22 and 24 April 2011, at Deer Park in Bir, India.
Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche taught for three days for about six hours in four sessions every day, from the 22nd to the 24th of April 2011 at Deer Park, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche's open Buddhist platform in North India, in a village called Bir. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche asked Orgyen Tobgyal to teach the Chime Phakme Nyingtik for his retreatants, even though the public gathered in Deer Park on those sunny April days were by and large not the destined target for whom the teachings were recorded. Unfortunately, three of the four sessions of the second day were not recorded. These teachings were edited based on notes and further clarification with Rinpoche.
- Before You Start to Practise
- The Main Part: The Sadhana of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik
- Preliminary Practices
- 1. Refuge
- 2. Bodhichitta
- 3. Seven-Branch Offering
- Dissolution of the Field of Refuge
- 4. Torma Offering to the Obstructing Forces: the Gektor
- 5. Protection Spheres
- 6. Invocation and Descent of Blessings
- 7. Blessing the Offerings
- II. The Main Practice
- 1. The Generation of the Samayasattvas
- 2. Invitation to the Jnanasattvas
- 3. Request the Jnanasattvas to Take Their Places
- Kyerim: An Overview
- 4. Homage
- 5. Offerings
- Offering Praise
- The Three Crucial Points of Kyerim Practice
- 1. Clear and Vivid Visualization
- Prepare a Thangkas or Statue
- How to Begin the Practice
- The Four Nails
- The Three Samadhis and the Four Nails
- 7. Mantra Recitation
- 1. Approach Practice
- The Importance of ‘Enlightened Speech’
- The Principles of Mantra
- Methods for Chanting Mantra
- Mikpa: How to Direct the Practice
- The ‘Mercury of Accomplishment’
- 2. Accomplishment Practice
- 3. Activity Practice
- The Four Activities
- How Long Should I Practise For?
- 8. Tsok
- The Three Crucial Points of Kyerim Practice (cont’d)
- 9. Dzogrim
- Requesting the Deities to Remain
- 10. Dedication and Prayers of Aspiration
- Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
Only read if you have the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik empowerment.
Why I am Talking to You Today
First, let me tell you why I am talking to you today. It all started with Prashant, who has asked me again and again to talk here at Deer Park, then Khyentse Rinpoche repeatedly backed him up. From my point of view, to flout Khyentse Rinpoche’s command would be highly inappropriate, and so that is why I came here today to talk to you.
Turning to the Dharma teaching I have been asked to talk about, it is a terma that was revealed by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Of all the different termas this great master revealed, the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is one of those that focuses on practice. Specifically, it is a ‘sadhana’, a ‘means of accomplishment,’ and to say a little about it might serve those who relate to such explanations (basically practitioners) and that’s another reason I agreed to talk about it today.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is part of the vast body of teachings Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo received through the seven authoritative transmissions. I practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik and am somewhat familiar with it. Although I haven’t attained any kind of accomplishment through my practice, I believe sharing my experience of practice and what I have learned as a result of it, could be helpful.
These are my reasons for talking about the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik on this occasion.
Let’s turn now to the Dharma teaching at hand.
To begin with, it is important to know that the range of Dharma teachings is extremely vast. According to the Nyingma tradition, there are two great categories of teachings: the teachings of the ‘causal vehicle of characteristics’; and the vajrayana teachings. The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik belongs to the second category, the vajrayana vehicle that uses fruition as the path. Its teachings are divided into categories and the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik belongs to the Kyepa Mahayoga, the teachings of the mahayoga that emphasise the generation phase (kyerim). How do we practise these teachings? By following a sadhana that brings the practitioner to realization.
But before we enter into the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik itself, it might be good first to talk generally about the view—but I won’t go into great detail.
The View: Ground, Path and Fruition
The Buddha taught that the ‘ground’ is the buddha nature present in all sentient beings. Even though all schools of Tibetan Buddhism accept that all sentient beings have buddha nature, each has its own way of proving it. The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik follows the approach of the Nyingma school.
According to the Nyingmapas, there are two types of teaching: the kama and the terma. Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is a terma teaching and of the many termas that have been revealed, the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik was brought out during the time of the Three Jamgöns, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrul. I will therefore show that buddha nature is present in all sentient beings by following The Wisdom Essence of Oral Instructions in Stages of the Path —which in many ways is the root tantra of all the profound termas revealed by the Three Jamgöns—and will repeat the explanation exactly as Guru Rinpoche presented it in that text.
The proof that buddha nature exists in all sentient beings also appears in other teachings. For example, the Sublime Continuum  offers teachings on buddha nature from the sutrayana perspective, and the tantrayana perspective is explained in the Secret Essence Tantra . But since The Wisdom Essence of Oral Instructions in Stages of the Path brings together very essentially the pith instructions of both approaches and is a direct instruction of Guru Rinpoche, I will use it as the basis for a very clear and simple presentation about how all sentient beings have buddha nature. If this is not enough for you, refer to the teachings Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche began in 2011 in Canada on The Wisdom Essence of Oral Instructions in Stages of the Path . You could also consult the commentaries on this text that go into great detail based on quotations from the sacred texts and using logical reasoning. 
I will now present this teaching very simply, without using extensive quotations or going into the different logical arguments, but rather will wholly rely on the original text.
Buddha nature is the essence or nature of the buddhas. So, “all sentient beings have the ground of buddha nature” means that all sentient beings have the nature of a buddha. This can be understood to mean that we are buddhas; or, as some think, that there are two different things, the buddhas and our buddha nature.
There are those who take ‘sentient beings’ to mean all human beings, and forget about other kinds of sentient being. This is a misunderstanding. Here ‘sentient beings’ means all human and non-human beings who are able to perceive and feel things, who are ‘sentient’.
If we allow ourselves to contemplate this sentence for a moment, what can we make of it? Basically, the Buddha is our mind—as it says in the termas, “apart from mind there is no buddha.” All sentient beings have a mind—there is not one sentient being without a mind—and therefore we all have this buddha nature, which is the cause for enlightenment. Hearing this, many people are often taken aback. We tend to think of the Buddha as the most extraordinary of beings with qualities beyond our imaginations. So when we hear that our minds are ‘buddha’ too, it dumbfounds us. It’s true, it’s not easy to accommodate such ideas, but to be able to practise the secret mantra vajrayana, you need to accept that it is possible. If you can’t, you will not be able to practise the path of Kyepa Mahayoga.
Don’t look outwardly too much. If you do you will get lost in the arguments and quotations that explain why all sentient beings have buddha nature. Don’t get drawn into that kind of thinking and conceptualization. Instead, look inwardly. You have now been told that all sentient beings have this extraordinary buddha nature, and your master has told you that buddha nature is your mind. So, investigate and probe the idea to test whether or not it is true. And when you eventually see that it is true, just rest with that certainty.
Think, all sentient have the ground of buddha nature and so I too have buddha nature. Verify this statement for yourself and meditate on it. If you have buddha nature, you must also have all the incredible enlightened qualities described in the sutras and tantras—as a buddha, it would be impossible not to have them. So, check whether it’s true or not. Think about it very carefully. If you have all those qualities, you have the ground of buddha nature. If you don’t have buddha nature, to repeat the words that your mind is buddha and has all the incredible qualities of enlightenment, would be sheer invention.
Other vehicles or paths teach that the enlightened qualities of buddha nature are not present in us at this very moment, but rather that they exist as a seed. Once the seed of our buddha nature has fully matured, all its qualities will manifest, and this is what happens when we reach enlightenment. However, if you want to practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, you must think, “I already have all the enlightened qualities. They are already in me and not something new that I have to acquire.” Actually, this is true for practitioners of all the practices of the Mahayoga that emphasizes the generation phase, not just those who practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. Whatever practice you do, you must consider that you already have all the enlightened qualities. To imagine you don’t and by doing this practice you will acquire them, is a mistake.
In short, the mind that practises the sadhana is actually the Buddha. All his enlightened qualities—which are even greater than their extensive descriptions in the sutras and tantras and beyond imagining—are complete within your mind. So, you need to make a clear and confident decision that this is how it is.
As I am presenting these teachings so essentially, you may not understand what I’m trying to say. Or rather, you might be able to hear what I’m saying and even understand most of the words I use, but find you don’t trust that what I say is true. If this is the case, then maybe you should spend some time studying the teachings of the sutras and especially the tantras as they offer a vast array of authoritative references from the sacred texts and logical arguments that support this truth that you should examine and reflect upon. Having studied in this way, if you are still not confident that the mind is the Buddha and that all his enlightened qualities are present within your mind—if you still harbour a ‘maybe they are, may be aren’t’ kind of attitude—you will need to accumulate a lot more merit and purify your obscurations. If even this approach does not work, it probably means that you lack the good fortune to be a recipient of teachings of the path of the Mahayoga, or the higher path of anuyoga, or the path of Dzogchen.
As it is said,
“All sentient beings have the ground of the buddha nature; mind is the Buddha.”
This doesn’t mean that all these people are the Buddha—just to have the ground of buddha nature, doesn’t make you a buddha. Sentient beings have that ground, but it is temporarily hidden by both cognitive and habitual obscurations—and these two kinds of obscuration are explained at length in the sutra and tantras, so I won’t go into them here in any detail. At the most basic level, though, ‘obscurations’ are our thoughts, and at this very moment, it is our thoughts that obscure our buddha nature. This is what we call ‘ignorance’, or ‘not-knowing,’ which is a more literal translation of the Tibetan term. What is it that we ‘do not know’? That buddha is our nature. And we are deluded because we do not recognize the buddha that is our nature. It is said, “Know, and you are a buddha; ignore, and you are a sentient being.” At the moment we are ignorant, and that very ignorance is concealing our buddha nature.
Now we must identify what delusion really is. Many people think delusion is any one of the destructive emotions (like desire, aversion, jealousy, pride, and the ten negative actions, and so on), and that positive thoughts and emotions (like faith, devotion, and so on) are not delusions, but it’s not like that. All our thoughts involve grasping at subject-object duality, and based on all those dualistic thoughts, we accumulate karma, then repeat the process endlessly. This is what we call ‘delusion.’
Once you understand the nature of delusion clearly, you realize that although mind is the ground of your buddha nature, it is deluded and impure. To remove those impurities you must follow a path that eliminates all contaminations and reveals your inherent purity. This is why we practise sadhanas—even though a sadhana is itself a delusion, and so are the deities. But, Buddha tells us, just as we must rely on a material that is as strong as iron in order to cut through iron, we must rely on the delusion of deity, samadhi, mantra and so on, to cut through and remove our fundamental delusions. So, even though all aspects of the path of kyerim fall into the category of delusion, it is through such practices as kyerim that we are able to realize the nature of our mind (the primordial ground).
Atiyoga, or Dzogchen, teaches, “mind is the Buddha,” and Atiyoga practitioners meditate by simply looking directly at mind itself. It is a path that does not involve the elaborations of visualizing deities, performing mudras, reciting mantras, resting in samadhi, and so on, and is suited only to those of superior capacity. Others, those of middling capacity for example, won’t benefit from the Atiyoga approach, and should rely instead on Mahayoga practices that are taught as pith instructions and involve deity, mantra, mudra and samadhi. Through such practices, their intrinsic nature, which is the primordial ground, will be liberated.
There are infinite deities of all kinds to correlate with the many dispositions of sentient beings. Each aspect of each deity—the face, expression, number of arms, whether they are peaceful or wrathful, and so on—manifests based on the corresponding propensities of the sentient beings they help.
We always say that there are infinite deities corresponding to the infinite dispositions of beings, but if you imagine this means you can do whatever you like, your practice is not likely to be very beneficial. Great practitioners like Guru Rinpoche or Vimalamitra are able to see all phenomena as the deity, and if Guru Rinpoche says, “The stone in front of me is the deity,” it works, because for such great masters there are no deities with characteristics to be held on to.
The ultimate point of kyerim is that all that appears and exists is infinite purity. But to count or make lists of all the different deities and their aspects would take all your time, and you’d never get to the infinite purity of all that appears and exists. So, when those who have yet to realize that infinite purity first set out on the path, they take as the support of their practice a specific deity and mantra, which they then accomplish.
In this case, we will rely on the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, the main deity of which is Tara in union with Amitayus, in a mandala of three main deities with a retinue of eight. This will be explained as we go through the text.
It is important to recognize that the reason we follow the path of the deity is to eliminate delusion, and that the fruition of this path is liberation within the primordial ground. Mind is the deity; there is no deity other than mind. Once you realize this, you will have accomplished the deity. If you don’t, to have dreams about the deity, or even meet the deity face-to-face, won’t help you much. Having said that, dreaming about or meeting the deity are signs you are getting closer to realizing that your mind is the deity and the deity is your mind.
From the perspective of the ground, all sentient beings are buddhas—the minds of sentient beings are buddhas. As sentient beings do not recognize ‘mind is buddha’, they are said to be deluded or obscured; and the path through which practitioners free their minds from delusion is the practice of meditating on the deity. Once we have freed our minds from delusion, the fruition is fully manifest.
If you don’t know at least this much about ground, path and fruition, you will have nothing to practise; so, first you must understand this much.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said that buddha nature is present in all sentient beings, and all sentient beings are buddhas. It is because we have this ground of buddha nature that, by following the path, we can become enlightened. The example he often used was of a sesame seed. By pressing a tiny sesame seed, as the seed itself is destroyed the oil will be extracted; but even if you pressed a stone for thousands of years using all manner of contraptions, you would never be able to extract oil because stone does not have the same nature as sesame seeds. It is because sentient beings have buddha nature that we can attain enlightenment. If we sentient beings did not have buddha nature, we would not be able to attain enlightenment.
That’s one example—but giving too many examples isn’t always helpful.
Let’s look again at ‘delusion.’ To think, “I am deluded. I need to remove all my delusion,” then apply various different methods for eliminating delusion will, of course, have some impact. But, the most helpful kind of thought is, “I am deluded, but my ground is buddha nature, and if I realize the nature of my mind directly within the primordial ground, all my delusions will vanish.”
For example, to meditate on the pointing out instructions your master teaches makes it easier for you to remove delusion. In other words, once you are aware you are deluded, you find there are innumerable ways for eliminating that delusion, like offering your own head or limbs to others. To apply these many different methods is, of course, helpful, but not that fruitful, but to know you are deluded and to liberate the knower directly within the primordial ground, will result in immediate liberation.
The example used is of a house that has been kept in absolute darkness for thousands of years, yet the moment a light is switched on, all the darkness completely disappears. There is not one dark patch left. Where there is no light, it is correct to say “It is dark”, but once you switch on the light, the darkness has gone. Similarly, if we follow a path that removes the darkness of delusion, there will be no darkness—this is where the practice of kyerim will help.
If you can understand this much, you will have the necessary basis from which to embark not just on practice, but on the practice of the vajrayana path. Problems will arise, though, if you have not established such an understanding. If, for example, you imagine the deity and you are separate and different, there will be nothing for you to accomplish. If you imagine as you practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik that the deity is extraordinary, but you are ordinary, it won’t work—this is the attitude adopted by the Kriyayoga.
Many people these days try to accomplish different deities in the same way they make friends with people they think will eventually be useful to them. They accomplish a deity for a specific purpose, then move on to accomplish another deity for a different purpose, and so on. This is an extremely limited approach and won’t get you very far.
If you really do manage to accomplish a deity, you also accomplish all the infinite number of mandalas.
Beings are deluded by all manner of thoughts, and therefore many different deities manifest. But once all the delusions created by conceptual thought are eliminated, as the deity is the mind, there will no longer be a deity: there is no buddha other than mind.
Therefore, our view should be the highest possible. But if we adopt a high view, we must also be realistic about how we then conduct ourselves and practise the path. Practice will involve deity, mantra, samadhi and mudra, as they occur in the sadhana text.
Essentially, as we visualize the deity using the methods of kyerim, we should also embrace dzogrim practice that dissolves our visualization into emptiness, as we unite both kyerim and dzogrim—but I’ll explain more fully later, when it comes up in the text. If we fail to do so, and instead continue to grasp as we practise, our efforts will be useless.
Don’t practise with the idea that the result is a long way away, or that the fruition of your practice is something extra you need to acquire. Once our obscurations have been dispelled, the fruition of practice—our true nature—will manifest. For now it is obscured or covered up, but it is definitely there. So we must develop the certainty that the result of our practice is already with us, and by eliminating our obscurations that result will manifest.
In this brief presentation of the ground, path and fruition of the vajrayana, I have tried to set out the crucial understanding you need to arrive at in order to practise. People who are not familiar with the teachings may think, “Yes, maybe that is true. It sort of makes sense”. People with more experience of the buddhadharma, but with little exposure to the vajrayana teachings, might get a bit overexcited. Whichever the case, it is important you check thoroughly each point you get excited about and reflect on its meaning as presented in the great sutras and tantras. If you do, the conclusion you reach will be what I have just explained. There is no other conclusion possible. This is certainly true of practice, but also of empowerments, which are the foundation of the vajrayana path. Unless you understand at least this much about ground, path, and fruition, you will not be able truly to receive the empowerments.
Before You Start to Practise
If you wish to practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik and truly actualize its meaning you must:
- Learn about the history of the teachings so you gain confidence in them.
- Receive the empowerment, which will mature you so you can do the practice.
- Hear the instructions that liberate, and receive the related pith instructions.
To that end, I will start by telling the story of the teaching so you develop confidence in it.
1. The History of the Chimé Phakme Nyingtik Teachings
I will now outline briefly the general background of this teaching.
There have been many great practitioners of the vajrayana both in India and Tibet. The Indian practitioners included, for example, Garab Dorje, the great nirmanakaya teacher of Dzogchen who went to Akanishtha, received teachings directly from Vajrasattva and managed to hear, practise and realize them in one session. He was a practitioner with superior capacities.
Many other great masters followed who were at the same level as Garab Dorje. They realized the teachings as they heard them, but displayed a different approach to practice, by following a progressive path, for example the great vidyadharas Guru Rinpoche, Vimalamitra and Shri Singha. They practised and perfected each of the three yogas of the Kyepa Mahayoga teachings, then Anuyoga, and finally Atiyoga or Dzogchen, then demonstrated how individuals could follow the path in stages.
They each practised a specific yidam deity and went through the process of progressing through the four vidyadharas levels by accomplishing their yidam. This is the kind of master we are going to discuss now, and we will base our discussion on the Nyingma approach.
The Origins of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik
Let’s now turn to the origins of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. Uṣṇīṣavijaya (Skt.; Tsuktor Namgyalma, Tib.) was so named after she emerged from the protuberance on top of the Buddha’s head (Uṣṇīṣa), and because she was fully victorious (vijaya). Uṣṇīṣavijaya sutras can be found in the causal vehicle, while the vajrayana offers Uṣṇīṣavijaya tantras and sadhanas.
The great vidyadhara Shri Singha took Uṣṇīṣavijaya as his yidam, then practised and fully accomplished her, while the great master Vimalamitra practised and accomplished Chimé Phakma.
Chimé Phakma, the Lady of Deathlessness, is White Tara, known as Yishin Khorlo, the Wish-Fulfilling Wheel. She came into being when noble Avalokiteśvara helped sentient beings. He generated the enlightened mind and shed two tears of compassion: one tear became White Tara and the other Green Tara.
The great Pandita Vimalamitra took White Tara as his yidam and gained mastery over birth and death—the state beyond decrease and increase.
Guru Rinpoche accomplished the four levels of a vidyadhara. He practised Amitayus in the Maratika cave, to accomplish the level of a vidyadhara with power over life, and Amitayus Yabyum appeared and bestowed the long-life empowerment on him through which Guru Rinpoche became immortal and was able to remain in samsara to help sentient beings until, eventually, it is emptied.
So, these three great masters, Guru Rinpoche, Vimalamitra and Shri Singha, who had accomplished these long-life deities, appeared to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, made prophecies and blessed him. As a result Khyentse Wangpo revealed the mind terma of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik combining all three long-life deities, Amitayus, White Tara and Uṣṇīṣavijaya.
The key points to understand here are:
- The three deities of long life are yidam deities.
- Guru Rinpoche, Shri Singha and Vimalamitra are the three great vidyadharas who practised and accomplished these yidams, becoming indivisible with them.
- All three great masters—with a single indivisible wisdom mind—appeared to and blessed Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
The play of these three great masters indivisible wisdom mind is the mind terma. When Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s mind became indivisible from the wisdom mind of Guru Rinpoche, Shri Singha and Vimalamitra, the wisdom mind of all these masters was one and the same. The play of this wisdom manifest in the form of the practice that accomplishes the three deities of longevity, and each vidyadhara accomplished one deity’s sadhana. This unprecedented approach resulted in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. Both the Sakya and Nyingma traditions have practices that accomplish each of the three deities individually, but the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik accomplishes all three deities together and, as such, is a practice that had ‘never before dawned upon this earth.’
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo may have looked like an ordinary person, but his mind was far beyond anything ordinary people could even conceive. Why? Because he was able to remember what had happened to him in a vast number of his past lives—for example, when he was Vimalamitra. He could remember very clearly and vividly what happened at that time, as if it were yesterday. For example, he sometimes imagined he still had certain brocades or other belongings, but then realized they had been his when he was Vimalamitra, or the accomplished yogi Vajraghaṇṭapāda, or Pratiharanandamati. He’d forget which lifetime he was in, wondering where specific objects that appeared in his mind, which he’d owned when he was Vimalamitra, now were.
An infinite, limitless, unfathomable number of mind termas manifest in Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s wisdom mind. He would have known all the different termas revealed by the one hundred and eight major tertöns, and all the future tertöns and their termas. And it was within the wisdom mind of this great master that the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik manifested as a terma.
He received teachings through all seven authoritative transmissions  or seven types of termas. Mention is also made of eighteen categories of terma . But of all the different kinds that exist, the most profound is the mind terma.
Why? A mind terma is revealed when the wisdom mind of the tertön and the wisdom mind of the yidam deity in the sadhana, like Guru Rinpoche, has become indivisible. Until that happens, it cannot be revealed. For mind termas there’s no need to translate or decipher anything, the terma just appears in the mind of the master directly.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo revealed this teaching, transmitted it to his main disciple, Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, and since then it has been transmitted from teacher to student down to the present day.
This terma is very concise; it has very few words, yet its meaning is extremely profound. Anyone who practices this sadhana will eliminate all obstacles and obscurations, and accumulate vast stores of merit. It has the power to cause an ocean of profound wisdom to swell and all five clear perceptions  to manifest. The result of just seven days practice is so powerful that the practitioner will be protected from untimely death. Noble Jetsun Tara will take the practitioner into her care, and he or she will ultimately be able to accomplish all the paths and bhumis in a single lifetime. Those who come across the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik and have the opportunity to receive this cycle of teachings, or simply to hear them, said Guru Rinpoche, must realize what extremely fortunate karma they have.
This concludes first point, which is to learning about the teachings as a way of gaining confidence in them, because to hear how the teachings came about, helps us develop that confidence. It is important, isn’t it?
2. Receive the Empowerment
The second point is that practitioners must be matured by receiving the empowerment. Unless you receive the empowerment, not only can you not practise these teachings, but you will not even be allowed to listen to them. That is the vision of the tantras.
Having said that, I believe a number of you here today haven’t received the empowerment, but it doesn’t make any difference to me. Khyentse Rinpoche asked me to teach, and since he is the owner of these teachings, I just do what he tells me to. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche presents Deer Park as a school, a place where people study many things, not as a Buddhist institute. In this context, may be it is acceptable for you first to study these teachings and then receive the empowerment, who knows? If any negativity arises out of talking about them to people who haven’t received the empowerment, it’s for Khyentse Rinpoche to deal with, not me! So, for now, we are going to pretend that everyone here has received the empowerment.
3. The Instructions that Liberate
In terms of the liberating instructions, the way to do a ‘nyenpa’  practice of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, has already been explained by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé. The text has been translated into English and you can therefore consult it. I have nothing to add to Jamgön Kongtrul’s teaching. 
At the beginning of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik cycle is a tantra called Root Lines of Vajra Words , the commentary of which teaches the hidden meaning of the symbolic expressions that appear in the tantra, and so on. But I’m not going to talk about the tantra today.
What we are concerned with here is the sadhana, which is the means for accomplishing this path. It is called “Activities to Uncover Primordial Wisdom, from The Heart Essence of the Lady of Immortality.”
In the mantrayana, generally speaking, it is said that those of superior capacity merely have to read the title of a teaching to understand it; for those of middling capacity it is necessary just to explain the meaning; while those of lesser capacity require each word to be explained.
Those of superior capacity are able to understand the entire contents of a teaching just by being shown its title. Longchen Rabjam explained that this is like holding the tip of an arrow—the ‘raison d’être’ of the weapon—and if we understand the teaching just by hearing the title, its purpose is fulfilled. For those of middling capacity the main points of the teaching must be explained, which is like holding the spear in the middle of its shaft, its ‘waist’, to accomplish its purpose. For those of lesser capacity every word of the text must be explained, which is like holding the grip of a sword that is at the bottom end of the weapon.
So for those of you of superior capacity, I will present the title: “Activities to Uncover Primordial Wisdom from the Heart Essence of the Sublime Lady of Immortality.” 
Who is the deity of immortality? Externally, the essence of the yidam deity is the Buddha; internally, it is the mind. Mind doesn’t die—it has never experienced death—and this deathless mind is what manifests in the form of Jetsun Phakma for the sake of sentient beings to be tamed.
The Tibetan word ‘phakma’ means ‘most supreme’, and here indicates that Jetsun Tara, ‘Phakma’, has risen above everything in samsara and nirvana. ‘Most supreme’ Tara is the embodiment of the enlightened activities of all the sugatas of the ten directions and four times, and Vajrakilaya is her consort.
The buddhas are characterized by their inexhaustible wheels of enlightened body, enlightened speech, enlightened mind, and enlightened qualities. Yet the ultimate expression, purpose, or fruition of these four enlightened aspects is enlightened activity.
Buddhas manifest through three kayas: dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. Ultimately, a buddha is dharmakaya, and from a dharmakaya buddha’s point of view does not manifest a physical body. To be able to guide sentient beings, though, buddhas display a body, and these are the nirmanakaya manifestations which have the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks, and so on, and even more enlightened qualities beyond our imaginations. They all make an impact on sentient beings, and it is said we accumulate incredible merit just by looking at the form of a buddha.
Although the enlightened form of a buddha is incredibly beneficial, enlightened speech is said to be even more important. The physical body of a buddha can only benefit sentient beings for a limited time, whereas the enlightened speech of a buddha reveals the three or nine yanas, and so on—enlightened speech turns the wheel of the dharma of an infinite number of yanas. So enlightened speech benefits far more sentient beings than the body of a buddha.
The enlightened mind abides in the samadhi of great equanimity in the fourth time, beyond past, present and future, and therefore manifests for sentient beings outside the limitations of the three times. It is said to benefit sentient beings on an immense scale through the emanation and reconvergence of blessings borne on rays of light that spring from a pure and infinite array of mandalas.
