czwartek, 17 września 2015

Chenrezig Sadhana - XV Karmapa

The Continuous Rain of Benefit to Beings
An Abbreviated Annotation of All-Pervading Benefit of Beings,the Meditation and Recitation of the Supreme Noble Avalokiteshvara
~ Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa ~

Arising as the expression
Of the great compassion of all victorious ones,
Avalokita, your activity shakes samsara from its depths.
To you, inseparable from the venerable lord I bow.

His noble heart and enlightened activity exceed that of all other victorious ones. For as long as samsara has not been emptied, he does not remain absorbed in the samadhi of peace, but throughout the continuum of the three times eternally performs the activity of guiding the six classes of beings. In particular, in accordance with the enthronement and prophecy he received from the Victorious One, Friend of the Sun, he took on as his noble realm of disciples the country of the red-faced ones, the land of the extremely difficult-to-tame. There, he directly performed enlightened activity through assuming various forms, such as those of kings, ministers, translators, scholars, yogic adepts, and young boys and girls.

The power of his blessing is illustrated by children who know how to say his six syllables, the king of secret mantras, from the time they can talk, without ever learning it from anyone. There is no special deity for the Land of Snows other than this lord, the Great Compassionate One. The supreme beings of the past who were his emanations wrote clearly a limitless number of texts, both elaborate and condensed in form, that deal with the practice of the Noble One. From among these, our text here is called All-Pervading Benefit of Beings. It was handed down to us by the Lord of Siddhas Thangtong Gyalpo, who was actually Avalokita in person, emanated for the benefit of humans.


In the space before you, in an expanse filled with cloudbanks of rainbow lights and flowers, is Avalokita, inseparable from your root guru, vividly present as the essence of the three jewels and three roots, all victorious ones combined. In front of him, led by you, are all sentient beings of the six realms: friends, enemies, and those who are neutral. You are all gathered together with body, speech, and mind acting in unison.

Because guru Avalokita has the ability and power to protect you from samsara, the great ocean of suffering, develop therefore faith that completely casts away all other hopes and objects of reliance, longing that calls out for his protection, and trust in such protection being certain.

Possessed of these three, recite:
In the supreme Buddha, dharma and assembly,
I take refuge until attaining enlightenment.

Saying that as many times as is suitable, go for refuge. Give rise to unmoving certainty that from now onward you and all sentient beings have been placed under the protection of the noble Great Compassionate One.

Now, turn your focus toward the sentient beings visualized in front of you and think:
Of all these beings, there is not even one who has not been my kind mother or father. Although they wish only to enjoy happiness and shun suffering, they have practiced only the causes of suffering. As a result, they are tormented without a moment’s release by the severe sufferings of the lower realms of samsara. I must by all means establish them in the most supreme of all forms of happiness, the unsurpassable state of complete buddhahood. Because I do not now have the ability to do this, I will practice the profound meditation and recitation of the noble Avalokita and thereby attain the genuine state of this supreme Noble One. For as long as samsara remains, I will engage for the benefit of beings in conduct that measures up to Avalokita’s example.

In the presence of guru Avalokita, with this genuine and fervent aspiration, take on the oath of engendering bodhichitta, the mind set on enlightenment, by reciting as follows:
Through the merit of practicing meditation and recitation, May I attain buddhahood in order to benefit beings.

Saying that a few times, develop clear certainty as to the purpose of this meditation. Then multiple light rays stream forth from the body of guru Avalokita. They strike the visualized sentient beings, purifying their misdeeds, obscurations, and suffering, and establishing them in happiness. The objects of refuge then melt into light and dissolve into you. As they do, think that your mindstream becomes blessed.


Surrounding you as you sit in your ordinary form are the objects of compassion, the six classes of beings, visualized as at the time of going for refuge.

On the crown of your head and those of others is a fully blossomed white eight-petaled lotus with anthers. At its center on a stainless full moon disc is the syllable HRI, white and shining like a pearl. Meditate that it is the direct expression of the power of all victorious ones condensed into a single form. From it streams limitless light like the rays of the moon. The light makes pleasing offerings of body, speech, and mind to all mandalas of the victorious ones of the ten directions without exception. As the light strikes yourself and others, it purifies all illness, negative energies, misdeeds, and obscurations. Pervading the abodes of the six classes of beings, it dispels beings’ suffering and establishes them in happiness. The blessings of the assemblies of noble ones are then gathered back in the form of light rays. These dissolve into the HRI syllables above your head and those of others, where in an instant there appears Avalokiteshvara, his body utterly white in color like a sunrise shining on the snow.

From his body, lucid and radiant, stream forth light rays of five colors, which pervade the pure realms of the victorious ones. In this way, he urges the noble ones to perform the benefit of beings. Below him, the light rays pervade the abodes of the six classes of beings. The suffering of each and every being is washed away, and they are established in happiness. Showing that he is pleased, Avalokita’s smile shines toward you and all sentient beings. His two eyes look upon sentient beings continually throughout the three times; his gaze always reflects his heart, which cares for and loves all beings, oneself and others, just as a mother loves her only child.

He has four arms; the first two are joined in anjali at his heart center, his lower right hand holds a mala of white crystal, and his lower left hand holds by its stem an eight-petaled lotus. He is beautifully clothed in a silk scarf and an upper garment of white silk with golden embroidery. He wears a skirt of red cloth. His crown, earrings, short, middle, and long necklaces, shoulder ornaments, and bracelets on his arms and ankles are all made of gold from the Jambu River, adorned with many heaps of the precious stones of the gods. Sweet-sounding music resonates from
his waist belt, a garland of small bells. Thus, all parts of his body are well ornamented. His left breast is covered by the yellow skin of the Krishnasari deer. The hair that is not tied up in his topknot flows freely down his back. His head is ornamented by the lord of his family, the supreme buddha Amitabha, who is dressed in nirmanakaya form and seated in the vajra posture. Behind Avalokita is a stainless and utterly full moon.

