Practicing with power: Practice during the meditation break

In the last post, we left off absorbed in the clear light Dharmakaya.  But if we are to help living beings we must manifest ourselves in forms they can connect with and relate to.  So out of compassion for the beings of our karmic dream, we arise from the Dharmakaya. 

We should recall that all living beings are the beings of our mind, they abide within our mind and their conventional nature is being of our karmic dream and their ultimate nature is the emptiness of our own mind.  Out of compassion wishing that these beings are able to inhabit a pure world, we then imagine that from our Dharmakaya we appear all living beings in the aspect of the guru deity in the Pure Land.  We see each being as an aspect of our own mind of bliss and emptiness, like a kaleidoscope of complete purity in the vajra palace of the indestructible drop at our heart.

In the post on the bodhisattva vows, we talked about the rotating mirror, and how once we get the mirror stable, we still need to purify the mirror of its distortions through the meditation on emptiness.  This is primarily accomplished through Mahamudra meditation.  A Hinayanist does not need as elaborate a meditation on emptiness, because it suffices to absorb into space-like emptiness and stay there.  But for a Mahayanist, it is not enough to just absorb into emptiness because they wish to free all other living beings.

We need to look deeper into the mirror of emptiness so that we may likewise purify all conventional appearances and see them as “not other than emptiness.”  We see the world of conventional appearances as our own mind reflected in the mirror of our own mind.  It is my world, my dream.  What I do with my mind determines what appears and happens in my dream.  When I look at others, I see them as reflections of aspects of my own mind.  Conventional appearances arise within the space of emptiness, like a dream, or hologram, as reflections of my own mind.

Looking even deeper, we find the union of the two truths.  Namely, that others’ minds are the same entity as our own mind of great bliss and emptiness.  My mind is the collection of others’ minds, and the collection of others’ minds is my mind.  Looking even deeper still, we find that the conventional and the ultimate are nominally distinct.  When I look at my mind, I understand I am looking at a reflection of all others’ minds.  When I look at others’ minds, I understand I am looking at a reflection of my own mind. We train in both of these views, until these two collapse into one.  They are just two different angles on the same thing.  The conclusion of this for the meditation break is, with this understanding, we should purify our own mind by working on it from both angles of viewing others as ourself and our self as others.

Through this view, the entire great scope collapses into one.  Bodhichitta is an obvious – we need to become a Buddha for the benefit of all living beings because we are all living beings.  Renunciation and great compassion become one  – our wish to free ourself from all suffering is our great compassion because we see no difference between ourself and all others.  Conventional and ultimate bodhichitta collapse into one – all living beings are projections of our own mind, and our mind is a reflection of all living beings.   During the meditation break, we then naturally take responsibility for removing the faults we perceive in others because we correctly see them as the faults of our own mind.  We view others as completely pure emanations of our spiritual guide.  Pure View is the essence of tantric moral discipline.

In the very first post of this series, I encouraged those who are reading to consider all of this in the context of overcoming whatever is their biggest delusion.  According to conventional appearance there may be 100 people reading this each applying it to whatever is their own biggest delusion.  On the surface, it may seem we are each working on a different delusion, so it would seem as if we are all separate.  But actually the biggest delusion in my mind may show up as pride, whereas it will show up as attachment in somebody elses’ mind, and jealousy in somebody elses’ still, etc.  By us each working on overcoming our biggest delusion in our own mind, we are, in effect, all working on each others’ biggest delusions in their mind.  Together we are doing a systematic assault on the same delusion, just from different angles – just like the fish tank described in the post on mantra recitation.  By weakening our biggest delusion from one angle, we are weakening everybody elses’ biggest delusion from their angle.

With this, we can make everything we do a ‘just as’ practice according to ultimate bodhichitta.  The normal ‘just as’ practice is when we take the things we normally do and make it an analogy for something related to your bodhichitta training.  For example, when we give somebody a glass or orange juice, we can mentally think, “just as I give this person a glass or orange juice, may I one day give all living beings the nectar of Kadam Dharma.”  The ‘just as’ practice according to ultimate bodhichitta is we imagine that everything we do reflects into the minds of all living beings in a particular way.  For example, when we open the door to the gompa in the morning, we can think this action is reflecting in my mind as opening a door to the gompa, but it is reflecting in everybody elses’ mind as the door of Dharma opening for them, etc.  This mental action creates the karma which will later appear as this actually happening for them.  We can transform all of our daily activities in exactly this way, making them all infinitely powerful.

