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Shenpen sel

The Clear Light of the Buddhas Teachings Which Benefits All Beings

Volume 4, Number 1 June 2000

Through cultivating the stages of the practice of the Medicine Buddha

the generation stage and the completion stagewe not only achieve
benefit for ourselves, but we are actually cultivating the potential to
benefit others. And by doing these practices we actually bless the
environment and all the beings in that environment.
Shenpen sel
The Clear Light of the Buddhas Teachings Which Benefits All Beings
Volume 4 Number 1

This issue of Shenpen sel is devoted to a series of teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sadhana
given by the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in the Cascade Mountains in Washing-
ton state in June of 1999. In addition to the translated, transcribed, edited text of the teachings,
we have published the text that was the subject of Rinpoches commentary.

3 Introduction
6 The Medicine Buddha Sadhana
6 A Practice That Is Extremely Effective in the Removal of Sickness
13 The Great King of Medicine Is Active in Pacifying the Suffering of Beings
23 The Visualization Uncovers the Inherent Purity of Phenomena
33 Because of Its Vastness, Offering the Entire Universe Produces Great Merit
42 On the Origin of Auspiciousness in the Substances and Symbols
53 Medicine Buddha Sadhana in English
72 The Very Essence of Mind, Mahamudra, the One Sufficient P
Very ath
74 Tenga R inpoches Comment
Rinpoches ary on the Mahamudra of the V
Commentary enerable Gampopa,
the One Sufficient Path
8 9 Re-e st
Re-est ablishing the Dharma in TTibet
stablishing ibet

St aff
Staff Editorial polic
Editor Shenpen sel is a tri-annual publication of Kagyu
Lama Tashi Namgyal Shenpen sel Chling (KSOC), a center for the
study and practice of Tibetan vajrayana Buddhism
Copy editors, TTranscribers,
ranscribers, located in Seattle, Washington. The magazine
Recorders seeks to present the teachings of recognized and
Glen Avantaggio, Peter Borodin, Alan fully qualified lamas and teachers, with an
Castle, Anita Castle, Ken DeSure, David emphasis on the Karma Kagyu and the Shangpa
DuBois, Ryszard K. Frackiewicz, Marcia
Kagyu lineages. The contents are derived in large
Glover, Denise Glover, Wolfgang Hirsch,
part from transcripts of teachings hosted by our
Candace Kielbiski, Judy Knapp, Donald
center. Shenpen sel is produced and mailed
Lashley, Linda Lewis, Edmund Liong, Ed
exclusively through volunteer labor and does not
MacArthur, Yahm Paradox, Chris Payne,
Rose Peeps, Elisabeth Talsky, Mark Voss make a profit. (Your subscriptions and donations
are greatly appreciated.) We publish with the
Dat abase manager
Database aspiration to present the clear light of the
Marcia Glover Buddhas teachings. May it bring benefit and may
Mailing coordinator all be auspicious. May all beings be inspired and
Mark Suver assisted in uncovering their own true nature.
Mailing crew
Members of the Seattle sangha creditss this issue: David Karchmer, pages 6, 13,
Photo credit
23, 33, 42, 72, back cover.


ll of the Buddhas teachings can be subsumed under the two categories of
shamatha and vipashyanacalm abiding and insight. In the hinayana traditions of
Buddhism the intention of the vipashyana teachings is to establish the lack of true
existence of the individualsometimes called one-fold egolessness, the selflesssness of
the individual, the identitylessness of the individualand the lack of true existence of
gross phenomena or things. The intention of the vipashyana teachings of the first half of
the mahayana teachingsthe second turning of the wheel of dharmais to extend this
understanding to include the lack of true existence even of the most subtle phenomenon,
including atoms and subatomic matter and energy, time, and all forms of consciousness
itself. These two understandings together are referred to as two-fold egolessness, the
selflessness of the individual and the selflessness of phenomena, and are both included in
the terms sunyata or emptiness.
The second half of the mahayana teachingsthe third turning of the wheel of
dharmagoes on to teach that emptiness is not simply a mere nothingness, nor merely the
other side of the coin of interdependence, nor even simply a state beyond all conceptuality.
The third turning teaches that this emptinesswhile lacking any limiting characteristics,
such as color, shape, size, location, substance, or gender, and being empty of all cognitive
and emotional obscurrationsis not empty of its own nature, the radiant clarity of mind
and reality, which we refer to as clear light, in which all the positive qualities of intelli-
gence, wisdom, compassion, skillful means, devotion, confidence, etc., inhere as one
undifferentiable quality. Various manifestations of this quality arise out of the clear light
nature in the form of the deities of the vajrayana tradition such as the Medicine Buddha,
Vajrayogini, Tara, or Chenrezig. And although it is said from the standpoint of relative
truth that these deities actually do exist as individual beings who can be supplicated, they
exist as such because, and only because, the qualities that they embody were already
inherent in the clear light nature, the buddha nature, of their own minds when they were
confused sentient beings, just as they inherently exist today in the minds of all confused
The essential nature of all deities can be better understood by understanding the
essential nature of their body, speech, and mind. The body of the deity is the union of
appearance and emptiness and emerges in the practitioners experience when the experi-
ence of perceiver and perceived is purified. What is it purified of? Grasping and fixation.
Grasping or clinging to a self, and fixating on an other. In the words of Guru Rinpoche,
Perceiver and perceived when purified are the body of the deity, clear emptiness.
The speech of the deity is the union of sound and emptiness. We all know that sound is
intangible, but sounds without the experience of their emptiness have tremendous power

to hurt us, to insult us, to exalt us, to exhilarate us, etc. But when sounds and verbal
communications are experienced as mere sounds, as the union of sound and emptiness,
their power over us dissolves and we experience perfect equanimity.
The mind of the deity is the union of awareness and emptiness. The experiences of the
five sense consciousnesses and of the mental consciousness give rise to a constantly chang-
ing kaleidoscope of thoughts, mental afflictions, and subtle dualistic perceptions which
have the power, in the absence of the experiential understanding of their emptiness, to
involve us in the most outrageous, outlandish, though sometimes very subtle, melodramas
of the mind. But when their essential emptiness is recognized, and one ceases to welcome
and reject, they dissolve or are self-liberated in their own place, the space of empty aware-
ness. All deities share these three aspects of the essential naturewhich we also call
mahamudra or dzogchenand all practitioners who practice deity meditation with suffi-
cient diligence and perseverance will come to realize this very same naturethe body,
speech, and mind of the deityin themselves as they become the deity.
At the same time, each deity has its own particular relative blessing. If one meditates
on Chenrezig, ultimately one will realize mahamudra or dzogchen, and attain buddhahood.
But in the short run, one will experience a strengthening of ones loving kindness and
compassion. If one meditates on Green Tara, ultimately one will attain enlightenment, but
in the short run, one will experience freedom from fear and mental paralysis, the in-
creased ability to accomplish ones objectives, and an increase in active compassion. If one
meditates on Manjushri, in the end one will attain enlightenment, but in the short run one
will experience an increase in intelligence, insight, and wisdom. If one meditates on the
Medicine Buddha, one will eventually attain enlightenment, but in the meantime one will
experience an increase in healing powers both for oneself and others and a decrease in
physical and mental illness and suffering. Whether or not we have a very strong motive to
attain buddhahood, we all desire these sorts of relative objectives, so deity meditation
provides tremendous incentive for the practice of dharma.
And yet deity meditation is just another version of shamatha and vipashyana. When
one meditates on the form, the attire and other attributes, the entourage and environ-
ment, and the internal mandala of a deity, and when one recites the deitys mantra, one is
practicing shamatha; and when one realizes that all that one is meditating on is mere
empty appearance, one is practicing vipashyana. But because meditation on the deity and
on the union of the deity and ones own root lama instantly connects one with the empty
clear light naturewhich is the essence of the deity, the guru, and the lineage, as well as
being ones own essential naturethe power of this form of shamatha to purify the mind of
the practitioner of the mental obscurations blocking his or her insight is immeasurably
greater than that of ordinary tranquillity meditation on mundane objects like the breath
or a flower or a candle flame. And since the forms upon which one is meditating are mere
mental fabrications, their emptiness is more immediately apparent than, say, the empti-
ness of something like the Jefferson Memorial or the Washington Monument.
This is all possible because of the special quality of the vajrayana, which takes enlight-
enment as the path, rather than seeing it merely as a goal. Through the three processes of
abhisheka, which ripens the mental continuum; oral transmission, which supports ones
practice; and the teachings, which liberate, one is connected directly to the enlightened
state transmitted by the guru and the lineage. Thereafter, when one practices or merely
brings to mind those teachings, one is instantly reconnected with that compassionate

primordial awareness, and this constant reconnecting then becomes ones path, bring-
ing with it the rapid purification of mental defilements and the rapid accumulation of
merit and wisdom. The recognition of this connection is the uncovering of ones own
wisdom. If it goes unrecognized, it still exists in the practitioners mental continuum as
a seed, which will gradually ripen according to conditions.
The teachings on the Medicine Buddha in this issue of Shenpen sel present the
stages of practice of the Medicine Buddha Sadhana. In it the Very Venerable Khenchen
Thrangu Rinpoche elucidates not only the details of this particular practice, but also
many of the basic principles of tantric theory and practice in general: the notion of
deities and buddha realms, the principles of samayasattva and jnanasattva, the prin-
ciples of emanating and gathering, and the use of offerings to cultivate qualities, to
mention a few. For anyone engaged in any vajrayana practice, this teaching is very
useful in understanding the foundations of tantric practice, and a garden of delights.
Thrangu Rinpoches teachings on the Medicine Buddha Sutrathe next seven
teachings in this serieswill be carried in the next issue of Shenpen sel.

T he reader will notice that most of the deities in this particular mandala are male.
One should not conclude therefrom that this is typical of tantric mandalas. There
are some mandalassuch at Arya Tara, Vajrayogini, and Chdin which the deities
are virtually all female, others that are balanced, and others that vary slightly more
one way than the other.

A lso included in this issue is a remarkable teaching on mahamudra by Gampopa,

elucidated by the Very Venerable Tenga Rinpoche. It will be of notable interest to
anyone who thinks that they are getting somewhere or anyone who actually is getting
somewhere with their mahamudra practice. In five short sentences, Gampopa de-
scribes the stages one must accomplish on the path to buddhahood.

F inally, one will find an update on the activities at Kala Rongo, the womens monas-
tery in eastern Tibet, and on the other activities of Lama Norlha and Kagyu
Thubten Chling in eastern Tibet.

Lama Tashi Namgyal

The Very V
Very enerable Khenchen TThrangu
Venerable hrangu R inpoche

Medicine Buddha

A Practice That Is Extremely Effective

In the Removal of Sickness
In the Cascade Mountains in Washington, in June of 1999, the Very Venerable
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche led an eight-day retreat to teach the Medicine
Buddha Sadhana and Medicine Buddha Sutra. Rinpoche gave the teachings in
Tibetan; they were orally translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso. The following is
an edited transcript.

would like to begin by welcoming all of you here today and thanking you
all for coming. I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet with you, to
study the Medicine Buddha practice together with you, and to talk with
you about dharma. As usual, we are going to begin by reciting the lineage sup-
plication. While doing so, please generate strong devotion for the root guru and
the other gurus of the lineage, such as Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, and so forth.
[Recitation of lineage supplication.]
First, in order to listen to the teachings properly, please generate the atti-
tude of bodhicitta, which is necessary for the practice of dharma in general, and

particularly for the practice of something like mental and physical health, because by means of
the Medicine Buddha. While listening to the that practice we can accomplish great benefit for
teachings, please think that you are listening to ourselves and others; and we can successfully
them and will practice them in order to be of the complete our practice of dharma in the sense of
greatest possible benefit to all beings. attaining buddhahood.
We might think that there is Furthermore, by practicing
something of a contradiction the Medicine Buddha, we not
between the motivation with We are practicing only achieve health in this life
which we might practice the but we cause ourselves to be
Medicine Buddha and the moti-
the Medicine blessed by the Medicine Buddha
vation of bodhicitta. We might Buddha in order throughout all future lives as
think that fundamentally we are to attain states well. And through cultivating the
practicing the Medicine Buddha stages of the practice of the
in order to benefit our own of mental and Medicine Buddhathe genera-
bodies, whereas the motivation physical health or tion stage and the completion
of bodhicitta is the wish to ben- stagewe not only achieve
efit all beings. But in fact there balance, not benefit for ourselves, but we are
is no contradiction, because, in merely for our actually cultivating the potential
order to be effective in benefiting to benefit others. And by doing
other beings, we need to accom-
own benefit, but these practices we actually bless
plish an excellent samadhi or for the benefit of the environment and all the
meditative absorption; and in beings in that environment.
order to accomplish that, to-
others as well The practice of the Medicine
gether with the insight and Buddha is fundamentally a
realization that it brings, we need to have a mental practice, a practice of meditation. Now,
stable practice. In order to have a stable and you might wonder how something you are doing
profound practice, we need to be physically and primarily with your mind could affect your body.
mentally healthy or comfortable, because by How could practicing the Medicine Buddha
being comfortable in our body, and comfortable preserve your physical health or alleviate physi-
in our mind, we will be free of obstacles to dili- cal sickness? You might think that the mind and
gence in practice and free of obstacles to the body are fundamentally unrelated, and that
cultivation of meditative absorption. So there- therefore the practice of meditation cannot
fore, we are practicing the Medicine Buddha in affect our bodies. In fact, our bodies and minds
order to attain states of mental and physical are extremely interrelated. The body supports
health or balance, not merely for our own ben- or is the container for our mind, but the body is
efit, but for the benefit of others as well. also based upon or supported by the mind.
There is, therefore, no contradiction between Therefore, the practice of meditation does affect
the motivation you might have for practicing the your body and your physical state. Specifically,
Medicine Buddha and your motivation for prac- in the meditation practice of the Medicine Bud-
ticing dharma in general. We practice dharma in dha, in addition to visualizing the Medicine
order to attain buddhahood, and we practice the Buddha in front of you, you are also visualizing
Medicine Buddha in order to attain that same your own body as the body of the Medicine
goal. We may be practicing it specifically in Buddha. These and other visualizations, and the
order to attain a state of mental and physical recitation of the mantra and so forth, which
health in this life, but when we practice the initially or primarily seem only to affect the
Medicine Buddha in this way, we are not really mind, do, therefore, eventually affect the body as
limiting our motivation to our attainment of well.

We practice fundamentally with our minds, consciousness, which detects tastes. And in
but this practice does affect and benefit both the dependence on the organic support of the body
mind and the body. As is generally taught, what and the nerves of the body, there arises the body
we identify as our mind consists of eight differ- consciousness, which detects or experiences
ent consciousnesses, or functions of conscious- tactile sensations. All of these consciousnesses
ness. These arise the way they do because of the arise or are generated by the presence of an
connection between body and mind. For ex- object which is encountered by its appropriate
ample, one of the eight consciousnesses is the organ. Sometimes they arise based upon the
eye consciousness, the visual consciousness. This organ itself experiencing the sensation, but in
consciousness is a function of three things: its any case, the sensations of the five senses that
object, which is visible forms; its organic sup- we experience are functions of the organs and
port, which is the eye as an organ of vision; and the objects experienced by these organs, which
the consciousness, which is the mind functioning generate appropriate consciousnesses. Because
in connection with these two. Now, the point of the consciousness pervades the experience of its
this is that the visual consciousness never arises object and the experience of the organ itself, if
in isolation from an object and an organic sup- the consciousness is transformed, or ones mode
port. It arises because the organic support is of experience of consciousness is transformed,
capable of detecting its appropriate objectin into pure appearance, then the appearances of
this case, visible form. Therefore, because the the objects, and also of the organs themselves,
object, the organ, and the consciousness are so will become pure or sacred. It is in this way that
intimately interrelated or inter- the practice of this form of
connected, the transformation of meditation can benefit not only
any one of these will necessarily When the your mind but also your body.
affect the aspect or manner of the In addition to the five sense
other two. Therefore, just as consciousness is consciousnesses, the sixth
when an object is changed, that transformed, as it consciousness, which is the
affects the visual consciousness of mental consciousness, also
that object in dependence upon
is through the arises in connection with physi-
the organ; and when the organ is practice of cal experience. Now, according
changed, that affects the visual to the abhidharma, the mental
consciousness and therefore the
meditation, that consciousness does not rely
perceived objects; in the same affects the exclusively upon a specific
way, when the consciousness is perception of physical organ support the way
transformed, as it is through the the five sense consciousnesses
practice of meditation, that objects and do. The condition that leads to
affects the perception of objects the organic the arising of the mental con-
and the organic support itself. sciousness is the previous
In the same way, our other support itself moment of that consciousness
senses arise as consciousnesses in itself. Generally speaking, this
connection with their objects and their organic arises to some extent on the impressions pro-
supports. Based upon the organ of the ear, there duced by the physical experience of the senses.
arises what is called the ear consciousness or So, indirectly, we could say that the organ sup-
hearing, which experiences its object, audible port for the mental consciousness is the momen-
sounds. In dependence upon the organic support tum of all of the consciousnesses connected with
of the nose, there arises the nose consciousness, sense experience. But the mental consciousness
which detects smells. In dependence upon the itself is that which generates and experiences all
organ of the tongue, there arises the tongue of the varieties of emotion and thought that we

knowattachment, aversion, bewilderment, is regarded as the most fundamental and impor-
apathy, pride, jealousy, feelings of joy and de- tant thing to be abandoned or relinquished. In
light, feelings of sadness, feelings of faith and fact, we could say that the teachings of
compassion, etc.all of these different emo- buddhadharma are mainly about how to abandon
tional states and all of the thoughts connected this fixation on self. It is for that reason that
with them are varieties of experiences of the there is so much emphasis in buddhadharma on
sixth or mental consciousness. Now, as these the meditations on selflessness, emptiness, and
various thoughts and emotions so forth. Through these medita-
pass through our minds, they tions one can realize selfless-
transform and influence that ness, through which one relin-
consciousness itself. But not only
By replacing the quishes the kleshas, through
thatthey also affect the five thought of which one attains liberation.
sense consciousnesses. For ex- yourself as The meditation upon self-
ample, when you are very sad lessness, however, and specifi-
and you look at something, you yourself with the cally the meditation upon the
will perceive it as sad, or as thought of lack of true existence of the
unpleasant. If you look at the personal self,* does not consist
identical object when you are yourself as the of trying to imagine or convince
happy, you will see the same Medicine yourself that you are nothing
thing as pleasant. And if you look whatsoever. It is done, espe-
at it when you are angry, you will
Buddha, you cially in the visualization prac-
see, again, the same object as gradually tices of the generation stage of
entirely different. This is a very tantra, by replacing your solid
simple example of how the men-
counteract and sense of your own existence with
tal consciousness in particular remove the something else. In the case of
and our mind in general affects fixation on your the Medicine Buddha practice,
our experience of sense objects you relinquish the thought, I
and the sense consciousnesses personal self am me, I am the person I think I
and the sense organs themselves. am, and replace it with the
Of the eight consciousnesses, thought, I am the Medicine
the most evident in our experience are these six Buddha. The primary technique in the medita-
consciousnesses, or six functions: the five sense tion consists of imagining yourself to be the
consciousnesses and the mental consciousness. Medicine Buddha, conceiving of yourself as the
But there are, in addition to these, two other Medicine Buddha. By replacing the thought of
functions of mind, which are called stable or yourself as yourself with the thought of yourself
underlying consciousnesses or functions. These as the Medicine Buddha, you gradually counter-
are the seventh consciousness, which is the act and remove the fixation on your personal
subtle mental affliction, and the eighth con- self. And as that fixation is removed, the power
sciousness, which is called the all-basis. The of the seventh consciousness is reduced. And as
seventh consciousness, the consciousness which it is reduced, the kleshas or mental afflictions
is the root of mental affliction, refers to the are gradually weakened, which causes you to
subtle, fundamental misapprehension of an experience greater and greater well-being in
existent self, the fixation on a self. This fixation both body and mind.
is itself the root of samsara. It is not, however,
regarded as an unvirtuous or negative thing in *Editors note: The meditation on selflessness is tradition-
ally divided into realizing the lack of true existence of a
itself. It is morally neutral. But because it is personal self, what we usually think of as the self, and
ignorance and the basis of further ignorance, it realizing the lack of true existence of phenomena.

The eighth consciousness is the all-basis fully one receives their blessing, which benefits
consciousness, so called because it is the ground one in some way. In the vajrayana tradition,
on which habits, both good and bad, accrue. We however, we regard the blessing and the power
experience things the way we do because of the and the qualities of the deities as being innate,
habits we have accumulated. As as being within ones own mind.
we accumulate good habits we This innate presence of the
have positive experiences, and as The process of wisdom and blessings of the
we accumulate bad habits we getting ourselves deities in our own minds is
have negative experiences. The called the unity of the expanse
fundamental reason for our out of samsara and wisdom, or the unity of
immersion in samsara is the consists of space and wisdom. Of course, it
accumulation of bad habits, some is true that when we look at our
more virulent than others. The
gradually minds, we have mental afflic-
process of getting ourselves out weakening the tions, we have thoughts, we
of samsara consists of gradually have all kinds of suffering and
weakening the bad habits and
bad habits and problems. But at the same time
strengthening the good habits. strengthening we always have the innate
For example, when we begin to the good habits potential to transcend these.
practice, we have no confidence And the reason why we have
whatsoever that we really are the this innate potential is that the
Medicine Buddha. We have a strong negative nature of the mind and the nature of everything
habit of regarding ourselves as whomever we that arises in the mind is emptiness. Regardless
regard ourselves to be. But through cultivating of what is passing through your mind, your mind
the technique and attitude of regarding our- is always a boundless space of emptiness.
selves as possessing the body, the speech, the The innate potential of our minds lies in the
mind, the qualities, and the blessings of the very fact that our minds are empty. Because our
Medicine Buddha, then these natural qualities minds are empty, all of the problems and suffer-
within us will increase. ings and defects that arise in our minds can be
removed or purified, because they too are empty.

T he main practice in vajrayana consists of the

generation stage, the cultivation of the
practice of regarding oneself as a deity. From an
This emptiness of the mind is not absolute
nothingness; it is not a static or dead or neutral
emptiness, because, while emptiness is indeed
ordinary point of view, we might regard this as the nature of the mind, the nature of that empti-
useless. We would think, Well, I am not a deity. ness is wisdomit is the innate potential for the
What use is there in my pretending to be a arising of all qualities. In Buddhist scriptures
deity? But in fact, the root of samsara is the this innate potential is called buddha nature.
habit of impure perception. By regarding oneself Now, the process of working with our life
as a deity one gradually purifies, weakens, and situation through practice in tantric Buddhism
removes that habit and replaces it with the consists first of acknowledging that ones own
positive habit of pure perception. It is for this basic nature is that potential, that buddha na-
reason that the meditation upon oneself as a ture, and then of meditating upon its presence
deity is considered so important. within one by regarding oneself as a deity. The
In most religious traditions, the deities of form of the deity is the embodiment or expres-
that tradition, when they are related to or imag- sion of that potential, that unity of emptiness
ined, are imagined in front of one. Then, visualiz- and wisdom, within one. It is through regarding
ing the deity or deities as being present in front oneself as the deity that defects are gradually
of one, one prays to them, and by doing so hope- eradicated and qualities gradually revealed. The

primary technique of visualization is to visual- is buddhahood, is attained, the result of that
ize ourselves as the deity, because the potential path is naturally spontaneous, impartial, and
to transcend our problems is innate rather than nonconceptual compassion. Therefore, we regard
external to us. Therefore, our main practice in buddhas as having an awareness that is respon-
meditation upon deities is the self-generation of sive to the needs of beings, and therefore as
the deity, visualizing oneself as the deity. being open and accessible to our prayers and
If you ask is this the only way in which we supplication. For that reason, while we prima-
work with deities, the answer is rily visualize ourselves as dei-
no. We also visualize deities in ties, we also visualize the deities
front of us. Now, in the common as present in front of us.
tradition* of Buddhism, as is
The primary We supplement the visualiza-
found in the scriptures of the technique of tion of ourselves as the deity
Theravadin tradition and so on with visualizations such as
which I cannot read in the Pali
visualization is imagining the actual wisdom
but have read in Tibetan transla- to visualize deities themselves dissolving
tionwe find an extensive pre- ourselves as the into ourselves again and again,
sentation by the Buddha that by means of which we receive
there is no external deity to be deity, because their blessing. Sometimes we
relied upon, that the path con- the potential to visualize the deity in front of us,
sists fundamentally of eradicat- separate from ourselves, think-
ing ones own kleshas, thereby
transcend our ing that rays of light from the
eventually attaining the state of problems is deitys heart engulf and pervade
an arhat or arhati without re- us, granting the blessing of the
mainder. Thus in the sutras of
innate rather deity. And sometimes we visual-
the common vehicle, the state of than external ize that rays of light, which
liberation is presented as free- embody the blessing of that
to us
dom from all kleshas, limitations, deity in front of us, strike all
and attachment, but not particu- beings, removing their obstacles,
larly as an abiding wisdom. increasing their longevity, wisdom, and so on. All
However, in the sutras of the mahayana, and of these visualizations are methods by which we
especially in the teachings of the vajrayana, it is arouse the compassion of all buddhas and cause
clearly taught that once someone attains full their blessings to enter into ourselves and oth-
liberation and buddhahood, they do not become ers.
nothing. The process of purification finally All the yidams and deities used in meditation
reveals, and therefore there remains, an endur- have the same fundamental nature and are
ing wisdom that is of the nature of nonconcep- utterly pure. Nevertheless they have different
tual compassion. The attainment of appearances, which reflect the different activi-
buddhahood, the path through which it is at- ties that they embody and engage in. These
tained, really begins with the generation of different activities are primarily determined by
bodhicitta, which is the intention to attain the individual aspirations they made at the time
liberation so that one can bring all beings to the of their initial generation of bodhicitta. For
same state. Because that is the motivation with example, in the case of the Medicine Buddha,
which the path is begun, when the result, which there is a specific set of aspirations, as there is
in the case of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara or
*Editors note: The common tradition is a way of referring the bodhisattva Arya Tara. It is primarily for this
to those teachings held in common by all traditions of
Buddhism, which are the teachings on personal liberation of reason that deities manifest in their varied
the hinayana or lesser vehicle. appearances sometimes appearing as male, in

which case they primarily embody upaya or lineage of the practice which serves to conse-
method; sometimes appearing as female, in crate or bless your practice in the form of sound.
which case they primarily embody prajna or Because the lineage has been transmitted as the
wisdom; sometimes appearing as peaceful, sound of the words of its transmission, when the
sometimes appearing as wrathful, and so on. In reading transmission is given to you, you simply
the case of the Medicine Buddha, at the time of listen to the sound and think that by doing so
his initial generation of bodhicittawith which you receive the blessing of the lineage.
act he began the path that culminated in his Today I will give the reading transmission,
attainment of buddhahoodhis primary motiva- the lung, for the Medicine Buddha practice. The
tion was to remove all suffering of beings in empowerment for the practice, I will give on
general, but especially to remove the physical Sunday. With regard to the empowerment, you
and mental sufferings of beings caused through should understand that the Medicine Buddha
the imbalance of the elements, which we know of practice is not solely a vajrayana practice. Like
as mental and physical illness. This was his the practice of mahamudra, it is a combination of
primary motivation or aspiration throughout the vajrayana [tantra] and sutra. For example, while
three periods of innumerable eons during which we could say that mahamudra is primarily
he gathered the accumulations of merit and taught in the vajrayana, it is also found in certain
wisdom that culminated in his attainment of sutras, such as the Samadhiraja Sutra, and so
buddhahood as the Medicine Buddha. Therefore, forth. In the same way, this practice of the Medi-
as the Medicine Buddha, he possesses extraordi- cine Buddha is a combination of what the Bud-
nary ability and engages in extraordinary activ- dha taught about the Medicine Buddha in the
ity to pacify sickness. Whether you access this sutras of the Medicine Buddha and in various
activity through visualizing yourself as the tantras. Because it is connected with vajrayana,
Medicine Buddha, or through arousing the it is most appropriate to receive the empower-
compassion and activity of the Medicine Buddha ment to enhance the practice; but because it is
as conceived of as external to yourself, in either also connected with the sutras, it is acceptable to
case, the practice of the Medicine Buddha is do the practice without the empowerment as
supremely effective in the removal of sickness. well. As you are receiving the reading transmis-
sion today, there is no particular visualization

