||The Way of the Buddha
Aeons or Cycles of Time
Sakyamuni Buddha, The Buddha of our Age
The Path to Realisation and Renunciation
Turning the Wheel of Dharma
The three vehicles- Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana
(headings have been inserted for convenience only and do not form the original teaching)
The Practice of the Goddess Green Tara
Receiving the Blessings of the Bodhisttva Tara
Meditation on Green Tara
Special Benefits Bestowed by Tara and the Mother Goddesses
||The Way of the Buddha
By HIS EMINENCE CHOGYE TRICHEN RINPOCHE
I would like to speak a bit about Buddhism in general, and in particular about the importance of cultivating positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion, and how this will promote well-being, not only in ourselves, but also in the greater world we all share.
Aeons or Cycle of Times
In order to put the Buddhist tradition into context and understand how a fully enlightened one appears in this world, it is important to know about kalpas, the aeons or cycles of time. Within a given cycle of time, there is always the formation of a physical environment of the 'outer elements', and this environment will be inhabited by sentient beings such as ourselves.
A kalpa time cycle is divided according to three phases: First, there is he process of coming into being or 'creation'; next, the time span during which the environment and beings abide; and finally, the phase of cessation, where that cosmos and the beings within it disappear.
A kalpa or aeon in which a fully enlightened one appears is called an aeon of light, or 'fortunate' aeon. It is fortunate because a fully enlightened one appears in the world and bestows the light of spiritual intelligence upon the beings there.
In contrast, there are the dark aeons, those cycles of creation in which no enlightened being will appear. It is also said that the dark aeons are more numerous than the aeons of light.
The particular cycle in which we now live is of a very special type, known as a 'fortunate' aeon. At the beginning of this fortunate aeon, there was a Chakravartin, a universal monarch of great power known as Tsibkyi Mugyu, or Arenemi.
As ruler at an early stage in the formation of that aeon, King Arenemi enjoyed a reign of great prosperity, harmony, and well-being. This was true not only for the realm of the gods, but also for the human worlds.
Although King Arenemi may not have had many official queens, still it is said that as a great universal regent, he had thousands of queens. We are also told that these queens bore him one thousand and two sons. Due to his vast merit, merely by gesturing to one of these women and calling her his queen, the chosen woman was able to bear him a son. King Arenemi gave rise to the wish that each of his sons could share among themselves the rulership of his kingdom.
In those times, there lived a Buddha known as Tathagatha Gunananaratna, or Yonten Thaye in the Tibetan language. He was the historical Buddha of that era, just as the historical Buddha of our era is Buddha Shakyamuni. A Buddha of a given era is a fully enlightened Buddha who displays the twelve great deeds of an enlightened one.
The king approached Buddha Gunananaratna, saying that he had fathered more than one thousand sons, and asking how he might bless each son to enjoy a worthy and meaningful reign as king. In addition to this, the king asked if he might offer the services of these princes to Buddha Gunananaratna, in order that his sons might bear even greater fruits of virtue.
The Buddha accepted King Arenemi's request, taking the princes as his disciples. The king offered his sons to the Buddha with great aspirations, wondering in his heart when they might become equal to the Buddha himself. He asked Gunananaratna, 'When will they be like you?' The Buddha reassured the king that all of the princes, as his disciples, would one day certainly become fully enlightened ones.
Over the progression of the cycles of time, it is said that an aeon of light is generally followed by a dark aeon. This particular aeon in which we dwell is known as a Bhadrakalpa, an 'extremely auspicious aeon'. At the beginning of the formation of this aeon, it is said that in the middle of the universal ocean there blossomed a one thousand petalled golden lotus flower. This wondrous lotus sprung up with such force that it reached to the heights of the realms of the gods or devas.
The appearance of the golden lotus caused the gods to exclaim, "What a wonder it is to witness the blooming of the thousand petalled golden lotus! It is an auspicious omen, signifying the coming of one thousand Buddhas in this aeon." Thus the blossoming of the lotus foretold the birth of the thousand princes destined to Buddhahood.
Delighted by Buddha Gunananaratna's prediction, the king further wondered in what order his sons would become enlightened. He requested the Buddha to reveal this to him. Gunananaratna ordered that the name of each prince be written out, and the names were gathered in a cloth and placed in a vase. Then the Buddha drew names, one by one, unfolding the sequence in which each of the princes would reach Buddhahood.
The first name selected, the one who would become the first Buddha of our fortunate aeon, was the one we know as Buddha Krakuchandra. The second name drawn was the one who became Buddha Kanakamuni, the second Buddha of our kalpa. The third name drawn was the prince who would be born as the Buddha Kashyapa, the third Buddha of our fortunate aeon.
The fourth was the name of the individual who was to become the enlightened one of our present era, Buddha Shakyamuni. Hence Shakyamuni is known as the fourth great emancipator or liberating one. The fifth name drawn was of the one to appear as our next Buddha, Lord Maitreya. The sixth will come as Buddha Simhanada. In this way the names of each of the more than one thousand princes was drawn.
It further prophesied by the Buddha that the prince whose name was drawn last among the thousand, upon taking birth as the final Buddha of this fortunate aeon, was to be a truly extraordinary enlightened one. This Buddha would embody all the realization, qualities, and activities of all the previous Buddhas united within himself.
||Sakyamuni Buddha, The Buddha of our Age
Our present era is that of the fourth prince, known to us as Buddha Sakyamuni. Prior to Shakyamuni's descent into our world, he reigned in the realm of the gods known as Tushita. Whoever ruled in the Tushita heaven assumed the name of Svetakirti, and so this was Shakyamuni's name as he dwelt there.
While reigning in the Tushita heaven, Svetakirti received many requests from gods as well as humans, beseeching him that he might appear in our world and manifest the twelve deeds of a supremely enlightened one. In response, he made five careful and specific observations regarding the circumstances of his future birth. These included the place in our world in which he would be born, at what time and date, as well as whose child he would be, and so forth.
From these five careful observations, Svetakirti determined that he would appear in this world as a prince, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi in the kingdom of Kapilavastu. The remains of Kapilavastu are found in southern Nepal, not far from the border with India.
Just to the east of Kapilavastu there was in those ancient times a small kingdom whose capital was known as Devadaha. The two kingdoms enjoyed prosperous matrimonial bonds, with frequent marriages occurring between them. In those days, the woman who was to be the grandmother of Shakyamuni Buddha, whose name was Queen Lumbini, dwelt in Devadaha.
When Queen Lumbini was staying in the capitol city of Devadaha, she used to visit a very beautiful garden nearby, which was owned by a wealthy family. As she went there frequently, she grew to wish that she could have the garden as her own.
Her husband, the king, told her, "Although I may be the lord of this land, it would not be right for me to claim someone else's garden for you. Still, if you so wish, I shall build for you just such a garden."
And so it was that the king built a most unique and splendid garden in the countryside between the two cities. He named the garden in honor of his queen, and that place is known to this day as Lumbini.
Queen Lumbini became the mother of two beautiful princesses. As was the custom in those times, she consulted the astrologers and soothsayers, so that she might know what future best suited her daughters the princesses. The seers unanimously predicted that both girls had the great merit to marry either a powerful ruler, or to become the mother of a mighty being who would become a supremely enlightened one.
In the light of these predictions, her husband Suprabuddha, the king of Devadaha, wished to form a bond of marriage with the king of Kapilavastu, a man of great fame and reputation.
As it happened, the king of Kapilavastu harbored a similar wish. Thus Queen Lumbini of Devadaha's eldest daughter, Mayadevi, was chosen to marry Shuddodhana, the prince of Kapilavastu.
The marriage between Mayadevi and Shuddhodana was a grand celebration. In due course, the future Buddha Shakyamuni entered into this world. It is said that Queen Mayadevi conceived her son on the full moon night of the sixth lunar month in the earth sheep year. Then, in the fourth lunar month of the following year, the year of the iron monkey, on the seventh day of the month, she gave birth to a son.
The normal period of growth in the womb is nine months, yet it is said that she carried her child for almost ten months. This is the account of the gestation and birth of the Buddha as it is given in the traditional histories.
After Mayadevi found herself with child, she remained for the most part in confinement away from the social activities of the royal court. But, as the time to give birth grew near, she wished to withdraw to somewhere even more peaceful. When asked what place she would find most pleasing, Mayadevi proposed a visit to her mother's garden park, Lumbini, to relax and take rest.
As she strolled in the Lumbini grove, the time for Buddha's birth came suddenly upon her. Just as Queen Mayadevi reached out to grasp the branch of a plaksha tree, the Buddha miraculously issued forth from her. Causing Mayadevi neither pain nor injury, Buddha was born from under her right arm.
The legends of Buddha's birth tell us that from the day he entered Mayadevi's womb, all the devas and gods from the golden celestial realms watched over and protected him. It is even said that Buddha emerged from the ribs of Mayadevi's right side in the form of shimmering, scintillating golden light. Thus his appearance in this world was not by means of an ordinary birth, but was accompanied by miraculous events.
We are also told how, immediately upon emerging from Queen Mayadevi, the Buddha walked seven steps in each of the four directions. Taking those steps, Buddha uttered four profound statements. The translations of these four statement is wonderful in the Tibetan language, where they reflect a play on the words for east, south, west, and north.
