Happy Tsog Day: Destroying our Greatest Inner Demon

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 29 of a 44-part series.

Equalizing self and others

In that no one wishes for even the slightest suffering,
Or is ever content with the happiness they have,
There is no difference between myself and others;
Realizing this, I seek your blessings joyfully to make others happy.

As explained above, there are two methods for generating bodhicitta: considering how all living beings are our mother and exchanging self with others. Meditation on equalizing self with others is the first meditation of the second method. The second method for generating bodhicitta is more powerful than the first method because we cherish ourselves more than we cherish our mother. Since it is more powerful, the practice Offering to the Spiritual Guide dedicates five full verses to the practice.

When we equalize self with others our objective is to generate the same degree of cherishing for others as we have for ourselves, in other words, to cherish others as we cherish ourself. This is not that uncommon of a mind. Political leaders who view their job as serving the public interest consider the happiness and welfare of all their citizens as being equally important. If some politicians can generate this mind, then surely we can generate this mind as a would-be-bodhisattva. We likewise find this mind in many families that consider every person in the family to be equally important and make decisions based upon what is best for the family as a whole. Some teachers do the same with the students in their classroom and some employers do the same with the people who work at their company. Even in normal society, we would say a political leader, a parent, a teacher, or an employer who puts their own interest ahead of the interests of those they serve is a corrupt person.

There are several different methods we can use to reach this mind. One method for doing so is to realize that all living beings have an equal wish to be happy all the time. There is nothing about our own happiness that makes it more important than the happiness of anybody else. Since we all share an equal wish, and there’s nothing that makes us more important than anybody else, it follows that we should cherish the happiness of each and every living being equally. A particularly powerful way of generating this mind is to consider how all living beings are like cells in the body of life. Just as we would not say the hand does not care what happens to the foot, so too when we have equalized self with others, we cannot say that we do not care about what happens to other living beings because we are all part of the same body of life. The definitive way of generating this mind is to consider how all living beings, including ourselves, are all equally empty and therefore equally projections of our mind. There is no basis for cherishing one appearance in our mind over another since they are all equally appearances to our mind. Whichever line of reasoning works for us, the goal is the same, namely to generate a feeling that cherishes all living beings equally.

The dangers of self-cherishing

Seeing that this chronic disease of cherishing myself
Is the cause that gives rise to unwanted suffering,
I seek your blessings to destroy this great demon of selfishness
By resenting it as the object of blame.

In the teachings on training the mind, we are encouraged to gather all blame into one. The meaning of this practice is every time we experience any problem, or we see anybody else experiencing any sort of suffering, we blame it entirely upon the mind of self-cherishing. In the Lord of all Lineages prayer it says, “since beginningless time the root of all my suffering has been my self-cherishing mind, I must expel it from my heart, cast it afar, and cherish only other living beings.”

How can we understand self-cherishing to be the cause of all our suffering? All our suffering comes from our negative karma, and all our negative karma is committed with a mind of self-cherishing. Self-cherishing considers our own happiness to be more important than the happiness of others and is therefore willing to sacrifice the happiness of others for the sake of ourselves. All non-virtuous actions fundamentally are willing to harm others in some way for the sake of ourselves.

Further, what happens to us is only a problem because we consider our own happiness to be important. If we did not consider our own happiness to be important, then what happens to us would also not be important, and therefore not a problem. From this we can see the only reason why we have any problems is because we cherish ourselves.

Intellectually this is not difficult to understand. The practice is to develop the habit of gathering all blame into one. We need to do this again and again and again throughout our life, whenever we see ourselves or others suffer, we do the mental exercise of identifying exactly how and why it is the fault of self-cherishing. The more we do this, the more determined we will become to destroy this demon within our mind.

Happy Tsog Day: Understanding the Truth of Samsara for Ourself and Others

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 28 of a 44-part series.

Developing the wish to gain liberation

Being violently tossed by the waves of delusion and karma
And tormented by the sea-monsters of the three sufferings,
I seek your blessings to develop a strong wish for liberation
From the boundless and fearful great ocean of samsara.

Even if we take an upper rebirth, our situation is only temporary. It is just a question of time before we burn up the virtuous karma giving rise to our upper rebirth and we fall once again into the lower realms. Beings in the upper realms primarily just enjoy their good karma ripening. We can see this in our world with those who are extremely fortunate. How many dedicate their lives and their good karma to helping others? Besides Bill Gates, there is virtually no one. Taking an upper rebirth is extremely dangerous from a karmic perspective because we essentially create a bonfire for all our virtuous karma. Once it is burned up, all that remains on our mind is negative, and then we once again fall into the lower realms. Thus, to be in samsara is to be in the lower realms with only very temporary exceptions.

It is helpful to consider what exactly is samsara. In truth, it is a karmic nightmare that we are trapped in that we believe to be true. Everything we normally perceive does not exist, but we think it does, and as a result we suffer. To wish to escape from samsara, therefore is the wish to wake up.

How to practise the path that leads to liberation

Forsaking the mind that views as a pleasure garden
This unbearable prison of samsara,
I seek your blessings to take up the victory banner of liberation
By maintaining the three higher trainings and the wealths of Superiors.

All the so-called good experiences we have in samsara are in reality changing suffering – the temporary reduction of our discomfort. Eating temporarily reduces the suffering of hunger. Sleeping temporarily reduces the suffering of fatigue. Companionship temporarily reduces the suffering of being alone. The list goes on and on. And even if we were able to experience good things for all this life, we would still all inevitably get sick, get old, and die. We are imputing our “I” onto a sinking ship. From a tantric perspective, samsara is identifying with contaminated aggregates of body and mind. More profoundly, it is ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions. These have all been explained in detail in previous posts. The point is, there is no lasting happiness to be found anywhere in samsara. If we contemplate this deeply, we see our only rational choice is to escape.

What are the three higher trainings? They can properly be understood as the process of letting go of samsara. The three higher trainings are higher moral discipline, higher concentration, and higher wisdom. They are called higher trainings because they are motivated by renunciation, the wish to escape from samsara. With higher moral discipline, we let go of deluded behavior. With higher concentration, we let go of our distractions being fascinated by samsaric objects. With higher wisdom, we let go of grasping at the things we normally see existing from their own side. In particular, we let go of grasping at our ordinary body in mind as ourself. Once we let go of samsara, it will gradually exhaust itself because it was never anything more than mere karmic appearance.

How to generate great compassion, the foundation of the Mahayana

Contemplating how all these pitiful migrators are my mothers,
Who out of kindness have cherished me again and again,
I seek your blessings to generate a spontaneous compassion
Like that of a loving mother for her dearest child.

Just as we are trapped in samsara, so too are all other living beings. But frankly, we generally do not care. Why? Because we do not think these other living beings are important, or that their happiness matters. Once we consider them to be important, then we consider how they too are suffering, and we will naturally generate a compassionate wish that they too escape from samsara. In the Lamrim teachings there are two principal methods taught for how to consider the happiness of others to be important. The first is to consider how all living beings are our mothers, and the second is to engage in the practice of exchanging self with others. In this verse, we train in the first method.

