Greetings to everyone.
Starting from today, for the next eight days, I will be reciting prayers with you all. We all recite prayers every day, whether short or long. But I think there is a particular purpose and advantage when many people pray together. It is just as how a single stalk of grass is not as strong as many stalks bundled together. I am not saying that our individual aspirations have no power, but I believe strongly that if we all put our strength together, the result is different. These days, because of technological advances, even though we are separated by great distances, we can all pray together, and I think that is worth celebrating.
Last year, 2020, was a difficult year for everyone all around the world. Millions of people died from the coronavirus, and tens of millions more fell ill. There were also great economic losses, and it was stressful for everyone, individually and collectively.
The difficult year of 2020 has passed, but the hardships continue even into the beginning of 2021. When we face such adversity, what we need most is not just external, material assistance. The most important thing is for us to not lose perseverance, courage, hope, and belief. If we let adversity take away all our hopes and confidence for this life, we are giving adversity a large opening and a lot of power. Thus whether we can make adversity into the path depends to a great extent on whether we bow our heads down to adversity or not, and whether we are willing to face it directly.
There are many great religions in the world, and their main teaching or aim is to give us human beings the courage to dare to persevere through difficulty and to increase our confidence and joy in the search to bring meaning to life. Even Buddhism falls within this. Thus when the whole world is confronted with such difficulties as now, it is important for all religions to join forces and help each other increase confidence and joy.
In our current Aspirations to End Adversity, we will have a different program each day. Today, on our first day, our program includes the Three Daily Observances and the Heart Sutra with Repulsion of Maras. The Three Daily Observances is a ritual that Buddhist monks and nuns normally recite daily. It has three parts, prostrating to the Buddha, reciting sutras, and dedicating the merit. The Heart Sutra is a well-known Mahayana sutra that teaches quite a bit about the Mahayana view of emptiness. So today, for our first day, we will recite these two.
So now, let us all recite these prayers together with the good motivation of wishing to benefit all sentient beings.
I hope all of you are doing well.
Today is the second day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today, the prayers we will recite together are the Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct and the Sutra in Three Sections. These two are important texts for practitioners of Mahayana dharma, because the main aim of Mahayana practice is to achieve buddhahood.
Buddhahood is the result of gathering vast accumulations and abandoning the obscurations and their imprints. Thus, anyone who wishes to achieve buddhahood must definitely strive to gather the accumulations and purify obscurations. There are many ways to gather the accumulations and purify obscurations, but the Aspiration for Excellent Conduct divides them into the seven branches or parts of prostration, offering, confession, and so forth. Doing it this way has distinct advantages, including covering all the main points and being easy to remember. No matter what practice we do, whether sutra or tantra, the seven branches almost always appear within it.
It is not only Tibetan Buddhists who consider the Aspiration for Excellent Conduct to be extremely important. All of the northern Buddhist traditions, including the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean hold it in very high esteem. Its source is the Avatamsaka Sutra; it is taken from a chapter in one section of that. But because this Aspiration for Excellent Conduct is so important and well-known, a tradition of reciting it separately developed. In brief, the Aspiration for Excellent Conduct is not merely a text we recite orally or the words of a prayer. Rather, it is profound guidance and pith instructions on all the main points of practicing the Mahayana path.
The Sutra in Three Sections, which is commonly called the Confession of Downfalls, is very common in Tibet. It is called the Sutra in Three Sections because it has three parts—confession, rejoicing, and dedication. Many Mahayana sutras and treatises teach that bodhisattvas should definitely recite this sutra to confess and purify their wrongs and downfalls. In Tibet, this sutra is recited primarily as a confession. In Chinese Buddhism, there is not really any tradition of reciting this sutra, but there is a tradition of reciting the names of and making confessions to eighty-eight buddhas, including all of the thirty-five buddhas mentioned in the Sutra in Three Sections.
Among Tibetan traditions, there are slightly different ways of reciting the Sutra in Three Sections. For example, in the Geluk tradition, the word tathagata is added before the name of each buddha. In his writings, Karmapa Mikyö Dorje also said that doing so was a pith instruction of Telopa and Naropa. However, these are merely differences in the style of recitation, and there is no difference at all in the meaning.
Next, please join me in reciting the Aspiration for Excellent Conduct and the Sutra in Three Sections with the kind intention of bringing benefit to all sentient beings.
I hope all of you are doing well.
Today is the third day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today, the texts we will recite together are the sutra and dharani of the Buddha Akshobhya. The Buddha Shakyamuni said that this dharani of Protector Akshobhya is supreme for purifying karmic obscurations, and therefore the dharani of Akshobhya is entitled the Dharani that Thoroughly Purifies All Karmic Obscurations.
