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Gurumandal Ritual In Vajrayana Buddhism

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Munindra Ratna Bajracharya

The Newar Buddhists have been playing a significant role in flourishing Buddhism in Nepal. They have still been performing Buddhist rituals that are observed from birth to death of a person. Newar rites can be divided into two parts: the exotic (bahya) and the esoteric (guhya). Both the exoteric and esoteric ritual acts consist of the basic ritual elements. There are ten rites popularly known as Dasakarma or Dasakarma Sanskar are commonly followed on the Buddhist way.

Dasakarma Rites

The performances of the Dasakarma vidhi are mostly based on the texts Kriyasamucchaya or Kriya Sangraha originally compiled by famous scholar Pt. Kul Dattacharya in order to facilitate the representation of rituals practised by priestly Bajracharya. Dasakarma rites fall into several categories as












In general, they followed birth to death rites; the name-giving ceremony, which might be called Jatakarma.

The feeding of cereal ceremony, the Annapransan or Janko, the shaving of the head and loin cloth-wearing ceremonies in case of males, Chudakarma and upanayana or bratabandha, the Yihi the first marriage and Baratayegu (menstrual or near menstrual rite) in the case of girls, the nuptial rites i.e. Vivaha (marriage), antyesti (the mortuary rites).

If a person grows up to old age, he enjoys his own Janko (Budapasani). The Buddhists celebrate Janko ceremonies at the 77th Bhimratharohan, 88th Devarata Rohan and 99th Maharatha Rohan year according to the number of full moons the person has seen.

This rite was however performed wherever by the Bajracharya Guvaju (Guruju), who was the priest of the family. In the Buddhists ritual, the chief priest is named Acharya or Guruju. This Buddhist priesthood arose which served the same functions as its Brahman counterpart. Bajracharya have the hereditary right to practice as Purohit or family priests. Bajracharya title is conferred on a person on the completion of Bajracharya Abhisekha along with the Panchabhisekh (acharya).

He must know and can explain the Buddha's teaching and can perform Buddhists rites, rituals and puja. Other Buddhists communities play the role of upasaka and upasika or Buddhist laity known as Jajaman or Yajman in Nepal. In every life cycle ritual, Gurumandal rite is performed. Gurumandal is the most common and basic ritual hence one of the most important elements of Newar Buddhism.

The hymns or texts are written in Sanskrit Hybrid language. It is a ritual performed at the beginning of every puja followed by a Bajracharya priest. The date of composition of Gurumandal puja vidhi in the present form is yet unknown. The oldest reference to Gurumandal puja vidhi can be found in the Kriyasamucchaya book. This Kriyasamucchaya is also known as the Vajracharya Kriyasamucchaya which is considered as the most authentic manual for Vajrayana ritual. Advayavajra is also considered as one of the scholars who developed Guru Mandal puja vidhi.

Gurumandal puja is a ritual offering of the Mt. Merumandal. During Gurumandala puja, a Ratnamandal is written. The Mandal is a geometric design made on the floor by rubbing white limestone (potaya in Newari). The Mandal is the illustration like this; the central deity, Vajrasattva is seated above Sumeru mountain which is represented as a triangle. The Lord Vajrasattva has been observed by the followers of Mahayana as their chief and adamantine holy teacher. The three cones of the triangle are Mahamadhemeru, Madhemeru and Sukumamadhemeru which is called Dharmodaya.

These three cones are also received as Buddhamandala, Dharmamandala and Sanghamandala respectively. It consisted of three Viryaachhyara as Ha, Hrihin, Sun where Vajrasattva seated there. Outside the triangle, these are two other circles.

The first circle consists of eight petals representing islands (dvipa) and sub-islands (upadvipa). Petals of four directions represent four islands, namely Purva Videha Dvipa in the east, Jambudvipa in the south, Aparagodayani in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north. These islands are also known to be the places of four great kings Chatur Maharaj like Dhrstarastra, Virudhaka, Virupaksha and Kuvera.