Thinking that he is the embodiment of all the rare and supreme objects of refuge that appear throughout the three times and dwell in the ten directions, recite the following:
On the crown of my head and those of others, sentient beings pervading space, On a white lotus and moon, From HRI, appears noble and supreme Avalokita. He is brilliant white and radiates the five lights. Handsome and smiling, he looks on with eyes of compassion. He has four hands: the first are joined in anjali; The lower two hold a crystal mala and a white lotus. Adorned with ornaments of silks and jewels, He wears an upper garment of deerskin. Amitabha crowns his head. His two feet are in the vajra posture. His back rests against a stainless moon. He is the embodiment of all objects of refuge. Read slowly and divide the text into sections, clearly visualizing each aspect of his body.



Supplicate Avalokita, visualized as described above, in this way:
Supreme noble one, guru Avalokita, I and all sentient beings, with one voice and with one-pointed mind, have cast away all other objects of reliance and completely entrust ourselves to you. Please liberate the six classes of beings from their samsaric existences and lead us to the state of omniscience.”

Thinking in this way, recite:
Lord, white in color, unstained by faults,
A perfect buddha adorning your head,
You look upon beings with eyes of compassion.
Avalokita, we prostrate to you.

Saying that one hundred, twenty-one, or seven times, invoke his mindstream. Recite until certainty arises that your perceptions have changed. If you wish and are able, insert other prayers that carry blessings, such as the “Po” Praise of Bhikshuni Lakshmi and the Lamenting Praise of the master Chandrakirti. Adding supplications of any kind that carry blessings will undoubtedly become a worthy extension.


Through your supplicating and invoking his heart with such one-pointed mind, limitless light rays of five colors, with white predominant, radiate from the body of the Noble One seated on the crown of your head. Through their merely coming into contact with you and all sentient beings, they purify everything that has accumulated in your mindstream since beginningless time, as the light of a torch dispels darkness.

As to what is purified, this includes the five acts of immediate consequence, as well as the three non-virtuous actions of body - taking life, taking what is not offered, and sexual misconduct; the four non-virtuous actions of speech - lying (making statements that harm one’s guru and others, such as boasting of qualities one does not possess), inciting discord (creating rifts between others),
harsh speech (which hurts others’ feelings), and idle chatter (which is simply meaningless); and the three non-virtuous actions of mind - covetousness (mentally scheming about obtaining the wealth of others), malicious intent (thinking of methods with which to harm others), and wrong view (viewing the benefits of liberation and the shortcomings of misdeeds as untrue and nonexistent). These are the ten non-virtuous actions, and they, along with the actions that are conducive to them, are misdeeds. There are also the actions committed out of passion, hatred, ignorance, pride, and jealousy that have been prescribed in the ethical codes as things to be abandoned, or, even though not so prescribed, naturally fall into the category of moral faults. Since these obscure the attainment of the happiness of the higher realms and liberation, they are called obscurations.

Then there are the downfalls - instances in which one has taken on the vows of individual liberation, bodhichitta, or secret mantra, and does not guard them due to disrespect or carelessness. They are called “downfalls” because, through committing them, one will fall down to the lower realms. There are also other forms of wrongdoings, such as the transgressions of subtle points of training, which may not cause one to fall to the lower realms, but nonetheless delay the attainment of enlightenment. All of these impurities - whatever wrongdoings and downfalls there are that have been produced by the negative karma of misdeeds, obscurations, and mental afflictions - are, in the very instant of the light contacting yourself and others, purified. The light rays also cleanse the knowledge obscurations and habitual tendencies that from beginningless time have supported dualistic clinging to the confused appearances of self and other.

Beings are blessed into the experience of inseparability from the body, speech, and mind of noble Avalokita. The form of the Noble One, appearing yet empty, like a rainbow, becomes increasingly vivid. The light rays pervade the abodes of the six classes of beings, limitless as space, causing the vessels of external worlds and all objects that appear within them to become the pure realm of Akanishtha Sukhavati. Free of even the names of rocks, mountains, and cliffs, its forms are of the nature of precious jewels and spheres of rainbow light. The inhabitants, each and every sentient being of the six realms, are freed from their suffering, and the bodies of all beings suddenly become the body of the noble Great Compassionate One. The speech of beings, along with all the sounds of the elements, is the self-sounding melody of the secret six-syllable mantra. Conceptuality, the confused aspect of mind, is purified; and beings realize the mind of the Noble One, the heart of inseparable awareness and emptiness. Meditate that all of this has become so.

In this way, the pure appearances of kayas and pure realms, the sound of the secret mantra, and the naked mind of awareness-emptiness are inseparable from the appearances of the body, speech, and mind of yourself and all others.

While resting free of fixation in this great all-pervasiveness beyond intellect, recite the following:
Due to our supplicating one-pointedly in that way,
Light rays stream forth from the body of the Noble One
And purify impure karmic appearances and mistaken consciousness.
The outer world becomes the pure land of Sukhavati.
The body, speech, and mind of the inhabitants within
Become the body, speech, and mind of Avalokita.
Appearances, sounds, and awareness are inseparable from emptiness.

Then, maintaining the visualizations explained above, recite this mantra as the main practice:


This secret mantra, the six syllables, is the embodiment of the energy and power of all the compassion and activity of noble Avalokita, who is himself the embodiment of the wisdom energy of all buddhas.

The white OM, born from the self-display of the five wisdoms of the noble ones, is the syllable of combined qualities and is of the nature of the perfection of meditation. It purifies the mental affliction of pride, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the suffering of the gods: death and falling. Inseparable from the body and activity of Shatakratu, buddha among the gods, it is the self-radiance of the wisdom of equality, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the southern pure realm, The Glorious, and enables them to attain the body of the buddha Ratnasambhava.

