Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: Requests to receive the Guru’s blessings

Here we request that the guru mix his mind with our very subtle mind.  We are striving for a mind transplant with him.

We imagine that our mind is in the aspect of an orange-coloured letter DHI, which is standing on an eight-petalled lotus and moon cushion inside the central channel at the centre of our heart.

O Glorious and precious root Guru,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
Please care for me with your great kindness,
And grant me the blessings of your body, speech, and mind.

We imagine that the field of merit dissolves into our root guru, who then comes to our crown and diminishes to the size of a thumb bestowing the blessings of his body.

O Glorious and precious root Guru,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
Please care for me with your great kindness,
And bestow the common and supreme attainments.

He descends through our central channel to our throat chakra bestowing the blessings of all his speech.

O Glorious and precious root Guru,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
Please care for me with your great kindness,
And remain firm until I attain the essence of enlightenment.

He descends through our central channel to our heart where he mixes inseparably with our root mind in the aspect of a letter DHI.  The most important thing is to really feel like our guru is at our heart, his mind is now our mind.  We have made a mind transplant.  We can now use his mind as our own.  I will talk more about this in later posts.

We then imagine that the eight petaled lotus closes around the letter DHI in the shape of the heart, and we feel this as a protection circle keeping our mind mixed inseparably with our guru’s.  We can recite the mantra OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHI SU MA TI KIR TI SHI RI BHA DRA AH THI TA NA AH THI TI TE KUR BEN TU a few times to keep things secure.

It is important to always remember the string of clouds that goes from Guru Tsongkhapa to the heart of Maitreya.  If we can always remember this, then when we die, we can follow these clouds all the way to Tushita Pure Land.  Remembering this is a method of transference of consciousness.  The guru is like an elevator that has come down for us.

If we check, we shall see that dissolving the guru into our heart and mixing our mind with his is the very heart of every single practice.  Gen-la Losang once told me in reality, there is only one practice on the path, namely the mixing of our mind with our guru’s mind.  Why reinvent the wheel when we can just use one that has already been made?  Why blaze a new trail when you can travel a superhighway.  Sure, there is a certain romantic appeal to doing it all on our own, but such a spiritual strategy is arrogant, dangerous and indeed cruel.  It is arrogant because it assumes a lost being such as ourself is capable of forging a path to such an exalted state as enlightenment.  It is dangerous because if we fail, we fall and become lost again.  And it is cruel because even if we are successful, it will surely take longer that following a well-trodden path and all the beings who we otherwise would have helped if we had attained enlightenment sooner are left to languish in samsara while we selfishly bumble around our spiritual life. 

Ultimately, the spiritual guide is not some being that exists outside of us.  Rather, he is in reality that part of our mind which has already attained all good qualities.  He is both a being and a part of our own mind, with no contradiction between the two.  The world is our karmic dream, but who is the director?  Right now, the director is our self-cherishing mind.  It has created a world of suffering without end.  It has blinded us to even an awareness of the existence of freedom.  But there is part of our mind that is an exit out of the dream.  The spiritual guide is a being who has come into our mind to lead us out.  In the beginning, we follow his advice but remain ourselves.  Later, we come to realize who we think we are, namely the self of our self-cherishing and self-grasping, actually doesn’t exist at all.  We have been chasing mirages or shadows since beginningless time.  So who are we really?  The completely purified version of ourself is our Spiritual Guide.  By mixing our mind with him, we are not surrendering ourself to some outside force, rather we are centering ourself within who we really are. 

When we mix our mind with the guru, he becomes the new director.  If we learn to have our every action of body, speech and mind be him working within us and through us, overtime not only will we be lead to freedom but so too will all those we love and care about.  We clearly at present have no idea how to help anyone, but he knows exactly what needs to be done.  All we need to do is hand over the keys and allow him to use us as, in the famous words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”  When there is no longer any “us” getting in the way, and all of our actions are his actions working through us, there is no longer a distinction between him and ourself.  We become the guru deity and by doing so we realize he was the real us all along.

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: Receiving blessings

The Prayer of the Stages of the Path is the condensation of the entire path of Sutra and Tantra.  Everything is included within it.  By practicing the Lamrim we are directly or indirectly practicing all of Buddha’s instructions, so by reciting this prayer we are directly or indirectly practicing all of Buddha’s instructions.

