Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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. [193] 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 [196] 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 [197] 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 [201] 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].

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Refuge Prayers and Bodhicitta

 [In a similar way to Christians invoking the Trinity when they begin a spiritual exercise, Buddhists say a refuge prayer. Pema Chödren notes in one of her books that taking refuge is fleeing towards something rather than away from it.  The reference to prostrations in what follows means the introductory exercise that all Tibetan Buddhists undertake after their taking formal refuge with a lama. In the Kagu sect this means 110,000 full prostrations. The prostration is not confined to beginners. The Dalai Lama is said to do a hundred each morning before he does anything else. They're great for the abs! Some Buddhists find it profitable to do the introductory exercises (called Ngöndro: 440,000 for the Kagus—the extra 10,000 in each set is to make up for miscounting or badly done prostrations or offerings) more than once; while on Holy Isle I read of a monk who did them fourteen times!]

Prayers while doing prostrations: it’s the prayer that’s counted, not the prostrations.

Thich Nant Hanh:

To the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha,
which are in the ten directions,
And also in myself,
Which are in all Dharma Realms,
Transcending Past, Present and Future,
Prostrate and Surrendering
I wholeheartedly go for Refuge.


We take refuge in all the glorious excellent gurus,
in our most kind root-guru and in all the gurus of the lineage.
We take refuge in all the yidams and deities of their mandalas.
We take refuge in all the buddhas—the fully endowed victors who
have transcended (suffering). We take refuge in the supreme dharma.
We take refuge in the realized sangha,
We take refuge in al the dakas, dakinis, dharma-protectors
and guardians endowed with jnana-eyes.

drin chen tsa wa tang jüt par ché pé
palden lama tam pa nam la chapsu’n chio
yidam chil khor chi lha tso nam la chapsu’n chio
sangjé chom den dé nam la chapsu’n chio
tampé chö nam la chapsu’n chio
pak pé gen dün nam la chapsu’n chio
pawo khan dro chö chog sung mé tso
yé shé chi chen tang den pa nam la chapsu’n chio


Until we reach the very heart of enlightenment, we take refuge in all the buddhas.
Likewise, we take refuge in the dharma and in the bodhisattva sangha.

chang chup nying por chi ji bar
sanjé nam la chapsu’n chi
chö tang chang chup sem pa yi
tso la ang dé shin chapsu’n chi
ji tar ngön chi dé shek chi

Here is another refuge prayer by Ringu Tulku in his book on Ngöndro pp51-52:

I, and all beings in number as vast as space, take Refuge in our very kind root Guru, whose very nature is the combination of the body, speech, mind, qualities and activities of all the Buddhas of the three times and ten directions. He is our source of the 84,000 dharma teachings and the Lord of the Realized Sangha.

We take Refuge in our most kind root Guru and in all the Gurus of the Lineage,
We take Refuge in all the yidams of all the Mandalas,
We take Refuge in the perfectly realised Buddhas who have  transcended suffering,
We take Refuge in the noble Dharma,
We take Refuge in the realized Sangha,
We take Refuge in all the Dakas, Dakinis, Dharma protectors and guardians endowed with wisdom eyes.

p. 54 When we try to develop Bodhicitta we are aspiring to become Bodhisattvas. By taking Refuge, we have chosen as our goal, or our main objective, to become enlightened beings, who are free of all problems and who can help others. In order to achieve that goal, we have to become Bodhisattvas, because that is the way, the path. The whole practice can be described as trying to become Bodhisattvas, trying to generate that intention, that aspiration or mind-stream in ourselves. That is the most important step we can take towards our aim. In order to become a Bodhisattva, we don’t need anything else but compassion, which is sometimes called a good heart.

[55] If you have that kind of aspiration, from the Buddhist point of view, you are a Bodhisattva, and it doesn’t matter what religion, what class, what kind of people you belong to. It doesn’t even matter whether you are a human being or not, if you have that intention, you are a Bodhisattva.

p. 56 Bodhisattva vow

Until we reach the very heart of enlightenment, we take Refuge in the Buddhas, likewise we take Refuge in the Dharma and in the Bodhisattva Sangha.

Just as the Buddhas of the past first resolved to reach enlightenment and then progressed stage by stage through different levels of Bodhisattva training, In the same way, we also develop a mind intent upon enlightenment for the sake of all beings an we will progressively practice in that training.

 p. 58 Now my life is fruitful—I have truly achieved human existence. Today I have been born into the family of Buddhas. Today I have become a son of the Buddhas. Now, no matter what is required of me, I will act in conformity with my kindred family and will never do anything which might sully the faultless noble line.

[59] Today, in the presence of all the protectors of beings I invite all beings to be my guests at the great celebration of Buddhahood and of happiness until then, Therefore gods, semi-gods and others, all truly rejoice!

May the precious bodhicitta arise in those in whom it has not yet arisen.
Wherever it has arisen, may it never deteriorate but grow more and more.
Never cut off from bodhicitta, engaged in deeds conducive to enlightenment
and perfectly cared for by all the Buddhas, may we give up harmful actions.
May whatever Bodhisattvas have in mind to benefit beings come true.
May whatever Bodhisattvas have in mind to benefit beings come true.
May whatever the protectors wish to happen to beings happen.
May all beings be happy and may all states of suffering be emptied.
May every prayer of the Bodhisattvas, wherever they are, come true.

