Guru Yoga & Mandala Offering Retreat
Information and advice for attendees
Information and advice for attendees
The information on this page is offered in support of practitioners attending a Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering retreat. Below you will find:
Please make use of these materials to support your practice and attendance at a Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering retreat, but please also be aware that this information and website page is not available to members of the general public and should not be shared outside of the centre’s community.
The next Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering retreat at KMC Plymouth is on the weekend of Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd July 2023.
Please feel free to download and print your own copy of these useful guides for use on the retreat.
If printing a copy we suggest you do so as back to back, two-sided copies, as the pdf file page layout is set for printed copies.
A quick guide to the content of each of the four daily retreat sessions
Guide on how to construct the long and short Mandalas, using a Mandala set
Text of the long and short Mandala’s used in the retreat sessions
(Note to reader: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure an accurate copy of the original transcript of this most precious text, we would be grateful to readers advising us of any errors they may find – thank you. )
Next Sunday, as you know, according to our program I will talk about how to engage in a Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering retreat. Today I will explain, in particular for those people who are doing the retreat the week after next, how to prepare for this retreat. I am doing this a week beforehand because it will give you more time to prepare. If I left it until next Sunday to explain how to prepare it will be too late as the retreat starts the day after.
By preparing well for our retreat it will be meaningful and successful, but if we join the retreat without making any preparation, we will quickly become bored and tired, and will find it difficult to gain any realisations for our retreat. For this reason, some practitioners prepare for many months before the retreat. My talk today will help us to have a clear idea of what to do during the retreat and what necessary conditions we need to gather together for a successful retreat. And this way we will meet with fewer problems.
Next Sunday I will give a general explanation about the preliminary practices or guides of Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering, but today I will give more practical details about how to engage in these preliminary practices in retreat.
To begin with we need to do these in conjunction with one specific sadhana (method for attainment), or specific prayers. I suggest that this retreat should be done in conjunction with Lama Chöpa, offering to the Spiritual Guide. This was specifically composed by the Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän, for the preliminary guide of Guru Yoga, and it particularly suitable to engage in a Guru Yoga and Mandala Offering retreat using this very precious sadhana.
During this retreat we should try to do four sessions each day. If we cannot do four sessions then we can do three sessions, but generally, it is best to do four sessions for each day of the two-week retreat.
How should we do the first session of each day? Following the “Offering to the Spiritual Guide” sadhana we begin with, “Going for refuge”, (page 5 of the blue sadhana) and continue as normal with, “Generating aspiring bodhichitta”, “Generating engaging bodhichitta”, “Self-generation as the Deity”, “Purifying the environment and its inhabitants”, “Blessing and offerings”, “Visualising the Field of Merit”, “Inviting the wisdom beings”, and then the seven-limb prayers from, “Prostrating to the Spiritual Guide as the Enjoyment Body”, up to the, “Dedication”, prayer on page 15, which begins with, “I dedicate all the pure white virtues I have gathered here…”.
After we finish this dedication prayer, we begin the practice of making Mandala offerings on reciting Guru Yoga prayers. We first make a long Mandala offering, and then short Mandala offerings together with reciting Guru Yoga prayers for about one hour. Reciting the prayers from, “Going for refuge”, up to the, “Dedication prayer”, and the long Mandala offering prayer takes about thirty minutes.
How to make a long Mandala offering is very clearly presented in “Guide to Dakini Land”. It is very important to read this explanation carefully, understand clearly, and then learn practically how to make a long Mandala offering. After making a long Mandala offering, we then make short Mandala offerings together with the Guru Yoga prayer. There are a number of short Mandala offering prayers we can use, but we can choose the very common prayer, “the ground sprinkled with perfume and spoke with flower… IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI, or if we wish we can use the prayer beginning with the words,‘ I offer without any sense of loss,…‘. The Guru Yoga prayer we use is the “Nine-line Migtsema Prayer” on page 51 of the sadhana.
We recite the Lama Chöpa prayers and the long Mandala offering prayers together out loud, but after finishing the long Mandala offering, we should recite the short Mandala offering and Guru Yoga prayers silently. Reciting these prayers aloud does not have much meaning and the sound will interfere with our concentration, and we will soon get tired. We should recite the prayers quietly so that only we can hear them, or we can recite them mentally. Those who wish to, can count the prayers, but others can just spend an hour reciting the prayers silently without counting them.
To make Mandala offerings we need a mandala set. It is excellent if people have their own complete traditional Mandala set, with a base, rings, and top jewel. But it does not matter if we do not have one; we can use anything, even a small plate, as the Mandala base. There is no need to worry about not having a traditional Mandala offering set, we can still make Mandala offerings without one. To make short Mandala offerings we first hold some grains in our left hand and grip the base, then sprinkle some grains on the base and wipe the base three times clockwise with the inside of the right wrist, then we sprinkle some grain and wipe the base three times counterclockwise. We then sprinkle grain in a clockwise motion to prepare the golden ground, and then in the centre to represent the Great Mountain. We then sprinkle grain at the point closest to us on the base to represent the Eastern continent, and then at the south, west and, north points of the base to represent the Southern, Western, and Northern continents, and then in the east and west to represent the Sun and Moon respectively. In this way we construct a Mandala of seven-points: the Great Mountain, Eastern, Southern, Western, and Northern continents, Sun and Moon. We can understand more about making short Mandela offerings from, “Guide to Dakini Land”.