As the Buddha took his first steps, to the eastern direction, he said, 'From here I arrive to attain nirvana, enlightenment.' The word for east in Tibetan also means 'to arrive'. Stepping to the south, the Buddha said, 'I will be in harmony with worldly understanding.'
As he moved to the west, the direction of the setting sun, he said, ' This is my final birth.' And, with seven steps to the north, Buddha said, 'I have purified all my deeds in samsara, worldly existenceˇK' playing on the word for north, which also means 'purify'.
Naturally, a child born in the ordinary way would never be able to walk and speak with such eloquence and dignity. Yet at his birth the Buddha strode forth in each of the four directions, heralding the event of his birth to the whole world as he fearlessly proclaimed, 'I am unexcelled by anyone ever to appear in this world.'
The child was raised as prince Siddhartha, and all people held great hopes for him as the future leader of the Shakya clan. When his time of maturity had come, two fair princesses were proposed who might serve as his future queens. They were called Yasodhara and Gopaka.
Both princesses belonged to highly respected and wealthy families, and there were many princes in the surrounding kingdoms who eagerly sought their hands in marriage. And so a competition was arranged, and all their suitors had to display their skills and sportsmanship, in hopes of winning such widely coveted brides.
Prince Siddhartha defeated every rival and had the honor of claiming both princesses as his Queens. In this way, Siddhartha prepared to succeed his father as ruler of the kingdom of the Shakyas.
Having married, Siddhartha reigned as prince of the Shakya kingdom. One day, he went on his first excursion outside of the palace and into the city of Kapilavastu. On this journey, the prince witnessed four events which would change him forever.
These events brought Siddhartha face to face for the first time with human suffering, from which he had so far been carefully shielded by his father the king. Having never in his life seen such conditions, Siddhartha immediately understood that all living beings are subject to these inevitable sufferings of illness, old age, and death. As the full force of this understanding struck his mind, Siddhartha wondered how any one could pretend that all was fine in the world and carry on as if such suffering did not exist!
This experience quickly caused Prince Siddhartha to give rise to a powerful sense of renunciation, and it forced him to recognize the futile nature of life in this world. All the activities of this life were ultimately meaningless, since all who inhabit this world must one day experience the same pains and pass away, leaving the experiences of this world to fade away like a dream.
Having come to this realization, Siddhartha resolved to leave the palace life and wander in search of the truth. He sought to extract from life its essential meaning.
The young prince had a faithful attendant known as Chanda, and he had a most excellent horse known as Kanthaka. Siddhartha summoned his attendant and ordered him to prepare his mount. Bidding his wife and infant son farewell as they lay asleep, he stole from the palace in secrecy, under cover of night, lest his subjects learn of his departure.
Prince Siddhartha ordered his attendant to grasp the tail of his horse Kanthaka, who then miraculously bound over the walls of the palace compound and out of the city. It is said that the four great guardian deities of the directions offered their service to Siddhartha, each lifting one hoof of the horse and spiriting them off through the air, until at last they brought them to the place known as Vishuddha stupa, the 'stupa of great purity.'
||The Path to Realisation and Renunciation
It was there that the prince formally abandoned the life of a householder and adopted the life of a total renunciate. Seizing a blade, he cut off the length of his hair, as a sign that he had parted from all attachment to this world.
Siddhartha discarded his princely garb, his gown and ornaments. It is said that hosts of gods and devas magically appeared all about him, offering him the robes of a spiritual mendicant. Donning these garments bestowed upon him by the gods themselves, he declared, 'I have renounced worldly life in order to seek the path to enlightenment.'
Now Siddhartha pondered carefully the nature of the path he sought. He understood that all the Buddhas of the past had reached enlightenment through ascetic practice. He knew with certainty that there was no way for him but to follow the same path.
Siddhartha resolved to practice the ascetic way, making a solemn vow of fasting, and abstained from all food for six years. He further determined to remain motionless in meditation, and so it was that he sat continuously for six years without moving. This period of Siddhartha Gautama's life has come to be known as the six years of asceticism, of unbroken, solitary meditation practice. This is how penances led him to the threshold of enlightenment, on the banks of the river Niranjana.
During these six years of fasting, Siddhartha also kept a vow of noble silence. He did not speak to anyone, but remained absorbed in the silence of meditation. Once, as he sat motionless and speechless, some local cowherds came upon him, and wondered if he were a human being or a statue. They went so far as to poke burning irons into his ears, but Siddhartha showed not the slightest reaction. In this way he demonstrated the greatest determination to succeed in his meditation and austerities.
Now Siddhartha Gautama's mother had passed away seven days after giving birth to him, and she was reborn in the land of the gods known as the 'realm of the thirty-three.' As a deva of this realm, she possessed some limited clairvoyance, and was able to see that her son from her previous life, Gautama, was undergoing great hardships. As this goddess, the former Mayadevi, wept for Siddhartha, her tears fell miraculously from the celestial world, forming a small pool in front of the meditating Buddha.
In response to this, the great meditator Gautama broke his silence, just one week before he was to attain enlightenment. He spoke out reassuringly to his mother, saying, 'Although I have gone through these ascetic practices of unimaginable difficulty, yet I still have not reached my goal. I have only one week before I will gain enlightenment. Then I will repay your kindness, and will come to teach you in the near future.'
In this way, his mother was the first person for whom Gautama broke his vow of silence, just prior to attaining enlightenment.
Completing his six years of meditation, Siddhartha arose from that place, setting out on foot for what would come to be known as Bodhgaya, the diamond seat. Thus he came to arrive before the great Bodhi tree there. He knew that this was indeed the very place where all the past Buddhas, such as Krakuchandra, Kanakamuni, and Kasyapa, had attained enlightenment, on the very seat he himself now approached.
In deepest reverence, Gautama bowed before the vajra seat and then took his place upon it, leaning his back against the Bodhi tree. Upon that very throne of enlightenment of the Buddhas of the past, Siddhartha repeated the greatest act of all of history, achieving complete enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya.
Gautama had spent six years meditating on the banks of the Niranjana, and had come to the diamond seat of Bodhgaya to finish his meditation training. He entered again into seated meditation at dusk of the full moon night. Terrifying hosts of mara-devils and evil beings swarmed about him in a jealous frenzy. They threatened him with fearsome apparitions, brandishing terrible weapons and hurling them at him in rage and envy.
These demons had great power and were able to destroy whatever they set themselves upon. Yet due to the invincible power of meditation, compassion, and loving kindness emanating from Siddhartha, they could not defeat him. Now only hours from gaining enlightenment, in a meditation of unassailable stability, he transformed all that was flung at him into celestial flowers. He suffered not the slightest harm.
Thus conquering and subduing all mara-devils during the period of dusk on that night, then continuing on through the middle watch of the night he remained in the deep meditation of samadhi. Finally, at the early dawn which followed that full moon night, he gained complete and perfect enlightenment, samyak sambuddha.
Having attained enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama, now the Buddha, entered into the most sublime and indescribable state of bliss and emptiness, which is the enlightened state. In this profound condition he gave rise to a great wish, thinking, 'How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings could share in this realization which is now my own.'
Buddha wished that it were possible to share his discovery with every being, yet he realized that sentient beings were far too deeply immersed in ignorance to join him there. And so he spoke to himself these famous words:
"I have found a Dharma which is like nectar;
It is noncomposite clear light, profound and peaceful,
And beyond conceptual elaboration.
Were I to explain it, others would not understand,
And so I shall remain in the forest without speaking."
Having said this to himself, he vowed to remain in silence for seven years. The Buddha dwelt in the state of contemplation, abstaining from any teaching role.
||Turning the Wheel of Dharma
Brahma, the great sovereign of the universe, and Indra, the lord of the gods and angels, knew that the great enlightened wisdom of a Buddha was now manifest in this world. Brahma appeared and offered to the Buddha a thousand-spoked golden wheel and Indra offered the most rare clockwise spiraling conch shell.
These supremely auspicious tokens of veneration they offered to the Buddha, beseeching him to turn the wheel of Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings. In response to this majestic supplication made by the lord of the universe, Brahma, and Indra, king of the gods, Buddha Shakyamuni consented to turn the wheel of the teachings.
Over the course of the rest of his life, Buddha Shakyamuni set in motion what are known as the three great turnings of the wheel of Dharma, the wheel of the teachings. The first turning of the wheel took place in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi. Buddha initiated the first turning with his central theme of the four noble truths. The collection of teachings of the first turning of the wheel of Dharma are known as the Theravada, or commonly held precepts.
The Theravada teachings mainly focus on what are known as the four great seals of the Dharma.
The four seals are:
All phenomena are impermanent
All phenomena are suffering
All phenomena are selfless
Nirvana alone is peace
First, the Buddha tells us that all compounded phenomena, everything that is composed of various elements and factors, is transient, impermanent; it does not last. Second, we are told that all phenomenal experience is of the nature of suffering. Third, the Buddha concludes that there is no self to be found in the phenomenal world. Fourth, the Buddha reveals that nirvana, liberation, is peace.
These four teachings became the primary concerns of the first turning of the wheel of Dharma taught by Buddha Shakyamuni, set in motion in Varanasi.
From the second turning of the wheel of Dharma came the teachings belonging to the Mahayana or great vehicle. This turning was initiated in the Indian city of Rajgir, at a place known as the vulture peak, a hill said to resemble a flock of vultures.
