Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
The Bright Lamp of Wisdom (Yeshe Saldrön)
A Guide to the Practice of Guru Yoga
by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Namo guru jñānakāya!
With your wisdom body that shines like a sun in splendour,
You dispel delusion’s darkness from saṃsāra’s three worlds.
You are the embodiment and very face of the infinite Three Jewels and Three Roots—
Universal lord, glorious guru, to you I bow down in devotion.
The great swift and secret path of all the buddhas
Is guru yoga, the very essence of the heart.
An elixir of profound points from tantras, āgamas and upadeśas,
This ‘lamp that gives light to wisdom’ I shall briefly reveal.
I. General Explanation of Guru Yoga
The one who bestows complete empowerment into one of the great maṇḍalas, or the one who transmits the three types of vow, but especially the one who directly introduces genuine wisdom—this is the ‘root guru’.
If you can pray to him or her from the depths of your heart with faith and a samaya commitment that is free from any hypocrisy or deceit, there is no doubt that you will receive blessings.
There are three ways of taking the guru yoga practice to heart, linked to the three capacities of individuals: supreme, middling and lesser.
Those of lower capacity recognise that the guru, the supreme guide who shows such great kindness, is the embodiment of all buddhas and bodhisattvas in one, manifesting in an ordinary form as a spiritual friend in order to show the way. If they can make every effort to respect this teacher, by making offerings and praying with yearning faith and devotion and without being duplicitous or dishonest, then because of the very nature of interdependence, the guru’s blessing will be transferred into the student’s mind just as the form of the moon appears reflected in a vessel of clear, still water. So, to imagine the guru before us in the sky and meditate on him or her in their ordinary appearance or in visualized form as Guru Padmākara or another figure for whom we feel devotion, is to practise and accomplish the guru as the nirmāṇakāya.
Those whose minds are more expansive have a firm, unshakable conviction that the guru’s secret body, speech and mind have always been spontaneously perfect as the maṇḍala of the three vajras. With this certainty they recognize that the display of their own mind’s genuine nature appears as the guru in peaceful or wrathful forms and they meditate on them with the four branches of approach and accomplishment practice. This is to practise and accomplish the guru as the saṃbhogakāya.
Those whose minds are greater still can rest in the clear light of their own pure awareness, which is beyond the duality of subject and object and transcends all characteristics, symbols or expression. Unborn, it is dharmakāya; unceasing, it is saṃbhogakāya; not abiding anywhere, it is nirmāṇakāya. These three kāyas are indivisible in one’s own awareness, which is the very essence of great bliss, and to leave this naturally as it is, without action, effort or grasping, is to practise and accomplish the guru as the dharmakāya, the secret practice.
The essential point is that for as long the practice involves thinking and concepts and effort, then whether it is guru yoga or any practice of the generation or completion phase, it is ordinary or common. But once you have decisively resolved the mind in the space of dharmatā and rest in the confidence of naked awareness-emptiness, then all that you meditate on, whether guru yoga or anything else, will be extraordinary and extremely profound.
It is not only at this moment now that the root guru is with us. In fact, since the guru is the manifestation of our mind’s true nature appearing externally in all kinds of guises, pure and impure, we have never been apart in any of our lives throughout beginningless time, and the guru is always helping us directly or indirectly and showing us kindness.
Now, on account of all the merit we have accumulated in the past, the guru appears in the form of a spiritual friend, and because of our powerful karmic connection, we have met, they have given us the nectar of the profound and vast instructions, and extended tremendous kindness towards us. From now on too, until enlightenment, they will never be apart from us, even for an instant.
However, should the fault of impaired samaya arise, then just as the moon is not reflected in cloudy or turbulent water, it might appear as if there is some separation. Yet this is merely a fault within our own minds, and there is never any question of distance on the part of the guru.
However you see the guru—whether as an ordinary person, śrāvaka, pratyekabuddha, arhat, or a bodhisattva on the paths of learning or no-more-learning—you will receive the corresponding attainment. When you regard the root guru as just an ordinary person it is very hard even to approach the siddhis in general and the primordial wisdom of the genuine nature of mind in particular.
That is why we must understand how the guru’s three secrets abide. The guru’s body of untainted, naturally arisen wisdom is the universal principle that pervades all of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, existence and peace. The guru’s subtle channels are the nirmāṇakāya, wind-energies are the saṃbhogakāya, and essential drops are the great bliss of dharmakāya; and these three kāyas indivisible comprise the svabhāvikakāya. As for the guru’s wisdom mind, which is naturally arisen awareness, its empty essence is dharmakāya; its cognizant nature is saṃbhogakāya; and its compassionate resonance, awareness, is nirmāṇakāya.
In brief, this indivisibility of the four kāyas manifests as all kinds of emanations, peaceful and wrathful, and, with a variety of magical transformations to teach disciples each in their own way, transforms into all sorts of guises of skilful enlightened action to guide the infinite sea of living beings.
Rather than simply having a vague impression that the guru is, on the definitive level, a universal form who embodies the gurus, yidam deities, ḍākinīs, dharma protectors, wealth deities and so on, we must recognize that he or she is the embodiment of all buddha families and the one from whom all the infinite maṇḍalas of deities emanate. Otherwise, we might think to ourselves, “My guru is just a nice old monk with positive qualities and without any faults. Still, in the texts it says that the guru is a buddha, so I had better imagine that he is the Buddha.” This would be like pulling a vagrant off the streets and dressing him up in smart clothes. Slipping into this kind of thinking is of no help at all. Even if the Buddha were to appear in person, a student who delights in wrong thoughts would have difficulty recognizing him.
Nowadays people like us with unruly minds find faults such as seeing the guru’s physical form as unattractive. We regard their way of speaking as inelegant and find many flaws, such as logical inaccuracies, even in their Dharma teaching. The guru’s mind seems confused, entirely ignorant of both mundane and spiritual affairs. In multiple ways, we fail to see much good in the guru and perceive mostly faults.
We might verbally recite “Guru, Vajradhara…etc.” and spout lots of lethargic, routine, lifeless prayers but this is utterly useless and does not in any way qualify as genuine practice.
It is difficult to see the teacher as the Buddha from the very beginning. That is why you have to begin by cultivating devotion in a slightly contrived way. Remember the guru’s kindness again and again. Understand that all thoughts of faults are in fact the faults of your own mind. Don’t ascribe them to the guru. If you purify your own mind the whole universe will appear as the guru. If you do not purify your mind, then, just as someone suffering from jaundice will see a white conch shell as yellow, nothing will appear without faults. The reason for this is that your faith and pure perception are weak.
Furthermore, especially when it comes to recognizing our own awareness as the dharmakāya guru, the glorious root guru who introduces the view of how the ground abides actually seems to exist externally. But in reality, this is simply the outward projection of the expressive appearances of indivisible awareness and emptiness, and the guru does not exist separately from you and your mind-stream.
