An Explanation of the ‘Single Mudra’: A Daily Practice from the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik


26&28 July 2006, Lerab Ling and Paris

An Explanation of the ‘Single Mudra’: A Daily Practice from the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik

26&28 July 2006, Lerab Ling and Paris

At the end of Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche’s stay in Lerab Ling, twenty yogis and yoginis asked him how to do a Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik retreat. Rinpoche didn’t have much time, so it wasn’t possible to base his instructions on the longer sadhana, so instead he told them how to do a retreat based on the daily sadhana. And as he didn’t quite finish the teaching before he left Lerab Ling, he completed it from his bed in Paris, with a tape recorder as his sole audience.

‘Single Mudra’

This text, the ‘Single Mudra’, is the daily practice from Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s mind treasure, the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik (The Heart Essence of the Sublime Lady of Immortality).

A mandala is usually made up of the principle deity and their retinue. When a practice involves several deities it is said to be a many ‘mudras’ practice. But when all these deities are gathered into the main deity, it is a ‘single mudra’ practice. So, the title ‘Single Mudra’ signifies that this is the practice of the main deity and that she embodies all the deities in the mandala.

When we practise elaborately, we meditate on the principal deity and the retinue, then recite the approach mantra of each deity – so for the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, we focus on the main deity, the four Taras and the four gatekeepers. But we can also do this practice by simply meditating on the main deity.

The traditional example of how this works is that it’s like inviting a king to visit you – although these days it would more likely be a high lama or an important statesman. When you extend an invitation to such a person, it is understood that all the entourage of attendants, secretaries and so on, are included. And in the case of a King, whether you invite the entourage or not, they will accompany him as a matter of course. Similarly, when we meditate on the main deity, we automatically accomplish the retinue; the deities of the mandala don’t just disappear because we’re not thinking about them. Therefore, if we accomplish the main deity, we also accomplish all the deities in her retinue, which is why it isn’t necessary to think of each deity individually. So if we meditate on this ‘Single Mudra’ daily practice, we don’t have to worry about anything being incomplete. Everything will be accomplished because everything that’s necessary is there.

Homage to the Guru, sublime Tara!
This is the daily yoga practice of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik as a single deity, the essence of the root sadhana called ‘Trinley Yeshe Nangwa—Activities for Uncovering Primordial Wisdom’, in three sections: the preliminary, the main practice and the conclusion.

The title of the root sadhana of the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik is ‘Activities for Uncovering Primordial Wisdom’ and the daily practice that we’re discussing today, the ‘Single Mudra’, is an essentialization of that root sadhana in three sections: the preliminary, the main practice and the conclusion.

I. The Preliminary

Someone who has correctly received the empowerment for this practice, who keeps the samayas and vows well, who has trained their mind in absolute and relative bodhichitta, and whose diligence is unwavering, should retire to a secluded place and embark on the conduct conducive to meditation.

There is not one Vajrayana deity that you can practise unless you have received the appropriate empowerment. You must therefore first receive the empowerment for this practice; and having received it, you must keep the samayas and vows.

Before you begin any Vajrayana practice, you must have trained your mind in both absolute and relative bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is the basis or support for Vajrayana practice, and relative bodhichitta is the generation of the mind of enlightenment both in aspiration and in action. Without holding both absolute and relative bodhichitta in your mind, you cannot practise the Vajrayana.

Whether you practise in a Sutric or Tantric context, without a certain amount of diligence you won’t accomplish anything. Therefore, cultivate diligence as much as you can, and abandon laziness.

The text goes on to say that you “should retire to a secluded place”, which means somewhere without sentient beings – no people during the day and no gods or demons at night.

Sit on a soft cushion, “and embark on the conduct conducive to meditation”, meaning that you meditate on the deity having stabilized your mind.

To start with, avoid agitating the mind. Turn inwardly and look at your mind. Whatever thoughts arise, just relax in the vast expanse. Also allow your breath to settle so that you are at ease and relaxed. ‘Relaxing’ and ‘being at ease’ are what the text describes as “the conduct conducive to meditation”. But it’s a little difficult. Thoughts like, ‘Now I’m going to meditate on the deity’ and ‘I’m going to have a session of practice...’ should be avoided. Of course if we didn’t ever have that kind of thought, we wouldn’t do any practice at all. But in the moments before you start to practise, this is what you should do. Basically, rest naturally on your cushion, avoid agitating your mind with ideas, and whatever thoughts arise, leave them alone – just look at the mind itself
In this way your thoughts will be naturally liberated by themselves. And similarly, let the breath settle in its natural flow. To remain relaxed in this way is conducive to meditation.

I imagine that the guru, the Wish-Fulfilling Wheel, in whom all sources of refuge are embodied, appears in the sky before me. Before her, I and all sentient beings focus body, speech and mind on a single aim, take refuge and arouse bodhichitta.

From this state of ease, imagine that the guru, the Wish-Fulfilling Wheel in whom all sources of refuge are embodied, appears in the sky before you. The Wish-Fulfilling Wheel is the deity we practise and she is indivisible from the lama. Visualize yourself and all sentient beings standing before her as you pay homage body, speech and mind – show respect with your body by folding your hands in the añjali mudra, with your speech by reciting the words of refuge, and fill your mind with one-pointed devotion. Body, speech and mind are all focused on a single aim and coordinated to take refuge and arouse bodhichitta at the same time. As it says in the four-line refuge prayer, we take refuge in Guru Wish-fulfilling Wheel: we rely on her as our object of refuge and also as the witness to the arousal of bodhichitta in our minds.