There the Buddha taught the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. These sutras are of varying lengths, such as the one hundred thousand verse sutra, the twenty thousand verse sutra, the eight thousand verse sutra, into very short versions such as the Heart Sutra, and so on. Finally, all the Prajnaparamita sutras are said to be subsumed into the single letter 'AH'. All of these teachings reveal the truth of emptiness, that all phenomena, everything that appears to be, actually lacks any inherent, true existence.
The third and final turning of the Wheel of Dharma focused on the subtle, definitive meaning of the Dharma. Though the Buddha expounded a myriad of teachings, he himself contemplated the effectiveness of each of these teachings.
He pondered how people would interpret the teachings, and tailored his message to suit the minds of his listeners. In this way, there came to be what are known as the commonly understood teachings that follow the provisional meaning, and then also what are known as the teachings that reveal the definitive or ultimate meaning.
In the third turning of the Dharma wheel, Buddha made the distinction between the ultimate meaning of the Dharma and the commonly held, interpretive meaning. These discourses were given in the ancient Indian town of Vaishali. Vaishali became famous in the sutras as the place where a monkey made offerings of honey to the Buddha.
The complete Dharma spoken by Lord Buddha is said to total eighty-four thousand teachings. These serve as direct remedies for the eighty-four thousand emotions or concepts with which sentient beings may be afflicted.
Of these, Buddha taught that there are twenty-one thousand defilements all beings can experience which relate to greed, desire, and attachment. As an antidote for these obscurations, Buddha taught twenty-one thousand discourses on the Vinaya, the higher training of moral and ethical precepts for lay persons and ordained monks and nuns.
Buddha Shakyamuni further distinguished twenty-one thousand types of negativity associated with aversion, anger, and hatred. As a remedy for these afflicted states of mind, Buddha gave the twenty-one thousand teachings of the sutras.
As the antidote for the defilements arising based on ignorance, Buddha taught the twenty-one thousand discourses on the Abhidharma. In addition, a further twenty-one thousand talks were given which discussed the defilements of attachment, aversion, and ignorance as they function in common with one another. In this way, Buddha gave direct remedies for all the eighty-four thousand defilements experienced by sentient beings.
When considering the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma, one may wonder where and when the Buddhist Tantras were taught. The tantras are related to the third turning of the wheel of Dharma.
During the course of Buddha's life and activity, many of his disciples had reached various levels of realization. It is even said that whenever Buddha moved from one place to another, these disciples would fly in the sky, spreading their golden dharma robes like wings. In this way they might move from eastern India to the western regions, from south to north.
In the western region of India was a kingdom known as Oddiyana. In Buddha's time, the King of Oddiyana was Indrabhuti, who was the same age as Buddha, having been born in the same year.
One day, as the king and his ministers were enjoying the palace gardens, a vast flock of monks flew by in the sky above them. Indrabhuti asked the wise elders among his ministers, 'Who are they, and how can it be that they fly through the sky like birds?'
A senior minister replied, "Your majesty, we dwell in western India. I have heard that in eastern India there is the kingdom of the Shakyas, out of which arose the miraculous display of a prince known as Siddhartha. He is said to have renounced his kingdom and become an enlightened one. These must be some of his disciples in the skies above."
Astonished, King Indrabhuti exclaimed, "This is remarkable. How can it be? If even the disciples demonstrate such miracles, what a wonder the master himself must be! Might someone go and invite him to come to us?"
The elder minister answered the king, "Your majesty, there is no need to physically travel there. If those possessed of great faith and devotion make fervent, heartfelt prayers, the Buddha will know and hear their prayers through his omniscient wisdom. If you wish, pray thus, and invite Buddha to come here and teach you."
Hearing this, King Indrabhuti composed a famous verse of supplication, acknowledging the Buddha as the leader and guide of all sentient beings, and asking to be included within the Buddha's protective wheel of refuge.
At this very time, Buddha Shakyamuni was residing in Rajgirha. He summoned various disciples, such as the Bodhisattvas Manjushri and Vajrapani, as well as the realized Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, all of whom had the ability to fly with him.
The Buddha told them that on a coming full moon day he would go to the western kingdom of Oddiyana at the invitation of King Indrabhuti. Those who were able to fly were invited to accompany him there.
In this way the Buddha and his disciples came to arrive at the palace of Indrabhuti, King of Oddiyana. Buddha reached Oddiyana with these disciples and an assembly of the guardian kings of the four directions, as well as Brahma, Indra, and many of the gods, such as had never been seen before. King Indrabhuti could not believe his eyes when he saw that even the great lords of the celestial realms moved in the entourage of the Buddha.
The Buddha addressed King Indrabhuti, "For what purpose have you invited me here?"
Indrabhuti replied, "You are a prince of eastern India, and I am a prince of western India. We are even of the same age, and yet you are such a sublime one. Please teach me how to become like you. This is my only request."
Hearing the king's request, Buddha replied thus: "If you wish to attain the same state as I, then you must abandon all worldly attachments and all the pleasures of the senses. Without renouncing the qualities of sensual experience and practicing the ascetic way, without this kind of renunciation, it will not be possible to attain liberation."
Now King Indrabhuti was an extremely astute and intelligent person. He knew that the profound depth of the Buddha's realization must include methods that would allow one to attain liberation without abandoning the qualities of the senses.
The king responded, "Lord Buddha, I have been spoiled by living my whole life in such luxurious surroundings. At this stage of my life, how can I give up my queens and elegant lifestyle? Even if I must be born as a fox or a dog that feeds on excrement, I cannot abandon all attachment to sensory pleasures. Neither can I abandon the responsibilities of my kingdom. Please grant me a teaching that does not require me to do so."
Hearing the king's genuine plea, Buddha replied that he did indeed possess such a teaching. The Buddha consented to impart the esoteric teachings of the Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle of Buddhist Tantra, in particular the teaching of the tantric Buddha in the form of Guhyasamaja.
In addition, Buddha offered the transmission of all the empowerments of the Anuttarayogatantra to King Indrabhuti, including those of all the major tantric emanations of the Buddha such as Kalachakra, Hevajra, and Chakrasamvara.
As Buddha bestowed these transcendent initiation ceremonies, the king, being possessed of unusually sharp faculties, was actually able to spontaneously accomplish and attain each stage and level of realization as it was being transmitted by the Buddha during the course of the empowerments. At each successive stage of empowerment, Indrabhuti instantly gained the same realization that a successful practitioner of that stage would enjoy.
At the moment of the supreme phase of initiation known as the fourth empowerment, King Indrabhuti entered the highest level of enlightenment, and was able to simultaneously demonstrate all the miraculous displays of a fully enlightened one.
This story from the life of the Buddha clearly shows us that people of keen intelligence may practice the Vajrayana diamond way and accomplish its vast benefits. One may follow the example of disciples of the Buddha such as King Indrabhuti and enter the path through the tradition of major Vajrayana initiations which began in Oddiyana.
In another region of India not so far away was the southern kingdom of Dhanyakataka, the 'place of heaped rice.' This is a place that attracted scholars, yogins, and mendicants from a great variety of spiritual traditions. It was a famous dwelling place for those who wished to spend most of their time in meditation and prayer.
Dhanyakataka was known as 'heap of rice' in reference to the abundance of hermitages and meditation retreats that covered the mountainside.
It was at the magnificent stupa of Dhanyakataka that Buddha Shakyamuni imparted the world-renowned tantra known as Kalachakra. This empowerment attracted the Kulika rulers of Shamballa, a kingdom near Uddiyana, to attend as its honored recipients.
The kingdom of Shambhala is said to have unique inhabitants; although they are human beings, they are said to have been and to be more intelligent and with far more acute faculties. They are even said to have had wings! The king of Shambhala at that time, Suchandra, traveled to Dhanyakataka to receive the Kalachakra initiation from Buddha Shakyamuni.
One could give infinite details regarding all the boundless activities of the Buddha, but this will suffice for now. Here we merely wished to give a brief account of the turnings of the wheel of Dharma, to summarize the history of the Buddha's teaching career.
||The three vehicles- Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana
The paths outlined by the Buddha in his teachings are grouped into three principal vehicles. The first is the vehicle of the Theravada or 'elders', which is mainly focused on the path of renunciation and follows the teaching of the four noble truths.
The quintessence of the second vehicle, the Mahayana or great vehicle taught by Buddha Shakyamuni, comes down to two central practices, the practice of loving-kindness and the practice of compassion. Let us try to understand together the meaning of these.
As an example of loving-kindness, we can reflect on the kindness received from our own mother until a feeling of gratitude and appreciation naturally arises. We can reflect that from the day we were born into this world, we were utterly helpless, and could have easily been abandoned. Yet our own kind mother protected us from every danger, fed and clothed us, taught us what to do and what to avoid. She gave us everything we needed, sacrificing her own needs for ours.
To help loving-kindness grow inside of us, we contemplate the kindness received from our own dear mother. With this in mind, we give rise to the genuine wish that she be happy, and further generate the wish that we ourselves be able to provide her with the causes of happiness.
From this benevolent wish, we proceed to cultivate a very creative, positive energy of loving-kindness. In so doing, we both increase our affection for others and strengthen the wish to repay the kindness shown to us by our own mother, the wish to expand her happiness.
This is what is known as loving-kindness. Anyone can reflect on this example, and then begin to extend the feeling they generate through remembering their mother's kindness to include other living beings.
