3 September 1996, Bois Bas, Dordogne, France
Based on Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye's commentary to Khyentse Wangpo's Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, these teachings were given during a three-year retreat at Bois Bas (near Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère) in the Dordogne, between 1994 and 1997. The retreat was guided by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche’s teachings were received by nine retreatants. Many thanks to Steve Cline for making the digital transfer from cassette.
Only read if you have the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik empowerment.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has asked me to explain to you how to practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, which I’ll do based on the instruction manual written by Jamgön Kongtrul called A Drop of Moonlight Nectar: Notes on Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik Approach and Accomplishment. As the title states, this text explains how to practise the approach and accomplishment practises in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik begins with a homage to Arya Tara.
Namo Guru Arya Tara
‘Namo’ means homage. To whom are we paying homage? To Arya Tara, who is inseparable from our own root teacher, the Guru.
With unshakeable faith, I place Pema Ösel Dongak Lingpa—
Master of the seven transmissions
And, in essence, one with the three immortal vidyadharas—
Upon the lotus at the centre of my heart.
Jamgön Kongtrul pays homage with unwavering devotion, as he imagines Pema Ösel Dongak Lingpa – Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo – sitting in the centre of his heart. Khyentse Wangpo mastered the teachings, which he receiving through the seven methods of transmission, and therefore ‘owns’ them. In essence, he is inseparable from the three vidyadharas who accomplished immortality: Shri Singha, Vimalamitra and Guru Rinpoche.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, the great universal King of all the learnèd and accomplished masters in the Land of Snows, received many treasure teachings, including mind treasures, through all seven methods of transmission. The great Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik cycle was one of his profound mind treasures. But he was only able to decipher and write down three parts of it: the root lejang (the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik sadhana), the sadhana cycle of the Lama, and the practices of Amitayus and Namgyalma. Here we are concerned with the root sadhana, A Drop of Primordial Wisdom.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is a vast terma, but we only have a fraction of it because the tertön was only able to write down the root sadhana (the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik), the cycle of the Lama (the Vima Ladrup), and the short Ushnishavijaya and Amitayus practices. Even so, since we have the root sadhana, we are able to practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. And it’s this root sadhana that we will be discussing today.
There are three stages to this practice: approach, accomplishment and activity. To be able to practise all three stages, you must first receive the empowerment from a lama.  Having received the empowerment, the samaya is to do the approach, accomplishment and activity practices, each of which involves preliminaries, the main part and the conclusion.
Very simply, before you go into retreat you must first do the preliminaries, which means preparing everything you’ll need, for example, the mandala, the tormas, and so on. Having prepared properly, you then go into retreat and practise the approach, accomplishment and activity: this is the main part. Finally, having completed the main part, just before you come out of retreat, you receive the siddhis or accomplishments: this is the conclusion. So that’s how you practise the preliminaries, the main part and the conclusion.
Before you go into retreat, you must decide which date to begin. The text recommends the eighth day of the waxing moon of the first month of a lunar trimester. But in your case, you have already started your retreat, so it doesn't matter. Generally, though, a retreat should start on an auspicious day.
The room in which you do your retreat should be clean and pleasant, and you should have already prepared the mandala, a thangka of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, and the supports of the three roots, lama, yidam, dakini – specifically an image of Venerable Tara.
In the Nyingmapa tradition, there are three ways of preparing a mandala. The best method is to use coloured sand, the middling method is to use a drawing or picture, and the least you can do is offer, for example, heaps of rice, or flowers, etc. In this retreat you can’t really prepare the sand mandala, but you should at least have found an image of the mandala – I am sure you’ve done that. If you don’t have a drawing, the simplest option is to pile heaps of white grain on a mandala plate, one pile for each of the deities in the mandala.
Place a tripod in the middle of the mandala. On the tripod arrange a good three-part kapala  containing white pills made of the twelve different substances listed in the text  as the practice support, and cover it with a red cloth...
Fold the red cloth neatly, eight times.
You then add the torma. You can put it either in front of the kapala, or behind it, wherever you prefer. But you need a torma. So, if you can’t make an elaborate torma of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, make a medium-style one, or at the very least, a simple one. The text says the torma should have all its ornaments, and that you should arrange different offerings around it, for example, food to eat and liquids to drink. To the right of the torma put the amrita, and to the left the rakta, which must be made of specific substances. The offerings of the two waters – drinking water and washing water – flowers, incense, lamp, scented water, and so on, should be arranged clockwise around the torma.
You will also need to make:
- a fresh kator (white torma) and a gektor (torma offered to obstacle-makers) for the beginning of your retreat;
- a shalze (‘food’ offering torma), which is one of the eight offerings that you must make every day
- a cheto and a tenma torma; and
- tsok offerings, which are basically food and drink.
During a Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik approach retreat, you don’t need to offer a tsok every day. It’s enough to do one at the beginning and another at the end of the retreat, but it’s also good to offer a tsok feast on auspicious days, like the eighth, tenth and twenty-fifth days of the lunar month.
This is the list of things you will need on retreat and which you must prepare beforehand.
To recap, briefly:
- Put a kapala on a tripod, fill it with pills made of the twelve substances described in the text, then place a red cloth folded eight times on top of it.
- Put the torma either in front of the kapala or behind it.
- Put the amrita to the torma’s right and the rakta to its left, and around it arrange the offerings.
- If you use a drawing of the mandala, make sure it’s big enough. If you don’t have an image of the mandala, make a mandala with piles of grains.
That is the preparation.
II. The Main Part: approach, accomplishment and activity
The Preliminaries to a Retreat
Now, the main practice, which has three stages: approach, accomplishment and activity.
It beings with approach (nyenpa).
Before the start of the approach perform the usual practices to clear obstacles...
Pray to the lama, make a smoke offering – a sang, such as Riwo Sangchö practice – offer tormas, and so on. Do these practices as many times as you can, then begin the approach in the afternoon, not in the morning. Start all your sessions with the Seven-line Prayer and prayers to the lamas of the lineage, then recite the one page Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik lineage prayer.
