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Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche

New Delhi, India, 1979

A teaching on renunciation, first published in Teachings at Tushita

Dharma protects us from suffering

The Sanskrit word Dharma [Tib: chö] means to hold, or uphold. What is it that Dharma upholds, or maintains? It is the elimination of suffering and the attainment of happiness. Dharma does this not only for us but for all other sentient beings as well.

The sufferings we experience are of two types: those immediately visible to us as humans and those we cannot see without psychic powers. The former include the pain involved in the birth process, the unpleasantness of occasionally becoming sick, the misery experienced by growing old and aging, and the terror of death.

The sufferings that come after death are not visible to an ordinary person. We might think that when we die we will probably be reborn as a human being. However, this is not necessarily the case. There is no logical reason for us to assume that such an evolution will occur. Nor is it the case that after we die we will not take rebirth at all.

As for the particular type of rebirth we will take, this is very difficult to predict; it’s not within our present sphere of knowledge. If we generate positive karma during this life, it will naturally follow that we will take happy forms of rebirth in the future. Conversely, if we create mostly negative karma, we will not take a happy rebirth but experience great difficulties in lower states of being. This is certain. That’s the way rebirth works. If you plant a wheat seed, a wheat plant grows; if you plant a rice seed, a rice plant is produced. Similarly, if you create negative karma, you’re planting the seeds of rebirth in one of the three lower states as a hell being, a hungry ghost or an animal.

Although the sufferings of the hell beings and hungry ghosts may be invisible to us, we can see those of the animals with our own eyes. If we wonder what it would be like if we ourselves were to be reborn as animals, we can just look at those around us and imagine what it would be like to be in their condition. Dharma is that which holds us back and protects us from experiencing the suffering of the three lower realms.

However, the entire wheel of rebirth, the whole of cyclic existence, is in the nature of suffering. Dharma safeguards us from all of it. Moreover, the Mahayana Dharma, the teachings of the great vehicle, protects not only ourselves but also all other living beings.

In Buddhism, we hear a lot about the Three Jewels of Refuge—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The first of these includes all the fully enlightened beings who teach the Dharma. For us, Buddha Shakyamuni, who first turned the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath by teaching the four noble truths, is the most significant. The last of these four truths—the truth of the path—is the Dharma that we must practice in order to achieve liberation. This is the refuge object called the Dharma jewel.

The cause of suffering

Dharma practice entails two things: recognizing and eradicating the root of samsaric suffering. What is the root of cyclic existence? It is the grasping at a truly existent self and at truly existent phenomena. Therefore, we need to develop revulsion for this grasping that brings us all our suffering and an understanding of the antidote to it. The antidote to grasping at true existence is the wisdom realizing selflessness; a deep understanding of selflessness will liberate us from suffering.

The sufferings we experience in cyclic existence are caused by the karma created by our acting under the influence of the delusions. When we understand this, we aspire to obtain the antidote to self-grasping. Why have we not yet developed this antidote in our mind stream; why don’t we understand selflessness? One reason is that we are not sufficiently aware of impermanence and death.

Contemplating impermanence and death

The only possible outcome of birth is death. We are inevitably going to die. There has never been a sentient being whose life did not end with death. People try many methods to prevent death from occurring, but it’s impossible. No medicine can cure us of death.

But just thinking “I’m going to die” isn’t really the correct way to contemplate death. Of course, everybody is going to die, but merely recalling this fact is not very powerful. It is not the proper method. Similarly, just thinking of the fact that our body is constantly disintegrating and deteriorating and will eventually fail is also not enough. What we have to think about is how to prevent all this from happening.

If we think about the fear that we’ll experience at the time of death and how to eliminate it, our meditation on death will be effective. People who have accumulated much negative karma during their lives become very frightened at the time of death. They cry, drool, excrete into their clothing and are completely overwhelmed—clear signs of the fear and suffering that occur at death because of negative actions created during life.

Alternatively, if during our lifetime we refrain from committing negative actions, death will be very easy to face. Death can be a joyous experience, like that of a child coming home. If we have purified ourselves, we can die happily. By abstaining from creating the ten non-virtuous actions and cultivating their opposites, the ten virtues, our death will be easy and, as a result, we won’t have to experience rebirth in conditions of suffering. We will be assured of rebirth in more fortunate states.

If we plant seeds of medicinal plants, we get trees with medicinal powers; if we plant seeds of poisonous trees, we get poisonous fruit. Similarly, if we plant the seeds of virtuous actions on our consciousness, we will experience happiness in future rebirths; we will experience good fortune, both mentally and physically. This basic Dharma teaching of avoiding the ten non-virtuous deeds and cultivating the ten virtues is given not only in Buddhism but also in many other religions.

If simply thinking “I’m going to die” is not very beneficial, how then should we contemplate death and impermanence? We should think, “If I have created any of the ten non-virtuous actions, when I die I will have to face great fear and suffering and will be reborn into unimaginable misery. If, on the other hand, I have created virtue, when I die I will not experience much fear or suffering and will be reborn into a fortunate state.” That is the correct way to think about death.

This meditation is not thinking gloomily and pessimistically, “I’m going to die and there’s nothing I can do about it,” but rather contemplating intelligently, “Where will I go after death? What sort of causes have I created? Can I make my death a happy one? How? Can I make my future rebirths happy? How?”

When contemplating future rebirths we should remember that there is no place in cyclic existence that is reliable. No matter what body we obtain, it must eventually pass away. We read accounts of people who have lived for a hundred or even a thousand years, but no matter how fantastic their stories, they have all had to die. All samsaric bodies are subject to death.

Moreover, there is no place to which we can run to escape death. No matter where we are, when the time comes, we’ll have to die. At that time, no amount of medicine, mantra or practice will help. Surgery can cure certain diseases, but it can’t prevent death.

No matter what type of rebirth we gain, it will be subject to death. The process is ongoing. Contemplating the long-range effects of our actions and the continuity of the process of birth, life, death and rebirth will help us generate much positive karma.

Even though we sometimes plan to practice the Dharma, we usually plan to do so tomorrow or the day after. However, we can’t tell when we’re going to die. If we were guaranteed a hundred years to live, we’d be able to plan our practice long-range, but we have not the slightest certainty of when we’re going to die. Therefore, it’s very foolish to put our practice off. Some people die in the womb before they’re even born; others die as small babies before they’ve even learned to walk. There’s no logic in thinking that we’re going to live long.

