His Eminence the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche,
Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge
The very root of the Buddhadharma is the ideal of developing compassion and loving kindness towards all sentient beings, both on the mundane as well as the absolute level; and it is essential that one follow a graduated path to attain this.
In order to facilitate this goal, a few of my students have undertaken to publish this volume of transcriptions of teachings explained by me at various Dharma centers throughout the world. I fully support this meritorious act in the hope that it will help the Buddhist teachings of benevolence and peace to reach many beings.
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
11 th December, 1990
Rumtek, East Sikkim, India
Vajrayana Empowerments, specifically in Relation to
the Creation & Completion Stages of Meditation Practices
Generally speaking, the teachings of Lord Buddha are divided into two categories, those of the Sutra tradition and those of the Vajrayana or Tantric tradition. The distinguishing feature of the Sutra tradition is that it relies mainly on the seeds which develop into awakening or enlightenment, while the Vajrayana or Mantra tradition works more directly with the result of awakening by using this as the path of practice.
Sutrayana (‘the vehicle of the Sutras’) is comprised of two principle vehicles: the vehicle of the listeners and the vehicle of the independent Buddhas, often referred to as ‘the lesser vehicles of Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas,’ and the vehicle of the Bodhisattvas, known as ‘the greater vehicle’ or Mahayana. Each of these approaches to awakening relies principally on what is known as ‘the three disciplines.’ They are: the discipline of ethics, the discipline of meditative stability, and the discipline of discriminating wisdom-awareness.
We can describe the framework of each of these approaches in terms of outlook, method of cultivation, and behaviour. Specifically, the outlook in the context of the two vehicles or approaches in Buddhism means that the seed or cause of the unsatisfactory nature of life is ignorance, ignorance as to how we are. The view or outlook we adopt is that there is no intrinsic self in the individual and that the constituents of experience have no independent existence. These are known technically as ‘the non-self of the individual’ and ‘the non-self of phenomena.’ The method or cultivation is developing stability of attention through calming the mind and superior seeing through the practice of special insight meditation. In the context of Mahayana, the development of awakening mind is cultivated and practiced. The behaviour which evolves from practicing all three aspects is one in which we avoid harming other beings and engage in what is known as ‘the six perfections.’ They are: generosity, ethics, patience, energy, meditative stability, and discriminating wisdom-awareness. Through the cultivation of all aspects of practice we come to remove the seed of ignorance and to realize awakening. This is essentially the approach of the Sutrayana.
For example, we have this feeling of being some ‘thing’ and call this ‘thing’ we feel we are ‘self.’ From the perspective of the Sutra approach, the self we feel we are is simply a mental construction; it is something we have made up. Expressed precisely, we cling to a sense of self where there is no self. To understand this a little bit better: We feel that we are some ‘thing,’ and if for a moment we were to accept that feeling as being accurate, then the question arises, “What is this thing we think we are?”
We normally associate some kind of shape with things, some substance, color, quality, or form. When we scrutinize and investigate this ‘self’ that we feel we have, we cannot find any shape, color, substance, or form to it. It is not difficult to come to some intellectual understanding that there is no self. But an intellectual understanding by itself, which isn’t very difficult to acquire, doesn’t do very much for us - it doesn’t do anything about the actual mental pattern with which we relate to ourselves and to the world. Having posited this ‘self’ within us, everything else becomes ‘something other,’ and we are stuck in a pattern of duality, which is extremely and deeply entrenched.
The problem here is not so much to understand what non-self means but to use the perspective of non-self to wear down and eliminate the pattern of clinging to a sense of a self. This is what practice is really concerned with. One of the words for ‘practice’ is ‘to bring into experience,’ and this is what needs to happen. We need to bring into experience the understanding that there is no self. In this way, we become free of the pattern of ego-clinging. What we are really concerned with is eliminating the clinging. If we do this according to the practice of the vehicle of listeners and independent Buddhas, then we would let the mind rest without any conceptualizations, with complete stability, and we would gradually develop insight which directly apprehends the absence of a self.
