Guru Yoga — the union of the mind of the disciple with that of the Guru — is quintessential to success on the path of Vajrayana. Without the close supervision, advice and teaching of a qualified master, it is extremely difficult to make progress, and very easy to substitute one’s own preconceptions, desires and ignorance for the pure goals, philosophy and insight needed to practice properly and achieve the highest attainment. For practitioners of the Nyingma lineage, Padmasambhava — the great master from Oddiyana who brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, is the supreme root guru, and his realization and enlightened energy continue to bless and empower this lineage up to the present day. He is the embodiment of all the pure qualities of an enlightened being, and the focus and object of devotion of all Nyingma Guru Yoga practices.
In 1982, Ven. Peling Rinpoche dictated The Profound Nying Thig (Heart Essence) Guru Yoga, which had spontaneously arisen in his mind, to his heart son, Jigme. Rinpoche felt that this seemingly simple practice, containing profound depth, subtlety and realization, was so inherently powerful that ritual permission or initiation was not required to recite it, and that it would engender great spiritual progress in any who practiced it regularly.
The Nying Thig Guru Yoga, in addition to the one contained in the Nam Cho preliminary practices, are the two principle Guru Yogas practiced at Orgyan Dzong.
The Riwo Sang Cho (The Mountain Smoke Offering Ritual) is very powerful and has many benefits. While it is not required to contribute to the offering substances, it should be understood that this ritual operates on the principle of making offerings to four classes of beings to accumulate merit and repay one’s karmic debts, so making offerings is important to its effectiveness. Generosity in making offerings is considered very meritorious, and offering that which is of the best quality essential. Any amount, small or large, is certainly welcome.
All Of The Burnt (sang) Offerings Are Made To The Four Classes Of Guests
First are the guests invited out of respect: the Three Jewels – the Buddhas, their teachings and the Arya Bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions and the three times, and the Three Roots – the infinite mandala of Gurus, Yidams and Dakinis and the Dharmapalas. Making offerings to this assembly of rare and precious ones enables us to gather the two accumulations, purify the two obscurations, and attain the two kinds of siddhi.
Secondly, to those invited because of their qualities: the protectors. This refers to the local deities of every place and continent, the earth-lords, devas and nagas, the planetary and stellar forces, guardians of the directions, the four great kings and the seventy-five glorious protectors of pure abodes together with their retinues. They help to pacify all illness, destructive influences, adversity and obstacles and to bring about every kind of virtuous and positive circumstance and favorable condition, effortlessly and spontaneously, and to accomplish our wishes.
The third class of guests are invited out of compassion. This refers to all sentient beings wandering throughout samsara and tormented by suffering: the realms of the gods, demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings. They are freed from their karmic delusions, suffering and the habitual tendencies of their respective realms. In the short term, they come to possess all the riches and enjoyments of the devas and ultimately become Buddhas, awakening spontaneously in the pure Buddha realm of Akanishtha.
Fourth are the guests to whom we owe karmic debts. By offering to these obstructing forces, all the debts that we and all beings have accumulated throughout our infinite lives without beginning, even during our present lifetime, are repaid. These include debts that shorten our lives because we have killed, debts that plague us with illness because we have attacked and harmed others, debts that make us poor because we have stolen, debts from accidentally killing humans and animals. Our debts are repaid; we are freed from our karmic obligations and delivered from the deadly vengeance of karmic creditors. The creditors themselves are freed from their karmic obscurations and all their suffering, and in particular, they are freed from their malicious intentions and tendencies to harm others, and gain loving kindness, compassion and precious bodhichitta.
