A Complete & Detailed Exposition on the True Buddha Tantric Dharma (6)
Fellow cultivators, masters, good afternoon.
Today is the third day of this Complete and Detailed Exposition on the Liturgy of the Basic True Buddha Tantric Dharma. Before I start, I would like to emphasize again the importance of Tantric cultivation and also to communicate to you a few important realizations I, myself, have attained in the process of learning and practicing the Tantric Dharma.
Most of you know that, when I was twenty-six years old, I went to visit the Jade Emperor Temple in Taiwan and that it was there that the Golden Mother of the Jade Pond opened the Divine Eyesight for me. Then, that same night, I was brought to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss Sukhavati. I know that this kind of experience is extremely rare, though not unheard of. My experience was so real that, although it happened when I was twenty-six, it still leaps absolutely vividly before my eyes. I saw the Padmakumara Lotus Bodhisattva and the white, lightning-like light radiated by him. Every single lotus blossom was as big as an automobile tire. What I saw at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds corresponded exactly to the Amitabha Sutra' s descriptions of Sukhavati. This true experience later became a kind of spiritual backup force, sustaining me in my pursuit of Taoism and Buddhism.
Until that experience, I did not know who Padmakumara was. Before the age of twenty-six, I had never even heard of Padmakumara. It was from that night on that I came to know of his existence. He told me himself that his name was "Lian Hua Tung Tzu" Padmakumara. Such an experience is extremely rare in this world. I have often emphasized and repeated this truth: I have been to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds of the Sukhavati. I hope that this knowledge will give you a strong and firm faith, just as it has given me a strong and firm faith. With this strong faith, an initiated True Buddha School student can practice the Dharma and arrive at the goal and attain realization. Therefore this faith is extremely important.
Three Solemn Oaths
I have often thought about making an oath to attest to the truth of my visit to Sukhavati. But, on further thought, what would such an oath accomplish if people take me to be a liar? Although I am sincere and honest when I tell everyone that I have been to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in Sukhavati, the believers will believe and the nonbelievers will still disbelieve. This is the way it is because faith is based on many causes and conditions.
Today I am going to make an oath to all of you. I have never before made an oath. Whenever I was about to make an oath, I always stopped short of actually making it Here is my oath: If my traveling at the age of twenty-six to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in Sukhavati and my encounter with Padmakumara did not happen, and, if the whole incident was a total fabrication, I am willing to descend to the Vajra Hell and remain there eternally!
I was reluctant to make such an oath before as I realized that even pledging an oath is sometimes useless. Some people will, upon hearing this oath, say it is false! Such an oath just does not do anything for them at all!
Before the Heavens, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and all Deities, I make this pledge: if what I saw and heard that particular night when I was twenty-six years old was fabricated by me, I am willing to be banished forever to the Vajra Hell.
This is a very solemn oath. To remain in the Vajra Hell is to be always in darkness, with no chance of rebirth to the realm of humans. This is a very severe oath, and I make it in front of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Now, I would like to bring up the incident this year in Taiwan when I met Buddha Shakyamuni and had coffee with him. Many people found this strange. They said in disbelief, "Sheng-yen Lu is getting too ridiculous, having coffee with Buddha Shakyamuni!" So, did Buddha Shakyamuni write for me on a piece of paper, the epithet "Flower Light Self-Mastery Buddha"? Let me tell you, he didn't. [audience laughter] What do I mean by that? At the beginning, Buddha Shakyamuni actually wrote "Great Light Self-Mastery Buddha" on a piece of paper and then showed it to me. I did not like the word "Great," so I said to the Buddha, "I don't like the word Great and don't want to be known as the Great Master; I would rather be called the Little Master. Instead, why don't you give me the name 'Little Light Self-Mastery Buddha' ?"
[audience laughter] Little Light Master would then become the Rev. Hsiao Kuang. 1('"Little Light" in Mandarin sounds the same as Hsiao Kuang, the name of the Buddhist monk who is the housekeeper at Rainbow Villa. ) [audience laughter] I asked Buddha Shakyamuni not to use "Great" Light, as I preferred to be called "Little." Subsequently, Buddha Shakyamuni changed the word Great into Flower and that was how it became the Flower Light Self-Mastery Buddha. This is the truth. I clearly watched while he changed the word. Buddha Shakyamuni was wearing a western suit at the time.