In the greater vehicle of the Bodhisattvas, our practice would consist principally of the development of ‘the awakening mind,’ Bodhicitta in Sanskrit, particularly the development of love and compassion, the use of mind training techniques such as the seven points of mind training, and the technique of meditation known as ‘taking and sending’ in which we reverse the usual emphasis on ourselves and place the emphasis on the needs and wishes of others. It is an extremely effective method for eliminating or removing the tendency of clinging to an individual self. In either case, however, the point is to remove the clinging. With the removal of clinging, we come to be free of the suffering or unsatisfactoriness associated with ordinary existence the way we know it now. This is a brief summary of the Sutra approach to practice.
Let us turn to the path which makes use of the result, the Vajrayana or Tantric approach. In the Tantric tradition, we speak about transformation of impure appearances into pure appearances. I want to clarify what this exactly means, because I think there are a lot of misunderstandings here.
The world appears to us in a certain way, and the way it appears to us is changed in Vajrayana. What is important to understand here is that it is not the objects of our experiences themselves which are transformed or changed. In fact, it is taught in both the Sutra and Tantra approach that there is nothing wrong with the objects of our experiences – they are neither pure nor impure but are only what they are. The impurity in our experiences does not come from the objects of our experiences but from the way in which we perceive them. We perceive the world in a certain way because of the presence of clinging to a self and to duality, i.e., we perceive the objects of experience to be independent, to be permanent, to be substantial. So when we talk about impure appearances, we are really referring to the lack of accuracy in our perception of the world. It is this lack of clarity, this lack of accuracy, which we seek to eliminate. You can see from this that there is no essential difference between the goal in the Sutra and Tantra traditions; though the methods differ, they have the same end in mind. The problem recognized in both is the problem of clinging - it is clinging to a sense of self which causes us to see the objects of experience as being substantial, real, and permanent.
The special feature of the Vajrayana or Tantric approach is the way we learn to eliminate that clinging. One of the ways we do this is by cultivating within ourselves the experience of the world and of ourselves as divine. When we cultivate that experience fully, then the clinging which we have with respect to ourselves and the world subsides – it disappears. Then we find that our experience of the world has been transformed from that of impure experience to that of pure experience. In both Sutra and Tantra, the focus is on eliminating the clinging which is the source of the problem in our experience of the world. I want to go over this point again, because it is very important.
When we talk about transforming impure experiences into pure experiences, many people I know of have taken this to mean that in Tantric Buddhism there is some kind of magical power, a spell, a mantra which we recite at the right time or enough times to suddenly change everything, some kind of sorcery or magic that changes objects of experience from impure into pure. This is a very serious misunderstanding of how Vajrayana or Tantric meditation functions. It doesn’t function in this way at all.
The Tantric tradition is based very firmly on the Sutra tradition. In the Sutra tradition, we see that the problem we have concerning the lack of meaning in our lives – the unsatisfactory nature of existence we experience – is to be found not in the objects of our experiences but in our own mind, in the way we approach and interact with the world. This is where the problem lies. The world is simply appearance and that’s fine. But the way we relate to what appears to us - by regarding things as real, as substantial, concrete, and so forth - is the problem. It is this attitude of clinging, grasping, fixating on our experiences which is recognized as the basis of all difficulties in the Sutra tradition. The techniques in the Sutra tradition are concerned with eliminating that kind of clinging, in particular with eliminating the clinging to a sense of a self within ourselves. It is that same focus which is the main concern of the Vajrayana as well, i.e., the elimination of clinging. It isn’t by any magical power of a mantra or of particular particles charged with some kind of power that objects are changed, but it is in the elimination of clinging within ourselves that a pure vision evolves. Properly speaking, it is really impossible to understand the practice of Vajrayana without being firmly grounded in Sutrayana. One might wonder, “Is it possible to practice Sutrayana without the Vajrayana?” The answer is, Yes, and it is effective. Everything that is necessary is present in the Sutra approach. However, since the Sutra approach works with the seeds of experience, it is a very long path. It takes time for those seeds to cultivate.
What distinguishes the Vajrayana from the Sutrayana is not so much what they do but the methods one does to do it. Vajrayana is much more direct. Both Sutra and Tantra do exactly the same. Do you understand this? I want to say again that the Vajrayana does not consist of transforming objects through some kind of sorcery or magic, rather it consists of eliminating the basis for clinging to our experience of the world. When we are free from that clinging, then we find that what appeared to us as impure appearances of the world appears to us as simply the pure appearances of our own mind. I want to make this point one more time, because it is so very important.
