Happy International Temple’s Day: Building the Embassies of the Pure Land in this World

The first Saturday of every November is International Temples Day where we celebrate the creation and maintenance of Kadampa temples around the world.  On this day we principally try to recall why temples matter.  On this basis, we become inspired to do what we can to become part of the International Temple’s Project – and don’t worry, there are many other ways we can help besides just donating money.

What is the International Temples Project?

One of the central legacies of Geshe-la in this world is the International Temples Project.  Launched in the mid-1990s, it is Geshe-la’s vision for there to eventually be a qualified Kadampa temple in every major city of the world.  Geshe-la’s wish is for the Kadam Dharma to pervade everywhere, and these temples are like iron frames upon which buildings are built.  They provide the basic structure sustaining and supporting the development of Kadam Dharma in the minds of the beings of this world.

The very first temple was opened in 1997 at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Center in Ulverston, England.  It is the mother center of the NKT, and this temple is the mother temple for all the others.  Later, another temple was opened in Glen Spey, New York.  I was fortunate enough to be at the opening of both temples.  Since then, temples have sprung up in Brazil, Arizona, Spain, and more are planned until eventually, they will be everywhere.

Gen Losang once told me, “temples are like Embassies of the Pure Land in this world, and our Dharma teachers are like the Ambassadors of all the Buddhas.”  An Embassy is like a portal through which another country can express its culture and share its experience in a foreign land.  The goal is to improve relations between the two countries and their peoples.  By coming into contact with temples, the beings of this world are introduced to the pure worlds of the Buddhas.  Through temples, the wisdom of all the Buddhas is brought into this world.  Those who are interested can enter into these spiritual Embassies and be transported to new worlds.

Geshe-la explained that each temple is by nature Heruka’s celestial mansion in this world.  One of our refuge commitments is to regard any statue of a Buddha as an actual Buddha.  We are supposed to see past the craftmanship, no matter how beautiful it may be, and with our eyes of faith see a living Buddha.  In exactly the same way, when we see or enter into a temple, we should recognize it as an in essence Heruka’s celestial palace in this world, where we are transported to the pure land, can receive the blessings of all the Buddhas, and can learn all of the stages of the path.  Without a portal, we cannot enter.  Temples are an outer portal that leads us to the inner portal to lands of eternal peace.

Geshe-la has said that our Kadampa temples are our places of pilgrimage.  We are not always able to make it to every Kadampa festival or Dharma celebration, but we should make an effort to go at least once in our life.  One of the commitments of Muslims is to make a pilgrimage to the Haaj at least once in their lifetime.  Personally, I think this would also make a wonderful commitment for all Kadampas.  One cannot help but be moved by the experience, and karmically speaking the experience quite literally stays with us our whole life.

Geshe-la explains that the karma we create by helping a Dharma center continues to accumulate for as long as that center exists, and it continues to expand as the center expands.  In the early days, there was no center in Los Angeles, just a small, rented house in Santa Barbara.  There was a woman who lived in the center named Lea, who helped keep the center afloat financially with her rent payments and who dedicated her time to organize classes and other center activities.  In the beginning, it was basically just her, and without her, the center would have never gotten off the ground.  Later, a branch was opened in Los Angeles, which grew and grew until eventually now there is a vibrant spiritual community.  Eventually, I have no doubt, there will be a Manjushri-style temple there.  I don’t know whatever happened to Lea, she was likely just an emanation of Tara sent to help, but the karma she accumulated from that initial help continues to multiply today.  The temples we build are built to last.  There are churches in Rome that are over a thousand years old.  We are at the very beginning of the International Temples Project, and the help we provide now will be like Lea’s, and the karma we accumulate will serve us in all our future lives.

Why do temples matter?

Everyone appreciates a beautiful temple, even non-religious people.  All over the world, tourists flock to churches, temples, mosques, and other sites of worship.  They are living testaments to the faith of the practitioners who built them and serve as a point of focus for practitioners.  Normally we might think it is a sign of degeneration that these places of worship become tourist attractions, but Geshe-la explains this is one of their greatest advantages.  Why?  Every time we see a Buddha image, it creates a non-contaminated karmic potentiality on our mind which can never be destroyed and will eventually become a seed of our future enlightenment.  Angulamala had killed hundreds of people and when he went to ordain, seers said he could not because they could find no virtue on his mind.  Buddha, however, looked into his mind and saw that in a previous life he was a fly who landed on some dung next to a stupa (a representation of Buddha’s mind).  This seed could not be destroyed, even by all his evil deeds, and later became the foundation for his spiritual life.  When busloads of children and tourists come and visit our temples, they behold hundreds of images of Buddhas, each time planting the seeds of their future enlightenment on their minds. 

Gen Losang once famously asked who is more important, those who come to the center and stay or those who come to the center and leave?  If we look at how centers are organized, it seems our implicit answer is those who come and stay.  But Gen Losang said it was those who come and leave who are more important because they are more numerous.  Some practitioners might think they don’t need temples and they wonder why so much emphasis is placed on creating them, but this is because they are thinking primarily about their own needs and not the larger function temples serve in the world.

Kadam Lucy said the most important thing people discover when they come to a temple or Dharma center is not the building, but the people.  Everyone is looking for happiness but rarely do we find genuinely happy people.  If when people come to visit our Dharma centers they find happy people, others will naturally want to stay and find out what the secret to their happiness is.  Everyone is looking for unconditional love and lightness, and we can provide that.  Seen in this way, we – the practitioners of this tradition – are equally part of the Temple’s project simply through the force of our example and our welcoming attitude.  The essence of the Kadampa Way of life is “everybody welcome.”  This does not just mean nobody is excluded, it means everyone is made to feel welcome as if they are coming home.

My teacher in Paris said when we work to flourish the Dharma, we need to avoid the extremes of external and of internal flourishing.  The external extreme is when we focus exclusively on external developments, like buildings, temples, ritual objects, and other external manifestations of being a “Dharma practitioner.”  The internal extreme is when we completely neglect these things and only focus on gaining inner realizations, thinking the external manifestations are unnecessary or even anti-spiritual.

Venerable Tharchin said the real temple is the inner realizations and interpersonal connections of the practitioners who practice there.  While of course, outer temples are important, inner temples are their main cause.  He explains that since our minds are not separate from others, our inner realizations are like a beacon of light in the darkness of the minds of the beings of our community.  All living things are naturally drawn towards the light, and the more realizations we gain and the closer the karmic connections we create with our fellow sangha, the brighter our light shines.  The spiritual light in each one of us is like a single candle flame, but when we put our lights together, it creates a blazing spiritual sun in our communities.  Venerable Tharchin explains that when the inner temple is right, the outer temple will spontaneously appear, almost like magic.

Venerable Tharchin also explains that every time we do a spiritual practice with others we create the causes to do the same spiritual practice with the same people again in the future.  When we do a puja in a temple, for example, we create not only karmic connections with the Buddha of the given practice, but we create karma with all of the other practitioners engaging in the practice with us.  This karma will ripen in the future in the form of us reuniting with these same people engaging in the same practice.  It is in Temples that our international Kadampa family gathers together as a global sangha to engage in teachings and practices together.  Without the temples, we could not gather together and create this karma.  Seen in this way, temples are also like an insurance policy for finding the Dharma and our spiritual family again and again in all our future lives. 

How Can We Celebrate International Temples Day?

The main way we celebrate this day is by contemplating why temples are so important to generate an appreciation for them.  Sometimes we might hold ourselves back from doing so because we are afraid if we do so, we might then have to give some of our money, and we are extremely reluctant to do that.  We wonder whether all of this talk about temples and the International Temples Project is really just a clever scam to get our money!

There are many ways we can contribute to the flourishing of Kadampa temples in this world without having to part with any of our money.  Many people volunteer their lives and their skills to building temples.  They travel the world offering their labor and their time to help build the temples the rest of us enjoy.  How wonderful it would be to let go of our worldly concerns and live the life of an international temple builder!  But even if that is not possible for us, we might be able to offer a Saturday afternoon using whatever skills – be they building skills or office skills – we might have to help advance the project.

All of us can rejoice in those who can donate their money or their time to the project.  Rejoicing costs us nothing, but in doing so we create very powerful karma similar to that of those who are actually doing it.  This karma will ripen in many ways.  The ripened effect will be to be reborn either as a temple benefactor or a temple builder.  The environmental effect will be to have temples appear in our lives in all our future lives.  The effect similar to the cause will be to have the means in the future to be able to more easily give to the project.  And the tendency similar to the cause will be to always appreciate the good qualities of Kadampa temples and those who make them happen.

We can additionally dedicate the merit we accumulate from our spiritual practices to the realization of Geshe-la’s vision for a Kadampa temple to appear in every major city of this world.  One of the uncommon characteristics of pure wishes is the karma we dedicate towards them can never be destroyed and never ceases to work until our pure wish is fulfilled.  This does not mean one prayer alone is enough, but each dedication we make adds energy towards the realization of this wish, and this energy can never be destroyed.  When enough energy has been created, the result will spontaneously arise.  All of us engage in spiritual practices every day, but how often do we decide to dedicate that merit to the fulfillment of Geshe-la’s vision for international temples?  At a minimum, International Temple Day gives us an opportunity to make such dedications; and even better, to decide to start making such dedications every day.

