Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: the Migtsema prayer

The Migtsema prayer is the most important practice of the whole sadhana.  When Geshe-la taught the practice of Heart Jewel at a Summer Festival many years ago, he spent two days just talking about Migstsema.  This practice contains all other practices.  I encourage you to read the section in Heart Jewel about Migtsema practice, it is extraordinary.  However, in the next two posts, I will try explain the essentials we need for our daily practice.  The Migtsema prayer is something virtually all Kadampas recite every day.  This shows its importance, but unfortunately what tends to happen is because we do it every day it becomes routine.  Instead of actually sincerely engaging in the practice, we quickly become distracted thinking about other things.  The result is our practice of Migtsema comes to have little to no power.  This is a great shame, but one that is easily corrected for if we renew the freshness of our Migtsema practice by bringing it alive.

Geshe-la has explained two different ways in which we can recite the Migtsema prayer.  The first way, which I will explain in this post, he explained at the Summer Festival I referred to above, and its essential purpose is to make our recitation of the Migtsema prayer a special prayer for realizing the Kadam Lamrim of the vast, profound and Vajrayana paths.  In short, we request and receive all of the realizations of the stages of the path.  The second method, which I will explain in the next post, is explained in the book Heart Jewel where Geshe-la explains how we can use the Migtsema prayer to gain the seven conventional wisdoms. 

The most important aspect of engaging in this prayer is to have 100% conviction that we are making this request to our living spiritual guide in front of us in the aspect of Je Tsongkhapa.  When we say ‘you’, we are referring to our spiritual guide right in front of us. 

At Je Tsongkhapa’s crown we should visualize Manjushri, at his throat we visualize Avalokiteshvara, and at his heart we visualize Vajrapani.

Tsongkhapa, crown ornament of the scholars of the Land of the Snows,

There are three meanings of this first line  which are explained in detail in the book Heart Jewel.  First, with regard to the pre-eminent qualities of his teachings, Je Tsongkhapa is unequalled among all Tibetan scholars.  Second, with regard to his practical example Je Tsongkhapa is unequalled among all Tibetan scholars.  Finally, third, with regard to his Dharma activities Je Tsongkhapa is unequalled among all Tibetan scholars.

The next three lines of the verse can be understood with the following chart.  The first column explains the line of the prayer and indicates the specific Buddha we should be directing our request to.  The second column explains the specific realization of the Dharma we should mentally be requesting as we recite the line of the prayer.  The third column explains the specific part of the Lamrim we are emphasizing as we recite the prayer.  And the last column refers to what quality of a Buddha is the final result we seek to attain with the prayer. 


Line Realization Dharma Part of a Buddha
You are Avalokiteshvara, the treasury of unobservable  compassion,


Compassion of all the Buddhas Vast Path – paths leading to the realization of bodhichitta and spontaneous great bliss Speech of all the Buddhas
Manjushri, the supreme stainless wisdom, Wisdom of all the Buddhas Profound Path – paths leading to the realization of clear light emptiness Body of all the Buddhas
And Vajrapani, the destroyer of the host of maras; Spiritual Power of all the Buddhas Tantric Path – union of vast and profound path, union of illusory body and clear light Mind of all the Buddhas

So for example, as we recite the line referring to Avalokiteshvara, when we recite the line we should mentally be focused on the Avalokiteshvara at the throat of Lama Tsongkhapa, request that he bestow his compassion onto our mind, specifically by bestowing his blessings to realize the stages of the vast path, with the final goal of we ourselves attaining the enlightened speech of all of the Buddhas.  In effect, we are requesting that Lama Tsongkhapa’s speech become our own, or more accurately that from this point forward he speaks through us so that everything we say is in fact his speech speaking through us.  When we can do this perfectly, 100% of the time, we can validly say that our speech is his speech, his speech is our speech and for all practical purposes we have attained the enlightened speech of all the Buddhas.  We can understand the next two lines of the prayer in exactly the same way.

O Losang Dragpa, I request you please grant your blessings.

With the final line of the prayer, we request Lama Tsongkhapa to bestow the blessings we have requested.  What is a blessing?   Venerable Tharchin says that a blessing is a subtle infusion of the guru’s mind into our own.  Technically speaking, the way this works is Buddhas have the power to activate karmic seeds on our mind.  They know what effect each seed will have on our mind.  When we request their blessings with faith, it creates an opening within our mind where the sun of the Buddha’s blessings can enter and automatically activate the seeds on our mind which ripen in the form of a personal realization of the Dharma we are requesting. 

There are essentially two things we request him to do.  We request that he bless our mind to become just like him, and we request him to bless our mind to gain the specific realizations we are requesting.  It is very important to make this process a personal one.  We need to first consider the different ways in which our mind suffers from delusions and then request that he specifically heal our mind.  We are not requesting academic understanding of Dharma, we are requesting a transformation of our mind from a confused deluded state to a blissful, compassionate and omniscient one. 


4 thoughts on “Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: the Migtsema prayer

  1. Actually, the translation of ‘migme tsewe’ as ‘non-referential compassion’ is more precise than ‘unobservable compassion’. It refers to a compassion that realizes that the basis of our compassion also lacks inherent existence.
    I have even seen it translated as ‘immeasurable compassion’, which, although sounds nice, misses the point.

    • I guess there are many different ways to translate things. Geshe-la has translated it as unobservable compassion, and then in Ocean of Nectar defines what that means, namely compassion conjoined with a realization of emptiness of the three spheres (or what you call non-referential compassion). “You say tomatos, I say tomatoes…”

      • You may not see the distinction but it is actually an important one. Tibetan language is very precise in Dharma terminology.

  2. Thank you Ryan for giving us such a clear explanation and the diagram is a great idea and very useful. Personally I plan to print it and pin somewhere where I can see read it every day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s