The meaning of the refuge and bodhichitta prayers has been translated into English which is easy to understand, so there is no need for explanation.

1. Taking Refuge

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!
(three times)

2. Generating Bodhichitta

Sentient beings are as numerous as space is vast,
In order to free every one of them from the ocean of suffering
By attaining immortality through this yoga of Jetsün Phakma,
I arouse the enlightened mind of bodhichitta.
(three times)

Throughout the refuge and bodhichitta prayers Guru Wish-fulfilling Wheel has been in the sky before you, but now she instantaneously dissolves into you.

Expelling the Negative Forces

hung hung hung
The natural sound of this vajra mantra drives away all malevolent forces.

A mantra practitioner should continuously meditate on the yidam deity. If at this point you aren’t, you should meditate on a deity like Hayagriva or Vajrakilaya – a wrathful deity. The deity appears instantly and from his heart emanates a large assembly of male and female wrathful deities who produce weapons and swirls of fire. As you say ‘hung hung hung’ the natural sound of this vajra mantra resonates and the weapons and swirls of fire drive away – far away – all obstacles to the attainment of enlightenment and all malevolent forces. This is the visualization. And for the mantra, ‘hung hung hung’ is enough. The sound hung is the self-radiance of primordial wisdom and indivisible from the mind of all the buddhas. Within the mind of the buddhas there is not a single obstacle.

Protection Tent

benza jñana raksha ah hung
Visualize that with this you have stabilized the protective sphere.

Once the malevolent forces have been driven far away, say benza jñana raksha ah hung and meditate on the protection spheres. The usual visualization is of a fence of vajra prongs, blazing masses of wisdom fire, and male and female wrathful deities. This is what you visualize: the visualization should be clear yet stable and like it’s really there. How do you achieve that kind of visualization? By imagining it again and again.

Blessing the Offerings

If you have real offerings prepared, consecrate them with:
om ah hung sarwa pudza megha samaye hung
and the ‘Sky Treasury’ mudra.

If you have made material offerings, it’s necessary to bless them. If not, then the blessing isn’t necessary. Generally, there are two kinds of offering, the real and the imagined. Real offerings are either pure or impure depending whether or not they are perceived with dualistic grasping, and therefore need to be blessed. But we don’t think that imagined offerings really exist and so we don’t grasp at them, right? Therefore they cannot be impure and don’t need to be blessed.

Mantrayana practise requires four elements: deity, mantra, mudra and samadhi. It’s important to accompany the blessing mantra with a mudra, and so to bless the material offerings you have made, you should now do the ‘Sky Treasury Mudra’.

The Sky Treasury Mudra includes a wish-fulfilling jewel which you make with your hands. With the creation of the wish-fulfilling jewel, the material offerings become beautiful to look at, emit a pleasant sound, smell delicious, taste delectable and feel wonderful (the five sensual stimulants); and the outer, inner and secret offerings multiply to become inconceivable in number and inexhaustible – they will remain without diminishing for all time. The causes for making our offerings so inconceivably vast are: the blessings of the buddhas, the force of the aspirations of the bodhisattvas, our own accomplishment of the two accumulations and the incredible power of deity, samadhi, mudra and mantra. This is what you must meditate on.

An elaborate practice to bless the offerings involves a great deal of recitation and ritual, but in short practices like this one, there are just few lines. But whether the practice is long or short, it must be complete. What makes a practice complete? If you recite mindlessly, even when you recite a long prayer, the meaning behind the practice will not be complete. Whereas if you recite a short prayer, like the prayer in this practice, and think about every word you say and actualize it in your mind, the point of the practice will be accomplished.

Of the three sections in this practice – the preliminary, the main and the conclusion – the preliminary is now finished.

II. The Main Practice

The second part, the main practice, is in two parts:

  1. the principal phase is to cultivate the practice of meditative equipoise, by focusing your meditation on the deity, and
  2. the subsidiary phase is to practise the concentration of the mantra recitation.

There’s a little to explain here. Why is the principal phase meditating on the deity. Because it is said:

The mandala of the deity that matures the body.

If human beings didn’t have bodies – if you didn’t have a body, how could you speak? And the three realms of samsara come into being based on body, speech and mind, don’t they? So you must purify body, speech and mind. To do that, you practise the meditation yoga of the deity, which also starts with the body. First, focus on meditating on your body as the mandala of the deities, which is the main focus here – the text says ‘main’, doesn’t it?

1. Meditation on the Deity

There are three steps to meditation on the deity:

  1. Create a clear visualization of the samayasattva;
  2. Invite and merge the jñanasattva indivisibly with the samayasattva;
  3. Keep the mind focused on the vivid presence and clear appearance of the form of the deity, which is samayasattva and jñanasattva indivisible.

a) Visualization of the Samayasattva

Here, to generate the ‘cause’ is ‘to plant the structure’ of the three samadhis...

It is completely wrong to try to meditate on deities without the three samadhis. This doesn’t mean that there’s no form of kyerim practice can be done without the three samadhis – there are many different kinds of kyerim – but for the Mahayoga kyerim practice that we are doing here, the three samadhis are necessary as they establish the framework. A ‘framework’ in this context, is the root of the practice, based on which you accomplish the result:

...and the ‘result’ is the creation of the mandala of the palace and the deities—the ‘support and supported’, which you do by bringing to mind the meaning of the words as you read them.

