Monday, 9 February 2015

The Guruyoga entitled 'Gathering of Blessings'

It's drupchö season here at Lerab Ling and our first one, which has just finished, is Rigdzin Düpa, 'The Gathering of Vidyadharas,' the inner lama practice from the Longchen Nyingtik, the terma revelation of Jikmé Lingpa. So it seems appropriate to focus on and say a little about the practice of Guru Yoga―especially as I've found a short Guru Yoga and piece of advice from Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, my translation of which appears further down in this article.

According to 'The Lamp that Iluminates Wisdom' (Yeshe Saldrön )―a commentary to 'The Lamp that Illuminates the Heart Essence' (Nyingtik Saldrön), a Guru Yoga practice composed by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö―there are three ways of taking the practice of Guru Yoga to heart linked to the three capacities of individuals; supreme, middling or average.

“For ordinary people the lama is our supreme guide, the embodiment of all buddhas and bodhisattvas in one manifesting in an ordinary form as a spiritual friend in order to show us the way to enlightenment. So, to imagine the lama before us in the sky and meditate on him as he usually appears, or as Guru Rinpoche, and to pray to him with true devotion and faith then, because of the very nature of interdependence (tendrel), the blessing of the lama will be transferred into the mind of the student just like the form of the moon will appear reflected in a vessel of clear, smooth water. This is to practise and accomplish the lama as the nirmanakaya.”

“Those whose minds are more expansive will have an unshakable conviction that the secret body, speech and mind of the lama are primordially spontaneously perfect as the mandala of the vajra body, speech and mind. With this certainty they recognize that the display of the inherent nature of their own minds appears as the lama in peaceful or wrathful forms and they meditate on them with the four branches of approach and accomplishment practice. This is to practise and accomplish the lama as the sambhogakaya.”

“Those whose minds are greater still can rest in the clear light of their own rigpa awareness which is beyond duality of subject and object and transcends all characteristics, symbols or expression. Unborn, it is dharmakaya, unceasing, it is sambhogakaya, not abiding anywhere, it is nirmanakaya.

The three kayas are indivisible in this self-knowing rigpa that is the very essence of great bliss and to leave it naturally just as it is without action, effort or grasping is to practise and accomplish the lama as the dharmakaya. Moreover this is the innermost, secret practice.“

“Once you have decisively resolved the mind in the space of dharmata and rest in the confidence of naked rigpa-emptiness then whatever you meditate on, be it Guru Yoga or whatever it may be, is extraordinary and extremely profound.”

The Guruyoga entitled 'Gathering of Blessings'

I take refuge in my own mind, free from elaboration,
As I know it to be my true nature,
All delusion―mistaken perception due to ignorance―
I shall establish in the primordial state.

A. My own pure perception is the stronghold of absolute space―
Self-knowing awareness free of dispersal and gathering.
The unobstructed dynamic energy of pure awareness manifests everything―
All pervasive samsara and nirvana, the splendour of existence and peace is
Awareness emptiness, without grasping, within the vast expanse: A.

Thus, present right now in the nakedness of ordinary mind, unaltered, is pure awareness―uncompounded empty clarity. Decide on that with certainty and maintain exactly that state of the glorious lama's wisdom mind.

Written at the request of Lama Mardri who is endowed with the three higher trainings.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Prayer to Gyarong Khandro Dechen Wangmo

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö & Khandro Tsering Chödrön

I mentioned in a previous post Gyarong Khandro, the female master and tertön, who Sogyal Rinpoche remembers as an extraordinary dakini who never slept and had a gift for foretelling when people would die. Every 10th and 25th day of the lunar calendar, it is said, she would disappear and travel to the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö composed a prayer to Gyarong Khandro at Khandro Tsering Chödrön's request, so here is the translation.

Incidentally, when I post translations I sometimes get asked “Who’s the translator?” So, yes, I’m the translator unless I say otherwise. So any omissions or errors are also mine for which I apologize in advance.

