H. H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet
The Need for Religion in Our Present Lives
One reason for the pursuit of religion is that material progress alone will not give lasting pleasure of satisfaction. Indeed, it seems that the more we progress materially, the more we have to live under constant fear. Scientific technology has made marvelous advances, and no doubt will continue to develop. Man may reach the moon and try to exploit her resources for the advantage of human beings—the moon which some ancient believers regarded as the home of their god; and planets may also be conquered. Perhaps, in the end, this progress will reveal potential enemies outside our world. But in any case, it cannot possibly bring ultimate and permanent pleasure to human beings, for material progress always stimulates desire for even further progress, so that such pleasure as it brings is only ephemeral. But, on the other hand, when the mind enjoys pleasure and satisfaction, mere material hardships are easy to bear; and if a pleasure is derived purely from the mind itself, it will be a real and lasting pleasure.
No other pleasure can be compared with that derived from spiritual practice.
This is the greatest pleasure, and it is ultimate in nature.
Different religions have each shown their own way to attain it.
A second reason for the pursuit of religion is that we depend on religion even for the enjoyment of an appreciable amount of material pleasure. Pleasure and pain, in a general sense, do not arise only from external factors, but from internal factors as well. In the absence of the internal response, no amount of external stimulation can effect pleasure or pain. These internal factors are the after-effects or impressions left on our minds by past actions; as soon as they come into contact with the external factors, we experience pleasure or pain again. An undisciplined mind expresses evil thoughts by evil actions, and those actions leave evil after-effects on the mind; and as soon as external stimulation occurs, the mind suffers the consequences of its past actions. Thus, if we suffer, our miseries have their remote causes in the past. All pleasure and pain have their mental origins; and religions are required because, without them, the mind cannot be controlled.
The Need for Religion in Our Future Lives
How do we know that there is an after-life? According to Buddhism, although the nature of Cause and Effect may be different, they must have the same essential properties, they must have a definite connection; otherwise the same cause cannot result in the same effect. For example, the human body can be perceived—it has form and colour—and therefore, its immediate source or cause must also be formless. In analogy, the properties of the seeds of medicinal plants create medicine, and the seeds of poisonous plants create poison.
Most beings have physical bodies (though in some regions of existence beings have only minds). Both mind and body must have immediate sources. At the very moment of conception, both mind and body are formed and begin to function. The immediate source of a body is that of its parents. But physical matter cannot produce mind, nor mind matter. The immediate source of a mind must, therefore, be a mind which existed before the conception took place; the mind must have continuity from a previous mind. This we hold is proof of the existence of a past life. This has been demonstrated by the accounts of adults and children who remember their past lives—a phenomenon found not only in historical records but also observed today. We can conclude from this that past life existed, and hence that life in future will exist. If belief in after-life is accepted, religious practice is necessary as nothing else can supplant it, the preparation for one’s future existence.
Buddhism and its Founder
Just as a particular disease in the world can be treated by various methods in medicine, so there are different religions that bring happiness to human beings and others. Different doctrines have been expounded by different exponents at different periods and in different ways. But I believe they all fundamentally aim at achieving the same noble goal, in teaching moral precepts to mould the functions of mind, body and speech. They all teach us not to tell lies, or bear false witness, or steal, or take the lives of others, and so on. Therefore, it would be better if disunity among the followers of different religions could come to an end. Unity among religions is not an impossible idea. It is possible, and in the present state of the world, it is especially important. Mutual respect would be helpful to all believers; and unity between them would also bring benefit to unbelievers, for the unanimous flood of light would show them the way out of their ignorance. I strongly emphasize the urgent need for flawless unity among all religions. To this end, the followers of each religion should know something of the religion of others, and that is why I am presenting a brief introduction to the Buddhism of Tibet.
I must begin, however, by saying that it is very difficult to find exact English equivalents for the philosophical terms of Buddhism expressed in Tibetan. It is hardly possible (at present) to find a scholar who has both a perfect knowledge of English and a perfect knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and religion. Also, there are not many authentic translations for reference. Books written or translated in the past have certainly done a great service to Buddhism, but some of them are rather rough translations, providing only a superficial interpretation. I hope scholars in the future will solve this problem so that the more profound aspects of our religion can be communicated in English. In this booklet a very free translation is being used so that the English is as simple as possible. At present, I can only write on these matters with confidence in Tibetan, and for an English translation I have to rely on others. I can only hope that the translation is a precise rendering.
I have already explained in My Land and My People that we Buddhist[s], believe, that all beings are reborn, and strive, through a series of lives, towards the perfection of a Buddhahood. We do not take it for granted that this perfection will be attained in a single lifetime, although it can be possible.
Of the mind and body of a man, we consider the mind superior; both speech and body are subject to it. Sins do not affect the intrinsic nature of mind. The essential mind is naturally pure. Sins are the defects of the peripheral or secondary minds. In the quest for enlightenment, these defects are removed one by one from the peripheral minds, and when all defects are removed from them, true perfection, or Buddhahood, is attained.
We believe that during the present Kalpa (aeon) the incarnation of a thousand supreme Buddhas will take place in this world. Like our selves, these Buddhas were living beings before they attained perfection. These Buddhas have the power to project reincarnations of their mind, body, and speech into millions of forms within a moment of time. And they do this for the benefit of all living beings of worlds like ours. Each of these supreme incarnations will preach his own doctrine, and will work eternally for the salvation of all living beings.
We regard Lord Buddha, or Gautama Buddha, as he is also called, one of these one thousand Buddhas. He was born on a royal family in India over 2,500 years ago. In the early part of his life, he lived as a prince; but he noted instances of suffering which made him realize that human existence was precarious. He renounced his princely life and became an ascetic. From the point of view of ordinary beings, which is limited, his life was marked by twelve main events: his descent form the heaven called Tushita, his conception, birth, schooling, marriage, renunciation, penance, meditation under the Bodhi tree (the tree of enlightenment), conquest of mara (the tempter), attainment of Buddhahood, preaching, and departure from Samsara (the round of existence).
His teaching differs from that of other Buddhas; while most of them preached only on Sutra (doctrinal treatises), he preached also on Tantras (instructions on spiritual method).
After he attained Enlightenment, the Perfection of Buddhahood, at Buddha gaya, he preached three different sermons, each at a different place in the part of Inida known as Bihar. The first, at Varanasi (banaras), was on the Four Noble Truths, about which I shall have more to say. It was mainly addressed to the Sravakas (hearers) who were people gifted spiritually but of limited outlook. The second sermon, at Girdhakuta, was on Sunyata (Voidness), the non-existence of an ultimate self-nature. I shall refer to this again. This was addressed to Mahayanists, or followers of the Great Way, who were men of very high intellect. The third sermon, at Vesali, was intended primarily for Mahayanists of a lesser calibre.
Thus, he not only preached on Sutras for Mahayanists and Hinayanists (followers of the Greater and Lesser Ways, the two main schools of Buddhism). After attaining the status of Vajra Dhara, that is to say, on his initiation into the most profound methods, he also preached many Tantras for Mahayanists. The great scripture (translated in Tibet under the title of Kangyur) are all Lord Buddha’s teachings.
The Kangyur has Sutra and a Tantra section. The Sutra section is further divided into three subjects: Vinaya, which concerns the principles of morality; Sutantra concerning meditation; and Abhidharma concerning philosophical work related to transcendental wisdom. These three sub-divisions are called Tripitakas, and their fundamental principles are known in Sanskrit as Shila, Smadhi and Prajnya. The Tantric part of the Kangyur has four subdivisions. In Tibet these sub-divisions of Tantra are sometimes included in the Sutantra division of the Sutra of Tripitaka.
