Lama Zopa Rinpoche's Online Advice Book
Lam-rim Topics :
|Mandala Offerings and Guru Yoga Practice
|Advice on practices for life, including an extensive explanation of mandala offerings and instructions for guru yoga practice|
My most dear Marcus,
How are you? I hope life continues well after Kopan. Sorry, I did remember and I did have a message for you, but I didn’t get to write anything. It took much time, many months.
So, my suggestion about preliminary practice. You have done prostrations and, I guess, refuge, however, it came out for you to do mandala offerings 600,000 times. You don’t have to worry about the number—sometimes you can do them in retreat and then sometimes, while you are working, you can do less. You can do a few days’ retreat, or a month, then again work. There’s nothing fixed in the time but continue after that, doing some each day. But do them as well as you can.
There is a mandala explanation I gave a long time ago to Ven. Thubten Wongmo. You can use that and also the mandala explanation in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. There is a number given, but the main point is to collect extensive merits, so quality is more important than the number.
My teaching gives an idea of mandala offerings, but each time you don’t have to remember phagtses. The main thing is to meditate according to the prayer: all the golden hills and Mount Meru with its four sides (rubies and sapphires on the right side, gold on the left, and silver). It may be good to relate to left and right, back and front. Each offering heap is not just one, but numberless. Think that.
The precious wheel can turn around Mount Meru three times in a day—you can think of numberless rockets, jets, etc. Quality is the main thing; the number is secondary. The minister is experienced in all activities, knowing when to stay or leave and wise in actions. Visualize numberless ministers and offer them immediately. Don’t visualize and then offer at the end. At the end, you may not have the visualization, so if you offer while visualizing, there’s no problem at the end, because you’ve already offered.
In regard to the wish-granting tree, there’s not just one tree but numberless, like the earth—endless. The wish-granting tree is decorated beautifully with jewels, then it’s offered. When you go outside during the daytime, think that the trees around your house are wish-granting trees and offer them. Offering wish-granting trees means all your wishes come true immediately, like with trees in a pure land. You collect merits so easily.
Offer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Lhundrup. By offering to the guru, we collect the highest merit.
Do the same thing with the wish-fulfilling jewel—visualize numberless of them. The elephant is also wish-granting. It has the strength of a thousand elephants. Visualize numberless elephants that are so powerful, they carry euros like Mount Meru; numberless euros. Visualize zillions of elephants carrying euros and make the offering. There are numberless horses carrying wish-granting jewels. The general is to win the war over delusions—ours and others, so visualize numberless generals. The wish-granting vases are also numberless, and whatever wish we generate we instantly get. There are the sun and moon, with the sun symbolizing wisdom and the moon, method. There are numberless umbrellas, symbolizing the works for others. There are numberless banners, and each banner has three curves and three sets of two opposed animals; or visualize banners like those above monasteries. Whichever one you choose, visualize numberless of them. Their essence is the works for self.
When you begin, do the long mandala offering three times or seven times, whatever you can do; then mostly do the seven-heap mandala with sa zhi pö kyi.The most important thing is to do them perfectly; the number is not most important; it’s the quality that’s very important.
At the end, if you can do it, on each atom of the mandala, visualize numberless replicas of yourself offering the mandala. From every atom, beams are emitted carrying mandalas. Beams are emitted from each atom, filling the whole sky with mandala offerings. That’s also very good. Just try like that.
Then, you are offering the mandala to the Lama Chöpa merit field. There are many lineage lamas of blessing at the back; on the right side are Maitreya and the lineage lamas of the extensive path; on the left side are Manjushri and the lineage lamas of the profundity. There are all the pandits beginning with Asanga on the right side and Nagarjuna on the left side. In front are the three Kadampa groups; the lineage lamas of the lam-rimpa, advice and scriptures. In front of them are Lama Tsongkhapa and the lineage lamas of the New Kadampa Tradition.
The gurus are in front of Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang, with the transcendental wisdom being, HUNG. The root guru is in the centre, surrounded by the direct gurus. Then there are the deities of the four classes of tantra (Highest Yoga Tantra, Yoga, Charya and Kriya); the thousand buddhas of the fortunate time; the bodhisattvas, including the eight bodhisattvas; the arhats, including the sixteen arhats; the dakas and dakinis; and the Dharma protectors.
It’s all a manifestation of Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang, the root guru. All are absorbed into one. The many are but one, the root guru, when you are offering. Think of many, but the essence is the root guru. When you think of the guru, the highest merit is collected, more than by offering to numberless buddhas, Dharma, Sangha and numberless statues, stupas and scriptures. If you don’t think of the guru, you still collect unbelievable merit, but it is small compared to offering to the guru. Don’t miss that.
The other one is Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga—there are only three there, but their essence is the guru. Lama Tsongkhapa is Guru Manjushri, Gyaltsab Je is Guru Chenrezig and Khedrup Je is Guru Vajrapani. The essence of numberless buddhas, Dharma, Sangha and numberless statues, stupas and scriptures is the guru. Offer with that thought. We should not miss the guru when offering the mandala. With the visualization-meditation if we offer even one mandala to the guru, it’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. You can’t imagine the benefit, including being born as a universal king in the next life. We are actually offering Mount Meru, gold hills, the four direction worlds and branches as described in the mandala practice by putting grains in shapes, but it results in the power to own or control those worlds. So there is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merit from just visualizing offering one mandala.