If this incident of how I saw Buddha Shakyamuni writing the epithet "Great Light Self-Mastery Buddha," followed by my request for the change and his subsequent changing of the word "Great" into "Flower," is all a fabrication of mine and, if I have not actually seen and heard this entire sequence of events, I am willing to descend to the Vajra Hell and remain there eternally, with no hope of leaving. In front of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Tathagatas, Dharma Protectors, and all Deities, I pledge this, my second solemn oath.
Today I am making three solemn oaths, and the third solemn oath has to do with the sensations and perceptions I experience in my practices. As do many of you, I practice the True Buddha Tantric Dharma on a daily basis. I have been practicing for more than twenty years without skipping a day. Of course, many students have also been practicing for many years. Some have experienced mystical experiences, while others have not. Some have achieved yogic responses [union with the meditating Deity, while others have not. In regard to my own experiences: when I was living in Ballard, a suburb north of Seattle, my awareness and perceptions varied each time I did the practice. Sometimes there were very good responses and sometimes there was no response. Sometimes the sensations were very strong but sometimes they were very subtle. During that time I experienced a whole range of sensations during my meditations. However, in recent years
my experiences at the True Buddha Tantric Quarter have been quite different. Now how does it feel each time I do the practice? During each practice, I can feel my whole body being enveloped by a swirl of chi, and outside the chi is light. In between the chi and light is fire. That is, there is a swirl of chi surrounding my body and outside this chi is fire and, beyond the fire, is light. My whole body is held and supported at the upper portion of the Empty Space. These are very strong and
tactile sensations. I can feel the layer of enveloping chi which, unlike the sensation of wind blowing against one, is like coming into contact with electricity or being surrounded by something that is substantial and firm. These sensations are very strong and are clearly perceived each time I do the practice. I do not know what kind of awareness and perceptions you experience when you do the practice, and I cannot pledge for you. Therefore, I can only make this pledge: every time I do the practice, I am completely surrounded by chi, fire, and light. This kind of sensation of mutual merging is strong and extremely vivid. If these sensations that I have described do not happen, if I have made them up, I shall go to the Vajra Hell without any chance of liberation.
The main reason behind my pledging these three solemn oaths is that I wish that each of you will be able to experience the same strong and clear perceptions that I do, each time you do the practice. I also wish that you can personally travel to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in Sukhavati. Furthermore, I wish that you are able to meet with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas face to face, to pray to them to bless and empower you to become a Buddha in the future. I hope I have made myself very clear. I hope every one of you who has not been to Sukhavati can travel between here and there. This is my first intention. Second, I hope your cultivation will result in the prophecy of Buddhahood by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Third, each time you practice, I hope you can obtain a very strong, clear, and profound kind of awareness and perception. If all these three intentions are met, you definitely will not turn away from your initial resolution to do cultivation, nor will you give up the path of cultivation. One will continue practicing the True Buddha Tantric Dharma with determination and perseverance. And subsequently one will reach the fruit of Buddhahood and be able to help bring liberation to more sentient beings.
Grief Before and After Realization
The path of cultivation is not an easy one to tread, but it is a pity if man chooses not to tread on it. Before I attained realization, I labored and grieved with my utmost effort, in soaking sweat and tears, to try to reach the goal. Now that I have attained realization, I still grieve and labor in sweat and tears. Why? I am not grieving or laboring for myself. Although I am awakened and have attained realization and understanding, it is heartrending to look at the world and see so many sentient beings still in ignorance. Before Enlightenment, I was hear broken; after Enlightenment, I am even more heart broken.
