Illuminating Jewel Mirror
Illuminating Jewel Mirror
A Brief, Clear, and Comprehensible Overview of the Development Stage
Just to hear or remember your name
Instills in us the vajra wisdom—
Guru, sublime deity, I bow to you
As I set out to briefly describe the development stage.
The great vajra-holding Conqueror has taught uncountable gateways to the Dharma in accord with the capacities of beings to be guided. The goal of all of these is the resultant supremely secret vajra vehicle, a path that has two stages: the development stage of means and the completion stage of knowledge. Here, with the intention to help beginners, I will set aside extensive quotations and verbosity and describe in a very concise and comprehensible way the theory and practice of the first level, the development stage, in connection with its ritual enactment.
The vajra vehicle is a part of the Great Vehicle, in fact it is its pinnacle, so first of all it is vital to be grounded in the motivation and conduct of the Great Vehicle. It will not suffice to delve haphazardly straight into mantra and claim to be doing recitation practice. Instead, we should consider this: for once, we have now attained something so rare and valuable, a precious human life with its freedoms and advantages. It will,
however, not last long since we are not immortal. When and where we will die is unsure, and there are so many ways death can happen. We have only a few things to help us stay alive, and many of them can cause our death as well. When death suddenly comes around, no one can stop it. When we die, we can take nothing along with us but our positive and negative actions. If the ripening of our tainted, unwholesome actions carries
us then into the lower realms, we will face the endless suffering of heat, cold, starvation, thirst, and enslavement. Even if wholesome, tainted actions propel us into the higher realms, we will not remain there forever; they are still conditioned states and will end at some time. Thus, any type of birth we may take within existence will be characterized by the three types of suffering, and will leave us without the slightest chance of real happiness.
Now we are at this juncture of paths that lead up or down, whereby our future fate, either good or bad, lies before us. Here we should reflect on the futility of all the pain and happiness, victory and loss, joy and sorrow that occur in our lives and conclude that the only thing for us to do is reach the fruition— liberation from this perpetual suffering. If we cannot sincerely engender such an attitude of disenchantment, our path will not even qualify as that of the Lesser Vehicle, let alone the Great Vehicle. Beyond this, as followers of the Great Vehicle, it is vital to have the noble wish to help others. We should thus consider the great kindness of every single being throughout the reaches of space, without distinction regarding friend or enemy, connected as they have been to us as our fathers, mothers, friends, and relatives in past lives. Though all of them want only happiness, they are unaware of the
means to achieve it and instead perpetuate the causes and effects of suffering. How sad! If only they could be happy and never suffer; and how wonderful if they could swifdy attain unsurpassed, complete enlightenment! Whatever the cost, we alone must bring them to that state. However, in order to have the power to do so, we must, by all means, first reach the level of complete enlightenment ourselves. To that end we must harmoniously integrate the profound key points of the paths of sutra and mantra and put them into practice.
It is important to have a foundation in these special points of motivation and conduct, so train by repeatedly applying them to your personal experience. Always maintain mindfulness and attentiveness, and give up the self-centeredness that impedes them. If we do not know how to continuously use all our physical, verbal, and mental endeavors for altruism and transform them into the seeds of awakening, we will never enter the ranks of the Great Vehicle. This precise type of mind training is crucial at the beginning since it will not be enough just to proclaim oneself a Great Vehicle practitioner.
When a person is well grounded in the Great Vehicle attitude and behavior, and is ready to enter the resultant vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra, it is first of all necessary to receive the ripening empowerments. Without that, we are not permitted to even hear the teachings, let alone practice them. It also does not suffice just to receive empowerments; we must adhere to the commitments, which constitute their life force. If we do not
adhere to them, whatever we set out to do will go wrong—it will lead us to misfortune in this life and, afterwards, land us directly in vajra hell. It is said, however, that if one is able to keep them correcdy, one will be liberated within seven lifetimes even without practicing.
The root of these commitments is to never transgress the bonds related to the guru’s body, speech, and mind. If we are able to constantly supplicate the guru, his blessings will automatically penetrate us and all the
qualities of experience and realization will emerge like ice melting in springtime. All the major and minor qualities that emerge on the Great Vehicle path are said to depend on the guru, our spiritual guide. Thus, it is important to consider whichever main part of practice we are doing—whether the development, recitation, or completion stage —as an expression of the guru’s body, speech, and mind.
Those who lack the fortune to already be motivated by this sort of renunciation, enlightened attitude, and devotion may nonetheless wish to strive in the practice of the two stages. For them there is no way around first reaching some degree of practical understanding of the presentations of the ground, path, and fruition continua, just as in archery one must first identify the target. One should learn the elaborate version of these from
the profound sütras and tantras on the definitive meaning as well as their commentaries and instructions. We can then also learn the specific details from the oral teachings of a qualified master who holds a lineage for them. I will definitely not be able to present them here in just a few words.
THE BASIS OF PURIFICATION
To provide a mere kernel of the basic principles for beginners, the basis of purification—as it is commonly taught in sütra and mantra—is the reality of suchness, or the essence of the bliss-gone ones. The nature or definition of suchness is resolved in the Victorious One’s middle wheel of teachings in terms of the empty essence, the natural state endowed with the three liberations. In the final wheel of teachings suchness is
expressed in terms of the manifest aspect of luminous wakefulness indivisible from the undefiled enlightened attributes. In mantra, however, suchness is described as vajra mind, which is the unity of these two. This refers to the intrinsic wakefulness beyond expression that is the innate luminosity of one’s own mind.
Moreover, the basis of purification can also be described as the ultimate evam, emptiness with all supreme qualities, the thoroughly immutable great bliss, indivisible unified wakefulness, the all-pervasive identity, the essence that is beyond destruction and separation, and the unconditioned nature. Everything that manifests arises from this basis. This includes the impure delusion we initially experience as a sentient being, our mixed
pure and impure experiences while a practitioner on the path, and also the entirely pure experience of enlightened bodies and wisdoms at the fruition of buddhahood.
It is said that no matter how things temporarily appear, in their true and ultimate condition they remain primordially as the infinitely pure circle of deities. This is what is seen by the eyes of a buddha whose obscurations have been purified, similar to how a pair of healthy eyes perceives the white color of a conch.
THE OBJECT OF PURIFICATION
This essence is primordially pure in nature, and its identity is beyond the changes of the three times. By not recognizing suchness, however, we ascribe self-entity to its manifestations, and out of the full-blown force of erroneous fixation confused experiences emerge adventitiously. Similar to how the sun can be covered by clouds, the true face of our essence becomes obscured, while the appearances of environments, objects, and
bodies emerge unendingly. This is the object of purification—the aspect of the truth of origin, which is karma and disturbing emotions, as well as the resulting defilements. This includes, in short, all coarse and subtle
obscurations of adventitious unreal appearances down to their most subde aspects. These are overcome by wisdom at the consummation of the path, whether that of sutra or mantra. In the present context of mantra, the development stage purifies the gross aspects, while the completion stage purifies the extremely subtle aspects, such as the obscuration of transference related to the three appearances.
THE PROCESS OF PURIFICATION
The process of purification, generally speaking, is any degree of goodness that is created through the Great Vehicle. It constitutes the cause, or method, for purifying the fleeting stains that obscure our potential. From the perspective of the resultant Secret Mantra, however, it refers specifically to perceiving how everything within appearance and existence, samsara and nirvana, is primordially the nature of enlightenment, the
inseparability of the truths of purity and equality, never apart from the great sublime dharma body. Having resolved this as the view, the process of purification is to strive in both the development and completion stages of the path, method and insight, which harmonize with this view.
THE RESULT OF PURIFICATION
As the path is completed by training in this way, we become free of the cloudlike, adventitious obscurations that appear, yet do not exist. At that point we transform and become the essence of the twofold purity. This is the identity of the three bodies of enlightenment and the actualization of all the qualities that abide within the ground. It is known as the effect of separation.
Therefore, from the perspective of the essential reality of things, our essence does not change during the occasions of the ground, path, or fruition. In this sense, it remains without increase or decrease; nothing is ever removed from nor added to it. Furthermore, relative samsaric phenomena are unreal adventitious appearances that never have existed and never will. This being the case, they are empty forms—nonexistent deluded
appearances emerging out of the power of habit—and are always devoid of reality. Just as a child in a dream, never having been born will also never die, the intrinsic nature never increases nor disintegrates. This is the
meaning of equality. I have heard the omniscient Mipham Rinpoche himself say that comprehension of this is a crucial point in both the systems of sutra and mantra. We should therefore understand it to be the single intended goal of the Great Vehicle paths, whether sutra or mantra, which uniformly hold this as the single path to liberation.
In short, the ground of purification is the naturally present ground, which is primordially beyond being bound or liberated. The object of purification consists of fleeting and nonexistent appearances, which are the basis of deluded imputation. The path, or process of purification, is everything included in and associated with the truth of the path, the wisdom that serves as a remedy by purifying these appearances. The effect of
separation is the quality of having purified delusion. In this way we should properly understand the key points of how these relate to one another. The ground and path are connected as that which we should know and what brings about this knowledge. The fruition and the path are connected as that which we should attain and that which causes this attainment. The ground and fruition are connected in being of a single essence and
identity. Without understanding these principles we will take the essential nature to be merely a provisional reality and focus on it as a conditioned phenomenon, hoping that our present practice will create the cause
for achieving it as a result in the distant future. Separating appearance and emptiness in this way, we will not form even a basic understanding of the view, meditation, conduct, or fruition of the resultant path of unity, and our path will become an artificial fabrication. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that, if nothing else, we gain some familiarity with this topic at the outset.
After gaining this conviction we can enter the path. There are many suitable teachings directed toward this, such as the “five things to take as the path,” but here I will instead summarize the core points and consider the principles of outer, inner, and secret approach and accomplishment as they are described by the omniscient master Jampel Gyepa.
First is the deity to be accomplished. The ultimate deity of reality, itself, is naturally-existing wakefulness, the mandala of the mind of awakening. Within this state, all phenomena of appearance and existence are primordially beyond union and separation. Beings who do not realize this, however, experience themselves as different from the deity, and so become enveloped in the thoroughly binding shroud of karma and
disturbing emotions. On the contrary, the deity, with its liberated wisdom body, has manifested true reality and thus fulfilled its own benefit. By means of immeasurable wisdom, love, and ability, it appears for others’ sake in a form that may be peaceful or wrathful, representing its great aspiration and wisdom, such as Manjusri or Yamantaka, along with its emanated mandala. It carries out enlightened activity unfailingly by means of
the features of its form, the knowledge mantras of its speech, and by entering into absorption mentally, thus granting any spiritual accomplishment desired and establishing beings definitively in the state of the lasting happiness of liberation.
To practice this imputed deity in an outer way, we visualize it, perform its recitation, and make offerings to it.
To practice the deity on an inner level, consider the deities to be the pure essential wisdom energies and essences in the citadel of your own central channel. Your own impure body, speech, mind, and field of experience, on the other hand, are merely the magical display of the fluctuating energy of karma. Therefore, visualize the circle of deities as they naturally dwell in the central places of your channels, and practice energy and mantra
indivisible. Accomplishment is then reached by focusing on the root of all this, which is the luminous dome of the heart, also known as the sphere of awakened mind, immutable great bliss, and unconditioned self-display.
On a secret level, when you realize the truth that your own mind is originally unborn, naturally existing wakefulness, the primordially equal basic space of all samsara and nirvana, there is no other deity to accomplish whatsoever. The deity is thus accomplished spontaneously and without effort; it is nothing more than a magical display that appears out of that basic space of samsara and nirvana. Therefore, to practice by resting
evenly in natural awareness, originally beyond effort or cultivation, is the ultimate point of the profound Dharma. If you train by applying these instructions in accord with your meditative experiences as a practitioner, you will reach the utmost limit, the perspective of the great, primordial indivisibility of your mind and the deity. At that point it is said that you yourself become a greatly accomplished one.
In short, the ground is your innate mind, intrinsic wakefulness that is originally beyond being bound or liberated. The ultimate fruition is whichever deity you are practicing, such as glorious Vajrasattva, dwelling in the
Unexcelled Realm. The path consists of the practitioner appearing in the form of the deity by means of the imaginary development stage. If you understand that these three are naturally indivisible in the play of the guru’s mind—the manifest aspect of empty bliss, great wakefulness—then every true key point of practice is complete.
The Great Lord of Secrets states, “Its rituals are unique in that they integrate the development stage rituals taught in the tantras,” which means that the development stage, with all its facets, is a complete path for purifying the habits for the four modes of birth.
