Lerab Ling, 7 November 2013
One evening during a Padma Khandro drupchen in Lerab Ling, Rinpoche gave this rare and exceptional explanation of the Wangdu prayer, which, he told us, he had received from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche more than fifty years before, but had never shared. Although he wasn’t feeling well, he said, “… I offered this explanation the moment I thought of giving it, because who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow? By then, I might not fancy the idea of sharing these very special instructions with anyone”
A recent divination said that the Rigpa Sangha must accumulate 10 million recitations of the Wangdu prayer – I’m sure you are already doing it. And actually, everyone here, the Rigpa students as well as the Chokling lamas and monks, has been contributing towards this accumulation, because I told the chant master at the beginning of this drupchen to make sure we recite it ten times every day.
Yesterday, however, I noticed that many of you seemed unable to recite this prayer. I was under the impression that, after Khenpo Jikmé Phuntsok told you to practise the Wangdu in 1993, that it was part of Rigpa's Daily Sadhana Practice book. Yet, most of you didn't even have the text – you had to look instead at the television screens where the prayer was being displayed. Westerners have good eyes so maybe you really were able to read it from the screen, but I wasn't. At first I thought you were looking at the screens because, as you didn't know we were going to do this prayer, you hadn’t brought it with you – after all, yesterday was the first time we recited it. But as the same thing happened again today, there must be another reason.
Today, once again, many of you, including the western monks didn't recite the prayer, and as if to follow your example, the Tibetan monks stopped reciting altogether. Some of the tulkus even fell asleep! To be frank, that seems a bit odd to me. If you want to follow the advice of a divination and accomplish the practice it recommends, you should at the very least have a copy of the prayer in front of you, then make the effort to recite the words!
Explanation of the Title
The Great Cloud of Blessings: The Prayer which Magnetizes All that Appears and All that Exists
There is only one way that it’s possible for people like us “to magnetize all that appears and exists”: by bringing the outer world that appears and the sentient beings who exist within the outer world under control by invoking the magnetizing deities and receiving their blessings.
By bringing all that appears and exists under your control, you will automatically be able to direct your mind and wind energy. Once you are in control of your mind and wind energy, you can actualize the wisdom of Dzogpachenpo and so reach the state of enlightenment. One of the side effects of this practice is that you will also be able to influence ordinary adverse circumstances and transform them into positive ones. For example, by bringing all suffering under control, you will then be able to transform it and bring about happiness.
The Meaning of the Words
om ah hung hrih
The text begins with om ah hung hrih, which represent, respectively, the enlightened body, speech, mind and wisdom of all the victorious ones, to whom we offer praise. Although it appears last, hrih is the main syllable and represents the natural radiance of the wisdom of discernment, which is the core seed syllable of the Three Root magnetizing deities.
The ‘support’ of the dwelling place of the magnetizing deities is described as a ‘palace’,
Blazing great bliss is the palace of magnetizing activity,
Here, ‘great bliss’ is to do with the five wisdoms, specifically the wisdom of discernment; and ‘blazing’ indicates that great bliss is not small and that it burns with the intensity of a raging inferno at end of time.
This palace – which is actually the union of great bliss and emptiness and the natural radiance of the wisdom of discernment – is the home of the magnetizing deities. Within the palace, the dynamic energy of the union of bliss and emptiness and the wisdom of discernment arises as various manifestations of wisdom – the ‘wisdom kayas’. “Blazing great bliss, the palace of magnetizing activity,” is therefore the authentic dharmakaya of the Buddha and the ground from which all phenomena arise.
Where the embodiments of the wisdom of discernment, the union of bliss and emptiness, reside.
“The embodiments of the wisdom of discernment” are sambhogakaya manifestations of the Buddha – “the union of bliss and emptiness”. Sambhogakayas manifest without ever moving from the dharmakaya, yet arise as sambhogakayas – ‘displaying movement without moving’. In the basic space of Akanishtha, sambhogakayas fully experience and delight in all the ‘great enjoyments’ that can be found throughout the ten directions and four times without exception; ‘great’ indicates that the amount of enjoyment is so vast that it’s inconceivable.
The text has more to say about the sambhogakayas:
Lotuses, blissful yet free from attachment, shine...
