More Refuge and Other Practices
p. 67 [Turning Confusion into Clarity] The hundred syllable mantra Dorjé Sempa [Vajrasattva]
Om Benda Sato Samaya Manupalaya Bendza Sato Tenopa Titra Drito Mébawa Suto Kayo Mébawa Suto Kayo Mébawa Anurakto Mébawa Sarwa Siddhi Mentra Yatsa Sarwa Karma Sutsamé Tsitam Shiri ya Guru Hung Ha Ha Ha Ha Ho Bgagawan Sarwa Tatagata Benza Mamé Muntsa Bendza Bhawa Maha Samaya Sato Ah
Short form: Om Bendza Sato Hung
Prayer at end
Protector, unknowingly and out of stupidity, I have violated and broken my commitments. My guru and protector [Buddha], give me Refuge. Highest one, Vajra-holder, whose nature is the greatest compassion, I take Refuge in you, leader of beings. I confess and repent all breaches of the principal and secondary commitments related to body, speech and mind. Please grant your blessing that the multitude of harmful deeds, obscurations, faults and transgressions leading to downfall may be cleansed and purified.
p. 68 Vajrasattva refuge:
Dorjé Sempa gives me release, melts into light and dissolves into me, making us “not two”.
[p. 68 So now, since we have completely purified our negativities, we fully become Vajrasattva himself. We try to look at ourselves as being Vajrasattva, go feel ourselves in that state of complete purity, and this is the end of Vajrasattva practice.
p.70 [Mandala offering] If we want to summarise the whole of Buddhism into one sentence, it is just this, trying to get rid of all the negative and develop the positive. This is what we do with these practices. With the Vajrasattva practice, we get rid of all the negativities, and with the mandala offering, we try to accomplish, to accumulate the positive things. It is as simple as that.
Six Paramitas: Generosity, Good conduct, Patience, Diligence, Meditation, Wisdom.
Mahamudra Takpo Tashi Namgyal
Turning confusion p. 175 The conventional sense of guru as other—the teacher over there who teaches the student over here—is of utmost importance, because without this teacher, or what we call the outer guru, we might never hear the words of dharma. More profoundly, the outer guru puts us in touch with the inner guru, which is the natural wisdom of our original mind, which is what we ultimately take refuge in. It’s the source of everything we normally think we are missing: peace and tranquility, insight and wisdom, compassion and empathy. Everything we long for, we already have. The outer guru is like the key, but when we open the door we discover ourselves, our true guru.
p.176 Basically, we use an archetypal projection of an enlightened quality to see ourselves reflected in that mirror. Having created a dualistic structure as a skillful means, we then grow into our enlightened projection.
In the last practice of ngondro, guru yoga, as well as in practices subsequent to ngondro, we eliminate the duality and inhabit the meditation deity in order to further deepen and clarify our inner qualities, and to experience ourselves as awakened in the present moment. At this stage of our practice, we start with the yidams in a dualistic sense by imagining them “over there” as part of the field of enlightened beings. Ultimately we come to see that the deity and the mind of the student have never been separated.
We refer to the yidams as symbolic forms of Buddhahood because the imagery symbolizes and points to views that we use on our path. For example, the six arms of a particular yidam may represent the paramitas, the six “perfections” or virtuous behaviors that we need to cross over from samsara to nirvana: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. Four legs might represent the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path of practice. One face represents dharmakaya—the oneness of all phenomena, no subject, no object, no duality, no samsara, no nirvana. Two arms represent wisdom and compassion. Two legs represent relative and absolute realities. When the legs are crossed, it represents the union of the relative and absolute.
The important point is that no matter how bizarre images with many heads, arms, or legs may appear—especially if you are unfamiliar with Tibetan images—these forms all have meaning. Furthermore, the meaning directly reflects qualities that you already embody. They are symbolic ways of mirroring your own realized mind. Remember, you are turning away from the refuges of samsara, toward the truest source of protection. What could be more reliable than your own Buddha nature?
Turning Confusion p. 192
[re visualization] You bring it forth; you let it go. You have projected the union of form and emptiness onto your mind’s moving screen, and you allow the form to dissolve back into emptiness…If you understand the projection as the union of form and emptiness, then you have introduced the element of wisdom to your meditation and we call this meditation vipashyana.
Vipashyana comes into play by applying a relaxed mind to an insubstantial image and using this experience to recognize the emptiness of the form we have created. We use the formal structure of sitting, visualization, and so forth to nurture or awareness of this process. But actually it’s a description of how reality works, and the more we align our experience with this reality, the more we function from a place of realization.