The essence of the view is recognizing that your self-knowing awareness, in which subject and object are indivisible, is inseparable from the three-kāya guru. To abide by this view without distraction and without grasping is meditation. Without wavering from this and continuously taking whatever appears and whatever you experience as the display of the guru is action. To attain enlightenment in the full realization of your awareness as the essence of the guru is the fruition.
Thus, the ground is the view; the path is meditation; and the fruition is action; and if you know how to practise them all as the essence of the guru, in great inseparability from the guru, you will have established the vital stronghold of guru practice. This is the practice for those individuals whose minds are naturally disposed towards rigpa. Middling and less advanced practitioners must meditate by taking devotion and aspiration as the path.
The gracious root guru is the illusory wisdom form of all the tathāgatas of the ten directions and four times. Although this guru may manifest in the form of an ordinary individual just like one of us, his or her body is the jewel of the saṅgha. The guru is therefore fully endowed with the uncompounded, untainted qualities of knowledge and liberation. All these qualities are complete within the guru, and the guru also accomplishes the actions of the saṅgha. The guru’s speech is an inconceivable gathering of dharma teachings, since he holds in his mind the truth of the path, the dharma of transmission, and he has attained the dharma of realization, the sacred truth of cessation. With knowledge and love, the guru teaches us perfectly, and so the enlightened activity of the guru’s speech is unceasing as well. The guru’s mind is one with the wisdom mind of all the buddhas as is established through the words of Buddha, the commentaries, and the pith instructions, and through logic and reasoning. Within this guru who comprises all the Three Jewels like this are embodied all the masters of the mind-direct, sign and oral transmissions. From the ultimate point of view of the nature of reality, they are inseparable but from the relative point of view of phenomena, just as the single moon in the sky can appear in a hundred vessels of water, in the students’ perception the guru appears in various ways. In reality, however, the guru embodies the single wisdom of all the victorious buddhas.
Therefore, the one who grants us complete empowerment into the maṇḍala and who sows the seeds that will mature our minds into the essence of the four vajras is the vajra master. Within this guru who possesses the threefold kindness are embodied all other gurus. That is why, regardless of which guru yoga you practise from the new or ancient traditions, meditating on your root guru alone is sufficient, and there is no need to meditate on each teacher individually.
No matter which of the three roots or dharmapālas or wealth deities you might rely on, if you know the crucial point of practising them as inseparable from the root guru it is said that attainments will be near and obstacles few.
From taking refuge and arousing bodhicitta onwards, whatever your practice, whether its enlightened activity is elaborate or succinct, your own mind primordially and intrinsically rests as the essence of the guru while its aspect of appearance arises unceasingly. This is illustrated, for example, when you take refuge. The cognizance of your own mind is the rare and precious Saṅgha; its empty aspect is the Dharma; and their inseparable unity is the Buddha. Mind’s radiance shines outwardly as the sources of refuge. Recognizing their many forms as having a single taste is the same as the essence of both causal and resultant refuge.
Likewise, arousing bodhicitta, creating the protective sphere, generating yourself as the deity, and so on, are all to be understood in a similar way.
For any deity or mantra, unless the practice is secured with the nail of the unchanging wisdom mind—the great equalness of the two truths in which any concept of self is inseparable from the guru—successful accomplishment of deity and mantra will prove difficult, and it will not bring major attainment.
This is why recognizing your own awareness as the very essence of the three-kāya guru and the three roots is such a crucial point. And it is an immensely important, secret principle that by taking this to heart, whatever practice you do becomes a form of guru practice.
When you meditate on the profound path of guru yoga, therefore, remember the crucial points and the instructions for accomplishing the guru without ever forgetting them. Bring to mind again and again the benefits of accomplishing the guru and how any path that is not related to the practice of the guru only distances you from the attainment of siddhis. Then, when you take up the actual practice of the wisdom guru, transform your mind with renunciation, train your mind in bodhicitta, and rest in the original nature of mind, awareness-emptiness, the view of dharmatā. Without being distracted, you must be capable of allowing the words of the practice to evoke the meaning and allowing the appearances of the visualization to arise unimpededly and transform in the proper way. Otherwise, if your mouth and eyes are distracted, acting like a parrot trained to recite maṇi mantras will not serve any purpose at all.
Apply meticulous mindfulness and vigilance. Do not let go of the essence of the practice. Do not let the instructions leak away. Do not leave practice just as an aspiration. Instead, remain in one place on your seat, and be stable. Practise with perseverant endurance and develop determination and true grit. Do not slip into the clutches of the eight worldly preoccupations, nonsensical talk and gossip, or sleep and laziness.
If you enhance your devotion, increase your pure perception, and pray fervently from the depths of your heart, the guru’s blessing will be invoked very swiftly, as if hooked by your devotion. Vajra wisdom will emerge with tremendous force. Of that there is absolutely no question.
The categories of Highest Yoga empowerments in the Vajrayāna are condensed into the four empowerments. When practised on the path they are complete within guru yoga in the following way:
- To visualize the form of the guru as the vajra embodiment of the ‘three seats’ is the vase empowerment.
- To recognize the guru’s nature as cognizance and emptiness is the secret empowerment.
- Through meditating on this, the wisdom of bliss and emptiness will arise in your mind, and this is the knowledge-wisdom empowerment.
- Then, by recognizing the guru and your own mind as inseparable, to abide in that inexpressible state that transcends the ordinary mind is the fourth empowerment.
It is also possible to relate this to the four stages of approach and accomplishment:
- Meditating on the guru above your head and praying is the stage of approach (bsnyen pa).
- Reciting the mantra which arouses and invokes the guru’s wisdom mind is the stage of close approach (nye bsnyen).
- Receiving empowerments is the accomplishment (sgrub pa) stage.
- Merging the guru’s wisdom mind with your mind is the stage of great accomplishment (sgrub chen).
In short, the guru yoga can be related to all the generation (bskyed rim) and completion phases (rdzogs rim) of the path, but we will not go into elaborate detail here.
To put it in a nutshell, guru yoga creates the framework for and bolsters all practices, whether they are with or without attributes. It forms the axis and the life of the entire path, because every aspect of practice is contained within it. When you rest in meditative equipoise you are meditating on guru yoga. And in post-meditation too, you integrate appearances, sounds and awareness as the display of the guru.
In addition, the practices of inner heat (tummo), dream yoga, illusory body, clear light, transference (phowa) and the intermediate state (bardo) can only be accomplished within the sphere of guru yoga. This is clear from the instruction texts of both modern and ancient traditions.
When you understand that all the practices for this life, the next life and the intermediate states are but the practice of guru yoga and you pursue this with diligence, you will have ‘the one medicine that cures a hundred ills’, a universal panacea.
It is the guru who bestows all the empowerments of ground, path and fruition.