Here, there is not even the suggestion of ordinary attachment. Yet, although there is not the slightest attachment, the natural radiance of the energy of great bliss manifests as ‘lotuses’ – which in this case means the deities of the Lotus family whose main activity is magnetizing.
In our world, everything that appears is revealed quite naturally by the sun and the moon. Taking this as the example, the text goes on to say,
Like glorious rays of the vajra sun:
Emptiness, which is like a vajra, is compared to the gloriously radiant sun, which emanates infinite rays of light that eliminate all trace of darkness. In the same way, the sambhogakayas continuously manifest many forms of nirmanakaya throughout time and space, to accomplish the well-being of sentient beings.
Amitabha and Vajradharma – the dharmakayas,
Who is it that appears? The deities to whom we are praying. The first is Dharmakaya Amitabha and the consort of the dharmakaya, Vajradharma. Of the five buddha families, we are concerned with the magnetizing lotus family, and so in this case the dharmakaya is Buddha Amitabha of 'Infinite Light'. If you prefer, you can think of Dharmakaya Amitayus – that’s also fine.
From his own perspective, the Buddha taught in the buddhafield of Akanishtha, and these teachings were then compiled and collected by Vajradharma, who appears with one face and two hands, holding a vajra and bell.
Avalokiteshvara, Lord of the World, the very embodiment of compassion,
Next, the creator of the world. All Hindus believe that the world was brought into being by a creator. For Buddhists, this world came into being as a result of Noble Avalokiteshvara’s compassion, so to us, Avalokiteshvara is known as the ‘Lord of the World’. The Lord of the World can take many different forms, but here we are concerned with the sambhogakaya form of a deity whose manifestation was precipitated by deep solicitude for sentient beings: Avalokiteshvara. He can take many forms, but he is red on the thangka. So, as you recite this prayer, you should visualize the red form of Avalokiteshvara.
Padma Gyalpo, the Lotus King, who rules over samsara and nirvana,
The Noble Lord of the World, Avalokiteshvara, emerged from the syllable hrih that appeared in Amitabha’s heart. Guru Rinpoche also emerged from Amitabha’s heart as a syllable hrih, then descended onto a lotus on Lake Dhanakosha, to take the form of Guru Rinpoche.
Padma Gyalpo is one of Guru Rinpoche’s eight manifestations. He takes the form of the king who has brought all that appears (the universe) and exists (sentient beings) under his control. He is the leader of all the dakinis who dwell in the three planes of existence – those above live in space, those in the middle live on earth, and those below live under the earth. He rules over all beings in samsara and all the buddhas of nirvana – he is intrinsic to all the perfectly enlightened ones. I could say a great deal about Padma GyalpoSee for example in Padmasambhava Guru Rinpoche, and Chokgyur Lingpa. Dispeller of Obstacles: The Heart Practice of Padmasambhava. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2014. (Tulku Urgyen Ringpoche p. xviii, Lama Putse p.61-62, and Chokgyur Lingpa p. 76)....
Powerful Heruka, subjugator of all that appears and exists,
The “Powerful Heruka” is Hayagriva. Every being that lives (existence) in this world (appearance) has no choice but to follow Hayagriva’s command. He is more powerful than any other being; there is no one to equal or even compete with him. Hayagriva is the universal ruler of all that appears and exists. His wisdom intent is enriched by the ‘three neighs’ – which is too vast a subject to explain right now. What you need to understand about Hayagriva as you say this prayer is that there is no one greater or more powerful than “the Powerful Heruka.”
Guhyajnana and Vajravarahi,
Guhyajnana, or ‘Secret Wisdom’, is the name of Hayagriva’s consort – there are sadhanas that focus on GuhyajnanaSee for example Rinpoche's teaching on the Guhyajnana sadhana revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa., ‘the magnetizing dakini’. Vajravarahi is Vajrayogini.
First, all the victorious ones came together to produce Hayagriva (the male deity) and Vajravarahi (the female deity). These two deities then overpowered Rudra Black Liberation – who ruled over the world at that time – liberating all the chief dakas and dakinis of the twenty-four sacred places, thirty-two sacred lands and eight great charnel grounds. Hayagriva and Vajravarahi then brought into being the buddhafield where the Secret Mantra Vajrayana teachings were first taught.