The Spread of Buddhism in Tibet
Before Buddhism was brought from India to Tibet, the religion widespread in our country was the Bon belief. It had originated in the neighbouring country called Shang-Shung, and until recently there were still centers in Tibet where the followers of Bon pursued deep study and meditation. In its beginning, I believe, it was not a very fruitful religion, but when Buddhism took root and began to flourish in Tibet, it benefited Bon also by enriching its own religious philosophy and meditational resources.
It was King Lha-Tho-Ri Nyen-Tsen of Tibet who first introduced Buddhism to the country, well over a thousand years ago. Buddhism spread steadily, and in the course of time many renowned Pandits from India can to Tibet and translated the Sutra and Tantra texts and their commentaries.
This activity suffered a setback for some years during the reign of the irreligious King Lan-Dar-Mar in the tenth Christian century; but that temporary eclipse was soon dispelled, and Buddhism revived and spread again, starting from the eastern and western parts of Tibet. Soon scholars, both Indian and Tibetan, were busy once more in translating religious works, and distinguished Pandits were visiting our country again for that purpose. But as Tibet began again to give birth to eminent native scholars, so, from that period, the number of scholars who came to Tibet from India and Nepal began to diminish gradually.
Thus, in what may be distinguished as the later period of Buddhism in Tibet, our religion developed separately from the later school of Indian Buddhism. But it retained the exact basis of the teachings of Lord Buddha. In its essentials, it never suffered alterations or additions at the hands of Tibetan lamas. Their commentaries are clearly distinguishable as commentaries, and for their authority they referred to the main teachings of Lord Buddha or the works of the Indian Pandits.
For this reason, I cannot think it is correct to regard Tibetan Buddhism as separate from the original Buddhism preached in India, or to call it Lamaism, as some people have. Certainly in minor matters there have been difference[s] due to local conditions—as for example, the difference in the habit worn by the religious in Tibet which is due to climatic reasons. But I believe that a thorough study of the Tibetan language and Tibetan texts is essential now for anyone who would understand the entire teachings of Lord Buddha on both Sutras and Tantras.
Buddhism, as we have seen, was not brought to Tibet, all at once; the scriptures were introduced by different scholars at different times. In India during that period there were great Buddhist institutions, like Nalanda and Vikramashila Universities, which differed slightly in their styles of teaching, although they taught the same fundamental religion and philosophy. Because of this, different groups grew into separate organizations or sects, all having the same basic tenets. The most prominent of these Tibetan schools are Nyingma, Kaguy, Sakya and Geluk. Each of them adheres to all the teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana, including Tantrayana, for Tibetan Buddhists do not separate these teachings, but pay equal respect to them all. For moral guidance, they conform to the Vinaya rules which are principally followed by Hinayanists, which for more esoteric practices, of every degree of profundity, they use the methods of the Mahayana and Tantrayana schools.
The Meaning of Chos or Dharma
The Tibetan word Chos is known as Dharma in Sanskrit, and it means "to hold." All the objects of this world which have definable identities of their own are known as Dharmas. There is another meaning of Dharma, and this is: "to hold back from impending disaster." It is in this sense that Dharma can mean "religion"; religion, that is to say, as opposed to secularism. Generally speaking, any noble activity of mind, body and speech denote Dharma or religion—which can save or hold one back from disaster. One is considered to practice religion if one implements these activities.
The Four Noble Truths
LORD BUDDHA said: "This is true suffering; this is true cause; this is true cessation; this is the true path."
He also said: "Know the sufferings; give up their causes; attain the cessation of sufferings; follow the true paths."
Again, he said: "Know the sufferings although there is nothing to know; relinquish the causes of misery although there is nothing to relinquish;
be earnest in cessation although there is nothing to cease; practise the means of cessation although there is nothing to practice."
These are three views of the intrinsic nature, action and ultimate result of the Four Noble Truths.
According to the Madhyamika theory (originally taught by Nagarjuna, a scholar of the third century of the Christian era), a theory which remains supreme among all the theories of different Buddhist schools, the explanation of these Truths is this: True suffering means Samsara (the entire round of existence, of birth and re-birth) arising from Karma (that is, action and reaction) and from delusion. True cause means Karma and delusion, which are the causes of true suffering. True cessation means the complete disappearance by degrees of the preceding two truths. The true path is the method by which we arrive at true cessation.
Thus the true cause of suffering leads to true suffering, but in following the true path, we arrive at the goal of true cessation. Although this is the natural sequence, Lord Buddha preached the Four Truths by placing the effects first and the causes after. The reason for this is that if the nature of suffering is determined, the cause of it may be deduced; and when this desire to eliminate the cause (of suffering) is strong, means will be found to abandon it.
Samsara and Beings
SAMSARA is the whole round of existence. Samsara with its miseries, is the true cause of suffering. To Samsara belongs everything which proceeds from a chain of other causes and which is thus involved in Karma and delusion. Its essential nature is misery; its function is to provide a basis for the spread of misery and by nature to attract miseries for the future.
Spatially, Samsara is divided into three worlds—the World of the Senses, the World of Form and the World of the Formless. The beings in the first of these Worlds enjoy external sensual pleasure. The second, the World of Form, consists of two parts. In the lower part beings cannot enjoy external sensual pleasures but can enjoy the undisturbed pleasure of internal contemplation. In the World of the Formless, the objects of the five senses do not exist, nor the five sensual organs with which we enjoy them. There is only a bare mind, devoid of distractions. This exists and dwells entirely in a state of equanimity.
Samsara may also be divided according to the nature of the beings it contains, and by this system there are six divisions:
GODS: These include beings in the world of celestial forms and of formless spirits, and the six categories of gods found in the sensual world.
DEMI-GODS, OR TITANS: These are mischievous beings who are like gods in every respect.
YI-DAG, OR PRETAS: Living spirits who are afflicted constantly with the miseries of hunger and Thirst.
HELLS: There are different regions of hell, and the living beings in each of them also vary in nature, according to their past Karma.
(Basicly different states of mind, where one is stuck due to hatred and negative emotions)
The Causes of the Miseries of Samsara
The true causes of suffering are Karma and delusion. Karma has been defined as "concordant action and reaction". According to the higher schools of Buddhism, Karma has two aspects, known in Tibetan as Sempai Le and Sampai Le. Sempai Le is the latent stage of Karma in which physical action is yet to take shape; the stage where the impulse to act is subconscious. Sampai Le is the manifest stage in which physical and oral actions occur. With regard to its results, there are three kinds of Karma. Meritorious Karma cause beings to take rebirth in the realms of gods, demi-gods, and men. Demeritorious Karma cause rebirth in the lower regions of animals, pretas and hells. Finally, Achala Karma, Invariable Karma, cause beings to take rebirth in the upper worlds, Rupa and Arupa Dhatu, the worlds of the Form and the Formless. The effects of Karma may be experienced in this present life, or in the next life, or in subsequent lives.
Delusion is not a part of the essential or central mind, which, as I have said, is intrinsically pure: it is a defect of one of the peripheral or secondary minds. When this secondary mind is stimulated, delusion becomes influential; it dominates the central mind and causes sin.