The green MA, born from the display of the compassionate noble ones’ limitless loving-kindness toward all beings, is the syllable of activity and is of the nature of the perfection of patience. It purifies the mental affliction of jealousy, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the suffering of the jealous gods: fighting and struggle. Inseparable from the body and activity of Vemachitra, buddha among the jealous gods, it is the self-radiance of all-accomplishing wisdom, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the northern pure realm, Perfect Action, and enables them to attain the body of the buddha Amoghasiddhi.

The yellow NI, born from the display of the great all-pervading and effortless compassion of the noble ones, is the syllable that reverses samsara into the expanse of nirvana on the spot, the vajra wisdom of combined body, speech, mind, and activity. It is of the nature of the perfection of ethics. It purifies the stains of ignorant dualistic fixation, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the four great rivers of human suffering: birth, aging, sickness, and death. Inseparable from the body and activity of Shakyamuni, the buddha among humans, it is the self-radiance of self-existing wisdom, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the pure realm of Akanishtha, the completely pure dharmadhatu, and enables them to attain the body of the sixth buddha, Vajradhara.

The sky-blue PAD, born from the self-display of limitless equanimity, the compassion of the noble ones that does not lapse into partiality, is the syllable of body and is of the nature of the perfection of supreme knowledge. It purifies the mental affliction of ignorance, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the suffering of animals: stupidity, dullness, and servitude. Inseparable from the body and activity of Dhruvasimha, buddha among the animals, it is the self-radiance of dharmadhatu wisdom, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the central pure realm, The Densely Arrayed, and enables them to attain the body of the buddha Vairochana.

The red ME, born from the self-display of limitless joy, the compassion of the noble ones that is equal for all, is the syllable of speech and is of the nature of the perfection of generosity. It purifies attachment and miserliness, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the suffering of the hungry ghosts: hunger and thirst. Inseparable from the body and activity of Jvalamukha, buddha among the hungry ghosts, it is the self-radiance of discriminating awareness wisdom, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the western pure realm, Sukhavati, and enables them to attain the body of the buddha Amitabha.

The black HUM, born from the self-display of limitless compassion, the compassion with which the noble ones look upon all beings as they would their own children, is the syllable of mind and is of the nature of the perfection of supreme knowledge. It purifies dualistic anger, along with all the results thereby produced - in particular, the sufferings of hell beings: extreme heat and cold. Inseparable from the body and activity of Dharmaraja, buddha among the hell beings, it is the self-radiance of mirror-like wisdom, arisen in visible form. It guides the six classes of beings to the pure realm of True Joy, and enables them to attain the body of the buddha Akshobhya.

The embodiment of all the energy of the limitless activity of shaking the six classes of beings from the depths of samsara is this very six-syllable king of mantras. Recite it for as long as you are able as the main body of the session.

Finally, the entire phenomenal world, now transformed into kayas and pure realms by the light from the guru’s body on the crown of your head, melts into light and dissolves into guru Avalokita, who in turn melts into light and dissolves into you, after which you too melt into light. Rest evenly for as long as possible in the luminous emptiness free of any conception about the three spheres that clings to self and other, the deity and mantra. Let go of all references toward fabricated attributes such as existence and nonexistence, “it is” and “it is not,” and emptiness or non-emptiness. Free of viewer and viewed, not differentiating appearance, sound, and awareness from emptiness, rest for as long as possible in the mind of the Noble One, the natural face of great all-pervading dharmadhatu.


When you arise from that, rest evenly in the awareness that everything included in the domain of the five elements - all things that appear as self and other: rocks, mountains, cliffs, and so on - is the body of the Noble Great Compassionate One. All sounds - whether they are conjoined with the life force faculty of sentient beings or, as the sounds of the elements, not so conjoined - are the speech of the Noble One, the melodic resonance of the six syllables. All thoughts are the mind of the Noble One - awareness and emptiness, free of fabrication, the innate character of the dharmakaya. In all activities - walking, sleeping, sitting, or talking - abandon mundane, attached ways of thinking.

Being certain about the samadhi of these three outlooks, recite:
The physical appearance of myself and others is the body of the Noble One.
Sounds are the melody of the six syllables.
Thoughts are the expanse of great wisdom.


By the unsurpassable meritorious accumulation of whatever virtue exists in my mindstream, dedicated equally to all sentient beings and symbolized by this meditation and recitation, may I quickly attain the unsurpassable state equal to that of Avalokiteshvara and thereby attain the power that will enable me to establish beings limitless as space, without even a single one left behind, in the state of the noble, supreme Great Compassionate One, inseparable from perfect, genuine enlightenment.”

Thinking this, recite:
By this merit, may we quickly
Accomplish Avalokiteshvara
And establish all beings without exception
In that state.
In addition, engage in as many pure-hearted aspirations as you can.

Those who do not have time to practice as described as above should practice as follows:
Start with refuge and bodhichitta as described above. For the main practice, make several supplications with a focused, one-pointed mind, thinking that noble and supreme Avalokita, with all of the appropriate objects of visualization, is seated on the crown of your head, and call to guru Avalokita, thinking, “Consider me!” Now, OM is the syllable of the wisdom of the five kayas, MANI means “jewel,” jewel,” and PADME means “with lotus.” Therefore, “Jewel Holder of the Lotus” is an epithet of noble Avalokita. HUM represents his performing the activity of protecting the six classes of beings from suffering. Thus, with a mind of supplication, think, “Embodiment of the five kayas and five wisdoms, Jewel Holder of the Lotus, please protect the six classes of beings from suffering,” while reciting the six syllables as many times as you can. Finally, the guru Avalokita on the crown of your head, thoroughly pleased, melts into light and dissolves into you. Think that the wisdom of the Noble One has entered your mindstream and be free of doubt. Through dedicating and making aspirations afterwards, one is sure to attain the benefits listed below. Therefore, all should practice with devotion and joy!


