Mani Recitation Practice being the Essence of all Sutrayana and Tantrayana Practices
by His Eminence Nubpa Konchok Tenzin Rinpoche
Translated by Lama Nyandak
June 26, 2010
Everybody desires to have peace and happiness while nobody wishes to suffer. In order to have peace and happiness in our lives, we have to find the method and path which leads us to achieve our goal. Practising the Dharma is the unmistaken path and method which will help us to lead to happiness and peace. Individuals who wish to practise the Dharma have to know how (the method and technique) to practise the Dharma.
When we involve in the Buddhist tradition and practices, we see that there are so many deities, so many systematic ways, so many rules and regulations and so on that one have to follow. Actually, all these are not what we called the essence of the Dharma. Whether it is in the tradition of Buddhism or Christianity, there are big monasteries or temples or chapels or churches and so on. We have to understand that the essence of the tradition is not on the monastery or church etc. The essence lies on the real teaching that focuses in that tradition.
When we try to understand what the root cause of happiness is, it comes down to our own mind. As long as our mind is associated with all different kinds of afflicted emotions, unhappiness, miseries or sufferings are bound to come. As long as our mind is associated with loving kindness and compassion and bodhicitta, and if it is enhanced with positive activities, it will generate happiness and peace in our lives. So it is important to know that we have to practise the Dharma according to the Dharma itself. Lord Gampopa said, “If the practitioner does not practise Dharma according to the Dharma itself, then the Dharma practice may cause oneself to take rebirth in the three lower realms. Here, the real message of Lord Gampopa is that no matter which practice that we do in our daily life, if the practice is not becoming an antidote to our afflictive emotions, it will not be so helpful for us. So whatever practice that we do, it must act as an antidote to our afflictive emotions. If our practice, instead of subduing or lessening our afflictive emotions, it increases our pride, ignorance, attachment, jealousy, hatred (the five poisons) and the three poisonous thought of anger, ignorance and attachment in our mind, that practice will cause us to give rebirth in the three lower realms.
From the genuine practitioners’ point of view, the cause of all our suffering and problems come from the clinging and grasping to self. So as long as there is a strong sense of clinging to oneself, because of the strong cherishment to oneself, there will be unavoidable aversion and aggression towards others. Through attachment and aggression, we create lots of negative karma. Because of the strong clinging to oneself, there are different denominations of religions in the world. They claim that their religion is better than others. Those who follow them do not really understand that the essence of the teaching should become antidote of clinging to self and cherishing self. So we see that there are so many problems among the religions, even among the religion of Buddhism itself. That shows that we are not able to understand the real essence of teaching is to act as an antidote to our self-clinging. Even when a person who speaks about the non-attachment or non-clinging to self to others while that person himself/herself has self-clinging, this is also negative.
When you read some of the biographies of some of the great masters in Tibet, they put lots of emphasis on trying to understand the essence of different lineages and different traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Their emphasis is on the common understanding of Buddhism and on trying to practise the pure perception to all different denominations of Buddhism and so on. In the present time, His Holiness Dalai Lama always encourages people to have harmony among different religions Christianity, Muslims, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism and so on. He tries to build strong relationship between different religions. Whatever tradition or lineage we follow, if we are able to follow the teaching and use it wholeheartedly as the antidote to our grasping and clinging to self, it will act as effective antidote in our lives.
When we are able to understand that the whole teaching of the Buddha is the antidote to the clinging to self, then whatever practice that we do, that practice will strongly become the antidote to our clinging to self. Even the simple practice of Avalokiteshvara, if we able to understand this practice correctly, this practice actually contains both the Sutrayana and Mahayana traditions of practice. His Eminence late Drubwang Konchok Norbu Rinpoche often encouraged and inspired other people to understand the whole essence of this six-syllable mantra practice. We should not consider or think that this practice is very short or easy because this six-syllable mantra is very profound and it includes the whole nine yanas or the whole sutra and Tantrayana teachings, as well as all the 84 000 Buddha’s teachings.
