There is nothing like sitting up a mountain in clear skies to help us remember the endless space of emptiness that pervades all things; but we can do it anywhere. Up this mountain I am cat-sitting for three cats, two of them old and doddery, who need to eat a teaspoon of food every half hour or so and meow surprisingly loudly to remind me. They also yowl in the middle of the night — what do they want? More food, maybe, comfort probably. They feel a bit lost, disoriented. You pick them up and they start purring. They are incredibly affectionate, and remind me that everybody needs love.
Unlike me in this current precious human life, and despite all their good qualities, they have no chance to tap into the source of endless happiness — their affection for each other and the humans who look after them is as far as it can go in this life. They cannot pull aside the veil of the two obstructions to see reality.
Venerable Geshe-la trusted us — barbarians in a materialistic (and A.I.?!) world — to be able to do exactly what he has done. Understanding we all have this Buddha nature, this spark for enlightenment, he always looked right through people’s delusions and brought out their superpowers. Dharma ignites our divinity and allows us to fulfill it. It doesn’t matter who we are on the outside or where we are — all human beings have this opportunity. Over the 40 years that I was lucky enough to be alive at the same time as him, it was clear to me that Geshe-la saw that, he believed in it, and he spent his whole life proving it.
We are all future Buddhas
Can you pause to think about this for a moment:
If living beings are not their delusions, which they’re not, then what are they? …
… Future Buddhas, for one thing. It turns out there’s endless possibilities for all of us.
In Tantric Buddhism we’re aiming for the union of Heruka or Vajrayogini – the union of bliss and emptiness, the union of appearance and emptiness. This is the highest realization = the attainment of enlightenment. As for the other realizations of the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra that lead up to that final result — faith, renunciation, moral discipline, bodhichitta, compassion, love, bodhichitta, the six perfections, patience, and so on — we will be needing all of these as well 🙂
This is the purpose of meeting the living Guru Tsongkhapa. As mentioned in this article, he showed the example of practicing on different levels as the same time so that we could travel the complete path to enlightenment relatively quickly:
Outwardly practicing pure Pratimoksha discipline,
Inwardly training in renunciation and bodhichitta
And secretly cherishing the yoga of bliss and emptiness of the two stages –
This excellent, complete path, free from contradictions. ~ Melodious Drum (Long Protector Puja)
What do we need?
Let’s say we do want all these realizations. The next question is, “Why do we have to do a practice like the Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa to get them? Why can’t we just meditate on the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra?” And this is Geshe Kelsang’s answer in the commentary to The Mirror of Dharma With Additions:
If we have within ourselves a strong potential for spiritual realizations, then with this condition we will easily develop and maintain profound knowledge and spiritual realizations.
What does that mean? I think it basically means that if we have the strong karmic potentials to get quick spiritual realizations, then we’re going to get quick spiritual realizations. Otherwise, we’re not.
And the next question might be, “In which case, how do I get these strong potentials? How do I create that karma?” The short answer is through practicing the Guru yoga of the Wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa.
One way to understand this is that our Spiritual Guide is ready to bestow the blessings of all these attainments on us, but it is a two-way street so from our side we need to open the shutters or create the causes to receive them.
When we see our Spiritual Guide as an enlightened being, as in the practice of Guru yoga, he or she becomes like a magnifying glass – the sun-like blessings of all the Buddhas are concentrated into our heart so that we quickly and easily gain profound knowledge and spiritual realizations. (Read more in this guest article: Finding a quick way to spiritual realizations.)
The Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land
There are two main Guru yoga practices in the New Kadampa Tradition — Offering to Spiritual Guide, which Kadampa Centers do on the 10th and 25th of each month, and The Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land. This can be done according to Sutra, when it is known as Heart Jewel — the daily bread and butter of many Kadampas, including the spaces to meditate on Lamrim, Lojong, and Mahamudra. Or it can be done according to Highest Yoga Tantra, namely The Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land According to Highest Yoga Tantra.
Through this and the name mantra, OM GURU SUMATI BUDDHA HERUKA SARWA SIDDHI HUM, we can plant huge numbers of virtuous potentials in our mind so that we can “swiftly and easily”, as Geshe-la says, gain all the realizations of the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra.
We make life a lot easier for ourselves if we have this good karma — otherwise it’s harder and slower. As Venerable Geshe-la says:
Through the practice of Heart Jewel in conjunction with Highest Yoga Tantra we can attain the supreme happiness of enlightenment within three years and three months, joyfully, and without any hardship. This is magical.
And, in a rare mention of himself, he also says:
This is proved by the experience of many practitioners, including myself.
Geshe-la has no reason to make this up. I believe him.