I would be remiss in doing a series of posts on spiritual power without talking about Vajrapani.  Vajrapaini is the synthesis of the spiritual power of all of the Buddhas.  Most Kadampas will not practice daily the sadhana of Vajrapani, even if they have received the empowerment.  But this does not mean we cannot practice Vajrapani every day.  In practice, how should we engage in the practice of Vajrapani?

When we recite the Migtsema prayer as part of our Heart Jewel practice, we can invoke Vajrapani to accomplish his function.  When we are having trouble with our biggest delusion, we can make faithful requests to him that he help us dislodge it.  The Vajrapani at our heart will adapt to whatever our biggest delusion is, so if we overcome our current biggest delusion, we can then employ him to help us overcome our next biggest delusion, and so forth until we have eliminated all our delusions.  Whenever we are having difficulty with a particular delusion, we can recall Vajrapani at our heart and request him to help us.  We can also do the same with others when we see them suffering from a given delusion.

For those readers who have already received the highest yoga tantra empowerments we can primarily engage in our Heruka or Vajrayogini practice, but we view them them as the same nature as Vajrapani.  So it is as if you add the function of Vajrapani into our self-generation object.  This is like adding an ‘add-in’ to a software, or adding a new feature or function to a car.

I dedicate all of the merit I have accumulated by doing this series of posts so that all living beings may be infused with infinite spiritual power which enables them to cease their samsara immediately.  May all beings realize the inter-relationship between the delusions that arise in their mind and the delusions of all other living beings, understanding that they are by nature the same delusions just viewed from different angles.  May all beings realize that by overcoming the delusions in their own mind they are freeing all living beings from the delusions in their mind, and thereby we each diligently strive to free everyone else.  Through our collective efforts doing this, may samsara quickly end and we then all abide in the eternal bliss of full enlightenment.

Practicing with power: Engaging in Mahamudra meditation

After engaging in mantra recitation, in many of our sadhanas we then have the opportunity to engage in Mahamudra meditations.  The entire Kadampa path to enlightenment can be summed up in one phrase:  “relying upon Guru, Yidam and Protector, I travel the path of Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.”  What does this mean?  Guru is the spiritual guide who explains to us what we need to do.  Yidam is who we are trying to become.  Protector is our personal spiritual trainer who provides us with all of the conditions necessary to travel the path and become the Yidam according to the Guru’s instructions.  What is the path for becoming the Yidam?  It is Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  The main function of Lamrim is to make our desires spiritual, and in particular to give us the most powerful of all desires bodhichitta – the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of all living beings.  Lojong teaches us how to transform the experience of unpleasant feelings into the enlightened qualities of a Buddha, and Vajrayana Mahamudra teaches us to how to transform the experience of pleasant feelings into the enlightened qualities of a Buddha. Of all the pleasant feelings possible, none is more pleasant than the clear light mind of great bliss.  In reality, our practice of self-generation is really a preliminary practice for our main practice of Vajrayana Mahamudra.

We can engage in meditation on Vajrayana Mahamudra by thinking as follows:

1.  My mind is nothing other than a synthetic reflection of the minds of all living beings.  In this context, because we are engaging in this meditation from the perspective of exchanging self with others, we are viewing ‘our’ mind as the synthesis of ‘others minds’, so we are meditating on the emptiness of the very subtle mind of all living beings.  The ultimate nature of my mind is without form, like an infinite vast universe of immaculate clear light.

2.  Our mind has an absence of form.  We imagine that all conventional forms have dissolved, and the only thing appearing is the clear light Dharmakaya.  Mentally, it is very calm and silent, like a tranquil and transparent pond at dawn.  Our mind has an absence of ordinary mental activity.  There is no mental activity whatsoever of our ordinary mind.  We ‘listen to the silence of our ordinary mind.’

3.  My mind is completely empty of inherent existence, like a drop of water that has mixed inseparably with the ocean of great bliss.  Our mind has an absence of inherent existence.  We view this clear light as our very subtle mind, and we consider its lack of inherent existence.  We feel as if we are ‘underneath’ the conventional, very subtle mind inside its emptiness.

