Category Archives: Dharma Practice

Damchoe – Food Offering

Tonpa Lame Sangye Rinpoche

To the teacher above all teachers, the Precious Buddha.

Kyopa Lame Damcho Rinpoche

To the protection above all protections, the Precious Dharma.

Drenpa Lame Gendun Rinpoche

To the guides above all guides, the Precious Sangha.

Kyabne Konchok Sumla Chodpa Bul

I offer this to the three jewels, the rare and supreme objects of refuge.

Reflections for the Prayer

Usually we dive into a plate of food with great attachment, little mindfulness, and even less real enjoyment. Instead, we can pause before eating and reflect on our motivation. Here we think that we are not eating for temporary pleasure or to make our body attractive. Rather, we eat to keep our body healthy so that we can practice the Dharma and benefit all beings. Reflecting on the kindness of those who planted, harvested, transported, and packaged our food, we feel interconnected with them and want to repay their kindness by using the occasion of eating to create merit for their benefit. For this reason, we offer the food.
Ven. Thupten Chodron


Hand Mudras

Mudras: Meaning of Sacred Hand Gestures

Mudras are sacred hand gestures or positions that used to evoke a state of mind. The Sanskrit word “mudra” means “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”. In Tibetan the word is ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ or “chakgya”. Each of these sacred hand gestures has a specific meaning. Many of them symbolize major moments or events in the Buddha’s life.

8 Mudras and their Meaning

Sacred hand gestures or mudras are often depicted in Buddhist art. In this blog we’d like to share descriptions and images of some common mudras. The list here is not exhaustive.

The Earth Witness Mudra

When Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was meditating under the Bodhi tree, he was assailed by the demon Mara, who tried to disturb his mind. Mara represents the passions that trap and delude us. Siddhartha refused to be tempted from the path to enlightenment and he called on the earth to witness his worthiness to become enlightened, saying, “The earth shall be my witness, I will not let myself be seduced.” In the Earth Witness Mudra, (also known as the Bhumisparsa Mudra or Gesture of Witness), the historical Buddha is seated in the meditation posture and touches the earth with the fingertips of his right hand, palm facing inwards. The left hand is placed in the lap with the palm facing upwards.

The Mudra of Meditation

The Mudra of Meditation (dhyana) is made by placing both hands on the lap, right hand on the left, with the palms facing upwards, the tips of the thumbs touching, and the fingers fully stretched. This mudra helps to calm the mind for meditation and is used for deep contemplation and reflection. The mudra of meditation is a characteristic gesture of the Buddha Shakyamuni.

The Namaskara or Anjali Mudra

This mudra, while not found in representations of the Buddha or other deities, is commonly used by nuns, monks, and lay people to symbolize devotion, prayer, and admiration. Called the Namaskara Mudra or the Anjali Mudra, it is used as a common form of greeting in most Asian countries. Anjali is a Sanskrit word which means “salutation” or “to offer” and Namaskar is Hindi for “good day”. To make this mudra, you bring your palms together in front of your heart space, fingers pointing upwards, and thumbs close to the chest, to symbolize honor, respect, and devotion.

Mudra of Holding the Jewel or Manidhara Mudra

The Mudra of Holding the Jewel looks very similar to the Namaskara Mudra or the Anjali Mudra shown above. Also called the Manidhara Mudra, it is made by holding one’s hands together in front but with the palms and fingers slightly arched, holding the precious, wish-fulfilling jewel. This jewel or gem is also depicted in Tibetan prayer flags, carried upon the back of the Lung Ta  or wind horse. This sacred hand gesture of holding the jewel is a mudra of Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. The Tibetan word for Avalokiteshvara is Chenrezig (སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས་). The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Chenrezig,

The Mandala Offering Mudra

The Mandala Offering Mudra is a complex and sacred hand gesture that acts as a symbolic offering of the entire universe for the benefit of all sentient beings. Performing the Mandala Offering Mudra helps to reduce one’s attachment and to purify the clinging mind. Although this mudra is usually made together with prayers and Buddhist chants, non-Buddhists can also perform it to receive its spiritual benefits.

To make this complex mudra, sit in meditation pose with your back straight. Calm your breathing and visualize offering the mandala – the universe – to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and all holy beings, giving with great joy and with purity of heart. Place your hands palms up and intertwine your fingers. With the tips of your thumbs, press down on the tips of the opposite little finger. Then, with the bent tips of your index fingers, press down on the tip of the opposite middle finger. Finally, take your ring fingers, unclasp them, and put them back to back, pressing the backs together and with both fingers going straight up through the center. Together the ring fingers symbolize Mt. Meru, the sacred mountain, and the four continents described in Buddhist cosmology.

Vitarka Mudra or Teaching Mudra

The Vitarka Mudra (the Mudra of Teaching or Discussion) is a common mudra representing the discussion and transmission of Buddhist teachings. It is formed by joining the tips of the thumb and index finger together to form a circle, keeping the other three fingers pointing straight up. The circle formed by the joined fingers symbolizes perfection with no beginning or end.

This mudra is usually made with one hand, most often the right one, with the hand held upward close to the chest and the palm facing outward. However, the mudra may also be made with both hands held in front of the chest, with each index finger and thumb joined in a circle. When two hands are used, the left palm faces inward and the right palm is turned outward. The Teaching Mudra represents the Buddha’s first teaching after becoming enlightened. It also symbolizes the “Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma” or Dharmachakra. There are a great number of variations of this mudra in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, it is the mystic gesture of Taras and bodhisattvas.

Generosity Mudra or Varada Mudra

The Varada Mudra is the gesture of generosity, charity, and compassion. It is commonly found in representations of the Green and White Tara. This sacred hand gesture represents the granting of blessings, wishes, or even pardon. It also symbolizes the “gift of truth” – the precious gift of the dharma or Buddhist teachings. In the Varada Mudra, the palm faces out and hangs down, usually touching the right leg. This mudra is often used in conjunction with another mudra. The five fingers represent the five perfections: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, and meditation.

