Systematic and Practical
A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi
C. M. CHEN
Written Down by
REVEREND B. KANTIPALO
First Published in 1967
THE FOUR FOUNDATIONS OF VAJRAYANA MEDITATION
discussed meditation from the standpoints of philosophy, tradition, and
practice, but here the practical aspect is the most important. Both the old and
the new schools in
agree on these invaluable preparations for Tantric practice. The subject is
divided into five sections: the four foundations considered individually, and
the interrelationships between them.
A. Taking Refuge
In the whole
system of Buddhist meditation, to take refuge is the beginning of practice,
following the two wisdoms of hearing (or reading) and thinking. The fault of
most Eastern Buddhists is that they take the refuges first, before developing
these two wisdoms.
did not receive a disciple unless that person first knew something of his
teachings. In fact, he personally instructed those who came to him before
admitting them as disciples and always asked them to study and thoroughly
understand what he taught. He did not favor blind faith; in the Dhammapada we
find many instructions concerning this. The Buddha mentioned two sorts of
people who take Dharma-instructions: one who was inspired by the Exalted One
and immediately believed in him, and one who did not take the refuges first,
but rather gained knowledge of the teachings, as many Westerners do. The
Enlightened One declared that he preferred the latter type. This is one
extremely important characteristic of the Buddhist religion, distinguishing it
from others. In Buddhism, one is encouraged to question, to gain knowledge, and
to develop intelligence, a striking contrast with some other religions.
learn many Buddhist teachings from reading translations of the sacred texts.
This is good. I was very much ashamed to hear Mme. Alexandra David-Neel preach
for the Sutren Buddhist Association. On the surface, she praised the Chinese,
but I think that really her talk contained the sharpest criticism. She said,
"It is very fortunate that all Chinese believe Buddhism. Even all the
little children and the village people who know nothing all praise the Buddha.
In the West it is different. There, few people are Buddhists but many of them
are scholars and philosophers who have studied his teachings."
faith that most Chinese have in the Buddha is to regard him as some spirit or
god. They worship the Buddha just as they worship Guan Gong or any other deva.
Most of them have no idea of the difference between respecting a god and taking
refuge in the Buddha. In the West it is excellent that before becoming Buddhist
people acquire knowledge.
three kinds of wisdom, taking refuge belongs to the wisdom of practice, the
Preparations for Taking Refuge
One should first study Hinayana doctrine and realize the very terrible and
dangerous conditions existing in the world, which are liable to affect one
unless the triple refuge is taken. After one has read translations (or texts)
of the Theravada scriptures (as, for instance, those issued by the Pali Text
Society), one will know the conditions of human life. Whether one is rich or
poor, weak or strong, one realizes that this Saha world is full of dangers. By
our studying the Four Noble Truths and seeing their application in our life,
many bitter, painful things come into one's span of knowledge which had not
been discovered before. Also, one will formulate a philosophy of the universe
and of life according to investigation of the first two Noble Truths. For this
one needs to take refuge in the Three Gems.
in the East take the refuges but do not first know the dangers of this world.
Indeed, it is my experience that they are usually seeking comforts rather than
seeing dangers when they visit a temple. In the temple, especially if it is a
rich one, they may have the best worldly comforts while enjoying the
quasi-spiritual pleasure of seeing marks of attainment in others. In Chinese
temples there are different waiting rooms for visitors graded according to
social rank—some are outside the main building and rather
sparsely furnished, while others are secluded in the complex of courts and
buildings and are most elegant. The tea with which the guests are provided also
varies with their status.