This is because I grieve for the people of the world who are not able to understand the benefits and importance of doing spiritual cultivation. Why can't they appreciate the greatness and wonder of this transcendent Dharma that will enable one to become completely united with the Universe? That is why, before realization, I wept in grief and why, after realization, I still weep in grief. But, today, all of you were able to come here to listen to the Dharma that I am teaching, it is an indication of the extraordinarily strong affinity you have with the Buddhas. Therefore, you should cherish this Dharma. After learning how to do the practice, you should practice it with perseverance. I have practiced this Dharma for more than twenty years and, if this Dharma is false, wouldn't I have been cheating myself for more than two decades? By following this path that I already have trodden, one can also attain the same realization that I have attained, and there will come a time when the Buddhas will appear to prophesy one's Buddhahood. One will then attain Self-Mastery, Great Perfection, and Luminosity. These accomplishments greatly surpass all the wealth, fame, prestige, and relationships of the world.
Things of the World Always Return to Dust
What is familial comfort and conjugal happiness? They are but dust and dirt in the eyes of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The greatest mansion in this world is still dust and dirt; the greatest fame in this world is still dust and dirt. The greatest accumulation of wealth in this world is still dust and dirt; conjugal bliss and love is still dust and dirt. Only when one practices and reaches transcendence in the realm of Self-Mastery, Perfection, and Light, will the genuine and supreme Wisdom
of Buddhahood be manifest. Therefore I hope that, in our school, more students will completely devote their hearts to walk this path of cultivation. The more the better. Now, many people have made the decision to become renunciants monks and nuns and to pursue this goal single-mindedly. They deserve our commendation
because such resolution and determination to liberate oneself from samsara and to generate the Bodhicitta is most rare and noble. If one is unable at this time to become a renunciant, due to worldly entanglements, it is all right as long as one bears in mind that, when the time comes for one to break with worldly affairs, one must let go. After all, that which is of the world belongs to the world and must return to dust. Dust is always dust. There is a saying: the spirit returns to the spirit, the earth
returns to the earth. Everything in the world always returns to dust. Only the mind and spirit are transcendent. Therefore there is really no alternative to this path of cultivation; it is just that people of the world do not understand and are oblivious to this truth. We first have to awaken ourselves and then work earnestly to liberate other sentient beings. This completes my introductory words to the third day' s teachings.
The Four Immeasurable Vows
Now I shall continue with the Complete and Detailed Exposition of the Liturgy of the True Buddha Tantric Dharma. What I discussed during the first two days is considered the Prologue Section, and today I will begin the Main Body. The Prologue Section consists of the Purification Mantras, Invocation, Great Homage, Mandala Offering, Fourfold Refuge, and Armor Protection. Actually, in our True Buddha Tantric Dharma, one more step, the Four Immeasurable Vows, may also be included. The Four Immeasurable Vows also are extremely important. One's mind will have achieved greatness when one can truly understand the meaning of the Four Immeasurable Vows. The Four Immeasurable Vows are Benevolence, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity. Benevolence is to give happiness to sentient beings. Compassion is to uproot the sufferings of sentient beings. Joy is to carry out Benevolence and Compassion with infinite joy. Equanimity is to be able to sacrifice the self or enter into the state of No-self when practicing Benevolence, Compassion, and Joy.
When one is able to enact the Four Immeasurable Vows, one becomes a saint. When one practices the Four Immeasurable Vows, one's heart becomes infinitely large. If everyone's heart becomes infinitely large, the world will become the ideal and perfect society propounded by Confucius. However, people in the world do not practice Benevolence, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity What do they practice instead? They want happiness for themselves but misery for others. They feel unhappy and out of sorts when they see other people doing good deeds. They become resentful when they observe other people renouncing the egotistic self. Sentient beings can be mean, narrow-minded, and petty. Therefore, it is very important to learn to practice the Four Immeasurable Vows: to give happiness to sentient beings and to uproot their sufferings, to carry out these deeds in infinite joy, and in a state of No-self.
The Body Offering Practice
There was a famous Tibetan yogini, the Honorable Machig Labdron me, who was a female guru who popularized the Body Offering Practice Chöd. How is this practice of No-self done?