Mudra of Fearlessness or Abhaya Mudra

Abhaya in Sanskrit means fearlessness. The Mudra of Fearlessness or the Abhaya Mudra symbolizes the dispelling of fear. It can look to Westerners like the common hand gesture for “stop”. The mudra is made by raising the right hand to shoulder height, with the arm bent and the palm facing outward. This mudra is more commonly depicted in standing images.

This very ancient hand gesture is also a sign of peace and friendship. Placing one’s hand up and open in this way indicates that one is free of weapons and comes in peace. In Buddhism, the mudra shows the fearlessness and therefore the spiritual power of the Buddha or bodhisattva who makes it.

It is said that the historical Buddha made this sacred hand gesture immediately after gaining enlightenment. At a later time, the Buddha was about to be attacked by a mad elephant. The poor animal had been fed alcohol and tortured by one who hoped to use the elephant as a weapon against the Buddha. The elephant, enraged and in pain, charged at the Buddha and his followers. While others ran away, the Buddha stood calmly, raising his hand in the gesture of fearlessness. He felt great love and compassion for the stricken elephant. In response, the elephant stopped in its charge, became calm, and then approached the Buddha and bowed its head.

A note about the images of mudras: The thangka prints shown in this blog post were donated to the Tibetan Nuns Project by a generous donor. A range of thangka prints are available through our online store, with all proceeds from sales going to help the nuns. We are very grateful to Olivier Adam for sharing his beautiful photos. Many of his photos are available as cards through our online store. Prints of Olivier Adam’s photographs are available through his Etsy shop, Daughters of Buddha.

The post Mudras: Meaning of Sacred Hand Gestures appeared first on Tibetan Nuns Project.

By Tibetan Nuns Project on Jun 07, 2018 09:28 am

Lama Karma Chotso Of Kagyu South Florida Buddhist Center teaches her students how to properly do the Offering Mudras used at their weekly practice of White Mahakala and others.

Lama Karma Chotso Of Kagyu South Florida Buddhist Center teaches her students how to properly do the Medicine Buddha Mudras used at their weekly practice.

8 Auspicious Symbols

 8 Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism 8 Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism

There are eight different auspicious symbols of Buddhism, and many say that these signify the gifts that God made to the Buddha when he achieved nirvana.

The Parasol

The parasol, in other words, an umbrella is a traditional Indian symbol of royalty and protection from the raging heat of the tropical sun. The coolness of its shade signifies shield from the aching heat of suffering, temptation, hindrances, illnesses, and harmful forces. As a symbol of secular wealth, the greater the number of parasols carried in the entourage of a dignity, the higher his social rank would appear. Conventionally thirteen parasols defined the status of a king, and the early Indian Buddhists adopted this number as a symbol of the dominion of the Buddha as the ‘universal monarch’. Thirteen stacked umbrella-wheels form the conical spires of the various stupas that honored the main events of the Buddha’s life, or preserved his relics. This exercise was later applied to virtually all Tibetan Buddhist stupa designs. The great Indian teacher, Dipankara Atisha, who revived Buddhism in Tibet during the eleventh century, qualified for an entourage of thirteen parasols.

 The Parasol The Parasol

Patterns of Different Parasols

The emblematic Buddhist parasol is shaped from a long white or red sandalwood handle or axle-pole, which is embellished at its top with a small golden lotus, vase, and jewel filial. Over its domed frame is stretched white or yellow silk, and from the circular rim of this frame hangs a pleated silk frieze with many multi-coloured silk pendants and valances. A decorative golden crest-bar with makara-tail scrolling generally defines the parasol’s circular rim, and its hanging silk frieze may also be embellished with peacock feathers, hanging jewel chains, and yak-tail pendants.

 Ceremonial silk parasol Ceremonial silk parasol

A ceremonial silk parasol is traditionally around four feet in diameter, with a long axle-pole that enables it to be held at least three feet above the head. Square and octagonal parasols are also common, and large yellow or red silk parasols are frequently suspended above the throne of the reigning lama, or above the central divinity image in reclusive assembly halls. The white or yellow silk parasol is an ecclesiastic symbol of sovereignty, whilst a peacock feather parasol more specifically represents secular authority. The dome of the parasol represents wisdom, and its hanging silk pelmets the various methods of compassion. The white parasol that was presented to the Buddha by the serpent-spirits’ majesty symbolizes his aptitude to defend all beings from delusions and fears.

In Tibet, depending on their rank, various personages were entitled to different parasols, with religious heads being entitled to a silk one and secular rulers to a parasol with embroidered peacock feathers. Lofty personalities such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama are entitled to both, and in processions, first a peacock parasol and then a silk one is carried after him. When you visit Tibet, you will find these symbols in various festivals where such notables take part.

The Pair of Golden Fishes

In Sanskrit the pair of fishes is known as Matsyayugma, meaning ‘coupled fish’. This indicates their origin as an antique symbol of the two main sacred rivers of India, the Ganges and Yamuna. Symbolically these two holy rivers represent the lunar and solar channels or psychic nerves, which originate in the nostrils and carry the alternating rhythms of breath.

 The Pair of Golden Fishes The Pair of Golden Fishes

Symbolic Meaning of Symmetrical Fishes

In Buddhism the golden fishes represent happiness and impulsiveness, as they have complete liberty of movement in the water. They epitomize fertility and profusion, as they multiply very rapidly. They embody freedom from the fetters of caste and status, as they mingle and touch readily. Fish often swim in pairs, and in China a pair of fishes symbolize conjugal harmony and loyalty, with a brace of fishes being traditionally given as a wedding present.