Vajrayana does not consist of using mantras to change objects with power, of using certain medicines or substances to affect some kind of transformation. Many people are of the impression that there is some kind of magical power at work here, so they think it doesn’t matter how one behaves – they think one can simply resort to magic and become free of the problems of life. If we look at ourselves existing in confusion now because of the difficulties we have due to lack of satisfaction or meaning in our lives, rather than being a step towards greater clarity, this kind of approach of misperception is to live in confusion within confusion. It adds another whole layer to confusion and doesn’t take us in the right direction at all. What Vajrayana is concerned with is the elimination of clinging, and in this way it is not different in its aim from that of Sutrayana.
There are many different categories of practices in the entire collection of teachings of the Vajrayana or Tantra tradition. They are generally classified into four groups, which are: (1) Tantra as action, (2) Tantra as behaviour, (3) Tantra as union, and (4) Tantra as superior union. There are many reasons why these different groupings emerged, but principally they emerged because of the variety of temperaments, characters, personalities, and abilities which we find among individual people. All the disturbing emotions develop from ignorance, which means not understanding how we actually are. The three primary emotions that develop from ignorance are aggression or aversion, passion or attachment, and stupidity or indifference. These are present to greater or lesser degrees in people, so certain practices work more with attachment, others more with aversion. This is the reason we have this different grouping and range of practices.
The fourth Tantra is regarded as the highest form of practice. The vast range of practices within this category are further subdivided into three Tantras, which are (1) the father Tantras, which work primarily with method, how we relate to the world, (2) the mother Tantras, which emphasize principally understanding or intelligence of the empty nature or how the world is, and (3) the non-dual Tantras, which emphasize both of these aspects equally.
Vajrayana is a very special section of the teachings of Buddhism, and it is special in many ways. In particular, Vajrayana is one of the most direct approaches to liberation and it is one in which there is a great proliferation of different methods and techniques to bring about awakening. However, it is not sufficient to just say that one is a practitioner of the Vajrayana. In order to be able to practice Vajrayana correctly, three things are required: There is empowerment, which ripens the course of our experience; there is the instruction that is practiced and that brings about attainment of liberation; and there is the canonical authorization, which gives us the support of scriptural study and understanding.
One of the principal methods used in Vajrayana is identification with what is called in Tibetan yidam (‘meditation deity’). In the context of the empowerment, it is the deity used in practice with which one identifies oneself. The relationship with the deity is very important. One of the very exceptional aspects of the Vajrayana is empowerment, in which one is introduced to the seeds of experience. The seeds are planted within our being through the empowerment.
Now, the nature of Vajrayana deities needs to be understood quite clearly and accurately. If we understand a Vajrayana deity to be something like a worldly god, a local spirit, or some kind of divine source in the world, this would be a very serious misconception. Yidams are not local deities, regional spirits, or anything like that. The Vajrayana deities arise out of a mutual interaction between the compassion and awakened mind of all Buddhas and the interest and character of beings like us. The yidams are the Sambhogakaya aspect, the ‘communication aspect of awakening.’ They aren’t substantial or real entities in the sense of actual gods who live and breathe in the world. They are also quite different in another characteristic. If we were to worship or proliferate a local god, there is a great deal of expectation or apprehension, the reason one invokes various gods. One prays to them for benefit because one is afraid of being harmed or injured by them in some way. This kind of expectation or apprehension doesn’t operate in our relationship with the Vajrayana deities. With respect to appreciation of a local deity or spirit, expectation and apprehension very much enter into one’s relationship. But with the Vajrayana deities, the purpose of the identification with the yidam is to eliminate expectations and apprehensions, to overcome hope and fears – not to increase them. So it isn’t a case of apprehending yidams with some kind of expectation that something good will come to us or being afraid that something bad will happen to us if we don’t do things.
The various aspects of the form of a yidam, such as the number of heads, their color, the implements held in their hands, and so forth, arise out of the complete knowledge of full awakening or Buddhaood. They are intimately related to our actual experience. Each aspect of a deity serves to refine a certain aspect of our experience in a specific way so that we ascertain the respective aspect of life as awakened experience. It is a very different process from that of simple appreciation. Let me try to explain this by using Kalachakra.