Now I shall speak very briefly on the essence of the immeasurable benefits of practicing the meditation and recitation of noble Avalokita. In regard to meditating on his body or engaging it mentally, the Root Tantra of the Lotus Net says: The mandala of body that accomplishes meditating on all buddhas combined Is the body of the protector Avalokita. Through meditating on or even recalling it, The actions of immediate retribution and all obscurations are purified.

Also, in regard to the benefits of reciting the six syllables, king of secret mantras, here is the stainless speech of the Victorious One, the perfect Buddha Shakyamuni, the parting words left behind by mahaguru Padmakara to the subjects of Tibet, and the treasure-teaching of the great, undisputed, emanated treasure-revealer, vidyadhara Jatson Nyingpo:


This six-syllable mantra is the very embodiment of the wisdom heart of all buddhas, the essence of the five buddha families, and the essence of the holders of the secret. It contains the condensed oral instruction of each of the six syllables and is the source of all sugatas and excellent qualities. It is the root of all siddhis that bring benefit and happiness, the great path to the higher realms and liberation. Through even hearing once these six syllables, the supreme speech that is the essence of all dharmas, one attains the level of a non-returner and becomes a liberator and guide of beings. Through hearing it at the time of death, ants and other animals will be freed from that body and born in Sukhavati. Through the mere recollection of the six syllables, like the sunrise shining on the snow, all of the misdeeds and obscurations of negative karma that have been accumulated during one’s lives in samsara since beginningless time will be purified, and one will be born in Sukhavati. Through even touching it, one obtains the empowerments of limitless buddhas and bodhisattvas. Meditating on it even once fulfills the objectives of hearing, contemplating, and meditating. All appearances will arise as the dharmakaya, and the treasury of the activity that benefits beings will be opened.

Also, “O child of noble family, though it is possible to measure the weight of Mount Meru, king of mountains, in ounces, one cannot measure the merit of reciting once the six syllables. Even if one wipes a cliff of diamonds with kashika cloth only once every hundred years, one will be able to cause its full erosion. Still one cannot measure the merit of reciting once the six syllables. Though one may drain a great ocean one drop at a time, the merit of reciting the six syllables once cannot be
exhausted. All the atoms of earth in the whole Land of Snows, and each and every leaf in a verdant forest, can be counted, but the measure of the merit of reciting the six syllables once cannot be taken. Similarly, it is possible to empty a house one hundred miles long filled with sesame seeds, even if one tosses them out one at a time, but the merit of reciting the six syllables once cannot be measured. It is possible to count the number of raindrops that fall in a year, but the merit of reciting the six syllables once cannot be counted. Therefore, child of noble family, it is not necessary for me to continue explaining day and night. For though it is possible to measure the merit of serving ten million tathagatas like myself, the merit of reciting the six syllables once cannot be measured. This is what closes the gates of birth for the six classes of beings. This is what brings one through the paths and levels of the six perfections. This is what purifies the stains of karma, mental afflictions, and habitual tendencies. This is what refines appearances into the pure realms of the three kayas. Listen, O children of noble family! This essence, the heart of the blessings of all victorious ones, Is the source of all benefit and happiness, And the root of all siddhis. It is the ladder that leads to the higher realms. It is the door that blocks the lower realms. It is the ship in which one crosses over samsara. It is the torch that dispels darkness. It is the warrior that conquers the five poisons. It is the blazing fire that burns away misdeeds and obscurations. It is the hammer that pounds down suffering.It is the remedy that tames uncultured lands. It is the dharma inheritance of the Land of Snows. It is the condensed, pithy essence Of the many sutras, tantras, and treatises, And of all hearing, contemplating, and meditating. It is the precious king of mantras. Recite these six syllables!”

Thus the benefits, which cannot be done justice by words, have been lauded in both the direct oral lineage and the treasure teachings. Since reciting the enlightened speech of the six syllables even once is sure to produce the benefits explained here, do not let your three gates lapse into their mundane states. Make a commitment toward reciting this mantra between one hundred and ten thousand times a day, continuously and without fail, which will gather a vast accumulation of virtue that brings great benefit with little difficulty. Strive in every way to make your life meaningful.

May the rope of the Noble One’s compassion Draw beings up from the ocean of samsara. May they be confirmed on the mountain of Potala, The completely free and blissful grove of liberation.

poniedziałek, 5 stycznia 2015

Yidams - the Source of Accomplishments

The special methods of the Vajrayana aim at bringing the appearances, which we generally experience as impure, to a pure level. The central point of this transformation is the understanding that only on the relative level do all phenomena appear as we experience them. On the absolute level, they don't have any real existence - they are nothing but a dream, an illusion. If one understands the true essence of all things, this in itself becomes the experience of their purity. 

One cannot transform impure experiences into pure ones just by reciting a mantra in order to change phenomena. It is also not through some special substances possessing such powers, or through offerings to some gods who in return help us. All this has nothing to do with what is happening in the Vajrayana. What it is all about is developing the understanding that the world of appearances does not present itself as confusion; it is our clinging to things which brings up confusion. In order to experience the purity of all things, there is nothing more to do than to understand that on the relative level things appear due to various conditions and due to dependent occurrence, but on the absolute level they are not truly existent. These two aspects are not separate from each other. 

What is meant by "impure appearances" or "pure appearances?" "Impure" refers to our belief that things are real and exist independently from each other. The belief that things are truly existent is an extreme view which is not correct because the true nature of all things is emptiness. If one wants to recognize the emptiness of all phenomena one cannot just accept what one is told. In fact, it would be very difficult to understand the true nature of things simply by talking or hearing about it. 

It is not the mere appearance of things which brings about confusion, it is the way we relate to things and cling to them as being real. Because things in themselves are empty, they are beyond the categories of arising and ceasing. The fact that they appear is the aspect of unobstructed self-expression. The various methods of the Vajrayana are used in order to understand that. 