Perhaps our city doesn’t yet have a temple.  We might even become jealous of those cities that do have one or think we can’t advance in our practice unless we too have a temple, transforming them from an object of refuge into an object of attachment.  Or perhaps we think our city is far away from having a temple because our Sangha is so small, so why should we help support the development of temples somewhere else where we won’t receive any benefit from it ourselves?  None of us would admit to having any of these minds, but they do arise and they are as ridiculous as they sound.  So what should we do?  First, we can recall that by helping others have temples, we create the causes for ourselves to have one.  That’s how karma works.  Second, we can imagine that, even though our center might currently be a classroom we rent out one night a week in a local massage school, our actual center is Heruka’s celestial palace, a fully qualified temple.  While our physical eyes might see plastic chairs in a room, our eyes of faith can imagine we have gone to the pure land and are receiving teachings in a temple.  This imagination is very similar to generation stage of highest yoga tantra and creates the causes for our correct imagination to eventually become a reality.

One of the best ways we can contribute to the International Temples Project is to build within ourselves the inner temple of realizations Venerable Tharchin refers to.  We can become the kind-hearted happy Kadampa who makes everyone feel welcome that Kadam Lucy extols.  We can build close karmic connections with our Sangha friends so we can unite our candles together into a blazing spiritual sun.  We can make a point of attending classes and putting our guru’s teachings we have received in temples or centers into practice.  All of these actions create the deep substantial causes for temples to appear in this world.  Without them, we fall into the extreme of the external flourishing of Dharma. 

And yes, some of us can donate money. 

The reality is temples cannot appear in this world without financial resources.  It is not a scam or a cult, this is simply a fact about how the world works.  Yes, the Dharma should be made freely available to all, but how is that to happen if nobody gives to them?  There is a very special offering called a torma offering.  The meaning of a torma offering is we are mentally willing to give everything we have for the sake of Dharma realizations because we recognize them as that valuable.  Geshe-la’s books are filled with examples of practitioners willing to cut off their flesh or undergo incredible hardship for the sake of gaining access to teachings.  He tells us these stories not to encourage us to do the same but to realize that it would be worth it even if we had to do so.  Such practitioners, from their own side, value the Dharma more than they do their material belongings, including their own bodies. 

Perhaps we don’t have any money now to give.  No problem, we can give in all the other ways described above, or at a minimum, we can rejoice in those who do have such ability.  We can also think about including the International Temples Project in our last will and testament so that when we die, whatever resources we have accumulated go towards spiritual purposes.  In Joyful Path, Geshe-la tells the story of somebody who was extremely attached to their money when they died and was later reborn as a snake inside their money jar.  He encourages us to give everything away before we die so that we are not attached to anything.  Of course, we need to provide for our families, but we can also use some resources we have for spiritual purposes.  Universities around the world accumulate vast endowments from such giving, which continues to support opportunities for students for generations to come.  Why can we not do the same?  Similarly, if our parents or relatives pass away, instead of keeping the money for ourselves, we can give some or all of it away to the Temples’ Project.  Why keep it for ourselves when we can create so much better karma by giving it away?  Such giving also helps our deceased relative because they get a fraction of the good karma of our giving away their money to spiritual causes.

My teacher in Paris once said, “We should give until it hurts.”  Wow!  What a statement.  While it is perhaps unskillful to say, she makes a valid point.  It is easy to give away things we don’t need or don’t use anymore, but it cuts into our self-cherishing to give more than that.  What is bad for our self-cherishing is good for us.  Geshe-la explains in the teachings on emptiness that an effective way to identify the self that we normally see is to think of it in a situation where it is particularly manifest, such as imagining we are standing on a high precipice.  At such times, we clearly see our I.  In the same way, sometimes we are forced to confront our demon of self-cherishing straight in the face, and others asking for donations is usually one of the most manifest examples.  Our self-cherishing roars in protest and comes up with a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t give or feels like we are being spiritually manipulated out of our money, so we reject doing so as a matter of principle. 

But are we being manipulated here?  Is that the motivation and goal?  Or are we merely being given an opportunity to accumulate amazing merit while benefiting countless future generations?  Is our resistance to giving a matter of principle, or is it our self-cherishing rationalizing our miserliness?  We need to be honest with ourselves.  We talk all the time about the evils of our self-cherishing mind, but when we are presented with an opportunity to go against its wishes, how do we feel about that?  Venerable Tharchin says it is better to give one penny a day for 100 days than $1 on one day.  Why?  Because the point is not the money, it is training in the mind of giving.  There is something we can give, so why not do so?  If we can’t part with our money, then no problem, there are still so many other things we can do that cost us nothing.  We shouldn’t feel guilty or beat ourselves up for not being able to give money, it is just where we are at.  No problem.  We can recognize that and do what we can.  When we do, we will find helping in greater and greater ways becomes easier over time. 

In any case, we can meditate on the many good qualities of international temples and rejoice in their arising in this world.  This is the essence of International Temples Day.  The rest flows naturally from this.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: How to overcome Obstacles to Concentration

Bodhisattva Downfall:  Not overcoming obstacles to mental stabilization. 

In this context there are five.  If we make no effort to abandon them we incur a secondary downfall: (1) Needless self-reproach and excitement, (2) Malicious thoughts, (3) Sleep and dullness, (4) Distracting desires, (5) Frequent and disturbing doubts.

Needless self-reproach refers to how we tend to beat ourselves up when we discover that we have become distracted.  Anger at ourself is still anger, and therefore a delusion.  When we discover we have been distracted, we should patiently accept it and gently (but firmly) decide to go back to our object of meditation without unnecessary drama.  It’s normal and natural that we become distracted, that is why we are training.  Needless excitement refers to when we have some mental breakthrough or some profound “ah ha” moment and we get over-excited about it.  Sometimes this is hard to resist, but our over-excitement about it will cause us to lose the feeling or understanding.  Better to be happy and try to maintain the continuum of remembering the new discovery for as long as we can.  The longer we do, the more deeply we plant the new understanding on our mind.

Malicious thoughts are bad both in and out of meditation, but they are especially bad in meditation itself.  We do not usually realize, but this happens more than we think.  What often happens for me is I am meditating on some idea of Dharma, and then it causes me to recall how somebody else in my life is not living up to this idea of the Dharma, and then I start to judge the other person using the Dharma as my lens of judgment.  This can also take the form of we are angry at somebody, we sit down to meditate to try calm down, but we spend our whole meditation time contemplating the faults of the other person and why we are right and they are wrong.

Sleep and dullness happens to all of us.  Our gross minds arise from our subtle minds, and our subtle minds arise from our very subtle mind.  The entire purpose of meditation is to plant the Dharma at increasingly subtle levels of mind.  When we do so, all of the minds that are grosser than the depth to which we have planted the Dharma will be a reflection of the Dharma pattern we planted deeper than these gross levels of mind.  It is a bit like putting the stained glass of Dharma on our mind, and the light that then shines through it reflects the pattern of the stained glass.  The more we concentrate, the more subtle our mind becomes.  The problem for us is the only subtle minds we know are sleep.  So when we enter meditation, we fall into the parts of our mind that correspond with sleep and we become sleepy, we get the “nods” (our head bobbing up and down as we fall asleep while trying to stay awake), etc.  There is not a single meditator who does not, from time to time, struggle with this.  What can we do to overcome this?  First, it is usually best to meditate in the morning because we are more rested and less likely to fall asleep.  If we are generally groggy in the morning, we can take our shower and shave first, do our meditation, and then get dressed for the day.  Second, when it does happen, accept it as part of our training.  When we die, our mind will likewise become increasingly subtle.  By learning to try to maintain mindfulness of our objects of meditation as our mind becomes more subtle is the best possible training we can do to become prepared for death.  Third, we need to keep a positive attitude.  Do not beat yourself up or feel like a failure, instead know you are purifying and working through your obstructions.  We all have to go through this.  It is a training, not a demonstration of accomplishment.  Fourth, sometimes if it is really bad, we can try open our eyes, stretch, roll our head around to the maximum extent possible in a circle, etc.  As a general rule, we should avoid giving in to the sleepiness and going to take a nap.  This is a bad habit to get into, and it will train our mind to equate meditation with taking a nap, and so we will have the problem of sleepiness even more in the future.  If you want to take a nap, you can do so after your meditation is over, but you will find that most often as soon as you come out of meditation your sleepiness goes away.  Fifth, request blessings.  The Buddhas are right there waiting to help us with our meditation.  All we need to do is request their help with faith.  It does not matter if the sleepiness goes away.  What matters is we keep training and keep trying.

Distracting desires was discussed extensively in the earlier posts on the vows related to mental stabilization, so I refer you there.