The logic here is very simple. Because we have taken countless rebirths in the past, we have had countless mothers. Where are all these mothers today? They are the beings around us. Buddha said there is not a single living being who has not been the mother of all the others. This is difficult for us to understand only because we fail to grasp the infinite past of our lives. We tend to think in very narrow terms just the human world on this planet. Time is without beginning, therefore there has been plenty of time for each and every living being to have at one point been our mother.

Some people also struggle with this meditation because they have a bad relationship with their mother of this life. For these people, considering how everyone is our mother does not help us to generate compassion for them because we do not like our present mother. There are two answers to this problem. The first is to see things in perspective. No matter how much harm our mother caused us after we were born, the truth is we would not even have this life if she had not kept us and kept us alive when we were younger. Thus, everything we have in this life is indirectly thanks to our mother. And even if she was abusive with us, this has taught us how not to be with others, and so even her negative actions have brought us benefit. The second way of avoiding this problem is to consider that all living beings are equally our child. We have been the parent or mother of all living beings at one point in the past. It is because our mother so mistreated us that we now wish to not repeat her mistakes and instead to care for all living beings as a good mother should that we can consider everyone as our child who we must care for. The point is to realize each and every living being is someone important whose happiness we should care for. It does not matter whether we reach this destination by considering how everyone is our mother or by considering how everyone is our child.

Happy Tsog Day: Training in the Initial Scope of Lamrim

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 27 of a 44-part series.

How to rely upon our spiritual guide, the root of spiritual paths

Through the force of my making offerings and respectful requests
To the venerable spiritual guide, the holy, supreme Field of Merit,
I seek your blessings, O Protector, the root of all goodness and joy,
So that you will gladly take me into your loving care.

In truth, the entire practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide explains how to rely upon our spiritual guide. The main point is to develop conviction that our spiritual guide is indeed a Buddha and the source of all good in our lives. To develop conviction in the former, we need to understand the emptiness of the spiritual guide. Sometimes when we hear teachings explaining that the spiritual guide is a Buddha, we misunderstand this to me we are to try view him as inherently a Buddha. But obviously that is not correct since nothing is inherently existent. Instead, we need to understand that by viewing him as a Buddha, Buddha will enter into him and we will receive Buddha’s blessings through him.

More profoundly, viewing our spiritual guide as a Buddha does not mean viewing him as a Buddha from his own side, rather it is a special way of relating to everything the spiritual guide does so that it functions to provide us with pure Dharma teachings. So even if our spiritual guide, or any living being for that matter, engages in manifestly negative or destructive actions, we can nonetheless view all these as powerful teachings of our spiritual guide. Nothing is pure from its own side, rather things become pure by viewing and relating to them in a pure way. Pure view does not exist on the side of the object, rather it exists on the side of the subject mind viewing things. Thus, if we want to generate pure view of our spiritual guide, regarding him as a Buddha, it suffices to relate to everything that he does as something confirming or revealing the truth of Dharma. We can apply this same logic to any living being, and therefore view anyone as an emanation of our spiritual guide. But we begin by first doing it with the person in our life who is so manifestly engaging in the actions of a Buddha, namely our spiritual guide. Once we can do it with our spiritual guide, it becomes easier to do it with other living beings.

To gain conviction in the latter, that the spiritual guide is the source of all good, it suffices to recall the teachings on karma that all happiness comes from virtuous actions. Then we look honestly into our mind and realize that all the habits that we have effortlessly move in a negative direction, and it takes effort for us to engage in virtuous actions. This shows that the current of our mind is moving in a negative direction. If this is true even once we have found the Dharma, it is obviously true for all our past lives. Thus, it is safe to say that the only time we engaged in any virtuous action was when we received the blessings of a Buddha to encourage us to do so. Thus, any happiness we enjoy comes from our past virtue, which comes from receiving the blessings of Buddha.

Developing the aspiration to take the essence of our human life

Realizing that this freedom and endowment, found only once,
Are difficult to attain, and yet decay so quickly,
I seek your blessings to seize their essential meaning,
Undistracted by the meaningless activities of this life.

It is important to make a distinction between having a human life and having a precious human life. To have a precious human life means to have a human life plus also have an interest in Dharma and an opportunity to meet pure teachings. It is exceedingly rare for us to attain a precious human life. For me, the most powerful analogy is likening the odds of a precious human rebirth to the odds of a blind turtle surfacing only once every 100 years putting its head through a golden yoke floating on an ocean the size of this world. The earth’s surface is 149 trillion square meters, so we can say we have a one in 149 trillion chance of attaining a precious human rebirth. Amongst humans, very few have an interest in practicing the Dharma and have found a pure path that they can practice. Thus, objectively speaking we can say it is almost impossible to attain a precious human rebirth. Yet we have attained one. That is undeniable. The question we all face is what do we do with the opportunity we have been given?

The actual method for gaining the happiness of higher states in future lives

Fearing the blazing fires of the sufferings of bad migrations,
From the depths of my heart I go for refuge to the Three Jewels,
And seek your blessings to strive sincerely
To abandon non-virtue and practise the entire collection of virtue.

When you look at the population of just this world, we can see that animals and insects far outnumber humans, probably by a factor of at least a million to one. Some scientists estimate much much higher than that. If we assume the same proportions into the hungry ghost and the hell realms, we can see that the overwhelming majority of living beings in samsara are in the lower realms. When we take rebirth in the lower realms, we engage in almost exclusively negative actions. This means that virtually all the karma on our mind is negative. To attain a human rebirth, positive karma needs to ripen. That is exceedingly rare simply because such karma is exceedingly rare. Whether we take a human or a lower rebirth in our next life depends upon the quality of mind we have at the time of death. If we die with a negative mind, it will activate negative karma throwing us into the lower realms. If we die with a positive mind, it will activate positive karma throwing us into the upper realms. If we die with a pure mind, it will activate pure karma enabling us to escape from samsara and take rebirth in a pure land. Typically, when we encounter adverse circumstances, we react with a negative deluded mind. We can observe this in our daily behavior. There is no experience more adverse than death. If we respond to even minor inconveniences with negativity, it goes without question that we are most likely to respond to our death with a negative mind. This means unless we thoroughly train our mind, it is almost certain we will fall into the lower realms.

The truth of the matter is samsara is almost entirely the lower realms. The upper realms are like a tiny island surrounded by an ocean of fire. The island we stand on is sinking into the fire. This is not a metaphor, this is our actual karmic situation. We tend to think it is highly unlikely we will take lower rebirth, but the reality is the exact opposite. We need to let this truth touch our heart and frankly become terrified at the prospect of our almost certain lower rebirth. Virtually everybody we know and everybody we see will all fall into the lower realms. We are all bound for hell. Hell is our natural home in samsara.