The text also teaches that, “Its unique result is the capacity to develop the power of mantra.” This is true although, generally speaking, a path that is merely development stage will lead, at best, to achieving the level of knowledge holder in the desire or form realms—up to great supreme worldly attribute—and accomplishing the eight qualities such as lightness and subtleness. However, if we use the authentic path of definitive
perfection as it is laid out in the unique teachings of the Early Translation School on the Secret Magical Web, we can train in the path of unified development and completion from the outset, beginning with the three samadhis and progressing through the perfection of the five experiences. In doing so, we can connect to the actual luminosity, the unified form of the deity, at the path of seeing. This is logical considering the explanations that even the ordinary sutra path can eventually lead one to the actual luminosity at the path of seeing.
The text furthermore states that, “Its unique essence is the nature of blissful melting and emptiness.” This means that, when following the authentic path of means, the form of the deity appears as the natural expression of the emptiness produced by the blissful melting. Otherwise, for a follower of the path of liberation, it appears as the natural expression of the union of utterly immutable bliss and emptiness that is complete with all supreme qualities.
Finally, the text mentions that, “Its unique function is the completion of purification, perfection, and maturation.” In being a process of purification, the development stage path refines away and purifies the objects of purification, such as the three phenomena of cyclic existence, by manifesting in a similar way to them. The visualization of the seed syllable for the three enlightened bodies perfects the fruition within the ground by
resembling the nature of nirvana, the result of purification. Finally, by laying the foundation for extraordinary wisdom to dawn in one’s mind-stream, the development stage matures one for the completion stage. Thus, the development stage practice is unique in four ways.
With conviction in these principles, we begin the main explanation, which integrates them with a ritual structure.
Here there are three divisions:
(1) the preliminaries,
(2) the main part, and
(3) the conclusion.
The preliminaries consist of
(1) the general and
(2) the unique preliminaries.
The General Common Preliminarie
The practice of taking refuge comes after we have engendered the genuine disenchantment and noble attitude described above. In this case, we and all other sentient beings are those who take refuge in the guru, three jewels, and the host of mandala deities. We do so because we recognize the qualities of the objects of refuge, and seek protection from the suffering of cyclic existence in general, from selfishness in particular, and
especially from ordinary, deluded, fixating thoughts. On a relative level, we take refuge by accepting the refuge objects as teacher, path, and companions, and on an ultimate level by understanding that they are inseparable from our own minds. They then remain our refuge until we become enlightened or, in other words, until the objects of refuge have manifested in our mind-streams. With this understanding, visualize the objects of refuge in the sky before you in the usual manner, and chant aloud the refuge verses in your text three times.
Arousing the Mind of Awakening
To arouse the mind of awakening in aspiration we make a commitment to the result, wishing to attain the goal of unexcelled fruition for the sake of all beings. To arouse it in application we make a commitment to the cause of that fruition. These two aspects together constitute the relative type, which is taken symbolically. The ultimate type, which emerges from the power of meditation on ultimate reality, is to bring to mind an
insight, a recognition of the fact that we and all other beings are equal in our primordially enlightened nature, and then to remain in meditation within that recognition without adding or omitting anything. This mind of awakening is, in short, emptiness that is intrinsically compassionate. Bring these
points to mind and say the verses for arousing the mind of awakening according to your text while taking the field of accumulation as a witness. Afterward, train your mind in the four immeasurable qualities of:
(1) love, wishing beings to be happy;
(2) compassion, wishing them to be free from suffering;
(3) joy, wishing them happiness devoid of suffering; and
(4) equanimity, wishing them to remain with neither attachment to friends nor hatred toward enemies.
The Meditation of Vajrasattva
Next is the meditation and recitation of Vajrasattva, which clears away adverse circumstances. Visualize Guru Vajrasattva above your head as the “power of support.” Then give rise to the “power of remorse” as you sincerely regret the negative deeds you have carried out in the past. Pledge henceforth to refrain from them at the cost of your life, which is the “power of resolve,” or “restoration.” For the “power of applying the
antidote” imagine that your recitation of the hundred syllables causes a stream of nectar to flow down from the mantra circle in Guru Vajrasattva’s heart center. Entering you, and all others, through the crown of your head, it fills your body and purifies you of all your damaged and broken vows as well as concepts and obscurations. While integrating the four powers of the antidote in this way, recite the hundred syllables as many
times as possible. At the end, supplicate with a sense of shame and regret, and imagine that doing so leads Vajrasattva to melt into light and dissolve into you. At that point, rest evenly in the state in which misdeeds and downfalls have no inherent existence.
The mandala offering creates conducive circumstances. On an outer level the mandala consists of the central mountain, continents, sun, moon, and the riches of the universe and its inhabitants. On an inner level it includes whatever you own—your home and valuables—while on an innermost level it refers to your
body with its collections of aggregates, elements, and sense bases. Mentally transform all this into a “Samantabhadra offering cloud” that is, by nature, great wisdom. Then offer it a suitable number of times, while reciting the corresponding verses, and while bringing to mind the ultimate level of offering, the nonconceptual primordial state free from subject and object of offering.
Guru yoga infuses our mind-streams with extraordinary blessings. To practice this, resolve, once and for all, that your root guru is, in fact, the embodiment of all buddhas, as it is taught in every sutra and tantra. Recognize that your guru has the same qualities as the Buddha, while his kindness towards you is even greater, and then let your mind be overcome with devotion. In this passionate state of mind, visualize your guru in
the style of the “all-embodying jewel” or, alternatively, together with all the lineage gurus, whether they appear in tiers or surround him like a marketplace crowd. Then, along with all beings, make a genuine offering of the seven branches, with your body, speech, and mind in unison. In this way you bow down, make offerings, confess to harmful deeds, rejoice in what is virtuous, request the turning of the Dharma wheel, supplicate the
buddhas not to pass from their form bodies into nirvana, and dedicate all virtue to unexcelled enlightenment. If there is a lineage prayer, recite it while still overwhelmed by intense devotion. At the end, use the visualization for receiving the four empowerments and imagine that your guru melts into light and dissolves into you. Then rest evenly, for as long as you can, in the natural state in which the guru and your own mind
are indivisible, the basic nature of great bliss, the nonconceptual state of empty luminosity beyond words. This is the ultimate guru yoga; afterwards you should make dedications and the like.
The meaning of the preliminaries, the method for practicing them, as well as their precepts and benefits can be studied in the various other texts where such things are already described in detail.
The Unique Preliminaries
The unique preliminaries have two parts:
(1) removing adverse circumstances and
(2) creating conducive circumstances.
Removing Adverse Circumstances
This section has two parts:
(1) expelling obstructors and
(2) drawing the boundary.
Like a fish leaping out of the water, visualize your mind, as the natural expression of emptiness, instantly in the form of a boundary deity, such as the wrathful king Hayagriva or Vajra Rage. Cleanse and purify the obstructors’ torma into emptiness, and imagine that within emptiness appears a jewel vessel holding the torma substance replete with nectar of the five sense pleasures. With OM, purify any impure stains, with AH,
multiply the substances, with HUM, transform them into whatever enjoyments are wished for and, with HOH, remove any defiling stains. In this way the torma is consecrated and transformed into radiant wisdom nectar.
With light rays from your heart center summon the obstructors before you and offer them the torma with the mantra and mudra. Command them with words of truth and, using the verse in your text, order them not to
make obstacles to your attainment of awakening; then toss the torma outside. There may be certain beings who do not heed your command and set about making obstacles. So next, as you continue to visualize yourself as the Wrathful King, imagine an overwhelming torrent of wrathful deities, weapons, and fireballs, numerous as the particles in the universe, streaming out of your heart to expel those obstructors far, far away. Fumigate using resin, scatter with charmed mustard seeds, chant fierce mantras, and put on a wrathful and terrifying air.
Drawing the Boundary
Second is to draw the boundary, which is analogous to locking the door after you have chased out a thief. At this point the wrathful deities and weapons you have just emanated now gather back, and as if melding together, coalesce to form a vajra ground everywhere beneath you. Surrounding you like an iron mountain range in every direction is a high and vast circular fence made of intertwined vertical and horizontal vajras. A
vajra dome that is fixed to the fence like a lid encloses it above. Resembling the upper part of an Indian tent, it has a high peak that gradually slopes downward. Extending inward from the junction of the fence and the dome, a vajra lattice forms a sheltering canopy. Outside, a vajra lattice made of interlocking, linked vajra chains covers the enclosure. At the apex of the dome is a half-vajra top ornament. The fence is secured on the
outside at its midpoint by a vajra chain. All of the vajras in this visualization are blue. Imagine that wrathful deities, weapons, fireballs, and vajra sparks emanate from this, shooting outwards to guard against any obstructors or obstacles, so that even the wind at the end of an eon cannot pass through.
These are the general features of the protection circle. It should be understood that there are other specific details, for instance the ten wrathful deities arrayed on the spokes of the wheel of the protection dome. There are also visualizations for the domes of weapons and the protection circles of the four elements, which are outside the main protection dome, and which should be applied, by context, according to the central figure.
Chant the verse from your text while imagining yourself contained within this along with the other people and valuables to be protected, including your retinue. Afterward, seal this with the insight that holds no reference points of a self to be protected, wrathful deities and weapons doing the protecting, or of an act of protecting; this is the protection circle of suchness, which is the most supreme form of protection of all.
Subsequent to this certain liturgies may include other parts, such as a confession of damaged and broken vows in order to clear away any wrongdoing in relation to the deity, or a vajra pledge never to transgress these vows again. If so, you should be able to understand the visualization according to its context by deriving the meaning from the verses.
Creating Conducive Circumstances
Second, in order to create conducive circumstances, there are two parts: (1) the shower of blessings and (2) consecrating the offering articles.
Shower of Blessings
Here those that “shower down” are the great blessings, the resplendence of the wisdom deities’ five qualities of fruition. You, the practitioner, are the recipient, as well as your dwelling place and practice articles, for the purpose that you may connect with the shower of blessings of the wisdom deities’ three vajras. This instills you with a resplendence that enables you to bring all spiritual accomplishments within reach, foremost of
which is your own inherent wisdom. The process of the shower of blessings begins with you making an invocation with heartfelt devotion. This causes the blessings of the three vajras of all three root deities—who now fill the sky like sesame seeds bursting from a pod—as well as all spiritual accomplishments, to take the shape of deities for enlightened body; of seed syllables, for enlightened speech; and of symbolic implements, for
enlightened mind. Imagine that these shower down like snowflakes on a vast lake, dissolving into and blessing you as well as your dwelling place and practice articles. Chant the verse for the shower of blessings, fumigate with special substances, and invoke with the music of the hand drum and other instruments.
Consecrating the Offering Articles
Second, consecrating the offering articles has two parts:
(1) the general cleansing and purification and
(2) the individual consecrations.
The General Cleansing and Purification
While visualizing yourself as the deity, the syllables RAM, YAM, and KHAM are projected out of your heart center. From RAM appears fire, burning away any impure defects in the offering substances. From YAM wind arises, scattering fixation on things as being real, while from KHAM appears water, cleansing away habitual tendencies. Finally, using the SVABHAVA and other mantras, transform everything into the nature of emptiness, and rest evenly in spacelike emptiness.
The Individual Consecrations
For the individual consecrations there are two parts, one general and one special. The general consecration applies to both the outer and inner offering materials. First, the syllable BHRUM projects a wide and vast jewel vessel, which contains an OM, or else the individual seed syllables, meaning the first letters in each word marked with a dot. The syllables produce the outer offering materials, such as beautiful divine flowers, and the
inner offerings, the naturally occurring substances, including the flowers of the five sense organs. Also emanated are the five sense pleasures, the auspicious articles and symbols, the seven royal possessions, and every other possible offering. Every one of these offerings emanates coundess goddesses, each bearing its respective offering item. Thus, recite the mantra and the rest while visualizing that clouds of offerings stream out to fill up all of space.
There are then three special individual consecrations
one for torma, and
one for rakta.
Medicine refers to the nectar in the naturally present, bliss-sustaining vessel of the skull cup. It consists of the commitment substances of the five families of male and female bliss-gone ones. There is human flesh and excrement in the center, cow flesh and semen in the east, dog flesh and the human brain in the south, horse flesh and menses in the west, and elephant flesh and urine in the north. For each of these there is a syllable, respectively:
HRIH and BAM, HUM and LAM, TRAM and MAM, OM and MUM, and AH and TAM.