Akshobhya has a particular ability to purify karmic obscurations. I think that this is primarily connected to the commitment he made when he first roused bodhichitta—“From now until I reach buddhahood, I will never feel malice or hatred toward any sentient being!” His commitment was so strong that he was given the name Akshobhya or the Unshakable One. He kept his oath firmly throughout the time he was a bodhisattva until he achieved buddhahood. Because he never felt malice or hatred toward any being, when he awoke to buddhahood, the maras didn’t even think to try and create obstacles for him. It is for reasons such as these that Akshobhya is supreme for purifying karmic obscurations, in particular those that arise from hatred and malice.
As you all know, in this universe, there are many trillions of worlds like this one where our Teacher Shakyamuni appeared. For example, to the west of here, there is Amitabha’s pure realm, Sukhavati. There are also many other buddha realms. It is taught that the Buddha Amitabha dwells in the realm of Abhirati to the east of here. If you want to read more about Abhirati, you can read the Sutra of the Features of the Tathagata Akshobhya’s Realm, which is in the Ratnakuta Sutra, one of the major sections of the Kangyur.
In our own world, we human beings act in ways that are causing severe harm to our world and many of the beings who live in it. Through climate change and other crises, we humans are turning into terrifying demons who are about to utterly destroy life on earth. For the sake of food, clothes, luxury goods, and the like, every day we inflict the suffering and torture of being killed and butchered on many millions of animals.
Actually, avoiding what harms us and seeking what is beneficial is not just a human right and freedom. It is a right and freedom of every single sentient being. Thus it is critically important for us to respect and protect others beings’ lives and happiness, to take on the responsibility of bringing them benefit and happiness, and to accept any hardships that entails.
Next, please join me in reciting these two dharanis of the Buddha Akshobhya with the kind intention of bringing benefit to all sentient beings.
I hope all of you are doing well.
Today is the fourth day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today, the text we will recite together is the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha.
In the Tibetan Kangyur, there are two sutras of the Medicine Buddha, one long and one short. The long one teaches about the pure realms, aspirations, and so forth of the Medicine Buddha as well as those of the other seven tathagatas—Well-Renowned Name, Majestic Melodious Sound, and so forth. However, the sutra we will recite today is the shorter one, which teaches about the aspirations and pure realm of the Medicine Buddha. In Chinese, there is also a Medicine Buddha Sutra translated by the Indian master Dharmagupta and others, which teaches the names of the Medicine Buddha and eight bodhisattvas.
In eighth-century Tibet, during the reign of the Dharma King Trisong Detsen, Shantarakshita composed three sutra rituals of the Medicine Buddha—one long, one medium, and one short. Later, when Atisha came to Tibet, it is said that while at Toding Temple, he wrote the praises “The flower of your name…” that include one stanza for each of the seven tathagatas and the well-known one-stanza praise of the Medicine Buddha, “O Bhagavan, you are equally compassionate to all…” Kadampa monasteries held the sutra rituals of the Medicine Buddha in high esteem, and because of this, Tibetan philosophical colleges always recited the sutra ritual of the Medicine Buddha, even though reciting too many pujas could create an obstacle to study and was generally discouraged.
At this time, when the coronavirus pandemic is raging across the globe, we are not only experiencing difficulties with physical health; there is also the mental hardship of feeling deprived of joy. When the body is unhealthy, there is no way for the mind to be happy. But being healthy physically does not necessarily mean that we will feel happy mentally. Thus mental happiness is more valuable than physical health. Through the vast aspirations the Medicine Buddha made in the past, through his indomitable courage and boundless compassion, it is very important for us to inspire ourselves and train in relieving all our own and others’ physical and mental illnesses and in strengthening our love for one another and our benevolent wishes.
Normally, we only remember to recite the Medicine Buddha Sutra and mantra when we get a little sick and pay it little attention otherwise. But this Medicine Buddha Sutra is not a text about medicine or treatment. It tells, when you read it, the manifold, vast aspirations or commitments that the Medicine Buddha made for the sake of other sentient beings. It is important to see whether those can have an effect on our mind and whether they can encourage us to practice virtue.
Next, please join me in reciting the Medicine Buddha Sutra with the kind intention of bringing benefit to all sentient beings.
I hope all of you are doing well. Today is the fifth day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today, the texts we will recite together are the Sutra of the Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom and Karma Chakme’s Aspiration for Rebirth in Sukhavati.