Prayer to Gyarong Khandro Dechen Wangmo
Homage to the Lama!
Wisdom dakini, Mandarava, and
Mother of space, dakini of great bliss, Yeshe Tsogyal and others,
With your blessings as the very embodiments of compassion, great dakini,
Dharma Tsendra (1) , at your feet I pray!
Grant your blessings to purify all my negative actions and obscurations!
All impairments and breakages of samaya, violations, faults and downfalls―purify them all!
Wisdom dakini, may your blessings fill my very being,
May experience and realization, and the dynamic energy of rigpa, have no choice but to flourish.
Clear away inner negative forces, avert all sorcery and witchcraft.
Dechen Wangmo (2) ―powerful lady of great bliss―hold me forever in your care
And finally in the city of Lotus Light,
Sangwa Yeshe (3) ―may I be inseparable from your enlightened mind!

At the request of Khandro Tsering Chödrön, Chökyi Lodro wrote these words of supplication.

1 I think this must be another name for Gyarong Khandro..
2 Gyarong Khandro’s name.
3 Another name for Vajravarahi (Skt. Guhyajñana) of whom she was considered to be an emanation.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

In Praise of Glorious Vajrasattva

Patrul Rinpoche is remembered today as a truly outstanding master, and we have his works like ‘The Words of My Perfect Teacher’ and ‘The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones’ to give practical guidance on how to follow the Buddhist path. They also remind us of his own lifestyle and challenge our materialistic preoccupations. His teachings, his blessings, and his power to inspire are still very much with us today. He was a strong exponent of the joys of solitude and monastic simplicity, and always stressed the futility of worldly striving and pursuits.

So here is a translation of Patrul Rinpoche’s verses in praise of Vajrasattva.

I pay homage to glorious Vajrasattva!

Your enlightened body is brilliant white like a snow mountain.
Your enlightened speech proclaims the excellent dharma.
Your enlightened mind, whose nature, like the sky, is vast and profound with the two aspects of omniscient knowledge.
Bhagavan―the one who is triumphant over enemies, bodhisattva―spiritual warrior, to you I pay homage!

Although obscured by negative karma accumulated over many eons
Just to think of your name for even a single instant reduces it to nothing.
Guardian Lord, there is no other one but you,
Again and again with faith I pay homage!

One hundred buddha families, five buddha families, three buddha families―behold the mandalas, but
Sixth Lord of the families, there is no other one but you.
It is you, as well, who gathered together the words of the buddha, the secret treasury,
King of all, wish-granting tree, to you with folded hands I bow!

It is in this aspect―on a disc of a completely full moon
Atop a white eight-petalled lotus, free of impurities and defects,
Abiding in neither samsara nor nirvana, in the posture of perfection of a buddha,
Wearing jewelled anklets and
Beautifully adorned like a rainbow with a myriad of many-coloured silken garments,
Adorned with many jewels, long necklaces and other ornaments, sparkling and swaying.
Holding vajra and bell to symbolize appearance and emptiness inseparable―
That granting empowerment of the five families is complete.
Great bliss and wisdom united, is the sphere of enlightened being,
With the water of abhisheka―joyful clouds of nectar―
Is conferred the amrita of the completely pure five empowerments.
To this non-dual display, I pay homage!

The very nature of rigpa, the heart essence, is the key point of the mantra.
Inherently it is Akanishta, the realm of the sacred word, and
By mindfully focusing your attention while reciting the mantra, all defilements are purified―
To the innermost essence, the one hundred syllable mantra, I pay homage!

Call out strongly to him by name and, most importantly, invoke the sacred promise of his sublime mind.
The very nature of the five families is the heart and innermost essence, so
The causes, conditions, recitation and three kinds of mantra are thoroughly complete.
To the brief six syllable mantra, I pay homage!

He is the one who can thoroughly control even those difficult to subdue, and
Is the deity who bestows, most importantly, the supreme accomplishment,
Vajrasattva, the protector, who displays the nine moods of dance,
To you, the glorious heruka, I pay homage!
To the keeper of the secret treasury, powerful lord of the ten bhumis, I pay homage!

Ferocious, indestructible vajra, you are the single-handed enemy of obstructing forces,
You are the very nature of the five families, a garuda, emanating and reabsorbing,
To you who are the medicine for ignorance, I pay homage!

Supreme deity of deities, bhagavan Vajrasattva,
Having taken you as my refuge, you, protector, who are supreme amongst those in whom we seek refuge
Again and again when I recall your enlightened body, speech and mind,
Bestow your blessings and inspiration, Vajrasattva Vajradharma!

om bendza sattva hum

by Patrul

Virtue. Virtue. Virtue.