Each of these syllables produces one of the five male and female buddhas, who then join together, inviting the victorious ones and their children throughout time and space with their blissful sounds and light rays from their places of union. The fire of intense passion causes the victorious ones to melt into light and then dissolve into the five pairs of male and female buddhas. This, in turn, causes the secret spaces to flow with white and
red nectar, filling the skull cup. Finally, the male and female buddhas of the five families also melt into light and dissolve into the nectar, which is transformed into the essence of the five wisdoms, perfect in color, fragrance, taste, and potency. Imagine all of this as you recite the mantra.
This description is based on the lotus-speech family, so here Vairocana and Amitabha have been switched. Otherwise, vajra-family practices, such as the “Magical Web of Vajrasattva,” should be applied to Aksobhya. Practices related to the other four families should be applied to the buddha family if it is of the family of Vairocana, and so on. In any case, there is no contradiction, and you should correlate it according to context with your text.
For the torma, visualize a torma vessel as wide as the earth made of jewels. Within it is the torma substance, an inconceivable conglomeration of sense pleasures that appears as anything that delights the deities, emanated and amplified to fill the reaches of space. Though it is generally explained that there are three meanings of “torma,” in this context it is understood to mean an offering substance.
For the rakta, imagine a fresh skull cup with the hair still on it, which symbolizes the space of the female consort. Within it gather all concepts that cling to and fixate on the desire, form, and formless realms or, in other words, fixate on body, speech, and mind: those that cling to the body and
appearance of the desire realm; to the speech and semiappearance of the form realm; and to the mind and nonappearance of the formless realm. These all coalesce and are purified into the nature of detached great bliss, a swirling ocean of rakta, which spreads throughout all of space while emanating clouds of desirable things.
These are the preliminary practices of engagement and counteraction. Collectively, they purify, perfect, and mature in a way that correlates to the link between object, process, and result of purification. First, they purify and protect against the objects of purification—the adverse circumstances of the samsaric condition. These consist of the tainted modes of birth that cause us to enter into existence in the desire realm, as well as the
abodes, bodies, and enjoyments that subsequently unfold. They also refine the conducive circumstances that consist of accumulated meritorious actions. Next, they perfect the fruition by paralleling the actual results of purification. These include the defeat of the four demons that obstruct enlightened activity, the gathering of the two accumulations, the bestowal of empowerment with great flashes of light, and the actualization of the
absorption that purifies enlightened realms. Finally, they mature us for the completion stage by means of the process of purification. This refers to the incredible method whereby these preliminaries clear away the obstacles and pitfalls in the practices of the channels, energies, and essences, and also produce within us the strength of experience and realization.
Please keep in mind that the descriptions throughout this text regarding how the principles of purification, perfection, and maturation can be integrated come largely from The Great Commentary on the Ritual of the Profound Path, The Assembly of Bliss-gone Ones of the Great Compassionate One, composed by the sun of the teachings of the Early Translations, Minting Lochen Rinpoche.
THE MAIN PRACTICE
The main practice in absorption has three parts:
1) the visualization practice of enlightened body,
(2) the recitation practice of enlightened speech, and
(3) the luminosity practice of enlightened mind.
The visualization practice of enlightened body has five aspects:
(1) the cause: setting up the framework through the three samadhis;
(2) the result: developing the support and supported mandalas;
(3) inviting and welcoming the wisdom beings into the support;
(4) the activity stage of homage, offering, and praise; and
(5) focusing on the deity’s appearance, the primary focal point.
The Three Samadhis
The [[Samadhi of Suchness]
Of the three samadhis, the first is the “samadhi of suchness,” which purifies the death process. When embodied beings die, their internal earth, water, fire, and wind elements successively dissolve into consciousness. At the same time, external visible forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures also successively dissolve, and breathing ceases. The essences in the left and right channels then coalesce at the upper and lower endpoints of the
central channel. At that point, texture dissolves into mental objects and consciousness merges with luminosity. The two essences residing at the A and HAM dissolve at the heart into the sphere that is a nexus of five essences, at which point all coarse and subtle thinking ceases. In a process of progressive magnification, the stages of appearance, increase, and attainment dissolve the coarser thoughts, and the stage of full attainment
dissolves the subtler ones. If you fail to recognize empty luminosity through all of this, it will now dawn for a brief moment—lucid, empty, and free of thoughts, unobscured like space and free of the three discordant, polluting conditions. This is the actual luminosity of death, which is the basis of purification. If you recognize it, you are liberated without passing through the intermediate state. A resemblance of this luminosity is also
present, for instance, during our sleep at night. For this reason, there is an instruction on recognizing luminosity at that time and then resting within that state without dreaming. Thus, the object of purification here is the extremely subde habitual tendency to regress when we fail to recognize suchness.
The result of purification is the dharma body of enlightenment, a wakefulness that is utterly free of conceptual constructs. The process of purification is the meditation on all phenomena as being empty and devoid of self-entity. Moreover, apart from all phenomena of samsara and nirvana being merely the self-display of mind and wisdom, they do not possess an atom’s worth of true existence. Wisdom, moreover, is the true nature
of mind and cannot be found elsewhere. Thus, the intrinsic nature of our minds right now is unconfined wisdom, empty and lucid, the equality that is, by nature, free from any marks of conceptual elaboration. If we relate this to the three gates of liberation, the gate of emptiness refers to the fact that the nature of mind is not something created but is naturally unconditioned, its essence empty. The gate of marklessness refers
to the cause, and means that the nature of this emptiness is beyond the scope of conceptual mind’s ability to characterize it as existing in such-and-such a way. The gate of wishlessness refers to the fruition, and means
that, within the equality of that intrinsic nature, there is no fruition to attain and no process by which to attain it, and thus there is nothing at all to wish for. In this way, by settling your mind nonconceptually within the intrinsic nature that is beyond concepts, there is nothing to add or remove, accept or reject. This is the samadhi of suchness, which is primordially pure like the center of vajra space.
To use this type of meditation to progress on the path, rest evenly within emptiness for the main practice, free of elaboration and without concepts. This is in tune with the luminosity of dying as well as the dharma body at the fruition. Immediately afterwards, think, “This is the dharma body, death purified,” and with such conviction in the purification and perfection, rest assured in the link between the ground and the fruition. On
a downward level, practicing in this way purifies and refines away the stains of cyclic existence, the death state, the view of eternalism, fixation on
appearance, and the formless realms. On an upward level, it nurtures the seed of the luminosity that manifests the dharma body, thus setting in place a link for perfecting the fruition. It also matures you by creating a foundation for the actual luminosity associated with the higher path of the completion stage to dawn in your mind-stream.
The Samadhi of Total Illumination
The object of purification at this stage is what occurs just after the fourth moment of the dying process. At that time the manifest realms of the five wisdoms magically appear as clusters of the five buddha families within the luminosity of the spontaneously present form body, which is similar to the autumn sky free of clouds. However, unless you have experience in the key points of practice, you will not recognize this. Thus, your
conceptual mind, riding on energy, will progressively undergo the three experiences, which in turn give rise to the extremely fine and subtle mental body of the intermediate state. It has all the senses, is unimpeded, possesses subtle clairvoyance, and experiences magical karmic displays. Sustaining itself on the scent of burnt offerings, it experiences everchanging, fluctuating, and flickering dreamlike experiences that are terrifying and painful; thus, it is also called “the perpetuating disembodied consciousness.”
The result of purification is the buddhas’ enjoyment body adorned with the major and minor marks of enlightenment. It resides in the ultimate, self-manifest Unexcelled Realm, where it performs the dance of magical wisdom. The process of purification is to cultivate all-pervasive illusory compassion for beings who have not realized the way things are. To describe this in more detail, colors of rainbow light appear incidentally out of
the pure expanse of space, though they are nothing but the nonexistent magical displays of space itself. Thus, in the natural state of emptiness and suchness, there is no duality of samsara and nirvana. Still, while there is
never any parting from nonduality, beings are deceived by not recognizing the trick of the illusion. Confused, they regard these manifestations as real and proceed to wander helplessly throughout the realms of cyclic existence. Toward these beings we form a nonconceptual, illusory compassion, which we extend to sentient beings in every realm, wishing them permanent freedom from suffering.
In order to take this onto the path, practice the samadhi of total illumination as an illusory experience that, in the way it appears, accords with both the intermediate state and the resultant enjoyment body. Be confident
that the intermediate state, in its pure form, is the enjoyment body. The samadhi of total illumination purifies the intermediate state, the view of nihilism, fixation on emptiness, and the form realms. It sets in place, moreover, a link for perfecting the resultant enjoyment body. Finally, it matures you by creating the foundation of great compassion, which is the cause for emerging in the unified, luminous state of the deity.
The Causal Samadhi
When intermediate-state beings approach their future place of conception, they develop craving toward it, whether it is the location of miraculous birth, the scent and taste in the case of birth from heat and moisture, or the copulation of their parents in egg-or womb-birth. The object of purification by the causal samadhi is this intermediate-state energetic mind, precisely in the moment before it connects to its imminent place of
birth due to such craving. The result of purification is said to be the display, in physical manifestation, of coarse emanation bodies of perfect enjoyment to guide beings according to their needs. The process of purification is to meditate on your own awareness, the union of emptiness and compassion, as a particular seed syllable. This syllable, such as AH, HUM, or HRIH, has the nature of bliss, clarity, and emptiness, and is identical in color to the primary deity.
Train progressively in the previous two samadhis until you reach familiarity with them. Then proceed to the causal samadhi, the cause for accomplishing the realization of the emanation body, with which it is in tune. As the unity of the former two, it is the intrinsic, unchanging great bliss, the essence that pervades and extends throughout everything in existence as well as peace, both the animate and inanimate universe. Its nature is
indestructible like a vajra, and it is the support for the mind of awakening. It is the subtle, great awakened life force, appearing in a way that is extremely fine yet vivid. Totally immutable, it has the features of clarity and stability, and can manifest as anything whatsoever. This seed syllable, manifesting as the identity of the indestructible great essence, is what emanates the entire mandala. Meditate on it as the nature of bliss, clarity, and emptiness. This will create the causes for manifesting any mandala as the magical display of bliss and clarity with the nature of emptiness.
Just as the causal samadhi provides the seed for the unfolding of the entire mandala, the energetic mind in the intermediate state at the moment of entering the place of birth provides the seed for future existence. Similarly, a buddha’s emanation body displays an array of manifestations to guide beings. These three are, in this sense, a congruity, so in order to take the causal samadhi onto the path, take assurance in the knowledge that birth in its pure form is the emanation body.
The causal samadhi purifies and refines away the craving consciousness at the moment of entering the place of birth. It also purifies the desire realm, and the concept that appearance and emptiness differ. In addition, it establishes a link for manifesting, out of the enjoyment body, resultant emanation bodies to guide beings according to their need. Finally, it also ripens you by creating the basis, in the context of completion stage, for emerging in the form of the deity out of bliss and the energetic mind.
In this way the three samâdhis purify their objects: the habits associated with death, the intermediate existence, and rebirth. Their collective process of purification and the identity of their path as a whole is compassionate emptiness, which is, in fact, the single mainstay of the entire Great Vehicle path.
It is vital that we focus our energy wholly on this at the outset since, in its absence, any path is just artificial. Whether or not we practice the later aspects of the development stage ritual in all their details is unimportant compared to having some degree of understanding and experience of this principle, as every key point is included within it.
TheMandalas of the Support and the Supported
There are two aspects to the support and supported mandalas:
(1) visualizing the support, the celestial palace, and
(2) visualizing the supported deities.
The Celestial Palace
Here there are also three parts:
(1) visualizing the basis, the levels of layered elements,
(2) visualizing the celestial palace, and
(3) [[[visualizing]]]] the seat.
In this stage the object of purification includes several things. First, it includes the space element, which is the basis for the formation of the world, or the “container,” where sentient beings take birth. It also includes the main cause for the formation of the world, which is mind. In addition, it includes the habits of shared karma that sentient beings have commonly gathered and ingrained in their minds, which eventually ripen into
common outer appearances. Finally, it includes the mandalas of the four elements as well as the central mountain. The result of purification is the basic space of phenomena, the realm where all buddhas become enlightened, symbolized by the pure expanses of the five female buddhas.
For the process of purification, begin with the causal seed syllable suspended in space within the protection circle. This then projects the syllables E, YAM, RAM, BAM, LAM, and SUM, which in turn send out light rays, purifying the five elements as well as thoughts that fixate on them. The syllables then gather back the pure essences of those five elements, which are all the qualities of the five wisdoms. In doing so, they dissolve and
become the progressively layered elements. E gives rise to space in the form of a deep blue pyramid, “the source of phenomena.” The broad side faces upwards and the tip points downwards. Above that, the green wind mandala emerges out of YAM in the shape of a vajra cross, surrounded by a ring of smoky, dark-green light. Next, RAM transforms into the fire mandala, a red triangle surrounded by a chain of blazing flames.
