The Gaṇacakra Ritual

Practices › Tsok | Tibetan MastersSakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltsen

English | བོད་ཡིག

Sakya Paṇḍita Kunga Gyaltsen

Detail from a thangka showing a tsok offering

The Gaṇacakra Ritual

by Sakya Paṇḍita

With devotion I prostrate to my noble teacher!

Bowing to my teacher,
The single embodiment of all the buddhas,
To bring accomplishment of the accumulations of merit and wisdom,
I shall explain the ritual which does so.

If you wish to perform the gaṇacakra taught in the niruttarayoga tantras—the highest yoga tantras—such as those of the tathāgatas Śrī Hevajra or Śrī Cakrasaṃvara, there are three points:

I. How to perform the ritual
II. The refutation of objections
III. The divisions of the ritual

I. How to Perform the Ritual

First, the manner in which the ritual is performed consists of six points:

  1. Time
  2. Place
  3. Fellow practitioners
  4. Substances
  5. The ritual itself
  6. Necessity

1. Time

a) Periodic occasions
b) Special occasions

a) Periodic Occasions

These fall on the eighth, tenth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of the waxing and waning moon.

b) Special Occasions

These occur when empowerments are given, during a consecration, when a fire offering is performed or when the tantras are taught.

2. Place

A beginner performs the ritual in places hidden from those who have not received the empowerment, such as in one's own home or a shrine room. Those who have stabilized their minds perform the ritual in such places as charnel grounds or sacred mountain caves. Those who have reached accomplishment perform the ritual in locations such as the twenty-four sacred places.

3. Fellow Practitioners

One’s fellow practitioners should be vīras and yoginīs[1] who have received the empowerment and have not broken their samayas.

4. Substances

Although the substances consist of whatever articles you are able to acquire, the indispensable substances for the wisdom ḍākinīs are madana and bala.[2]

5. The Ritual

The ritual is divided into three parts:

a) The preparation
b) The main part
c) The conclusion

a) The Preparation

The preparation consists of six points:

i. Decoration of the practice place
ii. Arrangement of the outer and inner offering articles
iii. Invitation of the vajra master to come and preside over the ceremony
iv. Communication through secret hand-gestures for entering the place
v. Performance of the deity yoga and requesting the deities to take their seats
vi. Recitation of the hundred-syllable mantra for purifying the mind

i. Decoration of the Practice Place

First, clean the practice place. Then anoint it with the five substances of a cow, sprinkle scented water, hang canopies and flower garlands, and set up a painting of the deities. If the focus of the practice lies mainly on the self-visualization, in accordance with the number of deities of the self-visualization, such as of Hevajra or Cakrasaṃvara, arrange seats covered with tiger-skins or charnel ground shrouds. If you do not have these it is fine to arrange other appropriate seats. Arrange the seats in a circle according to how the deities are seated within the maṇḍala.

If the focus lies mainly on the front-visualization, arrange an accomplishment maṇḍala, as taught in the traditional scriptures such as the Hevajra or Cakrasaṃvara. With the vajra master taking the principal seat of the assembly, the other practitioners sit according to seniority. The practice focusing mainly on the self-visualization is taught in The Two Segments.[3] The practice focusing on mainly the front-visualization is taught in such scriptures as the Sampuṭa-tantra[4] and elsewhere. It is said that it is easier for beginners to offer the feast mainly to the front-visualization.

ii. Arrangement of the Outer and Inner Offering Articles

According to Hevajra three or four water offerings should be arranged. According to the Cakrasaṃvara, the water offerings can be confined to the two for drinking and washing the hands and feet. Here, the additional water offerings are part of the arranged offerings.[5] Thus when you recite "we present the offerings (... chöpar bul)," all the water offerings are included within the arranged offerings.

When you offer the four waters: first, mix the water for washing the hands and feet with pleasant smelling substances such as camphor and saffron; second, mix the water for washing the face with the three sweets; third, prepare clean water for drinking; and, fourth, decorate the offering water with white flowers. Then prepare whatever you can afford for the remaining five offerings of the flowers and so forth. Arrange the shrine as elaborately as possible.

According to the traditional scriptures of Hevajra and Cakrasaṃvara, you should place one torma for the supermundane deities, one torma for the primary mundane dharmapālas, and one torma for the local deities. If required you can also arrange further tormas. If you can afford the expense, the more abundantly you can arrange the shrine, the better.

Next, fill the padma-bhājana[6] with madana and place it in front of you with the skull's forehead facing you. Place the samaya implements of vajra and bell in order, to the right and left before you. Arrange, too, whatever delightful articles you are able to acquire. Take care of all these necessities as the preliminary to the following steps.

iii. Invitation of the Vajra Master

Offer as many maṇḍalas and flowers to the vajra master as you can and request the following:

Please preside as the vajra master over this assembly to perform this offering of all the mundane and supermundane for the benefit of all sentient beings.

If you make offerings primarily to the self-visualization, the vajra master sits upon a specially prepared seat in the centre of the assembly. When emphasizing the front-visualization, the vajra master sits upon a specially prepared seat at the head of the assembly.

iv. Communication through Secret Hand Gestures for Entering the Place

With the vajra pride of being Nīladaṇḍa,[7] the ritual assistant holds the activity vase and remains at the entrance to the practice place. By communicating through secret signs with the initiated, he is able to identify those who are unqualified to enter and send them away.[8] In order to gain entrance the initiated then recite the following verse together:

Dark blue ferocious one, your conduct according to the samayas is splendid! Holder of the bejewelled staff of accomplishment, let us heroes and heroines gather! Let us enter the circle of celestial yoginīs![9]

Then, the guard, Nīladaṇḍa, cleanses them with the water from the activity vase and replies:

Behold all phenomena as excellent!
Have no doubts regarding all that is gathered.
Eat and regard brahmins, dogs, and untouchables
As equal in nature![10]

Having recited the verse, the guard then grants access. Since it is difficult to perform this entrance ritual correctly and it can reduce the power of the main ritual if done incorrectly, should the participants lack sufficient knowledge, they can simply arouse the pride of being the deity and mindfully enter the practice place. Then once the vajra master has taken his seat first, the other practitioners follow according to seniority.

v. Invocation

The ritual assistant offers the general maṇḍala and places flowers in the hands of those assembled. Prostrating with joined hands, he recites:

With great cloud-like offerings of Samantabhadra's magical display, we vīras and yoginīs make offerings in order to pacify obstacles for the benefactors and gather the two accumulations. Please preside over us, therefore, in non-dual samādhi.