Enlightened qualities are the root or source of the enlightened body, speech and mind that benefit sentient beings; and the fruit or power of these enlightened qualities are the enlightened activities of the buddhas—this is Jetsun Drolma or Tara; she is the embodiment of the enlightened activities of all the buddhas and was given the name ‘Phakma’, because her enlightened activities exceed  those of any other buddha. She vowed to continue to manifest in the form of a woman for the sake of sentient beings, until there is no one to be helped out of samsara, which amazed all the other buddhas because such a vow took such great compassion to make. She is also called Nyurma Phakmo (‘Swift Lady of Courage’) and is extremely quick to respond.
‘Nyingtik’ means ‘heart essence’, and in this case is the essence (tik) of the heart (nying) of Phakma. The ‘essence of the heart’ refers to the most pure, most essential, innermost aspect, ‘nyingtik’, with infinite qualities, one of which is activity, ‘trinlé’ in Tibetan. ‘Activity’ here basically means ‘sadhana.’ Anyone practising this sadhana, will see the primordial wisdom being uncovered—‘yeshe nangwa’ in Tibetan—and all obscuring ignorance will disappear.
So that was the title. If you are at the level where you can understand the text just by hearing the title, this is all you need! If not, there is still a little that can be understood from this title. This text is the ‘heart essence’ of the Great Lady of Long Life, Chimé Phakma, in the form of a sadhana, which, if applied, makes it possible for the light of wisdom to become the path, while the deluded ignorance of worldly beings, and so on, will be eliminated. You understand that, don’t you?
A number of symbolic scripts appear throughout the text and they are not unimportant. The Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo mentions seven different purposes of symbolic scripts . Basically, it indicates that this text is not the creation of the mind as a result of reflection—deep or otherwise—but a terma of Guru Rinpoche who mastered the dakinis’ secret symbolic language. Even the most eminent linguist, someone who speaks all the languages of the world, cannot understand the language of terma—it would be like giving grass to a dog! But for an owner of the teaching, with the right karma, whose mind is indivisible from the wisdom mind of Guru Rinpoche, the entire meaning will appear within the expanse of his wisdom mind when he reads the secret dakini script. And he will also be able to write it down.
When the Indian or American governments produce a document, it always appears under the governments own ‘seal,’ which these days comes in the form of a letter head. And the secret script of the dakinis indicates that the text is a profound terma of Guru Rinpoche. So, whenever you see symbolic scripts, you immediately know you are in the presence of a terma.
Termas are not trivial, although these days revealing them seems to have become so easy that complete ignoramuses are doing it! But, if you really think about it, you will realize that to reveal a terma is, in fact, extremely difficult. Were you to ask these modern day tertöns to explain the meaning of what they write, they wouldn’t be able to. Why? Because what they’ve done is gather bits and pieces from other termas, strung them together, and announced, “Here is my new terma.” They’re like parrots; they can repeat what other people say, but have no idea what their words mean! Such modern revelations have nothing in common with the termas uncovered by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo through the Seven Transmissions.
This concludes the explanation of the title.
The Explanation of the Text
Now, to the explanation of the text. Rather than go through the Retreat Instruction Manual , I will go through the words of the main sadhana itself and will simply explain the main points of the practice without spelling out the meaning of each word. In other words, I will use the teaching method for beings of medium capacity.
You should also know that I am not teaching this text because I want to share fascinating pieces of information. I am talking to those who will put this teaching into practice—as their daily practice, or even if they just want to do a one week retreat. This teaching is given with the sole intention of helping such people.
There’s no point in explaining this text in too much detail; we don’t need to do that. Why not? Because if you explain in great detail and don’t point out the actual meaning, most people are unable to retain all the information. Having received the teaching, when asked, “What did he say?” most of you will reply, “Ah, it was a very elaborate teaching, he gave a lot of detail!” but when you find yourself sitting on a cushion, you will be unable to put those details together meaningfully. As you then read your practice text, all manner of thoughts about those details will pop into your mind, but as you can’t make sense of any of them, they will just clutter it up. Mind is quite limited and cannot embrace all these details. Instead, it just gets confused.
The Main Part: The Sadhana of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik
This afternoon I will begin with the main part of the teaching, which is how to put the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik into practice.
The text begins,
O Immortal Wish-fulfilling Wheel
In devotion, I pay homage to you, body, speech and mind.
The recipient of the homage is the Wish-fulfilling Wheel of Immortality (Chimé Yishin Khorlo).
The author of the homage is Guru Rinpoche.
The purpose of Guru Rinpoche’s prostration to the Wish-fulfilling Wheel of Immortality is that it will stave off any obstacle that might hinder the compilation of this sadhana, and prevent it from being of benefit to sentient beings in the future.
I shall now elucidate the profound yoga of uniting one with your nature,
So practitioners may accomplish the two siddhis.
‘This profound yoga’ is the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. What does ‘profound’ mean here? We usually consider all Dharma teachings to be profound; the vajrayana teachings to be particularly profound; and the ‘three inner yogas’ of the vajrayana teachings to be incredibly profound, perhaps the most profound of all. Why? They are rich in methods involving very little hardship that aim at leading an individual to the enlightened state of indivisible unity, the level of a vajradhara, in a single lifetime.
To practise the path of this profound sadhana, it is necessary first to receive the ripening empowerment. Then, when you practise the sadhana, it will be genuine practice if it includes two aspects: the generation phase (kyerim) and the completion phase (dzogrim).
This practice isn’t something you can just do for one session, one day, or one month. It’s not a ‘one-off’ kind of practice, but a ‘yoga’, which literally means ‘unite with the essence, or nature’; and a ‘yogi’ is one who trains himself continuously to recognize all appearances, sounds and awareness as the play of the dharmakaya.
What is the benefit of practising this profound yoga of ‘uniting with the essence’? Through it, we attain the two kinds of accomplishment (siddhi): the supreme accomplishment, the ‘great seal of mahamudra’; and the ordinary accomplishments, which are the ‘eight great accomplishments .’ That is why Guru Rinpoche states that he has explained this profound yoga “for accomplishing the two siddhis.”
This is to seal the text with samaya. What does that mean? The samaya associated with this text is: it should become known to those who need it, while those who cannot appreciate it should not see it. Also, when you have been granted the empowerment and have received the liberating instructions, you are ready to practise the sadhana; but if you haven’t received the empowerment, you are breaking the samaya. This is what the “Samaya!” in the text indicates. If you own a jewel of great value but never take advantage of it, it is just a useless rock. Similarly, this path can lead you to the two accomplishments, but if you don’t put it into practice, you will remain destitute of accomplishment. This is another aspect that “Samaya!” points to.
The root of all samayas in the secret mantra vajrayana is the necessity for secrecy. Actually, nowadays, lamas are more worried about not enough people turning up to receive their empowerments, or teachings, than they are about maintaining samaya. Indeed, they expend a great deal of energy making advertisements on video or in newspapers, declaring, “I am giving an empowerment, please come,” or, “I am teaching, you are welcome.” The result of giving empowerments without showing any respect for the secrecy samaya is that very few people accomplish signs of actual realization.
Termas mention “samaya gya gya” specifically and repeatedly at the end of each section throughout the text, as a way of sealing (gya) each element of the practice with samaya.
Preparing to Practise
Where Should You Practise?
In a supreme place, solitary and pleasant,
The instructions given in the tantras about doing a practice to accomplish a deity, like this one, is that you should first gather the ‘five perfections’. If the five perfections are not complete, there is no ground to support the practice. This is especially true of great accomplishment practice (drupchen). In this case the five perfections are an absolute requisite.
Clearly, if you don’t have somewhere to practise, you can’t practise, and masters have described the ideal practice environment at great length—“the front should be lower, the back higher, the sun rising early…” and so on. There is no shortage of details, and even the direction in which the water should flow or the wind blow is described! However, these days, it isn’t essential to know all these details.
The most essential point is, “A place of solitude blessed by the great beings of old.”
The ‘great beings of old’ are the practitioners of the past, like the Buddha, and a place he visited or blessed is ideal. If it’s not possible to go to such a place, choose somewhere pregnant with Guru Rinpoche’s blessings, or with those of any of the Indian and Tibetan siddhas. Basically, you should find somewhere the great masters of the past have set foot, or where they attained accomplishment; these are the supreme places of practice.
The secret mantra vajrayana approach generally talks about twenty-four sacred places, thirty-two hallowed lands, and eight great charnel grounds. There are also equivalent secondary sacred places that can substitute for the primary ones, as they retain the same power. When you stay in such places, experiences, realization, wisdom and qualities flourish naturally, while destructive emotions and your host of thoughts subside equally naturally. This is how the qualities of sacred places are described.
To be more specific, what are the qualities we should look for in the place we choose to practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik? As it is predominantly a long life practice, the best places are: on a mountain where the snow never melts; a place adorned by a ‘turquoise lake of longevity’; lush forests where trees are laden with fruit; and places with bountiful harvests and perfect fruit. A barren desert, like those in Australia, is not good. The pith instructions particularly mention that where the sun rises very early in the morning and sets late at night will naturally gather all the qualities necessary for long-life practice and for attaining the siddhi of immortality.
The suggestion that you practise in snow mountains doesn’t imply you have to practise in the snow. There are people who hear instructions like this and imagine they have to move to Canada—the teachings speak of mountains with everlasting snow, so a couple of snowy days would be worthless! ‘Turquoise lakes’ suggest to such people that they should practise by the ocean, but in this case, the teachings refer to a lake that never dries up. When they performed longevity practices, the great siddhas of the past, used the mountains with everlasting snow as their long life tormas and long life pills, and turquoise lakes as their long life alcohol for example. Such mountains and lakes retain their blessings, which is why mountains with everlasting snow and turquoise lakes of longevity are recommended to us today as places to do long life practices.
The above are the ‘outer’ considerations to bear in mind when choosing a place to do long life practices.
From a more personal perspective (the ‘inner’ point of view), you should practise somewhere pleasant, somewhere your mind feels well. This point is clarified in the teachings. At first you may feel good in a place, but after a few days, or a week or two, you don’t want to stay there any longer. This is a sign that this particular place is not so good for practice. On the other hand, you may feel agitated when you first arrive somewhere, but find your mind slowly settles down and you feel increasingly happy. This is the sign the place is very good for practice.
Wherever you practise, if experiences and realization happen easily and you like your environment, whether you are on a mountain, in a cave, or in a house, that place will be good for your practice. So, if you feel good in a house, it’s fine to practise in a house. It is even said that, providing the place you stay has all the genuine qualities, you can even practise in a town or a city.
The ‘secret’ level concerns the mind. Wherever you practise, your mind should be joyful and enthusiastic. It is said that if the practitioner is not happy, their practice will not be beneficial; for a genuine Dharma practitioner, the more virtue and merit that is accumulated, the happier he or she will feel.
In any case, it is said that the outer, inner and secret aspects of the place you practise are important. Why are they so important? In the past, the great masters left their blessings at the places they practised, because that was where they accomplished the deity, mudra, mantra and samadhi. At present, these places appear impurely to us, yet the great masters blessed all these impure appearances—the earth, rocks, stones, trees and so on—as the pure mandala of primordial wisdom, with the nature of the five feminine buddhas (like Buddhalochana and Mamaki)—the nature of the five elements are the five feminine buddhas—and the power of mantras and samadhis is unfathomable. As it is said,
“As long as space endures, the accomplishments of mantras will not be lost.”
Since the accomplishments attained through mantra recitation will not be lost, the power of all mantra recitation will continue to bless those who stay in the sacred place, even beginners. Blessings are like fire. When you are cold, sitting next to a fire will warm you, won’t it? But getting warm by a fire has nothing to do with you, it happens because of the quality of fire. You receive the blessings of a sacred place in the same way: as soon as you get to such a place, you feel well.
The practitioner of mantra who has received the empowerment and keeps the samayas,
Such a place is a good platform for practice for the right kind of practitioners, in this case, ourselves. We are ‘right’ because, obviously, we have obtained a ‘precious human body,’ without which it is impossible to practise the secret mantra vajrayana. There is a lot to say about this—you cannot practise mantra vajrayana if you are born in the body of an animal, for example. But there’s not much point in talking about it right now.
You have obtained a human body, and it’s not just any human body, but the body in which you have met a lama.
You can see that the lama who gives you empowerments is the lord of all the mandalas, and therefore has the power to pour and disperse.’ Through the empowerment, the lama is able to pour all the blessings into students, whilst dispersing all thoughts that grasp at the reality of phenomena . The practitioner is someone who, having received such an empowerment, keeps the samayas.
The text indicates that you must keep the samayas. Sometimes, it is said there are a hundred thousand samayas to be kept, or that there are twenty-five samayas, and so on. Guru Rinpoche said, in essence, the root of all samayas is the lama. The ‘samaya of the lama’ relates to his enlightened body, speech and mind—and there is quite an important point to notice here. When you take ordination as a monk, according to the vinaya, you must consider the abbot from whom you receive the vows as your father and yourself as his son. When practising the mahayana, practitioners consider the teacher to be a doctor, and themselves as his sick patient. The master is a skilled doctor and unless you do exactly as he says, you will die. Once you have received a vajrayana empowerment, it is said that you must consider your teacher indivisible from the lord of the mandala. All the Sarma and Nyingma schools agree on this point.
When it comes to empowerment, there are many categories we could talk about, but they boil down to four, the ‘four empowerments.’
- vase empowerment enables the practitioner to visualize the deity;
- secret empowerment authorizes the recitation of mantra;
- wisdom empowerment makes it possible for the recipient to experience samadhi with bliss, clarity and no-thought, and to practise the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light;
- word empowerment authorizes the practice of the completion stage.
We must receive the four empowerments fully (ideally, so our perception changes), before we can do these practices. People who practise the mantrayana without having received empowerments will not achieve the fruition of the practice, besides which they will go to the hell realms when they die as a result of the samayas they have broken.
Those who have been empowered and practise deity, mantra, mudra and samadhi are called ‘ngakpas’ in Tibetan, or ‘mantrikas’ in Sanskrit. They are vajrayana practitioners or ‘practitioners of Mantra’, as it says in the text. There are instructions in the teachings about the dress code for ngakpas, including the ornaments they should wear, their hair style (they should keep their hair long), wear a white lower garment, and so on. But these are side issues; the main point is the practice.
Should set up a general mandala.
A practitioner of mantra first needs a mandala as the basis for the practice. The explanation of the mandala has probably been influenced by Hindu culture. Khilkhor is the Tibetan word for mandala: ‘khil’ means ‘middle’, the central unit; and ‘khor’ refers to what surrounds it. There are elaborate discussions in the Guhyagarbha Tantra about how these two aspects relate to the masculine and the feminine, wisdom and skilful means, generation and completion phases, male and female deities, main deity and retinue, and so on. However, it is all contained in the palace, the support, and the deities ‘supported’ by the palace. So when the palace and the deities come together you have a khilkhor, a mandala.
The mandala used in this practice is a ‘general’ mandala. In the Mahayoga tantra tradition, the mandala palace is square with four doors, four ‘torans’ or gateways , walls, jewelled murals, looping and hanging chains, and so on—nothing you’d understand right now. It also has four pillars, eight beams, thirteen wheels, and so on. To be brief, the different features of the palace correspond to the thirty-two major marks of a buddha—but you won’t get a handle on this concept straightaway.
The text indicates that the mandala of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is a ‘general mandala’. Practices like Vajrakilaya, Yamantaka, or Kagye, and mandalas of magnetizing deities, and so on, generate their own specific mandalas.
There is a lot to say about mandalas. There are different kinds of mandala, for example: the outer substantial mandala with characteristics, the inner mandala of aggregates as deities, and the mandala of absolute definitive wisdom.
The Outer Mandala
Without going into it too much, the tantras of the Nyingma tradition say the outer mandala can be a multi-coloured sand mandala, but if that’s not possible, use a drawing of the mandala. If you can’t get hold of a drawing even heaps of grain to represent each deity placed on a flat surface will work.
The Offering Substances
Onto this general mandala are placed the ‘accomplishment substances.’ They are crucial as their power is incredible, and is similar to the extraordinary power latent in atoms of which scientists today have made us aware. Actually, we need many, many substances when we practise, for example: representations of the enlightened body, speech, mind, qualities and activities; a bell and a vajra, which is kept in front of the practitioner; a mala to count recitations, and so on. But this text mentions only the most important ones.
So, what does the text say? As this is a long life practice, the most important substance is for alchemy and longevity, called ‘chülen’ in Tibetan. Before introducing the substances required to prepare the chülen, the text describes the vessel that will contain it as,
In the centre, place a bhanda with three sections
This is a kapala divided into three by lines on its surface. There are several kinds of kapala as there can be anything from one to nine such divisions, and each kind is classified according to quality: best, ordinary and low. There are detailed explanations about each one—but we will move on.
Filled with calcite, bitumen, the three fruits,
Indra’s hand, the ‘weeping ceaselessly’ flower,
And the five roots, all mixed together
The text mentions the twelve medicinal substances that should be gathered and placed in the kapala. Even if you were told the English translation of their names, I doubt you would be able to recognize what they are, so there’s not much point in talking about.
The first is a calcite called ‘chong shyi’ in Tibetan. It is the essence of stones chipped from white stone that was formed over hundreds of thousands of years. There are three types: male, female and neuter. All three are required here.
Bitumen, ‘drak shum’ in Tibetan, is a kind of black sweat—or nectar to use a more flattering term—that oozes from rocks that have been exposed to the sun for millions of years.
The three fruits are arura, barura and kyurura.
The next substance is called ‘Indra’s hand’. Indra had his hand cut off and, of course, he bled, and wherever his blood touched the ground a small flower sprang up that looked like a hand, which has since been used as a medicinal plant.
The ‘weeping ceaselessly’ flower is a kind of grass on which small flowers blossom that grows in holy places, like the Wutai Shan mountains in China. There are three kinds: Manjushri’s ‘weeping ceaselessly’ flower, Avalokiteshvara’s weeping ceaselessly’ flower, and Vajrapani’s ‘weeping ceaselessly’ flower. The names given refer to the great bodhisattva who blessed each type.
And the five roots, all mixed together
You also need five specific roots, which you can dig up or buy.
And rolled into pills the size of peas.
The benefit of consecrating such pills of longevity is explained later in the text.
Cover them with red silk, and set out offerings and tormas.
Then, cover the pills in the kapala with red silk. A kapala filled with long life pills is the main support of the practice (drup ten) in the mandala. Set the offerings and tormas around it. The offerings are the outer, inner and secret offerings, and the offering of suchness.
Arrange the outer, inner and secret offerings on the shrine. The outer offerings are: drinking water, water for cleansing, flowers, incense, light, scented water, food offering and music offerings. These offerings support the practice, which means making water offerings is not enough. In this case you should offer flowers, incense, etc. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wrote an instruction describing how to prepare these offerings.
The inner offerings are pleasant forms, sounds, smells, tastes and textures.
The secret offerings are of ‘men’, or amrita, torma, and rakta. Amrita is made of eight root and one thousand minor ingredients—it is said, “We offer amrita nectar of eight major and a thousand minor ingredients.” Merely to pour some whisky or wine into a container doesn’t really do for amrita.
Rakta is made of thirty-five substances. The Treasury of Precious Termas  contains a ten-page sadhana by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo for consecrating rakta. If you gather the thirty-five substances you will be able to obtain rakta. However, were I to explain the ingredients of amrita and rakta you might be a little shocked! So much so that instead of encouraging you to practise, it might unnerve you and put doubts into your mind about having set out on the vajrayana path in the first place! I say this for those who have limited powers of discernment.
In the absence of the minimum of three substances—amrita, torma and rakta—I think it would be very difficult to accomplish sadhana practices. You can, for example, practise without putting physical outer offerings on your shrine and instead just imagine that all the water in the world is offering water for drinking and cleansing, all the flowers in the world are flower offerings, all the great smells in the world are incense offerings, the radiance of sun and the moon and all illuminations are light offerings, all the wonderful smells form the scented water offerings, all nourishment is the food offering and all pleasant and unpleasant sounds are music offerings. If you can do this, it is acceptable to practise without gathering the physical offerings. The same goes for the inner offerings of form, sound, smell, taste and touch. But it is not possible to offer amrita, torma and rakta in this way because they are an unsurpassable, secret crucial point of these teachings. If you don’t have at least a little of each, you cannot do the practice.
Truly great accomplished practitioners are probably able to practise without the physical substances. But look at Longchenpa, he was quite realized, wasn’t he? In the Nyingma tradition, he is held up as the epitome of a realized master. Once when he was giving an empowerment, the peacock feathers on the phumba were missing. When the protectress of the mantra teachings, Ekazati, appeared to him, and told him about his lack of peacock feathers, Longchenpa said, “I meditate that they are there,” to which Ekazati swiftly replied that he could not visualize symbolic items.
Another very great practitioner was so realized he could even fly in the sky. Once, as he practised in his hermitage, he had nothing to eat for himself and so he certainly didn’t have anything to offer, so he created the offerings in his mind. But when he offered tsok on tenth and the twenty-fifth days, the dakas and dakinis who would usually come from all the sacred places did not gather. He thought about it a lot and having seriously investigated the matter came to the conclusion that it was probably because he hadn’t provided any offering substances. Then he remembered a small piece of sugar he had hidden away and on the next tsok day dipped it, very briefly, in a small bowl of water—if he had left it too long the whole piece would have melted. He then offered the small bowl as a practice substance and did the tsok, and all the dakas and dakinis gathered for his tsok. This shows how extremely important offering substances really are.
The text adds that we should arrange tormas, and there is a specific kind of torma for the Chimé Pakmé Nyingtik, based on a pure vision that came to Jamyang Khyentse.
The Tibetan term ‘torma’ is formed of two syllables, ‘tor’ and ‘ma’. All phenomena included in the worlds of appearance and existence are the manifestation of dualistic clinging at subject and object. When they are all destroyed (tor), the ‘ground’, like a mother (ma), gives birth to all phenomena of samsara and nirvana: rigpa’s primordial awareness. This is the meaning of torma.
Again, there is a lot more that can be said about what ‘torma’ means, but essentially, there are four main ways to relate to tormas.
- Consider the accomplishment torma to be the deity. Meditate on the torma as the deity as you accomplish the practice. It is said, “Consider the vessel as the palace,” so the vessel in which the torma is placed is seen as the palace, while the torma is seen as the deity.
- Consider the torma to be an offering of sensory stimulants by imagining that the nature of the torma is an inexhaustible offering of everything it’s possible to desire.
- Consider the torma to be amrita, something you eat when you receive the siddhis.
- The fourth is the kind of torma that is like a weapon for scattering, dispersing, eliminating the negativity when expelling the negative forces.
The best way to “set the tormas” as instructed by the text, is to arrange the various kinds of torma on your shrine—the offering, fulfilment tormas, permanent tormas, and support tormas. If you can’t manage to make or find all these tormas, just make one that gathers all the qualities of the others. Interestingly, for us Tibetan the tormas are the easiest part of the practice because we always have tsampa and butter. But when westerners want to practise, making tormas always seems to be the difficult bit, and wherever they live in the world, they have to import torma makers from India!
In any case, on retreat you need all three substances, amrita, torma and rakta.
To do a nyenpa it is important to have a perfect mala. Again, there is so much to say about malas! There are many different kinds, but for the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, the best would be one made of real crystal. What should you use if you can’t get a crystal mala? These days they are easy to find in India, but in Tibet in the old days that wasn’t the case, so practitioners would make malas from dried fruit—but it must have one hundred and eight beads.
Before the nyenpa you must wash your mala with clean water, eliminate impurities with fire, and bless it in the appropriate way.
Many instructions have been given about the kinds of string you should use to thread your mala, but the most important point is that it won’t break easily, because so many superstitions will clutter your mind if the your mala breaks. For example, some say that if a mala breaks in the middle of a retreat it means samayas have been broken, others that the practitioner will be unable to accomplish the deities, and so on. Once Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s mala broke when he was on retreat in Canada practising Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik and he called me in the middle of the night about it! This is why I say you need a string that won’t break. Obviously there’s no such thing as an unbreakable string, it simply doesn’t exist. What I mean is a string that will at least not break during your retreat.
I am often asked, “And what can I do if I am not able to bless my mala?” The answer is to ask a lama who knows how to do it. For the lama just to blow on your mala is not that useful. Actually, there’s a whole practice for blessing malas, which the lama should perform if he is to consecrate a mala properly.
The mala you use for your nyenpa should not be displayed and you shouldn’t show it to anyone at all; keep it to yourself. It is said that your mala “should never be separate from your body heat,” and no one should see it even when you are using it.
Advice on Practicalities
There are many other instructions about practical aspects of the practice. For example, you shouldn’t cut your hair, or wash during a retreat, and so on. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche did a Hevajra retreat in Sikkim for six month and didn’t wash the whole time—as instructed by Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk. Later Khyentse Rinpoche said that not washing was the most difficult part of the retreat. There are also many dietary restrictions. The best way of putting these instructions into practice is to do your best to apply the ones you can and simply leave out those you can’t.
What is the minimum number of substances you should have?
- The instruction says, “A correct drawing of the body” which is a representation of the yidam’s physical appearance that is used as the samaya support. This means you need an accurately made statue or thangka of the deity that has been consecrated.
- You also need the sadhana text, don’t you? Make sure you get one without any errors. It is the support of the enlightened speech of the deity.
- As a representation of the enlightened mind, you need a vajra and a bell.
- As the representation of the enlightened qualities, the kapala filled with long life pills we have just described.
- And, of course, a mala.
If you have this much, you can do the practice.
Arrange a Comfortable Seat
The text says,
On a comfortable seat, rest in equanimity,
Having gathered everything you need to do the practice, you now need a comfortable seat. Although the text mentions the need for a comfortable seat, it does not say it should be high, yet nowadays the tradition seems to be for practitioners’ seats to be as high as possible. Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche used to say that his attendants don’t listen to him at all, and even though he told them to arrange a low seat for him, they always seemed to make it higher than before, creating great difficulties for him because he had to climb up and down again each session. He also said, “The tantras mention a ‘comfortable seat’, not a ‘high seat’, and for me, high seats are so uncomfortable.” Longchen Rabjam in The Treasury of Pith Instructions, adds that the seat should be a little higher at the back than at the front because then it is more comfortable.
What is the point of having a comfortable seat? If you sit comfortably your body will be at ease; when the body is at ease, the ‘lung’ (the inner air in your body) will also flow easily; when your inner air is at ease, your mind is at ease; when mind is at ease, kyerim and dzogrim, or whatever practice you do, will unfold easily. But when the mind is tense and agitated, Dharma practice is very difficult.
In one of his pith instructions about retreat, omniscient Longchenpa said that you should draw a swastika in white chalk under your seat, put some kusha grass on it, then some durwa grass with the roots facing forward in the direction you will be facing and the tips pointing to your back, then place your seat on top.
The reasons for taking care about what you sit on during your retreat are explained at length in the teachings—so you will be comfortable enough to sit easily for a long time, for example, and particularly so that auspicious interdependent connections for experiences and realization will arise naturally and easily, and for the long life of the practitioner, and so on.