4.  Realizing the complete purity of my mind functions to purify all of my contaminated karma, which is like a holographic film which gives rise to the appearance of a world of suffering and all of the suffering beings who inhabit that world.  This has the effect of completely purifying my contaminated dream of samsara so that it finally ceases altogether.  Not only am I freed into the clear light, all the beings who I had previously imprisoned in my contaminated dream of samsara are now free.  When we meditate on the emptiness of our very subtle mind, it functions to purify our mind of the two obstructions, so we can purify all contaminated karma from our mind.  Therefore, this meditation functions to purify the contaminated karma on the minds of all living beings.  Karma is like holographic film, when we shine the mind through it, it reflects a being. So we should feel like moment by moment our concentration on this clear light functions to free all living beings from the samsaric dream we have created for them. When we become distracted, we feel as if you have accidentally re-imprisoned them in contaminated appearance, and so out of compassion we re-dissolve everything into the clear light and free them once more.

5.  On the feeling of doing all of this, we think, I am the Dharmakaya guru deity.  On the basis of accomplishing this function, we impute our I.

The benefits of this meditation are countless:  We directly bless the minds of all living beings.  Wherever you imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes.  In this case, we bestow upon them the spiritual power of the guru deity and bestow upon them the realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness.  We create an indestructible karmic link between ourself, all living beings, and definitive guru deity, which will ripen in the future in the form of having these beings as our disciples for the practice of whatever deity we are practicing.  By meditating in this way, we will karmically reconstruct all the beings of our dream into Buddhas.  Imagining that they are perceiving directly the Dharmakaya karmically reconstructs them to do so in the future.  When we meditate in this way, we create infinite karma for ourself to receive all of this benefit as a karmic echo of our own actions.

Is there any point doing anything else with our life?

Practicing with power: Mantra recitation

All of our deity practices include some form of mantra recitation.  What is a mantra?  A mantra can be understood as a subtle emanation of the deity we are practicing.  In our Kadampa books, we have the main text and we have the condensed meaning of the text.  The condensed meaning of the text contains everything, but it is presented in a more concise form.  If we understand the main text, then by recalling the condensed meaning we can recall all of the meanings of the whole book.  In exactly the same way, a mantra of a deity is like the condensed meaning of that deity.  The self-generation is like the main text, and the mantra is like the condensed meaning. 

Mantras also have a very important function.  Kadam Bjorn explains that all of our bodily sickness actually comes from the mental sickness of our delusions.  Our delusions themselves arise from impure winds.  If we can purify our winds, it will purify our mind of our mental sickness of delusions, which will also heal our body of all physical sickness.  There is actually no limit to this process.  Through this we can completely purify our body and winds so that they become the immortal pure body and winds of the deity.  So how do we purify our winds?  Through mantra recitation.  We imagine that all of our inner winds assume the completely purified aspect of the mantra, and by reciting the mantra we are purifying our winds entirely.  In effect, mantra recitation is a practice of self-generation of our winds as the mantra.  Just as the self-generation primarily purifies our body and the meditation on the clear light Dharmakaya primarily purifies our mind, so too mantra recitation functions to purify our speech.

During mantra recitation, we should feel like we are engaging in the actions of the guru deity.  Engaging in the actions of the guru deity enables us to strengthen our divine pride and enables us to accumulate the same karma as if we actually were the guru deity engaging in his enlightened actions.  This will swiftly take us to enlightenment.  When we recite the mantra, with deep faith we request the guru deity to accomplish his or her function, either on our own mind or on the minds of others.  We strongly believe that through our request, the light rays and nectars accomplish the requested function.  When we do mantra recitation, it is good to do so from the perspective of having exchanged self with others.

If we want to do mantra recitation for the sake of others we can think as follows:  “others” are nothing more than a reflection or aspect of our own mind.  Their biggest delusions are actually the different mental sicknesses which haunt the different aspects of my own mind.  When we look at others, we should see them as aspects of ourself.  We are looking into the mirror of our own mind, and each being is an aspect of our own mind.  Each being is how the purity of the Dharmakaya is reflected off of a particular contaminated karmic seed on our own mind.  But by purifying the minds of others, we are purifying the parts of our mind which are not enlightened.

When we recite the mantra, we can pray, “please bless me with the spiritual power necessary to completely eradicate the biggest delusions from the minds of others, so that the totality of the fabric of my mind can be free from all delusions.”  The key here is to make this request with a pure motivation, understanding how delusions are the causes of the problems of all these beings, and understanding how their minds are different aspects of our own mind.