One visualizes one's two eyes transform into the sun and moon, one's skin transform into the land, one's bones and flesh transform into mountains and earth; blood becomes bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans, one's breathing becomes the wind, and one's hair becomes the trees. The Honorable Machig Labdron used this visualization to dissect and give away all of herself. This is the gist of the Body Offering Visualization established by the Honorable Machig Labdron . When one completely sacrifices all of one's body to give to sentient beings to use, the self is transcended, and one becomes No-Self. If one is unable to give and make sacrifices, then one still has greed.
Transcending the Self is No Simple Matter
It is easy to speak of "No-Self," but achieving it is no simple matter. For example, one comes to the Rainbow Villa to listen to these seven days of Dharma teachings and, since one sometimes has to make an offering, one divides all the money one has brought along into seven portions. One portion for each day, so there are seven portions. Well, on second thought, it won't do! How is one going to survive without any money? One then sets aside half of the money, as there is the hotel bill to pay and one has to have some bread and eggs for breakfast. As for lunches and suppers, one may count on the Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, as meals are served there at noon and in the evening. Nonetheless, sometimes one needs to go to Costco, or Sears, or some other department store to buy some necessary items. When one sees something good in the store, one wants to purchase it. Some students from Taiwan might even want to buy a toaster oven to bring back home. So one needs to reserve some money for oneself. Say there is originally one thousand dollars. After setting aside the seven portions for offerings, there is only three
hundred dollars left. Well, on further thought, how about reserving nine hundred dollars for personal use [audience laughter] and using one hundred dollars for the offerings? After putting ten dollars into each red envelope, one still has thirty dollars left over for evening snacks. As one computes the figures, one can't help feeling that this is just wonderful! [audience laughter] As a matter of fact, it is appropriate for students to have such considerations. When one travels, one has to pay for taxi cabs or other transportation, and one also has to buy this and that. I would feel disconcerted if one emptied all one's pockets for me. [laughter] Apart from making offerings to the Grand Master, one should also make offerings to other people. For example, when one has the opportunity to do good or meaningful deeds that are beneficial to other people, one should make a commitment to do them. As a result of making such offerings, good karmic relationships will be generated between oneself and others. Good results will soon generate from the seeds of such good actions.
The Benefits of Donating Meals
It is very popular now for people to offer to pay for meals at temples. For example, one goes to visit a certain temple and suddenly someone there offers to pay for the total food cost for that evening's meal. Whoever eats that meal becomes the receiver while the person making the offering is the giver. The act of giving should be done without expecting anything in return. One should not say, "Well, all of you have accepted my food, and you will have to pay me back in the future." One should not have this kind of thought. However, such an act does create a positive karmic affinity between the giver and the receivers. Today one accepts a meal that costs ten dollars, how much karmic interest might this ten dollars generate in one's next life, which might be sixty, seventy, eighty, a hundred, or even a hundred and twenty years from now? When the giver and receiver meet again in their next human life, the receiver will definitely be well disposed towards the giver because of the acceptance of that one meal in their previous lives! [audience laughter] In the next life, the giver might become a woman and the receiver might turn out to be a man, and when
they meet, the man will have a favorable impression of the woman and will want to marry her and pay her back. [audience laughter] So, no matter how often the wife pinches him, smacks him, or scolds him, this husband will still find the wife very dear and will obey her orders. [audience laughter] Because of that one meal, he is paying back the debt to her! [audience laughter] This boss for whom one works perhaps accepted one's offer of a meal in a previous life, so in this life he might find one very pleasing to the eye and, out of the blue, decide to give one a raise. Why? Because he is paying back a debt for a meal from the last life.
Or say one is appearing in court and is extremely nervous, as one has been found guilty. The judge who is writing the sentence takes a look and finds one surprisingly familiar because the judge has accepted a meal from one in his or her previous life. Therefore this judge decides to give one a lighter sentence. Perhaps in lieu of imprisonment, one only needs topay a fine. There are many benefits in treating others to meals. In the next life, the receiver might have such a favorable impression of the giver that the former will lend or give anything to the latter and become his or her benefactor. One can count and see how many benefactors one will have in the next life. Good affinity is formed each time one donates food to other sentient beings and, in turn, one will be well received by the others the next time around.