[symbols (visualization) are used to point to Buddha nature, which is beyond symbols]
[this path transforms conventional tendencies into gateways for liberation, such a the ordinary need for protection or confession.  The same applies to symbols.]
[prostrations] …You are now standing before your refuge tree within a field of all sentient beings. Now up your palms together at your heart like a lotus flower just about to open, not pressed flat. The thumbs can be outside the palms or folded inside.
As you begin the refuge prayer, in Tibetan or in your own language, raise your cupped hands to the top of your forehead, which represents the body. This confuses Westerners because they always point to their heads to indicate “mind”. But Tibetans identify the head with the body because it contains the sensory systems.
The Tibetan word for prostration means “purifying” (chak) and “receiving” (tsal). With each prostration, at each of the three gates—forehead, throat, and heart—negativities are replaced with blessings…
Next, bring your cupped palms to your throat to purify negative  speech—gossip, slander, harsh words, blame—any speech that causes obstacles or suffering that interferes with your spiritual development. All of that is being swept away at the same time that you receive blessings associated with the enlightened speech of enlightened beings.
Now bring your hands to your heart center and think that this purifies the negativities of mind that obstruct your spiritual path, and that with this gesture you receive the blessings and the qualities of the enlightened mind of all the buddhas. In Tibetan understanding, heart and mind are one, not two. Thinking and feeling are unified. Mental processes provide the surface layer of understanding, while beneath those lay the feelings, discernment, and emotional information associated with the wisdom of the heart.
[the prostration] The five points touching the floor—the head, hands, and knees—represent ignorance, anger, pride, desire, jealousy. You imagine these poisons dissolving so that their counterparts, the five aspects of the Buddha’s wisdom or awareness, can begin to develop. [NB the Dalai Lama does a hundred a day] [when prostrate bring your hands together in the prayer gesture and raise them over your head, then come up to standing and put your hands at your heart. This completes one prostration and should coincide with the saying of the prayer.]
p 196 …The prostration works with the interdependence of body, speech, and mind. You bring these three together to purify the mind…
No physical form more completely embodies the quality of surrender than a full-body prostration, which suggests an apparent contradiction: you create true, reliable sources of safety and protection by repeating a physical gesture of utmost vulnerability. Yet who are you bowing to? If you think that the buddhas and deities exist outside of you, then bowing might feel like deference to rank…But from the ultimate view, we do not surrender ourselves to others, but to the best aspects of ourselves.
…it’s very important to end with the dissolution of the objects of refuge. Most texts will describe this as something like: ”Melting into light, the objects of refuge and their blessings dissolve into me.” This might take a minute or two. We connect with the felt sensation without getting hung up on the details.
Each of the ngondro practices ends with the melting together of the practitioner an the buddhas and deities. This is not a mere afterthought; it is of critical importance to the Vajrayana view…To imagine this merging helps stabilize our understanding that we are inherently, essentially not separate from the buddhas, and  that veneration, surrender, and obeisance activate attitudes that exist for our benefit, not for the benefit of the buddhas.
[we create an elaborate reality…]Then we dissolve everything we created. We bring it forth; let it go. With awareness, we begin to see that this is exactly what we do in daily life.
It is really important to remember to close the practice session properly. If you regularly forget this part, you miss one of the most effective ways of realizing your own buddhahood.
[alternatives] p. 200 Another option is to drop the refuge tree image and repeat the recitations and prostrations while embodying the aspiration of loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta. .. We keep our attention on arousing [these]. Without creating specific images, we direct our aspirations to the buddhas, asking them to help all sentient beings to become enlightened. This is our silent aspiration, while our speech simultaneously recites the refuge prayer. We  cannot ask for anything greater for ourselves or others than to become liberated.
Even if you drop the deity imagery, you can still maintain a sense of the field around you, with your enemies in front, your parents to the sides, your friends and family behind, and surrounded by all sentient beings. This all-inclusive assembly promotes unbiased compassion…
With this technique, we drop the visualization and keep doing prostrations and recitations. At the same time, we ask ourselves, “Who is taking refuge with whom? Buddha is emptiness, I am emptiness, the refuge tree is emptiness. There is no one taking refuge, there is no refuge, There is no object of refuge.” Then we just relax and rest in the illusory experience of taking refuge. This is the ultimate form of refuge, in which we take refuge in our own ultimate form, our own true nature, which is nothing but emptiness…to see this from an absolute perspective offers the best way to take refuge. This experience becomes like a dream. Everything looks real, but is actually empty. This is the emptiness of taking refuge in ultimate reality, which is emptiness. This goes far beyond the ordinary framework of someone relying on something else. So the best kind of reliance, we might say, is reliance in which no one relies on anything [MR: free fall into the love of God].