Monday, 30 June 2014

A Prayer of Aspiration for the Mountain of Glory

From a fresco in the Lerab Ling Temple

In A Great Treasure of Blessings, A Book of Prayers to Guru Rinpoche, it describes how:-

“After the death of Trisong Detsen, he stayed on in Tibet into the reign of his successors. But he knew that the rakshasa cannibal demons, inhabiting the south-western continent of Chamara—Ngayab—were set to invade and destroy India, Nepal and Tibet, and if not subdued, they would sweep the earth and destroy all human life. So, after fifty five and a half years in Tibet, in the Wood Monkey year (864), Guru Rinpoche prepared to leave, and went, accompanied by the young king Mutik Tsepo and a large gathering of disciples, to the pass of Gungthang in Mangyul. They implored him to stay, but he refused. He gave final teachings and instructions to each of them, and then, on the tenth day of the monkey month, left for the land of Ngayab Ling in the southwest, and for his manifested pure land on Zangdokpalri, the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory.”

There are many prayers of aspiration to be reborn in this pure land of Guru Rinpoche. In the colophon of an aspiration prayer by Jikme Lingpa he says:

“Once I was alone in solitary retreat in ‘The Akanishtha Vajra Cave’, a hermitage blessed by the naturally arising enlightened speech of Padmasambhava, when early one morning, I caught sight of Mount Hépori and thought: “Wait…It was on that hill-top just over there that Khenpo Shantarakshita, the master Padma, the King and the disciples once walked, subjugated gods and ghosts, and relaxed. Many are the tales that appear to that effect. But now, apart from their names, not a single trace of them remains.” I was gripped by a conviction that in the very same way, everything is transient, impermanent. And although I had reckoned on staying alive, and not dying, for a few years more, what certainty was there that I would not leave for my next life the very next day?

This train of thought filled me with haunting sorrow and aching weariness, and a sense of renunciation that was boundless. The memory of Guru Rinpoche, the King and the disciples plunged me into floods of tears. And this was why, at that moment I, Chadral Khyentséi Özer, wrote this aspiration prayer.”

So here is a prayer of aspiration written by another great Tibetan master, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, who recognised Sogyal Rinpoche as the incarnation of Tertön Sogyal and brought him up.

A Prayer of Aspiration for the Mountain of Glory

om ah hung vajra guru padma siddhi hung

My whole perception is the utterly pure realm of Lotus Light,
Arrayed in complete perfection as the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory, in which is
The limitless palace of the three kayas, full of joy and happiness.

On the lower storey, in the great Nirmanakaya shrine room,
Is the Lotus-born Guru of Orgyen, embodiment of the three roots,
Surrounded by his entourage of vidyadharas, pawos and khandros,
Where the sound of the teachings of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana rings out.

On the middle storey in the great mansion of the Sambhogakaya
Dwells the supreme Great Compassionate One, Avalokitesvara,
Surrounded by his retinue of buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Above is the limitless heavenly realm of the Dharmakaya, in the centre of which
Resides the teacher and protector, Amitabha,
Surrounded by his entourage, who are in nature no different from him.

So bringing to mind as clearly as if actually present
The pure realms of the three kayas―the support and that which is supported―
And with faith and devotion, paying homage and making offerings, through the power of this prayer
For I and others―fortunate students of the master―
When death comes may we experience neither suffering nor sorrow, and
May Kharchen Za and the dakinis come to show us the way
So we may be born in the realm of Lotus Light and
Be ripened and liberated as the prophecies foretold, perfecting the five paths and ten stages.
May we be inseparable from the vast expanse of the wisdom mind of the Lord of Orgyen!

Written by Jamyang Chökyi Lodro at the request of a faithful student from Ling, the old woman Seng Drön, accompanied by an offering of two silver coins, seven measure of gold and five wheels. Siddhi rastu!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Night-flowering Lotus of Compassion

There is a rather beautiful short practice of Avalokiteshvara by Mipham Rinpoche which I have recently translated into English. I’m just an amateur translator so my apologies if there are any errors or omissions in the translation.

In Appendix Four of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying it says:

“It is written in the Mahayana Sutras that Avalokiteshvara gave his mantra to the Buddha himself, and Buddha in turn granted him the special and noble task of helping all beings in the universe toward buddhahood. At this moment all the gods rained flowers on them, the earth shook, and the air rang with the sound OM MANI PADME HUM HRIH."