The pure guru, the nature of ground-awareness, appears outwardly as an expression of great compassion in the form of a vajra master. With a maṇḍala—whether it is of coloured powder, painting on cloth, heaps of grain, a body maṇḍala, or some other form—he or she confers the empowerment of the causal phase in accordance with the disciple’s capacity, and through this, awakens the potential of the ground and sows the seeds of the four vajras.
During the path phase, you either receive the empowerment directly from the guru or from the maṇḍala of deities that you visualize yourself as self-empowerment during the practice. You also receive samādhi empowerments, either extensively or in brief, from the guru.
At the time of fruition, the great Vajradhara guru grants the resultant empowerment and confirms you at the stage of Vajradhara.
Therefore, there is nothing whatsoever that does not depend on the guru.
Just as any worldly field of knowledge requires instruction from a teacher, all the paths of the śrāvakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas depend on the preceptor and spiritual friend. In the tantras of the Vajrayāna too, empowerment is received from the guru, and it is by keeping the samayas correctly that siddhis are attained. It is the same in Highest Yoga Tantra, especially when it comes to recognizing the innate primordial wisdom of one’s own mind. This depends entirely on the guru’s blessing; there is no other method. As the famous quotation goes:
The innate primordial wisdom of your own mind can only come
As the mark of accumulating merit and wisdom, and purifying obscurations,
And through the blessings of a realized master:
Know that to rely on any other means is foolish.
This is stated very widely in all the sūtras, tantras and treatises. The way to follow such a guru is with an utterly pure intention. We must have faith that is based on an understanding of the logic involved and devotion that is stable and impervious to other mental impulses.
With the ardent diligence of devoted and constant application, the best way to please the guru is through the offering of meditation and practice. The middling way is through physical and vocal service. And the inferior way is through respect and material offerings. Do not displease the guru for even an instant. By considering whatever he or she says as valid and whatever he or she does as positive, purify your mind’s eye and receive the nectar of instruction.
The guru is like a mould and the student a ball of clay. If you can become a perfect replica of the mould, you will have fulfilled the purpose of persevering in guru yoga.
Instead of this, you might glow with pleasure and pretend to have faith as long as the guru gives you gifts, says kind words and smiles at you. But whenever the guru does something you do not like, such as reprimanding you, showing displeasure, or thwarting your expectations, you become disrespectful. So many of us students are like this. Yet this does not mean that the guru no longer cares for us with compassion. Just as the sun can never shine into a north-facing cave, we have made it extremely difficult for blessings to reach us.
Here are a few profound quotations from the scriptures which show the crucial points of guru yoga.
In Explanation of Conduct, an explanatory tantra of Cakrasaṃvara, we find:
Because of the kindness of the guru,
In a single instant great bliss will arise.
The Saṃvarodaya says:
The guru is the Buddha,
The guru is the Dharma,
Likewise, the guru is the Saṅgha too.
The creator of everything is the guru:
The guru is the glorious heruka.
The Vajra Tent (Vajrapañjara) Tantra says:
All the buddhas have praised
The master who is the teacher,
Recognize this very one, therefore,
As like a father and mother to us all.
The Salty Ocean Sūtra says:
In the final era of five hundred years,
I will take the form of teachers.
So consider them the same as me,
And, at that time, arouse devotion towards them.
The mahāsiddha Vajraghaṇṭāpāda said:
The guru simply has to grant blessings,
And in that very instant, they will come.
While the blessings hidden within Cakrasaṃvara
Are explained as arising in gradual stages.
One in whose heart the guru’s words have entered
Finds what is akin to a treasure in the palm of the hand.
The General Scripture of the Gathering of All Intentions says:
Compared to the buddhas of a thousand aeons,
You should know that the guru is more important.
The reason why? The buddhas of the ages
Only became enlightened by depending on the guru.
At the time of bestowing an empowerment, all the buddhas are present within the guru granting blessings.
Therefore, those few to whom this applies,
I reside within their body,
And accept offerings from other practitioners.
Those who please me in this way
Will purify karmic obscurations in their mind-stream.
The Tantra of the Supreme Samaya says:
Faithful ones yearning for accomplishment:
Siddhis come from pleasing the guru.
The Unimpeded Sound (Dra Thalgyur) says:
The precious qualities that come from following the guru
Are like the wish-granting tree, wish-fulfilling jewel,
Or magical cow of plenty that provides everything we desire.
Following the guru, we receive limitless precious qualities.
Focus on this, and serve the guru,
For this will repel the forces of saṃsāra.
The Secret Essence (Guhyagarbha) Tantra says:
The guru is the lord of all maṇḍalas,
And to offer him or her the five riches
Is the same as offering to all the maṇḍalas.
No need to mention the subsidiary maṇḍala.
This is enough to purify all wrongdoing
And obtain the supreme among qualities.
More powerful than practising the generation phase for an entire aeon
Is remembering the guru for a single instant;
More powerful than reciting billions of mantras
Is a single session of heartfelt prayer to the guru.
The Tantra of the Compendium of Knowledge says:
Better than meditating for a hundred thousand aeons
On a hundred thousand deities;
Is to think of the guru for one brief moment.
Lord Sakya Paṇḍita said:
The rays of the sun are blazing hot, and yet
Without a magnifying glass, there is no fire.
Likewise, though the buddhas’ blessings are everywhere,
Without the guru, they will not appear.
Lord Drikung Kyobpa said:
Unless the sun of devotion shines
Upon the snowy peak of the guru's four kāyas,
The stream of blessings will never flow.
So strive to arouse devotion in your mind!
The Omniscient Longchenpa said:
Replete with supreme and glorious qualities
Is the sacred guru, our guide through saṃsāra’s three worlds.
To accomplish the whole purpose of this life and the next, follow him or her with devotion.
You will obtain countless treasuries of liberation and understanding.
At all times, never once forget the kindness
In which the root guru surpasses all the buddhas.
Since all precious qualities arise from pleasing the guru,
Fortunate ones should follow with the purest reverence.
With behaviour that emulates the four enlightened activities,
The guru tames through a variety of peaceful and wrathful means.
The realization and action of the guru are fathomless, like an ocean.
Rely upon and follow such a teacher with unwavering devotion.
Jigme Lingpa says:
The outer and inner yoga for accomplishing the guru
Contain the essence of what is to be accomplished through generation and perfection phases,
Which is why all the sūtras and tantras say to treat the guru as the Buddha in person.
Most fools cultivate an image and meditate on that,
But do not honour the teacher who is actually present.
They claim to meditate on the natural state, but do not know the teacher’s mind.
What an affliction it is to practise at odds with the objective!
With no devotion, to meet the teacher in the intermediate state would be a miracle.
In the beginning, skilfully examine the guru;
In the middle skilfully follow;
In the end, skilfully emulate realization and action.
A student who does that is on the authentic path.
