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Jigme Lingpa

Avalokiteśvara, the Great Compassionate One

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The Loud Drum of Spring[1]

A Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Ritual of the Great Compassionate One, Natural Liberation of Suffering

by Jigme Lingpa

With your perfect vision you behold all beings,
Unceasingly watching over them
Through the corner of your eyes—
To you, all pay homage!

Here, there follows a commentary on the difficult points of the ritual of the Great Compassionate One, Natural Liberation of Suffering.

I. The Preliminaries

1. Taking Refuge

In general, in this beginningless and never-ending cycle of saṃsāra, whose nature is the truth of suffering, I and all other beings helplessly roam about. So we must take refuge, yet the way to take refuge here is not the limited, selfish form that involves seeking peace and happiness for oneself alone. Instead, with the motivation of a great being, we wish to bring all sentient beings to the level of buddhahood. From the depths of our heart and with utmost longing, remembering that he knows and cares for us, we resolutely take refuge until we reach the heart of enlightenment in the embodiment of the Three Jewels—the supremely noble Lord of Compassion. His body is the saṅgha, his speech the Dharma, and his mind the Buddha. He is utterly sublime and supreme among noble ones.

2. Arousing Bodhicitta

For the sake of supreme awakening we must first train in that which is similar to arousing bodhicitta. Thus, contemplate that among all sentient beings there is none who has not been one’s own father or mother. And, right now, those beings of the six classes who have been your very own parents experience suffering in their respective realms, and they accumulate the causes for future suffering. Therefore they are the objects of my compassion. They still do not recognize the nature of their minds, their buddha nature. They have no opportunity to find liberation but instead act out of delusion. Meditate on the four immeasurables of loving-kindness, the wish to benefit beings, compassion, the wish to free beings from suffering, joy, the wish to place beings in happiness, and equanimity, through which benefit is enacted equally. With that in mind, carry the extraordinary load of great compassion. With your mind absorbed in these four abodes of Brahma, arouse the bodhicitta of aspiration—the one-pointed wish that you will set all beings on the path of great awakening—and action—which is what actually benefits. After you have meditated with great fervour on these two forms of relative bodhicitta, leave your mind to rest on the meaning of suchness—that is what is called absolute bodhicitta.

3. Seven-Branch Offering

The seven-branch offering is comparable to gathering the accumulations for three uncountable aeons. Multiplying your body to create ten trillion emanations, in immense devotion pay homage to all sources of refuge who abide throughout the three times—past, present and future. Make unsurpassable offerings, condensed into outer, inner and secret offerings. The non-virtuous deeds consisting of the three actions of the body, four of speech and three of the mind, as well as inherent and proscribed misdeeds, I openly acknowledge and confess with tremendous regret and by means of the four antidotal strengths. I rejoice in all my own and others’ actions that are virtuous. I urge all the buddhas and bodhisattvas to turn the wheel of Dharma and request them to remain here and not pass into nirvāṇa. In order to dedicate all roots of virtue to enlightenment and focus on the benefit of others, I aspire that all beings may attain the level of the Noble One!

4. Offering the Torma to Obstructing Forces

This is like taming demons during the night. Īśvaraḥ, the lord of the desire realm, and all those within his retinue and the classes of spirits create obstacles to the attainment of awakening. Therefore, as a remedy that will subdue them, imagine that from hrīḥ, you transform into the form of the Mighty Lotus Hayagrīva, the sight of whom overwhelms all those who lead us astray. He is the great destroyer of demons and obstructing forces. He is perfectly visualized as in a single instant. Give the command with the three lines that begin, 'Obstructing forces and misleading spirits, listen!'. Then threaten and torment them with the three lines that begin, 'If you dare disobey'. Finally, expel them to the far side of the ocean with the mantra of the four hūṃs.

5. The Protection Circle

On the level of relative truth, meditate on the samādhi of the vajra tent: all the confused perceptions of appearance and existence are the vajra ground, fences, tents and canopies. Everything in between, down to the smallest particles, is filled with tiny vajras, so that even the wind cannot penetrate. The environment at which you grasp is the palace and the beings you conceptualize are the mudrās of the deities. Within the state of the three maṇḍalas, in which you realize that your body is the deity, your speech mantra and your mind the nature of reality, it is impossible for demons and obstructing forces—who appear because of habitual tendencies and confusion (like mistaking a rope for a snake)—to exist.

On the level of absolute truth, you realize that the unborn essence is the dharmakāya, the unceasing clarity the saṃbhogakāya and the unceasing radiance of appearances the nirmāṇakāya. Within this state that does not waver from the three kāyas, set the boundary of the absolute.