For the practice of the Vajrayana, one needs the view that things only appear on the relative level but in their true nature they are not really existent. Nevertheless, one still believes things are real. These are the two different perspectives, and what it is all about is to connect both of them so that they are not constantly contradicting each other. The different Vajrayana methods, as for example the meditation on Buddha aspects (Tib.: yidam, lit.: mind-bond) and mantras are used to bring these apparent contradictions to an end. 

Among the "three roots" of the Vajrayana - lama, yidam and protector - it is the lama who is the most important; yidam and protector are manifestations of the lama. The mind of the lama is the Dharmakaya, the emptiness of space. The yidams appear out of it as an expression of the mind's inherent compassion and clarity. Thus they do not have the kind of true existence as is attributed to worldly gods. 

The reason that the yidams appear in manifold forms, for example peaceful and wrathful, is that the disciples have different attitudes, views and aspirations. In order to meet these different wishes, there are different appearances of the yidams as an expression of the compassion of the lama. The yidams also appear in so many different ways in order to symbolize that the whole spectrum of our clinging to impure appearances is purified. 

Now, we have a dualistic perception and are always thinking in dualistic categories. Therefore, we are not able to relate to the ultimate yidam and we need something which represents him. The many forms of the yidams which we know from pictures are in that form symbols for the ultimate yidam. The meditation on the yidam deities is divided into two phases, the so called developing phase (Tib.: Kjerim) and the completion phase (Tib.: Dsogrim). The meaning of it is as follows. 

All appearances arise in a mutual dependence. Something arises at a certain time, stays for a while and disappears again. The two phases of meditation are used in order to symbolize that the principle of arising and disappearing is carried on to a pure level. The arising of a deity symbolizes that the clinging to the arising of the commonly experienced world is purified. The developing phases have different elements: first one visualizes oneself as the deity, then one visualizes the deity in the space in front of oneself, one makes offerings and praises, etc. The reason that one visualizes oneself first as the yidam is the following: we all consider ourselves as being very important. If now somebody tells us, "You are not really existent," then this is difficult for us to understand and to accept. In the developing phase one deals with it in a way that one does not think about whether one exists or not, but one simply disregards this question and visualizes oneself in the form of the deity. If one visualizes oneself as the deity, while being aware that the yidam is an expression of complete purity, the clinging to an "I" disappears naturally. 

The visualization of the yidam in space in front of oneself works in a similar way. Now we cling to all the outer objects we perceive. In the developing phase one imagines the whole outer world as the palace of the yidam. The yidam is in the middle of the palace, and all beings appear in the form of the yidam. By visualizing the impure appearances in their pure form one overcomes the clinging to them. 

Therefore, it is important to understand that all the elements of the developing phase have a symbolic content. Without this understanding, for example believing the deity to be truly existent, one just confuses oneself in the meditation and even increases the illusion. If one uses the various developing and completion phases of the yidams, it is important to know the meaning of their different forms. Why, for example, does one visualize 16 arms, four legs, etc., if two are actually enough? To believe that we must visualize this because the yidams actually look like this would be a misconception. To believe in the true existence of the yidam is a little bit ridiculous and very confusing. Instead of that, one should understand that there is something which is purified and something which is a method of purification. The visualization of an yidam with four arms, for example, is a symbol of purifying our general way of experiencing things in so-called fourfold categories. For example the four elements and everything else we believe to appear in a fourfold manner. The three eyes of a yidam symbolize the overcoming of our way of thinking in threefold categories. For example the three times. The same applies to all the other details of the deity; all of them have the meaning to purify our common clinging to the world of our experiences. 

Without this understanding, one ends up in the meditation full of misconceptions. One either holds things to be true or to be not existent at all. That is how one enters an entirely wrong path, which does not have anything to do with Vajrayana or Buddhism as such. To believe the yidams to be truly existent and not understand that they are symbols of the purification of our conceptual ideas about the experienced world only increases concepts further. It has the effect that the illusions, which one already has, become stronger, which can then lead to the experience of fear during the meditation or to the appearance of thoughts which one does not know how to deal with. Therefore, it is so important in the meditation practice, especially in the Vajrayana, to acquire the right view. How does this right view look? It is the understanding that the relative appearance of things and their ultimate reality are a unity, that they are not separate from each other and not contradicting each other. 

The developing phases of the yidam-deities correspond to the relative truth, the way things appear. The completion phases correspond to the principle that ultimately things are not truly existent. At the same time one needs the understanding that both form a unity. 

The completion phases are used to avoid falling into the extreme view of believing things to be truly existent. The developing phases avert the extreme view of believing things to not exist at all, to only be empty. The understanding that both form a unity gives rise to the understanding that everything is the union of joy and emptiness. By meditating in this way, through the application of the yidam practice, the relative and the ultimate achievements can be obtained. In that sense, the yidam is called "the root of accomplishments." 

The protectors, "the root of activity", can bee seen as the manifold expression of the yidams, which again are the expression of the Dharmadhatu mind of the lama. The meaning of the protectors, since the Vajrayana is a very profound path, is to protect one from the many conflicting circumstances and hindrances which may appear while being on that path. One relies on the protectors to pacify and eliminate these hindrances. Yidams and protectors are very important in the Vajrayana, however the lama, the root of blessing, is the most important element. The reason is that only through the lama can blessing and inspiration enter ones own mindstream. 

All elements which are used on the Vajrayana path have a profound meaning. The body of the yidam is the unity of appearance and emptiness, the mantra is the unity of sound and emptiness, and the mind is the unity of awareness and emptiness. If one applies these elements to one's own practice, by abiding completely in this awareness, one can let the pride of the deity arise in oneself. But in order to do so one has to understand the real meaning of these things. It is not about simply visualizing oneself as the deity, because by the mere visualization one does not achieve this understanding. 