Mr. Chen rose and did a
bit of acting. Pretending to be a host monk, he called out rather harshly and
abruptly, "Bring tea." "This," he explained, "is the
order for poor persons and the attendant thereby knows that the lowest grade of
tea is meant. For those of middle standing—" and
Mr. Chen smiled politely,—"the order is,
'Tea, please,' and such people then receive a medium good tea." Beaming,
he called out in refined tones, "'Please give the best tea.' That is for
guests of the highest social position." Bhante noted, "They must know
that they are getting the best." Said the yogi, "It
is my good luck that I can always give you the best tea. I have just
told you this as you should know what these people think about when they go to
a monastery, even if it is to take the refuges."
kinds of comforts are spoken of in
: "pure comfort" and
"red comfort." The pure sort is experienced from visiting some
mountain peak and there throwing away all cares, to discourse philosophically
with monks and nuns, and admire the beauty, solitude, and quietness of the
surroundings. "Red" comfort is gained from worldly pleasures, such as
those of food or contact with the opposite sex. Whether people are bent on the
first or the second, they never think of the shortness of life, or when they
may die, or of disease, old age, and so forth. Although they do not think about
these things, they are just like deer with many wounds from hunters' arrows.
who come to a monastery with the idea of becoming monks may be treated very
well, with plenty of food, good beds, and fine views from the windows. Chinese
monasteries are commonly built on or near famous mountains and have much land
with many farmers working to support them.
Under the present regime
read "had" instead of "have."
There was no
need for visitors to bring food from one's family, as was the usual practice
among Tibetans. All this, we see, is very comfortable and really shows a lack
of the Hinayana spirit of renunciation. Of course, not all monks and
monasteries are like this, but still this condition was certainly very common.
think of taking refuge as similar to the small chicks crowding under the wings
of their mother when things around them threaten to harm them. Or else one may
think of the Tibetan refugees when they escaped from their Communist-dominated
finding many consolations there, but at the same time remembering the great
dangers they had avoided. Thus should one think about this world and the refuges.
If one does
not think like this, the refuges are without meaning. Even some bhiksus have
not attained a proper idea about refuge-taking. Instead of taking refuge in the
Dharma, which is the true teacher, they seem to become monks only to get a
wealthy patron, good food, a good reputation, and so forth. If their guru
orders them to go and stay for a long while in a mountain hermitage, they do
not like to obey him, but if a patron invites them to his house, immediately
they go. Laymen also sometimes think that these refuges are a sure protection
from worldly sorrows, and so take them to promote good business, to get more
money, a son, or to make a good marriage. This is not sincerely taking refuge
in the Triple Gem at all.
Above is what
we may call the negative side of the refuges: one must see all the dangers of
samsara before one can really desire to escape from it. Moreover, this ideal
must be held very firmly in the mind.
From the sunyata sublimation in the Mahayana, one discovers a positive
transformation of human life into the good conditions of Buddha-nature. If one
has not yet realized this sublimation, but has finished the Hinayana
preparations, the meditator should ask himself:
"Now that I am rid of painful affliction, what should I do?" At this
stage, one should take the advice of some well-experienced teacher.
My guru, Tai Xu,
wrote a book entitled: A Buddhist Must Declare Himself. The substance of this
work lies in this declaration: "Now I have become a Buddhist, and I am
quite different. For example, before I took the refuges, I smoked and drank
alcohol—but not now. I declare that my life has now changed and I shall
endeavor not to act like a common uninstructed person."
the aim of Mahayana is not to seek release from pain, but rather to develop a
good character as a bodhisattva and to save others with one's accomplishment,
even with pain to oneself.
, it was
customary to approach a guru and say to him, "I am just like an uncut
stone and I request you to engrave and polish me."
As a simile
for taking refuge, we may think of the magician who points at a stone, turning
it into gold. Such a transformation can occur in the character of one who takes
the three refuges.
Traditionally, one does not learn any of the secret teachings unless one has
first taken refuge in the exoteric sense. But in the West, some Tantric texts
have been published quite openly and anyone who cares to may read them. From
such reading, one may find good points to judge the Buddhist teachings and some
good methods in the position of consequence (see, for instance, the Oxford
simile we have already used, we may say, "The golden stone has now become
a golden Buddha-image through the refuges of the Vajrayana."
