Casket of Siddhis
When performing the ‘approach’ recitation of Vidyādhara Assembly (Rigdzin Düpa), in a place where you are unlikely to face obstacles or interruptions, begin by offering a torma to the local deities who control the land and entrusting them with activity. Before entering strict retreat, clean the place where you will stay. Then, upon a raised surface, arrange heaps of grain and the offerings of medicinal nectar (sman), rakta, and torma, together with the seven regular offerings. It is said that you should draw a crossed vajra beneath your seat, but since this might entail the fault of disrespecting the attribute of a deity, you can draw a svāstika and put down some kuśa grass instead.
Sit comfortably. Refine your attitude by means of the common preliminaries. By focusing with special emphasis on receiving the four empowerments at the conclusion of the Guru Yoga practice, you will purify any impairments or breakages of samaya, and ensure that the practice will be completed successfully.
In this context, the threefold generation of bodhicitta can be explained as follows:
The bodhicitta of aspiration is the thought, “I shall accomplish the practice of the guru for the sake of all sentient beings, each of whom has been my very own mother in the course of our past lives.”
Not forsaking your various pledges—to refrain from going outside or letting others in; to keep silent; never to leave your retreat under any circumstances, and so on—regardless of the problems or setbacks you might face, is ethical discipline.
Concentrating your five senses on the clear appearance of the supporting (palace) and its supported (deities), so that all ordinary thoughts and perceptions are overwhelmed, and, at the same time, not allowing yourself to fall prey to even the slightest distraction, is meditative concentration.
Not practising the generation phase (bskyed rim) with an ordinary frame of mind, but instead allowing the visualization to unfold naturally and spontaneously in the clarity of the unaltered nature of reality, is wisdom.
The term ‘absolute bodhicitta’ can be applied whenever all this is embraced by an awareness of what is beyond the ordinary conceptual mind. Understanding this, you will also come to know the crucial point of how sūtra and mantra are in harmony.
Here the seven-branched practice is related to the absolute truth. Someone of the highest capacity who understands the Dzogchen practice of Tögal will therefore apply the profound generation phase in which spontaneous perfection dawns as appearance and emptiness. It is rare, however, to find anyone capable of such practice, and so those whose practice is on an aspirational level should train their minds to gather the accumulations through applying the seven branches in the general way.
Next, carry the tormas outside. Visualize the boundary markers, together with the four kings and the seventy-five glorious protectors. As you recite “Accept this offering torma…”, offer the torma and consider that it pleases the deities, who remain, guarding against any obstacles. Seal your door. Put a stop to all coming and going. Even if you are in an isolated place with no-one else around, it is still a serious fault to break your retreat, so do not allow yourself to become too careless and relaxed, to wander outside for leisurely strolls, and so on. Should you ever find yourself doing this, return to your retreat.
To bring about the foremost ‘protective tent’ recognize that your mind is beyond arising and ceasing, and understand that obstructing forces have no reality. If this is beyond the capacity of your conceptual mind, visualize vajras of various shapes and sizes, all forming a great tent, rather like a giant iron helmet that is tightly closed. The meaning of the root text here is that conceptual thoughts are the obstructing forces, which are temporary in character, while the indestructible ‘vajra sphere’ is the actual nature of things, which has always been unchanging.
The descent of blessings and what follows it are easy to understand.
When it comes to the actual practice of the generation phase, this is not a practice of generation through the three samādhis as in some practices of the lower yogas. Instead this follows the vision of Anuyoga, according to which all phenomena are awakened out of basic space. This means that the actual nature of things, pure awareness (rig pa), which is unaltered and unfabricated by thought, is empty by its very essence, and yet through its radiance, as the dynamic expression of clear insight (vipaśyanā), all that appears is visualized as the maṇḍala (dkyil 'khor, 'literally ‘centre and periphery’) of the great natural perfection of infinite purity.
In this context, ‘centre’ refers to the supported deities, whereas ‘periphery’ refers to the supporting palace. All the apparent forms of the visualization, including the four corners, four doors, and steps of the palace, and so on, are related to the pure qualities of the factors of enlightenment, beginning with the four applications of mindfulness. You can learn more about symbolic images, their significance, and the supporting logic by consulting The Great Chariot and other texts.
Then there is the way in which the supported deities are generated in the centre of the supporting palace. Of the means of purifying habitual tendencies associated with the four modes of rebirth, the approach here is not connected with the two coarser modes. And of the two subtler modes, it is associated with rebirth through warmth and moisture. The sun-disc seat represents warmth; the moon-disc seat represents moisture; and the HŪṂ syllable represents the consciousness of beings in the intermediate state (bardo). (Note that if someone with advanced realization has to prepare for bestowing an empowerment, the method used is that of generating the visualization through the four manifestations of enlightenment. The significance of this approach is explained in my detailed commentary on the generation phase, A Staircase for Ascending to Akaniṣṭha.)
The deity that manifests fully through HŪṂ is the general embodiment, actual presence, and essential identity of all the buddhas: Guru Rinpoche, the Master Prevailing Over All that Appears and Exists. He is endowed with all the major signs and minor marks, and his form and attributes relate to pure phenomena in the following way:
• As a sign that he has reached the level of a spontaneously accomplished vidyādhara, the very embodiment of the five kāyas, which is buddhahood according to the Mantrayāna and the culmination of elimination and realization, he holds in his right hand a five-pronged golden vajra. Threateningly, he points it towards the demonic forces of dualistic clinging and conceptual thought, and performs the enlightened activity of annihilating what is harmful.