It is also possible to recite the abbreviated request: "Please preside over us within the yoga of your main deity." Following this, the ritual assistant collects the flowers again and offers them to the teacher. The teacher in turn offers them to the lineage masters and yidam deities, then places the flowers in the centre of the maṇḍala.

vi. Purifying the Mind

In order for the assembly to confess breakages of samaya, meditate on Vajrasattva on the crown of your head and recite an appropriate number of hundred-syllable mantras, according to the pith instructions. Then recite the following words from the Abhidhāna:[11]

In my ignorance and delusion
I have gone against and corrupted my samaya.
Guru, protector, be my refuge!
Chief of all the maṇḍalas, vajra holder,
Embodiment of great compassion,
Chief of all living beings, in you I take refuge!

b) Main Part

The main part consists of the sixfold satisfaction. According to the explanatory tradition of the embodiment of all the mahāyoga tantras, the Sampuṭa-tantra, these are:

i. To satisfy the samādhi-maṇḍala with vast offerings
ii. To satisfy the wisdom deity in the heart with the taste of amṛta
iii. To satisfy the outer hordes of spirits with the torma
iv. To satisfy the samaya-holders, the vīras and yoginīs, with the inner fire offering
v. To satisfy the outer and inner ḍākinīs with offerings of songs and dance
vi. To satisfy the body maṇḍala with co-emergent wisdom

i. Satisfying the Samādhi-Maṇḍala with Vast Offerings

According to the Hevajra, you should begin the practice by following the extensive or condensed visualization for the invitation of the field of merit until the protection circle. Among the ten topics,[12] in order to carry out the branches of protection and averting, recite the uṣnīṣā-mantra[13] as many times as possible. The mantra will grant protection from obstacles now and create the auspicious conditions for overpowering the māras on the eve of your awakening. According to the Cakrasaṃvara, we simply meditate on the protection circle, and it is not necessary to recite the mantra at this point. Next, meditate gradually on the development and completion phases according to whichever ritual text you follow, such as the Hevajra or the Cakrasaṃvara.

Then, focus on reciting the respective root, heart, and quintessence mantras of the main deity, and recite the mantras of their retinue as many times as you can. Through practicing the development and completion stages together with the mantra recitation you will accomplish the accumulation of merit and wisdom at the time of the cause, purify buddha-fields, ripen sentient beings, and purify the negative tendencies of body, speech and mind which cause rebirth in the lower realms. You will thus set the auspicious conditions for attaining the three or four kāyas and create the auspicious conditions for attaining awakening in Akaniṣṭha, and for accomplishing the benefit of sentient beings with immeasurable emanations in countless realms at the time of the fruition. This is how to cultivate the samādhi-maṇḍala.

Regarding the satisfaction of the samādhi-maṇḍala with vast offerings: according to the Hevajra, first, recite "oṃ vajrāmṛta-kuṇḍali hana hana hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ," and sprinkle the madana with the tip of the vajra in order to purify the physically arranged outer offerings. According to the Cakrasaṃvara, imagine purifying the offerings with the 'śumbha-ni mantra'[14] and dissolving all objects—the offerings, the practitioner(s) who offer(s) them and the act of offering—into emptiness with the 'svabhāva mantra'.[15] Then, imagine that out of emptiness the previous concepts of the offerings, the practitioner(s) who offer(s) them and the act of offering, now arise in the form of the deity like a dream-like, magical display. Imagine all these offerings as arisen from the virtue of both the mundane and supermundane, excellent, clean, pure, unobstructed, filling the sky entirely, and continuously appearing for as long as saṃsāra remains.

Now offer them with mantra, samādhi and mudrā as taught in the tantras. Using mantras and mudrās that are not taught in the tantras would render the ritual impure, with the result that the buddhas would not delight in your offerings. If you wish to delight the buddhas, you must use the actual words spoken by the buddhas. Then consecrate the inner offerings of amṛta just as you did with the torma. Sprinkle the inner offerings with the left thumb and ring-finger and offer them first to your root teacher, then to the lineage master and the yidam deities. Next, offer them to the dharmapālas, spirits and so forth while reciting the individual mantras of the respective deities.

ii. Satisfying the Wisdom Deity in the Heart with the Taste of Amṛta

With your ring finger put a drop of amṛta on the tip of your tongue, between your eyebrows and on the crown of your head while reciting:[16]

To each yoginī in turn,
The yogin makes offerings
With a sprinkle of the thumb.
Visualizing the yoginīs in the three places of his body
The clever yogin makes offerings
To the tip of the tongue, the bindu, and above.

According to the Hevajra, you then ring the bell and recite offerings and praises, such as, "Picturing him, the venerable one, in the sky above...,"[17] the offering of the eight goddesses, the praise beginning with "All you yoginīs who have gathered in this gaṇacakra...,"[18] and The Praise in Twenty Verses.[19] According to the Cakrasaṃvara, you recite offerings and praises, such as The Praise to the Buddhas in the Ten Directions,[20] the praise by master Bhūri,[21] and The Eight-Part Root Mantra of the Tathāgata.[22] To avoid confusion, I shall not go into more detail here. Should you require further explanations, consult such texts as The Offering Garland by our precious teacher.[23]

iii. Satisfying the Hordes of Spirits with the Torma

When giving the torma to spirits that have not received the empowerment, the torma must be covered with a cloth as it is carried outside. The torma offered to those spirits who have received the empowerment does not need to be covered by such a cloth. Perform the torma offering ritual for the supermundane deities according to the respective tantra of your practice, such as the Hevajra or Cakrasaṃvara. To offer the torma for the mundane deities to the dharmapālas, follow the ritual as given in the respective practice text. Next, give the general torma of the ḍākinīs to all the spirits. Then, when giving the torma of the local deities and the other tormas, focus on the recipients of the tormas and recite the mantra for giving the torma that begins, "oṃ akāro...".[24] All the spirits will thereby become delighted and satisfied. The torma ritual itself is explained in detail in other texts.

iv. Satisfying the Samaya-Holders, the Vīras and Yoginīs

To satisfy the samaya-holders, the vīras and yoginīs, present them with offerings of the five sensory pleasures, such as flowers and so forth. As regards the feast articles, there are two traditions: one for those who have taken ordination and observe the precepts, and one for yogins. According to the first, the ordained should merely taste[25] the offerings and tormas that contain substances such as meat and alcohol. Furthermore, they bless the tormas containing sugar, fruits and other clean substances, and consume them while imagining that they contain the five meats and five amṛtas. This way none of the thirteen root downfalls can occur and the buddhas, bodhisattvas and wisdom ḍākinīs will bestow their blessings. The Guhyasamāja states:

Although the substances do not even contain meat
Create all the substances through your imagination.
When these are consumed joined with the vajra,
All the buddhas will grant their blessings.

The Sampuṭa also states:

Although it is not meat, imagine it to be meat.
Whatever worldly people eat is consumed.[26]

This is the tradition of practicing the gaṇacakra according to the master Āryadeva, who was the spiritual heir of the Indian master Nāgārjuna, and according to Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, the great lord Atiśa, my learned teacher Śākyaśrībhadra, and others. It is excellent, therefore, for the ordained to perform the gaṇacakra in this way on such occasions as empowerments.