Sometimes we reject these teachings because we think it is a religious institution trying to manipulate us. While of course we need to check to see if this is the case, we also need to check to see if this is in fact our samsaric situation. There are many valid reasons establishing the existence of past and future lives. It is also a manifest truth that we very rarely engage in virtuous actions despite having found the Dharma. So how often do we create the karma to attain another rebirth compared to how often in our countless past lives we have created the causes for lower rebirth? Do the math. The truth is inescapable. The only question is whether we allow this truth to touch our heart and then become extremely motivated to engage in purification practice.

Happy Tsog Day: How to Practice the Song of the Spring Queen (part 3)

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 26 of a 44-part series.

HUM All you Tathagatas,
Heroes, Yoginis,
Dakas, and Dakinis,
To all you I make this request:
Like a lotus born from the centre of a swamp,
This method, though born from attachment, is unstained by the faults of attachment.
O Supreme Dakini, through the bliss of your lotus,
Please quickly bring liberation from the bonds of samsara.
AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO
May the assembly of stainless Dakinis
Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

The fifth and sixth lines of this verse emphasize that the spontaneous great joy we generated with the previous verse is by nature completely free from any grasping or attachment. Sexual bliss is very pleasant, but is characterized by a strong grasping at the experience. If we check our mind when we are experiencing sexual bliss it is not a peaceful mind. The great bliss of completion stage is by nature inner peace. Enlightenment is sometimes called the supreme inner peace of enlightenment. Great bliss is an inner peace that is so peaceful it is blissful. It is completely relaxed and spacious without the slightest trace of tension or grasping. It feels as if our mind has settled into a complete stillness and has no need or desire whatsoever to arise from that stillness because any movement would be away from the most pleasant experience possible to something less pleasant. This is why the mind of great bliss is the supreme mind of concentration that far surpasses tranquil abiding. There is no better mind for concentrating on virtue.

In all our tantric practices of transforming pleasant circumstances into the path the procedure is the same. We can take eating ice cream as an example. When we eat ice cream, we generate a pleasant experience on our tongue. Normally we then grasp at the ice cream as an external cause of our pleasant experience and generate attachment for ice cream as a result. But if we were to transform the pleasant experience of eating ice cream into the path using tantric methods, we would then mentally imagine we dissolve both the ice cream and our tongue into their ultimate nature emptiness while retaining the pleasant experience we are enjoying. When we are able to retain the pleasant experience without the appearance of the external object that we mistakenly thought was giving rise to the pleasant experience, we are able to meditate on the union of the pleasant experience and emptiness. Instead of giving rise to attachment, we realize we can generate pleasant experiences from within our mind and hold them regardless of what external objects we are exposed to. In exactly the same way, we can transform any pleasant experience, including the pleasant experiences of sexual activities.

When we recite this verse, we can mentally imagine that we dissolve our self, Vajraygoini, and the entire pure land generated around us into the clear light emptiness while retaining the spontaneous great joy we experienced and generated through the previous verse. This is exactly the same as we would do if we were transforming eating ice cream using tantric methods. This meditation on the experience of spontaneous great joy mixed inseparably with emptiness, like water mixed with water, functions to purify all the contaminated karma on our mind. As explained before, there are two types of obstruction to our enlightenment: delusion obstructions and obstructions to omniscience. Delusion obstructions are the tendencies similar to the cause to generate delusions from our past delusions. Obstructions to omniscience are the effects similar to the cause, environmental effects, and ripened effects of our past deluded actions. Once we have freed our mind from all the delusion obstructions, we attain liberation. This comes first. We then continue to meditate on the union of bliss and emptiness and gradually purify all the obstructions to omniscience. When that happens, we attain full enlightenment. In this verse, we imagine that in dependence upon our experience of the union of spontaneous great joy and emptiness we completely purify all our delusion obstructions and therefore attain liberation. The lotus referred to in the eighth line is once again Vajrayogini’s bhaga.

When we recite the ninth line, we do not directly visualize ourselves engaging in union with Vajrayogini as we have done in the previous verses, rather everything has been dissolved into clear light emptiness. In Understanding the Mind, Geshe-la explains there are two types of object, manifest and hidden. Manifest objects are objects that appear directly to our sense consciousnesses or to our mental consciousness. Hidden objects are objects that do not appear directly but can nonetheless be established through inferential valid cognizers. With this verse, when we recite the ninth line, we imagine that we are focusing on the emptiness of engaging in union with Vajrayogini. It does not appear directly to our mind, but we nonetheless experience its effect of spontaneous great joy. The experience of spontaneous great joy is the valid reason supporting the inferential cognizer establishing that we are engaging in union with Vajrayogini. In this way, we can understand that the meditation on the union of clear light bliss and emptiness is in fact the definitive version of engaging in union with a wisdom mudra. Normally when we talk about Buddhas we say there is the interpretative Buddha and the definitive Buddha. Interpretive Heruka, for example, is the blue deity with four faces and twelve arms. Definitive Heruka is the union of bliss and emptiness. In exactly the same way, interpretive reliance upon a wisdom mudra is everything we have been describing up to this verse, and definitive reliance upon a wisdom mudra is described in this verse.

HUM All you Tathagatas,
Heroes, Yoginis,
Dakas, and Dakinis,
To all you I make this request:
Just as the essence of honey in the honey source
Is drunk by swarms of bees from all directions,
So through your broad lotus with six characteristics
Please bring satisfaction with the taste of great bliss.
AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO
May the assembly of stainless Dakinis
Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

With this last verse, we continue to meditate on the union of spontaneous great joy and emptiness as in the previous verse. But here, we purify completely all our obstructions to omniscience. And thereby attain full enlightenment. When we attain enlightenment, we are able to perceive appearance directly as a manifestation of bliss and emptiness. Prior to enlightenment, we can meditate on a direct realization of bliss and emptiness, but when appearances once again appear to our mind, they appear to exist from their own side. When we attain enlightenment, this duality falls away and objects appear to us directly to be manifestations of their underlying bliss and emptiness. One way of thinking about it is we penetrate so deeply into emptiness that we find appearance. This is similar to the meditation on the clarity of mind. Clarity is so clear it can know any form. In the same way, the emptiness we perceive is so empty it can appear as any form. When we recite this verse, we strongly believe that we purify completely all our obstructions to omniscience and, as a result, the mandala of our self-generation as Heruka and Vajrayogini begins to appear directly to our mind as a manifestation of the bliss and emptiness we have been bathing in. We attain the resultant union of appearance and emptiness. We strongly believe that we have attained full enlightenment in dependence upon relying on the wisdom mudra Vajrayogini through the practice of Song of the Spring Queen, and we generate a feeling of profound joy experiencing the entire mandala as our body of great bliss and emptiness.

