Happy Tsog Day: How to Prepare for our Future Lives

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 43 of a 44-part series.

The way to practise the ritual of the transference of consciousness if, having meditated, we have received no signs

If by the time of my death I have not completed the path,
I seek your blessings to go to the Pure Land
Through the instruction on correctly applying the five forces,
The supremely powerful method of transference to Buddhahood.

While it is possible to attain full enlightenment in this lifetime through the teachings of the Ganden Oral Lineage, it is not guaranteed that we will do so. Remaining anywhere in samsara is extremely dangerous because we can easily become distracted and lose the path. If we attain rebirth in the pure land, then we can complete our spiritual training there and never risk another samsaric rebirth. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we have attained liberation, even if technically we have not yet done so. The pure land is like a tantric bodhisattva’s training ground. We were able to receive teachings directly from the Buddhas and everyone in the pure land is likewise a tantric practitioner engaging in the stages of the path. Once we attain that pure land, we are able to send emanations into the realms of samsara to help the beings still trapped there, but we ourselves always remain in the pure land. The meditations on the three bringings and the nine mixings create the karma to be able to purify the death process and take a controlled rebirth in the pure land. Each time we engage in these practices, we gradually carve a path in our mind to the pure land. It is as if we are tunneling through death to the pure land.

In order for us to take rebirth in the pure land, however, we need to be able to die with a pure mind. The quality of mind we have at the time of death determines the type of rebirth we will take. If we die with a negative mind, we will take rebirth in the lower realms; if we die with a positive mind, we will take rebirth in the upper realms of samsara; and if we die with a pure mind, we can attain rebirth outside of samsara – either in a pure land, Nirvana, or full enlightenment. A powerful method for ensuring that we die with the pure mind is to engage in the practice of powa. Powa is a special tantric technology for transferring our consciousness to the pure land at the time of our death. We can train in this before our death to create ample karma that can be blessed at the time of death, and we can train it at the time of our death itself. Through the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we can engage in powa for ourselves, powa for the sake of others, or simply create the karma we will need at the time of death. How to do so is explained in Great Treasury of Merit. A more detailed explanation of powa practice can be found in the book Living Meaningfully, Dying Joyfully.

How to offer prayers to be cared for by our spiritual guide in all future lives

In short, O Protector, I seek your blessings so that throughout all my lives
I shall never be separated from you, but always come under your care;
And as the foremost of your disciples,
Maintain all the secrets of your body, speech, and mind.

O Protector, wherever you manifest as a Buddha,
May I be the very first in your retinue;
And may everything be auspicious for me to accomplish without effort
All temporary and ultimate needs and wishes.

Ensuring that we attain enlightenment is simply an issue of guaranteeing that we continue to meet our spiritual guide in all our future lives without interruption and that we continue to have faith in him. We do not know how long it will take us to attain alignment, but if these two conditions are met, it is guaranteed we will eventually reach our final goal. Thus, in many ways the most important spiritual attainment is to ensure we continue to meet our spiritual guide in all our future lives.

I once asked Geshe-la to please provide me with a guaranteed method for being able to meet him in all my future lives without interruption. He replied, “concentrate on practicing Dharma and always keep faith.” When we practice Dharma, we create a karmic connection between our self and the spiritual guide who gave us the instructions. This creates the cause for us to once again find the source of those instructions in our future lives. By maintaining faith in this life, we create the tendencies similar to the cause in our mind to once again have faith in him when we find him again in our future lives. Through the karma we create by concentrating on practicing Dharma and always keeping faith, and through making heartfelt prayers and requests to always meet our spiritual guide in all our future lives, it is guaranteed that we will meet him and eventually attain all our spiritual goals.

This verse begins with “in short,” which indicates that everything that we have learned and practiced up until now is all synthesized down into this very last practice of requesting that we meet our spiritual guide and that he cares for us in all our future lives. This is the true conclusion and essence of the practice of Offering the Spiritual Guide.

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