The whole essence of the entire sutra teaching can be summarized into three categories - one, whether an individual has a sense of renunciation or not; two, whether an individual has bodhicitta or not and third whether an individual realizes emptiness or not. The whole essence of the Varjayana or the Mantrayana teaching can be summarized into two categories – generation and completion stage of practice. So if you practise Avalokiteshvara with the understanding that the entire samsara nature is suffering, you will wish to free yourself and others from the samsara suffering. This is called renunciation. When you have this kind of renunciation, if you focus your practice on all other sentient beings, that is, wishing the entire sentient beings to be liberated, this is called having bodhicitta. Third one is that the root cause of being reborn in the cyclic existence, samsara, again and again is the clinging and attachment to self. Clinging to self comes from the misperception that there is an inherit existence of self which is real and substantial. In order to get rid of the misperception of ways things are, you need antidote which is the wisdom to realize emptiness, wisdom to realize selflessness. In order to counter with this clinging with self, we have to practise analytical meditation. We can do analytical meditation while reciting the mantra. When we do analytical meditation to the self, we find that from the tip of our hair on the head down to our toe, we cannot really find a self which exist independently. If we practise single-pointed meditation, when you rest your mind free from any conceptual thought, you will not be able to see self and others. You are completely free from the idea of self and others.
When we practise Avalokiteshvara, the first line indicates the emptiness nature of all things which is devoid of inheriting existence. This first line is very much related to Sutrayana. From second line onward is the generation stage of practice, which is related to the Mantrayana or the Mahayana tradition. From the seventh line to the end (five lines altogether) is the union of Sutrayana and the Mahayana practice. These five lines are the union practice of sutra and tantra. Firstly, it explains that all the outer appearances that appear to you, you should perceive it as divine celestial palace while the inner perception of all males and females as deities of Avalokiteshvara. This is the union of appearance and emptiness. Secondly, whatever sound that you hear, you have to perceive the sound as the sound of the six-syllable mantra. This is the union of sound and emptiness. Third, you have to rest our mind in loving kindness. This explains that we have to rest our mind free from any conceptual thought. When we do that, it is the union of clarity and emptiness. These are the whole essence of Varjayana practice both in generation and completion stage.
When you go through this whole practice, the generation stage of Avalokiteshvara practice does not really involve any kind of mudra nor the Dharmaru nor bell nor drums at all. You may think that this is very simple and may think that this is not the complete generation stage of practice. But this is not the case, if you are really able to understand the whole generation stage of the practice, this is really a very profound practice which includes whole essence of Varjayana’s generation stage of practice. The main practice was composed by the Great accomplished yogi Drubwang Konchok Norbu Rinpoche. I (His Eminence Nubpa Rinpoche) have seen many practices of Avalokiteshvara and among all the practices, I found that this is the most profound one. When it comes to practice, it has nothing to do with the length of the practice. It does not mean that if the length of your practice is long, it is better and if the length of your practice is short, it is not so good. Rather, it is how you are able to relate to the different methods of doing the practice. The length does not matter. The reason why I said this is that this practice contains the four common preliminary practices and the four uncommon preliminary practices. So through the practice itself, you are able to attain enlightenment.
How can we relate the practice to the common and uncommon preliminary practices? To relate to the common preliminary practices, first of all, you have to realize that you have found a precious human life and once you realize that, without wasting your time, you will practise Avalokiteshvara. So, first reflect yourself upon your precious human life.
After you realize that you have a precious human life, second, you come to the understanding that this precious human life is very fragile and it will not last forever (impermanence). Life is passing by every single second, we are moving closer and closer to death. When you understand this, without wasting your time, you will recite the mantra OM MANI PADME HUNG. We can think about Avalokiteshvara and reciting the mantra even when you are walking or driving.
Third is the law of cause and effect. The small seed of action can produce huge consequence. For example, a simple act of killing or taking life of others, you have to repay 500 hundred lives for the act of killing. It is that kind of consequence that you have to bear in the future. It is important that we do not neglect even the minor or small negative karma because it is explained in the teaching that small spark of the fire can be turned into huge fire when there are piles of leaves or grass around. The piles of leaves or grass upon getting in contact with a small spark, will quickly turn into a big fire. Therefore, much minor negative karma that we have been accumulated can altogether create lots of negative karma and consequences. So we should never neglect or overlook them. The same applies to the positive karma. We should not neglect or underestimate the small positive deeds. Even if they are small, they may accumulate huge merits. So, we have to do it. We should not think that they are small and unessential. Sometimes we think that the recitation of the six-syllable is very easy, how can it accumulate merit by reciting this mantra? It is said in the teaching that the ocean is formed through the drops of water and the drops of water accumulate to big ocean. When we think about 100 millions accumulation of the six-syllable mantra being a very large number, however, we have to start with one. Without having one; you cannot reach to the 100 millions. While reciting the mantra, you contemplate on the cause and effect (that is, positive brings happiness and negative brings suffering), Lord Jigten Sumgön said that in this way, naturally in your mind, you will try to avoid something that is negative and cultivate something that is positive. If you recite the mantra in this way, this is the practice of law and effect which is the third common preliminary practice.