Frequent and disturbing doubts refers to our inability to ever believe anything until we are 100% convinced.  Blind faith is an extreme in the Dharma, but so too is the inability to believe.  We need to ask questions and probe the Dharma to gain a deeper understanding, but we also need to not expect to have a perfect understanding until we actually attain enlightenment.  We need to be like a scientist.  Scientists work with hypotheses.  They gather all available evidence and information, and they say, “given all of this, what is the most logical and reasonable conclusion I can draw.”  That conclusion then is their “hypothesis.”  They then say, “how can I test to see whether or not this hypothesis is correct?” and they design experiments to test the validity of their hypothesis.  The results of their experiment then give them more information and evidence with which they can either confirm or modify their hypothesis.  They continue to work in this way, gradually refining their theories until eventually the develop “laws of nature” or “scientific axioms.”  Throughout this entire process, they are never 100% sure that their theories are correct, but they are able to reach sufficiently high confidence levels that for all practical purposes this is what they “believe” to be true.  On the basis of this belief, they can build cars, computers and space ships. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: How to Train in Concentration

Once we have a deep appreciation of the benefits of our objects of meditation, and mixing our mind with them is genuinely felt to be the most important thing in our life, then we will not find training in concentration to be that difficult.  We train as follows: First, we contemplate the benefits of mixing our mind with our chosen object to generate a desire to do so.  Then we engage in the contemplations which give rise to our object of meditation as explained in the various books.  Once we have found our object, we simply try to maintain the continuum of remembering it, in particular remembering its meaning.  In the process of doing this, basically without us being aware of it, our mind will gradually slip away and become distracted by something else.  At some point we will “wake up” and become aware of the fact that we have lost our chosen object of concentration.  When this happens, we then ask ourselves the question, “what is more beneficial, mixing my mind with this object of distraction or mixing my mind with my object of meditation?”  If we have done our preliminary work well of realizing the benefits of our objects of meditation, the answer to this question will be obvious and heart-felt.  We then, on the basis of this desire to mix our mind with our object of meditation, re-engage in the contemplations which lead to our object and we start the cycle over.  We continue in this way again and again for as long as we have time to actually meditate.

The actual attainment of tranquil abiding appears to be a very high attainment and appears to be very far off.  Given this, it is difficult for us to actually be motivated to train in tranquil abiding because it seems like an impossible task.  Venerable Tharchin explains if we do not think something is doable, we cannot really generate a genuine effort to do it. 

It is useful for us to consider the benefits of the earlier mental abidings.  The first mental abiding is being able to remember our object for one minute.  This is the basic building block for all subsequent attainments in concentration.  Think of how revolutionary it was for humanity to develop the first brick.  Think how that one invention has changed the world.  It is the same with the first mental abiding.  The second mental abiding is being able to remember our object for five minutes.  These are the cornerstones of our future enlightenment.  Bricks are wonderful, but they can easily fall.  If, however, we have the ability to make solid cornerstones then the structure of the object within our mind will be very solid.  The third mental abiding is when we forget our object of meditation, we can quickly regain it.  This is the difference between having to laboriously make each brick by hand compared with having industrial equipment which can crank them out quickly and perfectly every time. 

The fourth mental abiding is the ability to go an entire meditation session, even one that is four hours long, without ever once completely forgetting our object of meditation.  We are able to maintain the continuum of our meditation without interruption.  This is, in many ways, our most important attainment along the entire path.  The benefits of this are countless.  First, once we attain the fourth mental abiding, we see directly that it is entirely doable to attain tranquil abiding.  Because we see it is doable, we can then easily generate the necessary effort to complete our training in concentration.  Once we attain tranquil abiding, enlightenment will come very quickly.  Getting to the fourth mental abiding is like entering into a slip stream that leads inexorably to the attainment of tranquil abiding.  It is said that once we attain the fourth mental abiding, if we enter into strict retreat it is possible to even attain tranquil abiding within six months. 

Second, once we get one object to the fourth mental abiding it is fairly easy to get all of the others to the same level.  Venerable Tharchin advises we take one object and get it to the first mental abiding.  Once that is stable, we then bring all of the others to the same level.  We then do the same with the second mental abiding, the third mental abiding and finally the fourth mental abiding.  The attainment of each abiding is like a muscle.  Once we build up the strength of a given muscle to lift 10 kilos, then it does not matter if the object we are lifting is round or square, we can lift it.  It is the same with the muscle of concentration. 

Third, we will have built the foundation of our future enlightenment.  Bricks are nice, cornerstones are great, but without a solid foundation it is all vulnerable.  Getting all of our meditation objects to the fourth mental abiding is like laying the entire foundation for our future enlightenment.  Everything that follows will be built on this foundation, and everything we subsequently build will not be lost nor fall down.  Once we get all of our objects of meditation (the 21 lamrim meditation, the six perfections, the three bringings, and the generation and completion stage objects) to the fourth mental abiding we will have laid all the necessary foundation for building enlightenment in our mind.  This is a very important moment in our spiritual life.  It basically means there is no going back for us for at least the rest of this life.  There is no longer a danger of us losing the path in this life.  There is no danger of us wasting our precious human life. 

Fourth, the greatest benefit of attaining the fourth mental abiding is we can guarantee we will make it to the pure land at the time of our death.  Venerable Geshe-la explained at a summer festival many years ago when he first started teaching about the Mahamudra that if we attain the fourth mental abiding on the Mahamudra object, then it is guaranteed we will attain the pure land at the time of death.  Once we attain the pure land, we will be guaranteed to complete our training.  This means attaining the fourth mental abiding is, for all practical purposes, us reaching a point of inevitable emergence from samsara.  If we can just make it to here, we will make it all the way. 

Attaining the fourth mental abiding is entirely doable.  We may not at present genuinely believe we can attain tranquil abiding, but if we put enough effort into it, we do feel that attaining the fourth mental abiding is something that is doable.  It will not be easy, it will take a lot of work, but surely it takes less effort to attain the fourth mental abiding than the amount of effort we put into the average professional career.  But just look at the difference in the rewards between the two!  A good career may create stable external conditions for the rest of this life; attaining the fourth mental abiding will create stable internal conditions for eternity.  

Happy Protector Day: Requesting the accomplishment of our wishes

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 10 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

The reason why we make offerings and requests, which was explained in the previous two posts, is to accumulate a special merit which will ripen in the form of Dorje Shugden being able to respond to our requests.  In the next part of the Sadhana, we actually make specific requests and prayers to Dorje Shugden.  These prayers reveal what Dorje Shugden can accomplish for us through our faithful reliance.

Whenever your followers with commitments
Request any of the four actions,
Swiftly, incisively, and without delay, you show signs for all to see;
So please accomplish the actions that I now request of you.

The first line indicates how if we choose to keep the heart commitment of Dorje Shugden (which was explained in a previous post) we become uniquely qualified to be able to make requests to Dorje Shugden to accomplish the specific actions we request of him, not just that he arrange things in general.  This is like a special qualification that gives us special power.  By requesting that Dorje Shugden causes the Dharma to flourish, we create the karma for it to flourish within our own mind.  In the context of the sadhana, what we are requesting of him is what follows in the sadhana, but outside of the sadhana, we can request him anything.

The stainless sun of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition
Shines throughout the sky of samsara and nirvana,
Eliminating the darkness of inferior and wrong paths;
Please cause its light to spread and bring good fortune to all living beings.

Path in a Dharma context refers to believing a thought in our mind.  If we believe our delusions to be true, we are following an inferior path.  If we believe our wisdom to be true, we are following a correct path.

May the glorious Gurus who uphold this tradition
Have indestructible lives, as stable as the supreme victory banner;
May they send down a rain of deeds fulfilling the wishes of disciples,
So that Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine will flourish.

Through increasing the study, practice, pure discipline, and harmony
Of the communities who uphold the stainless doctrine of Buddha,
And who keep moral discipline with pure minds,
Please cause the Gedän tradition to increase like a waxing moon.

There are two methods for growing a Dharma center, external and internal. The external methods include doing good publicity making the center known, working for the center in the running of the center, improving the facilities, etc.  Internally, a Dharma center is actually the collection of spiritual realizations of its practitioners.  If the practitioners have no realizations, it is a small center, even if it has hundreds or thousands of members and many external temples.  If the practitioners have rich realizations, it is a large center, even if there are only a few practitioners and the external conditions are limited.

Venerable Tharchin explains the way to grow a center is for the practitioners of that center to gain authentic spiritual realizations and then form karmic bonds between them.  We are given the problems of the community we serve.  We then use the Dharma to solve these problems.  Then, Dorje Shugden arranges for people who have these problems to come to the center.  He does not do it beforehand because he doesn’t want people to come to a center and not find the answers they are looking for.  So he waits until we gain experience and that we have something useful to share.  In particular, we can gain such realizations if people in Dharma centers study, practice and maintain pure discipline and harmony. 

Through your actions please fulfil the essential wishes
Of all practitioners who uphold the victory banner
Of practising single-pointedly the stages of the paths of Sutra and Tantra,
The essence of all the teachings they have heard.

Here we make special requests that whenever any practitioner makes requests to Dorje Shugden that he respond.  In this way, we put our karma behind it, and we each help one another in our requests.

Beings throughout this great earth are engaged in different actions
Of Dharma, non-Dharma, happiness, suffering, cause and effect;
Through your skilful deeds of preventing and nurturing,
Please lead all beings into the good path to ultimate happiness.

This is an important verse.  Dorje Shugden has the ability to transform any action or any experience into a cause of enlightenment.  For example, if somebody falls ill with cancer, we can request that it become a powerful cause of his enlightenment.  Or if our child starts using drugs, etc., we can request that this become a cause of their enlightenment.  Through this, Dorje Shugden will bless their minds where the condition will function as a cause of enlightenment.  It may not be immediately obvious how, but over the years with our sincere requests, it will definitely happen.  The feeling is that he gradually shepherds all the beings within the protection circle onto and along the path to enlightenment.  It will take time, but through our persistent and faithful requests, eventually everyone without exception will be lead along the path to enlightenment.  Again, note that this doesn’t mean that they are all brought to the Kadampa path, though certainly some will.  We are happy for them to be brought to any authentic path.