For the yogins’ tradition of practicing gaṇacakra, cleanse as before whatever samaya substances you can acquire, such as madana, bala, and so forth. Sprinkle the substances with cleansing water while reciting "oṃ āḥ hūṃ ha ho hrīḥ." Imagine that with ha their appearance becomes irresistible, with ho their aroma becomes irresistible, and with hrīḥ their potency becomes irrepressible. With oṃ, āḥ, and hūṃ, they transform into wisdom nectar. Pour a little bit of madana for each participant, but imagine that everyone drinks it from the same bowl.

Then, present the main offerings to the master and the maṇḍala. Next, offer whatever tormas you have prepared. If an empowerment is to be given, the master will now practice the maṇḍala of the tathāgatas.[27] During meditative equipoise, he will maintain the generation and completion phases of the maṇḍala of the tathāgatas and make offerings to the deities of consecration. All recipients of the torma, including any spirits, should be seen as buddhas when given the offerings. If not, it is said that the fault of 'a king worshipping his servants' or 'a monk worshipping the householders' will occur.

Doing this correctly will create the auspicious circumstances for the buddhas to be delighted and the spirits to be satisfied. Next, pour madana into the padma-bhājana and with your left ring finger take some bala and perform the lotus mudrā. Hold the padma-bhājana in your right hand while partially covering it with your left hand and offer it. The recipients likewise perform the lotus mudrā and then receive it. As the Two Segments states:

Offered with lotus hands,
It is received with lotus hands.

The leader then recites:

Behold all phenomena as excellent!
Have no doubts regarding all that is gathered.
Eat and regard brahmins, dogs, and untouchables
As equal in nature!

The recipients reply:

The teaching of the Sugata is priceless!
With devotion I pay homage to suchness,
Which is free from stains such as passion,
And devoid of grasper and grasped.

You should know the meaning of these verses. While the leader and the recipients then both say "aho sukha" the offerings are distributed. These verses, which derive from the Sampuṭa-tantra, were originally composed in Prakrit not Sanskrit.[28] Since they were difficult for the lotsāwas to comprehend, a few translation errors occurred. The translation above, however, is flawless.

Next imagine that you bless the offerings as before and enjoy them as an offering to the maṇḍala. Practitioners of Cakrasaṃvara should now perform the 'hand worship.'[29] The significance of receiving from the same bowl is explained in the Two Segments, while different bowls are used according to the Sampuṭa.

The ritual assistant should not put the primary bowl directly on the ground without a support until all the students have received the offerings. There is however no fault in putting the bowl on the floor after the vajra students have received the offerings. Once you have distributed the offerings, do not turn the bowl upside down until you leave. Do not leave the bowl empty either. It is auspicious to leave just a little food and drink in the bowl.

Do not argue or joke about during the gaṇacakra. Discuss only what delights the mind or is on the subject of Dharma. Do not leave the assembly without permission from the guru or the assembly. Do not become intoxicated. Do not allow ordinary perception to take over. Do not forget to maintain the perception of the yidam deity. Do not entertain thoughts about samaya-holders being good or bad, or harbour concepts regarding the purity or impurity of the blessed substances. Instructions such as these on proper and improper behaviour may be found in the gaṇacakra commentaries called the Five Samayas and Advice on the Uncommon Meaning and elsewhere.[30]

When a beginner or someone with a steady mind practices the gaṇacakra conduct in one of the twenty-four sacred places but fails to communicate with secret signs, the wisdom ḍākinīs will not confer blessings and the activity ḍākinīs will create obstacles. The Two Segments states:

O mahāsattva Vajragarbha,
The secret language is wondrous.
Whatever I teach you,
You must retain with devotion.
Once you have received the Hevajra empowerment,
If you do not use the secret language,
Your samayas will decline.
There is no doubt about this.

And:

After you have received the specific samayas,
If you do not employ the language,
The ḍākinīs of the four sacred places
Will show you their wrath within this lifetime.

Similar statements are to be found in all the tantras, including the Cakrasaṃvara and others. Gain expertise, therefore, in the secret language: madana means alcohol; bala means meat; tṛptikara are foods such as grains; tīndhana are vegetables and herbs; padma-bhājana is a skull, and even if the vessel is not a skull, you should visualize it as a skull and call it padma-bhājana; kṛpīta is a hand-drum; kāliñjara are those who have received the empowerment and uphold the samayas; dundura are those who have not received the empowerment and do not uphold the samayas; preṅkhaṇa means arriving; kheṭa means going; and, niraṃśuka refers to bone ornaments. These are some of the secret words to be used.[31]

Men are referred to with the syllable ḍa, and women with the syllable ḍī. These are two samples of the secret signs that are to be used.[32] The practitioner should gain expertise in the secret language taught in the Hevajra and Cakrasaṃvara. The tantras teach that if you do not know the secret language obstacles will arise when practicing the gaṇacakra and when traveling to the twenty-four sacred sites. But those who do know the secret language will swiftly reap the siddhis.

v. Satisfying with the Offering of Song and Dance

Offering a song or dance will attract the wisdom ḍākinīs, stabilize the visualization of the maṇḍala of the tathāgatas and provide protection for oneself and those assembled. If a man offers a song, he should generate the vajra pride of being Amitāyus, and if he offers a dance, he should generate the vajra pride of being Vairocana. If a woman offers a song, she should generate the vajra pride of being Pāṇḍaravāsinī, and if she offers a dance, she should generate the vajra pride of being Buddhalocana. The Two Segments states:

Vajradharma and Buddhalocana,
The yoginīs and matṛkās,
Should perfectly perform
Both song and dance.
This will protect the assembly
And oneself as well.
It will magnetize the world
And complete the mantra recitation.

When the vīras and yoginīs who hold the samaya perform song and dance, there will be the scent of garlic, vultures, camphor, or sandalwood, and the sounds of swans, bees, and wolves. These signs indicate that the wisdom ḍākinīs have gathered, according to Hevajra.

vi. Satisfying with Co-Emergent Wisdom

If the vīras are practitioners of the Path of the Messenger[33] and are able to retain the winds, they can perform the actual practice of the Path of the Messenger at this point. However, if they do not practice the Path of the Messenger and are unable to retain the winds, they can sprinkle a little bit of butter, ghee, or madana on their heart centre and simply rest in meditative equipoise while visualizing themselves as the heruka in union, with their guru resting on their crowns, and while recollecting that all appearances are the maṇḍala of the tathāgatas. Thus, rest in the samādhi of bliss and emptiness. The master Ḍombi Heruka said:

Thus apply butter and ghee
To your heart.