Meditate on this. ‘Meditate’ here means that you create the visualization of the mandala in your mind as you focus on the text you recite – you need to understand what you are doing as you go along. This is why it is said in the teachings that “Vajrayana is recitation and meditation”.

So, what is the point of recitation? What is the point of the chanting we accomplish by using our mouths and voices? The sound of our voices directs our minds to what we must ‘meditate’ on. ‘Recitation and meditation’ means that we recite or chant the words of the practice and actualize the meaning of those words in our meditation. For example, the word ‘house’ immediately evokes in our minds the image of a building in which people live. Similarly, the word ‘seat’ evokes the kind of furniture people sit on. If I were to add, “And an old man with a long beard”, you would immediately picture an old man sitting in the house. Visualization practice is like that, except that we don’t bring ordinary, worldly images to mind.

‘House’ ordinarily makes us think of the kind of house we live in, not the inconceivably vast and beautiful palace that is the home and support of the deities – this isn’t something we can imagine. A ‘person’ implies an ordinary human being – someone like us – who lives in that house and who is made of atoms, blood and flesh, not a wisdom deity whose nature is light that shines in all directions. A ‘seat’, is something that human being sits on, like a chair etc., which is all our minds are capable of picturing. We can’t imagine the seats of lotus, sun and moon that the deities sit on. And since we are unable to picture in our mind’s eye what these palaces, seats and deities look like, we do a sadhana practice, which helps us visualize them clearly and eliminates mind’s impure concepts that continuously relate back to samsara. So as we visualize, we eliminate ordinary, impure conceptions and actualize the pure mandala of the deities.

Recite the mantra:

om maha shunyata jñana bendza sobhawa ema ko hang

As you recite the mantra, remember that all phenomena, both of samsara and nirvana, are empty. If it weren’t for emptiness, nothing would be possible. It is because space is empty that it can be permeated by the world, in the same way that when a house is empty a person can live in it. Only when a cup is empty can we pour something into it – if it’s already full of something, we cannot add anything else. But emptiness isn’t easy to talk about.

So first, you establish the framework of the three samadhis. The first two lines talk about the samadhi of suchness:

All things in samsara and nirvana are
The primordial, luminous space of suchness, in which arises...

This is easy to understand. ‘Samsara’ refers to the six kinds of sentient being who go round and round in the three realms; ‘nirvana’, refers to those whose minds have turned towards going beyond samsara and who hope to reach the level of buddhahood, and so on. All phenomena in both samsara and nirvana are primordial clear light. In the words of the Buddha:

Mind is empty of mind; the nature of mind is clear light.[1]

Buddha saw that all phenomena is clear light, which is the natural radiance of primordial wisdom. Dzogchen practitioners call this clear light ‘the energy of rigpa’ (rigpa’i tsal). Clear light is nothing other than ‘suchness’.

There is just one line for the samadhi of great compassion:

The power of all-illuminating compassion.

Within and united with this emptiness, this clarity is ‘great compassion’. It’s not a small compassion, it is hugely vast, like the shining sun. When the sun shines all the obscurations of ignorance are completely eliminated and cannot manifest. So the compassion that is in union with emptiness is ‘great’, and the energy of great compassion is the samadhi of great compassion.

The next two lines refer to the third samadhi: the causal samadhi.

...Their union
Is the causal samadhi, a white tam,
Appearing like a rainbow from the sky

From the energy of the union of emptiness and compassion arises the causal samadhi – ‘causal’ means that the syllable is the cause of all samsara and nirvana – in the form of a white letter tam, which appears like a rainbow in sky. This letter tam is not visualized in Indian characters. The Sarmapas consider Indian characters to be extremely sacred and say that this how we should visualize the syllables, but Khyentse Wangpo told Tibetans to imagine Tibetan letters. [2]

These three samadhis are extremely important. Without the three samadhis, kyerim practice is completely useless. So when you practise meditate as follows:

All things in samsara and nirvana are
The primordial, luminous space of suchness, in which arises...

Rest, meditating on the meaning of ‘emptiness’. If your teacher has introduced you to your true nature through the pith instructions (mengak), rest in that. If not, rest in the form of meditation with which you are familiar.

Actually everything unfolds within the samadhi of suchness, so in fact there is no ‘wavering’ from suchness. But we do ‘waver’ and move away from it, which is when we accumulate the negative emotions and karma that lead us to spin around in samsara where we experience never-ending suffering. As we bring to mind all the deluded sentient beings in the three realms of samsara who exist in this way, we immediately embrace them with compassion. This is what is called, the “power of all-illuminating compassion.”

The causal samadhi arises from the energy of the union of suchness and you meditate on a white syllable tam, which ‘appears like a rainbow from the sky’. The nature of tam is light and the radiance of that light, and this corresponds to buddha nature which is the ground of all sentient beings. Buddha nature contains all the infinite qualities of the buddhas – such as the thirty-two major marks and the eighty minor marks – which appear as light and the emanation and reabsorption of rays of light.

The three samadhis are explained in major texts, like the Guhyagarbha-Tantra and Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo etc., which present in great detail all the key aspects of the practice, for example, the purpose of purification and what we purify etc., from the perspective of ground, path and fruition. These explanations are good to know. [3] If you don’t know this information and try to practise using these verses on the three samadhis, while ignoring what I’ve just explained (which is the bare minimum of information that you need), your practice will be completely incorrect.

