Happy Tsog Day: How to Train in Engaging Bodhichitta

In order to remember and mark our tsog days, holy days on the Kadampa calendar, I am sharing my understanding of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide with tsog.  This is part 4 of a 44-part series.

For the sake of all mother sentient beings I shall attain as quickly as possible in this very life the state of the Guru-Deity, the primordial Buddha.

I shall free all mother sentient beings from their suffering and lead them to the great bliss of the Buddha grounds. Therefore I shall practise the profound path of the yoga of the Guru-Deity.

At this point we can perform brief self-generation as our personal Deity.

With the first line, we recall our aspiring bodhichitta generated above and we channel it towards the determination to do whatever it takes to attain enlightenment. When we recite “in this very life,” we can sometimes develop a doubt that it is not possible for us to attain enlightenment in this life, and so these words lack power. The explanation above explains how we can attain enlightenment and gives us a sense of how it can be done relatively quickly, but then we look at our present mind and think we are still a long way away and it seems unlikely we will attain the goal in this life. This doubt can sometimes deflate our engaging bodhichitta because we do not really think it is possible.

How can we overcome this doubt? First, we should never underestimate the power of the practices we have been given. Thousands of Je Tsongkhapa’s disciples attained enlightenment in one short life, and the instructions we have are exactly the same as he taught. If they can do it, why cannot we? In fact, Geshe-la has said on numerous occasions that we have it easier than Je Tsongkhapa’s disciples due to the relative total ease of daily life compared to practitioners of the past and the fact that Heruka and Vajrayogini’s blessings grow stronger the more times become spiritually degenerate. Geshe-la once told Venerable Tharchin that “if you would only just completely believe me for even one moment, you would attain enlightenment.” Our biggest problem is doubt. To paraphrase Lord Acton, “faith enlightens, and absolute faith enlightens absolutely.” Second, concern over whether we can attain enlightenment in this life or not only holds us back if we have attachment to results. Our attachment to results in this life makes us think, “well, if I cannot attain the goal in this life, I will not bother really trying.” That makes absolutely no sense. The bottom line is if we believe we can attain enlightenment in this life, we will wholeheartedly go for it. If we do, we may attain enlightenment in this life or we may not do so. But by wholeheartedly going for it, we will definitely attain enlightenment quicker than not going for it. So there is no valid reason to hold ourselves back at all. Doing so just slows down our eventual attainment of enlightenment. The longer we take to attain enlightenment, the longer we will remain trapped in a cycle of suffering and the longer those we would otherwise help if we had attained enlightenment will be made to suffer. Indeed, it is precisely because we are not certain we can attain enlightenment in this lifetime when we have found the Dharma that we need to apply ourselves wholeheartedly. We need to make as much progress as we can while we still have the opportunity.

We may think delaying our enlightenment will enable us to enjoy samsara longer, but that just belies our “I”gnorance thinking anything in samsara is a cause of happiness. There is a story of a Tibetan who really liked his butter tea, and as he was approaching death, he suddenly had a doubt about whether he wanted to attain the pure land because they might not have butter tea. His spiritual guide assured him the butter tea is even better in the pure land, and with his doubt reassured, he then restored his wish to get to the pure land. While such a story seems absurd that anybody would have such doubts, the truth is we each have our own butter tea – a thing that keeps us wanting to remain in samsara. But we can be certain, whatever it is we desire, it is better in the pure land, so there should be nothing holding us back.

With a strong desire to attain enlightenment, we then strongly believe we are going to die now and we train as if we were on our death bed. We generate a strong compassionate wish to attain the pure land, generate faith that we are in the presence of our holy spiritual guide, and then we dissolve everything into the clear light emptiness just like we will at the time of our death. We imagine all phenomena dissolve into their ultimate nature and we emerge into the clear light. On this basis, we recognize the clear light as inseparable from both our Buddha nature and our spiritual guide’s enlightened mind. On this basis, we then impute our ‘I,’ thinking we are Truth Body Heruka. We then hold this divine pride with a pure motivation, strong faith, and single-pointed concentration for awhile. We then think, “only other Buddhas can see me in this form. If I am to help others, I must appear in form that they can see and relate to. Therefore, I must generate myself as both Enjoyment Body and Emanation Body Heruka.