There are very many kinds of delusion: passion, anger, pride, hatred, hostility and so on. Passion and hostility are the main delusions: by passions we means a passionate attachment to men or things. Passion may express itself as self-attachment or egoism, and from it one may develop pride through a sense of superiority; or , on encountering hostility towards oneself, one may develop a counter-hatred. Again, through ignorance and lack of understanding, one may be led to oppose the truth. This strong "I-consciousness" has been fostered in all beings in Samsara since time immemorial, and they are so habituated to it that they experience it even in their dreams.
In fact, all cognizable things are empty by their very nature but through delusion they appear as self-originating and as self-sufficing entities. Conversely, this distorted concept is at the root of all delusion.
The Essence of Nirvana
SAMSARA, in another sense, implies a bondage. Nirvana implies a liberation from this bondage: the true cessation, the third of the Noble Truths. I said that the causes of Samsara are karma and delusion. If the roots of delusion are thoroughly extracted, if creation of new Karma to cause rebirth in the circle of Samsara is brought to an end, if there are no more delusions to fertilize the Karma persisting from the past, then the continual rebirth of the suffering being will cease. Such a being, however, will not cease to exist. It has always existed in a body with a mortal residue, a body born because of previous Karma and delusion. But after the cessation of rebirth, after the liberation from Samsara and the achievement of Nirvana, it will continue to have consciousness and a spiritual body free of delusion. This is the meaning of the true cessation of suffering.
Nirvana can indicate a lower stage, in which there is simply no suffering, and also it can mean the highest stage, called Buddhahood. This is the stage of supreme Enlightenment, total and unqualified, free from all moral and mental defilement, and from the defilement caused by the power of discriminative thought.
A prescribed path must be followed to attain either of the states of Nirvana described above: the true path, the fourth of the Noble Truths. Hinayana and Mahayana represent two schools of thought by which we discern this path. Hinayanists, the followers of the Lesser Way, basically seek to attain Nirvana for the individual’s own sake. According to this school, the mind should be trained to exercise a strong will in order to renounce Samsara: it should pursue religious ethics (Shila), and simultaneously practice concentration (Samadhi) and meditation (Vipassana: Tibetan—Lhagthong), so that delusion and the seeds of delusion may be purged, and may not grow again. Thus Nirvana is attained. The paths to be followed include the Paths of Preparation, Application, Seeing, Practice and Fulfillment.
MAHAYANISTS aim at attaining the highest stage, of Nirvana, Buddhahood, for the sake not only of the individual but all other sentient beings. Motivated by the thought of Enlightenment (Bodhi-chitta) and by compassion, they follow almost the same paths as those of Hinayana. But in addition to those paths, they practice other methods (Upayas) such as the six Paramitas (transcendent virtues). By this practice, Mahayanists seek not only to rid themselves of delusion but also of the defilement of sin, thereby working to attain Buddhahood. The five Mahayanic paths are likewise known as the Paths of Preparation, Application, Seeing, Practice and Fulfillment. But although the name of the paths are the same as those of Hinayana, there is a qualitative difference between them. And since Mahayanists have a different fundamental motive and in general follow different paths and practice different methods, the final goal which they achieve is different.
The question is sometimes asked whether Hinayanists, having achieved Nirvana, will be confined to the stage they have attained, or whether they will subsequently follow the Mahayana. The answer is that they will certainly not regard their own stage of Nirvana as the final goal, but will certainly adopt ways to attain Buddhahood.
The paths I have mentioned are doctrinal paths, and they must be followed to provide a sound foundation before Tantrayana (the way of Yogic Method) is practiced. In Tibet the greatest care was taken before any Tantric doctrine was introduced. Spiritual teachers always investigated whether the doctrine was among those preached by Lord Buddha, and submitted it to logical analysis by competent Pandits, and also tested its effects in the light of experience, before they confirmed its authenticity and adopted it. This was necessary as there were many non-Buddhist Tantric doctrines which are apt to be confused with those of Buddhism because of superficial resemblances.
The Tantrayana falls into four classes, and it has a vast number of treatises which cannot be enumerated here. In the simplest terms, this is its system: as already explained, bad Karma are held responsible for the various kinds of miseries we suffer. The bad Karma are created through delusion. Delusion is essentially due to an undisciplined mind. The mind should therefore be disciplined and controlled by exercises that stop the flow of evil thoughts. This flow may be stopped, and the wandering of projecting mind brought to rest, by concentration on the physical make-up of one’s body and the psychological make-up of one’s mind.
The mind may also be focused on external objects of contemplation. For this, strong contemplative powers are needed, and the figures of deities—it has been found—the most suitable objects. For this reason, there are many images of deities in Tantrayana. These are not arbitrary creations. Images, as objects of contemplation to purify the body, mind and senses have to be created in wrathful as well as peaceful aspects, and sometimes with multiple heads and hands, so that they suit the physical, mental and sensuous aptitudes of different individuals striving for the final goal.
Progress towards this goal is achieved in some cases mainly through strong faith an devotion, but in general it is achieved by the power of reason. And if the transcendental path is systematically followed, reason itself will provide during the pursuit many causes for heartfelt belief.
Every religious path has a system of knowledge or Wisdom (Prajnya) and method (Upaya).
Wisdom related to Absolute Truth (Paramarthasatya) and Method to Relative Truth (Sambrithsatya). Nagarjuna has said: "The Dharmas revealed by the Buddhas are always fully in accordance with the Dual Truths, both Absolute and Relative Truths."
When the final end, Buddhahood, is achieve, an individual acquires two forms of Buddha Kayas or Bodies. These two Kayas are the effects of his practice of Wisdom and Method in following the doctrinal paths; and his Wisdom and Method are the results of the two truths which are universally valid. An understanding of the Dual Truths is therefore very important but it involves some difficulties. Different schools of Buddhist thought hold different views concerning these truths. According to Uma Thal Gyurpa (the theory of Madhyamika held by the Prasangika School of Buddhism) the things we perceive through our senses are of two aspects—the perceptible and the imperceptible. Generally speaking, Relative Truth is concerned with the knowledge of things and of mental concepts in their perceptible aspects, and Absolute Truth with knowledge of their imperceptible aspects.
Universal Voidness and True Cessation are Absolute Truths; all else is relative.
An Outline of the Method of Following Buddhism
The perfect practice of Buddhism is achieved not merely through superficial changes for example through leading a monastic life or reciting from holy books. Whether these activities in themselves should [be] called religious or not is even open to question; for religion should be practiced in the mind. If one has the right mental attitude, all activities, bodily action and speech, can become religious. But if one lacks the right attitude, if one does not know how to think properly, one will achieve nothing even if one spends the whole of one’s life in monasteries and in reading from the scriptures. The first essential, therefore, is proper mental attitude. One should take the Three Gems—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—as one’s final refuge; on should take into account the laws of Karma and its fruits; and one should cultivate such thoughts as will benefit other beings.
If religion is earnestly followed by renouncing the world, the follower finds great joy. There are many people in Tibet who have renounced the world in this way, and they possess an indescribable mental and physical satisfaction. The sum total of worldly pleasure, gathered through he motive of self-love and the effort to satisfy that love, is not comparable to a fraction of the higher happiness. People who possess this happiness are also of the greatest benefit to others, by virtue of their own inward state, which enables them to diagnose not only the true causes of the ills of mankind but provide also the true remedies for them. However, such renunciation of the world is not possible for everybody, because the sacrifices entailed are very great.