This concludes the explanation of the main part, the six satisfactions.

c) Conclusion of the Ritual

i. The remainder is offered to entrust the outer spirits with activities;
ii. Prayers of dedication and auspiciousness are recited for the wisdom ḍākinīs to remain present;
iii. The hundred-syllable mantra is recited to make up for additions or omissions to the ritual;
iv. Aspiration prayers are recited so that accumulated merit bears the right fruition;
v. The guests of the front visualization are requested to depart and the torma is dispatched;
vi. Protection is established and after the ritual, the visualiztion is disolved.

i. Offering the Remainder

Place the remainder torma in the front and put a little madana in your mouth. Pick up the remainder with the 'blazing hand mudrā' while saying bhrūṃ or pheṃ and spit on it.[34] Bless it with the three syllables—oṃ, aḥ and hūṃ—and recite the mantra "oṃ akāro mukhaṃ sarvadharmānām ādyanutpannatvāt oṃ āḥ hūṃ phaṭ svāhā." Alternatively, recite "oṃ ucchiṣṭa-baliṅgte bhakṣasi svāhā." Repeat these mantras three or seven times. Imagine that all the spirits who receive the remainder are thereby satisfied.

ii. Prayers of Dedication and Auspiciousness

In order for the wisdom ḍākinīs to remain present and grant their blessings and auspiciousness, hold the vajra and bell and recite the vajra song that begins "kollaire ṭṭia..."[35] as well as such prayers of auspiciousness as "Apparent magnificence, like a mountain of gold…” etc.[36] At this point it is not permissible to chant songs and verses of auspiciousness that were composed by ordinary people, only songs and verses of auspiciousness spoken by the buddhas. Still, there is no fault in chanting such songs and verses of auspiciousness before gathering the remainder inside and offering the torma.

Mix the select portion with the remainder[37] and dispose of them somewhere outside, such as at a crossroad. According to the Sampuṭa, you should draw a maṇḍala with the toe of your right foot, play the ḍamaru made of two skulls, and say the name of the ḍākinī whom you entrust with activities together with "phreṃ hūṃ." For example, if you entrust Taraṅgiṇī with activities, say "Taraṅgiṇī! Phreṃ hūṃ!" Then dispose of the torma outside, and chant vajra songs and verses of auspiciousness inside, so that the wisdom ḍākiṇīs gather.

Furthermore, to guard against the evil influences of shadow spirits,[38] place a candle next to the torma and only then dispose of it. Praises to the dharmapālas, entrustment with activities, offerings made by the sponsors, and prayers for auspiciousness should be recited before offering the remainder torma. Rituals for restoring the samayas can be done at this point or together with offering the torma to the supermundane guests. The remaining activities are to be performed afterwards.

iii. Recitation of the Hundred-Syllable Mantra

To make up for additions or omissions to the ritual, physically join your vajra palms at your heart and mentally confess all wrongdoing. Imagine that all additions or omissions to the ritual are remedied thereby while reciting the hundred-syllable mantra. Then recite aloud the verses that begin:

In my ignorance and delusion
I have gone against and corrupted my samaya.
Lama protector, be my refuge![39]
...

And:

For anything lacking or incomplete,
For any mistakes I made or had others make,
Due to my ignorance and confusion,
Protectors, please forgive them all!

And:

Whatever mistakes I, a mere beginner, may have committed—such as unclear samādhi, a dull or agitated mind, improper performance of the ritual, impure substances, excess or decline—please forgive them all, I pray!

iv. Recitation of Aspiration Prayers for the Accumulated Merit to Bear the Right Fruition

Join your vajra palms at your heart, and recite the following verses from the Hevajra:

In this life and all my lives to come,
May I always be born into a noble family and uphold the samayas.
With my senses intact, may I receive and teach the Hevajra,
And be kind-hearted and devoted to my teacher!
In this life and all my lives to come,
May I always bear the vajra and bell,
Understand the profound Dharma,
And enjoy with equality the essence of women.

Also recite the following verse from the Cakrasaṃvara:

Goddesses are the truth as samayas are the truth.
Thus their speech is likewise the highest truth.
By the power of the truth of this practice,
May the goddesses always care for me!

Recite this verse from the Sampuṭa as well:

May all beings be happy!
May all beings be well!
May they traverse the path
By which they will attain awakening![40]

Recite these and other aspiration prayers found in the tantras. Then recite whatever dedication prayers you know from the sūtras, such as "Just as the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī attained omniscience..."[41] Thus dedicate the merit extensively with a mind free from the three spheres and mental poisons. Depending upon the occasion, you could also add prayers aspiring to a long life, good health, prosperity and good fortune, or whatever you desire.

v. Requesting the Guests of the Front Visualization to Depart

Recite the hundred-syllable mantra followed by:

Oṃ! You who've served all beings:
Grant us the respective siddhis!
Even though you now depart for your buddha realm,
I pray that you may return.

With this verse the jñānasattvas of the front visualization are requested to depart and the visualization dissolves into you. You do not need to request the jñānasattvas of the self-visualization to depart according to the Mahāyoga tradition.

vi. The Protection and the Dissolution after the Ritual

According to the Hevajra, bringing to mind the Heruka of the session breaks will bless your sense faculties and their objects as well as your body, speech and mind. According to the Cakrasaṃvara, reciting the sumbhani-mantra[42] and snapping your fingers ensure that you are guarded everywhere and protected by the armour of the male and female vīras, and by the great armour. Seal the practice with the eight-part mantra[43] and dissolve the main visualization after the ritual.[44] Then rest as you like. This concludes the explanation of the conclusion of the ritual.

6. Necessity

All the accumulations of merit and wisdom are included within this ritual. The Vajra Tent states:[45]

This is the vajra-like samādhi of the oceanic accumulation of merit and wisdom.

It is called "the vajra delight"[46] and so forth, since it pleases the buddhas, the bodhisattvas abiding on the ten bhūmis, the eight types of śrāvakas, the dull and sharp pratekyabuddhas, the worldly gods of the desire, form and formless realms, the protectors and guardians of the Dharma, the worldly guests such as hell-beings and pretas, and all the supermundane guests. They are all pleased and fully satisfied. The Vajra Tent elaborates upon this further. However, this will not be shared here and those who are interested can read the tantra itself. The ritual will likewise bring about all the worldly and transcendent siddhis. The Two Segments states:

Whatever one eats, all the sensual delights
Will transform into siddhis for practitioners.

The tantras also speak of the ritual's countless further benefits, so you can consult these scriptural sources directly.

II. Refutation of Objections

This consists of three points:

  1. View
  2. Meditation
  3. Conduct

Some noble śrāvakas believe that first, the view of the Mahāyāna is at fault. They argue that while the Mahāyāna establishes form and the rest as valid cognitions, the Prajñāpāramitā states that "there is no form, no sensation…etc., up to and including "no omniscient Buddha."[47] Therefore, our scriptures and reasoning contradict one another.