In particular, please destroy the obstacles and unfavourable conditions
Of myself and other practitioners.
Increase our lives, our merit, and our resources,
And gather all things animate and inanimate to be freely enjoyed.

Again, we make specific requests for practitioners, understanding their importance.

Please be with me always like the shadow of my body,
And care for me always like a friend,
By accomplishing swiftly whatever I wish for,
And whatever I ask of you.

If you want to receive the protection of Dorje Shugden like a true spiritual friend, the best way to do so is to become a true spiritual friend for others.  This creates the karma necessary for you to receive his protection in this way. The same is true for receiving his protection like a spiritual father.  Become a spiritual father (or mother) for others.  Take responsibility for others in your life, do not just do the minimum.  We should take worldly responsibility and spiritual responsibility for others. 

Please perform immediately, without delaying for a year, or even for a month,
Appropriate actions to eliminate all obstacles
Caused by misguided beings with harmful minds who try to destroy Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine,
And especially by those who try to harm practitioners.

It is possible that some people may oppose our practice of Dharma.  Dorje Shugden can dispel all such obstacles through external and internal blessings. He can do this by blessing our mind to see the other person’s ‘interference’ as perfect for our practice.  Then it is no longer an obstacle. He can also do this by blessing the minds of others so that they no longer create obstacles for us.  We do not request this for selfish reasons, rather we do so to protect others from creating the bad karma of interfering with the pure spiritual practice of another.

Happy Je Tsongkhapa Day: I Rejoice in the Great Wave of your Deeds

In many ways, October 25th, or Je Tsongkhapa Day, is my favorite day of the Kadampa calendar.  Why?  Because he is the founder of our tradition, our living spiritual guide, and the source of all good.  On Je Tsongkhapa Day, we can remember his great kindness, strive to emulate his example, and ultimately decide to mix our mind inseparably with his.  I pray that all those who read this develop unchanging faith in Guru Tsongkhapa, and in dependence upon this faith, effortlessly follow his joyful path.

Understanding How Holy Days Work

There are certain days of the year which are karmically more powerful than others, and the karmic effect of our actions on these days is multiplied by a factor of ten million!  These are called “ten million multiplying days.”  In practice, what this means is every action we engage in on these special days is karmically equivalent to us engaging in that same action ten million times.  This is true for both our virtuous and non-virtuous actions, so not only is it a particularly incredible opportunity for creating vast merit, but it is also an extremely dangerous time for engaging in negative actions.  There are four of these days every year:  Buddha’s Englightenment Day (April 15), Turning the Wheel of Dharma Day (June 4), Buddha’s Return from Heaven Day (September 22), and Je Tsongkhapa Day (October 25).  Heruka and Vajrayogini Month (January 3-31), NKT Day (1st Saturday of April), and International Temple’s Day (first Saturday of November) are the other major Days that complete the Kadampa calendar. 

A question may arise, why are the karmic effect of our actions greater on certain days than others?  We can think of these days like a spiritual pulsar that at periodic intervals sends out an incredibly powerful burst of spiritual energy, or wind.  On such days, if we lift the sails of our practice, these gushes of spiritual winds push us a great spiritual distance.  Why are these specific days so powerful?  Because in the past on these days particularly spiritually significant events occurred which altered the fundamental trajectory of the karma of the people of this world.  Just as calling out in a valley reverberates back to us, so too these days are like the karmic echoes of those past events.  Another way of understanding this is by considering the different types of ocean tides.  Normally, high and low tide on any given day occurs due to the gravity of the moon pulling water towards it as the earth rotates.  But a “Spring tide” occurs when the earth, moon, and Sun are all in alignment, pulling the water not just towards the moon as normal, but also towards the much more massive sun.  Our holy days are like spiritual Spring tides.

Je Tsongkhapa is the Founder of the New Kadampa Tradition

Buddha Shakyamuni is the founder of Buddhism in this world, and all of the different types of Buddhism (Zen, Theravadin, Kadampa, etc.) are all different presentations of his teachings.  Buddha gave 84,000 different instructions, but different traditions will place different emphasis on different aspects to correspond with the karmic dispositions of those who follow that tradition.  We cannot say one tradition is better than another in some absolute sense, rather we can say, “this tradition is better for me,” and “that tradition is better for her,” etc.  In this way, we can each cherish our own traditions while respecting all others.

Atisha is the founder of the Kadampa tradition.  ‘Kadam’ means a special presentation of Buddha’s 84,000 teachings called the “Lamrim,” which the Buddhist Master Atisha introduced when he went from India to Tibet in 1042 AD.  ‘Pa’ means somebody who puts into practice.  A Kadampa, therefore, means somebody who takes Atisha’s Lamrim as their main practice.  Atisha is primarily known for uniting the vast and profound paths together.  The vast path refers to the accumulation of merit, the principal cause of a Buddha’s body; and the profound path refers to the accumulation of wisdom, the principal cause of a Buddha’s mind.  By practicing the union of the two, our practices of the vast and profound paths reinforce each other and we create the causes to attain a Buddha’s body and mind simultaneously.  His path is generally presented as the Three Principal Aspects of the Path, namely renunciation, bodhichitta, and the correct view of emptiness.  Renunciation is the wish to escape from samsara ourselves, bodhichitta is the wish to become a Buddha to lead others to liberation, and the correct view of emptiness eradicates the root of samsara, self-grasping ignorance.

Je Tsongkhapa (1357 to 1419 AD) is the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition. Just as Atisha presented the union of the vast and profound path, Je Tsongkhapa introduced the union of Sutra and Tantra. Like the old Kadampas, practitioners of the New Kadampa Tradition also take Atisha’s Lamrim as their main practice. The difference is New Kadampas can practice the Lamrim at the gross level (Sutra) and the subtle level (Tantra) as completely non-contradictory. Sutra is how we practice Buddha’s instructions with our gross mind, Tantra is how we do so with our subtle and very subtle minds, but both are methods of practicing Lamrim.

Ultimately, Tantra is much quicker than Sutra because our gross minds arise from our subtle and very subtle mind. If we pull weeds but fail to take out the roots, the weeds will grow back; in the same way, if we pacify our gross minds but fail to purify our subtle minds, the delusions will keep coming back. Tantra is a special spiritual technology for purifying our root mind, or our very subtle mind, of all of our delusions and their karmic imprints, thus eradicating samsara at its root. We purify our very subtle mind by meditating on its emptiness. This one meditation functions to simultaneously uproot all of the contaminated karma we have accumulated since beginningless time. Je Tsongkhapa showed how the paths of Sutra and Tantra are not only completely non-contradictory, but are mutually reinforcing, and by practicing them together in the context of Atisha’s Lamrim, we can quickly attain enlightenment.

The New Kadampa Tradition has five main aspects of the path: renunciation, bodhichitta, the correct view of emptiness, generation stage, and completion stage. These can be understood as there is one action on the path: changing the basis of imputation of our I from our ordinary samsaric body and mind to the completely pure body and mind of a Buddha. There are two reasons why we do it, renunciation (for ourselves) and bodhichitta (for others). And there are two levels at which we do it, the gross body and mind of a Buddha (generation stage) and the subtle body and mind of a Buddha (completion stage). Je Tsonkghapa is the founder of this way of practicing.

Since Je Tsongkhapa, there has been an unbroken lineage of his teachings down to our present-day lineage gurus, including Je Phabongkhapa, Trijang Rinpoche, and our very own Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.  There is no difference in meaning between the Dharma Je Tsongkhapa taught and what we currently practice, the only difference is the cultural presentation, analogies, and languages used to express that meaning.  Everything we practice, directly or indirectly, comes from Je Tsongkhapa.  We are Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition.  The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT-IKBU) was founded by Geshe-la to present Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings to the modern world. 

Je Tsongkhapa is our Living Spiritual Guide

One of the hardest parts of the Buddhist path for modern people is relying upon a “guru.”  At first, it all seems very “cult-like.”  I remember telling my first teacher Gen Lekma once, “I’m down with all of the Dharma teachings except this whole reliance upon the spiritual guide thing!”  When I told her this, she was in the middle of swallowing some tea, and she nearly spit it out in a laugh.  After collecting herself, she looked at me and said, “I have found that the things we struggle the most with at first later become the things that have the biggest transformative impact on our mind.”  Truer words have never been spoken. 

To understand why reliance upon the spiritual guide is the root of the path, we have to back up a bit.  Why do we need teachers in general?  Because we are ignorant and don’t know.  Why do we need spiritual teachers?  Because we are ignorant of the spiritual path, not knowing its destinations nor how to follow the path to these destinations.  Why do we need a root guru or root spiritual guide?  Because we need somebody who has completed the path and can guide our mind to the same state.  It takes humility to learn from any teacher, it takes great humility to rely upon a Spiritual Guide. 

Normally, we say Geshe-la is the root guru, or Spiritual Guide, of the NKT.  It is true everything we study and practice comes from him, and he has created for us all of the conditions we now enjoy for our practice, such as temples, centers, teachers, sangha friends, books, sadhanas, and so forth.  But what does he say?  He says don’t look at me, rather look at Je Tsongkhapa at my heart.  We view Geshe-la as an emanation of Je Tsongkhapa, but Je Tsongkhapa is our actual Spiritual Guide.  What does Je Tsongkhapa say?  He says don’t look at me, rather look at Buddha Shakyamuni at my heart.  What does Buddha Shakyamuni say?  Don’t look at me, rather look at Heruka at my heart.  Guru Heruka is our actual spiritual guide.  He appeared as Buddha Shakyamuni to introduce the Dharma to the people of this world.  He later appeared as Je Tsongkhapa, who in turn is now appearing as Geshe-la.  From one perspective, it is the same person – the same mental continuum – appearing at different points in time according to the karmic dispositions of the people of this world.