 The Pair of Golden Fishes A vessel stamped with the pair of golden fishes

The auspicious symbol of the two fishes that were offered to the Buddha was probably embellished in gold thread upon a piece of Benares silk. The sea in Tibetan Buddhism is associated with the world of suffering, known as the cycle of samsara. The Golden Fish have been said to signify courage and contentment as they swim spontaneously through the oceans without drowning, freely and instinctively, just as fish swim freely without fear through the water. The fishes symbolize happiness, for they have complete freedom in the water. They are traditionally drawn in the form of carp, which are commonly regarded in Asia as elegant due to their size, shape and longevity. If you visit Tibet, you can find this in various monasteries and areas where the message is conveyed.

The Treasure Vase

The golden treasure vase, or ‘vase of inexhaustible treasures’, is exhibited upon the traditional Indian clay water pot. This pot is known as a kalasha or kumbha, with a flat base, round body, narrow neck, and fluted upper rim. This womb-like sacred kumbha is venerated in India at the great religious ‘pot festival’ of the Kumbh Mela. The treasure vase is mostly a representation of certain prosperity deities, including JambhalaVaishravana, and Vasudhara, where it often appears as a trait beneath their feet. One form of the wealth goddess Vasudhara stands upon a pair of horizontal treasure vases that spill an endless stream of jewels.

 The Treasure Vase The Treasure Vase sign printed on the wall

As the divine ‘vase of plenty’, it possesses the quality of natural display, because regardless of how much treasure is removed from the vase it remains perpetually full. The typical Tibetan treasure vase is represented as a highly ornate golden vase, with lotus-petal motifs radiating around its various sections. A single wish-granting gem, or a group of three gems, seals its upper rim as a symbol of the Three Jewels of the Buddha, dharma, and sangha.

 The Treasure Vase Two Treasure Vase products

The great treasure vase, as described in the Buddhist mandala offering, is shaped from gold and studded with an assembly of precious gems. A silk scarf from the god realm is tied around its neck, and its top is sealed with a wish-granting tree. The roots of this tree pervade the contained waters of longevity, amazingly creating all manner of treasures. Sealed treasure vases may be placed or buried at sacred geomantic locations, such as mountain passes, pilgrimage sites, springs, rivers, and oceans. Here their function is both to spread profusion to the milieu and to mollify the indigenous spirits who stand in these places. Besides the iconography of the Eight Auspicious Symbols, Treasure Vases filled with saffron water are found near the shrine offerings in a Tibetan Buddhist temple.

The Lotus

The Indian lotus, which grows from the dark watery swamp but is unblemished by it, is a major Buddhist symbol of purity and renunciation. It epitomizes the prospering of wholesome activities, which are performed with complete liberty from the liabilities of cyclic existence. The lotus seats upon the divine origin, the seats of gods. They are spotlessly conceived, characteristically perfect, and unquestionably pure in their body, speech, and mind. The deities manifest into cyclic existence, yet they are completely unadulterated by its defilements, emotional hindrances, and mental obscuration.

 The Lotus The Lotus symbol in Tibetan Buddhism

Surya, the Vedic sun god, holds a lotus in each of his hands, denoting the sun’s path across the heavens. Brahma, the Vedic god of creation, was born from a golden lotus that grew from the navel of Vishnu, like a lotus growing from an umbilical stem. Padmasambhava, the ‘lotus born’ tantric master who introduced Buddhism into Tibet, was similarly divinely conceived from an incredible lotus, which blossomed upon Dhanakosha Lake in the western Indian kingdom of Uddiyana.

Shape and Colors of Buddhist Lotus

The Buddhist lotus is described as having four, eight, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two, sixty-four, a hundred, or a thousand petals. These numbers emblematically correspond to the internal lotuses or chakras of the subtle body, and to the numerical components of the mandala. As a hand-held attribute the lotus is usually coloured pink or light red, with eight or sixteen petals. Lotus blossoms may also be coloured white, yellow, golden, blue, and black. The white or ‘edible lotus’ is an attribute of the Buddha Sikhin, and a sixteen-petaled white utpala lotus is held by White Tara. The yellow lotus and the golden lotus are generally known as padma, and the more common red or pink lotus is usually identified as the kamala.

 Buddha baseLotus blossom as the Buddha base

The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, reclining in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primordial mud of greediness, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment. Though there are other water plants that bloom above the water, it is only the lotus which, owing to the strength of its stem, regularly rises eight to twelve inches above the surface. You can see Buddha sits on a lotus blossom in Tibet.

The Right-turning Conch Shell

The white conch shell, which spirals towards the right in a clockwise direction, is an ancient Indian attribute of the heroic gods, whose enormous conch shell horns proclaimed their valour and triumphs in war. Vishnu’s fire-emanating conch was named Panchajanya, meaning ‘possessing control over the five classes of beings’. Arjuna’s conch was known as Devadatta, meaning ‘god-given’, whose successful blast struck terror in the enemy. As a battle horn the conch is akin to the modern bugle, as an insignia of power, authority, and sovereignty. Its promising blast is believed to banish evil spirits, avert natural disasters, and scare away harmful creatures. In the Hindu tradition the Buddha is recognized as the ninth of Vishnu’s ten incarnations.

 The Right-turning Conch Shell The Right-turning Conch Shell

Conch Shell and Buddha’s teaching

The early Buddhists adopted it as a logo of the sovereignty of the Buddha’s teachings. Here the conch symbolizes his fearlessness in proclaiming the truth of the dharma, and his call to awaken and work for the benefit of others. One of the thirty- two major signs of the Buddha’s body is his deep and resonant conch-like voice, which resounds throughout the ten directions of space. In iconography the three conch-like curved lines on his throat embody this sign. As one of the eight auspicious symbols the white conch is usually depicted vertically, often with a silk ribbon threaded through its lower extremity. Its right spiral is indicated by the curve and aperture of its mouth, which faces towards the right. The conch may also appear as a horizontally positioned receptacle for aromatic liquids or perfumes . As a hand-held trait, symbolizing the decree of the Buddha dharma as the feature of speech, the conch is usually held in the left ‘wisdom’ hand of deities.