What comes next is easier.

The Palace

Sending out light that purifies clinging to reality in the world and amongst beings.

From the syllable tam streams rays of light.

Within the expanse of the five elements, the consorts,

The five elements – the nature of the five consorts – appear one on top of the other. “Within their expanse” means that above them, we visualize

... the celestial mansion of great liberation,
Made of precious crystal,
Complete with four sides, four doors and all its features.

What does the palace look like? It has four doors, four corners and all the features of a palace, which, according to the Guhyagarbha-Tantra, represent the Thirty-Seven Elements Leading to Enlightenment.

The Seat

In its centre on a four-petalled lotus, are
Skilful means and wisdom—sun and moon fused together—

The Deity

In the centre of which is the syllable tam, as their union,

This means that if we take rebirth in the three realms of existence we must rely on the four modes of birth, one of which is to be born to a father and mother from the mother’s womb. This is represented by the essence of your consciousness appearing between the sun and the moon in the form of a syllable tam, which purifies the habit samsaric sentient beings have formed of being born from a womb.

At this point in the process of rebirth from a womb, there is a ‘mind’, but there is no physical form. Over the course of nine months the human baby gradually takes shape, and to purify this habitual tendency, the syllable tam emanates and reabsorbs rays of light:

Light emanates from tam as an offering to the Noble Ones,
Gathering and bringing back the quintessence of samsara and nirvana,

After nine months and ten days in the womb, the human baby’s body has been formed and is born. Then, the tam

... 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.

The form of the deity is now complete. As we have a body when we are born, we already have a form. So the visualization of the form of the deity is to purify our habitual tendency of taking a form.

As her natural radiance the supreme skilful means, the Lord of the Dance,
Holds a lotus flower and long life vase, and embraces her in union.

The deity, Wish-Fulfilling Wheel appears in union with her male consort to symbolize the indivisibility of skilful means and wisdom. The Lord of the Dance is Avalokiteshvara. [4]

This concludes the section on the visualization of the support, the palace and the supported mandala of the deity.

b) Inviting and Absorbing the Jñanasattva

Humans have body, speech and mind right? Similarly, the deities must have enlightened body, speech and mind – the three vajras. We therefore now receive the blessings of the three vajras.

The crown of their heads, their throats and hearts,
Are marked with the syllables of the three vajras,
From which rays of light stream out and
Invite the jñanasattvas.

This means you visualize yourself clearly as the samayasattva, and from your body rays of light shine out to invite the jñanasattva. Conceptually, we tend to think of ourselves as being different from the deity. To purify this concept, you invite the jñanasattva, the wisdom deity, which dissolves into you in the form of the samayasattva.

Recite the words of invitation:

Long life Goddess with supreme discerning wisdom,
Crowned by Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light,
Lady who is the enlightened activity of the buddhas of past, present and future,
Approach! You who manifest as the Wish-fulfilling Wheel
With the retinue of assembled families that you emanate—
Rupakayas that magically arise
From the Dharmakaya beyond arising.
Your samaya of great compassion obliges you to
Confer the supreme siddhi on this practitioner,
Direct your wisdom mind into this mandala of the samayasattva,
And arouse in me indestructible vajra wisdom!
samaya hoh samaya tam e a ra li hring hring dza jnana satva a
With this, the jnanasattvas are invited.

And with:

vajra jnana dza hung bam ho...

dza invites the wisdom deities;
hung receives the wisdom deities as they arrive;
bam pleases the wisdom deities; and
ho makes the wisdom deities indivisible with the samayasattva.

...samaya tishtalen...

This mantra requests the deities to remain. So,

...they are invited, dissolved, pleased and requested to remain steadfast and constant.

Paying Homage

If you wish, you can briefly offer prostration, offerings and praise:

Meaning that if you don’t want to do all that, it’s fine; but if you want to prostrate, make offerings and express praise, you can.

ah la la ho is an expression of wonder.
ah ti pu ho represents prostrations to the deity (the person prostrating is the activity deity that you, as the samayasattva, emanate); and
pra ti tsa ho auspiciously concludes the prostration to the deity.


Make outer, inner and secret offerings, and the offering of ‘suchness’, with:
Whether actually present, or manifested by the mind,
All the offerings in countless universes, inner, outer and secret...

All offering substances, outer (drinking water, washing water, flowers, fragrance, light, perfumed water, food, music and so on), inner (visual forms, sounds, odours, tastes, tactile sensations) and secret (amrita, rakta and torma)...

I offer to you, noble Wish-fulfilling Wheel:
Accept them and grant me the siddhi of immortality!

These two lines are easy to understand.

I’ll explain the mantra briefly.
It starts with om, then arya tara refers to Jetsun Drolma, who is surrounded by the retinue of deities and so sapariwara refers ‘to all the deities’.

As you make the offerings:

  • to represent drinking water you say argham,
  • washing water is padyam,
  • flowers are püshpe,
  • fragrance is dhüpe,
  • light is aloke,
  • perfumed water is gende,
  • food is newidya, and
  • music shapta.

The inner offerings are:

  • all beautiful forms are rupa,
  • all sounds are shapta,
  • all fragrant smells are gende,
  • all tasty things to eat are rasa, and
  • all good clothes are sparshe.