What sort of Dharma, what sort of religion, can then be prescribed for people in ordinary walks of life? Immoral worldly activities, naturally, should be ruled out; these activities are never compatible with any religion. But morally justifiable activities, such as helping to administer the government of a country, or indeed doing anything useful and productive, taking any steps towards promoting the pleasure and happiness of others, can certainly go together with the practice of Dharma. In India and Tibet, Kings and ministers have promoted Dharma. Salvation can be achieved, if one truly endeavours to find it, merely by leading a house-hold life. We have a saying: "People who make no mental effort, even if they remain in mountain retreats are like animals hibernating in their holes, only accumulating causes for a descent into hell."
Perhaps I may conclude with an old Tibetan story. Long ago there was a famous lama whose name was Drom. One day Drom saw a man walking around a stupa.
"It is good that you walk around a stupa," he said. "But wouldn’t it be better to practice religion?"
"I had better read a holy book then," the man said to himself. And so he started a laborious course of reading.
One day Drom happened to meet him again.
"Reading from a holy book is of course very good," Drom said, "but wouldn’t it be better still if you practice religion?"
And the man thought: "It seems even recitation is not good enough. How about meditating?"
Not long after, Drom saw him in meditation. He said: "I admit that meditation is good. But wouldn’t it really be better if you practice religion?"
The man was bewildered. "What do you mean by practicing relation?" he asked. "Tell me how it is done."
"Turn your mind away from the forms of this worldly life," Drom told him. "Turn your mind towards religion."
The Three Refuges
It is imperative that men understand the Refuge (sharangaman) and the universal law of Karma and its fruits—
moral or psychological cause and effect—
for the mind to be wedded to the path of religion.
There are three Refuges—Buddha, Charma (the Law or Doctrine) and Sangha (the Order).
He who has cleansed his mind of all impurities and has removed the motives and inclinations that lead them to--freeing himself thereby from the defilements of sin—becomes omniscient and is known as the Buddha. Such a person has perfect knowledge of all phenomena occurring in space and time, and such a person is a Buddha, the Refuge, a guide to health like a physician.
The Dharma is the true Refuge: and one arrives at the goal of Dharma—the noble paths (arya marg) of deliverance==by practicing properly the method of overcoming evil and of removing its taints. In this sense Dharma can be compared to the practice of medicine.
The Order or Sangha comprise all beings who have attained Darshan Marg (the Path of Seeing). Darshan Marg or the Path of Seeing is the stage of perfection in which one perceives the reality of all objects; Bhavana Marg or the Path of Practice is a stage in the way of Buddhahood realized through meditation; Ashaikshita or the Path of Fulfillment is the stage in which one no longer needs guidance. These are the Three Noble Paths. The Order is the friend who helps us to realize the Refuge. The Order may be compared to the nurse who administers the medicine.
Good or bad every result must necessarily have a cause. The Three Gems constitute the Cause, and the realization of the Three Gems comprise the Effect. The Cause and the Effect of The Three Gems—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (the Teacher, the Teaching and the Taught)—are related to Two Refuges.
The Cause Refuge is the Three Gems realized through the personality of another being. The Effect Refuge is the Three Gems realized by oneself in the future. In the former case the Three Gems are to be considered external entities while one is perfecting oneself, i.e., while one takes refuge objectively. In the latter case when one has attained perfection the Three Gems are to be considered internal entities, i.e., one takes refuge subjectively. As a stronger man must provide refuge or protection to the weaker, the more powerful of the two refuges, Cause Refuge protects and harbours the seeker. When the weak becomes strong through the help of the protector and teacher, and his status is powerful, he attains the Three Gems of the Effect Refuge.
Efforts to actually realize the characteristic conditions of the Three Gems should be made during this life. And for this one must practice Three Moral Precepts (the Trishiksha).
The Three Moral Precepts are:
Adishila-shiksha (the Training in Higher Conduct).
Adisamadhi-shiksha (the Training in Higher Meditation).
Adiprajnya-shiksha (the Training in Higher Wisdom).
In terms of analogy Adishila-shiksha is the strength of a person; adisamadhi, his sure hand, and Adiprjnya, his sharp axe. Using his sure hand and backed by his virile strength, he chops the wood (symbolizing the notion of a permanent self and the defilements of sin into pieces.
Training in Higher Conduct
The First Moral Precept: Adishila-shiksha, which can be termed as the foundation of the Three Mral Precepts, has many aspects. All these aspects are based on the precept that one must abandon the Ten Immoralities. Of the Tem Immoralities three pertain to bodily action, four to activity of speech, and three to the function of the mind.
The three immoralities pertaining to the body are:
The taking of the life of any living being—ranging from men to the smallest insect, whether directly or indirectly.
Stealing or taking away without consent another’s property, directly or indirectly, whatever be its value.
Committing adultery and indulging in perverted forms of sexual intercourse.
The four immoralities pertaining to speech are:
Being guilty of falsehood by leading others through false or wrong advice or information, and through all forms of physical indications.
Being guilty of calumny by causing disunity where unity exists, and by aggravating disunity where disunity already exists.
The use of harsh and abusive language.
Indulgence in gossip-mongering out of sheer lust and passion.
The three immoralities pertaining to the functions of the mind are:
Covetousness or the desire to possess the thing that belongs to others.
The desire to harm others.
Heresy related to disbelief in re-birth, the Law of Causation and Effect and the Three Refuges.
The anti-thesis of the Ten Immoralities are the Ten Virtues. When one practices the Ten Virtues one is actually practicing Adishila-shiksha or Higher Conduct.
Training in Higher Meditation
The Second Moral Precept: During meditation the mind must be fixed on a single object so that it develops a "one-pointedness of mind". There are various techniques of meditating, one of which, the technique of mental concentration (Shiney in Tibetan) is described here. Mental concentration consists in withdrawing the mind gradually from the sense objects and conceptual motions so that the focus of the mind will be unwavering gaze fixed on an object until it is steadied and calm, permitting both body and mind to experience a rapturous ecstasy.
When "mental quiescence" is attained, besides the resultant experience of mental and physical ecstasy, the mind also is under complete control. Such a mind can be employed to concentrate on any object of merit with effortless case. At the same time the vehicle of concentration becomes possessed with supernatural psychic powers and can perform miracles and other supra-mundane feats.
The chief merit of Samath Bhavana (mental quiescence achieved through concentration) is that, if by the acquirement of Samath Bhavana, Vipassana or penetrative insight (which realizes Sunyata) is attained, the phenomenon of Samsara can be demolished altogether. Beside, it bears, many other good results. For instance, almost all the knowledge of Tri-Yana (1) Sravaka Yana (2) Pratekya Yana and (3) Mahayana are derived from Smath Bhavana.
If the concentration is practiced with the motive of attaining the Buddhist Refuges, it becomes Buddhist concentration. If the concentration is practiced with the motive of Bodhi-chitta, it becomes Mahayanic Buddhist concentration. For Smath Bhavana to be successful the following conditions must be fulfilled:
The place of meditation should be secluded, quiet and climatically congenial. Noise distracts meditation.
The person who is meditating must be well contented and have few wants. He should have served himself from every impurity in the world and he should be determined not to indulge in any immorality of action or speech.
He must grasp comprehensively the instructions and the methods of deep meditation. He should be fully aware that craving has its retribution and that the phenomenal world is ephemeral.
Samatha is achieved according to Arya Bodhisattva Maitreya by relinquishing the Five Shortcomings and by adopting the Eight Introverting Mental Faculties.
The Five Shortcomings to be relinquished are:
Laxity resulting from a lethargic attitude towards meditation.
Forgetfulness concerning the object of meditation.
Interruptions that make the mind either sluggish or intensely agitated (because of lust).
The inability to prevent these interruptions.
Imaginary interruptions and the adoption of false counter-measures.