Practitioners have to understand three things. The view is that both kinds of reality make up an inseparable unity. For the path, the understanding that method and wisdom are a unity is important. Concerning the fruit, one needs the understanding that the two kayas which are achieved are a unity. Especially when practicing Mahamudra or Maha Ati, the understanding of these three elements is very important. Otherwise, one cannot realize the fruit through this practice. 

What about the so called "ultimate yidam"? Chenrezig (Loving Eyes) for example appears in a very specific form, with four arms, etc. Nevertheless, this is not the ultimate aspect of this yidam; it is just the way he appears. The ultimate yidam is the awareness that Chenrezig's expression is the compassion of all Buddhas. 

The form Dorje Phagmo (Diamond Sow) has is a symbolic form. The ultimate Dorje Phagmo is that the space of phenomena is the highest transcendent wisdom, the mother of all Buddhas which gives rise to all Buddhas. She is the paramita of wisdom.

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche 

Vienna, October 1987
Kagyu Life International, No.4, 1995
Copyright ©1995 Kamtsang Choling USA

Yidam Deities in Vajrayana

Generally speaking, there are three vehicles of practice in Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Today I wish to speak about Vajrayana.

Meditating a Yidam deity is central in Vajrayana. It is crucial for Vajrayana practitioners to know that Yidam deities are not external to one’s own mind, rather they are images that help us work with our own mind. Yidams are the unblemished reflection of the primordial and innate true nature of our mind that manifests in specific forms and colors. The purpose and goal of our practice is to attain perfect Buddhahood, which manifests in three aspects or forms at fruition – the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. It is important to know that the three kayas are indivisible.

Describing the three kayas briefly: Dharmakaya is the true nature or essence of Buddhahood that appears as the Sambhogakaya; the two kayas are not separate from one another. The Dharmakaya, that has no form and is therefore intangible, is the vast state or fundamental ground of the mind’s true nature that is free from inherent existence and adventitious stains; it cannot be fathomed and cannot be described in words. The unblemished, vast ground of one’s mind that is free from discursive thoughts, the Dharmakaya, is replete with great clarity and creativity and continuously manifests in a perceptible form, which, from the ultimate state of Buddhahood, is the Sambhogakaya, “the body of complete enjoyment.” Manifestations of the Sambhogakaya are referred to as Yidam deities. A Vajrayana practitioner turns his or her attention towards a depiction of one of the many Yidams that represent the ultimate state of enlightenment.

The great variety of Yidam deities have the same essence and are images of the many manifestations of enlightenment, for example, as Noble Chenrezig, Arya Tara, Bodhisattva Manjushri or the wrathful appearances such as Vajravarahi and Chakrasamvara. It’s important to distinguish between how things are and how things appear and to know that the essence of the manifold appearances of enlightenment is one and the same, namely the intangible Dharmakaya. Things appear in a limitless number of forms – thick, thin, flat, square, round, and so forth. They appear in many colors and in their combination – white, blue, yellow, red, and green. And so, enlightenment manifests in a great variety of forms and ways.

When we perceive and apprehend an appearance that accords with our propensities and inclinations – our wants and needs -, then we are happy about the appearance. When we apprehend an appearance that doesn’t accord with our personal inclinations, then we are less pleased with it. The manifestation of Yidams, which are an expression of enlightenment, are free from the necessity of appearing in a specific form or in a certain color, rather every Yidam is a reflection of our personal wants and needs. Being an image of people’s various capabilities and inclinations, some Yidams appear white in color, like Noble Chenrezig, others are blue, yellow, red, or green and have different forms. In truth, Yidams are the display of the immense compassion of the Buddhas.

Is the Yidam deity we meditate a truly existent, permanent entity? It is important to know that this is not the case. All Yidams arise in dependence in that they are created by our own mind. If one meditates a Yidam deity that one creates and cultivates with one’s mind intensively for a long period of time and accomplishes the aim of the practice, then one will have realized the actual and true manifestation of the Sambhogakaya.

A beginning practitioner works at creating an image of a Yidam like Noble Chenrezig by imagining his color and all details of his form as clearly as possible. It’s impossible for a beginner to see the image with opened eyes, so, knowing that one is engaging in the methods of practice by creating the image of a Yidam, one closes one’s eyes lightly and practices seeing the inner image until one sees it clearly. If one practices diligently, then the Yidam one meditates will eventually directly manifest. A practitioner of the Buddhadharma strives to attain Buddhadhood, complete and perfect enlightenment that manifests as the three kayas at fruition.

Buddhahood is attained through the gradual process of transforming oneself into the body of perfect enlightenment by overcoming and finally eradicating one’s destructive emotions that are veils concealing one’s true nature. One’s body, speech, and mind manifest as primordial purity when Buddhahood has been attained. When one has attained Buddhaood, one’s body will have been transformed into the Nirmanakaya, one’s speech into the Sambhogakaya, and one’s mind into the Dharmakaya. The three terms designate the goal that is eventually achieved through practice. Complete purification of one’s impurities that conceal one’s true nature is called Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya; they are called mind, speech, and body for ordinary beings who have not vanquished their impurities and who have not attained fruition. And all along, the essence of the pure kayas and the essence of the impure aspects of ordinary living beings are and always will be the same.

The main purpose of practice is to transform one’s impure perception of appearances and apprehension of experiences that determine one’s life into pure and untainted perceptions and apprehensions. Therefore, in order to cleanse one’s impure way of perceiving and apprehending things, one repeatedly meditates the immaculate appearance of a Yidam deity. Practice consists of focusing one’s attention on a pure image of enlightenment, a Yidam, until one’s perception of the purity of all appearances becomes clear and brilliant and determines one’s life. It isn’t possible to attain this goal right away, and that is why beginners fabricate thoughts about a Yidam while cultivating it during meditation practice.

