whether or not there is a Mt. Meru. When you meditate, it doesn’t matter whether Mt. Meru is as it is when we meditate. Each individual visualizes it differently—maybe some visualize it as square, some as round. There’s no way it could be what everyone visualizes. So therefore the main thing is that the entire universe is transformed into a pure realm. All that is negative and impure is purified, and everything transforms into a Buddha field. The point is to make this sort of an aspiration, creating a pure intention. But what is mentioned here, Mt. Meru, the four continents, and the sun and moon, were actually taught. 

If you want to create a new seven-pile mandala with Asia in the east and America in the west, in terms of the logic it is probably OK. But if you make it up, then it would require a lot of thought, and that is not so easy.

However you see it, what we are offering here are the four continents and Mt. Meru. The main point is to have the tremendous intention to transform the whole universe into a pure realm. 

For instance, in Taiwan and mainland China, the human pure land is frequently pointed out and talked about. When we are offering mandalas, the pure land is something we visualize. The pure land is not something wonderful that is outside somewhere. The impure world can become the pure land if you purify it. There’s nothing that is already pure right from the beginning. First it is something that needs to be purified.

Even in Amitabha’s Buddha realm, the Buddha himself was an ordinary human being at first. Because of his purification of the Buddha realm—the place, circumstances, and environment—everything has been purified of impure stains and then became a pure land, and that is how the pure realm of Sukhavati was created. We can also train in a similar way.

We haven’t much time, so we will leave the mandala offering here. Mingyur Rinpoche has a teaching tonight, so we’ll ask Mingyur Rinpoche to go into detail. I’m very serious—I seem very reserved. In the evening, Rinpoche will make you all laugh. All my seriousness will be gone, so you can relax a lot. I’m a little serious. Even if something’s funny, laughter doesn’t come. It does for some, but my face is like that. I don’t feel like laughing too much. So do not be offended.

“Guru yoga, which quickly brings blessings, has two parts. First, during meditation sessions, there is the common and the extraordinary way to do this practice. Here do the former by visualizing yourself as your yidam…”

The extraordinary guru yoga has to do with the six yogas. That’s not necessary here. 

Now the common guru yoga is this. 

“Above the crown of my head, on a lotus, sun, and moon seat
Is my guru, the mighty Vajradhara,
Sky-blue, holding a vajra and bell in his crossed arms,
Beautified by precious ornaments, blazing with major and minor marks.
He is vividly the embodiment of all the ten directions and three times’ victorious ones.

Recite the seven branch prayer as above…”

At this point, this is guru yoga. Guru yoga depends primarily on blessings, but blessings do not come in loud way. Blessings come in a secret way. It’s not something that you can make a great fuss about it. If you do, you cannot receive the blessings. If you make a big fuss, saying, “I’m practicing guru yoga. I need to receive the blessings,” you won’t receive the blessings. So for that reason, we have to turn off all the cameras and recording devices. 

There is a danger the long practice will be forgotten. You cannot do this practice just by receiving the transmission. Anyone who wants to practice should ask me, and then it will be okay. Now I’ll speak in Chinese.

[His Holiness speaks in Chinese.]

I’ve read this to Tengye too many times. So therefore he has received the transmission, but if you say if I’m boss, then I’ve already blessed him. 

[The lung is given in Chinese.]

Now I will say a few more words. It’s okay to translate this into English. 
Many dharma friends have gathered here, and I feel as if I have seen all my family members. That’s how much joy and happiness I feel. Sometimes I also feel a bit of anxiousness. 

But there is one thing for which I have to ask for your forgiveness. Because I have so many things to do and to worry about, I could not prepare myself well for these teachings. For that I beg your forgiveness. But when I look out and see the way you are all smiling, I still have a very strong feeling that this has made you happy. It has made a very strong impression on me, and this has made me try as hard as I can. 

Now in this place where the one thousand and two buddhas will become enlightened, I pray that I will be with you in body, speech and mind throughout all your lifetimes and that I will be able to lighten the burdens on your body, speech and mind. That is my prayer. 

So today we have completed these teachings. After this you will all go your separate ways. However, if you all practice what I have instructed you in regularly and continue to have interest in it, it will be good, because this practice is one way to make a connection between us. I hope that you will all be happy. In particular, I hope that all you English speakers may be very, very happy. I hope that we can perhaps meet again in the future, too.


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