We can understand the logic that we get extensive merit of actually offering as visualized, through the story of King Ashoka. When Buddha was in India, three children were playing in the sand. Buddha had a very tall body, so, like in a circus, one child stood on the shoulders of another child, who stood on the shoulders of the third, and the top child offered a handful of sand in Buddha’s begging bowl with the thought, “This is gold.” He got the merit of having actually offered gold. Due to that, in his next life he was born as King Ashoka and was able to build many monasteries and offer food to the Sangha; he also built one million stupas in one day. He became a wealthy king through the merit created by offering sand grains visualized as gold; he received the merit of having offered gold.
If you’re still in Kathmandu, you could buy a mandala set there.
Please read the Arya Sanghata Sutra at least one time, but you can read it more.
The other practice is Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga: 100,000 times. Count the number of migtsemas. Get my commentary from Taiwan and learn Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga.
You can do mandalas with either Lama Chöpa or Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga and count both.
The main book for you to read is the Middle Lam-rim. This is the main lam-rim text that you should always carry and generally read. You should read it three times, but no question it is better to read it even more than that. Each time there will be more understanding of Dharma. Make an outline of the Middle Lam-rim by taking headings from the book by yourself and use these as the basis for meditation on the lam-rim. That is one thing; the other one is Essential Nectar. After finishing the Middle Lam-rim, Essential Nectar is very good for daily use.
Every day in Lama Chöpa at the end, there’s lam-rim and lo-jong meditation and at the very end, the tantric path. The whole path is integrated; it’s unbelievably beautiful. There’s also the Foundation of All Good Qualities.
Every day you should read one lam-rim prayer and the tantric path of your deity, to receive and leave imprints on your mind every day. It’s called direct meditation, that’s the name. Doing direct meditation every day leaves imprints and from that realizations come later, and eventually you achieve enlightenment.
Second, guru devotion. Do one meditation every day on guru devotion, by following the outlines. Today do this, tomorrow do this part, the next day this part. Do:
- one week on the eight benefits of guru devotion;
- one week on the shortcomings;
- one week on the four major outlines of seeing the guru as buddha (Vajradhara asserted that the guru is buddha; the guru is the doer of all the buddhas’ deeds; even nowadays the buddhas and bodhisattvas are working for sentient beings; nothing definite in one’s own appearance);
- one week on the kindness of the guru.
And just know the three ways of devoting through actions: obtaining the advice, offering service and making offerings to the guru.
OM MANI PADME HUNG: in the life you can attempt 300 million. If you can try. Every day you can recite, and sometimes in retreat, for a month or a few days. In normal daily life, recite a few malas.
I used to recite 10,000 every day, but I cannot do this now, so I do 5,000. I try to recite with a prayer wheel from New Zealand which has one billion, 172 million mantras. Turning the prayer wheel one time means reciting that many mantras. Ordinary prayer wheels have about 100,000 mantras, because they don’t use microfiche. Prayer wheels in the West have many millions, equal to the large prayer wheels, because they use microfiche.
Please understand that every OM MANI PADME HUNG is for the happiness of all the sentient beings, to free numberless sentient beings—numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings—from all suffering and causes and to bring them all happiness, especially the ultimate happiness of liberation and full enlightenment. It’s important to understand that you recite the mantras with this thought.
They might have prayer wheels in Singapore, though not with as many mantras. Kathy Frewen gave me the prayer wheel. If the person who made it is still alive, he can make one for you to use and have and carry.
So here, my main emphasis is lam-rim realization.
On the same day, do analytical meditation on renunciation of this life and meditation on perfect human rebirth, to be able to get realizations step by step.
Then, meditate on the renunciation of the next life, of samsaric happiness. Then meditate on bodhicitta. You can’t meditate on bodhicitta before renunciation, but you can meditate on emptiness every day, using different meditation practices. Practice awareness of how the I, action and object are empty of existing from their own side, or how they are hallucinations. Everything appears to exist from its own side, but it’s a hallucination. Look at truly existent appearance as a hallucination when driving, cooking, cleaning, making pilgrimage, playing soccer, sprinting and so forth. Another day practice awareness (your concentration can’t last, but do what you can) that everything is merely labeled, existing in mere name. Practice awareness of that.
To have realization of emptiness and understand the essence of lam-rim, you need to learn philosophy. It’s very good to have excellent understanding of at least the essential meditations.
Whichever deity you have more faith in, do the recitation-meditation of the sadhana for quick enlightenment for sentient beings. Later you can do a short retreat, and later perhaps a long retreat. You can check.
You can do Lama Chöpa, the most elaborate and most powerful, effective practice of guru yoga, containing everything. If you can, do that. And then do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Doing Lama Chöpa every morning would be fantastic. If you’re working in the daytime, maybe in the evening you can do Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. See if you can do Lama Chöpa.
With so much love and prayer,
PS: That’s the general idea. That’s what came out in the observation. But you should not worry if you don’t finish all 300 million in this life. They can also be done in the next life.
PPS: Then I would suggest also taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts sometimes, if there’s the lineage. Take these from time to time. They are just for one day. Take them at the dawn time when you can see the palm of your hand.
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