Second, they claim that meditation is at fault, since an ordinary person's body, speech, and mind will not become those of a buddha simply by meditating upon them as being the buddha.

Third, they believe conduct to be at fault, since the Mahāyāna states that the conduct of an ordained person's body and speech must be pure, but also states that pure and impure are equal.

Let us respond to these objections.

1. View

Regarding the view of emptiness, there is no fault. While you would be correct if we negated appearances, such as form, there is no fault in the Mahāyāna, since we negate their true existence. The elaborate answer to this is provided in Mahāyāna scriptures such as The Ornament of Sūtras in its chapter on "Establishing the Buddha's Words".[48]

2. Meditation

Second, the meditation is not at fault. Meditating on the pervasiveness of earth, for example, will give rise to the corresponding samādhi of the earth and so forth.[49] Likewise, meditating on your yidam deity will bring about the samādhi of the yidam deity. Similarly, when the śrāvakas imagine skeletons, for example, in their meditation their perception changes accordingly.

3. Conduct

Third, regarding Mahāyāna conduct, there are three objections to be refuted with regard to:

a) The object of veneration
b) Time
c) Substances

a) Object of Veneration

Some śrāvakas say that it is illogical to worship the buddhas by making offerings to oneself. Our bodies are made of impure substances and our minds are filled with anger and attachment. If that were the case, it would also be illogical to make offerings to statues or paintings (as they do), since the artist has anger and attachment, and the paint too is made of impure elements. Nevertheless, it is stated in the sūtras that merit is obtained by venerating them in the belief that they are buddhas. Meditating upon oneself as a buddha and making offerings therefore yields the merit of making offerings to the buddhas. This is stated in both the sūtras and tantras. As Maitreya's Lion's Roar says:[50]

Whoever wishes to worship the Buddha should worship oneself.
Whoever wishes to worship the relics of the Buddha should worship oneself.

The Tantra Purifying Evil Destinies states:[51]

If, when you assume the being of Vajrasattva,
Whatever you eat or do
Is unstained by any fault,
What need is there to speak of having compassion?

Since this is likewise explained in detail other tantras, for the sake of brevity I will not elaborate further.

b) Time

Some assert that the time for offering to the buddhas is in the morning and that to offer in the evening is illogical. Yet when the deities gather on auspicious days, such as the eighth day of the lunar month, you [śrāvakas] consider that a good time to make offerings. In the same way, since the wisdom ḍākinīs gather at night, the evenings present an auspicious occasion. As the Vajraḍāka states:[52]

The women of this land
Will grant siddhis to the practitioners.
Always active during the night,
Always gathering during the night.
Great celestial accomplishments,
So difficult to obtain, will be granted.

The Secret Tantra of the Common Procedures states:[53]

Since the deities gather at sunset,
It is certainly a sacred occasion.
Thus it is virtuous to offer to them
And request their departure before sunrise.

The night is therefore said to be a sacred time when blessings are conferred.

Moreover, regarding the downfalls of the śrāvakas, there are those that consider matter as primary and those that consider perception as primary. Since the sole reference is the mind that thinks of morning and evening, polluted and unpolluted, killing and stealing and so forth, of the two, perception is clearly the more important. Thus there is no fault in eating in the evening if you are able to maintain the perception that it is morning, whereas there is a fault in eating in the morning if you maintain the perception that it is evening. If you maintain the perception that women are men, there is no fault in touching them, whereas there is a fault in touching men if you maintain the perception that they are women. Although you know that they are women, if you are able to fully control your perception, it is possible to avoid the corresponding downfalls. The Ratnakūṭa states:[54]

The bodhisattva Gaṇapravara[55] using the door of Dharma in which the external element is one with the internal earth element,[56] took the hand of a women and sat upon a seat. In that moment, Ānanda developed a lack of faith. Gaṇapravara then displayed a miracle, which dispelled Ānanda's misconceptions. Thus, there was no downfall in this case.

Likewise, if you meditate on the garuḍa, then even if you consume poison the toxins will not affect you. If you engage in rejuvenation practice (rasāyana) without knowing how to practice it, it will prove fatal. Similarly, if you know how to meditate on the maṇḍala of the tathāgatas, consuming food will become a cause for buddhahood, while not knowing this will become a cause for rebirth in the lower realms. This was confirmed by the master Āryadeva, who said:

By meditating on the garuḍa,
You will be able to consume any poison.

It is also said:

Even a small lump of iron
Will sink to the bottom of the sea.
However, if you mould it into a vessel,
It can become a ship that carries you to liberation.

c) Substances

i. Refutation of Objections Regarding Foods and Drinks

Some śrāvakas maintain that the offerings to the Buddha should consist of such pure substances as the three whites and three sweets, while impure substances like meat and alcohol should not be offered. Substances like the three whites, three sweets and water are indeed virtuous and pure offerings for the Buddha. Offerings to the wisdom ḍākinīs, however, require meat and alcohol, in order that the auspicious circumstances may be created for attracting the wisdom ḍākinīs. You need water to attract swans, flowers to attract bees, and meat to attract flies. If you lack knowledge, substances such as mercury and actinolite[57] may harm you, but if you know how to use them, they can become substances of rejuvenation and cause your lifespan to rival that of the sun and moon. Similarly, if you do not know the nature of the five meats and five amṛtas, they will become a cause for rebirth in the lower realms, but if you do know, they will become a cause for buddhahood. Using the three medicinal fruits[58] in rejuvenation practice cannot kill you, just as it cannot enable you to live as long as the sun and the moon. Substances such as the three sweets, when consumed, cannot lead to the hell realms, just as they cannot serve as causes for buddhahod. The master Ravigupta said:

If someone is able to harm you,
He is also able to help you,
Like the sun which causes both drought and rain.
The moon does not have this capacity.

Likewise, the five meats and five amṛtas are easy to find and not unwholesome. They are blessed by the wisdom ḍākinīs and said to be endowed with the three qualities.

ii. Refutation of Objections Regarding Vessels and Decoration

Some śrāvakas state that it is best to use vessels made from oyster or conch shells and decorations using pearls and ivory. And for textiles, it is best to use silk. They ask if it is not inappropriate to use such extremely impure objects as skulls for vessels, human bone for decoration, and human hair for thread.

In response, I would ask whether human or animals are better.[59] If the response is that a human body is far better since it results from merit, whereas an animal body results from non-virtue and is therefore inferior, I would ask why hair and bones that are produced by merit are bad while bones produced by non-virtue are good. Put your mind at ease! Tantras such as the Cakrasaṃvara state:

If conch, oysters and pearls
Are the result of the causes,[60]
Who would criticize the use of skulls
From the form of the dharmakāya?
For heroes, wearing a skull garland
And necklace of bones[61] as a means of purification
Is said to be a stage of the sacred Dharma.