You should sit facing a specific direction, the instructions for which appear in each practice. As the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is an enriching practice, you should face south. The mandala arranged on the shrine should face the practitioner so that the samayasattva, the practitioner, and the jnanasattvas face each other.
Expelling the Foul Air
Again the text says,
On a comfortable seat, rest in equanimity,
First, as a preliminary to the main practice, expel the foul air nine times—from the right nostril three times, from the left three times, then three times from both, which makes nine. By breathing out strongly through the right nostril we expel all the poisons created by a host of thoughts rooted in desire; breathing out through the left nostril expels all thoughts rooted in hate; and breathing out through both nostrils expels all thoughts rooted in ignorance. In this way, all thoughts and concepts associated with the three poisons are eliminated from the body. As you do this practice, it is important that you expel all the air from your lungs, without retaining the tiniest bit.
What is the point of doing this before you begin the main practice? Before you cook, you should wash the ingredients thoroughly and use clean cooking utensils. Similarly, as you are about to see your body as having the nature of the deity, first you eliminate all its impurities.
Before you breathe air out of your lungs, you must first inhale some, so you should draw the air in quite slowly. Once you have filled your lungs right down to your belly, think about all the destructive emotions—desire, aversion, ignorance and so on—that you will eliminate as you breathe out. This will probably take a while and it is said you should retain the air in your belly for as long as it takes. Once you have thought long and hard about all the destructive emotions you are about to expel, breathe out strongly, with the force of a shot arrow.
Experienced practitioners can expel the air from the three main channels and the four chakras. If, as you expel the air, you visualize the body empty as an unfilled bottle, with the central channel, the kyangma and roma channels inside and the chakras connecting them, the practice is even more powerful.
If you do not know how to do these tsalung practices, just practise as I explained earlier: inhale slowly, then as you exhale, consider that you expel all impure aspects whose nature are the three poisons—desire, aversion, and ignorance—and which manifest as sickness, harmful spirits, misfortune and so on. Be confident that you really have expelled all the negativity from your body, and that it is now completely clean and pure. It is now a ‘pure vessel.’
Having exhaled, now inhale a light stream of air that doesn’t fill your whole body—and do it slowly. Then rest for a little, ‘at ease.’ At this point avoid focusing outwardly where you will be distracted by what’s going on outside. Instead look inwardly. Look at your mind and its nature. What is my mind? What kinds of thoughts arise? Here, more experienced practitioners will recognize the primordial ground that is beyond the looker and the object to be looked at.
You might not be a practitioner of superior capacity and therefore unable to see the nature of mind right now. But even practitioners with less capacity can see that the continuity of thoughts has been interrupted and the gross concepts are not there any more. At this point, “…when the antidote of the looker presents itself, the object looked at is emptied.”
If you can rest in that state of recognition, sit with it. When you cannot, along with the thoughts that arise in your mind, visualize in the space in front of you the main deity (here, white Tara Yishin Khorlo) indivisible from your glorious root lama and surrounded by the masters of the lineage. As you actualize this visualization, recite the lineage prayers to invoke their blessings.
The Seven Line Prayer
In the Nyingma tradition, we always begin with the Seven Line Prayer. Rest, free from thoughts in the state of recognition of the nature mind. A thought will inevitably arise, and as it does, immediately recognize and transform it; rays of light with hooked tips emanate from your heart and stream to the Copper-Colored Mountain of Glory where they touch the heart of Guru Rinpoche, the ocean of panditas and rishis in his retinue, and the dakas and dakinis surrounding them. As soon as they are touched by the light, they gather in gigantic clouds in the sky before you and bless your mind. Recite the Seven Line Prayer as you actualize this visualization. In the Nyingma tradition, the Seven Line Prayer is the number one practice! We do it before we begin any other practice and it is the essence of all the termas of the hundred and eight tertöns. So this is the prayer you should recite at that point.
In the Seven Line Prayer terma teaching, Guru Rinpoche himself said,
If you call out to me by singing the Seven Line Prayer,
I, the Lotus-Born,
Will come from the Rakshasa Island to the southwest
Riding the king of the sky.
Instantaneously, I am in front of you,
Have no doubt about this.
When you invoke Guru Rinpoche, the Lotus Born, and call out to him by chanting the Seven Line Prayer, he will come from the Rakshasa Island in the southwest to bless you in an instant. ‘The king of the sky’ is the garuda, who is able to cover long distances in a very short time and so Guru Rinpoche is saying that he will come that very instant to bless whoever prays to him. ‘Naraki’ means ‘I swear’, ‘I promise I’ll be there for sure.’
So, with that we have established the power of the Seven Line Prayer through the sacred texts. It’s also possible to prove through reasoning. Guru Rinpoche has obtained the wisdom kaya and so he can fit an aeon into an instant. He doesn’t need to make an effort like ordinary beings, he can manifest whatever he wishes.
Another important point here is that, as Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo explained, tertöns can actually meet Guru Rinpoche, receive empowerments and blessings directly from him and make vows in his presence, which means they can then consider him to be their root teacher. Although Guru Rinpoche is definitely present for ordinary people, we do not receive the empowerments from him or make vows in his presence. Instead, we receive such things from our root teacher, which is why it is better for us to meditate on the lama in the physical form of our root teacher, whose essence is Guru Rinpoche. Tertöns can visualize Guru Rinpoche directly, but for ordinary people, it is better to visualize Guru Rinpoche in essence, appearing in the form of their root teacher.
The Nyingma terma texts and most of the Nyingmapa teachers are held in Guru Rinpoche’s care, which is why their collections of texts are replete with prayers to him and other such writings. As Guru Rinpoche is omnipresent throughout the terma tradition, the ingrained habit of practitioners is to focus almost exclusively on him, at the expense of their root teacher. If you have a personal relationship with Guru Rinpoche, that’s fantastic! But those who don’t must rely on a teacher, while remembering that the lama is but the play of Guru Rinpoche’s dynamic energy, his emanation. Bearing this in mind, consider your root teacher and Guru Rinpoche to be indivisible and pray to him. Since they are indivisible, you will receive Guru Rinpoche’s blessings as a matter of course. This is said to be the most beneficial approach.
Each of the yidam deities you practise is the play of the lama’s blessings. So by practising a sadhana you are also accomplishing the lama, which is what we call ‘Guru Yoga,’ or ‘uniting with the nature of the lama.’ Basically, you pray to and invoke the wisdom mind of the master. This is why at the beginning of every practice session you accomplish this crucial point of praying to the teacher, which, the teachings say again and again, is extremely important. It’s not something I came up with on my own, it is said repeatedly in the texts and has also been handed down through the oral tradition.
Earlier I said that we practise once we have received the empowerment from the lama indivisible from the main deity of the mandala. If you imagine there is a difference between the lama and the deity, or that, for example, the deity is somehow greater than the lama who may even lack some of the qualities of the deity, you are mistaken.
Having invoked the lama in this way for some time, direct the practice towards receiving the four empowerments through the rays of white, red, and dark blue light that emanate from the lama. Even if you don’t, at the end of the practice, having prayed and invoked the lama strongly, a delighted master will melt into light which dissolves into you. At this point, if you know the key point of practice, rest in that—rest in equanimity. This is what is meant in the text when it says,
…rest in equanimity.
Then practise the preliminaries, the main part and the conclusion.
There are three parts to the practice: the preliminaries; the main part, which is from when you visualize yourself as the deity, to offering praise and mantra recitation; and the conclusion, which starts with a tsok offering and finishes with the prayers of auspiciousness. This is what we must put into practice. Again the text says,
This has the same meaning as before.
The preliminary section is divided into two, the first part of which is what has been explained so far and corresponds to the lines in the sadhana text that start, “In a sublime place…” up until, “…on a comfortable seat” and deals with the different aspects we have been discussing—like the right place to practice, the kind of empowerment practitioners need, how to set up the mandala, the necessary tormas, and so on. All these preparations that must be completed before you enter into main part of the practice.
The second part are the actual preliminary practices.
The first preliminary practice is to take refuge.
Visualization: the Object of Refuge
Visualize the objects of refuge in the sky in front of you.
Visualize the field of merit instantaneously, following the approach, ‘the complete visualization the moment the practitioners thinks of it . In an instant, the main yidam deity, Phakma Yishin Khorlo, appears before you, surrounded by the deities of the three roots, the three jewels, and all the objects of refuge.
If you want to visualize elaborately, there is a refuge tree for Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik that you should look at. Visualize the deities as a ‘market crowd’—a crowd of people gathered in one place. If you can’t, use the ‘all-embodied jewel’ method. In the same way all wealth is gathered into a precious jewel, Phakma Yishin Khorlo is indivisible from the lama, since all the deities of the three roots and the infinite retinue deities of the mandala are the manifestations of the main deity.
To ‘visualize’ means to ‘meditate’, which is not that simple. To ‘visualize’ someone is like seeing them as clearly as you see your own reflection in a mirror—this is what qualifies as visualization. If you can’t do that kind of visualization, at least try to think about it.
Who Takes Refuge?
Those who take refuge are myself and all sentient beings.
How Long Do We Take Refuge?
We take refuge from now until complete enlightenment.
How Do We Take Refuge?
We take refuge as we prostrate with hands folded in a physical expression of homage (body); with our speech we say the words of the refuge verse; and with our mind we think, with devotion, “Phakma Yishin Khorlo, you know us! Care for us! Grant us refuge and protect us from the ocean of suffering that is samsara.”
The words you say are the four-line refuge prayer in the text:
Until we attain enlightenment, I and all sentient beings
Take refuge with unwavering devotion
In you, Guru Wish-fulfilling Wheel, who are
The very essence of the Three Jewels!
There is a translation to help you understand the meaning of the words, and if you don’t understand that, I am not going to explain each word for you. The explanation of refuge can be found in The Words of My Perfect Teacher and is dealt with in five or six pages. The meaning is encapsulated in various prayers, like the four-line verse given here, and points towards relative refuge. For absolute refuge, realize that in essence, all the aspects of the refuge—the field of refuge, the person taking refuge, the reason for taking refuge and so on—come from mind. The empty essence of mind is the dharmakaya, its cognizant nature is the sambhogakaya, and its unimpeded compassionate energy is the nirmanakaya. Having recognized that this is reality, ultimate refuge is to rest in a state of direct recognition.
At the beginning of the teaching, before we entered into the mantrayana, we learnt that buddha nature, the ground, is present in all sentient beings. Buddha nature is mind, and mind is the Buddha. We also learnt that the practices we engage in as we follow the path are all geared towards liberating us directly into the natural state of the ground. This is the context in which we should understand refuge.
Relative and Absolute Refuge
Relative refuge is presented here in the words of the prayer. It is something mind must think about, so think about the four lines from, “Until enlightenment I and all sentient beings…” to “…the nature of the Three Jewels.”
I have said already that all grasping thoughts that arise in our minds, both positive and negative, are just delusions. That’s the relative aspect. Ultimately, all thoughts are just mind. The essence of mind is empty and is the dharmakaya. The natural manifestation arising out of the expanse of this empty essence is clarity or cognition, which is the sambhogakaya. All individual aspects that arise are the nirmanakaya. It is said that the dharmakaya of the Buddha gives rise to the sambhogakaya, out of which manifests the nirmanakaya. Therefore, ultimate refuge is to maintain, as we take refuge, the clear recognition that dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya abide as empty essence, cognisant nature and infinite compassionate energy within our mind.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is strongly connected with the Dzogchen teachings, and the leading figures who clarified and established the Dzogchen teachings, Shri Singha and Vimalamitra, were teachers of Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche is the root source of all the Dzogchen teachings. Not only are Shri Singha, Vimalamitra and Guru Rinpoche great Dzogchen masters, but the moment they received the empowerment into the dynamic energy of rigpa , which is the heart of the Dzogchen path, they immediately accomplished its fruition and attained immortality. They are therefore still present, in the form of the ‘rainbow body of great transference’ to be of benefit to sentient beings until samsara is empty. What is the ‘rainbow body of great transference’? It means that having attained rainbow body—which is the final result of Dzogchen practice—the elements of their bodies are now beyond decay and degeneration. All three masters have achieved the rainbow body of great transference; Vimalamitra lives on Mount Wutaishan in China, while Guru Rinpoche lives on the Copper-coloured Mountain.
So, to say that the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik teaching is the ultimate unified wisdom intent of these three great masters means that this practice is connected with the ‘great perfection’, the Dzogchen tradition. Therefore, to avoid even touching upon Dzogchen as I explain this practice from Refuge and Bodhichitta onwards, would not be honest of me. To present the practice without making the distinction between the relative and absolute levels, or explaining them individually, just a little, would be deceptive. I am saying this not so much for the benefit of the audience I am speaking to today, but for the benefit of the recording, which will remain—this is something I must also keep in mind.
The first preliminary practice is Taking Refuge and I have now explained its two aspects—relative and absolute. This is how refuge should be explained for the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. For more ordinary practices, refuge would only be explained on the relative level, and that an ultimate refuge exists which practitioners should actualize would only briefly be mentioned. It’s important to give explanations that people can understand. The best approach, of course, is to avoid explaining anything at all and to remain silent! But if I do start to explain something, then I must explain it so that those who are listening can understand. I could say various things without really explaining anything at all! But I must bear in mind that the recording of whatever I say will be broadcast all over the place in the future.
Second, arouse bodhichitta in aspiration and action.
Bodhichitta has two aspects: the bodhichitta of aspiration and bodhichitta in action. ‘Bodhichitta of aspiration’ is to make a strong wish to reach enlightenment so we can help all sentient beings: “I will do what all the victorious ones and their heirs have done before me – chief among them Jetsun Drolma – in order to benefit all sentient beings who wander in samsara.” The second aspect of bodhichitta is to act on that aspiration by practising the Chimé Phakma Nyingtik. These two aspects should be present in your practice, together and inseparably.
Both aspects are invoked in the four-line prayer that’s part of the Bodhichitta section of the sadhana, so you must generate them both as you say that prayer. Again, Vajrayana is about recitation and meditation so you must actualize the meaning as you say the words. Don’t just chant mindlessly, oblivious to what you are saying.
Sentient beings are as countless as space is vast,
In order to free every one of them from the ocean of suffering
By attaining immortality through this yoga of Jetsun Phakma,
I arouse the enlightened mind of bodhichitta.
Embraced by bodhichitta, your practice becomes a Mahayana, ‘Great Vehicle’, practice. If you don’t generate the mind of enlightenment, your practice won’t even count as a Mahayana practice; so to think of it as a Vajrayana practice would be out of the question.
It is very easy to say, “We must think about all sentient beings all the time”; but it’s very difficult to bear in mind every time we do something positive – even during our most benign positive activities. Those who can are very rare. Some of my older monks have spent up to 15 years in retreat and have recited billions of Vajra Guru mantras. But I tell them: if you don’t say mantras with bodhichitta in your minds, all those recitations are useless! If you recite hundreds of millions of Vajra Guru Mantra but only think about yourself; if you only hope for a good, long life, free from illness for yourself; if you pray that only you won’t fall back into samsara in your future life, however many mantras you recite, your practice won’t be very beneficial.
Before you tackle sadhana practices, you must first complete the preliminary practices; you must do a ‘ngöndro’. This Chimé Phakma Nyingtik teaching pre-supposes that you have received and practised a ngöndro, which is why you won’t find much about ngöndro in it – refuge and bodhichitta for example. Or in most other sadhana commentaries.
3. Seven-Branch Offering
Third, the seven-branch offering.
Next we accumulate merit and purify negativity. All the aspects of collecting merit and purifying obscurations, etc, are included in the seven branches of offering, which can be practised in a number of different ways.
I multiply my body as many times as there are atoms in the universe.
Overflowing with devotion, I pay homage, body, speech and mind ,
These two lines tell us to bring to mind the objects of refuge once again. Prostrations are offered with the following two lines.
As I bow to the lotus beneath the feet of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of all directions and times,
And to their sublime mother, Tara.
According to the Vajrayana, you offer a full prostration. As your five points – hands, knees and forehead – touch the ground, you must bring to mind their significance.  Alternatively you can follow the Sutrayana approach and offer by emanating an infinite number of visualized forms of your own body to pay homage to the buddhas and bodhisattva through your body, speech, and mind.
We offer with the following two lines.
Here is an unsurpassable array of outer, inner and secret substances,
Like the vast cloud-like offerings of Samantabhadra.
The practice text includes two lines for each of the first two branches, and the remaining five have one line each.
Offer the outer, inner and secret offerings – which will be discussed more fully later in the text – and every kind of offering that comes to mind. In this way you make infinite offerings beyond conception by an ordinary mind, not just once, but continuously throughout all eternity.
I confess all negative actions, obscurations, faults and downfalls,
Confession must always involve the four powers. As we have so many vows to keep, it’s inevitable that we’ll break some of tthem, and so to purify all these breakages and faults we must confess using the four powers, which are:
- the power of support – the lama;
- the power of practice;
- the power of heartfelt regret; and
- the power of strong resolve never do it again, even if one’s life is at stake.
In the Nyingma tradition, we maintain all the vows associated with all three yanas together and at the same time, and so confession is relatively easy. When you receive an empowerment, you become a Vajrayana practitioner, a ‘Vajra holder’, because you will then hold all three sets of vows. They are:
- the vows of individual liberation
- the vows of bodhichitta
- the Vajrayana vow, or samaya commitments
Each vow progresses from the previous vow; in essence, though, they are all the same. In order to follow the path, we must take these vows, but as they are not easy to keep, we offer confession based on the four powers to purify the breakages.
And rejoice in the practice of the two accumulations.
The ‘two accumulations’ are all the merit and wisdom accumulated by sentient beings. Merit is positive action that’s driven by mind, whereas wisdom is accumulated without mental activity or references, for example by resting in ‘meditative equipoise’. By rejoicing in someone else’s positive activity, you will accumulate the same amount of merit as they accumulate. This is very important.
Request the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma
Continue turning the wheel of the Dharma,
Request that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not to Pass into Nirvana
And do not pass into nirvana, but remain here, we pray.
Dedicate the Merit
I dedicate our accumulation of merit towards the attainment of the heart of enlightenment.
May we swiftly accomplish Buddhahood for the benefit of others.
Here, in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, the Seven-Branch Practice follows the approach common to sutrayana and tantrayana.
Dissolution of the Field of Refuge
The field of merit dissolves into you, inseparably.
Dissolve all the deities in the field of refuge into yourself and actualize the state of being inseparable from Yishin Khorlo; you are not separate from her.
It is crucial that we see ourselves as not being separate from the deity; once we do, we will also be convinced that we embody all the qualities of the deity. Which is why this dissolution is very important. Once the deity has dissolved into you, rest in the state of unity – but not for too long. When thoughts begin to arise, feel once again the vajra pride of being the deity. Actually a mantra practitioner should bring the awareness of being the deity to mind in every moment.
Then you arise as the activity deity.
In that state, arouse the vajra pride of being the wrathful activity deity.
The ‘wrathful activity deity’ is Hayagriva. He holds a lotus club in his right hand, and a skull-cup in his left. He wears the eight charnel-ground ornaments of a wrathful deity, but not all the ten glorious ornaments. Here again, in an instant you visualize yourself as the deity, then hold the ‘vajra pride’ of the view, thinking “I am the deity”.
4. Torma Offering to the Obstructing Forces: the Gektor
On the first day of a retreat you must offer a torma to dispel obstructing forces; it’s called a gektor. As you place the gektor in front of you, arise as Hayagriva and feel a complete confidence, or vajra pride, that you are Hayagriva. Out of emptiness arises compassion. From that compassion arises ‘wrathful action’, which manifests in a wrathful form, not out of anger, but as the wrathful expression of compassion.
From Hayagriva’s heart emanates rays of light in the form of hooks, which produce vast numbers of wrathful deities and more hooks and lassos and so on. These emanations summon all the malevolent beings who create obstacles to Dharma practice, who gather in front of Hayagriva. And it is to these malicious creatures that we must offer the gektor torma, which takes the form of the inexhaustible five sensory stimulants and is therefore beautifully shaped, makes pleasant sounds, has a wonderful fragrance, an excellent taste, and is soft to the touch.
To purify the gektor torma, the three syllables, ram yam kham, emanate from your heart:
ram yam kham
Ram releases the fire of wisdom to burn away our grasping at the idea that the torma, etc, exists; that it has ‘true existence’.
Yam releases a wind that disperses all grasping.
Kham releases water to cleanse impurities so that all grasping is entirely removed.
om ah hung
Out of emptiness, the syllables om ah hung manifest and bless the offerings, which then become inexhaustible wisdom nectar and appear in the form of the five sensory stimulants.
The gektor is offered as you bring together deity, mantra and mudra. Visualize yourself as the deity, Hayagriva, perform the mudras of the sensory stimulants, and use samadhi to visualize what I have just explained. The mantra is balingte soha.
Once the malevolent spirits have gathered in front of you, say the mantra balingta soha, perform the appropriate mudra, then offer the blessed torma.
This offering will delight and satisfy the obstructing forces, who, having been pacified, abandon any idea they might have had of obstructing dharma practice. Instead they are happy and rejoice, then return to where they belong. This is what you actualize.
Those obstructing forces who do not leave must be expelled. So Hayagriva produces from his five centres and every pore in his body, hundreds of thousands of Hayagriva-like wrathful deities in huge numbers, which deluge the obstructing forces with the five weapons, expelling them.
In the practice text, the follow verse offers the torma and tells the obstructing forces what to do.
Primordially, samsara and nirvana are inseparable,
Yet temporary delusion manifests as negative forces and obstacle makers.
Accept this torma as an offering or a gift
And depart for the dharmadhatu empty of inherent existence.
Hung is the Buddha’s core seed syllable and the primordially pure nature of our mind. So at this level, there is no distinction between samsara and nirvana.
“Depart for the dharmadhatu empty of inherent existence” means ‘dissolve into emptiness’. So the obstructing forces are ‘sent’ to the basic space beyond nature, meaning they are naturally liberated and therefore disappear. In other gektor practices, obstructing forces are sent to the other side of the ocean.
Recite the fierce mantra,...
Here you should recite fierce mantras, such as:
- om pema nata krita ha ya gri wa sarwa bighanen hana hana hung phet; and
- om sumbani sumbani hung grihana grihana hung grihanapaya grihanapaya hung anaya ho bagawan vidyaradza hung phat, which is the mantra that terminates the malevolent spirits.
...and throw power substances at them. Assume the gaze of the vajra view.
Substances that are feared by malevolent spirits – for example the gugul and mustard seeds blessed and consecrated by Vajrapani, who gave them to Buddha to tame and chase away negative forces – should be offered at this point. You burn the gugul because the malevolent spirits can’t stand its smell; but you throw the mustard seeds.
‘Assume the gaze of vajra view’, the view of emptiness. The ‘vajra view’ isn’t something you do with your eyes, you actualize it through meditation, which ‘sends away’ the negative forces, meaning they dissolve.
The vajra is the symbol of indestructibility. ‘Vajra’ cannot be cut, is indestructible, real, solid, and stable. It therefore cannot be obstructed and is completely invincible. This is what emptiness is like. Emptiness is like space, which can’t be altered or cut or burned in anyway. You can’t do anything at all to space. So here you introduce emptiness, which negative forces cannot overcome. As you abide in the view of emptiness, delusion doesn’t have a chance; and in the absence of delusion, negative forces won’t know how to obstruct you.
The Light of Wisdom says that according to Hindu mythology, Indra’s hundred-spoked vajra has the power to destroy negative forces, which is why the vajra is rotated during the recitation of the sumbani mantra. In fact, the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo says that the vajra has the power to effect four ‘benefits’, meaning it is certain to accomplish four specific functions. And so, it’s a vajra that you throw at those who are hostile (1), because it will unfailingly hit its target (2), and the hostile being will certainly die (3). But a being who is killed by a vajra in this way, will then be guided to a higher rebirth (4). So at this point in the practice, we make sure that all obstacles to our enlightenment – which are the thoughts and concepts that arise in our minds, but nothing outside mind – are eliminated.
5. Protection Spheres
Fifth, meditate on the protective spheres.
A protection sphere is always completely sealed. Nothing – not air, not even mind – can pass into it. The protection sphere, or tent, forms a boundary inside which the mandala of deities is spontaneously present. This is the kind of protection sphere you must meditate on.
There are different ways of visualizing a protection sphere, but at the very least, it must always include egg-shaped layers of vajra, fire and wrathful deities which surround the palace and pure realm, and the five elements on which they rest.
Visualize an egg-shaped vajra protection tent with a double vajra at its top and base, and layers – or walls – of many crossed vajras, packed together so tightly that there’s not even enough space for air. The tent is surrounded by fire, and sometimes also by water and wind, and around the layer of fire is an infinite number of wrathful deities. The male wrathful deities face outwards, to protect against incoming negative forces; and the female wrathful deities face inwards, to protect against the loss of siddhis.
They are sometimes surrounded by a stable, shining, five-layered dome made up the five attributes of the five buddha-families (wheels, vajras, jewels, lotus flowers, and swords) sequentially arranged and countless in number, which fill all directions (above and below, the cardinal and intermediate points, etc.) with rings of fire. The apex of the dome is ornamented with a half-vajra.
Read the description of the vajra tent in the text and visualize all its characteristics. At the very least, trust that everything is there.
benza jnana raksha om ah hung
The protection spheres must be inconceivably vast and extremely solid. And for the sphere to be as strong possible, you must first realize emptiness.
6. Invocation and Descent of Blessings
Sixth, visualize yourself clearly as the Sublime Lady,...
Think, “I am Jetsun Drolma.” Again, don’t fake being Tara, you truly are Tara. As I have already told you, if you’re not sure what the view is and if you don’t have confidence in it, you cannot practise mantra. The view of pure perception will give you confidence that you really are the deity. Think: “My mind is the ground, buddha nature, which actually is the deity.” Realize the truth of this! Once you do, the ‘clear appearance’ of the deity will arise naturally.
...and chant the following invocation amidst a profusion of brilliant rays of light...
The clear visualization of yourself as the deity, Jetsun Drolma, now emanates innumerable rays of light – “a profusion of brilliant rays” – that fill the whole of space, purifying the environment, all sentient beings, and the offerings. (The Buddha accomplishes his activities with rays of light.)
...with yearning song,
A ‘yearning song’ is like the cry of a lonely child calling out for his mother, and in this context refers to the mantras that follow the invocation.
a la la ho samaya ho samaya stam
om tare tuttare ture svaha
jnana vajra samaya aveshaya a ah
hring hring phem phem
dzah hung bam ho
...incense and music.
The substances used here are good incense with an exquisite fragrance, and lovely music. As you offer the music, think to yourself that all sounds are in fact music, and as the music plays, everyone is summoned. It’s like, when you ring the lunch bell everyone comes running. Or when you gesture with your hand for someone to come towards you, they come.
These are the kinds of convention we use to summon people. It’s the same idea here.