Supreme Bliss, King of Desire, Wellspring of Great Bliss, and
Chakrasamvara means “Supreme Bliss” and is the natural expression of the wisdom of great bliss of all the victorious ones. This deity, Chakrasamvara, is practised to some extent in the Nyingma tradition, but chiefly by the Sarma schools.
Kurukulla, who captivates the mind of every living being without exception,
We are practising the deity Kurukulla in this drupchenRinpoche gave this teaching during a Pema Khandro drupchen, which is why he didn’t say any more about her in this particular teaching. See here..
Mighty ones, supreme and ordinary mudras, who exhibit bliss and emptiness as a dance, and
Hosts of vajra dakas and dakinis, who attract and magnetize.
All the lamas, yidams and dakinis gathered before you, appear in the form of “supreme and ordinary mudras”, meaning as deities; and the nature of their “dance” is “bliss and emptiness”. They are the “hosts of vajra dakas and dakinis who attract and magnetize.”
There is something very profound to be understood here. According to the Nyingmapas, all the victorious ones produced Glorious Hayagriva and Vajravarahi, who then relied on the skilful method of union free from attachment, and annihilated and liberated Matam Rudra. They scattered the remains of Rudra’s body throughout the world’s sixty-four power places – twenty-four sacred places, thirty-two sacred lands and eight great charnel grounds – all of which are sacred to Hayagriva and Vajravarahi. Each place is guarded by a chief daka and dakini, who were emanated by Hayagriva and Vajravarahi. As their mandalas have yet to be dissolved, each place continues to be guarded and preserved as sacred fields of the profound Dharma. The qualities of these profound Dharma fields are such that, through the power and blessings of the dakas and dakinis, by visiting just one of them, males will be blessed and become members of the daka family, and females will be blessed and become members of the dakini family. So, “Hosts of vajra dakas and dakinis who attract and magnetize” means not only all these dakas and dakinis, but also all those mentioned in the Chakrasamvara teachings.
According to the Sarma Chakrasamvara teachings, the great god Ishvara and Avalokiteshvara are one and the same. Avalokiteshvara’s great ‘desire free from desire’ took the form of Chakrasamvara, who is by nature great bliss. Chakrasamvara then united with his consort and they made manifest the sixty-four sacred places that appear in this world, which were already present in their bodies. As I’ve said, the dakas and dakinis live in and guard the sixty-four sacred places, their chiefs are the sixty-four deities in Chakrasamvara’s retinue, and this mandala is still intact. This is why its blessings are said to be so swift and powerful.
In the Sarma tradition, the Bhagawan Buddha Shakyamuni, is said to have manifested as Chakrasamvara.
All these deities are born ‘naturally’ or ‘spontaneously’, meaning they are not a wandering consciousness that is reborn in samsara again and again, like you and I. They arise from the dynamic energy of emptiness to benefit sentient beings. Although they ‘appear’, they do not exist objectively in the way sentient beings exist, which is why the text says:
In the great equality of appearance and emptiness...
How do all these deities benefit sentient beings?
As you move, your vajra bodies reveal the dance that stirs the three realms of existence,
When the deities move their vajra bodies in all sorts of dance movements, all the worlds in the three realms of existence are stirred into motion. In our physical world, all movement and change is actually brought about solely by mind: mind is constantly moving and observes all manner of perceptible arisings. When the gods perform a specific dance, that dance initiates movement and change throughout all the worlds in the three realms of existence. This is what is meant by “...your vajra bodies reveal the dance”. For Indians, the great and mighty lord of this world is called Nataraja, ‘the Lord of the Dance’, who is a dancing god. They say that as long as Shiva Nataraja continues to dance, our world will endure, but if he stops dancing the three realms of existence will cease to exist immediately. The same idea appears here in the Wangdu prayer, with the words: “your vajra bodies reveal the dance that stirs the three realms of existence.”
Your resounding laughter is the ceaseless enlightened speech that summons the three realms,
“Your resounding laughter” means absolutely all sounds: those produced by nature – the winds in the five elements on the environmental level; and those produced by the sentient beings who live within that environment. The nature of all sounds is the natural sound of enlightened speech, which resounds continuously and unceasingly throughout the three worlds, and “summons the three realms”.