T he practice of the Medicine Buddha comes

primarily from the uncommon tradition of
the vajrayana, which means that the transmis-
you need to do. Maintain the motivation of
bodhicitta for receiving the transmission, and
think that simply by hearing the sounds of the
sion of the practice is done using three pro- words as I read them you receive the transmis-
cesses called the empowerment, which ripens; sion or blessing of the lineage of this practice.
the instruction, which frees; and the reading [Rinpoche gives the reading transmission.]
transmission, which supports. The function of To give you a support for your visualization of
empowerment, the formal ceremony or ritual of the Medicine Buddha when doing the practice, I
empowerment, is to introduce you to the prac- am going to give each of you a small image of the
tice and to the process of visualization and so Medicine Buddha. So please, in order to receive
forth, which will make up the practice. The it, come up.
function of the instruction, which frees, is to [Rinpoche hands out cards.]
give you complete access to the practice by
means of telling you literally how to do itwhat
you do with your body, what you say with your
speech, and what you think with your mind. The
function of the reading transmission, which
supports, is to transmit the blessing of the

Medicine Buddha

The Great King of Medicine Is Active in

Pacifying the Suffering of Beings

Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches teaching on the

Medicine Buddha.

e are now going to start going through the text itself, the liturgy
for the practice, so that you will understand how to do it. As you
will have noticed, the first part of the Medicine Buddha practice
is the lineage supplication, which consists of the supplication of the princi-
pal Medicine Buddha, the seven accompanying Medicine Buddhas, the
sixteen bodhisattvas, and finally, the holders and propagators of the teach-
ings of the Medicine Buddha. The purpose of reciting this supplication at the
beginning of the practice is to invoke and receive at the very beginning of
the practice the blessing of the Medicine Buddha through the power of your
faith in and devotion to the deity and to the lineage of this teaching.
The supplication begins with one line in the language of Sanskrit:


This means, Homage to the great king of medicine. The initial homage
to the Medicine Buddha as the great king of medicine is done in Sanskrit
because the source of the teachings of the vajrayana in particular, and of the
buddhadharma in generalthe original sutra and tantra teachings of the

Buddha Shakyamuniwere given primarily in The second stanza is also addressed to the
Sanskrit. Moreover, the mahasiddhas, Medicine Buddha, and it continues from the
bodhisattvas, and shravakas of India also prima- presentation in the first. In the first stanza you
rily used Sanskrit as their dharma language. were essentially praising the fact that he embod-
Therefore, in order to maintain a connection ies extraordinary merit and qualities as a result
with the source of the tradition, and because the of his extraordinary motivation and aspirations.
Sanskrit language itself is held to bear great Upon his initial generation of bodhicitta the
blessing, the initial supplication is made in Medicine Buddha made twelve particular aspira-
Sanskrit, after which follows the main body of tions. In connection with these, the benefits of
the supplication of the Medicine Buddha in recollecting the name of the Medicine Buddha
Tibetan. begin to be specified in the second stanza.
The first stanza of the supplication is ad-
dressed to the principal Medicine Buddha, and Those bound by very intense greed
is based on the Buddha Shakyamunis presenta- Are born in the hungry ghost realm.
If they hear your name, they are born human and
tion of the Medicine Buddhas initial motivation
take delight in generosity.
for his path and the aspirations he made in I supplicate you, victorious Menla.
connection therewith, as recorded in the sutras
on the Medicine Buddha.*
Recollection of the name means keeping the
name of the Medicine Buddha in mind by having
You are endowed with an oceanic treasury of
qualities and merit; an attitude of faith and devotion to the Medicine
By the blessing of your inconceivable compassion Buddha. The stanza says that even someone who,
You calm the suffering and torment of sentient as a result of intense greed, is destined to be
beings. reborn as a preta or hungry ghost, if such a
I supplicate you, Light of Lapis Lazuli. person hears the name of the Medicine Buddha,
they will be reborn as a human being and will
The meaning of the stanza is that, because of delight in generosity. In that way, you supplicate
the quality and special nature of his initial the Medicine Buddha by referring to the power
motivation and ensuing aspirations, the Medi- or blessing of his name.
cine Buddha very quickly accumulated vast The next stanza gives a second benefit of
amounts of merit, as a result of which, while on recollecting and hearing the name of the Medi-
the path and finally at the time of fruition or cine Buddha.
buddhahood, he came to embody a vast treasury
of qualities associated with awakening. There- Violating morality and abusing others,
fore, because of his initial compassionate motiva- Beings are born in the hell realms.
tion and because of the qualities of his awaken- Hearing your name, they are said to be born in
ing, he possesses inconceivable blessing, by the higher realms.
virtue of which, in accordance with his aspira- I supplicate you, King of Medicine.
tion and motivation, he is active in pacifying the
Those who violate moral commitments and
sufferings of beings. So in chanting the beginning
who actively harm or abuse others will be reborn
of the supplication, you mention him by name,
in the hell realms. This refers to those who have
referring to him as the Light of Vaidurya.
no interest in maintaining the dharma commit-
ments they have undertaken, who have no inter-
*Editors note: The Medicine Buddha, when understood as est in benefiting others, and who are only inter-
an individual buddha who once was a sentient being, predates
the Buddha Shakyamuni. Therefore, our knowledge of him is ested in harming them. But if even such a person
based, at least initially, on the teachings that arose spontane- hears the name of the Medicine Buddha, they
ously out of the supersensible cognition of the Buddha will be reborn in higher realms. By simply hear-

ing the name of the Medicine Buddha, their recollection of their names brings benefits simi-
inherent capacity for virtue will be awakened lar to those brought about by the recollection of
and they will gradually become interested in the name of the principal Medicine Buddha.
acting appropriately and benefiting others.
Changing their course of action, they will not be Excellent Name, Appearance of Stainless Fine
reborn in a lower realm. Gold,
Glorious Supreme One Free of Misery, Resound-
The next stanza describes a third benefit of
ing Dharma Melody,
hearing or recollecting the name of the Medicine King of Direct Knowledge, King of Melody,
Buddha. And King of Shakyas, I supplicate you all.

Whoever by repeated dissension and slander These seven buddhas are named Tshen Lek,
Creates serious schisms and takes life, or Excellent Name; Ser Zang Dri Me Nangwa, or
Hearing your name, they cannot harm others.
Appearance of Stainless Fine Gold; Nya Ngen
I supplicate you, King of Medicine.
Me Chok Pal, Glorious Supreme One Free of
Those who are naturally jealous, competitive, Misery; Ch Drak Yang, Resounding Dharma
and arrogant, and as a result, find themselves Melody; Ngn Khyen Gyalpo, King of Direct
always trying to produce dissention; who, when Knowledge; Dra Yang Gyalpo, King of Melody;
seeing that others are friendly and harmonious, and Shakya Gyalpo, King of the Shakyas.
automatically try to create discord; who create The next stanza is a supplication to the other
schisms where there is harmony and discord deities in the mandala of the Medicine Buddha.
even to the point where it leads to loss either of These are not listed in their entirety, but each
their own life or the lives of others; even some- set of deities is mentioned briefly and a few of
one with this jealous, competitive, and arrogant the names of each set are mentioned.
natureif they hear the name of the Medicine
Manjushri, Kyabdrl, Vajrapani,
Buddha, will be unable to cause harm. Unable to
Brahma, Indra, the Four Kings of the Four
cause harm means that their mindset and their Directions,
attitudes will change. They will cease to be The twelve great Yaksha chiefs, and so forth,
jealous, cease to be arrogant, and will gradually I supplicate you, entire and perfect mandala.
find themselves unwilling and therefore unable
to intentionally bring this kind of harm to oth- The first class of deities after the eight
ers. medicine buddhas are the sixteen bodhisattvas.
There are two sutras principally concerned Here three of them are mentioned: Manjushri,
with the Medicine Buddha. One is the Sutra of Kyabdrl, and Vajrapani. The next class are the
the Medicine Buddha, which is concerned with ten protectors of the world, or of the directions,
the principal Medicine Buddha, his twelve of whom two are mentioned, Brahma and Indra.
aspirations, and the benefits of recollecting his The next class are the four great kings of the
name. The second is the Sutra of the Eight Medi- four directions, who are also protectors, not
cine Buddhas, or the Sutra of the Eight Medicine mentioned here by their individual names.
Buddha Brothers. The medicine buddhas re- Finally there are the twelve yaksha chieftains,
ferred to in this sutra are the previously men- or yaksha generals, and they too are just men-
tioned principal one and seven others who form tioned as a class. The last line of the stanza
his retinue. The next stanza in the supplication indicates that this is the supplication of the
is concerned with the other seven medicine entire mandala of the Medicine Buddha.
buddhas. They each have their own individual Up to this point you have supplicated the
aspirations. Some of them have made eight principal Medicine Buddha and his retinue, and
aspirations; some have made four. And the in doing so have supplicated the body of the
Medicine Buddha and the mind or the emana-
tions of the Medicine Buddha. What remains is seven other medicine buddhas. On the lotus
to supplicate the speech of the Medicine Bud- petal directly in front of the principal Medicine
dha; having supplicated the buddhas and Buddha, you visualize the volumes of the
bodhisattvas of the mandala, you next supplicate dharma, the sutras, and so forth, that present his
the dharma. practice.
The next stanza of the supplication suppli-
The Sutra of the Seven Tathagatas Aspirations, cates the lineage of this practice.
And the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha,
The treatise by the great abbot Shantarakshita, Bodhisattva Shantarakshita, Trisong Deutsen,
and so forth, and others,
I supplicate all the volumes of the genuine Translators, scholars, kings, ministers,
dharma. bodhisattvas,
And all genuine lamas of the lineage,
Mentioned first are the two sutras taught by Powerful One of the Dharma, and others, I
the Buddha Shakyamuni about the Medicine supplicate you.
Buddha: the Sutra of the Aspirations of the Seven
Tathagathas, which means the seven medicine First mentioned are those who first brought
buddhas in the retinue, and the Sutra of the this tradition of the Medicine Buddha from India
Medicine Buddha, which is the principal medi- to Tibet. Where it says bodhisattva, it means the
cine buddha. Mentioned in the same stanza are abbot Shantarakshita, who bestowed this teach-
the shastras,* which also form part of the scrip- ing on many students, including the Tibetan
tural source for the Medicine Buddha tradition. dharma king Trisong Deutsen, who is mentioned
These are referred to by mentioning as an ex- next. Then supplicated are all of the translators
ample the treatise of the great abbot of Tibet and the panditas of India who enabled
Shantarakshita, which is one of the oldest or this tradition to spread to Tibet through trans-
original sources of the Medicine Buddha prac- lating it, teaching it, explaining it, and so on.
tice. And then you chant, I supplicate the genu- Next are supplicated all of the other inheritors
ine dharma in the form of books. The reason for of this tradition, bodhisattvas who took the form
this is that in general, of course, dharma exists of dharma kings, ministers and so on. Finally, all
in the form of the written word. But it has a the gurus of the lineage of this practice are
special significance in the case of this mandala. supplicated, and in particular ones own root
The self-generationthe form of the Medicine guru. This supplication was composed, and the
Buddha with which you identify your own practice in general was edited, by the learned
bodyis the Medicine Buddha alone, without and accomplished master Karma Chagmey
retinue. But the front visualization is the Medi- Rinpoche, and so he supplicates his own root
cine Buddha surrounded by all the rest of the guru, Chkyi Wangchuk, by name here.
mandala. The first circle of the mandala immedi- The final stanza of the supplication dedicates
ately surrounding him consists of the other the power of the supplication to the ends that
seven medicine buddhas and the volumes of the you wish to achieve.
dharma as the eighth member of the retinue.
During this supplication you visualize the Medi- Through the blessing of this supplication,
May the diverse temporal diseases and dangers
cine Buddha seated in the sky in front of you in
of this life be stilled.
the center of a fully opened eight-petaled lotus At death, may all fear of the lower realms be
and surrounding him, on each of the seven petals calmed.
other than the one directly in front of him, the Grant your blessing that afterwards we are born
in Sukhavati.
*Editors note: Shastras are commentaries on the original
teachings of the Buddha. The stanza reads, Through the blessing of

supplicating in this way,which means by the ing him as a teacher and an example; the
blessing of supplicating the Medicine Buddha, dharma, in which one takes refuge by accepting
his retinue of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and protec- it as a path; and the sangha, in which one takes
tors, and all the teachers of the lineage, with refuge by accepting the sangha as companions
devotionin the short run may the various and guides on that path. Identifying the three
diseases, dangers, and fears be pacified, and at jewels as the initial source of refuge indicates
the time of death, after all fear of being reborn in that by taking refuge in them you are freeing
the lower realms has been pacified, grant your yourself from the possibility of an incorrect path.
blessing that we may be born in Sukhavati, the Then there are the uncommon sources of
land of great happiness and great bliss. You are refuge, which are unique to vajrayana. They are
expressing your wish here to be protected from known as the three roots: the gurus, who are the
suffering both in the short term and in the long root of blessing; the yidams or deities, who are
term. In the short term you are asking to be the root of attainment; and the dharmapalas, or
protected from sickness and dharma protectors, who are the
various other dangersfrom root of activity. First of these are
whatever can go wrongin this The function of the gurus, who are the root of
life. In the long term, you are blessing. Blessing refers to the
asking that you not be reborn in
taking refuge is power of dharmathat which in
lower states or in lower realms, to prevent your dharma is actually effective, that
and that, once the danger and actually brings the result of
fear of being reborn in the lower
practice from dharma. Obviously in practicing
realms have been transcended, becoming an we need that effectivenessthat
you may achieve rebirth in incorrect path power or blessing of dharmato
Sukhavati, the realm of enter into us. The original source
Amitabha. That completes the of this blessing, of course, is the
lineage supplication. Buddha, who first taught the dharma in this
After the lineage supplication comes the particular historical period. Unfortunately, we
taking of refuge and the generation of bodhicitta, do not have the ability in this life to meet the
which, as necessary preliminaries, are always Buddha or hear the Buddhas speech directly.
recited at the beginning of any vajrayana prac- But we do have the opportunity to practice his
tice. Each has a specific function. The function of teachings and to attain the same result we could
taking refuge is to prevent your practice from have attained had we met the Buddha, because
becoming an incorrect path. The function of the essence of his teachingsand therefore the
generating bodhicitta is to prevent your practice blessing or effectiveness of his teachingshas
from becoming an inferior path. In the case of been passed down through the lineage, begin-
this practice, each of these aspectsrefuge and ning with the Buddha himself and culminating
bodhicittaoccupies two lines of a four-line with our own personal teacher or root guru.
stanza. Therefore, the first source of refuge in the
vajrayana are root and lineage gurusand,
NAMO to the sources of refuge, the three jewels especially the root guruwho are the source of
And the three roots, I go for refuge. the blessing of dharma.
The second source of refuge in the vajrayana,
The first line of the refuge identifies the
the second root, are the yidams, the deities, who
sources of refuge, and they are two: the three
are the sources of attainment or siddhi. While
jewels and the three roots. The three jewels,
the guru is the source of the blessing and effec-
which are the common sources of refuge,* are
the Buddha, in whom one takes refuge by accept-
*Editors note: common to all traditions of Buddhism.

tiveness of dharma, the guru cannot simply hand as that practice to which you commit yourself,
you the result or attainment of dharma practice. that direction in practice which you will take. A
The source or root of that attain- yidam is the deity about which
ment is your practice. And your you think, I will practice this. I
practice is embodied by the The function of will come to attain this result.
yidam or deity which is the basis The third vajrayana source of
of that practice. This means that
generating refuge, the third root, are the
you attain the result of dharma bodhicitta is to dharmapalas, the protectors,
practice through engaging in the who are the root of activity.
techniques of visualizing the body
prevent your Activity here means the protec-
of the deity and engaging in the practice from tion of your practice from ob-
generation and completion stage becoming an stacles, so that you can success-
practices which are associated fully complete it and bring it to
with that deity. In this specific inferior path the appropriate result, so that
instance, the yidam is the Medi- you will be able to benefit others
cine Buddha. By identifying with the body of the effectively in a way that is in accordance with
Medicine Buddha, you attain the result, the the practice. In order to achieve these ends you
attainments or siddhis, associated with the need this blessing of activity or protection. This
Medicine Buddha, which include the pacification is gained chiefly from specific bodhisattvas who
of sickness and other sufferings.* The reason take the form of protectors, and, in certain cases,
why these deities are referred to as yidams, dakinis. In the specific case of the Medicine
which literally means mental commitment, is Buddha, when the Buddha taught the Medicine
that in order to practice dharma you have to Buddha sutras, there were certain deities who
have a clear direction and strong focus in the committed themselves to protecting these teach-
technique and method of practice. The idea of ings and all practitioners of these teachings,
yidam is that a certain practice and, in the case including even those who merely recollect the
of vajrayana a certain deity, is identified by you name of the Medicine Buddha. These protector
deities are represented in the mandala, and they
*Editors note: The practice of any yidam deity will result in include the twelve Yaksha chieftains, the four
the attainment of both the ultimate and relative siddhis. The
great kings, the ten protectors of the world, and
ultimate siddhi is the stable realization of the radiant clarity
or clear light nature of mind and all reality which we know as so on. In this way, you are taking refuge by
complete and perfect enlightenment or buddhahood. The accepting the Buddha as a teacher; his teachings,
relative siddhis are such qualities as loving kindness,
compassion, intelligence, the wisdom of insight, spiritual the dharma, as a path; the sangha as companions
power, protection and the removal of obstacles, good health, and guides on that path; and you are taking
longevity, wealth, magnetism, etc. The practice of a deity
refuge by requesting the blessings of the gurus,
yields first the relative siddhis. If we pray to Chenrezig, the
first result beyond the simple development of concentration attainment through the yidam, and the protec-
will be an increase in loving kindness and compassion in our tion of the dharmapalas and dakinis. That is the
experience. If we pray to Manjushri-Sarasvati, we will
gradually experience greater perspicacity, strength of intellect, taking of refuge, which serves to protect your
and facility with music and language. If we practice practice from becoming an incorrect path.
Mahakala, we will experience protection and the removal of Next comes the generation of bodhicitta,
obstacles, if we practice White Tara we will develop greater
insight and longevity, if we practice Green Tara we will which serves to protect your practice from
experience liberation from fear, the quick removal of obstacles, becoming an inferior path.
joy, compassion and upliftedness. If we practice Vajrayogini
we will begin to develop mahamudra siddhi and increased
warmth and magnetism. If one practices both the develop- To establish all beings in buddhahood,
ment and completion stages of any deity with sufficient I awaken a mind of supreme enlightenment.
devotion and application, one will eventually attain full
realization, at which point all of the siddhis of all of the
It is true, of course, that our basic motivation
yidams will be spontaneously present.

for practicing is that we all wish to be free from flected in your thinking, I am practicing in
suffering. This wish to be free from suffering is order to bring all beings to awakening; I am not
good. But it is often somewhat practicing merely because I am
limited, which is to say that it is afraid of my own suffering or
somewhat selfish, and it is often because I wish to protect a few
somewhat petty or small-minded The idea behind others from suffering or because
in scope. The idea behind gener- generating I wish to protect all others from
ating bodhicitta is to recollect a few types of suffering. In that
that all beings without exception
bodhicitta is to way your motivation for the
wish to be happy in exactly the recollect that all practice of the Medicine Buddha
same way and to exactly the same becomes bodhicitta, which is the
degree as we do. If you bring that
beings without attitude: In order to bring all
to mind fully, then your aspira- exception wish to beings to a state of buddhahood I
tion to attain freedom for your- must first attain the state of the
be happy in
self will expand and become an Medicine Buddha in order to be
aspiration to bring all beings to exactly the same able to do so effectively, because
that same freedom. This aspira- way and to in my present state I cannot
tion has to be a long-term aspira- effectively protect or benefit
tion. It is not enough simply to exactly the same others.
aspire to free beings from a degree as we do The refuge and the genera-
certain type of suffering, or to tion of bodhicitta are followed by
free them from the suffering they the blessing or consecration of
are undergoing now, or to free them from this the place and the materials of practice.
years suffering. For it to be the aspiration of
bodhicitta, which is the fullest and most exten- From the expanse of primordial purity come forth
sive motivation, you must have the attitude of Clouds of offerings filling the earth and sky
With mandalas, articles of royalty, and goddesses.
wishing to establish beings in a state that will
May they never be exhausted. PUD DZA HO.
permanently free them from all suffering. Now,
the only way that you can actually make beings The reason for this stage of the practice is
permanently happy is to bring them to a state of that at any given moment we have an impure
full awakening, to buddhahood. So ultimately, perception* of and an impure attitude towards
the only way to protect beings from suffering is ourselves, towards others, and towards the
to establish them all in awakening, because they environment as a whole. The more we invest in
simply will not be happy until they have attained that impure perception or attitudein the
it. If you understand thisthat all beings wish to perception of things as impurethe worse our
be happy just as much as we do and that none of situation will become, and the more attachment
us can be happy until we attain awakening and aversion and apathy we will find ourselves
then you will naturally give rise to bodhicitta,
which is the intention to bring each and every
being to a state of full and perfect awakening. *Editors note: It is important to note that these impure
perceptions and attitudes are not stable, but are constantly
Bodhicitta also includes within it, of course, the changing moment by moment according to changing causes
aspiration to be of any other assistance you can and conditions. Thus, in one moment one might think quite
to beings along the way to accomplishing that highly of oneself and actually see oneself as attractive,
intelligent, and charming, and in a subsequent moment feel
ultimate goal. So it is not limited to any specific quite depressed about oneself and see oneself as tiresome and
form of assistance. dreary. These perceptions and attitudes go through myriad
changes, but they are all impure in the sense that we are
If bodhicitta has been genuinely generated, always seeing projections of ourselves, others, and the environ-
then your motivation for practice will be re- ment, and not things as they truly are.