Similarly, compassion arises when, through appreciating the kindness and love shown by one's own mother, one feels indebted to her and finds it impossible to even bear the thought of her suffering and undergoing hardships. Whether our mother is living or has moved on to another life, we would never want to see her experiencing any troubles or difficulties. If such situations befall her, one would make sincere efforts to rescue her from even the smallest infirmity, from even the most trifling circumstance that might cause her pain.
We learn active compassion by empathizing with the sufferings of our own mother and by truly trying to reduce this as well as to eliminate whatever is causing her pain. Active compassion is the wish and intent to relieve others from misery and from whatever is causing them anguish.
These two are the very core of the teachings of the Mahayana, the great vehicle, which is the Buddha's second turning of the wheel of the teachings. No matter what esoteric meditations of the Vajrayana one may engage in, we must base ourselves in the essence of Mahayana Buddhist teaching, the practice of loving-kindness and compassion.
This will lead to a point where we are actually able to renounce our own self-interest in favor of cherishing the welfare of others. This is genuine altruism. Even if one is not quite ready or able to adopt such a noble attitude, we train ourselves step by step to really consider what will help others as much as we look out for our own welfare.
You really can try to be an instrument of happiness for other living beings, even in the smallest ways. It is equally important that we never ignore or turn a blind eye to any causes that might bring suffering to others. As long as there is suffering, and it doesn't need to be yours, it still needs to be resolved or healed. One who has this attitude is able to develop an active or engaged compassion.
If there is happiness in a family or between a couple, this happiness hinges for the most part on how loving, caring, and giving the family members and partners are toward one another. It does not depend on their accumulation of wealth and their material success.
It is exactly the same as far as the well being of one's community, as far as the level of happiness in the greater world around us, is concerned. Whether or not a leader can set a good example that others can follow depends for the most part on how much they really care about others. It depends on how giving he or she is able to be when conducting their daily affairs. This type of leadership sets a noble standard that people will admire and will naturally wish to emulate.
It cannot help but benefit us if we are able to live according to the teaching and practice of loving-kindness toward whomever we share our lives with. Whether we are at home or out in the world, if we show more love and empathy for others, we will find more happiness in our lives.
If individuals are able to dedicate themselves to a life of loving-kindness and compassion, then such people will make a great contribution to the well-being of the world, as a whole, to the cause of peace and happiness.
What is called 'world peace' only depends on how the citizens of the world behave toward one another. Love and compassion lead to the happiness of the individual, and this will naturally bring about a peaceful world.
Although in this particular lifetime each of us has received the kindness of our own mother, this does not mean that there is only one person to whom we should feel indebted. It has been said by the Buddha that there have been countless occasions on which we have been reborn.
We ourselves have experienced births in all the six realms of existence, in every possible situation, in every possible circumstance. In each of these lives, we have had a kind mother, so in fact we are indebted to all of those mothers just as much as we are to the mother of our present life.
Bearing this in mind at all times can lead us to genuine concern for other beings. Due to our involvement with the karmic activities of this present life, we cannot recognize around us those who actually were our mothers in the past. Even so, we still can choose to conduct ourselves so as to repay each of them for all the good they have shown us. This is the way to develop loving-kindness.
There is great variety among the different religions in regard to how to approach the spiritual path, as well as in regard to their doctrines and their assertions of what is true. But one thing that we can find in common is that all religions promote love and compassion and caring for one another.
Without a doubt the spirit of Christianity is the same as that of Buddhism in promoting and upholding the value of love. The Christian teaching says that god is love, and, remembering this, one should show love toward others. This must be the most essential belief of Christians, and they try to practice it in their daily lives.
It is no different with Buddhism. The Buddhist teachings guide us in how to treat one another. They teach us to understand and resolve for ourselves the moral and ethical choices we make, since only these choices will become the causes for whatever results we ourselves will experience.
This practice of mindful attentiveness to one's conduct emphasized in the Buddhist teachings encourages us to cultivate beneficial causes, and these good causes arise from our intention to benefit others. Any deed that is performed with a good intention to benefit others will eventually bear fruits of happiness. This will come about due to what is known as the law of cause and effect, the law of karma.
Whether one believes in God, or whether one believes in the law of cause and effect, both teach us to be good people. It is doing good which promotes the happiness of others. When we ourselves shun and avoid negative conduct, the suffering of others is also avoided.
Both views accept the same fact, that we ought not to do things which create the causes of unhappiness, and that rather we should sow seeds of virtue that become causes for the happiness of others. All religions teach love between oneself and others, and that one ought to be a source of benefit to others rather than being a cause of pain for them.
It is important to see that these teachings of loving-kindness and compassion are not some sort of formal doctrine that one has to profess loyalty to or belief in. They are concerned with the way we live. What determines our happiness or lack of it is what we do with ourselves. We can conduct ourselves in a way that shows care and concern for whatever sufferings we see around us, however small or apparently insignificant.
We see suffering in the lives of others, and we wish that they did not have to experience such discomfort and unhappiness. We wish that we ourselves might be instruments in freeing them from suffering. We also wish that they will be happy, and that we ourselves can help them to be happy, that we may contribute to their well-being.
For example, in the lives of a couple, if each partner wishes the best for the other, and each wishes that the other not have to experience pain and misery, then there will be greater harmony between husband and wife, between partners.
Likewise, if such a relationship exists for example between an employer and those who work for him or her, this promotes happiness in those situations where some are in a leadership role and others are following their directions.
It is through each individual who assumes his or her share of this basic responsibility toward other beings, and conducts their relationships based on love and compassion, that it is possible for us to make our world a different place. People speak about world peace. Peace only comes about when people are extending love towards one another. These are essential points of the Mahayana Buddhist teaching.
Having understood what is the basis of the Mahayana or greater vehicle of Buddhism, one may now ask where the Vajrayana, the esoteric tantric vehicle, fits in to the Buddhist tradition. Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle, is a branch of the Mahayana tradition.
If one has developed a good basis of loving-kindness and compassion, one may make use of the methods that are the special skillful means of the Vajrayana. The benefit of these methods is that they provide a far more skillful and much swifter means of attaining enlightenment than can be gained by relying on the other vehicles on their own.
It is said that even if one follows the perfection of wisdom or Prajnaparamita of the Mahayana, still it will require three incalculable aeons to attain enlightenment. On the other hand, resorting to the skillful methods of the Vajrayana diamond vehicle, it is taught that it is even possible to attain enlightenment in one lifetime.
There have been a great number of practitioners of India and Tibet who through following Vajrayana Buddhism have indeed attained complete enlightenment in a single lifetime. It is for this purpose of greatly accelerating the path to enlightenment that the Vajrayana path is available as a special means within the great Mahayana vehicle.
If one has a heart that overflows with love and compassion as a stable foundation, then resorting to esoteric practices will guarantee rapid spiritual development. In this way, one may gain the capacity to benefit so many more sentient beings so much more quickly.
Within the esoteric vehicle of the Vajrayana teachings of the 'new schools' of Tibet, there are four general levels of tantras or scriptures. The highest, ultimate of these four is known as Anuttarayoga tantra or 'Highest Yoga' tantra. The Anuttarayoga tantras themselves are classed as Father tantras, Mother tantras, and Non-dual Tantras.
In the category of Non-dual Tantras, there are only two scriptural traditions, that of Buddha Hevajra and that of Buddha Kalachakra. In order to understand a little bit about Buddhist tantra, let us consider for example the tradition of Kalachakra. The empowerment of the Kalachakra Tantra has been widely given throughout the world in recent times. As a non-dual tantra, Kalachakra is the quintessence of all the Anuttara, or Highest Yoga tantras.
Kalachakra itself is divided into four types of tantra, giving us an elaborate framework to understand the specifics of the tantra. First there is the outer Kalachakra. and relates to the study of and meditation on the outer cosmos of our realm of existence.
Outer Kalachakra teaches us how all the physical appearances of this world are the manifestation of our collective karma. In this way, it teaches us the causes that bring about this universe. Outer Kalachakra describes the outer universe and how it directly corresponds with, and reflects, the inner propensities and karmic vision of all the beings within this universe.
Second comes the inner Kalachakra. Inner Kalachakra addresses itself to applying the profound internal meditations upon the subtle channels, vital winds, elements, and essential drops which make up the subtle or psychic body.
The third section of Kalachakra, secret Kalachakra, refers to meditating upon and within the ultimate meaning of the truth of emptiness.
The fourth subject within Kalachakra is 'other' or 'alternative' Kalachakra, In large part, these sections are concerned with visualizing and meditating on the Buddha in the form of the meditational deity Kalachakra, and chanting his mantra, as well as practices of the completion stage of tantric meditation.
Thus the Kalachakra tantra contains the deepest meanings of four types of tantras all within one single tradition. Due to its profound meaning and the blessing it carries, it is very good if one can receive the Kalachakra initiation or at least the oral transmission of the mantra of Buddha Kalachakra.
As an example of the power and benefits of mantras of the Highest Yoga Tantras of the Vajrayana, it is said that by merely hearing the sound of the Kalachakra mantra, with the proper attitude and faith, many difficulties and obstacles are removed for us.
If you take the opportunity to recite the Kalachakra mantra during the course of your life, this will allay outer obstacles and create peace within you. Even reciting the mantra once definitely has the power to pacify one's afflictions and promote a general sense of happiness and well-being.