In the words of the poem:

"Avalokiteshvara is like the moon
Whose cool light puts out the burning fires of samsara
In its rays the night-flowering lotus of compassion
Opens wide its petals.”

Similarly we read in the Surangama Sutra:

"How sweetly mysterious is the transcendental sound of Avalokiteshvara, It is the primordial sound of the universe .... It is the subdued murmur of the sea-tide setting inward. Its mysterious sound brings liberation and peace to all sentient beings who in their pain are calling out for help, and it brings a sense of serene stability to all those who are seeking Nirvana's boundless peace.”

So here is a translation of the practice:

Visualization and Recitation of the Six Syllable Mantra of Chenresig

If you wish a simple way to practise the visualization and recitation of the six syllable mantra of Chenresig, first it is important to take refuge, generate bodhichitta and the four immeasurables. And then:

Hrih! In the centre of the pure realm of Potala,
Brilliant white, on a lotus and moon disc seat,
Is oneself in the form of Noble Chenresig,
White and radiant with one face, four arms and two feet.
My first two hands are at my heart with palms placed together.
The lower two are holding a crystal mala and a white lotus,
I am adorned in silk with jewelled ornaments and seated with legs crossed.
As the jewel ornament above my head is Lama Amitabha, the buddha of limitless light,
And all around are buddhas and bodhisattvas gathered like clouds.
From om ah hung at the three places light streams out
Inviting, without duality, the hosts of wisdom deities.
In the centre of my heart on a lotus and moon disc seat is the syllable hrih
Surrounded by the mantra mala. From it
Light streams out as a supreme offering to purify the obscurations of all beings.
All becomes the pure realm of Potala Mountain.
All that appears is the form of the Great Compassionate One,
All that resounds is the sound of the six syllable mantra,
All thoughts are the wisdom mind of emptiness and compassion.
With nothing to cling to, let the natural way of being completely pervade and while in this state recite the mantra.

om mani pemé hung

During the recitation the seventh syllable hrih can be added to the six syllable mantra if you so wish.

Hrih! Look at your own mind with mind!
It defies description, just like empty space.
It cannot be seen as anything whatsoever yet is vividly present
It rests in its empty essence.

om mani pemé hung hrih

From the condition of unimpeded emptiness
Appearances are unobstructed and vividly clear.
Without boundaries, all-pervading and uncompounded,
With nature of clear light. How wonderful!

om mani pemé hung hrih

Apparent and yet empty, empty and yet apparent
Clarity and emptiness inseparable, beyond thought and expression
This spontaneously present natural state of great bliss,
The absolute truth, is Lord Avalokiteshvara.

om mani pemé hung hrih

Consider the meaning and recite the mantra.

Finally dedicate the merit and recite verses of auspiciousness.

I set this down in writing according to the meaning of the tantras, oral transmission and pith instructions for those who wish to practise. May it be virtuous! Mangalam!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Friday, 19 October 2012