The goal when we recite the prayer is to generate each of the Lamrim minds that it is referring to as you go through the prayer.  If we don’t have time to do formal Lamrim meditation, we can pay special attention to our recitation of the Prayer of the Stages of the Path and consider this our Lamrim meditation.

At the end of the prayer we recite:

From the hearts of all the holy beings, streams of light and nectar flow down, granting blessings and purifying.

A blessing is a subtle infusion of your guru’s mind into your mind.  It is like downloading the guru’s realizations into your mind.  Here we imagine that he sends down his blessings in the form of nectar which bestows upon us all the realizations of sutra and tantra and purifies all our negative karma and obstructions.  We especially imagine that we receive the blessings of the realization we are about to meditate upon.  We strongly believe that we now have within our mind our guru’s realizations.

This last point merits some elaboration.  We are very often advised to “strongly believe” various things in the Dharma.  Unless we understand the relationship between emptiness and karma over time, “strongly believing” things will seem superficial at best or false at worst.  There will be this little voice in the back of our head saying things like, “I am not really the deity,” or “other beings aren’t really liberated” or “I did not really receive these blessings.”  In short, we won’t actually believe it, and so the practice will have no power to transform our mind.  Many people can spend decades going to all of the festivals, reading all of the books, and knowing the Dharma inside and out, but if they don’t know how to “strongly believe” something they will make no progress.  Even though they would never admit it, their participation in the tradition is more one of being part of a club of really nice people and not an actual process of self-transformation.  Year by year will go by with very little to show for our time and effort.  Our opportunity to practice is too short for us to allow this to happen to us.

So what does it mean to “strongly believe.”  We do not strongly believe the various things in the Dharma because they are somehow objectively true because nothing is objectively true.  Rather, we strongly believe these things because the mental action of believing them to be true completes the karma which will ripen in the future in the form of them conventionally appearing as being true.  This is an important point.  Emptiness explains everything is a creation of mind, and that our mental creations are no more separate from our mind than a wave is from its underlying ocean.  In many of our official documents, there are these special stamps which literally are a reshaping of the paper in the form of a given seal.  In exactly the same way, our strongly believing something to be true conjoined with an understanding of karma and emptiness literally reshapes the fabric of our mind into the shape of what we believe.  What is a karmic imprint?  It is a subtle impression made on the fabric of our very subtle mind.  When these imprints are activated, they take on increasingly gross aspects within our mind until eventually they take on appearances to our gross mind. 

It is no different than an earthquake happening deep in the sea.  The force of the earthquake will displace the water up and throughout, rippling through the ocean creating a myriad of different waves on the surface of the ocean.  Right now, the ocean bottom of our mind is one violent karmic earthquake after another creating violent storms on the surface that are our living experience of this world of suffering filled with war, famine, and endless suffering.  The objects that we strongly believe to be true in the Dharma function to create counter-forces in the ocean of our mind which effectively neutralize the waves of samsara and replace them with the perfect clarity and stillness of the clear light mind.  Each conventional object, such as a lamrim object or a particular type of blessing, is a counter-current or a counter-impression which undoes the samsara we have created for ourself and for all the beings we have trapped in our dream. 

Many people do yoga.  Yoga is essentially the process of putting our body in initially uncomfortable and unfamiliar positions and then learning how to relax into them.  The positions themselves orthogonally oppose all of our previous self-defeating physical actions, and thereby it heals or undoes the damage we have done to our body, and by extension to our mind.  In exactly the same way, the mental “yogas” of the Kadam Dharma are the different postures we put our mind into.  Initially, they are uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but when we learn to relax into them they gradually hear our subtle body and mind of all defilements we have accumulated through aeons of past contaminated action.  We gradually karmically reshape the ocean of our mind from a samsara into a nirvana, not just for ourself but for all beings.

In the end, there is no objective reality.  It is true that when we arise from a meditation in which we strongly believed something the world will largely appear as it did before.  But that is only because the karma giving rise to the appearances of such a world haven’t yet exhausted themselves.  But one thing is certain, through our new mental action of strongly believing we are the deity or we have received the blessings we requested, we are planting new karma on our mind which will ripen in the future in a new set of appearances in which we are the deity and others are freed. 

We may object, but others will still see themselves as suffering, so what good does it do for them to appear this way to my mind?  We only have this objection because we haven’t yet fully grasped the profundity of the emptiness of others’ minds.  We still grasp at there somehow being some being out there, independent of our mind who has some form of existence other than what we are karmically dreaming for them.  