Finally, pratitsa soha offers the outer and inner offerings.

For the secret offerings:

  • sarwa pentsa amrita is amrita,
  • maha rakta is rakta, and
  • maha balingta khahi is the torma.

sarwa dharmadhatu: all phenomena has dissolved into dharmadhatu – emptiness.
With sarwa ema koh hang you offer all phenomena.
This mantra encompasses great depth of meaning and involves all the aspects of offering, union, liberation, suchness, emptiness, and so on. So, at the beginning of the offering section:

Make outer, inner, and secret offerings, and the offering of suchness.

This is what the offerings are.

In terms of what you visualize, emanate an activity deity in front of you that is the same as yourself in the form of Jetsun Tara. From the lotus she is holding and from her forehead, throat and heart (the three main centres) she emanates an infinite number of offering goddesses. These goddesses present the offerings we’ve just spoken about to the mandala.

There are many traditions and methods for making offerings, but essentially, you should offer as much of the best quality food, drink, etc., as is possible, and the offering should be inexhaustible.


Offer praise with...

Imagine that Brahma, Vishnu, the Four Great Kings, all the protectors of the world, all the buddhas of the ten directions and all the bodhisattvas offer praise in one voice.

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!

At the end of this part of the practice, the deity making the offerings and offering praise dissolves into you.

Clear visualization, stable pride & remembering purity

Focus your mind exclusively on a clear image—both the overall outline and specific details—of the form of the deity, the ‘great mudra’, in which samayasattva and jñanasattva are inseparable.

‘Great mudra’ is also known as Mahamudra. Generate an image in your mind of the Glorious Wish-fulfilling Wheel with seven eyes, in union with the Lord of the Dance. Focus your mind one-pointedly and visualize them so clearly that you can even see the white and black of their eyes and clearly differentiate the colour of their bodies. Clear visualization is important.

The great tantras say that when you meditate on deities you should have a ‘samaya support’ to look at that has been blessed. These days you can find many photos of this White Tara. Look at it without getting distracted. If you concentrate your mind one-pointedly as you look at the image, eventually you will be able to see it in your mind’s eye. But remember that the mental image you create in your mind is different from the photograph. As you meditate, you must train your mind so that the image can be bigger or smaller and that the deities actually move – which they don’t in the photograph, do they! You should also see that the bodies of the deities are made of light, be able to enlarge and reduce their size, and increase the stability of your visualization. The practical advice the masters give here is that you should practice often and in short sessions. Until you’ve meditated and trained yourself in this way for some time, kyerim will be difficult, but once you’re used to meditating like this, there is no doubt that you will accomplish a clear visualization. Right now, though, you are not used to what the deity looks like. But when you think of your father, for example, you don’t have to remember each of his features, you just think of him and he appears in your mind’s eye without much effort, because you’re familiar with what he looks like.

Feel the firm and stable confidence of Vajra Pride.

On the absolute level, all sentient beings have buddha nature – sugatagarbha – and it is exactly the same buddha nature as that of the deities and buddhas. It is because we have buddha nature that enlightenment is possible. Sugatagarbha is the cause that ultimately results in enlightenment. In the same way there is no oil in sand and however hard you press the sand, you’ll never get any oil, anything that doesn’t have sugatagarbha – like stones and earth – cannot reach enlightenment. On the other hand, sesame seeds already contain oil and you can extract it simply by pressing the seeds.

For all of us, although buddha nature is our ‘ground’, that ground is temporarily obscured. Yet it is exactly the same as the ground of the buddhas: sugatagarbha. And as buddha nature brings with it all the qualities and wisdom of the buddhas, once our obscurations have been eliminated, we become buddhas. This is how you should think. And you should feel the stable confidence or pride that you and the deity are one and the same.

Once an experience of clarity and stability has developed, remember the purity, ground and fruition, and in this way train your mind so that the development stage (creation meditation) practice matures you and brings you closer to attaining the supreme siddhi.

So, you must cultivate a ‘clear image’ of the deity in your meditation and also develop the ‘stable confidence’ that you are the same as the deity. When you can hold a clear image of the deity in your mind, be confident in its stability. Then realize that both experiences are simply the display of the energy of emptiness on the absolute level; in the context of the ground they ‘exist’, and in the context of fruition they are ‘empty’, yet they must be connected. Your meditation should be an experience of clear visualization and of stable pride, which you immediately know to be the ‘emptiness’ of fruition, without taking any notice of the idea that you ‘recognize’ that emptiness.

When meditating upon ‘clear appearance’, focus exclusively on the clear visualization of the deity. Make every effort to visualize as clearly and in as much detail as possible. At the same time, even when the visualization is extremely clear, be aware that the deity isn’t something new you’ve created. On the absolute level, the deity is indivisible from me. Right now, while I am on the path, my sugatagarbha is obscured, but it will become manifest as the real buddha at ‘fruition’. Bearing this in mind will give rise to stable pride. Stable pride is the confidence that I really am the buddha, and I arrive at that confidence once I’ve eliminated any idea that ‘buddha is better’ or ‘the deity is good, but I am inferior’. Just think, “I am the deity!”; this is the kind of confidence that should be generated here.