The fifth through the eighth line of this verse describe the practice of relying upon a wisdom mudra from the perspective of someone who has already attained the union of Heruka or full enlightenment. At present, when we engage in self-generation practice, we first generate the basis of imputation of our self as Heruka in Keajra in union with Vajrayogini. We then imagine that we identify with this Heruka and Vajrayogini as if it was ourselves. Wherever we imagine a Buddha, a Buddha appears. And certainly Heruka and Vajrayogini always abide in their pure land. Now try imagine how our engaging in self-generation practice is experienced from the perspective of Heruka and Vajrayogini in Keajra. From their perspective, it is as if countless tantric practitioners are like a swarm of bees who come and partake of the honey source that is their union of Heruka and Vajrayogini. They allow all living beings to enter into them and they share their great bliss with all of them. Here, when we recite this last verse, we imagine that we are Heruka and Vajrayogini in Keajra and that we invite all living beings to enter into us, like a swarm of bees, to enjoy the honey of great bliss that we are offering to them. In other words, we imagine we are experiencing things exactly as Heruka and Vajrayogini do. This way of practicing is incredibly profound and creates countless causes for us to be able to one day become a Heruka able to do this for others. It also creates the karma for us to more easily engage in the practices described by Song of the Spring Queen ourselves in the future. It is almost impossible to imagine how amazing all this is. We are so fortunate!

Happy Tsog Day: How to Practice the Song of the Spring Queen (part 2)

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 25 of a 44-part series.

HUM All you Tathagatas,
Heroes, Yoginis,
Dakas, and Dakinis,
To all you I make this request:
With a mind completely aroused by great bliss
And a body in a dance of constant motion,
I offer to the hosts of Dakinis
The great bliss from enjoying the lotus of the mudra.
AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO
May the assembly of stainless Dakinis
Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

The first four lines and the last three lines can be understood in exactly the same way as the verse above. With the fifth line of this verse, we recall our mind has been completely aroused by great bliss from the previous verse and we are experiencing joy at our throat chakra. With the sixth line, we imagine that ourself and our consort Vajrayogini are in fact a single body of inseparable bliss and emptiness engaged in a dance of constant motion – our act of engaging in spiritual union. Here, we offer this experience of great bliss to the host of Dakas and Dakinis of the body mandala. There are two ways of engaging in Heruka’s body mandala. In the first, as explained in Essence of Vajrayana, we imagine the deities of the body mandala surround us in concentric circles. In the second, as explained in the sadhana New Essence of Vajrayana, we imagine all the deities of the body mandala at the twenty-four places of our body. In both cases, we imagine that the deities of the body mandala are by nature our channels and drops of our subtle body at these places. By mixing the deities of the body mandala with our channels and drops at the twenty-four places, we receive powerful blessings that function to heal our subtle body enabling all our winds to more easily find their way into our central channel at our heart and not become blocked by imperfections or blockages within our subtle body.

In the context of the practice of Song of the Spring Queen, we can imagine either the deities of the body mandala around us in concentric circles or at the twenty-four places of our body. In either case, we offer our experience of great bliss arising from engaging in union with the wisdom mudra Vajayogini to the Dakas and Dakinis, and as a result of them experiencing great bliss, we imagine that our subtle body is completely healed. The Dakas and Dakinis are then able to unobstructedly transmit their blessings through the principal channels of our subtle body causing all our inner winds to travel through them into the central channel at our heart. When we recite the ninth line, we imagine that once again Vajrayogini’s pure winds are blown up into our central channel, re-igniting our tummo fire, and causing the white bodhichitta at our throat to descend to our heart chakra, where we experience the second joy called supreme joy. It is as if all the pure winds from throughout our subtle body and the white bodhichitta descending from our crown all converge into our heart chakra in a concentration of indescribable bliss. 

HUM All you Tathagatas,

Heroes, Yoginis,

Dakas, and Dakinis,

To all you I make this request:

You who dance with a beautiful and peaceful manner,

O Blissful Protector and the hosts of Dakinis,

Please come here before me and grant me your blessings,

And bestow upon me spontaneous great bliss.

AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO

May the assembly of stainless Dakinis

Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

In this verse, with the fifth line, we recall that the great bliss everyone is experiencing around us is by nature emptiness. There is nothing more beautiful nor peaceful than the emptiness of all phenomena. With the sixth and seventh lines, we invite the wisdom beings of all the deities of Heruka’s body mandala to enter into the commitment beings that we have been visualizing up to this point. We imagine that from the ten directions come countless collections of the 64 deities of the body mandala that all dissolve into ourselves as the self-generation. When they do so, we imagine that they bestow spontaneous great bliss upon us, mixed inseparably with a direct realization of the emptiness of all phenomena. When we recite the ninth line, we once again imagine Vajrayogini’s pure winds enter into us, strengthen and further power the tummo fire at our navel. This causes the white bodhichitta, which is still experiencing supreme joy at our heart from before, to descend to our naval channel where it mixes in separably with the tummo fire itself. As a result, we experience the third of the four joys, extraordinary joy, which is even more profound and intense then the supreme joy we generated before.

HUM All you Tathagatas,
Heroes, Yoginis,
Dakas, and Dakinis,
To all you I make this request:
You who have the characteristic of the liberation of great bliss,
Do not say that deliverance can be gained in one lifetime
Through various ascetic practices having abandoned great bliss,
But that great bliss resides in the centre of the supreme lotus.
AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO
May the assembly of stainless Dakinis
Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

Normally when we speak of liberation, we are referring to abandoning all our delusions for ourselves. This is the final result of the Hinayana path and also the middle scope of the Lamrim teachings. However, as explained above, the mind of bodhichitta is the substantial cause of the mind of great bliss, and the practices of generation stage and completion stage are these circumstantial causes that enable us to transform the mind of bodhicitta into the very subtle mind of great bliss. Thus, with the fifth line, we recall that Vajrayogini, who we are engaged in union with, is by nature bodhicitta, which is the uncommon characteristic of the liberation of great bliss. The liberation of great bliss is an experience of great bliss that is equal to or greater than the bliss of individual liberation from samsara, otherwise known as nirvana, but whose special characteristic is to retain the bodhicitta motivation that prevents us from being content with solitary piece.

With the sixth and seventh line, we recall the importance of completely abandoning all attachment if we are to engage in qualified completion stage practice. Aesthetics principal practice is abandoning attachment, and they do so primarily through renouncing all pleasant experiences and achieving a mind that is completely at peace despite that. Aesthetic practices are similar to the practices of physical yoga. When we engage in physical yoga, we put our body into all sorts of extremely uncomfortable positions and stretches, but then we learn how to relax completely into that discomfort and tension completely fades away and we experience it as blissful relaxation of letting go into discomfort. In our practice of tantra, we do not abandon pleasant experiences, rather we learn how to transform them into the spiritual path of generating the mind of great bliss that we then use to meditate on emptiness. The sixth and seventh lines, therefore, remind us that our practices of generation stage and completion stage must be completely free from every trace of attachment just like the practices of an aesthetic must be. The difference is we do not need to renounce the pleasant experience, instead we use it spiritually. With the eighth line, we recall that great bliss can only be found through tantric practice, and in particular through completely loosening all the knots at our central channel as described above. It is only through tantric technology that we can attain enlightenment in one lifetime. This can only be done through relying upon both a wisdom and an action mudra. The supreme lotus refers to Vajrayogini’s bhaga.