We may then object that surely this is falling into the extreme of solipsism which says that nobody else exists at all – it is just us dreaming.  But no, we don’t exist either.  There is just a dream called samsara which we all share and from which we all can wake up.  Within the dream, beings suffer.  That is why we must commit ourselves to freeing them by awakening ourself.       

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: Receiving the seven types of wisdom

In the last post we discussed how to use the Migtsema prayer to gain the realizations of the stages of the path.  In this post, I will try explain how we can use the Migtsema prayer to gain the seven types of wisdom. 

Geshe-la explains very clearly in the book Heart Jewel exactly what we are supposed to do, therefore I will merely summarize the main points.  He says first we make requests for the different types of wisdom, and then we strongly imagine as follows:  White rays of light like straws go from the hearts of the three deities, and come to our crown where they join.  Through these straws orange-colored nectar descends from their hearts to our crown where it enters and fills our body.  The nectar is composed of atoms in the shape of the various things indicated in the chart below.  We then imagine that all these atoms radiate countless rays of light which draw back the wisdom we requested of all the Buddhas in the aspect of the atoms.  We then dissolve all these atoms into our root mind in the aspect of a letter DHI at our heart and mix our mind with the specific wisdom of all the Buddhas.  Finally, we strongly believe that we have received the specific wisdom of all the Buddhas.  Typically, what people do is they cycle through the seven wisdoms over the course of a week, focusing on one per day. 

The seven wisdoms can be understood as follows:  the first column indicates the name of the wisdom, the second column explains the meaning of the wisdom, and the third column explains the aspect the nectar atoms assume when we dissolve them into our mind.

Wisdom

Meaning Atoms
Great Wisdom Ability to know what are the objects to be abandonded and what are the objects to be attained for both ourself and others Tiny Manjushri Form Bodies
Clear Wisdom Ability to understand the subtle characteristics of phenomena Manjushri’s mantra OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHI
Quick Wisdom Ability to respond to our own and others questions.  Always knowing what to do in all situations external and internal Manjushri’s seed letter DHI
Profound Wisdom Wisdom realizing emptiness Tiny Dharma scriptures and Manjushir’s wisdom sword
Wisdom of expounding Dharma Ability to present the Dharma in ways that living beings can accept and understand.  Ability to let the guru work through you to teach the Dharma Tiny Dharma books that we are going to explain
Wisdom of spiritual debate Ability to skilfully overcome wrong views through spiritual debate.  Ability to let the guru work through you to overcome other’s wrong views Wheel of wisdom swords
Wisdom of composing Dharma books Writing flawlessly reveals the path to enlightenment and inspires others to follow it.  Ability to let the guru write through you. Tiny Dharma books on the subject we are going to write on a wheel of wisdom swords

Since all of this is quite clear from the book Heart Jewel, what I want to focus on is why we should want the seven wisdoms.   We can sometimes think it is selfish to want things for ourselves, but if we know we are going to use everything we have for the sake of others, there is no fault whatsoever in passionately wanting things ourselves.  A bodhisattva is, for all practical purposes, a spiritual philanthropist.  A philanthropist actively seeks to become incredibly wealthy so that they can give their wealth away to good causes.  In the same way, a bodhisattva actively seeks to become incredibly wealthy internally so that they can give their realizations and merit away to others. 

We need great wisdom so we always know what to do, and what others need to do.  Our lives are pervaded by confusion with respect to what we should do.  Others come to us with problems and we have no idea how to help them.  But with great wisdom we always know exactly what needs to be done and we are right.  We need clear wisdom because the gross world arises from the subtle.  If our subtle mind is pervaded by delusion, it is actually impossible for our gross world to be anything other than the expression of that delusion.  Even if we manage to rearrange the gross level of reality in a good way, if the subtle level remains flawed, the flaws will reassert themselves into the gross level.  Clear wisdom is like great wisdom, but with respect to the subtle level of reality. 