As rays of red light burst from you, filling samsara and nirvana,
Visualize the enlightened mind of all the deities of the mandala in the form of rays of red light that pervade all samsara and nirvana. This red light is wisdom light, and is often said to be like space – a detail that doesn’t appear in this text. All that is said here is that the light is red because of the wisdom of discernment, and that it pervades all samsara and nirvana, penetrating every single nook and cranny. Space has the ability to accommodate the contents of the entire universe – including all the Mount Merus and continents that make up millions of world systems – as well as all the beings who live within that universe. Space is everywhere and like space, the expanse of primordial wisdom is also everywhere and can also accommodate all of samsara and nirvana.
The vital essence of existence and peace is quickened and collected –
When the blessings of the enlightened body, speech and mind are conferred in this way, the result is a sort of miracle: all the pure vital essences of “existence” (the sentient beings who live in the three realms of existence) and “peace” (the buddhas who abide in nirvana) are stirred and quickened. When milk is churned, butter is produced and can then be collected; similarly, by churning samsara and nirvana, the pure vital essence of all that appears and exists can be collected.
The supreme vajra passion, the enlightened mind,
The vital essence of samsara and nirvana that has been gathered is the enlightened mind, the supreme vajra passion for sentient beings. The enlightened mind arises from the dynamic energy of emptiness and is passionate about wanting to help sentient beings.
Grants the paramount desire of sentient beings: the two kinds of siddhi.
The enlightened mind then benefits sentient beings by giving them everything they have ever wished for, mostly importantly the supreme and ordinary siddhis.
With your formidable vajra-hooks and lassoes,
You bind the world of appearance and existence in great bliss.
The deities wield vajra-hooks and lassoes – but these hand-held implements are just symbolic. Hooks are used to ensnare and reel things in, and lassoes are used to tie things up, aren’t they? So, thanks to these symbolic hooks and lassos, the whole universe – all the different fields that appear and which contain an inconceivable number of the six types of sentient beings who exist and live in the three realms of samsara, as well as every karma, destructive emotion, delusion and suffering they experience – can be reeled in by the deities’ hooks and bound within the expanse of great bliss by their nooses.
All that appears and exists must be bound in great bliss. We accomplish that binding by using the vajra hooks and lassoes that symbolize emptiness. Only the natural play of the Buddha’s wisdom has the ability to bind appearance and existence in great bliss; nothing else can do it. Once that has been done, limitless manifestations unfurl in a magical display.
A filigree of limitless magical manifestations
“Limitless” means the quantity is not small, it’s boundless – the infinite display of the inseparable union of skilful means and wisdom. These limitless magical manifestations are made up of beings to be tamed, the great beings who tame them, and infinite aspects of kyerim and dzogrim, and so on. When all sorts of things are brought together like this, they form an interconnected net, or “filigree”. In that sense, the “limitless” or immeasurable “magical manifestations” that appear are like a “filigree”.
“Manifestations” means that the multitude of deities are extrinsic and therefore appear externally. Some manifestations arise to liberate one being, others to liberate many. In some situations, an incalculable number of magical displays might arise just for the sake of a single being. So here, the deities don’t manifest one or two at a time, there are so many of them that they are like seeds in a sesame pod.
Fill the whole of space like seeds in an open sesame pod.
If you have never opened a sesame pod you won’t know this, but what you see is that the pod is completely packed with seeds“Seeds in a sesame pod” is an often-used example in sadhanas meaning that the deities, just like the oily sesame seeds in a pod, fill the entire space while not touching or obstructing each other – there is just enough space between them.. In the same way that sesame seeds fill a sesame pod, these multitudinous deities, who have the ability to effortlessly and spontaneously give us everything we have ever wished for, fill all three realms of existence.
To this vast array of the Three Roots, hosts of magnetizing deities,
“Vast array” brings the sense of a great many, so we pray to all the magnetizing deities – the main ones are the deities of the Three Roots (lama, yidam and khandro).
In devotion we pray. Inspire us with your blessings,
When we invoke that many deities, what should we ask for? We should pray that they grant us every one of the infinite ordinary and supreme attainments. We should also pray that they grant us the ability, or siddhi, to magnetize whatever we desire without any difficulty whatsoever.
Grant us attainments, ordinary and supreme, and the siddhi
Of magnetizing whatever we desire, without obstruction.