BAM becomes the round, white, and swirling mandala of water, encircled by white light. LAM gives rise to the earth mandala, a square made of gold and surrounded by yellow light. Finally, SUM becomes the
square-shaped central mountain made of the four types of precious substance. It has four terraces and is entirely surrounded by iron mountains. Visualize all of these touching one another but without being joined. Feel confidence in the link between the ground and the fruition, meaning that the five elements in their purity are the female buddhas of the five families.
This explanation applies to peaceful deities, but for wrathful ones you should visualize a sea of blood, a ground of human flesh, a mountain of skeletons, etc. in accordance with your practice text.
Here the object of purification is the fixation that sentient beings have for the places where they live and the homes they inhabit. The result of purification is the wisdom of the basic space of phenomena, free of all elaboration, which is said to be the dwelling place of all buddhas. This wisdom is, by nature, a celestial palace, which is described symbolically as “the expanse of the vajra queen’s womb.” It is the celestial palace of
delight in the sublime secret and supreme liberation, the great citadel of passing beyond suffering, the ultimate Unexcelled Realm of the natural state just as it is. This immaculate, self-manifest celestial palace is the essence of Vairocana, and thus thoroughly pure.
Here the process of purification is to take the self-manifest palace of buddhahood as the path. At this point imagine that the causal seed syllable projects a five-colored syllable BHRUM, which descends onto the top of the central mountain. After projecting and absorbing light, it dissolves into light and becomes the celestial palace composed of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. In essence it has the nature of the five wisdoms, while its appearance is that of a celestial palace, with perfect design and decorations.
At the outermost level is an immense and vast protection dome. Inside of it is the central mountain, the top of which is a perfecdy even ground consisting of miniscule vajras. At the periphery is a vajra enclosure resembling a fence of iron mountains, which emanates masses of five-colored fire. Within that enclosure, forming a perimeter, are the eight charnel grounds composed of all their awesome attributes, including stupas,
trees, fires, clouds, rivers, spiritual adepts, the guardians of the directions, gods, and nagas. In the center of these is a thousand-petalled lotus made of a variety of jewels; its center is round, green, and level, and its red pistils are moist with dew. This lotus supports a bright and resplendent sun disc that spans the width of the pistils. At the center of the sun is a double vajra. The hub of the vajra is a deep-blue square, and its spokes are
the color of their respective direction—the three extending eastward, for instance, are white. The celestial palace, which is perfectly square in shape, rests on this foundation. It has five consecutive layers of walls, each made of different types of jewels, the innermost of which is the color of the family of the main deity.
A ledge of red jewels surrounds the external foundation of the celestial palace, which protrudes at the base. On this ledge, the “platform of delights,” are the offering goddesses, gathered in pairs and facing inward. Beginning at the far northern corner of the eastern side and continuing clockwise, they are: the blue lute goddess, the yellow flute goddess, the red round-drum goddess, and the green clay-drum goddess. Each of them
holds her particular implement. Then, continuing on the southern side are: the blue goddess of beauty and the red goddess of laughter, both bearing their emblems; the yellow goddess of song, holding miniature cymbals, and the green goddess of dance with the emblem of dance. To the west are: the yellow goddess of flowers, the black goddess of incense, the red goddess of lights, and the green goddess of perfume, all
bearing their emblems. To the north are: the red goddess of visual form, bearing a mirror; the red goddess of taste, with a tray of food; the green goddess of texture, carrying garments; and the white goddess of basic space, holding the triangular “source of phenomena.” They are all adorned with silks and jewelry and have a serene and graceful countenance.
At the corners of the porticos and in each corner—the southeast, southwest, etc.—of the palace itself there is the seal of a half-moon and vajra. At the top of the palace walls runs a yellow frieze trimmed with inlaid jewels resembling frost. Above that run beams, which are supported by posts, also called pillar stabilizers. On top of these are the rafters that support the roof, on the tip of each of which is a “face of glory.” From the
mouths of these hang garlands and tassels made of jewels, as well as flower garlands, silk streamers, mirrors, crescents, and tail fans, all fluttering in the breeze. The roof rests on the rafters and extends out to the edge of the external foundation. Beneath, on the underside of the roof, is a line of rainspouts made of white gemstone which look like anointing vases turned upside down. Between them run garlands fastened directly to the
lower ends of the rafters. Holding down the base of the roof from above is a parapet, also called a lenken, which has a stupa design and consists of three or four levels of upright, white jewel planks. This is also referred to as the “half-lotus petal.”
Inside the celestial palace there are eight pillars that support four interlocked beams, upon which twenty-eight rafters rest. The rafters support the ceiling, which is made of jeweled planks, except for a skylight in the center. A layer of jewels covers this entire level. The so-called “central chamber” is formed by an arrangement of pillars or wooden posts at each of the four corners of the skylight. They support the roof, the peak of which is adorned with a jewel-vajra top ornament.
In the exact center of the walls in each of the four directions there is an entrance with an outer vestibule. The upper parts of the vestibules have two protruding corners, while the lower corners connect with the external foundation. Each has four pillars, upon which are four interlocked beams. Each
vestibule also has an architrave consisting of two parts, one “causal” and one “resultant.” The causal architrave consists of stairs leading into the entrance. There are eight of these, two at the left and right sides of the roofed entranceway, and four at the midway point of the entrance itself.
The resultant architrave rests on top of the four interlocked beams mentioned above, and may consist of either four or eight constituent parts. If we consider one with eight, they are, sequentially: the horse ankle, lotus, casket, lattice, cluster ornament, garlands, rainspout, and roof. The horse-ankle ledge consists of a row of upright golden vajras set against a blue background. The lotus ledge is a row of lotus petals made of red
gemstone. The casket ledge is a flat box made of various jewels inserted between small pillars. The lattice is a net of white jewels hanging down from the ledge of hanging clusters. The clusterornament ledge is similar to the frieze. The garland ledge consists of jewel garlands and tassels which hang from the mouths of lions against an even background.
The rainspouts and roof of the portico are similar to those described above, but the portico roofs furthermore are adorned with garuda heads at their four corners. From the necks of these garudas hang bells with strikers that make them ring in the breeze. In the middle of the architrave’s facade there is a trefoilshaped gap resembling an elephant from the back decorated on the inside with jeweled garlands and tassels.
On top of the portico roof, on the center of a lotus, is a golden wheel. It is supported on either side by two deer, a horned male representing method, and a hornless female representing knowledge. Finally, a decorative
white parasol made of jewels surmounts it. Beyond this, the space in and around the palace is decorated with a variety of beautiful things such as jeweled canopies, banners, pennants, tail-fans, and bells strung on golden thread that ring as they flutter in the breeze. All of this is clear, translucent, and unobstructing.
This has been a mere overview. If you wish to study further details, they can be learned from other more specific texts, such as the Magical Web.
In the case of wrathful mandalas, the palace is in the structure of the “blazing charnel ground palace,” which functions to tame disciples of a less tractable nature. It has walls made of alternating dry, fresh, and rotting
skulls, pillars made of the eight great gods, and beams made of the eight great nagas. Its ceiling consists of the twenty-eight lunar mansions, while the skylight is made up of the eight planets, the sun, and the moon. The lattices and tassels are made of snakes and skulls. The palace architraves are
ornamented with fingers, skulls, the five major organs, and garlands of the sun and moon. Its rainspouts are arm and leg bones, and its ledge is made of backbones. The roof consists of the hollow skull of Mahadeva and a heart adorns its pinnacle. The palace’s banner is a human corpse. Its canopies are made of human skin, its tail-fans are made of
corpse hair, its wreaths are made of intestines, and it is ornamented with pendulant lungs and hearts. Inside and out, the whole area is filled with charnel grounds
and swirling lakes of blood, while terrifying fires and fierce storms rage everywhere.
In certain tantric scriptures you will see the phrases “beams of great excellence” and “rafters of lesser excellence.” Guru Rinpoche explains in his commentary on Vajrakrlaya that “great excellence” refers to human corpses. He then comments that “lesser excellence” refers to: people who have deviated from the royal caste and become rock-dwelling lizards, people who have deviated from the priestly caste and become
meadow-dwelling marmots, people who have deviated from the merchant caste and become forest-dwelling monkeys, and people who have deviated from the untouchable caste and become waterdwelling frogs. Beyond this, nothing more can be described here, as you must look to your particular text to understand the inner chamber and divine abode associated with a specific mandala.
When practicing in this manner, if you fail to recall the purity of each individual element of the visualization, the object of your meditation will stray into your ordinary state of mind. Therefore, keep in mind that it is the qualities of enlightenment—the phenomena related to complete purification, consisting of inconceivable compassion and activity—that appear as the celestial palace in order to guide disciples. Composed of a variety of jewels, it is enlightened wisdom manifesting in shape and color in order to fulfill disciples’ wishes.
The fact that the palace is square in shape shows there is no unevenness whatsoever in the basic space of phenomena. Its four doors represent the four activities of pacifying, increasing, magnetizing, and subjugating, or else, the way that the four boundless qualities, love and the rest, lead into the palace of great bliss. They also represent entrance into the palace of the nonarising basic space of things from the levels of the four liberations: the emptiness of cause, result, action, and essence.
The eightfold raised architrave entranceways represent the eight vehicles: of gods, humans, listeners, self-realized buddhas, bodhisattvas, action tantra, performance tantra, and yoga tantra. Otherwise they may symbolize passage through the eight effortful vehicles up to anuyoga and onto the effortless, nondual vehicle of ati. The four resultant architraves represent the four means of magnetizing: giving, speaking nicely,
behaving consistendy, and acting meaningfully. The eight parts of each of these symbolize the perfection of the qualities within the systems of the eight vehicles to complete liberation, or else, if there are four, the four vehicles of listeners, self-realized buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Secret Mantra. The uninterrupted spinning of the wheel of the Dharma is shown in the wheels and other such things.
The “platform of delights” represents the four applications of mindfulness: of the body, sensation, mind, and mental objects. The four pillars in the architraves symbolize the four right exertions: to prevent nonvirtue from happening, restrain existing nonvirtue, create virtue where there is none, and increase existing virtue. The four vestibules represent the four bases of miraculous power: intention, diligence, attention, and discernment.
The five-layered walls symbolize the five faculties that govern complete purification: faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and knowledge. The frieze, top border, rainspouts, eaves, and central chamber symbolize attainment of the five strengths; when the same five (faith and the rest) become strengths, they cannot be overcome by their opposing factors.
The decorative jewel lattices, tassels, flower garlands, silk streamers, mirrors, half-moons, and tail-fans symbolize the seven factors of enlightenment: mindfulness, discernment of phenomena, diligence, joy, pliancy, concentration, and equanimity. The eight internal pillars symbolize the eight aspects of the path of the noble ones: right view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, recollection, and concentration.
The pillar capitals symbolize the eight emancipations:
(1) to perceive forms with regard to one’s own body,
(2) to perceive forms other than one’s own body,
(4-7) the four sense spheres such as infinite space, and
(8) the serenity of cessation.
The four beams symbolize the four types of fearlessness: to proclaim that all has been abandoned and realized for one’s own benefit and to show the path and its obstacles for others’ benefit.
The twenty-eight internal rafters symbolize the eighteen types of emptiness and the ten perfections.
The eighteen types of emptiness are:
3) emptiness of the outer and inner,
(4) great emptiness,
(5) emptiness of beginning and ending,
(6) emptiness of the conditioned,
7) emptiness of the unconditioned,
(9) emptiness of what is beyond limits,
(10) emptiness of nature,
(11) emptiness of the unobserved,
(12) emptiness of the ultimate,
(13) emptiness of nonabandonment,
(14) emptiness of nonentities,
(15) emptiness of all things,
(16) emptiness of individual characteristics,
(17) emptiness of entities and nonentities, and
(18) emptiness of essence.
The ten perfections are:
(9) aspiration, and
Otherwise, the twenty-eight rafters can be said to symbolize the buddhas’ ten powers along with their eighteen unique qualities. The upper flat panels symbolize inconceivable qualities. The four posts supporting the central chamber symbolize the four correct discriminations: of Dharmas, meanings, language, and confidence. The crowning ornament symbolizes that all mandalas of the enlightened ones coalesce in the expanse of naturally aware wakefulness.