There are great many such quotations, and it is exceptionally important to be mindful of them and so arouse complete conviction.
To act wrongly and impair the samaya when following the guru counts as an extremely serious fault. As the Illusory Net says:
The faults of disparaging the guru
And disturbing the guru’s mind
Are such that if the great outer ocean could be emptied
By scattering one drop at a time with a hair,
For the same amount of time you will fall into hell—
The one, that is, known as the Vajra Hell.
Also, from The Vajra Ḍākinī:
Never disrespect the master,
The one equal to all the buddhas.
Whoever disparages the master
Will endure suffering, even in this life.
Sickness, poison, dangerous potions,
Harm wrought by the ḍākinīs, as well as
Destructive and violent, corrupting forces
Will cause death and descent into the hells.
Thus, the dangers involved are explained at great length.
Those who have entered the mantra vehicle can go either up or down; there is no third way. That is why it is crucial to be scrupulously attentive and aware and to guard the samaya.
If you do impair the samaya, it is vitally important to confess it before a single session has elapsed and then to concentrate on the skilful methods for purifying your mind-stream, such as the tsok feast, self-empowerment, fire offering, and the Narak Kongshak confession and fulfilment.
If you take the yoga of following and accomplishing the guru as your path like this, then you will accomplish all the buddhas. You will develop samādhi where it has not arisen before, and what has developed will be enhanced. Obstacles and pitfalls will automatically be eliminated, experience and realization will become stable, and you will arrive at ultimate perfection.
This completes the general explanation of guru yoga. Now we turn to the actual meaning of the text at hand.
II. Explanation of the Text
This guru yoga which has the lofty title of Nyingtik Saldrön—The Bright Lamp of the Heart Essence was composed in response to the persistent urging of a lady with great devotion. I simply wrote down whatever came to mind, and there is really little need for it. I possess as many of the qualities that would make me worthy of such a guru yoga practice as there are hairs on a tortoise. Nevertheless, as Maitreya said:
Whatever those of perfectly undistracted mind have expounded,
Solely in accordance with the teaching of the Victorious One,
And conducive to the path for attaining liberation,
Should also be placed atop the head, like the Buddha’s own words.
In this degenerate age it is left to bad people like me to bear the burden of being a vajra master, and there are many who have taken on the commitments of receiving a secret mantra empowerment without even thinking about what it entails. It would not be entirely inappropriate, therefore, for those who have made a connection with me through receiving empowerment to recite this practice as an aid to keeping their samaya commitments. Besides, just as in the example of the old woman and the dog’s tooth that produced ringsel, it is possible that those with faith may receive blessings.
Should you wish to practise this guru yoga, therefore, go to a quiet, isolated location—not somewhere with people coming and going during the day or lots of noise and clamour at night but, if possible, a place of accomplishment blessed by the great saints of the past.
Begin by cleaning your meditation room. If you have a statue or image of the guru set it on the shrine, arrange the seven kinds of offerings neatly in front of it and assemble a maṇḍala offering plate. Then, sitting upright on a comfortable, cushioned seat, begin by exhaling the stale air three times. As you do so, consider that you expel all harmful influences, negative actions and obscurations in the form of hazy white, red and black breath, so that the fresh, clear air is separated from the stale, impure air, and the inside of your body becomes empty, luminous and clear. Then rest for a while in a state of comfort and ease.
Next, spend as much time as possible reflecting on death and impermanence, the dangers of saṃsāra, and the cause and effect of karma. At the beginning of the practice, meditate for a long while on the awakened mind of bodhicitta, thinking: “For the sake of all sentient beings, who are as infinite as space, I shall now practise this profound path of guru yoga.”
Visualize your surroundings as a vast, pure heavenly realm and imagine that in the sky before you, on a lotus and moon-disc seat, your root teacher appears in a resplendent, majestic form. In the knowledge that he embodies all the rare and precious sources of refuge, bring your body, speech and mind into harmony with your aspiration as, together with all sentient beings, who are all there beside you, you recite:
“A! My own rigpa, primordially pure, is the dharmakāya…”
Repeat this as many times as you can. At the end, imagine that rays of light stream out from the sources of refuge; as they touch and dissolve into you and all other beings, they purify all your karma, destructive emotions, harmful actions and obscurations. The blessings of the guru’s wisdom, love and power fill your whole being, your ordinary body is transformed into an immaculate rainbow body, the vajrakāya, and your ordinary mind is transformed into dharmakāya, the state beyond all concepts. Then recognize the fundamental nature of your own mind as the essence of the resultant refuge. At this point, consider either that the sources of refuge dissolve into you and all other sentient beings or that they remain as witnesses to your generation of bodhicitta.
To arouse bodhicitta recite:
“A! Sentient beings are deluded by ignorance…”
As you do so, think about how there is not a single one among all the infinite beings in the universe who has not been your father or mother. Yet they are all tightly shackled in the chains of karma and destructive emotions, immersed in an immense ocean of suffering. When sentient beings are so oppressed by every kind of suffering let the force of your love and compassion for them move and inspire you. Say to yourself repeatedly: “I alone will be the one to lead them all to lasting happiness. And in order to do so, I shall put all my energy into this practice of guru yoga, which is the swift and secret path followed by all the buddhas.” Meditate on mind-training as you breathe in and out. Cultivate the four immeasurables while reciting the words:
“May all beings have happiness…”
- love which is the wish that all beings may possess happiness;
- compassion, the wish they may be free from suffering;
- joy at their finding happiness and being freed from suffering; and
- equanimity, which is devoid of any attachment or aversion to anyone at all regardless of how close or distant they may be.
Cultivate these four immeasurables, which possess four special features:
- They last for an immeasurable period of time, from now until the attainment of great enlightenment;
- They are directed towards an immeasurable number of sentient beings, who fill the whole of space;
- They are cultivated with an immeasurable positive intention, and
- They bring about immeasurable fruition, complete omniscience.
At the end of the practice, rest in your own awareness, the essence of awakening mind, beyond any concept of a mind of bodhicitta to be aroused, objects for whom it is aroused, or one who is arousing it. If you did not visualize the dissolution of the objects of refuge earlier on do so here.
Next, there is the creation of the “supports of the practice”. As you utter the syllable “A” all dualistic phenomena dissolve into the vast, unconditioned expanse of the dharmadhātu, the nature of which is the three gateways to liberation:
- the essence, great emptiness, which is the all-pervading space of dharmatā, free from arising ceasing and remaining, coming and going, permanence and non-existence;
- the cause, which is beyond characteristics;
- and the result, which is beyond any wish or expectation.
Then, as the energy of universal manifestation is unceasing, the union of all-pervading space and wisdom arises as Great Compassion. And out of its magical display, as you recite the words of the practice “In the sky before me in an expanse of rainbow light…” actualize the meaning, as follows.