The American singer, Michael Jackson, definitely donated many meals in his previous life! [audience laughter] When people see him, they all become crazy and, for all his events, want to buy tickets to hear him sing. He is able to attract many sentient beings in this life because all these people have accepted a meal from him in a previous life. An affinity has been formed, and all these people are paying him back. By donating meals and making sacrifices, many good karmic ties are formed which will blossom in the future, bringing one friendship, wealth, assistance, the Buddhadharma, good knowledge, and enlightened teachers.
No-self Giving and the Jataka Tales
I am using food offering as just one example of giving. There are countless other methods of giving. If the giving comes from the heart, then one eventually will reach the highest level of "No-Self giving." "No-Self giving" leads to Buddhahood. Recorded in the Jataka sutras are stories of the Buddha's previous incarnations. Giving is the theme of all these stories. Slicing one's own flesh to feed the vulture and offering one's own body to feed the tiger are examples of giving sacrifices. The many stories of deer kings and elephant kings in the Jataka sutras are also about giving. Does everyone know this? From these stories, one can understand that a mind that is filled with Benevolence, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity [the basis of self- sacrifice is very great and can lead to Buddhahood. Enlightenment is attained when the state of true "No-Self giving" and the state of "No-Self' is reached. Therefore the Four Immeasurable Vows are very great vows.
The High King Avalokitesvara
Sutra and Rebirth Mantra
The seventh step of the Liturgy is the recitation of the High King Avalokitesvara Sutra. Grand Master Lu rings the bell.] Why was this sutra selected? It was selected because this was the first Buddhist sutra I came upon in this life, although it was already in existence during the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is a sutra of great mystical powers although it comprises only the names of Buddhas. I was specifically drawn to this sentence in the sutra: "By constantly invoking
this sutra, one is liberated from the suffering of birth and death, and freed from all the many kinds of suffering." As soon as I read this sentence, a feeling of joy came over me. At that time I felt that life was far too painful and there was too much suffering in the world, as I had encountered many difficulties when I first started my work. I felt that extinguishing the suffering of birth and death and eliminating all hindrances was exactly what the sentient beings needed in order to be taken out of the bitter cycle of samsara. Therefore, I am fond of this sutra which has been recited by many people ever since the Tang Dynasty. Since this sutra is swiftly efficacious, I have included it in the True Buddha Tantric Dharma practice and hope everyone will recite it.
Following the "Seven World-Honored Buddhas Mantra," which is a very good mantra, one additionally recites "Rebirth Mantra." The Amitabha Buddha's Rebirth Mantra enables one to be reborn in the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds of Sukhavati. This is why one chants the Rebirth Mantra. Is the chanting of the High King Avalokitesvara Sutra and the Rebirth Mantra accompanied by visualization? If one is in the middle of performing a deliverance, then one needs to do a visualization. The simplest method is to form the "Great Ocean Liberation Mudra." After chanting the Rebirth Mantra seven times, visualize a Dharma vessel manifesting to carry the souls to be delivered,
which soars up to the spiritual realm above. After this, one releases the mudra. This is the "Great Ocean Liberation Mudra." Grand Master demonstrates.] While forming this mudra, one visualizes a vessel appearing in a great ocean, with souls from the nether worlds carried by it to liberation. Afterwards, the mudra is released [at the forehead]. Grand Master Lu rings the bell.]
Visualizations of the Empowerment Emptying the Mind of the Three Lights
The Main Body or core of the Liturgy commences with the eighth step. In Tantric practices, the Prologue Section is followed by the Main Body. The Main Body consists of three parts: Visualization (with Mudra), Mantra recitation, and finally Meditation (entering Samadhi). I have often mentioned that when one is travelling, whether by plane or bus, or by any vehicle, or when one is in a hurry to go to work and does not have sufficient time to do the Great Homage, Fourfold Refuge,and Mandala Offering, one can skip the first seven steps and begin with the Main Body. The simplest way to practice when there is such a time constraint is to do just the Main Body, which is Visualization, Mantra recitation, and entering Samadhi. However, during ordinary times, one must do the complete practice, which comprises the Prologue, Main Body, and Epilogue. Only when there is a special reason, such as constraint of time or place, may one practice just the Main Body.