Furthermore, the canopy represents the utter purity of true reality. The parasol symbolizes protecting beings with great compassion, while the pennant symbolizes great compassion itself. The banner represents victory over the demons and the prevailing of the Dharma. The bells resound with the sounds of the teachings of emptiness. The light that radiates in all directions represents the eternal adornment wheel of enlightened body,
speech, and mind. The palace’s nonobstructing appearance, utterly clear and bright while at the same time translucent, shows how everything is none other than the expression of wakefulness.
The crossed-vajra that forms the ground symbolizes wakefulness whose nature is indivisible from emptiness.
The twelve enclosures symbolize the complete purity of the twelve links of interdependent origination:
(4) name and form,
(5) the six sense bases,
(11) birth, and
The sun seat represents the natural luminosity of true reality. The lotus garlands show that true reality is unstained by any faults.
The eight charnel grounds represent the innate purity of the eight collections of consciousness:
(7) disturbed mind, and
(8) all-ground consciousnesses.
They also represent the eight analogies of illusion:
(5) the moon’s reflection in water,
(6) visual distortion,
(7) echo, and
The vajra fence symbolizes nonconceptual wakefulness, by nature utterly indestructible. The masses of flames symbolize the fire of wakefulness consuming wayward demons and disturbing emotions. All of these qualities mentioned here—from the applications of mindfulness onward—are part of the extraordinary transformation that constitutes the undefiled state of enlightenment. Although it is important to
remember the purity of each symbol as well as what it represents, as a beginner you may not be able to bring all of this to mind in a single practice session. If this is the case, you can approximate the recollection of purity by thinking to yourself that all the features of the celestial palace represent the buddhas’ inconceivable qualities of abandonment and realization. We visualize the supporting mandala, in short, so that we may
take the self-manifest palace of the buddhas as our path. Through this process—by feeling confidence in perfect purity, the fusion of ground and fruition—we take the realms of all buddhas as our path as well. Moreover, these visualizations ripen the practitioner for the subsequent practices due to a series of correlations. The stacked elements and the central
mountain correlate to the five cakras and the central channel. The basis of the mandala, the lotus, sun, and crossed-vajra, correlate as well to the energies and essences at the center of the cakras. Finally, the mind that mingles with all these in one taste—with its aspects of clarity, emptiness, and
bliss—correlates to the celestial palace. Thus, by training properly in the supporting mandala, the channels, essences, and energies will become pliable and under control. It thus matures you for the higher path by setting a foundation for the completion stage wisdom to dawn in your being.
By visualizing the seat, the object of purification consists of sentient beings’ fixation or habitual tendency toward a particular place of birth, such as the mother’s lotus, the semen and ova, heat and moisture, etc. The result of purification is to manifest enlightened emanation bodies within samsaric
states that guide beings according to their needs while being unstained by flaws such as the four modes of birth. Another result is to perfect the wisdom of luminosity —unified means and knowledge—through the natural purity of enlightened mind.
The actual procedure, or process of purification, is to visualize the seats of the central figure and retinue each in their respective manner. One common presentation, for instance, is to have a lotus in the center of the celestial palace, surmounted by a red sun disc and a white moon disc equal in diameter to the center of the lotus.
Otherwise, in the Magical Web for example, the central deities of the five buddha families have seats with five layers: an animal throne with a surface of jewels surmounted by a sun, a moon, and a lotus. The bodhisattvas have a seat of three layers: a sun, moon, and lotus. The six sages merely have a lotus for a seat, while the wrathful gatekeepers only have a sun. Finally, the doer and deed have a four-layered seat made of a sun, moon, lotus, and jewels.
This is just one example, however, and we must follow our own particular text. Wrathful deities have their own distinct thrones, which may consist, for instance, of Rudra, Mahadeva, male and female direction guardians, the major and minor bases of deliverance, and beasts.
In any case, with regard to the purity of the various seats, the animal thrones represent guiding beings by means of the four types of fearlessness, the ten strengths, the four bases of miraculous power, the ten powers, or the four activities. These are symbolized, respectively, by the lion throne, elephant throne, horse throne, peacock throne, and the half-bird, half-man shang shang throne. The sun and moon represent the luminosity of
awakened mind in its natural purity, the unity of means and knowledge. The lotus is a symbol of flawlessness, while the jewels represent the fulfillment of beings’ aspirations. The wrathful deities have seats that
symbolize the defeat of ignorance, dualistic concepts, karma and disturbing emotions, as well as the four demons. However, for specific details, once again we must look to our particular scripture. While the other principles have been sufficiently described above, the ten strengths and the ten powers are as listed in the summary of Introduction to the Way of the Learned:
The ten strengths are: the correct and incorrect,
Ripening, elements, inclinations, faculties,
Absorptions, paths, previous states, death and transference,
And knowing the extinction of defilements.
The ten powers are to have power over:
[[Rebirth, intention, aspiration, Miracles, wisdom, and dharmas[[
Finally, the lotus seat is related to the channels and the cakras, the sun to the fire of inner heat, and the moon to the syllable HAM at the top of the head. Therefore, visualizing the seat ripens you for the higher paths by creating a foundation for attaining the immutable bliss based on the melting bliss of blazing and dripping.
The Supported Deities
The visualization of the supported deities has two parts:
(1) the actual visualization procedure and
(2) the blessing and bestowal of empowerment.
The [[Actual Visualization Procedure
The visualization procedure has three aspects:
(1) a general explanation of how to purify the habits of the four modes of birth,
(2) a specific application of the visualization ritual of the three vajras, and
(3) the characteristics of the deities.
Purifying the Four Modes of Birth
The Glorious Magical Web describes:
To purify the four types of birth
There are four types of development:
The very elaborate and elaborate,
The simple and the completely simple.
Purifying Birth from an Egg
The first of these four—the very elaborate and extensive style—refers to the procedures called one’s own children and another’s child, which purify birth from an egg. It has both an extensive and a concise version. The extensive version is described according to the tradition of the sadhana section in The Complete Secret of the Eight Sadhana Teachings, which explains the general meanings of one’s own children and another’s child.
In the practice of one’s own children you visualize your mind, the nature of the bliss-gone—the essential awareness that constitutes the basis for all appearances within samsara and nirvana—as the central male and female deities. These then give birth to other thus-gone ones, who become your children and are established within your retinue.
In another’s child all the other thus-gone ones who previously dissolved into you in the context of one’s own children and then exited the womb to manifest like children in your retinue now merge with the heart of the central deity. At that point all your conceptuality takes the form of a syllable, which descends into the consort’s space. In this way you are born as her child and join the retinue.
Furthermore, there are five steps in making others one’s own children.
(1) First, the causal seed syllable descends onto the seat, projects and absorbs light, and then transforms, emerging as the causal heruka, the central male deity with consort.
(2) Next, the light of bliss that shines where the male deity’s secret vajra joins the female deity’s space invokes all buddhas in the ten directions, who then enter the male consort through his crown and dissolve into the space of the female.
(3) Once again, light rays are projected, summoning sentient beings and purifying their obscurations. They then dissolve into the female consort’s space.
(4) One then engenders the great pride of being the nondual identity of samsara and nirvana, thinking, “I am the Great Glorious One, head of all samsara and nirvana.”
(5) Finally, the assembly of deities emerges from the secret space and they take their respective seats.
Another’s child is similar, for instance, to birth from an egg whereby first the egg is laid and then hatches so that the sense organs and limbs fully develop.
This process has eight parts:
(1) The primary male and female deities first dissolve into light and become a sphere of light, together with the seed syllable and symbolic implement.
(2) This then transforms and emerges as the resultant heruka with consort.
(3) Next, all the male deity’s conceptuality is transformed into the essence of syllables while he thinks, “I am not able to produce a child.”
(4) Light rays of invocation then stream out of the female deity, and the deities in the retinue are supplicated to take birth as their children.
(5) The retinue deities then delightedly melt into light and dissolve into the heart centers of the primary male and female deities. As they merge with the heart of the central deity, one takes pride in being the identity of great wisdom, the universal lord of every mandala.
(6) Next, the secret space where the male and female consorts are joined is consecrated and the mandala emerges within the space of the female, complete with the celestial palace and throne.
(7) You then visualize your own forty-two concepts, which abide essentially as syllables, transforming into the complete assembly of primary and retinue deities, which emerge from the space of the female consort.
(8) Finally, you invite the wisdom deities from basic space so that they dissolve into the samaya being, and your three places are sealed with the three vajras.
The retinue deities are then established on their thrones, the primary deity dissolves into the resultant heruka, and the celestial palace and thrones each dissolve into themselves. There is also a concise version, which follows the tradition of the tantra section and accords with the Magical Web. There are, in fact, many points of discrepancy when comparing the extensive and concise styles of this meditation and the various expositions of the sublime beings of the past. However, they should be studied elsewhere.
Here, in our version of the concise method, you should begin by going for refuge and engendering the mind of awakening. Then visualize two stages, as occur in egg birth. First, visualize yourself instandy as the primary male and female consorts and then invite and visualize the mandala you are practicing within the space before you.
Next, make offerings, praise, supplications, daily confessions, and so on. Once this is finished, use VAJRA MU to rest evenly in emptiness again. This, in itself, is the unique feature of this approach—if you understand that, you can apply this presentation generally to the very extensive and moderately extensive development stage approaches for purifying womb birth.
In the majority of practices that outline a procedure such as the three vajras, the process of developing the deity is, in fact, as follows. Begin by visualizing the field of accumulation and go through the steps for gathering the accumulations; then dissolve the field into yourself, settling without any reference point. Next, carry out the various ritual procedures such as the expulsion of obstructors before proceeding to meditate on the samadhi of suchness and so on.
Whichever style of development you use, whether extensive or brief, its purpose is to purify your fixation on empty appearances. In the extensive style, the central deity and the entire retinue—oneself and the children—melt into light, while in the concise manner, both are left within the state free of concepts. Both methods purify the death state, in which all concepts and outer appearances temporarily cease. They perfect the
dharma body—the basic space in which all habitual tendencies are purified—within the ground. They mature one for the completion stage of luminosity, which abides within the wisdom state that eradicates dualistic thought. They lead to the remanifestation, at the time of enlightenment, of the assembly of another’s child, the primary and mandala deities.
When we use the concise style and train according to our specific practice manual, there is a complete purifying and refining away of both the intermediate state—which follows the death state and the subsequent,
progressive flaring of the energetic mind—as well as the vastly unfolding experiences of the birth state. There is a perfection within the ground of the divine form in the unified state beyond training. Manifesting out of the dharma body as the form bodies, it appears infinitely throughout the basic space of phenomena. Finally, there is a maturation of the completion-stage practitioner so that he or she can emerge out of luminosity as the divine form in the state of unity in training. This was the explanation of my teacher, Guna, lord of the tantra section of the great secret and a supreme expert in the definitive meaning.
Purifying Womb Birth
There are three ways to purify womb birth: (1) the four manifestations of enlightenment, (2) the ritual of the three vajras, and (3) the five manifestations of enlightenment.
The Four Manifestations of Enlightenment
The Heruka Galpo describes the four manifestations of enlightenment:
First, emptiness and the mind of awakening,
Second, the occurrence of the seed,
Third, the complete form, Fourth, setting out the syllable ...
The first manifestation of enlightenment, as explained here, is to rest evenly in the nonconceptual meditation of simplicity, and then cultivate the mind of awakening within that state. This is an illusory, unattached compassion toward all those who are unable to realize such a state themselves. On a downward level, this purifies the death state, in which all of the eighty intrinsic thought states subside due to confusion, as well as the
indistinct appearances that unfold in the intermediate state as the karmic wind flares up again. Upwardly, it perfects the dharma and enjoyment bodies within the ground. In between, it matures one for the practices of luminosity and illusory body.
The second manifestation of enlightenment is to visualize the form of the deity’s seed syllable, which is essentially the wisdom of unified emptiness and compassion. This purifies and refines away the stage at which the intermediate state consciousness, in the form of a disembodied perpetuating spirit, merges with the parents’ semen and ovum. It perfects the emanation body within the ground, and matures one for emerging out of the symbolic wisdom in the illusory body of the deity.
The third manifestation of enlightenment is to visualize the seed syllable transforming into the symbolic implement of vajra mind, and then from that into the complete bodily form. This purifies and refines away the process of fetal development, beginning with the coalescence of the semen, ovum, and energetic mind, progressing through the embryonic stages: the oval, thickened, elongated, round, and solid phases. This would
also include Visnu’s “fishlike” and “turtlelike” stages, as well as the complete development of the eyes, the other sense organs, and the limbs. It perfects the unified essence body within the ground, and matures one for emerging out of ultimate luminosity in the unified form of the deity.