We need quick wisdom because the longer we take to understand what to do, the longer we continue to accumulate negative and contaminated karma through our faulty reactions to things.  We likewise need quick wisdom to help others because often we get only one chance to help them and if we give the wrong advice on the first go, we subject them to needless suffering and we risk them never coming back.  We need profound wisdom because the definitive reason establishing the rest of the Dharma is profound emptiness.  If we understand emptiness correctly, everything else naturally falls into place.  The world is created by our mind and is in fact the nature of our mind.  We cannot fix the world without fixing our own mind, but if we fix our own mind we fix the entire world.  In the beginning, these are just words; but when we realize their truth we understand Nagarjuna when he said, “for whom emptiness is possible, everything is possible.”

We need the wisdom of expounding Dharma because the best way we can help others is by helping them wake up from their samsaric dream.  There is no escape from samsara from within samsara; the only solution is to wake up.  If we understand this, we will realize nothing else really matters other than waking up and helping others to do so.  But it is useless to understand this if we can’t present it to others in a way they can accept, understand and most importantly put into practice.  We may know the secrets to the universe, but all of our understanding is worthless because we can’t transmit it to others.  For the same reasons, we need the wisdom of spiritual debate to help beings overcome their wrong views and we need the wisdom of composing Dharma books so that all the realizations we have worked so hard to attain are not lost, but can be shared with all. 

Understanding the value of these wisdoms for the accomplishment of our bodhichitta wishes, we request these blessings.

 

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. 

 

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: the last three limbs and offering the mandala.

We now consider just how incredible of a being Je Tsongkhapa is and we rejoice in all that he has done and continues to do.

In this degenerate age you strove for much learning and accomplishment.
Abandoning the eight worldly concerns, you made your freedom and endowment meaningful.
O Protector, from the very depths of my heart,
I rejoice in the great wave of your deeds.

Je Tsongkhapa showed the best example a Dharma practitioner can follow.  First he studied Dharma extensively.  Then he realized that it was personal advice to be put into practice.  Then he gained deep experience of Dharma by practicing day and night, and finally he dedicated all his virtues to the flourishing of Dharma.  If we check, what Je Tsongkhapa did in the 14th Century Geshe-la is doing now for us now.  So if you want to rejoice in what Je Tsongkhapa did, consider what Geshe-la is doing today.

The truly amazing thing about rejoicing is when we do so we accumulate a fraction of the merit from the other being’s deeds.  We did not engage in these actions ourselves, but by rejoicing in and appreciating all that they have done, the act of rejoicing itself gives us a fraction of the merit as if we did the action ourselves.  Since Je Tsongkhapa’s merit is limitless, even a fraction of such merit is like winning the lottery. 

As the verse explains, we live in a ‘degenerate age.’ This means times are spiritually degenerate and the goals of most beings are worldly.  The ‘eight worldly concerns’ are the concerns of worldly people (if we are honest, that means us), namely being concerned about receiving resources and respect, experiencing pleasure, and enjoying praise and a good reputation.  These are our gods for whom we work.  It is when we abandon the eight worldly concerns that our Dharma practice becomes pure.  Generally what makes our practice pure is when it is concerned with things beyond this life.  We cannot take any of these things with us when we die, but we can take our merit and our karmic habits of mind. 

The essential purpose of holy beings coming into our world is to explain to people how to wake up from the dream of samsara.  If we were trapped in a horrible nightmare, wouldn’t we appreciate somebody coming along and waking us up so that we could escape its terrors?  The difference is with the dream of samsara, we need to wake ourselves up.  The holy beings have come to explain to us how.

From the billowing clouds of wisdom and compassion
In the space of your Truth Body, O Venerable and holy Gurus,
Please send down a rain of vast and profound Dharma
Appropriate to the disciples of this world.

Here the essential idea is we need to make requests that the Buddhas teach Dharma.  Without these requests, without wanting it from our own side, it won’t happen.  This is a fantastic way to benefit living beings.  Brahma and Indra requested Buddha Shakyamuni to turn the wheel of Dharma, and as a result of their request billions of people have received benefit. The benefit we are receiving now comes from the kindness of their request.  Thus we request on behalf of all living beings.

The ‘Space of your Truth Body’ means that everything that is taking place is occuring within the guru’s Truth Body and the ‘Vast and profound Dharma’ – refers to the vast and profound paths.  Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, so too we need both the vast and profound paths to attain enlightenment.  The vast path primarily deals with the development of bodhichitta, and the profound path primarily deals with the development of the wisdom realizing emptiness.

Finally, we dedicate the merit we have accumulated to help fuel our spiritual purpose.