Self-generation as the Deity

From the state of great bliss I arise as the Guru-Deity.
Purifying the environment and its inhabitants
Light rays radiate from my body,
Blessing all worlds and beings in the ten directions.
Everything becomes an exquisite array
Of immaculately pure good qualities.

While Truth Body Heruka, we first briefly imagine that our indestructible wind arises in the aspect of a nada. We then generate divine pride thinking we are Enjoyment Body Heruka. We then think only other tantric bodhisattvas can perceive us in this form, and we need to assume an Emanation Body so that we can relate to ordinary living beings. We then imagine we see below us the four continents, Mount Meru, the sun, and the moon lotus form. We see the sun and moon as the union of the red and white bodhichittas of Heruka and Vajrayogini, imagining it is like a fertilized ovum of our future enlightenment. Strongly wishing to become Heruka, we imagine the nada descends into the sun and moon, where it assumes the form of a HUM, which then radiates lights in all directions purifying the universe according to the words of the sadhana, and then we arise as Emanation Body Heruka, with one face and two hands, embracing Vajravarahi. We then develop the divine pride of being Emanation Body Heruka. For more details on how to engage in generation practice, we can read the section on the three bringings in Essence of Vajrayana.

Blessing the offerings

OM AH HUM  (3x)

By nature exalted wisdom, having the aspect of the inner offering and the individual offering substances, and functioning as objects of enjoyment of the six senses to generate a special exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness, inconceivable clouds of outer, inner, and secret offerings, commitment substances, and attractive offerings cover all the ground and fill the whole of space.

Following the words of the sadhana, we image all the different types of offerings appear in front us, exquisitely arranged and ready to be offered to the field of merit. We should strongly believe these offerings are present in front of us within our mind. There are six different types of consciousness and six different types of objects. The first five consciousnesses are the sense consciousnesses, and their objects are the objects of the senses. The sixth consciousness is our mental consciousness, and its objects are imagined objects – or objects that appear to our mental consciousness. These are also called “phenomena sources.” I was once in a modern art museum in Germany, and in one of the exhibits what appeared to the eye consciousnesses was a pristine beach in a tropical island with beautiful clear blue skies; but what appeared to the ear consciousness was the sounds of a terrible typhoon storm raging all around. The point of the exhibit was to show the duality of tropical islands, but the spiritual point is quite profound. Different worlds can appear to different consciousnesses. When we engage in our spiritual practices, we try to practice non-ascertaining perceivers with respect to our sense consciousnesses and focus all our attention on our pure imagination in our mental consciousness. The world that appears to our sense consciousness may be samsara, but the world that appears to our mental consciousness is the pure land.

Venerable Tharchin explains the location of mind is at the object of cognition. For example, if we think of the moon, our mind goes to the moon. He also explained wherever our mind goes, our “I” naturally follows since we instinctively identify with our mind. Thus, we can say part of ourself is at the moon. Applying this logic to our practice of generation stage, if we direct our mind to the pure land, our mind will naturally go there. Wherever our mind goes, our “I” naturally follows. Thus, we can also say part of ourself is in the pure land. If we are able to direct 100% of our mind without distraction to the pure land, 100% of our mind will follow; and since we naturally impute our “I” onto our mind, we will literally feel ourselves and be in the pure land. If we can do this 100% of the time, we will have attained outer Dakini Land. With this understanding, we should strongly believe that we are in the pure land and the pure offerings are in front of us.

2 thoughts on “Happy Tsog Day: How to Train in Engaging Bodhichitta

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