generating. The remedy for this is simply to all the other materials and implements in your
change our attitude and to regard things as pure. environment.
Initially, of course, this takes some Following the consecration
conscious effort. But by regarding of the offerings is meditation on
things as pure, you will gradually By regarding the four immeasurables. The
start to perceive things as pure, four immeasurables are four
which will purify the habitual
things as pure, attitudes that are to be culti-
tendency to perceive them as you will gradually vated without limit, which is
impure. why they are known as immea-
At this point the liturgy reads,
start to perceive surable, or unlimited. Unlim-
Clouds of offerings emanated things as pure, ited means no limit on how
from the primordially pure ex- which will purify much and no limit on for
panse fill the sky and the earth. whom. The first immeasurable,
You imagine that the place in the habitual in the usual enumeration, is
which you are practicing is a tendency to love. Immeasurable love means
completely pure realm filled with no limit on how much love and
every imaginable type of pleasant perceive them how much compassion you
offering substance. This realm and as impure generate, and especially no
these offerings, although you are limit on for whom you generate
imaging them, are not imaginary. it.
They have been there from the very beginning,
which is why it says in the liturgy emanated May all beings be happy and free of suffering.
from the primordially pure expanse. From the May their happiness not diminish. May they
abide in equanimity.
very beginning, this is how things actually are,
how things actually have been. You are not creat-
Intrinsic to all four of these attitudes is
ing them by imagining them, nor are you fooling
impartiality. When enumerated separately,
yourselves by imagining them. It is rather that
impartiality is the fourth of the four
our present mode of perception is like being in
immeasurableslove, compassion, empathetic
the midst of a nightmare from which we hope to
joy, and impartiality. However, when you actu-
wake up; and when we wake up from it, we will
ally practice them, you need to begin with the
see things as they are. It is important to under-
cultivation of impartiality. We all have some
stand that you are imagining things to be what in
degree of love, some degree of compassion, and
fact they really are.
some degree of empathetic joy. But in order to
The offering substances contained in this pure
make these genuine and to make them immea-
realm include such things as offering mandalas,
surable we need to cultivate impartiality, which
the seven articles of royalty, and various other
is why it is to be cultivated first. When we say
kinds of offerings that are specified in the liturgy,
that we all have some degree of love, we mean
together with gods and goddesses who present
that we all wish that some beings be happy and
them, and so on. All of these offerings are inex-
possess causes of happiness. We all also have
haustible; they are unlimited in amount, they are
some degree of compassionwe all wish that
perfect in quality, they do not just disappear, and
some beings be free from suffering and the
they never get used up. This section is both the
causes of suffering. The problem is that we
consecration of the offerings and the consecration
generally wish these things only for certain
of the place of practice. And the attitude with
beings and do not particularly care about what
which this is done is that you are starting to
happens to other beings. Although our love and
purify your otherwise impure perception of your
compassion are indeed love and compassion,
environmentof your body, of your mind, and of
they are partial; and because they are partial,
they are impure and incomplete. If you cultivate expand the attitude of love from may all beings
impartiality, they become unlimitedwhich be happy to may all beings be happy and pos-
means that they become perfect. So the first sess causes of happiness, and expand the atti-
stage in the cultivation of the four tude of compassion from may all beings be free
immeasurables is to cultivate impartiality to- from suffering to may all beings be free from
wards beings, which means cultivating the suffering and free from causes of suffering.
attitude that you have the same While you cannot confidently
amount of love and the same expect to be able to make all
amount of compassion for all If you do not beings happy on the spot, you
beings. And then, on that basis, can gradually cause beings to
you can strengthen the attitude cultivate accomplish or accumulate causes
of lovethe desire that beings be impartiality in the of happiness and to avoid and get
happy and possess causes of rid of causes of suffering. And
happinessand by strengthen-
beginning, by because you understand that in
ing it you will strengthen that strengthening the long term you will be able to
attitude towards all beings in make beings happy and free
general. If you do not cultivate
your love for beings from suffering, then these
impartiality in the beginning, by some you may attitudes of love and compassion
strengthening your love for some become not only confident but
you may generate aggression for actually joyous. In this way, the
others. Therefore, you need first aggression effect of love and compassion is
to cultivate impartiality, and for others no longer sadness and depres-
then, on the basis of impartiality, sion but empathetic joy, which is
to cultivate the other three the third immeasurable. In this
love, compassion, and empathetic joy. However, way, you train or cultivate the four
in the text they are listed in the usual order, immeasurables as a preliminary for meditation
which places impartialityhere referred to as on the Medicine Buddha.
equanimityat the end.
Essentially love consists of wanting others to
be happy, and compassion consists of wanting
others not to suffer. These two attitudes, of
N ow to apply the four immeasurables to the
specific context of the Medicine Buddha
practice: Since the primary cause of suffering in
course, are excellent. But if they are present this case is the physical affliction of sickness,
without any way to bring about what you wish and since that is the initial focus of this practice,
if your love is without any way to bring about the you can focus on that in your meditation on the
happiness of beings and your compassion is four immeasurables. Thinking that it is in order
devoid of any way to remove the sufferings of to remove the sickness of beings that you are
beingsthen they will actually become a cause praying to the Medicine Buddha, meditating
of greater suffering and sadness for you. You will upon the Medicine Buddha, reciting the Medi-
be more sensitive to the sufferings of others cine Buddhas mantra, and so on, you could
because of your attitude, but will feel unable to formulate the four immeasurables in the follow-
help. And so, instead of just the other being ing way: Immeasurable love would be the atti-
suffering, two beings will sufferyou will suffer tude, May all beings possess the happiness of
as well. If, however, the attitudes of love and well-being and the causes of that. Immeasurable
compassion include the understanding of how compassion would be, May all beings be free
you can actually bring about happiness and from sickness and the causes of sickness. Im-
freedom from suffering, then these attitudes do measurable empathetic joy would be rejoicing in
not become sources of depression. Therefore we the well-being of others and in their freedom

from illness. And immeasurable impartiality work. But you need to remember that the benefit
would be generating these aspirations and of this practice is not like the direct physical
attitudes not merely for those you know, such as effect of the function of a machine, such as some-
your own friends and family, but thing that emits a laser beam.
for all beings without exception. There is always a result from
When you do the Medicine There is always a doing this practice, but the way in
Buddha practice with the inten- result from doing which the result will manifest is
tion and aspiration to benefit not absolutely definite. So in your
yourself and others in this way, this practice, but attitude towards the results of
sometimes you will perceive an the way in which practice, you need to have a long-
evident benefit: Either you or term focus. In that way you can
someone else will be freed from the result will keep the practice focused on the
sickness in a way that you manifest is not four immeasurables.
identify as a result of your That completes the prelimi-
practice. This will give you
absolutely naries to the Medicine Buddha
greater confidence in the prac- definite practice. I am going to stop there
tice. At other times, no matter for this afternoon, and we will
how much you practice and how conclude with the dedication of
hard you pray and how many mantras you say, the merit of this teaching to the liberation of all
you will not perceive any evident benefit. And beings.
this will cause you to doubt the practice, and [Dedication of merit.]
you will think, Well maybe it doesnt really

Medicine Buddha

The Visualization Uncovers the Inherent

Purity of Phenomena
Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches teaching on
the Medicine Buddha.

esterday we discussed the lineage supplication of this practice,
the refuge and bodhicitta, the consecration of the practice place
and the materials, and the meditation on the four immeasurables.
Today we are going to begin with the actual visualization of oneself as the
Medicine Buddha, which causes the blessing of the Medicine Buddha to
enter into one, and the simultaneous visualization of the mandala of the
Medicine Buddha in front of one, which serves as an object of ones sup-
plication and a field for the accumulation of merit through making offer-
The visualization is begun by purifying your perception of the entire
world, including your own body and mind. This is done initially through
the single recitation of the mantra of the pure nature or the mantra of
the purity of dharmata:

OM SOBHAWA SHUDDHA SARWA DHARMA within the sesame seeds, you could not get oil,
SOBHAWA SHUDDHO HAM no matter how hard you pressed the seeds.
Because the hidden nature of things is their
The meaning of the mantra reflects its sig- purity, then by regarding things as pure, you can
nificance. Following the initial syllable Om, the directly experience them as pure; you can di-
next word is swabava, which means the nature, rectly experience their purity. The swabawa
and then shuddha, which means pure. Ordi- mantra is used here to point this out, and also to
narily the things that appear to usthe world of introduce or begin the samadhi which will culmi-
external appearances and our internal perceiv- nate in the visualization of yourself as the Medi-
ing mindappear to us as being impure because cine Buddha.
of the presence of the kleshas and other Following the recitation of the swabava
obscurations in our minds. What is meant here mantra, you say the Tibetan words, tong pa nyi
by the pure nature is that, although we perceive du jur, which means that everything becomes
appearances and our minds in this impure way, empty or becomes emptiness.
this is not their actual nature. While they seem
to be impure, in fact, in their nature, in and of Everything turns into emptiness.
themselves, they are pure. Following the state-
ment pure by nature, are the words sarwa, This describes the beginning of the visualiza-
which means all, and dharma, which means tion. At this point you imagine that everything
things. So the mantra states that all things are disappears, that everything becomes empti-
pure in their nature. nessnot only in how it is but in how it mani-
The term dharma usually has one of two fests. However, it is important to remember that
meanings. One meaning is sadharma or the you are not pretending here that things are
genuine dharma, the teachings of the Buddha, other than they are. You are using the imaginary
and the other meaning is thing, things in gen- dissolution of things into emptiness as an ac-
eral, anything that can be known. Here it refers knowledgment of the fact that things have been,
to things. from the very beginning,* empty in their nature.
The mantra continues with the words The dissolution of ordinary impure appear-
swabava shuddha a second time and then A ances into emptiness is the first part of a two-
Hum. Because of the way that Sanskrit links step process that serves to counteract our usual
words, the second shuddha and A Hum are superimposition of impurity onto appearances.**
joined together to become shuddho ham. Again The second step is the emergence from or within
swabava shuddha means pure in its nature or that expanse of emptiness of the pure appear-
their nature; A Hum can mean self or the very ances which are the realm and palace of the
embodiment of something. Here it is understood Medicine Buddha.
to mean that not only are all things pure in their
nature, but that they are in and of themselves From the depth of emptiness, this triple universe
the very embodiment of that purity. So this
*Editors note: Buddhism, of course, does not assert any sort
mantra is essentially a statement of why the of cosmological beginning, so the use of beginning here has
path can lead to the result. Because things are the same meaning as from beginningless time.
pure in their nature, because this purity is **Editors note: This superimposition of impurity onto
appearances is the same as referred to by Nagarjuna, in In
present within the nature of things, then it can Praise of the Dharmadhatu: The phenomena that appear to
manifest as experience and as a resultthrough the mental consciousness, the chief of them all, are conceptu-
taking that inherent purity as a path. For ex- alized and then superimposed. When this activity is aban-
doned, phenomenas lack of self-essence is known. Knowing
ample, because sesame oil is present within this, meditate on the dharmadhatu. The swabava mantra
sesame seeds, then by pressing the seeds you can and the ensuing sadhana, as well as all other sadhanas and
completion stage practices are methods for training the mind
extract the oil. If there were no oil present to abandon this activity of superimposition.

becomes In the center of the self-visualizations palace
The exquisite palace, where is a throne made of gold and jewels and other
precious substances that is upheld by eight snow
The first step is to think that all of the impure lions. The significance of the lion throne is
appearances dissolve into emptiness, and the primarily the sense of utter fearlessness
second is that from within that indicating the deitys freedom
emptiness the realm and palace from fear and danger of any
of the Medicine Buddha emerge. The significance kind. On top of the throne is a
Now when you imagine that the
place in which you are practicing
of the lion throne fully opened lotus flower, on top
of the center of which, lying flat,
has become the realm and palace is primarily the is a moon disc, on top of which
of the Medicine Buddha, you do
not limit this consideration to
sense of utter you will be visualizing yourself
seated in the form of the Medi-
this world or to this planet alone. fearlessness cine Buddha. In the center of the
As it says in the liturgy, it is the
indicating the palace in the front visualization,
entire billion worlds of this you visualize a sixteen-petaled
larger world system, or galaxy. deitys freedom lotus, in the center of which you
There are two ways that you from fear and visual an eight-petaled lotus. In
can do this practice. The simplest the center of the eight-petaled
way is to visualize yourself as the danger of
lotus, you visualize another lion
Medicine Buddha. The more any kind throne, lotus, and moon disc
elaborate way, which is indicated seat, as in the self-visualization.
in the liturgy, is also to visualize There are eight- and sixteen-
the Medicine Buddha, surrounded by his reti- petaled lotuses in the front visualization because
nue, present in front of you as well. It is easier there will be additional buddhas and
for beginners to do the self-visualization alone; bodhisattvas in those places.
on the other hand, doing the front visualization Next, on top of the moon discs in both the
as well gives one the opportunity to gather the front and self visualizations, you visualize a blue
accumulation of merit. In either case, in the syllable HUM.* The HUM syllable on top of the
midst of the realm of the Medicine Buddha, moon disc in the self-visualization palace repre-
which you have visualized as emerging from the sents the essence of the mind or wisdom of the
expanse of emptiness, there is a palace. This self-visualization deity, and the blue HUM on top
palace is square, and quite symmetrical. In the of the moon disc in the front-visualization palace
center of each of the four sides is a large gate- represents the essence of the mind or wisdom of
way, each forming an entry into the palace. If you the front-visualization deity. This particular
are doing the practice with both self and front syllable HUM is used because HUM is the sound
visualizations, you need to visualize two palaces: of dharmata, the expression as sound of the
one in the center of which you will sit as the self nature** itself. It is blue because that is the
visualization; and one in front of you and some- color of the deity who will emerge from the
what elevated, which will serve as the residence syllablethe Medicine Buddha is blue, as is
for the front visualization. Vajradharabut also because blue represents
that which is unchanging and unfabricated.***
On lion thrones, each with a lotus and moon disk
on top *Editors note: These syllables are to be visualized in
Appear deep blue HUNGs, the seed syllable of Tibetan script.
myself and the main figure visualized in the **Editors note: the true nature, the ultimate nature
***Editors note: This color blue is generally described as
deep blue, the color of an autumn sky high in the mountains.

Having visualized the syllables, you then visual- Saying that he appears in nirmanakaya form
ize innumerable rays of light radiating from each means that, though some yidams appearing in
of these syllables simultaneously. On the end of sambhogakaya form wear lots of jewelry and
each ray of light are innumerable offering god- silken robes and so on, the Medicine Buddha
desses holding various offering substances which manifests in what is called the passionless
they present to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas appearance of a nirmanakaya buddha, wearing
in all the directions throughout space. This vast only the three dharma robes commonly worn by
array of buddhas and bodhisattvas receives the monastic sangha: the inner and outer upper
these offerings with pleasure, and as a conse- robes and the lower skirt.
quence their nonconceptual compassion is The Medicine Buddha has two arms.
aroused, which manifests as their blessings
coming back in the form of rays of blue light His right hand in the mudra of supreme
which dissolve into the HUM. Rays of light generosity holds an arura.
His left hand in meditation mudra holds a
which went out bearing offerings are reabsorbed
begging bowl.
bearing blessings back into the two HUM syl-
lables. Once again rays of light radiate outward His right hand is extended, palm outward,
from both HUMs simultaneously, this time over his right knee in the gesture called su-
purifying the entire external world, the entire preme generosity. In it he holds the arura, or
universe, of everything in it that could possibly myrobalan, fruit. This plant represents all the
cause harm or suffering of any kind, and also best medicines. The position of his right hand
purifying the mental continuums of all beings and the arura which he holds represent the
without exception of any kind of suffering or eradication of suffering, especially the suffering
misery or cause of suffering. Then the rays of of sickness, using the means of relative truth.
light are reabsorbed again into their respective Sickness can be alleviated by adjusting the
HUMs. At that moment the syllables are in- functioning of interdependent causes and condi-
stantly and simultaneously transformed into the tions by the use of relative means within the
Medicine Buddha. realm of relative truth, such as medical treat-
ment and so on. The giving of these methods is
From which, arises Menla, his body the color of
represented by the gesture of the Medicine
lapis lazuli and radiating light.
Buddhas right hand.
After this transformation, the self-visual- His left hand rests in his lap, palm upward,
ized Medicine Buddha that you are identifying in the gesture of meditative stability or medita-
with is now considered your own body, and the tion, which represents the eradication of sick-
front visualization is in front of you. The Medi- ness and sufferingand, indeed, the very roots
cine Buddha is a brilliant blue in colorthe of samsarathrough the realization of absolute
color of a precious stone called vaidurya, gener- truth. From the point of view of either relative
ally considered to be lapis lazuli. In appearance truth or absolute truth, the fundamental cause of
the Medicine Buddha is luminous and majestic sickness and suffering is a lack of contentment
and radiates innumerable rays of light primarily and the addictive quality of samsara. Therefore,
the color of his own body. Yidams can appear in a to indicate the need for contentment, in his left
number of different wayspeaceful or wrathful hand he holds a begging bowl.
and frightening; nirmanakaya or sambhogakaya Because the mind of the Medicine Buddha is
in form, and so on. The Medicine Buddha is stainless and pure, his form reflects this in its
peaceful and in the nirmanakaya form. excellence and physical perfection.

He is clothed in the three dharma robes. With the major and minor marks complete, he
sits in the vajra posture.

He is adorned by what are called the marks from sickness. When we talk about the
and signs, the primary and secondary indications sadharma, or the genuine dharma, we are refer-
of the awakening of a buddha. In all aspects of ring fundamentally to the third and fourth of the
his physical formthe crown protuberance, or four noble truths: the truth of the cessation of
ushnisha, the image of wheels on the soles of his suffering and the truth of the path leading to the
feet, and so forththe Medicine Buddha is cessation of suffering. The truth of cessation is
identical to the Buddha Sakyamuni, with the the result of practice, which is the abandonment
single difference that the Buddha Sakyamunis or transcendence of everything that is to be
skin is golden in color, while the Medicine Bud- abandoned or transcended.* The truth of the
dha is blue. Because the Medicine Buddha is path is the dharma we practice that leads to that
immersed in an unwavering samadhi of absorp- transcendence. The dharma in essence is the
tion within the realization of the nature of all experience and realization of the meaning of
things, and because this samadhi is utterly dharma** that is present within the minds of
stable, he is seated with his legs fully crossed in those who practice it and achieve its result. By
the vajra posture. You visualize yourself in this extension, the dharma also refers to the tradi-
form, and you visualize the front visualization in tion of passing on that meaning, and therefore
the same form as well. one visualizes that meaning
Everything described up to passed on from the Buddha
this pointthe palace, the In the end it is down to the present day in the
throne, and the Medicine Bud- the dharma that form of books on the petal di-
dhapertains to both the self rectly in front of the Medicine
and the front visualizations. In liberates us from Buddha visualized in front.
the case of the front visualiza- samsara and
tion, however, you will remember Around them are the sixteen
that the lion throne sits in the
sickness bodhisattvas,
Around them are the ten protec-
center of an eight-petaled lotus,
tors of the world,
which in turn sits in the center of a sixteen- And the twelve great chiefs with their respective
petaled lotus. Now on seven of the eight petals of retinues.
the eight petaled lotus, which surround the The Four Great Kings are at the four gates.
Medicine Buddha in the front visualizationon
the seven petals other than the one directly in Surrounding the seven Medicine Buddhas
front of the Medicine Buddhaare the seven and the volumes of dharma, are sixteen
other medicine buddhas, the Buddha bodhisattvas on the petals of the sixteen-petaled
Shakyamuni and six others. As is the principal lotus. These are the sixteen bodhisattvas who
Medicine Buddha, they are all adorned by the were the main recipients of the teachings of the
thirty-two marks and the eighty signs of physical Medicine Buddha sutras given by the Buddha.
perfection which grace the body of a buddha. They all manifest in the sambhogakaya form,
wearing ornate jewelry and so forth. Beyond the
In particular, on the lotus petals of the front perimeter of that lotus, but still within the
visualization palace of the front visualization, are twenty-two
Are the seven Buddhas, Shakyamuni and the other main deities, each of whom has a retinue.
others, and dharma texts.

On the eighth petal, directly in front of the *Editors note: Which thereby brings about the cessation of
principal Medicine Buddha, is a volume of the
**Editors note: Expressed variously as the nonconceptual
dharma. The reason for this is that in the end it wisdom of emptiness, the nonconceptual wisdom of clear light,
is the dharma that liberates us from samsara and radiant clarity, primordial awareness, the empty, clear, and
unimpeded nature of mind, etc.

On the Medicine Buddhas right, forming a cine Buddha you are not pretending to be some-
semicircle to the right of the principal deities, thing that you are not, and that by visualizing
are the ten protectors of the directionsother- the Medicine Buddha and his retinue in front of
wise known as the ten protectors of the world. you, you are not pretending that they are in a
These are deities such as Brahma, Indra, and so place where they are not. By definition, buddhas
forth. Likewise, forming a semicircle on the left are omniscient. Whenever someone thinks of
side of the palace are the twelve yaksha chief- them, brings them to mind, or supplicates them,
tains or generals. Each of these figures is sur- they are aware of it and respond with their
rounded by a vast retinue of their own. Finally, compassion and blessing. In the final analysis,
in the four gates or gateways of the palace visu- the situation is identical to their actually being
alized in front are the four kings of the gods. present anywhere they are thought of. There-
They are visualized here because they are pro- fore, it is always appropriate to regard a buddha
tectors of the buddhadharma in general. Specifi- that is present in ones mind as actually being
cally whenever the Buddha present in front of one. When you
taught, and especially when- think that the Medicine Buddha,
ever he exhibited miracles, he
When you think together with his retinue, is
would emanate a magnificent that the Medicine present in front of you, it is really
magical palace like this one, true that they are.
and, to signify their function as
Buddha, together Visualizing yourself as the
protectors of his teachings, with his retinue, Medicine Buddha is also appro-
these four kings of the gods is present in priate, because your fundamental
would guard each of the four naturewhat you truly areis
gates as gatekeepers. front of you, it is buddha nature. Buddha nature is
When you are practicing, if really true that essentially the potential to attain
you can, visualize all of these awakening. At some point in the
deities. But if you cannot, do
they are future you will attain the same
not be discouraged. Do not feel awakening or buddhahood as the
that somehow the practice has become ineffec- Medicine Buddha himself. By visualizing your-
tive or invalid because you cannot visualize each self as the Medicine Buddha, you are assuming
and every one of them. It is sufficient to generate the appearance of what fundamentally you are
as clear a visualization as you can of yourself as even now and what manifestly you will be upon
the Medicine Buddha and of the Medicine Bud- your awakening. It is to acknowledge this truth
dha in front of you. If, in addition to that, you can that you assume the aspect of the body, speech,
visualize the seven additional medicine buddhas and mind of the Medicine Buddha, which is,
and the volumes of dharma, good. If, in addition therefore, entirely appropriate.
to that, you can visualize the sixteen While it is entirely appropriate to visualize
bodhisattvas, that is also good. But you should yourself as the Medicine Buddha and to visualize
gauge the extent of the visualization to what you the Medicine Buddha and retinue in front of you,
actually can do. In any case, the practice will be you may still have some hesitation or doubt that
effective and will cause the blessing of dharma in the visualization is anything more than just a
general and the blessing of the Medicine Buddha visualization. This is understood, and therefore
in particular to enter you. It will serve its func- the next phase of the practice is designed to
tion and be effective, regardless of how you do counteract that doubt. In order to alleviate any
the visualization. More important than how residual doubts you may have, you next invite
many deities you visualize is to understand what the actual wisdom deities and dissolve them into
you are doing. And most important is to under- the visualization.
stand that by visualizing yourself as the Medi-

From the three syllables in their three places and without exception
the HUNG in their hearts, I invite here to this place. Kindly rain upon us
Lights radiate, invoking from their own eastern your great blessings.
buddha realms, countless Bestow the supreme empowerment on those who
Wisdom deities which dissolve into myself and are worthy and faithful.
the one visualized in front. Dispel false guides and obstacles to long life.
The first step in inviting the wisdom deities BENZA SAMAYADZA DZA BENZA
is to visualize in the three places of the self- SAMAYA TIKTRA LEN
visualized Medicine Buddha, in the three places
of the Medicine Buddha visualized in front, and, First you invite the eight Medicine Buddhas
if possible, in the three places of the rest of the together with their retinues, saying, Please
deities in the retinue, the three syllables, OM come to this place and rain down your great
AH HUNG. Inside your head you visualize a blessing upon me, the practitioner, and upon
white OM, which is the essence of the body of others. Then you ask that they, Bestow the
the Medicine Buddha; in your throat a red AH, supreme empowerment upon me, the fortunate
which is the essence of his speech; and in your one, who has faith, and that, by so doing, they,
heart a blue HUM, which is the essence of his Please dispel obstacles, such as obstacles to life
mind. Visualizing these in the body of the self- and longevity and other obstacles in general.
visualized Medicine Buddha and in the bodies of The mantra that follows seals and reinforces
the deities visualized in front, you then think this act of invitation. The mantra means, Great
that from these syllables rays of light of the King of Medicine, together with your retinue,
corresponding colorsand most particularly vajra samaya jaja.** Vajra samaya means
rays of blue light from the HUM syllables in the unchanging commitment or samaya. Here you
heart centers of the deitiesradiate. are reminding these buddhas of their commit-
This radiation of light invites, from their ment to liberate beings. From their
individual buddha realms, the deities of initial generation of bodhicitta, up to and
the mandala. Each of the eight Medicine including the moment of their attain-
buddhasthe principle one and the
*Editors note: Unlike Amitabas realm of
seven buddhas of the retinuehas his Sukhavati or Dewachen, which is thought of as being
own realm, all of which are understood in the western direction, these buddha realms of the
to be in the eastern direction.* From Medicine Buddhas are thought of as being in the
eastern direction. However, it is important to
these different pure realms the eight understand how these directions are understood in
Medicine Buddhas and their retinues of the practice of vajrayana. All deities are thought of
as facing east. If you are visualizing yourself as the
deities are invited and they all dissolve Medicine Buddha or as Chenrezig or as Vajrayogini,
into you as the Medicine Buddha and regardless of the direction in which you would find
into the front visualization. In practice their individual buddha realms, you are facing east.
And the same is true of the deities of the front
you do not think that they immediately visualization , who are also thought of as facing
dissolve into you, but that they present east. Therefore, if in real space you happen to be
facing south or north, as far as the visualization is
themselves and are present in the sky in
concerned, you are still facing east. You would not
front of you, between the two palaces of think that the deities resided in their buddha
the self and front visualizations. realms somewhere far off over your left or right shoulder. To a
yogi or yogini, as Kalu Rinpoche once said, all directions are
Having described the visualization, you then east.
recite a stanza that is an actual invitation to the **Editors note: Sanskrit, like Latin, is no longer a spoken
deities to approach. language. Here the translator is reading the mantra in what
scholars suspect was the original Sanskrit pronunciation. The
mantras, as they appear in this text, are our English versions
of the Tibetan versions of the original Sanskrit mantras. In
The eight Menla companions and all deities this case Vajra samaya ja ja reads Benza samaya dza dza.

ment of full buddhahood, the motivation for their it is possible, but I cannot think of an instance,
entire path was the wish to and so I cannot say his consorts
liberate beings. They therefore name is this or that.
have an unchanging commit-
menta vajra-like or indestruc-
When you say Question: Rinpoche, in the
tible samayato the liberation these words, visualization, there are eight
of beings. So when you say these vajra samaya jaya, petals and then sixteen petals
words, vajra samaya jaja, you around that. Petals arent really
are saying to these buddhas, you are that large and so it is difficult for
You must come here and bless saying to these me to visualize each of them
me because you have committed containing a bodhisattva and his
yourself to do so. At that point,
buddhas, You retinue. Is it like a window to
then, think with confidence that must come here their world or what is the best
all of the wisdom deities of the way to visualize this realisti-
mandala have actually come and
and bless me cally?
are present in the sky in front of because you
you. Rinpoche: In pure realms flow-
have committed
The mantra that follows is ers can get really big. But if it
vajra samaya tiktralen. Vajra yourself to do so makes it easier to relate to, these
samaya means unchanging are basically thrones that are
commitment, and tiktra means to somewhat connected with one
remain stable. With this mantra you are saying, another and that have the basic shape or style of
Through the power of your unchanging commit-
ment to the welfare and liberation of beings, *Editors note: In connection with this process it is helpful to
be familiar with two terms: samayasattva and jnanasattva,
please dissolve inseparably into me and remain
which could be roughly translated as commitment being and
within me stably or permanently. At that point primordial awareness being. The samayasattva is ones own
you think that all of the invited deities, re- personal visualization which one performs in order to main-
tain ones commitment to ones lama and to the practice of
minded of their commitment and with their ones yidam. The jnanasattva is sometimes thought of as the
compassion aroused in that way, dissolve both actual deity which is a manifestation of the clear light
nature of mind or the radiant clarity of mind and reality,
into the self visualization and into the deities of
which for the purposes of the visualization is thought of as
the front visualization. And at that point think residing off somewhere in its own particular buddha realm.
that your body, speech, and mind visualized as When the jnanasattva finally dissolves into the
samayasattva, the jnanasattva and the samayasattva are
the Medicine Buddha and the body, speech, and thought to have become one and indivisible. In the ati yana,
mind of the Medicine Buddha have become the samayasattva and the jnanasattva are considered from
indivisible.* the beginning to be simultaneously present.
In The Heart of the Buddha, Chgyam Trungpa describes
We are going to stop there for this morning, this process from a psychological perspective as it relates to
but if you have any questions, you are welcome the practice of Vajrayogini: The visualization of oneself as
Vajrayogini is called the samayasattva: the sacred bondage of
to ask them. ones being. The samayasattva is basically the expression of
the samayas of body, speech, and mind. It expresses ones
Question: Does the Medicine Buddha ever have commitment to the teacher and the teachings and ones trust
in ones fundamental state of mind.
a consort and, if so, what is her name? Having visualized the samayasattvas of basic being, one
invites what is known as jnanasattva. The jnanasattva is
another level of being or experience. Jnana is a state of
Rinpoche: In this case, because he is visualized
wakefulness or openness, whereas samaya is an experience of
in the form of a supreme nirmanakaya, he does bondage, in being solidly grounded in ones experience. Jnana
not. There could be cases in which he is visual- literally means wisdom or, more accurately, being wise. One
invites this state of wisdom, this level of wakefulness, into
ized in a sambhogakaya form with a consort in ones own imperfect visualization, so that the visualization
order to indicate the unity of upaya and prajna comes alive with a feeling of openness and humor.

flower petals. them? Should I spend a chunk of time doing the
front visualization and then come back to the
Question: Rinpoche talked about the front self visualization for an amount of time?
visualization as being a field for the accumula-
tion of merit. Why does the front visualization Rinpoche: Thats fine. You can go back and
have something to do with accumulating merit? forth.