Beginners close their eyes and imagine the form, color, and ornaments of a specific Yidam, i.e., they simultaneously practice creating the pure physical, verbal, and mental aspects of the Yidam. The physical aspect of practice is visualizing the body of the Yidam as clearly as possible. The verbal aspect is reciting the mantra of the deity. And the mental aspect is concentrating one’s attention one-pointedly on the image and mantra of the Yidam without becoming distracted. Of course, it isn’t possible to perfect all three aspects of a Yidam such as Noble Chenrezig all at once and from the start, so one begins slowly and step by step by concentrating on the eyes, then on the head of the deity, continuing with its shoulders and entire body. One practices again and again, and, like all things in life, practice makes perfect. Through repeated and regular practice over a longer period of time the entire image of the Yidam will clearly appear in one’s mind.

Practitioners can have doubts and wonder whether the Yidam exists or not and whether the practice is beneficial or not. There is no reason to have doubts if one is aware of the fact that the image of the Yidam is not born outside oneself, since one knows that one is creating it with one’s imagination and with one’s eyes closed. If one continues practicing, then eventually one will see the image of the pure deity as the manifestation of one’s own perception with opened eyes. It’s important to be assured that a practitioner doesn’t walk around seeing blue or white images holding flowers in their hands, rather fruition means that a successful practitioner sees phenomena free from any personal, conceptual and emotional blemishes.

Perception of the true nature of all appearances and experiences has three aspects – clarity, unchanging, and perfect purity. This means to say that by practicing meditation diligently, a practitioner eventually perceives the essence of phenomena clearly and brilliantly. Furthermore, he or she sees that the essence of phenomena doesn’t fluctuate by coming and going, but is changeless, and that it is perfectly pure, which means to say that it isn’t blemished by impeding veils of disturbing emotions and thoughts.

We are followers of Vajrayana, and the heart of the Vajrayana path is meditating a Yidam deity. As said, it’s important not to have any illusions and to know that it isn’t easy to clearly perceive an enlightened Yidam. Traditionally, Yidam meditation practices were carried out in a three-year retreat, but if one practices diligently and becomes accustomed to generating and visualizing a deity, then eventually the visualization will arise clearly and distinctly.

Red Chenrezig is the main practice of Kagyüpa three-year retreatants. If a practitioner isn’t distracted and naturally and easefully abides in one-pointed concentration on Red Chenrezig for a while, then it can happen that he or she sees the entire room bathed in a vibrant, red color. It can also happen that retreatants lose their feeling for time, i.e., they lose their feeling for morning, noon, and night, even while taking their meals. This is a sign that a practitioner’s perception has become lucid, constant, and pure, i.e., he or she has become unaffected by time. These two examples are based upon my own experience. Another experience I had is that when the three aspects described above manifest, then one reaches a point at which every appearance is seen in the same way.

Meditating a Yidam is extremely helpful when it comes to dealing with daily samsaric appearances and experiences that we continuously face. Cultivating and identifying with the pure appearance of a Yidam deity again and again and over a longer period of time alleviates the impact that impure and painful experiences otherwise have. Everyone has problems and they vary from one person to the other. If a practitioner becomes accustomed to a pure Yidam that is not made of matter, then the force and strength of problems that everyone encounters and that everybody has weaken and diminish and as a result it’s easier dealing with them.

There are three prerequisites for Yidam practice to be beneficial: the person who meditates, the object of meditation, and the way the visualization is practiced. All three factors need to be united. It is very important to remember that the image of a Yidam that one produces and cultivates in one’s meditation does not arise and exist outside one’s own mind. It would be a grave illusion to think that the Yidam one produces during meditation practice is an external entity that truly exists and is other than oneself. A Yidam is a beneficial and wholesome projection of one’s own mind that one works with.

There are various ways of generating a Yidam deity in the different traditions. For example, there is the tradition of visualizing a Yidam in front of oneself in space and there is the tradition of visualizing oneself as a Yidam. A practitioner visualizes Red Chenrezig both in space as well as himself or herself in the form of the deity during a three-year retreat. One visualizes one’s ordinary body in the form of a Yidam, because, as it is, one is extremely attached to one’s body, speech, and mind due to thinking that they truly exist and stand for a self one believes in and clings to. The purpose of visualizing oneself as a Yidam is to diminish and slowly overcome attachment to the self that one believes in and clings to.

Meditating again and again that one’s body, speech, and mind are not different than the pure body, speech, and mind of a Yidam and that they are indivisible decreases and eventually eradicates one’s attachment to the ordinary idea one has of oneself that one clings to and that one is convinced really exists. It happens naturally and isn’t hard identifying with one’s ordinary body, speech, and mind and calling it “me,” and it isn’t easy giving up clinging to the impure body, speech, and mind one identifies with so strongly and points to as “I.” One needs to exert energy and practice, seeing one isn’t accustomed to experiencing the true and pure nature of one’s being. The aim of Vajrayana is to progressively replace one’s ordinary, gross perception with a pure perception of what is true.

Hinayana practitioners also learn to vanquish attachment to a self by intensively contemplating the impure substances that make up everyone’s body. Vajrayana practitioners, in contrast, do not give up clinging to a self by shunning appearances, rather they learn to purify their delusive relationship with appearances and experiences and then can give up their attachment and clinging to what they call “self and others.” Mahayana practitioners realize that all appearances - including their own body, tiniest atoms, and all constituents - are empty of inherent existence and only exist in dependence on other things. By realizing the empty nature of all sensory perceptions and apprehensions, they purify their impure cognition of reality and in the process give up clinging to a self and others.

Lord Buddha presented many methods of practice so that we can purify our delusive apprehensions of the world and sentient beings. Vajrayana practitioners engage in the result of the path while practicing, whereas followers of Sutrayana focus their attention on the cause that leads to the result. We saw that Buddhahood denotes realization of the indivisibility of the three kayas. Vajrayana practitioners identify with all three ultimate dimensions of reality, the result, by meditating and cultivating a Yidam while on the path to enlightenment, which means to say that they take the result as the path.