The fourth is to understand that the nature of the entire samsara is suffering. When we reflect on the six realms of existence, we see that no matter where in the six realms sentient beings are taking rebirth in, they have to go through different dimensions of suffering. For example, beings who are born in the god realm have tremendous suffering when they see that they are going to die and have to take rebirth in the lower realm. Demi-god have the suffering of fighting and quarrelling all the time. The suffering of human is birth, sickness, aging and death. The suffering of animals is being used by others like human beings and so on. The suffering in the hungry ghost realm is starvation and thirst and the suffering in the hell realm is the suffering of cold and heat. When you try to reflect all the different categories of suffering and the branches of existence while you recite the mantra, then you are reflecting on the six realms of existence of suffering. Through the recitation of the Mani-mantra, we are practising the four common preliminary practices and the four trainings that turn the mind as well. One important thing is that Dharma practice is not what you chant and what you do; it is how we practise mentally.
With the understanding that samsara is suffering, we will naturally have the sense of renunciation, you will wish to free yourself from the samsaric suffering. If you have this in your heart, you will try to find protection or refuge whom you can rely on. If you practise Avalokiteshvara, you can take Avalokiteshvara as Buddha since Avalokiteshvara is the embodiment of compassion for all the Buddhas so you can take Avalokiteshvara as Buddha to whom you can take refuge. Having the understanding that the six-syllable mantra is the essence of all the mantras while you recite the mantra, the six-syllable mantra becomes the Dharma, the teaching. The way how we can understand that Avalokiteshvara embodies the Three Jewels is that Avalokiteshvara’s mind is the Buddha because Avalokiteshvara mind is free from any conceptual thought and fully awakened. Avalokiteshvara’s body is Sangha and Avalokiteshvara’s speech is Dharma. If you know this interpretation, you will understand that Avalokiteshvara embodies the Three Jewels. So, taking refuge in the Three Jewels is the first uncommon preliminary practice.
The second is Vajrasattva practice. When we do the Vajrasattva practice in the Avalokiteshvara’s practice, you visualize Avalokiteshvara instead of Vajrasattva, The rest is the same. That is, you visualize Avalokiteshvara above your crown of your head, outer appearance is Avalokiteshvara and inner essence is your own root guru and from Avalokiteshvara, purification nectar drops down from the toe of Avalokiteshvara into your head which purify all your defilements and negative karma that you have accumulated and so on.
The third uncommon preliminary practice is mandala offering. By visualizing Avalokiteshvara in front of yourself, you make mandala offering, this is also considered as the practice of mandala.
Fourth, , you visualize Avalokiteshvara, who is of inseparable nature from your own guru and to whom you feel great devotion to, right in front of yourself. You then visualize that three blazes of light strike from Avalokiteshvara’s forehead, throat and heart level into your three places respectively and enter into yourself. This is the practice of Guru Yoga.
All the past great Indian mahasiddhis practised only one particular deity. By practising one particular deity, their practice is equivalent to practising hundred deities. In Tibet, it is said that any individual who practises hundred deities, that individual cannot accomplish even one deity. It is because one will think that practising this deity is better than that one. Then there is another one which is better, so they try to practise another one. They are experimenting back and forth and at the end, they will get nothing. In Tibet, the great yogi Milarepa, he was someone who followed only one instruction and with this one instruction, he practised it thoroughly and really accomplished Enlightenment within a single life time. His main practice was Chakasambhava practice and he practised the Five Fold Mahamudra and the Six Yoga of Naropa. Through these practices, he really attained Enlightenment. So in our case also, if we put all our effort in practising only Avalokiteshvara, just like Gelong Mapalmo, we can also attain the siddhis that she attained. One important thing is that when you practise the Dharma, you should have faith in the Dhamra and compassion to all sentient beings.
So, we come to the understanding that through the practice of Avalokiteshvara, we can do any kind of practice like four common preliminary practice while we are reciting the mantra. We can contemplate on the precious human life, impermanent nature of all phenomena, the law of cause and effect and the suffering nature of samsara. We can also contemplate on the four uncommon practices – refuge or Varjasattva or Mandala-offering or Guru Yoga as well while reciting the mantra. In fact, we can contemplate on whatever practices you want to relate to. This is what I think.
HOME Mani Teachings
|May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme knowledge,|
|that the unexcelled joy of truth fill their minds and bodies;|
|May all sentient beings obtain all the excellent flavors of nonattachment,|
|and not be addicted to mundane tastes, but always diligently cultivate and practice all aspects of Buddhahood;|
|May all sentient beings gain the flavor of one truth|
|and realize that all Buddha teachings are without difference;|
Last updated on 2010-11-04.