Furthermore, our body is very fragile. If it were made of stone or iron we could be excused for thinking that it was very stable, but we can easily see that it’s very weak and liable to go wrong at any moment. It’s like a delicate wrist-watch made of countless tiny, fragile parts. Our body is not to be trusted. And there are many circumstances that can cause our death: food that has become poisonous, the bite of a small insect or the prick of a tiny thorn. Such seemingly insignificant conditions can kill us. Even the food and drink we ingest to extend our life can become the circumstances that end it. There’s no certainty as to when we’ll die or what will cause our death.

Even if we feel certain that we’ll live a hundred years, many of those years have already passed and we haven’t accomplished much. We approach death like somebody asleep in a railway carriage, constantly getting closer and closer to the destination but unaware of the process. Of course, there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We just constantly get ever-closer to death.

No matter how much money, jewelry, houses or clothes we accumulate in life, it makes no difference whatsoever at the time of death. When we die, we go to the next life empty-handed; we cannot take even the tiniest material object with us. Even our body must be left behind; our mind and body separate and our mind goes on alone.

If at death we have to leave our body, our friends and all our possessions, what, then, accompanies our consciousness at that time? Is there anything that can go with it to the next life? Yes, there is. When we die, the karmic imprints that we have accumulated during our life accompany our consciousness.

Creating positive and negative karma

If we have created any of the ten non-virtuous actions, a negative karmic debt accompanies our mind-stream as it evolves into the future rebirth. By killing other beings, stealing others’ possessions or indulging in sexual misconduct, we leave karmic imprints of these negative physical actions on our consciousness. By lying, slandering other people and causing disunity among them, gossiping or speaking harshly, harming others with words, we leave karmic imprints of these negative verbal actions on our consciousness. By harboring covetous thoughts, wishing to have the possessions of others; generating ill-will towards others, wishing them harm; or holding distorted views, such as “there are no past or future lives,” “there’s no such thing as cause and effect” or “there’s no such thing as refuge,” we leave karmic imprints of these negative mental actions on our consciousness. All these negative karmic debts travel with and direct our mind into future rebirths.

The reverse is also true. If we turn away from negativity and create virtuous actions of body, speech and mind, the karmic seeds of these positive actions also travel on our mind-stream and produce better circumstances in our future lives.

If we really think about the situation we’re in we’ll resolve to try to generate positive karma and eliminate its opposite in whatever way we can. In other words, we should try to create as little negativity as possible and purify the seeds of past negative actions so that not even the smallest karmic debt remains to be repaid in our future lives.

We also need to look at the kinds of result that can happen within the law of cause and effect. For example, there’s the story of a person who had many good qualities but was harsh in his speech. Once he abused another person by saying, “You talk like a dog.” As a result, he himself was reborn as a dog five hundred times. Seemingly small negative actions can bring devastating effects.

Similarly, however, small positive actions can also produce great results. For example, there’s the story of the young child who made a humble offering to the Buddha and as a result was reborn as the great king Ashoka, who built thousands of stupas and performed countless other sublime activities.

Developing renunciation

Contemplating the various non-virtues we have committed and their results is a very effective way of ensuring our welfare and happiness. When we think of the suffering we ourselves will have to bear as a result of our negativities, we’ll give birth to the strong, indestructible wish not to have to experience all this misery and will have developed what is called renunciation.

Acquainting ourselves with this type of thinking is itself a form of meditation—analytical meditation. First we develop mindfulness of our own suffering; then we extend this mindfulness to the suffering of all other sentient beings. Considering deeply how all beings want to be completely free of all suffering but are caught in a net of suffering from which they cannot escape leads to compassion.

If we don’t develop the wish to be free from all our own suffering, how can we develop the wish for others to be free from theirs? We can put an end to our own suffering, but this in itself is not ultimately beneficial. We need to extend this wish to all living beings, who also desire happiness. We can train our mind to develop the wish for all sentient beings to be completely parted from their sufferings. This is a much wider and more beneficial way of thinking.

Why should we concern ourselves with the suffering of other living beings? It’s because we receive so much from others: the milk we drink comes from the kindness of others, the warm clothing that protects us from the wind and cold, the house we live in, the money we receive, our precious human body—all these things come from the kindness of others; the list is endless. However, just these few examples should be enough to show us why we should try to find a method that can eliminate the suffering of all the kind mother sentient beings.

No matter what kind of practice we do—the recitation of mantras, any other kind of meditation, whatever it is—we should always do it with the thought, “May this benefit all living beings.” Not only will this help others; it will naturally benefit us as well. Ordinary life situations can give us an appreciation of this: somebody who is very selfish and always works for his or her own gain is never really liked by others whereas somebody who is very kind and always helping others is usually very popular.

The thought we must develop in our mind stream is, “May all beings be happy and may none of them suffer.” We should try to incorporate this thought into our own thinking by remembering it again and again. This will be extremely beneficial. Those who in the past developed this thought are now great buddhas, bodhisattvas or saints; all the truly great people of the world based their lives upon it. How wonderful it would be if we could try to generate this thought within ourselves.

Q. Are we advised not to defend ourselves when somebody tries to harm us?
Serkong Rinpoche. That question introduces a very extensive subject. If somebody hits you over the head with a stick, the best response is to meditate that you experienced this because of your own past negative actions. Think how this person is allowing that particular karmic debt to ripen now rather than at some future time. You should feel gratitude that this person has eliminated that negative karmic debt from your mind stream.

Q. What if somebody attacks my wife or child, who are under my protection? Should I not defend them? Would it be negative to do so?
Serkong Rinpoche. As it is your duty to protect your wife and child, you must try to do so as skillfully as possible. You have to be clever. The best way to protect them is without harming their attacker. In other words, you have to find a method of protecting them whereby you do not inflict any harm.

Q. He can he harm my children but I cannot harm him? Is it not our duty to defend our children against barbarous and cruel acts? Should we just lay down our lives?
Serkong Rinpoche. In order to handle this situation skillfully you need a great deal of courage. There’s a story about a previous life of the Buddha in which he was a navigator who went to sea with a group of five hundred people in search of buried treasure. One of these people had very greedy thoughts of murdering all the others and stealing the jewels for himself. The bodhisattva navigator became aware of the man’s intentions and thought it incorrect to let a situation develop where one man killed five hundred. Therefore, he developed the courageous thought of saving the five hundred by killing this one man, willingly accepting upon himself the full responsibility of killing. If you are willing to be reborn in hell in order to save others, you have a greatly courageous thought and can engage in these acts, just as the Buddha himself did.