Teaching by His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche given on May 5, 2000 in Barcelona,
Translated by Lama Chodak Yuthok, and
Edited by John Deweese
||THE PRACTICE OF THE GODDESS
By H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche
Regarding the practice of Tara, she is an enlightened being on the twelfth bhumi or stage of enlightenment, able to fulfill all the wishes of beings. Tara is the manifestation of the compassion of all the Buddhas of the three times. She is also the goddess who carries out and accomplishes the enlightened activities of the Buddhas.
There have been countless Buddhas of other aeons and eras. In the beginning of our aeon, there was a particular Buddha, the Buddha of that era, known as Mahavairochana. In the time of this Buddha, there was a great king who had a daughter by the name of Princess Metok Zay, Princess 'Beautiful Flower'. (1) Princess Beautiful Flower was devout in prayer, and carried out marvelous activities to benefit other beings. While still a young girl, Princess Beautiful Flower made vast offerings and dedications, performing generous, courageous, patient, and compassionate activities of the greatest virtue on behalf of sentient beings.
When Buddha Mahavairochana asked the Princess what it was she wished for, what was the intent of her heart, she replied, "I shall remain in this world until every single being is fully liberated."
This was a joyful surprise to the Buddha, who had never heard anyone offer such a noble, selfless, and courageous aspiration. In response to her personal sacrifices, her virtue and aspirations, and inspired by her wishes on behalf of beings, Buddha Vairochana spoke spontaneously the prayer of the twenty-one praises to Tara, a praise to twenty-one qualities of Tara.
As a result of this praise spoken by Buddha Vairochana, it came to be known that Princess Beautiful Flower was the emanation of the goddess Tara, who had originally come forth from the tears of compassion shed by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig.
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva had immense compassion for other living beings. Although he strove ceaselessly to help other beings, he felt great sorrow that so many beings continued to fall helplessly into the lower realms of existence such as the hells. He saw that very few beings were making progress on the path to enlightenment.
In utter despair, out of unbearable compassion, Avalokiteshvara cried in anguish, praying that it would be better that his body be broken into pieces and he die, since he was unable to fulfill his task of rescuing living beings from suffering. From his tears of compassion, the goddess Tara arose.
Upon appearing miraculously in this way, Tara spoke to Avalokiteshvara, saying, "O noble one, do not forsake the sublime task of benefiting sentient beings. I have been inspired by and have rejoiced in all of your unselfish deeds. I understand the great hardships you have undergone. But perhaps, if I assume the form of a female bodhisattva with the name of Tara, as a counterpart to you, then that might assist you in your most worthy endeavors."
Hearing this aspiration by Tara, Avalokiteshvara was filled with a renewed courage to continue his efforts on behalf of beings, and at this time both he and Tara were blessed by Amitabha Buddha for their commitment to the bodhisattva path.
At the time when Avalokiteshvara had cried out in despair, his body broke into one thousand pieces. Amitabha Buddha then blessed his body so that Avalokiteshvara arose in a new form with eleven heads, and with one thousand arms with an eye in the palm of each hand. In this way, we can see the close connection between Avalokiteshvara and Tara.
It is said that since that time, whoever will recite this praise to the twenty-one Taras spoken by Buddha Mahavairochana is sure to receive incredible benefits. Buddha Vairochana was able to fulfill all of his wishes. Even for Buddhas, there are times when they are unable to satisfy the needs of some sentient beings. However, after giving rise to this praise to the twenty-one Taras, Buddha Vairochana was able to not only fulfill all of his own wishes, but he was also generally able to fulfill all of the wishes of all who approached him.
Once an old woman came to Buddha Vairochana. She was quite poor, but had a daughter who was extraordinarily beautiful. This daughter had a royal admirer who desired her hand in marriage. In ancient India, if a peasant girl was to marry royalty, it was the custom that the girl's family should try to provide at least the jewelry to be worn by the bride. The impoverished old woman had no means with which to obtain jewelry for her daughter's wedding.
This woman had heard that Buddha Vairochana could grant anyone's wishes, and so she approached him. She came before the Buddha, asking if he could give her some jewelry so that her daughter might marry the king and fulfill the wishes of many people. At that time, Buddha Vairochana was staying in the Bodhi temple of Bodhgaya.
At the Bodhi temple there were many images of Green Tara. As he had no jewelry of his own to give her, the Buddha requested of one of the special images of Green Tara at the Bodhi temple that she give her crown to him, so that he could please the old mother and that her daughter might become a queen. This statue of Tara removed her own crown, and presented it to Buddha Vairochana, who was able to then offer it to the woman for her daughter's marriage.
It is said of Green Tara that not only will she give to beings whatever they may need, but also that she is able to allay each of the major fears of beings, such as the eight or sixteen common fears of beings which include fear of robbers and thieves, fear of water, of snakes, of poison, of imprisonment, and so on, as well as all the inner fears. Whatever fears beings suffer from, whenever they would recite the twenty-one praises to Tara, or even merely recite her ten-syllable mantra, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA, their fears have been pacified, and their needs have been fulfilled.
Buddha Mahavairochana appeared in a very, very ancient time, far before the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. It is also said that later, in our own era, Buddha Shakyamuni himself spoke the exact same prayer, repeating the words of Buddha Vairochana. This is recounted in the Kangyur collection of the words of the Buddha.
Thus, Tara was also greatly praised by Buddha Shakyamuni himself. In this way, the prayer to the twenty-one Taras carries immense blessing and power. Countless Mahayana Buddhists chant this praise every day; whether they are ordained or lay practitioners, whether they are young or old, this prayer has resounded as a constant murmur in the mouths of the faithful, since long before our present aeon.
In much more recent times, Tara has been the goddess relied upon as a meditational deity by many of the greatest masters in Buddhist history, great Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosophers and Mahasiddha adepts, such as in particular the esteemed Indian masters Nagarjuna and Aryadeva. The Indian pandita scholar Chandragomin had visions of Tara and received direct transmission from Tara. So many of the greatest of these masters have been devoted adept practitioners of Tara. The Indian Mahasiddha Virupa, founder of the Lam Dre lineage of Buddha Hevajra, received blessings from Tara.
One of the greatest Indian masters, who had a very important role in introducing the practice of Tara in Tibet, was the Bengali pandita scholar Atisha. Atisha had been invited many times to visit Tibet, but he had always refused, having heard about the high altitude and harsh climate of Tibet, as well as the unruly and uncouth character of the Tibetan people. He doubted that he would be able to go there and really turn their minds to the path of dharma.
The Indian master Atisha, being a great devotee of Green Tara long before he journeyed to Tibet, one day received a prophecy from Tara. Tara herself told Atisha that he should go to the land of snows, Tibet, where he would, like the sun, illuminate beings with the teachings of the Buddha, dispelling all their darkness.
In this way, he would bring great benefit to the sentient beings in the northern countries. Tara further told Atisha that there he would meet a great disciple of his, one who would be in fact an emanation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. She prophesied that the combined activities of Atisha and this disciple would cause the teachings to flourish for thousands of years and spread everywhere.
Only after hearing these prophetic words spoken by Tara did Atisha relent in his judgments regarding Tibet and the Tibetans, and he resolved to go to Tibet. Although Atisha did face some initial difficulties in Tibet, such as not finding qualified translators and meeting with harsh conditions, nonetheless in time he did meet up with his prophesied disciple, Dromtonpa. Dromtonpa went on to become the founder of the Kadampa school, which became the source from which the Dalai Lama incarnations have arisen.
It is from the influence of Atisha that the teachings of Green Tara came to flourish in Tibet. Although the earlier Nyingmapa tradition worshipped the goddess in various forms, this was not so widely spread until Atisha came to Tibet and propagated the praise to the twenty-one Taras. These are some of the blessings and gifts of holy Tara.
Chandragomin was another of the great Indian masters who played a significant role in the spreading of the traditions of Tara. He was not a monk, but was an upasaka, a lay practitioner holding eight vows.
Due to such masters, the praise to the twenty-one Taras, her mantra, and rituals, spread to all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, all of which continue to rely on the practice of meditation on Tara. There are a great many stories of spiritual masters in Tibet who relied on Tara as their meditation deity.
In the sixteenth century in Tibet was a very great master called Jonang Taranatha. 'Tara' means 'savior', 'Natha' means 'protector' in Sanskrit. He was said to be in an almost continuous direct communion with Tara herself. He sought out Indian Buddhist traditions when there was almost nothing left of the Buddhadharma in India, and was said to have found and recovered many sources of dharma teaching.
Taranatha wrote an elaborate history of Tara and her practices. He was very careful about dating and identifying different Indian masters who were associated with the practice of Tara. Taranatha's writings on Tara survive in his collected works, and there are English translations of this work that include explanations of the twenty-one praises to Tara.
There are specific mantras for each of the twenty-one forms of Tara. Specific forms of Tara can be invoked for particular obstacles or fears, and one can practice them in this way once one has received empowerment and transmission of the twenty-one praises to Tara.
To set the benefit of these blessings of the Buddhas, of Tara, and of all these masters, in motion, it is said that after receiving the transmission of the twenty-one praises to Tara, one may choose to recite this praise, or recite the long dharani form of Tara's mantra, or even just recite the ten syllable mantra of Tara. One may recite any or all of these three, whether it be early in the morning, or in the middle or the day, or in the evening, or in the middle of the night. It is said to be especially important and helpful to recite these whenever one's mind is troubled and cannot be pacified by other means.
