1. Invoking the Lama

Ngöndro | Tibetan MastersYukhok Chatralwa Chöying Rangdrol

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Explanation of the Prayer of Invoking the Lama

From the Longchen Nyingtik Preliminaries

by Yukhok Chöying Rangdrol

This has two sections: outer and inner.

1. The Outer Spiritual Teacher

This refers to the lines:

“O lama, care for me!
From the blossoming lotus of devotion at the centre of my heart,
Rise up, O compassionate lama, my only refuge!
I am plagued by past actions and turbulent emotions.
To protect me in my misfortune,
Remain as the jewel ornament on the crown of my head, the chakra of great bliss…”

As you recite “O lama, care for me!” the first time, in order that renunciation might arise in your own and other beings’ minds, invoke the lama while considering him as the embodiment of all the gurus, the buddha and the dharmakāya. As you recite it a second time, in order that precious bodhicitta might arise in your minds, invoke him as the embodiment of the yidams, the Dharma and the sambhogakāya. As you recite it a third time, in order that pure perception of all that appears and exists might arise in your minds, invoke him as the embodiment of the ḍākinīs, the saṅgha and the nirmāṇakaya.[1] Alternatively, for the first recitation you could consider him as the embodiment of the Three Jewels, for the second as the embodiment of the Three Roots, and for the third as the embodiment of the Three Kāyas.

Then, consider that through the compassion of the master, which has been aroused by the recitation and visualization of him as the embodiment of all sources of refuge, the four or eight-petalled lotus of vivid, eager and confident faith in the centre of your heart blossoms open. With this, the sole refuge who can dispel all our miseries and their causes in our current and future lives and in the bardo states, the teacher who reveals to us the path of liberation and omniscience, our kind root master, rises up through the central channel, and then remains there, smiling happily, in the space above the crown of our head.

You might wonder what need there is for this. It is in order to protect us—the unfortunate ones who are plagued by great sufferings brought on by our own past actions and turbulent emotions—from all our karma and kleśas and the sufferings they cause. This is why we request the master to remain upon the cakra of great bliss on the crown of our head, seated there upon a lotus and sun and moon disk seats, from now until we attain enlightenment, as the all- pervading lord of our buddha family and the chief of all the maṇḍalas.

2. The Inner Spiritual Teacher

This corresponds to the line:

“…Arousing all my mindfulness and awareness, I pray!”

The inner spiritual guide is our mindfulness, awareness, conscientiousness and six transcendent perfections. Mindfulness, as mentioned in Letter to a Friend, is the main practice at all levels of the Dharma:

Mighty lord, the Buddha taught that mindfulness of the body
Is the single path to be followed.
So grasp it firmly and guard it well,
For all Dharma practice will be ruined if mindfulness is ever lost.[2]

Having addressed the king as ‘mighty lord’, Nāgārjuna says that the Buddha has taught that in all situations in our daily lives mindfulness of the body and so on is the single path to follow, because all those who wish to follow the path to liberation must adopt this from the outset.

Awareness is taught to be the source of all perfection. It is the source of the splendour of fourfold knowledge: (1) knowledge of the terminology of all the Dharma teachings, and, on the basis of this, (2) a clear knowledge of the meaning being communicated, as well as (3) an understanding of cause and effect for those who wish for the happiness of the higher realms, and (4) a thorough understanding of the causes and effects involved in the attainment of the states of ‘definite goodness’, i.e., liberation and omniscience. If we lack this awareness, then, as it says in The Way of the Bodhisattva:

Whatever has been learned, reflected or meditated upon,
By those who lack awareness in their minds,
Will not be retained by the memory,
Like water poured into a leaking vase.[3]

Conscientiousness is the source of all virtuous qualities. As it says in The Moon Lamp Sūtra:

Discipline, learning, generosity and patience too,
Whatever could be described as a virtuous quality—
The source of them all is conscientiousness,
Which, the Buddha has taught, is a treasure to be gained.

Pray that through the compassion and blessings of the master, these qualities of mindfulness, awareness and conscientiousness may arise in your mind and manifest to the fullest extent.

You might wonder where these categories of outer and inner teacher are taught. The Condensed Perfection of Wisdom Sūtra says:

Rely on the buddhas and the bodhisattvas who have embarked upon the path to supreme awakening, and the pāramitās too as your spiritual teachers. These two—the teachers and the practices—are the causes for swiftly realizing buddhahood.

Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on the Condensed Sūtra says:

Rely on the buddhas, the transcendent conquerors, and the bodhisattvas who have embarked upon the path to supreme awakening, and the path of the pāramitās too as your spiritual teachers. Of these, the buddhas and bodhisattvas teach the great vehicle to others, and therefore they are the outer teachers. What they teach, the path of the pāramitās, is what we must follow or take into our experience and is therefore the inner teacher. In this way, the outer and inner teachers prevent us from straying onto paths other than that of the greater vehicle, and so relying on these two becomes a perfect, unparalleled cause for swiftly realizing the awakening of the buddhas.

The Gateway to Knowledge says:

Firstly we follow the outer teacher, the spiritual guide who teaches the greater vehicle in a genuine way. Then, having received the unerring instructions on the inseparable unity of the profound and vast, the genuine path of the transcendent perfection of wisdom complete with all the supreme aspects of skilful means, which is the perfect method for approaching the attainment of buddhahood, the state of equality beyond all extremes, and the antidote to all adverse factors on the path of the greater vehicle, such as clinging to extremes or having some conceptual focus that distances us from the ‘resultant mother’ [i.e., nirvāṇa], we apply this in our minds and are never separate from the inner teacher.

| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2006 (revised 2012). Thanks to Ringu Tulku Rinpoche for his clarifications.

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  1. These three qualities (renunciation, bodhicitta and pure perception) represent the essence of the three yānas.  ↩

  2. Verse 54.  ↩

  3. Chapter 5, verse 25.  ↩

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