We should recite the mantra with great faith and imagining that light rays and nectars radiate out and completely eradicate others’ biggest delusions from their mind, which are in reality just aspects of our own mind.  We should strongly believe that this is actually happening and generate a profound feeling of joy believing that we have actually purified the minds of others.  We sometimes object to this type of meditation thinking we are just playing make believe.  Others minds are not really completely freed.  But this objection completely misunderstands the purpose of the practice.  We do not strongly believe that all the minds of all living beings have been purified because it is somehow objectively true (nothing is), rather we believe this because the mental action of believing this functions to plant the karma on our mind which will ripen in the future in the form of others appearing to be free.  The mental action of believing this functions to complete the karma which will ripen in the future in this way.  In short, the stronger you believe this is actually happening, the more it will actually happen in the future.

Sometimes we may want to recite the mantra for the sake of ourself.  This is not selfish, rather this is part of our bodhichitta.  We wish to heal our mind completely so that we are then in a position to help others.  If we want to recite the mantra for the sake of ourself, we can think to ourself as follows:  My mind is nothing more than a synthetic reflection of the minds of all living beings.    Our mind is like a magic mirror reflecting what is happening in everybody else’s minds.  Because the whole is reflected in each bit, what is happening in others’ minds is happening in my mind.  The biggest delusion in my own mind is the same entity as the biggest delusion in the minds of all these beings, simply viewed from another angle.  It seems like different things are happening in each mind only because it is reflecting off of different karmic facets, like different sides of a fish tank or different facets of the diamond.

The fish tank analogy is worth elaborating on.  If we saw four different televisions, and in one television we saw a fish swimming right, one swimming left, one swimming towards us and one swimming away from us, it would be easy to conclude that these are four different fish doing four different things.  But in reality it is the same fish being filmed from four different angles of the same fish tank.  In the same way, it may appear that some beings have one delusion going in one way and others have other delusions going in another way and we might conclude that these are different delusions in the minds of different beings.  But in reality, all delusions are ultimately the same nature as our own biggest delusion.  We know this to be true because everything is empty, and therefore created by our own mind.  Since the world we perceive is the nature of our own mind and our mind is the nature of our biggest delusion, in reality our biggest delusion is by nature the biggest delusion of everyone else.  It only appears to be different people and different delusions due to our ignorance grasping at the inherent existence of others’ minds.  So by overcoming delusions in my mind directly, I am overcoming all the delusions in others minds indirectly for them.   With this view, we completely break our identification with our own delusions, because we view them as other’s delusions reflected into our own mind.  In this way, what manifests in our mind has no power over us.

We can then pray, please bless me with the spiritual power necessary to completely eradicate the biggest delusion in my own mind so that in doing so I may completely eradicate the biggest delusion in the minds of others.  We then recite the mantra with great faith and imagine that light rays and nectars radiate out, and we strongly believe that they eradicate completely the biggest delusion in our own mind and in doing so, all living beings are now free from their own biggest delusion.  We then meditate on a strong feeling of joy that this has actually happened.

With time and experience, we will feel as if these two ways of engaging in mantra recitation eventually collapse into one:  self is other, other is self.  These are just two different angles on the same thing, just like the fish tank.  It is useful to explore the karmic implications of this.  If I work on somebody else’s mind, it will reflect back on my mind.  For example, by me generating others as the guru deity, it will karmically reflect back on the mirror of my mind in the form of a karmic imprint.  If I generate all living beings as the guru deity, it will karmically reflect back on my mind countless times.  If I work on my own mind, viewing it as the synthesis mind of all living beings, by working on my own mind, I create the karma of working on the minds of all living beings.  Now that is power!

 

Practicing with power : Training in divine pride

After we have generated ourselves as the guru deity, we typically train in divine pride.  We first typically make offerings and praises to ourself as the self-generation.  It may seem a bit strange to make offerings to ourself, but this practice actually has deep meaning.  We are not making offerings and praises to our ordinary self and our ordinary contaminated aggregates.  That is the job of our pride, and it is foolish to do so.  Our contaminated aggregates are our samsara and they are to be completely abandoned. 

Here the feeling should be exactly the same as when we are making offerings and praises to the field of merit during our guru yoga practice.  We are making offerings to our guru in the aspect of the deity.  The difference is two-fold:  first, the guru is all around us instead of in-front; and second, there is no us there at all!  There is just the guru.  We should have no sense of our ordinary self at all.  We should hardly have any sense of self at all either.  Rather, we have the feeling that there is just the guru deity in our mind.  If the only object in our mind is the guru and we naturally identify with our mind, then through the backdoor we can feel as if we are the guru deity.  But in the beginning, we should place our primary emphasis on thinking there is only the guru deity in our mind, with no other objects whatsoever.