One whose mind is so troubled may speak about their problems to some friends, but still they remain disturbed. Friends may support our point of view and understand our fears, yet still, our wishes are not fulfilled. Even if they are supportive and agree with us, our problems still remain; just because they are in sympathetic agreement with us does not mean they are able to truly help us. It even happens that one may be worse off than before as a result of such friendly consultations!
On the other hand, any faithful devotee may recite the twenty-one praises to Tara, or may recite the long dharani mantra or even the short mantra of ten syllables, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA, whenever they may be in crisis. When their needs and wishes are being denied or frustrated and cannot be fulfilled, leaving them feeling crippled or confused, if at this time they pray to her, she will be there to heal their fears and tribulations.
This approach presents us with an alternative to our ordinary response to difficulties. When we are troubled, normally we would immediately seek out a friend or counselor to validate our misery. Wishing to find comfort and pacify our turmoil, we may instead stir things up and actually make them worse. Another approach worth trying is that we might instead recite the praise to the twenty-one Taras, or recite her mantra, and in this way find the comfort and resolution we are looking for.
The practice of Tara is also very beneficial and effective for dharma centers. Those centers that do the pujas or prayer rituals of Tara find themselves rewarded with success, as their wishes for the spread of the teachings of Buddha are fulfilled! Deep and heartfelt wishes that we give rise to out of inspiration and devotion are much more easily fulfilled, especially when they are for the sake of others!
Virtually every Tibetan monastery performs Green Tara puja prayer rituals every morning, whether they have five monks or one thousand. The praise to the twenty-one Taras has been chanted continuously by countless beings stretching all the way back to Buddha Vairochana in an earlier age long, long before our present era. The fact that this prayer is so ancient and has been so popular and widely practiced over the ages contributes to its great power and effectiveness.
All the accumulated blessings of that have arisen due to the prayers of the faithful throughout the ages come down to us and are received by us when we pray with faith and devotion to Tara. Through regular practice of the praise to the twenty-one Taras and the mantras of Tara, these blessings are cultivated and can ripen in our mindstreams, in our experience. It is for this reason that the worship of Tara makes such an excellent daily practice.
This praise to the twenty-one Taras is also very important to the Chinese traditions of Mahayana Buddhism that have connections to Vajrayana Buddhism.
||Receiving the Blessings of the Bodhisattva Tara
Entry into the path of meditating of the bodhisattva Tara begins with empowerment, the transmission of her enlightened wisdom and blessings.
When we receive the transmission of the blessings of green Tara, for example, we first offer a mandala to the Guru who we should visualize and really feel is actually the goddess Tara herself, present in front of us. One visualizes the Guru in front of us as Tara. One also visualizes that Tara is present in the mandala on the shrine in front of us.
From the heart centers of these two Taras, brilliant light shines forth which strikes ourselves and all sentient beings. This radiating light transforms our ordinary bodies of flesh, bones, and blood, and we become an orb or ball of light, a mass of light. All ordinary phenomena dissolve into a state of emptiness. We rest our minds naturally in that state, remaining in this state which is the presence of light within emptiness, the clarity of emptiness. Within this emptiness, everything is possible.
The place where you are is the pure realm of Tara, the Turquoise Realm known as "Harmony of Turquoise Leaves". You are no longer in your ordinary form, but have the nature of a ball of light. Any sounds you hear are the echo of the mantra of Tara. Any thought that may arise or occur to you is wisdom, emptiness. All phenomena, everything, is like space. There is nothing mundane or ordinary that remains.
Next, there appears a lotus flower and on that flower a letter 'AH' transforms into a moon disc. Upon that moon disc is a blue seed syllable HUM, which emanates brilliant light that spreads throughout the universe. It strikes all living beings, purifying all their obscurations and sins.
The radiating rays of light also make offerings to the enlightened ones and are then re-absorbed back into the letter. From the transformation of this letter, which represents the nature of one's own mind, oneself appears as Tara.
She is green in color with one face and two hands with the feet drawn in. Her right hand is stretched out over the right knee with the palm in the gesture of supreme generosity. The left hand is in the gesture of granting refuge, with the thumb and ring finger touching and holding the stem of an utpala, a blue lotus flower, which reaches up to her left shoulder. The utpala in Tara's hand has three flowers. One of these is still a bud, one is fully blossomed, and one is slightly dried up.
Tara is a beautiful emerald green color; she is of the nature of light. Tara is adorned with all the magnificent ornaments, crown, necklace, and so forth, as well as silken garments. Her posture is graceful, with her right leg slightly outstretched and her left leg pulled slightly toward her.
At her forehead is the white letter OM, representing the body of all the Buddhas; at her throat is the red letter AH, the speech of all the enlightened ones; at her heart is the blue letter HUM, which is the mind of all the Buddhas. In fact, your body, speech, and mind have always been the holy body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas. So far, you have perceived these to be impure. In order to transcend this, visualize your three places with the syllables OM, AH, and HUM. On top of the syllable HUM, one should also visualize the syllable TAM, the seed syllable of Tara.
In addition, the Guru also appears in the same form of Green Tara, as well as the appearance of Green Tara on the shrine.
Within the heart of oneself appearing as Tara and in the hearts of the Guru appearing as Tara and of the Tara visualized on the shrine is a small form of Tara. Within the heart of this tiny Tara is a minute letter TAM, the seed syllable of Tara herself.
Brilliant light shines from the hearts of the Guru and of Tara on the shrine. This light fills the universe, spreading in all the ten directions to the Buddha realms and reaches to all of the enlightened ones, invoking infinite blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, summoning their wisdom and compassion.
Especially, this light goes to the realm "Harmony of Turquoise Leaves", in the Potala paradise in the southern direction, where the wisdom aspect of Tara resides. Now all the enlightened ones assume the form of Tara. There are in the space above and around us millions and billions of Green Taras of exquisite appearance that rain down upon us and are absorbed into our bodies. The largest of these may be huge like mountains, the smallest no more than the size of a sesame seed.
Like a giant storm gathering from all the ten directions, all of these shower down upon us and are absorbed into us. In an empowerment, this is known as the descent of blessing, and is extremely important.
Now one clearly visualizes the syllables of the three vajras, OM, AH, and HUM, at the forehead, throat, and heart, respectively. One also visualizes the samadhi meditation aspect in one's heart as the tiny Tara figure. All of these are clearly visualized in oneself appearing as Tara, in the master appearing as Tara, and in Tara who appears on the shrine.
Next, rays of light shine from the heart of the Guru, inviting all the deities of initiation to appear before the Guru in the sky, and the Guru flings nectar from the initiation vase. Simultaneously, the deities bestow initiation by pouring nectar from vases they hold in their hands. This nectar enters through the tops of our heads, completely filling our bodies and overflowing at the crown of our heads, where it takes the form of the Buddha Amoghasiddhi.
In this way you should then feel that you have received the blessings of the enlightened form, the body of Holy Tara, and as a result of that, the effects of previous misdeeds and sinful actions done in the past is removed. One's own physical form becomes indivisible from the form of Tara, and you are empowered to meditate upon yourself appearing as Tara. From now on, you should never see yourself in an impure form, but should instead always regard yourself in the form of Tara.
For the blessing of the enlightened speech of Tara, one imagines that within the heart of the Guru and the Tara on the shrine there is the letter TAM surrounded by the mantra of Tara. Rays of light issue from the TAM in the heart of the Guru and from the shrine Tara. Now we recite the mantra OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA. As we do so, like bubbles rising up in water, from the mouth of the Guru in the form of Tara and from the mouth of the shrine Tara, the letters of the mantra issue, and are absorbed into the seed syllable TAM in your heart.
They are absorbed into the samadhi aspect, the tiny Tara in the center of our hearts. These letters now arrange themselves around the TAM on the moon disc in the heart center of the tiny Tara in our hearts. The seed syllable TAM in Tara's heart is surrounded by the ten syllables of her mantra.
Next one would imagine that all the blessings of the enlightened speech of all the Buddhas take the form of letters of the mantra of Tara, and all these rain down upon us. These letters enter us through our mouths, and are received by the wisdom aspect, the Tara appearing in our hearts. Once more we repeat the mantra.
Here one would feel that all vocal impediments, all obstacles in relation to one's speech are purified. All the effect of previous non-virtuous acts of speech is also purified. One is empowered to recite the mantra of Tara.
Next is the blessing of the mind. For this, one focuses on the Tara on the shrine, the Tara on the mandala. Now one arouses even greater devotion for Mother Tara, and supplicates her to bestow her blessings. From her heart emanate countless flowers like the utpala blue lotus held in her left hand. All these are absorbed into us through the tops of our heads.
Finally, one would imagine that light shines forth and transforms all of the inanimate universe into the celestial palace, and all sentient beings are transformed into the form of Tara. Rest the mind briefly in this state, where everything is known to be like a dream.
In this way one may receive the blessings and the consecration of the enlightened body, speech, and mind of Tara, and also receive the blessings from the vase of initiation. One then offers a mandala in gratitude for the blessing.
||Meditation on Green Tara
On the basis of preliminary trainings and practices, as well as based on receiving the blessings of the Bodhisattva Tara, one is able to perform the meditation on Tara and recite her mantra.
The entry into Buddhist meditation in the Mahayana tradition begins with lojong, training the mind. Of utmost importance is the development and training of compassion.