The three root deities of the ten directions and four times
Are aroused as the mudras of Phakma's three secrets—
Let them dissolve into me, the place, the ritual implements and substances,
Which now blaze with the splendour of blessings.
om ah hung a la la ho samaya ho samaya stam
From the expanse of the ground, the Dharmakaya palace,
Arise the appearance of the ground, the discernment of everything,
O bhagavati of the supreme lotus family,
Wish-fulfilling Wheel who increases longevity,
Bless this place and bestow the supreme empowerment,
Arouse primordial wisdom in our body, speech and mind,
Increase our longevity, merit, wealth, experience and realization,
And grant us the ordinary and supreme accomplishments.
om tare tuttare ture soha
jnana vajra samaya abesha ya ah ah
hring hring pheng pheng hung hung hung dza hung bam ho
During the descent of blessings, realize that all the deities of the ten directions and four times – past, present, future, and the fourth time of great equality – and all the three roots deities – Lama, Yidam and Khandro – are Chime Phakma’s enlightened body, speech, and mind; her three secrets.
From the Dzogchen perspective, everything we perceive with our five sense-faculties – or six, if you include mind – is considered to be a ‘thought’. So the greatest kind of ‘descent of blessings’ is: the moment a ‘thought’ arises, you are aware of it and recognize it, then it dissolves. But if you can’t do that, then practise as explained.
The ‘descent of blessings’ is about recognizing natural purity – the original primordial purity – and great equality. It’s like prospecting for gold: the point isn’t to change the earth into gold, to change something impure into something pure, it’s about recognizing what is already there.
To understand the Mantrayana, first you have to appreciate that the Vehicle of Characteristics is a complete and flawless path, and that it came directly from the Buddha. The Vajrayana is the vehicle that takes fruition as the path, and has four levels of ‘approach’:
- Kriya Yoga
- Charya Yoga
- Yoga Tantra
- Unsurpassed Yoga Tantra
The Unsurpassed Yoga Tantra has nine divisions, which can also be classified as:
- the three Inner Tantras of Mahayoga, which emphasize kyerim practice
- the Anuyoga practice of dzogrim, and
- Atiyoga or Dzogpachenpo, which is beyond the conceptualization of the two previous vehicles.
The Sarma schools speak of ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘non-dual’ tantras. Each of these three vehicles is divided into three sections, each emphasizing a specific form of practice : Maha-Maha, Anu-Maha, Ati-Mahayoga; Maha-, Anu- and Ati-Anuyoga; and Maha-, Anu- and Ati-Atiyoga.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is an Ati-Mahayoga practice because it follows the kyerim method for generating the deity, and because it involves many aspects of the Dzogchen or Atiyoga approach, plus all the different levels, bhumis, of progressing on the path.
The text of the Descent of Blessing says,
The three root deities of the ten directions and four times
Are aroused as the mudras of Phakma's three secrets—
All the deities of the three roots dwell in the ten directions, which are all around you. The ten directions are: the four cardinal points, east, south, west, north; the four intermediate points, south-east, south-west, north-west and north-east; and above and below. The four times are past, present, future and the ‘inconceivable fourth time’ of the Nyingmapas. If you were to add up all the deities who live in all those directions and times, how many would it make? A lot, no? And Jetsun Drolma is the expression of the activities of all these billions of deities; her nature is their enlightened activities.
All their blessings and rays of light,
...dissolve into me, the place, the ritual implements and substances,
Which now blaze with the splendour of blessings.
As the blessings enter them, the ritual implements and substances blaze with the ‘splendour of blessings’.
The meaning of these words is encapsulated in the three syllables om ah hung, since ‘qualities’ and ‘activities’ are merely aspects of body (om), speech (ah) and mind (hung).
Realizing just how extraordinary these words are, you utter “a la la ho!” which mean ‘incredible’, ‘beyond words’.
“Samaya Ho!” invokes the samayas of these inconcievable, inexpressible manifestations of wisdom. What are their samaya pledges? To help sentient beings until samsara is empty. And so by invoking their samayas what you’re saying is, “Do this for me too, now!”
There is so much to understand about these mantras. They weren’t translated and left in Sanskrit because that language carries more blessing than Tibetan. Those who are well-versed in Sanskrit don’t have to say the prayer in Tibetan, the Sanskrit mantra is enough. In fact, those who have superior capacities can do the whole practice without saying one word of the Tibetan prayers; they just say the mantras. For example, such a practitioner would eliminate negative forces by instantly meditating on the deity, and instead of saying the relevant Tibetan verse, directly actualizing the meaning of that verse as they recite the mantras. They would then recite benza jnana raksha raksha om ah hung as they meditated on the protection spheres, and om ah hung a la la ho samaya ho samaya stam as they accomplished the descent of blessings.
7. Blessing the Offerings
If you want to practise a little more elaborately, the descent of blessings and blessing the offerings can be done separately. But in a less elaborate practice, they can be done together, because they have the same meaning.
Visualize yourself clearly as Jetsun Drolma. Rays of light emanate from your heart as you call out to the deities in a song of yearning, and offer incense and music to indicate that you want them to come to you.
The text goes on to say that all the jñanasattvas in the mandala, led by Jetsun Drolma – her body, speech, mind, qualities and activities, power and ability – arrive in my outer environment and transform it into a pure buddhafield. They dissolve into the space in which I practise, transforming it into the ‘unfathomable palace’, then into my body so I truly become the deity. They dissolve into my speech, transforming my words into vajra speech, endowed with the quality of ‘the melodious voice of Brahma’. They dissolve into my mind so that my thoughts have no effect upon my mind, and its dharmakaya nature manifests.
Impure body, speech and mind become the pure three vajras; so you must trust that impure body, speech and mind have transformed into vajra body, vajra speech and vajra mind.
This is how to practise the descent of blessings.
You bless the offerings by blessing all material objects arranged before you, as well as the vast offerings you have created in your mind – which are just like the clouds of offerings that were offered by Samantabhadra.
Use everything you have. Spread a beautiful cloth on the table, present the offerings in your loveliest bowls, and arrange everything as exquisitely as possible. Recite mantras – you can add the eight offerings mantras, for example ‘argham’ for drinking water, and so on – perform mudras and rest in samadhi to bless the offerings.
The mantra in the text is:
om ah hung sarva puja megha samayé hung
om ah hung represent enlightened body, speech and mind, respectively
sarva means ‘all’
puja means ‘offer’
megha means ‘clouds’
So the meaning of the mantra is that you offer everything possible in a extremely vast offering.
You will need the three special blessed substances of amrita, torma and rakta.
‘Sky treasury’ means ‘inexhaustible’, and so when we open the ‘sky treasury’ the offerings we make will become inexhaustible.
Usually sadhanas have seven preliminary sections, seven sections in the main practice, and seven concluding sections. Today we have covered the seven preliminary sections. Next, we come to the seven sections of the main part of the practice: kyerim practice.
II. The Main Practice
1. The Generation of the Samayasattvas
First, generate the samayasattvas
om maha shunyata jnana vajra svabhava atmako hang
maha means ‘great’
shunyata means ‘emptiness’
jnana means ‘wisdom’
Here, you actualize the dissolution of all phenomena into great emptiness as you recite this mantra. Out of that emptiness, arises the deity.
The ‘three samadhis’ of kyerim practice are very profound. Our nature is primordial purity, you should be clear about that.
If we don’t recognize the dharmakaya for what it really is – buddha nature, the true nature of our mind – we are deluded. As we are deluded, we form concepts, and it is because we have concepts that we are sentient beings, as opposed to buddhas.
The primordial purity of our true nature is called ‘rigpa’ and the display of rigpa now arises in the form of compassionate energy, which is the natural expression of primordial purity. The outer display, or outer clarity, is the delusion that characterizes sentient beings. The inner display, or inner clarity, is ‘buddha’, which is the wisdom that is free from concept and thought.
For sentient beings like us, our inner display is very weak, whereas our outer display is very strong. From the outer clarity, karma arises, as do destructive emotions and thoughts. Each of our actions strengthens our karma, which becomes stronger and stronger. This is how we form our habits and tendencies, and as a result, our karma and destructive emotions completely obscure the dharmakaya, and we suffer. At the same time, as Longchenpa said, our buddha nature is like a diamond that’s been stuck in the mud for a thousand years. Once the diamond is dug up, it is exactly as beautiful as it was a thousand years ago, unspoilt by the mud, with all its qualities intact. Similarly our buddha nature, however obscured, always remains perfect and incorruptible.
Since buddha nature is obscured by karma and destructive emotions, we are reborn in samsara, again and again. There are only four ways of taking birth: from an egg, a womb, heat and moisture, and miraculous birth. Having been reborn in samsara, we are once again deluded sentient beings. And it’s impossible to count the number of times we’ve been reborn, or the number of times we’ve died.
To stop being ceaselessly reborn in samsara, we must eliminate the causes of rebirth, which are karma and habitual tendencies. How do we do this? Through the practice of kyerim. Kyerim is a special teaching from the Secret Mantra Vajrayana that purifies and eliminates the habitual tendencies that cause us to be reborn one of four ways:
1. Five Manifest Enlightenments
Egg birth is the most elaborate form birth. It is called ‘double birth’ because it involves two ‘births’: an egg is born from the mother, then the being (not just birds, many beings are born from eggs) is born from the egg. To purify this kind of birth, we need a similarly elaborate method, which involves the practice of the ‘five manifest enlightenments’.
2. Four-Vajra Generation
To purify birth from the womb we ‘generate through the four vajras’. The parents have sex, a consciousness enters the mother’s womb and a baby develops over nine months – ask your doctor for the details. Once the baby emerges from the womb, he or she grows up to be an adult. This is true for all beings born from a womb – it’s just details like length of time they spend in the womb, etc, that differ.
3. Three-Vajra Generation
The ‘three vajra generation’ is practised to purify birth from heat and moisture. This type of birth requires a little heat and moisture to create the right vessel for a consciousness to enter and a being to develop.
4. Instantaneous Visualization
Miraculous birth is used by those who just have to think about taking birth for it happen. They don’t need a father, a mother or heat and moisture. They don’t need anything at all, and are born in an instant. The cause for their birth is mind. This is the most common type of birth; most of the beings who fill the hell realms were born miraculously. That’s how they are able to take birth in fire, stones, etc.
‘Instantaneous visualization’ purifies the habitual tendencies associated with miraculous birth and doesn’t require causes and conditions like reciting prayers, etc. The visualization simply appears in an instant.
There is a great deal of explanation in the tantras about the five manifest enlightenments, the four-vajra generation, the three-vajra generation, and instantaneous visualization.
When we die, all the concepts we developed in this life cease and we enter the intermediate state between two lives, the ‘bardo’. Beings who pass through the bardo are reborn using one of the four methods of birth. Therefore, to free ourselves from the cycle of rebirth in samsara, we must purify the habitual tendencies that lead us to samsaric rebirth – for example, our desire to enter a womb and to then be born nine months and ten days later. In the Chime Phakma Nyingtik, the kyerim practice is based on the four vajras, which purifies the habit of being reborn from a womb.
The Four Vajras
The stages of generation through the four vajras are:
- Meditation on emptiness and bodhichitta; mind manifests as the seed syllable of the deity, for example hung.
- The hung descends onto the deity’s seat, such as sun and moon disc seats, purifying mind of its tendency to enter a womb.
- To purify the baby growing in the mother’s womb, the seed syllable transforms into the body of the deity.
- The placement of the three seed syllables at the three places of the body of the deity .
The Three Samadhis
All things in samsara and nirvana are
The primordial, luminous space of suchness, in which arises
The power of all-illuminating compassion. Their union
Is the causal samadhi, a white tam,
Appearing like a rainbow in the sky and...
The three samadhis are the most important aspect of both an explanation of kyerim, and of its practice. A practitioner must ‘plant the structure of the three samadhis’.
We practise the three samadhis by reciting the words of the sadhana and meditating on their meaning. The Secret Mantra Vajrayana uses both recitation and meditation. So, we recite the sadhana using our mouths, while our minds actualize the meaning of the words.
The dharmakaya buddha, sambhogakaya buddha, and nirmanakaya buddhas are linked to the three samadhis. There are a great many teachings about this subject, but at the very least you should know that the sambhogakaya arises from the dharmakaya, and the nirmanakaya arises from the sambhogakaya, and that all three kayas arise to help sentient beings.
The three samadhis follow the same sequence.
1. The Samadhi of Suchness.
The first samadhi, the Samadhi of Suchness, is the dharmakaya – the primordial luminous space of ‘suchness’. Ideally, the practitioner maintains the clarity of rigpa and rests in emptiness. However, what you manage to do will depend on the level of your practice. Best is to actualize the meaning, not conceptually but directly. Breathe out at least twenty-one times, or fourteen or a minimum of seven times, as you rest in the view.
2. The Samadhi of Universal Manifestation
The second samadhi, the Samadhi of Universal Manifestation, is the sambhogakaya. As a thought arises, meditate on vast compassion indivisible from emptiness. This is how you apply the second samadhi. Our thoughts always end up deluding us, and our delusions lead us to negative actions. Think about how this always happens, and develop tremendous compassion for all those who fall into this same cycle of suffering. Just as the light of the sun instantly dispels all trace of darkness, great compassion arising from shunyata instantly dispels delusion.
3. The Causal Samadhi
The third samadhi, the Causal Samadhi, is the nirmanakaya. The seed syllable arises from great compassion. Indivisible emptiness and compassion become a brilliant white seed syllable tam, that appears in the sky like a rainbow. Infinite light radiates from the tam, symbolizing the infinite qualities of the buddhas.
The light that shines from the tam should be dazzling. Why? Because dazzlingly brilliant light signifies the inconceivable qualities of the buddhas, for example the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks, the eighteen unshared qualities and the sixty aspects of melodious speech.
Visualize the syllables in whichever script you prefer. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said it’s better for Chinese people to visualize the syllables as a Chinese script, for Tibetans to visualize Tibetan script and for Indians to visualize an Indic script.
...Sending out light that purifies clinging to reality in the world and amongst beings.
At the moment, we see the whole universe impurely; we see houses, earth, stones, fire, wind, water and so on. This is the how to purify those kinds of impure perception. If you are able to perceive as described in the text, you have pure perception. However, it is only ‘pure perception’ in the context of kyerim training. From the dzogrim perspective, even kyerim’s ‘pure perception’ is still impure.
Through kyerim practice, the whole universe and all sentient beings are purified into primordial wisdom. All our grasping at the world’s ‘reality’ and any sense we have of ‘solidity’ is purified into nothingness. It doesn’t exist.
Within the expanse of the five elements, the consorts,
There are two stages of generation: the generation of the support (the environment and the palace), and the generation of the deities. The environment and palace are visualized from the outside in, while the deities are visualized from the inside out.
The five consorts – the five female buddhas – arise from space and are the embodiment of the five elements, and so they form the environment. They are also the five wisdoms and are therefore related to the five aggregates.
Visualize the syllable tam in space, enclosed within the protection sphere. The tam emanates the seed syllables associated with the five elements, and so on:
- e represents the element of space; it also represents mind in the body
- yam represents wind; it also represents the air in the body
- ram represents fire and warmth
- bam represents water and blood
- lam represents earth and flesh
- sum represents Mount Meru and bones
There are also kyerim practices that lead you through a visualization of the vajra body mandala, but that’s not the case here.
The following syllables now emanate from the tam: e, yam, ram, bam, lam, sum
An e syllable arises first and transforms into the element of space, which takes the form of a dark blue triangle that appears to rest upside-down in space, with one point aimed directly downwards. In some practices this syllable is white, or the shape of a ball of light, but in all practices it is immeasurably big.
yam, the element of wind descends into the inverted triangle, and as it approaches the triangle’s lowest point, it transforms into a dark green crossed-vajra radiating dark green light.
What you have now is blue light shining from the bottom of the inverted triangle, and a sphere of dark green light surrounding the crossed-vajra.
The other syllables now descend into the space of the vast triangle, which is visualized this way because the elements and everything that they form always appear in space.
Next is the red ram (fire) which transforms into a bright red triangle, radiating red light which forms a sphere around it.
From the tam emerges bam (water), which transforms into a white disc radiating white light; then lam (earth) which transforms into a golden square radiating yellow light; then sum descends to rest on top of the golden square lam (earth), and then transforms into Mount Meru, with its four sides made of the four precious substances, and larger at the top than at its base.
There are four terraces at the top of Mount Meru, and everything up to the terraces is inside the element of space. The other vajra fence begins at the level of the terraces. Inside it is an iron ring. Inside the iron ring are the Eight Great Charnel Grounds, one in each of the eight directions. At the centre of the ring is an unopened, one thousand-petalled lotus bud, which encloses a crossed-vajra; each of its prongs extends to a cardinal direction: the yellow prongs point south, the red point west, the green point north, and the white point east.
Each stage of visualization purifies one of the habitual tendencies associated with the outer environment.
Visualization of the Palace
All sentient beings live somewhere, and to purify the habitual tendencies associated with our homes, we meditate on the palace.
Within the expanse of the five elements, the consorts...
All five elements are now as pure as the five wisdoms. When you practise in retreat, you visualize the building where you do your retreat as the palace, not an ordinary house, and by doing so you purify your ordinary perception.
Within the expanse of the five elements, the consorts,
Stands the celestial mansion of great liberation,
Formed of precious crystal,
Complete with four sides, four doors and all its features.
A wish-fulfilling jewel beautifully ornaments its summit.
It has tababs, dharma wheels, deer and parasols,
And is adorned with the yellow brick frieze, festooned garlands,
Sharbu ornaments, and pagoda rooves.
It is encircled by offering goddesses who stand on the pleasure terraces
And all this is surrounded by the worldly protectors.
The syllable bhrum descends to the centre of the crossed-vajra and transforms into the celestial mansion of great liberation made of precious crystal. So the crossed-vajra forms the foundation of the palace. The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik palace doesn’t have any unique characteristics, apart from being made of crystal, so we follow the general description of palaces given in the Guhyagarbha tantra. The palace has four sides, but the four gateways mean it isn’t a perfect square. Its characteristics are beyond what we can imagine, and its dimensions are immeasurable. It is protected by worldly protectors.
The four gateways represent the four immeasurables. The porticos that form the gateways stand in front of each of the four doors and have four pillars, two inner and two outer, and four steps leading up to the door. Here each portico is made of eight ornamental friezes, although as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo pointed out, simple visualization practices only include four. All eight are visualized if you follow the more elaborate approach, but both methods are good. Above the ornamental friezes at each door is a dharma wheel with a deer and doe on either side and a parasol above it. The tops of the gateways are open, so rays of light can shine out to accomplish the activities.
Inside the palace stand eight pillars. From the top of the palace wall to each of the pillars are eight beams which support a roof that is open at its centre. A bumpa stands above the empty circle in the roof, and is curved, like a stupa. It represents great equality. Above the bumpa, several levels – like those you see on top of a stupa, including the thirteen rings – extend skywards. They are surmounted and beautifully ornamented by a sun, a moon, and a wish-fulfilling jewel.
The knee-high red pleasure terraces extend from and surround the palace. The palace walls are made of five separate sheets of colour that are very close to each other, but don’t touch: from outside to inside they are white, dark blue, yellow, red and green. The inside of the palace walls are green because inside the palace is where all the enlightened activity takes place. Outside the palace, it is white toward the east, yellow towards the south, etc.
Around the top of the palace walls are strata of decorative friezes. The lowest is the yellow brick frieze, above which stand very short columns linked by beautiful, festooned garlands. Above the columns hang the sharbu ornaments, over which slope a yellow pagoda roof with gargoyles in each of the four directions. The top of the pagoda roof is embellished with, for example, the four vases, and ornaments hang from poles, such as the four banners, mirrors, and so on.
On the red pleasure terrace stand four offering goddesses in each direction, so a total of sixteen encircle the palace. Outside in the charnel grounds, the worldly protectors of the ten directions surround the palace.
The square floor of the palace is made of crystal and is surrounded by a vajra canal, which directs water to flow over the spokes of the crossed-vajra as it leaves the palace.
If you can find a three-dimensional model of this kind of palace, the best way to help you visualize is to look at it.
However much I talk about the shape, colour and features of this palace, modern people don’t seem able to understand. At least, that’s my experience. Other lamas, like Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche have said the same thing: modern people just don’t get it. The words for porticos, dharma wheels, deer and parasols, yellow-brick friezes, festooned garlands, sharbu ornaments, and pagoda rooves are all very poor translations, because the names of what we’re visualizing don’t exist in western languages. So it’s best to find a picture of each of the features to look at as you go through your practice text. Just talking about these things is of no use at all.
The Sakyapas go into great detail about this visualization, and include things like measurements and proportions. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche didn’t explain the palace when he taught westerners. He told them simply to think of a beautiful but incredible building made of precious substances, that is beyond the bounds of possibility. By doing so, he said, you purify your habitual tendencies. Alternatively, you could try imagining your own house made of jewels and light, with no outside or inside.
The palace is the natural manifestation of the deity; there is no difference between a single one of its pillars and the deity. In fact, the whole palace is the deity.
If you want to know more details about the palace and their significance, you should read the commentaries; or ask people who know about these things.
The descriptions of the deities themselves – for example, one face, two hands etc. – are easy to understand from the text. Or you can look at a thangka.
Generally, people need a house to live in. But to build a house, you will need land, an ‘environment’. And in the house you need seats to seat on. Right now, our chairs and sofas and benches are ‘impure’ perceptions, whereas a lotus, sun and moon disc are pure. But of course, such seats don’t function within the ordinary realm of possibility. Just try sitting on the sun; you’d burn up instantly!
In its centre on a four-petalled lotus, are
Skilful means and wisdom—sun and moon fused together—
Lotuses grow in mud, yet lotus flowers are unstained by that mud. Likewise, the deity who sits on the lotus is certainly present in samsara, yet is unstained by it. The sun and moon together represent skilful means and wisdom, and both are necessary. In the light of the sun and the moon, darkness is entirely eliminated. In the presence of the sun and the moon, the mind of the deity does not experience the smallest delusion, or thought, or concept. So the mind of the deity who sits on a sun and moon disc seat will be entirely free of delusion.
In the centre of which is the syllable tam, as their union.
tam, which is the causal samadhi that we have mentioned earlier, and is indivisible from your own mind, descends to rest on the sun and moon discs that form its seat. ‘Union’ means the union of skilful means and wisdom.
Light emanates from tam as an offering to the Noble Ones,
From tam, rays of lights shoot out to make offerings to all the noble beings in every direction, and to benefit all sentient beings.
Gathering and bringing back the quintessence of samsara and nirvana,
‘Samsara’ means all sentient beings and ‘nirvana’ means all the tathagatas. When the light returns to the tam, it brings the essence of all sentient beings and all buddhas, which is what is meant by ‘the quintessence of samsara and nirvana’.
Now, meditate on the main deity.
Which transforms into the magical body of wisdom,
Embodiment of the enlightened activity of the buddhas, past, present and future,
Wish-fulfilling Wheel, bestower of immortality.
Brilliant white, with one face and two hands,
Her right hand in the mudra of supreme generosity;
Her left grants refuge, symbolizing the Three Jewels,
And holds an utpala flower on which rests the vase of longevity.
Peaceful, smiling, with seven eyes of wisdom,
She is lovely. Adorned with silks and jewelled ornaments,
Her two legs are crossed in vajra posture,
She sits on her lotus and moon disc seat.
With her right hand, Tara, the Wish-fulfilling Wheel, makes the gesture that symbolizes ‘granting refuge’. She has seven eyes: two eyes like everyone has, plus one in the middle of her forehead and one in each hand and foot. She wears the five silk and eight jewel ornaments.
As her natural radiance her supreme skilful means, the Lord of the Dance,
Holds a lotus flower and long life vase, and embraces her in union.
She is in union with the Lord of Dance (Avalokiteshvara and Amitayus) who manifests as her ‘natural radiance’ – meaning the rays of light that constantly radiate from her.
This is the meditation on the main deity. If you cannot lay the foundation of this practice properly, using the structure of the three samadhis, you are not practising kyerim properly. Nowadays, few really understand the three samadhis – in fact, many monks and lamas don’t understand them at all. But to practise kyerim without relating to the samadhi of suchness and the samadhi of universal manifestation will only add one delusion to another. The three samadhis are the mandatory prerequisite for all kyerim practices that involve meditation on a deity, not just the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, and encompass the most important points of kyerim.
However rushed you may feel, make sure that you meditate on the three samadhis properly. Of course, at first you won’t be able to practise exactly as described in the text, so practise on an aspirational level. At least try! You should bring to mind your understanding of the three samadhis. And to do that, you must first learn what they are. Then visualize the deities as you follow the text.
Having visualized the main deity in union, you then visualize the retinue, who are no different from the main deity:
She passionately abides in undistracted great bliss and the four joys
While her secret space emits
The bodhichitta seed syllables, tam, droom, hrih and hung.
From her secret space comes the four seed syllables, the nature of which is bodhichitta, which transform into the four Taras.
The syllables emanate and reabsorb rays of light. As they reabsorb the light,
In the east, tam transforms into dark blue Vajra Tara
Holding an utpala flower and a vajra in the mudra of supreme generosity,
In the south droom transforms into yellow Ratna Tara
Holding an utpala flower and a jewel in the mudra of supreme generosity,
In the west hrih transforms into red Padma Tara
Holding an utpala flower and an iron hook in the mudra of supreme generosity,
In the north hung transforms into black Karma Tara
Holding an utpala flower and a sword in the mudra of supreme generosity.
They are all adorned with the silks and jewelled ornaments,
Wearing the pacifying, increasing, magnetizing and wrathful expressions. Each sits on a lotus and moon disc in the half-vajra posture.
Each syllable in turn emanates and re-absorbs rays of light, then transforms into one of the four Taras.
In the east is blue Vajra Tara. She holds an utpala flower and a vajra. In essence she is Akshobhya, purified anger; she accomplishes the pacifying activities.
In the south is yellow Ratna Tara. She holds an utpala flower and a jewel. In essence she is Ratnasambhava, purified miserliness; she accomplishes enriching activities.
In the west is red Padma Tara. She holds an utpala flower and an iron hook. In essence she is Amitabha, purified discriminating thoughts; she accomplishes magnetizing activities.
In the north is black Karma Tara. She holds an utpala flower and a sword. In essence she is Amoghasiddhi, purified karmic formations; she accomplishes wrathful activities.
Again, the Sublime Lady emanates dza, hung, bam, and ho.
These syllables are sent to the four doors where, on lotus and sun disc seats,
They transform into Vajra Hook Tara, Lasso Tara,
Iron Chain Tara and Bell Tara,
White, yellow, red and green respectively, with semi-wrathful expressions
And each holding her own hand implement and an utpala flower.
Dancing, with one leg stretched and the other bent, they suppress the four maras,
And are adorned with the silks and jewelled ornaments.
The main deity emanates the syllables dza, hum, bam, and ho. The syllables rest on seats by each of the four doors, emanate and re-absorb rays of light and transform into the four Tara doorkeepers, who are all dancing:
In the east, a white Tara doorkeeper holds an utpala flower and an iron hook; she has mastery over the pacifying activities.
In the south a yellow Tara doorkeeper holds an utpala flower and a lasso; she has mastery over the increasing activities.
In the west a red Tara doorkeeper holds an utpala flower and an iron chain; she has mastery over the magnetizing activities.