But from another perspective, Je Tsongkhapa is still our Spiritual Guide today. His emanation bodies may change, but the jewel in the lotus remains the same person. When Buddhas attain enlightenment, they become deathless beings. Their emanation bodies may pass away, but they do not, they continue to live. We can continue to develop a living relationship with these holy beings because they are still with us today. He is still here, guiding us, teaching us, blessing us, and so forth. Geshe-la, the Gen-la’s, and all of our other spiritual teachers are essentially spiritual telephones which connect the pure world of Je Tsongkhapa with our present samsaric reality. When we rely upon our outer spiritual teachers they explain to us how to develop a relationship with our inner spiritual teachers who then take us to enlightenment. The outer teachers and the inner teachers are not separate beings, but different layers of the same being appearing to different levels of purity of mind.

Whenever we engage in any Guru Yoga practice, our main job is to feel we are in the living presence of our spiritual guide – seeing all of the Buddhas as inseparable from our guru and our guru as inseparable from all the Buddhas.  Every practice we engage in is about creating a close karmic relationship with our spiritual guide in his different karmic aspects.  In dependence upon this karmic relationship, we gain greater and greater access to our spiritual guide’s blessings, until eventually, it is almost as if we gain the ability to download their enlightenment into our own mind.  In the end, we mix our mind with our guru’s mind, where we make no distinction between our mind and his enlightened mind.  From one perspective, it is like a mind transplant where his mind becomes ours; from another perspective, it is like removing the obstructions to our own root mind and discovering that our actual mind was his enlightened mind all along. 

Because Je Tsongkhapa is the embodiment of his Dharma, by mixing our mind with his, we mix our mind with his special union of Sutra and Tantra and eventually come to see ourselves as a wave inseparable from the ocean of his omniscient mind.  We view all phenomena as arising from emptiness, all emptinesses as the nature of our mind of great bliss, and the union of our realization of great bliss and emptiness as inseparable from our guru’s Truth Body, or Dharmakaya. 

Je Tsongkhapa is the Source of all Good

This is somewhat harder to understand.  All good things come from good karma.  All good karma comes from virtuous actions.  All virtuous actions arise due to receiving blessings from the holy beings.  Je Tsongkhapa is the synthesis of all the Buddhas, therefore he is the source of all blessings, virtuous actions, good karma, and ultimately good results. 

Sometimes, we like to take credit for our good deeds, therefore we think Je Tsongkhapa is not the source of all good, we are. Or maybe it is a mixed affair, where he helps us with his blessings, but mostly it comes from our own effort. This doubt comes from grasping at a duality between ourselves and our ultimate nature. Our good deeds arise from our good intentions, but where do they arise from? They pour into our mind when we open it up to the sun of our pure potential. Just as the sun pours in whenever the blinds are opened, so too virtuous intentions come into our mind when cracks in the layers of the karmic obstructions on our mind appear. But what is our pure potential? By nature, it is Guru Tsongkhapa. All Buddhas impute their I onto the truth body or Dharmakaya. What is this? It is a mind of great bliss that realizes directly and simultaneously the emptiness of all phenomena. A Buddha’s body and mind are the same entity, the same nature, which means their truth body pervades all phenomena. Because we too are empty, we have a pure potential. This pure potential fully realized is Je Tsongkhapa. Every time we access or ripen this potential, we are releasing some of Je Tsongkhapa into our mind. Thus, he is inseparable from all of our good intentions – he is our good intentions manifesting in our mind.

There are many prayers to Je Tsongkhapa, but the most famous is the Migtsema prayer, which explains that Je Tsongkhapa is the synthesis of Buddha Shakyamuni, Vajradhara, Avaolokitehsvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapaini. There is also the single-pointed request which explains he is the guru, he is the yidam, he is the daka, and the Dharma protector. If all of the goodness in all of the universe were gathered together, it would produce the appearance of Je Tsongkhapa. Put another way, Je Tsongkhapa is a holy being who has managed to successfully impute his I onto the synthesis of all goodness. Thus it is perfectly correct to say he is the source of all good because he is all goodness itself.

But how can we understand he is the source of all good, including that of non-Buddhists?  Everything we perceive is ultimately created by our mind, arising from our mind.  There is no creator other than mind, and there is nothing that exists outside of our mind (if it did, that thing would be inherently existent).  This means that everything is part of our karmic dream. Any good we perceive in the world is a reflection of the goodness in our mind.  We created the karma for that goodness to appear.  We already established that all goodness that arises in our mind comes from Je Tsongkhapa, thus any goodness that arises in our karmic dream also arises from him. 

Remembering Je Tsongkhapa’s Kindness

On Je Tsongkhapa Day, our main practice should be to remember his kindness.  We can do this by contemplating what Geshe-la said about Je Tsongkhapa Day.  I find it particularly helpful to remember his kindness in my own life.  He has given me my spiritual life.  Without my Dharma practice, I don’t know how I would have turned out in the wake of my mother’s suicide on my wedding day or all of the other challenges I have faced in my life.  Je Tsongkhapa’s way of thinking has come to dominate my way of thinking, and I am much happier for it.  It suffices to ask myself what my life would be like if I had never met his Dharma to see the profound impact it has had. 

More importantly, he has provided me with the spiritual tools I need to close the door on ever taking lower rebirth again through purification and refuge practice.  Through his kindness, I have found the door to liberation that will enable me to once and for all cease the samsaric nightmare I have been trapped in since beginningless time.  He has shown me not only that I can attain enlightenment and thereby be in a position to help all those I love who are also drowning in samsara, but he has provided me with incredibly simple step-by-step instructions for how to do it.  In what can only be described as a miracle, I have found qualified tantric teachings of generation and completion stage through which it is possible to attain enlightenment in one life or barring that, at least getting to the pure land where I can complete my spiritual training.  His blessings flow into me day and night, even while I sleep, holding me back from quite literally going insane.  Without him, I would be lost.  With him, I have been found.  By relying upon him, I can fulfill all my own and other’s pure wishes.  He is a true wish-fulfilling jewel who has kept alive the holy Kadam Dharma in this world, and it is my job to do all that I can to internalize it and then pass it on to future generations.

Emulating his Example

If I were trapped on a desert island and only allowed one book, it would be Great Treasury of Merit. Normally we say Joyful Path of Good Fortune is like the hub of the wheel of Dharma, and all of the other books are like spokes of that wheel. But the axis around which Joyful Path turns is Great Treasury of Merit which presents the very synthesis of Je Tsongkhapa’s Dharma by showing how all the essential meanings of his teachings fit together with exactly the right proportionalities of how important each teaching is. In truth, the book is about 70% how to rely upon the Spiritual Guide and 30% everything else, which is exactly correct. The sections on visualizing the spiritual guide explain the meaning of his holy form. Buddhas can manifest their inner realizations as outer forms, and Je Tsongkhapa’s body is quite literally all of his realizations as form. By generating faith in his holy form, we mix our mind with all of his realizations. The sections on prostrations, praises, and making requests explain his many good qualities and special functions in our life. Reading these with faith, one cannot help but be amazed.

There are two aspects of his example which appeal to me most.  The first is how he demonstrates the practice of moral discipline and the second is the great wave of his deeds. 

His outer form is of a fully ordained monk, revealing the practices of the vows of individual liberation. His inner form is Buddha Shakyamuni, revealing the moral discipline of a Bodhisattva. And his secret form is Vajradhara, demonstrating the moral discipline of a tantric master. At my very first Kadampa festival, when Geshe-la first opened the temple in Manjushri, he gave a three-day teaching on essentially one subject – overcoming distractions. He explained that we have everything we need to attain enlightenment, the only thing that is missing is our practicing these instructions without distraction. The practices of moral discipline are how we overcome our gross distractions by letting go of each object of abandonment. Moral discipline is not wishing to engage in negativity, but holding ourselves back from doing so. Rather, it is realizing we no longer wish to do so, and so we “let go” of wanting the objects of our transgressions. Normally, we think moral discipline is a list of ‘don’ts’ that deprives us of our freedom. We have everything backward. The practice of moral discipline is a profound shift in our mind that is experienced as a “release” into greater and greater levels of inner freedom by leaving behind the chains of samsara.

Every day in our Heart Jewel practice, we rejoice in the great wave of Je Tsongkhapa’s deeds. What exactly is this great wave? We can say it is his special method for eventually liberating all beings. He attained enlightenment. What did he do with his enlightenment? He formed new spiritual guides for carrying forward the tradition. What did those spiritual guides do? Create more spiritual guides still. In this way, his virtuous deeds multiple exponentially until eventually the wave of his kind actions will carry every single living being to the state of full enlightenment. He has set in motion a spiritual self-perpetuating machine whose function is to liberate all beings from all suffering forever. In one short life, he initiated a wave that will never stop until all of his pure wishes are fulfilled.