Through the virtues I have accumulated here,
May the doctrine and all living beings receive every benefit.
Especially may the essence of the doctrine
Of Venerable Losang Dragpa shine forever.

Dedication functions to protect our merit from being destroyed by anger.  It is like saving our documents on the computer before the computer crashes.  We give away all our merit to others, which functions to increase our merit.  The dedication verse explains why we have done all that we have done, now we harness and direct this spiritual energy towards our desired purpose.

There is no greater offering we can make than everything.  If we truly understood the nature of samsara, we would realize there is no point doing anything other than waking up and helping all other beings wake up.  This does not mean we need to abandon our lives, families and jobs, rather it means we need to wake up in the context of our lives, families and jobs; and thereby help others to do the same.  We use everything we have – our resources, our time, our bodies, our minds, whatever power we might possess – all for the sake of helping ourself and others wake up.  We do this with the mandala offering.

The ground sprinkled with perfume and spread with flowers,
The Great Mountain, four lands, sun and moon,
Seen as a Buddha Land and offered thus,
May all beings enjoy such Pure Lands.

IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI

The basic idea of offering a mandala is you mentally imagine that you transform the entire universe into a pure land and all the being within it into pure beings.  Mentally you are offering this to your guru.  What does this mean?  It means that you are mentally offering the promise that you will do whatever it takes to make this happen.  You will work continuously until you actually do make your offering a reality (delivering all beings to a pure land).  Since your offering here is you will work continuously until all the problems of all living beings in all their lives are solved, this is the biggest offering you can possibly make, and as a result the merit you accumulate from such an offering is ‘maxed out’!

We can also with a mandala offering offer our friends and family requesting that our spiritual guide take them into his care.  We can also offer all the objects which give rise to our delusions requesting to be free from the delusions.  By offering the objects of our delusions it functions to pacify them.

The most important thing is to really get into it.  We should think how wonderful it would be to actually do this.  There is no value in having doubts like, ‘this is just my imagination,’ ‘I can’t really transform the entire universe into a pure land,’ ‘I can’t really lead all beings to enlightenment,’ and so forth.  We should choose to believe that it is possible and make the real promise that we will do this.  We need to let our mind be unconstrained by what we currently perceive to be possible.

On a physical level we can buy a mandala kit at a Kadampa center to make mandala offerings with it.  While this is important, we shouldn’t think that the physical piling of rice in these little mental rings is a mandala offering.  That is just a physical representation of what is the real offering, namely what you are doing with your mind.

IDAM GURU… means “I offer this jeweled mandala to you precious (or holy) Guru, please accept it”

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: The next three limbs of the seven limb prayer

Next in the sadhana comes the prayer for prostration:

Your mind of wisdom realizes the full extent of objects of knowledge,
Your eloquent speech is the ear-ornament of the fortunate,
Your beautiful body is ablaze with the glory of renown,
I prostrate to you, whom to see, to hear, and to remember is so meaningful.

To prostrate means to sweep away all impurities and defilements and request all good qualities.  So what we are doing here is requesting that all impurities and defilements that obstruct our attainment of the good qualities of our spiritual guide are removed, and we request that we attain these good qualities ourself.  The key here, as before, is to really believe that our guru is in front of us, and we are prostrating to him.

The first line means that our guru is omniscient and sees all objects of knowledge.  Specifically, he knows all paths, and so knows which ones work and which ones don’t. If we were lost, wouldn’t we cherish meeting somebody who knows the way?  The reality is we are lost in the desert of samsara, but we have found somebody who can guide is to the Oasis of Tushita Pure Land.  In the second line, ‘fortunate’ refers to bodhisattvas, those who have taken on the goal of liberating all beings.  Our guru inside our mind stands ready to reveal to us everything we need to know to accomplish our spiritual goals.  Imagine having somebody perfectly reliable we can turn to who will explain to us everything we need.  We should feel that hearing his speech gives rise to happiness and great bliss.  The third line reminds us that his body possesses all the signs and indications of a fully enlightened being.  Specifically, we should feel like we are in the living presence of this great being whose body radiates light putting at peace all around him.  He has a power greater than all of the forces of samsara combined, and he is now at our side.  With the fourth line, we actually prostrate.  If we truly were in the presence of such a great being, prostrating would come spontaneously.  We would fall at his feet with all our heart, not in some cult-like submission, but rather out of a mixture of awe and relief of having made it to safety. 