6. Descent of Blessings

The basic space of emptiness is the great secret treasury of all the buddhas. Inspired by the music of meditative concentration, the radiance of the play of non-referential compassion, which has the nature of blessings, arises unceasingly in the sky of the merit of disciples and aspirations, like clouds gathering in the sky and then disappearing again. On the relative level the ritual purifies the grasping at the true existence of the maṇḍala of compounded substances that possess characteristics, which transforms into the great maṇḍala of truly established wisdom and original, natural purity.

7. Blessing the Offering Substances

The outer offerings are the five regular offerings; the inner offerings are medicine, bali and rakta; and the secret offerings the great empty bliss. On the relative level, they all without exception merely appear as the samaya substances, yet in nature they are wisdom ambrosia perfect in taste and potency and containing the glory of a hundred rich qualities. Imagine that this becomes the most exquisite offering that delights the deities of the maṇḍala and bless it with its own mantra.

II. The Main Part

This has seven parts.

1. Generating the Supporting Palace and the Supported Deities

From within the state of suchness without ground or basis, where all phenomena that consist of confused appearances are free of conceptual reference, the radiance of the union of basic space—purity and equality, emptiness—and the dharmatā of awareness arises as the wisdom realm of great purity. Here the seed syllables and layered elements are not fabricated things imputed by the mind; rather, my entire perception, primordially and spontaneously perfect, is the Potala Mountain—appearances of the radiance of wisdom.

In the centre of the finest golden ground is a clear, unsullied lake whose water has the eight purities and which is filled with wish-fulfilling gems. It is a place of ravishing beauty adorned with water birds and lotuses, kumuda and puṇḍarīka flowers. Precious bees of various colours hover and buzz with the sound of the Dharma of the three vehicles. All around there are magnificent mountain peaks where sages and vidyādharas who possess the many doors of samādhi abide. In this way, this unsurpassed pure realm is full of all the symbols without exception of the dharmas of enlightenment. The signs and characteristics are perfect, as illustrated by the design and measurements of the palace. In this realm all the phenomena of the ground, path and fruition are cleansed through purification, perfection and maturation. As a sign of not abide in either existence or peace, or of abiding in saṃsāra while remaining untainted by its faults there is a multi-coloured, thousand-petalled lotus.

In relation to purifiying the four types of birth and the associated habitual tendencies of existence, for the purification of birth from warmth and moisture, the sun-disk seat purifies warmth and the moon-disk seat purifies moisture. The seed-syllable hrīḥ purifies the grasping in the consciousness of beings in the intermediate state. Whichever state of development the aggregates, elements and sense sources of beings are in, the Noble One—the embodiment of the skilful means of great compassion and the deity of great compassion—sees them all. He then liberated all these six types of beings of the three realms with all their fears caused by the three types of suffering in their natural place. Avalokiteśvara never ceases to gaze compassionately from the corners of his eyes[2] at all sentient beings. As a sign that he turns the ever-revolving wheel of benefitting beings, his body is in a standing posture. The palms of his two main hands are joined at his heart while the remaining two hold a mālā and lotus, just like Lord Khasarpaṇi. The ornaments and costumes of the saṃbhogakāya form are easy to understand, yet he has three special features: his complexion is white with a distinct tinge of red; he wears the six bone ornaments; and a deerskin covers his left breast. Besides this, concerning the nine peaceful expressions, the Magnificent [Wisdom] Lightning Tantra says:

They are soft, well-proportioned,
Firm, supple, and youthful;
Clear, radiant, attractive,
And blazing with intense presence.[3]

For the thirteen ornaments, the seven jewelled ornaments are added to the five ornaments[4] of enlightened body, speech, mind, qualities and activities:

Crown, earrings, necklace,
Armlets, anklets,
Long necklace and crystal necklace:
These are the seven jewelled ornaments.
The upper garment of white silk of the body.
The violet red Dharma robe of the speech.
The deep blue silken scarf of the mind.
The gold-coloured belt of the qualities.
The emerald-coloured undergarment of activities.

The powerful radiance of the skilful means of great compassion thus appears in bodily form. As a sign that his form never parts from insight into emptiness, there are four secret consorts, each seated on a four-petalled lotus.

In the east is Venerable Tārā, her body white in colour, with her right hand in the gesture of supreme generosity, holding an utpala flower, and her left hand in the gesture of equanimity, holding a long-life vase containing bodhicitta—coiling auspiciously— resting upon a moon-disk.

In the south is Mārīcī, yellow in colour. Her expression is semi-wrathful and with the corner of her eyes she looks upwards to the principal deity. Her right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel at her heart and her left hand holds aloft a sun and moon lasso. Her legs are in striding posture, with her left leg bent and right leg outstretched.