In the north a green Tara doorkeeper holds an utpala flower and a bell; she has mastery over the subjugating activities.
Visualize these eight deities clearly. Many other deities are actualized on an aspirational level, so just consider them to be present. They are not described in the text, but their presence is required.
A host of the three root deities and dharma protectors fill the whole of space,
As a great net of magical emanations
That is the self-radiance of primordial wisdom arising from basic space
Like the sunrays are to the sun.
Gathering in great family assemblies,
The deities—the great arising as the ground of all that appears and exists—
Manifest clearly, unborn yet primordially perfect.
The deities of each family, including dakinis and protectors, fill the whole of space, having manifested from the Sublime Lady, Wish-fulfilling Wheel. They all have the same nature, primordial wisdom. And they all appear at once – a great net of magical emanations – like the rays of the sun.
The crown of their heads, their throats and hearts,
Are marked with the syllables of the three vajras,
‘Their’ means all the deities of the mandala, the main female and male deities, and all the deities in the retinue. ‘The syllables of the three vajras’ are white om, red ah and dark blue hung at their forehead, throat and heart respectively. Or alternatively, the three vajras can be visualized as: white Vairochana for the enlightened body; red Amitabha for the enlightened speech; and blue Akshobhya for the enlightened mind. If you practise elaborately you visualize the body of the deities; if you practise more simply, you visualize the hand implements; and the most simple form of practice is to visualize the syllables. Which you practise depends on what you can manage.
From which rays of light stream out and
Invite the jñanasattvas.
All the deities emanate rays of light from their three places. The rays of light look like hooks and reach out to the wisdom deities in their respective buddhafields, to invite them to come to the visualized mandala, the samayasattva.
2. Invitation to the Jnanasattvas
We now invite the jñanasattvas into the samayasattva mandala. To invoke the jnanasattvas we offer incense, beautiful music, and songs of devotion and yearning—as we did for the Descent of Blessings earlier. If you can’t play any musical instruments just use a damaru and bell, and light some incense—which don’t present any problems in India. In the absence of devotion or faith, though, the deities will not come; in other words, as we meditate on the deities from a state of pure perception, if there is no pure perception, there is no meditation on the deity.
The invitation begins,
Long life Goddess with supreme discerning wisdom,
The wisdom of discernment is one of the five wisdoms  and this wisdom is the essence of the lotus family. The natural expression of the wisdom of discernment manifests in the form of the wisdom deity White Tara, in union with her consort Narteshvara Amitayus . White Tara, who is the ‘lord’ or sovereign of her buddha family,
…crowned by Amitabha
As mentioned earlier, she is the embodiment of all the enlightened activities of the buddhas:
Lady who is the enlightened activity of the buddhas of past, present and future,
Approach! You who manifest as the Wish-fulfilling Wheel
This sentence is very straight forward, it means please come here, you who hold a wish-fulfilling wheel. She manifests with,
With the retinue of assembled families that you emanate—
These are the four Taras of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and subjugating, the four gatekeepers, and so on
Rupakayas that magically arise
From the Dharmakaya beyond arising.
With your samaya of great compassion,
Confer the supreme siddhi on this practitioner,
Direct your wisdom mind into this mandala of the samayasattva,
And arouse in me indestructible vajra wisdom!
They all arise from the unborn expanse of the dharmakaya as a magical display of birth in the form of rupakayas. Why do they arise? As a result of their passionate concern for sentient beings. They are summoned by great compassion and are invoked through their samaya, their sacred pledge. What was their sacred pledge? That Jetsun Tara will confer the supreme and ordinary siddhi on the practitioner who brings her to mind, prays to her and accomplishes the practice. They are also liberated from the cycle of existence of samsara by merely hearing her name.
Her compassion is extremely swift, isn’t it? So, in order to bestow the supreme siddhi on this practitioner, upon this samayasattva mandala—the visualized mandala—the practitioner asks her to generate indestructible vajra wisdom, grant empowerments and blessings, and bring about realisation.
Then you recite the mantra.
Samaya ho is a way of reminding the wisdom deities of the sacred promise they made in the past.
Samaya satom asks that they grant us everything they promised.
E a ra li exhorts them to do everything they’re asked to do with joy and delight and not grudgingly.
Hring hring dza means to ‘bring’ or to ‘give’.
Jnanasattva means ‘wisdom being.’ We request the jnanasattva to enter the samaya mandala.
Ah ah means ‘now rest in that state.’
3. Request the Jnanasattvas to Take Their Places
The jñanasattvas, invited from the dharmadhatu
Are drawn into and bound to the samaya mandala,
Where they stay,
Rejoicing in the great equality of 'one taste'.
The jnanasattva is invoked and reminded of the sacred pledge, then once seated becomes one with the samayasattva mandala, with great joy and in one taste.
Om is a syllable we see a lot of, don’t we. That’s because om is the essence of the five wisdoms and is therefore placed at the head of most mantras. The Nyingma tradition explains how the om syllable embodies the five wisdoms.
The instruction is to say om slowly, lingering on the end of the syllable. Sadhus know how to chant in this way, but don’t ask the Tibetans because they have no idea at all! They just gibber om om om very quickly. Tibetans generally aren’t much good at speaking Sanskrit. Once, during Atisha’s visit to Tibet, he had a headache and asked some monks to recite the mantra of Dorje Namjom for him, but they couldn’t pronounce it properly and to Atisha it sounded like, “Break his head! Break his head!”
After reciting om, the seed syllable of the five wisdoms that ‘opens’ the mantra, continue with,
Enlightened body, speech and mind mudras
Of the unsurpassable vajra wisdom,
Come and remain securely in great inseparability,
Forever indivisible from the host of deities made manifest through samadhi.
This verse requests that the deities remain and is followed by the mantra
bendza jñana dza hung bam ho samaya tishta lhen
This part is the most important to explain. The words of the prayer are quite straightforward and as you have the translation you will be able to understand what the words mean. Unless it was translated by one of those ‘great writers’ who, as Dalai Lama says, uses such beautiful turns of phrase that when they reread what they’ve written, even they wonder what it was they were trying to say.
I don’t know anything about translation, but Khenpo Petse once went to France to teach the Guhyagarbha Tantra to Sogyal Rinpoche’s student. There were about three or four hundred people present and I was also in Lerab Ling to do some practices. Sometimes, on my way to the toilet, I would stop outside the tent to listen to the teachings and heard Khenpo Petse explaining the words, the meaning, everything, in such an extraordinary way. It was an incredible teaching! I couldn’t believe it; it was amazing! But I have no idea what the translator was doing with it. Whatever Khenpo Petse said would immediately be translated with, what seemed to me to be rather too much ease. I went to Khenpo Petse one day and said, “Your explanations are so extraordinary, so profound, that even in Tibetan it’s not easy to understand and grasp the extent of what you’re saying. Yet your translator appears to give an immediate translation with the greatest of ease. I wonder if he is translating what you’re saying correctly. What do you think?”
Khenpo replied, “I’ve been asked to explain the text so that’s what I’m doing. Is it translated correctly? I have no clue!”
Kyerim: An Overview
To return to our subject, I will now give an overview of kyerim practice. As I mentioned earlier, “visualize the samayasattva mandala palace,” slowly, moving from the outside to the inside, and visualize the deities slowly, moving from the inside to outside. An experienced practitioner is able to bring to mind and visualize the entire Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik mandala extremely clearly and in great detail—the palace and all the nine deities (the main deity and all the retinue deities). The entire visualization immediately arises very vividly in their minds, as if they were standing in front of a mirror. This kind of practitioner practices by bringing the complete visualization to mind instantaneously and actualizes it fully as they go through the text.
For example, Patrul Rinpoche was able to visualize in detail the entire mandala of the peaceful and wrathful deities in the time it takes to mount a horse. Actually, he thought kyerim was very easy. Why? Because he had something to meditate upon. If you have something to meditate upon, there is something to train your mind to do.
A practitioner of average capacity who hasn’t quite reached that level is able to actualize the details as they recite description of the visualization—“one face, two hands…” and so on. At this level, the quality of the visualization, its clarity and so on, will vary, and so the practice must be repeated again and again until a really clear image appears in your mind.
Phungong Tulku was one of Dudjom Rinpoche’s root teachers. When they practised together, he would sometimes stop the chant master , saying, “Repeat that section! I didn’t do it very well.” What didn’t he do well? He didn’t actualize the kyerim visualization clearly.
Those with the least capacity who find they are unable to visualize much at all, should simply try to feel the deities are really there. Practising by merely reciting the text while allowing mind to wander all over the place—anywhere, in fact, but on the description of the visualization you are chanting—is utterly useless. Simply mouthing empty words cannot be described as ‘kyerim’ practice. But if you follow the words and try to actualize their meaning as you say them, even if your understanding of what you’re saying is very limited, you are practising kyerim.
Visualize the palace first, followed by the seats on which the deity will sit, and then the main deity in union. The main deity is such an important part of the visualization that you must go over it again and again until it’s absolutely clear in your mind. How to visualize will be explained a bit later on.
Having done your best to visualize the main deity, if it’s possible for you to visualize the individual deities in the retinue clearly, that’s very good. If you cannot, just try to sense their presence on an aspirational level, which, the teachings say, is fine. Why? What’s the rational behind aspirational practice? As I’ve already mentioned, if the main deity is like the sun, all the retinue deities manifest like the rays of the sun, and are indivisible from one another. So, once you have meditated upon the main deity, just having a sense that the deities in the retinue are there will be enough.
We Buddhists use many traditional examples, so you may need to stretch your minds a little to imagine what life was like in ancient times. For example, what would happen if you invited a king to stay with you? You didn’t have to think about inviting all his attendants, bodyguards, and servants, because wherever he went, they would all automatically follow. Similarly, wherever the main deity of a mandala appears, their entire retinue will be automatically also be there.
When you visualize the main deity, sometimes start at the top of the head and work down to the seat on which the deity sits, and sometimes do it the other way around. Slowly scan the deity, actualizing each detail with great clarity. You must train your mind like this until the visualization appears very vividly and clearly.
Here I have explained the kyerim practice quite simply without going into too much detail, to give you an idea of what you need to aim for as you do this kind of practice. It’s my response to the question, “How can I practice when I don’t know all the details?” This is what you should do.
In the kyerim practice for generating the palace that we are concerned with here, the deities of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik are only peaceful, but some practices involve both peaceful and wrathful deities and others only wrathful deities, for example Vajrakilaya and Vajrabhairava. In such practices the palace is completely different, and the method of meditating on the deity is different too. Another approach is that of meditating on the body mandala, and yet another associates the palace and the deities with different aspects of the body. The method used in Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is different to the simple body mandala practice just mentioned and I won’t go into it right now.
How to Visualize Jnanasattva Becoming One with Samayasattva
After extending invitations to the jnanasattvas to become one with the samayasattvas, we ask the deities to take their places in the mandala and remain there.
First visualize the deities, then invite the jnanasattvas to become one with the samayasattvas. I will now give an overview of how this is done. As you meditate on yourself as samayasattva, actualize the entire mandala, from the vajra fence of the protective sphere to the tiered mandalas, the palace, the main deity and the retinue within it. Think about the entire samayasattva mandala.
Now visualize a mandala identical to the samayasattva mandala; this is the jnanasattva mandala. The example often used is that it is like lighting one butter lamp with another.
The method for visualizing it is as follows. Protection spheres surround each of the samayasattva and jnanasattva mandalas, and the extreme outer limits of these spheres are encircled by fire. The two circles of fire touch, and the mandalas inside face each other. Actualize in your visualization a host of jnanasattvas that suddenly manifest from the expanse of the Buddha’s dharmakaya, like snowflakes in a blizzard. They dissolve into the clearly visualized samayasattva mandala, bringing with them the blessings of enlightened body, speech, knowledge, love and power. Samyasattvas and jnanasattva become indivisible in one taste, like pouring water into water.
vajra jnana dza hung bam ho
Vajra jnana means vajra wisdom and is analogous to the host of jnanasattvas.
dza hung bam ho
I should say a few words about dza hung bam ho as it appears in numerous practices. As you say dza, the hook goddess (so-called because she holds a hook) emanates from the heart of the main deity and exits through the eastern door of the mandala to request that the jnanasattvas return with her to become one with samayasattvas. She returns to the mandala accompanied by them and enters through the eastern door.
‘The eastern door’ here does not refer to the geographical east, but the ‘east’ that is the direction the main deity faces. One of the qualities of the deity is that from whichever direction it is approached, that direction is ‘east’—which makes the deity very different from ordinary people. If any one of us were to sit in a room with four doors marking the four cardinal points, we would only be able to face one of those doors. But the “faces and arms of deities are totally unimpeded”, so wherever they appear, if someone approaches them, their faces and arms manifest so the deity is approached face on.
As you say the syllable dza, the hook goddess is emanated, leaves through the eastern door, and hooks wisdom deities back into the mandala through that eastern door.
After dza comes hung emanating the lasso goddess. Now each jnanasattva deity merges indivisibly with the corresponding samayasattva deity. The hook is to grab and the lasso to bind. You actualize the jnana and samaya deities merging indivisibly.
Bam emanates the iron chain goddess, and you actualize the merging of the jnana and samaya deities so they become inseparable, beyond separation and reunion.
Ho emanates the bell goddess, and as the jnana and samaya deities have merged inseparably, ho is an expression of joy that this has happened.
That’s the explanation of dza hung bam ho from one tradition, but you can do a shorter version if you prefer.
This mantra concludes all the prayers that invite the wisdom deities, and these four seed syllables, plus associated mudras, represent four things for the practitioner to actualize. On a very simple level:
- With dza the hook goddess invokes the sacred pledge of the jnanasattvas.
- With hung the lasso goddess invites the jnanasattvas.
- With bam it’s as if the iron chain goddess draws the jnanasattvas from their dwelling by saying, “Please come here immediately!” There’s a subtle difference in the meaning between hung and bam. When we say hung, we invite the deities by saying, “Please come”; bam, on the other hand, brings with it a great sense of urgency, “Please, come now!”
- With ho, we rejoice with the bell goddess at the indivisibility of the wisdom and samaya deities.
There is a crucial point to understand here. Buddha nature, the basic element in all sentient beings, is the basis of the entire mandala of wisdom deities. It is also the basic element in me. As buddha nature is primordially pure, to manifest that purity I must meditate on the samayasattvas. The jnanasattvas are the primordially pure kayas of all the buddhas. This means that samayasattvas and jnanasattvas are primordially one taste, beyond separation and reunion, and are beyond time—primordial purity did not happen at a specific point in time. As Jigme Lingpa, and numerous other great masters, have said, the intention behind the repetition of this process in our practice is to refresh a state that has always been.
If, therefore, you imagine that two deities are merging together outside yourself, like two people melting into each other, you are completely wrong. If, on top of that, you imagine the wisdom deity to be better than the samaysattva deity already in the mandala, you’re making an even worse mistake! But that’s how ordinary people like us think; we imagine the jnanasattvas are superior to us. And to eliminate this dualistic tendency, in our practice we go through the process of inviting the wisdom deities to become one with the visualized deities.
As this principle is explained you will have a sense of what the teacher is trying to tell you. However, genuinely to overcome your habits and give rise to a realisation of non-duality is extremely difficult. This is how it usually works: a lama explains the principles of invitation to you, you hear what he says, think about it and understand it. But you will also definitely wonder and think about it, and overcoming those thoughts is the ‘invitation.’
The meaning of dza hung bam ho is vast, but here I have explained it very briefly.
The easiest way to present the four mudras of hook, lasso, iron chain and bell is to show them.
Elaborate practices include a prayer for requesting the deities to be seated, and some may contain very elaborate invitation sections. In the practice we are discussing here, once the jnana deities, the jnanasattvas, have been invited, you actualize the visualization of them standing in the courtyard surrounding the palace, then ask them to be seated. They sit, indivisible and in one taste with the samaya deities. Here the request to be seated is concise,
samaya tishta lhen
To the deities of the mandala of the Sublime Lady of Immortality,
Primordially innate within me, and
Free from dualistic clinging, I offer the homage of the view
In the expanse of the purity and equality of dharmakaya.
a la la ho ati pu ho pratitsa ho
There are four different kinds of homage, among them, the ultimate homage of the view is offered by maintaining the view beyond the duality of subject and object. It is offered within the basic space of dharmkaya, the great purity and equality.
a la la ho ati pu ho
A la la ho are words of amazement at the extraordinary qualities of the Buddha, and with ati pu ho! you visualize an activity deity emanating from the main deity and prostrating with folded hands to the main deity. As you pay homage and prostrate, think of all of the deities’ extraordinary qualities. There are sixteen offering goddesses on the ‘red terrace of sensual pleasure’ right outside the palace walls, and it is also possible to offer prostration through these goddesses. If you visualize an activity deity similar to the main deity and emanating from the heart of that main deity, she must eventually dissolve back into the main deity’s heart once she has prostrated. The point of paying the homage of the view is to realize that yourself (the samayasattva) and the jnanasattva are indivisible
In the teachings it should be mentioned at that point that the lama should offer prostrations naked.
The text of the terma says:
I send out hosts of vajra goddesses
Who fill the sky,
And great clouds of offerings pervade the whole of space.
Actualize this as you make the offerings. There are four kinds of offerings: outer, inner, secret and the offering of suchness. Inner offerings are considered superior to outer offerings, secret offerings are superior to inner offerings and the offering of suchness is supreme.
The unsurpassable mantrayana contains practices that include lower offerings like the outer offerings, and so on, and others that don’t. But the highest offerings are always included.
How to Make Offerings
There are several different traditions for making offerings.
As you will remember, right outside the wall of the mandala is the red terrace of sensual pleasure, where sixteen offering goddesses stand, four in each direction. These goddesses are emanated by the main deity to present offerings to the main deity. You will also remember that the entire mandala, right down to the vajra fence and vajra protection sphere, is the display of primordial wisdom. Therefore, the offering goddesses are not separate from the main deity. This is one way of making the offering, but there are many other ways too.
For example, at this point in the practice you are the samayasattva indivisible from the jnanasattva—this has already been accomplished. When it’s time to make the offerings, an activity deity emanates from your heart (the heart of the indivisible samayasattva and jnanasattva) and stands at the entrance of the mandala. As you perform mudras, like the lotus circling mudra, an infinite number of deities radiate out and present offerings to all the deities of the mandalas. This is another way of making offerings.
How the activity deity functions is very similar to how things work in our ordinary lives. If you want to eat, somebody has to cook; if you need clothes, somebody has to make them. In this case, if you want to make an offering, you need an activity deity to do it for you. Once the offering has been made, the activity deity dissolves back into the heart of the main deity.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik employs yet another approach to making offerings. As you are visualizing yourself as the main deity of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, you emanate rays of light from you three centres (forehead, throat and heart) which transform into an infinite amount of vajra goddesses who fill the sky completely, making all the outer offerings of drinking water, cleansing water, flowers, incense, light, scented water, food offerings and music. They also present the inner offerings of beautiful physical forms, smells, sound, taste and tactile sensations. This method of offering follows the text of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik terma most closely.
Whether actually present, or manifested by the mind,
All the offerings in countless universes, inner, outer and secret
I offer to you, noble Wish-fulfilling Wheel:
Accept them and grant me the siddhi of immortality!
The four lines start with, “I offer all real and imagined offering.” The ‘real’ offerings are those you have prepared; the ‘imagined’ offerings are all those you can bring to mind—like the clouds of offerings of Samantabhadra. It is said, there is no difference between the real offerings and those made by the mind. “Ocean-like buddhafields” implies that the buddhafields are so vast that they pervade the whole of space. To offer all these “offering substances to Phakma Yishin Khorlo,” means the offering is made to all the deities of the mandala. They are all fully satisfied, body, speech and mind, and as a result grant all blessings and siddhis, including the siddhi of immortality, which is the one you are requesting.
The verse for the outer offering is very short, just a few words, but it is complete. How can it be complete when it’s so short? Because the text says, “All offering substances in ocean-like buddhafields of offering substances” and is followed by the mantras, beginning with om arya tara (meaning ‘Jetsun Drolma’), sapariwara (meaning ‘all’), then the list of offerings, argham padam and so on.
Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé noted down how Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo made offerings when he did this practice using the more detailed method, the Elaborate Garland of Offering, which is at the end of your text.  Each offering is described as “ocean-like buddhafields of…” drinking water, or cleansing water, and so on, and it is a good method to use when you practise elaborately. Why? Because when you do ritual practices like this one, offerings are important.
The text devotes four lines to each offering, outer, inner, and so on, and indicates what the practitioner should actualize for each offering. To have to visualize everything in the time it takes to recite just one or two lines, beginning “In ocean-like buddhafields of offering substances,” would be a bit difficult, wouldn’t it?
1. Drinking Water
Theses days, practitioners in retreat start by placing drinking water, cleansing water, flowers, and so on, on their shrines, but as the King of Bhutan discovered, there is a limit to their knowledge about these offerings. Once, when the King visited one of his monasteries, he stopped to admire the beautifully laid out eight offerings. He asked what they were and a monk explained that they were offering substances. What, asked the King, are they for? But the monk had to admit that he didn’t know.
If you practise slightly elaborately, argham refers to drinking water, which is water that is extremely pure and has the eight qualities. Hindus probably consider that the water of the Ganges has these eight qualities, whereas most of us think the Ganges is perhaps the filthiest river in the world! The tantras mention a river to the west of Oddiyana where the water has these eight qualities, and the commentaries say that Indians would collect its water and take it all the way back to India to use in the preparations for a great banquet. I don’t know if this is true or not, but nowadays we don’t see anything like that. The eight qualities of pure water  are lightness, coolness, sweetness, and so on. All Hindus know them.
In any case, you will need clean water. In the advice about substances, it is said you should put some roasted rice in it. Ideally, from a Tibetan perspective, water should be hot, but the tantras come from India where water is always spoken of as cooling and refreshing. In this case, you are not making a small offering but a really vast one, so it is said that you should offer an ‘ocean’ of pure water.
2. Cleansing Water
The second offering is cleansing water. It is said that your offering should be like the continuous flow of the Ganges, which is the greatest river in India. In terms of substances to use, add some white flowers to the cleansing water and a little bark from different trees.
The next offerings are ‘divine flowers filling the entire sky.’ Flowers from the realm of the gods are offered because they are far superior to those from the human realm. Even though flowers from the human realm are beautiful and have extraordinary qualities, they can’t compare with flowers from the god realm, which are made of precious substances. And you don’t just offer a few, but fill the entire sky with them. The practice manuals say you must offer different kinds of flowers: flowers from mountains, from meadows and plains, water flowers, rock flowers, and so on.
Then there’s the offering of fragrant incense. The tantras and instruction manuals explain that you should offer the kind of incense that has the most excellent fragrance, which is generally considered to be that of white sandalwood. White sandalwood isn’t just any sandalwood, like the stuff we find today, but is of the very best quality. The agar tree is also mention, along with a few medicinal substances. The tantras make no mention at all of French perfume! I say this because whenever I travel, westerners show me their ‘must-have’ offering of tiny perfume bottles, and such an offering is not proscribed as all pleasant fragrances are considered good. Some substances produce a fragrance when they burn, like incense, others naturally emanate their fragrance without being lit, and both can be offered.
The purpose of offering butter lamps and light is to eliminate darkness, and as mentioned in the tantras, many substances can be used as fuel for light offerings, for example seed oil, butter from herbivores, essential oils, the sun and the moon, and so on.
In France, a woman once asked Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche if she could use electric light as an offering. Khyentse Rinpoche said yes, and that actually electric light was very good. Therefore, I think it’s fine to use electric light as offering.
6. Scented Water
It is said in the tantras that you should collect water from sacred places, like the twenty-four sacred lands, where the water is very special and naturally very good. So, to prepare fragrant water for this offering, start by collecting special water from sacred places. There are also several medicinal substances to be gathered, which you chop up into tiny pieces, wrap in cloth and boil in water until most of the water has boiled away. Add a little more water and boil again, repeating this process several times. This is how to prepare the offering of scented water, according to the tantras. If you cannot do it, just add saffron to water.
Tibetans make offering tormas from dough. Strictly speaking, the food offering should be edible and have a hundred tastes and a thousand potencies. This gives us something to think about, because a substance with a hundred different tastes and a thousand different potencies is not easy to find. Some say that our human tongues cannot taste a hundred different tastes. I don’t know how many we can discern—perhaps sweet, sour, astringent and a few more—but the divine food offering we make here should have a hundred different tastes.
Once such a food has been tasted by the tongue it goes to the stomach where it reveals its thousand potencies. Nowadays, as we sentient beings lack merit, most of the food we eat neither tastes good, nor is it nourishing or beneficial. Often it has quite the opposite effect and actually harms us. For example, those who indulge too much in sweet food end up with diabetes, and those who eat too much fat have liver problems, like jaundice and other debilitating diseases. The buddhas, on the other hand, can taste a hundred different exquisite tastes and one thousand potencies in all the food they eat because they have great merit. (The thousand different potencies are revealed once the food has been ingested.)
Offering goddesses present these food offerings, but they don’t mix them up into a kind of soup and present a huge container of the stuff to the deities. We cannot make offerings like that! We must arrange them beautifully, separating them out as we do for a splendid buffet.
Practices for presenting offerings begin with the different kinds of water followed by the other kinds of food offerings, then the ‘tambula’ (betel nut) and sweets, typically concluding with a fire offering practice . So, in your meditation, imagine offering goddesses bring each ingredient one after another.
Basically, offer all the sounds in the world and all the pleasant resonances of the universe.
When offerings are placed on the shrine, many people put small Tibetan cymbals called ‘tingshaks’, or some other small musical instrument, in a bowl of rice. However, as Jamgön Kongtrül explained, as tingshaks in a bowl alone do not produce any sound, this arrangement doesn’t qualify as a music offering. You must play the instrument for it to be an actual music offering. If you can’t play a musical instrument or don’t have one, ringing a bell also counts as a music offering.
Once Patrul Rinpoche and Nyoshul Lungtok were staying on a mountain in the snow above Dzogchen monastery. On the tenth days they did Rigdzin Düpa and on the twenty-fifth days Yumka Dechen Gyalmo with a tsok offering. At that time they only had a very bad dhamaru that sounded flat and rattled, ‘tok, tok, tok.’ They didn’t even have a bell. So Patrul Rinpoche told Nyoshul Lungtok to hit two flat stones together, and this also qualifies as a music offering!
If you are practising elaborately, do the mudras as you recite the mantra at the end of each four-line prayer. Before you begin each mudra, with a snap your fingers actualize in your visualization the manifestation of all the offering goddesses. Then say the mantra for each offering—argham padam, and so on—and do the corresponding mudra as you imagine the offering goddesses present that particular offering. At the end, snap your fingers again, and the offering goddesses dissolve back into you.
The offering goddesses have different characteristics. Those presenting drinking water are white, those offering cleansing water are blue, and so on, and each holds a container appropriate to the offering they are presenting. However, Jigme Lingpa and other masters like him have said that since the offering goddesses are the natural display of primordial wisdom, the specifics are not that crucial. That’s why today I won’t go into detail.