The Sutra of the Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom is one of several sutras associated with the Buddha Amitayus in the Tibetan Kangyur. The Buddha Amitayus is one of the most well-known buddhas of all those mentioned in the Mahayana sutras. In the Pure Land tradition of Chinese Buddhism, the Buddha Amitabha is the main focus of practice. The practice of Amitabha is easy to do and has great blessings, so it has spread widely among the public. Amitabha is probably the only buddha of the Mahayana to whom a specific lineage is devoted. I don’t think there is any other.
Though there is no separate Pure Land tradition in Tibet, there are countless teachings and practices of Amitabha that come from the Kangyur, Terma, and pure visions. Among them, the ones everyone considers authoritative are the sutras and dharanis of Amitayus in the Kangyur. This Sutra of the Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom is, between sutra and tantra, included within tantra.
As the Sutra of the Features of Manjushri’s Realm says:
All dharmas depend on conditions;
They rest on the base of aspiration.
Whoever makes any aspiration
Will achieve that result.
The amazing, wonderful pure realm of Sukhavati arose because of the aspirations of the Buddha Amitabha, it is said. Thus we should also, even within our present daily lives, take up the intention to help others, foster a good motivation, and take care of the natural environment and animals. If we do so, we can create a small Sukhavati around ourselves. These days, we face many severe, perilous environmental crises such as climate change. Scientists see this and lead us by the hand to show us, but if we lack sufficient motivation and courage to change, it cannot be of much benefit to our actual situation.
We might think that we can just ruin this earth and then go off to some other pleasant place, but I don’t think that karmic cause and effect works that way. This earth of ours doesn’t belong just to our generation. It doesn’t belong just to humans. Either we can transform this earth into a pure realm for future generations and other sentient beings, or we can transform it into a hell. It’s in our hands right now. We all must do as the Buddha Amitabha did and make vast aspirations for the sake of other sentient beings, make a strong commitment, and strive to benefit others. I think that this is one of the most important points of the teachings on Amitabha.
Next, please join me in reciting the Sutra of the Essence of Immeasurable Longevity and Wisdom and Karma Chakme’s Aspiration for Rebirth in Sukhavati with the kind intention of bringing benefit to all sentient beings.
I hope all of you are doing well. Today is the sixth day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today we will recite the Praises of the Twenty-One Taras and two supplications to Guru Rinpoche, Clearing the Path of Obstacles and Spontaneous Fulfillment of Wishes together.
The teachings on Jetsun Tara were very widespread in India even in ancient times. For example, to this day, ancient images of Tara can be still seen at all of the sacred Buddhist sites, including Nalanda and Bodhgaya. In India at that time, it seems that everyone had great faith in and devotion to Tara, regardless of whether they were Mahayana or Foundation Vehicle practitioners.
In terms of Tibet, Jetsun Tara was Jowo Atisha’s yidam deity. At first, he had no desire to go to Tibet, but Tara made a prophecy and explained why he should, so he decided to go, as is described in his biographies. Tara is also a primary deity of the Kadampa school; she is one of their four main deities, the goddess of activity. These days, our main traditions of White Tara come down from the Kadampa school. Tara has been the yidam deity of many Tibetan lamas of all traditions, and many incarnations of the Karmapa have considered Tara their yidam deity. In particular, these Praises to the Twenty-One Taras are ubiquitous in Tibet, and all monastics and laypeople, young and old alike, recite them daily. Even illiterate people learn them by ear and recite them. When I was little, I remember my mother reciting Tara. She was illiterate but had learned it orally and recited it with a pure intention.
Regarding Jetsun Tara’s origin, there is not time to teach it at length today. But in brief, Tara is usually said to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, and in Tibet there is a tradition that both White and Green Tara were born from tears from his two eyes. In the Sutra of Manjushri Expanding in All Directions, translated into Chinese by the Indian master Amoghavajra, it is said that when Avalokiteshvara entered the samadhi of Tara, the appearance of all, from his right hand there shone light rays, out of which Tara arose.
There is a custom of revering Tara as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara or as Avalokiteshvara changing to a female form. For example, in some sutras and tantras, she is called by the names Tara Lokeshvara and Tara Avalokiteshvara. It is Tara who is said to offer protection from the eight dangers, and the White Lotus Sutra similarly says that Avalokiteshvara protects us from the eight dangers. To sum it up, the Mahayana teaches Avalokiteshvara embodies the compassion of all buddhas. He then arises in the form of Tara and becomes for us like the image of a loving mother. This allows us to be closer to her and have a stronger feeling. There are similar instances in many religions in the world. For example, in Christianity, many faithful people have especial faith in and regard for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think this is similar to that.