Rinpoche: In this practice, as the liturgy indi- Question: Quickly or slowly or what?
cates, merit is accumulated through paying
homage and making various offeringsthe Rinpoche: The best thing is to go back and forth
mandala offering and the offering of praises and as frequently as is comfortable.
so forthprimarily to the front visualization.
You accumulate merit by performing offerings to Question: Rinpoche, does this particular
that in which you have absolute confidence, sadhana have any special significance for you? Is
which is the actual Buddha. this of special significance to the
Therefore, it is easier to accumu- Thrangu lineage?
late merit by making offerings to You accumulate
the front visualization, which you Rinpoche: This does not have
are perceiving as different from merit by any particular significance for
and possibly superior to yourself. performing me or my monastery, except that
it is one of the three Medicine
Question: When doing the offerings to that Buddha practices which is nor-
mantra towards the end of the in which you mally done in the Kagyu tradi-
practice, do we focus our atten- tion as a whole. There is a long
tion primarily on ourself and the
have absolute one, a medium one, and this one,
mantra in our heart or do we confidence, which is the short one. We are
alternate attention between the practicing this one because it is
Buddha in front and ourselves?
which is the the short one.
actual Buddha
Rinpoche: You apply it to both. Question: What Tibetan word is
You visualize the seed syllable and the mantra being translating as pure? And do you trans-
garland within the heart of both the self and late this word in any other way?
front visualizations, and in both cases, you
identify it as the embodiment of the wisdom or Translator: Takpa.
mind of the deity. Then normally you would
think that rays of light radiate from the seed Question: Is it always translated as pure?
syllable and mantra garland in the heart of the
self visualization. These rays of light strike and Translator: By me, yes. A lot of people do a lot of
enter the hearts of the deities of the front visual- different things; I cannot guarantee that they
ization, arousing their compassion, causing rays always call it pure.
of light to come from the front visualization and
to dispel the sickness and suffering of all beings Question: Maybe Rinpoche could say what the
and so forth. word means.

Question: I cant manage to visualize the front Rinpoche: You can think of synonyms for pure
visualization and myself as the Medicine Buddha as being free of impurity, which by extension
simultaneously. Should I alternate between would mean free of defect or imperfection. It

would indicate that which is stainless, that entire universe by visualizing that it all dis-
which is perfect, flawless, and so on. solves into emptiness. Theoretically, from that
point onward all impurity has ceased. But when
Question: Rinpoche, is there a particular sig- you get to the repetition of the main mantra you
nificance for the light radiating from the eastern can renew that purification by once again bring-
Buddha realms? ing to mind impure appearances and purifying
them with the rays of light which emerge from
Rinpoche: In the sutras of the Medicine Bud- the heart of the deity.
dha, the Buddha described their realmsthe
principal realm of the principal Medicine Bud- Question: Rinpoche, in other visualization
dha and the other realms of the attendant practices, sometimes theres a sense of seeing
buddhasas all being in the east. ones own root teacher in the form of that deity.
Is there anything like that in this practice?
Question: When we visualize light going out to
the universe, does that include everything? Rinpoche: Yes, it is appropriate to identify the
Rocks and trees and chairs and buildings? front visualization with your root guru. People
relate to the front visualization in slightly differ-
Translator: At which point? During the creation ent ways. If they feel particularly devoted to the
of the deity or during the recitation of the mantra? Medicine Buddha, then they will primarily think
of the front visualization as the actual Medicine
Question: During the recitation of the mantra. Buddha. But they can also think of the front
visualization as in essence their root guru.
Rinpoche: Yes. Initially, before the generation of So we will conclude by dedicating the merit.
the deity, you purify your perception of the

Medicine Buddha

Because of Its Vastness, Offering

The Entire Universe Produces Great Merit

Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches teaching on

the Medicine Buddha.

his morning we went over the visualization of oneself as the
Medicine Buddha, the visualization of the Medicine Buddha in
front, and finally the dissolving of the actual wisdom deity into
both the self and front visualizations as a remedy for ones habitual
perception of things as impure or ordinary.
Having just dissolved the wisdom beings into oneself and into the
front visualizationas a remedy for ones obscurations, ones wrongdo-
ing, and ones conceptualization, we then receive empowerment. This
phase of the practice is represented in the liturgy simply by the mantra:


The visualization which accompanies the HUNG
mantra is as follows: Once again you visualize Flowers, incense, lights, scents,
the three syllablesOM AH HUMin the three Food, music and so forth;
Forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and all
places of oneself as the Medicine Buddha and of
the deities of the front visualization, and once I offer to the deities.
again rays of light radiate from themespecially May we perfect the two accumulations.
from the HUM in your heartinviting this time
the five male buddhas of the five families with OM BENZA ARGHAM PADYAM PUPE
their retinues from their pure realms. The DHUPE ALOKE GENDHE NEWIDYE
buddhas are holding in their hands precious
vases* filled with the ambrosia of wisdom, which
they pour into you as the self-visualized Medi- First they present a set of eight related
cine Buddha through the aperture at the very offerings. First is drinking water, which is of-
center of the top of your head. The first part of fered to the mouths of the deities. Second is
this mantraOM HUM TRAM HRI AHrepre- water for washing or rinsing the feet, which is
sents this empowerment being administered by offered to the feet of the deities. Third is flow-
the five buddhas simultaneously. OM represents ers, which are offered to the eyes of the deities.
Vairocana; HUM, Akshobya; TRAM, Fourth is incense, the scent of which is offered to
Ratnasambhava; HRI, Amitabha; the nose of the deities. Fifth is
and AH, Amogasiddhi.** Visualiz- In general, lamps, which are offered again
ing that this pure ambrosia fills to the eyes of the deities. Sixth
your entire body, you think that it offerings can be is perfume, which is offered to
purifies all the wrongdoing, categorized into the whole body of the deities.
obscurations, and defilements of
any kind whatsoever of your
four types: outer, Seventh is food, offered to the
mouths of the deities. And
body, speech, and mind. The inner, secret, and eighth is musical instruments
words Abhikentsa mean empow-
ultimate symbolizing the sound of music,
offered to the ears of the deities.
The next section of the prac- Offered with these eight
tice is the accumulation of merit through making offerings are the five offerings of pleasant things
offerings. As indicated earlier, the self visualiza- which are perceived by the five senses. These
tion presents offerings to the front visualization. are beautiful forms, pleasant sounds, smells,
Rays of light emerge from the heart of the self tastes, and tactile sensations.
visualization. On the ends of these rays of light In general, offerings can be categorized into
are offerings goddesses holding various offering four types: outer, inner, secret, and ultimate.
substances, which they present to all the deities Outer offerings are essentially the offering of
of the front visualization. whatever is beautiful and pleasant in the exter-
nal world. What is being presented to the deity
here are all things in the external world that are
*Editors note: Vases made of precious jewels and metals. appropriate and beautiful. By making these
**Editors note: When represented in a seated posture and offerings, you gather the accumulation of merit.
at rest, Vairocana is white with his hands in the teaching
Therefore it says in the text, By making these
mudra; Akshobya is blue with his left hand in the mudra of
meditation and his right hand in the earth touching mudra; offerings to the deities, may we complete the two
Ratnasambhava is yellow with his left hand in the mudra of accumulations. The two accumulations are the
meditation and the right hand in the mudra of generosity;
Amitabha is red with both hands in the meditation mudra; conceptual accumulation of merit and the
and Amogasiddhi is green with his left hand in the mudra of nonconceptual accumulation of wisdom. The
meditation and his right hand in the mudra of fearlessness.
making of the offerings themselves gathers or
completes the conceptual accumulation of merit; HUNG
when these offerings are made within the recog- The eight foremost auspicious substances,
nition of the ultimate unreality of the offerings, The best royal white mustard seed, and the
the offerer, and the act of offeringwhen there
I offer to the deity.
is recognition of the emptiness of the offerings, May the two accumulations be perfected.
the emptiness of the offerer, and the emptiness MANGALAM ARTHA SIDDHI HUNG
of the act of offeringthen the nonconceptual
accumulation of wisdom is also completed. The eight auspicious substances are so called
Finally the offerings are presented at the end because they are eight substances or things
of the stanza with the offering mantras that which are connected with the arising of dharma
denote them. The word vajra at the beginning of in this world. They are considered auspicious
the mantra indicates that the nature of the because they were significant in bringing about
offering substances is emptiness. Then the the arising of the teachings. The eight auspicious
individual offerings are named in order, and signs or designs appear on the body of a buddha
finally tra ti tsa, or pra ti cha, and are therefore considered
means individually to each. So to auspicious. The eight auspicious
each of the deities the offerings The eight substances include such things
are presented. auspicious as the conch shell with the swirl
At this point in most going clockwise, which the god
vajrayana practices the outer
substances . . . Indra offered to the Buddha
offerings would be followed by are considered when he requested him to turn
the inner, secret, and ultimate the wheel of the dharma. Based
offerings. The inner offering is
on Indras offering, the Buddha
generally the offering of some because they first taught the dharma, as a
kind of torma. Torma is referred were significant consequence of which beings
to in this context as an inner have the opportunity to encoun-
offering because the offering of it in bringing about ter the dharma and attain its
is a way to increase your the arising of the results. For that reason, the
samadhi, your meditative absorp- conch shell with its clockwise
tion, which is an internal phe-
teachings swirl, is considered auspicious.
nomenon. The secret offering is Another of the substances is
the offering of the unity of bliss and emptiness, durva grass, which a grass cutter and seller,
which is made in order to induce or stabilize this whose name was also auspicious, offered the
recognition in the practitioner. In the same way, Buddha when he encountered him just before
the ultimate offering, the offering of the recogni- the Buddhas awakening. The Buddha used the
tion of the ultimate nature itself, is made in durva grass to make a seat, on which he sat
order to stabilize that recognition in the practi- while he attained awakening. Therefore, because
tioner. Here these offerings are not given be- it is connected with the Buddhas awakening,
cause this practice, while it is vajrayana in which is the event that transformed this period
tradition, tends to follow the sutras in style. of history from a period of darkness into a pe-
Therefore, the offerings that follow are those riod of illumination, durva grass is also consid-
which are commonly presented in the sutras ered an auspicious substance.*
themselves. Thus, you offer the eight auspicious sub-
The next two sets of offerings presented are stances to the Medicine Buddha and his retinue,
the eight auspicious substances and the eight
auspicious signs or marks. *Editors note: Rinpoche discusses these and other offerings
in greater detail in the next teaching.

making the aspiration to complete the two HUNG The foremost desirable qualities, the
accumulations by offering them. The mantra at seven precious articles,
the end of that stanza is mangalam, which The most excellent royal one, the jewel, and the
means auspicious, and artha siddhi, which
I offer to the deity.
makes it the accomplishment of auspiciousness. May I perfect the two accumulations.
The next set of offerings are the eight auspi- OM MANI RATNA HUNG
cious signs or marks.
A chakravartin appears during the best or
HUNG finest periods of history, during what is called a
The eight foremost auspicious symbols, fortunate eon or period. These seven articles
The peerless royal vase and all others,
distinguish a chakravartin from any other mon-
I offer to the deity.
May sentient beings perfect the two arch; however the true internal meaning of these
accumulations. seven articles is that they represent the seven
MANGALAM KUMBHA HUNG aspects of the path to awakening, which is tra-
versed by all buddhas and bodhisattvas. So when
In general, every buddha is adorned with the you make this offering to the deities, you think
thirty-two marks and the eighty signs, but of all that externally you are offering the seven ar-
of these, eight are foremost. These eight are ticles of royalty as representations of the seven
actually the shapes of particular parts of his aspects of the path to awakening.
body, which are reminiscent of certain emblems. You present these offerings to all the deities
For example, the shape of the top of the of the mandala visualized in front, making the
Buddhas head is reminiscent of a parasol, so the aspiration that by doing so you will complete the
precious parasol is one of these auspicious signs. two accumulationsthe conceptual accumula-
The shape of his eyes is like the shape of a tion of merit and the nonconceptual accumula-
certain golden fish, so the golden fish is another tion of wisdom. The mantra used to complete
one. The shape of his throat is like a certain kind this offering refers to the first of the seven
of vase, so the precious vase is yet another, and articles, the precious jewel. Mani means jewel
so on. Again, one offers these eight shapes or and ratna means precious.
signs to the deities in order to bring about the The next offering, which completes the main
auspiciousness of them, making the aspiration section of the offerings, is the offering of a
that by making these offerings all beings without mandala.
exception will perfect the two accumulations:
the conceptual accumulation of merit and the
non-conceptual accumulation of wisdom. The *Editors note: Though these seven articles of royalty or
mantra at the end of this stanza is mangalam seven possessions may appear as suchas articles or
possessionsto an observer lost in dualistic perception who
kumbha hum. Mangalam means auspicious; sees everything as my and mine, her and hers, him and
kumbaha means vase. The vase is used here to his, etc., they are better understood by adhering more closely
indicate all eight of these signs or shapes. Be- to the actual meaning of the Tibetan words used here, dd yn.
Dd means desirable, and yn means quality, skill or at-
cause it represents the shape of the Buddhas tribute. Thus, if one understands these seven whatevers as
throat, and because it was out of the Buddhas seven qualities or attributes of a chakravartins mind
whether the chakravartin is thought of as male or femaleit
throat originally that the dharma issued forth, will be easier to understand that these articles or posses-
the vase is considered of foremost importance. sions, to the extent that they appear to be external phenom-
The next offering is the offering of the seven ena, appear naturally and effortlessly and totally without
coercion in his or her mandala or world. Without this under-
articles of royalty, which are seven possessions* standing, the notion of precious queen might appear as
unique to a certain type of monarch called a nothing more than another aspect of an androcentric universe.
This misunderstanding is further undermined by understand-
ing them as aspects of the path, as Rinpoche explains.

HUNG The foremost of all, Mount Meru which are called actually assembled, mentally
With its four continents and subcontinents emanated, and produced through the power of
I offer to the deity. aspiration. Actually assembled offerings are
May the two accumulations be perfected.
physically present and under your power to
offer. Mentally emanated offerings are offerings
In general, of course, we make these offer- that you imagine, that you do not actually have
ings in order to gather and complete the accu- physically present before you, but that you can
mulation of merit. We do not make them for the imagine clearly enough to offer in your mind.
benefit of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, who are Offerings offered through the power of aspira-
their ostensible recipients. Buddhas and tion are things that are so vast and limitless that
bodhisattvas are not particularly pleased by the you cannot even encompass them in your mind
presentation of offerings or displeased by their or imagine them, but you can at least make the
absence. The only real reason for making offer- aspiration to offer them to the buddhas and
ings is that the person making them gathers the bodhisattvas. It is said that any of these three
accumulation of merit by doing types of offerings will all produce
so. We make offerings for our the accumulation of merit. We use
own benefit,* and it is how it the offering of the entire universe
affects us that is important.
Buddhas and as a mandala because the vastness
Offerings are not limited to that bodhisattvas are of it produces great merit.
which you can actually physi- Specifically mentioned are the
cally assemble around you as
not particularly central mountain, Mount Meru,
offering substances. Offerings pleased by the together with the continents
can be of any of three types, surrounding it. These together,
presentation of along with everything that goes

*Editors note: And, by extension, for

offerings or with them, make up the mandala,
which is considered the principal
the benefit of all beings. In the view of
the practice of vajrayana, which is rooted
displeased by among all offerings. In detail, the
in the mahayana aspiration to attain
budhahood in order to liberate all
their absence. offering consists of Mount Meru,
sentient beings, the mandala of the The only real which includes on top of Mount
yogin or yoginis body, speech, and mind Meru the second of the desire god
is the entirety of animate and inanimate
existence, and whatever affects the one
reason for realmsenumerated from the
beneficially affects the other beneficially
as well. Specifically, offerings are made
making offerings bottom upcalled the heaven or
god-realm of the thirty-three.
as an antidote to desire and attachment
and the self-clinging that underlies
is that the person Surrounding Mount Meru are
them. As one continues to make these
offerings to enlightened sources of
making them seven concentric rings** of golden
mountains with lakes in between
refuge, there begins to develop the
understanding and then the direct
gathers the them. In these seven golden
experience of the emptiness or lack of
inherent existence of all that to which
accumulation of mountains and on their lakes live
the gods of the first realm of the
one has been clinging, and ones desire
and attachment and self-clinging begin
merit desire god realms and the four
to dissolve and give rise to the wisdom of
discriminating awareness, to the
great kingsthe same four kings
transparent self-liberating kaleidoscopic vision of what is as who are guardians in the mandala of the Medi-
the mere interdependent appearances of the clear light nature cine Buddha. When you offer Mount Meru, you
of mind, and to a palpable blessing that benefits beings. It is
not in order to become a good person that one makes offerings; also think that you are offering all of the wealth
at root, one is already a good person. One makes offerings in
order to discover the truth of reality or the truth of things, and
in order to access the profound effectiveness in helping others **Editors note: These are usually represented as concentric
that arises from that discovery. squares.

of those gods realms. Outside those seven This offering of ablution is culminated with
golden mountains are the four main continents the mantra, Om Sarwa Tathagata Abikekate
with their eight subcontinents, which are the Samaya Shriye Hung. Sarva means all.
habitation of humansall of the wealth, posses- Tathagata means tathagatas or buddhas. And
sions, splendor, and beauty of which you offer as abikekate refers to this process which in some
well. In short, you offer the world, indeed the contexts means empowerment, but in this con-
whole universe, and all it contains to all of the text means ablution. Through this offering you
deities, and you make the aspiration that by so increase the splendor and majesty of the deities;
doing, you complete the two accumulations and therefore, there is the words shriye, which
that you and the whole world be free from sick- means splendid, majestic, or glorious.
ness. The next offering, which goes along with
After the fundamental offeringsthe eight ablution, is drying the bodies of the deities, which
traditional offerings of water, flowers, incense, is done by visualized offering goddesses holding
and so forth, and the offering of everything that fine white cotton towels scented with perfume.
is pleasing to the five sensesthere have oc-
curred four different sets of offerings: the eight HUNG
auspicious substances, the eight auspicious With a scented, soft white cloth
I dry the victors body.
signs, the seven articles of royalty, and finally
Though your body is flawless,
the offering of the mandala. The next offering is This creates the auspicious connection for
the offering of ablutionof washing the bodies of freedom from suffering.
the deities. This is done in order to create the OM KAYA BISHODHANI HUNG
auspicious basis for the removal of your own
wrongdoing, your own defilements, and your You state in these two stanzas that you are
own obscurationsthe afflictive obscurations not washing and drying the deities because they
and the cognitive obscurations. are dirty or have stains that need to be washed
away, and so on; you are drying the bodies of the
HUNG deities after washing them because it creates the
With scented water interdependent cause of drying up or removing
I bathe the sugatas body. the suffering of all beings. Therefore, you make
Although the deity is flawless,
the aspiration that the suffering of all beings
This creates the auspicious connection for
purifying all wrongs and obscurations. especially the sufferings of physical sickness and
OM SARWA TATHAGATA ABIKEKATE mental afflictionbe removed. Kaya vishodani
SAMAYA SHRIYE HUNG means the purification of the body.
Next is the offering of clothes or robes to the
Here you think that from the heart of your- deities of the mandala.
self visualized as the Medicine Buddha rays of
light are emanated. On the tips of each of these HUNG With these beautiful saffron robes
rays are offering goddesses holding precious I clothe the victors body.
vases filled with ambrosia. With the ambrosia Although your body is never cold,
This creates the auspicious connection for vitality
from these vases, they bathe the bodies of the
to flourish.
primary Medicine Buddha, the seven other OM BENZA WAYTRA AH HUNG
Medicine Buddhas, the sixteen bodhisattvas, and
all of the other deities in the mandala. The Having bathed and dried them, next we have
words of the text say, With scented water I to offer them appropriate robes. The robes that
bathe the sugathas body; although the deity is are actually mentioned in the first line of this
without stain, this creates the auspicious basis stanza are those that are offered to the Medicine
for purifying all wrongdoing and obscurations. Buddha and to the seven buddhas in his retinue,

all of whom, since they are manifesting in su- pendent cause of the arising of which is estab-
preme nirmanakaya form, wear only the beauti- lished by the offering of robes and clothing,
ful saffron red and yellow robes which are worn which is the third part.
by buddhas. As the visualized goddesses offer Following the offerings come the praises. The
the robes, you recite, With these I clothe the praises are performed by imagining that offering
Victors body. As in the previous offerings, you goddesses emanated from the light rays from
are making this offering, not because the Medi- your heart sing the praises of the deities in the
cine Buddha is in any danger of becoming cold, words of the liturgy with beautiful melodies.
but in order to create the auspicious basis for Praised are the qualities of body, speech, and
benefitting yourself and others. Therefore, you mind of the Medicine Buddha and his retinue.
say, Although your body is never cold, this These praises are not done in order to please the
creates the auspicious basis for the flourishing of Medicine Buddha; buddhas and bodhisattvas are
vitality and physical splendor. As a result of not pleased by praise nor displeased by its
this offering vitality and physical splendor will absence. One performs the praises to remind
arise in you and others through the power of oneself, the practitioner, of the qualities of the
your aspiration. Although not mentioned specifi- deities. This increases ones devotion and ones
cally in the liturgy, the clothing offered to the resolve or desire to attain the state of the dei-
bodhisattvas is appropriate to their appearance ties, which increases ones diligence in practice.
[in sambhogakaya form]: elegant garments of The praises consist of three stanzas. The first
multicolored silk and jewelry made of gold and is a praise of the Medicine Buddha. The second
jewels, and so on. The bodhisattvas are offered is a praise of the other seven medicine buddhas
fine clothes and jewelry not because they are and the sixteen bodhisattvas. And the third is a
particularly attached to them, but because by praise of the remaining deities of the mandala,
offering them you create the auspicious basis for including the ten protectors of the ten direc-
the increase of vitality. The word vastra in the tions, the twelve yaksha chieftains, and so forth.
mantra means robes or clothing or fabric. The first stanza is addressed to the Medicine
Each of these sectionsablution, drying, and Buddha.
offering clothinghas its own particular signifi-
cance. The fundamental significance of all three HUNG
of them is indicated in connection with the Your body is like a mountain, the color of lapis
second, where it says, I make this offering in
You dispel the suffering of illness in sentient
order to establish the auspicious basis for the beings.
removal of suffering. The point of making these Surrounded by a retinue of eight bodhisattvas,
offerings is to remove the suffering of beings, Holder of Medicine, precious deity, I praise and
which is primarily accomplished on the level of prostrate to you.
auspicious interdependence by the second offer-
ing, drying. But to remove the suffering of beings The first line praises the appearance of his
you must first remove the causes of suffering, body or form: The color of your body is like a
which are wrongdoing and obscurations. So mountain of lapis or vaidurya, which is to say
therefore, drying is preceded by ablution, the that in appearance his body is like the stainless
symbolic function of which is to purify the mass of a blue jewel, like a lapis or vaidurya, and
wrongdoing and obscurations of all beings. radiant with rays of light. So that is a praise of
Finally, once the suffering has been removed, the majesty of his appearance. The second line is
what develops in its place is a state of mental praise of his activity, and it says, You remove
and physical well-beingincluding physical the sufferings of sickness of all beings. Suffer-
vitality, splendor and healthand a state of ings of sickness here refer expressly to the
wisdom and peace within the mind, the interde- literal suffering of physical illnesses, but also by