The Five Shortcomings can be avoided by adopting the Eight Introverting Mental Faculties. They are:
Belief in the virtues of meditation and the ability to discern them.
The earnest desire to meditate and the ability to do so.
Perseverance and a happy frame of mind.
Experience of mental and physical ecstasy.
Conscientious effort at concentrating on the objects of meditation.
A conscientious watch on any inclination towards sluggishness or intense agitation. (Assuming that the mind is divided into five parts, one part must restrain the mind as a whole from becoming sluggish or intensely agitated when the other four parts are collectively engaged in deep concentration on the object of meditation.)
Immediate readiness to counteract the danger of distraction the moment it is perceived.
Relaxation of counter-measures if and when the counter-measure achieves the desired purpose.
The practice and exercise of the Eight Introverting Mental Faculties eliminate the Five Shortcomings, resulting in the gradual increase in the power of concentration. This process has to proceed through nine stages of mental concentration.
The Nine Stages of Concentration
The first stage consists of fixing the mind on the object of concentration. The second stage consists of endeavouring to prolong the concentration on the object of meditation at each successive phase of the process. The third stage consists of perceiving immediately any diversion of the mind and to bring it back to the object of concentration. The fourth stage consists of maintaining a clear conception of even the minutest detail of the object of concentration. The fifth stage consists of strengthening the efforts of concentration by making the mind realize the virtues of the meditation. This helps to strengthen the effort of concentration. The sixth stage consists of dispelling any averse feeling towards meditation, such as indolence, so that the mind becomes pacified. The seventh stage consists of perseverance in maintaining the equanimity of the mind by dispelling even the slightest disturbance. The eighth stage consists of taking the mode of concentration of the furthest limit so that, free of all distraction, it achieves the perfect " one-pointedness of mind" in meditation. The ninth stage is a stage the person meditating reaches when he does not require any assistance, such as the effort of memory or of consciousness.
The above Nine Stages of Meditation can be accomplished by the help of the Six Faculties.
- The Faculty of Hearing.
- The faculty of Reflection.
- The Faculty of Memory.
- The Faculty of Consciousness.
- The Faculty of Mental Energy.
- The Faculty of Perfection.
- The First stage of Meditation is attained through he Faculty of Hearing—for instance, listening to instruction on meditation given by a great teacher.
- The Second Stage is attained through the Faculty of Reflection.
- The Third and the Fourth Stages of Meditation are attained through the Faculty of Memory.
- The Fifth and Sixth Stages of Meditation are attained through the Faculty of Consciousness.
- The Seventh and the Eighth Stages of Meditation are attained through the Faculty of Mental Energy.
- The Ninth Stage of Meditation is attained through the Faculty of Perfection.
The Four Comprehension
There are four steps in the realization of a full comprehension of the Nine Stages of Meditation. They are:
The First Step. The First Step in the realization of the first and second stages of meditation demand the most strenuous absorption of the mind on the object of concentration.
The Second Step. The Second Step is concerned with the realization of the next five stages (3,4,5,6, and 7) of meditation. Here concentration on the object of meditation is not extended over long periods but is desultory, i.e., the process of concentration goes on intermittently.
The Third Step. The Third Step is concerned with the realization of the eighth stage of meditation. At this point the mind is capable of concentrating on the object of meditation without any interruption whatsoever.
The Fourth Step. The Fourth Step is concerned with the realization of the night stage of meditation when concentration of the object of meditation is possible with the minimum of conscious effort.
When one has wholly comprehended the nature, the order of the stages in meditation, and the distinction between the different steps in concentration, and when one practices meditation in conformity with the knowledge thus gained, it will be possible to accomplish perfect meditation in about a year’s time. This type of meditation through concentration is of a general nature. However, if the object of concentration is one’s own mind the means of deep meditation are different.
An understanding of the nature of the mind is necessary before commencing any meditation by way of inner mental concentration. Mind is not visible. It has no shape, size, or colour. It is as empty as the Void. And yet it generates such characteristic functions as thought, imagination, etc., and it can identify anything that can be felt or that arises in the thought process. The method of inner mental concentration—of meditating on an internal object---is the same as the methods used for general meditation. We must observe the avoidance of the Five Shortcomings, and adopt the Eight Introverting Mental Faculties in the Nine Stages of Meditation. When this semi-ultimate phase of meditation through inner and spontaneous concentration is attained there is the gradual realization of mental and physical ecstasy. When mental and physical ecstasy are realized the unwavering "one-pointedness" of meditation is the result. This achievement (in meditation) can be classified as preparatory in the stages of bodily mediation, which is one of the four forms of meditation.
Thus the mind will be completely brought under control through the accomplishment of mental quiescence effected by concentration (Samath Bhavana). Such as mind is all-powerful in comprehending the meaning of any subject.
The foregoing section on Training in Higher Meditation is a very brief synopsis of the instruction on meditation given by Arya Bodhisattva Maitreya and Acharya Asanga.
Training in Higher Wisdom
Training in higher wisdom is the third moral precept (Adiprajnya-shiksha). It is concerned with two kinds of wisdom:
Wisdom which comprehends the relative nature of things, i.e., empirical knowledge.
Wisdom which comprehends the absolute nature of things, i.e., transcendental knowledge.
Wisdom which destroys all moral and mental defilements, and defilements caused by the power of discriminative thought, i.e., wisdom which comprehends Sunyata is described here.
Sunyata is the knowledge of the ultimate reality of all objects, material and phenomenal. Sunyata exists but its existence has not been effected by the miracle performing powers of the Buddhas nor is it dependent on the karmic fruits of sentient beings. Sunyata exists and the nature of Sunyata pervades all elements. Whatever creations the new objects be, and whatever be their designation, the ultimate nature of all elements, all objects is Sunyata. By their very nature all Dharmas have ht mark of emptiness. To quote from a Sutra: "Whether the Buddhas appear into this world or not, Sunyata, the ultimate nature of all objects, is absolute and eternal."
Sunyata is a principle that negates all contradictions in "self"-existence. Sunyata only negates but does not affirm. To quote Acharya Chandrakirti, the Madhyamika philosopher: "The word ‘self’ denotes any self-existing essence or substance in anything whatever that is not dependent on others. Negations of the self is Sunyata." The method for comprehending Sunyata is the study and application of the Middle Path (Madhyamika) logic.
Generally speaking, the knowledge of the ultimate nature of all Dharmas is actually a contradiction of what we think we know. The truth is that the ultimate nature of all elements of all objects is Sunyata.
And so it naturally follows that all objects which bear the ultimate mark of Sunyata are non self-existent.
But because we are accustomed to regard illusion (what we think we know) as the reality—a habit acquired from the very beginning of the originless samsaric existence—men have gone on believing that the distorted conception of the Dharmas of all objects is the true reality, and as such regard it as self-originating and self-sufficing entity. Thus all phenomenal and unsubstantial conceptions that are taken as true by the mind run counter to the knowledge of the immanent nature of the Dharmas of all worldly objects. As a result the mind gets confused and is not able to distinguish between appearance and the deduced reality. The notion of deduced reality is mistaken for the notion of self-entity. This gives rise to mal-judgement, i.e., false perception and thinking. When the biased mind, which has been upholding mistakenly the notion of mere conception for the reality, realizes that no such object of reality actually exists, it becomes aware of the Non-Absolute, Non-Self-Existent Nature. At that point the Non-Self-Existence of all elements and objects (Sunyata) becomes vividly clear.