Start during the afternoon session of the first day, with the Seven-Line Prayer and the relevant lineage prayers, and offer the white torma (kator) to the local deities as it is generally performed. Enjoin them to carry out activities for the complete accomplishment of the practice.
On the first day of a retreat it’s customary to offer a white torma to the owners of the land. However, as you started this retreat some years ago, you don't need to do offer it specifically for the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik nyenpa, but you can if you like. As you offer the white torma, entrust the owners of the land with various activities. For example, ask them to prevent obstacles to your practice of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik in this place and at such-and-such a time; and allow you to complete the practices of approach, accomplishment and activity.
Refuge, Bodhichitta and the Seven-branch Offering
Visualize the source of refuge in the sky before you – meaning all the deities of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik inseparable from our lama – and take refuge, generate bodhichitta and offer the seven-branch offering as you direct the visualization in the usual way. There is no specific method for visualizing these practices in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik sadhana – or any other sadhana, for that matter. You always do it the same way; and that’s what you do here.
Repeat each verse – refuge, bodhichitta and the seven-branch offering – three times, as you actualise the meaning of the words. Do it properly. Having done so, dissolve the field of accumulation into you.
Commanding the Obstacle Makers
We now give the gektor to the obstacle makers and issue our commands, following the words of the text.
I instantly become the magnificent Pema Heruka, so wrathful he is difficult to behold.
The sadhana is quite succinct. In an instant you become Pema Heruka (Hayagriva), who is so wrathful and fierce that it’s difficult to look at him. This is what you meditate on here. Hayagriva is an ‘intervening deity’, meaning he’s not the actual deity you practise in this sadhana, but the deity who accomplishes specific activities as you practise. So you now generate the pride of being the ‘intervening’ deity.
Next, the text says that you should sprinkle water on the gektor. Say ram yam kam to purify the torma, then recite the following, and add three repetitions of the om akaro mantra to bless it.
ram yam kam
In the state of emptiness, the syllable droom arises and turns into vessels to suit each individual mind. These vessels contain the syllable kham which transforms into tormas, and the five sensual stimulants which appear according to each one’s individual experience.
om akaro mukham sarva dharmanam adya nutpanna tota (three times) 
Do the hook mudra and recite the mantra:
sarwa bhuta ah kar sha ya dza
You are Hayagriva. From your heart you emanate wrathful male and female deities radiating hook-shaped rays of light to ensnare all the obstructing forces which create obstacles to the attainment of enlightenment. And as they are incapable of resisting, all the obstructing forces arrive instantly.
Recite the Sky Treasury Mantra:
sarwa bighanen nama sarwa tathagata byo bisha mugebe sarwa thagam utgate saparana imam gagana kham grihana dam balingde soha
This mantra offers the obstructing forces sensual stimulants as inexhaustible as space, which fulfil every one of their desires with beautiful forms, pleasant sounds, excellent fragrances, delicious tastes and soft, tactile sensations. Basically, they are given everything they want.
Then command the obstructing forces by reciting the gektor verses from the sadhana that begin: “Hung Primordially, samsara and nirvana are inseparable...”
The obstructing forces who hear your command and take it seriously, obey and leave straight away. But others, the bad ones, remain. So you must expel them with ‘fierce meditation’, by first reciting:
om pema nata krita hayagriwa sarwa bighanen hana hana hung phat
... followed by the wrathful Sumbhani mantra, ‘the mantra of the four hungs’:
om sumbhani sumbhani hung grihana grihana hung grihanapaya gruhanapaya hung anaya ho bagawan vidyaradza hung phet
This will frighten them. Scatter blessed mustard seeds, put gugul on the fire, and throw the gektor outside. Once you've done that, all the obstacles makers will be driven to the other side of the ocean.
Gektor is only given during the first session and is not necessary afterwards.
You only have to offer the gektor torma in the first session of the first day; you don’t have to offer it in any of the other sessions.
Setting the Retreat Boundaries
As you have already started your retreat and put up your ‘boundary shrines’, you don't have to do it again. But you should actualize the visualization. Visualize yourself as Hayagriva, entrust the guardians of the four directions with activities and ask them to make sure no blessings leak out until your retreat has been successfully completed, and that no obstacles are allowed in.
Then, meditate on the protection spheres...
Visualize them as described in the text. As you must continually meditate on the protection spheres throughout the entire retreat, you should visualize them again and again.
The Descent of Blessings
...and the descent of blessings in order to bless the environment, the beings within it...
The whole environment and the beings within it are blessed. Having received these blessings, the universe no longer appears ordinary, and instead you see it as a pure land, like Sukhavati. Similarly, beings in this universe are no longer ordinary, they are now by nature male and female deities. This is how you ‘bring down the blessings’ so that everything shines with the glory of the five wisdoms.
...and the offering substances, reciting the mantra three times.
To make the blessings descend, recite the mantra associated with each offering, for example, the mantra that appears in the text.
This is how the preliminaries are accomplished.
In other words, the preliminary sections of the sadhana are finished, and we now turn to the main part.
ii. The Main Part
The main part of the practice has two sections: the generation, and the recitation.
The main practice involves the generation of the deity and the recitation of the mantra.
1. Generation: the Yoga of the Enlightened Body
The first step is generation stage meditation: the creation of the samaya-mandala. This means you must arise in the form of the samayasattva mandala.
The Samayasattvas and the Three Samadhis
The cause is the framework of the three samadhis which are like the three poles of a tepee.
The three samadhis are: the samadhi of suchness, the samadhi of universal manifestation, and the causal samadhi. And it is with these three samadhis that you establish the foundation for the practice.
The result is the clear visualization of the support—the seats of the deities and the palace—...
A specific feature in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is that the palace walls are made of crystal; the inside of the palace should also be white. Apart from that, the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik palace has all the usual characteristics of a ‘peaceful’ palace. A peaceful palace can have either four toranas or eight toranas, and the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik palace has eight.