Kalachakra means ‘Wheel of Time.’ The significance of this name is that every aspect of our experience – everything we experience – has some kind of relationship with time, i.e., nothing is out of time. So the deity pervades completely all aspects of our lives. Through cultivation of the experience of the deity within us, our actual experiences of all different aspects of our lives are refined so that the confusion which causes us to experience things as unsatisfactory and meaningless, referred to as ‘impure appearances,’ becomes pure, i.e., we experience the world and ourselves exactly as we are.
A classification present within all Vajrayana teachings is explicitly taught in Anuttara Tantra (‘Supreme Union Tantra’) where there is the world of outer experience, the external word; there is the experience of ourselves, our physical body and internal energies known as ‘vajra body’; and there is also the experience of the yidam. By using the experience of ourselves as the yidam, our experience of the world as being impure is transformed into a pure experience. This transformation doesn’t mean we negate, block off, or destroy the external world and then create new appearances, new things to experience. It means that an internal process takes place in which those factors within us to experience the world as unsatisfactory and impure are removed, and then we actually experience the world as the expression of awakening.
In Vajrayana, two qualities are very important: pure outlook and respectful appreciation. Pure outlook refers to the constant effort to cultivate the experience of the world in accordance with what is actually going on. Our current experience of the world is impure, i.e., we have an impure outlook. This means there is confusion, ego-clinging, dualistic clinging, and so forth, which cause or constitute impure outlook. We experience the world a certain way because of confusion or clinging. We eliminate confusion and clinging within ourselves through our practice, and then we experience the world as it is – the pure outlook. So, pure outlook refers to the cultivation of the process that is constantly taking place within us.
To facilitate the cultivation of pure outlook, a sense of inspiration brings a great deal of energy into our practice, and that energy is based on a respectful appreciation of the precious means of the teachings and of methods of practice. Particularly, in the context of empowerments, where our actual course of experience is ripened or matured through the process of the ceremony, a very deep and respectful appreciation or devotion facilitates that maturation within us. It is a very important quality to be present.
The term ‘empowerment’ has a very wide range of uses. I want to distinguish between two main uses of it. Most empowerments that are given are permission blessings, called ‘permission through inspiration.’ In these ceremonies, we are introduced to the form, the speech, and the mind of a deity in such a way that the experience is inspired within us. This serves as a permission to do the practice associated with that specific yidam deity.
There are four levels of empowerments conferred. The first is what is called ‘the vase empowerment,’ which empowers us in the body or form of a deity. The second is known as ‘the secret empowerment,’ which is associated with speech. The third is known as ‘the wisdom-awareness empowerment,’ which is associated with the mind or heart of a deity. The fourth is known as ‘the word empowerment,’ which introduces us to the way things are. All four levels are conferred in an actual empowerment.
It is necessary that we are ready for the change and for the development within us for this kind of empowerment to take place. So the first part of the ceremony consists of preparing students for the empowerment by a formal acceptance as students, who make the request to receive the empowerment. It is then necessary to prepare the ground so that the four seeds of the four levels mentioned above will be planted.
In the preparatory stage, a student is prepared for empowerment. The first section is an explanation of the empowerment itself. Secondly is the establishment of a pure motivation or attitude towards the empowerment. A pure attitude means renewing one’s refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – and being clear about the intention to receive the empowerment to facilitate the journey to complete awakening. One does this with the intention to be able to help all beings and thus generates awakening mind. So, going for refuge and generating the awakening mind are what ‘pure attitude’ refers to.
Through the ritual of empowerment, those areas within oneself which are negative, unwholesome, and impure are cleared away so that one’s being becomes clear and works better. Further, during empowerment the appreciation of supreme, pristine wisdom is invoked within one’s mind stream, which serves to plant the seed for its direct understanding or direct experience in the future. In this way, one comes to know what is to be refined, what is to be worked on in practice.