Present all the offerings successively, but at the end recognize that there is no offering and noone whatsoever making the offering. You are simply manifesting yourself: you offer to yourself. Yet, since it is all the play of interdependence, as you present the offerings consider you are perfecting the accumulation of merit, and that you have been granted all the supreme and ordinary siddhis. These two aspects of offering are not in conflict with one another.
The inner offerings are present in the following four lines of the text:
These objects stimulate the senses
And this duality arises as great bliss;
Accept this offering of vajra form, sound, smell, taste and touch
As the great mudra of offering.
For the first offering, the offering of vajra form, the offering goddess holds a mirror and offers the deities all the beautiful forms in the world, which are reflected in the mirror. The mirror is offered and it is called ‘rupa’ in Sanskrit.
The next is ‘shapta,’ the offering of sound, and the offering goddess plays the vina, or the flute. Basically, all pure sounds are offered, but the tantras mention that the vina produces a thousand different sounds from a thousand chords very pleasantly. When Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche commented on this point, he said that the sound of the vina is such that even those experiencing the terrible sorrow of having lost their father are filled with joy and happiness the moment they hear its sound. In other words, Khyentse Rinpoche was saying that the instant you hear the vina, it removes even the extreme pain and suffering we experience at the death of our fathers.
The next offering is the offering of smell, ‘ghendhe.’ An offering goddess holds a conch with a right turning swirl and containing pure water, and presents it as the offering of smell. The outer offering of scented water made earlier was about pleasant fragrance, whereas here, when the scented water offered in the conch is sprinkled on your chest, you will immediately experience the wisdom of great bliss.
‘Rasa’ is the offering of taste and involves the tastes of the outer offerings plus those of the inner offerings, like the ‘great flesh’, and so on. So, everything that is edible, food offerings, fruit, and so on, is offered in a vessel made of precious substances and presented to the deities. They experience this incredible offering by emanating rays of light from the tips of their tongues that form hollow tubes, like a straw, through which they experience the taste of the food.
Finally, the ‘parshé’ is offered by the vajra goddess of touch and is presented as a soft cloth. Tibetans offer white scarves called ‘kataks’, but they are not specifically mentioned as offerings. Here, we offer all beautiful cloth and “the strong yet soft and light garments of the gods.” These divine garments are also transparent. In Tibet, often the only kind of cloth available was animal skin, sheepskin, for example, and the only thin fabric they had was the silk of the kataks they imported from China. This is probably why the Tibetan tradition is to present a katak, held high above their heads, when they make an offering representing touch.
So, the five inner offerings are form, sound, smell, taste and touch. Here again, if you want to practise more elaborately, you can use the additional text Jamgön Kontrul has written which contains five four-line verses to guide you through each of the five offerings.
At the end of the practice, the offering goddesses, who had originally emanated from yourself, dissolve back into you. Don’t just leave them hanging around out there!
The secret offerings are: amrita, rakta and torma. The terma text says,
Amrita of eight root and one thousand minor ingredients,
Rakta, the essence of the liberation of the three worlds,
And the balingta endowed with the five sensory stimulants,
May these offerings please the host of mandala deities!
This prayer gives just one line for each of the three offerings.
Amrita of eight root and one thousand minor ingredients,
The offering is presented in a kapala or ‘container of great bliss’, which is a human skull. If you don’t have one, you can use something that looks like a kapala. In any case, place the amrita, which is made of the eight root medicinal substances that are quite easy to find, in the container. There are also one thousand secondary substances—two hundred and fifty from the earth, two hundred and fifty from stones, two hundred and fifty from medicinal substances, and two hundred and fifty from sentient beings. The thousand secondary substances are a bit more difficult to find. On top of that, a precise and specific measurement of each secondary substance is blended into the amrita. Having gathered all the substances, grind them up.
Nowadays it is not unusual for mendrup to be used when practitioners cannot make the amrita properly, but amrita is not mendrup. Mendrup must be blessed through practice (drup), whereas amrita is prepared in its own specific ritual.
Mix the substances with alcohol.
Make this offering accompanied by a vast visualization of: five nectars, five meats, five medicines, five grains, and so on. Visualize the syllables om ah hung emanating rays of light, that return, melt into light, then dissolve into the amrita, and so on. This section is quite elaborate and there are many more such details to visualize at this point, but I won’t explain them all right now.
Amrita is imbued with the good qualities of the five sensory objects that satisfy the five senses of all sentient beings, and it is also inexhaustible. Anything mixed with it immediately becomes a substance with the capacity to satisfy all five senses of beings. Put a little on your tongue and by the time it has been ingested by your body it will have purified all breakages of samaya, and in the process you will immediately receive all ordinary and supreme siddhis.
Rakta is made of thirty-five substances, and its preparation also involves a thousand different kinds of blood. But we won’t discuss this right now—the police will come and arrest us if we talk too much about that kind of thing!
This offering is a gathering of all the destructive emotions in the world, most importantly desire, and this is what we should actualize in our visualization. All the desire in the world and all five poisons are gathered and liberated and eliminated, and their very essence is extracted through the liberation, to produce the rakta. So, rakta is the pure essence of the liberation of all destructive emotions and you must put a little into the offering. (A few lamas have warned me that we shouldn’t talk about blood, but ‘rakta’ is, in fact, the Sanskrit word for ‘blood’.)
The next offering is ‘torma’ in Tibetan, ‘balingta’ in Sanskrit, and it satisfies the five senses, fulfilling all unfulfilled samayas.
Place a little amrita, torma and rakta in front of you as you practise, as the support for your visualization which multiplies them so they become extremely vast. It is said that they fill, “…a container as vast as the three-thousandfold universe”, so the offerings of amrita and rakta are as immense as oceans. Emanated in the amrita are an infinite number of amrita offering goddesses; in the rakta are infinite rakta goddesses pouring an ocean of blood from their secret places; and the torma is like Mount Meru, with the ability to satisfy all the five senses of beings.
As you offer amrita to the deities of the mandala, a vajra straw, like a rainbow, appears from each of their mouths to taste the amrita.
Form the Amrita Offering Mudra, as you make the offering. Usually, you use thumb and the ring finger together, like a ladle made of the sun and moon, to offer the amrita to all the deities. If you make this offering elaborately, read or recite the name of each recipient, starting with the masters of the lineage at the top of the mandala, the deities of the mandala who are in the middle, and the dharma protectors who are at the base. This offering satisfies their enlightened body, speech and mind, and as a result, they send their blessings in the form of small syllables—white om for body, red ah for speech, and blue hung for mind. These syllables balance on the tip of your ring finger, and as you place that finger on your three centres—forehead, throat and heart—you receive the blessings of the enlightened body, speech and mind. Then drink the remaining amrita and receive the siddhis.
Present the rakta three times to empty the three realms of existence (the entire universe); basically, offer rakta until the entire universe is empty.
As you offer the torma, it emanates offering goddesses of infinite number who present offering to the deities of the mandala, satisfying their enlightened body, speech and mind. As a result, all blessings and siddhis are gathered and dissolve into the torma and the practitioner.
Don’t empty the vessel holding the amrita, a little should be left as a blessing, but the vessel holding the rakta should be completely emptied. The blessings dissolve into you and into the torma, and at the end of the retreat, you receive the siddhis from the torma by placing it on your three places.
This concludes a brief presentation of amrita, rakta and torma. (Usually when I go into detail about these substances, people get scared!)
For the innermost offering of suchness, the text says:
Natural clear light bodhichitta
Is beyond the elaboration of the three spheres
Of offering substances, the offerer, the act of offering and so on,
Please, accept it as the great, supreme offering.
If you think about it carefully, the offering of substances, the benefactor who presents the offering (the practitioner, you), the deities who are the recipients, all those involved in the practice don’t really exist in the state free of conceptual elaboration. The nature of this state is clear light, and when unimpeded appearances manifest, we call it ‘bodhichitta.’ To rest in that state of recognition is said to be the ‘great supreme offering’. A detailed explanation can be found in the Dzogchen teachings, which dwell in particular on the aspect of primordial purity. It is in this state that you are supposed to rest. Just talking about Dzogchen is not the ‘great supreme offering of suchness’; resting in the state of primordial purity is.
In this practice we offer praise.
Visualize in the sky before you: all the victorious buddhas of all directions and times raining down flowers; and gods and goddesses, like Brahma, Indra, and the ten protectors of the world, in the courtyard around the mandala palace playing music on vina, flute, drums, hand drums, and so on. As you actualize this visualization, offer the words of the practice.
Offering of praise has three levels: the symbolic, the level of the meaning, and the level of the significance.
The symbols are one head, two hands, etc, and so even though buddhas have no appearance, they manifest with symbolic features, each of which can be explained. The significance corresponds to the ornaments and garments they wear. Actualizing the meaning of the symbols and signs while chanting the words of praise is the level of meaning. You should chant the words of praise while you actualize what had just been explained and will be able to understand what you’re saying by reading the translation
General Offering of Praise
You were born from the tears of
The lord of the world and master of compassion.
Mother of the buddhas of past, present and future,
Wish-fulfilling Wheel, to you I pay homage and offer praise!
Offering of Praise to the Vajra Body
The colour of the stainless moon, jewel of the sky,
You hold an utpala flower in the mudra of supreme generosity,
Peaceful and smiling, blazing with the splendour of the signs and marks—
To your vajra body, I pay homage and offer praise!
Offering of Praise to Enlightened Speech
Your melodious speech, an ocean of qualities,
Sprinkles a soothing and refreshing shower of amrita
That awakens the buddha nature in sentient beings—
To your Brahma speech, I pay homage and offer praise!
Offering of Praise to the Enlightened Mind
With your wisdom of knowledge and love, you see everything,
From the perspective of the samadhi of equanimity,
Without moving from the space of the inconceivable great seal.
To your mind of clear light, I offer praise and homage.
Offering of Praise to Enlightened Qualities
Whoever prays to you,
You bless instantly, and
Grant them the accomplishments and everything they desire—
To your infinite enlightened qualities, I pay homage and offer praise!
Offering of Praise to Enlightened Activities
With your names and array of forms,
With the various secret mantras of awareness,
You pacify, enrich, magnetize, and subjugate—
To your spontaneously accomplished enlightened activities I pay homage and offer praise!
Paying Homage to All the Deities
Unmoving from unique dharmata,
Yet in accord with the capacity of beings to be trained,
You display a net of magical emanations—
I pay homage to all the deities of the mandala!
According to the tantras and to the text by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, you offer praise as you perform the relevant mudra for each of the buddhas of the five families.
The Three Crucial Points of Kyerim Practice
This concludes the section on the generation of the deity, the kyerim practice. To summarize, the important point here is that all three crucial elements of kyerim practices are present in your practice: the vivid visualization of the features of the deity (which we have been talking about until now); firm confidence (vajra pride), and remembering the purity. If you practise these three crucial aspects, you are practising correctly.
1. Clear and Vivid Visualization
The first crucial aspect is clear visualization. This means that your visualization of the deity should be pristinely clear, not dull or hazy or confused—that’s not how you should visualize. A clear visualization is one that is really vivid and alive, just as if you are actually seeing a real person in front of you and all their features are easily discernable. This is what your visualization of the deity should be like.
An important point is that if, to start with, you are unable to visualize the whole deity precisely and with great clarity, first visualize the top of the deity’s head and work down. As you do so, if you forget the face while you concentrate on the torso, for example, it’s fine to go back and revisualize the feature you have forgotten.
So, if at first you find you cannot visualize all the details of the entire deity, it’s fine to focus on just the head, or even just the eyes or nose, then work down to the lotus seat. If you practise this way, eventually you will be able to visualize the entire deity clearly.
The key point is to visualize the deity in its entirety and vividly, as if a real person is standing in front of you. However, if you can’t visualize all the aspects of the deity at once, visualize the different parts, one by one—don’t imagine you are not allowed to focus on individual features. Focus on each detail separately until, eventually, you can visualize the entire deity all in one go.
So, the method is to scan the deity from the top to the bottom, slowly actualizing each detail. Sometimes try working up from bottom to top, sometimes from left to right, and sometimes from right to left. That’s how to train yourself, and if you do, eventually you’ll be able to visualize the entire deity clearly and in detail.
Jigme Lingpa said that if you practise a peaceful deity and focus on the moon disc seat, the clarity of your visualization will be enhanced. If you practise a wrathful deity, you will enhance the clarity of the visualization by focusing on the wisdom eye. But you lot aren’t likely to do this. However, as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche told me to teach, I must at least mention such things .
Prepare a Thangkas or Statue
If you truly intend to train gradually in the practice of visualizing the deity, you should use a thangka. Thangkas are not just decorations, they are samaya substances to support your practice and representations of the enlightened body. Actually, you are supposed to keep them hidden and not show them to anyone. The same goes for statues, especially of the vajrayana deities.
Representations of the enlightened body should have perfect proportions and perfect characteristics—the details of what those proportions and characteristics are can be found in the tantras, along with instructions about how to draw thangkas and make statues. If you don’t know how to do it, ask someone who does, like a thangka painter.
Once you have a perfectly made thangkha or statue, you should consecrate it with a ‘rabné’ practice that will make it fit for use as a support for your practice.
This is what you should prepare before you practice. Then put the image in the room where you practise so noone else can see it, and sit right in front of it.
How to Begin the Practice
First, pray to your teachers that you may perfectly accomplish the path of kyerim. Then, focus your mind and gaze one-pointedly at the thangka or statue without moving your body. Just focus on the image. Then you close your eyes.
Having stared intently at the thangka or statue, when you close your eyes its image will appear in your mind. If it appears in your mind clearly and perfectly, focus your mind on that image. But usually it’s not that simple. Usually the image does not appear so easily and you have to repeat the process many times, opening your eyes to look at the thangka or statue, then closing them again to see the image in your mind’s eye.
Train yourself in this way again and again. Visualize the deity for a short time, close your eyes and picture the deity in your mind’s eye. Then repeat the process many times over.
What’s the point of doing this? Just focusing your eyes on the image isn’t good enough. What you must train yourself to do is to focus your mind on it as well. But the problem with the mind is that it tends to be easily distracted, and will think about anything but the image. So, even if mind wanders here and there, try not to let it move away from the image in the thangka. Focus on different parts of the deity—the protuberance on the head, or the right eye—so mind is always focused on something related to the image. And once you are at least a little used to doing that, the image will start to appear with some clarity in your mind.
If you practise like this, you will have seven experiences, one after the other
The first is that mind won’t stay focused one-pointedly on the image even for a single moment, but will move around very quickly, like a waterfall cascading down a steep mountain. This experience will probably surprise you. In fact, you’ll find it hard to believe just how distracted your mind can be. But there’s no need to be afraid. By simply taking a little care of your mind and continuing to practise to try gaining even a little control of it, you will find it will naturally settle, and that in time you’ll be able to focus better.
Think, for example of the part of a river where the water flows in torrents, so fast that you can’t see the stones and fish at the bottom of river. Just a little further downstream the current slows, and suddenly you can see the riverbed quite clearly. When your mind is busy with many thoughts, it isn’t focused, so you must continue to practise focusing your mind on the object.
Once you’ve gained some experience of this kind of practice, you’ll begin to know when mind is resting and when it’s distracted. Once you reach this point, like waves that come from the ocean then dissolve back into it, you must continue to focus mind on the object. Practice in sessions, like you would on a retreat.
By practising intensely in this way, the distractions will pass, like the wind gusting between two rocks on a mountain. Suppose a strong wind blows between the two rocks, then suddenly dies and never revives. The gust that blows in the next moment is quite a different wind from the first. Likewise, distracting thoughts appear in your mind, then die, and never appear again.
Once your visualization is quite clear, you should sometimes try to visualize the deity much bigger—as big as Mount Meru. At others, visualize it so small that it would fit inside a sesame seed.
Maintain your awareness of the deity at all times in whatever you do, eating, sleeping, sitting, resting, or whatever it is you are doing, and your visualization will become like a completely still lake. As the water is unmoving, the moon, the stars and everything will be reflected perfectly on its surface.
Having reached this level of stability in your visualization practice, you can begin to emanate and reabsorb rays of light without affecting the clarity of the main deity. Whatever you do with those rays of light, however far you send and reabsorb them, you will still be able to maintain the clarity of your visualization of the main deity. If you don’t establish the stability first, when you concentrate on the activity of the rays of light, you will forget the deity and will not maintain a clear and complete visualization.
Once you’re able to maintain the stability of the visualization whilst also accomplishing the different activities like emanating and reabsorbing rays of light, your visualization will be as stable as a mountain. The rocks, trees and animals that can be found on a huge mountain are a little like its ornaments. They bring nothing extra to it, nor can they move or change the mountain in any way.
As you practice using this method, you’ll experience what it is to perfect your visualization practice, which the teachings liken to the sky.
If you focus too intently, fixing your eyes, mind and inner air (lung) on the object with exaggerated concentration, so many thoughts will arise that you might think you’re going crazy. This is when you should take a break. Rest, change your posture and relax for a while. If you just let go a bit, your mind will relax. If you rest for too long you’ll forget everything. So don’t rest for too long before coming back to the practice and refocusing your mind.
Even so, when you relax, it is important to maintain the awareness that you are the deity and to continue to visualize yourself clearly as the deity. Focus as much as you can on the features you see less clearly.
If you find you can’t visualize any part of the deity clearly, do cleansing practices for purification, and endeavour to confess your non-virtuous actions through confession practices.
If you suffer from problems of your inner air (lung) when you practise—for example, you cannot sleep and so on—it is said you should eat good, nutritious food. If, on the other hand, you feel sleepy and dull during your practice, or your mind is foggy, the advice is that you should not eat too much; eat sparingly and wear light clothing, not warm clothing. I don’t think anyone follows this advice these days, nevertheless, I am obliged to tell you about it.
I could talk about meditation experiences in relation to progressive stages of the vajrayana paths and bhumis, but there’s not much point. Once you start to attain bhumis or reach a state of realization, you’ll know. Right now, there’s no point going into it because you won’t understand. What I can say is that you will automatically come to know the qualities of the Buddha, for example, absence of movement, clarity, vividness, and so on.
By continuously practising the deity, the result you will attain is that even your own outer appearance will be transformed, and when others look at you, they will see you as the deity. For example, the time Acharya Humkara entered a village in India and everybody started shouting that Vajrasattva had arrived.
The inner sign of accomplishment is that the form of the deity will appear naturally on your bones, and so on. But if it happens to you and you show your doctor, I’m sure he’ll say you have cancer and will want to cut it out!
In any case, if you genuinely want to practise kyerim, that’s how to do it. There is an even more elaborate way of practising kyerim, but I’ve said enough for today.
This is what we call ‘clear visualization.’ The measure of the clarity of your visualization is that it is like the sun, moon and stars reflected in the still waters of a lake, or a clean mirror. You should be able to visualize all the details perfectly, right down to the black and white of the eyes. The thirty-two major and eighty minor marks should also appear vividly and clearly in your mind. Once that happens, you can say that you have accomplished a clear visualization.
The Four Nails
The Nyingmapa tradition teaches a special pith instruction, a mengak taught by Guru Rinpoche, called the ‘four nails that bind the life force of the practice’, and strictly speaking, it’s not a teaching that should be shared widely. But these days, even Dzogchen teachings are given to all and sundry! The big difficulty seems to be more about finding people who want to listen, than finding people who want to talk about the secret tantra teachings.
Today I will talk about the four nails that bind the life force of the practice with only Khyentse Rinpoche in mind. So, whatever transgressions, downfalls, obstacles, or problems that may arise as a result of sharing this mengak with a wide audience, will be for Khyentse Rinpoche to deal with. I won’t accept the consequences.
What is a ‘Nail’?
First of all, what is a ‘nail’? In this context, it has a similar function to nails used in carpentry and building.
Samsara is separate from the state of complete enlightenment, buddhahood. Why? Because if there is no delusion, that is ‘buddha’; if there is delusion, there are ‘sentient beings.’ So, there’s one ground, but two different paths, which must be nailed back onto the ground. This is the kind of ‘nail’ we are talking about here.
Unless you use the four nails that bind the life force of the practice to eliminate all delusion, the two (impure and pure) won’t stay together. In the state of buddhahood the ‘ground’ is pure, and in samsara the ‘ground’ is impure: The path is a mixture of pure and impure that lies somewhere between the two. To return this mixture of impure and pure to the state of pristine purity and maintain it, you need the four nails.
‘Life force’ refers, in this context, to the life force of the Buddha: the non-conceptual, non-dualistic wisdom that is the wisdom mind of the Buddha. Once the whole of samsara is nailed with the nail of non-conceptual wisdom, it is pure, it is ‘buddha’. So the first of the four nails is the ‘nail of all appearance as the deity.’
1. The Nail of ‘All Appearance as the Deity’
All worldly appearances are impure, but without applying any kind of external antidotes and relying solely on appearances themselves, you transform them into the pure manifestation of the deities. This is the nail of the nail of ‘all appearance as the deity’—and this is what we have been discussing for the past two days. As you practise this ‘nail’, you should not harbour any ideas or concepts about the deity being ‘pure’ and everything else ‘impure,’ and so on. In fact, there must be no distinction at all between ‘pure’ and ‘impure’.
Within the realm where the deity appears purely, however hard you try to find impurities, you wouldn’t succeed. And I’ve been telling you this all along. Everything in the mandala, all the manifestations, from the palace right down to the vajra fence and so on, even the encircling fire, is the manifestation of primordial wisdom.
So that’s the first nail, the nail of ‘all appearance as the deity’.
2. The Nail of ‘Unchanging Wisdom Mind’
What is this second nail? It is the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind,’ which is the realization that the nature of the deities, palace and nothing that appears truly exists. Why are all appearances empty? As I’ve been saying since the first day, they are all the manifestation, the expression, of three aspects of the nature of the mind, whose essence is empty, whose nature is cognisant, and whose energy is unimpeded compassion; everything arises out of the nature of mind. This means that the very essence of all that appears is empty and primordially pure. ‘Empty in essence, nature cognisant’ means that the very essence of appearance is empty.
‘Empty in essence’ is a term common to all traditions, but Nyingmapas specifically use the word ‘kadak’, primordial purity. And all that manifests from that primordial purity, the display of the empty essence, is generally described as ‘clarity’ or ‘cognisance’, while the Nyingmapas call it ‘spontaneous presence.’
Buddha said, “Mind is devoid of mind, the nature of mind is clear light.” All the lamas explain this quotation in the same way. ‘Mind is devoid of mind’ refers to primordial purity or ‘empty in essence’; ‘the nature of mind is clear light’ refers to the aspect of ‘clarity’, ‘cognisant nature’ or ‘spontaneous presence’.
Everything manifests as an expression of the spontaneous presence that arises from primordial purity, without any separation of that spontaneous presence from the primordial purity. Recognition of this is the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind,’ meaning all that manifests has never been separate from primordial purity.
The only way you can hammer in the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’ is by actualizing the view. The Nyingmapas say that with the mere recognition of the nature of mind, the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’ is hammered in. This goes without saying for someone who is able to rest in that state, or those who have gained stability in or perfected it. But they say in that moment of recognition the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’ is fixed. And that’s all you need to do.
3. The Nail of ‘All Sound as Mantra’
This will be explained when we come to mantra recitation.
4. The Nail of the ‘Activity of Emanation and Reabsorption’
We will also talk about this when we come to mantra recitation. Briefly, we emanate and reabsorb rays of light to accomplish different enlightened activities of buddhas.
So these are the four nails. Once you know how to apply or hammer in these four nails, you will know the crucial points of kyerim and dzogrim. Until then, it will be difficult for you genuinely to practise either.
The Three Samadhis and the Four Nails
When we started talking about kyerim practice I mentioned the ‘three samadhis’: the samadhi of suchness, the samadhi of universal manifestation and the causal samadhi.  The nail of unchanging wisdom mind is the same as the first samadhi, the samadhi of suchness.
Of the first two, the samadhi of suchness and the samadhi of universal manifestation, the most important is the second, the samadhi of universal manifestation.
Buddha talks, in the causal vehicle of characteristics, about the indivisible unity of emptiness and compassion. Emptiness without compassion is useless. Here, in the vajrayana, the nail of emanation and reabsorption of rays of light accomplishes the enlightened activities the buddhas, and the nail of all sound as mantra are the activities we engage in out of compassion for sentient beings. Buddhas manifest enlightened activities out of compassion to benefit sentient beings, likewise, the appearance of the deity is the expression of the compassion of the buddhas. This is why I emphasize that you should begin to build the framework of your visualization practice with the three samadhis.
Without compassion, all the activities of emanating and reabsorbing rays of light will be entirely useless—just a lot of extra work. Which is why the samadhi of universal manifestation is the more important one. The commentaries explain that if you just visualize the causal samadhi and practise kyerim without compassion, when you visualize a deity with nine heads you risk ending up being reborn as a monster with nine heads.
All these mengaks on the four nails that bind the life force of the practice are based on the samadhi of suchness and the samadhi of universal manifestation. So far, I have explained the first two, the nail of ‘all appearance as the deity’ and the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’. Of these two nails, it is the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’ that you must hammer into every aspect of your practice of kyerim, from beginning to end. If you do, you can’t go wrong. If you don’t, however much you practise, however clear your visualizations, however well you know the different aspects of the practice, you will fail to accomplish much benefit. This is why Patrul Rinpoche considered these four nails to be of such crucial importance. So much so, that he wrote a commentary specifically explaining those points, called The Melody of Brahma , of which Nyingmapas make very small copies and keep in their amulettes so it is with them wherever they go.
Next we will talk about the nail of all sounds as mantra, which is addressing the aspect of the enlightened speech of the deity, now that we have covered the enlightened body.
7. Mantra Recitation
There are three main steps in Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik practice that are applied to mantra recitation: approach, accomplishment and activities.
In most of the practices transmitted through the kama lineage, as well as some practices that appear in termas, mantra recitation has four phases: approach, close approach, accomplishment and great accomplishment.
1. Approach Practice
Generally speaking, the first step, ‘approach,’ is to remove our tendency to grasp at the idea that we ourselves and the deity are separate. At the beginning of the practice we see ourselves and the deity as two separate entities, and the method we use to remove that tendency to grasp, is ‘approach’ practice.
The methods for doing this that we find in the teachings are based on how we operate in our ordinary lives. If you want to get to know a stranger, the first thing you find out is their name. Once you know their name, if you use it, gradually the stranger will become more familiar with you, and you will become better acquainted with each other. By the time you know each other well, you will have created a bond and will have become quite close to someone who had once been a stranger.
This example shows how the practice works. Here, the deity we want to accomplish is White Tara, so we invoke her by repeating the mantra om taré tuttaré turé soha which, basically, is her name—apart from the om at the beginning and soha at the end. Therefore, as we repeat the mantra we are actually repeating her name, which has the power to bring her closer to us, and at the same time eliminates any grasping at the duality of ‘her’ and ‘us.’ By repeating this mantra you invoke the power of this kind of blessing.
There are a couple of important points here. In all Sarma tantra practices, you do the ritual for self-visualization before you recite the mantra, and then you perform a separate ritual for the ‘front’ visualization and again, recite the mantra. There is also a specific ritual for visualizing the mandala in the practice vase. This is how the elaborate practices are laid out.