When you finally experience clear visualization and stable pride, don’t grasp at it. It’s not appropriate to grasp at this experience, right? At this point, the deity is an image, a representation which appears in your mind, and mind is empty – the energy of emptiness liberated within the state of rigpa. Whatever practice you are doing, this is where you ‘remember the purity’ by calling to mind that the deity doesn’t exist in itself, thus applying the seal of emptiness. This is the best way to meditate on the deity, and if you apply this method during kyerim, you will move closer to the supreme accomplishment called the ‘Great Seal’. How? As your habitual tendencies are progressively removed and the obscurations eliminated, the two accumulations are accomplished and there is not the slightest doubt that you’ll attain the supreme siddhi of the Great Seal.

2. The Mantra Recitation

Whenever you become weary of that kind of meditation, to enhance your practice, train in the meditative absorption of the mantra recitation.

This means that if you practise creating the clear visualization of the deity and get tired of continually repeating this method of meditation, “in order to enhance your practice, train in the meditative absorption of the mantra recitation”.

The text goes on to say:

I am sublime Tara: in my heart
Is the jñanasattva Amitayus,
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.

So visualize yourself as the samayasattva Sublime Tara, Wish-fulfilling Wheel as I’ve already explained. At her heart is the jñanasattva Amitayus, white in colour, with one face, two hands, holding a long-life vase in the mudra of meditation. At his heart is a white lotus on top of which, in an locket made by a sun and a moon, is a white syllable tam, the samadhisattva. These are the ‘three nested sattvas’ and this is what you visualize as you recite the first part of the prayer.

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.

The ten-syllable mantra – om tare tuttare ture soha – encircles the syllable tam. It is white and arranged clockwise and the om stands in front of the tam.

Concerning the visualization of the encircling mantra-mala, in general we visualize:

  • mainly its arrangement, for the approach,
  • the mantra turning, for the close approach,
  • the palanquin, during the accomplishment, and
  • the emanation and reabsorption, during the great accomplishment.[5]

If we follow the Nyingma Kama tradition, the first example to illustrate the visualizations of the mantra is the ‘Moon and the Garland of Stars’ which refers to the phase of approach. When the moon is shining in the sky, it is surrounded by stars which are sharply defined and clearly distinguishable from one another. Similarly, in the sun and moon locket, the white syllable tam is surrounded by the ten syllables, om tare tuttare ture soha, arranged clockwise, distinct from one another and as vividly clear as the stars surrounding the moon. This is the visualization that you create just for the approach practice.

What does ‘approach’ mean? It’s like meeting someone you don’t know; when you approach that person for the first time and see what they look like, you know who they are. This is ‘approach’. Therefore reciting the mantra while focussing on the core seed syllable and mantra-mala is the approach practice.

Then “the mantra turning, for the close approach”, which means that the close approach meditation focuses on the slow rotation of the syllables of the mantra-mala around the tam. As the syllables are arranged clockwise they must turn anticlockwise. ‘Close approach’ is like getting closer to someone we already know – that’s its purpose. So, the mantra-mala should slowly turn anticlockwise, emanating rays of light.

The visualization during accomplishment practice is called the ‘palanquin’. As the stream of mantra-malas revolve the tam remains where it is. From om, the mantra syllables stream out through the mouth of the self-visualization, enter the mouth of the front-visualization then leave through the navel to reenter the self-visualization through its navel. One after another, the stream of mantra-malas revolve in this way, like ‘the Whirling Firebrand’, which is a wooden stick ablaze at both ends which, if you twirl quickly, creates the illusion of a circle of fire. The stream of mantra-malas can turn between the self-visualization and front-visualization, etc., or through the mouth of the female deity and into the mouth of the male deity, then out through his secret place and into hers. This ‘palanquin’ visualization that resembles a whirling firebrand is the accomplishment practice. Once we have met the deity through approach practice, we become better acquainted through close approach practice, then accomplish indivisibility with the deity by means of the accomplishment practice – this is the ‘task’ that we accomplish.

“The emanation and reabsorption, during the great accomplishment” means that the circling stream of mantra-malas emanate rays of light which make offerings to all the victorious ones and their heirs residing in the ten directions of infinite space. We then receive all the blessings and siddhis of body, speech and mind – ‘body’ in the form of deities, ‘mind’ in the form of ritual hand implements and ‘speech’ in the form of seed syllables – which gather within us and in the seed syllable tam.

The commentary says:

Yet it is enough to visualize its arrangement when practising essentially.[6]

This means that when you practise more essentially, for example the daily practice rather than the more elaborate sadhana, it is enough to visualize the syllables of the mantra around the tam. You don’t have to visualize them moving.

In most of the Mother Tantra cycles and for female deities, which apply to this practice, the syllables are usually arranged anti-clockwise. However, here it is explained that the mantra should be arranged in a clockwise direction as in all the sadhanas of the Sarma tantras.[7]

So here the syllables are placed clockwise. None of this is difficult.

Now, the emanation and reabsorption of 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.

As you slowly recite the mantra you invoke Amitayus’ wisdom mind:

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,

So, visualize yourself as the samayasattva, the Sublime Lady of Immortality, Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik’s main deity and at her heart the jñanasattva, white Amitayus. At Amitayus’ heart is the samadhisattva, the syllable tam, around which revolves the mantra-mala. Rays of light stream from the top of Amitayus’ head and out through his ushnisha.

From which appears the sublime Vijaya,
The colour of crystal. Her right hand...

‘The colour of crystal’ in this case is white.

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, as limitless forms of herself
Stream out like specks of dust in sunbeams.