 Buddha’s teaching A Buddha-teaching thangka

Today the conch is used in Tibetan Buddhism to call together religious assemblies. During the genuine practice of rituals, it is used both as a musical instrument and as a container for holy water. You will often come across it if you visit the holy areas of Tibet.

The endless or glorious knot

In its final development as a symmetrical Buddhist symbol the eternal knot or ‘lucky diagram’, which is described as ‘turning like a swastika’, was identified with the shrivatsa-svastika, since these parallel symbols were common to most early Indian traditions of the astamangala. The eternal, endless, or mystic knot is common to many ancient traditions, and became particularly ground-breaking in Islamic and Celtic designs. In China it is a symbol of longevity, continuity, love, and harmony. As a symbol of the Buddha’s mind the eternal knot epitomises the Buddha’s endless wisdom and compassion. As a symbol of the Buddha’s teachings it characterises the continuity of the ‘twelve links of dependent origination’, which triggers the reality of cyclic existence.

 The endless knotThe endless knot yak bone pendant

It depicts the nature of reality where everything is interrelated and only exists as part of a web of karma and its effect. Having no beginning or end, it also represents the infinite wisdom of the Buddha, and the union of empathy and knowledge. Also, it signifies the illusory character of time, and long life as it is endless. This is seen in almost every Buddhist monastery or temple in Tibet.

The Victory Banner

As a representation of the Buddha’s victory over the four maras, the early Buddhists adopted Kamadeva’s emblem of the crocodile-headed makaradhvaja, and four of these banners were established in the cardinal directions surrounding the illumination stupa of the Buddha. Similarly the gods elected to place a banner of victory on the summit of Mt Meru, to honour the Buddha as the ‘Conqueror’ who defeated the armies of Mara. This ‘victorious banner of the ten directions’ is described as having a jewelled pole, a crescent moon and sun finial, and a hanging triple band role of three coloured silks that are ornamented with the ‘three victorious creatures of harmony’.

 The Victory Banner The Victory Banner

Design of Victory Banner

Within the Tibetan tradition a list of eleven different forms of the victory banner is given to represent eleven specific methods for overpowering destructions. Many variations of the banner’s design can be seen on monastery and temple roofs, where four banners are commonly placed at the roof’s corners to symbolize the Buddha’s victory over the four maras. In its most traditional form the victory banner is fashioned as a cylindrical ensign mounted upon a long wooden axle-pole. The top of the banner takes the form of a small white parasol, which is surmounted by a central wish-granting gem.

 Victory Banner Victory Banner on the roof of the monastery

This domed parasol is rimmed by an ornate golden crest-bar with makara-tailed ends, from which hangs a billowing yellow or white silk scarf. The cylindrical body of the banner is draped with overlapping vertical layers of multi-coloured silk valances and hanging jewels. A billowing silk apron with flowing ribbons adorns its base. The upper part of the cylinder is often decorated with a frieze of tiger-skin, symbolizing the Buddha’s victory over all anger and hostility. As a hand-held pennant the victory banner is an attribute of many deities, particularly those associated with wealth and power, such as Vaishravana, the Great Guardian King of the north. These can found in the roof tops of holy places in Tibet.

The Wheel

Buddhism assumed the wheel as the main insignia of the ‘wheel-turning’ Chakravartin or ‘universal monarch’, identifying this wheel as the dharmachakra or ‘wheel of dharma’ of the Buddha’s teachings. The Tibetan term for dharmachakra means the ‘wheel of transformation’ or spiritual change. The wheel’s rapid motion represents the fast spiritual transformation revealed in the Buddha’s teachings. The wheel’s comparison to the rotating weapon of the chakravartin represents its ability to cut through all obstacles and illusions.

 The Wheel The Wheel on the rooftop of Jokhang Temple

The Buddha’s first discourse at the Deer Park in Sarnath, where he first taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, is known as his ‘first turning of the wheel of dharma’. His subsequent great discourses at Rajghir and Shravasti are known as his second and third turnings of the wheel of dharma.

Major Components of the Wheel

The three components of the wheel – hub, spokes, and rim – symbolize the three aspects of the Buddhist teachings upon integrities, wisdom, and attentiveness. The central hub represents ethical discipline, which centres and stabilizes the mind. The sharp spokes represent wisdom or discriminating awareness, which cuts through ignorance. The rim represents meditative concentration, which both encompasses and facilitates the motion of the wheel. A wheel with a thousand spokes, which emanate like the rays of the sun, represents the thousand activities and teachings of the Buddhas. A wheel with eight spokes symbolizes the Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path, and the transmission of these teachings towards the eight directions.

 Whtie Jade wheel The wheel symbolic white-jade jewelry

The auspicious wheel is labelled as being fashioned from pure gold obtained from the Jambud River of our ‘world continent’, Jambudvipa. It is traditionally depicted with eight spokes, and a central hub with three or four rotating ‘swirls of joy’, which spiral outward. When three swirls are shown in the central hub they represent the Three Jewels of the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, and victory over the three poisons of ignorance, desire, and aversion.

 The Wheel The bottom of the wheel usually rests upon a small lotus base

When four swirls are depicted they are usually colored to correspond to the four directions and elements, and symbolize the Buddha’s teachings upon the Four Noble Truths. The rim of the wheel may be depicted as a simple circular ring, often with small circular gold embellishments extending towards the eight directions. Alternatively, it may be depicted within an ornate pear-shaped surround, which is fashioned from scrolling gold embellishments with inset jewels. A silk ribbon is often draped behind the wheel’s rim, and the bottom of the wheel usually rests upon a small lotus base. This is visible in plenty of monasteries in Tibet such as the rooftop of Jokhang Temple and Drepung Monastery, etc.

April,23 2018 BY Master Kungga Dundruk

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche 1934-

Khenpo Rinpoche is an accomplished Buddhist meditation master and scholar from Eastern Tibet. Known for his highly engaging teaching style, he teaches the Buddhist view and meditation throughout the world. This website is dedicated to sharing his teachings and supporting his Dharma communities worldwide.