implication ultimately to the sickness and the bodhisattvas, and so forth, which means all of
suffering of the sickness of samsara itself, which the mahayana sangha, as exemplified by the
the Medicine Buddha also dispels. sixteen bodhisattvas found within this mandala.
Having praised his appearance and activity, Then one completes the praise by saying, I pay
you then praise his retinue. Here the retinue homage to and praise the three precious jewels.
referred to in the liturgy is not the retinue of the The final stanza is a praise to the remaining
mandala; what is referred to here are the eight deities of the mandala and to all others who are
great bodhisattvas who exemplify the mahayana associated with the mandala.
sangha. These are not the same as the sixteen
bodhisattvas in the mandala; in fact, not all eight To Brahma, Indra, the Great Kings, the Protectors
of these eight primary bodhisattvas are among of the Ten Directions,
The twelve yaksha chiefs and all their assistants,
the sixteen, although some of them are. Gener-
Vidyadharas and rishis of medicine, divine and
ally speaking, when we talk about the sangha, human,
there is the ordinary sangha of the common To the deities of ambrosial medicine, I offer
vehicle and the exalted sangha of the mahayana, praise and prostrate.
which is made up of bodhisattvas. These are
exemplified by what are called the eight close First mentioned are Brahma and Indra, who
offspring of the Buddha, eight great bodhisattvas are two among the ten protectors of the ten
such as Manjusri, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, directions; and then the four great kings; the
and so on.* Then in the last line you say, I pay twelve yaksha generals or chieftains, together
homage to and praise that deity who holds the with their retinues; and then finally all of the
precious medicine, which is another way of holders of the knowledge of medicine and those
referring to the Medicine Buddha himself. who have mastered medicine, who here are
The second stanza of praise praises the three referred to as vidyadaras and rishis of medicine,
jewels in general, exemplified by the buddhas, both those living in the realms of the gods and
dharma, and sangha found in this mandala. those living in the realms of humans. In short,
one pays homage to and praises all of the deities
Excellent Name, Precious Moon, Fine Gold, Free of this mandala of ambrosial medicine.
of Misery, All of the stages of the practice we have gone
Resounding Dharma Ocean, Dharma Mind, through todaythe visualization of the bodies of
the deities, the dissolution of the wisdom deities
The genuine dharma, the sixteen bodhisattvas
and others, into them, the presentation of offerings and of
To the precious three jewels, I offer praise and praises to the deitiesare aspects of the prac-
prostrate. tice of the generation stage. In general, genera-
tion stage practice needs to have three charac-
First mentioned are the seven other medi- teristics: clear appearance or clarity of appear-
cine buddhasExcellent Name, Precious Moon, ance, stable pride, and recollection of purity.
Fine Gold, Free of Misery, Resounding Dharma What is meant by clear appearance is simply
Ocean, Dharma Mind, and Buddha Sakyamuni. that there be a clear and distinct visualization of
Then, following that, is mentioned the dharma whatever it is you are visualizing. Whether you
itself, visually represented in the mandala by are visualizing the Medicine Buddha alone, that
the sutras and commentaries but also under- is to say yourself as the Medicine Buddha and
stood as being the essence of the path. Finally, the Medicine Buddha in front of you, or in addi-
for the sangha it mentions the sixteen tion to that you are visualizing the seven other
medicine buddhas surrounding the front visual-
*Editors note: The other five are Kshitigarbha, ization, or in addition to that you are visualizing
Sarvanivaranavishkambhi, Akashagarbha, Maitreya, and
Samantabhadra. the sixteen bodhisattvas, or in addition to that

you are visualizing the entire mandala with the validity and accuracy of the practice, you will
ten protectors and the twelve chieftains, and so have that much delight in it, that much devotion,
on, in any case, whatever you are and that much benefit.
visualizing, clear appearance The third characteristic of
means that the appearance of
In general, the generation stage is the recol-
the deitiesthe color, the shape, generation lection of purity. This has several
the ornaments and costumes and meanings. Most obviously it
practice needs to
robes, the scepters and other means the recognition that the
things that are held in the have three forms of the deities are won-
hands, and so onshould be characteristics: drous and splendid, that the
visualized in a way that allows deities are not unpleasant in
your mind to remain stable and clarity of appearance, that they are not
calm while nevertheless gener- appearance, strange or of an inappropriate
ating a clear and vivid image. form; they are beautiful and
The second characteristic of
stable pride, and pleasing in every way. But be-
generation stage practice is recollection of yond that, it is the recognition
stable pride. Generally speak- that the nature of the deitys
ing, of course, pride is something
purity form is the embodiment of the
we want to get rid ofit is a deitys wisdom. The deities
klesha. But here the word pride means some- bodies are not flesh and bloodcoarse bodies
thing that is very necessary in vajrayana prac- like our ownnor are they inanimate solid
tices. Pride means being free of the misconcep- objects, as though made of earth and stone or
tion that, in visualizing yourself as the Medicine wood. They are the pure embodiment of wisdom,
Buddha or in visualizing the Medicine Buddha which means that they are the expression of
in front of you, you are pretending that things emptiness in the form of a clear, vivid appear-
are other than what they are. Stable pride here ance. Practically speaking, when visualizing
means recognizing that, although you are medi- them, you should see them or imagine them as
tating on the Medicine Buddha as a conscious being a vivid appearancewith their distinct
act, nevertheless, that is what you actually are. colors, ornaments, scepters and so onthat is
It is acknowledging that you actually are the nevertheless without any coarse substantiality.
Medicine Buddha. In the case of the front visual- Their appearance is luminous and vivid but
ization it is acknowledging or recognizing that insubstantial, like that of a rainbow. The funda-
the front visualization is the actual presence of mental meaning of this third point is that the
the Medicine Buddha, right in front of you. So deities are the embodiment in form of wisdom,
stable pride really refers to an attitude of confi- and therefore their form is not samsaric in any
dence, trust and belief. It is important to recog- wayit is not produced in any way by samsaric
nize that when you do the self visualization and causes and conditions.
the front visualization you are not merely imag- We are going to stop here for this afternoon
ining something that is fictitious. You are not and conclude with the dedication of merit. When
pretending that things are other than they are. performing the dedication of merit, think that
When you make these offeringsadmittedly you dedicate the merit of this session to the
mentally emanatedto the deities, you should awakening of all beings in general and especially
reflect upon the fact that these offerings are in the short term to the freedom of this world
actually occurring, they are actually taking their from all forms of sickness.
effect. By making these offerings, you are actu-
ally gathering the accumulation of merit. To the
extent that you have this confidence in the

Medicine Buddha

On the Origin of Auspiciousness

In the Substances and Symbols
Continuing the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoches teaching
on the Medicine Buddha.

would like to begin by wishing all of you a good morning. As you
have no doubt noticed, I usually begin teaching sessions with the
short lineage supplication that begins with the words Great
Vajradhara.* We use this supplication because it is the one most often
practiced at the seats of the Kagyu tradition and by Kagyu practitioners
elsewhere. It was composed by Pengar Jampal Zangpo, the foremost
disciple of the Sixth Gyalwang Karmapa, Thongwa Dnden, and the
root guru of the Seventh Gyalwang Karmapa, Chdrak Gyamtso. After
receiving instructions from the Sixth Gyalwang Karmapa, Pengar
Jampal Zangpo went to Sky Lake in the north of Tibet to practice. In
the middle of this lake, there was an island called Semodo and on that
island there was a mountain with a cave in it. In this cave in utter
isolation he practiced for eighteen years. The isolation there is com-
plete, because it is very difficult to get to that island except in the
middle of winter. He practiced, therefore, in total isolation for eighteen
years and developed extraordinary realization of mahamudra. This
lineage supplication, which he composed after that period of retreat, is
regarded as containing the essence and blessing of his realization,

*Editors note: See Shenpen sel, Vol. 3, No. 3, page 11, for an English translation.

which is therefore why we use it. So when you practice of dharma. But we also need to abandon
chant it, please do so with faith and devotion. the other extreme, which is mortification of the
[Rinpoche and students recite supplication body,* because the attempt to attain something
prayer.] through tormenting or depriving your physical
Before we discuss the recitation of the man- body of what it needs does not lead to awaken-
tra, I would like to expand upon what I said ing, and in fact can slow down your progress
yesterday about the offerings. During our discus- towards the development of profound wisdom.
sion of the eight auspicious substances, we In order to show by example that it is necessary
mentioned the conch shell and the durva grass, to abandon the extreme of hedonism, the Bud-
but I would like to discuss the origin of the dha left the palace of his father, who was a king,
auspiciousness of each of them in greater detail. and lived for six years on the banks of the
The first of these is the conch shell. Immediately Naranjana River in conditions of utmost auster-
after the Buddhas awakening he realized that, ity. But in order to show that one must also
although he himself had seen perfectly and abandon the extreme of mortification, he ac-
completely the nature of all things, the cepted immediately before his awakening an
dharmatawhich is profound and tranquil and offering of a mixture of yogurt and extremely
beyond all elaborationhe felt that were he to condensed milk, which was given to him by a
try to explain this to anyone else, Brahmin woman named Lekshe.
they would be unable to under- Immediately upon his consum-
stand it. So he resolved to remain The second ing this offering of yogurt, all of
in samadhi, alone in the forest. auspicious the marks and signs of physical
After he had remained in perfection which adorn the body
samadhi for forty-nine days, the substance is of a buddha, which had become
god Indra, who was an emanation yogurt. This is somewhat indistinct during his
of a bodhisattva, appeared in years of austerity, immediately
front of the Buddha and offered connected with became distinct and resplen-
him a white conch shell with its the Buddhas dent.
spiral going clockwise as an The third auspicious sub-
offering to encourage the Buddha
teaching that in stance is durva grass, which was
to teach. It was in response to order to practice offered to the Buddha by the
that first offering that the Bud- grass-cutter and seller Tashi
dha decided to turn the
dharma properly meaning auspiciousshortly
dharmachakra, or to teach the we need to before his awakening, from
dharma. abandon two which he made the mat-like seat
The second auspicious sub- on which he sat at the time of
stance is yogurt. This is con- extremes in his awakening.
nected with the Buddhas teach- lifestyle or The fourth auspicious sub-
ing that in order to practice stance is vermilion. The origin
dharma properly we need to
conduct of the auspiciousness of vermil-
abandon or transcend two ex- ion is this: When the Buddha
tremes in lifestyle or conduct. One of these was in the process of attaining awakening or just
extremes is hedonism, in which your goal and about to attain it, Mara appeared and, exhibiting
your endeavor is to seek as much pleasure as various sorts of unpleasant magical displays in
possibleincluding the acquisition of fine order to obstruct the Buddha, finally challenged
clothes, fine food, and so on. The problem with him, saying, You cannot attain awakening; you
this extreme is that, if it becomes your goal or
obsession, it leaves no time or energy for the *Editors note: i.e. extreme asceticism

cannot do this. In response to which the Buddha goddess of the desire realm godsappeared in
said, Yes, I can, because I have completed the front of the Buddha and offered him a mirror so
two accumulations over three periods of innu- that he could witness his own physical majesty
merable eons. In re- and splendor.
sponse, Mara said, Well, The seventh auspi-
who is your witness? cious substance is called
Who can you bring to givam, a medicinal sub-
prove this?in response stance that is derived
to which the Buddha from some part of the
extended his right hand body of the elephant
down past his right knee possibly from the
and touched the earth. elephants gall bladder. It
The goddess of the earth is auspicious because it
then appeared out of the commemorates an occa-
earth and, offering the sion long after the
Buddha vermilion, said, Buddhas awakening when
I serve as witness that the Buddhas cousin,
he has completed the two Devadatawho was
accumulations through- always attempting to kill
out these three periods of or otherwise harm the
innumerable eons. Buddha and had been
The fifth auspicious doing so for many lives
substance is bilva fruit. because he was afflicted
The origin of the auspi- with great jealousy of the
ciousness of this fruit is Buddhafinally at-
that when the Buddha, tempted to assassinate
while living in the palace the Buddha by sending a
compound of his father, T he Buddha, practicing austeritie
austeritiess mad elephant running out
the king of the Shakyas, into the path where the
first observed the sufferings of birth, aging, Buddha was walking. The Buddha emanated ten
sickness, and death and resolved to attain free- lions from his ten fingers, which slowed the
dom from them, he initially went to the root of a elephant down. The elephant then bowed to the
tree and practiced meditation there. During that Buddha and offered himself, including his body,
time he developed a perfect state of shamatha, in to the Buddha. Since givam, which is an effective
acknowledgment of which the goddess or spirit medicine, comes from the body of an elephant, it
of the tree offered him a bilva fruit. commemorates that occasion in which the Bud-
The sixth auspicious substance is a mirror. dha conquered the aggression of the mad el-
The origin of the auspiciousness of the mirror is ephant.
that when the Buddha had received and con- The eighth auspicious substance is white
sumed the yogurt which he was offered by the mustard seed, which was offered to the Buddha
Brahmin woman Lekshe, his physical form, by Vajrapani on one of the fifteen days during
which had become emaciated from his six years the Buddhas period of exhibition of miracles. At
of austerity, was restored to its full vigor and one time during the Buddhas lifetime there
majesty, causing the thirty-two marks and eighty were six prominent non-Buddhist religious
signs of physical perfection to be vivid and teachers in India. At one point they gathered
apparent, in response to which the goddess of together and, in order to attempt to discredit the
formwhich in this instance appears to be a Buddha, they challenged him to a competition of

miracles. The Buddha accepted,* and the compe- of the Buddhas head.
tition occurred at the beginning of what is now The second sign or symbol is the auspicious
the first month of the Tibetan and Asian calen- fish; the shape of the fish represents the shape of
dars. The Buddhas exhibition of miracles oc- the Buddhas eyes when his eyes were half-
curred from the first to the fifteenth day of the closed in the posture of meditation. The third is
first lunar month. For the first eight days, the the auspicious vase, which represents the
six other religious teachers competing were still Buddhas throat, in part because of the shape of
present, but on the eighth day the Buddha his neck, but also because out of the throat of the
scared them off in the following way: From the Buddha emerges the sacred dharma which, like
Buddhas throne the bodhisattva Vajrapani, the ambrosia from a precious vase, satisfies all
accompanied by five fearsome rakshasas, the needs of beings, assuages the thirst of
emerged. Seeing that, the six tirtika teachers ran samsara, removes suffering, brings happiness,
off as fast as they could and did not come back. and is inexhaustible.
For the remaining week the The fourth is the auspicious
Buddha exhibited miracles alone conch, which in this case repre-
without any competition. When
The fish sents the speech of the Buddha.
Vajrapani emerged from the represents the The conch is used as a musical
Buddhas throne, he offered the instrument and as a horn to call
shape of the
Buddha white mustard seed, people from a great distance. It
which therefore commemorates Buddhas eyes is famous as having a resounding
this occasion. when his eyes and clear sound. In the same
These eight auspicious sub- way, the Buddhas speech is
stances are seemingly common were half-closed always of an appropriate volume
things, but they have great auspi- in the posture of and melody. If you are sitting
cious significance because each of close to the Buddha, his voice
them commemorates a specific
meditation does not sound too loud, but if
occasion connected with the you are sitting very far away
arising of dharma in this world, its teaching, its from him you can still hear it.
increase, and the demonstration of its power and The fifth is the precious victory banner. The
benefit. precious victory banner represents the fitting
The second set of offerings are the eight and beautiful quality of the Buddhas form in
auspicious signs or marks.** The marks or general, which is perfectly proportioned. All of
shapes of these items resemble the shapes of his body parts are the right size for the rest of
particular parts of the Buddhas body, and have his body; it is not as though he has a huge head
therefore come to serve as emblems of the and his arms are too short or his legs are too
buddhadharma. The first of these, which I men- short or anything like that. His body is perfectly
tioned yesterday, is the parasol. The round shape proportioned.
of the parasol is like the beautifully round shape The sixth one is the glorious knot,*** which
represents the Buddhas heart or mind. This
doesnt mean that he literally has the design of
*Editors note: This is very interesting story, for the Buddha
actually accepted and then postponed this event many times, the glorious knot on his chest. It means that his
before finally accepting the challenge. For a further descrip- mind or his heart knows everything completely
tion of this event, see Thich Nhat Hanhs Old Path White
and clearly, without limitation.
The seventh is the lotus, which represents
**Editors note: Generally referred to as the eight auspicious
symbols. the tongue of the Buddha, which is supple, fine,
***Editors note: sometimes called the endless knot or the and slender. With it he can speak clearly. In
knot of eternity. whatever he wants to say his enunciation is

perfect; also his tongue and saliva improve the stability, diligence, insight into the meaning of
taste of all food. dharma and so on, will definitely arise, and on
The eighth is the auspicious wheel, which is the basis of their arising, one will be able to
actually found as a design on the souls of the eradicate all that is to be transcended or aban-
Buddhas feetthe image of a golden wheel. This doned.
represents his turning of the wheel of the The second branch of awakening is knowl-
dharma, by means of which beings are liber- edge or insight, prajna. Of the seven articles of
ated.* royalty, this knowledge corresponds to the
Because these eight marks precious wheel, which enables
or signs are images that natu- the chakravartin to be victorious
rally occur on a buddhas body or If it is not against any kind of invasion or
resemble certain qualities of the warfare. In the same way, it is
Buddha, then they have become grounded in knowledge, or prajna, that en-
embodiments in and of them- samadhi then ables one to conquer the kleshas
selves of auspiciousness and and ignorance.**
goodness. Therefore, it is be-
prajna goes off The third branch of awaken-
lieved that to keep them in your the track, ing is samadhi or meditative
home, or to wear them on your absorption, which serves as the
body, brings auspiciousness. In
becomes necessary ground for knowledge
this sadhana, we offer them and incorrect and or prajna. If prajna is grounded in
by offering them we accumulate runs wild, so that samadhi, then it will be stable,
great merit, through which tranquil, effective, and appropri-
inauspicious circumstances that it is actually more ate or correct. If it is not
inhibit the dharma practice of of a problem grounded in samadhi then prajna
the practitioner, and of beings in goes off the track, becomes incor-
general, are averted.
than a benefit rect and runs wild, so that it
The third set of offerings in actually is more of a problem
this section of the practice are the seven articles than a benefit. The third article of royalty is the
of royalty, which are, literally speaking, things consort of the monarch. The consort serves to
[and types of animals and people] that are al- keep the monarch on track, to pacify and tame
ways found in the entourage of a chakravartin, a the monarch. So therefore, the consort corre-
monarch who rules over an entire world or sponds to samadhi.
universe. As I mentioned yesterday, they corre- The fourth branch of awakening is joy, which
spond internally to the seven limbs of the path of arises from the correct presence and application
awakening, which are seven qualities that all of both samadhi and prajna. Joy here refers, for
buddhas and bodhisattvas possess as factors of
their attaining awakening. The first of the seven
**Editors note: It is important to understand that the term
articles of royalty is the precious jewel, which prajna includes in one term the notions of knowledge, wisdom,
corresponds to the virtue of faith. A bodhisattva and primordial awareness or transcendental awareness,
must possess abundant and excellent faith to which is the highest form of prajna. Worldly knowledge
medicine, literature, business management, economics or
serve as ground for the development of all good anthropologyis one form of prajna. Knowledge of the
qualities. The meaning of this is that if one has teachings of the Buddha and other enlightened beings is
spiritual prajna. Both worldly and spiritual prajna are based
faith, then all other qualities, such as meditative
on the acquisition of information, and though they may have a
great deal of practical benefit, they will not by themselves
liberate one from the root causes of suffering. Only the highest
*Editors note: The takeoff point for this description is the form of prajna, jnanaprimordial awareness, which is
Buddha Shakyamuni, but it should be understood that these liberated from the superimposition on experience of perceiver
attributes are present in male and female buddhas alike. and perceivedwill free one from the root causes of suffering.

example, to the joy of the attainment of the first the seven limbs of awakening means cultivating
bodhisattva level, which is called the Utterly these virtues within oneself. By cultivating them
Joyful. Of the seven articles of royalty, joy corre- within oneself, one enters the true and genuine
sponds to the precious minister. In most enu- path leading to awakening, which is the most
merations this is a minister who gives wise pleasing of all things to all buddhas and
council to the monarch and bodhisattvas. The cultivation of
therefore promotes joy. Some- these and other virtues is the
times it is also called the pre- Externally one is ultimate or true offering to
cious householder, which is the buddhas and bodhisattvas, which
subject of the monarch who also symbolically is why they are offered at this
brings appropriate advice. offering the point.
The fifth limb of awakening is Next we come to the visual-
diligence and this corresponds to seven articles of ization that accompanies the
the precious excellent horse. royalty but repetition of the mantra. In the
Just as an excellent horse en- text it says to visualize in the
ables the monarch to travel
internally one is center of the heart of oneself as
anywhere they wish to go with offering the the Medicine Buddha, and in the
great speed, in the same way the heart of the front visualization of
possession of diligence enables
seven limbs of the Medicine Buddha, the seed
the bodhisattva to cultivate the awakening syllable HUM surrounded by the
qualities of samadhi and prajna, garland of the mantra. In detail,
and, through cultivating them, to one visualizes a moon disca
eradicate the kleshas and to increase all positive disc of white light that represents the moon
qualities. lying flat in the very center of ones body at the
The sixth article of royalty is the precious level of the heart. Standing upright upon this
elephant. The significance of this elephant is disk is visualized the seed syllable of the deity, a
that it is extremely peaceful and tame, so it blue HUM, which represents the deitys mind or
represents, from among the seven limbs of wisdom. Surrounding the HUM is visualized the
awakening, the faculty of mindfulness, which is a garland of the mantra from which rays of light
mind kept tranquil and always consciously will emanate and so forth.*
aware of what is going on in the mind and what
ones actions are. The HUNG in the heart of the self and front
The seventh and last limb of awakening is visualizations is surrounded by the mantra
equanimity, a state of mind in which the
bodhisattva is free from the afflictions of attach- BEKENDZE RADZA SAMUDGATE SO HA
ment to some things and aversion to other
things. Through the faculty of equanimity, the Having visualized the moon disc, the HUM
bodhisattva overcomes the warfare of the syllable, and the mantra garland in the heart of
kleshas. Of the seven articles of royalty, it is both the self and front visualizations, you then
represented by the precious general, because the
precious general overcomes all warfare and
aggression. So these are the seven articles of *Editors note: The syllable HUM standing in the center of
the deitys heart in both the self and front visualization faces
royalty, which are offered as symbols of the
forward, in the same direction as the deity. The mantra
seven limbs or factors of awakening. garland, visualized in Tibetan, faces outwardwhich means
Externally one is symbolically offering the that one could read it standing outside the Medicine Buddha
but not from the perspective of the HUM in the heart, begin-
seven articles of royalty, but internally one is ning with TAYATA directly in front of the central seed syllable
offering the seven limbs of awakening. Offering HUM and arranged in a circle surrounding the seed syllable.

think that from the syllable HUM and the man- dissolve into you as the Medicine Buddha and
tra garland in the heart of the self-visualization into the front visualization, granting you the
rays of multicolored light shoot out towards the blessing of their mind.
front visualization. These rays of light strike the If you can visualize clearly, it is best to do all
heart of the front visualization, arousing its of this very slowly and gradually. While you
nonconceptual compassion and causing rays of continue to say the mantra, you think that rays
multicolored light to emerge from the mantra of light emerge from the self-visualization, go to
garland and syllable HUM in its heart, which the front visualization, and then from the front
proceed to the eastern pure realm of the Medi- visualization outwards to the pure realms,
cine Buddha, called the Light of Vaidurya. On proceeding gradually and slowly. Especially
the tips of each of these multicolored rays of when the blessings of body, speech, and mind
light are offering goddesses who make innumer- rain down upon and dissolve into you, you can do
able offerings to the Medicine Buddha, the seven the visualizations in sequence: first, visualizing
other medicine buddhas, the sixteen the blessings of body raining down, without
bodhisattvas, and so on. These offerings serve to being in any kind of a hurry and so quite dis-
arouse their compassion; to remind them of their tinctly; and then visualizing the blessings of
promises, vows, and aspirations to benefit be- speech and then the blessings of mind. If you
ings; and to cause them to re- find that the visualization is
lease their blessings. extremely unclear, if you wish,
The blessings of their body By taking your you can do it all at once. But if
take the form of innumerable you do it gradually and slowly,
time with the
forms of the Medicine Buddha you will find that you will get a
and his retinuehuge ones, tiny visualization, you much stronger sense of the
ones, and every size in between. will develop real blessings actually entering into
These innumerable forms of the you. By taking your time with
principal Medicine Buddha, the confidence, a the visualization, you will de-
other medicine buddhas, and the feeling of the velop real confidence, a real
bodhisattvas, rain down and feeling of the blessings entering
dissolve into you as the self-
blessings into you.
visualization and into the front entering into you When you receive the bless-
visualization, granting you the ing of the Medicine Buddha, and
blessings of the body of the Medicine Buddha of buddhas and bodhisattvas in general, various
and his retinue. unpleasant thingsobstacles, sickness, demonic
At the same time, the blessing of their speech disturbanceswill be pacified, and compassion,
is emitted in the form of the mantra garlands, faith, devotion, insight, and so on will flourish
which in this case are multicolored. Mantra and increase. In order to practice the descent of
garlands of various colors rain down from the blessing most effectively, it is a good idea to
pure realms of the Medicine Buddha and dis- focus the blessings on whatever is afflicting you
solve into you as the Medicine Buddha and into most at that time. For example, if you are having
the front visualization, granting you the bless- a particular physical probleman illness or
ings of their speech. some other physical problemor a particular
Finally, the blessing of their mind, which mental problema particular klesha, a particu-
strictly speaking has no form, is for the purpose lar type of stress, or particular worriesyou can
of this visualization embodied in the form of focus the absorption of the blessings of the
what is held in the Medicine Buddhas hands buddhas and bodhisattvas on that. You can focus
the arura and the begging bowls filled with it on the removal of wrongdoing and
ambrosia. These are emitted and rain down and obscurations in general, but focus it especially on