How should we visualize sublime Ushnishavijaya? The commentary says [8],

Her right hand, in the gesture of granting refuge, is poised on her right knee, and forms the threatening mudra...

This means that her hand forms this particular gesture she holds a hook that gathers nectar. Her left hand, at the level of her heart in the mudra of supreme giving, holds a long life vase from which she pours a stream of nectar...

... so the nectar overflows and pours out of the vase. Jamgön Kongtrül continues,

Her feet are loosely crossed in the sattvasana.

Generally, vajrasana (vajra posture) is the posture of the male deity, and the posture of the consort sitting in the male deity’s lap is the sattvasana. That is how to meditate on Ushnishavijaya.

Rays of light emanating from the heart of Amitayus leave his body through his ushnisha and stream into you in the form of the Sublime Lady of Immortality, then leave your body through your ushnisha, to become innumerable Ushnishavijayas.

She radiates light, as limitless forms of herself
Stream out like specks of dust in sunbeams.
They 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 the symbols of great bliss.

‘Samsara and nirvana’ refers to everything in the animate and inanimate universe.

From samsara, the vital essence is drawn from all the samsaric beings who enjoy long life, are free of illness and who are wealthy, including the universal monarchs, the rishis, Indra, Vishnu, gods, nagas, humans, and so on. And from nirvana, it is drawn from all those who have gone beyond samsara and are ascending the bhumis – the perfect buddhas and bodhisattvas.

So from all the beings of samsara and nirvana, the vital energy of the inanimate environment of this world (earth, water, fire, wind and so on) and its inhabitants, is gathered into a nectar that’s marked with the symbols of great bliss. I am in the form of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, and here the nectar dissolves into tikles of enlightened body, speech and mind at my forehead, throat and heart.

“They draw in all the subtle vital essence of samsara and nirvana—the animate and inanimate universe” needs some explanation. Once the “vital energy is drawn in”, the rays of light that are then reabsorbed into Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik consist of an 'alchemical substance' of rejuvenation (rasayana) that resembles quicksilver. This nectar is pure white – not just ‘whitish’ – like an autumn moon and emanates rays of light like the sun, and even the rays of light are also completely white. As the nectar pours into you, it coils down clockwise and is marked with all kinds of auspicious patterns, like swastikas, coils of joy, eight auspicious symbols, and so on. The power of this nectar is tremendous. It can transmit to whatever it touches the strength of an elephant; it has the same life-span as the sun and the moon [9], which do not seem to age; and the seven qualities of a vajra – indestructibility, unbreakability, stability, and so on. It has the ability instantly to give old people (in their sixties and seventies) the vigour of a sixteen-year old. If it touches iron, the iron is transmuted into gold. If it’s sprinkled over a dead and withered tree, the tree will immediately burst into life, sprouting abundant leaves, fruit and flowers. This is the kind of nectar that pours down into you in the form of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik.

...granting me the siddhi of immortal life,
And intensifying the wisdom of great bliss.

As the nectar pours into you, imagine you are filled with great bliss and that you blaze with splendour: “It intensifies the wisdom of great bliss”. This is how you should meditate on the nectar.

While you recite these words and bring to mind their meaning, maintain an acute awareness of the practice.

To “maintain an acute awareness of the practice” means that you concentrate one-pointedly on the practice and don’t let your mind wander or be distracted.

The Mantras

om tare tuttare ture soha
Spend most of your time reciting these ten vajra syllables mantra.
At the end of a session, recite the mantra that combines approach, accomplishment and activity all in one:
om tare tuttare ture hri droom vajra jnana ayuke soha

The main mantra you recite is the ten-syllable mantra, om tare tuttare ture soha. Accumulate as many as you can.

At the end of each session, whether or not you’ve been visualizing the mantra om tare tuttare ture soha rotating in the heart of the jñanasattva, you add the mantra om tare tuttare ture hri droom vajra jnana ayuke soha. The rest of the visualization is the same, just the mantra changes.

When you just recite om tare tuttare ture soha, don’t visualize the other mantra. But when you do the combined practice, you must visualize the second mantra following the first in the mantra-mala.

Then you must recite the mantras om amarani dzi wan ti ye soha and om amrita ayurda de soha for a while. In Kongtrül Rinpoche’s instructions on this practice [10], he writes that after the combined-practice mantra we must recite and visualize these two mantras, one after the other.

Vowels and Consonnant, and Essence of Dependent Origination Mantras


Just before you finish the recitation session, recite the vowels and consonants and the essence of dependent origination to make up for any duplications and omissions, and to stabilize the effects of the mantra practice.

Offering and Praise

Make a brief offering and praise...

The Nyingma lamas of the past would recite the vowel and consonant mantras, the essence of dependent origination mantra, and the offering and praise prayers for every thousand recitations of the mantra. But that’s not done any more. It’s said these days that it’s acceptable to just to do this form of recitation at the end of each session. You can recite the offering and praise prayers from the practice – they’re short.


...and confess any error with the hundred syllable mantra.

During the practice session, you may have made mistakes in your recitations or missed out syllables, and your kyerim practice may have lacked clarity etc., so you must confess all these faults as you recite the hundred-syllable mantra three times.

Dissolution & Re-arising

Then, the dissolution:

All the features of the samayasattvas, rigpa’s natural display,
Like faces and hands, dissolve into all-pervading space.

If you were born, you must also die, so we practise dissolution to purify all habitual tendencies associated with death. The words of the practice mean that all the deities you have been meditating on and have until now considered the display of your rigpa, dissolve.