When I was born, I was born alone.
When I die, I will leave alone for certain.
Knowing this, I take delight, between these two stages,
In places of solitude, where I wander, alone.
Seeking out the path of liberation.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is one of the foremost living teachers of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a great scholar and master of meditation who traveled the world teaching in Buddhism centres everywhere.

In his late teens and early twenties he trained as a yogin in Tibet with a local yogin known as Zopa Tharchin. He spent his early youth in retreat in the mountains until his teacher told him to study for the benefit of others. A renowned scholar, he excels in philosophical debate and always aims to turn the minds of his opponents and students towards their own inner experience rather than getting lost in intellectual fabrications.

After the communist invasion of Tibet, Khenpo Rinpoche fled to India in 1960. He spent many years in Bhutan as a wandering yogin, meditating in caves and hermitages. In 1975 he was asked by the sixteenth Karmapa, head of the Kagyu tradition, to be abbot of the main Kagyu centre in France. However he asked instead to be allowed to travel and help people everywhere.

He has done that ever since, leading a truly simple, homeless life; he is a master of non-attachment. He has many times refused to accept property to build Buddhist centers and he regularly gives away all of his money. Khenpo Rinpoche demonstrates the carefree life of a yogin, singing spontaneous songs of realization wherever he goes, devoted only to the welfare of others.

Look at appearance-emptiness forms,

Listen to sound and emptiness sounds,
Rest in mind’s nature, clarity-emptiness,
And when your thoughts free themselves,
Laugh, oh laugh “Ha ha! Hee hee!”

Image result

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rimpoche

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

May the teachings of study (she) and practice (drup)
Fill the entire world.
May emptiness with compassion for a heart
Arise in all sentient beings.
May Ani Karma Chötso’s activity for the benefit others
Become immeasurable,
And may all beings realize
The equality of samsara and nirvana.

— by The Very Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rimpoche Written on his first visit to Kagyu Shedrup Chöling in 1999

The Twenty Wonderful Miracles That Tell of Appearance and Reality

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso RinpocheNamo guru hasa vajra

Samsara and nirvana are undifferentiable
And even though you realize this
To purify your thoughts of their attributes
You gained Buddhahood in just one life
Mighty hero, Shepa Dorje [Milarepa]
At your feet, I bow with great respect. [Homage]

Genuine reality transcends birth and death
False appearances, birth and death are like watermoons
Knowing this will make it easy to
Cut through clinging to birth and death as true
Such an explanation of birth and death—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [1]

Since no actor exists, neither does activity
But in terms of appearance, they arise dependently
Just like dream happiness and suffering
And in this way, good and bad deeds result in joy and pain
Such an explanation of cause, result, and karma—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [2]

Samsara’s suffering has never existed
Its appearances are like agony in a dream
Of the very nature of dependent arising
You can’t separate appearance from emptiness
Such an explanation of suffering—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [3]

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

The human body that has faith, diligence, and prajna
Is so difficult to find, we’re told in many ways
But it, too, is just a watermoon
Dependently arisen, this you should know
This way of thinking about something that is so hard to get—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [4]

All phenomena outside and inside
Decay each moment, they have no power to remain
But this source of sadness, when examined closely
Reveals that impermanence doesn’t exist either!
This way of meditating on impermanence—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [5]

Your friends depend on your enemies
And your enemies depend on your friends
All friends and enemies exist dependently
Just like the ones that you meet in dreams
This way of understanding friends and enemies—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [6]

Without joy, pain is impossible
Without pain, joy is impossible
They are the very essence of dependent existence
They are without the slightest substance
This way of understanding joy and pain—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [7]

When there is clean it is because of unclean
And unclean itself depends on clean
They are of the nature of equality
As they are when they appear in dreams
This way of eliminating thoughts of clean and filth—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [8]

Gain and pleasure, praise and sweet sounds—these four
They rely on their opposites for their very existence
Watermoons and dreams, they have no substance
The eight worldly dharmas are such wonderful miracles! [9]

Being learned depends on being stupid
And being stupid depends on being learned
Both are just dreams and watermoons
Scholar and fool not different—what a wonderful miracle! [10]

From the unborn mind, beyond conceptuality
Appearances self-arise, and by themselves are free
Just like waves dissolving into the ocean vast
The basic way of being—what a wonderful miracle! [11]

No one to progress, no path to progress upon
No progressing whatsoever going on
But the way of progressing that we see
From cause and condition, arises dependently
Like the moon dancing on the waves
This way of traversing the path—what a wonderful miracle! [12]

Nothing to realize, no one to realize it
No realization can be seen, not even a little bit
But our words can describe so carefully
The way of realization that occurs dependently
It is like seeing the moon in a dream
This way of realizing the fruition—what a wonderful miracle! [13]

Since fundamentally there are no conceptual elaborations,
The basic state transcends all reference points and assertions
Yet from this expanse that concepts cannot experience
Conceptuality arises in great abundance!
This way of explaining genuine reality—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [14]

The completely false appearances that you see
Transcend both true and false in reality
But to stop you from thinking that they are true
You are taught that they are false
To halt this clinging to falsity, it is not explained that they have any reality
Liberation from true and false—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [15]

Genuine reality’s dharmakaya
Cannot be experienced by conceptual mind
But there is the way the sambhogakaya
Appears to the noble bodhisattvas
And to the various beings, the nirmanakaya
Appears in a watermoon’s style
This way of explaining the three kayas—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [16]

We have so many thoughts that we are suffering
But this suffering is just like a dream!
And if you can recognize these thoughts’ true nature
Suffering will be self-liberated as soon as it appears!
The ice so easily melting into water
Transformation explained like that—what a wonderful miracle! [17]

Though the wisdoms five and the kayas three
Are all explained individually
Like a sound’s impermanence and composite nature
Kayas and wisdoms are really undifferentiable
This explanation of ultimate union—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [18]

Through great compassion, the Buddha’s activity
Accomplishes the benefit of sentient beings
But the benefitted ones really don’t exist at all
Completely falsely, the benefit performed is as in a dream
This explanation of Buddha’s activity—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [19]

Pure and impure are just imaginary
They do not exist in the expanse of equality
Equality’s expanse encompasses absolutely everything
And nothing can ever move from it at all
This explanation of equality—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [20]

Why are all these so incredibly miraculous?
Genuine reality, true being, free of conceptuality
Appearances transcending truth and falsity—
E ma! All phenomena are wonderful miracles!