Then we will recite two supplications to the great Guru Padmasambhava of Uddiyana. These two are the most common of the many different prayers to Guru Rinpoche. They are both termas, but there are different versions based on different terma texts that were revealed at different times. For the texts included in our prayer book on this occasion, the first, Clearing the Path of Obstacles, is based on the terma revealed by Tulku Sangpo Drakpa, and the second, Spontaneous Fulfillment of Wishes, is based on the terma revealed by Tulku Bakhal Mukpo.
There are versions of both these texts that were revealed later by the great tertön Chokgyur Lingpa, but it seems that the original tertöns to reveal them are the two whom I just mentioned. But neither of these two tertöns is all that well known, so I think many people probably have never even heard of them. Thus, in order to show gratitude to these two for revealing such important treasures as these, we have included them in our prayer books, and I have taken this opportunity to translate them into Chinese, though there is some room for improvement in some places. I hope that later, when they are right in all respects, I will be able to share them with you all.
Of these two, Clearing the Path of Obstacles is a supplication combined with the life story of Guru Rinpoche. Guru Rinpoche had a great influence on the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, and thus all followers of Tibetan Buddhism owe him a deep debt of gratitude. It is said that though he was kind to Tibet, his kindness went unnoticed. Unlike other Indian scholars and masters, there were many in Tibet who objected to and denigrated Guru Rinpoche. The reason this occurred is on the one hand that his detractors did not know his sources, scriptures, and reasons, and on the other, it is that a few of Guru Rinpoche’s followers seem to have had the fault of being overly zealous. In brief, if we were to say that Guru Rinpoche was only kind to the Nyingma school or that he belonged to the Nyingmas only, it would be mistaken. He was, as the Tibetan saying goes, the guru of all gurus, the sun of all suns. The second buddha Padmasambhava is not a guru for a specific school or a specific dharma lineage; he is like the universal jewel for all Tibetans, and I think it is important to keep this in mind.
It was during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo that the dharma was initially established in Tibet. He built the Pehar shrine in Rasa. Then dharma was practiced for five generations until King Tride Tsugtsen or Me Oktsom. After he passed away, some ministers from the Shang clan acted badly and the shrines and statues of the Three Jewels that had been built were destroyed. They said, “This southern Nepali dharma is not appropriate for Tibet,” and decreed laws prohibiting the practice of dharma.
Then, when King Trisong Detsen, still a youth, reached the age of twenty, he saw the reasons for practicing the dharma and repealed the old laws prohibiting dharma practice. He invited Buddhist masters and the king himself listened to dharma teachings and read dharma texts. His intention was to propagate Buddhism widely in Tibet, but at that time, many people thought that since Buddhism was not the old religion of Tibet, it would conflict with propitiating deities, harm everyone, and offend the gods. They thought it would interfere with politics and bring human and animal diseases, famine, and so forth. They had very strong suspicions and worries. Because of this, King Trisong Detsen summoned the kings of minor kingdoms such as Asha and the external and internal ministers to hold a council to discuss this thoroughly. First, they considered what the Buddhist scriptures mean. Second, they took their forefathers’ deeds as an example. Third, they investigated in great detail with the help and guidance of the Buddhist ministers and saw that not only was there no fault in practicing Buddhism, it was also very beneficial.
They saw three main reasons it would be beneficial. The first reason was that the meaning taught in the dharma was all excellent and that practicing it would accomplish excellent and unexcelled aim. Thus, it would not turn out badly; it could only turn out well. Second, one had to look at long term benefit and happiness; one could not say that short-term circumstances are an adequte reason to say dharma practice is inappropriate. Third, for many generations, their forefathers had practiced dharma, but nothing bad and no problems had occurred. For these three reasons, they agreed that there was no fault in practicing the dharma and had an edict inscribed with their commitment to not denigrate and not extirpate the dharma. The inscription can still be seen to this day.
Old manuscripts from the time of the kings call Guru Rinpoche, “Padmasambhava, the scholar from Uddiyana who achieved siddhi.” At that time, Guru Rinpoche was the most powerful siddha in India. Though King Trisong Detsen wished to propagate the dharma in Tibet, many internal and external obstacles arose, as did many bad signs and omens. They invited Guru Rinpoche, and he tamed the gods and demons, quelling all the bad signs and omens. He made the gods and demons enter people’s bodies, and they admitted their faults, saying that what they had done was wrong. People could not help being amazed and had to believe. Their earlier suspicions and wrong thoughts were all pacified. Thus his help and assistance to the king in spreading Buddhism at that time was an extremely great kindness.