The petals of the four corners represent four sub-islands. Outside this lies a second circle which again consists of eight petals. The four petals of east, south, west and north are respectively Gajaratna, (jewel of elephants), Asvaratna (jewel of horse), Parasratna (jewel of man) and Triratna (jewel of woman), Khadgaratna (jewel of sword), Chakraranta (jewel of the wheel), Maniratna (jewel of gem) and Sarvanidhana (all treasures) vessel in four corners starting from a north-east corner and going anti-clockwise. Outside this circle, in the upper part, there are the moon and sun disks. For each element in the Mandal, there are seed-syllables assigned. One of the four characters ya, ra, la, va are used for all the elements of both the circles of the Mandal. The characters ya, ra, la,va are known to belong to the Vajrasattva family.

Gurumandal Puja

A proper Gurumandala puja takes more than one hour to complete.

Firstly, the initial section of this ritual contains purification of the body. The priest purified his body sprinkling by holy water three times praying as Kaya, Vaka and Chitta and also offered to worshippers (laity) for purification. Then the rite begins with a salutation to guru Vajrasattva.

Then he announces the occasion of performing the ritual reciting Gurumandala text which describes the era, physical location, and exact specification of the day (Tithi Nachhyatra, Yoga and Karan) according to the lunar calendar of the worship as well the names of the sponsor (laity) and his family and specific intention for which the ritual is to be performed. The rite starts with a salutation to the gurus i.e. Guru Buddha, Guru Dharma, Guru Sangha, and Guru Vajradhara and then to Vajrasattva.

The worship of the conch shell (sankha) and purification of the water is performed. Then he contemplates placing the seed- syllables of the Buddha's Vairochana, Amitambha and Akchyobhya to the head throat and heart respectively. This rite is known as Trikaya-adhesana. Throwing some rice left and right a protective rite is carried out by reciting the hymns of asking for self-protection and also the living beings.

He meditates for Bodhichitta on the worldly benefit of the worship reciting six perfections like dana (charity), sila (moral conduct), kshanti (patience), virya (heroism), dhyana (meditation), and pragyan (wisdom).

The priest paying respect to the guru and three jewels. He also confesses sins followed by Bodhisattva vows to pray that he will become Buddha for the welfare of the whole world, that he will rejoice in merit and that he will observe Sapta Vidha Uttar Puja Vandana, Pujana, Papadesana, Anumodana, Adhesana, Yachana and Punnyamodana.

Then, the priest recites a hundred-eight syllable mantra of Vajrasattva.

The priest drops a piece of flowers in the centre and another twenty-one pieces moving clockwise in the Ratnamandal.

Then the priest makes a fivefold offering to the Ratnamandal with vermilion powder, flowers, incense, light and food called (panchopachara).

Next, the priest makes worship sixteen goddesses. He performs hand postures (sodasyalashya) of sixteen worshipping goddesses while reciting the prayers. He holds up thunderbolt (vajra) and bell (gaon)in his hands and tosses the vajra in the air three times reciting a mantra.

Then the priest followed making Bali offerings: a small rice cone called goja is offered as the Bali. He offers Dikpal Bali, to ten guardian deities of ten directions preceded by Indra, Amit Kundal-bali, to ten wrathful deities preceded by Vajrapani and Sarvkarmika-bali (Sarvika, Vidika and Dasadika).

At the end of the ritual, the priest finished the Gurumandal puja with a prayer asking guru Vajrasattva to go back to the sphere of the Buddha. He also prays for coming again when needed.

Nepal is a nation where religion is the most dominating feature in every sphere of life. The Hindus and Buddhists of Nepal believe in self, soul, birth, universe and which is known as Karmapakshya.

They perform the rituals both in happy and sad events with different purposes like for good health, prosperity, happiness, sharing merits to the living and deceased family members for the purification of their homes.

But nowadays, due to different causes, the lineage of the teachings of religion-related to ritual performances has slowly been disappearing and time has slowly diverted people's mind to some other religion and modern technologies. Similarly, most of the Bajracharya priests have given up their priestly profession and so do their followers.

(The author is a former Reader in Central Department of Political Science,TU)