I shall first discuss "Visualization." As an illustration, if one is practicing the Amitabha Personal Deity Yoga, one forms the Amitabha Mudra. This is the Amitabha Root Mudra Grand Master demonstrates] which differs from the Amitabha Meditation Mudra. This is the Meditation Mudra Grand Master demonstrates.] Either one of these two mudras can be employed, and then one can begin the visualization. One should bear in mind that there are eight Principal Deities in the True Buddha School, each of which has a specific visualization. The visualizations of Jambhala and Vajrasattva will differ. Each of these deities has his own specific mudra, mantra, and visualization. One can study in detail the True Buddha Dharma: The Actual Practice to achieve a thorough understanding of the ritual steps.
Now, let us say that I am practicing the Amitabha Yoga. What kind of visualization do I do? First I empty my mind. Many students have asked me how to empty the mind, because they find they are unable to do so even with their eyes closed. Are they becoming the Amoghasiddhi Buddha'? '(Grand Master made a pun here with the name of Amoghasiddi Buddha in Chinese which is made up of five characters with the first two characters meaning "not empty".)[laughter]
No, they are not! It is just that their minds are very busy with many complicated thoughts, and these thoughts prevent them from emptying their minds. How does one visualize emptiness? In Tantrayana it is taught that a clear, blue and sunny sky, without any trace of clouds, can be visualized as "emptiness." For example, imagine riding inside an airplane, high above all the clouds. One looks out into the sky on a very fine, sunny day and all one sees is clear and untainted sky. One visualizes this cloudless, clear sky and chants the Emptiness Visualization Mantra, "Om, Su-ba-wa, Su-da, Sa-er-wa, Daer- ma, Su-do-hang." There should be another "Su-ba-wa" before
the "Su-do-hang." It should be "Om, Su-ba-wa, Su-da, Sa-er-wa, Da-er-ma, Su-ba-wa, Su-do-hang." When I recited the mantra, I was afraid that I would make a mistake. It turns out that the more thought I gave to this notion, the more mistakes I made! [audience laughter] Normally when I recite this mantra, I don't make any mistakes. Perhaps I was nervous in the presence of so many people. The correct Emptiness Visualization Mantra is "Om, Su-ba-wa, Su-da, Sa-er-wa, Da-erma,
Su-ba-wa, Su-do-hang." One must chant the correct mantra, as it is not acceptable to miss even one word. If I am practicing by myself, I recite the mantra correctly. However, facing an audience, I sometimes cannot enunciate the words clearly. [audience laughter] Clear enunciation in public speaking requires extensive training. Sometimes when one tries hard to correctly enunciate the mantra sound, the opposite happens. Also, if someone has one front tooth missing, one's enunciation of the mantra will be indistinct and there will be a lot of "sh" sounds mixed with it. In any case, even if one is usually able to chant the mantra correctly and quickly, if an occasion demands one to enunciate it correctly, the opposite happens. What kind of psychological rationale is involved in this? I do not know.
Moon Disc Visualizaton
The Emptiness Visualization Mantra is used to enhance and facilitate the emptying of the mind After the mind is emptied, one proceeds to do the visualization. First, one forms the Amitabha Root Mudra, then one visualizes an expanse of ocean surface appearing below the Emptiness. Above is the stretch of Emptiness and below is the ocean.
At the horizon, a very large moon disc rises. In other words, a perfectly round, blue moon disc is suspended between the ocean and the Emptiness. Why must one visualize a moon disc? I used to ask the following question: why is it that a moon disc, and not a sun disc, stars, or anything else for that matter, is to be visualized? The answer is that the light of the sun is too strong and one's eyes cannot bear it. The stars, on the other hand, are too small for visualization.