It is very important for the sang offerings to be clean. The offerings can be quite small for an individual’s morning practice, a few teaspoons of the “sangdze” (dze Tib. offering substance) is sufficient, though elaborate versions can consist of 10 or more large trays of heaped offerings along with beer and wine. We then infinitely expand the offerings by visualizing them as billowing clouds that fill the extent of space. Traditionally the offering substances consist of a mixture of “the three whites” (butter, yogurt and (powdered) milk) and “the three sweets” (sugar, molasses, and honey) in a base of whole grain flour. Other offering substances can be added such as incense and/or fragrant herbs, flowers and plants (i. e. fresh juniper, cedar or pine branches), 5 colored silk cloth cut into small pieces, herbal medicine, alcohol, and small or powdered precious stones or jewels, gold and silver leaf, etc. The main restrictions are that whatever is offered into the sang fire contains no onion, garlic, meat or eggs (unless it is a minor ingredient in some baked goods) and is not old, stale, impure or left overs. All kinds of grains such as wheat flour, oatmeal, barley/tsampa and rice can be used, and western baked goods such as cakes and cookies, salty snacks and candy can also be offered. The fire itself is traditionally best made with wood from fruit trees or from fragrant pine and cedar wood. The site of the fire should be clean and well laid out and it is important that all of the materials used to create the fire are clean and were not previously used for any other purpose. It is important that the sang and sur fires be laid in separate locations given their different purposes.
The Great Perfection: Buddha in the Palm of the Hand
The Recitation and Visualization of the Preliminary Practices
The Namchö (Space Treasure) Dzogchen preliminary practice is called “Buddha in the Palm of the Hand.” The terma (treasure revelations) were revealed to Terton (treasure revealer) Migure Dorje from Arya Avalokiteshvara and Guru Rinpoche, and have been passed down from master to student through the centuries. The blessings of the Palyul lineage are pure and unbroken. By accomplishing this practice one can realize the nature of mind — an important and necessary foundation for higher Dzogchen practice. The preliminary practice consists of Refuge, Bodhichitta, Offering the Mandala, Vajrasattva and Guru Yoga. Although the Namchö preliminary practice is very deep and profound, it is clear and easy for all to practice. -His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.
Vajrasattva is the manifestation of the purity of body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas.
As a meditational deity Vajrasattva is visualized as an expression of mind’s pure essence. In this way negativities and obscurations are cleansed, allowing Buddha nature to manifest. As a Bodhisattva, Vajrasattva saw that all beings suffered because of their negative karma, so he made a vow to free all beings from this karma.
Vajrasattva is the ultimate embodiment of all aspects of the Buddhas and represents the Diamond-like Primordial Purity of the Buddha Nature within each individual. Sattva translates as ‘spiritual hero or heroine’ and Vajra translates as ‘diamond thunderbolt’ (indestructible and pure energy). Vajrasattva embodies the 100 Peaceful and Wrathful Deities considered to be inherent in each sentient being, and also represents the Union of Compassion and Skillful Means. The lineage of Dzogchen is traced from the dharmakaya Samantabhadra to the sambhogakaya—the five buddha families and Vajrasattva, who are Samantabhadra’s own self-reflection. Vajrasattva is one of the four foundational preliminary practices in the Ngöndro.
The wrathful Heruka Vajrakilaya is the Yidam deity who embodies the enlightened activities of all Buddhas
The practice of Vajrakila is famous in the Tibetan Buddhists world as the most powerful for removing obstacles, destroying the forces hostile to compassion and purifying the spiritual pollution so prevalent in this age. The wrathful Heruka Vajrakila is the Yidam deity (one of the three roots, the other two being Lama and Khandro) who embodies the enlightened activities of all Buddhas, manifesting in an intensely wrathful yet compassionate form in order to subjugate the delusion and negativities that can arise as obstacle to the practice of Dharma. Vajrakila can be practiced on either the 9th, 19th or 29th day of the lunar month. Our sangha has been directed to practice Vajrakila on the 29th day.