When we make the offerings, we imagine that countless offering goddesses emanated out from the HUM at your heart and make offerings to yourself as the guru deity, giving rise to a feeling of great bliss.  This enables you to accumulate the merit necessary to attain the vajra body of the guru deity.  When we make the praises, we should feel like we are invoking the guru deity of the self-generation to accomplish his function for both ourself and for all living beings.

When we engage in the actual self-generation meditation, I find it helpful to maintain the following recognitions.

  1. The things that I normally see do not exist at all and they have completely disappeared into the clear light of my very subtle mind.  We imagine that all conventional phenomena dissolve into the clear light emptiness of our very subtle mind, which is understood to be inside the hearts of all living beings
  2. The self-generation is occurring inside the “sphere of emptiness.”  Geshe-la says we should engage in our meditation ‘inside emptiness.’  It should feel that everything is taking place ‘inside emptiness.’
  3. I appear myself as the guru deity.  The wording here is very precise.  We appear ourselves as the guru deity.  It is an active process of appearing ourself, not a passive statement of fact that we appear in a particular way.
  4. I am complete with all the details.  Here we engage in a brief checking meditation of ourself as the guru deity, recalling all of the different functions indicated by the the meaning of each aspect of the self-generation.  We can find the explanations of the symbolism of the different aspects of the self-generation in our various Kadampa books.  In particular, we should view each aspect of the self-generation as the guru deity’s ability to perform a particular function.  For example, the tiger skin around the waist of Heruka symbolizes his ability to pacify all conflict and anger.  So when we do this part of the checking meditation, we should think, “this tiger skin is my ability to pacify all conflicts and help all beings overcome their anger.”  In particular, the main function of every deity is to bestowg the realization of the union of bliss and emptiness.  We should think that we wish to plant an immovable vajra of the realization of great bliss and emptiness into our karmic world.  Since this vajra is unmovable, it will eventually transform and purify the entire world, like putting a light saber into a metal wall that gradually destroys the wall.
  5. The mandala is my body of great bliss.  We should feel like the entire mandala is our body, not just the guru-deity in the middle.  We experience everything as our body of great bliss.
  6. The mandala is the same nature as my indestructible drop, wind and mind in my heart.  We see the protection circle as our indestructible drop in our heart, the guru deity as our indestructible wind and the seed letter of the guru deity as our indestructible mind.  These recognitions transform our practice of self-generation into practices of completion stage, and they cause our winds to absorb in this way.
  7. I have the power to accomplish the three functions.  I have the spiritual power necessary to overcome my biggest delusion and those of others.  Moment by moment, I am in the process of purifying the minds of living beings of the two obstructions with my realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness.  Moment by moment, I am in the process of karmically reconstructing my karmic dream into a pure world.  We can understand the three functions from the earlier posts in this series.  Here we mainly train in the self-confidence of ourselves having the power to accomplish the various functions of the guru deity explained earlier.  In reality, the different Buddhas are different aspects of our own pure potential, so whatever they can do, we can do.  Here we are recalling that and generating the feeling that we can do these things.  In this way, our training in faith and self-generation is a meditation for improving our self-confidence. 
  8. I am the guru deity.  The most important recognition for developing a qualified divine pride is the feeling that you are accomplishing the function of the Buddha.  The clear appearance of ourself as the deity is a reminder of all of the different functions we can accomplish as the deity.  We should strongly feel as if moment by moment we are accomplishing all of these functions inside the minds of all living beings.  On the feeling of accomplishing this function, we impute I am the guru deity.

 

Practicing with power: Taking rebirth as a pure being

After the clear light Dharmakaya, we usually then arise as an Enjoyment Body of a Buddha.  When we do so, we can, if we wish, adopt a special recognition that the entire self-generation is actually taking place inside of our indestructible drop at our heart.  The entire universe is inside our indestructible drop without the drop becoming any bigger or the universe becoming any smaller.  This recognition enables our self-generation practice to have more or less the same karmic effect as the practice of completion stage.  It is also a powerful way to help cause our inner energy winds to gather and dissolve into our central channel at our heart.  Normally, most self-generations come with a protection circle of wisdom fire.  We can imagine that the wisdom fires are the outside of your indestructible drop, and the vajra protection circle is the inside.  The indestructible drop is our celestial palace.  We are the seed letter of the deity in the middle.  We should feel like our root mind, our Buddha nature, assumed the form of the seed letter.  We should feel like this seed letter is ourselves. 