The fourth manifestation of enlightenment may entail the projection of the seed syllable for producing the deities, or else the act of sealing via placement of syllables in the deity’s three places. This purifies the fixation
the newborn infant has on engaging with various things when it begins to explore objects with its senses. It also perfects the fruition of spontaneously present enlightenment within the ground. Finally, as one emerges in the unified form of the deity through completion stage training, it matures one to enjoy the experience of sense pleasures without any attachment as they have become the adornments of awareness.
The Ritual of the Three Vajras
The second method, the ritual of the three vajras, will be explained below.
The Five Manifestations of Enlightenment
The Hevajra Tantra explains:
The moon is mirror like wisdom,
The seven of seven, equality.
Discernment is said to be the deity’s
Seed syllable and symbolic implements.
All becoming one is perseverance itself,
And perfection, the pure expanse of reality.
In this regard, the “ground manifestation of enlightenment” refers to the fact that, in the context of the ground, the white essence, red essence, energetic mind, and their collections are primordially enlightened as the essence of the five wisdoms. The “path manifestation of enlightenment” refers to the symbolic wisdom on the paths of accumulation and joining, and the fourfold unified emptiness that manifests the actual luminosity
on the paths of seeing and cultivation. In order for this to develop in one’s mind-stream there are the development stage visualizations of the moon, sun, symbolic implement, etc. The “resultant manifestation of enlightenment” refers to the five bodies, five wisdoms, and all of the qualities of the unified state beyond training at the fruition.
With this understanding of how the manifestations of enlightenment are linked to the ground, path, and fruition, we now turn to the specific way of training in the five path manifestations of enlightenment.
(1) The basis of purification for the first manifestation includes: the aggregate of form, the element of space, the body, the all-ground consciousness, the disturbing emotion of delusion, the male element in womb birth, the moisture in heat-and-moisture birth, the male element in egg birth, and the empty aspect of miraculous birth. The process of purification is to visualize the first manifestation of enlightenment, the moon disc, which is the essence of Vairocana and mirrorlike wisdom and emerges from the vowels.
(2) The basis of purification for the second manifestation includes: the aggregate of sensation, the element of earth, the disturbed consciousness, stinginess and pride, the red female element in womb birth, the female element in egg birth, the heat in heat-and-moisture birth, and the luminous aspect of miraculous birth. The process of purification is to visualize the second manifestation of enlightenment, the sun disc, which is the essence of Ratnasambhava and the wisdom of equality and emerges from the consonants.
(3) The basis of purification for the third manifestation includes: the intermediate-state consciousness (the disembodied perpetuating mind) merging with the semen and ovum, the aggregate of perception, the element of fire, speech, the mind consciousness, the disturbing emotion of desire, and the intermediate-state consciousness as it enters into one of the four modes of birth. The process of purification is to visualize the third manifestation of enlightenment, the seed syllable combined with the symbolic implement, which is the essence of Amitabha and discerning wisdom.
(4) The basis of purification for the fourth manifestation includes: the coalescence of the semen, ovum, and mind into one; the aggregate of formations; the element of wind; the actions of body, speech, and mind; the five sense consciousnesses; the disturbing emotion of envy; and, in terms of the four modes of birth, the coalescence of the intermediate-state consciousness with semen and ovum in egg and womb birth, with heat and moisture in heat-
and-moisture birth, and with merely empty luminosity in miraculous birth. The process of purification is to visualize the fourth manifestation of enlightenment, the coalescence of the moon, sun, symbolic implement, and seed syllable into one taste in the form of a spherical orb, which is the essence of Amoghasiddhi and all-accomplishing wisdom.
(5) The basis of purification for the fifth manifestation includes: birth from the womb after the period of gestation has culminated, the aggregate of consciousness, the element of water, the mind consciousness, the act of grasping at the reality of the eightfold collection, the disturbing emotion of
anger, and the state in which the physical sense fields associated with taking birth in one of the four ways are fully developed. The process of purification is to visualize the fifth manifestation of enlightenment, the complete bodily form, which is the essence of Aksobhya and the wisdom of the basic space of phenomena.
The three principles of purification, perfection, and maturation also apply to the five manifestations of enlightenment. Someone with a special physical support, such as a human body made of the six elements, can reach liberation by applying skillful means. Such a body has the bases for purifying the elements—the coarse aspects of the channels, essences, and energetic mind—fully manifest.
A person with this type of body must first be matured via empowerment. Then he or she should train in the five manifestations of enlightenment in the context of the conceptual path of the development stage. The main emphasis at that level is also the white essence, red essence, and mind. Therefore, by taking something that in appearance accords with samsara as the path, one can thoroughly purify all aspects of semen, ovum,
energy, and mind, which are the nature of existence and object of purification. Furthermore, by training on the path of devoted intent, which is in harmony with the true state of the victorious ones, one can perfect within the ground all the qualities of the five factors of fruition as well as the five wisdoms. Both of these mature one for aspects of the completion stage, such as appearance, flaring, near-attainment, luminosity, and union.
Purifying Birth from Heat and Moisture
Third is the simple style of development stage. This practice is based on the intent of anuyoga and serves to purify birth from heat and moisture.
It says in The Magical Key to the Treasury:
In the anuyoga vehicle, without developing it,
But merely uttering the essence mantra,
The complete form of the deity is visualized.
Unlike in womb birth, which involves a lengthy gestation, all the body parts of those taking birth from heat and moisture are fully formed as soon as the consciousness enters the combination of heat and moisture. Similarly, here, there is no need to make use of the details explained in mahayoga, such as the five manifestations of enlightenment, nor the elaborate descriptions found in extensive development rituals. Instead, bring
to mind the view of the great anuyoga scriptures, according to which all things are naturally enlightened as the fundamental mandala of awakened mind—the great bliss child of nondual basic space and wakefulness. Without wavering from this view, direct its expression, the force of compassion, toward purifying the habitual craving toward the bodies and abodes of birth from heat and moisture. Then simply utter the essence mantra of the deity you are going to visualize. As you do so, visualize in completeness the form of the supported deity along with its support. This is the manifest aspect of relative truth that appears from the ultimate
basic space of wisdom—Samantabhadra’s expanse of emptiness. In this way you should train in the path of indivisible bliss and emptiness. This is known as “the magical development stage of insight into the unreality of appearances.”
Purifying Miraculous Birth
Fourth is the completel y simple style of development stage, which complements the pith instructions of atiyoga and serves to purify miraculous birth. Even faster than in birth from heat and moisture, the body of a being born miraculously is fully formed as soon as its consciousness enters into empty luminosity. The path that purifies this type of birth is a similar process, as Master Ganthapada explained:
Meditate without any seed, Like a being taking birth miraculously.
All sights, sounds, and thoughts—which is to say, all phenomena—are primordially enlightened as the vajra essence of the body, speech, and mind of the victorious ones. For this reason, the spontaneously perfect mandala is already present right now in the state of fruition, effortlessly and without being created. This is the view of the atiyoga pith instructions, within which we visualize the mandala of support and supported perfectly complete in an instant, like a fish leaping from the water.
The knowledge holder Jigme Lingpa has described this:
Those of the very highest acumen practice the development stage ritual of complete simplicity by developing the mind’s inner potential. This potential is linked with the universal view of the king of vehicles, the natural and supreme yana. The momentum that ensues from this process allows one to train in the indivisibility of development and completion. Without having to verbalize anything, the mind’s nature is visualized in its innate state, as the complete form of the deity. This occurs in a manner similar to the way a reflection can suddenly appear in a mirror.
The following passage illustrates this approach:
The deity is you and you are the deity.
You and the deity arise together. Since samaya and wisdom are nondual, There is no need to invite the deity, Nor to request it to take its seat. Self-emanated and self-empowered, Awareness itself is the Three Roots.
In this form of development stage practice, the nature of the deity is inherently and perfectly present within illusory wisdom. This purifies miraculous birth. Explaining further, the omniscient Longchenpa writes, regarding the effortless approach of atiyoga:
In the same way that miraculous birth occurs instantaneously,
There is no need to start from nothing and then meditate
On development and completion in stages.
General Remarks on the Development Stage
Moreover, it is said that each aspect of development stage, completion stage, and union possesses, in itself, these three aspects, creating a progression from the development stage of development stage to the union of union. Thus, every practice that involves visualizing the form of a deity need not be categorized as only development stage, i.e., as one part of a pair, opposed to completion stage. Nevertheless, when considering the
development as one of only two stages, the development stage is the first step for someone who has not engendered the wisdom of the completion stage. Such a person trains in the development stage in order to mature for the completion stage practice. First he or she must gain conviction in the view of mantra and then proceed to cultivate the appearance of the deity’s form as a conceptual imitation. Later, when the special
realization of the completion stage emerges, the form of the deity appears as an expression of wisdom. This constitutes a direct cause of the unity in training. In light of this, even though as beginners our development stage practice is only a conceptual imitation, we can nonetheless embrace it with confidence in the view, so that it will be in harmony with the true wisdom. On the other hand, if we fail to do that, it will neither lead to
nor ripen us for that wisdom. That is why both the stake of absorption and the stake of unchanging realization are so crucial. For this reason, the practice of the two stages does not always unfold precisely as described
in the scriptures and practice manuals. A beginner, for instance, may try to rest evenly in the wisdom of the completion stage, but it will be nothing more than holding something conceptually in mind. On the other hand, someone with superior realization can meditate on the complex details of the development stage in such a way that they manifest as the natural expression of wisdom.
Furthermore, when someone who has not engendered the wisdom of the completion stage visualizes the deity in practices related to the channels, energies, and inner heat, it may be a conceptual imitation. However, it is still considered the completion-stage form of the deity because it is a way for intrinsic
wisdom to emerge. Lastly, those who have realized a high view may still meditate on highly elaborate forms of development stage. In their case, it is not out of personal necessity, but rather for the sake of their disciples. Specifically, it is to underscore to their students the auspicious coincidence made by entering into and being ripened within a particular mandala.
This is how my teacher Guna explained it.
Moreover, when we train in the development stage as beginners and first bring out the appearance of the deity’s form, we should investigate where the deity we visualize first appeared from, where it currently remains, where it will go afterward, and what its essence really is. We will then come to an understanding that it did not come from anywhere in the beginning, does not remain anywhere in the present, and will not go anywhere
in the end; it is a projection of our own mind. After this, we can proceed to analyze the essence of our own mind in the same way and conclude that its true state is originally devoid of the marks of arising, dwelling, and ceasing. With this understanding, we can perceive the secret key point of unity, that the form of the deity in development stage is inseparable from our own mind, appearing while not being real, like a rainbow or moon reflected in water.
Having gained such an insight, we can apply it to all our experiences and activities, and train progressively until all appearances arise, without fixation, as the empty yet luminous development stage of magical illusion. We will also come to some understanding—whether as an idea or in experience—of
the key point that the deity we are visualizing, our guru, and our own mind are indivisible. What I share here comes from my own experience, limited though it may be. I impart it with the intention to benefit my present vajra brothers as well as sadhana practitioners of future generations.
In this way there are four styles of development stage practice related to the four modes of birth. We should practice primarily the one among them that corresponds with our own type of birth, but above all the style that is in accord with our mental capacity. The Omniscient Lord of Dharma has mentioned this:
Though there are four ways to meditate, you should use
The one that addresses the type of birth that predominates.
To purify habitual patterns meditate accordingly using them all. In particular, meditate in harmony with egg birth as a beginner, And when this is somewhat stable, with womb birth.
Once very stable, meditate in harmony with heat-and-moisture birth,
And when completely habituated, use this true stability
To develop instantaneously, in harmony with miraculous birth.
The Ritual of the Three Vajras
Let us now look closer at the practical application in terms of the ritual of the three vajras. While in Ladder to Akanistha the meditation begins with the symbolic implement, we will instead follow the more commonly known approach, the concise practice to purify womb birth as it is used in the majority of the treasure texts within the tradition of the Early Translations.
According to this approach, the object of purification encompasses the entire process that begins with the intermediate-state consciousness entering in between the father’s semen and the mother’s ovum, on through the complete development of the body. The various parts of the visualization, then, correlate to the stages of this process. The sun disc in the seat purifies the mother’s ovum, while the moon disc purifies the father’s
semen. The descent of the seed syllable (the causal samadhi) onto the seat purifies the intermediate-state consciousness as it enters into the combination of red and white elements within the mother’s womb. When the seed syllable transforms into the symbolic implement of a particular deity, it purifies the coalescence of mind, semen, and ovum after the consciousness has entered between the red and white elements. The subsequent
projection and absorption of light rays purifies the fetal development of aggregates, elements, and sense bases through the workings of the four elements. The symbolic implement transforming into the complete form of the deity purifies the habits associated with the period from the complete development of the fetus until the time of birth.