When we recite the ninth line, we once again imagine that Vajrayogini’s pure winds flow up into our central channel where they envelop our white bodhichitta now at our navel chakra, and then they draw our white bodhichitta down to the tip of our sex organ. Technically speaking, the center of the chakra at the tip of our sex organ is slightly outside the tip, so we should feel as if the white bodhicitta is now residing inside the center of our lower door and we experience the fourth joy, spontaneous great bliss joy.

Happy Tsog Day: How to Practice the Song of the Spring Queen (part 1)

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 24 of a 44-part series.

Song of the Spring Queen

HUM All you Tathagatas,
Heroes, Yoginis,
Dakas, and Dakinis,
To all you I make this request:
O Heruka who delight in great bliss,
You engage in the Union of spontaneous bliss,
By attending the Lady intoxicated with bliss
And enjoying in accordance with the rituals.
AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO
May the assembly of stainless Dakinis
Look with loving affection and accomplish all deeds.

The Song of the Spring Queen is for many practitioners the highlight of the tsog offering. Not only is the song beautiful and a delight to sing, it also explains how we engage in the practice of relying upon a wisdom mudra according to Highest Yoga Tantra. As explained above, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the nature of tantric practice. Many people feel it is simply a method for having better worldly sex. The purpose of tantric practice is to explain how to transform pleasant experiences into the path to enlightenment. With our Lojong practice, we learn how to transform unpleasant experiences into the path to enlightenment. By learning both Lojong and tantra, we will be able to transform any experience into the path.

Our ability to engage and qualified Lojong or tantric practice depends upon whether our motivation to progress along the path is stronger than our worldly concerns. For example, if what we wish for is to never experience unpleasant experiences, then our practice of Lojong will lack power because we will not care that it is a cause of our enlightenment, we simply do not want to experience unpleasant things. But if our wish to progress along the path is stronger, then we will be able to accept our unpleasant experiences and use them to advance along the path. The experience will still be unpleasant, but it will no longer be a problem for us. In the same way, if our wish to experience worldly pleasures is stronger than our wish to progress along the path, we will not be able to use tantric technology to transform pleasant experiences into the path. Instead, our experience of pleasant experiences will just fuel our attachment. Thus, our motivation for engaging in tantric practice must be to end our attachment, not use tantra as an excuse to indulge in our attachment. This is very important. We should not underestimate the ability of our mind to hijack our Dharma understandings to do what our delusions want us to do.

The first four lines and the last three lines of each verse of Song of the Spring Queen are the same. The explanation that follows can be applied to every verse. With the first three lines, we recall the visualization of our spiritual guide in the aspect of father Heruka and mother Vajraygoini in union, surrounded by all the deities of Heruka’s body mandala. We likewise recall all the other Buddhas and holy beings filling the ten directions. We recognize all these holy beings as emanations, or limbs, of our principal spiritual guide Heruka. We additionally recall that all these appearances are like waves on the ocean of our definitive spiritual guide, dharmakaya Heruka, which is the nature of indivisible bliss and emptiness. Thus, every holy being is like an aspect of the Truth Body. With the fourth line, we generate a faithful mind requesting all the holy beings to perform the action we are about to describe with the next four lines of the verse.

With the ninth line of every verse, AH LA LA, LA LA HO, AH I AH, AH RA LI HO, we imagine that we are Heruka engaged in union with Vajrayogini who is riding up and down on our vajra. As a result of this movement, we should imagine that Vajrayogini’s pure winds flowing through her central channel enter into our central channel flowing upwards, igniting our inner tummo fire, causing the white bodhicitta at our crown to melt through our central channel giving rise to an experience of great bliss. The great bliss we generate as a result of engaging in union with a wisdom mudra functions to loosen the knots at our heart chakra. When these knots are completely loosened, all our inner winds can enter, absorb, and dissolve into our central channel at our heart, which then gives rise to a direct experience of the eight dissolutions, the last of which is a fully qualified mind of clear light. With this clear light mind, we can then meditate on the emptiness of all phenomena, and in particular of our very subtle mind of the clear light itself. This meditation functions to purify our very subtle mind of all delusion obstructions and obstructions to omniscience. When our mind is completely purified of the two obstructions, we attain enlightenment. Thus, the purpose of this meditation is not to enjoy union with Vajrayogini – though that is certainly a pleasant experience – rather it is to loosen the channel knots at our heart so that we can complete our spiritual training. We must be very clear with our motivation for engaging in this practice. More explanations on how to engage in tummo meditation and how to rely upon wisdom and action mudras can be found in Oral Instructions of Mahamudra, Essence of Vajrayana, Clear Light of Bliss, and Tantric Grounds and Paths. All the explanations explained in these texts can be incorporated into our practice of Song of the Spring Queen.

With the last two lines of each verse, we imagine that all the Tathagatas, heroes, yoginis, Dakas, and Dakinis generate great delight knowing that we will soon attain enlightenment. Everyone is collectively enjoying a festival of great bliss!

The fifth through the eighth line of each verse of Song of the Spring Queen is slightly different, emphasizing different aspects of the practice and calling upon different aspects of the visualization to strengthen our practice of relying upon a wisdom mudra. With the first four verses, we can imagine we generate the four joys in serial order, then with the fifth verse we imagine we attain the union a bliss and emptiness, and finally with the last verse we attain the union of Vajradhara.

With this first verse, we focus on the outer aspects of our self-generated as Heruka and our consort generated as Vajrayogini. We imagine that we are engaging in union with her and that she is completely filled with great bliss, as if her mind has been intoxicated thoroughly by this experience. She then concentrates all her great bliss into her central channel, which she then blows lovingly into our central channel through our engaging in union. “Enjoying in accordance with the rituals” refers to the 64 arts of love which are explained in Great Treasury of Merit. Recalling all this, when we engage in union and ignite the tummo fire, we imagine the white bodhichitta at our crown melts and descends down into our throat chakra where are we experienced the first of the four joys, called joy.

Happy Tsog Day: Offering Tsog to All Sentient Beings and All Buddhas

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 23 of a 44-part series.

HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of mother sentient beings.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
May suffering and mistaken appearance be pacified.

In this final verse, which Gen-la Dekyong said is her favorite, we make the tsog offering to the assembly of mother sentient beings. When we do so, they receive special blessings that cause all suffering and mistaken appearance to be pacified. According to Highest Yoga Tantra, the roots of samsara are ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions. Ordinary appearances are the things that we normally see, such as computers, cars, food, and so forth. All these things appear to exist from their own side, independent of our mind. Ordinary conceptions are when we mentally assent to ordinary appearances, believing that the objects exist in the way that they appear. When we free our mind from ordinary conceptions, we attain liberation from samsara. But it is only when we free our mind from ordinary appearances that we attain enlightenment. When we say, “may suffering be pacified,” we are referring to ordinary conceptions that are the root of all our samsaric suffering; and when we say, may “mistaken appearance” be pacified, we are referring to ordinary appearances that prevent our full enlightenment. In other words, after partaking of the tsog offering, we strongly believe that all living beings have now attained enlightenment. This mental action of believing that they have done so creates the karma for them to appear to do so in the future. To strongly believe something in the Dharma does not mean to strongly believe the thing we are imagining inherently exists, rather it means we engage in the mental action of believing something conventionally exists because this mental action is how we create the karma for the thing we are imagining to later appear. In this way, we can understand how engaging in the tsog offering is a method for fulfilling our bodhichitta wish to lead all beings to everlasting freedom.