When making short Mandala offerings without rings it is quite difficult for grain to stay on the base: we just imagine. Those who do not have a proper base can use a small plate, and it is good to use rice. It can be very simple. When Je Tsongkhapa did a long retreat on Mandala offerings, he used a stone as the Mandala base. Using a tea plate as a Mandala base we wipe the base three times clockwise and three times counterclockwise, and then place a heap of rice in the centre, then heaps of rice for the four continents and the Sun and Moon. We then hold the base with grain in both hands and recite a short Mandala offering prayer followed by the Nine-line Migtsema Prayer while concentrating on their meaning, and then we tip the base towards us to complete one Mandala offering and one recitation of the Guru Yoga prayer. In this way we count Mandala offerings and Guru Yoga prayers.
We must therefore memorise the short Mandala offering prayer on the Nine-line Migtsema prayer before the retreat begins. This is one of the reasons why I’m talking to you today. During this week try to memorise these prayers, and during the retreat try to memorise Lama Chöpa.
After one hour of making Mandala offerings and reciting Guru Yoga prayers silently, we can make a long Mandala offering, and then recite for the prayers from the sadhana, chanting if we like, from, “Requesting by remembering his good qualities as explained in the Vinaya scriptures”, on page 15, up to “Single pointed request”, and “Receiving the blessings of the four empowerments”, on page 18. We then sit in silent meditation.
At this point we first meditate on receiving the blessings of the four empowerments, which we can understand from the commentary in, “Great Treasury of Merit”. According to the sadhana it says, “At this point we meditate briefly on receiving the blessings of the four empowerments according to the commentary”. The commentary is, “Great Treasury of Merit”, so we can read this in preparation for the retreat. We meditate briefly on receiving the four empowerments, and then an emanation of our root Guru, Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang, come to the crown of our head, enters our crown, and descends through the central channel to our heart and dissolves into our continually residing mind.
The continually residing mind means our main mind, which is the Very subtle Mind at our heart. Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang, our Spiritual Guide, dissolves into our mind at the heart, and we meditate on our continually resolving mind. But this time we recognise that our continually residing mind possesses three characteristics. Its nature is inseparable from Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang’s mind, since our Spiritual Guide, Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang, has dissolved into our mind. Since most people here have already received a Vajrayogini empowerment our continuously residing mind is in the aspect of the letter BAM. The experience of our mind is that of spontaneous great bliss. In this way, we meditate on a mind experiencing great bliss, having the aspect of the BAM, and with the nature of the mind of our Guru who is that synthesis of Buddha Shakyamuni, Vajradhara, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and by Vajrapani. All these Holy beings are the same nature as our mind, the aspect of our mind is the letter BAM, and we experience a very strong feeling of spontaneous great bliss. We then meditate on this feeling of great bliss, the aspect letter BAM, and our mind having the nature of our root Guru, the synthesis of all Holy beings, and finally, we meditate single-pointedly at our heart inside the central channel on the experience of great bliss. If we wish, after a while we can meditate on the body mandala of Vajrayogini, if we are familiar with doing this, with the thirty-seven Dakinis of the body Mandala arising from the letter BAM.
We spend the remaining time of the session meditating in this way. How long we spend a meditation at this point depends on how much time remains, possibly it will be about twenty minutes. After this meditation we finish the first session of the day by reciting the short dedication prayer from a “Wishfulfilling Jewel”:
Buy this virtue may I quickly,
Attain the enlightened state of the Guru,
And then lead every living being,
Without exception to that ground.
We should also memorize this prayer before the retreat if we have not already done so. This completes the first session.
We begin the second session of the day with three prostrations together with reciting Buddha Shakyamuni’s prayer, “Guru, Founder, Blessed One…”. This is a good way to begin sessions according to our tradition. When we sit on the cushion, we do not need to recite prayers going for refuge, generating bodhichitta, and visualizing and inviting the Field of Merit. As soon as we sit down, we should immediately remember the Field of Merit, Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang, in front of us, surrounded by all the Holy Beings, as we have already visualized.
When then begin reciting the seven-limb prayers, from prostrating to the Spiritual Guide as the Enjoyment Body up to the dedication prayer. We offer one long Mandala offering, followed by an hour-long period of silent meditation of making short Mandala offerings and reciting the Nine-line Migtsema prayers as in the first session. After that we recite the remaining prayers, and after receiving the four empowerments we meditate on great bliss and so forth, as in the first session, finishing with a short dedication to end the session.
The third session should be exactly the same as the second session. All four sessions should be two hours long.