Q. Under such circumstances, is killing still considered to be a negative action?
Serkong Rinpoche. Nagarjuna says in his Friendly Letter that if one commits negativity in the name of protecting one’s parents, children, Buddhism or the Three Jewels of Refuge, one will have to experience the consequences. The difference is in whether or not you are aware of the consequences and are willing to take them upon yourself in order to selflessly protect your wife and child. If you harm the enemy, you are going to experience a suffering rebirth. However, you should be willing to face this by thinking, “I will take that suffering on myself so that my wife and child don’t suffer.”

Q. Then according to Buddhism it would still be a non-virtuous act?
Serkong Rinpoche. Protecting your wife and child is virtuous but harming your enemy is not. You have to be willing to accept the consequences of both actions.

Q. You said that those who create negative karma will suffer in the future but those who do good will experience happiness. Can these good actions lead to complete liberation, in the sense of not having to experience rebirth?
Serkong Rinpoche. If you want to gain complete liberation from cyclic existence, you have to follow the teachings of the Buddha completely and precisely. If you do so correctly, liberation from cyclic existence is definitely possible.

By Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche

Dharamsala, India

His Holiness Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche gave this teaching in Dharamsala, July 1976, as personal advice to Nicholas Ribush, who was preparing to undertake a short guru-yoga retreat. It was kindly translated by Losang Gyältsän. Edited by Dr. Nicholas Ribush, who also received Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s kind additional advice in 1976, as given in the notes.

See also the extensive commentary on Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

A Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice booklet, translated and arranged with additional prayers by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, is available from FPMT Foundation Store.

 

GANDEN LHA GYÄMA: THE HUNDRED DEITIES’ JOYFUL REALM
THE GURU YOGA MEDITATION RELATED TO LAMA TSONGKHAPA

1. Invocation

You who emanate from the heart of the savior of the hundred devas’ Joyful Realm,
On the peak of a cloud [water holder] resembling clumps of extremely fresh white curd,
The king of Dharma, omniscient Losang Dragpa, with our sons:
I request you to come to this place.

First there is the invocation of Je Tsongkhapa, who comes from the pure land of Tushita (Ganden). Do the usual preliminary practices as in Jor-chö, according to lam-rim, cultivating bodhicitta [see below and the note at the end].

Tushita is a pure land that is made out of lapis lazuli and precious gems from the surface of the earth. The trees and so forth are made of precious substances. The sand is made of gold and when tasted is as sweet as sugar. There are many beautiful streams.

In this space…just as in Dharamsala we have the palace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, here there is the palace of Maitreya. In front of this is a large area for the giving of discourses. And just as in Dharamsala there are the abodes of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, here there are the houses of other gurus such as Je Tsongkhapa, Atisha, and Marpa Lotsawa. Also there are other lamas about, meditating or debating with each other.

From a knot of eternity at the heart of Maitreya Buddha, a shaft of light emanates and down it, seated upon a cloud resembling a cluster of thick, freshly-made, snow-white curd, descend Je Tsongkhapa and his two disciples. They come to rest in the space just before your eyes at a distance of an arm-span, seated upon thrones supported by lions, on lotus, sun and moon.

The realm from which they descend—Ganden Lha Gyä—is the realm of numberless gods. (Lha Gyä literally means “one hundred gods,” but the actual meaning implied is “numberless gods”).

2. Requesting the guru to have a stable life

In the sky before me, on a lion throne, lotus and moon disk,
The je-tsun lama smiles with delight.
Supreme field of the merit of mind’s devotion,
I beg you to abide for a hundred eons to increase the teachings.

Since you have invoked all three into the space in front of you, you have to offer the seven limb prayer. The first of the seven branches is usually prostration, but here, as a sign of auspiciousness, you make a request for the guru’s longevity, praying that he will not die soon. Doing this first has great meaning. Also, requesting your guru to live long is the best prayer for your own longevity.

While you recite the words of this verse, offer a short mandala—a physical mandala with only seven heaps on the base plate: Mt. Meru, the four continents, sun and moon. This transforms into a diamond throne [a throne with a double vajra] and when you offer it, it absorbs into the throne upon which Lama Tsongkhapa is seated.

3. Prostration

Your holy mind understands the full extent of objects to be known.
Your eloquent speech is the ear-ornament of the fortunate ones.
Your holy body is glowing and glorious with fame.
To you, who is meaningful to see, hear and remember, I prostrate.

Out of the guru’s holy body, speech and mind, we usually offer praise to the guru’s holy body first, but here, Lama Je Tsongkhapa is first praised for his omniscient mind, the holy mind that knows all phenomena. His omniscient mind is praised first because Lama Tsongkhapa is the emanation of Manjushri.

Then we praise his holy speech—the ear-ornament of the fortunate ones—and his holy body—resplendent, radiant with the glory of fame.

While praying in this way, visualize that your body transforms into innumerable forms, all of which prostrate simultaneously. If you prostrate in this way you will create great merit.

4. Offerings

Beautiful drinking water, variously arranged flowers, fragrant incense,
Light, scented water and so forth;
Actually performed and mentally transformed oceans of clouds of offerings
I offer to you, the supreme field of merit.

These are arranged on your altar and also visualized. It is easy to do—you know how. Also offer a long mandala.

5. Confession

Whatever non-virtues of body, speech and mind,
And especially, actions opposite to the three vows
That I have created from beginningless time,
From the bottom of my heart, I regret and fervently confess them all individually.

We do this for purification. All the negative actions committed in your past lives and this, especially those that contravene the three types of vows—pratimoksha, bodhicitta and tantric vows—should be repented. You should repent all negative actions very strongly, feeling the regret that you would had you taken poison. Say the verse slowly, recite a long mandala and build it up physically.

Why make all these physical mandalas? Because it helps your visualization. For example, when visualizing “now it becomes empty,” it is very important to have the physical object there to visualize its becoming empty; or when making inner offerings, you need a physical kapala [skull cup] or else you can’t purify it as you have to.

Thus the physical mandala is to ensure proper visualization. Also, if you use grain in your physical mandala it is more beneficial if it contains some precious substances. Just as worldly people live in expensive places, if we offer valuable things to the guru it creates more merit. Anyway, we need at least some basic thing for the purposes of visualization, something on which we can visualize. Just as a rabbit’s horn doesn’t exist and therefore we can’t say it transforms into non-existence, for similar reasons we need a physical mandala as the basis for this practice.

When wealthy Tibetans offered mandalas of deities on the ground they would use precious materials such as ground coral for the parts that required red-colored material, lapis lazuli for the blue and so forth. But of course, the type of material offered depends on one’s means.