Visualize the deity in the palace, as described in the sadhana. The sadhana describes how to generate the deity and you can look at how the deity is depicted in a thangka. That is how you should meditate.
The visualization of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik looks like this:
Inside the eight-torana crystal palace sits the main deity, Arya Tara, white in colour, in union with the male deity. These two are the main deities of the mandala. Above her head is Ushnishavijaya and at her heart Amitayus. The three of them are known as the three deities of long life. In each of the four directions stands one Tara, and a Tara gate-keeper stands at each of the four gates, so nine deities form the ‘mandala’, which you must visualize exactly as described in the sadhana.
Jamgön Kongtrul mentions a secret instruction about the colour of Tara’s male consort, Garwang, the Lord of Dance. The sadhana text says:
As her natural radiance her supreme skilful means, the Lord of the Dance.
As he is the natural radiance of Tara, who is white, this line suggests Garwang is also white. However, Jamgön Kongtrul tells us that we should visualize him red tinged with white.
As for the colour of the body of the male deity Garwang, the Lord of the Dance, the text says,
As her natural radiance her supreme skilful means, the Lord of the Dance.
Accordingly, the appearing aspect of skilful means arises from her light. So fundamentally he is white. However, here the male and female deities are together in reversed union and as it is explained that the desire of the male is greater than that of the female, he should therefore be visualized as red in colour because he is full of desire.
The Lord of Dance, the male deity – Avalokiteshvara or Amitayus, whatever you want to call him – is described in the sadhana as Tara’s ‘natural radiance’, which suggests he is white. However, Jamgön Kongtrul’s point is that he is red. As they are in union he is full of desire, and as “the desire of the male is greater than that of the female”, he is red in colour. So you should visualize him (the yab) as being red. This is how he appears in the thangka drawn by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, which Jamgön Kongtrul used as his practice support. I now have that thangka.
The four Taras, one at each of the four gates, are in dancing posture, with their right legs bent in the ‘half-lotus’ dancing position, and their right hands rest on their right knees, in the gesture of bestowing refuge...
This is also how they appear on the thangka. Their fingers form the threatening mudra while holding their respective hand implements, iron hook, lasso, iron chain and bell, which correspond to the buddha family of their direction. Each Tara holds her left hand at her heart in the gesture of supreme generosity and an utpala flower that blossoms next to her left ear.
You meditate on yourself as the deity as I just said, then bless your three centres and invite the wisdom deity.
This is how to meditate on the deities.
Vajra Pride, Clarity of Visualization and Remembering the Purity
You must, of course, practise using all three key elements of kyerim: vajra pride, clarity of visualization and remembering the purity. Without these three elements, there is no kyerim practice. If you practise one but not the other two, or you practise two, but not the last one, it won’t work. To practise kyerim you need all three. Make sure you think about them again and again in every practice session. Sometimes you can focus more on vajra pride, sometimes on clear visualization, and sometimes on remembering the purity. Just having a clear visualization without the other two elements won’t work; it’s not acceptable. But if you can meditate on a clear visualization as you also remember the purity, you should then take hold of vajra pride. This is how to practise all three. Most important of all: make sure you don’t ever forget them.
Think about the instructions on clear visualization, vajra pride and remembering the purity whenever you do kyerim, no matter which sadhana you are practising.
Blessing the Three Centres and Inviting the Wisdom Deities
These deities – the main deity and the retinue – that we visualize make up the samayasattvas, the ‘samaya-deities’. And now, we invite the jñanasattvas, the ‘wisdom-deities’, to appear in the sky before us, who must then merge indivisibly with the samayasattvas that we’ve just been meditating on.
The jñanasattvas bless your three places...
Visualize a white om at your forehead, a red ah at your throat, and a blue hung at your heart; or alternatively visualize Vairochana as the enlightened body, Amitabha as the enlightened speech and Akshobhya as the enlightened mind.
Also meditate on the five syllables of the five buddha families (om hung tram hrih ah). This is something you do in all sadhanas.
Pay respect with prostrations.
This means you do the prostration section of the sadhana. But don’t stand up and physically prostrate, prostrate mentally.
Offering and Praises
Next comes the offering.
In the morning, the first offering of the two waters and the other five sensual stimulants should be done elaborately, with each offering made individually.
In the first session of the day, you offer drinking water, washing water, flowers, incense and so on, as you recite the appropriate verse for each offering and perform its mudra. This is what ‘doing the practice elaborately’ means. In fact, there’s a separate practice text written by Jamgön Kongtrul that you must recite as you make the elaborate offerings in your first practice session each morning. You should also offer amrita, rakta and torma, as you follow the same offering text. But you don’t have to do this practise as elaborately in the rest of the day’s sessions:
... simply do as indicated in the text of the sadhana...
After that, you must make the absolute offering and sing praises with vajra songs.
This completes the instruction on the visualization of the deity, the ‘yoga of the enlightened body’.
2. Recitation: the Yoga of Enlightened Speech
A Drop of Moonlight Nectar is divided into two sections: the first is the generation and the second is the recitation. We have now come to the second part, the recitation.
Visualize yourself clearly in the form Arya Tara in union with her consort (the samayasattva) as described in the text. At your heart is a white Amitayus, who is the jñanasattva. On the thangka, he appears above the main deity, because according to thangka painting tradition the jñanasattva must not be drawn in the heart of the deity. In Amitayus’ heart is a white lotus. Resting on the lotus is a locket formed of a sun and moon joined together, with a space in between; the red sun is below and the white moon above. Inside the locket is the samadhisattva in the form of a white syllable tam. So, you must visualize the three ‘nested’ sattvas: yourself as the samayasattva; in your heart is the jñanasattva white Amitayus; and in Amitayus’ heart, the sun and moon locket that stands on a white lotus, in the centre of which is the samadhisattva, a white syllable tam. Clockwise around tam, visualize the ten syllables of the Tara mantra, which are not rotating.
Generally, we visualize the mantra-mala as follows.
- Approach practice: we focus on visualizing the arrangement of the mantra-mala.
- Close approach: we visualize the mantra rotating.