When you realize all of this
You realize Mahayana’s profound meaning
When you grasp all of this
You are a worthy vessel for the Great Secret
When you grasp all of this
You help everyone in a natural way

So may all you fortunate ones
Realize this meaning well!

So was the casual talk of Dechen Rangdrol [Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso] in the Garden of Translation near the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, Nepal, on Dec. 17th and 18th, 1997. Translated by Ari Goldfield. Translation revised Jan. 2, 2002.

Things That Tend to Be Misleading

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso RinpocheIf you understand that all the misleading appearances of worldly existence are not intrinsically real, they will not tend to mislead you.

If you have attachment to friends and enemies as being real, they will mislead you. But if you have equanimity towards both, they will not mislead or deceive you.

If you see a lot of change or transition, that will tend to mislead you. But if you understand the intrinsic nature beyond change, it will not be misleading.

If you cling to the reality of birth and death, there is much deception. But if you realize there is no birth and death, there’s no deception.

If you believe in the existence of suffering, there’s much deception. But if you realize there’s no suffering, there’s no deception.

If you believe that self and other are separate, there’s much deception. But if you recognize that they are not two separate things, there’s no deception.

If you understand this true nature of deception, discursive thoughts will be liberated in their own place.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Creation & Completion, Vajravairochana Translation Committee, October 1995 & June 1996, p. 9-10. Translated by Sarah Harding

Milarepa’s Three Nails of Meditation

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche flying
Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche flying

All thoughts, being dharmakaya, are free.
The nature of thoughts is luminous clarity, which is the true nature of mind-beyond fabrication, transcending all conceptual descriptions. Luminous clarity is the dharmakaya of natural purity. What is this dharmakaya like?

Awareness is luminous, in its depths is bliss.
The experience of dharmakaya has three characteristics: awareness, luminosity, and bliss. How do you meditate on that?

And resting without contrivance is equipoise.
Without trying to create or to stop anything, just let go and relax. That is meditation. There is no clearer explanation.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, The Union of Sutra and Tantra, Karme Choling, 2001, p. 70. Translated by Ari Goldfield.

Padmasambhava 750-850?

Guru Padmasambhava is renowned as founder of Buddhism in Tibet and the principal guru-deity of the Nyingma school.

Image result for padmasambhava

Guru Padmasambhava himself is emanations of Buddhas, the mind emanation of Buddha Amitabha, the body emanation of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and speech emanation of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Padmasambhava was incarnated as an 8 year old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Uddiyana. The king of the Odiyana, Indrabodhi, brought him back to his palace and crowned him as the prince of the kingdom.

Padmasambhava perceived that since politics is contradictory to his pursuing of enlightenment, he abdicated thereafter. He then went to Bodhgaya and many places receiving teachings from many great scholars, masters and Dakinis.

Image result for padmasambhava

He accomplished the common and uncommon siddhis, comprehended and accomplished the whole canon of the three baskets of Vinaya, Sutra and Abhidharma, as well as the teachings of the outer and inner secret mantra, oral transmissions, and the pith instructions of the highest and innermost tantra of Atiyoga. The mandalas and Buddhas displayed their forms in front of him spontaneously. Thus he showed the signs of perfect level of complete awareness.

Padmasambhava visited and stayed in many places in India, Nepal and Tibet. These places were blessed by Padmasambhava and became sacred till now. For example, he practised the Vishuda deity at the cave of Yanglashod in Nepal. And, He took his wife, Mandarava, to the mountain cave of Maratika, known as Halesha in present day in Nepal, where they performed the accomplishment rituals of longevity for three months and actualised the immortal Vajra body.

Tso Pema (Lotus Lake), Guru Rinpoche ever showed miracles here, nearby Paslpung Sherabling about 3 hours trip by car.

Padmasambhava’s activities of taming people and performing enlightened activities for the sake of sentient beings are renowned as Eight Manifestations. These activities were recorded in detail in his biography and many books.

Spread the Dharma in Tibet

Trisong Deutsen, the 38th king of Tibet (742-797), invited Padmasambhava to Tibet. Along the way, he used his tantric powers to subdue all the harmful gods and demons he encountered, and made them faithful guardians of the Dharma. In Tibet he and the king founded the first monastery in the country Samye monastery and fully furnished it with statues. In addition, they gave monk’s vows to Tibet’s first seven monks, standardized translation methods, supervised translation of most of the sutras and tantras from Sanskrit to Tibetan, and for the first time in Tibet, firmly established the tradition of study, contemplation, and meditation, thereby radiating the Buddha Dharma in Tibet like rays of the sun.

Among Padmasambhava’s disciples, there were twenty-five of them attained liberation and eighty of them attained rainbow body.

A sacred place of Guru Rinpoche at Tsandra Rinchen Drak. Near Niguma retreat center of Palpung Monastery.

Padmasambhava stayed in Tibet for 55 years. In this period, he inspired people’s faith to the Dharma, brought Buddha Dharma from India to Tibet, and transformed Tibet to be a Buddhist land. Without Padmasambhava’s activities in Tibet, there might be no Tibetan Buddha Dharma today.

For the sake of future aspirants in the future, Guru Padmasambhava concealed eighteen varieties of treasure which include treasure texts, material wealth, holy images and so forth. He gave explicit prophesies regarding the future manifestation of these treasures, including the revealer and protector of the treasure, as well as time of revelation.

Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum

Padmasambhava was a historical teacher who converted Tibet to Buddhism. He was a renowned scholar, meditator, and magician, and his mantra suggests his rich and diverse nature.

Om Ah Hum, as we have seen, have no conceptual meaning. Often they are associated with body, speech, and mind respectively (i.e. the whole of ones being. So theres a suggestion that we are saluting the qualities that Padmasambhava represents with all of our hearts (and minds, and bodies).

Vajra means thunderbolt, and represents the energy of the enlightened mind. It can also mean diamond. The implication is that the diamond/thunderbolt can cut through anything. The diamond is the indestructible object, while the thunderbolt is the unstoppable force. The vajra also stands for compassion. While it may seem odd to have such a masculine object representing compassion, this makes sense in esoteric Buddhism because compassion is active, and therefore aligned with this masculine symbol. (The term masculine does not of course imply that compassion is limited to males!)

Guru, of course, means a wise teacher. It comes from a root word,garu, which means weighty. So you can think of the guru as one who is a weighty teacher. Padmasambhava is so highly regarded in Tibetan Buddhism that he is often referred to as the second Buddha.

Padma means lotus, calling to mind the purity of the enlightened mind, because the lotus flower, although growing in muddy water, is completely stainless. In the same way the enlightened mind is surrounded by the greed, hatred, and delusion that is found in the world, and yet remains untouched by it. The lotus therefore represents wisdom. Again, while westerners would tend to assume that the flower represents compassion, the receptive nature of the flower gives it a feminine status in esoteric Buddhism, and to the lotus is aligned with the feminine quality of wisdom. And once again, there is no implication that wisdom is in any way limited to those who are female. The words masculine and feminine here are used in a technical sense thats completely unrelated to biology.

And Siddhi means accomplishment or supernatural powers, suggesting the way in which those who are enlightened can act wisely, but in ways that we cant necessarily understand. Padmasambhava is a magical figure, and in his biography there are many miracles and tussles with supernatural beings.

The 4 Noble Truths of Emotional Suffering

The Buddha laid out a four-step path to freedom from difficult emotions. The secret, says Anyen Rinpoche, is understanding why our emotions cause us so much suffering. Once we know that, the path to freedom becomes clear.

Most of us start to practice Buddhism because we feel dissatisfied and disillusioned with life, in a general way or for some specific reason. Indeed, it is rare to meet someone who has turned to the dharma simply out of curiosity and not because of a real need to alleviate some discomfort or a painful situation.

What else do we dharma practitioners have in common? The fact is that most of us have done everything we can to alleviate our unhappiness, but we have been unsuccessful at finding the happiness we thought possible. One reason is that we are often mistaken about the true cause of our unhappiness.

For example, we may think that our unhappiness stems from having to face a barrage of unwanted situations, even though we are making every effort to have the kind of life we want. Most of us know that at some level we can’t control the people around us or the unfolding of events in our lives. But even when armed with this knowledge, we still experience a lot of pain and unhappiness.

The Four Noble Truths of Emotions

In Buddhism we call this the first noble truth: the truth of suffering. I have met some Buddhists who want to avoid talking about the truth of suffering. They say it will discourage people from wanting to practice the dharma because it sounds depressing. They want to find some more uplifting way to describe the human experience.

But let’s call a spade a spade. All of us are suffering every day in a multitude of ways—physically, mentally, and emotionally. And while we may feel happy about something in the moment, we never know how long it will last. Next year, next month, next week, tomorrow, or even five minutes from now, the very same situation might bring us sadness, anger, jealousy, or resentment. Our emotions change from moment to moment and bring with them a cascade of moods, feelings, and thought patterns—many of which increase our unhappiness and some of which are self-destructive.

Our emotions can really be a lot to handle. Many of us recognize that our emotions are out of control—or in control of us. We long for close, intimate relationships with others, but our feelings are often so overpowering that we can’t find the way to open up to others and relate to their experience.

Because we are so focused on how we feel, we may become self-protective and defensive, constantly worried that others will hurt or take advantage of us. These feelings of self-protection can be part of an ongoing emotional cycle, feeding even stronger emotional reactions that cause chaos in our minds and in our interpersonal relationships.

In the Buddhist teachings, we call strong emotions like anger, attachment, jealousy, and arrogance “poisons.” They poison not just our own happiness but also our connections with loved ones, friends, coworkers, and our local community. Sound familiar? That’s because we are human beings, and the truth of suffering cannot be avoided.

When we actually take a look at all of the problems our emotions cause us, we might be surprised. We usually put the blame for our unhappiness on things outside of ourselves, such as when we are treated or spoken to in a way we don’t like. In that situation, our ordinary reaction is to resent the person we feel has wronged us.

But we should take some time to examine the truth of the matter. No matter how another person treats us, how difficult a situation might be, or which of our personal needs we feel wasn’t met, we actually have the power to transform our own state of mind from resentment to peace and contentment.

When we reflect in this way, we see that it is actually our own emotions that are the problem. They are what is causing us so much pain. This is the second noble truth: the origin of suffering. We suffer because we do not know how to deal with our emotions and emotional reactions. We don’t realize that blaming others for our own unhappiness can never bring us happiness, so we continue to deal with our problems in the same way we always have, which only brings more suffering.

We suffer because we continually choose to identify with and focus on how we feel. But identifying with our emotions is like throwing fuel on a fire. If we choose to identify with our anger, it will burn even hotter and take longer to die down. The same is true of the other poisons, such as attachment, jealousy, or arrogance. Identifying with our emotions is a sure recipe for even more unhappiness.

The truth of the origin of suffering can be freeing. We realize that at each and every moment, happiness is available to us if we choose to let go of our strong emotions and relax. This is the third noble truth: the truth of cessation. If we come to accept that our own emotions are the cause of our suffering, we can eradicate the attachment to and identification with them that causes us so much suffering.

Then we will be motivated to practice the dharma authentically and enthusiastically. This is the fourth noble truth: the truth of the path. All the masters of old tamed their emotions using the tools and techniques presented by the path of dharma. If we practice the path in the same manner they did, we can be sure that positive changes will come. And we can share those positive changes with the people in our lives.

Photo by Simon Burch / Millennium Images, UK.
Photo by Simon Burch / Millennium Images, UK.

You Are What You Feel: A Formula for Unhappiness

Our suffering may look different from the sufferings of others, but all human beings experience painful emotions and unwanted situations. We all face separation from loved ones, falling out with friends, and the death of family members.

This may raise the question, “Is everyone all over the world full of emotional turmoil?” Actually, based just on my upbringing in Tibet, I would answer this question in the negative. Of course, we Tibetans have emotions just like every other human being, but there are aspects of Tibetan culture that help Tibetan people handle their emotions in a way that makes them less dominating and demanding.

As a boy, whenever I was interacting with my family, my village, and my sangha, we always put our focus on others. The most important thing was not how each person felt individually, but how the group felt together. In Tibet, as well as many other Asian Buddhist cultures, there is much value placed on putting the happiness and well-being of the group above our own personal feelings. In that kind of cultural environment, it spoils the mood and the energy of the group whenever anyone focuses on themselves too much.

Many Americans comment on the joyful disposition of Tibetan people, especially when they travel to my home country. I believe this happy disposition comes from how we Tibetans enjoy our family and community connections and do not spend too much time focusing on our own personal emotions.

I did not realize that this was a unique aspect of Tibetan culture until I left Tibet. When I came to America more than ten years ago, I noticed the strong relationship Americans have with their emotions. People here focus on their emotions much more than we Tibetans do, and they are encouraged to do so. As a result of this, I have noticed that the way people do things here is quite the opposite of how we do things in Tibet. This culture places value on focusing on our own feelings more than the mood and energy of the people and situations happening around us.

What is the consequence of this way of relating to our emotions? First, it can cause us to be extremely sensitive. We react emotionally to almost everything and everyone around us. Emotions have become the core of American identity—almost literally, you are what you feel. Even the English language expresses this idea. We identify directly with the emotions, saying, “I am angry” rather than “I have anger,” as they do in other languages like Spanish. In the Tibetan language, we actually say, “Anger is present” and do not connect the emotion with “I” at all.

What is the problem with connecting our identity or ego—our very sense of self—with our emotional state of mind? In addition to all of the pain and suffering our emotions cause us when we focus on them, rehash them, and obsess about them, we also lose our ability to connect with others. We lose our compassion for others and have trouble understanding how they feel. We may express things that hurt the people we love without realizing our words are hurtful.

Our personal identity takes up a lot of space. We may have trouble relating to communities because of the demand to compromise our needs for the needs of others. Or we withdraw because we need to feel we have enough space to breathe and do not want to be influenced by the ideas, words, actions, and energy of others. Many people feel isolated, misunderstood, and lonely as a result.

In the end, we have done just the opposite of what we set out to do. We thought that protecting ourselves and paying attention to our feelings would make us happier, but actually, our unhappiness increased. In the dharma we have a saying, “All people desire happiness, but instead they chase after suffering.” When we reflect on our relationship with our emotions, we can see just how true this is.

The Buddhist path has tools that help us train our mind so we don’t put so much energy into our emotional responses. By gradually reducing the focus we ordinarily place on our emotions, we begin to identify with them less. As we identify with our emotions less, we become more willing to let small situations go, and we begin to feel more relaxed. This starts a different kind of emotional cycle. As we start to see that letting small situations go actually brings us peace of mind and happiness, we become willing to let other situations go too. When we relax and let go, we identify with our emotions even less. When we identify with our emotions less, we are less self-protective, less emotionally reactive, and we feel happier.

Meditation Practice: Changing Your Relationship with Difficult Emotions

How do you transform the relationship you have with your emotions? I suggest a few different techniques, all of which fall into the category of lojong, or mind training.

First, I suggest working diligently to develop mindfulness toward your emotional reactions. I am not suggesting that you identify with your emotional reactions, but simply try to notice how changeable your moods and feelings are.

One way you can do this is to contemplate the impermanent nature of life. By cultivating mindfulness, you notice the energy of your mind changing from moment to moment. In one moment you feel calm and relaxed, in the next agitated or afraid. You might feel comfortable sitting outside in the sunshine, only to notice five minutes later that the same sunshine is now burning us.

Our minds might jump from the past to the future, from here to somewhere across the planet, all in a matter of moments. Our emotions are unpredictable, momentary, and fickle. You should ask yourself: why am I so willing to believe that every feeling I have is true?

After you watch your mind for some time, you start to notice that sometimes your emotions arise as a reaction to a certain situation, and other times they arise for no apparent reason at all. You might be sitting on a cushion in a quiet room, with no one around, and suddenly feel angry or sad.

One way we ordinarily react to this kind of emotional energy is to look for its cause—or for something to blame. However, as part of your lojong training, you can start to break the habit of linking your emotional feelings and reactions to outside causes. Rather than looking for a cause or someone to blame for how you feel, notice instead how prone you are to certain types of emotional reactions and how deep your emotional habits are. After all, you can have intense emotional feelings even when there is nothing present to trigger them.

As you begin to notice that you have certain dominant emotional habits and are prone to certain kinds of feelings, you begin to identify less with them. You can relax more and find more contentment in the moment.

All the masters of our Buddhist tradition have shown us that true happiness comes from pacifying our emotions and accepting the people and circumstances around us. When we feel relaxed, comfortable, and confident in ourselves, we no longer need to interpret unwanted circumstances as attacks on us. We can simply see the interplay of events, people, and circumstances around us and feel free to make the choices that suit us best. This is a step on the path to freedom.