What else in the universe can be used as a symbol for purity? The moon or the moon disc is the purest. Visualizing the moon disc connotes purity. What else does the moon disc represent? A moon disc also represents "Siddhi," as referred to in the mantra, "Om, guru, Lian-sheng siddhi hum." Siddhi is the Land of the Buddha or the Pure Land. So, in one's frequent visualization of the moon disc, one visualizes a stretch of clear, cloudless sky with an expanse of ocean below and a moon disc rising up above the horizon. The moon disc is the "Siddhi," the Pure Land, the Buddha Land. This visualization has to be done clearly.
Seed Syllable and Personal Deity
Next, one visualizes the seed syllable "hri" appearing at the center of the moon disc. Someone asked me what is the color of this syllable? As Amitabha is associated with the west direction and the color red, this syllable should be in red. When the seed syllable manifests, it should be very clear. In the clear, cloudless sky, a moon disc with the red "hri" manifests and suspends over a huge expanse of ocean. This visualization should also be very clear.
The seed syllable "hri" is red in color. What does "hri" represent? It represents the seed Consciousness, or Buddha Nature, of the practitioner. Thus, one's Buddha Nature is on the moon disc amid an expanse of Emptiness. When one practices the Amitabha Deity Yoga, the red syllable "hri" appears on the moon disc and rotates to transform into Amitabha. Amitabha steps out of the moon disc and manifests in front of one. In the Emptiness above, one's Personal Deity manifests. Does one understand how to perform such a visualization now?
How is Amitabha related to oneself? Amitabha is one's Dharma Body [innermost being]. Three visualizations are involved in this step: the Moon Disc Visualization, the Seed Syllable Visualization, and the Personal Deity Visualization which translate respectively into the Siddhi (Buddha Land), Buddha Nature, and Dharma Body. When this practice is perfected, one's Dharma Body becomes Amitabha, and, at this stage, one can manifest this realized inner being as one thousand or ten thousand Amitabhas, which is the same as transforming oneself into one thousand or ten thousand selves. This is subtle and extremely profound.
Solving the Problems of Visualization
Many people have said to me, "Grand Master, I have spent a long time trying to learn visualization, but I still have trouble with it." One should be able to visualize a clear, sunny, cloudless sky, shouldn't one? One can visualize an ocean, can't one? Between the ocean and sky is the moon and one should be able to visualize that. One shouldn't have too much difficulty with just the one seed syllable "hri." The emergence of Amitabha from the moon also can be very clear!
One should often look at the image of Amitabha and study his features. His ears are huge and long, the eyebrows are crescent shaped, the eyes ocean-like, the nose mountain-like, the lips are very majestic, his face full and perfect with a crown protrusion on top of his head. The facial appearance and body are very majestic and proper. He is wearing layers of celestial garments and holding a lotus in his hand. His toes and his lotus throne can also be visualized clearly and in great detail. Very majestic! I can clearly visualize his majestic image at this very moment.
A student still insisted, "I just can't do it." "What is the problem then?" I asked. He said, "Every time I visualize the blue moon disc, it becomes black. I just can't seem to visualize the color blue." "Are you color-blind?" I inquired, and he said no. I then told him, "In that case, look more often at the color blue, study it carefully and commit it to memory. There definitely will come a day when you can see it with your mind's eye."
He said, "I can't write the Sanskrit syllable either." I told him, "Books of Sanskrit syllables are available, and one can purchase a copy and study the particular syllable which one has to learn. One can trace the syllable once, twice, thrice, four times, or even thousands or tens of thousands of times. Eventually one will be able to write and visualize the syllable very well." He followed my advice and was able to visualize the syllable successfully.
"But there is another problem with the visualization of the Personal Deity!" he continued. What then, was this problem? It turned out that his Personal Deity always appeared leaning to one side. I told this student, "Focus your mind to bring the Deity back to standing upright." But he said he couldn't. No matter how hard he tried, he said his Personal Deity still appeared lopsided. I wondered if this student's mind was perhaps lopsided and, as a result, all his visualizations were lopsided. But, there is even a remedy for this.