Guru Rinpoche’s life story is taught in many different ways. Some say he was born miraculously. Some say he was born from the womb. There are also people who say that it is fine to say both—that he was born miraculously and also born from the womb. Regarding how long he spent in Tibet, people explain it in many different ways. Some say he spent three years in Tibet, some say six years, and some eight, twelve, or eighteen years. According to the termas, the shortest time is fifty years, and some say he spent over one hundred years. If these are explanations of visions of pure appearance, you can say as long as you like, but when trying to determine the order of historical events, it must be presented in terms of how it commonly appears to human beings. Thus, researching the Kama texts of the Nyingma and the actual ancient Tibetan historical documents and chronicles to establish the sequence of events would give confidence. In particular, there is a life story of Guru Rinpoche written by the Jonang Jetsun Taranatha called the “Indian” or the “Threefold Conviction.” It has some interesting, distinctive features, and I think it would be good for all of us to read it.
In brief, please have great faith and devotion in Jetsun Tara, the embodiment of the activity of all the buddhas, and in Guru Rinpoche, who is superior to all others in wisdom, love, and power during this degenerate age, and let us recite these prayers together.
I hope all of you are doing well. Today is the seventh day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. Today we will recite the Manjushri Nama Samgiti together.
Manjushri’s name appears in many Mahayana sutras. He is one of the most important of all the numerous bodhisattvas. Lord Atisha and others have said that in Tibet, there are two main streams of the Mahayana: the lineage of profound view and the lineage of vast action. Of these two, the lineage of profound view primarily follows Manjushri. He thus has the same importance as Maitreya, the regent of the Buddha and the future fifth buddha of this aeon.
In China, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Samantabhadra, and Kshitigarbha are considered the four foremost bodhisattvas, and each has his own well-known sacred site. Avalokiteshvara is associated with Putuo Shan, Manjushri with Wutai Shan, Samantabhadra with Emei Shan, and Kshitigarbha with Jiuhua Shan. These four mountains are recognized as the sacred Buddhist sites in China.
There are several different accounts of Manjushri’s origin. According to the Sutra of Manjushri’s Nirvana, which was translated into Chinese in the third century by the Western Qin lay practitioner Nie Daozhen, Manjushri was born into a Brahmin family in Shravasti. He could speak as soon as he was born. When he grew up and completed his education, he became so learned that no one could rival him. Later he came into the presence of the Buddha, went forth, and became a monk. Through the strength of his heroic-stride samadhi, he was able to send emanations in all directions. It was prophesied that he would awaken to buddhahood four hundred and fifty years after the Buddha passed into nirvana, the sutra tells. This is a sutra that describes Manjushri as a human being.
Many other sources say that he awakened to buddhahood innumerable aeons ago. The Sutra of the Features of Manjushri’s Realm, which is the fifteenth section of the Ratnakuta Sutra, teaches that in the future, Noble Manjushri will waken as the Tathagata Samanta Darshana in the southern realm Viraja Sanchita. Similarly, the White Lotus of Compassion Sutra describes that he will waken to buddhahood in Viraja Sanchita. But the twelfth chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra states that Manjushri is in the world called Kanakavarma to the east, and the Avatamsaka Sutra also explicitly says that Manjushri dwells at Wutai Shan in China.
Today we are reciting the Manjushri Nama Samgiti, and you might wonder what its importance is. It is extremely important, especially in terms of the secret mantra. The reason is that it encapsulates all the key points of the path of secret mantra. For example, the great commentary on the Kalachakra Stainless Light says that there is no way of knowing the path of tantra without knowing the Nama Samgiti and that Kalachakra must be known through it. It is explained in many ways in the Indian commentaries found in the Tengyur. Some explain it as yoga tantra, some as unexcelled tantra, some as the Kalachakra tantra, and some as a dzogchen text. There is a story passed down from the lamas of the past that when Chandrakirti met Chandragomi, Chandrakirti asked him what he knew. Chandragomi replied, “I know the Panini grammar, the Praise in One Hundred and Fifty Verses, and the Manjushri Nama Samgiti. I don’t know anything else.” It is said that Chandrakirti then understood that Chandragomi was saying he knew grammar and both sutra and tantra. Thus it seems that this means that only when one knows the Manjushri Nama Samgiti does one enter the ranks of those who know tantra.