The whole universe—appearance and existence, the environment and beings—appears in all its primordial and infinite purity as a heavenly realm like Sukhāvatī, extending endlessly in every direction, a world bathed in light with no bounds between inside and out and filled with ornaments and offering clouds of sensual delights that defy the imagination. All around it, there rises a range of mountains, of gold and silver turquoise, coral and pearl, emerald and sapphire. Great rivers of perfumed water, pure in every way, flow over beds of golden sand. Lakes, pools and springs abound. Birds of every kind, enchanting in their gorgeous plumage, call out in a sweet chorus of song. Herds of deer and other gentle creatures frolic and dance. The trees are all formed of jewels and precious things; their foliage, branches and leaves are laden with fruit and hung with all kinds of sparkling decorations. The floor is paved with lapis lazuli, heavenly amonika stones and the like, smooth and even, and strewn with flowers from divine and human realms. Everywhere there drifts a fragrance so sweet it is impossible to describe. Music fills the air, and goddesses throng the skies, holding parasols, victory banners and pendants, while saffron falls like rain.
A pure realm such as this arises through the force of aspiration prayers made by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, and when you imagine it over and over again in your mind’s eye, you are ‘cultivating a pure land’. While you meditate, make sure that the various features of the visualization all appear clearly and distinctly.
Visualize yourself either as your yidam deity or in your ordinary form. Both are acceptable, but it is better to visualize yourself as the yidam who is the focus of your daily practice.
In the sky before you, naturally arisen wisdom appears as a lattice of five-coloured rays of light, within which there is a jewelled throne supported by eight lions. Adorned with all kinds of dazzling jewels, it is as high and elegant as it is wide and grand. Then, upon it, symbolizing the purity of sperm, egg and inner air, rests a multi-coloured lotus with a hundred thousand petals and moon- and sun-disc seats. To symbolize the complete annihilation of pride, mastery over all that appears and exists, and the subjugation of the hordes of haughty spirits, a fresh tiger-skin is spread out on top, with the four legs extended and the head pointing towards you. Upon this is the one on whom the king of all vidyādharas, the omniscient Dodrupchen, when granting empowerment in the maṇḍalas of the secret mantra, bestowed the crown-like name of Pema Yeshe Dorje, which is rich in meaning and significance. He appears in the form of a great wrathful heruka, naturally arisen and symbolizing the fundamental awareness that is the ground of being. A tantra says:
He stands for great compassion.
Ru means the absence of gathering.
Ka means not abiding in anything whatsoever.
That is to say, a heruka represents the union of compassion and emptiness which pervades all of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. Alternatively, it refers to the great and awesome heruka who drinks the rudhira—meaning blood—of the four māras, once they have been liberated into all-pervading space; the one who is primordially and spontaneously perfect, and, in his universal majesty, presides over the whole animate and inanimate world.
In appearance, he assumes the form of vidyādhara master of yogic conduct. Since the family of lotus speech is the most important here, and since he arises as the self-radiance of the wisdom of discernment, the great passion that is passionless non-attachment, his body is dark red in colour. His hair is tied up on his crown and at its peak is the top half of a vajra.
In his great compassion for beings to be guided, he is smiling. But as a sign that during this degenerate age he must subjugate samaya-breaking damsi demons as well as the gyalpo, gongpo, asuras and māras, he wears a slightly wrathful frown. His mouth is slightly open as if he were making the sound “Hé!”
His two arms symbolize skilful means and wisdom. His right hand plays a ḍamaru (fashioned from the skulls of two sixteen-year-olds) at the level of his ear and with the sounds of bliss and emptiness—Phreṃ! Hūṃ! Phreṃ! Hūṃ!—invokes the assemblies of ḍākas and ḍākinīs. His left hand rests in a gesture of equanimity as a sign that he does not waver from the samādhi of untainted bliss and emptiness. Upon it rests a single-piece kapāla symbolizing the sustaining of non-conceptual bliss; it is filled with the nectar of deathlessness, bubbling and frothing and perfect in colour, fragrance and flavour.
On his body, as a sign that the six transcendent perfections and six buddha families are complete, are the six bone ornaments: the head ornaments on his crown, the earrings, necklace, bracelets, shoulder-belt and waist-belt. Hanging from these ornaments are tiny bells that symbolize emptiness and resound with the sound of the Dharma. On his lower body he wears a silk loincloth, and a skirt of tiger skin, its head facing to the right.
His body is held tightly, and his two eyes stare in an intense, penetrating gaze. In the crook of his left arm, as a symbol of the hidden wisdom consort of all-pervading space, he cradles a trident (khaṭvāṅga) with hanging rings. From its prongs hang fresh, rotten and dried skulls, a vase, a crossed vajra, a bell, a ḍamaru, and silken ribbons. The handle is octagonal in cross-section and its main part is decorated with half a vajra. These features symbolize the indestructible protection sphere, the immeasurable palace, the noble eightfold path, three kāyas and so on. In fact, the practice has many factors with symbolic meaning in terms of both generation and perfection phase, but I shall not go into further detail here.
At his forehead is the essence of vajra body and Vairocana, a white oṃ; at his throat is the essence of vajra speech and Amitābha, a red āḥ; and at his heart is the essence of vajra mind and Akṣobhya, a blue hūṃ. All three syllables emanate rays of light and blaze in splendour. Visualize that from the very beginning they have always had the nature of the three vajras, spontaneously perfect. Therefore, since the samayasattva and jñānasattva are indivisible, naturally arisen and spontaneously present, without any separation between dharmakāya and rūpakāya, there is no need to practise an invocation and so on.
Nevertheless, some beginners might prefer to practise more elaborately. Consider then that from all the infinite pure realms of the perfect saṃbhogakāya and nirmāṇakāya, and especially emanated pure realms like the great Palace of Lotus Light on the glorious Copper-Coloured Mountain and Wutai Shan in China, you invoke a vast ocean-like gathering of the infinite three roots including gurus, yidam deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas, ḍākinīs, dharmapālas and so on. Invoke both the great guru of Oḍḍiyāna, Padmasambhava, and the great paṇḍita Vimalamitra, together with their retinues of vidyādharas and siddhas, wrathful deities, male and female, and ḍākas and ḍākinīs. As you recite the words of invocation, consider that the whole earth and sky are filled with billowing clouds of fragrant incense smoke, tents of rainbow light, the sound of divine cymbals and music, and mantras like ‘Hūṃ!’ and ‘Phaṭ!’, parasols, victory banners, melodious chants of praise and prayers of auspiciousness, and cascades of flowers.
Once the deities have been invoked, perform the secret mantras and mudrās, so that the deities dissolve into the guru above your head.