We have the incredible good fortune to not only receive benefit from him but to become ourselves part of his great wave. He has laid at our feet exactly the same Dharma he taught and realized. By picking up the Dharma he has given us and bringing it into our mind, we too can become a fully qualified spiritual guide able to carry forward this great lineage for the benefit of all those we have a close karmic relationship with. If we do not do this for those we love, who will? It may be aeons before his wave comes around again to these beings, but we can carry them with us right now. Venerable Tharchin says the beings who we generate bodhichitta towards as bodhisattvas are among the first we lead to enlightenment when we attain the final goal. Look around at everyone you love, see how they are drowning, and now remember Je Tsongkhapa has given you the means to do something about it by becoming part of his great wave.

Deciding to Mix our Mind with His

In the final analysis, attaining enlightenment is very simple:  all we need to do is mix our mind inseparably with somebody who has already attained enlightenment.  In this way, the duality between their mind and our mind vanishes, and their enlightened mind becomes our mind and our mind becomes their enlightened mind.  Everything else in the Dharma is why we should do this and how to do it.  As practitioners of the New Kadampa Tradition, whose mind do we mix ours with?  Lama Tsongkhapa’s.  It’s as simple as that.

Every object of meditation is an aspect of his mind.  Every instruction we practice comes from his mind.  Every realization we gain is an infusion of his mind into our own.  Every practice we do is changing the basis of imputation of our I from our ordinary contaminated body and mind to his completely pure body and mind.  Every deity we rely upon is like a facet on the diamond of his mind.  Every phenomenon we see is a wave on the ocean of his mind.  He is everything.  Our job is so simple:  just mix our mind with his.  Whatever we mix our mind with, we become.  Since he is the synthesis of all the Buddhas, all Dharmas, and all Sanghas, by mixing our mind with his, we too become the source of all good.

The only thing that is missing is deciding to dedicate our lives to this goal.  There are so many things we do in life, but how many of them do us any good?  Only deciding to mix our mind with his will free us.  We can reach the point where our every thought, word, and deed is him working through us.  We need not struggle in our spiritual practice, we merely need to request his blessings.  We need not invent the path, we can simply follow the one he has laid out for us.  We need not ever doubt, we can internally request his wisdom.  There is nothing he cannot provide us, all we need to do is decide to rely upon him.

Today is Je Tsongkhapa Day.  Every decision we make today is karmically equivalent to making that same decision ten million times.  What better way to mark this holy day than making the firm internal decision to dedicate our life to mixing our mind with Lama Tsongkhapa’s, our living Spiritual Guide.  I pray that everyone who reads this transforms their life in this way.

Happy Tsog Day: Remembering our Spiritual Guide’s Profound Qualities

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 18 of a 44-part series.

Requesting by expressing his secret qualities

You are the essence of the ten million circles of mandalas
That arise from the state of the all-knowing exalted wisdom;
Principal Holder of the Vajra, pervasive source of the hundred families,
O Protector of the Primordial Union, to you I make requests.

Our spiritual guide’s secret qualities are him being by nature Vajradhara, the principal deity and spiritual guide of tantric practice. When Buddha Shakyamuni taught sutra, he appeared as Buddha Shakyamuni; but when he taught tantra, he appeared as Buddha Vajradhara. According to Highest Yoga Tantra, we regard all deities as emanations or manifestations of our spiritual guide. Here, it explains there are ten million circles of mandalas and one hundred Buddha families that all arise from and are manifestations of Buddha Vajradhara. In this way, we recognize our spiritual guide as the synthesis of all the Buddhas. But at the same time, we do not make a distinction between an emanation and the Buddha doing the emanating. Just as you cannot separate a wave from its underlying ocean, so too you cannot separate the waves of any of the countless Buddhas from the underlying ocean of Vajradhara.

Sometimes we think Vajradhara was an historical figure that existed in the past. But in truth he still lives and is guiding us today. Buddha Vajradhara emanates Buddha Shakyamuni, who later appeared as Atisha, who later appeared as Je Tsongkhapa, and who is appearing today as our present spiritual guide. These are all the same person continuing to appear at different points in time according to the karmic dispositions of the people of the different worlds they inhabit. Thus, when we think of our spiritual guide, we think of all the Buddhas. And when we think of all the Buddhas, we think of our spiritual guide. While there is no doubt the outer aspect of our present spiritual guide is important in that he serves as a bridge between our “I”mpure world and the pure world of the Buddhas, we should recognize that he is just an appearance inside of our samsaric dream, but in reality, our actual spiritual guide is Vajradhara. Understanding this, we make requests to our living spiritual guide Vajradhara requesting that he continue to emanate the ten million circles of mandalas and the hundred Buddha families for our benefit.

Requesting by expressing his suchness qualities

Pervasive nature of all things stable and moving,
Inseparable from the experience of spontaneous joy without obstructions;
Thoroughly good, from the beginning free from extremes,
O Actual, ultimate bodhichitta, to you I make requests.

The spiritual guide’s suchness qualities are his ultimate nature of bliss and emptiness. Once again, the analogy of waves and oceans is helpful. The definitive spiritual guide is an I imputed upon the bliss and emptiness of all phenomena. This is the ocean. Every phenomena is a wave on this ocean. This bliss and emptiness is the pervasive nature of all phenomena that is both stable, in the sense that it always remains equally empty, and moving in the sense that phenomena are in constant change. The ocean always remains the ocean, but the waves take on different shapes and forms. The experience of spontaneous joy without obstructions experiences the entire universe as our body of great bliss and emptiness rippling as waves according to the currents of karma. This ultimate nature has always been and always will be and it has always been completely pure, hence it is thoroughly good from the beginning free from the two extremes. Here, the two extremes refer to the extreme of inherent existence, thinking that somehow waves can exist separately from their underlying ocean; and the extreme of nothingness, thinking if things do not exist inherently, they do not exist at all.

Here, we direct our request to ultimate bodhichitta recognizing the suchness nature of our spiritual guide is ultimate bodhichitta. According to Sutra, ultimate bodhichitta is the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena motivated by the mind of conventional bodhicitta, or the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of all. According to tantra, ultimate bodhichitta is the union of great bliss and emptiness. What is the relationship between these two understandings of ultimate bodhicitta? The emptiness according to sutra and the emptiness according to tantra are exactly the same. The difference is in the subject mind that realizes the emptiness of all phenomena. In sutra, we realize it with the mind of bodhichitta; and in tantra, we realize it with the mind of great bliss. Therefore, the proper question is what is the relationship between the mind of bodhicitta and the mind of great bliss? In science, we say there are necessary and sufficient causes. In Dharma, we say there are substantial and circumstantial causes. The substantial cause is the acorn and the circumstantial causes are the sunlight, soil, and water. The effect is an oak tree. The acorn is called the substantial cause because it is the thing that transforms into the next thing in dependence upon the circumstantial causes. In exactly the same way, bodhicitta is the substantial cause of the mind of great bliss. It is impossible to generate the mind of great bliss without first having generated the mind of bodhichitta, just as it is impossible to have an oak tree without an acorn. The practices of generation stage and completion stage of tantra are the circumstantial causes that transform our mind of bodhicitta into the mind of great bliss. The mind has three levels, gross, subtle, and very subtle. Bodhichitta is a gross level mind and great bliss is a very subtle mind. Put another way, great bliss is the very subtle version of bodhicitta, and bodhicitta is the gross version of the mind of great bliss. It is vital that we understand the relationship between these two minds. If we do, we will then understand the union of sutra and tantra. Recalling all this, we make requests to our spiritual guide’s suchness qualities recognizing them as the very subtle version of all the other qualities we have previously requested.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Why We Need Concentration

As I did with the other chapters on the different perfections, I will first discuss how we train in the bodhisattva vows related to the perfection of mental stabilization.  The vows and commitments are like the synthesis instructions for all that follows.  By practicing our vows sincerely, we create all of the necessary conditions for being able to successfully train in the perfection.  This is particularly true for the perfection of concentration.  Geshe-la explains in Joyful Path that the practice of moral discipline is the foundation of concentration.  Moral discipline functions to control our gross distractions and concentration functions to control our subtle distractions.  Together, they enable us to focus our mind on virtue.  The cause of happiness is mixing our mind with virtue.  Our ability to do so depends upon concentration, which in turn depends upon the mindfulness we develop through the practice of moral discipline.

Bodhisattva downfall:  Neglecting to train in mental stabilization. 

The attainment of Tranquil Abiding is necessary to achieve profound realizations.  Therefore, if we fail to make an effort in the following areas we incur a secondary downfall:  (1) To listen to and think about the instructions on tranquil abiding, and (2) To improve our concentration by training in tranquil abiding.

At the end of the day, we have been given perfect methods for attaining enlightenment.  We have been given everything.  All we now need to do is actually do them.  Our main problem is when we do our practices, our mind is filled with distraction.  While outwardly it appears that we are meditating, inside our mind is wandering everywhere except where it is supposed to be, namely on our practice.  If we can learn to overcome this one problem, progress along the path will come very quickly.

Why is concentration important?  Ultimately, the strength of our concentration determines the extent of our spiritual power.  The more powerful our practice, the more quickly and profoundly we make progress.  It is no exaggeration to say we are fighting a war against our delusions.  It is an all or nothing battle.  Either our delusions defeat us or we defeat our delusions.  There is no middle ground, there is no peace treaty or compromise possible.  Appeasement only emboldens the enemy.  Either we exterminate them or they will not stop until we are pinned down into the deepest hell forever.  This may sound like exaggerated rhetoric, but it is not. 