The Manjushri Nama Samgiti in the editions of the Tibetan Kangyur was translated by Pang Lotsawa Lodrö Tenpa. The translation by the great translator Rinchen Sangpo is not in the Kangyur, but the entire root text of his translation is found in Acharya Manjushri Kirti’s Commentary on the Manjushri Nama Samgiti, which is found in the Tengyur. Also, most Tibetan traditions seem to use the translation by Rinchen Sangpo in their rituals and prayer books. I did memorize the Nama Samgiti when I was little, but it must have been Rinchen Sangpo’s translation. Thus now when I chant this text by Pang Lotsawa, I’m not used to it, and it feels as if I can’t pronounce it. However, scholars say that Pang Lotsawa’s translation is the closest to the Sanskrit manuscripts found in India and Nepal.
The Manjushri Nama Samgiti is listed in old catalogs from the time of the dharma kings, and there are several different copies among the Tibetan manuscripts found in Dunhuang. The colophon of Pang Lotsawa’s translation explains how it had been translated by earlier translators and became well-known. There is also a handwritten Kangyur that was copied in Druptop Orgyenpa’s Pukdrak Monastery. The colophon of the Manjushri Nama Samgiti in it mentions several different translations, saying, “There is also a translation of this by Lotsawa Chimey Bumpa and Üpa Garge. There is also a translation by Mang Kharwa.” However, usually when there are multiple translations of a single text, the various editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur chose only one, for otherwise it would have been too much to print. Because of this, many of the translations are no longer extant, which is a great loss for us. Thus, in this electronic era, if we could search for, gather, and compile as many different translations as we can, it would be of great benefit to do some research and analysis.
The Sakya Pandita praised this text highly, writing:
With regard to this king of all tantras, commentary on all scriptures, quintessence of all pith instructions, source of all teachings, and pinnacle of all vehicles, Reciting and Praising the Names of Noble Manjushri…
Similarly, all Tibetan scholars and practitioners hold the Manjushri Nama Samgiti in high esteem. When the Tibetan Kangyur was compiled, it was placed in the first volume of tantra. It is said that Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo recited it 100,000 times in Sanskrit and 100,000 in Tibetan and sponsored 100,000 repetitions by others. Lord Tsongkhapa also is said to have recited it three times daily before dawn, never missing a day. There is no Tibetan tradition—Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu, Nyingma, and so forth—that does not have its own commentary on the Manjushri Nama Samgiti. The earliest Tibetan commentaries were probably written, I believe, by the eleventh-century masters Rongsom Chösang and Ngok Shedang Dorje. There is also a commentary written by the translator Pang Lotsawa himself.
The main point is that Manjushri is the deity who represents the prajna and wisdom of the buddhas. The Buddha himself celebrated and welcomed those who entered his teachings not just out of faith and longing but through investigation with profound prajna. He said that such prajna is not just present from birth or gained through study; prajna can also be gained by the power of blessings from others.
So now please join me in reciting with wholehearted faith and devotion the Manjushri Nama Samgiti with the aspiration to swiftly develop profound and vast prajna in your being.
I hope all of you are doing well. Today is the eighth day of the Aspirations to End Adversity. The texts we will recite together today include White Parasol, the Simhamukha Repulsion, the Dharani of Marichi, and the Prayer That Saved Sakya from Disease.
The White Parasol practice we will recite today is one of Karma Chakme’s thirteen “āḥ Dharmas”—thirteen different sadhanas that all begin with the syllable āḥ. They are also called the “Thirteen Dharmas for Going to Sukhavati.” Included among them is this White Parasol practice, which is entitled The Stallion Garuda King of Birds. Usually when we recite White Parasol in the Karma Kagyu, this is the only one we recite. There is also a custom of appending the repulsion by the Lhodrak mahasiddha Lekyi Dorje, but that is not in the original and is therefore omitted here. This White Parasol practice by Karma Chakme is not only included in Kagyu and Nyingma books; it is also found in texts printed in Mongolia, so I think it must have spread to some degree in the Geluk lineage as well.
In any case, White Parasol is part of the Kriya tantra and within that, the Tathagata family. In the Tibetan Kangyur, there are four different translations of the dharani of White Parasol, including the Great Repulsion, Divine Lands, the Unassailable, and Supreme Accomplishment. There are also a few Sanskrit commentaries and sadhanas for those.
There are Chinese translations of the White Parasol dharani from the Tang and Sung dynasties. But primarily, it was translated into Chinese from Tibetan twice during the Yuan or Mongol dynasty. Moreover, the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan was devoted to Tibetan Buddhism. He followed Drogön Chögyal Pakpa, Karma Pakshi, and many other Tibetan masters as his main gurus. On the instruction of Drogön Chögyal Pakpa and in order to overcome maras and bring happiness to the kingdom, there started the custom of hanging a silk image of White Parasol and the mantra written in gold letters above the emperor’s golden throne. From that time on, there was a great tradition of a White Parasol ceremony every year on the fifteenth day of the second month in the two capitals of Daidu and Shangdu. During the ceremony, a hundred thousand people would stand in welcome as the White Parasol was paraded outside and inside the palace. I think that this is, among the four ritual activities of White Parasol, probably that of raising the banner.