When you offer chö-yön (water for mouth), for instance, you can offer it in any kind of container—tin, silver, gold—without its affecting the value of the water itself, but while using a more valuable container does not improve the quality of the water, it increases the amount of merit you create.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word; the Tibetan is khyil-khor, which means, literally, circling the center. In a market, the best things are at the center; that’s where the crowds of people go—to that market in the center of town, to get the best things. So mandala means “taking the essence”—nying-po len-pa. Then, at the center of the market, you’ll find the best store; most people congregate around that shop, to take the essence of that shop. Applying this to tantra—the very essence is the non-dual wisdom of bliss and void. As that is what you have to take, mandala means to take that essence for yourself.

If possible, also think about the emptiness of the mandala, from beginning to end. If that is not possible, think of its emptiness at least once. There are different kinds of mandala: outer, inner and secret. The outer is the usual physical one; the inner is the transformation of the parts of the body—skin, blood and so forth; the secret is the offering of the goddesses. Then there’s also the kho-ra nyid-gyi mandala, the mandala of voidness: the mandala is merely imputed and devoid of inherent self-existence. This is the best kind.

6. Rejoicing

In this time of the five degenerations, you strove for many listenings and realizations,
And made meaningful the perfect human rebirth
By renouncing the eight worldly concerns.
In the savior’s extensive deeds I rejoice sincerely from the depths of my heart.

We rejoice in the virtues of others. You should try to rejoice at others’ virtues without feeling any envy or jealousy. Je Rinpoche described five kinds of beings in whose virtuous actions we should rejoice: buddhas, bodhisattvas, the followers of the Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana, arhats of the Shravakayana and Pratyekabuddhayana, and ordinary people. Again, say the verse slowly, recite a long mandala and build it up physically.

7. Requesting to turn the wheel of Dharma

Please, holy je-tsun gurus,
From billowed clouds of compassion and wisdom in the sky of dharmakaya,
Make rainfalls of profound and extensive teachings of whatever is suitable
For the ears of sentient beings who are the objects to be subdued.

We request the guru to turn the wheel of Dharma, that is, to give discourses. Here, offer the nine-heap mandala: one central heap, four heaps in the each of the cardinal directions and four in each of the intermediate directions. This symbolizes the one-thousand-spoked wheel—the central heap is the hub, the others form the eight spokes of the Dharmachakra, and this is transformed into a one-thousand-spoked wheel and offered into the hand of Lama Je Tsongkhapa, requesting him to turn the wheel of Dharma.

8. Dedication

I dedicate whatever virtues I have ever collected,
For the benefit of the teachings and all sentient beings,
And in particular, for the essential teachings
Of venerable Losang Dragpa to shine forever.

There are various types of dedication, for example, that of the body, that for dissemination of the doctrine, that for the continued meeting with spiritual teachers in all future lifetimes and that for receiving enlightenment in this very lifetime. In order to be able to dedicate you must first create merit through performing virtuous actions. When you direct your thoughts to such goals without specific merit being dedicated, that is prayer. Here, since you have created merit through performing the first six branches, you dedicate it.

In the same way as you may offer money to a lama, saying, “Please use this for any purpose that you like,” here you offer your merit to Lama Je Tsongkhapa for him to use for any purpose that he wishes. As you do so, think, “May this dedication benefit other sentient beings and may all aspects of the Dharma in general, and that of Lama Je Tsongkhapa in particular, spread as widely as possible.”

So here you again offer a physical mandala. Build the whole thing up physically again, thinking that you are offering your virtues of the past, present and future in the form of a mandala. For example, your merits of listening to teachings are offered as the sun; your merits of contemplation and learning are offered as the moon. Then make the request: “Please accept these merits for the dissemination of the doctrine.”

You don’t have to say the words of the mandala prayer. Just visualize that the physical mandala is made up of your past, present and future virtues. For example, if you have a piece of gold, you can make it into many different things, such as offering bowls or other religious items, and offer them to your lama, asking him to please accept them in order to spread the Dharma. In this way, then, you offer your merits to Lama Je Tsongkhapa, for the dissemination of his Doctrine throughout the ten directions.

This is a very elaborate seven limb puja. Each branch has four lines, whereas usually there is just one. There is no better practice for purification and the accumulation of a great store of merit than the seven limb puja, and there is no substitute for this practice. Great bodhisattvas on all ten levels do this practice and even they know nothing better than the seven limb puja for purification and the accumulation of merit.

HOW TO ACTUALLY DO THIS PRACTICE
[[{"fid":"4007","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_iptc_keywords[und]":""},"type":"media","link_text":null,"field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":false,"field_iptc_keywords[und]":""}},"attributes":{"height":248,"width":180,"style":"height: 358px; width: 260px; margin: 5px 8px; float: left;","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]The Preliminary Practices

Actually, your preparations should contain all six preliminary practices.

1. CLEAN YOUR ROOM ACCORDING TO JOR-CHÖ

How does dul-pang-dri-ma-pang work? Before cleaning the room several things should be borne in mind:

a) First sprinkle water on the floor —the dust of delusion is suppressed by the cultivation of bodhicitta, i.e. the delusions that veil your mind are now suppressed.

b) Hold the broom—the right understanding of emptiness—and sweep the dirt to the corner.

c) When all the dirt has been collected together transform it into ambrosia by blessing it with the mantra OM AH HUNG.

d) When you throw it outside think that the Lord of Death, who is always lurking in wait to take your life, receives this dirt-transformed-into-ambrosia as you throw it into his mouth. Completely satisfied, he disappears under the earth. Doing this daily is the best practice for longevity.

When you clean your house there are three ways to think, or motivate:

i) “I would like to follow in the footsteps of Lamchungpa (Skt: Chudapanthaka) who, though at first unable to learn even two words, was taught by Guru Shakyamuni Buddha to clean the monk’s shoes and later the monastery itself; through that he became able to memorize and then, through realizing that dul-pang meant mental impurity, he became an arhat.” Or,

ii) “Sadaprarudita developed a perfect relationship with his guru Dharmodgata. When Dharmodgata was supposed to give Prajnaparamita teachings and the place was very dusty and Sadaprarudita couldn’t find any water that had not been cursed by demons, because he was very courageous and intrepid, together with the five hundred daughters, he sprinkled his own blood to settle the dust. When the gods saw this great being doing this, they transformed the blood into saffron water and sandal. So think, ‘As that mahasattva was so courageous in obtaining Mahayana teachings, so shall I try to follow his example.’”

iii) “Lord Buddha himself, although the founder of the teachings and the greatest of all teachers, would himself erect great thrones and clean houses for the sake of the Dharma, so shall I act in the same way.”

Since you have to clean your house daily you should do it as above. In that way, just by sweeping your room you can create inconceivable merit. So you should be very careful from the very beginning of the day.