Making the tsog offering to the Vajra Master

EH MA HO Great circle of tsog!
O Great Hero we understand
That, following in the path of the Sugatas of the three times,
You are the source of all attainments.
Forsaking all minds of conceptualization
Please continuously enjoy this circle of tsog.
AH LA LA HO

Here we make the tsog offering directly to our spiritual guide Buddha Vajradhara at the heart of Lama Losang Tubwang Dorjechang. In making the offering, we remember that Vajradhara is the source of all attainments. Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune that all happiness comes through the kindness of Buddha. The reason for this is all happiness comes from virtue, and virtue arises only in dependence upon receiving blessings from Buddha. If Buddha is the source of all happiness, then certainly he is the source of all spiritual attainments which depends upon both his teachings and his blessings. When we make the offering to the spiritual guide in particular, we recall non-conceptual bliss and emptiness of all phenomena. The spiritual guide himself arises non-conceptually and we view everything that appears to our mind as manifestations bliss and emptiness. When we recite AH LA LA HO, we imagine that the spiritual guide partakes of our tsog offering through a straw of wisdom light.

The Master’s reply

OM With a nature inseparable from the three vajras
I generate as the Guru-Deity.
AH This nectar of uncontaminated exalted wisdom and bliss,
HUM Without stirring from bodhichitta
I partake to delight the Deities dwelling in my body.
AH HO MAHA SUKHA

This verse is particularly blessed. After our spiritual guide has partaken of the tsog offering, we imagine that he replies directly to us with the above words. We should strongly feel that we are in his living presence and he is speaking directly to us. With the first line, we understand that the spiritual guide is inseparable from the visual body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas. With the second line, we recall his outer form as they guru deity – in this context he generates himself as Heruka. With the third line, we imagine that as a result of enjoying the tsog offering he generates a non-contaminated experience of exalted wisdom and bliss. With the fourth line, we recall that his motivation is bodhichitta. Sometimes we may wonder why a Buddha would need to generate the mind of bodhicitta. Aren’t they already a Buddha, so therefore why would they wish to become one? There are two answers to this doubt. First, the principle wish of bodhicitta is to lead all living beings to enlightenment, the wish to become a Buddha ourselves is simply a secondary wish or the assistant wish that enables us to fulfill our primary wish. When a Buddha attains enlightenment, they do not abandon there bodhichitta, but rather their bodhicitta continues to inform all their actions. Second, the spiritual guide generates within his mind all the realizations of the stages of the path as subtle emanations that we as practitioners can mix our mind with. He generates bodhichitta so that when we mix our mind with his we are also able to generate bodhichitta. The same is true for all the other realizations of the stages of the path. With the fifth line, we imagine that all the deities of the body mandala inside our spiritual guide’s body also partake of the tsog offering. As a result, we create a special karma for them to fulfill their function, which is to bless the subtle body, speech, and mind of ourselves. And with the last line, which means “oh what great bliss,” we imagine that our spiritual guide experiences not only himself but all phenomena as great bliss.

One of our refuge commitments is to offer the first portion of whatever we eat to the three jewels. In the eleven yogas of Vajrayogini explained in Guide to Dakini Land and Modern Buddhism, we are encouraged to recite this verse whenever we ourselves eat. This is a method for fulfilling our refuge commitment according to Highest Yoga Tantra. Since we eat many times every day, by memorizing and subsequently practicing this verse we will be able to recall our tantric practice day and night. The way to engage in the practice can be understood from the explanation above. More detail can be found in Guide to Dakini Land.

Happy Tsog Day: Making the Actual Tsog Offering

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 22 of a 44-part series.

Making the tsog offering

HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of root and lineage Gurus.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
Please bestow a great rain of blessings.

When we make the tsog offering itself we do so in successive rounds to the different parts of the field of merit. In this verse we make the tsog offering to the assembly of root and lineages Gurus. With the first line, we recall the outer aspect of the offerings we previously blessed. With the second line, we recall their cause, namely our concentration on emptiness, the mantra of all the Buddhas OM AH HUM, and our hand mudras performed during the blessing of the offerings. With the third line, we should imagine that countless offering goddesses holding skull cups scoop up the nectar of our offerings and fly to the assembly of root and lineages Gurus. With the fourth line we should imagine that the root and lineages Gurus partake of the offering through straws of wisdom light. With the fifth line we imagine that the root and lineages Gurus experience great bliss in dependence upon enjoying the offerings. With the sixth line we recall that ourselves, the offerings, the deities, and their experience of great bliss all lack inherent existence and are of one nature, like water mixed with water, or like different waves on the ocean of bliss and emptiness. With the last line, we request the root and lineages Gurus to perform their primary function, which is to bestow a great rain of blessings to realize all the stages of the path to enlightenment. Venerable Tharchin explains that a blessing is like a subtle infusion of the Buddha’s mind into our own. In modern terms, it is like we are downloading the Guru’s realizations into our own mind. By requesting that we receive the Guru’s blessings, we create the causes to do so. We should then strongly imagine that light rays and nectars descend from all the root and lineages Gurus and dissolve into our root mind at our heart.

HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the divine assembly of Yidams and their retinues.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
Please bestow a great rain of attainments.

Here, we are making the tsog offerings to the assembly of Yidams and their retinues. The first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth lines can be understood in exactly the same way as the first verse above. With the last line, we request the Yidams to perform their specific function which is to bestow a great rain of attainments.

There are a few different types of attainments that the Yidams bestow upon us. The first is according to the types of enlightened actions that a Buddha engages in, namely pacifying, increasing, controlling, and wrathful actions. The ability to engage in these types of actions are four different types of attainment.

A second set of attainments is mundane and super mundane attainments. Mundane attainments are the ability to accomplish things in this life. These are important because the more effective we are in this world, the greater the benefit we can bring causing the Dharma to flourish. Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune the eight attributes of a fully endowed human life. These are: long life, beauty, high status, wealth and resources, persuasive speech, power and influence, freedom and independence, a strong mind, and a strong body. These eight mundane attainments all help us accomplish the ultimate purpose of human life, namely to attain enlightenment and to lead others to the same state. Geshe-la explains these attainments provide us “the very best opportunity to attain liberation and enlightenment in one lifetime.” A long life gives us the time we need to complete our Dharma practice. Beauty helps us attract disciples and makes it easier for them to generate faith in us. High status makes people more inclined to listen to our advice. Wealth and resources provide us with the means of benefiting living beings and Dharma centers in material ways. Persuasive speech makes others trust what we have to say so that our good advice is taken to heart. Power and influence enables us to operate at a higher scale and therefore bring greater benefit in all our actions. Freedom and independence enables us to be free from interferences with our Dharma practice. A strong mind enables us to easily understand the Dharma and help others do so as well. A strong body enables us to be healthy and also to live a long life.