We then typically imagine that from the seed letter infinite light rays radiate out to each and every living being, and they completely purify the obstructions on the mind of each and every living being.

We then typically do the actual self-generation.  As before, there are some special recognitions we can adopt.

  1. The entire self-generation arises out of the emptiness of our very subtle mind.   Geshe-la says we should imagine everything takes place ‘inside of emptiness.’  It should feel like emptiness is this infinitely vast container, and everything is taking place within it.  The most important emptiness is that of our very subtle mind.  This is the ultimate nature of our true self, the most profound level of our being.  The very subtle mind stores all of our contaminated karma. 
  2. The self-generation is the living guru deity, complete with all of the details.    Buddhas have the ability to manifest their mind as form.  So by mixing our mind with the form, we are mixing our mind with the quality of their mind which the form represents.  Through mixing our mind in this way, we receive the special blessings of each aspect of the guru deity, and this function gets accomplished within our mind. This is a tantric technology for ‘downloading’ the qualities of the guru’s mind into our own and receiving his care and blessings.  This also plants the karma on our mind to eventually have this qualities ourselves.  The most important recognition is that your living Guru deity is actually inside your mind. 
  3. The self-generation has all the power necessary to accomplish the three functions mentioned before.  Ourselves as the guru deity has all of the spiritual power necessary to overcome our biggest delusion and that of others, he has the power to purify the two obstructions of our mind and to realize the union of great bliss and emptiness, and he has the power to karmically reconstruct a new pure world for ourself and for others.  Here we primarily train in the believing faith of his function.  We strongly believe that he can accomplish these functions.  This believing faith functions to purify the obstructions preventing us from him becoming fully manifest within our mind.  It also functions to construct a guru deity with these powers within our mind.  The guru deity, like any Buddha, does not exist from his own side, but needs to be constructed with faith and correct imagination.  How can we understand these three different functions:  He has the power to help us overcome our greatest delusions through his powerful blessings.  He principally bestows the realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness, which functions to purify our very subtle mind of the two obstructions.  Moment by moment as we concentrate on this, it plants a karmic potentiality on our mind, which will later ripen as this as a reality.
  4.  It is absolutely fantastic to have a body, speech and as powerful as this. Here we primarily train in admiring faith. So we generate an admiring faith thinking, ‘how amazing that he can do that and that such a being is within my mind.’
  5. Please help me to mix my mind completely with you.  Here we primarily train in wishing faith.  On the basis of admiring his function and power, we generate the strong wish to receive this power into our own mind and become the guru deity ourself.  This wishing faith induces us to train sincerely in the practice.
  6. My mind is now completely pure.  Here the main idea is to strongly believe that we have received within our mind the purifying nectar of the empowerment and it functions to completely purify our mind of the two obstructions, in particular those related to our biggest delusion.   The conventional aspect of the self-generation itself is the same nature as the Dharmakaya.  We think the gold of the Dharmakaya has assumed the aspect of the self-generation, like play dough.  We can consider how we have attained the completely purified aggregate of consciousness, in other words, our consciousness is now completely purified of all contaminated karma.

Practicing with power: Practicing dying in a pure way

In virtually all of our sadhana practices, there is some form of self-generation practice. Self-generation practice, in short, is training in dying and being reborn as the deity.  One of the most common definitions of samsara is “uncontrolled rebirth.”  Without freedom or control, we are thrown from one samsaric rebirth to another.  Attaining liberation from samsara, therefore, is taking control of the death process so that we can take rebirth in a controlled way as a deity in a pure land.  Our training in self-generation as the deity is the method for gaining such control.  If we learn how to die and take a pure rebirth in our practice there is a high probability we will be able to actually do so at the time of our actual death.  There are two reasons for this.  First, every time we train in self-generation, we create new karmic pathways in our mind from our present state to the pure land.  It is like the constant flow of water along the same path will gradually form a canyon.  It is like a path that having been travelled many times is easily followed.  We, in essence, dig our escape tunnel out of the prison of samsara.