There is also in Chinese Buddhism an extremely well known dharani mantra called the Sutra of Great Ushnisha’s Heroic Stride. Its mantra is almost exactly the same as the dharani mantra of White Parasol, so this dharani mantra is also extremely important from the perspective of Chinese Buddhism. In brief, it is said that White Parasol is the greatest for repulsing spirits, disease, sorcery, and spells.
Regarding Simhamukha, I have not seen anything specifically about her in the Kangyur, but the Nyingma tradition has a large cycle of teachings on her. In the Sarma, there are quite a few Simhamukha practices. The most common include the one by Bari Lotsawa passed down among the Sakyas, the one passed down from Panchen Nakkyi Rinchen, and the terma hidden by Ngulchu Vairo and revealed by the glorious Dusum Khyenpa. The one we will recite today is the repulsion by Mikyö Dorje that is included in Karma Kagyu prayer books. It is the one we always recite. It is said that Simhamukha is supreme for repulsing sorcery, curses, inauspiciousness, bad omens, and obstacles. In the Geluk tradition, at the beginning of teachings on the stages of the path, they recite the Heart Sutra and Simhamukha to quell any obstacles to teaching and listening to the dharma. In brief, White Parasol, the Heart Sutra, and Simhamukha are well known in all dharma lineages.
Third is Marichi. There are many teachings on Marichi in both the Kangyur and the Tengyur, including dharanis, sadhanas, rituals, and so forth. There are probably sixteen sadhanas of Marichi in the Ocean of Sadhanas. There are also sadhanas in the Abhayakara’s three Mala cycles. As for the dharani of Marichi that we will recite today, in the Kangyur, there is the Dharani Called Noble Marichi translated by Bari Lotsawa, but it seemed to me to be somewhat incomplete. So I took this opportunity to translate from Chinese into Tibetan one of the three dharanis of Marichi originally translated into Chinese by the spiritual master Amoghavajra. He was an eighth-century master from Sri Lanka, a great translator, and an upholder of the three pitakas who spread the Secret Mantra teachings in China.
Generally, it is said of Marichi in the Root Tantra of Manjushri that in a degenerate age, siddhi comes fastest through Manjushri among noble beings and Marichi among goddesses. There have been many people with faith and devotion for her not only in Tibet but in China as well. This is not only Buddhists; later the Senshing—an old name for Taoists—also worshipped her as a deity. Historically in Japan, powerful people and high ministers considered her a protector because she is such a powerful goddess. Also, as this goddess has the ability to make herself invisible, the samurai and soldiers had great belief in her, too. Thus she is considered extremely important in Japanese Buddhism.
The goddess Marichi is said to be very beneficial for dispelling the dangers of enemies and bandits, dangers from powerful people such as kings, and enemies when traveling on perilous and frightening roads. In particular, it seemed to me that there were some signs and indications that reciting the Marichi dharani would be beneficial specifically during this epidemic. Therefore I have included it in our prayer book on this occasion.
The Prayer That Saved Sakya from Disease was written by the famous Tibetan siddha Tangtong Gyalpo. The reason he wrote this is that at one time, there was a bad epidemic, and whatever medical treatments and rituals were tried, nothing was of benefit. When the area had been nearly emptied of people, they requested the great siddha to help. He told them to recite manis, the refuge prayer “My mothers, all beings throughout space…,” and this prayer. The histories relate that everyone did as he said and the epidemic subsided. From that time on, whenever an epidemic struck Tibet, people would traditionally recite this prayer. To help inspire you all to recite it, I have made a separate recording of this aspiration with a melody. I hope that this will make it simpler for you to play the recording and listen and easier to recite.
Next we will recite the prayers I have just mentioned. Please focus your mind and join me in reciting them.
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Now our eight-day Aspirations to End Adversity are coming to an end. Next we will close with the dedication of merit and aspirations.
The Seven Points of Mind Training says, “Two activities, one at the beginning and one at the end.” The activity for the beginning is to correct your motivation. No matter what we do, the way we do the task and the steps we follow are important for determining whether its nature or essence becomes virtue or nonvirtue. But primarily it depends upon the motivation that we adopt when we do it. That being the case, before we do any task, it is important to carefully examine our motivations, reasons, and aims for doing it. This is because sometimes a fake motivation not only fools others; it can fool us as well.