Let me explain empowerments by giving you an example. Suppose one had a vase made of a precious metal and jewels that is covered with grime and stained so that its precious qualities aren’t evident. One wouldn’t know just from looking at it what it is made of or how very valuable it is. One clears away the grind which covers this precious vase, and then one can see that it is something indeed valuable and beautiful. In addition to clearing away all the grind, one begins to polish it and make it very clean so that even the smallest blemishes are removed. Then its full radiance becomes very manifest in the light. In the same way, all sentient beings have the potential of Buddhahood and possess the Buddha nature, which is like the precious vase currently covered by the grime of emotions, unwholesome karma, and so forth. The empowerment serves to clean away much of the grind and the stains to enable one to appreciate what is there. The inspiration - which comes from working with the expressions of awakening, Kalachakra, the other yidams, or the teachers of the transmission through whom the teachings have come - brings radiance which illuminates the precious vase and makes its splendour and beauty shine for all to see. This is why the empowerment is a very important aspect of Vajrayana practice.
Having explained the meaning of each level of empowerment that the disciples learn while participating in an empowerment (note of editor: the instructions are not included in this article), I will now speak about empowerments in relation to the creation and completion phases of meditation practice.
Empowerments in Relation to
the Creation & Completion Stages of Meditation Practice
In general, the course of practice in Vajrayana proceeds through the use of two main tools. Theses two tools are known as ‘the creation stage and the completion stage.’ One creates the experience of the deity in the creation stage and completes it with emptiness in the completion stage. The relationship of this sequence of practice with the experience of the world is that, when considering the way experience arises, there is essentially the way things are and there is the experience of oneself and the world through the interaction of many causes and conditions. When these two factors disperse, then that experience dissipates. This arising and dissolution of experience is exactly what is illustrated and refined through the practice of the creation and completion stages of Vajrayana. An empowerment is concerned with planting the experience and is the basis for creating the experience of the deity through the meditation practice of the creation stage. I would like to explain in more detail the creation and completion stages of actual practices and the patterns of perception and experience that are deeply ingrained within us.
Basically, our experience of the world, what we term ‘samsaric experience,’ is based upon perception of the world in a dualistic framework. This dualism arises because of our projections of two qualities onto the world: that it is either permanent and actually present or that there is nothing there, thus denying existents. We term these technically as ‘eternalism’ and ‘nihilism.’ These two erroneous apprehensions are very much in conflict and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding or ignorance. The way things are in themselves cannot be described in either terms of ‘existence’ or ‘non-existence.’ However, our pattern of experience is such that we project a quality of existence on the things we perceive through our senses, technically called ‘apparent reality.’ This means that we feel that what we see and also perceive with our other sense faculties actually exists. However, when we start to examine the nature of existents from a logical point of view, we find there is nothing there which actually exists. So we are presented with a paradox, a contradiction at the very basis of our experience. Correctly speaking, the way things are is neither existence or non-existence, what the term ‘emptiness’ points to. Emptiness does not point to absence but to not being either existent or non-existent.
In order to understand that experientially, we may make use of the extraordinary, very profound, and effective methods of Vajrayana. In the creation stage of meditation practice, we create for ourselves the experience of the deity, i.e., our form is that of the deity existing in a palace and surrounded by other deities. This experience is created in great detail. Our natural proclivity projects a certain quality of existence on that experience of the deity. In fact, we become quite attached to it. So it is crucial that the experience of the deity that we naturally hold to be existent in some way is completed with the experience of non-existence. In the completion stage of meditation practice, we refine that experience of the deity so we come to experience it as being no ‘thing.’ Thus we come to experience the deity exactly as it is – as neither existent or non-existent. In this way, we come to an accurate, experiential understanding of emptiness which can be extended to our whole experience of the world.
There are three aspects of being: being as truth, being as quality, and being as presence in the world. They are found in us already but need to be refined through the process of meditation practice. The seeds of that refining are planted with empowerment. Let me explain what these three aspects mean.
