Practices › Aspiration Prayers
Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
Sentient beings are as limitless as the whole of space:
May each effortlessly realize the three kāyas,
And may every single being of all the six realms, who has each been in one life or another my father or mother,
Attain all together the ground of primordial perfection.
A series of prayers of aspiration (Skt. praṇidhāna; Tib. smon lam) and works from related genres, including prayers for the spread of the teachings (bstan rgyas smon lam):
An aspiration prayer to recognize the various phases of the four intermediate states, or bardos—the natural bardo of this life, the bardo of dying, the bardo of dharmatā, and the bardo of becoming—and apply the techniques and practices that will bring about realization.
In the sūtra The Question of Maitreya (Toh. 85, Maitreyaparipṛcchā, byams pas zhus pa), Buddha Śākyamuni recounts this prayer that Maitreya made as a bodhisattva aspiring to accomplish the six perfections and attain the ten bodhisattva levels.
- The Blissful Path to the Ocean of Bodhichitta: A Brief Prayer of Aspiration for Mind Training by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
This prayer of aspiration for training the mind in bodhicitta by exchanging all the world's suffering for genuine happiness is based on Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye's longer text, The Gateway to the Ocean of Bodhicitta.
This aspiration, written during an unspecified snake year, incorporates the key elements of the Mind Training teachings, such as taking on others' suffering and giving away one's own happiness, and perfecting relative and absolute bodhicitta.
- Prayer of Aspiration Incorporating the Eight Thoughts of Great Beings who follow the Way of the Mahāyāna by Lala Sonam Chödrup
In this short text, the celebrated Dzogchen teacher Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpe Nyima offers a prayer to the root and lineage gurus and all the buddhas and bodhisattvas requesting their blessings and inspiration so that we might perfect the cultivation of bodhicitta in all its aspects.
This prayer of aspiration covers the entire Buddhist path, but places special emphasis on the cultivation of bodhicitta in its various forms. For to have bodhicitta, says Patrul Rinpoche, is to have "all that's needed to attain enlightenment."
This brief guide to explaining Minling Terchen Gyurme Dorje's famous aspiration prayer, known as 'The Secret Vajra Knot' (rdo rje rgya mdud), provides a topical outline of its contents, and, in so doing, reveals the vastness of its vision.
- A Joyful Chariot for the Fortunate: An Aspiration to Travel to the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory by Dudjom Rinpoche
Dudjom Rinpoche composed this prayer of aspiration to be reborn on the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory, or Zangdok Palri (zangs mdog dpal ri), after his firstborn daughter, Dekyong Yeshe Wangmo, had left this world. The inspiration for this prayer, it is said, was therefore her parting gift.
- Secret Path to the Mountain of Glory—A Prayer of Aspiration for the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory by Jigme Lingpa
This prayer of aspiration to be reborn in Guru Padmasambhava's heaven of Zangdok Palri (zangs mdog dpal ri), the Copper-coloured Mountain of Glory, includes detailed descriptions of its wonderful features and extraordinary qualities. The text is a terma (gter ma) revelation and part of the Longchen Nyingtik cycle.
A brief prayer to be reborn on the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory, or Zangdok Palri, in the presence of Guru Padmasambhava, and to complete the path to enlightenment in that pure realm, so as to work for others’ benefit.
- The Song of Devotion: Verses of Aspiration for the Fulfilment of the Enlightened Vision of Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok, the Reincarnation of Terton Lerab Lingpa by Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Shortly after Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok's passing in 2004, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote this prayer "so that the enlightened intentions of this great being may be fulfilled completely and to help dispel the anguish of his disciples."
- The Prayer of the Ground, Path & Fruition – From the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse by Jigme Lingpa
- The Powerful Prayer of Aspiration from the Tantra of the Great Perfection that Reveals the All-Penetrating Wisdom Mind of Samantabhadra by Rigdzin Gödem
This famous prayer of aspiration of Buddha Samantabhadra (kun bzang smon lam), which is taken from the All-Penetrating Wisdom Mind (dgongs pa zang thal) revelation, is among the most popular texts of the Dzogchen tradition. Its recitation is especially recommended during solar and lunar eclipses, at the solstices and new year, as well as during earthquakes and other environmental anomalies.