By sweeping the room properly you create great merit and receive many benefits:

a) Your mind becomes very clean and active, as the atmosphere is good.

b) It helps others also to have an active mind, as they see your neat and tidy room.

c) It creates special karma to have a very beautiful form in future lives.

d) Those great nagas and gods who are fond of virtuous things are also happy when they see your neat and tidy room. For example, recall what happened when Ashvagosha was debating with Arya Deva: Ashvagosha had accomplished Mahadeva (Shiva), who promised to come and help when Ashvagosha was almost defeated, but Arya Deva took a stone from his shoe and tied it to the top of Ashvagosha’s umbrella. Thus, because it was dirty, Mahadeva did not come as Ashvagosha expected.

e) Most important: in future, when you are enlightened, it creates special karma to actualize the abode—your own Buddha field.

On the other hand, sweeping (wiping or rubbing) symbolizes the uninterrupted path—that is contemplation, or the meditation part of the path in the process of fighting delusion—and the liberated path, when you are liberated from delusions of that path. It creates the karma to achieve those two—the meditation period and the post-meditation period.

2. ARRANGE YOUR ALTAR ALSO ACCORDING TO JOR-CHÖ

If you have seven bowls, offer them. If you have only one bowl, offer that alone. If you have no offering bowls you can use ordinary cups. Also offer some incense.

a) Arranging your altar. You can put reliquary objects, images of your gurus, buddhas and bodhisattvas and so forth. But do not put gold stupas up high and clay ones down low, for example; you should not discriminate between holy objects in such a material way. When you sleep, do not point your outstretched legs towards any reliquary objects. Arranging your altar also means covering thangkas at night and uncovering them in the morning. If you do not do this, at least you should look at them properly. It is said that beholding an image of the Buddha creates more merit than beholding the Buddha himself.

b) Making offerings. These must be free from dishonesty, of which there are two kinds:

i) Dishonesty of material. The things you offer should be free of the five wrong livelihoods: flattery, hinting, giving in order to receive (bribery, where you give something small to get something big), exerting pressure on others (coercion) and being on one’s best behavior (hypocrisy). Such offerings are not fit to be given.
ii) Dishonesty of motivation, that is, motivation influenced by the eight worldly dharmas. For example, if somebody is coming to visit, you make a magnificent offering so that they’ll praise you.

One morning in Pemba, because his patron was coming to visit, Geshe Ben Kungyäl arranged his altar more beautifully and cleaned his room more thoroughly than ever. He then sat down and watched his mind, detected an impure motivation for his activities, so he threw dirt everywhere. His guru Padampa Sangye became aware of this and declared, “This morning, in all of Tibet, the best offering was made by Ben Kungyäl, who threw dirt into the mouth of the eight worldly dharmas.”

If you are offering food, the food that you offer should not be worse than that which you eat.

And most important, when making ritual cakes (torma) and so forth, you should wash your hands and face, clean your nails and offer them properly. Once you have cleaned your offering bowls you shouldn’t put your fingers in them.

Before you arrange your altar, purify the area around it with incense. Your bowls should be set evenly, in a straight line, the correct distance apart. If you do not have offering bowls, you can use a properly cleaned cup. If you need to drink from it, you can take it back, use it, clean it properly and then put it back on your altar.

So all this is preparation, but you make the offerings with the appropriate verse of the seven limb puja.

3. THEN SIT ON LOTUS SEAT (THE SEVEN POSITIONS OF VAIROCHANA) AND CORRECT YOUR MOTIVATION, ALSO ACCORDING TO JOR-CHÖ

Generate bodhicitta motivation, wishing to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings.

Then sit in the seven-point posture of Vairochana and watch the motivation. If the motivation is not correct, then correct it. If delusions are strong in the mind, to suppress them you can watch the breath. If this is done it makes eight aspects of the posture. If the delusions are not strong, it becomes the seven-point posture of Vairochana.

Then take refuge:

Taking refuge

Transformation of the surface into lapis lazuli was done when cleaning the room.

In the space in front of you is a throne supported by snow lions. On it is seated Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the quintessence of all refuges. The size is according to your wish: a cubit in height or four finger’s height; whatever. Regard him as the quintessence of all refuges. This visualization is according to Kunsu Norpulu.

Who takes refuge?

All enemies; on the right side are your father and all male sentient beings; on the left side are your mother and all female sentient beings; and behind you, servants and others. This includes all sentient beings from all the six realms. They appear in the form of humans, as many as the dust of the earth, and you lead them in the chanting of refuge.

Refuge is most important. There are three causes or reasons for taking refuge:

i. Fear: if we are afraid, we think about protection. That is why fear serves as a cause.
ii. Conviction: Though some people take refuge in worldly gods and demons, as the worldly gods and demons are not free from fears, they do not have the power to help us. If one is not free from all sufferings, one cannot help all others become free.
iii. Compassion.

Also, even if free, one should have the skill of helping other sentient beings. Although pratyekabuddha arhats are free from fears and sufferings, they do not have this skill. But Buddha has all four qualities. He benefits all sentient beings, irrespective of who benefits him and who does not. He also has equal immeasurable compassion, without feeling close to relatives and distant from enemies, for example, he has equal compassion for Devadatta, his rival and Rahula, his son.

What is the real taking refuge?

The real refuge is having the mind that fully relies on Buddha, totally. Whatever happens, we rely on the Triple Gem and follow the teachings. According to Vaibhashika, we say, “I take refuge in Buddha.” The words are about refuge, but in the Mahayana path, the real refuge is the mind that relies fully on Buddha, so saying the words is only part of it. If there is the danger of a thief entering your room, you can only rely on someone you know is really dependable. If you are sure that you can rely on someone fully, you appoint him as the guard and give him the key to your treasure. By knowing that Buddha is the one you can rely upon fully, that mind is taking refuge.

How to practice refuge

There are many parts to a motor car, so how should they all be put together? Really take refuge; Take the responsibility of chanting the words of refuge and along with you, all sentient beings chant the words, Lama.la kyab su chi.wo, Sangye.la...

There are two means for this:

a) Wishing bodhicitta - wishing to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.

b) Resolving bodhicitta - Think, “When I am enlightened I will not give up my bodhicitta. Not only this, but I will try to practice the six perfections and the four methods for cultivating other sentient beings.”

So cultivate bodhicitta with the prayer:

Kön chog sum la kyab su dro
Sem chän tham chä dag gi dröl
Jang chub nä la gö par gyi
Jang chub sem ni yang dag kye

Try to think that Guru Shakyamuni Buddha is very pleased and is in a gay mood. But especially now, he is more pleased, and a second guru comes from the first one and dissolves into you. Thus you are transformed into the real Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, as are all the sentient beings who surround you.