Delusions are relentless in their deceptions and they will never stop.  At no point will they ever be satisfied thinking this person is deluded enough, they will keep deceiving us until they drive us literally insane.  The more freedom we give our delusion to reign within our mind, the more they will seize control of us and make us do things which only serve to harm ourself or others.  They are an enemy without remorse.  They have no redeeming qualities.  The only reason why we do not see this or realize it is because they have us so firmly in their grasp that they have convinced us they are our friends.  Against an enemy such as this, we need power to defeat them.  Concentration is our power.

Concentration has two components:  (1) remembering our chosen object of meditation, and (2) realizing its object clearly.  In the beginning, our primary focus should be remembering the object.  To remember the object means to keep it in mind, to maintain the continuum of keeping the focus of our mind on the object of our choice.  The ability to do this is called mindfulness.  Mindfulness simply means remembering our object, or more practically, not forgetting it. 

If we check, there is really only one reason why we forget our objects of meditation.  It is because we think our object of distraction is more important or more interesting than our object of meditation.  To us, the value of our objects of distraction seem evident and seem immediate, whereas the value of our objects of meditation seem abstract and seem to be far off in some uncertain future.  If we want to remember our objects of meditation, we need to reverse this.  Remembering our objects of meditation has to become, for us, the most important thing in our life.  If we can remember our objects of meditation, we will find permanent freedom.  If we allow ourselves to forget them, we will quickly be swept away and become lost forever.  Again, this sounds like hyperbole, but it is not.  The stakes are this high, the choices are this stark. 

If we want to remember our objects we have to want to remember them because we understand them to be the most important things in our life.  We accomplish this by meditating again and again on the benefits of each meditation we do.  If we check, a very large proportion of all of Geshe-la’s books is simply an explanation of the benefits of the different objects of meditation.  We should not gloss over these and try jump straight to the object of meditation itself.  If we do this, we will quickly become distracted, receive almost no benefit, and then gradually abandon our practice.  If instead, we take the time in the beginning to focus most of our time and attention on contemplating and meditating on the benefits, then we will become very motivated to remember our objects when we are in meditation.  When we meditate on the benefits of a given object of meditation, the most important thing to focus on is not the “what” but rather the “why.”  In other words, just knowing what the benefits are will have little power if we do not understand why the given object of meditation produces the actual benefit.  If we do not directly see and understand the connection between the two, our desire to mix our mind with these objects of meditation will be superficial at best and lack the power necessary to remain with them.  When distractions come, we will eagerly go with them.  In particular, we should focus on realizing the benefits of meditating on death, the benefits of bodhichitta, the benefits of the self-generation object and the benefits of the Mahamudra object.  These are our main and most powerful objects of meditation.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Understanding Inner Freedom

We now start Chapter Eight, Relying upon Mental Stabilization.

Now it is time for our attachment to come under attack. Are you ready? 

Chapter 8 has two parts:  The first part is technically on concentration, but the part is actually on overcoming attachment.  The second part, which we will do next year, is on exchanging self with others.  Why is the chapter on attachment when its subject is concentration?  The primary obstacle to pure concentration is our attachment.  Our mind goes to whatever it considers to be a cause of happiness. Because at present, we think our happiness lies in samsaric objects, we are naturally drawn to them during meditation.  Because we do not think there is any happiness in our meditation objects, our mind doesn’t remain centered in them.  The only way to change this is to do the work inside our mind to change our assessment of the various objects.  We do this all the time, where our opinion of an object changes from bad to good or from good to bad.  We need to do the same thing here. 

What is freedom?  Normally we say freedom is the ability to choose without obstruction.  There are two types of freedom, outer and inner.  Outer freedom is what we normally think of as freedom, we can do what we wish externally.  Inner freedom is freedom of the mind, where we can choose our reaction to things, and remain calm and happy all the time, regardless of what happens.

The principal obstacle to our inner freedom is our attachment.  Attachment is when we believe that our happiness depends on something external.  That some external object is the cause of our happiness.  This makes us unfree because there are two possibilities:  We do not have the object of our attachment, and therefore we cannot be happy.  Or we have the object of our attachment, and we either fear losing it or it doesn’t live up to our expectations for it of giving us the happiness we seek.  A good example is when I spent my wedding night in the Queen Victoria hotel in Paris.  There was some super rich lady who was not even content there.  She certainly could not be content anywhere else. 

In chapter 8 we will look at our two biggest delusions:  sexual attachment and self-cherishing.  Shantideva knows us.  The more we overcome these delusions, the more freedom we gain of being able to be happy all the time, regardless of our external circumstance.

Before I dive in, I want to saw a few words about dealing with delusions, in particular the attitude we should adopt when delusions arise in our mind.

Step 1:  identify that we are deluded.  The sign a delusion has arisen in our mind is our mind is not at peace.  Normally when our mind is not at peace we go looking in the external to try find out why, but in reality we need to look inside our mind to see what is wrong.  We can make requests, please help me to identify the delusion in my mind.

Step 2:  Acknowledge and overcome the delusion.  Normally we fall into the extreme of expression.  We believe our delusion to be true and we believe it when it tells us if we follow it we will be better off.  In reality, this just makes matters worse because it destroys our inner peace further and it creates the tendencies similar to the cause to have similar delusions again in the future.  The other extreme we fall into is suppression.  This is especially the case if we are a Dharma practitioner and we know we are ‘not allowed’ to express our delusions.  Here we pretend, either to others externally or to ourselves internally that we are not deluded.  Those who are really good at acting tend to be the best suppressors.  We pretend because of our pride.  We cannot admit to ourself or to others that we are deluded.  We think we are better than we are.  We pretend because we do not really want to abandon our delusions.  We know if we admit the problem, we will have to apply the solution.  We prefer to deny that we have a problem, just like a drug addict.  We also suppress when we still ‘want’ to follow the delusion in our heart, but know we ‘shouldn’t.’  In such a situation, when we do not express, we necessarily suppress. 

The middle way is to accept the existence of the delusion within your mind, but not accept its validity.  We need to accept that for as long as we are still in samsara, we will continue to ‘fart’ delusions.  We use this fact to increase our desire to stop identifying with contaminated mental aggregates.  We also accept that we have a lot of karmic inertia in our mind, so just because we know better doesn’t mean we are able to have no delusions arise within our mind. 

One powerful way to accept the existence of the delusion is to break our identification with them.  I am not deluded, rather there is delusion within my mind.  The key to disempowering the delusion is to recognize it as a lie.  It promises us much, but it delivers the exact opposite.  We need to make this very personal and realize how our personal delusions betray us and torture us.  Then we will not be fooled by them.  What we never do is accept the validity of the delusion itself.  Even if the delusion overpowers us, we should never assent to its lies.  Shantideva said it would be better to have our head cut off than to ever bow down to our delusions.

Happy National Coming Out Day: How Emptiness and Karma Can Explain LGBT Experience

The great Buddhist master Shantideva said in the 7th century:

(9.87) Therefore, what intelligent person
Would develop attachment for this dream-like form?
And since there is no truly existent body,
Who is truly existent male and who is truly existent female?

Needless to say, Shantideva was ahead of his time. On National Coming Out Day, I wanted to use this verse to provide a Buddhist perspective on LGBT experience.  A heteronormative view grasps at inherently existent males and inherently existent females – where one’s gender identity and one’s biological gender are the same. A heterosexist view grasps at males necessarily being sexually attracted to females, and females being sexually attracted to males. Anything that deviates from this “normal” is held by such views as an aberration. In contrast, how do Buddhists who understand both emptiness and karma explain the wide variety of gender and sexual orientations?  

According to the laws of karma, each time we engage in an action we create four different karmic causes. The ripened effect results in a future rebirth with a bodily basis somewhere within samsara. The tendency similar to the cause is a future tenancy to engage in similar actions, both bodily and mental. The effect similar to the cause results in us experiencing effects that are similar to the causes that we created in the past, for example, if we hit somebody we are likely to get hit back. And the environmental effect is that which surrounds us in our different rebirths.

Somebody who is a cisgender straight male is someone who has the ripened effect to be born male, and the tendencies similar to the cause to be attracted to females. Somebody who is a cisgender straight female is someone who has the ripened effect to be born female, and the tendency similar to the cause to be attracted to males. A gay man is someone who has the ripened effect to be born male and the tendency similar to the cause to be attracted to males. A bisexual person is someone who has the ripened effect to be born either male or female, but the tendencies similar to the cause to be sexually attracted to both males and females. A lesbian is someone who has the ripened effect to be born female and the tendencies similar to their cause to be attracted to females. A transgender female is someone who has the ripened effect of a male body, but the tendencies similar to the cause to think and feel in ways that are conventionally considered female. A transgender male is someone who has the ripened effect of a female body, but the tendencies similar to the cause to think and feel in ways that are conventionally considered male. A trans person can be sexually attracted to either males or females, in dependence upon the tendencies similar to the cause they have of being attracted to different genders. Since there is an infinite variety of karma that beings can create, it follows that there is an infinite variety of combinations in which this karma can ripen.