- Accomplishment stage: we visualize the palanquin.
- Great accomplishment stage: we visualize the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light.
According to the most commonly practised Nyingma Kama tradition, the visualization in the approach phase is ‘like the moon and garland of stars’. At night, the individual moon and stars are seen in the sky and don’t appear to be moving. Likewise in the approach practice, you visualize the tam with the ten syllables of the mantra arranged around it, like the moon and stars in a clear sky, and they don’t move.
For the close approach, the syllables of the mantra rotate around the syllable tam.
For the accomplishment stage, the syllables circle between the self- and front-visualization.
And finally, in the great accomplishment stage, not only do the syllables circle between the self- and front-visualization, they also radiate rays of light making offerings, which satisfy all the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Then, having gathered all their blessings and siddhis, the rays of light return to the heart of the deity. This is the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light.
Yet, it is enough to visualize its arrangement when practising essentially.
This means, when you do a daily practise, or a simple practice, or when you’re a beginner, it’s better not to try to move the mantra syllables around the seed syllable in your visualization.
In most of the Mother Tantra cycles and when you practise female deities – like the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik – the syllables are usually arranged anti-clockwise. But in this sadhana, the instruction is that the mantra should be arranged in a clockwise direction, just like the sadhanas of the Sarma tantras.
Therefore, the syllables of all the mantras – the root mantra, the combined practice mantra (the longer mantra in the sadhana), the jñanasattva mantra (om amarani dziwantaye soha) and the nirmanasattva mantra – should be arranged clockwise, not anti-clockwise. 
Having visualized the appropriate arrangement of syllables, start concentrating on your visualization of tam surrounded by the syllables of the mantra om tare tutare ture soha. Once you can see the syllables as clearly as if you were looking at them with your eyes,
... then you can start visualising the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light. Once the visualization of the mantra arrangement is extremely clear, we can imagine it turning.
If you can’t clearly visualize the syllables when they’re standing still, it’ll be impossible for you to visualize them rotating – it’s like, if a wheel isn’t constructed properly, it won’t be able to turn, right? At this point, you’re supposed to recite the root mantra om tare tuttare ture soha, and as you do, concentrate exclusively on the arrangement of the syllables, which remain still.
Visualize just the root mantra when reciting it. For the combined practice, visualize the root mantra with the mantra of the combined practice appended at the end.
This means that to recite the combined practice mantra, visualize the root mantra – om tare tuttare ture soha – as before, and after the final syllable add the combined practice mantra – om tare tuttare ture hri droom vajra jnana ayuke soha.
During the recitation of the mantra of the jñanasattva Amitayus, om amarani dzi wan ta ye soha, continue to visualize the locket of sun and moon, but with hrih instead of tam, and the hrih is surrounded by the mantra om amarani dzi wan ta ye soha.
Next, recite the mantra of Ushnishavijaya, the nirmanasattva, which is om amrita ayurdade soha. In the centre of the sun and moon locket at your heart, visualize the syllable bhrum, around which stand the syllables of the mantra om amrita ayurdade soha.
Then establish the ground of the generation phase, kyerim, with clear visualization, remembering the purity and stable confidence.
You must have a ground or a foundation for your practice: clear visualization, etc., are the ground.
Once you have laid the foundation with the three samadhis:
Focus single-pointedly on the visualization of the core seed syllable and the mantra-mala...
During the approach phase, the core seed syllable is tam and the mantra-mala is om tare tuttare ture soha.
Then you recite the combined practice mantra, adding om tare tuttare ture hri droom vajra jnana ayuke soha to the Tara mantra in the visualization.
Then, for the jñanasattva Amitayus the seed syllable inside the sun and moon locket becomes hrih, surrounded by the syllables of the Amitayus mantra om amarani dzi wan ta ye soha.
Finally, when you practise the nirmanasattva Ushnishavijaya, you visualize the seed syllable bhrum as indicated in the text, encircled by om amrita ayurdade soha.
Basically, you visualize the relevant seed syllable and the mantra.
The syllables emanate and re-absorb rays of light whether you can make them move or not, and the rays of light reach all the buddhas and bodhisattvas, the deities of the Phakmé Nyingtik, Noble Tara, and so on, making offerings to them. The light then brings all the wisdom and blessings of their enlightened body, speech and mind, and all accomplishments back to be reabsorbed into you. This is what you must visualize.
... with a mala blessed in the usual way.
The mala you use to count mantras should have been blessed in the customary way and you should never use a mala that hasn’t been blessed properly. A crystal mala is the best kind to use for the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik practice.
As you count your recitations with your blessed mala, first:
... just recite the ten-syllable mantra...
Start by focussing on om tare tuttare ture soha. Then,
When a clear visualization of it is attained...
Once you’re used to this visualization and can hold it in your mind – at least to some extent – actualize the visualization of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik.
The nirmanasattva is Ushnishavijaya and now, from out of the top of White Tara’s head fly an inconceivable number of Ushnishavijayas. This isn’t found in any other sadhana. She should look like this:
Her right hand, in the gesture of granting refuge, is poised on her right knee, forming the threatening mudra and holding the hook that gathers nectar. Her left hand, in the mudra of supreme giving at the level of her heart, holds a long-life vase from which she pours a stream of nectar. Her feet are loosely crossed in the sattvasana.
We visualize as many Ushnishavijayas as there are motes of dust in a beam of light. Her hooks grab and draw into the vase all the vitality of samsara and nirvana, the essence of the four elements (earth, wind, fire, water), the potency of all medicines, the longevity of the gods and rishis, and so on. Millions of Ushnishavijayas are sent to collect these essences, etc., into their vases, then bring them back to dissolve into you and grant the empowerment. According to the sadhana, the vase contains:
All the subtle vital essence of samsara and nirvana,
the animate and inanimate universe [...]
A stream of boundless light bursts out
From the top of the jewel on the ushnisha at the crown of my head,
From which appears the sublime Vijaya,
The colour of crystal. Her right hand,
In the mudra of granting refuge, holds a hook;
Her left, in the mudra of supreme giving, holds a long life vase.