If a person
has the high goal of becoming a Buddha, then first he or she should get an
early and perfect renunciation of all possessions and take refuge in the Four
Gems (in esoteric Buddhism, refuge in the guru precedes the other three). One
who thus takes refuge does not behave like a common person who offers a khata
(ceremonial white scarf) to a rinpoche, repeats three times what he says, and
then hurries away. Many foreign students spend money to come to me and, with
the return ticket booked, ask me for the refuges. First of all, I am not a
guru, and secondly, people with such an attitude are not ready to take the
I hope that
our readers will have read much on our subject and made all the necessary
meditation preparations very thoroughly. With their minds well-set on these
ideas, they may then truly take the refuge. Taking refuge, after all, is not a
social matter, as though one were joining some school with an ambition to make
a name for oneself in some subject. Even in school it is necessary for a pupil
to follow the syllabus for the prescribed number of years and to accept the
disciplines and instructions of the teachers. In a spiritual matter, then, it
is not possible simply to come and go as one pleases. If one truly desires the
refuges, it is not correct to think of departing again immediately after they
have been given.
Mr. Chen gave another
If I go to a
craftsman and wish to become his apprentice, he will not immediately teach me
his art, but may hand me a broom or assign me some other menial work. When he
sees that I do any work well and have no pride, being completely obedient to
him, then he will impart his techniques to me slowly, over several years.
Buddhism is not merely for worldly ends, but for the highest purpose: Full
Enlightenment. How, then, can one think of going to see a teacher for a few
hours and then going back? This attitude saddens me—as does the fact that so
few gurus are really good. Where neither guru nor disciple are really good and
their meeting even involves monetary transactions, whatever Buddhism there may
be at such a time is quickly gone.
2. Stages of
i. Find a
good guru and make offerings to him.
ii. Stay with
him and devotedly serve him every day.
under the guidance of the guru.
iv. If you
get your guru's permission or if he sends you on some mission, then you may leave
him, but not otherwise.
of the outward refuges are the Guru, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Offer all thoughts to the Four Gems and keep no selfish volitions. One's
thoughts should be occupied by the instructions of the guru.
taking refuge in the oral instructions of sila, samadhi, and prajna—all
according to the guru's method of practice.
By the guru's grace one is always in the refuge of sunyata and ananda (bliss).
taking refuge in the yidam, channels, energy, and wisdom-essence, all under the
guidance of a heruka-guru (a teacher with his dakini, or yogic consort).
Secretly. In Mahamudra, the Great Perfection, and Chan, the objective of taking
refuge is to:
Use Chan, and
there are four kinds of refuges, the refuge formula is the same for all:
gacchami (in the Vajrayana only);
gacchami (the three taught in all the exoteric schools).
is repeated three times, adding before the second repetition: "Dvitiyampi"
on all four; and before the third time: "Triyampi." It is sometimes
explained that taking the refuges three times represents taking them with the
mind, speech, and body, and therefore that one has taken them with all of one's
As we have
already given an explanation of the benefits of the practice in answer to one
of Venerable Khantipalo's questions, there is no need to repeat the matter here
(see Appendix I, Part One, A, 5). We may consider prostration under the same
headings as we have used above.
Even the exoteric tradition of Mahayana differs from the Southern Hinayana
tradition and we do not consider here the latter's kneeling prostration. In
Chinese Mahayana one must do this:
Mr. Chen rose and,
adopting a slow, swinging majestic gait, approached us, saying, "When
Dharma preachings are organized in some big temple, famous monks, before they
preach, must, of course, worship. Slowly they come to their preaching seat…"
(And Mr. Chen exemplified the essence of a Chinese dignified manner). Then he
placed his hands at his chest and stood as though meditating. After a minute or
two his hands parted, the left one remaining at his chest while the right one
was slowly lowered. At the same time the knees were bent, lowering the body.
The right hand was then placed on the ground in front of the body to take its
weight, the knees not yet on the ground. Then, simultaneously, the left hand
was placed on the left side, the right hand moved to the corresponding
position, and the knees were lowered. Next, the forehead was brought to the
ground between the hands, and lastly the hands were inverted with palms
All this was done
silently, gracefully, slowly, and respectfully. Mr. Chen explained:
famous the monk, the more slowly he was expected to perform his prostration,
and when kneeling in the final position he might remain there for several
minutes praying. The hands are placed palms upwards as though the Buddha's feet
were standing on them. If one is concentrated and sincere in this prostration,
one may even feel the warmth of the Buddha's feet on one's hands. There was a
very devoted member of the
who died not so long ago in
His meditation was so strong that one could see in the hollow on the ground
made by the imprint of his head, the image of Amitabha, whom he fervently
worshipped while in the attitude of prostration. I have seen these marks in his
place of worship though they have faded over the years.