Before we engage in self-generation, the first step is always the same:  we dissolve the guru into our heart.  We find this in many sadhanas.  This can be likened to us having a mind transplant.  The mind of the guru deity becomes our own.

After we dissolve the guru into our heart and mix his mind inseparably with our own, we usually then dissolve all phenomena into the clear light Dharmakaya.  I have found it helpful to maintain the following recognitions as I do so.

We can understand this as follows:

  1. The things that I normally see do not exist at all, and they have completely dissolved into the clear light of my very subtle mind.  The things that we normally do not exist at all and are actually just illusions, or holograms within our mind.  We should imagine that all conventional phenomena dissolve into the clear light emptiness of our very subtle mind, like a dream that ceases.
  2. This completely purifies all of the contaminated karma that gives rise to my personal samsara.  All appearances arise from karma.  Our samsara is a mere karmic appearance to mind.  When we connect with the emptiness of a phenomena, it functions to purify the contaminated karma giving rise to that phenomena.  Here we are meditating on the emptiness of our samsara.  In particular, by meditating on the emptiness of our very subtle mind, it functions to purify our very subtle mind of all karmic obstructions.  When our mind is completely purified of the two obstructions, we become a Buddha.
  3. My samsara is itself the nature of my biggest delusion.  The world our mind projects is the nature of our biggest delusion.  For example, a mind of attachment will project a world filled with objects of attachment that are beyond your reach and never provide any satisfaction.  A mind of anger will project a world of people in constant conflict inflicting harm on others.  A mind of ignorance will project a world pervaded by darkness, confusion and mistaken actions.  A mind of jealousy will project a world without any good qualities, or at least none within our reach.  A mind of doubt projects a world of great uncertainty and feelings of helplessness. 
  4. I am now dying.  I am leaving behind my contaminated life created by my biggest delusion, and I am going to take rebirth as the guru deity who has the specific power to help all beings overcome this delusion in their mind.   We should strongly believe that we are now actually going to die.  The stronger we believe this, the more qualified will be our practice and our preparation for the real moment of our death.  The self that has this specific delusion is now going to be left behind.  We are now going to take rebirth as the guru deity who has the specific power to help living beings overcome this delusion.  This is the essence of tantric renunciation and bodhichitta.  Samsara can be understood as uncontrolledly identifying with the contaminated aggregates of samsaric beings.  Our “I” is uncontrolledly projected onto contaminated aggregates which suffer from birth, aging, sickness and death.  We see how the pure aggregates of the guru deity are so much better than the contaminated aggregates of our ordinary self.  Geshe-la said that if we die with a mind of compassion it is definite we will take rebirth in a pure land.  So we consider how if we are to be able to help living beings, we must take rebirth into the pure aggregates of the guru deity.  With this compassionate intention, we should strongly believe our old self has now completely died.  The appearances of our former life will never arise again.  There is no turning back, there is only going forward, rebuilding out of the clear light our pure land.  By training in this way, we create powerful potentialies to be able to practice in exactly the same thing at the time of our death, and in this way you take rebirth in a pure land.
  5. I am the truth body of the guru deity.  We should Recognize this clear light as the truth body of the guru deity.  The Truth Body is the definitive guru deity.  He is the ultimate nature of all phenomena from which everything arises.  We should generate the divine pride of being Truth Body of the guru deity.   When we die, we want to die with our mind mixed with the Dharmakaya.  We train in life so that we can do this at the time of our death.  If we do, we will definitely be reborn in the pure land.  Geshe-la guarantees it!

 

Practicing with power : Receiving empowerments

Within the Kadampa tradition, we put a lot of emphasis on receiving empowerments.  We do not receive empowerments just when we go to festivals, but virtually all of our sadhana practices include a section on receiving empowerments.  More broadly, anytime we receive blessings we are, in effect, receiving an empowerment.

In the context of this series of posts, I want to explain how we can put the “power” in our receiving of empowerments.  Once again, what is spiritual power?  It is the ability to move one’s own or other’s minds powerfully and substantially in the direction of enlightenment.  With spiritual power, we are able to easily oppose even the strongest delusions (such as anger, attachment, jealousy, ignorance, doubt, self-cherishing, and so forth) and make rapid progress along the path.  Even if we practice every spiritual stage of the path, if we lack spiritual power, our practices will remain weak and ineffectual.  But with spiritual power, all of our spiritual practices bring about great results.  Spiritual power is like the ‘horsepower’ of our spiritual practice that moves us quickly along the path.  With spiritual power, everything on the spiritual path becomes easy and effective.