She radiates light and rays of light, and
Limitless forms of herself stream out like specks of dust in sunbeams.
They draw in all the wisdom, love and power of
All the deities of the mandala,
All the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions,
All the yidams, dakas and dakinis, and
All the protectors of the Vajrayana teachings.
They also draw in all the subtle vital essence of samsara and nirvana, the animate and inanimate universe,
In the form of the quicksilver that accomplishes all.
The meaning of “All the buddhas and bodhisattvas...” and “All the yidams, dakas and dakinis...” etc., is quite straightforward. So this verse is clear, apart from the line, “... the subtle vital essence of samsara and nirvana, in the form of the quicksilver that accomplishes all”. This is why Jamgön Kongtrul describes how we should meditate on the ‘quicksilver’. He writes in the commentary.
The ‘quicksilver’ is obtained when she gathers the luminescent nectar of the animate and inanimate in samsara and nirvana. This nectar of quicksilver is the substance of alchemy and rejuvenation (chulen), white like an autumn moon shining bright as the sun, sparkling and gleaming with all kinds of auspicious patterns, like swastikas and coils of joy and symbols turning to the right.
“... all kinds of auspicious patterns...” refers to the eight auspicious symbols.
Then he describes the power of the quicksilver nectar:
Its power is such that whoever it touches can be transformed, so that they then possess the strength of an elephant, the lifespan of the sun and the moon, and an indestructible body with the vigour of a sixteen year old. If it touches iron, the iron is transmuted into gold. If it is scattered on a dead, withered tree, the tree will immediately burst into life and grow leaves, flowers and fruit.
This is how the nectar should appear in your meditation, and it is one of the more complex points.
So, imagine these forms and images gathering as the blazing, brilliant splendour of great bliss.
At this point all the Ushnishavijayas dissolve back into us and we blaze with the splendour of great bliss.
- Visualize yourself in the form Arya Tara in union with her consort, as described in the text.
- At her heart sits the jñanasattva, white Amitayus.
- At his heart stands the samadhisattva, the syllable tam, on a white lotus, in a sun and moon locket.
- Around the tam, stands the syllables of the mantra om tare tuttare ture soha.
- Jamgön Kongtrul says to direct the practice as you recite the mantra, first visualize the syllables standing still.
- Once your visualization is clear and stable, you can start to visualize the mantra rotating around the seed syllable.
- Having mastered that, visualize rays of white light shining from the rotating mantra and up through the deity’s ushnisha, which is the protuberance on the top of Noble Tara’s head.
- As the rays of light leave Tara’s body, they transform into enormous numbers of Ushnishavijayas, holding hooks in their right hands and vases in their left.
- They fill the whole of space and hook all the subtle vital essences of samsara and nirvana, the animate and the inanimate universe into the vase.
- The nectar in their vases dissolves into you and you receive all the blessings and siddhis, as already mentioned.
This is the main visualization, which you actualize as you recite the mantra.
Usually, when you practise most sadhanas elaborately, rays of light are emanated from which offering goddesses appear to make offerings, and so on. If you practise a little less elaborately, the light becomes symbols. And the simplest method is just to send out rays of light. The special feature of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is that we emanate Ushnishavijayas, but the meaning is the same.
At the end of the session, [once you have recited the amount of mantras you planned to recite], you should also say a few of the combined practice mantra (om tare tuttare ture hri bhrum vajra jnana ayukhe soha), the jñanasattva mantra (om amarani dzi wan ti ye soha), and the nirmanasattva Ushnishavijaya mantra (om amrita ayurdade soha). Then recite each of the mantras of the Vowels and Consonants, the Hundred Syllable Mantra, and the Mantra of Interdependent Origination, three times, to make up for omissions or additions.
The authentic tradition of the vidyadharas of the past was to recite the offering and praise after every thousand mantras. However nowadays we only do it once at the end of a session. So make offerings by reciting just the offering mantra (om vajra argham padam etc.), followed by the first and last stanzas of the Offering Praise prayer.
Confess with the lines in the sadhana that begin ‘om jetsun phakmé tsok kyi...’,  dissolve the mandala and rest in equanimity. Then arise again as the post-meditation deities, dedicate the practise and say the aspiration prayers and words of auspiciousness.
This is how you conclude one session of practice.
It is very good to offer a tsok during the first session.
The first session on the first day.
In which case, practise as just explained, and when you’ve finished accumulating the mantra (and ‘reciting the offering and praise every thousand’) after the final offering and praise, start by blessing the tsok. How you do that is laid out clearly in the text. Continue up until and including the remainder. You can also do the cheto, tenma and horse dance.
However, if you offer a tsok daily,
It is not necessary to do those three every day.
After the mantra recitation, recite once more the brief prayer of offering and praise before reciting the confession. Then continue as before.
While practising the approach, it is also good to offer a tsok on auspicious days, for example the eighth, tenth and twenty-fifth days of the lunar month.
Each time you offer tsok, at the end of the afternoon session add the practice of offering tormas to the protectors of the Dharma (Tseringma and so on) and the terma guardians, as usual. Replenish the offerings during the evening session. Now you simply recite the text, starting with Refuge, Bodhichitta, the Seven-Branch Offering, and the Protection Spheres, up until the Offering of Praise. Conclude the session as before.
“...simply recite the text...” means that you do these prayers exactly as they are written in the sadhana text. You don’t need to add any extra prayers, like the detailed offering prayer.
On the first day you practise two sessions: an afternoon session and an evening session. That’s it. That’s what needs to be done on the first day.
Next day start the early morning session with the lineage prayers and do the elaborate version of the practice, following the sadhana text.
Then practise in the morning, afternoon and evening. Divide your day into four sessions, and if you cannot do this, then practise in three sessions: morning, afternoon and evening.
This concludes the instruction for the approach practice.
Having made the effort to enter into a retreat, don’t waste the opportunity! Make sure you cultivate and establish a clear visualization. To do that, you need the right instructions, otherwise you will have nothing to meditate on. If you don't follow the stages of meditation that are laid out in the text, if you don't recite the mantra and don't visualize, all you’ll end up doing is locking yourself in a room and torturing yourself. Therefore, the first step is to learn what you have to do. This means you first translate the commentary, then study it thoroughly. The commentary was written by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and so if you know this text, it’s enough, it’s all you need. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo gave all these instructions to Jamgön Kongtrul, who faithfully wrote everything down; it is a very special oral linage instruction.
When you go into a solitary retreat, you must first receive the empowerment and instructions on the practice you intend to do. But you shouldn’t think about receiving any other teachings or empowerments at that time. Make sure you study this text on the Chime Phakmé Nyingtik very thoroughly, and put the teaching into practice exactly as instructed. Don’t get distracted by a desire to receive many other teachings and transmissions. When you’re practising approach, accomplishment and activity in retreat, thinking about wanting to study, or imagining you need to receive many more teachings, or that you should be working, are all obstacles to your retreat. Similarly, when you’re studying, if you start thinking that study isn’t helping and that you should go somewhere solitary to practise, that is also an obstacle. Basically, when you practise, practise 100%; when you study, study 100%. Whatever you set out to do at any given time, make sure you focus exclusively on accomplishing just that, and don’t get side-tracked.
When you practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, concentrate on doing only that. Focus your mind constantly on the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. After you have finished a session, make sure you constantly bring to mind the appearance of the deity – visualize Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik – and recite the root mantra, even though it won’t count towards your accumulations. Recite the mantra while you’re walking around, for example. Even in your dreams, keep thinking of the deity. If you do, you are focusing ‘one-pointedly’ on practice. If you don’t, you aren’t.
The Accomplishment Stage
After the approach, start the accomplishment stage. Practise the morning session with the short conclusion as before.
This means that you practise during your morning session in the same way as you did for the approach stage, including the short conclusion and the dissolution from which you arise again as the deity, etc.
Place a phumba...
... which you included as a practice support at the beginning of the retreat...
...made of precious materials containing the nectar of twenty-five substances...
... and water...
...with a white cloth tied at the neck below the aperture ornament, in the mandala to the right of the kapala, the main accomplishment substance.
To the left, put a stand made of precious substances that contains the edible long-life vase-shaped offering, with tree leaves and flower ornaments.
This makes it look like a long-life vase. ‘Edible’ offerings refers to anything you can eat. So this sentence means that you should make a long-life vase from dough, and put it to the left of the kapala.
And since ‘edible offerings’ refer here to both food and chang, the food is made with alcohol, in the shape of a long-life vase, as are the pills, which are arranged around the vase. Also add new amrita, rakta, torma and outer offerings.
‘Food’ means tsampa dough, and ‘chang’ is alcohol. So, prepare a long life-vase with dough made of tsampa and alcohol, surrounded by long-life pills made from the same dough. You should also make fresh offerings of amrita, rakta, torma, and so on.
In the afternoon session, do the elaborate practice based on the sadhana, starting with the lineage prayers.
‘Elaborate’ here means that we make elaborate offerings, and that each of the general offerings is accompanied by its appropriate four-line stanza. Also offer the amrita, rakta and torma as described earlier. This is the only difference between the elaborate and the simpler practice.
After the seven-branch accumulation, offer the gektor and issue the command.
Offer the gektor again.
Practise as before, from the Protection Spheres up to and including Offering of Praise.
This means you practise as you did during the approach. After you’ve offered praise:
Then you need to ‘divide the house of the mantra’...
To practise the accomplishment phase, you must create both self- and front-visualizations; you need both. But for the approach practice you only need to create a self-visualization. That’s the difference. Therefore, here you need to ‘divide the house of the mantra’.
...by reciting the mantra bhrum bisho bishudhe tam hrih bhrum tam bhrum hrih hung dzam hung bam ho phet dza
From the mandala of the self-visualization a second mandala, complete with both ‘support’ (palace) and ‘supported’ (deities), separates into the space in front of you, in the same way one butter-lamp lights another. The fire surrounding the protection sphere framing the self-visualization almost touches the fire surrounding the protection sphere of the front-visualization.
The mandalas are the same as the mandala you have been visualizing until now, the only difference is that instead of one, you now visualize two.
When you first start to practise the accomplishment phase, briefly actualize the visualization of the approach phase. Then, visualize according to the text, beginning, “Again, great cloud-like rays of light...”, and for a while, recite each of the three approach mantras and the mantra combining the three deities, focussing on each one individually.
Do the approach practice briefly as you recite just a few mantras. Then, recite the combined practice mantra, followed by the Amitayus mantra om amarani dzivantayé soha, as you visualize the deities as before. And lastly, recite the Ushnishavijaya mantra om amrita ayurdadé soha. With each mantra, make sure you create their respective visualizations as already mentioned, by briefly “focusing on each one individually”, as you recite the appropriate mantra.
If your visualization is clear,
... add the visualization of the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light from the heart of the main deity to invoke her retinue.
Visualize according to the text, from, “Again, great cloud-like rays of light emanate and reabsorb...” to “...become the wheel of the net of magical manifestation”.
As you actualize the text,
First, concentrate on accumulating Vajra Tara’s mantra (om tare tam soha), and recite the three others only briefly at the end of the session.
From the main deity Arya Tara’s heart, rays of light shoot out and touch Vajra Tara’s heart, urging her to fulfil her pledges. Then rays of light shine from Vajra Tara’s heart as you recite the Vajra Tara mantra, om tare tam soha.
Jamgön Kongtrul’s commentary says, when you do the recitation of the four Taras, spend most of your time on Vajra Tara, and at the end of the session briefly recite each of the other three mantras: om tare bhrum soha, om tare hri soha, om tare hung soha.
Once you have completed the accumulation of Vajra Tara’s mantra, you only need to recite it a few times before concentrating on accumulating the Ratna Tara’s mantra, which you do for most of your practice session. And so on...
After Ratna Tara, focus on Padma Tara, and similarly, only recite a few Vajra Tara and Ratna Tara mantras before focussing on the main accumulation of Padma Tara. Then conclude with a few Karma Tara mantras. Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche says this is how to practise each of the four Taras.
The visualization for all four Taras is as follows.
In the heart of each of the Taras of the four families is a lotus and a moon.
Visualize in the hearts of each of the four Taras a lotus and a moon disc seat. As you practise each Tara:
- For Vajra Tara, visualize a dark blue tam standing on it.
- For Ratna Tara, visualize a yellow bhrum.
- For Padma Tara, visualize a red hrih.
- For Karma Tara, visualize a black hung.
Around each Tara’s syllable visualize her mantra. In this way, focus on each of the four Tara’s individually as you recite her mantra, which, as I’ve already explained, emanates and reabsorbs rays of light. So when you practise Vajra Tara, your main focus is Vajra Tara; when you practise Ratna Tara, your main focus is Ratna Tara, and so on.
Conclude the session, etc., in the same way you concluded the approach stage, except that here it is important to offer a tsok every day.
For the accomplishment phase, it is better to offer a tsok every day.
The Activity Stage
Once you have completed the appropriate number of accomplishment mantras, move onto the activity practice.
Once you’ve completed the accomplishment phase, practise the activity phase. Practise in four sessions every day and do the entire sadhana once each session. You should complete the accomplishment phase during the last session of the day. You can choose to practise the accomplishment phase for 7 days or for 30, but which ever you do, you should finish the practice in the fourth session, which is the evening session. The next morning, during the first session, follow the sadhana until the accomplishment mantra as before, then just recite a few mantras.
Recite the Activity section, beginning, “I am the samayasattva, the jñanasattva...” and clearly actualize the visualization. Say: “The four activity Taras with dza hung bam ho at their heart on lotus and moon discs” and visualize the four seed syllables...
Visualize the four Activity Taras, with lotus and moon-disc seats at their hearts to support their seed syllables: dza, hung, bam, and ho.
...in their respective colours...
White, yellow, red, and green.
...surrounded by the mantra-malas.
The mantras are:
om tare tam dza shanting kuru soha
om tare brum hung pushting kuru om
om tare hri washam kuru ho
om tare hung ho maraya phet
Now, what is the visualization?
Rays of light stream out from the five deities (the main deity and the four Taras in the retinue) to invoke Hook Tara.
Hook Tara manifests many emanations, rays of light and infinite miracles, which accomplish the activity of pacifying all obstructing forces, such as illness, negative spirits, negative actions, obscurations, and so on.
Recite only her mantra throughout the session.
Which means you concentrate on Hook Tara’s mantra, om tare tam dza shanting kuru soha for one session.
The conclusion is as before.
Next, practise only Noose Tara’s mantra and visualization, and accomplish the enriching activity. Actualize the visualization for Noose Tara. As the pacifying activities have been accomplished, imagine rays of light shining from Noose Tara’s heart to accomplish all the enriching activities that increase longevity, merit, magnetism and wealth.
In the afternoon session, practise only Iron-Chain Tara’s mantra and visualization...
Again, from the heart of the five main deities (Tara Wish-fulfilling Wheel and the four Taras) rays of light invoke Iron-Chain Tara, and many rays of red light emanate from her heart to accomplish the magnetizing activities.
During the evening session, practise Bell Tara who accomplishes the subjugating activities. The visualization is the same as Hook Tara’s for all four Activity Taras. From the five deities rays of light invoke Bell Tara, from whose body rays of light shine out and accomplish the subjugating activities. Actualize these four visualizations, focusing on one in each of the four sessions of a day.
At the hearts of the standing Activity Taras, on lotus and moon disc seats are their seed syllables – white dza, yellow hung, red bam and green ho.
How Long Do You Do Each Phase of the Practice?
The sadhana briefly mentions the three ways you can measure approach, accomplishment and activity practice: time, number of mantras, or signs.
We quantify approach, accomplishment and activity practice in three ways: by the amount of time we spend practising; the number of mantras we accumulate; or by the signs of accomplishment we achieve.
Those of superior capacity should practise approach for three weeks, accomplishment for one week, and activity for one day; which, including receiving the siddhis, makes one month.
Those of medium capacity should multiply that by three, making a total of three months.
So, practitioners of medium capacity practise approach for nine weeks, accomplishment for twenty-one days, and activity for three days.
The practitioner with the least capacity should therefore practise for six months.
This is how you measure your practice in time.
In terms of numbers, we also distinguish between practitioners of superior, medium and lesser capacities.
Which roughly takes about the same amount of time.
Basically, Jamgön Kongtrul says you accumulate as many mantras as you can in the time you’ve given yourself to practise. That’s all. There are no special instructions, just do as many as you can.
Generally, though, when you focus on the number of mantras you accumulate, the minimum should be:
- 100,000 for each of the ten syllables of the main deity mantra, making 1,000,000;
- 700,000 of the nineteen-syllable approach mantra of the combined practice;
- 400,000 of the jñanasattva, and 400,000 of the nirmanasattva mantras;
- 100,000 of each of the accomplishment mantras of the four Taras;
- 40,000 of each of the mantras of the four gatekeeper Taras for activity.
This is the minimum number of mantras you should recite. And for a medium-length practice, it should take three or four months to accomplish – which is a good length of time.
The minimum number of mantras you must accumulate in order to be able to perform the activities lama’s undertake (like giving empowerments) is:
- 400,000 of each of the ten syllables of the mantra of the main deity, making 4,000,000 mantras;
- 100,000 of the combined practice;
- 40,000 of the jñanasattva, and 40,000 of the nirmanasattva mantras;
- 10,000 of each for the accomplishment mantras; and
however many you can manage in one day for each of the mantras of the four gatekeeper Taras for activity.
These numbers are based on the speed those of superior capacity practice.
The signs are clearly mentioned in the text. The best sign is realization, the next best is experience, and the least good is to repeatedly experience clarity in dreams.
The best signs are: meeting the deity face-to-face; for the amrita in the skull cup to start to boil; or for a butter lamp to light itself. The medium sign is to have meditative experiences and stabilize them; the least good is to repeatedly experience clarity in dreams.
III. Concluding Practices
1. Receiving the Siddhis
Whether you practise the longest, medium length or shorter option, you will eventually finish the activity phase. It is good to receive the siddhis the following morning, when you should practise especially early. If you can’t practise early, the usual morning session is also fine.
Before you start the session make a new offering torma (chötor). The siddhi substance should be the four activity drangyé tormas, which are each a different colour: pacifying white, enriching yellow, magnetizing red and subjugating green. If you can’t, one drangyé norzukma torma is fine. Around the torma, arrange a variety of washed food and drinks of all kinds, for example, white offerings like milk and curd, red offerings like fruit, tea, chang, and so on.
Do an elaborate practice following the sadhana text and recite a few each of the mantras of approach, accomplishment and activity. Then do the Offerings and Praise.
From the hearts of the deities of the self- and front-visualizations rays of light shine out in the shape of iron hooks and pervade the whole of space. All the vital energy of the worlds and the inhabitants of samsara and nirvana...
... means all sentient beings and perfectly enlightened buddhas...
... are gathered into nectar, appearing as rays of light, and dissolve into the siddhi substances.
...that you have arranged on the shrine.
Actualize this, as you recite the mantra of the combined practice (om tare tuttare ture hrih droom vajra jnana ayuke soha), followed by khaya waka tsitta guna karma sarwa siddhi pa la ho, one thousand times or more; as many possible.
Then recite the Inexpressible Ultimate Confession (Yeshe Kuchok) followed by the Descent of Blessings that’s in the sadhana text and the elaborate Offering and Praise prayers. Finally, recite the Requesting Siddhis that starts with “Om Jetsun Phakma...” which is in the sadhana.
Actualizing the usual visualizations, place the phumba on your head and drink some of its water; place the nectar at your throat and drink some; place the long life torma at your heart; eat some of the substances in the kapala; and keep consuming what remains for a long time, and so on, as usual.
Keep the remaining siddhi substances and eat a little of them regularly.
Offer a large tsok and enjoy it.
If you withheld the remainder earlier, offer it with the remainder torma.
In retreat you don’t take the remainder offerings out, you keep them with you throughout your retreat. But at this point, at the end of the retreat, you take all your remainder offerings out.
Invoke the wisdom mind of the protectors to whom you offer the remainder and request that they fulfil their pledges. Then do the Covenant (cheto), the Tenma and the Horse Dance. Make your confession and ask for forgiveness, then read the text until the Prayer of Auspiciousness, which is the end.
2. Kakong (Completeness)
It is good to do a jinsek (fire ritual) in order to make up for and correct mistakes, omissions and repetitions.
If you choose to do this elaborately in relation to the mandala , on the same day, but after you complete the four activities, perform a fire ritual.
If you want to, you can practise the jinsek elaborately while the mandala is still set up. This Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik practice includes a recitation for the four activities involving Iron-Hook Tara, Lasso Tara, Iron-Chain Tara and Bell Tara. Offer the fire puja after the recitation for Bell Tara, but before the retreat is over. This means you offer the jinsek before you receive the siddhis.
If you do not relate the fire puja offering to the mandala...
...which is permissible...
... you can either offer a jinsek on the day you complete the practice and receive the siddhis from the tsok, or the next day.
Also, to complete the approach and accomplishment stages, recite another 10% of the total mantra accumulation and do ten thousand jinsek accumulations, plus whatever is necessary to accomplish the activities such as lengthening life; there is a mantra within the jinsek which lengthens life and so on, so do as many of these mantras as you can.
This practice can be explained in more detail based on the structure of a drupchen, but here we have only explained the difficult points, and so on.
Drupchen actually involves even more elaborate and detailed practices. However, it would take too long to explain it all, so Jamgön Kongtrul says he hasn’t mentioned it in this text.
If you do the daily practice, to ‘maintain the continuous flow of the practice’ you can just recite the approach mantras (Tara, Combined Practice, Amitayus and Namgyalma mantras). You don’t have to do the accomplishment mantras of the Four Taras and the activity mantras of the Four Activity Taras, but you can recite them if you want to.
This commentary was written by Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche when he was 87 years old.
 Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, in answer to a question, said that if you want to do a retreat on the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, then you need the elaborate empowerment. You cannot do the retreat just receiving the short empowerment, which is a long life blessing.
 ‘Three parts’ (Tib. Dumbu sumpa) is a characteristic of the kapala that is needed here. There are one-part, two-part, three-part, nine part kapalas and so on.
 The texts Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche is commenting upon here—the root sadhana called Activities for Uncovering Primordial Wisdom (Tib. Trinlé Yeshe Nangwa). It says: ‘with calcite (Tib.cong zhi, “pacifying chronic disease”) bitumen, the three fruits, Indra's Hand (a small light yellow wild orchid, medicinal, which is very rare), ‘weeping ceaselessly’ flower (a medicinal plant with yellow flowers which always has dew on it so looks like it is always crying), and the five roots, all mixed together and rolled into pills the size of peas.’
 ram yam kam, “In the state of emptiness…”, and the om akaro mantra do not appear in the sadhana text.
 Rinpoche explained on another occasion that when the mantra doesn’t turn, the syllables are arranged clockwise. When you meditate on the approach the syllables are in a fixed position: you visualize the mantra ‘like the moon and stars reflecting in a lake’. When the mantra revolves around the seed syllable, it should turn clockwise to accomplish the activity, as explained in the Guhyagarbha Tantra, and to do that the syllables must be placed anti-clockwise.
 Even though Jamgön Kongtrul wrote ‘Om jetsun phakmé tsok kyi’ (‘the gathering of Jetsun Phakma’) the sadhana Confession section reads "Om Jetsun Pakmé Kyilkhor du" (‘In the mandala of Jetsun Phakma’) for the first line of the confession section.
 That is before receiving the siddhis when the accomplishment mandala is still there.