Thus, my teacher, the great Vajradhara in person,[62] said, "The view, meditation and conduct of the Secret Mantra are entirely established by logic based on facts." The extensive logical arguments and scriptural citations that establish the validity of the Secret Mantra vehicle can be found in such works as those by the noble teachers Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva, the master Buddhajñānapāda's Introduction to the Art of Self-Accomplishment,[63] and the master Śāntarakṣita's Establishing Suchness.[64]

III. Distinctions of the Ritual[65]

  1. The participants
  2. The occasions
  3. The deity yogas
  4. The purposes
  5. The objects of offering

1. Participants

When both vīras and yoginīs gather together that is called a ‘gaṇacakra'. If only vīras gather, it is called a 'vīras' feast'; wheras if only yoginīs gather, it is called called a 'yoginīs' feast'.

2. Occasions

When performing an empowerment or a consecration, or a fire offering it is called a caru banquet.[66]

3. Deity Yogas

If the gathering consists of varying practitioners of different deity yogas, such as Hevajra or the Cakrasaṃvara, it is called a 'gathering of friends'.

4. Purposes

All the maṇḍala deities adopt the dancing posture to invoke the compassion of the buddhas so that all the harm in the world may be pacified. When the combination of song and dance causes the wrathful kings to laugh and the dance of mind invokes the wisdom minds of the buddhas, pacifying beings’ suffering, it is called 'the dance of the buddhas'.

5. Objects of Offering

The women who are supports for the worldly and the world-transcending ḍākinīs are marked by symbols such as a skull or an axe. The consort who is offered to the leader of the ritual should possess the proper characteristics. The women are to be offered within the maṇḍala house. Gather the requisite number of virgins, corresponding to the number of deities in the maṇḍala—whether five, seven or thirty-seven—in front of the curtains of the maṇḍala house. Serve them food, drink and clothing. This is called 'the feast of maidens’.

This concludes my explanation of the stages of the practice of the great and glorious Sakyapa, kings of dharma, based on the niruttarayoga tantras, the commentaries of the siddhas, and the pith instructions of the gurus.

The Vajradhara in human form,
Who upholds the lineage of accomplished gurus,
And resides at the seat of the Sakyas, extracted and taught this ritual
In accord with the meaning of the stainless tantras.[67]
Since his perfect explanation was a little unclear to some,
At the request of several supplicants,
The one named Kunga, Who revered the dust at his feet,
Composed this clarification.

Through this virtue,
May all infinite beings, as vast as space,
Swiftly perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom
And within this life reach the state of Vajradhara.

Thus, at the request of supplicants, the glorious Sakya Paṇḍita further clarified the teaching on the stages of practice of the gaṇacakra according to the niruttarayoga tantras by the Dharma-King who is adorned by a crowning Victory Banner (Gyaltsen).[68]

| Lhasey Lotsawa Translations (trans. Stefan Mang, ed. Maitri Yarnell), 2021. Many thanks to Ryan Conlon for kindly providing suggestions and clarifications.


Bibliography

Tibetan Edition

Sa skya paṇḍita. "tshogs 'khor cho ga." In sa skya bka' 'bum/ glegs bam gsum pa/ (3), 8b-21a. Kathmandu: Sachen International, 2006.

Other Primary Sources

Kangyur
  • Toh. 67: Maitreya-siṃhanāda, byams pa'i seng ge'i sgra, dkon brtsegs, ca 68a1-114b7.
  • Toh. 368: Laghusaṃvara, bde mchog nyung ngu, rgyud, ka 213a1-246b7.
  • Toh. 369: Abhidhāna, mngon brjod rgyud bla ma, rgyud, ka 247a1-370a7.
  • Toh. 373: Śaṃvarodayatantra, bde mchog 'byung ba'i rgyud, rgyud, kha 265a1-311a6.
  • Toh. 381: Sampuṭanāmamahātantra, yang dag par sbyor ba'i rgyud chen po, rgyud, ga 73.b-158.b.
  • Toh. 399: Vajraḍāka, rdo rje mkha' 'gro, rgyud, ga 230a2-231b3.
  • Toh. 418: Hevajra, kye'i rdo rje, rgyud, nga 13b5-30a3.
  • Toh. 419: Vajrapañjara, rdo rje gur, rgyud, nga 30a4-65b7.
  • Toh. 428: Catuṣpīṭhatantra, rgyud kyi rgyal po gdan bzhi pa, rgyud, nga 181a1-231b5.
  • Toh. 442: Guhyasamāja, gsang ba 'dus pa, rgyud, ca* 90a1-148a6.*
  • Toh 483: Durgatipariśodhana, ngan song sbyong rgyud, rgyud, ta 58b1-96a3.
  • Toh. 806: Sarvamaṇḍala­sāmānyavidhīnāṃ tantram, dkyil 'khor spyi'i cho ga'i rgyud, rgyud, wa 141a1-167b7.*
  • Toh. 826: Maṅgalaghātā, bkra shis tshigs su bcad pa, rgyud, wa 262b3-263b6.
Tengyur
  • Toh. 1860: Buddhajñānapāda, Ātmasādhanāvatāra, bdag sgrub pa la 'jug pa, rgyud, di 52a7-62a7.
  • Toh. 1224: Padmākara, Samayapañca, Dam tshig lnga pa, rgyud, nya 26b7-28b6.
  • Toh. 1230: Ḍombi Heruka, Asādhāraṇārthopadeśa, thun mong ma yin pa'i don la gdams pa, rgyud, nya 41a7-43a1.
  • Toh. 1225: Saroruhavajra, Śrīhevajrabhaṭṭārakastotra, dpal kye rdo rje'i bha ḍa rā ga'i bstod pa, rgyud, nya 28b6-29b6.
  • Toh. 1533: Bhūripa, Śrīcakrasaṃvaravistaraprabandha, dpal 'khor lo bde mchog gi rgyun bshags rgyas pa, rgyud, za 93b5-95b7.
  • Toh. 3708: Śāntarakṣita, tattvasiddhi, de kho na yid grub pa, rgyud, tsu 26b1-39a2.
Tibetan Commentaries

bsod nams rtse mo. dpal 'khor lo bde mchog gi mchod phreng. Ingsum 'bum/ bsod nams rtse mo/ pod bzhi pa (4)/, pp. 95-128. Pe cin: krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 2007.

English

Asanga and Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche. A Feast of the Nectar of the Supreme Vehicle: An Explanation of the Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras. Trans. Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala, 2018.

Buddha Śākyamuni. Emergence from Sampuṭa. Trans. Dharmachakra Translation Committee. 84000.