Attainment of the result, Buddhahood, doesn’t mean arriving at another location or being transposed, rather it means having gradually transformed one’s subtle channels (nadi in Sanskrit), winds (prana), and vital essences (bindu). At Buddhahood, the subtle channels that support one’s body are completely purified and are the Nirmanakaya; the subtle winds that support one’s speech are purified and are the Sambhogakaya; and the vital essences that support one’s mind are purified to the extent that one’s ordinary, conceptual mind that creates dualistic thoughts is purified and transformed into pristine awareness, which is the true nature of one’s mind, the Dharmakaya.

There are four classes of tantra in Vajrayana: action tantra (kriya tantra in Sanskrit), conduct tantra (charya tantra), yoga tantra (yoga tantra), and hightest yoga tantra (anuttarayoga tantra). Anuttarayoga tantra is the profoundest level of practice that is carried out in the frame of the Six Yogas of Naropa, at which stage the subtle channels, winds, and vital essences are central. Practitioners of Anuttarayoga don’t visualize Yidam deities anymore, but directly employ the pure aspects of body, speech, and mind, i.e., the unblemished manifestation of the self-perfected state. At fruition, our ordinary body, speech, and mind are transformed into their innate purity, in which case our mind is free of all contrivances and abides in simplicity.

Generally speaking, the subtle channels, winds, and vital essences are very powerful. When blockages in the channels are unravelled, i.e., the knots untied, and the winds can flow through them smoothly, then a practitioner doesn’t become sick anymore. Sicknesses arise due to blockages and disturbances in one’s subtle body. These blockages and disturbances and their interplay bring on sicknesses and diseases, which one experiences with one’s mind with sadness and woe. This process is referred to as suffering. If through practice one frees one’s subtle channels, winds, and vital essences of knots and disturbances, then one will be healthy and will experience happiness and bliss. If one can unite one’s subtle body, speech, and mind with the purity of a Yidam’s body, speech, and mind, then one’s channels, winds, and vital essences will have become purified and free. As a result, one will experience less sicknesses and suffering and, instead, one will experience happiness and joy. We saw that meditating a Yidam is central to Vajrayana, just as it is central to Mahayoga, and we should know that Yidams are directly related to oneself and accomplished when one has perfectly purified one’s subtle channels, winds, and vital essences. And so, it is evident that Yidams don’t exist outside or are separate from us, but are images of our own purity.

It’s important to distinguish between a designated Yidam and an actual Yidam. When speaking of Noble Chenrezig, for instance, we are referring to a designated deity. The actual and true deity is one’s own purified body, speech, and mind. Impure appearances are impure perceptions and apprehensions. When one’s impure perceptions and apprehensions have been purified and therefore overcome, then one’s ordinary body, ordinary speech, and ordinary mind will have been transformed into a vajra body, vajra speech, and vajra mind, which are the three aspects of enlightenment (the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya). At the moment, one isn’t able to connect or experience the actual Yidam. So one identifies with a designated Yidam that one produces with one’s thoughts in order to eventually experience and realize the actual Yidam. A practitioner begins by visualizing and identifying as best as he or she possibly can with a completely pure Yidam. Calm abiding or insight meditation are not topics of Yidam practice, which deals with the practice of meditating a deity.

There are innumerable practices. Since followers and practitioners have a huge amount of varying propensities and inclinations, there are a great number of Yidams in Vajrayana, starting with their various colors and forms. The great number of Yidam deities in Vajrayana can be compared to a menu in a big restaurant – every guest is free to choose the meal they prefer having. Vajrayana is like that too, seeing one’s practice is enhanced if the Yidam one creates accords with and satisfies one’s preferences and needs. There are practitioners who prefer meditating Noble Chenrezig, others feel more comfortable meditating Arya Tara; others want to meditate Sangye Menla, who is Medicine Buddha. Yet other practitioners want to meditate Buddha Amitabha. These deities appear in different forms, but, irrelevant of the outer form, every practice is beneficial and leads to the same result. There are many disciples who prefer meditating wrathful Yidams, such as Vajravarahi or Chakrasamvara or Kalachakra or Mahakala, and these practices bring the same result as meditating a peaceful deity. There are disciples who fear practicing Mahakala, for example, whereas other disciples really like meditating Mahakala, and this is what is meant when speaking about individual propensities and inclinations. In any case, Vajrayana practice consists of identifying with a Yidam, which is an extraordinary method when compared to practices taught in other vehicles.

Again, it’s important to differentiate between a Yidam designated and created by one’s mind with one’s thoughts and the actual and true Yidam. Hinayana and Mahayana followers often have great doubts when they see all the Vajrayana deities and think, “What a lot of constructs that lead away from the absolute truth.” So it’s important to differentiate and understand the meaning and purpose of Yidam practice. Due to the exceptional methods, Vajrayana is also called “Secret Mantrayana.”

I have spoken briefly about the principle and foundation of Vajrayana practice here. Thank you very much.


Through this goodness may omniscience be attained

And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.

May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara

That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha and then

Lead every being without exception to that very state!

May precious and supreme Bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,

And may precious Bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!

May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.

May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless in number as space is vast in its extent.

Having accumulated merit and purified negativities,

May I and all living beings without exception swiftly

establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.

Instructions presented at Karma Theksum Tashi Chöling in Hamburg in October 2008. Photo of Chöje Lama Phuntsok taken at the center this year. With sincere gratitude to Madhavi Maren Simoneit for making the recording of the teachings available to us and for her immense help. Translated into English totally in reliance on the German rendering kindly offered by Rosemarie Fuchs by Gaby Hollmann, responsible for all mistakes. Copyright Lama Phuntsok, Karma Lekshey Ling Institute, as well as Theksum Tashi Chöling, 2008.

©Karma Lekshey Ling Institute