Dharmapala Meditation Practice
In Vajrayana Buddhism, we have a tradition of honouring the Defenders of the Dharma (called dharmapalas in Sanskrit). The iconography of the Vajrayana tradition often depicts these dharmapalas as fearsome beings, with many heads, hands or feet. These “wrathful aspects” of the dharmapalas are depicted by the colour of their skin (usually blue, black or red), and by the appearance of fangs, and a somewhat off-putting countenance.
All dharmapalas are either great bodhisattvas, or buddhas, meaning that they are the embodiment or emanation of compassion, who act in a wrathful way for the benefit of all sentient beings. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso explains what a dharmapala is this way:
“A Dharmapala is an emanation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva whose main functions are to avert the inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from gaining spiritual realizations, and to arrange all the necessary contitions for their practice.
Below is an explanation of the guided meditation practice I encourage every one of my students to undertake at least once each day, for 30-45 minutes. This practice brings about realisations of wisdom, compassion and the removal of all obstacles from your path of practice and study.
Begin by visualising Dorje Shugden in front you at arm’s length from you, similar to the way you visualise Buddha Śakyamuni or Tsongkapa during other sadhanas.
Visualise and cultivate an awareness that Dorje Shugden is one with your lama. This is essential and one should have great faith in this. If one believes this, it will carry-on through their actions, as they leave the meditation cushion, the influence, merit and benefits of this visualisation will become evident in their daily lives. Because we cultivate great faith in this, we commit ourselves to never break our samaya with our guru (break our promises, forget our commitments, etc.).
Why? Because to visualise that our lama and protector is of the same nature, and then to break our samaya to our lama is contradictory at best, premeditated disregard for the Dharma at worst. How can we break our commitments to a being with whom we take refuge? If we don’t recognise our lama as the embodiment of the Dharmapala, our refuge is false. Therefore we gain no realisations even after millions of mantras have been recited.
On the other hand, if we believe all the time and not just during prayers that our lama and Protector are one and indivisible, we conduct ourselves accordingly. This is one of the foundations of gaining attainments from our dharma practice.
Visualising our Lama and Protector as one and reciting the mantra (OM, BENDZA WIKI WITRANA SOHA) while visualising the blessings in form of radiant streams of lightsentering our body is a tremendous blessing to gain realisations. What actually happens is that the Essential Energy, Wisdom and Light of the Dharmapala actually raises our own vibrational frequency, unifying our minds with the Buddha Mind, leading us closer to realisation.
So we must respect, listen to and follow the instructions of our lama, and only then, during meditations, can we solicit his True Nature as the Protector to bestow healing and realisations upon us. Then when the lights come forth and bless us, we will gain healing and realisations due to our correct view of our Lama.
These blessings are not coming from outside of us, but rather are a direct reflection of the True Nature within us. We use an external visualisation to assist our dualistic and delusional mindsh are accustomed to imagining separation from our True Source.
As you continue to recite the mantra, visualise bright golden lights coming from Dorje Shugden’s heart entering the crown of your head and filling your body with bright golden wisdom light. Visualise your present body becoming filled with this light until it begins to become clear and vacuous. See your body as a clear, luminescent light body.
This visualisation was taught and inspired by many great and ascended Masters, including some of the greatest tulkus we are fortunate to have living among us and teaching today. We are grateful for them and for the gift of this teaching.