To accomplish the supreme siddhi, which is the attainment of complete and perfect buddhahood, we must realize the view. Once we have realized the view of Dzogpachenpo or Mahamudra, we will attain supreme accomplishment.
At the same time, we also pray for ordinary accomplishments, including the four activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing and subjugating, and the eight accomplishments – which are lesser accomplishments – like the ability to see through solid matter, fleet-footedness, to become invisible, to fly, and so on. So, with the words, “please grant us the siddhi of magnetizing!” we pray that the deities grant us everything we need, wish for and desire, without any difficulties arising. We couldn’t wish or pray for anything more than the supreme and ordinary accomplishments – there is nothing better.
Among the siddhis we pray for are all the minor accomplishments, like having a long life, becoming rich, being physically beautiful, having a beautiful voice, enjoying good health free from illness, and so on.
This concludes a very brief explanation of the words of the Wangdu prayer.
What to Do while Reciting the Wangdu Prayer
Imagine in the sky before you, the palace of magnetizing activity – a conflagration of blazing red light. Meditate on that image and visualize all the deities I have mentioned inside the palace, like people in a market place. To learn what these deities look like – their faces, hands, ornaments, clothing and so on – look at the thangka and do your best to visualize them based on how they are presented there.
The most important aspects of this visualization are: the dance of the vajra bodies of the deities, which stirs the three planes of existence; the deities’ enlightened speech, which is graced with the melodious qualities of Brahma’s voice; and the blazing red light.
As you meditate, don’t just think about the deities named in the prayer, imagine a vast throng of countless deities filling the palace “like seeds in a sesame pod” – an uncountably vast number of deities, like the rays of the sun, beyond imagining; and for example, in every pore of each deity’s skin is a ‘World of Endurance’, a ‘trichiliocosm’ of buddha fields. The deities should be vividly present, joyfully happy and laughing as they rejoice at all the benefit they bring to sentient beings.
As we recite this prayer, we are repeating Mipham Rinpoche’s original vajra words.
You now have some understanding of what this prayer means. At this point, the instruction usually given is that you should practise “remembering the meaning after the words”. So, you must now actualize the meaning of the words as you say them.
When you pray using words like these, you invoke the wisdom mind and sacred pledges of all these deities whose minds, from beginningless time, have been focused on helping sentient beings. As these deities are invoked, they express their joy by laughing; their wisdom minds are filled with a great love from which rays of red light stream out to all the corners of space, where they gather the vital essence of conditioned existence and ultimate peace. This is how you bring the three realms of existence and the sentient beings of the six realms under your control. And you should feel complete confidence when you say, “I have now gained these accomplishments!”
This is what you should think as your recite the prayer.
Prayers are for ordinary people like myself, who have no qualities or realization. Those of you with great realization will be able to remain within the expanse of the view.
We pray to receive the blessings of great beings’ compassion. But if even the likes of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said, “I, Kunga Tenpe GyaltsenJamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s full name is Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Kunga Tenpé Gyaltsen Palzangpo., place my hopes in prayers for the path of liberation,” it’s clear that for someone like me, there is no hope but prayer because it’s the only method I can actually practice. Just to pretend to remain in samadhi doesn’t do any good at all. This is why I mentioned at the beginning of this talk noticing how many of you seem to be trying to dwell in samadhi while the rest of us recite the Wangdu. You really shouldn’t just ‘sit’ through a prayer recitation.
When I was sixteen, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche came to Bir. One day, he took a short text – red printed on white paper – from his prayer collection and gave it to me, saying, “It’s good to recite this from time to time.” I asked him for the reading transmission and instructions on how to meditate on it, and he said something similar to what I have just told you – maybe in fewer words. He then said that I should now recite this prayer. So since then, I make sure I recite this prayer every now and again.
These days the Wangdu is quite widely known. I have bumped into a number of people over the years who have asked me to explain it. Until now, I have pretended not to know anything about it, to avoid spelling out what it actually means. However, as you will be accumulating a great many recitations of this prayer, if there were ever a time for this teaching to be useful, it’s now.
I offered this explanation the moment I thought of giving it, because who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow. By then, I might not fancy the idea of sharing these very special instructions with anyone.
Translated by Gyurmé Avertin
Edited by Janine Schulz