thing with this type of prostration is the reverence and slowness with which it
is performed, as this gives time for the arousing of faith and discursive
As a contrast with the former type, this should be done quickly. This type of
prostration, the long or great one, is also described in the answer to a
question (see Appendix I, Part One, A, 5). Here one is asking the object of
reverence to save one quickly; hence, energy for this should be used by
"Suppose a man were condemned to death by a kind king and he came to ask
him for a reprieve. Quickly, urgently, he would bow down at the king's
feet." "You are quite right," said the yogi.
Keep the inner energy concentrated in the secret wheel by falling down rather
than by using the method referred to in the "Inwardly" section.
Mr. Chen demonstrated
this full-length falling.
one has practiced the second and third initiations has this significance. When
the deep breathing in the bottle shape has been practiced, then one may make
prostrations in this way. Before these other things have been accomplished, it
may be positively harmful.
Secretly. Whether one uses the small or large prostration, whatever method is
used, the yogi must continuously hold the realization that the worshipped and
the worshipper are both in sunyata.
C. Offering the Mandala
Purpose of Offering
it is to get rid of miserliness.
it is to accumulate the "spiritual stock" of supermundane merits and
wisdom. Many practice merely to get more worldly comforts, such as money, etc.,
but this is not the true meaning of offering the mandala. One should only offer
it to increase one's "spiritual stock." Some make the mistake that
"spiritual stock" refers only to merits, but this is not the case, as
we can easily see when we know the significance of the different articles
offered in the mandala.
Rice, pearls, gems, and other precious things.
Flowers and ornaments for the heavenly women and female Buddhas (dakinis).
These are common to the mandala of every school.
Nyingmapa: Offerings for or symbolizing the Dharmakaya are for wisdom, whereas
those for the various rupakayas (such as Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya) are
primarily for merits. (Of course, even the two rupakayas have wisdom, since
they are Buddha-manifestations.)
The mandala is not only to increase merit but to lengthen life as well. How
does it do this? Some die through exhaustion of their merits, and the mandala,
which increases them, is both useful and practical.
d. It is
offered for the salvation of others and not at all for oneself. Though many
people practice only selfishly—this is
against the ideals of the Hinayana and Mahayana.
I have a poem called "Offering the Mandala":
do not want broad acres,
official rank and right
mandala I offer twice
By day, and twice by night.
one wish that every being
oh! do not let me gain
The Full Enlightenment.
In this way I
stress that mandala-offering is for others, not for ourselves;
and it is certain that in this Kali Age it is difficult to find good Dharma
instruments. The object of the offering is the trikaya, for things are offered
to each Buddha-body, and the subject also keeps a will to become the trikaya.
Thus this offering is important both for the Dharma instruments and for
Enlightenment, though many hold mistaken ideas on this matter.
preached on one occasion: "There may come a time when, in a great famine,
only one grain of rice will be sold for one jewel—so expensive will food be.
Yet if a man or woman has taken refuge, then he or she will not be out of
food." Then what need is there to offer the mandala for selfish ends?
Now we come
Mr. Chen fetched a rug
and spread this on the floor. He then brought his silver mandala on a shallow
tray and two small baskets. He then sat down on the rug and gave a running
commentary. He said, "I have my own experience with the mandala and so I
shall show you my way of offering it. First take out the contents of the mandala."
Removing the topmost
jewel, he began to take out the various objects covered by the rice of the top
receptacle, saying, "The objects that one offers are not fixed, and
anything may be given which is not an impurity or a poison."
Taking out a tiny black
bottle, he said, "This is called 'Fairy Medicine,' but I like to offer it
as its shape is the same as the nectar flask of the Long-Life Buddha (Amitayus)."
Mr. Chen then scooped
the rice into one basket and the various objects he placed in a second
container. Next, a head-necklace was taken off the outside of one ring.