what you regard as your greatest concern at the to physical sickness but to mental problems as
moment. For example, you may feel that you lack well. If you want to get rid of a particular type of
a specific quality: If you feel that you lack insight anxiety or stress or depression or fear or any
or you lack compassion or you lack faith, then other kind of unpleasant mental experience, you
think that the blessing serves to promote that can visualize the Medicine Buddha seated above
quality that you feel you are most lacking. And the top of your head and think in the same way
feel that through the absorption of these bless- as before that luminous ambrosia or liquid light
ings you actually become filled with that quality emerges from his body, filling your body and
as though it were a substance that were actually cleansing you of any problem, whatever it is.
filling your whole body. You might think that all of this sounds a bit
Those visualizations are for the usual, formal childish, but in fact it actually works, and you
practice of the Medicine Buddha. In his book will find that out if you try it.
Mountain Dharma: Instructions for Retreat, Following the repetition of the mantra comes
Karma Chakme Rinpoche recommends the the conclusion of the practice.
following visualization for the actual alleviation
of sickness. You can visualize yourself as the I confess all wrongs and downfalls and dedicate
Medicine Buddha, if you wish, but the main all virtue to awakening.
May there be the auspiciousness of freedom from
focus is to actually visualize a small form of the
sickness, harmful spirits, and suffering.
Medicine Buddha, no larger than four finger-
widths in height, in the actual part of your body First is the admission of defects. With an
that is afflicted. So if it is an illness or pain in attitude of regret for anything that you have
the head, visualize a small Medicine Buddha in done that is wrong or inappropriate, you simply
the head; if it is in the hand, visualize a small say, I confess all wrongs and downfalls. Imme-
Medicine Buddha in the hand; if it is in the foot, diately after that you dedicate the merit or
then visualize a small Medicine Buddha in the virtue of the practice to the awakening of all
foot. Visualize the Medicine Buddha in that beings saying, And dedicate all virtue to awak-
place, and think that from this ening. Then you make an auspi-
small but vivid form of the Medi- cious aspiration which focuses
cine Buddha rays of light are
If you feel that your dedication, saying,
emitted. These rays of light are Through this dedication of
not simply light, which is dry, but you lack insight merit, may there be freedom
liquid light having a quality of or you lack from sickness, harmful spirits,
ambrosia. This luminous ambro- and suffering for all beings.
sia or liquid light actually compassion or Next comes the dissolution of
cleanses and removes the sick- you lack faith, the mandala:
ness and painwhatever it is.
You can do this not only for
then think that The wordly ones return to their
yourself, by visualizing the the blessing own places. BENZA MU.
Medicine Buddha in the appro- The jnana and samaya sattvas
priate part of your own body, but
serves to dissolve into me,
you can do it for others as well by promote that And I dissolve into the expanse
of all goodness, primordial
visualizing the Medicine Buddha quality that you purity. E MA HO.
in the appropriate part of their
body or bodies. The radiation of feel you are most First a request to depart is
rays of light of ambrosia and so lacking addressed to the mundane
on is the same. deities, which is followed by the
This can be applied not only dissolution of the front and self-
visualizations of the wisdom deities. When you this is the practice of the completion stage. It is
say, Worldly ones return to your own places, through the practice of these two stages that you
vajramu, you think that the ten protectors of actually come to realize dharmata, the nature of
the ten directions, the twelve things. Visualization and other
yaksha chieftains, and the four generation stage practices
great kingsall mundane deities Visualization and function to weaken the kleshas,
visualized in the entourage of the while completion stage prac-
other generation
front visualizationreturn to tices, which include the prac-
where they would normally stage practices tices of shamata and vipashyana,
reside.* That leaves the eight function to serve to eradicate them.
Medicine Buddhas and the six- I mentioned yesterday that
teen bodhisattvas in the front weaken the there are three Medicine
visualization. These deities, who kleshas, while Buddha practices that are used
are the wisdom deities embody- in our traditiona long one, a
ing the visualized images of
completion stage medium one, and a short one
them,** dissolve into your heart practices, which and that this is the short one.
as the self visualization. Then the While this is the shortest, it is
self-visualization gradually
include . . . nevertheless considered the
dissolves into light and then into shamata and most effective. The long and
the expanse of emptiness, at vipashyana, serve medium forms of the Medicine
which point you say, And I Buddha are entirely sutra-
dissolve into the expanse of the to eradicate oriented in style and content.
all-good primordial purity. At them This practice is a blend of the
that point you rest your mind in sutra tradition and the tantric
the experience of emptiness. or vajrayana tradition. So while
All yidam practices include two stages: the it is the shortest liturgically, it is the most com-
generation stage and the completion stage. plete because it has the most elaborate visualiza-
Everything up to this pointthe visualization of tions.
the forms of the deities, the presentation of In the long and intermediate forms of the
offerings and so on, the repetition of the mantra Medicine Buddha practice, because they are
with the accompanying visualizationsare all entirely sutric in approach, there is a prelimi-
aspects of the practice of the generation stage. nary meditation on emptiness, after which you
When, subsequent to the dissolution of the imagine a palace as a residence for the front
visualization, you rest your mind in emptiness, visualization and then you invite the deities to
abide within that. There is not the precise devel-
opment of the form of the deities, as in this case,
*Editors note: What the translator is here calling mundane
nor is there any self-visualization, because it is
deitiesin fact, if we met one of them, one suspects that one
would think of them as anything but mundane, just as if we entirely sutric. This practice which we are using
met Flash Gordon or Darth Vader we would hardly regard includes the vajrayana practice of self-visualiza-
either of them as mundaneare what are oftentimes referred
to as worldly deities, which means that, although they are tion and the precise details of the visualization.
said to reside somewhere in the gods realms and are said to Therefore, it is considered to be more effective,
be very powerful, they are not said to be enlightened. Bud- to have more power.
dhists recognize the relative reality of such deities, make
offerings to them in order to please them, ask them politely
not to bother dharma practitioners, ask for their protection, Question: Rinpoche, I was interested in hearing
even ask them sometimes to help out with the weather, but
never take refuge in them, for they themselves are not thought
your different elaborations on the seven ar-
to be liberated from samsara. ticles of the mandala offering. I have done the
**Editors note: i.e. the jnanasattvas and the samayasattvas. mandala offering in my ngndro practice and

there the offerings seem so much more concrete self, is not particularly [eager or] anxious to do
than the descriptions of the same articles we so, but is altruistic, capable, and acclaimed by
heard from you earlier today. Your descriptions the society at large, which places them in their
of the seven articles of the chakravartin pre- position of authority. Now, it is entirely possible
sented them much more as symbolic representa- that after the reign of a chakravartin, if a dy-
tions. Are they more concrete in some practices? nasty is established, things could degenerate, as
Are there different practices? Are these differ- your question indicates. But then they would no
ent views? Do they come from the sutras, from longer be chakravartins.
the commentaries, from the vajrayana? Or do
they vary for certain people? Question: So, are you saying there could be a
And then I have a particular question about female universal monarch, a chakravartini?
the person of the chakravartin, the universal
monarch. We in the West, wrongly or rightly, Rinpoche: Of course.
have the notion that democracy is the best way.
Im just wonderingthis chakravartin seems Question: What is the Sanskrit name of Sangye
like a wonderful being, yet he or sheyou didnt Menla?
mention any genderthis person seems to need
help with faith, stability, exertion, with many Translator: The most common name found in the
different qualities. We in the West have found sutras is Bhaishajyai Guru, which means the
that a universal sort of monarch or ruler usually teacher of medicine. That is translated into Ti-
eventually goes wrong. Could you tell me what is betan as Mengyi Lama, or Menla for short. Thats
different about this chakravartin that is going to why we call it Sangye Menla or the Medicine
make their rule so very successful, because we Buddha. Menla literally means Medicine Guru.
havent had that experience?
Question: Rinpoche, over and over again you
Rinpoche: With regard to your first question, talk about how in a way almost all of these
the correspondence between the seven articles practices are a backdrop for what the real prac-
of royalty, which are the characteristic posses- tice is, which is faith and devotion that the
sions of a chakravartin, and the seven limbs of practice will actually work. It seems that all
awakeningwhich are necessary resources on practices in a way should be aimed at intensify-
the path for bodhisattvasis a standard one. In ing that. You say, intense supplication, and
cases where the symbolic meaning of offering the there have been times in my practice when that
seven articles of royalty is not explained, it just came, and I felt a fervor of faith. Then other
simply means that it is a briefer explanation of times I really wished I had it, because I really
the significance of that offering. This correspon- felt like I needed it. You talk about generating
dence definitely does function in all uses of bodhicitta or generating faith. What is the pro-
those things as offering substances or items. cess of generating? I can put the thought in my
With regard to your second question, the mind, but if there is also pervasive doubt and
chakravartin only arises in certain periods of pervasive cynicism . . . I come from a kind of
history, which are called the best times or the culture of doubt and of questioning and of philo-
best ages. What distinguishes a chakravartin sophical b.s., so its very difficult to talk about
from some kind of cosmic dictator is the arising these concepts with absolute faith. What is the
of the chakravartin in human society at that method of generating intense faith?
point as a solution to problems rather than the
beginning of them. A chakravartin arises at a Rinpoche: The approach is to try to develop
time when there is disputation as to who should informed faith. Informed faith comes about
lead the society. The chakravartin him or her- through investigation. Through investigating the

meaning of dharma you discover valid reasons why But it will still benefit them afterwards.
it is appropriate to have faith in it. That will
naturally make faith a matter of common sense. Question: Rinpoche, thank you for the teaching.
Given the aspirations of the Medicine Buddha,
Question: Rinpoche, what is the translation of would it be appropriate to have a representation
the mantra? And when does the visualization of of the Medicine Buddha in the heart of the
the blessings coming down in the form of small house, the family room, and particularly if the
Medicine Buddhas and the begging bowl and the rest of ones family thinks the mother is com-
fruit and the mantra stop? And when it stops, its pletely strange. [laughter] And Ive been told to
not yet the dissolution, is it? What are we rest- recite om mani peme hung around dying and
ing in at that point? dead animals. Would it be more appropriate to
recite the Medicine Buddha mantra?
Translator: You mean after the descent of
blessings ends, and before you dissolve the Rinpoche: Reciting om mani peme hung or the
visualization? Medicine Buddhas name or mantra to a dying
animal will have pretty much equal benefit, so it
Question: Right. is up to you. Both Avalokiteshvara and the
Medicine Buddha have made
Rinpoche: The mantra that you specific aspirations to be of ben-
recite is basically an elaboration Through efit to beings in that way. It does
of the name of the Medicine not matter, either one. With
Buddha. It is more or less recit-
investigating the regard to your first question:
ing the name of the Medicine meaning of While placing a large and promi-
Buddha in Sanskrit. The point at nent image of the Medicine Bud-
which you stop visualizing the
dharma you dha in the very center of your
blessings of body, speech, and discover valid home would ultimately have long-
mind being absorbed into you reasons why it is term benefits for the members of
again and again is up to you. You your family, it might, as your
can continue that visualization appropriate to question indicates, create more
for the entire duration of your have faith in it problems in the short-term. Spe-
recitation of the mantra, in which cifically, it might create more
case there is not much in-between resistance. It would probably be
that and the dissolution of the better to allow your family to
mandala. Or from time to time, you can stop encounter the Medicine Buddha sort of inciden-
visualizing and just rest in devotion. It is not the tally, rather than having it thrust in their face.
case that you need to spend absolutely every
instant of your mantra recitation dissolving these Question: A small thangka on the wall, would
things into you. As long as there is faith and devo- that be better?
tion, then it does not have to be constant.
Rinpoche: If it does not cause disharmony
Question: Is this mantra best used for animals within the home, then of course that would be
that are dying, and what about animals that fine. If it does, then it would be better that they
might have just recently died, perhaps quickly? encounter it somewhere outside the home.
Were going to stop here for this morning and
Rinpoche: It will also benefit an animal that has conclude with the dedication of merit.
recently died; it is going to be most effective, of
course, if it is used just before the animal dies.

From the Sky Dharma, which is a Mind Treasure,
An Ornament of the Clear Expanse of Mind,
Comes a Ritual of Menla Called

A Stream of Lapis Lazuli

Namo. Maha Bekandzeya. If they are available, arrange in front of a Menla
thangka as many peaceful offerings as you can, such as a mandala and so forth;
in this way the accumulations are completed. If these are not available, it is
enough to make mental offerings while imagining the front visualization in the
skynothing else is needed. Since this is the anuttara, the practitioner need
not refrain from meat and alcohol nor perform the rituals of purification, such
as taking the blessing of pure water. It is definitely necessary, however, to
receive the empowerment and reading transmission for this practice, as it
belongs to the anuttara tradition. Since it belongs to the nyingma tradition, the
self and frontal visualizations are simultaneously generated; it is not necessary
to create them separately. As it is a chanted meditation of the nyingma, your
mind should meditate on the meaning of the words.

The supplication:



You are endowed with an oceanic treasury of qualities and merit;


By the blessing of your inconceivable compassion


You calm the suffering and torment of sentient beings.


I supplicate you, Light of Lapis Lazuli.


Those bound by very intense greed

Are born in the hungry ghost realm.


If they hear your name, they are said to be born human and take delight in


I supplicate you, victorious Menla.


Violating morality and abusing others,


Beings are born in the hell realms.


Hearing your name, they are said to be born in the higher realms.


I supplicate you, King of Medicine.


Whoever by repeated dissension and slander


Creates serious schisms and takes life,


Hearing your name, they cannot harm others.

I supplicate you, King of Medicine


Excellent Name, Appearance of Stainless Fine Gold,


Glorious Supreme One Free of Misery, Resounding Dharma Melody,


King of Direct Knowledge, King of Melody,


And King of Shakyas, I supplicate you all.


Manjushri, Kyabdrl, Vajrapani,


Brahma, Indra, the four Kings of the four directions,


The twelve great Yaksha chiefs, and so forth,


I supplicate you, entire and perfect mandala.


The Sutra of the Seven Tathagatas Aspirations,

And the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha,


The treatise by the great abbot Shantarakshita, and so forth,


I supplicate all the volumes of the genuine dharma,


Bodhisattva Shantarakshita, Trisong Deutsen, and others,


Translators, scholars, kings, ministers, bodhisattvas,


And all genuine lamas of the lineage,


Powerful One of the Dharma, and others, I supplicate you.


Through the blessing of this supplication,


May diverse temporal diseases and dangers of this life be stilled.


At death, may all fear of the lower realms be calmed.

Grant your blessing that afterwards we are born in Sukhavati.


To the sources of refuge, the three jewels


And the three roots, I go for refuge.


To establish all beings in buddhahood,


I awaken a mind of supreme enlightenment.


From the expanse of primordial purity emanate


Clouds of offerings filling the earth and sky


With mandalas, articles of possessions, and goddesses.


May they never be exhausted. PUD DZA HO.


May all beings be happy and free of suffering.

May their happiness not diminish. May they abide in equanimity.




Everything turns into emptiness.


From the depth of emptiness, this triple universe becomes


The exquisite palace, where


On lion thrones, each with a lotus and moon disk on top


Appear deep blue HUNGs, the seed syllable of myself and the main figure
visualized in the front,


From which, arises Menla, his body the color of lapis lazuli and radiating light.

He is clothed in the three dharma robes.

His right hand in the mudra of supreme generosity holds an arura.


His left hand in the meditation mudra holds a begging bowl.


With the major and minor marks complete, he sits in the vajra posture.


In particular, on the lotus petals of the front visualization


Are the seven Buddhas, Shakyamuni and the others, and dharma texts.


Around them are the sixteen bodhisattvas,


Around them are the ten protectors of the world,


And the twelve great chiefs with their respective retinues.


The four Great Kings are at the four gates.


From the three syllables in their three places and the HUNG in their hearts,

Lights radiate, invoking from their own eastern buddha realms, countless


Wisdom deities which dissolve into myself and the one visualized in front.


HUNG. The eight Menla companions and all deities without exception


I invite here to this place. Kindly rain upon us your great blessings.


Bestow the supreme empowerment on those who are worthy and faithful.


Dispel false guides and obstacles to long life.





HUNG. Flowers, incense, lights, scents,


Food, music and so forth;

Forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and all dharmas,


I offer to the deities.


May we perfect the two accumulations.





HUNG. The eight foremost auspicious substances,


The best royal white mustard seed, and the others,


I offer to the deity.


May the two accumulations be perfected.



HUNG. The eight foremost auspicious symbols,

The peerless royal vase and all others,


I offer to the deity.


May sentient beings perfect the two accumulations.



HUNG. The foremost desirable qualities, the seven precious articles,


The most excellent royal one, the jewel, and the others,


I offer to the deity.


May I perfect the two accumulations.



HUNG. The foremost of all, Mount Meru


With its four continents and subcontinents

I offer to the deity.


May the two accumulations be perfected.



HUNG. With scented water


I bathe the sugatas body.


Although the deity is flawless,


This creates the auspicious connection for purifying all wrongs and



HUNG. With a scented, soft white cloth


I dry the victors body.

Though your body is flawless,


This creates the auspicious connection for freedom from suffering.



HUNG. With these beautiful saffron robes


I clothe the victors body.


Although your body is never cold,


This creates the auspicious connection for vitality to flourish.



HUNG. Your body is like a mountain, the color of lapis lazuli.


You dispel the suffering of illness in sentient beings.


Surrounded by a retinue of eight bodhisattvas,

Holder of Medicine, precious deity, I praise and prostrate to you.


Excellent Name, Precious Moon, Fine Gold, Free of Misery,


Resounding Dharma Ocean, Dharma Mind, Shakyamuni,


The genuine dharma, the sixteen bodhisattvas and others,


To the precious three jewels, I offer praise and prostrate.


To Brahma, Indra, the Great Kings, the Protectors of the Ten Directions,


The twelve Yaksha chiefs and all their assistants,


Vidyadharas and rishis of medicine, divine and human,


To the deities of ambrosial medicine, I offer praise and prostrate.


The HUNG in the heart of the self and front visualizations is surrounded by the
mantra garland.

Through radiating many-colored light rays, offerings are made to Menla in the
pure realm appearing in the east as the color of lapis lazuli. These lights invoke
his mind stream, whence Menlas bodies, large and small, his speech as the
mantra garland, his mind as the hand symbols of the arura and the begging bowl
filled with amrita, all falling like rain, dissolve into myself and the front visual-



Repeat as much as possible and then at the end:


I confess all wrongs and downfalls and dedicate all virtue to awakening.


May there be the auspiciousness of freedom from sickness, harmful spirits, and

A prayer to return back and dissolution:


The worldly ones return to their own places. BENZA MU.


The jnana and samaya sattvas dissolve into me,


And I dissolve into the expanse of all goodness, primordial purity. E MA HO.

T his ornament that is a mind treasure was compiled from
the Sky-Dharma and arranged by Raga Asya. If there are
contradictions, I confess them before the deity. Through this
virtue, may all sentient beings, once freed from sickness,
swiftly attain the level of Menla. Though the sutra rituals
have the practice of washing [which is not done here], as this
is a higher practice, found at the end of the [supreme] yoga
tantra, there is no contradiction.
If you take this as your regular practice, the benefits are
the following. If you are ordained, your discipline will be
maintained; though there might be an occasion when it is
not, having purified this obscuration, you will not fall into
the lower realms. Having purified the negative karma of
being born as a hell being, a hungry ghost, or an animal, you
will not take such a birth. Even if you do, immediately liber-
ated, you will take a felicitous rebirth in a higher realm, and
gradually attain awakening. In this life as well, you will
easily obtain food and clothing and not be harmed by disease,
negative spirits, sorcery, or the punishments of rulers. You
will be protected and guarded by Vajrapani, Brahma, the
Great Kings of the four directions, and the twelve great
Yaksha chiefs each with their 700,000 assistants. You will be
freed from all harm: from the eighteen kinds of untimely
death, the harm of enemies, carnivorous beasts, and so forth.

All your wishes will be fully realized, and so forth. In the two
more extensive sutras of Menla, the benefits are said to be
In the great monastic centers, such as Jang Damring
Pelkhor Chde, and their philosophical colleges, where the
scholars find fault with most dharma and are difficult to
satisfy, only this Menla ritual for prolonging life and clearing
away the obscurations of death has spread widely. The ritual
to be performed before the Jowo in Lhasa, Tibets Bodhgaya,
and before the Great Awakened One at Samye is this ritual of
Menla. You should trust that within any of the new and the
ancient transmissions, the sutras and the tantras, nothing is
more beneficial than Menla. There are many extensive and
concise versions; this one has few words and the full mean-
ing. Since it belongs to anuttara yoga, rituals of purification
are not needed. Since the offerings are mental, it is all right
not to offer tormas. Everyone should practice this.

Translated under the guidance of Thrangu Rinpoche and

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche by Michele Martin with assistance
from Ngodrup Burkhar and reference to translations by Lama
Yeshe Gyamtso and Sarah Harding, Woodstock, N.Y., 1984,
1999, Kathmandu, 1999.

Short Menla Practice


HUNG. Your body the color of a mountain of lapis lazuli,


You dispel suffering of disease from all sentient beings.


Your retinue of eight bodhisattvas surrounds you


I praise and pay homage to the Deity Who Holds the Precious Medicine.



May the many sentient beings who are sick


Quickly be freed from sickness


And may all the sicknesses of beings


Never arise again.

Shorter Menla Practice

To you, Bhagavan, Tathagata, Arhat, perfect and fully


Awakened Menla, king of lapis lazuli light, I offer prostrations.

Bhagavat, who is compassionate equally to all beings,
The very hearing of whose name pacifies the three lower states,
Medicine Buddha, who eliminates the illnesses of the three poisons,
May there be the goodness of the Vaidurya Light.

May sentient beings, whatever illnesses they suffer,

Be liberated quickly from those illnesses.
May all the illnesses of beings, without exception,
Forever not arise.

May medicines be effective,

And may the intentions of the recitations of the secret mantra path be accomplished.
May demonesses, cannibal demons, and so forth
Attain compassionate mind.

The Very Essence of Mind, Mahamudra,
the One Sufficient Path
by Gampopa

Homage to the genuine gurus.

The Mahamudra of Gampopa, the One Sufficient Path, has three sections:
1) To Have a Decisive Understanding About the True Nature,
2) The Introduction to the Fundamental Character, and
3) Training on the Path of Suchness.

To Have a Decisive Understanding About the True Nature

Mahamudra has no causes.
Mahamudra has no conditions.
Mahamudra has no methods.
Mahamudra has no path.
Mahamudra has no result.

The Introduction to the Fundamental Character

Mahamudra has no causes, and yet faith and devotion are the causes of
Mahamudra has no conditions, and yet genuine gurus are the conditions
for mahamudra.
Mahamudra has no methods, and yet uncontrived mind is the method of
Mahamudra has no path, and yet undistracted mind is the path of
Mahamudra has no result, and yet the mind liberated into dharmata is the
result of mahamudra.

Training on the Path of Suchness

As the preliminary practice, meditate on guru yoga with faith, devotion, and
respect, three times during the day and three times at night.
As the main practice, rest within the state of uncontrived mind with
undistracted recognition.

As the conclusion, recognize whatever appears as your own mind and train
your awareness with skill.
Relying upon the sequential arising of experiences, exert yourself in
meditation until conceptual mind is exhausted.

There are two ways in which experiences arise: as unfavorable

experiences and as favorable experiences.

As for the first: All unfavorable experienceswhatever they are, such as

dullness, agitation, illness, fear, fright, or doubtarise from your
meditation. Therefore, recognize them to be experiences. Without
abandoning them, meditate, taking those very things as the object of your
view and meditation.

As for favorable experiences:

First, the experience of the minds abiding arises.
Based on that, the experience of the essence, emptiness, arises.
Based upon that, the experience of attaining realization arises.
Based upon that, the experience of turning away from attachment arises.
With that sequential arising of experiences, you should exert yourself in
practice without any complacency.

The minds merely abiding at first is not sufficientyou must meditate in

order to see the essence.
Merely seeing the essence is not sufficientyou must meditate in order to
attain realization.
Merely attaining realization is not sufficientyou must meditate in order to
turn away from attachment.
Merely turning away from attachment is not sufficientyou must meditate so
that, through the liberation of conceptual mind into dharmata, conceptual
mind is exhausted, phenomena are exhausted, and you awaken.

This completes The Very Essence of Mind, Mahamudra, the One Sufficient Path.

Translated into English orally and later revised by Elizabeth Callahan.

Tenga Rinpoches Commentary on

The Mahamudra
of the Venerable
Gampopa, the
One Sufficient Path

The Very V
Very enerable TTenga
Venerable enga R inpoche

The following is an edited transcript of a commentary given by the Very Venerable

Tenga Rinpoche at the Kalachakra for World Peace program at Madison Square
Garden in 1991, translated by Elizabeth Callahan.

would like to extend my welcome to all of you who have gathered here today. My
greetings to all the gurus, scholars, teachers, and dharma practitioners who have
come because of a shared connection with the dharma.
We are extremely fortunate to have gathered here at this very special time, which
is unlike any other time. We are very fortunate because His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
the master of all the traditions of the Buddhas teachings found in Tibet, is here. His
Holiness is considered to be an emanation of Chenrezig [Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara],
the Bodhisattva of Compassion, emanated in human form as a vajra master residing
on a very high level of spiritual attainment. Chenrezig is the embodiment of the
compassion of all buddhas and bodhisattvas. Thus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the
actual embodiment of compassion, and as such works for the benefit of all beings
throughout this world to pacify their sufferings, both on a temporal level and on an
ultimate level. Through his great compassion he is able to bring this about. In par-
ticular, His Holiness is the leader of the people of Tibet and is able through his great
compassion to bring benefit to them on both a temporal and an ultimate level. So,
even in a very specific sense, he is able to be of great benefit to beings. In these next

few days His Holiness will continue in his effort happiness of all beings that you are now listen-
to bring peace and benefit to all beings in the ing to these instructions on the path of
world by bestowing the empowerment of mahamudra. And what type of aspiration or
Kalachakraby manifesting the form, [speech, aspirational prayer should you make in this
and mind] of Kalachakra in order to grant us connection? You should wish that all the roots of
this empowerment. We are very fortunate to virtue that are accumulated due to having re-
have this opportunity to receive such an empow- ceived these instructions on mahamudra will
erment. bring about the peace and happiness of all be-
The empowerment and the ings.
teachings of the Kalachakra In general, peace and happi-
Tantra were first requested of It is the negative ness depend upon ones mind.
the Buddha Shakyamuni by the mind that Whether one attains happiness
dharma king Dawa Zangpo at the or does not attain happiness is
place called the Drepung Stupa.
produces these entirely dependent upon ones
In response, the Buddha confused own mind. All beings have
Shakyamuni bestowed both the mental afflictionsthe six
tantra and the oral instructions
appearances and poisons, which are anger, attach-
of Kalachakra. In general there creates a hell ment, ignorance, pride, greed,
are said to be four classes or and jealousy. Based upon
realm for itself
divisions of tantra, of which the thoughts that arise out of these
fourth is called anuttara tantra. poisonous mental afflictions, one
Anuttara tantras are divided into father tantras performs actions with ones body, speech, and
and mother tantras. The Kalachakra Tantra is mind. Based upon such actions, one accumulates
considered to be a mother tantra, and within karma, and if these actions harm other beings,
these mother tantras the Kalachakra Tantra is they are considered to be negative or
considered to be like the monarch. It is also nonvirtuous actions accumulating negative
considered to be the pinnacle of all the vehicles karma. Such negative actions give rise to suffer-
or yanas. Thus, there are no higher or greater ing both temporarily and in the long term. As
empowerments or special instructions than long as one has negative states of mind that give
those connected with the Kalachakra Tantra. rise to negative actions, one will not experience
For that reason it is said to be like the monarch peace, but will only experience suffering. The
of all tantras. different types of suffering that we experience in
For these reasons we are extremely fortu- this lifetime are called temporary suffering. The
nate to be able at this time to receive from such suffering which arises in future lives, such as
a great vajra master such an empowerment with being born in any one of the lower statesthe
these teachings, which are like the monarch or hell realms, the hungry ghost realms, or the
pinnacle of all teachings. So, from my heart, I animal realmsis considered to be more long-
would like to extend my thanks to all the pa- term suffering. The cause of both of these types
trons who have made this event possible and to of suffering is the mental afflictions. Both types
all those who have helped bring this event about of suffering arise for oneself and for other be-
in any way. ings.
In general, the appearances of a hell realm