‘Being as truth,’ termed Dharmakaya in Sanskrit, refers to the way the nature of being is, without origin. This is often termed as ‘being empty.’ There is nothing we could say comes into being at a certain time. Another way of describing this is that the nature of being is beyond impermanence and eternalism, i.e., it doesn’t fall into either of these categories or limiting philosophical positions. The nature of being ‘as quality’ is the radiance which is present without impediment and without ceasing, Sambhogakaya in Sanskrit. As mentioned before, emptiness does not refer to absence or nothing. The very quality of being empty enables experiences to be extraordinarily full, i.e., anything is possible, anything may arise. The richness of our experiences is an expression or aspect of its emptiness. Thirdly, ‘being as presence in the world,’ Nirmanakaya in Sanskrit, has to do with energy or dexterity of being which takes form in many different ways. One of the ways that being as presence in the world makes itself manifest is through the many different forms and ways in which Buddha activity is present, namely peacefully, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying. These activities manifest according to the character and temperament of the individuals, providing them with the tools which are appropriate for their understanding and abilities. We might be left with the impression that being as truth, being as quality, and being as presence in the world are somehow slightly different and not related to each other. But they are all aspects of being as what simply is the Svabhavavikakaya.
The higher empowerments which plant the seed within our being to realize the Kayas begin with the vase empowerment, which is concerned with being in the world. The disciple regards the teacher as inseparable from the deity, the mandala as the abode of the deity, and within the vase of the mandala is the deity. It is through the interaction of these three aspects that the vase has been consecrated. The anointment is to clear away the negative patterns that are stored in our bodies. The initiation enables us to come to realize actual being in the world, the Nirmanakaya. The second higher empowerment is known as ‘the secret empowerment.’ It is concerned with communication or speech. The consecrated elixir in the cup clears away negative patterns that are associated with communication and leads to realize being as quality, the Sambhogakaya. The third higher empowerment is known as ‘the wisdom awareness empowerment’ and is conferred by the blessing of the consort of the deity. The effect is to clear away negative patterns in our minds and hearts, and it allows us to come to a direct understanding of being as truth, the Dharmakaya. We need to know that all yidam deities are in essence the same, i.e., they are different aspects of the same reality.
The Most Important Commitments
The most important point in Vajrayana commitment is to maintain mindfulness in every moment of one’s life, whether one is awake, asleep, getting up, moving around, walking, eating, or sitting. Everything is done with complete mindfulness and awareness, which serve as the basis for pure outlook. Seeing the world as the expression of the awakened mind on the basis of mindfulness and awareness is the essence of Vajrayana practice. Mindfulness and awareness are most important. Vajrayana practice is the complete practice of both so that they are operative in every moment of our lives. In addition to mindulness and awareness, we need to cultivate awakening mind. It is an attitude towards the world in which our intention is to help all living beings. Awakening mind is extremely important and is the essence of the Mahayana teachings.
Further, one of the most important principles in the Dharma is karma, the way of our actions or seeds that develop into experience or results. Karma is the first teaching of Buddha Shakyamuni and one of the most important facets of any spiritual practice, particularly in Buddhist practice. A thorough understanding, an acceptance, and deep trust in the operation of karma, in which our actions actually mature into experiences or results, is the very ground for any spiritual practice. For a person to say they are practicing and yet not to have any confidence, trust, or acceptance of this principle of action and result is a contradiction. They don’t have all the conditions required for complete spiritual practice. In short, the basis is trust and acceptance of the workings of karma (‘action and seed which bring results’).
There is the maintenance and cultivation of awakening mind, on top of which we then bring in the pure outlook of the Vajrayana. These are the essential elements for practice, and a person who is cultivating all three areas is really practicing the Dharma correctly. A person who says he is practicing Dharma and is missing any of these three – not accepting karma, not taking a positive attitude towards others, and so forth – is really not practicing the Buddhadharma.
The basis of all practices is mindfulness and awareness. Karma, Bodhicitta, mindfulness, and awareness are not four different things. They come down to the same thing when they are actually put into operation in one’s life.
We have done something very virtuous. We have been introduced to and met Kalachakra. At this point, I’d like us all to dedicate the goodness which has come out of this gathering to the welfare of all living beings, particularly that there be no disasters or misfortunes in the world for any being, that all be happy, find peace, and ultimately through their efforts come to full awakening that arises through the direct understanding of the way things are, in other words, that they become Kalachakra.