"This," the yogi explained, "is offered to the dakini and when I
change these objects—every month or so—it is given to make some small girl
happy. Then there is this small globe of the world which I also include, as the
stanza says that the whole world is offered."
It is best to
change all the rice with each offering, leaving only a few grains to show the
continuity of the guru's grace. Afterwards, this rice should not be taken by
the yogi making the offerings, but may be given to beggars or to animals. Even
if one cannot change all the rice, it is necessary to use at least two-thirds
of new grain.
three kinds of mandala, and the one we are arranging now is called "the Great
3. The Great
a. The Base.
The base of the mandala symbolizes the thirty-seven bodhipaksika dharmas.
Then, with a little rice
in the palms of both hands, Mr. Chen picked up this base with his left hand and
slid the inside of the right one around it, first clockwise three times and
then three times counter-clockwise. "Thereby," he said, "the
misdeeds of exterior actions and interior thoughts are counteracted. At the
same time, one repeats once the mantra of 100 syllables of Vajrasattva. Then put
the rice from the right hand on top of the base and say:
VAJRA BHUMI AH
this way an unshakeable foundation is made, and the earth becomes gold."
the first circle of the mandala on the base while uttering:
VAJRA RAKHA AH
This is the Iron
Wall of Sila Observance.
If one has
any objects associated with heavenly beings then they may be put into this
circle to be offered to the Buddha. Fill the mandala with rice, using the right
hand, and put into this circle whatever precious worldly things one has, such
as coins from different countries, sandalwood, gold, silver, medicine, or
ornaments for the dakinis of heaven and mankind. If one has any very small
toys, these may also be offered for Manjusri, the "boy" bodhisattva,
to increase the Dharma Joy.
If the mandala
is offered for the three bodies of the Buddha, then this lowest circle is for
Precious things included in the second circle are specially offered to various dakinis.
Flowers and ornaments may also be used here and these are a special offering
when this circle is given to the Sambhogakaya.
third and smallest circle concerns wisdom, and therefore the Dharmakaya, so one
should put within it any objects which are light or wisdom-symbols such as
crystal or things in the form of a heart, but there are no certain rules about
this. Cover them completely with rice and level the top.
. There are
altogether thirty-seven offerings named in the incantation. Finally, at the
summit, one places something in the form of a jewel to represent the top of
Now the mandala is complete. One should raise it reverently with both hands, at
least as high as the forehead, and make the offering. At the same time one
visualizes with a concentrated mind:
these offerings be multiplied to fill this hermitage, this town, the whole
visible world, the realm of sense-desires, the realm of the form gods and that
of the formless gods, until it pervades all the Dharmadhatu! May these offerings increase in geometric proportion! May the Nirmanakaya
Buddhas, the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, and the Dharmakaya accept what is here
offered to them!"
The great mandala
takes several minutes to offer once, so after the initial offering, the smaller
one may be performed.
4. The Middle
On the base
of the mandala make seven little heaps of rice, representing Sumeru, the four
continents, the sun, and the moon. Add a little new rice at each offering.
5. The Small
is made with the hands (as a mudra) but is too complicated to describe. In each
palm place a little rice, representing the two stores of merit and of wisdom.
The sun and the moon are represented by circles of the thumbs and little
fingers, and the rest are like the four continents. The two ring fingers
pointing upwards stand for the cosmic mountain, Sumeru. After offering the rice
in this way, scatter some from the right hand, uttering the following gatha:
the foundation, has been purified
incense, Sumeru, the continents four,
sun and the moon, I offer up to thee,
Together with the
all sentient beings, that suffer pain,
Supreme Enlightenment attain!
be repeated during every kind of mandala which is offered, and not only with
6. The Objects
may be considered under the usual four headings:
Food, palace, house, tonics, medicines, and all the precious things one has—these
are offered for worldly benefits.
Brandy, whisky, and other fine spirits, the five nectars, and the five meats—such
offerings are made only in the Vajrayana and may be divided again into two:
Outwardly: offerings for the lower three yogas—no meat should be given.
Inwardly: offerings for the highest yoga—meats and spirits are both used.