Buddha Śākyamuni. Samantabhadra's "Aspiration to Good Actions" (Zangchö Mönlam). Trans. Rigpa Translations, 1996. Lotsawa House.

Buddha Śākyamuni. Heart Sūtra. Trans. Adam Pearcey, 2019. Lotsawa House.

Jikmé Lingpa. Adornment of Lord Nāgārjuna's Wisdom Mind. Trans. Chönyi Drolma, 2014. Lotsawa House.

Secondary Sources

Szántó, Péter-Dániel. Selected Chapters from the Catuṣpīṭhatantra. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Oxford, 2012.


Version: 1.1-20211004


  1. Throughout this text Sakya Paṇḍita mostly uses the terms vīra (dpa' bo) to refer to the male practitioners and yoginī (rnal 'byor ma) to refer to female practitioners. The terms denote the male and female deities of the maṇḍala or, as in this case, the yogins and yoginīs who practice the tantra.  ↩

  2. Madana refers to alcohol and bala to meat. Sakya Paṇḍita mostly uses their 'secret' Sanskrit terms rather than translating them into Tibetan. Following Sakya Paṇḍita, the terms are kept in Sanskrit rather than translated into English here. Sakya Paṇḍita later explains the meaning of these and other secret terms used in the context of a gaṇacakra ritual.  ↩

  3. The Two Segments, (brtag pa gnyis pa) is a common name for The Tantra of Hevajra, He Who Affords Protection Through Nets of Ḍākinīs (Toh. 418, kye'i rdo rje mkha' 'gro ma dra ba'i sdom pa'i rgyud).  ↩

  4. The Sampuṭa-tantra or "Emergence of Sampuṭa" (Toh. 381, saṃpuṭodbhava, yang dag par sbyor ba). For a description of this tantra, see the introductory section to the tantra's English translation, published on 84000.co.  ↩

  5. Arranged offerings here principally refers to the eight traditional offerings or eight 'offerings bowls' (mchod pa brgyad).  ↩

  6. Padma-bhājana refers to a skull-cup.  ↩

  7. Nīladaṇḍa is a dark blue, wrathful form of Vajrapāṇi holding a staff.  ↩

  8. That is to say, the fellow practitioners prior to the performance of the gaṇacakra ritual use a specific hand gesture. By correctly showing the hand gesture to the guard, the fellow practitioner will be allowed to enter. Those who are unable to show the hand gesture correctly will not be permitted to enter. The guard is thus able to distinguish between those who are authorized to participate in the gaṇacakra and those who are not.  ↩

  9. This verse serves as a 'password song' allowing the participants to pass the guards. The song was originally composed in Apabhraṃśa. For a discussion of the verse and its various interpretations, see: Szántó 2012, 363–364.  ↩

  10. This verse encourages the participants to drop all dualistic concepts. For a discussion of the verse and its various interpretations, see: Szántó 2012, 335–337.  ↩

  11. This famous verse is frequently recited during confession practices. Its source is the Abhidhānottaratantra, the Appendix to the Discourse Tantra (Toh. 369, mngon brjod rgyud bla ma). The Abhidhāna is an 'appendix' to the Laghuśaṃvara, The Smaller Śaṃvara (Toh. 368, bde mchog nyung ngu), the root tantra of Cakrasaṃvara.  ↩

  12. The ten topics (daśatattva, de kho na nyid bcu pa) comprise a list of ten ritual aspects. The list varies depending upon the source consulted. Mastery of all ten aspects is often counted as one of the qualifying marks of a ritual officiant. For a brief discussion, see Szántó 2012, 425–426.  ↩

  13. A specific longer protection mantra beginning with "oṃ uṣṇīṣa-vajracakra..."  ↩

  14. The śumbha-ni mantra appears in slightly varying versions depending on the text. The sumbha-ni mantra from the Sampuṭa tantra reads: "oṃ śumbha niśumbha hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ | oṃ gṛhṇa gṛhṇa hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ | oṃ gṛhṇāpaya gṛhṇāpaya hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ | ānaya ho bhagavān vidyārāja hūṃ hūṃ phaṭ svāhā ||"  ↩

  15. The svabhāva mantra is: "oṃ svabhāva śuddhāḥ sarvadharmāḥ svabhāva śuddho 'haṃ ||"  ↩

  16. The following verse stems from the Catuṣpīṭha, The Scripture in Four Chapters (Toh. 428, gdan bzhi pa). The English translation of this complex verse closely follows Szántó's examination (Szántó 2012, 334-335).  ↩

  17. The famous verses indicated here by Sakya Paṇḍita are also found in the Sampuṭa-tantra. A full translation of the verses is found on 84000.co: Toh. 381 Emergence from Sampuṭa, verses 2.119c – 2.122d.  ↩

  18. A translation of this famous verse beginning with "all you yoginīs who have gathered in this gaṇacakra..." (khyod ni rnam 'byor ma tshogs yongs su bskor) has not been made available yet.  ↩

  19. The Praise of Srī Hevajra in Twenty Verses by Saroruhavajra (Toh. 1225, śrīhevajrabhaṭṭārakastotra, dpal kye rdo rje'i bha ḍa rā ga'i bstod pa)  ↩

  20. The Praise to the Buddhas in the Ten Directions (phyogs bcu'I sangs rgyas kyi bstod pa)  ↩

  21. This may refer to a passage from Bhūri's Elaborate Daily Confession for the Śrī Cakraśamvara (Toh. 1533, śrīcakrasaṃvaravistaraprabandha, dpal 'khor lo bde mchog gi rgyun bshags rgyas pa)  ↩

  22. The Eight-Part Root Mantra of the Tathāgata (bcom ldan 'das kyi rtsa sngags rkang pa brgyad pa) beginning with "oṃ namo bhagavate vīreśāya..."  ↩

  23. This likely refers to The Offering Garland of Śrī Cakrasaṃvara (dpal 'khor lo bde mchog gi mchod phreng) by Sönam Tsemo (1142–1182) who was Sakya Paṇḍita's nephew.  ↩

  24. The full mantra reads "oṃ akāro mukhaṃ sarvadharmānām ādyanutpannatvāt oṃ āḥ hūṃ phaṭ svāhā ||"  ↩

  25. Literally 'merely touch with their tongues' (lce la myang ba tsam bya).  ↩

  26. This appears to be a paraphrasing of the following passage found in the fifth chapter of the Sampuṭa-tantra: "When meat cannot be found anywhere, in order to partake of it he should imagine something else in the form of meat and eat that." (gang gi sha yang za bar ma gyur na gzhan du rnam par rtog pa'i sha'i rang gi ngo bos bza' bas bza' bar bya ste/). Please note that the English translation here follows that of 84000, since the second part of the sentence differs among the various Sampuṭa-tantra editions and is therefore not quoted here.  ↩