This means taking the result as the path. Bodhicitta with result is taken as the path. This is very important.

So after this, to enhance your bodhicitta, recite the four immeasurables. For example, if one sentient being has a headache, thinking that all sentient beings should be separated from headaches creates immeasurable merit. So, cultivating the feeling that all sentient beings should be separated from all suffering is really inconceivable.

So taking refuge is to differentiate you from the traveler of the wrong path. The cultivation of bodhicitta distinguishes you from the traveler of the lower vehicle, the Hinayana path. As the latter is only concerned with attaining liberation for himself, and your path is concerned for all sentient beings, the distinction is vast.

So when this has finished, dissolve the refuge object in one of two ways:

a) The throne, lions, etc. all dissolve into Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, and he melts into yellow light which enters your forehead in the center. Or,

b) Elevate the visualized Guru Shakyamuni Buddha higher in the space before you, and after you have invoked Lama Je Tsongkhapa, the former comes down and dissolves into Je Tsongkhapa.

Thus the third preliminary practice is sitting in the Vairochana position, taking refuge and generating bodhicitta.

4. VISUALIZE THE MERIT FIELD

This involves the invocation of Je Tsongkhapa from Maitreya’s heart, as before.

5. PURIFICATION AND ACCUMULATION OF MERIT

This is done by the seven limb practice.

(The offerings were consecrated before—here they are offered during the second branch).

6. MAKING REQUEST WITH THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS

This is the recitation of the migtsema prayer.

This ends the explanation of the six preliminary practices, Jor-chö.

Offerings

There are physical offerings on your altar; you should mentally transform these and visualize magnificent offerings filling all space.

If you know how to make mental offerings correctly you will never suffer from a lack of materials to offer, since you can offer, for example, the rays of the sun and moon as light, and so forth. Therefore, visualize that all of space is filled by the offerings you make.

Mandala offerings

The mandala of offering is made at the offering verse of the seven limb practice. When you say, Idam guru ratna…, close your mandala base and start the other four lines.

The mandala of request is made after the seven limb practice has finished, that is, after the dedication verse. Then say the prayer, “Requesting the objects of refuge for the three great purposes” (pacification of all wrong conceptions, generation of all right realizations and pacification of all outer and inner obstacles).

After arranging the altar

Do the prayers for purifying the place (Tham chä di ni sa zhi dag) and offering (Lha dang mi yi chhö päi dzä).

While saying Lha dang mi yi… after arranging the altar, perform the following visualization:

First transform yourself into Samantabhadra, holding a precious gem between your hands, as does Avalokiteshvara. From the gem, immeasurable rays go out carrying offerings of argham, padyam and so forth. Then, from each of these rays a second Samantabhadra is emitted, and from each of these a third, and so on, ad infinitum. (In the back of space, a knot of eternity symbolizes these offerings.) (?) Now all those Samantabhadras that have been emitted have to be dissolved back into the original, without any mistake. This is a very difficult practice for us to do. This method of emitting them is found in Tara rituals.

Then say the offering mantra (OM NAMO BHAGAVATE…) three times and the power of truth prayer (Kon chog sum gyi den pa dang…). Visualize that all the offerings arranged on your altar transform into immeasurable offerings filling all space.

In this pure land, many flowers and trees sprout out freshly, like the mushrooms that spring up after rainfall. These, too, can be offered.

Then do the invocation.

Invocation

Invoke Lama Tsongkhapa and his two disciples into the space in front of you. Actually, there are many ways of visualizing this—here it is brief, but remember that these three are the quintessence of all refuge. The distance between you and the lamas is an arm span. They are at eye-level, seated upon throne, lotus and moon disc, and wearing the three robes of a monk. Je Rinpoche is in the mudra of giving Dharma.

Gyältsab Rinpoche is to the right of Je Rinpoche. His right hand is in the mudra of giving Dharma and he holds a scripture in his left hand. He appears slightly elderly and is tilted towards Je Tsongkhapa.

Khädrub Rinpoche is to the left of Je Rinpoche. His right hand is in the mudra of giving Dharma, and he also holds a scripture in his left. His appearance is more youthful (he died at only 58 years) and he is also tilted towards Je Tsongkhapa.

Je Rinpoche is also of youthful appearance and is rejoicing—in a happy mood and smiling at you.

Request

Now do the first of the seven limbs—requesting the guru to live long, for hundreds of eons, for the dissemination of the doctrine.

Offering

Before the offering verse (verse 4), offer the long mandala, the mandala of offering.

You also make other mandala offerings during the practice:

  • While saying verses 5 & 6 slowly (confession and rejoicing), make another mandala offering.
  • With verse 7 (requesting to teach), offer the nine-heap mandala, transformed as explained.
  • With verse 8 (dedication), make a long mandala offering (physically), visualizing the offerings in the form of a mandala.
  • After the seven limbed prayer has been completed, again offer long mandala of requesting.

Following that, say three times the prayer of the special request for the three great purposes (elimination of all negative minds and distorted views, cultivation of all positive minds and elimination of internal and external interferences):

I prostrate and go for refuge to the guru and the three precious gems:
Please bless my mind.
I am requesting you please to immediately pacify all wrong conceptions, from incorrect devotion to the guru up to the subtle dual view of the white, red and dark visions that exist in my mind and in the minds of all mother sentient beings.
I am requesting you please to immediately generate all the right realizations from guru devotion up to enlightenment in my mind and in the minds of all mother sentient beings.
I am requesting you please to pacify all outer and inner obstacles to actualizing the entire graduated path to enlightenment in my mind and the minds of all sentient beings, my mothers. (3x)

The five-line prayer to Lama Tsongkhapa (migtsema)

Mig me tse wäi ter chen chän rä zig
Dri me khyen päi wang po jam päi yang
Dü pung ma lü jom dzä sang wäi dag
Gang chän khä pä tsug gyän tsong kha pa
Lo sang drag pä zhab la söl was deb

Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of non-objectifying compassion;
Manjushri, master of stainless wisdom;
Vajrapani, destroyer of the entire host of maras;
Tsongkhapa, crown jewel of the sages of the land of snow;
To Losang Dragpa, at your fee I make requests.

When we recite this prayer we make requests by seeing external and internal resemblance and inseparability.