A proper understanding of the manner in which our mind works forms a significant basis of the understanding of Sunyata. To understand this complex we must analyse the self or the "I-consciousness". If we accept the conception that the self is no other than the "I", i.e., that "I-consciousness" is self-immanent, then by implication it will be devoid of any cause dependence. As this "I" is not dependent either on the body, or the mind, or this aggregates of skandhas, the "I" therefore must be an entity separate and dependent on the others. As such when my body suffers pain, it will not meant that the "I" suffers pain. When my hunger is satisfied, it will not mean that the hunger of the "I" is satisfied. But this cannot be so. For when my body suffers pain, it follows the "I" is suffering pain. Similarly when my mind is sad it will mean the "I" is feeling sad. So, the logical conclusion would be that no entity can have a separate independent existence on its own.
In case that "I" is the same as the aggregates of skandhas, then the latter must be one single unit. But the aggregates of skandhas consist of five different parts. If this is so, there should be five different "I’s". But again to take the instance of the "I" and the body. In case the body is the same as "I", when the present body disintegrates, the "I", should also disintegrate. But his is not so. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that the "I" and the body are not the same. Similarly the "I" and the continuity of skandhas, the "I" and the mind, are not the same.
It is also not correct to say that the "I" is neither identical nor different from the aggregates. When there is an "I" which appears to manifest itself as self-existent, either it must be identical to or different from the aggregates. It cannot be argued in any other way. Therefore, the "I", which to the mind seems to be the one and the only reality, is neither identical nor independent of the aggregates. So, we are lead to the conclusion that there must be an "I".
Now, we have arrived at the premise that such an "I" does not exist. But, at the same time, we cannot dogmatically deny the non-existence of such an "I". The formation of the notion of the denomination "I" is dependent on the aggregates—a mere designation, or a mere appellation. This designation "I" enables the formation of a concept in which the "I" enjoys eating, drinking, etc; is born again and again in Samsara; practices religion and attains enlightenment. This "I" is distinct from the four-fold categories of Self-Existence, Non-Existence, both Self-Existence and Non-Existence, neither Self-Existent nor Non-Existent. To quote Nagarjuna:
"All Dharmas are neither self-existent nor non-existent, neither both self-existent and non-existent, nor different from both". Again, "When one is definite about the meaning conveyed by this "I" as being a mere designation separate from the logic of fourfold categories, then one has grasped the real significance of the non-existence of "I"."
Similarly, by taking the instances of one’s eyes, ears, etc., form, sound, smell, taste, etc., and even Sunyata itself, this logic of four-fold categories can be used to prove the relatively and non-existence of all elements and objects. To consider Sunyata itself as self-existent is to take a fatalist view of things.
For a correct comprehension of the significance of non self-existence of objects of the world, a deep, penetrating study of the Doctrine has to be made. Hearing instruction from learned masters and teachers, and such other sources, results in the realization of "theoretical wisdom". Thinking again and again on the real meaning of what one has learnt results in the acquirement of "Practical Wisdom".
If one were to make concentrated meditation on the fathomed meaning of Sunyata obtained from the processes of such wisdom, one will be able to contemplate with great power obtained from the accomplishment of mental quiescence (Samath Bhavana). This wisdom which accomplishes Smath Bhavana is the "Meditative Wisdom". Smath Bhavana is the stepping-stone to Vipassana Bhavana. Unlike in Smath Bhavan, if concentration during meditation is aided by the power of reasoning, the experience that results is a unique mental and physical ecstasy. This unique experience of mental and physical ecstasy is the realization of Vipassana. When Vipassana Bhavana is successful it is known as the fusion of mental quiescence (Samath Bhavana) and direct intuitive insight (Vipassana) with any object selected for the purpose of concentration.
The knowledge of the Path of Application is the stage reached when one acquires Vipassana with Sunyata as the object of concentration. When the true meaning of Sunyata is fully realized, further efforts are to be made.
One must remove the things that are to be discarded in the step-by-step stages of the Paths of Seeing, Practice and Fulfillment.
When this is successfully done, one must reach the goal that leads to the destruction of all moral and mental defilements, and the defilements caused by the power of discriminative thought.
I have given here only a condensed account of Adiprajnya-shiksha.
Of the three moral precepts, the third is generally assumed to be superior to the preceding ones. In considering the development of the moral mind, the first one forms the basis of the second, and the second, the basis of the third. Hence the very first one, i.e., training in higher conduct is most important of all.
Pursuing religious ethics and simultaneously practicing concentration and meditation (penetrative insight) on the basis of taking refuge in the Three Gems, and making one’s thought and action conform to the Law of karma and its fruits, one can liberate oneself from the Wheel of Existence. Going a step further, if one faithfully pursues the Three Moral Precepts, having been motivated by the thought of the precious Bodhi-chitta of love and compassion, one will attain the "superior release" of omniscient Buddhahood.
It is not oneself alone but all sentient beings that are afflicted by sufferings. We have to think not only of our own welfare but of the welfare of all. Our thoughts and actions should be altruistic. Not to speak of beings of a higher plane, even the lowest creature experiences and therefore shuns suffering and misery. As Arya deva, a Madhyamika philosopher has said:
Mental suffering plagues the high,
Physical suffering plagues the low.
Mental and physical suffering,
Eternally consumes this world.
Living beings desire peace and happiness and want to avoid sufferings. And yet they are helpless as they do not know how to seek happiness and discard sufferings. In the context of this universal helplessness. One has to work hard to dissociate beings from what causes them sorrow, and to establish them in the realm of happiness and comfort. Of course, to discard sufferings and acquire happiness, every being has to make the effort himself to obliterate the cause of his suffering, and to determine the cause of his happiness. Apart from this, there is no other way. As the Exalted One has said:
"Sins cannot be washed even by all the Buddhas. The hand cannot erase the sufferings of living beings. Knowledge cannot be transferred bodily from one to another. The infallible Truth of the holy Dharma can alone eradicate sufferings."
Sufferings cannot be obliterated by a touch of the hand in the way odour is washed off by water, and the pain is removed by picking out the thorn. Nor is it possible for the Blessed one to transfer His intellectual knowledge physically to another being. Then, what is the way out? Buddha says: "Aided by the knowledge that Nothing is, you will cross the Flood." Beings can be liberated from sorrow by showing them the things that are to be practiced and the things that are to be relinquished. The being who can show the perfect path, and can suit his teaching to the particular mentality, aptitude and physical health of the individual is the Buddha alone. So, it necessarily follows that the attainment of Buddhahood is the inevitable pre-condition for the salvation of all living beings. A man stricken with thirst quenches his thirst by drinking water, but must have a vessel to drink with. So also, the main purpose of acquiring the status of Buddhahood is to strive to make all sentient beings free themselves from sufferings and their causes. But to do this one must first realize the status of Buddhahood. A mind with such a thought-motive, set on attaining enlightenment, is known as Bodhi-chitta.
The Seal of Silence
Many foreign Buddhists have evinced a keen interest in the system of Sadhana as found in the Vajrayana School of Mahayana Buddhism. Since it is impossible to practise this kind of Sadhana by those who are not initiated i.e., those who have not received the Abhiseka, Mr. John Bloefeld, devout Buddhist of British nationality, requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama for a simplified version of the Sadhana so that it could be practiced by the sincere uninitiated to his or her maximum benefit. The Sadhana appearing in this booklet is the outcome of that request. Written originally in Tibetan by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, it was translated into English by the Ven Tenzin Khedup, and the language corrected and improved upon by Mr. John Blofeld himself.