How do we develop this training? First, we meditate on the kindness shown to us by our mothers. Our mother carried us in her womb and gave birth to us. She fed us and cleaned us when we were helpless babies. Remembering her kindness, visualize your own mother.
As you meditate in this way on your mother, generate love and gratitude toward her. Once you have given rise to this feeling, you can begin to extend this feeling to others, until gradually you are able to extend the feeling of love and gratitude to all living beings in the course of your meditation.
This is possible because in the past since time without beginning, every being has in fact been your own kind mother. As is said in many refuge prayers, 'For all sentient beings who have been my mother, I take refuge.'
Another possibility is that you can also meditate on the love a mother has for her only child, and in the same way extend this feeling to all sentient beings.
Once you have done this, the next step is to begin to give rise to compassion. Understanding the kindness shown to you by your mother, you would never wish to see your mother suffer in any way. This wish to remove your mother from all suffering is compassion. Put yourself in her place, feeling her troubles and whatever hardships she has to suffer. Once this feeling of compassion has arisen in your heart, then you can extend it to others until it comes to embrace all living beings. One genuinely understands the suffering of others and truly aspires to remove them from suffering.
In this state, one is ready to take refuge. Here it is important to understand that you can only take true refuge in a truly free being. It won't ultimately help you to take refuge in all the different worldly gods, just as a petty lord cannot truly protect you in the way a king can.
There are also other mind trainings you can also do to prepare in meditation for the taking of refuge. It is very helpful to reflect on the benefits of altruism as opposed to the apparent benefits of self-interest. All misfortune and suffering actually comes directly from pursuing one's own interest at the expense of what might be best for others.
It is equally true that all benefit and good fortune in fact derives from putting the welfare of others first. What it all comes down to is that if you work only for your own benefit you end up making trouble for yourself. Working for others guarantees that good will come to you in the future.
Likewise, the practice of virtue is an essential part of training one's mind in the dharma. For example, if you has been generous in the past, you will be experiencing prosperity and abundance in the present. If we have been patient in the past, then whoever sees us will automatically be attracted to us and feel positively toward us, giving us power and influence.
Of particular importance is the training in ethical conduct. If one does not practice ethical discipline in this life, it is difficult to gain future human births. Our birth as human beings at this time is due to some previous practice of moral discipline. Such discipline is the true foundation for any and all real qualities to arise.
The basis for this discipline is the practice of virtue. In practice, this means renouncing the ten non-virtuous deeds. These are: (1) killing, (2) stealing, and (3) sexual misconduct for the body; (4) lying, (5) slandering, (6) speaking harsh words, and (7) idle gossip or meaningless speech for the deeds of one's speech; and (8) thoughts of avarice and covetousness, (9) malicious thinking which wishes others harm, and (10) mistaken beliefs or wrong views, for the deeds of one's mind.
The ten virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind arise naturally when one refrains from the ten types of negative deeds. Hence we can see that embracing virtuous discipline is also another basis for the taking of refuge. In this approach, whatever actions you do, they are all offerings and service to the Buddhas.
Now that we have discussed some of the trainings that are the basis for taking refuge, what are the objects in whom we take refuge? They are the three jewels. The first jewel is the Buddha, who possesses the three kayas, or the enlightened body, speech, and mind.
The Buddha is said to possess three kayas or 'bodies' of enlightenment. The Buddha's Dharmakaya is like the vastness of the sky or space. The Buddha's Sambhogakaya manifests without Buddha ever straying from Dharmakaya-it is like the moon in the sky. The Buddha's appearance as the Nirmanakaya of flesh and blood is like the moon reflected in a pool of water.
The second jewel is the Dharma. This is the tripitaka, the three baskets of scriptures. We take refuge in the Dharma because the realization that arises in the minds of practitioners is based on the understanding of the scriptures. The third jewel is the Sangha, the enlightened community, the Arhats, Bodhisattvas, and Deities.
One who has taken refuge is surely and steadily following the path that leads to enlightenment. We take refuge for all sentient beings. This brings our refuge to the level of the Mahayana or great vehicle, which wishes to save every living being.
Buddhahood, enlightenment, is attained through the realization of selflessness, which includes the realization of the emptiness of all phenomena. Training step-by-step and accumulating merit helps us to be able to realize emptiness.
For this, one needs to cultivate the firm resolution to attain the state of enlightenment. It is also necessary to generate the precious bodhichitta. In order to be able to generate bodhichitta, it is necessary to cherish the welfare of others. It is often said in the teachings that all suffering originates from selfishness, while all happiness comes from valuing and seeking the welfare of others. This cherishing of the welfare of others can then lead to bodhichitta, the altruistic motivation to free all beings from suffering and establish them in the state of enlightenment.
It is further said that all of the teachings of the Buddha can be understood in terms of the law of karma, the law of cause and effect. If you sow seeds of virtue, this will bear the fruit of fortunate results and positive circumstances. If you cultivate non-virtuous behavior, it will lead to unhappiness.
In Buddhism, we speak of the importance of the law of cause and effect. In Christianity, the emphasis is on faith in a god. But this faith is itself is still a cause, a virtuous cause, so happiness can indeed be derived as the effect or result of a cause, which is cultivating faith. So, in fact, the Christians are also speaking of the law of cause and effect. These two religious teachings may use different concepts and yet share some very similar ideas.
When one receives empowerment and does the practice of Green Tara, she should be seen with the faith that she is the embodiment of all the enlightened activities of all the Buddhas. Thus one may learn to pray to the Bodhisattva Goddess Tara. Beyond any doubt she is able to allay and pacify all fears.
Both Tara and the female Buddha Vajrayogini are one in essence, since both are wisdom goddesses, enlightened ones. Even if one is not able to practice all the details of the eleven yogas of Vajrayogini, one who knows how to really pray deeply to the goddess Tara will receive the same benefits.
Often together with refuge and generating the wish to save all beings one also recites the seven-branch prayer, which is found near the beginning of many sadhanas. The seven branches are: paying homage, making confession, rejoicing in the virtues of others, resolving the bodhichitta enlightenment thought, requesting to turn the wheel of dharma, requesting not to pass into nirvana, and dedication of merit. Each of these branches reveals an important component of the path.
Having taken refuge and paid homage, one sees Tara as the sole object of refuge to whom you entrust your faith. This is the first of the four powers of confession, which is the second branch. The first power of confession is the 'power of the shrine'. Now one is ready to confess misdeeds with strong remorse, like one who has mistakenly taken poison and so has genuine regrets. You see how harmful it is to have committed such misdeeds, and, with remorse and contrition, you confess. This is the second of the powers of confession, the 'power of regret'
The third power of confession is the 'power of the antidote'; in short, this means promising with sincerity never to repeat the negative conduct again. As a result of this, all negativities will be fully repaired and virtue will be restored and revived. This is the fourth of the powers, the 'power of renewal or restoration'. Unless we confess negative deeds, we keep on continuously accumulating the causes of suffering.
An example of the third of the seven branches, the branch of rejoicing in virtue, is illustrated by the story of a beggar who rejoiced in the merit of a king presenting a lavish feast for the Buddha. By his rejoicing, the beggar gained even greater merit than the king himself. Similarly, if you know of someone who has completed the recitation of many millions of mantras, then if you rejoice in their practice, you are able to share in their great merit.
This illustrates that even without great effort on one's own part, through rejoicing in the merit of others, one is able to gain vast stores of merit.
Another of the seven branches is the request to the Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma. Without such requests, the teachings do not reach sentient beings. This is illustrated in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha.
When Buddha became enlightened, he made a famous statement that is recorded in the sutras:
"I have found a Dharma which is like nectar; it is uncompounded clear light, profound and peaceful, beyond conceptual elaboration.
Were I to explain it, others would not understand, and so I shall remain in the forest without speaking."
In response to this, the god Brahma, the creator, requested that Buddha turn the wheel of Dharma according to the particular needs of the varieties of sentient beings.
The final of the seven branches is dedication of merit. Dedication of merit is the most important of all of the seven branches. Whatever meditation, whatever practice or virtuous deeds one performs, we should always dedicate the merit so that our virtue is not dissipated.
Unless you dedicate the merit, however great it may be, it will not be of much benefit compared to merit which has been dedicated, and the result of our actions may even lead somewhere else! On the other hand, however small a virtue or meritorious deed one may have performed, by dedicating its merit, the benefits will go on increasing and increasing.
For example, however small an act of generosity, such as just giving a drink of water to a thirsty person, if followed by dedication of merit, it will go on increasing one's store of virtue. Without dedication, even the virtue gained through great deeds is easily exhausted.
The Buddhist scriptures teach that so much as a moment of anger can destroy great stores of undedicated virtue. Anger is the most destructive of the afflictive emotions. We dedicate whatever merit we generate immediately so that it cannot be destroyed by our negative thoughts, words, and deeds.
It is taught that patience serves as the antidote to anger. The virtue accrued through the practice of patience is immense. Whatever abusive words may be spoken to you, simply practice patience.
Since this is so important, let us pause here to consider the virtues of practicing patience. Patience is counted as one of the six or ten paramitas, the perfections of the Bodhisattvas. There are three types of patience. The best of the three is to know the emptiness of all things. Next best is non-retaliatory patience, where one does not retaliate or take revenge on others who have abused or behaved badly toward oneself. This means that one voluntarily accepts whatever suffering or harm may be heaped upon oneself without striking back.