The supermundane attainments are the realizations of the stages of the path, namely renunciation, bodhicitta, the correct view of emptiness, generation stage, and completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra. All the supermundane attainments can be understood from the explanation of the stages of the path that follows.

HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of Three Precious Jewels.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
Please bestow a great rain of sacred Dharmas.

With this verse we make the tsog offering to the three precious jewels. After making the tsog offering to the three precious jewels, we request them to accomplish their specific function which is to bestow a great rain of sacred Dharmas. The Buddhas bestow Dharma jewels through their teachings and blessings. Sangha bestow Dharma jewels through their good example and wise advice. The Dharma itself is both the teachings and also, more importantly, the actual realizations of the stages of the path inside our mind. In Joyful Path of Good Fortune, Geshe-la explains there are two types of refuge: simple and special. Simple refuge is simply requesting blessings that the three jewels help us. Special refuge is our actual refuge in the form of the realizations of the stages of the path within our mind. These realizations protect us from lower rebirth, rebirth in samsara, or becoming trapped in the solitary peace of a Hinayana Foe Destroyer.

HO This ocean of tsog offering of uncontaminated nectar,
Blessed by concentration, mantra, and mudra,
I offer to please the assembly of Dakinis and Dharma Protectors.
OM AH HUM
Delighted by enjoying these magnificent objects of desire,
EH MA HO
Please bestow a great rain of virtuous deeds.

In this verse we make off the tsog offering to the assembly of Dakinis and Dharma protectors, and we request them to accomplish their specific function, which is to bestow a great rain of virtuous deeds. As explained above, the Dakinis refer primarily to the deities of Heruka’s and Vajrayogini’s body mandala. These deities attained enlightenment for the express purpose of healing the subtle body of living beings in order to help them engage in completion stage practices. Our subtle body is comprised of channels, drops, and winds. At present our subtle body is a mangled mess with blockages and imperfections everywhere. As a result, our drops and winds are not able to flow freely and unobstructedly throughout our subtle body.

When blockages in our subtle body occur, we develop both outer and inner sicknesses. Outer sickness can take the form of things like cancer, infections, and other diseases. Inner sickness includes developing different types of delusions. When we heal our subtle body, our drops and inner energy winds can flow effortlessly without obstruction, resulting in the healing of both outer and inner sickness. Additionally, by virtue of healing our subtle body, when we engage in completion stage practices, all our inner energy winds can gather, absorb, and dissolve into our central channel at our heart. It is only through causing our winds to dissolve into our central channel that we can experience the eight dissolutions culminating in a qualified experience of clear light. Once we have generated the mind of clear light, we can then meditate on emptiness and quickly purify our mind of all delusions and their karmic imprints, thereby attaining enlightenment.

The Dharma Protector’s job is to arrange all the outer, inner, and secret conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment. Buddhas can only work with the karma on our mind. Their blessings can function to activate different karmic potentialities on our mind in specific ways that are conducive to our enlightenment. The principal Dharma protector of the New Kadampa Tradition is Dorje Shugden. He is a manifestation of the wisdom Buddha Manjushri. In dependence upon receiving his blessings, we come to see how whatever karma ripens is perfect for our spiritual training. There is no such thing as an inherently existent obstacle to our Dharma practice. Everything can be a condition for training our mind. Because we are currently strongly attached to certain things and averse to others, we think somethings are good for our practice and other things are obstacles. This is ignorance. Dorje Shugden’s blessings enable us to understand how everything is perfect for our training, therefore nothing is an obstacle to our Dharma practice. Things may still be a problem for our worldly concerns, but they are not a problem for our spiritual path. In this way, he removes all obstacles. Understanding this, we request him to perform this function for our self and for all living beings.

Happy Tsog Day: Enlightened Party Preparation

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 21 of a 44-part series.

The Tsog Offering

If we wish to make a tsog offering to emphasize the swift attainment of the realizations of the stages of the path, we should do so after reciting the mantras.

As explained in the first post of this series, we are encouraged as part of our Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and commitments to make a tsog offering on the two 10th days. Doing so with faith and imagination is a guaranteed method for attaining the pure land. What is a tsog offering? Essentially, it is an enlightened party in which we accumulate merit, develop close connections with the Buddhas, and create the causes to generate the qualified great bliss of completion stage.

Within the context of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we can perform the tsog offering in a variety of different places in order to emphasize different aspects of the practice. For example, we can do so before purification practice, receiving blessings, and so forth. Here, in order to emphasize the importance of Lamrim meditation, I am explaining the tsog offering just prior to the prayer of the stages of the path in the sadhana. Wherever we do the tsog offering, we can believe that it supercharges whatever comes afterwards and our mind becomes specifically blessed to gain the realizations of what comes next in the sadhana.

The Kadampa Buddhist tradition takes the Lamrim as our main practice. Everything we do, in sutra and in tantra, are all part the Kadam Lamrim. Geshe-la explains in Mirror of Dharma that there are three different prayers of state of the stages of the path. The short prayer is the one in Prayers for Meditation, the middling prayer is the one from Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land according to Highest Yoga Tantra explained in Oral Instructions of Mahamudra, and the extensive Lamrim prayer is in Offering to the Spiritual Guide. In many ways, the extensive Lamrim prayer is the most comprehensive yet synthesized explanation of the entire New Kadampa Tradition path. Just as we are encouraged to memorize the middling prayer, so too we should strive to memorize the long Lamrim prayer.

Blessing the offering substances

OM AH HUM  (3x)

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

EH MA HO Great manifestation of exalted wisdom.
All realms are vajra realms
And all places are great vajra palaces
Endowed with vast clouds of Samantabhadra’s offerings,
An abundance of all desired enjoyments.
All beings are actual Heroes and Heroines.
Everything is immaculately pure,
Without even the name of mistaken impure appearance.

Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path of Good Fortune that there is no difference between making offerings to a statue or making offerings to the living Buddha. The reason for this is twofold: first, both the statue and a living Buddha are equally empty, meaning they are equally mere karmic appearances of mind. Second, wherever we imagine a Buddha, a Buddha goes, so when we imagine a Buddha in the space in front of us, he is present and receives our offerings. In the same way, there is no difference between making actual offerings and imagined offerings, because once again both are equally empty and Buddhas are present to receive our offerings.

It is quite difficult to fill the universe with Samantabhadra’s offerings, but it is easy to do so with our faith and imagination. In this section of the tsog offering, we bless the offerings, environment, and world. We first dissolve everything into emptiness, and then from the space of emptiness generate pure offerings and a pure world as described in the sadhana. We should strongly believe that the entire world has transformed into a pure land and all space is filled with exquisite offerings that would delight the gods. We recognize all these offerings and the pure world to be the nature of indivisible bliss and emptiness appearing in the aspect of the offerings and pure world.