The Ganachakra or assembly of tantric practitioners (literally ‘circle of beings’) is a sacramental feast celebrated by initiates primarily on the 10th and 25th days of each lunar month. This is practiced within the larger context of the sadhana of a Yidam (meditational deity): that of Padmasambhava, Vajrakila or other male deity on the 10th, and Yeshe Tsogyal, Vajrayogini or another female Yidam on the 25th. These dates mark the gathering of practitioners at sacred places on the Indian sub-continent as well as the movement of inner essences and energies to important centres within one’s subtle body, making practice especially powerful at this time. Participation in the Ganachakra (Tibetan: tsok) aligns one with the enlightened energies and realization of the Buddhas, Gurus and Yidams, strengthens one’s practice, purifies negativity, illness and broken samaya, and generates tremendous merit from making abundant offerings to Enlightened Beings, Dharmapalas, local spirits and other beings made during the practice.
During a Ganachakra (tantric feast), food is blessed and offered to the Buddhas and meditational deities. Then, after being consumed by those participating in the feast, the leftovers are ritually offered to the local deities, hungry ghosts and other beings caught in the lower realms. Since ancient times, Ganachakra offerings have included five substances beginning with the letter ‘M’ in Sanskrit — the Pancha Makara. These were primarily items that were censured, dangerous or publicly frowned upon: matsya or fish; mamsa or the flesh of animals; maithuna or union (symbolized by the union of the male and female Yidam); madya or alcoholic drinks; and mudra or parched grains. These substances also correspond to the five nectars mentioned in many rituals.
In the west, any kind of edible finger foods such as fruit, cookies, cake, candy, crackers, cheese, nuts as well as fruit juice and high proof alcohol can be offered as contributions to this sacred meal. Once consecrated, whatever is offered in the Ganachakra must be seen as sacred, beyond the preconceptions of the dualistic mind, and consumed with no judgements of purity and impurity or good and bad.
This Mind Treasure, the River of Lapis Lazuli, the Practice of the Medicine Buddha, which is the Ornament of the Luminous Expanse of Mind has been extracted and compiled from the Nam Chö Nyid
This prayer pays homage to Medicine Buddha whom is also known as the Healing Master of Lapis Lazuli Radiance, with a distinctive colour of Deep Blue body. Medicine Buddha is also known as Bhaisajya Guru, the manifestation of the healing energy of all enlightened beings. The practice is performed on the 8th lunar day of the month, and prayers are offered to request the blessing of Medicine Buddha to heal diseases, as well as overcome obstacles, to achieve temporary and ultimate happiness for all.
She who Liberates
Tara is a completely enlightened buddha who had previously promised to appear, after enlightenment, in the form of a female bodhisattva and goddess for the benefit of all beings. Her primary activity is to protect from the eight fears. Practiced in all Schools of Tibetan Buddhism her various forms are found in all classes of tantra.
Tara or Drol-ma in Tibetan, mean goddess of protection and compassion. Tara is the bodhisattva representing the miraculous activities of all buddhas. There are innumerable manifestations of Tara, manifesting in so many ways as sentient beings may require, but her most famous are the peaceful WHITE TARA, who brings protection, long life and peace; and the dynamic GREEN TARA, who overcomes obstacles and saves beings in dangerous situations in the most immediate manner. Tara is also well know in 19 other forms that together make up the total of 21 that are highlighted in each of the twenty-one verses of praise to Tara recited in the practice.
Prajna-Paramita-Hrdaya-Sutra — The Heart Sutra — is a pivotal Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism.
The Heart Sutra summarizes the essence of the Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) teachings of the Buddha into a short scripture of around 250 words. It is a luminous expression of enlightened wisdom realizing emptiness. Many Buddhists around the world recite this daily to plant the imprints towards achieving the highest wisdom.
The Narak Kong Shak (Stirring the Depths of Hell) is a ritual used to confess one’s unskillful actions, atone for them and recollect the primordial purity and enlightened nature of all experience. It begins with an invocation and homage to the assembly of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Yidams (meditational deities) and their retinue. One then proceeds to recollect the various vows of the Mahayana and Vajrayana and confess any breakage thereof. Following that, one goes on to liturgically recollect the highest View, purifying one’s tendency to fall back into samsaric states of mind. If done properly, this is the highest method of confession and means of atonement possible. This is followed by a Ganachakra (see above for what to bring), and ends with an offering of lamps (tea lights are used for this) to the vast assembly of enlightened beings.