Once we have emotionally recovered from realizing we are the presence of such a great being, we then would quite naturally make offerings to him.    Remember, we have invited him into our mind, into our home and he has graciously accepted our invitation.

Pleasing water offerings, various flowers,
Sweet-smelling incense, lights, scented water, and so forth,
A vast cloud of offerings both set out and imagined,
I offer to you, O Supreme Field of Merit.

We mentally transform everything in the universe into complete purity and then offer this purity to our spiritual guide and imagine that it gives rise to great bliss.  We do not make offerings for the benefit of the spiritual guide, but for our own benefit.  Giving creates the cause for receiving, so if offer everything as pure, then that is what we will receive in the future.  This is a powerful method for accumulating merit.  The key here is to really believe that your guru is in front of you, and you are actually making offerings to him and he is receiving them and actually generating bliss.

The most important offering we can make is ourselves.  We offer ourselves into his service.  If we were a Christian and Jesus Christ himself came to our home saying he would care for and guide us for the rest of time, surely this would change everything and we would offer ourselves immediately and without hesitation knowing we had been enlisted into a truly higher cause.  Inviting Lama Tsongkhapa is exactly the same, we just don’t believe it to be so and so we are not moved to put ourself under his guidance and care.  But it is so.  He is there.  He is ready to guide us.  He has a purpose for us.

To assume the mantle of our new purpose, we must first cleanse ourselves of all the dirt and grime which has accumulated on our soul (very subtle mind).  We clean ourselves and dress nicely to go to work, and we especially do so when we are going some place important.  But now, we are assuming the highest work of all and we will be residing in the hearts of all beings.  If we realize this, we will naturally want to cleanse ourselves for a new beginning.  We do so with the prayer for purification.

Whatever non-virtues of body, speech, and mind
I have accumulated since time without beginning,
Especially transgressions of my three vows,
With great remorse I confess each one from the depths of my heart.

The terrifying reality is we have spent 99% of our past in the lower realms where we essentially engaged only in non-virtue.  The reason why it is dangerous to take rebirth in the lower realms is because once there all we do is engage in non-virtue and create the cause to remain there.  We need to realize that this negativity is like a walking time bomb in our mind which can blow at any point in time.  So we need to purify it immediately. 

We should gather together all the unimaginable non-virtue we have accumulated into our heart in the form of black smoke, and then imagine that at the end of the verse white light rays and nectars flow down from Je Tsongkhapa’s heart and they dispel all our negative karma like turning on the lights in a dark room.  We should strongly feel as if we have actually been cleansed of an eternities worth of mistakes.  Water and soap clean our bodies every morning in the shower, blessings and faith clean our true selves.  We have been given a fresh start. 

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: Generating bodhichitta and inviting the Guru

We next turn to generating bodhichitta.  Our motivation determines the power of our practice.  The power of our virtue is multiplied by the number of beings upon whose behalf you engage in the virtue.  If we do your practice for one being, for example ourself, then it has a power of one.  If we do it for our family of say 5 then it has a power of 5.  If we do it for all countless living beings, then its power is infinite.  It is the karmic equivalent of doing it countless times.  Doing it for oneself is like a candle, and doing it for all living beings is like the blazing of the sun. 

To generate qualified bodhichitta we we can once again do so from the perspective of having exchanged ourself with others.  This is best accomplished by imputing our I onto all living beings.  We then consider how each being is like a wave on the ocean of our mind or a cell in the body of all living beings which is ourself is suffering from uncontrolled rebirth into contaminated aggregates.  This gives rise to compassion.  We then consider that we ourselves need to do something about this.  We see that we currently lack the ability to do anything but a Buddha possesses the ability, so we conclude we must become a Buddha for the benefit of all.  Again, the observed object of ‘I’ is our very subtle mind, our true self.  We need to train in identifying with our very subtle mind and stop identifying with our ordinary body and mind.

On the basis of these recognitions, we then recite the bodhichitta prayer from the sadhana.

Through the virtues I collect by giving and other perfections,
May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all.   (3x)

After we have generated bodhichitta, we now invite the Guru to come before us.  If we are to communicate with somebody, we first need to connect with them.  We can do that by meeting them at a restaurant, dialing their phone number or chatting with them on-line.  In exactly the same way, if we are to communicate with the enlightened beings, we need to first connect with them.  We do this through inviting the guru into the space before us.  In reality, he is already there since the enlightened beings pervade everything.  But the problem is due to the obstructions on our mind, we don’t feel their presence.  Inviting the guru helps activate the karma where we feel we are in direct communication with the divine.