All the wisdom deities who have now arrived in space are summoned with jaḥ; they are dissolved with hūṃ; merge inseparably through baṃ; and develop joy through hoḥ. This is not like in the lower tantras where the deities are invoked from somewhere far away. Here, in the marvellous approach of the highest level of the Mantrayāna, we consider that the hosts of wisdom deities are instantly awakened and appear before us as brilliant and vivid as the stars and planets in the sky. Consider that, having dissolved like this the deities blaze with even more resplendence and blessings in a state of great delight.
For the gathering of the accumulations, although the words of the text for the eight branches clearly evoke and inspire the ultimate meaning, beginners should bring to mind the relative visualizations.
As an antidote to pride, consider that together with all other beings you emanate bodies as numerous as atoms in the universe and offer prostrations, touching the five points of your body to the ground.
As an antidote to desire and miserliness, offer all the riches of gods and human beings, including both owned property and ownerless resources, real offerings and those created in the imagination—vast ocean-like clouds of outer, inner, secret and ultimate offerings, all emanated through samādhi like that of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra.
As an antidote to aggression, confess all the negative actions you have accumulated throughout beginningless time, including natural misdeeds like the ten unwholesome actions, five crimes with immediate retribution, five actions similar to those with immediate retribution, sixteen serious faults, ransoming the teachings, forsaking the sacred Dharma, denigrating noble beings, harming sentient beings and so on. Confess, too, any faults that contravene the rules proscribed by the Buddha, such as infringements of the vows for lay practitioners, novices and fully ordained monks and nuns. Then, there are the breakages of the bodhisattva vow, including the four unwholesome dharmas, eighteen root downfalls, forsaking aspiration or action, or the forty-six transgressions. Finally, there are any breakages of the samayas of the outer or inner tantras, especially the inner tantras of the great skilful means of Mahāyoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga, including the twenty-seven samayas of the guru’s body, speech and mind, the fourteen root downfalls, eight serious downfalls, twenty-five branch samayas and the four king-like samayas of absence, suffusion, oneness, and spontaneous accomplishment. With intense regret and remorse for all the negative actions we have committed knowingly and unknowingly, as well as all our obscurations and wrongdoing, we confess them using the four powers and without concealing or holding anything back.
As an antidote to jealousy, rejoice, without any feeling of envy, in all the sources of virtue accumulated by noble ones in training and beyond training and by ordinary beings.
As an antidote to holding wrong views, request the turning of the wheel of Dharma, vast and profound teachings of both provisional and definitive meaning, belonging to all three vehicles, to suit every capacity.
As an antidote to ignorance, pray that all those buddhas, bodhisattvas and great masters who intend to pass beyond sorrow may remain until the end of the aeon.
As an antidote to doubt, dedicate all tainted and untainted virtues accumulated throughout the past, present and future by buddhas, noble beings and everyone down to ordinary beings. Do so authentically within the inconceivable and inexpressible space of the dharmadhātu beyond conceptual reference. Pledge to follow in the footsteps of Samantabhadra and aspire that whatever prayers of dedication are made for the sake of beings throughout the past, present and future, they may all be entirely fulfilled.
On an ultimate level:
- prostrate at the meeting of your own true face, the naturally manifest dharmakāya guru;
- offer the primordial purity of all that appears and exists;
- confess in the recognition that negative actions and obscurations are by nature beyond arising;
- rejoice in the virtue that is unfabricated and beyond effort;
- request the turning of the wheel of Dharma that is beyond words or deliberate expression;
- request the teacher to remain in a state that is unchanging, beyond birth and death;
- dedicate beyond the duality of something to dedicate and an act of dedicating; and
- aspire towards the encounter with awareness, the natural face of the three kāyas.
Gather the accumulations like this, uniting the referential and non-referential forms of practice.
If you wish to accumulate prostrations, this is the time to do so.
For the maṇḍala offering, the maṇḍala plate may be made from a substance such as gold, silver, bell metal, wood, or stone.
The heaps to pile upon it could be precious stones, medicine, incense powder, perfume, or white grains from which you have removed dust or impurity, and which have been sprinkled with scented water, washed, and dyed in saffron.
Maintaining the threefold purity of the field of accumulation, your motivation and the offering substances, place an accomplishment maṇḍala—should you have one—complete with its five heaps, on the shrine, where it will serve as a support for the visualization of the field of merit. It is also fine if you do not have one. The offering maṇḍala should be cleaned thoroughly and anointed with bajung. If you are practising more elaborately add thirty-seven heaps; for a briefer practice, add seven. The text to recite can be elaborate or succinct in the same way. For the daily practice, use the text that begins, “Oṃ āḥ hūṃ, Together with all beings, infinite in number…” including the mantra. If you are accumulating the practice, recite this a hundred thousand times.
For the visualization, you can consider that the field of merit arises spontaneously as the radiance of the root guru’s great wisdom mind or visualize the guru just as before in the style of the ‘all-embodied jewel’. Either is acceptable.
Offer your bodies, possessions and virtues from the past, present and future. They all appear in the form of many billion world-systems, each with its own four continents, cosmic mountain, sun and moon. They are filled with all the wealth and enjoyments of the gods and human beings throughout the realms of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. Everything is gathered together in the form of a maṇḍala that entirely fills the whole expanse of reality (dharmadhātu).
All six transcendent perfections are complete within this practice. As the Maṇḍala Sūtra puts it:
Offering the maṇḍala together with bajung is generosity.
Cleaning it thoroughly is discipline.
Removing any tiny forms of life is patience.
Practising with enthusiasm is diligence.
Meditation is focusing the mind in that moment.
Wisdom is properly drawing the maṇḍala design.
As this indicates, all six transcendent perfections are complete, and the practice brings accumulation and purification simultaneously.
As it is said:
The guru is the Buddha,
The guru is the Dharma,
Likewise, the guru is the Saṅgha too.
The creator of everything is the guru.
Vajrasattva, the chief of the maṇḍala—
The guru is equal to all the buddhas.
Many other such quotations were already provided above. In addition, the Sūtra of the Immaculate Sky says:
Ānanda, the tathāgata does not appear to all sentient beings. However, the spiritual friend manifests universally, teaching the Dharma and planting the seed of liberation. That is why you must regard the spiritual friend even more highly than the tathāgata.
The teacher is equal to the buddhas, not greater, in terms of qualities, but surpasses them in terms of kindness. We were unable to meet the buddhas face-to-face or hear their voice. But the teacher appears to us in person, grants us the nectar-like teachings, cares for us lovingly, and grants blessings. Such kindness is unrepayable.
The guru’s realization is as lofty as space; his nature is as stable as Mount Meru; his wisdom and love are as brilliant as the sun and moon; his compassion is as powerful as a mighty river; and his blessings are as swift as lightning. This means that if we can pray, the guru is sure to grant blessings. Even so, our thoughts are wild; our faith is unstable; we are riddled with doubts; and our pure perception is so weak, the accomplishments are slow to arrive.
The Great Master of Oḍḍiyāna said:
Pray with a mind of confident faith.