• As a sign that he matures and liberates beings exclusively through the resultant vehicle and guides his followers with the great accomplishment of a vidyādhara who has power over life, he holds in his left hand a skull-cup containing a long-life vase.
• As a symbol of the purification of the eight types of consciousness, which characterize saṃsāra, he is surrounded by the eight vidyādharas who are the embodiments of the eight bodhisattvas and the eight classes of accomplishment.
In short, all deluded, dualistic experiences involving mind and phenomena are generated through the coarse and subtle essences (thig le), which, in turn, are caused by the potential inherent within the six ordinary elements. When this potential is eliminated through the profound mantrayāna path of skilful means, it is replaced by the embodiment of the wisdom essence, the vajra master, the second buddha Padmasambhava. He is the one who causes the other deities of the maṇḍala to appear through emanation and who also brings about their dissolution. In order to signify your identification with this master (and the other deities), all the various deities associated with the six classes of tantra—the three outer tantras of samaya, practice, and accomplishment (i.e., kriyā, caryā and yoga), as well as the yogas of the inner tantras associated with enlightened body, speech, and mind—together with the vidyādharas of India and Tibet who have reached accomplishment through these paths, appear in the space above Guru Rinpoche like invited guests. This is in fact the very meaning of the title—The Inner Sādhana of the Vidyādhara Assembly.
Mantra Recitation for Approach and Accomplishment 1. Approach Once you have actually brought to mind the points contained in the verses beginning, “At my heart, upon a lotus, sun, and moon…” and you begin the practice, you don’t need to visualize the emanation and re-absorption of light rays until there is some clarity to the appearance of the deity. Practise so that the deluded perceptions, which arise through the radiance or clarity of the completely unfabricated nature of reality, dawn as the maṇḍala of the palace and deities. This is known as ‘clear appearance’.
Whenever the visualization is unclear, practise ‘remembering the purity’, as it was explained earlier. This will help you to avoid the pitfall of clinging to the deity as an ordinary expression of self.
When you have arrived at a clear appearance of the deity consider that rays of light emanate from the extremely fine mantra-garland. By making offerings to the buddhas and their bodhisattva heirs, you gather the accumulation of merit.
When the rays of light re-converge and dissolve back into you, consider that you purify the four types of obscuration, receive the four empowerments, and realize the four kāyas. Then, by settling in a genuine experience of dharmatā, you gather the accumulation of wisdom.
Once you have been infused with blessings and accomplished your own welfare, visualize further rays of light, which shine out and strike all sentient beings. Through this, you purify all the karma and habitual tendencies of beings of the six classes or five types.
Any ordinary clinging to the environment and its inhabitants is purified, just as when frost is melted by the sun. Meditate on the pure perception of the environment as the palace and its inhabitants as deities who are vidyādharas. This will establish the interdependent circumstances for the activity of benefiting others, and lead you to the level at which your own and others' benefit is spontaneously accomplished.
Pledging never to let go of the practice until you have truly realized these points for yourself, and then training to bring this vow to fruition, is the real measure of approach practice. This means that reciting a particular number of mantras, such as 1,200,000 for the approach mantra, is aspirational practice, undertaken in the hope of establishing positive tendencies. And therefore regardless of whether or not you undertake a strict retreat, as long as you never neglect the three principles of purifying, perfecting, and maturing, you will undoubtedly be reborn on the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory. As it is said:
Everything is circumstantial And hinges on one’s aspiration.
If reinforcing our deluded perceptions and negative attitudes will lead us to wander further in saṃsāra and the lower realms, there can be no deceiving ourselves about the result of meditating on the three maṇḍalas of the deity’s appearance, sound, and awareness. So now that the final era is upon us, and only a small fraction of the teachings survives, let us develop enthusiastic diligence. It is said that of all the practices, that of the guru is supreme. In fact, the great master Padmasambhava himself, the embodiment of all the buddhas, said:
The reliability of this statement can be validated through direct perception.
2. Accomplishment The visualization of the jñānasattva at the heart and all other such details about deity, mantra, and samādhi can be learned from the secret manual (gab byang) called A Glimpse of the Crucial Points.
In addition, as the unique result of this practice, in this very lifetime you will be fully awakened within the absolute space of the five kāyas by perfecting the stages of attainment—the five paths mentioned in the sūtras and the four levels of a vidyādhara outlined in the tantras. There will be no need to depend on creating the right karmic connections for journeying to a pure realm like the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory. Such details are to be understood from the vajra master’s instructions.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2006. Amended and first published on Lotsawa House, 2015. With thanks to Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Khentrul Lodrö Thaye, Lama Chökyi Nyima, Patrick Gaffney and Gyurme Avertin.
This refers to the representation of the maṇḍala. There are three types that could be used: the best is painted cloth; the medium is made of coloured sand; and the lesser alternative consists of heaps of grain. ↩
There are three attributes of the nirmāṇakāya, one of the dharmakāya, and three of the sambhogakāya. Nirmāṇakāya: (i) the highest compassion for all sentient beings is uninterrupted, (ii) the mindstream is completely filled with compassion, (iii) it is unobstructed. Dharmakāya: (iv) the union of emptiness and compassion, beyond true existence or elaboration. Sambhogakāya: (v) permanent enjoyment of the prayer wheel of the deep and profound mantra, (vi) union achieved through uniting the wisdom kāya with the consort who is one’s own radiance, (vii) uncontaminated great bliss without interruption. ↩