W hile I am explaining a bit about the teach

ings of mahamudra, I request all of you to
give rise to a very special attitude and aspira-
with all of its very fearful attributeswith all
the great suffering that appears to exist within
that realmare actually not truly existent. They
tion while you are listening. You should think are merely the confused appearances of a mind
that it is in order to bring about the peace and that has accumulated evil actions. It is the

negative mind that produces these confused practice of mahamudra meditation, but in brief,
appearances and creates a hell realm for itself. all of these methods can be included under two
For an individual without these negative states types: those connected with the sutra path,**
of mind, who has only a virtuous mind, there will and those connected with the secret mantra or
never appear any such hellish appearances. So, vajrayana path.***
since a hell realm appears only as the confused Referring to the teachings connected with
appearances of a negative mindof a mind that the sutra tradition, Nagarjuna wrote, There is
has engaged in negative actionsone should not one path to liberation taught by the buddhas,
[allow oneself to be impelled by the mental pratyekabuddhas, and shravakas. It is definite
afflictions to] engage in negative actions of body that there are no others. No other means
or speech. Instead, one should engage as much as there is no other way to attain liberation than
one can in developing compassion, loving kind- that one path. At the place in India called Vul-
ness, and diligence, in being generous to all ture Peak, the perfect Buddha Shakyamunia
beings, in maintaining discipline, in practicing supreme nirmanakayaturned the wheel of the
patience with others anger, and so forth. One dharma a second time, teaching the vehicle
should engage in virtue and follow in virtuous without characteristics, and explained the
ways as much as one can. By practicing virtue, meaning of emptiness in the extensive, middle
one will be of benefit to others. And if one acts in length and concise presentations of the
ways beneficial to others, one will also attain Prajnaparamita. This is something all of us
happiness for oneself in this lifetime, in the next, should meditate upon using our intelligence.
and in all future lives, and eventually one will If one were to wonder, Since the Buddha
attain enlightenment. One will be able to bring Shakyamuni taught this middle turning of the
about both the temporary and long-term happi- wheel of the dharma, then is it not sufficient for
ness of others. This is what is called happiness us just to meditate upon these teachings under
and peace. our own power or volition, not relying upon
In addition to these types of methods* that another teacher? No, it is not sufficient. Jowo
need to be taught, the Buddha Shakyamuni also Palden Atisha said, If one asks, Who realizes
taught many other methods for disciplining and emptiness, it is Nagarjuna and his student
training ones mind. These methods are included Chandrakirti, who were prophesied by the
in such teachings as mahamudra, dzogchen, Tathagata and who saw the truth of
madhyamaka, prajnaparamita, and so forth. All dharmata.**** Through the instructions of their
of the profound teachings given by the Buddha lineage, buddhahood is attained, not through any
were taught in order that one be able to disci- other means. In this quote Atisha mentions
pline and train ones own mind. Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti, but there were also
There are many methods taught for the countless other Indian mahasiddhas who real-
ized the truth of dharmata or the true nature of
*Editors note: It may seem strange to consider giving up evil reality, and by relying upon their instructions,
deeds and states of mind and cultivating virtuous deeds and
states of mind as methods of mental training that lead to their teachings on the Prajnaparamita, and so
happiness. That virtuous action leads to happiness and evil forth, and by putting such teachings into prac-
action leads to suffering seems so tautological that to consider tice, one will be able to attain enlightenment.
teaching them as a method might seem simplistic. But if
one considers the world view of the Buddha Shakyamunis If one were to wonder, How is this term,
contemporaries in Greece, for exampleone of the cradles of mahamudra, explained in the sutras, there is a
our Western civilizationone finds the notion that happiness
arises through the force of arms, the strong destroying the
weak, robbing them of their goods, pillaging their villages, **Editors note: The exoteric mahayana path
raping their women, killing their men, and enslaving their
***Editors note: The esoteric tantric path
women and children. Indeed, if one turns on CNN, one is hard
pressed not to think that that view still holds sway in many of ****Editors note: the true nature of things, the essence of
the realms of this world. reality, the completely pure nature, suchness

quote from the Samadhiraja Sutra which says, powerment, one should think that the guru
The nature of all phenomena is mahamudra. bestowing the empowerment is in actuality
This means that the nature of all phenomena is Kalachakra, and that the place where the em-
emptiness. Mahamudra in Tibetan is chakgya powerment is being given is in actuality the
chenpo. Chak refers to emptiness, and it means palace of Kalachakra. One should think that the
then that the nature of all phenomena is empti- entire environment surrounding one, the whole
ness. Realizing the meaning of world, is the pure land of
emptiness, one is liberated from Kalachakra. And one should have
samsara, which is expressed by In order to the attitude that these ways of
the word gya. This is how the regarding the guru, the structure
term chakja chenpo or
practice secret or building, the environment, and
mahamudra is explained in the mantra or the world are really the way they
sutras.* are in actuality.
The way one achieves
vajrayana, one When one is receiving an
mahamudra realization through must rely upon a empowerment, whatever sounds
the path of the secret mantra one hearsall the words ex-
genuine guru
which is the second method of pressed in the empowerment, all
realizing mahamudais ex- who is trained in the instructions givenone
plained through the following the tantras should listen to and hear
quote: Through engaging in undistractedly. One should be
skillful means, such as pen- focused one-pointedly on the
etrating the vital points of the subsequent vajra meaning of these words. If one is not focused
body,** there is luminosity, great bliss. This is one-pointedly, if one becomes distracted while
mahamudra, the quintessential essence of the one is listening to the empowerment being
highest section of tantras, which is taught given, although one will receive the blessings of
through the cycles of the essence of accomplish- the empowerment, one will not be able to under-
ment by Saraha, Nagarjuna, Naropa, and stand or receive the meaning of it.
Maitripa. In the beginning, in order to practice Having received empowermentfor ex-
secret mantra or vajrayana, one must rely upon a ample, the Kalachakra empowermentone then
genuine guru who is trained in the tantras, and engages in the practice of the sadhana associ-
one begins by requesting from him or her the ated with it. One begins with the generation
four empowerments of the secret mantra tradi- stage, with the visualizations and the mantra
tion. recitations, and then one engages in the comple-
To receive a complete empowerment in the tion stage practiceswhich, in the case of
secret mantra tradition from a genuine guru is Kalachakra, would be the six stages of
something we all have the opportunity to do union.*** If one practices meditation in this
during the next few days, since His Holiness the way, then one will be able to penetrate the vital
Dalai Lama will be bestowing the Kalachakra points of the vajra body.
empowerment. While one is receiving this em-
***Editors note: Each system of tantric practice has its own
*Editors note: Chenpo means great, and, according to Kalu
particular generation and completion stage practices. In the
Rinpoche, indicates that mahamudra is the ultimate experi-
Kagyu lineages, the principal generation stage practices are
ence and that there is nothing greater.
Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara, and the completion stage
**Editors note: The result of the attainment of enlighten- practice is the Six Doctrines of Naropa. In the Shangpa Kagyu
ment in the vajrayana is sometimes referred to as the vajra lineage, the generation stage practice is Chakrasamvara and
body. The use of this term is anticipated in the mahayana by The Deities of the Five Classes of Tantra, while the comple-
the use of the term the vajra-like samadhi, the indestruc- tion stage practice is the Six Doctrines of Niguma. In the
tible samadhi, which is the defining event in the attainment Nyingma system, the completion stage practices are Trekchd
of buddhahood. and Thgal.

Based upon penetrating the vital points of translates as great or maha, means integration
the vajra body, the karmic prana or winds enter or union. Chak gya chenpo or mahamudra. So the
into, abide and dissolve within the avadhuti or first part of this word refers to the fact that the
central channel. Through the force of that, ones essence of the mind is the integration or union of
karmic prana is purified and coemergent wis- emptiness and wisdom. The second part, gya,
dom, great bliss, arises as what is called a men- means that once one has realized the essence of
tal image or a mental approximation of wisdom,* the mind, the integration of emptiness and
which is known as the luminosity of example or wisdom, one is not obscured by the adventitious
the mahamudra of example. Through meditating stains of samsaric phenomena. And the third
repeatedly upon the luminosity of example- part of the word, chenpo, meaning great, means
mahamudra one will be able to realize the actual that the essence which is emptiness and the
luminosity or ultimate luminosity-mahamudra. nature which is clarity are primordially inte-
There are many terms that can be applied to grated or are primordially in union.**
such a realization, such as mahamudra, the How were these teachings of mahamudra
indestructible bindu, or the innate natural mind. transmitted? The teachings were first given by
In the path of secret mantra the term the Buddha Shakyamuni, who appeared in the
mahamudra is explained in the text, The Bindu form of Vajradhara and spoke The Flawless
of Mahamudra, by breaking the Tibetan term Tantra and many other tantras that express the
down, as before, into three parts. Chak means mahamudra teachings. These teachings then
the wisdom of emptiness. Gya means liberation came down to such masters as Lodro Rinchen,
from the phenomena of samsara. Chenpo, which Saraha, Nagarjuna, and so forth, all of whom,
through practicing them, attained siddhi and
*Editors note: The meaning of coemergent wisdom is became great siddhas. The same teachings were
succinctly explained by Chgyam Thrungpa in The Heart of the further transmitted to the mahasiddha Tilopa,
Buddha in connection with the sadhana of Vajrayogini:
Fundamentally, the magic of the vajrayana tradition is the who received all the tantras and special instruc-
ability to transform confusion into wisdom on the spot. From tions. Tilopa held four transmissions, teachings
the point of view of vajrayana, real magic, or siddhi, in which came from four lineages of teachers, and
Sanskrit, is the ability to work with and tame ones mind.
This is completely different from the usual notion of magic as although there were many teachers within these
a supernatural power over the universe. As mentioned in the lineages, they can be abbreviated into four: the
previous discussion of the samayas of body, speech, and mind,
any potential confusion and neurosis become an opportunity
mahasiddhas Nagarjuna, Nakpopa, and Lawapa,
to experience sacred outlook. At the beginning of the path of and the dakini mahasiddha Kalpa Zangmo. The
meditation, we work to tame our minds and subdue the forces essence of all of the teachings that he received
of confusion. In the mahayana, we see the emptiness of self
and phenomena; out of that, we rouse compassion for beings from these four lineages were summarized in the
who do not realize the emptiness, and therefore the freedom, teachings which are known as the Six Doctrines
of their nature. In the vajrayana, we could actually bring
together confusion and enlightenment on one spot, and
of Naropa.
thereby completely overcome the dualism of samsara and The main student of the mahasiddha Tilopa
nirvana. was Naropa, who underwent twelve austerities
The simultaneous experience of confusion and sanity, or
being asleep and awake, is the realization of coemergent in order to receive the teachings from Tilopa. At
wisdom. Any occurrence in ones state of mindany thought, the end of all of his training, he attained a real-
feeling, or emotionis both . . . a statement of confusion and a
ization equal to his teacher Tilopas. Naropas
message of enlightened mind. Confusion is seen so clearly
that this clarity itself is sacred outlook. Vajrayogini is called main student was Marpa, who visited India from
the Coemergent Mother. In fact, the sadhana of Vajrayogini
according to Tilopa is entitled The Sadhana of the Glorious
Coemergent Mother Vajrayogini. By practicing the sadhana and **Editors note: It should be clearly understood that there is
by identifying ourselves with the body, speech, and mind of the no bringing together or integrating of clarity and emptiness.
yidam, we become able to experience the coemergent boundary Clarity and emptiness are primordially in union; they always
between confusion and wakefulness. Then we can use confu- have been, are, and always will be inseparable. The only thing
sion itself as a steppingstone for realizing further sanity and new is our recognition of the fact, which comes about as a
further wisdom. consequence of purifying impure perception.

Tibet three times and spent altogether sixteen The first section, which is called, To Have A
years and seven years with Naropa, receiving all Decisive Understanding About the True
of his teachings and special instructions. Then Nature, explains ground mahamudra. There are
Marpa Lotsawa returned to Tibet, where he had three ways to speak of mahamudra: ground
many students. Of these the best were four main mahamudra, path mahamudra, and fruition
students, the supreme of which was Milarepa, mahamudra. This first section explains the true
who received the transmission of nature of ground mahamudra.
practice. Milarepa also had many The first section, To Have a
students, the supreme among Decisive Understanding About
them were called the two sons
When one has the True Nature, has five parts.
who were like the sun and the attained The first says, Mahamudra has
moon. His sun-like disciple was no causes. In general all rela-
Gampopa; his moon-like disciple tive or apparent phenomena
was Rechungpa. one merely has arise from causes. They first
The Kagyu teachings have purified the arise, then they abide, and then
since come through the master they cease. This is the nature of
Gampopa, and from his many adventitious or relative phenomena. However,
different students there have temporary stains mahamudra is noncompounded.
come many other divisions of the It is not composite, and so there-
Kagyu tradition. There are the
obscuring the fore it is beyond arising, abiding,
Karma Kamtsang, the Baram mind. The true and ceasing. For that reason it is
Kagyu, Tsalpa Kagyu, Padrup said that mahamudra has no
Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa
nature of mind causes.
Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu and has not changed The next point says,
others, many different sections. Mahamudra has no condi-
These traditions are different in tions. In general all things have
name only. Their teachings are the same. As conditions or contributing factors. These condi-
lineages of teachings they have all come from the tions are sometimes explained as being four in
same teacher. number, and they contribute to things changing.
The essence of mahamudra is unchanging, and

A nd so in order to explain the

teachings of mahamudra I will explain a
text by the master Gampopa called The Very
therefore it is said to have no conditions.
The next point says, Mahamudra has no
methods. This means that mahamudra from the
Essence of Mind, Mahamudra, the One Suffi- [beginningless] beginning or primordially is
cient Path. If one wonders what does this mean present within ones own mind. It is not newly
to say The One Sufficient Path, it means that by attained. So there are no methods for giving rise
practicing these instructions of the master to the new attainment of mahamudra.
Gampopa, one will be able to attain all the levels The next point says, Mahamudra has no
and paths which lead to enlightenment. path. This means that when one is practicing
The text, which begins by saying, Homage to mahamudra, one investigates ones own mind by
the genuine gurus, goes on to say: The oneself. One does not look for the path anywhere
Mahamudra of Gampopa, the One Sufficient else. And so for that reason it is said mahamudra
Path, has three sections: 1) To Have a Deci- has no path.
sive Understanding About the True Nature, The next point says, Mahamudra has no
2) The Introduction to the Fundamental result. A result in this case would be the attain-
Character, and 3) Training on the Path of ment of enlightenment, but when one has at-
Suchness. tained enlightenment, one merely has purified

the adventitious or temporary stains obscuring that has been burnt by fire, which will never give
the mind. The true nature of the mind has not rise to a sprout even though one may bury it in
changed. the ground, and so forth.
When it is said that mahamudra has no In the Buddha Avatamsaka Sutra it says,
causes, no conditions, no methods, no path, and Those with little faith, who abide within cyclic
no fruit or result, one is speaking from the point existence, cannot understand bodhicitta and
of view of the essence of the mind. This essence buddhahood. Those beings whose minds have
of the mind is beyond being an object which can only a little bit of faith, nothing more than that,
be expressed through speech. It is beyond being are unable to attain the level of a buddha and are
an object which can be experienced by the con- unable to give rise to the two types of bodhicitta.
ceptual mind of ordinary beings. The essence of Therefore, when one is practicing mahamudra
the mind does not have a shape, does not have a meditation, one should begin by giving rise again
color; its nature is beyond arising, abiding, and and again to faith.
cessation. This first section has expressed that In general there are said to be three types of
meaning. faith. The first is called the faith of confidence.
When it is said that mahamudra has no When one has given rise to great confidence or
causes and no conditions, one might wonder, trust in karmain the infallibility of the law of
Well is this then like empty space? No it is not. cause and result in action then one has the
The essence of the mind is emptiness, free from faith of confidence. The second is the faith of
mental elaborations, but its nature is luminosity. longing. When ones mind has become deter-
And within [this luminous emptiness or empty mined to attain the level of a buddha, then one is
luminosity, which is] the nature of the mind, said to have the faith of longing. The third is
there is naturally present all the kayasall the called inspired faith. When one has developed
dimensions or bodiesof the buddha, all the great faith and devotion in a one-pointed manner
excellent qualities of a buddha, all of a buddhas in the buddha, dharma, and sangha, and has
activity. given rise to the aspiration always to follow
them, then one has what is called

T he second section of the text

is The Introduction to the Faith and
inspired faith.
The second cause of
Fundamental Character. In devotion are the mahamudra is said to be devo-
this section one is introduced to tion. What type of object of devo-
the practice of path mahamudra, causes that give tion does one need? One needs to
again in five parts. With refer- rise to give rise to devotion towards a
ence to the practice of medita- spiritual teacher who shows the
tion on the path of mahamudra,
mahamudra perfect path, who is able to
the first part says, bestow empowerments and
Mahamudra has no causes, and yet faith perfect oral instructions. What is the reason that
and devotion are the causes of mahamudra. one needs to give rise to devotion to ones
Faith and devotion are the causes that give rise teacher? It is that, although the Buddha
to mahamudra. To illustrate this point there is a Shakyamuni appeared in this world, and after
quote from the Sutra of the Ten Noble Dharmas him there were many scholars and siddhas who
which says, The virtuous dharma does not arise appeared in India, we did not actually have the
for people with no faith, just as a sprout will not good fortune to meet them. But we have had the
arise from a seed burnt by fire. Those who have good fortune to meet the gurus and teachers we
no faith will not be able to give rise to the per- have met. And therefore, we should recognize
fect dharma. The example used to illustrate this that these teachers who bestow upon us the oral
is a seed, such as a rice seed or a wheat seed, instructions which were taught by the Buddha

are very kind to us. Recognizing their great conditions, and yet genuine gurus are the
kindness, one develops devotion towards them. conditions for mahamudra. Genuine or per-
How does one meditate upon or give rise to fect spiritual teachers are the conditions for
devotion? This can be illustrated by quoting mahamudra. One must first attend upon spiri-
Jetsun Milarepa when he was tual teachers, receive the oral
speaking to his disciple Genuine or instructions from them, and then
Gampopa. He says, Gampopa, put these instructions into prac-
when you are going to central
perfect spiritual tice. By doing so one will be able
Tibet, sometimes the memory of teachers are the to realize mahamudra. For that
the guru will arise. When the reason it is said that gurus or
memory of the guru arises,
conditions for spiritual teachers are the condi-
supplicate him as being insepa- mahamudra tions for realizing mahamudra.
rable on the top of your head. To illustrate this there is a quote
Meditate upon him as being in the center of your from the Noble Compendium which says, Excel-
heart without forgetting him. Jetsun Milarepa lent students endowed with respect for their
is saying to Gampopa that when the memory of gurus or teachers should attend continuously
me, Milarepa, arises, then how should you medi- upon learned gurus. Why is that? Because the
tate? You should meditate upon me, your guru, excellent qualities of learning arise from them.
as being on top of your head, inseparable from Excellent students should study with excellent
yourself. You should meditate upon your guru as gurus, because through relying upon excellent
being in the center of your heart, never forget- gurus we are able to give rise to all the virtuous
ting him. qualities within our own minds.
What is the result of meditating with devo- Spiritual teachers are the ones who show us
tion in the way just described? This can be the path. Without spiritual teachers we do not
illustrated through another quote: If the sun of know the path on which we are going or wish to
devotion does not shine on the snow mountain of go. We are like the blind or like someone who is
the gurus four kayas, the stream of blessings going to a new place who doesnt know how to
will not flow. Therefore, exert your mind in get there. If one wants to get there, one needs to
devotion. In this verse the four kayas of the have a friend who knows the road and the way to
guru are being expressed using the metaphor of go. In the same way, we do not really know at
the snow mountain. For streams of water to flow this point the way to achieve the level of a
from a snow mountain the sun must shine on it. buddha, so we need a guide, someone who can
And in order for the stream of blessings to flow show us how to get there. That guide is the guru.
from the snow mountain of the guru, the sun of In the same way, if we are in a very dangerous
ones own devotion must rise. Having received place where there are lots of very scary things,
the blessings of the guru, one will be able to scary noises, and so forth, then we need a guide
realize ones own mind as mahamudra. The true and escort who can lead us out of that place. Our
nature of the mind is beyond being an object of minds are like that place. Our minds are filled
speech or conceptuality,* yet through receiving with the mental afflictions, the six poisons, and
the blessings of ones guru one is able to realize the guru is the guide and escort who leads us
the nature of mahamudra [nonconceptually and from that dangerous place into the level of
nonverbally]. Therefore, it is said that faith and enlightenment. Similarly, if one wishes to cross
devotion are the causes of mahamudra. the ocean one needs to have a boat and one
The second point says, Mahamudra has no needs to have a captain of the boat. Sometimes
boats are rowed, and then one needs to have an
oarsman. Without a boat and an oarsman or
*Editors note: i.e. it cannot be accurately understood or
expressed verbally or conceptually. captain, one wouldnt be able to get to the other

side. Similarly, in order to cross over the ocean How does one come to realize the essence of
of samsara, one needs to have the oarsman of the mind, which is the union of luminosity and
teacher. emptiness? It is through supplicating ones guru,
For these reasons, in order to attain the ones spiritual teacher, and through gathering
realization of mahamudra, one should always the accumulations of merit that one will come to
rely upon spiritual teachers. Therefore, it is said recognize the true nature of ones mind. Realiz-
that gurus or spiritual teachers are the condi- ing the true nature of the mind, the union of
tions for mahamudra. luminosity and emptiness, is called ground
The next point in this section says, mahamudra or view mahamudra.
Mahamudra has no methods, and yet If one realizes view mahamudra but does not
uncontrived mind is the method of meditate upon path mahamudra, upon
mahamudra. When one is actually engaged in mahamudra as the path, then, although one has
the practice of meditation upon had a realization of mahamudra,
mahamudra, the method for doing When one is one will not be able to give rise
so is to rest within the to all the excellent qualities of
uncontrived mind. In order to meditating upon relinquishment** and realiza-
understand this notion, we must mahamudra, one tion. Having realized view
explain what is meant by saying mahamudra one needs to sus-
uncontrived mind. In general,
should do so in a tain or maintain this realization
when one is speaking about the way in which the in a nondistracted way, and this
true nature of the mind, one says is what is called mahamudra
that its essence is emptiness.
mind is meditation.
Because the essence or true uncontrived When one is meditating
nature of the mind is empty, it upon mahamudra, one should do
does not have a color, a shape, or any defining so in a way in which the mind is uncontrived.
characteristic. Because it is empty, this true When one is meditating, if one thinks, Oh,
nature of the mind is beyond being an object of maybe my meditation will be very good, and
speech or an object of conceptuality, and there- clings to that type of an attitude, or if one gives
fore is inaccessible for untrained ordinary be- rise to fear or concern, thinking, Oh, my medita-
ings. Though the essence of the mind is empti- tion isnt going very well, and clings to that type
ness, the reflexive expression* of this emptiness of an attitude, then one is engaging in hopes and
is the aspect of clarity, which gives rise to all the fears. This is a contrived type of meditation and
appearances of the phenomena of samsara and will not bring about the perfect practice of
nirvana. For that reason all the appearances of mahamudra. When one is meditating on
suffering, which are connected with the samsaric mahamudra one should not be performing any
state, and all the pure appearances, which are type of contrived meditation. For example, when
present during the enlightened state, are the one is meditating upon a deity, then one is medi-
reflexive expression or display of mind itself. tating upon the aspects of that deitythat its
color is white, it has one face, it has four arms,
*Editors note: What the translator is trying to avoid here and so forth. That is a type of contrived medita-
with this expression is any notion that emptiness is a
phenomenon that exists in any way independent or separate
tion, and mahamudra meditation is not like that;
from the totality of experience. The interdependent manifesta- it is an uncontrived meditation.
tion of phenomena, which are all just mere appearance, arise
out of the clarity aspect of the indivisible union of clarity and **Editors note: Relinquishment of all the causes that bind
emptiness, which themselves are one and the same thing. us in samsarathe kleshas or afflictive emotions and the
Clarity is emptiness; emptiness also is clarity. Therefore, push-button reactivity that arises out of them, the grasping at
whatever arises out of clarity is also not other than emptiness a self and the fixation on other that arises out of the habitual
itself, and in that sense can be thought of as the reflexive tendency to cognize ones reality dualistically, and fundamen-
expression of emptiness, as is clarity. tal ignorance itself.