This Sadhana or Tantric meditation has been specially designed for Western Buddhists at the behest of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Like all Tantric practices, it involves the collective use of our triple faculty of body, speech and mind and is intended to generate the Buddha-like Wisdom and Compassion whereby Enlightenment is ultimately won.
In order to attain the higher states of consciousness conducive to very rapid, spiritual progress, Tantric adepts are taught to visualize the sublime qualities of Buddhahood in the form of Bodhisattvas each endowed with appropriate symbolical attributes. These Bodhisattvas are not arbitrary creations, but personifications of spiritual forces latent in the meditator’s own mind; their deep spiritual an psychological significance becomes apparent as progress is made; it cannot be demonstrated at the level of ordinary conceptual thought, for logical explanations are valid only in the realm of relative truth.
The Seal of Silence
Moved by the needs of Western Buddhists who have not as yet received the initiations which traditionally precede all Tantric rites, His Holiness has consented to allow the Sadhana to be transmitted to non-initiates, on the understanding that it shall be taught only to those who are truly sincere in their quest for spiritual fulfillment. They, in their turn, are exhorted to observe the same caution in teaching it to others.
Sadhana of the Vajrayana School
The rite should be performed in a quiet, agreeable place, or in a part of your dwelling which has been carefully swept and cleaned.
Behind or upon the table used as an altar, there should be paintings or statues of the Lord Buddha; as well as of the three Bodhisattvas symbolizing three sublime Buddha-attributes, namely: Avalokitesvara (Compassion), Manjusri (Wisdom) and Vajrapani (Energy or Right Action); and also of Arya Tara. In this manner the Dharmakaya (Supreme Body of the Buddha) will be symbolized.
In addition, there should be a copy of the sacred text, Prajnaparamita, and a miniature stupa (reliquary monument), respectively symbolizing the Buddha’s Speech and Mind.
If a text of the Prajnaparamita is not available, a Buddhist Sutra can be substituted; similarly, if the pictures of statues are difficult to obtain, just a statue of the Lord Buddha will suffice. Even that is not indispensable. The one absolute essential is a proper state of mind.
The offerings should consist of pure water, flowers, incense, fruit, lamps or candles, etc., set out as elegantly as possible to denote heartfelt respect and gratitude.
When all has been prepare, seat yourself cross-legged upon a cushion facing east, in the Vajrasana (the soles of both feet pointing upwards) of the half-Vajrasana (one sold point upwards). If this is difficult, try to adopt one of these postures for a little while and then sit in whatever position is most comfortable.
The Preliminary Meditation
Now reflect: "Our bodily actions are good, bad or indifferent in accordance with our state of mind. Therefore mind-training comes before all else. Now that we enjoy the good fortune of being in the human state and we are accordingly endowed with greater powers of thought and achievement than other beings, how sad it is that we should spend our lives striving merely for happiness in this life. If striving thus were really productive of permanent happiness, then, among the many people in this world endowed with power, wealth and friendship, there would surely be some blessed with a large measure of real and permanent happiness. But, in truth, though there are indeed relative differences in the amount and intensity of happiness enjoyed, every single one of us—be he a ruler or warrior, be he rich, well-to-do or poor—is subject to all sorts of physical and mental suffering, especially torments of the mind."
Carry this reflection further by seeking within yourself the causes of suffering and happiness. As you come to know the nature of these causes more fully, you will recognize that mind is the ultimate cause of suffering and that there are also subsidiary factors that either augment or decrease the impurities of mind. These impurities can be removed; and once the mind has become virtuous it can be transformed into an Enlightened mind as skill in dealing with the hindrances increases.
Pondering deeply for a while, you will gradually achieve absolute certainty that this is so.
It is vitally important to eliminate the cause of suffering and to acquire the cause of happiness. To attain all kinds of happiness, you must diligently accumulate that which causes happiness; and to eliminate all forms of suffering you must by all means prevent the arising of what causes them. This can be accomplished only by full recognition of the true causes of joy and sorrow. So it is safe to rely upon and respose the utmost confidence in the Doctrine, which cannot be shaken even by the most probing analysis undertaken in the light of logic and reason.
Then mentally recite these words: "I go for refuge to the Buddha, the Fully-Enlightened One, who has guided all beings by expounding to them the pure, true teachings of the Dharma, which is the fruit of the Supreme Wisdom derived from His own direct experience.
"I go for refuge to the Dharma, which affords full protection from all suffering and leads to true happiness; for the Dharma connotes the elimination of all evils and the completion of all virtues as a result of righteous thought and action functioning through body, speech and mind.
"I go for refuge to the Sangha, the sacred community whose feet are firmly set upon the Path. Upon them I place my unswerving reliance for the assistance of which I stand in need."
Now in the space that lies before your forehead, visualize a resplendent throne whereon sits the Supremely Enlightened One, legs crossed so that the soles of the feet point upwards, the right hand pointing down so that the tips of the fingers touch the seat of the throne, and the left hand holding a bowl full of Amrta (the precious "dew of Wisdom") on His palm at the level of the navel. The body of the Enlightened One appears a little larger than those of the other members of the sacred assembly now being visualized and shines with golden radiance.
To either side of the throne and a little to the front stand Sariputra and Maudgalyayana (the two chief disciples of the Buddha), each holding in his right hand a metal Kharsil (symbolical staff formerly carried by monks) and, in his left, a bowl. The Buddha and both of these disciples are dressed as Bhikshus.
To the right of the Buddha, Avalokitsvara (white in colour) is seated upon a lotus throne, hands joined palm to palm at the breast. To the left, also upon a lotus throne, sits Manjusri (gold in colour), grasping the Sword of Wisdom in his right hand and a sacred text in his left.
Seated in front of the Buddha upon a lotus cushion is Vajrapani (dark-blue in colour) holding a Vajra in his right hand and, with his left, making the Karana Mudra with his index finger.
Behind the Buddha, also seated upon a lotus cushion, sits Arya Tara (emerald-green in colour), her right hand in the gesture of blessing (palm exposed, fingers pointing down, but with the tips of thumb and first finger touching) and her left hand holding a blue lotus in the gesture of giving refuge (palm exposed, fingers pointing up, with the tips of the thumb and ring finger joined).
All four of these lotus-throned figures wear beautiful silk garments an jeweled ornaments, being costumed like the princes and princesses of ancient India. Their bodies are radiant with light and life.
To the right of this sacred throng is a mound of sacred texts containing the essence of the true Path and the true Cessation. To the left is a glorious Stupa (monument, square at the base, domed in the center and with a spire at the top) symbolizing the Supreme Wisdom of the Buddha.
You should regard all of them as being of the true essence of all Refuge-Objects.
Now visualize your father and male relatives (including those who have passed on ) as being seated to your right, your mother and female relatives to your left, your enemies in front of you, those who esteem you to your rear and, surrounding them, all the beings in the universe (projected in human form). In your mind, you see this great concourse of beings joining with you in reciting with rapt concentration the words of Refuge, meanwhile you keep in mind the virtues of the Supreme Body, Speech and Mind of the contemplated "deities". Then from these objects of you contemplation ("deities") come light-rays which fall upon the entire concourse of beings; you should contemplate this light and visualize it as purifying you of every mental stain.
With deep sincerity, pronounce these sacred words (w1 times or as many times as you can):
"NAMO BUDDHAYA, NAMO DHARMAYA, NAMO SANGHAYA."
Thereafter, turn your mind to the beings around you, who are exactly like you; they want permanent happiness but continually neglect to bring about its cause; they long to be spared their ever-present suffering but fail to abandon its cause. Make up your mind that suffering will never cease until its cause has been erased; far from decreasing, it will remain with you always unless you abandon its cause.