External resemblance

  • The emanation of the compassion of all the buddhas is Avalokiteshvara and you, Je Tsongkhapa, resemble Avalokiteshvara.
  • The emanation of the wisdom of all the buddhas is Manjushri and you, Je Tsongkhapa, resemble Manjushri.
  • The emanation of the power of all the buddhas is Vajrapani and you, Je Tsongkhapa, resemble Vajrapani.

Internal resemblance

Not only do you resemble them physically but internally, you also possess their qualities.

  • Avalokiteshvara has infinite compassion and you not only resemble Avalokiteshvara but you also possess his qualities.
  • Manjushri has omniscient wisdom and you not only resemble Manjushri but you also possess his great qualities.
  • Vajrapani has great power and you not only resemble Vajrapani but you also possess his internal qualities; you have the same mind—insight, realizations—as Vajrapani.

Inseparability

Naturally, you are inseparable from these three secret deities: you not only resemble Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani, and you not only have the same knowledge that they have, but you are Avalokiteshvara; you are Manjushri; you are Vajrapani. So, make these requests knowing that he is inseparable from these three.

“Secret” means that just as a spy keeps secret and will not disclose (his identity) at any cost, although Je Tsongkhapa tried not to disclose, still we know his secret, that he is Buddha, i.e. that he is these three deities. Je Tsongkhapa, or any of your gurus, have come in ordinary form, keeping their true identity secret—though they are Buddha, they hide their real form and appear in ordinary form. Think, “Now I really understand your real form”.

Just as Guru Shakyamuni Buddha appears as an ordinary bhikshu, and hides that he is a real, complete Buddha, though they try to do so also, we understand they are really Buddha. Think, “You may or may not try to keep it a secret, but we understand.”

Then visualize as you do with the Vajrasattva visualization that you are surrounded by innumerable sentient beings and immeasurable rays emanate from the heart, throat and crown of Je Tsongkhapa and his two disciples. The rays touch you and all other sentient beings, and all defilements are purified, especially the defilements of the body.

Vajrasattva-type visualization. This is the same as in the refuge section. Negativities leave through the body’s openings, by overflowing and by being eliminated “on the spot”. For example, for one mala think that bodily defilements are cleansed, then speech, then mind, then all three together. See above with refuge visualization. This also purifies all other sentient beings.

(a) Then Manjushri comes from the crown of Je Tsongkhapa and dissolves into your body, entering through the crown of your head—all defilements of the body are eliminated and you should feel inseparable from Manjushri.

As a special sign, you receive the two wisdoms: relative and absolute. Through these you are able to have the four kinds of (relative) wisdom:

1. Great wisdom (or intelligence). You can understand the meaning of a scripture merely by looking at it; you don’t have to rely on others to explain it to you.

2. Clear wisdom. Not only can you understand the meaning of scriptures without relying on others, but you can also discriminate between the word and the meaning without any confusion.

3. Quick wisdom. This is the wisdom that dispels doubt the instant it arises in the mind.

4. Profound wisdom. If you see a word that seems to have no meaning at all, you can go into it deeply and it becomes very profound—limitless from many points of view.

When you invoke Manjushri and he dissolves into you, you receive these four wisdoms and the wisdom knowing the ultimate as well.

The more detailed way of meditating on this is:

Concentrate on Manjushri at Lama Tsongkhapa’s crown:

1. Innumerable Manjushris emanate and dissolve into you all over your body, like falling rain, bringing the great wisdom.

2. Then the OM AH RA PA TSA NA mantra, the thirty-four consonants and sixteen vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet, all Manjushri mantras and all the scriptures of the Kangyur and Tengyur emanate from Manjushri’s throat and dissolve into your throat, bringing clear wisdom.

3. Then many DHIHs emanate from Manjushri’s heart and dissolve into your heart, bringing quick wisdom.

4. Then bows and arrows, swords and scriptures emanate from Manjushri’s implements and sink into your heart, bringing profound wisdom.

Further visualizations

5. The wisdom of explaining. Scriptures and swords together (symbolic of Je Tsongkhapa) are emitted from his heart and dissolve into you like rain: you become very skilled at giving discourses.

6. Debating wisdom. Swords alone are emitted from his heart and dissolve into you like rain: you become very skilled in debate.

7. Writing wisdom. Scriptures alone are emitted from his heart and dissolve into you like rain: you become very skilled in composing and writing.

It is very good to do these visualizations bringing these seven different types of wisdom.

(b) Then Avalokiteshvara comes from the throat of Je Tsongkhapa and dissolves into you„oall defilements of speech are eliminated and you should feel inseparable from Avalokiteshvara. You and all other sentient beings are able to generate boundless compassion, equalizing self with others and bodhicitta in immaculate form.

(c) Then, visualizing ambrosia and rays coming from Je Tsongkhapa’s crown, throat and heart, Vajrapani comes from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa and dissolves into your heart and the hearts of all sentient beings„oall your defilements of mind are eliminated and you should feel inseparable from Vajrapani. You and all other sentient beings become influential and powerful enough to do extensive work for all sentient beings.

Extra practices

Gathering possessions

If you know how to apply the teachings really skillfully, you can interchange the purposes. For example, if you are practicing in order to collect possessions, visualize that rays in the form of hooks emanate from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa and go in all directions, pulling back to you whatever it is that you desire. For more influence, use red color.

The four actions

1. If your practice is mainly for pacifying (shi) diseases or demonic impulses, white rays are emitted from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa. They pacify and eliminate the diseases.

2. If your practice is mainly for increasing (gyä) your longevity or virtue, yellow rays are emitted which dissolve into you, increasing your life span or virtue.

3. If your practice is mainly for special empowerment (wang), red rays in the form of hooks are emitted from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa, go in all directions and dissolve into you, cleansing your defilements. Then red rays are emitted again and, as a magnet attracts metallic substances, whoever you’d like to influence is brought just there, right before you. If you wish to influence the king, for example, the rays bring him into your presence, bowing before you in reverence.

4. If your practice is for eliminating interferences (tra)—internal or external—blue rays are emitted from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa and eliminate the interferences.

(When you offer ritual cakes, the deities take the essence of the cake in different colors depending on the context.)

Accomplishing projects

If you wish to accomplish any work in the universe, visualize that green rays are emitted from the heart of Je Tsongkhapa and that whatever project you want is efficiently accomplished. Green is of the nature of the wind element. Like when a green flag is waved, the train moves. Wind has the power to bring growth of vegetation and so forth. Therefore, green is adopted for the accomplishment of purpose without effort.

If somebody asks you for help, for example, if they are suffering in some way, you can do various practices for them. If somebody is suffering from fever, send cooling white rays; if the person is cold, send warm rays. In other words, depending on the condition, you send “antidote” rays.