  • the universe and all beings dissolve into the palace,
  • the palace dissolves into the deity’s retinue,
  • the retinue dissolves into the main deity,
  • the main deity dissolves into the jñanasattva at the heart of the main deity,
  • the jñanasattva dissolves into the samadhisattva,
  • and the letter tam slowly dissolves from the bottom up, and we rest in the state of emptiness.

At this point there are no deities in the retinue, so the universe and beings dissolve into the palace, the palace into the main deity, the main deity into the jñanasattva at her heart, the jñanasattva into the samadhisattva, and then the letter tam slowly dissolves from the bottom up and you rest in the state free of reference.

Then you arise as the deity once again, in order to purify the habitual tendencies of birth.

Once again, like a rainbow appearing in the sky,
I arise as deity and mantra, as the play of great wisdom.

Now the clear image of the deity, in this case Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, arises once more.

With this, dissolve the appearance of the deity into the expanse of clear light, and re-emerge in the form of the deity, in which appearance and emptiness and so on, are one.

Then the three syllables, om ah hung, appear clearly on the visualized body of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik, to...

Seal body, speech and mind with the three vajras.

Concluding Prayers


Through the merit of this practice, may I swiftly
Accomplish ‘the Sublime Lady of Immortality’,
And may every single sentient being, without exception,
Be led to that state of perfection too!

That’s easy!

With this, recite prayers of dedication and aspiration, as well as appropriate auspicious prayers for the conclusion of a session, before you return to your daily activities.

You must now recite prayers of auspiciousness. Any prayer of auspiciousness is fine, for example the one from the longer sadhana.

'Single Mudra' Colophon

Based on the principles of the path of ‘flawless perfection’[11], I have written this Single Mudra yoga as a practice for beginners or more generally an easy daily practice. I wrote it at the command—the repeated command—of omniscient Vajradhara Lodrö Tayé, whose coming was prophesied by the Buddha and for whom my faith is so profound that he constantly adorns the crown of my head.
Following the basic terma text exactly, the lake-born Guru’s favourite servant, Pema Osel Dongak Lingpa, composed this at the ‘Yiga Chödzin’ temple, at Palpung monastery, which so delights Tara.
May the merit of this serve as the cause for the glorious and holy gurus’ lives to remain secure for hundreds of kalpas, and for all limitless beings to accomplish the wisdom body of immortal Jetsün Tara: Mangalam!

Retreat Instructions

Approach, Accomplishment and Activity in Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik

In order to practise the approach, accomplishment and activity of Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik elaborately, for the approach practice follow the explanation given above. For the accomplishment phase, practise the Four Taras, adding the recitation of their mantras. And for the activity phase, do the visualizations associated with the Four Tara gatekeepers who carry out the activities. This is how to practise approach, accomplishment and activity in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik.

When you practise the approach, you only need to prepare a small offering. When you practice the accomplishment arrange the torma, the mandala and all the appropriate substances, but augment the offerings you made in the approach by adding more, then do the recitations associated with the Four Taras. When you do the activity practice, do the activity visualizations.

If you only do the approach practice, you can accumulate as many mantras as you want to, as I’ve explained above. You should focus on accumulating the ten-syllable mantra om tare tuttare ture soha, then at the end of each session recite om tare tuttare ture hri droom vajra jnana ayuke soha, which is the approach mantra that combines the three deities of long life. After that, at the end of the session, recite one hundred of each mantra as you do the visualizations of the jñanasattva and samadhisattva.

Fire Puja

After practising approach, accomplishment and activity, to complete the practice you must do the fire puja in the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik. It’s good to do it after you have accumulated several hundred thousand mantras.

This is how you practise the Chimé Phakmé Nyingtik in retreat, based on the ‘Single Mudra’ daily practice text.

[1] From the Eight Thousand Line Prajñaparamita.

[2] See for example the Long Life Practice Teaching’ by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche.

[3] See Padmasambhava, and Jamgon Kongtrul. Light of Wisdom, Volume 2: A Collection of Padmasambhava’s Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and Other Close Disciples. Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Hong Kong: Ranjung Yeshe Publications, 1998, p.87-11

[4] Wish-fulfilling Wheel's consort is sometimes said to be the long-life deity Amitayus, sometimes Avalokiteshvara whose name he bears. Amitayus is the dharmakaya of the Lotus family, and Avalokiteshvara the sambhogakaya of the Lotus family, so they are not like two different individuals. In his teachings, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche sometimes mentions Avalokiteshvara like here, sometimes Amitayus, and sometimes both.

[5] Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Tayé, A Drop of Moonlight Nectar, Notes on approach and accomplishment for Chimé Pakma Nyingtik.

[6] See A Drop of Moonlight Nectar, p.10.

[7] Id.

[8] A Drop of Moonlight Nectar, p.11.

[9] Buddhist cosmology understands the sun and the moon to be devas (gods), beings who have a very long life.

[10] A Drop of Moonlight Nectar, p.12:

At the end of the session, you should also say a few of the combined practice, the jñanasattva and the nirmanasattva.

[11] In Mahayoga there are two approaches. Meditation on an aspirational level (Wyl. mos sgom), and the flawless perfection of perpetual contemplation (Wyl. nges rdzogs) which is the fast path of great practitioners who don’t need to go through the stages of approach, accomplishment, and activities.


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