HUM All elaborations are completely pacified in the state of the Truth Body. The wind blows and the fire blazes. Above, on a grate of three human heads, AH within a qualified skullcup, OM the individual substances blaze. Above these stand OM AH HUM, each ablaze with its brilliant colour. Through the wind blowing and the fire blazing, the substances melt. Boiling, they swirl in a great vapour. Masses of light rays from the three letters radiate to the ten directions and invite the three vajras together with nectars. These dissolve separately into the three letters. Melting into nectar, they blend with the mixture. Purified, transformed, and increased,

EH MA HO They become a blazing ocean of magnificent delights.

OM AH HUM  (3x)

Here, we are specifically blessing the tsog offering itself. Externally, we imagine that from the space of emptiness appears a large skull cup inside of which are the offerings, we then imagine that a wisdom fire burns beneath the skull cup causing all the offerings to melt, and then we imagine the seed letters OM, AH, and HUM all dissolve into the offerings blessing them and purifying them as described explicitly in the sadhana. Internally, we can engage in tummo meditation inside our central channel. We imagine that our inner tummo fire at our secret place blazes, it causes the drops within our central channel to melt, giving rise to an experience of great bliss. An extensive explanation for how to do this can be found in Guide to Dakini Land and Essence of Vajrayana. Someone who is able to train in tummo meditation while blessing offerings will make very swift progress to enlightenment.

Inviting the guests of the tsog offering

O Root and lineage Gurus, whose nature is compassion,
The assembly of Yidams and objects of refuge, the Three Precious Jewels,
And the hosts of Heroes, Dakinis, Dharma Protectors, and Dharmapalas,
I invite you, please come to this place of offerings.

With this verse we invite all the deities of Highest Yoga Tantra to join us for the tsog offering. There are three points in particular we should emphasize. First, that all the invited deities are in essence our spiritual guide, who himself is the nature of compassion. Buddhas themselves have no need for emanation bodies, rather they generate them out of compassion to be able to communicate with living beings such as ourselves. Second, we should understand the different functions of the spiritual guide emanating these different forms. Our Yidams provide us with the actual Buddha we strive to become. The three precious jewels help us by bestowing blessings, setting a good example, and revealing to us the stages of the path to enlightenment. The Heroes and Dakinis bless our subtle body – our channels, drops, and winds – enabling us to easily cause our inner winds to dissolve into our central channel, giving rise to the appearances of the eight dissolutions, resulting finally in the mind of the Clear Light of Bliss. The Dharma protectors and dharmapala’s arrange all the outer and inner conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment. Understanding the value of receiving all this benefit from our spiritual guide, we imagine all these deities come into the space in front of us. And third, we strongly believe we are in the living presence of all these deities. We should not think they are simply objects of our imagination, but rather that the holy beings themselves have entered into our mind and we are directly communing with them when we make the tsog offering.

Amidst vast clouds of outer, inner, and secret offerings,
With light radiating even from your feet,
O Supremely Accomplished One please remain firm on this beautiful throne of jewels
And bestow the attainments that we long for.

Here we recall all the offerings that we previously generated and the reason why we invited all the holy beings, namely so that they can bestow all the attainments that we long for. It is important to remember that the Buddhas want nothing more than to bestow blessings and attainments upon us. The reason why they attained enlightenment was to be able to do so, so we should feel that they are overjoyed to come into our presence to receive our offerings and to bestow their blessings.

Happy Tsog Day: Receiving the blessings of the four empowerments

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 20 of a 44-part series.

Through the force of requesting three times in this way, white, red, and blue light rays and nectars, serially and together, arise from the places of my Guru’s body, speech, and mind, and dissolve into my three places, serially and together. My four obstructions are purified and I receive the four empowerments. I attain the four bodies and, out of delight, an emanation of my Guru dissolves into me and bestows his blessings.

At this point we meditate briefly on receiving the blessings of the four empowerments according to the commentary. Then we imagine that an emanation of Lama Losang Tubwang Dorjechang comes to the crown of our head and, entering into our central channel, descends to our heart. We imagine that our subtle body, speech, and mind become of one taste with our Spiritual Guide’s body, speech, and mind, and meditate on this special feeling of bliss for a while. After this we recite the mantras according to the commentary.

The single-pointed request also has the function of requesting the spiritual guide to bestow the four empowerments. The four empowerments are the empowerment of the body; speech; mind; and the body, speech, and mind together of Je Tsongkhapa. The first empowerment bestows the body of a Je Tsongkhapa, which has the ability to emanate countless forms according to the needs of living beings. The speech empowerment bestows upon us the vajra speech of Je Tsongkhapa, which has power to guide all living beings to enter onto, progress along, and complete the path to enlightenment. By attaining the vajra speech of Je Tsongkhapa, our every sound will function to teach the truth of Dharma. The mind empowerment bestows the vajra mind of Je Tsongkhapa, which possesses the five omniscient wisdoms and can see clearly and directly all phenomena in all three times. The empowerment of the body, speech, and mind together functions to unite the vajra body, vajra speech, and vajra mind of Je Tsongkhapa so that they function together in harmony. Receiving the empowerments in this way is exactly the same as receiving the Je Tsongkhapa empowerment. In this way, the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide has the same function as self-initiation of Je Tsongkhapa.

We can also understand the empowerments at a deeper level where the vajra body empowerment is the similar in nature as the vase empowerment of Heruka that has the result of enabling all the meditations on the profound generation stage of the body mandala and leads to the final resultant attainment of the Emanation Body. The speech empowerment is similar in nature as the secret empowerment of Heruka, which empowers us to meditate on the completion stage of illusory body and have the good fortune of attaining the resultant enjoyment body. The mind empowerment is similar in nature to the wisdom mudra empowerment which empowers us to meditate on the completion stage of the clear light of the Mahamudra and will give us the good fortune of attaining the resultant Truth Body. And the body, speech, and mind empowerments together is similar in nature to the precious word empowerment, which empowers us to meditate on the completion stage of inconceivable and have the good fortune to attain the resultant union of Vajradhara.

When we receive the empowerments, we imagine that from the crown of our spiritual guide comes white wisdom lights that bestow the body empowerment; from the throat of our spiritual guide come red lights that bestow the speech empowerment; from the heart of our spiritual guide come blue lights which bestow the mind empowerment; and then from the body, speech, and mind of our spiritual guide simultaneously come white, red, and blue lights which bestow the body, speech, and mind empowerment together. As these light rays and nectars descend, we should feel as if we are receiving a subtle infusion of our Guru’s body, speech, and mind into our own body, speech, and mind bestowing upon us all the attainments.

After receiving these blessings, we then imagine that the entire field of merit dissolves into our spiritual guide in the space in front of us, who then comes to our crown, descends through our central channel down to our heart, where he mixes in separably with our indestructible wind and mind. It should feel as if his mind has entered into ours, and our mind is now his. Essentially, we receive a mind transplant where his enlightened mind becomes our own. Since the ultimate nature of our Guru’s mind is the union of great bliss and emptiness, we feel as if our mind has merged with an ocean of bliss and emptiness. Perceiving only the clear light, experiencing great bliss, and seeing directly the mere absence of all the things that we normally see, we recognize this clear light emptiness as our definitive spiritual guide and we impute our “I” upon it, strongly believing that we are Truth Body dharmakaya of our spiritual guide.