The activity for the end is to embrace the task with dedications and aspirations. This means that even when we do a good deed or a vast deed, we should not use its results to make a big deal of it solely for our own sake or use them solely for our own profit. Instead, we should enjoy its fruits together with other people. Mahayana practitioners do not use all their virtue and good deeds only for their own sake but enjoy them together with others, and this is called dedication. There are greater, medium, and lesser dedications. The best is to dedicate virtue to achieving buddhahood, the ultimate happiness. In order to be able to make such a great dedication, we first have to train ourselves gradually in our daily lives. For example, you can give others your favorite food, introduce them to your favorite movies, or connect them with your favorite song. You begin practicing by sharing your absolute favorite thing joyfully and happily with others. Since our current day is the information age, we can enjoy many different things with others on social media and share things with them. This is a good opportunity. I think of this as a tool for practicing dedications and aspirations.
In brief, please dedicate all the virtue of these Aspirations to End Adversity to enlightenment. Also, my sister has started a Hundred Million Tara Society, and many Tibetans at home and abroad, as well as faithful people from the East and West, have recited over 150 million Tara praises. They have asked me to dedicate that virtue at the same time, too. Likewise, we should imbue all the merit that we and all others have done in the past, are currently doing, and will do in the future with our dedications and aspirations. Doing so brings the benefit that the virtue will never be depleted and will instead grow greater and greater.
Now I will recite the Great Aspiration by the Seventh Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso. You do not need to recite along with me. Instead, please pay attention and offer your support. That is much better than reciting the words.
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Now we have completed the Aspirations to End Adversity. I would like to take this opportunity to thank some of the people involved.
First, the Kagyu monasteries and nunneries in India, Nepal, and Bhutan have all been participating. They have made magnificent offerings as carefully as they could, and all the monks and nuns have chanted along together, taken great interest, and made excellent preparations. I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart.
Some people have thought that these Aspirations to End Adversity are the Kagyu Monlam. But we have already postponed the 38th annual Kagyu Monlam in Bodhgaya for one year, so this is not the Kagyu Monlam. But the dates when we normally hold the Monlam were then free, so we have used this time to hold these Aspirations to End Adversity. Still, the Kagyu Monlam organization has been very generous and offered support to all the monasteries, and I rejoice in this.
Likewise, tens of thousands of dharma friends from all corners of the earth have participated in this Monlam to pray for happiness in the world and for the teachings to flourish, and I would like to say thank you to all of you. I hope and have the conviction that because of us all joining together to recite these prayers in unison, the coronavirus epidemic may be quickly quelled and we may all enjoy a happy and joyous new life.
During these Aspirations to End Adversity, the ones who have worked hardest have been the translators, the video editors, the people who put together the prayer books, the composers of the music, and the webcast technicians. They have worked day and night without regard for difficulty, and this has allowed us to conclude this program successfully. So I would like to offer them all a heartfelt thank-you.
For my own part, I feel that this opportunity to collaborate with all of you in accomplishing a bit of virtue with our body and speech during these aspirations has been a great good fortune.
Lastly, I would like to make an announcement. Just as I mentioned during the recent teachings on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, I received a letter from Palpung Yeshe Rabgye nunnery, the organizers of this year’s Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, asking me to please give teachings. I discussed it with many people and thought about it myself. In the end, I thought I would teach the autobiographical verses of the 8th Karmapa Mikyö Dorje called Good Deeds.
But if I were to comment at any length, it would take a minimum of twenty days. Therefore, I will have to start teaching on the fourth day of the Tibetan New Year and continue for the entire first Tibetan month. You might get scared when I say I’ll teach for a whole month. But you don’t need to panic. We will have a few days off. Otherwise, it would be hard for the teacher and the listeners.
Generally, I don’t have the confidence or courage that I can comment on the autobiographical verses at much length. But because of the epidemic, this is a time when we all have to stay at home, so we have a lot of time on our hands. For me, it is different than usual. I’m not busy and have some time. Also, getting texts and the things I need is a little different for me than for other people, so I thought that if I didn’t teach it now, I would regret it later. So I am giving myself a shove and boldly making an announcement. Actually, I do still have some trepidation; I can feel my heart beating. The detailed schedule will be announced later, so please check the Internet. Thank you.
A blaze of good fortune, the ornament of the world!
In the realm and the kingdom of the land of Tibet,
To the north of the Land of Snows,
May the teachings of the Practice Lineage flourish!
May the world have the good fortune of happiness!
We ask that the world be made happy!
Transkription der englischen Übersetzung wurde von der offiziellen Website von S.H. Karmapa übernommen: The Official Website of the 17th Karmapa: http://kagyuoffice.org