- The King of Aspiration Prayers: Samantabhadra's “Aspiration to Good Actions” (Zangchö Mönlam) from the Words of the Buddha
So popular and influential is Samantabhadra’s “Aspiration to Good Actions” (bzang spyod smon lam) from the Gaṇḍavyūha chapter of the vast Avataṃsaka Sūtra, it is known as the king of all aspiration prayers.
This aspiration prayer is said to have been spoken by Guru Padmasambhava when revealing the Vajradhātu maṇḍala in the temple of Samye. The text was revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa and transcribed by Jamgön Kongtrul. Generally, it is known as Mönlam Chokchu Düzhima (Aspiration of the Ten Directions and Four Times), a name which derives from the prayer's first four syllables.
- The Vidyādharas' Words of Truth: An Aspiration Connected with the Stages of the Path of the Three Roots, from the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Written in Nepal at the then newly-built Shechen monastery during a great accomplishment (sgrub chen) ritual of Tsokchen Düpa, this is an aspiration to accomplish the entire Longchen Nyingtik path, from the preliminaries through to the generation and completion stages and the practices of the Great Perfection.
- Wisdom's Melody: An Aspiration to Realize Madhyamaka, Mahāmudrā, and Mahā Ati by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Written in Sikkim, this is an aspiration to realize the view of the Middle Way (Madhyamaka), the meditation of the Great Seal (Mahāmudrā), the conduct of single-taste, and the fruition of Dzogpachenpo, the Great Perfection.
- The Truthful Words of a Sage: An Aspiration Prayer from the Exceedingly Secret Heart Essence of the Ḍākinī by Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje
This aspiration prayer forms the conclusion of The Exceedingly Secret Heart Essence (yang gsang mkha' 'gro'i thugs thig) revelation and thus is said to be the words of Pema Tötrengtsel (Mighty Lotus Skull-Garland, i.e., Padmasambhava) himself.
A series of aspirations to devote one's life to the Dharma—which, Dodrupchen Rinpoche says, is the only thing of any real value or meaning—to practice it with sincerity, and to accomplish it successfully.
- Aspiration Written on the Occasion of Princess Sangdé’s Passing in Sikkim by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Jamyang Khyentse wrote this prayer following the untimely passing of Princess Sangay Deki in Sikkim in 1957. The prayer is for the enlightenment of all with whom he was connected, even those who merely heard his name, but especially his devoted followers and disciples.
- Aspiration to Be Reborn at the Vajra Seat (Bodhgayā), Akaniṣṭha on Earth by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
In this prayer, composed at Bodhgayā, Jamyang Khyentse praises the features of the place Tibetans call the Vajra Seat (rdo je gdan), by comparing it to a celestial realm, and aspires to be reborn there in future.
- Fostering Recollection to Dispel the Torment of Deluded Perception: An Aspiration for the Bardos by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
An aspiration to recognise the true nature of each stage of the bardo experience, from the moment of death and accompanying stages of dissolution through to the bardo of becoming, and thereby attain awakening.
Jamyang Khyentse appears to have composed this aspiration following the death of his mother, Tsultrim Tso—referred to here as Tsultrim Chökyi Drolma. In it, he vows to remain in saṃsāra until she and all other beings, his mothers from earlier lives, attain awakening.
This prayer, which Jamyang Khyentse composed while in Darjeeling, most likely in 1958, invokes various deities and masters associated with all Tibetan lineages in a spirit of nonsectarianism before seeking their assistance in fulfiling a series of aspirations.
- Entering the City of Omniscience: An Aspiration Prayer for Actualizing Words of Truth by Jigme Lingpa
This popular prayer by the vidyādhara Jigme Lingpa includes aspirations related to every stage of the path, from gaining a precious human rebirth and following a qualified teacher through to accomplishing the most advanced practices of Dzogpachenpo and, thereafter, working for others' benefit.
- The Sun of Samantabhadra’s Realm: The Quintessence of Oceanic Prayers of Aspiration by Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok
Composed in Bodhgayā, this is a bodhisattva's aspiration to emulate the buddhas of the past, such as Śākyamuni, serve the remaining buddhas of this fortunate age, and lead all beings to awakening. The prayer was recorded and transcribed by Khenpo Sodargye.