Free of doubts, you’ll achieve whatever you wish.
Pray, therefore from the very core of your being, from the very bottom of your heart and the marrow of your bones. Don’t just mouth the words. Without entertaining even a single thought that is unrelated to the guru, allow your mind to be swept away by devotion. Recognize the guru’s every action as a display of skilful means for the benefit of beings. Until devotion fills your mind and heart so completely that ordinary thoughts and perception are brought to a halt, continue to pray. It is essential to invoke the guru’s wisdom mind like this, sometimes chanting the prayer slowly and in a loud voice, and sometimes with a beautiful melody.
How could the likes of me—a hoarder of offerings with broken vows, devoid of Dharma, stubborn and uncivilized—ever merit epithets like bodhisattva, Mañjuśrī, heruka and so on? Well, they are obviously being applied imaginatively, as in the case of someone who is called Sangyé or Sengé, even though he is neither a Buddha nor a lion.
Nevertheless, it is because several great masters who possess sublime and perfect vision have prophesied my enlightenment, because saṃsāra will come to an end at some point in the future, and because in the ground of reality all beings are pervaded by naturally pure buddhahood, that I have written such words in this prayer. If those who have a connection with me choose to visualize brass as gold and recite this with faith and devotion, then, given that “everything is circumstantial and depends entirely on one’s aspiration,” it will not be without blessings.
You might wonder what it is that we should wish for when we pray. The text says: “I pray to you bless me and transform my very being!” This means we pray for the guru’s blessings so that:
- the karmic and emotional obscurations in our minds, as well as cognitive obscurations and habitual tendencies, may all be purified;
- we may perfect the two accumulations of merit and wisdom;
- our mind may turn towards the Dharma; Dharma may progress along the path; the path may pacify confusion; and confusion may dawn as wisdom;
- in this very life, we may recognize the fundamental wisdom of rigpa-emptiness, perfect the strength of that recognition, and stabilize it, so that we attain the level of the rainbow body of great transference;
- if we are not liberated in this life, we may recognize the bardo of dying and gain liberation;
- or, if we are still not liberated, then once the bardo of becoming dawns, we may be guided by the supreme compassion of the guru and led to the pure realm of Sukhāvatī.
These are the sort of things for which we should pray. To ask merely for good health, long life and abundant happiness or to avoid falling into the lower realms in the next life would be a vastly inferior form of request.
Recitation to Invoke & Arouse the Wisdom Mind
Just as calling a person’s name will cause them to come quickly, calling out to the guru by the life-force mantra automatically invokes and arouses his wisdom mind.
The mantra is explained as follows:
- Oṃ, which is complete with the five wisdoms, is placed at the beginning of the mantra and represents the bestowal of the glorious and supreme essence of enlightened body.
- The long āḥ is the essence of enlightened speech, the source of all Dharma, inexpressible sound and emptiness.
- Guru śrī means ‘glorious guru’. He is ‘glorious’ because he possesses the glory of perfectly fulfilling his own and others’ intentions and ‘guru’ because he is heavy with the weight of precious qualities.
- Heruka means ‘great blood-drinker’. It signifies that he drinks the blood or rakta of all thoughts involving dualistic perception, which are liberated into the all-pervading space of reality; he drinks the warm heart-blood of all the rudras and māras who have strayed from the meaning of Secret Mantra and, with great compassion, he consumes the rakta of delight and passion for sentient beings.
- We pray to this great heruka requesting that he may bestow all the siddhis (sarva siddhi)—those of the three secrets together with enlightened qualities and activity.
- Phala refers to these excellent fruits.
- Then hūṃ, the syllable of the essence of enlightened mind beyond dualistic perception, makes firm and stabilizes.
In this way, the guru’s life-force mantra is inserted within the syllables of enlightened body, speech and mind as a powerful means for invoking vajra wisdom through capturing the life-force of his wisdom mind. While reciting this name mantra, focus your mind on the form of the guru or reflect on his qualities to arouse your devotion or bring to mind his kindness. At other times simply abide by the view. Or else, cultivate compassion for sentient beings. Repeatedly focusing on receiving the empowerments is especially important. To recite each syllable of the name mantra a hundred thousand times and say the prayer a hundred thousand times would be excellent.
In order to receive empowerment and request the siddhis at the end of the session, recite the text beginning:
“From the syllables at the guru's three centres…”
Of the three syllables visualized at the guru’s three centres, consider that from the white oṃ at his forehead rays of light shoot out and dissolve into your own forehead. Through this, you obtain the vase empowerment, obscurations of the coarse physical body are purified; you are empowered to practise the generation phase of the path—the ‘yoga of shapes’—and the potential for obtaining the fruition of the vajra body and the nirmāṇakāya is implanted within you.
From the red syllable āḥ in the guru’s throat centre, rays of light pour out and dissolve into your throat. Through this you obtain the secret empowerment, purify obscurations of speech; you are empowered to meditate on the inner heat (tummo) practice of the subtle channels and inner air, and the potential for obtaining the fruition of the vajra speech and the saṃbhogakāya is implanted within you.
From the blue syllable hūṃ at his heart, rays of light stream out and enter your heart. You obtain the knowledge-wisdom empowerment, obscurations of the ordinary mind are purified; you are empowered to practise the path of the yoga of subtle essences (bindu), and the potential for obtaining the fruition of the vajra mind and the dharmakāya is implanted within you.
Once again, from all three syllables, rays of white, red and blue light shoot out all at once and dissolve into your own three centres simultaneously. Through this you obtain the fourth empowerment, and all obscurations of the ālaya, even the most subtle, are purified. You are empowered to practise the path of the Great Perfection by meditating on Trekchö and Tögal. And the potential for obtaining the fruition of the vajra wisdom and the svabhāvikakāya is implanted within you.
At the conclusion of each empowerment, rest evenly in the wisdom that is the empowerment’s real significance.
Then, at the end, consider that the guru, who is in a state of great joy, slowly melts into light from his seat on the lion throne upwards and from the hair on the top of his head downwards, until all that is left is a ball of light at the level of his heart—deep red, profoundly luminous, and glowing with the radiance of the five wisdoms. This then suddenly dissolves into your own heart. With this, your own body, speech and mind merge inseparably as one with the guru’s secret body, speech and mind. In that naked state of genuine awareness, unspoilt by any thought associated with the past, present or future, simply allow yourself to rest, neither meditating nor becoming distracted, and not altering your mind—but simply looking into the natural face of dharmakāya.
The All-Creating Sovereign Tantra says:
Kyé! I am the universal sovereign, the awakening mind.
In me, there is nothing to be exaggerated or belittled.
I do not think of anything at all. I do not meditate.
Not altering body, speech or mind, I simply let them be just as they are,
And whatever arises is naturally liberated.
Open and expansive like unborn space—
This is the natural Great Perfection.