We recite from the sadhana:

From the heart of the Protector of the hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land,
To the peak of a cloud which is like a cluster of fresh, white curd,
All-knowing Losang Dragpa, King of the Dharma,
Please come to this place together with your Sons.

Here we visualize from the heart of Maitreya in Tushita Pure Land a plume of clouds comes billowing towards us, and then when it reaches the space in front of us Je Tsongkhapa and his two sons emerge.  The most important thing is to have the 100% conviction that you are in the living presence of your spiritual guide in the aspect of Je Tsongkhapa and his two sons.  You need conviction and the feeling that they are actually there.

How can we understand the meaning of these words?  The Protector refers to Buddha Maitreya who will be the next Buddha after Buddha Shakyamuni’s Dharma has left this world.  ‘Joyful Land’ refers to Tushita pure land, which is Je Tsongkhapa’s pure land.  For Sutra practitioners, this is the pure land we try take rebirth into.  This is where we want to go.  If we take rebirth in Tushita Pure Land we can receive teachings directly from Je Tsongkhapa.  It is like going to a Summer Festival at Manjushri where we reunite with all of our Kadampa friends and family, we practice cherishing each other and we receive teachings directly from our Spiritual Guide Lama Tsongkhapa.  The difference, of course, is we don’t need to worry about our muddy tent or the long lines for the shower!  

‘Losang Dragpa’ is Je Tsongkhapa’s ordained name.  He is called the King of the Dharma because he is the greatest Dharma practitioner and scholar ever.  When we recite ‘come to this place’ it helps us reinforce our recognition that he is right there in front of us.  He is in the visualized space in front of us inside our mind.  All of this is taking place within your mind.  The ‘Sons’ referred to are not his biological sons, but rather his spiritual sons.  One is by nature Avalokiteshvara, who is the compassion of all the Buddhas, and the other is by nature Vajrapani, who is the spiritual power of all the Buddhas.  Je Tsongkhapa himself is by nature Manjushri, the wisdom of all the Buddhas.

The next verse of the sadhana is technically part of the prayer of the seven limbs, but since its function is to help reinforce our conviction that we are in the living presence of our guru, I will explain it in the context of this post.  We recite:

In the space before me on a lion throne, lotus, and moon,
The venerable Gurus smile with delight.
O Supreme Field of Merit for my mind of faith,
Please remain for a hundred aeons to spread the doctrine.

Here the essential point is we are requesting the spiritual guide to remain to teach the Dharma.  If we don’t make requests for the Buddha’s to remain in this world, then there won’t be the causes for them to be here. 

The words ‘space before me’ means he about one arm’s length slightly above your eye level.  But we should not grasp too tightly at dimensions.  From one perspective, the field of merit is as vast as the entire universe, but from another perspective it feels as intimate and close as sitting right there at his feet.  Imagine what it would be like to have a face to face meeting with him in a close setting, yet at the same time he is as vast as the universe meeting individually with each and every being.  It is both at the same time.  We imagine that they ‘smile [at us] with delight.’ They are very pleased that we have brought them here, like inviting a close friend over for coffee.

The ‘field of merit’ refers to where we sow our spiritual seeds and reap a harvest of Dharma realizations.  The field of merit refers to Je Tsongkhapa and his two sons, the synthesis of all Buddhas, but by nature we recognize him as our spiritual guide.  We request them to remain to spread the doctrine.  The doctrine does not spread anywhere other than in the minds of living beings.  It is very important that this feel like a genuine relationship and meeting.  When we go meet with an important person, we establish a relationship with them.  In dependence upon this relationship, we can then ask them to help us and we can offer our help to them in accomplishing their objectives.  As the relationship grows closer, we begin to collaborate more and more and feel like a team.  They know us and we know them, and we are working together on a common objective of spreading the Dharma.  Je Tsongkhapa is like our spiritual mentor who guides us in our spiritual life and work.  He is our best friend, he is our spiritual father, he is our guide, he is the one we can always count on.  What could be more important than cultivating a close personal friendship with a being such as Je Tsongkhapa?  He wants nothing more than to do so with us.  If we only realized we can actually do so with him, it would become the greatest priority in our life.