A prayer to take rebirth in the hidden sanctuary of Pemako (pad+mo bkod), where obstacles such as sickness and conflict are scarce or nonexistent and favourable conditions may aid progress on the Dharma path.
One of the most popular prayers in the Nyingma tradition, The Secret Vajra Knot (rdo rje rgya mdud) includes aspects of the dedication of virtue (dge ba bsngo ba), as well as various aspirations related to the path in general and the path of the three yogas, i.e., Mahāyoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga, in particular.
This famous prayer is taken from the author's text in praise of the Vasudhārā (Tib. Norgyünma) maṇḍala, dPal ldan lha mo nor rgyun ma'i dkyil 'khor gyi lha tshogs la bstod pa chos dang dpal 'byor rgyas byed.
This famous prayer of aspiration, which was a terma revelation of Pema Lingpa (1450–1521), is said to record the words of Yeshe Tsogyal to Guru Padmasambhava as he was about to leave Tibet for the land of the rakṣasa demons.
This brief prayer of aspiration is extracted from The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel: A Sādhana of Yeshe Tsogyal as Noble Tāra (Ye shes mtsho rgyal 'phags ma sgrol mar sgrub pa'i thabs yid bzhin nor bu), a treasure (terma) revealed by Ratna Lingpa.
- The Indestructible Vajra Garland, An Aspiration Prayer for the Lives of the Supreme Holders of the Non-Sectarian Teachings by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye
Kongtrul wrote this prayer while at the site of Yamalung, sacred for its connection with Guru Padmasambhava. In a series of verses aspiring for the longevity of all non-sectarian teachers, he offers not only a powerful practice text, but also a concise statement of his celebrated Rimé ideals.
A prayer of aspiration to understand the nature of reality, just as it is explained in the Madhyamaka teachings, and then, having perfectly realized this view, to teach it to others, and in so doing, emulate great figures from the past like Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva.
Peace and Welfare
- The Rishi's Maledictory Incantation: An Invocation of Wisdom Mind and Sacred Pledges for Reversing the Disturbances and Agitations of Dark Times In the Form of an Aspiration Prayer by Chatral Rinpoche
This is a prayer for the modern age, or kaliyuga, calling upon Buddha Śākyamuni, Guru Padmasambhava and all enlightened deities, gurus and protectors, in order to transform the minds of those in positions of power, so that terrible weapons of war may be eradicated, and the threats they pose to Dharma and living beings removed, allowing peace to reign throughout the world.
In this prayer, which he wrote in 1960, shortly after arriving in exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama invokes all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, especially Avalokiteśvara, and the power of truth itself, in order to bring an end to the turmoil in Tibet so that the Dharma and all aspects of Tibetan culture can flourish there once again.
Composed at the Vajra Seat, Bodhgayā, in January 2005, this is an aspiration for the welfare of the Buddhist teachings and sentient beings in general and for the flourishing of Dharma in Tibet in particular.
Jamgön Kongtrul wrote this for his own practice during a time of great turmoil and upheaval, after Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo advised him of the importance of regular prayer for peace and stability. It has been popular ever since, especially when Tibet faces challenging times.
- Burgeoning Joy and Happiness: An Aspiration for the Welfare of the Great Hidden Land of Sikkim by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Written in 1957, the year that Jamyang Khyentse first arrived, this is a prayer for happiness in Sikkim and the fulfilment of the aspirations and prophecies of great masters of the past concerning the welfare of its people.
- Declaration of the Power of Truth: A Prayer to Overcome Invading Forces by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Composed on the very first day of the Tibetan year of the Water Dragon (26 February 1952), this short prayer invokes the power and truth of the Three Jewels and Three Roots, especially Dorje Drakpo Tsal, in order to overcome invading armies.
This prayer to alleviate the terrors of conflict was spoken by the great siddha Thangtong Gyalpo at a time when war ravaged Minyak in eastern Tibet. Such was the power of his words, it is said, the conflict instantly came to an end, and peace and prosperity reigned.
