BUDDHA AKSHOBYA (MITRUGPA) IN ‘VAJRA-ESSENCE’ TREASURE OF GURU PADMASAMBHAVA teaching by 8th Garchen Rinpoche
As a short break between the remaining posts on the 17th Karmapa’s teachings on the Origins of Secret Mantra, here is a write-up of the recent teaching and empowerment (11th September 2021) given by HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche on the Buddha Akshobhya (see video here).
I received this online empowerment from Garchen Rinpoche, and have received the empowerment from him before, as well as from HH 17th Karmapa. In fact, the 17th Karmapa has given several Akshobya empowerments and teachings, see here. Garchen Rinpoche mentioned the Karmapa in his teaching before this empowerment.
The empowerment and ritual text that Garchen Rinpoche transmitted is called the Moonlight Dispelling Darkness: the Empowerment of the Bhagavan, the protector Akshobya (Mitrugpa), from the Vajra Essence cycle, written down by Jamgon Kongtrul the First (‘jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas) and recorded in the Precious Treasury of Instructions (Rinchen Terdzo) (for full Tibetan text and details, see here).[i]
The Vajra Essence (Dorje Nyingpo) cycle (which can be viewed here) is said to be hidden by Guru Padmasambhava. It was revealed by Treasure-revealer, Longsel Nyingpo (klong gsal snying po (1625-1692), previously an abbot of the Nyingma Katog monastery. I have included the diagrams and mandala images of Akshobya in this Vajra Essence cycle.
Garchen Rinpoche spoke about the differences between outer, inner and secret tantric practice, the history of this particular text and the benefits of reciting, writing and wearing the mantra. The transcript below is based on the excellent oral translation of Ina Bieler.
Written, compiled and edited by Adele Tomlin, 15th September 2021.
“In general, people have a lot of trust and faith in the secret mantra teachings, and that’s why we have empowerment. There are the new and the old tantras, so what’s the difference between them? This belongs to the new ones, but what’s really the difference?
In the old one, there is an outer, inner and secret cycle in terms of practice. The outer cycle is like the physical, the cycle of the body, and that relies mainly on external conventions, and elaborate practices. There are the various elaborate ritualistic activities and so on. This outer one is mainly one the new
tantric system deals with. Then, the inner cycle is like the eyes of someone. That is called the dharma that is seen through signs. So the first one is like more like the limbs of the body, the second one is like the eyes.
So, in the inner cycle of teachings, the dharma is further condensed into its essence. Then there’s the secret cycle which is like the heart. Here the essence is further condensed down into the quintessence. So the practice is condensed again and again. we come to it it’s very refined essence. the way it becomes condensed is through experience. As one attains experience in the practice then practice becomes more and more condensed.
Jigten Sumgon said in the Gong Chig (Single Intention) that for those of higher mental capacity, the rituals should be elaborate. There’s also something to be said about having an elaborate ritual for someone of higher capacity. On the outer level it is then still necessary to perform very elaborate, great accomplishment practices and so on.
Now, for the Akshobya empowerment, according to the secret mantra it generally possesses a very vast and extensive ritual. However, today’s empowerment is actually more concise. It is was written down by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and it is was written from the perspective of like a continuous practice. Basically from a practical perspective, not just from a vast ritualistic perspective. So this particular empowerment belongs to those three cycles to the inner and the secret one.
As Jigten Sumgon had said, those of higher mental capacity require often an elaborate empowerment but also, on the other side of the spectrum, either it’s very elaborate or it’s very concise. A very elaborate ritual would take for a very long time. There’s a very elaborate ritual also for this one. However, this particular empowerment is very condensed and written down by Jamgon Kongtrul.
Generally myself, I have received an Akshobya empowerment many times, and I don’t even remember each of those circumstances now and which ritual they all belong to. In any case, all the dates are really the same. So dharma friends this is the empowerment I’m offering to you today.
First, we will begin with the historical background of the empowerment. In general, the history is widely spread in Tibet, because there is a tradition of continuously reciting various rituals and sadhanas. So people are familiar with it. Yet, it is not so widely spread in western countries, whether it is the newer or the older tantric system. In any case, we are going to read the history in English and then I’m going to start with the empowerment.
The history of the empowerment it is called the Moonlight Dispelling Darkness: the Empowerment of the Bhagavan, the protector Akshobya, from the Vajra Essence
In general, there are three ways in which all Buddhas are essentially equal. Equal in their accumulation of merit; equal in having attained the dharmakaya; and equal in acting for the benefit of others. However the different aspirations they make when first arousing bodhichitta, result in diverse manifestations of
enlightened activities. The Bhagavan Akshobya arousing of bodhicitta was miraculous and extraordinary. Since his aspirations such as the eight great aspirations, and the seven perseverance wishes were all
accomplished. he surpasses all the other buddhas. He dwells within the joyous, eastern pure land, happily teaching the dharma there. All the buddhas of the ten directions in their different pure lands, including our teacher Shakyamuni, praised Akshobya’s life story.
In particular, merely wearing the dharani mantra of this protector will break the continuum of all karmic obscurations accumulated since beginningless time. He is superior because he performs activities to accomplish enormous temporary and ultimate benefits. For example, no mara and demonic god will ever be able
to cause a hindrance. In the dharani sutra, it says when this dharani is recited the entire series of one’s past karmas will be completely purified. When recited throughout the three times, even the five inexpiable sins will be cleansed.
If one recites it only once, everything inauspicious, ill omens and bad dreams will disappear. If someone overcome by compassion were to recite this dharani into the ears of an animal, a bird, a human or a non-human, at the time of their death, they will not take birth in the lower realms.
When even one has committed the five heinous sins of immediate retribution, or one who had abandoned the holy dharma, or one who had abused a noble one saw this dharani written on the wall, at the time of one’s death, all one’s karmic observations would be exhausted. How much more so would this be for one who would recite or repeat it?
If one carries it on one’s person, or if having written it in a book, or tying it around one’s neck, one wears it, for that person, ultimately death would never occur. If the various sadhanas related to this dharani, which is praised widely as supreme of the various sadahanas and this particular sadhana traces
back to the oral instructions of the second Buddha, Padmasambhava. It was hidden as a profound dharma and later revealed by the great nirmanakaya, Denduk Jamgon Gyamtsen (Longsel Nyingpo), from the Vajra-Essence of the clear expanse cycle.”
[i] “rdo rje snying po las/bcom ldan ‘das mgon po mi ‘khrugs pa’i cho ga dbang bskur dang bcas pa mun ‘joms zla ba’i ‘od zer/.” In rin chen gter mdzod chen mo. TBRC W20578. 76: 444 – 469. paro: ngodrup and sherab drimay, 1976-1980.