In the west is Kurukullā, red in colour. She has one face and four arms, with her main hands holding a bow and arrow of lotus flowers, her lower right hand an iron hook of lotus flowers and her lower left hand a lasso of lotus flowers. Her right leg is bent with her heel placed at her bhaga and her left leg is trampling on the breasts of Umā. She wears a tigerskin skirt and is adorned with the six bone ornaments and a garland of lotus flowers as long as her own body.

In the north is Vasudhārā, green in colour upon an overflowing vase of treasure. She is standing upright on her two feet and is adorned with jewellery. Her right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel, and her left hand a wish-fulfilling mongoose at her waist.

At the four doors are the four Hayagrīvas upon lotus and sun disk seats and a rudra. The colours of their bodies match their particular activities and they hold hooked knives and skull-cups. Displaying the nine wrathful expressions, they are majestic and terrifying and are adorned with the eight wrathful ornaments.

In the courtyards are the buddhas, bodhisattvas, vidyādharas, hosts of heroic ones and ḍākinīs and an ocean of samaya-bound Dharma protectors—in short, the entire jewel of the saṅgha of the Great Vehicle (all those who have perfected the qualities of the grounds and paths) are gathered like clouds. In this way, the forms of all those in the samaya maṇḍala appear yet don't have any real essence, like a rainbow. Appearing yet empty, empty yet vividly present and unobscured. The deities' three centres—at their crown, throat and heart—are marked with the three seed syllables oṃ, āḥ and hūṃ, which have the nature of the vajra body, speech, mind and wisdom of all the buddhas. They bless your ordinary three doors as the three vajras, and they are the profound interdependent circumstance through which all the qualities of the ground, path and fruition are perfected. From them light streams out to the natural, supreme abode of the genuine, profound and peaceful space free from any conceptions; the illusion-like, supreme nirmāṇakāya pure land of Potala where beings are tamed; the thirty-two lands which illustrate the grounds, paths and doors of liberation; the twenty-four sacred places; and the eight charnel grounds, inviting the maṇḍala of wisdom deities. With the words of the great vajra samaya—vajra-samājaḥ—you invoke and invite them.

2. Invitation

Although the pure realm and those who are invited from it are not truly existent, since ordinary beings are used to viewing things as real and since the nature of reality accords with conditions and aspirations, as a means of attaining the two kinds of accomplishment the invitation corresponds to mundane expressions of honour and reverence. Carry out the invitation while burning incense and reciting with a beautiful melody: Hrīḥ! From the Mighty Palace of Great Bliss in the West. The hosts of gurus, personal deities, buddhas and bodhisattvas arrive and fill the sky, then merge with the samaya maṇḍala.

3. Requesting the Deities to be Seated

For the Noble Ones who have seen the profound truth of reality the invitation and so on are merely conventional imputations; they are beyond reference as objective phenomena. For the naturally liberating and compassionate wisdom maṇḍala of the dharmatā, there is no coming, arriving, or remaining. Yet to purify the adventitious stains of the duality of the grasping subject and the grasped at object, the objects of purification of our buddha nature element, request the samaya-being and wisdom-being—primordially inseparable— to please remain here firmly. Do this with great confidence in their wisdom and complete purity.

4. Prostration

The Blessed One, the Accomplished Conqueror,[5] has completely conquered the emotional and cognitive obscurations and has accomplished the two purities. To this Noble Buddha, the embodiment of great compassion, and the hosts of deities I prostrate symbolically, as a sign of the realization of the naturally arisen wisdom free from confusion. Just as the gods of Enjoying Emanation make use of enjoyments that they themselves emanate, this practice transcends all notions of acceptance or rejection based on viewing the object of prostration and the agent of prostration as good or bad. So as to develop confidence in the realization that the deity is identical with oneself, I have here elaborated on the meaning of prostration.

5. Offerings

Arrange a few actual offerings as a support for your visualization, then, just as with the display of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s meditative concentration, mentally emanate offerings that include the five regular offerings, the five goddesses of sensual delights such as the Vajra Lady of Form and all the worldly riches and enjoyments of the worlds of gods and humans, their parks, mansions, ornaments and clothing: all of this I offer.

6. Special Offerings

The wondrous samaya substances that engender the wisdom of great bliss are superior to those of the lower tantras. They are the medicinal ambrosia with eight major and a thousand minor ingredients; a vast array of tormas; the rakta with thirty-five ingredients that purifies and reverses the progressive evolution of saṃsāra; the enjoyments of the gaṇacakra; the illusory vajra queen or (when the name of the result is given to the cause, she is called) the wisdom consort who is skilled in the arts and inspires the wisdom of the four joys. Then we request the genuine accomplishment (which is based on the third empowerment's wisdom of example) of the inconceivable wisdom of the fourth empowerment, which is beyond mind and whose essence is the offering of Mahāmudrā.

