The Akshobhya Ritual Cycle
December 27, 2012
The Akshobhya Retreat
A group of specially invited people, usually those who are ordained or who have completed the three year retreat, complete a two week retreat prior to Monlam, and then take part in the Akshobhya fire puja. As this is the second Akshobhya Ritual Cycle of 2012, the previous one was in March, the retreat this time was very small, only six people: Chime Dorje Rinpoche, four monks and a laywoman, Tashi Sangmo.
The Akshobhya Ritual
According to the Buddhist teachings the present age is one of degeneration when all beings in samsara [the cycle of existence] are suffering because of negative thoughts and actions. The Akshobhya ritual is a very powerful purification practice done for the benefit of all sentient beings. It can liberate not only the practitioners themselves from the fear of an unfortunate rebirth, but other beings as well. The Buddha Akshobhya promised that the merit generated by reciting one-hundred-thousand of his long dharani mantra and making an image of him could be dedicated to other people, both living and dead, and this would assure their release from lower states of existence and rebirth in spiritually fortunate circumstances.
Gyalwang Karmapa has commended this practice as very suitable at a time when negative forces are increasing in the world.
The Akshobhya ritual is in four parts: the first three parts took place at the stupa, where a special altar, displaying some of the offerings needed for the fire puja, was set up in front of a thangka of Akshobhya Buddha. The three parts at the stupa were:
A. The Akshobhya Self-Visualisation
B. The Akshobhya Mandala ritual
C. The reading of the Akshobhya dharani and the Akshobhya sutra
The text for the first two parts of the ritual is not available to the general public. The third part, the recitation of the 'Dharani that Throroughly Purifies all Karmic Obscurations' and 'The Sutra of the Dharani that Thoroughly Liberates from All Suffering and Obscurations' is open to everyone. The recitation of this dharani is believed to purify all karmic obscurations and all the karma flowing from lifetime to lifetime. Reciting it three times daily can even cleanse the karma of the five heinous deeds, the four root downfalls and the ten non-virtues. It can be used for the dead and the living.
The Akshobhya Jang-Sek [fire puja]
This took place in the evening. Before and during the Monlam friends and relatives had been making donations and giving the names of the deceased and the living who were experiencing great difficukties such as illness, in preparation for the Akshobhya Fire Ritual. The purpose of this type of fire puja [jang-sek] is purification and pacification.
The Gyalwang Karmapa conducted the main puja on the porch of the temple.
Below the steps, a brick firepit was constructed and a 'pacification' sand mandala drawn in it. Then logs were piled on top. The fire was lit during the second half of the puja, and the names of the living and the dead were piled onto the flames.