Two ways of doing this practice

The migtsema prayer was originally written by Je Tsongkhapa in praise of his own teacher, Jetsun Rendawa, with Rendawa’s name in it—“tsug-gyän Rendawa.” But Rendawa sent it back, replacing his name with Lama Tsongkhapa’s—“tsug-gyän Tsongkhapa”—saying that he was not worthy and that it was Lama Tsongkhapa who really deserved it.

Therefore, since it was first given as praise to Jetsun Rendawa by Je Tsongkhapa and then returned, this prayer in the form of making requests is very powerful. It is the King of Prayers or the King of Requests. It is the pith summary of all teachings and there are many commentaries on it.

If you are doing this practice for your own sake, do it as above; if you are doing it for the sake of others, such as a parent or sibling, change yourself into the other person and then do it.

The most profound thing is the dissolution

Gyältsab-je and Khädrub-je dissolve into Lama Je Tsongkhapa. The throne, lions and lotus then dissolve into the sun and moon, but these two do not dissolve into Je Rinpoche. Your mind is in the lotus, in a bean formed by sperm and blood„oyour most subtle consciousness is within this.

Je Tsongkhapa gets smaller and smaller in size until he is about the size of your little fingertip. He comes to the crown of your head. Your heart becomes an eight-petaled lotus, in which your mind is located. Je Rinpoche and the sun and moon disks come to the center of your heart. The sun disk dissolves into the blood and the moon disk dissolves into the sperm and Je Rinpoche dissolves into your most subtle consciousness. Instantly, a second Je Rinpoche with sun and moon disks appears„oas the first dissolves, the second appears, in the way water bubbles appear immediately„oas soon as one dissolves, another appears; as rain falls into the sea, another drop immediately splashes up. It’s the same as that.

This is very important: we do have the potential to become Buddha, to become Lama Je Tsongkhapa. When Lama Tsongkhapa dissolves, in the next instant a new one appears, inseparable from our mind. When our mind is purified we become Lama Je Tsongkhapa.

[Note: Although the sun is not specifically mentioned in this text, the moon is on top of it, as in Lama Chöpa: lotus, sun and moon. Usually, deities in peaceful aspect sit on a moon disk and deities in wrathful aspect on a sun disk. The symbolic significance is as usual: fully renounced mind (lotus), right view of emptiness (sun) and bodhicitta (moon).]

Your mind and your guru are inseparable: this is very important here„o the moment Je Rinpoche dissolves into your most subtle consciousness, the other appears and both are of the same nature. The eight petals of the heart-lotus close up: the interior is very smooth, like a precious substance and full of illumination; the nature of illumination. The closed petals are tied by a white rosary of the sixteen Sanskrit vowels in a clockwise direction, and below that tied by a red rosary of the thirty-four Sanskrit consonants in an anticlockwise direction.

These two rosaries have thus divided the closed lotus into three parts, each of which is surrounded by the mantra—OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHIH—in white, red and blue, respectively.

At the top of this lotus heart is a white, five-pronged vajra with a blue HUM at its center. From the tip of the vajra a small shaft of white light emanates upwards and passes out the crown of your head. This connects directly to the heart of Maitreya Buddha. This visualization creates special karma to be reborn in Tushita right after death. This is the best method of achieving this result. You should always think that this rainbow-like shaft of white light is connected in this way, even when you’re asleep.

Notes from Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

In a southerly direction from one’s place is Mt. Meru, with its four levels. At the top are the gods of the thirty-three. Then there are the seventeen stages of the world of form. Gradually going higher in space there is a realm called Thabträl, which is devoid of war; the asuras cannot go there. Then above that is the realm called Ganden, which is like a city. Again, above that, like a place of solitude, a monastery in space, is the pure realm from which the thousand buddhas of the fortunate eon descend.

So this Ganden that is like a city is again the samsaric gods’ realm and is not the Ganden in which we try to be born. We try to be born in the monastery-like Ganden from which the thousand buddhas descend. It is bodhisattvas who are born in the pure Ganden. They are not necessarily out of samsara but are free of true suffering.

This is a pure place shown by all the bodhisattvas who received bodhicitta in that life. It is of the nature of jewels, as even as the palm of your hand and very blissful; free of stones, thorns and so forth…all ugly things. The ground is very resilient. The base is golden and decorated by lapis lazuli eyes. Serkong Tsenshab Rinpoche described this as akin to buildings made of wood and cement: between these basic materials are decorative pieces of various other materials, carved wood and so forth.

There are many beautiful shrubs, flowers, fruits; it is very attractive, with many ponds, large lakes and big trees. There are various beautiful attractive birds above and around the lakes and ponds, which contain only jewel sands. Those beautiful birds continuously proclaim the Dharma in very attractive, sweet tunes and sound. The whole place is full of beautifully scented smells. It is such that simply bringing it to mind makes great happiness arise.

In the center of this pure realm that has complete perfections and enjoyments is a very high Dharma palace and a room called the chamber of the very high banner. (Sim-khang means bedroom, an honorific word for important people’s room; it does not mean a place to sleep).

Inside that there is the kun-ga ra-wa (the fence that pleases all), which literally means bookshelf. In the monasteries there are the very big bookshelves. Here, it means a place for giving teachings. So, in front of that the palace, the chamber of the high banner, is the place where Maitreya gives teachings, the kun-ga ra-wa yi-ge chö-dzin.

In the center of that there is a jewel throne supported by eight snow-lions. On that is the invincible savior, Maitreya. [Rinpoche also mentioned another adjective for Maitreya, “successor”—one who cannot be controlled by delusions, its antonym being “loser”—one who is controlled by delusions. Presumably he means somebody who has succeeded in defeating the delusions.]

All this should be visualized as attractive and beautiful as possible, arousing in you the desire to be there instead of here. Visualizing this makes you see your own house, possessions and so forth as ugly and undesirable, so you want to renounce them. One of the causes of rebirth in the pure realm of Maitreya is the constant thought, day and night, even when you are working, that there is a tube of light connecting the crown of your head to Maitreya’s heart; constantly visualize that you are connected in that way—the tube of light, which actually goes on down to your heart, is connected to your own mind at one end and Maitreya’s at the other. Thus, whenever death occurs, you can transfer your consciousness.

When you practice, send your mind up and down the tube. Don’t visualize a hole at the lower end: the mind is inside here, in the form of light as a bean or sesame seed. This is the main essential practice of transferring your mind to the pure realm. By remembering this all the time, if death suddenly comes, you will remember to spring your mind up the tube. Of course, it goes without saying that your great desire to be born there is only for the benefit of all sentient beings.