What is meant by resting in uncontrived thoughts and conceptuality, and one clings to
mind means that ones past thoughts have ceased that attitude, then more thoughts will come.
and future thoughts have not yet come. So one However, if one abandons that type of thinking
rests in the uncontrived state, which is between and just says, Well, whether there are thoughts
these two. One rests in the true nature of the or no thoughts, thats fine, and if one remains
mind or rests in seeing the essence of the mind. free of hopes and fears, then one will be able to
It is difficult to rest in meditation like that for a rest the mind without many thoughts in the
long time. So after some time thoughts will mind.
arise. If one does not recognize the very essence To quote Padampa Sanjay: The gurus teach-
of these thoughts but follows after them, then ings reside in ones heart. This is like seeing a
thoughts will continue to arise in an uninter- hidden treasure sitting in the palm of ones
rupted stream. However, if one recognizes the hand. It is through receiving the pointing-out
essence of these thoughts, they will be naturally instructions on the true nature of mind and
liberated and one will not be through receiving the gurus
bound by thoughts. The Plant the blessing that one is able to recog-
uncontrived mind is beyond nize the true nature of the mind.
being an object of speech. There- watchman of It is these instructions that one
fore, it is difficult for me actu- undistracted receives from ones guru, then,
ally to express this to you in that are like having a jewel in the
words. For those of you who mindfulness palm of ones hand. If one has a
have received the blessings of a jewel in the palm of ones hand,
guru and who have experienced the uncontrived one is able to see the shape and characteristics
mind, then you know what I am talking about. of the jewel clearly. And it is through the bless-
But for those of you who have not had such an ings and pointing out instructions of ones guru
experience, then it is difficult for me to actually that one is able to see the true nature of ones
explain it to you or to show it to you, and there- mind.
fore, you might have some doubts about this. The fourth point says, Mahamudra has no
However, if you engage in practice and give rise path, and yet undistracted mind is the path
to devotion to your guru and gather the accumu- of mahamudra. To practice mahamudra one
lations of merit, then you will be able to recog- needs first to have received the pointing-out
nize this uncontrived mind and you will no instructions and to be able to rest [the mind]
longer have any doubts about it. without any contrivance, and then one needs to
Saraha said If one rests within practice these instructions as ones path in an
noncontrivance and freshness, realization will undistracted way. Maitreya says, Plant the
arise. If one maintains this like a rivers flow, watchman of undistracted mindfulness, which is
realization will arise again. Yogis and yoginis, not simply blocking mental activity like being
completely abandon all reference points and unconsciousness or asleep. When one is uncon-
characteristics; rest continually within equi- scious, the five sense consciousnesses have
poise. If one rests naturally settled without any ceased and one has no conceptuality. When one
contrivance in the true nature of the mind, then goes to sleep, the five sense consciousnesses
one will actualize or actually bring forth the dissolve into the all basis consciousness. But the
realization of this true nature. undistracted awareness which one should have
The mahasiddha Saraha also states, If one is not merely the ceasing of the five sense
tightens, this will cause thoughts to go in the ten consciousnesses nor their dissolving into the all
directions. If one abandons this one can rest basis consciousness. It is rather an awareness
unmoving and still. When one is meditating, if with which one constantly observes ones mind.
one thinks that one needs to be free of all One looks to see whether ones mind is abiding,

whether ones mind is engaged in thinking, to Through practicing mahamudra meditation one
see whatever [it is doing or whatever state it is purifies all the adventitious obscurations of the
in]. One maintains ones awareness like a watch- mind which are explained sometimes as being of
man. To plant the watchman of two types: the obscuration of
undistracted mindfulness means mental afflictions and the
that no matter what activities When one has obscurations to objects of knowl-
one is engaged inwhether one become free of edge. When these obscurations
is walking, sitting, eating or have been purified, then one has
talkingone should maintain all obscurations, attained the result of
mindfulness as much as one can. then the habitual mahamudra. That is the result of
Gyalwa Yangnpa says, Do mahamudra. When one has
not regard thoughts in the mind patterns of become free of all obscurations,
as faults. Not meditating inten- clinging to true then the habitual patterns of
tionally upon nonconceptuality, clinging to true existence are
rest the mind in its own funda-
existence are also purified and one is able to
mental state and plant the also purified and truly recognize that external
watchman. Within shamatha appearances are an aspect of
meditation stability will arise.
one is able to mindan appearing aspect of
Not to regard the thoughts of the truly recognize mindand one will have
mind as faults means that one that external reached a level where appear-
should not think that it is very ances and ones own mind have
bad if one has lots of thoughts appearances are mixed. When one has become
while one is meditating. One an aspect of free of clinging to true exist-
shouldnt think that one is trying encefree of the apprehension
to free oneself from thoughts,
mind of true existence***together
because thoughts are the reflex- with the habitual patterns for
ive expression of the mind. Therefore there is no such clinging or apprehension, then it is said
necessity to think, Oh, I definitely have to free that ones own mind and appearances are mixed.
myself of thoughts while I am meditating. One At that point then one is able to perform
should abandon all hopes and fears in regards to miracles, as were performed by the siddhas of
this, which is what is meant by saying, not both India and Tibet. They were able to touch
meditating intentionally upon nonconceptuality. fire but not be burned by it. They were able to
Instead, one should rest the mind in its own walk on water and not sink in it. They were able
fundamental state and plant the watchman of to walk through the walls of buildings, and so
undistracted mindfulness. Through practicing in forth. These miracles arise naturally at that
this way, then, within the practice of shamatha level. At that point one has also purified the four
stability of mind will arise. elements of ones physical body and is able to
At this point the explanations concerning transform ones body into such things as a large
uncontrived mind and not abandoning thoughts
are mostly concerned with the practice of
*Editors note: as opposed to the unified practice of
vipashyana. If one is only practicing shamatha,* shamatha and vipashyana
then one does need to bring the mind to rest or **Editors note: i.e. abide single-pointedly in nondiscursive
to be able to cause the mind to abide,** and so at tranquillity
that point one does need to have thoughts cease. ***Editors note: The existence of phenomena as other than
The fifth point is, Mahamudra has no mere appearance arising as the expression of the interdepen-
dence of merely apparent causes and conditions; permanent
result, and yet the mind liberated into substantial existence independent of causes and conditions
dharmata is the result of mahamudra. that give rise to it.

mass of fire or a large body of water. One is able lot of firewood, then one will have a big fire.
to perform many different types of miracles and When all the firewood is burned up, the fire will
practice many different types of samadhi. also go out. At that point one is liberated from
At that level one has also purified the nadi, all hopes and fears. One is liberated from the
prana, and bindu* of ones own physical form and fear of wandering in samsara and one is liber-
because of that one is able to arise in or manifest ated from the hope of attaining liberation.
the form of many different yidams or deities, and How is one liberated from hopes and fears?
one is also able to meet with these many various Through achieving the level of a buddha. Once
yidams. At that point it sometimes also occurs one has achieved that levelthe level of the
that ones students are able to see ones form as dharmakayathen one is naturally and auto-
being that of the yidam. Then as is said, Just matically liberated from samsara, and there is
like fire and firewood, the remedy and what is to no need for hopes or fears. At that point one is
be abandoned are exhausted together. Whoever able to accomplish benefit for both oneself and
has perfected all qualities in the expanse is a others. One accomplishes ones own benefit
yogin or yogini of nonmeditation. What is to be because one has completely abandoned all
abandoned are the obscurations of mental afflic- obscurations and has actualized the
tions and the obscurations to objects of knowl- dharmakaya. Attaining the dharmakaya is
edge, and when these have been exhausted, then achieving benefit for oneself. Based on the
the path which is the means to abandon them is blessings of the dharmakaya one manifests the
also exhausted. The illustration of this is the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya in whatever
exhaustion of firewood and fire. When one has a way is needed for students who are to be
trained, thereby accomplishing benefit for oth-
*Editors note: The concepts of nadi, prana, and bindu Within path mahamudra we speak of four
[Tibetan: rtsa, rlung, thig-le] are further explained in a note
levels of yoga: one-pointedness, simplicity or
from The Life of Marpa the Translator, by Tsang Nyn Heruka,
Shambhala, Boston and London, page 235: According to the freedom from elaborations, one taste and
yogic teachings of the path of skillful means [Sanskrit: nonmeditation. When one has achieved the level
upayamarga; Tibetan: thabs-lam], realization is attained
through the synchronization of body and mind. This may be just described, then one has achieved the level of
achieved through meditating on nadi, prana, and binduthe nonmeditation. The fruit of mahamudra medita-
psychic components in the illusory body. Prana is the energy, tion is called nonmeditation.
or wind, moving through the nadis, the channels. Bindu is the
quintessence secreted within the body. As is said, Mind
consciousness rides the horse of prana on the pathways of the
nadis. The bindu is minds nourishment.
Because of dualistic thinking, prana enters the lalana
[Tibetan: rkyang-ma] and rasana [Tibetan: ro-ma], the left
T hat completes the second section, The
Introduction To The Fundamental Character.
Now we come to the third section, Training On
and right channels. This divergence of energy in the illusory The Path Of Suchness, which explains in four
body corresponds to the mental activity that falsely distin-
guishes between subject and object and leads to karmically main points how beginners can practice the path
determined activity. Through yogic practice, the pranas can be of mahamudra meditation. The first point says,
brought into the central channel [Sanskrit: avadhuti; Tibetan:
As the preliminary practice, meditate on
dbu-ma], and therefore transformed into wisdom-prana. Then
the mind can recognize its fundamental nature, realizing all guru yoga with faith, devotion, and respect,
dharmas as unborn. three times during the day and three times
This belongs to advanced practice and can only be
learned through direct oral transmission from an accom- at night. One begins the preliminary practice by
plished guru. Once the meditator is well established in the going for refuge to the three jewels, giving rise
experience of the fundamental nature of mind, he or she can
to bodhicitta, meditating upon loving-kindness
meditate on it directly, dissolving the nadi, prana, and bindu
visualization. Meditation using the concept of psychic chan- and compassion, and practicing the six
nels belongs to the category of sampannakrama [Sanskrit for paramitas, and having done that, then one can
the completion stage] with signs. The formless practice, which
contemplates the nature of mind directly, is sampannakrama practice the guru yoga.
without signs. After one has practiced the guru yoga, the

text says in the next point, As the main prac- experiences and as favorable experiences.
tice, rest within the state of uncontrived As for the first: All unfavorable experi-
mind with undistracted recognition. The enceswhatever they are, such as dullness,
main practice is to rest within uncontrived mind agitation, illness, fear, fright, or doubt
as has already been explained. arise from your meditation.
As the conclusion, recog- Therefore, recognize them to
nize whatever appears as your
One must be experiences. Without aban-
own mind and train your continue to doning them, meditate, taking
awareness with skill. The those very things as the object
practice of meditative equipoise
practice until one of your view and meditation.
is to rest without contrivance, reaches the level Sometimes, when one is
and in the post-meditation one of nonmeditation meditating upon the true nature
should merely recognize all of ones mind, ones mind is very
appearances as being ones own where dark or sunken, or one falls
mind and in that way train with conceptual mind asleep. This is known as dull-
awareness. ness. Sometimes, when one is
The fourth point says, Rely-
is exhausted, resting within uncontrived mind,
ing upon the sequential aris- where practicing mahamudra, many
ing of experiences, exert your- different thoughts or concepts
self in meditation until con-
phenomena are arise. This is the experience of
ceptual mind is exhausted. exhausted agitation. Sometimes people
During ones formal practice, practicing mahamudra become
from the beginning to the end, physically sick, or have a lot of
one gives rise to many different types of experi- mental suffering. Sometimes, seemingly for no
ences. Some people give rise to the experiences reason at all, fear arises, as it were, naturally,
associated with shamatha practice. Some give and sometimes one has doubts about the dharma
rise to the experiences associated with or about ones teachers. All of these things can
vipashyana practice. But regardless of the na- arise within ones practice.
ture of ones experience, one must continue to If one has attained some stability in the
practice until one reaches the level of practice of mahamudra meditation and were to
nonmeditation where conceptual mind is ex- become sick, for example, then one would be able
hausted, where phenomena are exhausted. Each to mix this physical feeling or sensation of being
time one gives rise to certain experiences in sick with ones own realization or experiences of
meditation, one should not think, Oh these the true nature of ones mind. In this way one
experiences are fine. This is enough. I dont need would be liberated from the sickness through the
to do anymore. Instead one must practice until practice of mahamudra, or one would at least be
one attains this level of stability or fruitionthe able to bring the illness onto the path of
exhaustion of conceptual mindbecause if one mahamudra. In like manner, whatever arises
doesnt, if one just thinks that whatever level of be it fear or doubts towards ones teachers or the
practice one has achieved or whatever type of dharmaone should not rely upon other rem-
experience comes up is enough, one will not edies, but should bring all of these experiences
reach the final level of fruition and there will be onto the path of the practice of mahamudra. If
no benefit. one practices in this way, favorable experiences
There are many different types of experi- will arise naturally.
ences that can arise in meditation, but in gen- The text continues, As for favorable experi-
eral, as it reads in the text, There are two ways ences: First, the experience of the mind
in which experiences arise: as unfavorable abiding arises. This is an experience of the

practice of shamatha. Based on that, the expe- Merely attaining realization is not suffi-
rience of the essence, emptiness, arises. cientyou must meditate in order to turn
Based upon that, the experience of attaining away from attachment. It is not enough merely
realization arises. One has a true realization to have attained a stable realization, you must
of the true nature of the mind. Based upon continue to meditate until you have turned away
that, the experience of turning away from from your attachment to samsara.
attachment arises. All of these experiences are Merely turning away from attachment is
considered to be good or favorable. But when not sufficientyou must meditate so that,
these good experiences arise, if one clings to through the liberation of conceptual mind
them, if one thinks that one always needs to give into dharmata, conceptual mind is ex-
rise to such good experiences, then this clinging hausted, phenomena are exhausted, and you
to positive experiences binds one. awaken. It is not enough
With that type of sequential merely to turn away from at-
arising of experiences, you tachment to samsara; that alone
should exert yourself in prac-
Once you is of no benefit. You must medi-
tice without any complacency. have begun tate until conceptual mind is
There are many types of experi- exhausted, phenomena are
ences which can arise, but no
meditation upon exhausted, and you attain the
matter what arises, you should the true nature level of nonmeditation.
practice without any compla- of mind, you This completes The Very
cency. Once you have begun Essence of Mind, Mahamudra,
meditating upon the true nature should continue the One Sufficient Path.
of the mind, you should continue to do so as much Saying the very essence of mind
to do so as much as you are able and what is meant by that
to for as long as you live. You
as you are able means that the instructions
should never become satisfied and for as long contained within this text are
with your meditation, thinking, the very essence of all the in-
Oh, now Ive done enough; I
as you live structions of the master
dont need to do anymore. You Gampopa.
should meditate again and again.
The minds merely abiding is not suffi-
cientyou must meditate in order to see the
essence. When you begin practicing meditation,
W e have now come to the conclusion of this
text. I received what is called in Tibetan
the trilungthe oral transmissionfor this text
you may achieve stability in the practice of in the form of a commentary from the Sixteenth
shamatha, but you should not think, Oh this is Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, when
fine, this is enough that I have achieved this he gave me the transmission for the collected
stability. You must continue to practice with works of Dagpo Rinpoche, which is another
diligence until you come to the realization of name for Gampopa.
emptiness, associated with the practice of [Rinpoche chants, giving the oral transmis-
vipashyana. Merely seeing the essence is not sion for this text.]
sufficientyou must meditate in order to That completes the explanation of
attain realization. Although you may have mahamudra. Although one could explain what is
truly realized vipashyana, you should not think, necessary for the practice of mahamudra in a
Oh, now Ive realized this, this is enough, I dont very extensive way, to put it very briefly, one
need to do anymore. You should continue to should give rise to faith and confidence in what-
practice until you attain stability in that realiza- ever guru one regards as ones root guru and
tion. meditate upon the guru yoga, supplicating the

guru, and then imagine that the guru dissolves tathagatagharba or buddha nature. Therefore,
into light and that this light is absorbed into the excellent qualities of the dharmakaya can be
ones own mind, ones own heart center. In this achieved by everyone. Whoever meditates upon
way, ones own mind and ones gurus mind are this path will be able to achieve the same excel-
mixed together. Then rest ones mind in this lent qualities of relinquishment and realization.
state of the inseparability of ones own mind and It is through the great kindness of His Holi-
the gurus mind. If one practices in this way one ness the Dalai Lama that I was able to come here
will naturally give rise to the realization of and give you these instructions on mahamudra.
mahamudra. One should meditate in that way It is through his great kindness that we have
not just once, but again and again. Again and been able to come together, that you have been
again, one should supplicate ones guru and then able to listen to these teachings, and that I have
practice mahamudra meditation, resting the been able to give them. And so we now have a
mind in the uncontrived state. If one does that, very special dharma connection. I make the
then one will be able to achieve the same level of aspirational prayer that all of you will be able to
actualization or realization of mahamudra that practice the meditation on mahamudra and
was achieved by all the mahasiddhas of India attain the result, and that, having attained the
and Tibet, because this is a path without faults. result, you will be able to attain the siddhi of
It is a perfect path, and you flying in space, so you will be able
now have this path with its This is a path to fly here and fly there.
opportunity in your own hands. without faults Now I would like to conclude
If you practice meditation in with the aspirational prayer that,
this way, you will be able in the future to attain on the basis of all the roots of virtue which have
the fruits of this practice, all the excellent quali- been accumulated here today through this
ties of relinquishment and realization. Whoever dharma teaching, the master of all the Buddhas
practices meditation in this waywhether or teachings who appears now in this world, His
not one is ordained, whether one is male or Holiness the Dalai Lama, may live long, and that
female, whether one is old or young, it makes no all his aspirations and all his intentions for
difference[can attain this result.] There is no beings may be quickly and perfectly fulfilled. I
difference in terms of the realization of also make the aspiration that through the accom-
mahamudra that one can achieve, because plishment of all his intentions and wishes, this
everyones mind has what is called world may become peaceful.

In 1999, a surprising and auspicious event occurred: Three nuns from Jiangsu, in southwestern
China, arrived at Kala Rongo, the monastery for women that the women of Nangchen, with the
help of Lama Norlha and his students, have built in Tibet

Re-establishing the Dharma in Tibet

he second issue of Shenpen sel, which appeared in October 1997, featured the story of
the Venerable Lama Norlhas efforts to rebuild Korche Monastery and establish a monas-
tery for nuns in his native region of Nangchen, eastern Tibet. Since that time, the monas-
teries have flourished as Lama Norlha continues to sponsor and supervise new projects in both
The nuns monastery was begun in 1990 at Kala Rongo, a holy site where Guru Rinpoche medi-
tated and concealed the terma Barchay Kunsel. Years earlier, on three separate occasions, the
Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa had requested Lama Norlha to establish a dharma center there,
prophesying immense benefit to the entire world. A group of 150 nuns built the monastery and a
six-mile access road with their own hands while living in huts on the surrounding hillsides. They
worked on construction during the hours between morning and evening chanting sessions, and
rotated key positions such as cook, treasurer, chant master, ritual master, and disciplinarian.
In 1992, Lama Norlha inaugurated the first traditional three-year retreat at Kala Rongo. Only
twenty-five nuns had originally been scheduled to enter the retreat, but their enthusiasm inspired
them to share their tiny rooms, allowing fifty nuns to participate in the first retreat cycle.
Kala Rongo Convent now has more than 250 residents and is in its third cycle of three-year

The Chinese nuns in their Tibetan wool robes, which replaced the light cotton robes they arrived in

retreats. About ninety nuns have completed the a taste for tsampa. Currently immersed in the
retreat program, and fifty more are currently in study of written and spoken Tibetan, they are
retreat. Four nuns participating in their second scheduled to enter the next three-year retreat
retreat are serving as assistant teachers for the two years from now.
first-time retreatants. The presence of the Chinese nuns at Kala
In 1999, a surprising and auspicious event Rongo is significant for several reasons. It dis-
occurred: Three nuns from Jiangsu, in south- tinguishes Kala Rongo as a serious, respected
western China, arrived at Kala Rongo. Deter- monastery in the eyes of the government, and
mined to receive advanced training in Tibetan will greatly facilitate communication with Chi-
Buddhism, the Chinese nuns had consulted nese officials should the need arise. Also, accord-
Palpung Monastery and had been directed to ing to Lama Norlha, Chinese monks and nuns
Kala Rongo Monastery as the best source of are known for their especially strict observance
training in the Kagyu tradition for nuns in Tibet. of vows and disciplinean example that will
The Chinese nuns are in the process of greatly benefit all the nuns at Kala Rongo.
adapting to the climate and culture of eastern Finally, the Chinese nuns will be able to share
Tibet. During Lama Norlhas visit to Kala Rongo their wider education with the Tibetan nuns,
in the fall of 1999, he gave each of them a set of who have never had an opportunity to attend
traditional Tibetan maroon wool robes to replace school and therefore lack many basic skills, such
their light cotton robes that were more suited to as the arithmetic necessary for financial transac-
the warm weather of southwestern China. After tions and record-keeping.
a few weeks of sampling the Tibetan diet of
roasted barley flour (tsampa), dried yak cheese, Creating New Opportunities for Women
butter, yogurt, and dried meat, they shyly asked
The success of Kala Rongo Convent is especially
if they could have rice as their staple grain. Rice
striking in light of the ingrained Tibetan percep-
has been prepared for them ever since, but
tion that women belong at home churning butter,
recent reports suggest they are also developing
and that education and religious training would
only be wasted on them. Having seen the relative ing monastic college, or shedra, for monks at
equality achieved by Western women in recent Korche Monastery, Lama Norlha is now deter-
decades, Lama Norlha has been able to make mined to offer the same opportunity for ad-
gradual inroads into these traditional attitudes vanced study to the nuns at Kala Rongo. Local
in rural Tibet. Still, it hasnt been easy. When people have come to accept that unmarried
Lama Norlha first presented his plan to build a women can be useful as nuns who spend their
monastery for women in 1990, local officials and days praying, but cant conceive of any benefit
residents were incredulous. If women didnt from offering them higher education.
want to get married, why couldnt they just live Once again, Lama Norlha is disregarding the
as nuns with their families? overwhelming weight of local opinion and pro-
Lama Norlha proceeded to sponsor the ceeding with plans to fund and build a womens
convent in spite of protests, and everyone now monastic college. Though its primary function
recognizes how much the nuns have achieved. will be the same as that of the shedra at Korche
They also recognize the monasterys consider- Monasteryto provide advanced religious
able benefit to the surrounding community, training to graduates of the three-year retreat
which often calls upon the nuns for prayers and programbecause women in Tibet have no
special rituals in times of need. access to a basic education, the college will also
Even Lama Norlha had to admit the nuns offer such courses as mathematics, basic science,
were not at first capable of running the monas- and business skills.
tery themselves, due to their lack of education American dharma students have donated
and practical experience in areas traditionally most of the means for building and maintaining
reserved for men. For the first few years the Kala Rongo Monastery, and have sponsored
monastery was administered by a group of men, hundreds of thousands of recitations of the
while the nuns devoted their time to study, Green Tara practice and of the fasting practice of
prayers, construction, and administrative train- 1,000-armed Chenrezig, known as Nyungnay. The
ing. In 1997, the nuns took over all the adminis- nuns have recently completed a Nyungnay
trative functions, and the male staff was reduced shrine room, where they take turns maintaining
to a single consultant, mostly for help with this profound practice of purification and benefit
bookkeeping and
purchasing. By 1999,
the nuns were running
the monastery without
any outside assistance
at all. Again, the once-
skeptical community
was won over by their
Nevertheless, even
with such an impres-
sive, decade-long track
record, the next step
envisioned by Lama
Norlha for Kala Rongo
Monastery is again
meeting with local
resistance. After
establishing a flourish- Nuns at Kala Rongo spinning wool to make rope for the monastery

to all beings. rebuilding of Korche Monastery. Currently home
to about 150 monks, Korche is in its sixth three-
Korche Monastery and Monastic College year retreat cycle since reopening its doors. A
The story of Kala Rongo Monastery is remark- monastic college was established in 1996, offer-
able, particularly since Lama Norlha has had to ing a ten-year intensive program to monks who
overcome deeply rooted traditional attitudes have completed the traditional three-year re-
toward women in order to create a place for treat. The program consists of detailed analysis
them to flourish as dharma practitioners. No less of Buddhist scripture and commentaries and
important, however, is the rebuilding of Korche training in traditional Buddhist logic and de-
Monastery, begun in 1982 by Lama Norlha and bate. The abbot of the monastic college is a
his students at Kagyu Thubten Chling Monas- native of the area who took full ordination at age
tery in upstate New York. seventeen and returned to
Korche Monastery in Korche after receiving his
eastern Tibet is where khenpo degree. He is also
Lama Norlha, beginning at known in the region for his
age five, received his own strict adherence to a
training as a monk in the vegetarian diet, which he
Kagyu tradition. After adopted at age twelvea
completing two three-year rare choice in Tibet, with
retreats at Korche before its harsh climate and
the Communist takeover in limited variety of foods.
1959, Lama Norlha escaped Even though the col-
to India, where he became a lege has been in operation
disciple of Kyabje Dorje for four years, the building
Chang Kalu Rinpoche. is still under construction
Lama Norlha served as and was scheduled for
retreat master in Kalu completion this spring.
Rinpoches three-year Lama Norlha also
retreat program until 1976, founded the Lama Gyupa,
when Rinpoche sent him to a group of senior monks at
New York City to open a Korche who have com-
dharma center at the re- Lama Norlha (left) at Korche Monastery pleted their training in the
quest of his students there. three-year retreat pro-
Meanwhile, Korche Monastery, which had been gram. These monks maintain the daily and
home to about 500 monks, had been completely monthly chanting services at the monastery and
destroyed. perform special ceremonies as needed. Without
In 1982, as soon as it became possible to re- the ongoing support provided by Lama Norlha,
establish communication with his native region, these monks would be forced to seek their living
Lama Norlha began sending donations to rebuild outside the monastery, rather than devoting all
the monastery at Korche. In 1984, he was per- their time to religious service.
mitted to visit for the first time in twenty-five
years. By that time, the three-year retreat Schools, Medical Care, and Stupas
facility and a few houses had been rebuilt, and Besides the two monasteries, Lama Norlha has
reconstruction of the main shrine building had established a free school system for the children
begun. of Nangchen, eastern Tibet, where access to
For more than 15 years, Lama Norlha has education has been severely limited for several
been sponsoring and personally overseeing the decades. The schools will equip children with
the knowledge and skills needed to participate base of the stupa, giving the children a place to
in the modern world, while also preserving learn about and practice their Buddhist heri-
Tibetan language, history and culture. The main tage.
school, Ynten Gatsal Ling near Korche, opened All of Lama Norlhas projects in eastern Tibet
its doors in 1996, and now has 110 students. In are administered by Kagyu Thubten Chling
remote areas, 41 satellite schools teach basic Monastery in Wappingers Falls, NY, and by
literacy and arithmetic. Lama Norlha is also NYEMA Projects, Inc. (the Nangchen Yushu
funding a network of Tibetan doctors in Educational and Medical Association), a chari-
Nangchen, enabling them to provide medical table organization founded in 1996 by Lama
care to nomads and farmers. Norlha and Pema Dorje, MD. The projects are
Lama Norlha and American donors are spon- funded almost entirely through private dona-
soring three stupas currently under construction tions, with less than five percent needed for
in Nangchen. A single patron from New York is administrative overhead. More information, and
sponsoring a stupa at Kala Rongo Monastery; many photos, can be found at Kagyu Thubten
the other stupas are being built at Korche Mon- Chlings website, www.kagyu.com. Lama Norlha
astery and Ynten Gatsal Ling primary school. plans to make his annual visit to Nangchen this
The two monastery stupas will be constructed in summer. New developments and photos will be
the traditional closed style. At Ynten Gatsal posted on the website.
Ling school, a shrine room will be built in the

Nuns in three-year retreat wearing hats knitted by an American sponsor

I f you would like to make a donation towards Lama Norlhas efforts to
re-establish the dharma in eastern Tibet, and to preserve Tibetan
language, culture and religion, please fill out this form and mail or fax to:

Kagyu Thubten Chling Monastery

127 Sheafe Road
Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
Fax # 914-297-5761
Attn: Tibet projects




Day/Evening Phone


I would like to make a donation to help support:

Kala Rongo Monastery for Women

Kala Rongo Womens College
Korche Monastery
Korche Monastic College
Korche Monastery Lama Gyupa
Schools for children in eastern Tibet
Medical care in eastern Tibet

Please select your method of payment:

Enclosed is my check, payable to Kagyu Thubten Choling, in the
amount of $ .
I wish to charge my donation to my Visa Mastercard

# exp. /


More information on the projects and more pictures can be found on

the Kagyu Thubten Chling website, www.kagyu.com.

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