All of our deity practices include some form of mantra recitation. What is a mantra? A mantra can be understood as a subtle emanation of the deity we are practicing. In our Kadampa books, we have the main text and we have the condensed meaning of the text. The condensed meaning of the text contains everything, but it is presented in a more concise form. If we understand the main text, then by recalling the condensed meaning we can recall all of the meanings of the whole book. In exactly the same way, a mantra of a deity is like the condensed meaning of that deity. The self-generation is like the main text, and the mantra is like the condensed meaning.
Mantras also have a very important function. Kadam Bjorn explains that all of our bodily sickness actually comes from the mental sickness of our delusions. Our delusions themselves arise from impure winds. If we can purify our winds, it will purify our mind of our mental sickness of delusions, which will also heal our body of all physical sickness. There is actually no limit to this process. Through this we can completely purify our body and winds so that they become the immortal pure body and winds of the deity. So how do we purify our winds? Through mantra recitation. We imagine that all of our inner winds assume the completely purified aspect of the mantra, and by reciting the mantra we are purifying our winds entirely. In effect, mantra recitation is a practice of self-generation of our winds as the mantra. Just as the self-generation primarily purifies our body and the meditation on the clear light Dharmakaya primarily purifies our mind, so too mantra recitation functions to purify our speech.
During mantra recitation, we should feel like we are engaging in the actions of the guru deity. Engaging in the actions of the guru deity enables us to strengthen our divine pride and enables us to accumulate the same karma as if we actually were the guru deity engaging in his enlightened actions. This will swiftly take us to enlightenment. When we recite the mantra, with deep faith we request the guru deity to accomplish his or her function, either on our own mind or on the minds of others. We strongly believe that through our request, the light rays and nectars accomplish the requested function. When we do mantra recitation, it is good to do so from the perspective of having exchanged self with others.
If we want to do mantra recitation for the sake of others we can think as follows: “others” are nothing more than a reflection or aspect of our own mind. Their biggest delusions are actually the different mental sicknesses which haunt the different aspects of my own mind. When we look at others, we should see them as aspects of ourself. We are looking into the mirror of our own mind, and each being is an aspect of our own mind. Each being is how the purity of the Dharmakaya is reflected off of a particular contaminated karmic seed on our own mind. But by purifying the minds of others, we are purifying the parts of our mind which are not enlightened.
When we recite the mantra, we can pray, “please bless me with the spiritual power necessary to completely eradicate the biggest delusions from the minds of others, so that the totality of the fabric of my mind can be free from all delusions.” The key here is to make this request with a pure motivation, understanding how delusions are the causes of the problems of all these beings, and understanding how their minds are different aspects of our own mind.
We should recite the mantra with great faith and imagining that light rays and nectars radiate out and completely eradicate others’ biggest delusions from their mind, which are in reality just aspects of our own mind. We should strongly believe that this is actually happening and generate a profound feeling of joy believing that we have actually purified the minds of others. We sometimes object to this type of meditation thinking we are just playing make believe. Others minds are not really completely freed. But this objection completely misunderstands the purpose of the practice. We do not strongly believe that all the minds of all living beings have been purified because it is somehow objectively true (nothing is), rather we believe this because the mental action of believing this functions to plant the karma on our mind which will ripen in the future in the form of others appearing to be free. The mental action of believing this functions to complete the karma which will ripen in the future in this way. In short, the stronger you believe this is actually happening, the more it will actually happen in the future.
Sometimes we may want to recite the mantra for the sake of ourself. This is not selfish, rather this is part of our bodhichitta. We wish to heal our mind completely so that we are then in a position to help others. If we want to recite the mantra for the sake of ourself, we can think to ourself as follows: My mind is nothing more than a synthetic reflection of the minds of all living beings. Our mind is like a magic mirror reflecting what is happening in everybody else’s minds. Because the whole is reflected in each bit, what is happening in others’ minds is happening in my mind. The biggest delusion in my own mind is the same entity as the biggest delusion in the minds of all these beings, simply viewed from another angle. It seems like different things are happening in each mind only because it is reflecting off of different karmic facets, like different sides of a fish tank or different facets of the diamond.
The fish tank analogy is worth elaborating on. If we saw four different televisions, and in one television we saw a fish swimming right, one swimming left, one swimming towards us and one swimming away from us, it would be easy to conclude that these are four different fish doing four different things. But in reality it is the same fish being filmed from four different angles of the same fish tank. In the same way, it may appear that some beings have one delusion going in one way and others have other delusions going in another way and we might conclude that these are different delusions in the minds of different beings. But in reality, all delusions are ultimately the same nature as our own biggest delusion. We know this to be true because everything is empty, and therefore created by our own mind. Since the world we perceive is the nature of our own mind and our mind is the nature of our biggest delusion, in reality our biggest delusion is by nature the biggest delusion of everyone else. It only appears to be different people and different delusions due to our ignorance grasping at the inherent existence of others’ minds. So by overcoming delusions in my mind directly, I am overcoming all the delusions in others minds indirectly for them. With this view, we completely break our identification with our own delusions, because we view them as other’s delusions reflected into our own mind. In this way, what manifests in our mind has no power over us.
We can then pray, please bless me with the spiritual power necessary to completely eradicate the biggest delusion in my own mind so that in doing so I may completely eradicate the biggest delusion in the minds of others. We then recite the mantra with great faith and imagine that light rays and nectars radiate out, and we strongly believe that they eradicate completely the biggest delusion in our own mind and in doing so, all living beings are now free from their own biggest delusion. We then meditate on a strong feeling of joy that this has actually happened.
With time and experience, we will feel as if these two ways of engaging in mantra recitation eventually collapse into one: self is other, other is self. These are just two different angles on the same thing, just like the fish tank. It is useful to explore the karmic implications of this. If I work on somebody else’s mind, it will reflect back on my mind. For example, by me generating others as the guru deity, it will karmically reflect back on the mirror of my mind in the form of a karmic imprint. If I generate all living beings as the guru deity, it will karmically reflect back on my mind countless times. If I work on my own mind, viewing it as the synthesis mind of all living beings, by working on my own mind, I create the karma of working on the minds of all living beings. Now that is power!