[60] May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Buddhist Wisdom

Turning Confusion into Clarity, by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche p. 165

One Frenchman told me that his own Tibetan teacher had discouraged students from ordination. This really surprised me. He explained that his teacher had said, “Most Westerners who put on Buddhist robes take refuge in their robes, not in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” I assured him that this was not limited to the West.

p. 168 We do not practice in order to become enlightened; we practice in order to recognize hat we are already enlightened. Practice expresses the awakened self. However fantastical and extraordinary Tibetan images may seem, in every case they manifest hidden, unrecognized, or unrealized aspects of ourselves. Everything “out there” is “in here.” The entire path is a shift in perception.

We work with two kinds of refuge: outer and inner. With outer or relative refuge, we see the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as being outside of ourselves. This duality definitely offers more reliability that conventional refuges, but with limited benefits. As long as the Buddha is somewhere other than our own heart and mind, we won’t see the true Buddha—the empty clarity of our own pure awareness. The inner [169] refuge helps us to make the leap from the Buddha outside to the inside Buddha.

With inner or absolute refuge, the duality between outer and inner dissolves. Ultimately we rely on ourselves, on our own Buddha nature and on our own awakened qualities. Purification is the process of making these qualities become more accessible so that we can integrate them within our daily life. With practice, we recognize in ourselves the very Buddha in whom we take refuge. This is the essence of practice.

Wanting to take refuge is itself an indication of buddha nature We take refuge to be happier, to be free from suffering, an to feel more secure and stable. Why do we say that this wish itself reflects buddha nature? Because we never accept suffering as the normal or natural human condition. Whatever the degree of our unhappiness, this longing arises to be free of it. Where does this longing come from? How can we account for the intuitive knowledge that liberation from dukkha is possible? Our own intrinsic wisdom. Nothing else explains why we intuitively know that our unhappiness is off balance, that it’s not our true self, and that it can be alleviated. Our Buddha nature does that. It’s like an internal compass that keeps our direction set toward contentment, no matter how much anguish or pain we endure.

p. 174

In Vajrayana practice, in addition to the three jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—we take refuge in what we call the three roots: the guru, the yidam (or meditation deity), and the dharma protectors. The guru is the root of blessings, the yidam is the root of accomplishment, and the protectors are the root of activity.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Holy Isle Again

From Reflections In a Mountain Lake, by Ani Tenzin Palmo (Shambala) p. 211

We are here now, but we want to learn how to go home. We want to learn how to return from our enormous confusion back to the ultimate simplicity of our true nature. There are many who can help us on our way. There are many who can point out signposts. It doesn’t always have to be the ultimate guru. Anyone who can give us valid help and guidance is a teacher. They may come in the form of a teacher who is giving teachings. They may come merely as a brief encounter. They may even come in the form of a relative or a friend. How can we know? Anyone from whom we learn becomes a teacher, a spiritual friend. So I personally think we should shift our focus from this idea of finding a heart guru and instead start seeking spiritual friends.  IF we think of teachers as spiritual friends, that makes everything much vaster because we can have many spiritual friends.

212  …as I said at the beginning, what we are really trying to do is reconnect with what we have always had and find the inner guru. To reconnect with our primordial nature, our wisdom mind, which is always here. In the end, the practice is our refuge. This is not perhaps what I should be saying as a Tibetan Buddhist, but honestly, merely being caught up in the circle surrounding  guru, spending all of our time jockeying for position and making sure the lama notices us, has little to do with Dharma. It’s just the same old worldly emotions, gain and loss, happiness and sorrow, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. You see all of this appearing nakedly around some gurus. There is rampant jealousy and competition. It would be better to go home and just sit on our cushion, try to be kind to our family and learn to use them as our Dharma practice. It would be better for us to learn how to be loving, compassionate, kind, and patient to everyone we meet. Very often, when people get caught up in a big guru trip, they end up just serving that one organization and develop a very narrow vision…

I believe it is better to meet a teacher who really has wisdom, who has that very special presence which some lamas and other teachers of all traditions have. There is a certain spacious, egoless quality that makes you know you are in the presence of a genuine master, not one who is just interested in self-promotion. A teacher who is totally simple, yet in whose presence you experience something special. When you encounter such a teacher, then you should gain some teaching from that person and go away and work on it. In the meantime, if you have not met someone like that, learn from whatever sources of understanding, wisdom, ad genuine practice are available to you…

The Buddha said [213] that Buddhas only point out the way. Each of us must walk the path. [here follow some scathing remarks about the guru scene]

In the final analysis, we are all our own gurus. In the end, we have to access our own wisdom. This can be dangerous because our inner guide may appear to be telling us what we want to hear. But we know it really is the inner guide if it tells us to do exactly what we don’t want to do!

We all possess inner wisdom, and we should begin to get in touch with it more and more often. Then we will  start to experience an inner poise and a sense of autonomy. After all, we are trying to grow up, not remain children, forever.