Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: the last three limbs and offering the mandala.

We now consider just how incredible of a being Je Tsongkhapa is and we rejoice in all that he has done and continues to do.

In this degenerate age you strove for much learning and accomplishment.
Abandoning the eight worldly concerns, you made your freedom and endowment meaningful.
O Protector, from the very depths of my heart,
I rejoice in the great wave of your deeds.

Je Tsongkhapa showed the best example a Dharma practitioner can follow.  First he studied Dharma extensively.  Then he realized that it was personal advice to be put into practice.  Then he gained deep experience of Dharma by practicing day and night, and finally he dedicated all his virtues to the flourishing of Dharma.  If we check, what Je Tsongkhapa did in the 14th Century Geshe-la is doing now for us now.  So if you want to rejoice in what Je Tsongkhapa did, consider what Geshe-la is doing today.

The truly amazing thing about rejoicing is when we do so we accumulate a fraction of the merit from the other being’s deeds.  We did not engage in these actions ourselves, but by rejoicing in and appreciating all that they have done, the act of rejoicing itself gives us a fraction of the merit as if we did the action ourselves.  Since Je Tsongkhapa’s merit is limitless, even a fraction of such merit is like winning the lottery. 

As the verse explains, we live in a ‘degenerate age.’ This means times are spiritually degenerate and the goals of most beings are worldly.  The ‘eight worldly concerns’ are the concerns of worldly people (if we are honest, that means us), namely being concerned about receiving resources and respect, experiencing pleasure, and enjoying praise and a good reputation.  These are our gods for whom we work.  It is when we abandon the eight worldly concerns that our Dharma practice becomes pure.  Generally what makes our practice pure is when it is concerned with things beyond this life.  We cannot take any of these things with us when we die, but we can take our merit and our karmic habits of mind. 

The essential purpose of holy beings coming into our world is to explain to people how to wake up from the dream of samsara.  If we were trapped in a horrible nightmare, wouldn’t we appreciate somebody coming along and waking us up so that we could escape its terrors?  The difference is with the dream of samsara, we need to wake ourselves up.  The holy beings have come to explain to us how.

From the billowing clouds of wisdom and compassion
In the space of your Truth Body, O Venerable and holy Gurus,
Please send down a rain of vast and profound Dharma
Appropriate to the disciples of this world.

Here the essential idea is we need to make requests that the Buddhas teach Dharma.  Without these requests, without wanting it from our own side, it won’t happen.  This is a fantastic way to benefit living beings.  Brahma and Indra requested Buddha Shakyamuni to turn the wheel of Dharma, and as a result of their request billions of people have received benefit. The benefit we are receiving now comes from the kindness of their request.  Thus we request on behalf of all living beings.

The ‘Space of your Truth Body’ means that everything that is taking place is occuring within the guru’s Truth Body and the ‘Vast and profound Dharma’ – refers to the vast and profound paths.  Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, so too we need both the vast and profound paths to attain enlightenment.  The vast path primarily deals with the development of bodhichitta, and the profound path primarily deals with the development of the wisdom realizing emptiness.

Finally, we dedicate the merit we have accumulated to help fuel our spiritual purpose.

Through the virtues I have accumulated here,
May the doctrine and all living beings receive every benefit.
Especially may the essence of the doctrine
Of Venerable Losang Dragpa shine forever.

Dedication functions to protect our merit from being destroyed by anger.  It is like saving our documents on the computer before the computer crashes.  We give away all our merit to others, which functions to increase our merit.  The dedication verse explains why we have done all that we have done, now we harness and direct this spiritual energy towards our desired purpose.

There is no greater offering we can make than everything.  If we truly understood the nature of samsara, we would realize there is no point doing anything other than waking up and helping all other beings wake up.  This does not mean we need to abandon our lives, families and jobs, rather it means we need to wake up in the context of our lives, families and jobs; and thereby help others to do the same.  We use everything we have – our resources, our time, our bodies, our minds, whatever power we might possess – all for the sake of helping ourself and others wake up.  We do this with the mandala offering.

The ground sprinkled with perfume and spread with flowers,
The Great Mountain, four lands, sun and moon,
Seen as a Buddha Land and offered thus,
May all beings enjoy such Pure Lands.


The basic idea of offering a mandala is you mentally imagine that you transform the entire universe into a pure land and all the being within it into pure beings.  Mentally you are offering this to your guru.  What does this mean?  It means that you are mentally offering the promise that you will do whatever it takes to make this happen.  You will work continuously until you actually do make your offering a reality (delivering all beings to a pure land).  Since your offering here is you will work continuously until all the problems of all living beings in all their lives are solved, this is the biggest offering you can possibly make, and as a result the merit you accumulate from such an offering is ‘maxed out’!

We can also with a mandala offering offer our friends and family requesting that our spiritual guide take them into his care.  We can also offer all the objects which give rise to our delusions requesting to be free from the delusions.  By offering the objects of our delusions it functions to pacify them.

The most important thing is to really get into it.  We should think how wonderful it would be to actually do this.  There is no value in having doubts like, ‘this is just my imagination,’ ‘I can’t really transform the entire universe into a pure land,’ ‘I can’t really lead all beings to enlightenment,’ and so forth.  We should choose to believe that it is possible and make the real promise that we will do this.  We need to let our mind be unconstrained by what we currently perceive to be possible.

On a physical level we can buy a mandala kit at a Kadampa center to make mandala offerings with it.  While this is important, we shouldn’t think that the physical piling of rice in these little mental rings is a mandala offering.  That is just a physical representation of what is the real offering, namely what you are doing with your mind.

IDAM GURU… means “I offer this jeweled mandala to you precious (or holy) Guru, please accept it”

2 thoughts on “Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: the last three limbs and offering the mandala.

  1. Quel très beau post pour terminer cette année.
    Merci mille fois Ryan pour donner vie, simplicité, puissance et profondeur à nos pratiques. Et pour semer les graines du précieux esprit de boddhitchitta au millieu de tant de sources potentielles de distractions.
    Très belle année à toi et tous ceux qui te sont chers et peut-être à bientôt

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