Practicing with power : Receiving empowerments

Within the Kadampa tradition, we put a lot of emphasis on receiving empowerments.  We do not receive empowerments just when we go to festivals, but virtually all of our sadhana practices include a section on receiving empowerments.  More broadly, anytime we receive blessings we are, in effect, receiving an empowerment.

In the context of this series of posts, I want to explain how we can put the “power” in our receiving of empowerments.  Once again, what is spiritual power?  It is the ability to move one’s own or other’s minds powerfully and substantially in the direction of enlightenment.  With spiritual power, we are able to easily oppose even the strongest delusions (such as anger, attachment, jealousy, ignorance, doubt, self-cherishing, and so forth) and make rapid progress along the path.  Even if we practice every spiritual stage of the path, if we lack spiritual power, our practices will remain weak and ineffectual.  But with spiritual power, all of our spiritual practices bring about great results.  Spiritual power is like the ‘horsepower’ of our spiritual practice that moves us quickly along the path.  With spiritual power, everything on the spiritual path becomes easy and effective.

What is an empowerment?  When we receive an empowerment, we receive the special blessings of a Buddha which then function to ripen within our own mind the specific power of the specific Buddha (for example, Compassion with an Avalokiteshvara empowerment, wisdom for a Manjushri empowerment, etc.).  During an empowerment we receive within our mental continuum the body, speech and mind of an enlightened being, then subsequent to the empowerment, we learn how to use this body, speech and mind as our own.  Specifically when we receive empowerments we should strongly believe that we are receiving within our mental continuum a Buddha that specializes in helping us overcome whatever we consider to be our biggest delusion, such as anger or attachment.  If we maintain this recognition, it is guaranteed that everytime we receive an empowerment we will receive our own personal deity who can help us specifically overcome whatever is our greatest delusion.

Regardless of what deity we are practicing, all deity practices share three main functions.  First, our reliance upon them helps us to overcome our biggest delusion.  Why should we overcome our biggest delusion?  It was explained in an earlier post how our delusions create problems and suffering for ourself and for all living beings in this and our future lives.  If we receive empowerments with this special recognition, the deity that we receive during the empowerment will have as a special function the ability to help is overcome our biggest delusion.

Second, they help us purify our mind of the two obstructions by bestowing the realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness.  This realization is the principal realization of the tantric path.  All other practices are like rivers that empty into the ocean of this meditation.  This meditation functions to purify our mind of the two obstructions, taking us to Buddhahood.  This realization eventually transforms into the omnsicient mind of a Buddha, the Dharmakaya.  So the main function of any deity is to bestow upon us the Dharmakaya.

Third, they help us to karmically reconstruct a new, pure world.  On one level, we can say that every time we engage in a negative action, we condemn a being of our mind to the lower realms; every time we engage in a positive action, we bring somebody into the upper realms; and every time we engage in a pure action, we deliver somebody out of samsara altogether.  This is due to the effect similar to the cause and to the ripened effect.  In this way, through our actions, we populate the different realms of samsara and nirvana.  On a deeper level, every time we assent to ordinary appearance, we plant karma on our mind which will ripen in the future in the continuation of this world of suffering.  But by mentally imagining ourselves, our environment and others as completely pure, this mental action plants the karma which will ripen in the future in a new pure world.  In particular, because every deity helps us overcome our ordinary appearance and ordinary conception, they help us to construct a new pure world.

When we receive empowerments, we normally receive four empowerments:  an empowerment of the body, speech, mind and the body, speech and mind together.  To receive the empowerment of the body of any deity with an aim of increasing our spiritual power, we can generate a wish to the power to have all of our actions of body accomplish the three functions mentioned above for yourself and for others.  The three functions again are the ability to overcome our own or others’ biggest delusions, to purify our own and others minds of the two obstructions with the realization of great bliss and emptiness, and the power to karmically reconstruct a new, pure world.  When we receive a body empowerment, we receive within our mental continuum the body of the guru deity that we can call upon to accomplish these functions, and eventually through reliance upon this body, we will attain the body of the guru deity ourself.  When we receive a body empowerment, we should generate a strong wish to receive the body of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our body.

To receive the empowerment of the speech of the guru deity means to receive the power to have all of our actions of speech accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  With the empowerment, we receive within our mental continuum the speech of the guru deity that we can call upon to accomplish these functions, and eventually we will attain the speech of the guru deity ourself.  So once again, we generate the strong wish to receive the speech of the guru deity within your mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our speech.

To receive the empowerment of the mind of the guru deity means to receive the power to have all of our actions of mind accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  As before, we generate the strong wish to receive the mind of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our mind.

To receive the empowerment of the body, speech and mind of the guru deity together means to receive the power to have all of our actions of body, speech and mind work flawlessly together to accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  As before, we generate the strong wish to receive a flawless harmonization of the body, speech and mind of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our body, speech and mind together.

If we do this every day with our daily practice, and we especially do it when we have the opportunity to receive empowerments at Kadampa centers, there is no doubt our spiritual power will increase quite quickly.  The guru deity already has all of the spiritual power of all of the Buddhas.  All we need to do is, in effect, download his power into our mind.  This is the essential meaning of an empowerment.

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