There is one matter I wish to speak about. Many of you here are fully aware that the founder of the Karma Kagyü Tradition is His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa. Through the succession of his lives he is not only a key teacher in our tradition, but he is also one of the principal teachers in Tibet. He is the source of inspiration and hope for many people. It is now some ten years since His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa passed to the realm of totality. And there has been much expectation and speculation over this period of time. Many of you have prayed deeply and sincerely that he should be with us before very long. People ask me, “Has he been born? Has he not been born? Where is he? What is happening?” I understand very much how speculation has simply come from fervent and sincere yearning that this source of inspiration should be present in the world again. I would like to respond to you simply by saying that I assure you His Holiness will soon be with us.
I’m quite aware that the long absence of His Holiness has been a source of anxiety for many people. This has been augmented by the fact that many other teachers have died since His Holiness passed away. Their subsequent appearance in the world has been discovered, and now they are in the process of being educated and trained to assume their positions. This has given rise to the idea that that His Holiness might not return. There has also been concern about whether he will be properly recognized. Part of the reason I think for this period of time must be attributed to the very special nature of His Holiness. There are many incarnation lineages in the Tibetan tradition, so the position of the incarnation lineage of the Karmapas is somewhat unique, particularly with respect to the world. So there has to be a certain amount of trust in that. Secondly, the appearance of such great teachers is not only due to their own intention but also to the conditions present in the world, i.e., they appear in the world in response to the motivation, inclination, and conditions of all beings in the world. In this way, they can teach what is appropriate in times appropriate to do so. Thirdly, the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa made it very clear that he would not appear in the world until the projects he started in his life were completed. Among these projects are principally the completion of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Center in Woodstock, the Institute in Delhi, and the College at Rumtek Monastery. All these projects have now been perfectly completed, so everything that needs to come together in order for His Holiness to be with us again is now present.
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the incarnation because in his letter the Sixteenth Karmapa very clearly described where and how he would be born, so there is very little possibility of any mistake being there. More important, His Holiness is a supreme Nirmanakaya and is quite different in quality than others. What is important for us is not to create further obstacles for His Holiness’ appearance in the world but to do as much as we can to make the conditions for his appearance suitable and appropriate.
To conclude, we consider all goodness which has been generated here in thinking how it can help other people in all parts of the world, in particular to contribute to conditions which will make it possible for His Holiness to be with us, to contribute to the conditions which will make it possible for great teachers everywhere to live long and healthy lives so that they continue helping others by teaching. We pray that the goodness we have developed here acts for peace in our world, clearing away those conditions which create war and suffering, and that it inspires spiritual development in all of us as Dharma practitioners so that we come to an accurate and complete understanding of the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. I would also like to include in our prayers of dedication the two teachers who contributed immensely and really threw open the doors of the West to the Buddhadharma – I am speaking of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche, who at the suggestion of the Karmapa came to the West and worked very hard to establish the teachings of Buddhism here. Both have passed away and their reincarnations have not yet appeared. They will soon be recognized and will be with us. – Thank you very much.
Through this goodness may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then
Lead every being without exception to that very state!
May precious and supreme Bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,
And may precious Bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!
Long-Life Prayer for Chöje Lama Phunstok, Lama Gyaltsen,
Khenpo Karma Namgyal, and Chöje Lama Namse
May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in its extent.
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,
May I and all living beings without exception swiftly establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.
The Elixir of Immortality - A Long-Life Prayer for
H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lodrö Chökyi Nyima
Om Svasti Siddham.
Noble Lama, you are the great treasury of the compassion and blessings
Of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the three sources and wisdom Dakinis.
May White Tara, the Wish-fulfilling Wheel, who imparts the splendour of immortality,
And the deities with the power of life,
Bring to fulfilment these virtuous prayers for your long life!
Simply to see you in the youthful resplendence of your major and minor marks of perfection liberates us.
Simply to hear your soothing, melodious voice, with its sixty qualities, liberates us.
Simply to think of you, sovereign of love and knowledge and refuge of beings, liberates us.
May Amitayus, the Buddha of Limitless Life, create all that is auspicious for you!
While never moving from Dharmadhatu’s expanse,
You remain the protector of all Buddhist teachings and their essence, the Practice Lineage.
Out of the breadth of your realisation of the ultimate and relative,
The thousand-fold radiance of your wisdom blazes.
Its luminous warmth, inconceivably deep and tranquil,
Completely burns away the thickness of the two obscurations,
And the brilliance of your inexhaustible, compassionate activity shines forth.