The unaltered genuine state is the intrinsic nature of everything.
No buddhahood exists apart from this intrinsic nature.
The name “Buddha” is merely another term for it,
But it is nothing other than the intrinsic nature of your own mind.
Your own mind unaltered is described as dharmakāya.
In the state of non-seeking, it has always been unborn,
In the unborn, there is no seeking and no cultivating.
Non-action does not come about through seeking or through cultivating.
Whoever remains like this, beyond all action,
Whether their body be that of a god or a human,
Their realization is that of a buddha.
As you find here and elsewhere in the Dzogchen tantras, āgamas and upadeśas and in the instructions of your teacher on how to settle in meditation, rest without allowing your attention to become distracted or diffused. Unstained by dualistic clinging, allow whatever arises in your mind to come and go, being freed naturally and spontaneously.
When you leave the session, do not neglect the practice of integration, which is to recognize all sights, sounds and awareness as the vajra body, speech and mind of the guru. During all daily activities, whether walking, moving around, lying down or sitting, never lose mindfulness and awareness, and do not stray from the naked awareness and emptiness that is the essence of the guru’s wisdom mind.
When sleeping, focus your attention on the subtle syllable ‘a’ (ཨ) representing the guru’s wisdom mind, which is located in the centre of your heart, and maintain the experience of clear light. By focusing on a red syllable ‘aṃ’ (ཨཾ) at your throat, train in dream yoga. Visualize the guru at the crown of your head. Imagine your own awareness in the form of a syllable ‘a’ and transfer it into his wisdom mind as the practice of phowa. Whenever you feel afraid, meditate on the guru—this is preparation for the bardos.
In addition, when practising the yoga of food, visualize the guru in your throat. Whenever you put on new clothes, first offer them to the teacher and then consider that he bestows them as siddhis. When you practise inner heat (tummo), offer the bliss and emptiness of the blazing and dripping through the syllable haṃ (ཧྃ) and a-stroke to the guru and consort. In short, be sure to integrate all your activities with the practice of the guru.
When offering gaṇacakra, do so before receiving empowerment. Recite Yeshe Kuchokma. Alternatively, for a more elaborate practice, it is good to consider that all the peaceful and wrathful deities abide within the guru’s body and recite the extensive Narak Kongshak. The gaṇacakra substances, which represent skilful means and wisdom, should not be spoiled by miserliness or associated with wrongdoing. Place the five meats and five nectars within the vast, expansive receptacle, a skull in three pieces, and consider that they become the essence of the five wisdoms.
At the conclusion of the invocation of the field of merit, consider that the assembled deities are present all around the teacher, in each of the cardinal and intermediate directions, above and below. Then imagine that you offer them the five sensual stimulants, which emanate from the food of the gaṇacakra feast. Offer for fulfilment and confession and liberate and offer the rudra of egocentric conception. At the middle stage, enjoying the nectar of the feast pleases the deities of the body maṇḍala. Combine the clean and unclean remainder offerings, sprinkle them with saliva and offer them to please the Heruka’s attendants. Make prayers of aspiration and perform vajra songs and dance.
Through this, the deities who are the guests of the gaṇacakra feast will be satisfied, and the deities of the body maṇḍala will be satisfied too. The maṇḍala deities will be satisfied by the offerings; the practitioners will be satisfied by the food; the elemental spirits (’byung po) will be satisfied by the tormas; and the āyatana deities will be satisfied by the vajra song and dance. This is how this profound yoga of the gaṇacakra is complete with six kinds of satisfaction. At the conclusion, through proclaiming the covenant (chad tho) to the ocean-like hosts of arrogant spirits, offer the torma to the tenma goddesses and perform the horse dance. Then receive the empowerments and conclude with the dedication prayers of aspiration and verses of auspiciousness.
Although someone like me is unfit to be an object of refuge,
In response to a few devoted ones who expressed a need,
I have written several practices of Guru Yoga, and especially
As a result of the persistent urging of one called Yudrön,
Who was born to the noble family of four aspects and ten virtues,
And whose mind is rich in virtue and vision graced with purity,
The wondrous “Lamp that Illuminates the Innermost Essence”
Arose spontaneously through the creative power of awareness.
To comment on one’s own compositions is extremely unbecoming.
Yet, to avoid dismissing the persistent requests of faithful students,
I have written this—and through whatever merit it might bring may all beings, my very own mothers,
Be accepted as followers of the great Guru Padmasambhava.
May the demonic forces who harm the teachings be vanquished,
The light of the precious jewel-like teachings shine ever brighter,
The lives of the holders of the teachings remain secure,
And the patrons of the teachings prosper and flourish.
In order to fulfil the persistent, enthusiastic requests—made together with the support of an offering—of my own student Parkö Chöpel, I, Jamyang Chökyi Lodrö, wrote this down by hand with the wish that it might be of some small benefit, even for other guru yoga practices where only the details of the visualization would need to change. May it bring benefit to sentient beings! Sarva maṅgalam!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2020, with the generous support of the Khyentse Foundation and Terton Sogyal Trust, with reference to a provisional translation from Rigpa Translations, 2009.
'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "Bla ma'i rnal 'byor gyi zin bris ye shes gsal sgron" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. TBRC W1KG12986. 10: 131–174. Bir, H.P.: Khyentse Labrang, 2012.
_____ . "Bla ma'i rnal 'byor gyi zin bris ye shes gsal sgron" In 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. W21813. 2: 39–96. Gangtok: Dzongsar Khyentse Labrang, 1981–1985.
Dilgo Khyentse. The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö: The Great Biography by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Other Stories. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2017.
Galli, Lucia. "From 'Ba' rom to Ris med: A Genealogy of the Kingdom of Nang chen" in Central Asiatic Journal: Glimpses of Historical Central Asia Part 1, 2019: 91–117
Tulku Thondup. Masters of Meditation and Miracles. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
Sanskrit for ‘Homage to the guru in his wisdom body!’ ↩
In this first section in particular, an effort has been made to reflect the gender neutrality of the original text in translation. This principle does not apply in the second section, however, where the word 'guru' often refers specifically to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö as the object of the guru yoga under discussion. ↩
Saraha, Treasury of Dohās. ↩
This is from Bla ma’i rim pa dngos grub rgya mtsho. ↩
From Yon tan rin po che'i mdzod. ↩
Uttaratantra V, 19 ↩
Bajung (ba byung) is a ritual preparation made from five different substances collected from a cow. ↩
Yudrön was a princess of Derge who later became Queen of Nangchen married to King Tashi Tsewang Tobgyal (1910–1961). ↩
i.e., Derge (sde dge), which is often explained by means of a popular etymology as the place of the four aspects of wellbeing (sde bzhi) and the ten virtues (dge ba bcu). ↩
Parkö (spar brkos) means a carver of woodblocks for printing. ↩