This style of visualization can implicidy purify the habits for the other modes of birth as well. In terms of egg birth for instance, the seed syllable purifies the disembodied consciousness; the symbolic implement purifies its entrance between the semen and ovum; the projection, absorption, and transformation into a sphere purifies the development of the egg; and that sphere transforming into the bodily form purifies the development
of the body out of the egg. Likewise, in terms of birth from heat and moisture, the sun disc in the seat purifies the heat aspect, while the moon disc purifies the moisture aspect; the seed syllable and symbolic implement purify the intermediate-state energetic mind; the projection, absorption, and completion of the bodily form purify the body materializing out of heat and moisture when the mind, heat, and moisture coalesce. Finally, in
terms of miraculous birth, the seat purifies the place of birth; the seed syllable and symbolic implement purify the intermediate-state energetic mind; the projection and absorption purify the craving for a home and body, which is further sustained by grasping; and the completion of the bodily form represents and purifies the instantaneous creation of the body.
The result of purification for the ritual of the three vajras is to manifest enlightened emanation bodies to guide whoever is in need, acting out the process of entering into the womb and taking birth. The process of purification begins with the ritual of the seed syllable of enlightened speech, in which
the causal seed syllable suspended in space descends onto the seat. Then, in the ritual of the symbolic implement of enlightened mind, it transforms into the symbolic implement of a particular buddha family, marked in the center by the seed syllable. This then projects coundess light rays, inviting the
buddhas of the ten directions into the sky before you, who then dissolve into the syllable-marked implement in the form of light rays. Finally, in the ritual of the complete enlightened body, the symbolic implement with its seed syllable transforms into the resultant vajra holder, meaning the bodily form of a visualized deity, vivid and complete with the major and minor marks.
This is a way of taking the emanation body, the pure form of the birth state, as the path. It also matures one for the completion stage. For instance, the sun and moon united upon the lotus seat represent the blissful heat in the context of the higher paths where the blazing and dripping converge in the
cakras of the central channel. The seed syllable and symbolic implement represent the energetic mind dissolving into the central channel. The projection and absorption of light and the subsequent transformation represent the empty bliss produced by the melting bliss. The completion of the bodily form represents the ability to manifest out of empty bliss in the form of the wisdom deity, the natural and innate empty bliss.
This explanation has been in terms of a single primary deity but can also be applied to the development of the other, secondary deities.
For this there are five steps.
(1) First, visualize the complete form of the central deity.
(2) Next, visualize the female consort’s seed syllable, and then
(3) as it transforms, the female consort.
(4) Then visualize the three-tiered beings, and finally
5) seal with the lord of the family.
With regard to the ground, these five stages purify, respectively:
(2) engaging in courtship, once one has come of age and feels the pangs of lust;
(3) the act of taking a wife;
(4) the progressive development of one’s physical, verbal, and mental abilities; and
(5) mastery over one’s family trade.
With regard to the fruition, they correspond respectively to:
(1) taking birth as an enlightened emanation body;
(2) becoming a renunciant and undergoing hardship in pursuit of enlightenment;
(3) emerging from austerities and going to Bodhgaya;
(4) taming the demons and developing concentration; and
(5) gaining the wisdom of complete omniscience.
With regard to the higher path, the five steps mature the practitioner to accomplish the empty and blissful form of the wisdom deity. They do so by laying the foundation for manifesting out of the blissful energetic mind in the form of the deity. This involves relying on either one of the two seals in pursuit of the supreme spiritual accomplishments and thereby gradually cultivating intrinsic wisdom. In this way one swiftly connects to the supreme spiritual accomplishment.
Likewise, when there is a visualization of retinue deities, the object of purification is the previous child conceiving its own sons and daughters. The result of purification is to project, through the great bliss of all buddhas, infinite emanations out of delightful clouds of music. It is also to
establish one’s retinue at the level of enlightenment, indicated by their birth within one’s buddha family. The process of purification is to visualize the deities in the retinue who develop from their seed syllables. This is the most that can be said about this here; you should also look to the specific details described in your particular text.
The Characteristics of the Deity
The third section concerns the characteristics of the visualized deity. At this point a definitive description of the object of meditation cannot be made above and beyond what appears in the practice manual of the deity that is being visualized. We can, however, identify meditation deities in general as
being either peaceful or wrathful, and then describe the nine traits and thirteen enjoyment body ornaments of peaceful deities (the latter of which apply generally in the Early Translations), as well as the nine expressions of the dance, glorious attributes, and charnel ground ornaments, which apply to wrathful deities.
The Nine Traits of Peaceful Deities
1. Peaceful deities have soft bodies, arms, and legs, symbolizing the purification of birth and the fact that pride is naturally purified without being given up.
2. They are well proportioned, with thin waists and smooth curves, showing that anger and sickness are naturally purified.
3. They are not slack, but firm, showing that desire and death are naturally purified. This may also be shown in the embrace between means and knowledge.
4. Their bodies are straight, and their joints amazingly flexible, showing that envy is naturally purified.
5. They are supple and have a youthful demeanor, showing that delusion and aging are naturally purified. These are the five essential qualities.
6. Furthermore, being free of ignorance, their bodies are immaculate, with hues that are vivid and distinct.
7. Having unfolded the wisdom that perfects the sphere of totality, they are radiant, while glowing and emanating countless light rays.
8. Being beautiful and dignified, they are majestic, replete with the flowers of the major marks and the fruit of the minor marks.
9. Finally, since they have perfected all supreme qualities, their magnificence overwhelms the beings in need of guidance.
The Thirteen Enjoyment Body Ornaments
Among the thirteen enjoyment body ornaments, the first five are the five garments of divine silk, which symbolize the eradication of the disturbing emotions that afflict beings. These include: blue silk ribbons with white patterns that dangle down the back; a five-colored silk diadem, a set of
fluttering silk ribbons strung over the ears; dancing sleeves that come to the shoulders; a shirt of white silk embroidered with gold; and a dhoti, a multicolored type of lower garment, which sometimes appears instead as a skirt that is entirely maroon.
Since they have refined sense pleasures into ornaments without giving them up, they also wear eight jeweled ornaments, which symbolize the fulfillment of beings’ wishes. On their heads they wear a crest-shaped hollow crown of precious metal with a jewel at its peak. On each ear they wear earrings of precious
materials inlaid with gems. They wear necklaces of three lengths: a choker strung with various alternating jewels, a similarly-made necklace that hangs down to the upper chest, and a long necklace that hangs down below the navel. They also wear jewel-inlaid armbands, as well as two bracelets, two anklets, and rings on their fingers and toes, all similarly designed. Lastly, they have a belt decorated with studded gems.
These ornaments are sometimes counted in slightly different ways. For instance, some count the necklace and long necklace together, or the bracelets and anklets together, while counting the rings separately. Some even exclude the rings and instead count each of the first eight individually. In any case, the ornaments themselves are just as described here.
Moreover, in terms of the seven factors of enlightenment, the jeweled necklace represents mindfulness, the crown represents the discernment of phenomena, the bracelets represent diligence, the earrings represent pliancy, the armbands represent concentration, the long necklace represents equanimity, and the flower garland represents joy.
In addition, the six perfections can be linked to the bone ornaments of the male deity, in the sense that the necklace represents generosity, the bracelets discipline, the earrings patience, the crown wheel diligence, the belt concentration, and the offering thread, known as the serka, knowledge.
In terms of the female deity, her nakedness represents freedom from the obscuration of conceptual thought. Her age of sixteen years represents immutable great bliss endowed with the sixteen joys. Her hair hangs loose, symbolizing the boundless unfolding of basic space and wisdom. She is also
adorned with five bone ornaments: the wheel of bones representing the wisdom of basic space, the necklace representing the wisdom of equality, the earrings representing discerning wisdom, the bracelets representing mirrorlike wisdom, and the belt representing all-accomplishing wisdom.
The male and female embrace each others’ bodies, symbolic of the fact that emptiness and compassion are not separate. Their mouths are joined in a kiss, symbolic of one taste, the simplicity of flawless great bliss. They remain indivisible with vajra and lotus joined in union, symbolic of the unity of calm abiding and insight.
The Nine Expressions of the Dance Wrathful deities convey the nine dancing expressions
1. The first of these is captivating, which is an expression of passion. It refers to the essence of Vairocana, which is the deities’ seductiveness, as they are adorned with jewelry, the male and female consorts are embracing, etc.
2. They are also heroic, an expression of wrath, referring to the essence of Ratnasambhava, the fact that they are so powerful as to be invincible.
3. They are terrifying, an expression of stupidity, referring to the essence of Aksobhya, the way that they instill fear merely upon sight.
These first three are their three physical expressions.
4. They are laughing, the essence of Amitabha, emitting sounds of laughter like “Ha ha!” due to their state of passionate, haughty glee.
5. They are ferocious, the essence of Amoghasiddhi, berating with abusive words like “Capture! Strike!”
6. They are fearsome, the essence of Marnakr, as they overwhelm with fierce roaring sounds similar to thunder cracks.
These three are their verbal expressions.
7. They are compassionate, the essence of Samayatara, taking ignorant beings and realms under their care with nonconceptual compassion.
8. They are intimidating, the essence of Pandaravasinr, meaning they are capable of anything necessary to tame incorrigible beings with their wrath, their state of mind being overcome by passionate wrath.
9. Finally, they are peaceful, the essence of Locana, referring to their nonconceptual realization that everything is the same taste in true reality.
These are their three mental expressions
The Eight Attributes of the Glorious One
The eight attributes of the Glorious One are so called because they are primordially and intrinsically present on the body of the Great Glorious One. It seems, however, that there are some slight discrepancies in the ways these are identified. Nevertheless, The Divine Realization Tantra describes these clearly and also mentions their symbolism. According to this scripture they are:
1. Hair tied in a knot for reversing cyclic existence
2. Vajra garuda wings of method and knowledge
3. A dark-blue diadem for overpowering eternalism and nihilism
4. A vajra at the crown indicating supreme awareness
5. A mighty coat of armor to advance in splendor
6. The knowledge consort with whom the deity is in nondual union
7. The iron of a hero for repelling harm and malevolence
8. Vajra fire for incinerating disturbing emotions
The Eight Charnel Ground Ornaments
The eight charnel ground ornaments are decorations representing triumph and heroism. In the past they were the spoils of the liberation of Rudra, donned by the Great Glorious One as ornaments on his body. They include the three worn garments, the two fastened ornaments, and the three smeared things.
The three garments are:
2. An upper garment of elephant hide
3. A skirt of tiger skin
The two fastened ornaments are:
4. Skull ornaments, which consist of:
a. A crown of five dry skulls
b. A necklace of fifty fresh skulls
c. Armbands of skull fragments
d. Bracelets and anklets
5. Snake ornaments, which are types of jewelry resembling venomous snakes:
a. A white hair band of the royal naga caste
b. Yellow earrings of the merchant caste
c. A red choker of the priestly caste
d. Green bracelets and anklets of the peasant caste
e. A black necklace of the untouchable caste
The three smeared things are:
6. A clot of human ash on the forehead
7. Drops of blood on the cheeks or, alternatively, on the cheeks and tip of the nose
8. Smears of grease on the chin
Certain deities are of a semiwrathful type. They wear an elephant skin upper garment, symbolizing the defeat of ignorance by means of the ten powers of knowledge. They are swathed in a tiger skin skirt, representing the defeat of anger by means of heroic wrathful activities. They are adorned with silk streamers, symbolizing the defeat of desire by the mind of awakening. They have a crown of five dry skulls, the identity of the five buddhas, which represents the defeat of pride. They wear a necklace of fifty fresh heads strung together as a garland, symbolizing the purity of the fifty mental states after envy has been defeated. Finally, their bodies are adorned with the bone ornaments, which have the nature of the six perfections. You should visualize all this as it is described in your particular text.
Blessing and Empowerment
This section covers
(1) bestowing blessings and
(2) conferring empowerment.