To simplify matters, we can think of things as existing along three axes. The first is the ripened effect of being born into a body that is biologically male or female. This has a spectrum of things, from those who are biologically extremely masculine males to effeminate males to masculine females to extremely feminine females. The second axis is what tendencies similar to the cause of how one thinks and feels are ripening. This determines how one individually identifies oneself as being male or female, which can be quite distinct from one’s biological basis. Once again, this exists upon a spectrum, from very strong male tendencies to very strong female tendencies. It is worth noting that what is male or female in this context is purely conventionally constructed based upon cultural norms. There are certain things that we identify with being conventionally male and conventionally female, although they are not inherently so. A two-spirit person is someone who has multiple nodes of tendencies similar to the cause of how one thinks and feels, both male and female. The third axis is the tendencies similar to the cause of what we are sexually attracted to, from being strongly attracted to males to being strongly attracted to females. Again this exists upon a spectrum. Someone who is asexual word for example be at zero along this axis.  A person’s gender and sexual identity can fall anywhere within this 3-dimensional space. From the perspective of karma and from the perspective of emptiness there is no basis for saying any one combination of these is better or worse than any other.  They are all simply different karmic possibilities.

How does the environmental effect factor into this? Some people live in very heterosexist societies where any deviation from the heteropatriarchal norm is considered wrong or bad in some way, and the societal structures create penalties for those who deviate from these norms. Other people live in an environment in which there is no judgment or no penalty, and everyone’s individuality is celebrated. How does the effect similar to the cause factor into this?  Some people experience persecution based upon their sexual identity whereas others do not. It is possible for someone to live in a heterosexist society, but themselves not experience any particular discrimination or oppression. Someone else might live in a very open society but nonetheless experience discrimination and oppression. Just as it is possible for someone to be born with any combination of the three axes of gender and sexual identity described above, so too it is possible for someone to be born into a wide variety of combinations of environments that are either oppressive or accepting and to experience either oppression or acceptance. While difficult to visualize, from a karmic perspective, we can imagine a five-dimensional space with five axes, and living beings being born into any number of possibilities.

In this way, we can understand that all of the different experiences and all of the different possibilities that arise with respect to LGBT experience can be understood from the perspective of the karma we have created. From a Buddhist perspective, there is no basis for value judgments about one combination or another. If we contemplate these different karmic effects deeply we can hopefully come to a greater understanding of the wide variety of human proclivities and human experiences as they relate to LGBT experience. The hope as if we understand how karma and emptiness work, we can all relate to each other with greater wisdom and compassion.

Happy Tsog Day: Remembering our Spiritual Guide’s Surpassing Qualities

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 17 of a 44-part series.

Requesting by remembering that he is a supreme Field of Merit

Even just one of your hair pores is praised for us
As a Field of Merit that is superior to all the Conquerors
Of the three times and the ten directions;
O Compassionate Refuge and Protector, to you I make requests.

What is the field of merit? Just as farmers can plant seeds in fields that later produce crops that can nourish our body, spiritual practitioners can plant seeds of virtue in the field of merit which will later ripen in the form of a rich crop of Dharma realizations. We can understand how our spiritual guide is a supreme field of merit by understanding how he is kinder than all the Buddhas as explained above. Here, we emphasize how all three jewels are in fact emanations of our spiritual guide. Every Buddha, bodhisattva, and so forth are all emanated by our spiritual guide. The ultimate nature of our spiritual guide is an I imputed upon the bliss and emptiness of all things. In this way, we can say that everything is an emanation of our spiritual guide. Thus, any virtuous action we perform towards the three jewels or towards all living beings is an offering to our spiritual guide and the planting of seeds in his field of merit. Without this field, we would never be able to have our virtuous seeds ripen in the form of Dharma realizations, just as seeds alone cannot grow without the ground they are planted in. In this sense, our spiritual guide is truly indispensable for our attainment of enlightenment.

Requesting by expressing his outer qualities

From the play of your miracle powers and skilful means
The ornament wheels of your three Sugata bodies
Appear in an ordinary form to guide migrators;
O Compassionate Refuge and Protector, to you I make requests.

We can understand how important the outer aspect of our spiritual guide is by considering what our life would be like if we had never met Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. If he did not exist in this world, we would not have our Dharma books, our Dharma centers, our Dharma festivals, our global sangha, and so forth. We would have nothing. Because we met the outer form of our spiritual guide, he has introduced us to all sorts of enlightened beings such as Heruka, Vajrayogini, and Dorje Shugden. Through reliance upon these deities, we are quickly making progress towards enlightenment. But none of this would be possible without having encountered the outer form of our spiritual guide. With this verse, we request that our spiritual guide, who we understand to be the living Je Tsongkhapa, continue to appear in this world to guide living beings along the path to enlightenment. Without the outer form of the spiritual guide, there would be no bridge between our world of suffering and the pure worlds of the Buddhas. It would be as if the doorway to the Buddha lands was permanently closed to us.

Typically, at the end of our practices, we make prayers for the long life of our spiritual guide, requesting that he remain in this world for countless eons until samsara has ceased. Sometimes we think this request is impossible because our present spiritual guide will certainly die. But we can understand that the present appearance of our spiritual guide is really an outer emanation of our living spiritual guide Je Tsongkhapa. When we make this request, and when we pray for the long life of our spiritual guide, in truth we are requesting Je Tsongkhapa to continue to emanate outer spiritual guides in this world. When we make this request, we create the karma to have the spiritual guide appear to us in all our future lives between now and our eventual attainment of enlightenment. Further, by making this request with faith, when we meet our spiritual guide in our future lives, we will continue to have faith in him and be able to pick up where we left off on our spiritual path.

Requesting by expressing his inner qualities

Your aggregates, elements, sources, and limbs
Are by nature the Fathers and Mothers of the five Buddha families,
The Bodhisattvas, and the Wrathful Deities;
O Supreme spiritual guide, the nature of the Three Jewels, to you I make requests.

Samsara is sometimes best understood as being trapped within the cycle of the five contaminated aggregates – contaminated discrimination, contaminated feeling, contaminated compositional factors, contaminated consciousness, and contaminated form. Contaminated discrimination conceptually discriminates objects as inherently good, bad, and neutral. On the basis of these discriminations, we develop contaminated feelings where we experience objects as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. On the basis of these feelings, we then develop contaminated compositional factors, or different delusions and other mental factors related to the objects we are experiencing. These contaminated mental factors in turn lead us to engage in contaminated actions, in other words actions motivated by delusions or deluded minds. These actions subsequently plant contaminated karmic potentialities on our consciousness, which is the aggregate of contaminated consciousness. When this karma ripens, it appears as contaminated forms or contaminated appearances. These appearances appear to be inherently good, bad, or neutral, which our contaminated discrimination then discriminates objects as such, causing the cycle to continue forever.

To escape from samsara then, we need to develop the five omniscient wisdoms – the wisdom of individual discrimination, the wisdom of equality, the wisdom of accomplishing activities, the wisdom of the dharmadhatu, and mirror-like wisdom. The wisdom of individual discrimination discriminates every object individually as a manifestation of indivisible bliss and emptiness. The wisdom of equality then experiences all objects equally as great bliss unfolding in emptiness. The wisdom of accomplishing activities then generates pure minds in relation to every object it experiences, so that every action that subsequently follows is pure. These pure actions in turn, place pure karmic potentialities on our consciousness which is the wisdom of the dharmadhatu. The dharmadhatu is also a completely purified aggregate of consciousness, in other words there are no contaminated karmic potentialities on such a mind. Since there are only pure karmic potentialities on the mind, every karmic seed that ripens does so as pure forms which appear as manifestations of bliss and emptiness. Since all objects appear as manifestations of bliss and emptiness, the wisdom of individual discrimination is able to effortlessly discriminate each object as a manifestation of bliss and emptiness, and so the cycle continues indefinitely.

These five omniscient wisdoms correspond with the five Buddha families. The wisdom of individual discrimination arises independence upon reliance on Buddha Amitabha. Put another way Buddha Amitabha appears in the minds of living beings as the wisdom of individual discrimination. In the same way, Ratnasambhava appears as the wisdom of equality, Amoghasiddhi appears as the wisdom of accomplishing activities, Akshobya appears as the wisdom of the dharmadhatu, and Vairochana appears as mirror-like wisdom. By generating faith in and relying upon the five Buddha families, we can develop the five omniscient wisdoms. And then, instead of identifying with the five contaminated aggregates, we identify with the five omniscient wisdoms. Once we have changed the basis of imputation of our “I” from the five contaminated aggregates to the five omniscient wisdoms, we will have attained enlightenment.

In this verse, we recognize that the spiritual guide’s inner qualities are the five Buddha families, or the five omniscient wisdoms. By making request to our spiritual guide recognizing his inner qualities, we create the causes to receive the blessings of the five Buddha families, and thereby experience and develop within our own mind the five omniscient wisdoms. In completion stage practice, we likewise rely upon the five Buddha families in the form of a collection of five wisdom drops that are the essence of each of the five Buddha families. When we engage in these completion stage practices, we should recall the meaning of the five Buddha families and the five omniscient wisdoms, strongly believing that by mixing our mind with the collection of five wisdom drops, we are mixing our mind with the wisdom of the five Buddha families.

In is this verse we also recognize that our spiritual guide’s inner qualities include all the deities of Guhysamaja’s body mandala. There are three principle Highest Yoga Tantra yidam: Heruka, Yamantaka, and Guhysamaja. When we engage in the practice of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we generate ourselves as Heruka, we recognize Lama Tsongkhapa as Yamantaka, and inside his body are the deities of Guhysamaja’s body mandala. In this way, we accomplish all the attainments of all the principal yidams of Highest Yoga Tantra in one single practice.