Following the Ganden Oral Lineage, Guru Tsongkhapa and many of his disciples attained enlightenment in one short life, Gyalwa Ensapa and many of his disciples attained enlightenment in one short life, and Je Sherab Senge and many of his disciples attained enlightenment in one short life. Venerable Geshe-la is a fully qualified holder of this same lineage, so I think it stands to reason that at least some of his disciples could also attain enlightenment in this one short life. Including you.
Bring on the special effects
Going back to The Wheel of Time for a moment, one minute the protagonists were completely ordinary people — not thinking there was anything particularly special about them or for that matter anybody else. The next minute they saw it. We’re the same – if not the next minute, then gradually we see it, thanks to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. We are wandering around trying to get from A to B, trying to protect our close companions and ward off all the cruel attackers, and the next thing we know we’re channeling this potential within us that we never knew we had.
These kinds of sci-fi movies help me understand that we don’t have to be half-hearted about our visualizations, either. Like in the Yoga of Purifying Migrators in Tantra, when we are supposed to be sending out light rays to all living beings, purifying them of all their obstructions, we can really zap that light of love to the ends of the universe in a very powerful way — not just envisaging a few feeble trickles of light dribbling a few yards, but bringing on the special effects.
If we do these kinds of practices presented in The Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land while we have the opportunity to do them, then our next life — even if we die today — will be a lot more powerful than this life. None of our spiritual practice is wasted. This is how we stop the infernal wheel of samsara from turning.
In Wheel of Time, more often than not, the people who could tap into the source appeared pretty ordinary — of all ages, shapes, and sizes. You wouldn’t know from the outside that they had these special powers. They didn’t even know. Ordinary conceptions and ordinary appearances are the actual obstructions to our liberation and enlightenment, and there’s a reason for that — we typically think very small, ordinary, and limited about ourselves. This is why this world needs Tantra. In Great Treasury of Merit, it says:
There is a prophecy that when the Dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni is about to end, the practice of Secret Mantra [Tantra] will briefly flourish very widely in this world, as a candle flame flickers brightly just before it burns out.
This makes me think that now would be a good time.
We are extremely fortunate to have met the completely pure Tantric teachings that have been passed down from Buddha Shakaymuni through Je Tsongkhapa and many realized Teachers of the New Kadampa Tradition.
Have you seen those pictures of Buddhas walking along and wherever they tread everything comes up flowers, rainbows, Pure Lands?! (Now I can’t find any, maybe I dreamt it). It makes me think that if we can just remember we are Buddha Vajrayogini, Tara, Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka, and so on, we would also be bringing happiness into the world wherever we go.
From a Buddha’s perspective, there is no past and future – everything is present – and they are liberating all living beings in any given moment. We pray in Melodious Drum to attain these qualities of a Buddha so that then, “without effort, in one short instant” we can “lead all living beings to that state.” Therefore, we can imagine that we are doing that already, right now. A Buddha can do this because from their perspective, there is “not even the name of mistaken impure appearance”. Those hallucinations and ordinary conceptions cannot exist in the union of bliss and emptiness. Everyone is already transformed and pure. (However, we don’t necessarily realize that yet, so Buddhas still have to emanate for us in our ordinary worlds.)
In conclusion, every time we do Guru yoga, including the mantra, we are sowing immeasurable potentials for us to “easily develop and maintain profound knowledge and spiritual realizations.” Those potentials are bound to ripen in transcendent experiences – if not in this life, then soon enough. Right now I am facing the sun and the long morning shadows are falling behind me — and it reminds me of what happens whenever I face the sun of Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka.
Over to you for comments!
In terms of getting much closer to Geshe-la/GSBH in this lifetime and creating much stronger karmic links with him & the New Kadampa Tradition for future lives – is a close retreat counting the GSBH mantra more powerful than a retreat gathering them towards this great preliminary guide? I think I can manage the latter better as I will be at home amongst my family and I don’t want to ‘break’ a close retreat if there is an emergency for instance. Also my body needs certain things to function which would probably preclude a close retreat. Thank u very much for these articles – they’ve really helped me in deepening my understanding of how to relate to Geshe-la now and in preparing for this wonderful retreat that I’m really looking forward to 🙏😊xxx
I think you do what works for you. The main ingredient is the mind of faith. If you have that, either option is going to be brilliant 😊😇😍
Thank u 🙏😊xx
I look forward to receiving your inspiring words each week, thank you. I particularly liked your comments relating to continuing enthusiastically with our daily practices remembering that “even if we die today — will be a lot more powerful (in our next life) than this life. None of our spiritual practice is wasted.” With the possibility of creating huge karmic potentials during the month of January we should all be rejoicing in our immense good fortune!
Thank you for this. And it is so true that we need to understand the power of these practices, power that extends way beyond this life. Each potential could ripen in an extraordinary life.