7. Offering Praise

The basic space is the profound, peaceful expanse beyond elaboration, which we conventionally designate as the palace. It does not pertain to the ordinary conceptual mind. The wisdom aspect of natural spontaneous presence radiates outwardly as the saṃbhogakāya endowed with the five certainties and seven aspects of union. You arise in this form with mastery over an ocean of major and minor marks. You manifest once again in a form body that is perfect in all aspects, as a great treasure of boundless and endless compassion for all beings. Here I offer praise to you in accord with your qualities.

In this way Avalokiteśvara is forever carrying out the enlightened activities of the four immeasurables as he skilfully guides all beings on the path of liberation and omniscience. With the dance of his emanations and compassion, he tames each according to their needs and carries out enlightened activities with the power to miraculously transform in various forms, such as the ladies of the four families. Their forms of activity are as follows: Tārā grants longevity; Mārīcī tames obstructive forces; Kurukullā magnetizes; and Vasudhārā increases wealth. And so I offer praise to these four emanated goddesses.

With mastery of all four enlightened activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and wrath and the display of wrathful fury that subdues misleading forces, the Hayagrīva gatekeepers of the four families enact their unbearably wrathful enlightened activities.

And so I praise the nine main deities, the entire maṇḍala of deities including an inconceivable number of guests.

The eighth section of mantra recitation with the emanation and reabsorption of light rays and so on is clear within the text itself.

The consecration of pills that liberate upon taste is described in the Pratri commentary.[6]

Dzogchenpa Rangjung Dorje wrote this in response to the insistent requests, accompanied by twelve silver coins, of the fully ordained monk Rintengpa from the Dharma centre of Gyangtsé Palkhor,[7] who considers this deity alone as the most extraordinary and supreme.

| Translated by Han Kop for the Longchen Nyingtik Project, 2021, with the kind assistance of Tulku Dawa and Khenpo Sonam Tsewang, and edited by Ane Tsöndrü. With gratitude to Hans and Evelien van Zijp for the continued support that has made this and many others translations possible.


Bibliography

Tibetan Editions

'jigs med gling pa mkhyen brtse 'od zer. "thugs rje chen po sdug bsngal rang grol gyi cho ga'i dka' 'grel dbyar gyi rnga gsang." In gsung 'bum/_'jigs med gling pa/ sde dge par ma. 9 Vols. BDRC W27300. Gangtok, Sikkim: Pema Thinley for Dodrupchen Rinpoche, 1985. Vol. 7: 825–836.

______. "thugs rje chen po sdug bsngal rang grol gyi cho ga'i dka' 'grel dbyar gyi rnga gsang." In klong chen snying thig rtsa pod. 5 Vols. BDRC W1KG13585. Bodhnath, Kathmandu and Bodhgaya, Bihar: Shechen Publications, 1994. Vol. 2: 365–381.

Secondary Sources

Chos kyi rgya mtsho. dbus gtsang gnas yig. BDRC W27524. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2001. Pages 382–391.

Jigme Lingpa and Getse Mahapandita Tsewang Chokdrub, Deity, Mantra and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, transl. Dharmachakra Translation Committee, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2007


Version: 1.0-20220106


  1. The loud drum of spring is a synonym for thunder.  ↩

  2. This is a play on the meaning of the Tibetan translation of Avalokiteśvara, chenrezik (spyan ras gzigs).  ↩

  3. As quoted in Ladder to Akaniṣṭha, in Jigme Lingpa and Getse Mahapandita Tsewang Chokdrub, Deity, Mantra and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee, Snow Lion, 2007, page 43.  ↩

  4. Obviously, seven and five make twelve.  ↩

  5. The Tibetan translation of the Skt. Bhagavān (in English translated as Blessed One), chomdendé (bcom ldan 'das), is often glossed according to the three meaning units of the word: conquered (bcom, pronounced chom), possessing or accomplished (ldan; pronounced den) and transcendent ('das; pronounced ). Here the word is abbreviated to only its first two semantic units, 'conquered' (bcom; chom) and 'possessing/accomplished' (ldan; den), and so only these are glossed.  ↩

  6. The 'Pratri' Commentary that Lays Bare the Pith Instructions, from the Great Compassionate One, the Natural Liberation of Suffering (thugs rje chen po sdug bsngal rang grol las/ pra khrid dmar byang gnad yig)  ↩

  7. Gyangtsé Palkhor (rgyang rtse dpal 'khor), a monastery in Central Tibet. It is described in the famous pilgrimage guide to Central Tibet by Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso (kaḥ thog si tu chos kyi rgya mtsho, 1880–1925).  ↩

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