Enlightenment in a woman’s body

I’ve been pondering recently something which no doubt many others have pondered before me. Namely, what influence, if any, does being male or female have on the attainment of enlightenment. Of course, being a woman I’m thinking mainly in terms of how this relates to my attainment of enlightenment with a female body. I also realize that―fortunately―whatever inequality there is in the social and cultural world between men and women, they are still equal in terms of mind. There is so much misogyny in Buddhist literature in general―and not only in literature!― that it’s rather surprising and noteworthy―in fact quite striking―that according to Padmasambhava, when Yeshe Tsogyal mentions the difficulties of being a woman, he counters this with the assertion that ultimately a woman’s body is in fact superior to a man’s for gaining enlightenment. The source for this is the treasure text revealed by Taksham Nüden Dorje in the eighteenth century where the colophon says that the text had been written down by one of her disciples, Gyalwa Changchub, during Yeshe Tsogyal’s own lifetime as she recounted her story orally to her disciples. In fact, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, who will be here at Lerab Ling next month to conduct the Kurukulla Drupchen, is the activity incarnation of Taksham Nüden Dorje.
Yeshe Tsogyal’s story was already well known in Tibet before this text appeared, as it had previously been recorded in biographies of Padmasambhava. This “secret” autobiography, revealed around 1,000 years after Yeshe Tsogyal herself existed, offers a rare glimpse into Tibetan spiritual life from a woman’s point of view (or, at the very least, from a man’s ideas of what a woman’s point of view would have been!). While it is clear that certain events in her life happened to her because she was a woman this in no way detracts from her ability to transcend all aspects of mundane existence―including gender―and attain enlightenment.
Of course, Padmasambhava wasn’t the first to declare the equality of men and women in terms of attaining enlightenment as the sutras record that Buddha himself also said this. In literature from the Pali Canon, namely the Stories of Elder Nuns, the Therigatha, there are inspiring stories of nuns who attained enlightenment at the time of the Buddha. They renounced the usual life of a woman of that time in order to become nuns and follow the path without being hampered by a husband or children and all that entailed. I’ve also chosen to follow the path that way for the same reason, having led that lifestyle earlier in my life and then renounced it to become a nun. In fact, a high percentage of nuns at the time of the Buddha were older women. This means that for me these stories resonate very much. For further reading see the following: "Therigatha: Verses of the Elder Nuns", edited by John T. Bullitt. Access to Insight, 23 April 2012, . Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo, Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala 1999. Keith Dowman, Sky Dancer: The Secret Life & Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel, Snow Lion, 1997 (first edition published in 1983). Nam-mkha'i sNying-po, Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, translated by Tarthang Tulku, Dharma Publishing, 1983.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

An end and a beginning ...

Sunday marked the end of the series of summer retreats here at Lerab Ling and the whole summer has been an incredibly precious and inspiring time. Not only have we received empowerments from Yangthang Rinpoche, and teachings from Samdhong Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche, and Khenpo Pema Sherab but for many of us the highlight of the whole summer was the presence of our own very dear teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. Now the summer is at an end but the programme of events here at Lerab Ling continues with teachings by Phakchok Rinpoche in October and a Kurukulla Drupchen in November presided over by Neten Chokling Rinpoche, Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche and monks from Chokling Monastery in Bir, India, with the possible presence of other masters as well.
At the moment work is continuing on the commemorative stupa for Khandro Tsering Chödrön so Tulku Rigdzin Pema Rinpoche is back with us again to oversee and conduct the necessary ceremonies. In fact, Monday, the day after the end of the summer retreats, saw the filling of the next level of the stupa with, amongst other precious items, the whole of the Kangyur, the actual words of the Buddha, and the Tengyur, the treatises composed by the learned and accomplished masters of India and also Tibet―in other words the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon.
On a personal level, the summer has been an opportunity for us nuns and monks to spend time together again which not only nourishes us and gives us joy but very much reminds us of the purpose of a monastic sangha―more on this later as it warrants a post of its own! In the meanwhile enjoy the photos of some very happy nuns taken on Monday when we had an afternoon free of duties and could just relax in the sunshine in our garden.
The Temple and the stupa are in the background of many of these photos. How extremely fortunate we are to live in this sacred realm .....

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Khandro-la's Commemorative Stupa

What I didn’t know when I took some photos of the stupa that was built for Khandro Tsering Chödron’s cremation ceremony, was that it was a very impermanent one which would disintegrate in the months following the ceremony and that a more permanent one, a commemorative stupa, would be built in its place . The bone relics and ashes were carefully collected from the cremation stupa and prepared in accordance with tradition. Small clay stupas called ‘dung tsa-tsa’ which will contain relics and ‘zung’ – small mantra rolls - are being made and will be enshrined in the new stupa, together with consecrated vases and other items. So at the moment we’re quite busy preparing the zung and tsa-tsas in readiness for the new stupa. Tulku Rigdin Pema Rinpoche, a master stupa builder, is here to give guidance and to do the necessary ceremonies for the preparation and enshrinement of the relics. All the photos were taken by Tenpa-la. The first photo below shows Tulku Rigdin Pema Rinpoche (left) and Lama Yönten who is assisting him. The second photo shows the vases being prepared, and the third is of Tulku Pema Rigdzin Rinpoche performing one of the ceremonies associated with the stupa.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A beautiful evening at Lerab Ling

This is the first evening it’s been possible to go for a walk owing to the rather awful wet weather just recently. So a beautiful, calm, peaceful evening for a leisurely walk to take in the beauty of the landscape here.