The offering is accompanied by all the dakinis of the five Buddha-families, the
three holy places of the dakini, and the twenty-four mandalas dedicated to
them, and those of the
itself, to make both female and male Buddhas happy. Even worldly women who
nevertheless have some dakini nature—in fact all beautiful women of character
and wisdom—should all be visualized as dancing, singing, and in the sixteen
kinds of action mentioned in the Vajrayana.
Secretly. This offering is of all the good things gained through the samadhis—such
as wisdom-light, equanimity, joy, or Chan.
D. The One-Hundred-Syllable Incantation of
1. The Four
Kinds of Misdeeds to Confess
Breaking of the Hinayana silas, either the five of the layman or the 250 of the
bhiksus (according to the Sarvastivada tradition), most of which are prohibitive
in character since they forbid certain acts.
Actions committed against the bodhisattva samvara silas, and as these are so
positively formulated, one's faults lie in failing to do good,
and thus not saving others.
This is found only in Vajrayana, and concerns the precepts applying to the
Secretly. Offences against the Four Conditions of the
2. The Four
Kinds of Power in Confession
This is kept by the "Power of Fear" and is similar to the power of
common persons who think, "If I do a certain thing again, then this or
that punishment will result." One should maintain such a fear. It is still
useful, as it will eventually enable the meditator to destroy the evil he
spirit once wanted to subdue Padmasambhava and so appeared as a layman in front
of the great yogi. He asked the sage, "What do you fear?" Padmasambhava
replied, "I fear sins (in Tibetan: sdig-pa)." That spirit then
reappeared in the form of a sdig-pa (a scorpion with
nine heads and one tail). Seeing this, Padmasambhava stretched out his left
hand and lifted up the monster, which may still be seen in images of the great
Why did Padmasambhava
fear misdeeds? A sage does not fear the consequences of an act but the wrong
act itself. One should emulate the sages in this respect and then misdeeds
cannot be committed.
said: "The four parajikas are like a needle without any eye (i.e.,
imperfect), like a dead man who cannot come to life again, like a broken stone
which can never be made whole, or like a cut palm tree which can never come to
not think that there is an easy way to confess, so that one may later commit
the same deed again.
said Mr. Chen, "that a village beauty got a disease of the skin which
badly infected her face. Even if she were able to cure the disease, many spots
would still remain to spoil her beauty."
therefore, is much better than cure in this matter of misdeeds.
Always keep whatever silas one has undertaken, repeat them frequently, and bear
them always in mind. Thus one will be protected by them. This is called the "Power
"mouth Chan" monk said, "Oh, it is so much trouble to repeat all
these precepts (pratimoksa). Why should we do this?" At this, it is
reported that Wei Tuo (a protector god) threw him out of the temple.
felt very lazy and sleepy, and thought in a depressing way, "Today no
meditation, only repeating (the pratimoksa)." When the meeting was held,
he alone left to sleep. He was struck hard by Wei Tuo, too.
repeat the sutra of precepts once a month, even though I am not a bhiksu, and
with a good mind wish that all the merits may be dedicated to all the viharas
of Buddhist monks for their benefits.
Actually, the nectar from Vajrasattva, which is the power of vajra-love action,
is called a "Power of Dependence."
Secretly. Abiding in the sunyata-realization is called the "Power of Destruction."
The above four
powers are similar in name to those given in Tibetan books, but here I have
matched them with the four categories.
3. The Ritual
Always use the ritual of Avalokitesvara (the Chinese form is Guan Yin).
was a certain queen of Liang Dynasty who was on her deathbed. A male servant
who was fanning her felt tired and dropped the fan, letting it fall on her
face. She became very angry and died in this state, cursing her servant's
carelessness. Because of this, her next birth was as a snake. However, during
her life as the queen, she and her husband the King had done much good for
Buddhism, so although she was in the form of a snake, the former queen
remembered her royal life. By the power she possessed, she was able to appear
before the king in a dream, telling him what had happened and asking him to
gain the services of some good monk to release her from the evil birth into
which she had fallen. The National Teacher of that time then made this ritual
of confession, and employed it, securing the queen's rebirth in heaven. This
particular ritual has been very influential since that time. It is in any case
good to confess to Guan Yin, as she is so merciful.
This is the Ritual of Water composed by a master of the
It is quite different from the first ritual. Here the names of all the misdeeds
are gathered together and the whole composition must be repeated before the
Buddhas. It is not often used because of its great length.
one may use the rites of the thirty-five Buddhas themselves as was the practice
of the Venerable Tsong Khapa. He only repeated their names and did not
concentrate on their special qualities. In meditation he saw them all, but
headless, and was much distressed by this. However, he soon found the cure to
this lamentable occurrence, by adding the epithet "All-knowing." He
then perceived them as complete.
Visualize Vajrasattva in the act of embracing his consort, whether one is
personally practicing the third initiation or not. One obtains through this
meditation the nectar which comes from the contact of vajra and lotus, and this washes away all the sins of mind and body.
Secretly. This is according to the meditation of Mahamudra. A friend of mine
came to me and I advised him: "You have so many sins; you should confess
them." Then he said, "I meditate on Mahamudra, so it is easy for me
to make confession." I said, "Of course, if you are able to meditate
on Mahamudra very properly then you will be able to do this." However, I
thought, "He has not attained the realization of Mahamudra, and without
it, how can he confess in this way?" This is the mistake of taking the
position of cause to be the position of consequence.
two belong to the Vajrayana; the third one is very important among the four
4. How to
Determine Whether the Sin Is Fully Confessed
A meditator may have some dream in which he sees himself washing in
crystal-clear water. Another dream indicating purity would be vomiting of black
matter and dark blood. Such dreams indicate that misdeeds are expiated.
According to my "Treasure of Meditative Light," I discovered a
curious fact, though it has been so far unproven by my guru. Notice the hairs
on the big toe while one is bathing (in a shower). If they remain erect while
water is poured over the body, then one's misdeed is expiated. If, on the other
hand, they are flattened against the skin, this shows that further confession
histories of monks in
it is related that there was a monk who, before becoming a bhiksu, had
committed many unskillful deeds. He made the ritual of confession many times
but because of the weight of his past misdeeds, could not believe that he was
free from them. In a dream he came to Maitreya's Heaven and that bodhisattva
told him: "You have already confessed your sins." As the monk was
still doubtful, Maitreya told him to use the divination sticks to prove his
added Mr. Chen smiling, "this way is not very sure, if the sinner does not
perform it carefully."
This is done by experiencing a dream of meditative state in which a sin of
confession appears in the shape of a dakini. She will be seen as young and
beautiful if expiation is complete but as a repulsive old leper-woman if the
sins have to be further confessed.
Secretly. The holy light of one's meditations will be clear blue or white if
the evil deeds are confessed, but dull in color if not.
One must be
instructed in the visualization of Vajrasattva by a teacher. He will tell one
that the deity should be visualized on the head of the meditator. After
reciting one's faults earnestly and with tears, one asks the deity, "I
have confessed my evil deeds. May I be successful in my meditations and from
you gain purity." Then one's own faults and the misdeeds of others are
visualized as gathered in the body, and all the body seems black and slimy with
this mass of sins. From his heart, with the Hundred-Syllable Mantra, some
nectar is seen, which passes out of his vajra to shower down the median channel
of the meditator. All the blackness and dirt ooze from the body and pass away
from it, seemingly in the form of urine, perspiration, and wind, leaving it
clear and fresh.
The mantra of
Vajrasattva should, like every other incantation, be imparted by a guru, though
we give its meaning here for meditative purposes:
VAJRASATTVA SAMAYA—Calling his name and samaya.
2. MANUPALAYA—Please let me not forget my pure nature.
VAJRASATTVA TVENOPATISTA—Please bestow upon me Buddhahood.
4. DRITHO ME
BHAVA—Please make my sunyata-nature firm.
5. SUTOSYA ME
BHAVA—Please may I not depart from my original joy.
6. SUPOSYA ME
BHAVA—Please may I not depart from my sunyata-nature.
ME BHAVA—Please may I not be without the nature of
SIDDHI ME PRAYACCHA—Please bestow upon me full achievement.
KARMA SUCA ME—Please give me the freedom of every good karma.
SREYAN KURU HUM—Please give me great boldness of mind.
11. HA HA HA
HA HO—Please lead me to obtain the five wisdoms and their functions.
SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRAMA ME MUNCA—May all Tathagatas and Vajrasattvas not leave me.
BHAVA—May I not be apart from your Vajra-nature.
SAMAYASATTVA—Let me abide in the great samaya of
15. AH HUM
PHAT—Please subdue my sorrows.
Only one line
is actually used for confession; that is, the one beginning with "May all
Tathagatas…." If one is not purified by confession one cannot unite into
their vajric nature and will then be in great danger. Hence this line is very
E. The Interrelation of All Four Foundations
a. If one
takes refuge, then one gains merits from the Buddha and this is similar to the
b. If one
takes refuge, then one takes the Triple Gem as the object of confession.
c. If one
takes refuge with reverence, then this rids one of pride, as does prostration.
a. One offers
the mandala to, and takes refuge in, the Triple Gem.
b. One offers
the mandala with all things included in it: one's mind, body—everything. Thus
pride is abandoned as with prostration.
c. One offers
the mandala so that all things may be transmuted into Enlightenment, a similar
function to that of confession.
a. The object
of worship is the same object as that of taking refuge.
worships with all the sinners of the six realms, thus gathering merit as with
c. When one
makes prostration, pride is then eliminated, as in confession.
a. Before one
confesses, one has, of course, the object: the refuges.
b. When one
confesses, one must make prostration, thus in both ways cutting down pride.
c. When one
confesses specific misdeeds the appropriate offering should be made:
Confessing a misdeed of ignorance—offer a lamp (light dispels darkness).
Confessing a misdeed of greed—offer water (an abundant substance).
Confessing a misdeed of lust—offer flowers (beautiful things).
Confessing a misdeed of pride—offer devotion (to break that pride).
Confessing a misdeed of doubt—offer ointment (which cleanses outside and cures
Confessing sins of any kind—offer incense (the fragrance of good silas is
practices are set down in many rituals and I have only offered here some of the
theory, together with a little practical instruction. To conclude, we may say
something about the practice of taking refuge.
Kagyupa tradition, the object in which one takes refuge is visualized as a
large tree with five branches. On the middle one is His Holiness Karmapa
himself and other gurus, while on the right branch are the bodhisattvas of the
Mahayana, and on the left, the arhats of the Hinayana. The gurus are shown on a
higher part of the middle branch; yidam, middle part. On the whole of the front
one are shown the Buddha and all Buddhas of the three periods of time. The
branch of the back supports the sutras—the sacred words of the Buddhas. This is
the objective side of taking refuge.
stands before this host, visualizing himself or
herself surrounded by all sentient beings. Demons and evil ghosts are
visualized in front of him, one's mother on the left and one's father on the
right. Behind one are different classes of beings in concentric circles. In the
nearest one are all the hell-beings, beyond them the hungry ghosts, then the
animals, then all mankind. Further out are the asuras and most remote are the devas. When one takes the refuges, all these beings are
visualized as doing likewise. When the meditator performs the prostration,
repeating the hundred-syllable mantra, all beings in these six realms make
their salutations. When confession is made, all beings also confess their
and the formula for bodhicitta should be repeated together, according to my
view. It is very important that the bodhicitta stages not be neglected just
because they are only four lines long and have no special mantra. This is often
the case and they are only run through quickly and then forgotten. Their real
import should be developed by the use of these four foundations, so essential
for successful practice of Tantric Buddhism. Where there is no bodhicitta
developed, the four foundations are not established firmly, and there is no
real Vajrayana. If the four foundations are well practiced, the whole system of
Vajrayana may be practiced without any obstacles.
number of times these four foundations should be practiced, the old school said
ten thousand is enough, while the new school emphasizes tenfold of the old, as
the sins of the practitioners are greater and their merits are fewer. Thus, I
agree with the new sect's policy. Nevertheless, it all depends upon the
inspiration and realization gleaned from the practices, not the number of times
they are performed.
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[Related works: The Four Foundations of Tibetan