Happy Tsog Day: The Synthesis of All Dharmas

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 19 of a 44-part series.

Single-pointed request

You are the Guru, you are the Yidam, you are the Daka and Dharma Protector;
From now until I attain enlightenment I shall seek no refuge other than you.
In this life, in the bardo, and until the end of my lives, please hold me with the hook of your compassion,
Liberate me from the fears of samsara and peace, bestow all the attainments, be my constant companion, and protect me from all obstacles.  (3x)

In many ways the single-pointed request is the very synthesis of the entire Buddhadharma. In the Lamrim teachings it says that bodhichitta is the quintessential butter that comes from stirring the milk of all 84,000 of Buddha’s teachings. In the same way, from a practical view, according to the union of sutra and tantra, the single-pointed request is the very essence of all our practices.

We sometimes refer to the Wheel of Dharma. If all Geshe-la’s teachings were the Wheel of Dharma, we would normally say that Joyful Path of Good Fortune is the hub of the wheel and all his other books are like the spokes. But from my perspective, the book Great Treasury of Merit is the actual axle around which the hub of Joyful Path of Good Fortune turns. In other words, Joyful Path of Good Fortune is the sutra condensation of all Geshe-la’s teachings, and the book Great Treasury of Merit is the union of Sutra and Tantra condensation of all Geshe-la’s teachings. The book Great Treasury of Merit is a commentary to the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, which this series of posts is a my personal understanding of. But just as Offering to the Spiritual Guide is the Synthesis of Je Tsongkhapa’s New Kadampa Tradition, the single-pointed request is the synthesis of the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide. It is the very center of the axle around which the wheel of Dharma turns. If we were only to have one verse of Dharma, it should be the single-pointed request. By directly engaging sincerely in the practice of the single-pointed request, we are indirectly engaging in all the practices that we have been taught. There is no more important request in all the Dharma. If we were to only have one mantra, it should be the single-pointed request. We can and should recite it day and night, year after year, life after life.

When I recite the single-pointed request, I like to do so with the visualization of myself as Heruka surrounded by the deities of the body mandala in Keajra pure land as the basis of making the request. Venerable Tharchin said we can imagine that Dorje Shugden’s protection circle surrounds the entire supported and supporting mandala of Heruka. In other words, Keajra is inside Dorje Shugden’s protection circle.

When I recite “you are the Guru,” I recall Lama Tsongkhapa at my heart. When I recite “you are the yidam,” I recall myself generated as Heruka. When I recite you are the Daka, I recall all the deities of Heruka’s body mandala. And when I recite “and Dharma protector,” I recall that the entire visualization of Keajra pure land is inside Dorje Shugden’s protection circle. When I recite “from now until I attain the essence of enlightenment,” I recall that my greatest wish is to maintain the uninterrupted continuum of my Dharma practice between now and my eventual attainment of enlightenment. If I fall into the lower realms or fail to find the Dharma again, I will quickly become lost and it could be aeons before I find the path again. When I recite “I shall seek no refuge other than you,” I recall that it is not enough to simply attain a precious human life where I find the Dharma again, I also need to maintain the continuum of my faith in the three jewels. There are many people who meet the Dharma in this world but have no faith in it and so therefore cannot receive any benefit from it. Here I am requesting that I always maintain faith so that when I find the Dharma again, I am eager to once again put it into practice.

When I recite “in this life, in the bardo, and until the end of my lives please hold me with the hook of your compassion,” I am specifically requesting that my spiritual guide continue to appear to me in all my future lives and that he never lets go of me with the hook of his compassion. Whether the spiritual guide appears to us in our future lives depends upon whether we create the karma for him to do so. By requesting that he always hold us with the hook of his compassion, we create the karma for him to continue to appear to us in all our future lives.

When I recite “liberate me from the fears of samsara and peace,” I recall that the principal function of the Guru is to do precisely that. I am directing this request specifically to my spiritual guide in the aspect of Lama Tsongkhapa at my heart that he perform this function. The function of Heruka is to bestow all the common and uncommon attainments of the realizations of the stages of the path. When I recite “bestow all the attainments,” I am requesting Heruka to perform this function in my life. The function of the Daka is to be our vajra sangha. The deities of the body mandala are our supreme sangha friends. When I request “be my constant companion,” I am requesting the deities of the body mandala always appear to me in all my future lives as my supreme sangha friends. The function of Dorje Shugden is to arrange all the outer, inner, and secret conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment. He is our Dharma protector. By relying upon him, nothing is an obstacle because we see with wisdom eyes how everything that arises can serve as a cause of our enlightenment. So when we request “and protect me from all obstacles,” we are requesting Dorje Shugden to perform his function for us.

Seen in this way, we can understand how the single-pointed request is the synthesis of all the stages of sutra and tantra. By reciting this request, we are practicing in one short verse everything Geshe-la has ever taught us. I pray that all Kadampas memorize this verse, recite it day and night, and remember it at the time of their death. May its power echo in eternity.

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