- The Verses that Saved Sakya from Sickness: A Prayer for Pacifying the Fear of Disease by Thangtong Gyalpo
Prayers for the Spread of the Teachings
- The Jewelled Garland: An Aspiration for the Spread of the Teachings of the Omniscient Father and Son, Masters of the Teachings of the Ancient Translations by Amdo Geshe Jampal Rolwé Lodrö
This prayer for the spread of the teachings of the great Dzogchen master Longchen Rabjam (1308–1364) is also an extensive panegyric on the qualities of those teachings. It is unusual in that the author was himself a Gelugpa — albeit one who studied with Nyingma teachers and wrote on Dzogchen.
Popularly known as 'The Teachings Blaze' (bstan 'bar ma), this prayer for the spread of the teachings (bstan rgyas smon lam) is especially popular in the Gelug tradition. The first verse appears to be taken from the Pratimokṣa-sūtra (so sor thar pa'i mdo), while the remainder of the prayer, from the second verse onwards, is to be found in Atiśa Dīpaṃkara's Great Compendium of the Sūtras (Mahāsūtrasamuccaya; mdo kun las btus pa chen po).
- The Sage's Harmonious Song of Truth: A Prayer for the Flourishing of the Non-Sectarian Teachings of the Buddha by Fourteenth Dalai Lama
At the request of Trulshik Rinpoche (1924–2011) and others, His Holiness composed this prayer for the flourishing of the Buddhist teachings in 1999. It is a non-sectarian (ris med) aspiration extending to all the major and minor traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
- All-Pervading Auspiciousness: An Aspiration for the Spread of the Teachings of the Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineage by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
An aspiration for the spread of the teachings of the so-called Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineage (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad): Nyingma, Kadam, Sakya, Marpa Kagyü, Shangpa Kagyü, Kālacakra, Pacification and Severance, and Approach and Accomplishment of the Three Vajras.
A short prayer for the spread of the tradition of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and for the flourishing of the teachings at Tenchok Gyurme Ling (rten mchog 'gyur med gling), the seat of Chokgyur Lingpa, better known as Neten Monastery.
- Blazing Splendour of Good Fortune: A Prayer for the Spread of the Teachings of the Katok Tradition by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
- The Sage's Powerful Words of Truth: A Prayer for the Spread of the Omniscient Buddha's Teachings by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Written in Bodhgayā at a time when Tibet was facing great turmoil and an uncertain future, this is a non-sectarian prayer for the spread of the Buddhist teachings (bstan rgyas smon lam) in all their authentic forms.
- Prayer of Aspiration for the Buddhist Teachings to Flourish in Taiwan by Katok Getse Gyurme Tenpa Gyaltsen
- Aspiration for the Spread of the Teachings of the Eight Chariots of the Practice Lineage by Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok
A prayer for the flourishing and spread of the teachings of all the major and minor traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, including the so-called Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineage (sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad), i.e., the Nyingma, Kadam, Sakya, Marpa Kagyü, Shangpa Kagyü, Kālacakra, Pacification and Severance, and Approach and Accomplishment of the Three Vajras.
- Clouds of Offerings to Delight the Victorious Ones – An Aspiration Prayer for the Spread of the Teachings of the Lord of Siddhas, Dzogchen Rinpoche by Khenpo Tsöndrü
- Words of Truth: An Aspiration for the Spread of the Noble Gendenpa Tradition by Könchok Tenpe Drönme
- Words to Delight the Sovereigns of the Dharma: A Prayer of Aspiration for the Flourishing and Spread of the Ancient Translation Tradition by Mipham Rinpoche
This famous prayer for the spread of the teachings of the Nyingma tradition is among Mipham Rinpoche's most famous compositions. It is recited daily at the annual Monlam Chenmo festival and was the subject of a major commentary by Mipham's student and lineage-holder, Shechen Gyaltsab Pema Namgyal (1871–1926).
- Prayer for the Flourishing of the Dzogchen Teachings of Sogyal Rinpoche, the incarnation of Lerab Lingpa by Yangthang Rinpoche
Composed in Lerab Ling in 2013, this is at once an aspiration to realize the natural state of the Great Perfection, a prayer that the teachings of Clear Light Dzogpachenpo may spread throughout the world and a supplication for the long life of Sogyal Rinpoche.
Composed in Lerab Ling, France in 2005 at the request of several translators, led by Tenzin Jamchen (Sean Price) and Chökyi Nyima (Richard Barron), this is a prayer of aspiration to be recited by modern-day lotsāwas.