Practicing patience is one of the highest forms of asceticism. Through this practice, all aggression will be pacified by itself. When two communities are in conflict, if one of these is able to exercise patience, the strife between them can diminish and gradually subside all together.
Patience is sometimes thought of as the highest of all virtues; it is very sacred. If one has practiced patience, it leads directly to being born with a beautiful form. Though we think being born beautiful is due to some kind of heredity from our parents, in fact it is largely due to the merit of practicing patience in one's previous lives.
Indeed, the good fortune of being born as a human being is due to the performance of ethics, of moral deeds, in one's previous lives. But not all humans are born with a beautiful form; it is only those who have practiced patience who are graced with such an appearance.
Those who are patient are generally admired by everyone; from kings and dignitaries down to the most ordinary person, all will respect one who is patient. This is because patience consumes one's anger, the cause of the worst suffering. There is no non-virtue like that of anger and hatred; it destroys all seeds of virtue. In contrast, practicing patience destroys anger and hatred. There really is no virtue that can match the virtue of patience.
Another of the six or ten paramitas or perfections of the Bodhisattvas is the perfection of diligence. Whatever you undertake, you must apply diligence to the task. If you have diligence, you can even make a hole in a rock using your hands. The practice of diligence in this life will enable one to do things quickly and successfully in future lives, without facing many obstacles.
Yet another of the paramitas or perfections is the perfection of concentration. The benefits of the training in concentration are that one becomes contented and peaceful and easy-going. One finds one's mind easy to tame, and things are fine and as they should be. These are some of the virtues of the positive karma that arises through the perfection of concentration.
Especially important is the prajna paramita, the perfection of wisdom. It gives one the ability to discern matters with mental clarity and clear reasoning.
The law of karma, of cause and effect, is infallible; it will never let you down. Non-virtues definitely do create unhappiness. Even if one has the good fortune to be born as a human being, if non-virtuous causes are present in oneself, these will perpetually create suffering, even if one gains higher rebirth, such as that of a human being.
The realms of suffering such as the hells are the result of one's own wrong thoughts and deeds. There are no 'places' such as the hells. The hellish fires of the hot hells are the manifestation of unresolved anger and negativity stored in the mind. These karmic accumulations manifest as what appears to be a real world or realm that one must experience. Due to negative karma, one has a distorted perception of all of reality, not realizing that whatever reality one seems to be experiencing is in fact created by one's own mind.
All meditation practices must be structured according to the three excellences: that which is virtuous in the beginning, that which is virtuous in the middle, and that which is virtuous in the end.
In meditation, the most important thing is meditation on emptiness. All the attainments of the Buddhas are the result of meditation on emptiness. We ourselves have not become Buddhas because we have not effectively meditated on emptiness.
What is virtuous in the beginning is refuge. What is virtuous in the middle is the main part of the practice. What is virtuous in the end is the dedication of merit. Hence we can see that the taking of refuge is the basis of all further practice.
In the Earlier Translation school they speak of nine vehicles of Buddhism, which includes six tantric vehicles, while in the Later Translation schools they speak of four vehicles or classes of tantra: kriya or action tantra; charya or performance tantra; yoga tantra; and anuttarayogatantra or unsurpassable yoga tantra.
In the practice of Kriyatantra, one visualizes the deity, such as the goddess Tara, in the space above and in front, and thinks of oneself as a loyal subject supplicating a king or queen, hoping to receive their kindness. This is the nature of the relationship of the meditator and the deity in Kriyatantra. In Charyatantra, you would regard the goddess as a friend, one who you ask for some favor or assistance or blessings. In Charya or performance tantra, the relationship between the meditator and the deity is like that of a friend to a friend.
In Yogatantra, one is unifying one's own nature with the nature of the deity, unifying one's own appearance with the appearance of Tara. In Anuttarayogatantra, one does not view oneself and the deity as separate in nature. Based on this, one transforms one's ordinary body, speech, and mind into holy Tara's body, speech, and mind.
In order to do this, you must have received the permission-initiation. This is what enables you to transform your ordinary body into the divine body, to transform your ordinary speech into enlightened speech, and to transform your mundane thoughts into the wisdom of the goddess Tara through meditating on emptiness.
||Special Benefits Bestowed by Tara And the Mother Goddesses
The practice of Tara is said to have many different extraordinary powers of blessing, and is particularly effective in a wide variety of situations. For example, it is said that at the end of an aeon or cycle of time, when hardships and calamities may increase, the mantra and puja rituals of Tara are very essential. Anyone can recite the prayers of Tara and it brings great benefit.
As we recounted earlier, in a prior era at the beginning of our aeon, the Buddha Mahavairochana was the Guru, the spiritual guide, of Tara. Buddha Vairochana blessed Tara and prophesied to her that at the end of the aeon, in those lands and worlds where pujas, prayers, and rituals of Tara are recited, as a result of these prayers, the many diseases, troubles, and disturbances caused by evil spirits and by human beings would be pacified and resolved. I feel that the practice of Tara is the most important and essential of all practices in such times.
Other goddesses also very helpful in this regard is Marichi, or Ozer Jemma, and the well-known goddess of spiritual healing, Parna Shawari. Their prayers and mantras bring the same power and benefits as those of Tara. They are basically the same goddess, Prajnaparamita, in different manifestations.
Of Tara, is said that not only diseases and disturbances caused by evil spirits, but also fighting, wars, conflicts and arguments may also be pacified and resolved by the power of her practice. All such obstacles and related difficulties can be removed through the blessing of the prayers and mantras of these goddesses.
Ozer Jemma and Parna Shawari as well as Yudon Drolma, are particularly effective forms of the goddess to practice in order to protect against and heal all kinds of diseases. They are especially important to protect against thieves and criminals, and to heal the suffering caused by strife and conflict.
It is said that these puja prayer rituals and mantra recitations are particularly important when we come to the end of an age or cycle of time. For such times, the practice of Guru Rinpoche is widely recommended, but Tara, Ozer Jemma, and Parna Shawari are also extremely important.
In times of the threat of wars, epidemics, strife, and so on, it is very important that the mantras of these three goddesses be put on prayer flags and hung in the air, as much as people are able to do this. People from all walks of life should do this and say these mantras as much as possible. Along with the prayers of Guru Rinpoche, these practices are the most effective in such times and situations as we are speaking of. This has been stated in many scriptures.
One who offers praise to Tara is truly intelligent. Whether early in the morning or late at night, if one offers the praise to the twenty-one Taras, such as offering two, three, and then seven repetitions of the prayer, totaling twelve recitations of the praise to the twenty-one Taras, all wishes can be fulfilled. This is how it is in the Four Mandalas' Ritual of Holy Tara "The Illuminating Lamp". In this puja one repeats the praise twice, then three times, then seven times.
When it is said that all one's wishes will be fulfilled, it means that if you need a child, you'll get one. If you have financial needs, these will be met. Whatever wishes you have, all of them can be fulfilled through praise to Tara. Actually, one doesn't need more than this practice; it accomplishes everything!
You only need to try it out, to test it, in order to allay your obstacles. All of your obstacles and difficulties, however many there are, can all be removed and relieved through offering praise to Tara. Through praying to Tara, all potential obstacles are powerless to cause you harm; they are naturally pacified. Nothing can get to you or harm you in any way; you become impenetrable, unassailable.
There is no doubt that Tara is very swift in allaying obstacles. It is an especially close and rapid method for female practitioners. Tara and the female Buddha Vajrayogini are of the same essence; Vajrayogini is also a rapid method of gaining accomplishment. All the activities of the Buddhas are embodied in Tara, contained in her, complete in her.
You have now been empowered to meditate on yourself in the form of Green Tara. Your speech can be transformed into mantra, your thoughts into wisdom. You are no longer an ordinary being; your body, speech, and mind have been completely elevated into the exalted state of Tara herself, into the form, mantra, and wisdom of Tara.
The words of the praise to the twenty-one Taras are not the intellectual composition of scholars. They are spoken directly by Buddha Mahavairochana and Buddha Shakyamuni themselves. Please recite the praise to Tara as much as you are able to in the course of your everyday life. If you are unable at any time to recite the praise, try to recite the mantra of Tara, OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SVAHA.
At the minimum, at least you can recite "Tara, Tara, Tara ˇK", or you can say "Tare, Tare, TareˇK", just repeating her name. When you call out someone's name, don't they give you their attention? By calling on Tara by name, she will certainly hear you and respond. Don't just do it because I say so, but by all means, do it!
Translated by Lama Choedak Yuthok
Compiled and edited by John Deweese
(1)There are other, more well known versions of similar stories of a noble princess with selfless Bodhisattva aspirations. For example, Taranatha mentions the story the Buddha Dundubhisvara and princess Yeshe Dawa or 'Wisdom Moon'. Princess Wisdom Moon accumulated vast stores of merit, and is advised by some monks to pray for birth as a man. In response, she vows to work for the benefit of sentient beings, always in the body of a woman, until samsara is emptied.
(Lama Choedak recommends the book, "The Cult of Tara" by Stephen Beyer. Also noteworthy is "In Praise of Tara" by Martin Wilson, published by Wisdom books, and "Tara: The Feminine Divine" by Bokar Rinpoche.)
Copyright © 2001-2005 His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. All rights reserved.