The Nyingma tradition also includes elaborate practices involving different rituals for self-visualization, ‘front’ visualization and the vase visualization.
In most of the Nyingma Highest Yoga Tantra  practices, the first step of the approach practice is a self-visualization practice, but you don’t need to do a ‘front’ visualization. For the next steps of accomplishment and activity, you emanate another mandala from the mandala of self-visualization, but here also you don’t need to do a separate ritual for a ‘front’ visualization. You only need a ‘front’ visualization for the ‘self-empowerment’ stage of practice, and when you are giving empowerments. In this case, the vase instantaneously arises as the mandala, and the deities appear clearly in the vase, like the reflections of the planets and stars on the surface of a lake.
However, as we are talking about how to do this practice in retreat, when it comes to the approach section, you don’t need to generate a separate self-visualization and ‘front’ visualization. And at the end of the offering of praise section, all the deities offering praise dissolve back into the deities of the mandala.
At this point in kyerim practice, we have visualized ourselves as the deity (samayasattva) in a palace, surrounded by deities, and we have invoked the jnanasattvas who have dissolved into us, but we haven’t dealt with the aspect of enlightened speech that corresponds to approach, accomplishment and activity. At this point we are just visualizing ourselves as the deity and meditating on that visualization. We visualize ourselves as the deity to purify the habitual tendency common to all sentient beings of seeing ourselves with a body.
The practise of dzogrim involves what we call the ‘vajra body’, or ‘body mandala’ and through this practice you see the entire mandala present within your own body. As we are not quite so far along the path, we visualize ourselves as the deity to create a good habit that will mature so we can eventually practise the body mandala. The fruition of the practice is the attainment of the enlightened body of a buddha, with the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks and all the qualities.
We practise mantra because, right now, all the sounds we produce and hear are impure, so we must purify our speech by reciting mantra. This is how we actualize the enlightened qualities and enlightened speech of a buddha and develop a voice that has sixty qualities and the inexhaustible wheel of enlightened speech.
We mature mind to become an enlightened mind in the dissolution practice of dzogrim. If you apply the nail of ‘unchanging wisdom mind’ in your practice, enlightened mind will automatically be there and, through the practice, will mature.
Kyerim, as we now know, involves the three samadhis: the samadhi of suchness, the samadhi of universal manifestation, and the causal samadhi. The first samadhi, the samadhi of suchness, is basically the view, and the samadhi of universal manifestation and the nail of unchanging wisdom are the meditation; while action accompanied by compassion, is indirectly present in that meditation.
Enlightened qualities and enlightened activity are associated with and taken care of by applying the nail of all appearance as the deity, the nail of all sound as mantra and the nail of the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light. We’ve already spoken about the body, speech and mind.
To practise in this way is called the ‘union of kyerim and dzogrim,’ and to be able to practise authentically, both should be part of your practice. To be able to walk properly you need two legs, having just one makes walking difficult. In this case, if you only practice kyerim and not dzogrim, however perfect your visualization, you will not attain enlightenment. This is why these crucial points are so important to your practice. Practising like this is really important!
The Importance of ‘Enlightened Speech’
It is said that mantra is the ‘inexhaustible wheel’ of enlightened speech. This is a very significant statement. The buddhas benefit sentient beings with their enlightened body, mind and speech. Of the three, the most beneficial to sentient beings is enlightened speech. Why? The benefit buddhas bring through their enlightened bodies lasts a very limited amount of time. Although the enlightened mind that nothing can alter, change or destroy is crucial, on its own it can not benefit beings directly. But the enlightened speech of the buddhas is how the wheel of the Dharma is turned, and it is turned in many different ways that also involve both enlightened body and mind.
The dharmakaya is the enlightened mind and omniscient wisdom of the Buddha, and this is what we must actualize. But to do so, we must rely on the instructions relayed to us through enlightened speech, which is why enlightened speech is so important.
Enlightened speech is described, for example, at the beginning of the Guhyagarbha Tantra as ‘the wheel of clouds of syllables’, and the first syllable a is explained as being the original sound and foundation on which all other syllables are formed. a is therefore the basis of all mantras, and from a came the vowels and consonants, from which came the mandalas of mantra, which are so important.
The Principles of Mantra
- Mantra is the deity; by reciting the mantra you’ll accomplish the deity.
- Mantra is the mandala—the entire mandala unfolds out of the seed syllable—and is the same as the deity.
- Mantra is a cloud of offerings. As you recite the mantra, you please and satisfy the deities of an infinite number of mandalas, so, effectively, mantra is an offering you make to them.
- Mantra is the accomplishment of siddhis, because by reciting mantras you accomplish siddhis.
- Mantra eliminates obscurations; by the power of reciting mantra you will eliminate obscurations.
- Mantra is enlightened activity because by reciting mantras you will be able to accomplish all the different activities—pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating.
- Mantra is a blessing, because by reciting the mantra you will receive the blessings of the buddhas and deities.
There are ten points in all. I don’t remember them all because the last time I looked at the Guhyagarbha Tantra was about thirty years ago! In any case if you do some research, you’ll be able to find all ten. And as you now know that mantra is so important, you know that you must recite mantras!
As you recite the mantra actualize the visualization associated with it. So, what is the visualization?
I am sublime Tara: in my heart
Is the jñanasattva Amitayus,
This is quite clear and is what we have discussed so far: you visualize yourself as Chimé Phakma.
There is one point that can be confusing. Although Jetsun Drolma is in union with her consort, Amitayus, the seed syllable is visualized in Phakma’s heart, but we don’t visualize anything at Narteshvara Amitayus’ heart centre. On a lotus seat at the heart of Jetsun Drolma, Chimé Phakmé, is the wisdom being Amitayus. The text describes him.
…brilliant white and holding a long life vase in the mudra of meditation,
Beautiful with his silk and jewelled ornaments,
In vajra posture on a lotus and moon disc seat,
Shining and resplendent amidst brilliant rays of light.
In the centre of his heart is a lotus, and sun and moon discs
In the middle of which is tam encircled by the mantra mala.
Most of the time, Nyingma sadhana practices involve what we call the ‘three nested sattvas’ , through which we consider one sattva, or being, to be inside another. This is also very important. Here we have at the heart of Jetsun Phakma, the samayasattva, Amitayus as the jnanasattva, and at his heart is the syllable tam, which is the samadhisattva. Circled around the syllable tam are the syllables of the mantra, om tare tuttare ture soha, as fine as if written by a single hair. The lamas say that the smaller your visualization, the easier it is to see these syllables really clearly.
Both kama and terma teachings and practices of the Nyingma tradition say we do four recitations, one for each of the four aspects of practice: approach, close approach, accomplishment and great accomplishment.
During approach practice the mantras are visualized very clearly, as clearly as ‘the moon and the stars in the sky’. You visualize the seed syllable surrounded by the mantra syllables, like the moon is surrounded by the stars. Then, as you recite the mantra, visualize the main deity, the samayasattva, at whose heart is the jnanasattva; and at the heart of the jnanasattva is the seed syllable, the samadhisattva, surrounded by the syllables of the mantra. As you focus one pointedly on the appearance of the syllables being as clear as the moon and the stars, you recite the mantra. This is how to do the approach practice.
The important point here is that the samadhisattva and mantra syllables are not moving. They remain static but appear very clearly at the heart of the jnanasattva. It is far more difficult to visualize the mantras syllables when they move around, rotating, emanating rays of light and reabsorbing them.
It is said that the head of the syllable curls slightly inwards.
So that you can, when necessary, make the mantra syllables revolve clockwise, you must visualize them standing anti-clockwise around the tam. But we don’t move the mantra at this point, we just make sure the syllables are set anti-clockwise around the tam.
Now recite the mantra om tare tutare ture svaha.
Methods for Chanting Mantra
There are so many methods for reciting mantras, including a general method, vajra recitation, and so on. Do whichever you like.
When you recite mantras, chant neither too loudly, nor so quietly that you can not be heard; neither too fast, nor too slow, and so on. There are ten points you should know and bear in mind to recite mantras properly. Don’t yell the mantra too loudly, but you should be audible. Similarly, if you recite the mantra too slowly, you will never finish, but if you go too fast, not all the syllables will sound and you will ‘eat the syllables’—which isn’t appropriate. There are ten faults of mantra recitation that you should avoid. 
Basically, recite the mantra just loud enough for you to hear it yourself. There are times in wrathful practices when it’s appropriate to recite mantras very loudly, but that’s not the case here. There is also what is called the ‘mental’ recitation, when you actualize the mantra in your mind—you literally recite the mantra mentally. But that’s quite difficult!
‘Vajra recitation’ involves retaining the intermediate breath in the vase and reciting the mantra, and so on. It is said to be extremely beneficial, but very difficult.
In this case, start reciting the mantra and do maybe three hundred as you focus your mind using the methods explained above.
Mikpa: How to Direct the Practice
Then visualize and actualize:
Reciting the mantra evokes his wisdom mind, causing
A stream of boundless light to burst 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 mercury that accomplishes all
Marked with forms of great bliss.
It dissolves into me and the practice articles,
Granting me the siddhi of immortal life,
And intensifying the wisdom of great bliss.
You have the translation so this isn’t difficult. It says that from the mantra garland at Amitayus’s heart centre rays of light emanate and fill Jetsun Drolma’s entire body, then pour out of the ushnisha on top of her head and transform into infinite Namgyalmas holding vases of longevity in their left hands and hooks in their right. The hooks emanate rays of light and are used to gather the nectar of longevity into the vase. The nectar dissolves back into Chime Phakma and all the blessings and accomplishments are drawn into her. That’s a brief version of the visualization
Specific to the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik visualization is that the three deities of long life are practised together—yourself as Chime Phakma, the samayasattva; white Amitayus, the jnanasattva, visualized at the heart of the samayasattva; and Namgyalma, who performs the activities.
The text is quite clear and this visualization is pretty straightforward.
The ‘Mercury of Accomplishment’
The many Namgyalmas gather the nectar of longevity with their hooks, and in this practice, nectar is called the ‘mercury of accomplishment.’ What is this nectar made of? Basically, the Namgyalmas’ hooks gather all the blessings of the wisdom mind, and the love, compassion and power of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of all directions, in the form of nectar. They also gather all the positive qualities of sentient beings, and all the power of the elements and the universe. Everything that’s gathered appears as a nectar that is brilliant white in colour, and the consistency of quicksilver. It’s also very bright and emanates rays of light. It is so powerful that if a little is sprinkled on a dead tree for example, it will immediately burst into life, sprouting leaves, blossoms, fruit, and so on. If this nectar is drunk it will give you the strength of a thousand elephants, and is said to gives you the same life span as the sun and the moon.
This is what you actualize and maintain in your visualization and you mustn’t be distracted. Apply the nail of ‘recognizing all sound as mantra’ by reciting the mantra without interruption—don’t let your recitation fade or go silent, just continuously recite the mantra.
Generally speaking, the visualization of the mikpa (how to direct the practice) involves the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light. First you emanate rays of light to make offerings to the buddhas, then they send the light back and it dissolves into your heart, bringing blessings, empowerments and so on.
Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is a long life practice, that’s its main purpose. It is not possible to attain the supreme accomplishment unless you have first received the siddhi of longevity. Guru Rinpoche said that before undertaking any activity, first you should do the practice of longevity, because if you live a long life, you will be able to accomplish everything you set out to do in this life, and you will also accomplish the purpose of all your lives.
Spend most of your time reciting the ten syllable mantra.
om tare tuttaré turé soha
Then recite the mantra that combines all three deities of longevity.
om tare tuttaré turé hrih droom benza jnana ayukhé soha
- As it begins with the syllable om and continues tare tuttaré turé, this part of the mantra invokes Tara;
- hrih is the seed syllable of Amitayus;
- droom is the seed syllable of Namgyalma (Ushnishavijaya);
- vajra jnana is the indestructible ‘vajra wisdom’; and
- ayukhé is for long life, and so on.
We recite this mantra to accomplish our wishes,
This will draw in the accomplishments you wish.
Then recite the mantras of the jnanasattva, Amitayus and the nirmanasattva, Namgyalma.
- The mantra of Amitayus is om amarani dziwentiyé soha
- The mantra of Namgyalma is om amrita ayurdadé soha.
Your visualization as you recite the mantras should be along the same lines, but will change to be consistent with whichever mantra you recite. For example, when you recite the mantra of Amitayus, replace the mantra of Tara around the seed syllable tam with the mantra of Amitayus—the tam remains the same, but the mantra encircling it changes. Similarly, for the mantra that combines all three deities, as you already have the syllables om tare tuttaré turé, leave them as they are and just add the remaining syllables, hrih droom bendza jnana ayukhé.
So, the mantra of all three deities combined is,
om tare tuttaré turé hrih droom bendza jnana ayukhé
And whenever you recite om amarani dziwentiyé soha and om amrita ayurdadé soha, visualize those mantras encircling the tam.
The text says that,
If you practice this diligently for three weeks you will actually see the face of the mandala deities, in meditation or in your dreams; you will hear them and accomplish the ‘warmth of samadhi.’ You will dream of the sun and moon rising and flowers blooming. The bandha will actually overflow, the pills will increase in number and wonderful perfumes will be emitted. These and other such signs will occur.
It’s not extraordinary for us to see the sun or the moon shine—we see the sun shine every day, don’t we? So what this means is that to dream of the sun or moon rising is a sign of accomplishment.
So that was the method for approach practice.
2. Accomplishment Practice
Before beginning accomplishment  practice it would be good to renew the offerings, or at least replenish the offerings you have already made.
When you focus on the accomplishment stage, the practice itself remains the same. The only difference is that before beginning the approach section (which is the beginning of the mantra recitation), you divide up the mandalas by visualizing both the self-visualized and the front mandala (which emanates from the self-visualized mandala). So, first recite the mantra for separating the self-visualized mandala from the front mandala—you’ll find it in the retreat instruction manual. The main deities manifest from the corresponding syllables, tam, droom, hrih, hung, and so on, to become the front mandala
It is possible to visualize the two mandalas surrounded by just one enormous protection sphere, but the fire encircling the immeasurable palace of the self-visualized mandala should still make contact with the fire encircling the palace of the front mandala.
Then, and before you go through the practice text of the Druppa Section, you must actualize briefly the approach section, directing the practice as I have just explained, and recite about one hundred of each of the approach mantras.
om taré tuttaré turé soha
om taré tuttaré turé hrih droom bendza jnana ayukhé soha
om amarani dziwentiyé soha
om amrita ayurdadé soha.
The accomplishment section begins,
Again, great cloud-like rays of light emanate and reabsorb,
And dissolve into the heart of the mandala deities
Who experience untainted great bliss.
Indestructible, supreme primordial wisdom arises
And appearances manifest as the play of bliss and emptiness,
Pervading all worlds and beings within the three realms.
The outer environment are the five spaces and the mandala of the dharmadhatu
The beings within it are awareness in the form of deities,
The sounds are the indestructible mantras;
They are all the miracles of the single samadhi
Of supreme, unchanging clear light—
All phenomena of samsara and nirvana that appear and exist,
Become the wheel of the net of magical manifestation.
Jamgon Kongtrul’s retreat instructions manual says,
When the visualisation appears clearly, add the visualisation of the emanation and reabsorption of light rays from the heart of the main deity to invoke her retinue. First, concentrate on accumulating Dorje Drolma (Vajra Tara)'s mantra, and recite the three others only briefly at the end of the session. Once her mantra accumulation is completed, you only need to recite a few each time, before accumulating the next mantra of Rinchen Drolma (Ratna Tara), for the main part of the session. And so on in this way. [JKLT]
There are four main Taras surrounding Jetsun Drolma. First concentrate on accumulating the mantra of Vajra Tara and recite the three other mantras at the end of the session, but keep them brief. Once you have accomplished the Vajra Tara mantra, repeat it a few times before you accumulate the Ratna Tara mantra as the main focus of your session. Practice the same way for each mantra.
The retreat instruction manuals continues,
The visualisation is as follows. In the heart of each of the Taras of the four families is a lotus. On top of the lotus, within Vajra Tara, is a dark blue syllable tam; in Ratna Tara a yellow droom; in Pema Drolma a red hrih; and Karma Drolma a black hung. Their respective mantra-mala revolves around the syllable. [JKLT]
In the heart of each Tara is a lotus, on top of which stands their respective seed syllable and around which revolves their respective mantra mala.
|Vajra Tara||dark blue tam||om tare tam soha|
|Ratna Tara||yellow droom||om tare bhrum soha|
|Padma Tara||red hrih||om tara hri soha|
|Karma Tara||black hung||om tare hung soha|
The way to conclude the session and the rest is the same as for the approach, except that here it is important to offer a tsok every day. [JKLT]
You conclude the session in the same way you concluded the approach section, and it is said that it is important, at this point, to offer a tsok every day.
I explained when we were talking about approach practice that mantras are visualized very clearly, like the moon and the stars appear in the sky, but they don’t move. Here, in the close approach, the example used is of a king and his emissaries. When a king wants to get something done, he sends an emissary to do it for him., and once the task has been completed, the emissary returns to report to the king. Likewise, in the accomplishment stage, the main deity, Tara, emanates rays of light that touch the hearts of the deity in her retinue—Karma Tara, for example—invoking that deity’s wisdom mind to accomplish her task. Having accomplished all her activities, the rays of light return to the main deity, bringing with it blessings and accomplishments.
I think I’ll repeat this part very simply, so you can understand. From the heart of the main deity rays of light emanate, touching the heart and invoking the wisdom mind of one of the deities in the retinue, for example Karma Tara. That deity then emanates rays of light, and so on, which accomplish the activity she has been charged with. These rays of light then return to the retinue deity, and having accomplished her task, she emanates rays of light that reconverge into the heart of the main deity, bringing blessings and siddhis.
This visualization is also described in the retreat manual by Jamgon Kongtrul. At the heart of each of the Taras in the retinue—Vajra Tara, Ratna Tara, Padma Tara and Karma Tara—stand their respective seed syllables surrounded by their respective mantras, and the colour of the seed syllable and mantra is the same as the colour of that deity.
That was the accomplishment practice.
What is the Purpose of Accomplishment Practice?
During approach practice we acquaint ourselves with the deity and become quite close. During the accomplishment practice, we try to accomplish the deity, meaning, we try to become one with or indivisible from the deity. This is the accomplishment we want to achieve.
3. Activity Practice
You can only apply activity  practice once you have accomplished and therefore become one with the deity through accomplishment practice. Until you are one with the deity there are no activities for you to accomplish.
However, when we do sadhana practice, we must complete all three phases of approach, accomplishment and activity, which means that even if you have not completely accomplished the deity, you must still do the recitations associated with activity practice.
Here, the activities are carried out by the four Taras who act as the gatekeepers. Do you remember the four deities at the gates? They accomplish four activities: pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating.
The way to direct the practice is as indicated in the text of the Lejor Section
I am the samayasattva, the jñanasattva
And the nirmanasattva
Sending forth a brilliant profusion of rays of compassion
That invoke the wisdom mind of the Taras of the four families.
In turn, they send out rays of light
That invoke the wisdom mind of the gatekeepers who accomplish activities.
Rays of light emanate from the main deities to the next ones, touching each other in turn.
Clearly actualize the visualization of the four seed syllables in their respective colours surrounded by their mantra malas as you recite the practice. Rays of light stream out from the five deities and the retinue to invoke Hook Tara. The five deities are the main deity and the four Taras. Basically, rays of light radiate from one deity to the next. From the three main deities Arya Tara, Amitayus and Ushnishavijaya, rays of light stream out and touch each of the four Taras in turn, starting with Vajra Tara. Then light streams out from the four Taras’ hearts, invoking the wisdom minds of the four Tara gatekeepers. The retreat manual adds,
The rays of light stream out […] to invoke the Hook Tara who manifests many bodies, light and infinite miracles, accomplishing the activity of pacifying all opposing forces, like illness, negative actions, obscurations, and so on. Do your session reciting only her mantra, then conclude as before. [JKLT]
So, we begin with Hook Tara to accomplish the pacifying activities. The retreat manual continues,
Now, alternate as follows.
During morning session, practise only Noose Tara’s mantra and visualization, through which you accomplish the enriching activities.
During the afternoon session, practise Iron-chain Tara’s mantra and visualization, through which you accomplish the magnetising activities.
During the evening session, practise Bell Tara’s mantra and visualization, through which you accomplish the subjugating activities.
Practise each activity by creating the relevant visualization of deities and rays of light to accomplish each specific activity. [JKLT]
How you direct the practice is as follows.
Forms of the deities expressing their own mantras
Fill the sky and pervade the ten directions.
With infinite ways of training those beings who are ready,
They pacify all disease, harmful forces, negativities and obscurations within dharmadhatu,
They increase longevity, merit, wealth and intelligence,
Bring the three realms, inner air and mind under their control,
Destroy enemies, obstacle makers and duality.
These supreme and common activities,
Through the magic of the samadhi of emanating and re-absorbing rays of light,
Are all accomplished as I envision them.
At the hearts of each of the gatekeeper Taras stand the relevant syllables—dza, hung, bam and ho—surrounded by their respective mantras.
This is how the activities are accomplished: from the heart of the main deity, rays of light invoke the surrounding four Taras, then emanate from their hearts to touch the hearts of the four Tara gatekeepers, who accomplish the activities. First, rays of light touch the heart of the Hook Tara, accomplishing pacifying activities, then the hearts of the other gatekeepers successively, to accomplish the activities of enriching, magnetizing and subjugation. All these activities are accomplished through the emanation of rays of light.
An important aspect of this practice is that each deity resounds with the sound of their own mantra. So, for example, at the hearts of the main deity and the jnanasattva is the mantra om tare tutare ture soha. Each syllable produces its own sound: om produces the sound ‘om’; tare produces the sound ‘tare’, and so on. And at the same time, each deity recites his or her respective mantra. Which is why the example used to illustrate the activity stage visualization is of bees buzzing around a broken hive. If you break the hive of a colony of bees, they will swarm around it making their own buzzing sounds, likewise in this visualization each syllable ‘buzzes’ with its own sound.
The Four Activities
The four different activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating are quite straightforward and laid out clearly in the text.
Illness, spirits, forms of negativity and obscurations are each mentioned and addressed through the activity of pacifying.
Through our practice we enrich, or enhance, or make more abundant: longevity, merit, wealth and wisdom.
Gelukpa lamas sometimes scold the Nyingmapas and accuse them of enhancing their own worldly wealth through such Nyingma visualization practices—which is very bad. At the same time, being wealthy can be quite useful and very beneficial. In Tibetan, two syllables, each with a slight different nuance, are associated with wealth: pal and jor.
In terms of ‘wealth’, there is no one wealthier than the Buddha! Buddha can manifest whatever he wants from the sky treasury—basically he can pluck material objects from primordial space. As Guru Rinpoche said, "I don’t need other people’s gold; all that appears and exists is gold to me." Just by touching something someone like Guru Rinpoche could turn everything turn to gold.
Next, with the magnetizing activities everything is brought under your control. So, you bring all sentient beings of the three realms of existence  under control, and more importantly your own inner air, or lung—the lung that is ridden by the mind—and the mind itself. By the time your mind and lung are completely under control, you will have reached enlightenment. Jetsün Milarepa achieved enlightenment by bringing his mind and lung under control through tsalung practice. All yogic exercises that work with the channels and the inner air, for example the Six Yogas of Naropa, are practised to bring our inner air, karmic wind and mind under control.
Our bodies are like countries criss-crossed with roads (the channels) along which the inner air travels, like a horse, ridden by the mind, which is like the horserider. If we can not bring mind and inner air under control, the horse will run wild, as if it had no rider at all. This is the situation most of us face at the moment.
Another example is of a blind horse ridden by someone without legs. The blind horse wanders around but has no idea where it is going. Similarly, our inner air, like the horse, wanders everywhere in our bodies but has no idea where it’s really going, and the mind is like the legless rider who has no choice but to go wherever the horse goes.
Through tsalung practice you can take control of and direct your inner air, like a tame and well-trained horse, and therefore direct the mind to go wherever you want it to. Once your lung is completely under your control, then all the concepts, thoughts, and ideas disappear, never again to appear in your mind.
Subjugation, or ‘wrathful’ activity, is basically to kill the enemy you want eliminated, and that enemy is the delusion of duality or dualistic clinging.
By relying on the common accomplishment of the activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating, which we accomplish through the power of samadhi, we are able to reach the state of complete enlightenment (the supreme accomplishment). How are these common activities accomplished? By the magic of the emanating and reabsorbing samadhi. All our activities, everything, will be accomplished as if by a ‘wish-fulfilling jewel,’ a precious gem that grants all wishes and prayers instantly; it doesn’t have to think about granting your wish, you just make your request and it is instantly fulfilled. And everything you want will be accomplished through the power of samadhi as you practise these four activities.
How Long Should I Practise For?
The questions that always comes up around how to do the practice are, “How many mantras should I recite” and “How long should I practise for?” Even those of you who haven’t actually asked these questions are, I’m sure, waiting for the answers. So I’ll tell you!
There are three options: time, number and signs.
- ‘Time’ refers to the length of time you do the practice—the number of days or months;
- ‘Number’ means you decide to recite a specific number of mantras;
- ‘Signs’ mean you decide to practise until certain signs of accomplishment manifest.
All Guru Rinpoche’s instructions about how much time should be spent on this practice were intended for students of superior capacity, like Vairotsana, King Trisong Detsen and Yeshé Tsogyal, and were therefore extremely short. This is why the instruction manual says that those of superior capacity should do the approach practice for three weeks, because that’s how long practitioners of superior capacity usually need to experience signs of accomplishment; accomplishment practice for one week; and activity practice for a single day. With just one day for the activity practice, do the pacifying activity in the early morning session, the enriching activity in the morning session, the magnetizing activity in the afternoon session, and the subjugating activity in the evening.
Jamgön Kongtrul spoke briefly about how many mantras we should recite, and the instruction manual specifies that you must practise for three months just to qualify you to perform the activities .
To determine the number of mantras you recite, as the main mantra, om taré tuttaré turé soha, has ten syllables, it is said you should recite one hundred thousand for each of the ten syllables, making a total of one million, plus an extra hundred thousand to make up for any omissions or additions you make as you practise.
The mantra of the combined practice, om taré tuttaré turé hri brum vajra jnana ayushe soha, has nineteen syllables and you should recite seven hundred thousand, plus seventy thousand to make up for your mistakes.
Recite the jnanasattva Amitayus’ mantra, om amarani dzi wan ti ye soha, four hundred thousand times, and also do four hundred thousand recitations of the nirmanasattva Namgyalma’s mantra, om amrita ayurda de soha.
According to the Nyingma tradition, in the accomplishment practice you usually recite one tenth of the number of mantras you do in approach practice. For example, in this practice you recite one million mantras during the approach practice, which means you say one hundred thousand during the accomplishment practice. So, recite one hundred thousand mantras for each of the four Taras, and forty thousand mantras for each of the four Tara gatekeepers. Here again, for the practice to be complete you must add another ten percent, four thousand, to make a total of forty-four thousand. Jamgon Kongtrul says this number of mantras is appropriate for a practitioner of medium capacity.