The way to eliminate the cause of suffering is not easy to discover. However, already you have begun to go a little way forward by investigating to a small extent what your very limited knowledge enables you to recognize as proper to accept or abandon. You must practise assiduously and progress in skill until you discover the whole of that Abandonment and that Acceptance which are essential to the happiness and well-being of the beings who are dear to you.
With these waves of thought in the ocean of your mind, you intone (or sing) aloud these words:
"TO THE BUDDHA AND THE DHARMA AND SUPREME COMMUNITY
"I SHALL FIRMLY CLING FOR REFUGE UNTIL BODHI IS ATTAINED.
"BY THE VIRTUES OF MY CHARITY AND MERITORIOUS DEEDS
"MAY I ACHIEVE ENLIGHTENMENT TO SERVE ALL SENTIENT BEINGS".
Next, concentrate on the sacred objects and perform the sevenfold offering.
Recollecting the Supreme Virtues, perform a grand prostration, touching the ground with arms, forehead and fully extended body; or an ordinary prostration, touching the ground with forehead, elbows, knees and toes; or simply place your palms together and intone (or sing) with concentrated veneration:
"TO ALL THE BUDDHAS OF TRIPLE TIME,
"THE DHARMA AND THE HOLY SANGHA,
"WITH THIS PROFOUND OBEISANCE,
"I REVERENTLY PAY HEARTFELT HOMAGE".
II. The Offering
All the fortune you possess, together with all pure and lovely phenomena of nature—these you now take into your mind an doffer to the Sacred Objects, saying these words:
"JUST AS MANJUSRI AND OTHER PARAGONS
"MADE COUNTLESS OFFERINGS TO ALL THE BUDDHAS,
"SO NOW DO I MAKE OFFERINGS
"TO THE TATHAGATAS AND THRONG OF JINAS"
Reflect upon the causes of our sufferings, those unskilled states and actions, of which Delusion is the worst of all. This is what brings misery to every sentient being. It, too, has a cause—those mental defilements which wreak the most fearful harm and constitute the true enemy of all beings. Hitherto, being always in the power of this great enemy we have stored such a formidable multitude of unskilled states and actions that, unless we take remedial measures, their fruit will be bitter indeed; for our karmic accretions cannot fade away or decline of their own accord. Now is the time, here in the presence of these Gracious Objects, to repent with deep contrition all our past faults and to resolve that henceforth, even in dreams, we shall commit no more of them.
Thus reflecting, repeat these verses:
"IN THE SAMSARA OF BEGINNINGLESS TIME,
"IN THIS PRESENT LIFE AND COUNTLESS OTHERS,
"IHAVE PILED EVIL UPON EVIL THROUGH STUPIDITY AND FOLLY,
"EVEN REJOICING IN MY ERRORS
"AND WOEFULLY ENSLAVED BY IGNORANCE.
"TO ALL OF THIS WRONG DOING I MOST HUMBLY CONFESS,
"BOWED AT YOUR FEET, O HOLY ONES, WITH TRULY CONTRITE HEART."
IV. The Rejoicing
The cause of happiness is virtue, which, besides conferring it immediately, also leads to benefits that will accrue in the distant future. Now you rejoice to the point of ecstasy in the endowment of virtue shared by you and others, for virtue is the best friend and true protector of all beings. Thus reflecting, you recite:
"IN THAT SUPREME MIND WHICH SHINES ON ALL,
"BRINGING AID AND BENEFIT TO EVERY SENTIENT BEING,
"I PROFOUNDLY REJOICE WITH THE UTMOST VENERATION.
"I REJOICE IN THE ARISING OF THE WILL TO ENLIGHTENMENT AND THE TEACHING,
"THESE OCEANS OF HEAPPINESS FOR EVERY SENTIENT BEING
"WEHREIN ABIDES THE WELFARE OF ALL BEINGS."
V. The Prayer for the Dharma
Now implore all the Buddhas who have attained to perfect knowledge of the Abandonment and the Acceptance to turn the Wheel of the Dharma for the benefit of all beings, by means of the following verse:
"HANDS FOLDED IN SALUTATION,
"I ENTREAT THE BUDDHAS OF THE TEN DIRECTIONS
"TO CAUSE THE LAMP OF THE DHARMA TO SHINE
"UPON ALL WHO WANDER AMIDST THE SUFFERINGS BROUGHT BY DELUSION."
VI. The Request for Continuance
Next entreat the Buddhas not to enter Nirvana, but to remain forever to guide and protect all sentient beings. This is done by intoning (singing) the following verse:
"HANDS FOLDED IN SALUTATION,
"I IMPLORE ALL THE CONQUERORS DESIRING TO ENTER NIRVANA
"TO REMAIN HERE FOR AGES WITHOUT END
"SO THAT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE SHALL NOT BE LOST IN DARKNESS."
By means of the following verse, pray that the merit of performing this rite and every other merit earned by yourself and all other beings will lead to the attainment of Buddhahood by all:
"MAY THE MERITS GAINED
"BY MY ACTING THUS
"HELP TO ALLEVIATE THE SUFFERINGS OF ALL BEINGS".
(All the above verses are taken from the Bodhisattvacaryavatara, the work of Pandit Santideva.)
Concentrate for a while on the Buddha and the Sacred Throng. When you have a clear picture of them in your mind, visualize a flat luminous circle in the center of the chest of each "deity". In each circle is a symbolic letter, as follows:
Mum = Buddha
Dhi = Manjusri
Tam = Tara Devi
Hri = Avalokitesvara
Hum = Vajrapani
Each of these symbolic letters is surrounded by a mantra and you shall repeat all of them, each as many times as you can.
Here are the mantras:
Om Muni Muni Maha Muniye svaha! (Buddha)
Om Mani Padme Hum! (Avalokitesvara)
Om Wagi Svari Mum! (Manjusri)
Om Vajra Pani Hum! (Vajrapani)
Om Tara Tuttare Ture Svaha! (Tara Devi)
Then, to symbolize that all the outer deceptive phenomena are the same in nature as Sunyata, you visualize as follows:
Slowly Avalokitesvara vanishes into the Buddha’s head, Manjusri into his neck, Vajrapani into his chest, Tara Devis into his navel and the two chief disciples into the two sides of the body.
Thereafter you retain a clear visualization only of the Buddha and concentrate as long as you can.
After that the Buddha also changes slowly into pure Aura beginning from the top and the bottom, and vanishing into the luminous circle at the center; the circle disappears at the Mantra; and the Mantra into the symbolic letter which it surrounds. The symbol then changes into light and only the point at the top (o) is left. That also slowly vanishes and you fix your mind for some moments on the sunyata nature of all self-existing appearance.
Next, to symbolize all the relatively existing pleasure that spring forth and become evident, thought they are the same in their very essence as the Void, you visualize the whole assembly as before, in empty space.
Then with deep faith and joy you close this meditation.
Thereafter, whatever you are doing, you always keep the vision of Buddha and the assembly.
When you take your meals, you first make offering to the Buddha by remembering him.
Even when you sleep, you visualize your head as lying peacefully in the lap of the Buddha.
Thus, with all deeds, at any time, you keep the Buddha for your witness and use your body, speech and mind always in generous ways.
If you practise this meditation once a day or four times (morning, afternoon, evening and night) or twice (morning and evening) each day, gradually increasing the time and progressing with concentration and investigation, it will be of Great Benefit to you.
© His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet