26 December, 2014
''It is said that doing this visualization is like gathering the accumulations of merit and wisdom for three aeons. ''
Thin rays of sun have finally penetrated the dense fog for the first time in several days, creating a festive feeling in the pavilion. The series of initiations that concluded recently with a grand finale when the Karmapa came through the aisles and in record time, personally blessed 10,000 people with the Maitreya torma, fulfilled our wishes beyond the wildest expectations.
As the Karmapa commented, the Monlam is not really a one man job. However, so far he has been carrying it himself. Just before the teaching on Vajrasattva, he declared he was strong enough to carry The Torch of True Meaning; and sat with all of us reciting the Vajrasattva mantra for forty minutes. Following on as it did, from yesterday’s individual blessing with the Maitreya torma, this too created a sense of intimacy, as if it was a one-to-one encounter with the Karmapa.
The stage now emphasizes the lineage of Karmapas with Mount Kailash in the background and a large gold and copper Shakyamuni directly behind Dusum Khyenpa and the 16th Karmapa. The splendid throne backrest of silk brocade with swirling dragon, displayed during the major empowerments, has been replaced by an abstract pattern. The Karmapa prostrates on a red carpet placed there for the occasion and climbs the steps to the throne. Garlands of red and gold lights twinkle from the back of the Pavilion, a reminder that we are in India, and it is Christmas.
The Karmapa announces he will be discussing the visualisation for Vajrasattva and reads from the new text renamed The Torch of True Meaning. (p. 47 last paragraph). The text describes the usual Vajrasattva visualization: a white PAM above the crown of one's head, transforming into a white lotus and the AH into a moon seat; on top is a HUM which transforms into a white five- pronged vajra with a HUM at the centre. Light rays radiate from the HUM making offerings to the noble ones and benefitting beings and are then re-absorbed to transform into Vajrasattva, inseparable from the root guru. And then the text describes the appearance of Vajrasattva, with vajra and bell, right leg forward, left leg bent, Akshobhya Buddha above his head, and mantra garland circling clockwise around a white HUM in his heart. Light radiates, inviting the buddhas and bodhisattvas who dissolve into the HUM and mantra.
But as the Karmapa comments on the visualisation, it becomes clear that he is expanding it infinitely to purify broken samaya for all beings. First he explains the tradition of visualising the white lotus with eight petals, just as it is: a pinkish stem, bluish green at its centre and orange stamens. In the centre of the lotus is AH, the first of the Sanskrit vowels, which looks like a bubble in water. That letter AH transforms into a full moon, the size of the centre of the lotus. The reason to meditate on the white lotus is that it rises unstained by the mud it grows in, representing renunciation from samsara. The full moon represents relative bodhicitta: the motivation to achieve buddhahood in order to bring all beings to enlightenment.
The Karmpa comments: ''If we look within, we see our own attitude is more like a crescent moon than a full moon. We only think about the needs of a few people and we do not have compassion for all beings. When our compassion is complete and full it is like the orb of the moon''.
When we visualize the moon we should visualise it as we see it, flat, and like looking into a mirror. not like scientists show it, like a piece of bread filled with holes and pock marks. The HUM on top should be a Tibetan or Sanskrit letter or even the letter of an old Chinese script. He emphasizes that it is not just the sound that is important but also the shape. The English letters, he says, don’t carry the meaning of the shape of the Tibetan or Sanskrit .
The white HUM, representing the non-dual wisdom of all the buddhas, transforms into a five-pointed white vajra standing on its end. This five-pointed vajra is like a clear white crystal, unblemished on the inside and outside. At the hub of the vajra is a small white HUM and this letter is also vertical, like a lamp in a clear vase. Light from the HUM radiates to all pure and impure world realms. We make offerings up to the buddhas and down to all beings. The light performs both functions.
At this point the Karmapa adds a vast and profound dimension to the visualisation.
On the tip of the light that radiates out there is a Vajrasattva that goes to each sentient being and comes to rest on the crown of their head. So we visualise that the light brings a Vajrasattva to each sentient being and the nectar flows into the crown chakra filling them and purifying their bodies. Then Vajrasattva dissolves into them so their three gates become inseparable from the body, speech and mind of Vajrasattva. The entire environment becomes the pure land and all sentient beings become Vajrasattva.
He points out that there is also another visualisation in kriya tantra in which light rays radiate and a Vajrasattva is on the tip. Clouds shower nectar on all beings, freeing them from the hell of heat and cold, freeing hungry ghosts from hunger and thirst, animals from the suffering of being dumb and mute, in effect, purifying all six realms of samsara and transforming all beings into Vajrasattva. The light also makes offerings to the noble ones: on the tip of the light rays are the offering goddesses which causes extraordinary bliss to arise in all the buddhas. The light then returns with the blessings of all buddhas and dissolves into the HUM. Alternately, we can visualise that the light invites all buddhas to return, and they dissolve into the HUM in the form of Vajrasattva.
This is extremely important.
In the past few days we've had many empowerments. What should we do to practise? I'm not going to say practise this or that one. Instead if you have a special feeling of devotion then you should practise that one. It is not necessary to practise all the deities. Realise that you are not meditating on one individual deity, that each deity is a combination of all the qualities of the buddhas. We have to realise that all the deities have all the blessings of all the buddhas. They are not separate, solid, discreet entities. There is a saying: one deity suffices for the Indians, 100 deities don''t suffice for the Tibetans. So many deities came into Tibet, that people forget that if you accomplish one deity you've accomplished all the deities.
There is a final warning.
''It is said this visualization serves in place of gathering the accumulations of merit and wisdom for three aeons, “ he explains, “But we have been wandering from beginning-less time in samsara and if we don't know how to do it, we will keep on wandering,.''