If you want to do the practice more elaborately, multiply the number of mantras by four, so for example, instead of one hundred thousand recitations you do four hundred thousand. Jigme Lingpa said that what practitioners of the past were able to accomplish in one hundred thousand recitations would take four times as long in his time, because they were already living in the degenerate time and the qualities of sentient beings were not as great.
If you don’t concentrate as you practice, it doesn’t matter how many million mantras you recite, your practice will be pointless. These days many people seem able to recite one hundred million mantras—I’ve met many monks who have recited more—but they tell me they don’t achieve any signs of accomplishment. This is because they can’t meditate, or focus their minds as they recite the practice.
The kinds of signs you might achieve are mentioned in the text. The best is to have a face-to-face meeting with the deity during which you hear him or her speak to you directly. The second best is to experience dreams during which you meet the deity—for Westerners, it seems, this happens quite easily! But most of these dreams aren’t authentic signs of accomplishment. Actually, they’re useless.
I remember, when I was on my way to France once with Tulku Pema Wangyal, he told me that because Westerners’ samayas are so pure and they have genuine devotion for and faith in the teachings, they immediately achieve signs of accomplishments in their dreams. At the time I thought that this was probably the case. But then, as time went on, I realized that most of the Westerners were actually just crazy! What they experienced weren’t real signs! I haven’t met anyone who achieved genuine signs of accomplishment. Experiences are like mist in the morning, they come and go, and generally the idea of experiences of all kinds seem to pop into their minds, but it doesn’t mean much. If you think to yourself, “I must have an indication, a sign! I must have some dreams! I’m sure I will have some really good dreams!” you’re bound to dream something, but the so-called signs you see in your dream won’t be real signs at all.
If you do achieve genuine signs of accomplishment, it is said that you should receive the siddhis immediately, even if the signs appear in the middle of your retreat. If you don’t, the siddhis will fade away. The retreat manual clearly explains about receiving the siddhis, which generally comes towards the end of the practices.
There’s nothing special about the tsok in this practice.
Tsok means ‘gathering’, so start by gathering excellent food and offering substances, in particular those that represent skilful means (something to eat) and wisdom (something to drink). Without these two kinds of offering the tsok will be incomplete. Similarly, the gathering of practitioners should include both men and women. A gathering of only male practitioners doesn’t qualify as a genuine ‘ganachakra’ feast. Without women present the practice is only a simple tsok offering.
Start by blessing the offering substances, then immediately invite your guests. The tsok in the Chime Phakma Nyingtik practice contains a specific invitation. Follow the stages described in the text, and having invited the guests, make the offerings. This is what you do in the tsok offering.
The purpose of this visualization is to emanate offering gods, goddesses and tsok substances, and for the gods and goddesses to offer the five sensual pleasures to the invited guests, who include: countless deities of the three roots, buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, the dakas and dakinis of the twenty-four sacred places and the thirty-two hallowed lands. They are pleased, body, speech and mind, with the infinite offerings you present to them.
During the tsok you must make offering for confession and fulfillment; this is the second tsok offering. The visualization for both offering the tsok and the fulfilment practice is the same. The only difference between these two parts of the practice is that you make more food offerings for the tsok, and offer more objects in the fulfilment practice. Through the ‘kangwa’ or fulfillment practice, you offer all the offering substances, own up to all your faults, errors and mistakes, and at the end of the practice confess. Having done so, it is important to be confident that all your mistakes, and so on, have been completely purified.
The Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik doesn’t include a ‘dralwa’ practice (sometimes translated as ‘liberation’ or ‘annihilation’) which is usually found at the end of a tsok to liberate or annihilate all the enemies related to ego clinging.
The Chime Phakma Nyingtik includes quite an elaborate practice of self-empowerment. Should you skip this section and not receive the self-empowerment, there is also a method for blessing the tsok by gathering the siddhis of longevity and dissolving them into the tsok substances.
Now it is time to enjoy the tsok. The men should start eating by using their right hands first, and women should use their left; the men should start by drinking and the women should start by eating.
You should then nurture the experience of great bliss. It is said that if the practitioners wish to, they can now perform vajra songs and vajra dances.
Next, gather the remaining tsok offerings and take them out to offer to the remainder deities and elemental spirits.
Make prayers of aspiration, then make torma offerings to all the dharma protectors (male, female, and sexless), rinse the plate you offered the torma on with amrita, and offer the rinsing water to the twelve tenma protectors of the land of Tibet, who were tamed by Guru Rinpoche. The two plates that were used for the tenma and cheto tormas are then placed upside down, and all the samaya breakers and obstacle makers are summoned and trapped beneath them, never to rise again.
At the end, make a brief offering of praise to the mandala deities.
Confess how inadequate your offerings were, all your transgressions, incorrect visualizations and recitations, and so on, and recite the hundred-syllable mantra three times.
The Three Crucial Points of Kyerim Practice (cont’d)
2. Vajra Pride
This is the second crucial point of kyerim practice. Your visualization of the deity must be clear. So far, what we’ve been doing is maintaining a clear visualisation of the deities as we meditate on the main deity, the samayasattva in union with the consort, the jñanasattva, the seed syllables, the nirmanasattva, the four Taras accompanying the main deity, the retinue, and the four Tara gatekeepers who accomplish the four activities. This is how we have been practising visualization and what we’ve been talking about over the past couple of days.
But even more important than maintaining the clarity of our visualization is ‘vajra pride’ or ‘vajra confidence.’ Even if you achieve the clearest visualization possible, it is also vital for you to have a strong sense that you are the deity: this is ‘vajra pride.’ Without it, even if you visualize yourself as the deity perfectly, that visualization will be no more than an image, like a statue or a thangka. It will be a representation or picture of the deity, not the deity itself. Unless you have a strong sense that you are the deity, your visualization will not be the deity.
A worse mistake would be to fake it by trying to make yourself look like something you know you’re not. In other words, to make yourself look like the deity, thinking, “Even though I am not the deity, I will try to see myself as the deity.” This is not how to approach this practice. Neither is, “Even though right now I am not the deity, through the practice I will become the deity.”
When we were talking about the view, specifically the ground, I explained that the nature of our mind is the dharmakaya, and that the dharmakaya of the Buddha is no different to the dharmakaya that is our own minds. So, as we visualize ourselves as the deity, the appearance we actualize is, in fact, a manifestation of this wisdom, this dharmakaya. Our visualization is wisdom manifesting with one face, two hands, and so on. It’s no less than the manifestation of primordial wisdom which is the very nature of your mind. The dharmakaya, the Buddha and this deity are no different from who you are, or from your mind. Therefore, at this point, it is vital to have absolute certainty, confidence and pride in this truth.
Longchen Rabjam said that whether or not your visualization is clear, the moment you start to think of the deity it is imperative that you feel this vajra pride. If you practise thinking “Even though I am not the deity, I will try to actualize myself as the deity in order to accomplish really being the deity,” you will never accomplish anything. It just doesn’t work like that. Even though your body is not the body of the deity, your mind is the deity, and there is not one single doubt that this is so! Which is why you really must arouse that strong sense of confidence and pride in being the deity, and why it is said that vajra pride is even more important than clear visualization. Even if you manage to create an extremely clear visualization, without vajra pride all you’ve done is create an empty image. This is why you need vajra pride. This is extremely important, as we can see from numerous quotations masters cite in the sacred texts, and through reasoning.
Along with a clear visualization and vajra pride, you must also practise a third element which is to ‘remember the purity’. If these three elements are part of your practice, you are practising kyerim.
3. Remember the Purity
This third point ‘remembering the purity’ is basically to remember that everything you do in your meditation practice—the deity you visualize, the appearance of the palace, and so on—is no different from the dharmakaya. They all manifest without ever separating or moving out of the space of the dharmakaya, which is why all these different aspects of practice must be embraced by the view of emptiness. This is the essential method for ‘remembering the purity’.
More elaborately, the significance of each aspect of the deities and palace—one face, two hands, two legs, the five silk ornaments, the eight jewel ornaments, and so on—are specifically related to the enlightened qualities of a buddha. Therefore, you must bring to mind the purity of each of these aspects. But usually, people don’t understand; the meaning is not clear to them. And unless you study the commentaries and have followed a shedra-type of training, you won’t really be able to understand these enlightened qualities.
In Buddhism we talk of the four immeasurables, the four genuine restraints and four bases of miraculous powers that are among the thirty-seven elements that lead to enlightenment, the four means of gathering students, the seven branches of enlightenment, six perfections, and so on. Even though you hear and may even understand the words, you may find the meaning difficult to grasp. Actually, they are all related to different aspects of the deities, and if you want to know more, look at the different commentaries and practice instructions. Briefly, though, it comes down to ‘remembering the purity,’ and what I have explained today will suffice.
Now we turn to the extraordinary teachings on dzogrim, the Dzogchen practice that’s part of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote an elaborate commentary on the guru yoga sadhana based on the three great vidyadharas of longevity, Vimalamitra, Shri Singha and Guru Rinpoche, in which all the profound and crucial points of Dzogchen meditation are mentioned, and which is a part of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik cycle. You will find it in his Collected Works.
As I explained earlier, the practice of Chime Phakma Nyingtik purifies all the samsaric processes of beings, and begins at the intermediate state. All sentient beings go through different stages of life. They take birth, grow up and become adults, and accomplish various impure activities. The process of kyerim transforms all the impure aspects of a sentient being’s life into the pure characteristics of the deity. This is what we train ourselves to do in kyerim practice.
Kyerim therefore has the power to eliminate all habitual tendencies that lead us to take rebirth in cyclic existence, samsara. There are two obscurations that cover our enlightened primordial wisdom: cognitive and habitual obscurations. Of these two, the obscurations of habitual tendencies are more difficult to remove than the cognitive, but kyerim purifies them both.
From the moment we are born, all sentient beings know one thing: we will, eventually, die. Even the Buddha passed into parinirvana. And this is why there is a section in the practice for dissolving the mandala.
A! The samayasattvas, rigpa’s natural display,
Are one taste, beyond any possible separation or reunion,
Within the expanse of the basic space of self-arising primordial wisdom,
So all their features like face and hands, all dissolve into all-pervading space.
I won’t explain the words.
As we chant the syllable ah the dissolution process begins. At the beginning of the practice, when we first visualize the main deity, we work from the inside out; during the dissolution we visualize from outside in. So, the fire encircling the vajra fence dissolves into the vajra sphere, which dissolves into the environment, which dissolves into the palace, which dissolves into the retinue deities, who dissolve into the main deity. Similarly, the seats dissolve into each other, then into the main deity. At this point all that’s left is the main deity. The samayasattva dissolves into the jnanasattva, who dissolves into the tam syllable, which is the samadhisattva. Then the samadhisattva dissolves from bottom to top. In the end, all that’s left is the circle above the syllable, and even that dissolves into light and vanishes into the ultimate space.
The dissolution process we go through at death is reflected in the process of dissolution we find in kyerim practice. Then you rest in that state.
Those bound by cyclic existence are reborn into samsara, but a buddha manifests as a nirmanakaya for the sake of sentient beings. So, next is the reappearance or arising, which is like a rebirth. By saying the syllable tam, you provide the circumstances necessary for the arising to unfold.
Once again, like a rainbow appearing in the sky,
I arise in the form of the Lady of Immortality;
Appearances, sounds and thoughts,
Arise as deity and mantra, as the play of great wisdom.
om ah hung
When you arise again, it’s fine to visualize yourself as the main deity—you don’t have to visualize the entire retinue—and the deity reappears to benefit all sentient beings.
There is another key point here. If you do this practice in retreat, don’t dissolve the outer protective sphere. In retreat you must maintain a continuous awareness of it. Each time you practise, reestablish it in your visualization, actualize its presence, and only at the very end of the retreat do you dissolve it.
Requesting the Deities to Remain
Before you dedicate, if you have been practising in the presence of a representation of the enlightened body, speech and mind of the deity, you must do a rabné or request that the deities remain in the representations. Ask the deities to remain in the image until it is destroyed by natural disasters brought on by the four elements—earth, water, fire and wind. A while ago there was a fire here in this shrine room at Deer Park and the main statue was almost burnt. If the fire had destroyed it, the wisdom deity would also have gone.
If you went through the elaborate practice of preparing a sand mandala to support your practice (something I doubt you’ll ever do), you have already asked the deity to remain until the sand mandala is dismantled, and at the end of the practice you ask them to leave through a ritual for requesting the wisdom deities to depart from the mandala.
10. Dedication and Prayers of Aspiration
Next are the dedication and aspiration prayers. All sutra and tantra texts say that dedication and aspiration are extremely important elements in all practices.
The accumulations of the wisdom of primordially purity,
And the accumulation of merit based on interdependent origination,
I dedicate within the space of the essence of enlightenment,
The uncompounded expanse of the indivisibility of the two accumulations.
The prayer of aspiration:
From now on and in all my lives,
May I always be in your care, exalted Phakma,
And with the siddhis of longevity and wisdom
May I spontaneously accomplish the two benefits of myself and others.
Your practice should be accompanied by the dedication of merit and aspiration prayers.
As you say the prayers of auspiciousness, visualize the buddhas and bodhisattvas filling all of space and showering you with mandarava flowers as they sing songs of auspiciousness. If you have received many empowerments, you must know about the elaborate visualizations you are supposed to actualize as you recite prayers of auspiciousness. Also, offerings of blessing rice and grain, flowers, incense, music, and so on, are scattered. Anyone who’s received empowerments will have seen that too.
At that point, you play cymbals and damaru.
Holders of the dynamic energy of awareness in the mind direct, symbolic, and aural lineages,
Vidyadhara lamas, let auspiciousness abound!
You who appear in infinite mudras of peaceful and wrathful deities,
Yidam deities, let auspiciousness abound!
You who assist the yogis in increasing great bliss,
Outer and inner dakinis, let auspiciousness abound!
You who judge good and bad and dispel obstacles,
Ocean of dharma protectors, let auspiciousness abound!
May all be auspicious for the short-term activities of four types
To fulfill the two benefits,
While ultimately, may all be auspicious for the direct experience
Of the immortal wisdom body.
All the verses of auspiciousness in this sadhana are composed with such sweet words that have a truly excellent meaning!
We would say here, “Sarwa Mangalam”, which is Sanskrit, and you could say it too.
Scatter flowers in all directions as you recite this prayer. Then celebrate…
To clarify, basically you can now throw a party and enjoy yourselves!
And increase the two accumulations.
This means you should accumulate as much merit and wisdom as you can, and do whatever possible to accumulate even more merit and wisdom.
At the end in the last paragraph of the text, there is a short prophecy plus a brief history of the practice that details its benefits. It is very clear, you just have to read it to understand it. King Trison Deutsen and his son, Gyalse Lharje, are mentioned, and the five recipients of the practice are listed as King Trison Deutsen, his friend Yeshe Tsogyal, his subjects Vairotsana, Gyalwa Chöyang and Nubchen Sangye Yeshe.
To you, the lord father and son, and others—
The king, his three subjects and his friend.
Father and son are Trison Deutsen and Gyalse Lharje.
Conceal it in the expanse of the great bindu,
For the benefit of future generations.
When the time is ripe and the right interdependent circumstances come together,
May it appear and benefit others on a vast scale!
This precious teaching was given to these five people, then hidden as a terma in their minds to be revealed in future for the benefit of sentient beings.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
The five recipients of these teachings also manifested in the future: King Trison Deutsen and Gyalse Lharje manifested as Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo; Vairotsana returned in the form of Jamgön Kongtrul; Gylase Chokdrup Gyalpo’s incarnation was Chokgyur Lingpa; and Tertön Sogyal, Shechen Gyaltsab Peme Namgyal, Karmapa Thekchok Dorje, Khakhyab Dorje, and Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpe Nyima are all believed to have been emanations of Gyalse Chokdrup Gyalpo.
It’s interesting when a good prophecy is made, just how many people are eager to say, “Yes, he was pointing at me! I’m the one who will accomplish this. I was the one he was writing about!”
Jamgön Kongtrul said over and again that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s terma revelations are unique and extraordinary revelations. They contain few words, but carry an extremely profound meaning and great blessings. He said the five main emanations of King Trison Deutsen were all great tertöns, the ‘five king-like tertöns’. The body emanation was Nyang Ral Nyima Özer, the speech emanation was Guru Chokyi Wangchuk, the mind emanation was Tashi Tobgyal, the activity emanation was the Great Fifth Dalai Lama, and the quality emanation was Ngari Panchen. But, according to Jamgön Kongtrul, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was greater than any of the five king-like tertöns.
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had five students who were also great tertöns, which is why Khyentse Wangpo is considered to be the universal monarch of the profound terma tradition. He revealed the terma of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, wrote it down, practised it, and after about a week Guru Rinpoche, Shri Singha, Vimalamitra and all the deities of the mandala appeared to him directly, and he received their blessings. Khyentse Wangpo gave the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik empowerment to Chokgyur Lingpa, and immediately Chokgyur Lingpa saw very clearly the main deity’s seven eyes—two in the deity’s feet, two in her hands, and three on her face. He saw them very clearly for quite a long time.
The class is now over. This was not a teaching, it was just a class, and class is over. So I’m going!
Tib. Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo ↑
- Skt. Uttaratantra Shastra. ↑
- Skt. Guhyagarbha Tantra ↑
- These teachings were not recorded and are therefore not available. ↑
- For Jamgön Kontrul’s commentary see Padmasambhava, Jamgön Kongtrül, Light of Wisdom, Vol I, Rangjung Yeshe Pubs, 1999, p.68-82. Guru Rinpoche’s root text is page 9 of the same publication. ↑
- The seven authoritative transmissions received by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa were: kama (Wyl. bka’ ma) the continuous transmission of sutra and tantra; sa ter (Wyl. sa gter) earth treasures; yang ter (Wyl. yang gter) rediscovered treasures; gong ter (Wyl. dgongs gter) mind treasures; nyen gyü (Wyl. snyan brgyud) oral transmission; dak nang (Wyl. dag snang) visionary revelations or ‘pure visions’; jé dren (Wyl. rjes dran) revelations from memory | Source: Rigpawiki ↑
- The eighteen kinds of spiritual treasures (gter rigs bco brgyad) are, according to Tralek Tulku in his commentary on Khanshag Dorje Tholu: gsang gter—secret treasures, which the Tertön will practice secretly for many years before telling anyone of its existence and spreading it to others; zab gter profound treasures, which contains profound pith instructions; thugs gter mind treasures, which arises in the Tertön's heart-mind; dgong gter wisdom-mind treasures, which surge from the Tertön’s wisdom-mind, without there being a material support such as a Yellow Parchemin; rdzas gter material treasures-- blessed objects (phurba, vajra, etc..) or subtances; bla gter exalted or august treasures, intended to Kings, rulers, or important persons at a specific time for the sake of the country or of some major task; gter phreng minor treasures, such as longevity pills, small objects, etc.; gter smyon crazy of extemporaneous treasures, which suddenly arise in someone’s mind for a specific benefit to beings; rgya gter Indian treasures, found in India; bod gter Tibetan treasures, found in Tibet; rje gter lordly treasures, related to King Trison Deutsen; yab gter father treasures, related to father tantras (or to Guru Rinpoche); yum gter mother treasures, related to mother-tantras (or to Yeshe Tsogyal); ma ning gter ma neuter treasures, related to the non-dual tantras; phyi gter outer treasures, intended to all disciples in general; nang gter inner treasures, intended to close disciples with pure samaya; bar gter intermediate treasures, intended to disciples in between the two former ones; nor gter treasures of wealth, which consist of material treasures. | Source: Matthieu Ricard ↑
The five clear perceptions (mngon shes lnga) or the five ‘superknowledges’ are:
- the clear perception of the divine eye, which is a perception of all forms—subtle and gross, near or far—and an ability to see the births and deaths of beings; it arises due to the power of samadhi meditation on the support of a subtle eye faculty belonging to the realms of form;
- the clear perception of the divine ear, which is the ability to hear all sounds and languages spoken, whether nearby or at a great distance; it too is based on the ear faculty of someone in the higher realms;
- the clear perception of knowing the minds of others, which is an ability to know the minds of other beings that comes about through samadhi;
- the clear perception of one’s own and others’ past lives, which is the knowledge of where births occurred in the past, and whatever pleasant or unpleasant experiences were undergone.
- the clear perception that is the ability to perform miracles, which allows the display of various miracles, such as turning many things into one, or multiplying one thing so that it becomes many, radiating light, or blazing with fire and spouting jets of water.
- The Tibetan word nyenpa implies ‘familiarization’, ‘associating with’, or ‘approaching’ and is sometimes translated as ‘approach’. As H.H. Sakya Trizin and Alak Zenkar Rinpoche have explained: in the past, the approach practice mainly involved focusing on the visualization of the deity during the session, and the mantra was recited in between sessions. Nowadays however, mantra recitation is the standard practice to measure deity meditation. Most of our sadhanas advise us to recite a certain number of mantras for the different phases of the practice, such as approach, close approach, accomplishment and great accomplishment. This is why some Buddhist practitioners today use the word ‘recitation’ or talk about ‘doing accumulation’ when referring to the nyenpa, which is sometimes translated as the ‘approach’, or ‘recitation practice’. Some Rinpoches advise their students to use the word nyenpa in this context. ↑
- A Drop of Moonlight Nectar, Notes on the approach and accomplishment practices of the mind treasure called Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche also refers to it as the Retreat Instruction Manual by Jamgön Kongtrül. See Section 2 of this publication. ↑
- Wyl. rtsa ba rdo rje tshig rkang↑
- Tib. Chimé phakmé nyingtik lé trinlé yehsé nangwa. ↑
- The Tibetan ‘phakpa’ means noble, excellent, and ‘khyepar du phakpa’ means greater, or most excellent, exceed. ↑
- Light of Wisdom, vol.I p.36-40. ↑
- See endnote 10. ↑
- The eight great accomplishments also known as the eight ordinary accomplishments or siddhis are: the siddhi of the celestial realm is the ability to dwell in celestial realms while still alive; the siddhi of the sword is the ability to overcome any hostile army; the siddhi of the pill is the ability to become invisible by blessing pills and holding them in your hand; with the siddhi of fleet-footedness, by wearing boots you have blessed, you can walk around a lake in an instant; with the vase siddhi you can create a vessel that makes anything you put inside it, food or money for example, inexhaustible; the siddhi of yaksha is the power to make yakshas your servants who then follow your orders and accomplish the work of a million people in a single night; the siddhi of the elixir gives you a lifespan as long as the sun and the moon, the strength of an elephant, the beauty of a lotus, and makes you feel as light as cotton wool whenever you get up from your seat; with the siddhi of the balm of magic sight you can see things beneath the earth, such as treasures and so on when you apply balm to your eyes. | Source: Rigpawiki ↑
- Mipham Rinpoche explains the meaning of empowerment as follows. “The Sanskrit word for empowerment is abhiṣiñca. Etymologically, abhi means “manifest” and siñca means ‘to scatter’ or ‘to pour’. The profound ritual of mantra empowerment washes, or scatters, the stains related to the disciple’s body, speech, mind, and to all three, and establishes, or pours, an extraordinary capacity into the disciple’s being, whereby he or she may develop the wisdom that will ripen the body, speech, mind of the disciple and their combination into the four vajras.” (Luminous Essence, Snow Lion, p.89) ↑
- Tib. tabab. ↑
- The Treasury of Precious Termas (Tib. Rinchen Terzö) is one of The Five Great Treasures of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great. It is a compilation drawn from all the termas that had been discovered up to his time, including Chokgyur Lingpa’s treasures. Fearing that these teachings would be lost, he started the work in 1855 with the blessing of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and it was completed in 1889. | Source: Rigpawiki ↑
- Tib. kechik dren dzok↑
- Tib. rigpa’i tsalwang↑
- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said, “When we make the prostration, touching the ground at five points – with our forehead, two hands, and two knees – we should think that in this way we pay homage to the five buddha families, and in this way we transform the five poisons (anger, attachment, ignorance, pride, and jealousy) into the five wisdoms. (Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel: The Practice of Guru Yoga according to the Longchen Nyingthig Tradition. Shambhala Publications, 1999.) ↑
- “When combining the words into one, just as the hundred-spoked vajra in the hand of Indra, the king of the gods, has the great power and force to destroy the armies of demigods with a single blow.” Padmasambhava, Jamgon Kongtrul, Jamyang Khyentse Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and Chokgyur Lingpa. The Light of Wisdom, Volume 1. Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Boston : New York: Shambhala, 1995, p.40. ↑
- In answer to a question, Rinpoche explained that in this case ‘music’ must involved two instruments being played. A drum or a gyaling is a musical instrument but they need a player for a musical offering. Whereas two stones hit together constitute music offering. ↑
- In the daily sadhana. ↑
- See for example Jikmé Lingpa. “Ladder to Akaniṣṭha.” In Deity, Mantra, and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, translated by Dharmachakra, 1st edition., 21–79. Ithaca, N.Y: Snow Lion, 2007, p.31-40. ↑
- As Jamgön Kongtrül wrote in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik retreat manual: “The three samadhis are like the three poles of a teepee: they support each other, while providing the structure of the tent.” ↑
- The five wisdoms: wisdom of dharmadhatu, mirror-like wisdom, all-accomplishing wisdom, wisdom of great equality, wisdom of discernment. ↑
- Tib. Garwang Tsepamé↑
- Tib. umzé↑
- White Tara Garland Offering p.69-74 ↑
- Pure water is said to be endowed with eight qualities: crystal clarity, coolness, sweetness, lightness, softness, it is soothing to the stomach, free of impurities, and clears the throat. Source: Rigpawiki ↑
- Tib. jinsek↑
- Points 2 and 3 (vajra pride and remembering the purity) are dealt with later in the teaching. ↑
- Rinpoche’s teaching on the three samadhis is part of the section that wasn’t recorded ↑
- The Melody of Brahma Reveling in the Three Realms: Key Points for Meditating on the Four Stakes That Bind the Life-force, in Deity, Mantra and Wisdom, Snow Lion, 2006, p.81-96. ↑
- The Highest Yoga Tantra (Skt. Anuttarayoga Tantra; Wyl. rnal 'byor bla na med pa'i rgyud) is the highest of the four classes of tantra. According to the Sarma tradition, Highest Yoga Tantras are divided into Mother Tantras, Father Tantras and Non-dual Tantras. In the Nyingma tradition, the Anuttarayoga Tantra corresponds to the three inner tantras of Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga. | Source: Rigpawiki ↑
- ‘Nested’ is used to indicate that the deities are one inside the other like dolls in the traditional Russian matryoshka doll. ↑
- The Tantra of Magnificent Lightning (Tib. Ngam Lok) says: Not too loudly, not inaudibly; Not hurriedly, not slowly; Not forcefully, not feebly; Not adding or subtracting syllables, Not distractedly, not while chattering; Not while obstructed by yawning and so on. ↑
- Tib. druppa↑
- Tib. lejor↑
- The desire realm, the form realm, the formless realm. ↑
- Such as giving empowerments. ↑