Supreme and precious sun who illuminates the practice instructions,
May you remain forever in your vajra form!
In the line of the Jewel Rosary for the transmission of meaning,
Of the impeccable Karma Kamtsang teachings,
May you, the naturally present glory of the flawless expanse of totality,
Remain for a hundred aeons upon your Dharma throne!
Firmly rooted in the ground of your discipline, the three types of Buddhist training,
Is the wish-fulfilling tree of your mind of Awakening.
It is laden with the fruit of your Vajrayana practice.
On your throne for the teaching of the Three Yanas, may you remain long!
Your expedient and ultimate instructions, like cool, refreshing streams of nectar,
Extinguish the torment of all beings.
May you fill the three levels of existence with the brilliance of all the traditions,
And may you live long as the Lord of beings and the Buddhist doctrine!
The essence of the final cycle of the Buddha’s teaching is profound and true.
Free from conceptual extremes, it is the great Middle Way.
It is not refuted by the three means of analysis, but is realised directly.
May you, the embodiment of this extraordinary truth, live long!
The essential truth does not reject projections of the conceptual mind.
The key point of naturalness is freedom from intellectual analysis of conditioned phenomena.
Intrinsic wisdom is effortless.
This is the great result, which you, the perfect embodiment of enlightened form and wisdom,
Directly reveal to your students, through your undiminishing, deep, vast radiance and melodious words.
Great embodiment of the right capacities to bring others to spiritual maturity and liberation,
May you remain forever for a hundred aeons on your vajra throne!
You are Ananda, Vairocana, Taranatha, Jamgon Lodrö Chökyi Senge, and others.
As the culmination of your previous aspirations, and your path as a Bodhisattva,
You are now the youthful epitome of them all, a sacred being.
May you, the essence of the three sources and deities with the power of life, live long!
May the thunder of Dharma resound throughout the three levels of existence!
May the ancient tradition of the ultimate meaning swirl powerfully like the Ganges River!
Through our noble intentions and words of aspirations, with the power of truth, like that of the sages,
May the brilliance of the fulfilment of these wishes bring liberation throughout all the worlds!
Long-Life Prayer for H.H. the Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Naturally arising Dharmakaya, unchanging and ever-present,
Karmapa, you appear as the form kayas’ magical illusions.
May your three secret vajras remain stable in the realms
And your infinite, spontaneous activity blaze in glory.
These teachings were presented by H.E. the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche before he conferred the Great Kalachakra Empowerment that was hosted in 1990 by Chöje Lama Namse of Karma Sönam Dargye Ling in Toronto, Canada. Photo of H.E. the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche conferring the Red Chenrezig empowerment at Karma Samten Ling Monastery in Kathmandu in 2008 courtesy of Lee Ching Yun of Puli-Nantou, Taiwan. Lama Gyaltsen, who built Karma Samten Ling, also built the precious Golden Kudung Stupa of the Third Jamgon Kongtrul at the Great Pullahari Monastery together with Chöje Lama Phuntsok, who built Karma Lekshey Ling Institute. Lama Phuntsok especially did most of the invaluable work put inside this precious Stupa. Photo of H.H. the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa and H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche at the Great Kagyü Mönlam in Bodhgaya in 2009 courtesy of Kagyü Mönlam Chenmo. We want to thank Ken McLeod for his fabulous simultaneous translation of the teachings and Lee for the wonderful Chinese blog of H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche that she has set up. The prayer of aspiration for the long life of Jamgon Lodrö Chökyi Nyima Tenpey Dronme, the Fourth incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, has been adapted from the “Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of H.E. the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche” by H.H. the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa at the request of Tenzin Dorjee, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s General Secretary and translated by Ingrid McLeod.
Photo of roses taken and graciously offered by Lena Fong of San Francisco. Teachings transcribed in 1991, edited slightly and arranged in 2009 for the archives of the Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang at Pullahari and for the Download Project of Khenpo Karma Namgyal at Karma Lekshey Ling in Kathmandu by Gaby Hollmann of Munich, solely responsible for all mistakes. Copyright Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, Pullahari Monastery, Nepal, 2009. All rights reserved. Distributed for personal use only.