When blessings are bestowed, the object of purification is the stage of maturation of the infant’s physical, verbal, and mental abilities. The result of purification is the attainment of mastery over the inconceivable secrets of enlightened body, speech, and mind at the time of awakening. The process of purification utilizes the samaya mandala you have already developed. You next visualize a white syllable OM, representing vajra body,
clear and glowing, in the skull palace cakra at the crowns of both the central and retinue deities in the mandala. At their throat cakras visualize a clear and glowing red syllable AH, representing vajra speech. In their hearts visualize a clear and glowing blue syllable HUM, representing vajra mind. It should be in front of the wisdom being in the hearts of the primary male and female deities, while in front of the awakened life force
syllable of the others. There are sometimes other details as well, such as visualizing these syllables within a wheel, lotus, and vajra at the three respective places, and visualizations of the forms of Vairocana, Amitabha, and Aksobhya. For these you should follow your text.
In any case, take pride in joining the ground and fruition by having solid conviction that body, speech, and mind in their pure state are the three vajras of all the thus-gone ones. In terms of the higher path, the three elements of semen, ovum, and energy correlate to enlightened body, speech, and mind. By eradicating their impure aspects, you set a foundation for the dawning of the wisdom that emerges when their pure aspects flourish.
During empowerment the object of purification consists of the coarse, disturbed thought processes that come about as the infant’s channels and elements develop. The result of purification is to be empowered, at the time of awakening, as the Dharma King of the three realms and sovereign of all thus-gone ones. Here the process of purification entails the bestowal of empowerment, with mantra and gesture, upon the five places of
the heads of all the deities: the crown, forehead, tip of the right ear, nape of the neck, and tip of the left ear. Place the lord of the particular family in primary position in the middle, exchanging his place with Vairocana.
When empowerment is granted, the male and female buddhas appear out of seed syllables and join in union. A stream of nectar of the mind of awakening, the nature of the five wisdoms, then pours down from the
places of union. This fills up your body, cleanses away obscurations, and purifies the five poisons into the five wisdoms. As the excess liquid overflows above and dissolves into the intrinsically present lord of the family, take pride that you have realized the goal of your inherent wisdom. There are a number of stages here, such as inviting the empowerment deities and the actual bestowal of empowerment, which you should apply
according to context. In relation to the completion stage, this process matures you for the higher path by creating the cause for the empowerment of the five poisons that takes place through the progression and reversal of the four joys. It also creates the cause for the energetic mind to dissolve into the crown protuberance.
Inviting and Welcoming the Wisdom Beings
Here the object of purification is the child’s process of gaining the same aptitude as others in his caste before him. The result of purification is to unite with the wisdom of all the thus-gone ones at the time of awakening, thereby arriving at an equal experience, inseparable from their realization. The process of purification consists of inviting and dissolving the wisdom beings, and has two parts: first inviting and then welcoming the natural wisdom mandala.
To invite the wisdom mandala, you, as the samaya being, project light rays in the shape of hooks from your seed syllable, the awakened life force. These light rays permeate all the naturally and spontaneously present pure realms, where they cause the thus-gone ones of the four times and ten directions to manifest in a skillful dance of form bodies without leaving the great equality of the dharma body. As they take the forms of the
deities in the mandala you are practicing, complete in its supporting and supported aspects, imagine that they actually arrive in the sky in front of you. Fumigate with incense made of special substances and play
various instruments. Then, with your mind in a state of one-pointed faith, chant the invitation verse in a melodious way. While still visualizing yourself in the samaya mandala, imagine that they arrive in the sky above you at the place where the flames of the protection circles meet.
Second, to welcome the wisdom deities you have just invited into the samaya mandala, say the general mantra DZAH HUM BAM HOH. With DZAH, you summon the wisdom deities into the samaya mandala; with HUM, they dissolve indivisibly; with BAM, they are bound by an indestructible oath to remain until your aspirations are fulfilled; and with HOH, you welcome them to remain, continually and joyfully. This serves to remove any
fixation on the samaya being as inferior and the wisdom being as superior, and confirms that the wisdom mandala is inseparable from your mind. It also serves as a way for you to receive the blessings of all the buddhas. Finally, it replicates the way the symbolic luminosity points out the actual wisdom in the context of the higher paths, while laying a foundation for the wisdom of the nonduality of samsara and nirvana to emerge in your being.
Offering and Praise
Next, the description of the offerings and praise to the nondual mandala has two parts: a general explanation of the principles of purification, perfection, and maturation, and then a description of the actual practice.
For the first, the object of purification is the frivolous pleasure the child takes in things such as food, drink, dress, jewelry, and houses, its partiality with regard to property and possessions, and efforts to attain fame,
fortune, and a certain economic status. The result of purification is to become, at the time of awakening, an unsurpassed object of reverence and veneration, always surrounded by infinite clouds of offerings. This is what is perfected. The process of purification consists of the procedures for homage, offering, and praise. This process matures you by forming a basis for you to revel in the play of awareness discipline during the higher path.
Secondly, the actual practice process involves three stages: homage, offering, and praise.
Generally speaking, the superior mode of practice is the “homage of resolute unity”: to realize that you are inseparable from the deity and then remain in the nondual equality in which the samaya and wisdom beings have merged, like water poured into water. This can be applied to the offering and praise as well; in fact, if you realize this, it is fine to forgo any separate conventional, conceptual homage or offering. Still, in a mere
relative sense, you can follow in the manner of common respect and conform to the style of the outer tantras by paying homage and making offerings, etc. This is the approach of the unexcelled practice system where
one resolves that the displays are merely self-projections and recognizes their nondual nature. Just as the gods in Delightful Emanations revel in their own magically-created pleasures, imagine that either a second bodily form like yourself or else emanated goddesses emerge from the heart of the central deity and offer the homage.
They say, “ATIPU HOH,” representing their homage, and the deities accept the homage by responding, “PRATICCHA HOH.”
The [[offering has four aspects[[:
lf as the central deity and imagine that clouds of goddesses of the sense pleasures project out of your heart. In the manner of deities worshipping deities, these fill up the infinitude of space and bestow offerings. Recite the offering verse from your text and imagine that the emanated goddesses, holding their respective offerings, present them and then dissolve into their respective places.
The offerings include: a beverage of sweet, cool, and pure drinking water; clean and refreshing bathing water for the hands and feet; brilliant and beautiful flowers for the eyes; fragrant incense for the nose; illuminating lamps for the eyes; cool, fragrant perfume for the heart; rich, nutritious food for the tongue; and lovely music for the ears.
These all have a particular symbolism. The flower is a symbol of the beauty and brilliance of wisdom awareness. Incense symbolizes the way nonconceptual compassion burns away concepts. The lamp is a symbol of intrinsic luminosity dispelling the darkness of ignorance. The perfume is a symbol of the extremely
profound unconstructed wakefulness of spacious awareness unfolding and pervading all things. The bathing water symbolizes wakefulness cleaning away the stains of concepts. The food and drinking water are symbols of the taste of untainted concentration. Finally, the music symbolizes the perpetual, audible, yet empty sound of mantra.
Also included here are the five sense pleasures—visible form, sound, smell, taste, and texture—in the way that they create pleasure as objects of the five senses. On an inner level, when male and female join together and share in ecstasy, there are also visible forms to behold, laughing sounds of union, the scent of satiation with bliss, the taste of the melting bliss, and texture in the contact between the secret vajra and space, as well as
the white and red substances. These are inner sense pleasures in the sense that they are phenomena that cause all inner and outer phenomena to arise as empty bliss. They appear in the forms of goddesses who express the sixteen types of joy—four times the four of joy, supreme joy, extraordinary joy, and intrinsic joy.
The inner offering is divided into two:
a common and
a special type.
The common type includes certain symbolic offerings, such as the flowers of the five senses, which are the sacred substances of the eyes, tongue, ears, nose, and heart, naturally present in a clean corpse. In addition, there are: incense made of human fat for fumigation and burnt offerings, butter lamps fueled by human oil with wicks of corpse hair, perfume made of bile, and food offerings of human flesh.
These all have a particular symbolism as well. The brilliant and beautiful flower represents the five subtle physical faculties that are inherently present in the bodies of living beings. These faculties form the support for the five sense consciousnesses and relate exclusively to their respective objects. The incense offering of burnt human fat represents the odor that comes from the impure aspect of flesh, which is the source of the fatty
tissue. The oil lamp represents the fluid that results from human oil, which gives the body its radiant complexion. The perfume represents the gall bladder, a repository of odor. Finally, the food offering consists of the nutrients that come from digesting food and drink and which develop one’s flesh and blood. Here it is used to feed the deities of the aggregates, elements, and sense sources.
Beyond this, you can make actual or mentally created offerings of the outer and inner sensual pleasures, offer things you do not even own, and imagine countless clouds of offerings produced through the power of aspiration.
The special inner offering consists of medicine, torma, and rakta.
For the medicine offering consider that everything within samsara and nirvana exists as an unfabricated, naturally present nectar. For this reason the sacred substance composed of the proper combination of the eight primary and one thousand subsidiary ingredients can emerge from the equality of true reality. It is the identity of the five wisdoms and the five buddha families, an essential extract of medicinal nectar that dispels thoughts of dualistic fixation.
Take this nectar with your thumb and ring finger—the amulet of the sun and moon—and offer it, imagining that you have delighted the deities. Then imagine that the deities project all spiritual accomplishments and the blessings of enlightened body, speech, and mind from their three places in the form of the three seed syllables, which land upon the nectar. Again, take some nectar between your thumb and ring finger and touch it to your three places and then your tongue, while thinking that you have attained the accomplishments of the three vajras.
In the secret meaning, the five nectars refer to the pure essences of the five aggregates, while the five meats refer to the pure essences of the five senses. They constitute an ambrosia nectar because the accomplishment of immortality is gained by retaining them without letting them leak out.
Next is the torma offering. Imagine that the outer container of completely pure space is the torma vessel, which contains the edible and drinkable torma substances along with everything desirable. Then offer it while you emanate it out in the form of vast clouds of the five sense pleasures. Imagine that tubes of light emerge from the vajra-shaped tongues of the deities with which they draw up and imbibe the contents, so that your
bond with them is mended. You should also bring to mind the true meaning that the foods are the five sense objects and the drinks are the consciousnesses. In this way the contents are imbibed and subsequently dissolve within the expanse of luminosity.
For the rakta offering consider that the root of the disturbing emotions is our conceptual grasping and attachment to the three realms, which in fact creates cyclic existence. To cut cyclic existence from the root, condense all attached thoughts into the form of blood and vanquish them into unattached great bliss. Thereafter, within the basic space of the equality of samsara and nirvana, offer this sacred substance, gathered into
an ocean of pure essence and liberated within the nonarising expanse of samsara. The real meaning here is that the course of the sun and moon is arrested at the tip of the secret space, whereby the continuity of samsara is cut. Think that by making this offering samsara, as an ocean of blood, is consumed, so that the realms of cyclic existence are emptied.
Third, the innermost offering has two aspects:
a) union and
For the offering of union one should consider that all of appearance is of the nature of skillful means, the male aspect, while emptiness, in its entirety, is knowledge, the female consort. These two in essence remain indivisible. The fact that all phenomena are, in this way, naturally a nondual union constitutes the view of appearance and existence being a primordial unity. As an expression of this, while sustaining the three notions,
visualize yourself as the male and female deities in union. Through their union, as the four joys unfold in forward and reverse order via descending flow and ascending stabilization, the offering cloud of stainless nondual bliss and emptiness is established. This pleases the perfect circle of the deities, who are themselves the original purity of the aggregates, elements, and sense sources.
In the liberation offering the enemies that one seeks to liberate are the disturbing emotions, which come about through strong dualistic fixation and belief in a self. These emotions prevent our liberation and lead us into bondage in the three realms of cyclic existence. They are all liberated by the sharp weapon of nondual wisdom, the perfected essence of natural awareness, into the expanse of great equality, empty awareness itself,
the basic space of the sense sources’ primordial purity. This is the true meaning of the triple world being primordially liberated. As a manifestation of this primordial liberation, one should give rise to great compassion and then liberate, in an illusory way, the beings who lack this realization. Such beings are of ten types, including malevolent
demons and rudras, impelled as they are by the ripening of vicious karma. Liberate their supported consciousnesses into basic space and place them within the circle of great bliss. Then offer their aggregates of flesh, blood, and bones—impure residue of the three poisons—as food to the deities and imagine the deities are delighted.
For the offering of suchness consider that all phenomena contained within appearance and existence, samsara and nirvana, are primordially the nature of enlightenment—perfect within the single sphere of equality free of elaboration. Therefore, there is no duality in terms of an object to whom we offer, a
person making the offering, and an act of offering; these are indivisibly of one taste in the mandala of the mind of awakening. Thus, to offer all of appearance within the seal of Samantabhadra’s conduct, the great bliss of unity, is the most eminent offering of all.