What is an empowerment?  When we receive an empowerment, we receive the special blessings of a Buddha which then function to ripen within our own mind the specific power of the specific Buddha (for example, Compassion with an Avalokiteshvara empowerment, wisdom for a Manjushri empowerment, etc.).  During an empowerment we receive within our mental continuum the body, speech and mind of an enlightened being, then subsequent to the empowerment, we learn how to use this body, speech and mind as our own.  Specifically when we receive empowerments we should strongly believe that we are receiving within our mental continuum a Buddha that specializes in helping us overcome whatever we consider to be our biggest delusion, such as anger or attachment.  If we maintain this recognition, it is guaranteed that everytime we receive an empowerment we will receive our own personal deity who can help us specifically overcome whatever is our greatest delusion.

Regardless of what deity we are practicing, all deity practices share three main functions.  First, our reliance upon them helps us to overcome our biggest delusion.  Why should we overcome our biggest delusion?  It was explained in an earlier post how our delusions create problems and suffering for ourself and for all living beings in this and our future lives.  If we receive empowerments with this special recognition, the deity that we receive during the empowerment will have as a special function the ability to help is overcome our biggest delusion.

Second, they help us purify our mind of the two obstructions by bestowing the realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness.  This realization is the principal realization of the tantric path.  All other practices are like rivers that empty into the ocean of this meditation.  This meditation functions to purify our mind of the two obstructions, taking us to Buddhahood.  This realization eventually transforms into the omnsicient mind of a Buddha, the Dharmakaya.  So the main function of any deity is to bestow upon us the Dharmakaya.

Third, they help us to karmically reconstruct a new, pure world.  On one level, we can say that every time we engage in a negative action, we condemn a being of our mind to the lower realms; every time we engage in a positive action, we bring somebody into the upper realms; and every time we engage in a pure action, we deliver somebody out of samsara altogether.  This is due to the effect similar to the cause and to the ripened effect.  In this way, through our actions, we populate the different realms of samsara and nirvana.  On a deeper level, every time we assent to ordinary appearance, we plant karma on our mind which will ripen in the future in the continuation of this world of suffering.  But by mentally imagining ourselves, our environment and others as completely pure, this mental action plants the karma which will ripen in the future in a new pure world.  In particular, because every deity helps us overcome our ordinary appearance and ordinary conception, they help us to construct a new pure world.

When we receive empowerments, we normally receive four empowerments:  an empowerment of the body, speech, mind and the body, speech and mind together.  To receive the empowerment of the body of any deity with an aim of increasing our spiritual power, we can generate a wish to the power to have all of our actions of body accomplish the three functions mentioned above for yourself and for others.  The three functions again are the ability to overcome our own or others’ biggest delusions, to purify our own and others minds of the two obstructions with the realization of great bliss and emptiness, and the power to karmically reconstruct a new, pure world.  When we receive a body empowerment, we receive within our mental continuum the body of the guru deity that we can call upon to accomplish these functions, and eventually through reliance upon this body, we will attain the body of the guru deity ourself.  When we receive a body empowerment, we should generate a strong wish to receive the body of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our body.

To receive the empowerment of the speech of the guru deity means to receive the power to have all of our actions of speech accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  With the empowerment, we receive within our mental continuum the speech of the guru deity that we can call upon to accomplish these functions, and eventually we will attain the speech of the guru deity ourself.  So once again, we generate the strong wish to receive the speech of the guru deity within your mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our speech.

To receive the empowerment of the mind of the guru deity means to receive the power to have all of our actions of mind accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  As before, we generate the strong wish to receive the mind of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our mind.

To receive the empowerment of the body, speech and mind of the guru deity together means to receive the power to have all of our actions of body, speech and mind work flawlessly together to accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others.  As before, we generate the strong wish to receive a flawless harmonization of the body, speech and mind of the guru deity within our mental continuum so that we can accomplish the three functions for ourself and for others with our body, speech and mind together.

If we do this every day with our daily practice, and we especially do it when we have the opportunity to receive empowerments at Kadampa centers, there is no doubt our spiritual power will increase quite quickly.  The guru deity already has all of the spiritual power of all of the Buddhas.  All we need to do is, in effect, download his power into our mind.  This is the essential meaning of an empowerment.