In the past when I was a land surveyor, I used a plumb line, a ball attached to the end of a piece of string, to determine if a certain pillar or bamboo pole was vertical or not. If it was not vertical, then the pillar or pole would be slowly adjusted, with the help of the plumb line, until it was truly vertical. The basketball pole we have here at the Rainbow Villa was set up by me using a piece of string attached to a piece of rock, since I did not have a professional plumb line with me. It was perfectly vertical when it was finished. Of course, since it has been very windy these last several days, the basketball pole might be lopsided now!
Another student had a different problem: each time he visualized the Amitabha, he would get a side view instead of a front view of the Buddha. It was strange; the Buddha turned to one side as soon as He appeared. Amitabha did not want to pay attention to him. Does this kind of phenomenon exist? It does. What should one do? Just use a "mental eraser" to erase it, then start a new picture. Someone related such a problem to me, and I told him to do a new visualization to adjust the Buddha back to the frontal view. Or one could try blowing air with one's mouth Grand Master demonstrates to audience laughter] to move the Buddha back to the frontal view. I don't believe that He would always remain sideways.
I have given the following true example before. One student emulated the Grand Master in performing the Food Transformation Offering. He chanted the name of Garuda while visualizing the appearance of a great golden winged bird. It was an immense bird that flew out of the spiritual realm. "The Great Garuda" and "Ghosts and Spirits of the Wilderness" were the objects of his food offering. He could visualize the golden bird very well, but the trouble was he would then visualize an arrow
being shot at the bird. [audience laughter] One has to know that this arrow of his was also huge and it would always hit the bird and thump the bird would fall. [audience laughter] Flustered and exasperated, he came to me saying, "Grand Master, I can't do this practice." I asked him for an explanation. He said, "Every time I visualize the Garuda, a wicked thought arises and a golden arrow is shot from one side and kills the bird." This was quite a problem! [audience laughter] This particular
student had a great deal of negative karmic force and in his mind were seeds of wickedness. The good karmic force (affinity with the Buddhadharma and cultivation) and the wicked karmic force were intertwined. Everytime he did the proper visualization, the improper would also appear.
This student would look at the guru's porcelain statue, whose eyes are actually very solemn and dignified, and instead find lust in the guru's eyes. [audience laughter] He then complained that he could not do the cultivation because the guru's eyes turned lustful all the time. Heavens! When have I ever acted like that? [audience laughter] But that was what he thought happened to him and what he told me. It was due to heavy karmic hindrances.
This kind of negative mental projection blocks spiritual development on the path of cultivation. The only way to destroy such an obstacle is to cultivate noble and correct thoughts. One's mind and heart have to open up. One should often visit places with mountains and water, to look at nature —mountains, oceans, sky, earth, sun, moon, and stars. When an open and infinite mind is generated and cultivated, no improper thoughts will arise during visualization. One's thoughts will automatically become very pure, and the Amitabha visualized will be very dignified and majestic. He will bless the practitioner by radiating the three lights (white, red, and blue), which will merge into one's physical and spiritual being.
In the past, I have mentioned that the ritual implements held by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also can radiate spiritual light to shine upon and empower one. From the lotus throne of a given deity, a white light can travel in an arc to empower one. Sometimes, as in the case of the Cundi Bodhisattva, all eighteen hand-held implements can emit light to empower one. What can one do to improve the clarity of one's visualizations? One has to look often at the objects which one needs to visualize. One may even paint a mandala. One may paint a full moon, ocean, seed syllable and, in front of the syllable, Amitabha. When one takes time and mentally paints the eyes, eyebrows, nose, ears, face, crown protrusion, arms, legs, robes, skirts, and majestic adornments, then, over time, the image will be impressed upon one's mind. One's visualization will then be very clear.
One has to know that, when the Tibetan lamas paint the mandalas, they do so with deep inner concentration, so that their minds become identified with the Buddhas. When one visualizes the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, one is doing the same task of linking and identifying one's mind with the Buddhas.
One is painting with consciousness! At such a moment, one is painting one's mind! When one's mind is pure, the visualization will be very sharp and clear. If one's mind is impure, of course the visualization will be tainted and unfocused; even unwholesome thoughts will manifest themselves in one's visualization.