  27. Here this implies the maṇḍalas of either Hevajra or Cakrasaṃvara.  ↩

  28. According to Szántó, the verse's "locus classicus" is the Catuṣpīṭha-tantra. As discussed by Szantó, since the verse was originally composed in apabhraṃśa, its interpretation and translation by Indian and Tibetan authors differ (Szántó 2012, 336–338).  ↩

  29. Hand worship (hastapūjā, lag pa'i mchod pa). A particular type of offering practice taught in the Cakrasaṃvara-tantra.  ↩

  30. Padmākara's Five Samayas (Toh. 1224, samayapañca, dam tshig lnga pa) and Ḍombi Heruka's The Advice on the Uncommon Meaning (Toh. 1230, asādhāraṇārthopadeśa, thun mong ma yin pa'i don la gdams pa).  ↩

  31. The same list appears, albeit slightly more elaborately, in Chapter 7 of the Sampuṭa-tantra.  ↩

  32. The first two samples form the beginning of a more elaborate list, as, for example, in Chapter 7 of the Sampuṭa-tantra.  ↩

  33. This refers to the higher yogic practices, such as the practice of Inner Heat (caṇḍālī, gtum mo) etc.  ↩

  34. This is usually advised only to be done by a highly realized master. Commonly the remainder is simply sprinkled with madana.  ↩

  35. This vajra song is taught at the beginning of the fourth chapter of the Sampuṭa-tantra. 84000.co has published an English translation as well as the original song in the accompanying Sanskrit edition. The English translation of this vajra song begins with: "The vajra is in Kollagiri..."  ↩

  36. This is the beginning line of the tantra entitled Verses of Auspiciousness (Toh. 826, maṅgalaghātā, bkra shis tshigs su bcad pa). A translation of this famous prayer of auspiciousness is found in Jikmé Lingpa's Adornment of Lord Nāgārjuna's Wisdom Mind  ↩

  37. The select portion and the remainder are also sometimes referred to as the pure (gtsang lhag) and impure remainders (btsog lhag).  ↩

  38. A particular type of spirit that can pollute the offerings or foods (cāyā, grib gnon kyi gdon).  ↩

  39. See the same verse and corresponding footnote above.  ↩

  40. This verse appears in the ninth chapter of the Sampuṭa-tantra. The translation here follows that of 84000.  ↩

  41. A famous verse of dedication from Samantabhadra's "Aspiration to Good Actions" (Zangchö Mönlam)..  ↩

  42. That is: "oṃ sumbha nisumbha(ni) hūṃ | gṛhṇa gṛhṇa hūṃ | gṛhṇāpaya gṛhṇapāya hūṃ | ānaya ho bhagavān vidyārāja krodha hūṃ phaṭ ||"  ↩

  43. The mantra beginning with "oṃ namo bhagavate vīreśāya..."  ↩

  44. This section implies that the pratitioner dissovles the elaborate visualization generated for the gaṇacakra and merly maintains the simple visualization of the main deity in post-meditation.  ↩

  45. The Vajra Tent (Toh. 419, vajrapañjara, rdo rje gur)  ↩

  46. In the same above quoted tantra.  ↩

  47. A quotation from the famous Heart Sūtra..  ↩

  48. This refers to the second chapter of The Ornament of Mahāyāna Sūtras (Toh. 4020, mahāyānasūtrālaṅkāratheg pa chen po'i mdo sde'i rgyan). For translation of the relevant section, see e.g., Asanga 2018, 5-9.  ↩

  49. Referring here to a specific type of meditation.  ↩

  50. Maitreya's Lion's Roar (Toh. 67, maitreya-siṃhanāda, byams pa'i seng ge'i sgra)  ↩

  51. The Tantra Purifying Evil Destinies (Toh 483, durgatipariśodhana, ngan song sbyong rgyud)  ↩

  52. The Vajraḍāka (Toh. 399, rdo rje mkha' 'gro)  ↩

  53. Otherwise known as The Tantra of the Procedures Common to All Maṇḍalas (Toh. 806, sarvamaṇḍala­sāmānyavidhīnāṃ tantram, dkyil 'khor spyi'i cho ga'i rgyud)  ↩

  54. The Ratnakūṭa or 'Heap of Jewels' (dkon mchog brtsegs pa), is a collection of 49 independent sūtras comprising one of the major sections (Toh. 45-93) into which the Tibetan Canon is divided.  ↩

  55. Tentative reconstruction of the Sanskrit of the Tibetan name tshogs can rab mchog.  ↩

  56. The door of Dharma in which the external earth element is one with the internal earth element (phyi rol sa'i khams dang nang gi sa'i khams su gcig pa'i chos kyi sgo) likely refers to a particular type of samādhi.  ↩

  57. Tentatively for the Tibetan rdo chu.  ↩

  58. The three medicinal fruits (triphala, 'bras bu gsum), which are native to India and used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, are: 1. Amla (Emblica officinalis), 2. Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica), and 3. Haritaki (Terminalia chebula).  ↩

  59. The substances listed in this example by the śrāvakas all come from animals.  ↩

  60. Implying that due to having accumulated negative karma in the past, these beings have taken rebirth in a lower form within the animal realm.  ↩

  61. mchod phyir thogs, sometimes translated as "sacred thread".  ↩

  62. Likely referring to Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen's (1147–1216), Sakya Paṇḍita's main teacher.  ↩

  63. Buddhajñānapāda's Introduction to the Art of Self-Accomplishment (Toh. 1860, ātmasādhanāvatāra, bdag sgrub pa la 'jug pa)  ↩

  64. Śāntarakṣita's Establishing Suchness (Toh. 3708, tattvasiddhi, de kho na yid grub pa)  ↩

  65. In the following section Sakya Paṇḍita briefly mentions other types of gaṇacakra rituals. Depending upon context, the ritual may be performed differently and would thus receive a different name. E.g., if only male participants gather, the ritual is not called a 'gaṇacakra' but rather a 'vīras' feast'.  ↩

  66. This may imply either that the offerings should specifically include the caru substances (i.e. pure substances such as three whites-milk, butter and curd) or that tantric substances should not be distributed during rituals involving participants who have not received the necessary empowerments.  ↩

  67. This refers to Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen's (1147–1216) Abridged Gaṇacakra Ritual (tshogs 'khor 'bring po). Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen was Sakya Paṇḍita's main teacher.  ↩

  68. A play on the last part of Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen's name, that is Gyaltsen, which means victory banner.  ↩

Vajrayāna Buddhism places restrictions on the reading and practice of certain texts, which are intended only for those who have received the requisite empowerments, transmissions and instructions.

If you are unsure as to whether you are entitled to read or practice a particular text please consult a qualified lineage-holder.

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