We begin the fourth session in the same way. After sitting down, we immediately remembered the Field of Merit and recite the seven-limb prayer from prostrating to the Spiritual Guide up to the dedication, and then the long Mandala offering followed by short Mandala offerings and Guru Yoga prayers in silence for about one-hour. This is followed by the remaining prayers: the requesting prayers, the single-pointed request, and receiving the blessings of the four empowerments, but in the fourth session we do not need to meditate for a long time at this point. We just briefly receive the blessings of the four empowerments, and then continue with the remaining prayers starting with, “How to rely upon our Spiritual Guide, the root of spiritual paths”, on page 19, up to and including, “Gathering and dissolving the Field of Merit”, on page 27. After gathering and dissolving the Field of Merit, we stop and meditate. In the sadhana it says, “at this point we can train in the practice of Vajrayana Mahamudra”. Previously I explained the meditation at the heart on the letter BAM, and so forth. This is actually Vajrayana Mahamudra meditation. Through this we are establishing spontaneous great bliss, which is the very essence of Vajrayana Mahamudra.
We therefore do the same meditation at this point. We dissolve our Guru into our continually residing mind, our very subtle mind, at our heart inside the central channel. Because of this our mind now has three characteristics. Its essence or nature is our Spiritual Guide. Buddha Vajradhara, Buddha Shakyamuni, Je Tsongkhapa, and Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani. Because our mind is now inseparable from Vajradhara its real nature is also great bliss. Vajradhara mean “Vajra Holder”. In this context, “vajra”, means “great bliss”, and “Holder” means that Vajradhara’s real nature is the spontaneous great bliss of the omniscient mind. Since our mind has become inseparable from Guru Vajradhara in reality then we are experiencing great bliss. We must recognise at this point that the nature of our continually residing mind, our very subtle mind, at our heart, is these Holy beings – our root Guru, Je Tsongkhapa, Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Vajradhara, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani. Our mind has the aspect of the letter BAM, and what is experienced is mainly that of great bliss. We concentrate on our experience of bliss and remain on this single-pointedly.
We should learn how to do these meditations. This is training Vajrayana Mahamudra. After doing this for a while we recite the dedication and auspicious prayers to complete the fourth session.
The next day we should do the same, and in this way continue until the end of the retreat. This is how to do a retreat on Mandala offerings and Guru Yoga in conjunction with, “Offering to the Spiritual Guide”. Although I have explained how to do the retreat, it is most important that we read and think about the practice, such as how to visualise the Field of Merit. We must understand clearly who is Lama Losang Tubwang Dorje Chang, or Guru Sumati Muni Vajradhara in Sanskrit – Lama or Guru (our Spiritual Guide), Losang or Sumati (that is, Losang Dragpa, Je Tsongkhapa), Tubwang or Muni (Buddha Shakyamuni), and Dorje Chang or Vajradhara – the principal object of our making prostrations, offerings and requests. This one person or one Holy being is the synthesis of all these four enlightened beings.
We need to understand what Guru Yoga means, and we must clearly understand the purpose of practising Guru Yoga. Through understanding this then we stop any confusion or doubts, and then concentrate on whatever decision we make without any hesitation.
Guru Yoga is a special specific method to receive the blessing of all the Buddhas and holy beings. At the beginning Guru Yoga may seem something traditional and may be very difficult for us to accept. Until they get used to what guru Yoga means some people may misunderstand and feel unhappy with Guru Yoga. Some people are unhappy even hearing the word “guru”.
In reality Guru means Spiritual guide, or Spiritual Teacher. As Buddhists we do not believe in just wanting to be helped without doing something from their own side. We do not just wait for Buddha to lead us from suffering, saying, “Oh, Buddha please pacify my suffering”. As Buddhists we do not do this. Buddhists try from their own side in a practical way to establish special good qualities within their minds. This brings happiness from within, without the need to depend upon external conditions. Experiencing reality from our side through gaining Dharma realisations by having listened to, studied, and understood the Dharma, will solve our problems and in this way we can find real happiness from within our mind.
Normally, everybody seeks happiness from the development of external material things, but this does not give rise to pure happiness. Instead of giving happiness it only increases our suffering. We already have experience of this, so we need from our side to gain happiness from a different source. Everybody from beginningless time up to now has tries to gain happiness by improving material; things and external conditions but suffering and problems have only increased. Human suffering has not decreased but increased. We can see this very clearly.
So, Buddha is giving us very special advice that we must seek happiness from within. We must solve our problems by gaining Dharma experience and realisations, improving our mind, our mental capacity, and not by improving external conditions. This is Buddha’s idea. Everybody encourages us to improve our worldly activity, and our worldly samsaric development. Only Buddha and his followers encourage us to follow a different way, encouraging us to improve our minds. This is the real truth. We can understand this very clearly.
What we need is really very little. Most of the things which we find useful have already been produced. It is mainly useless things which are increasing more and more, what we need is a healthy body, and a happy mind. To have a healthy body we need a qualified doctor, and we need special medicine. Actually, qualified doctors and special medicine are very difficult to find nowadays. Buddha is the supreme doctor and Dharma is the best medicine. Only by taking refuge in Buddha and Dharma can we be cured of all our diseases. External medicine and ordinary doctors can temporarily make us feel a little bit more comfortable, but in reality, human health is becoming worse not improving. This indicates that the qualifications of doctors and the quality of medicine are decreasing instead of increasing. As well as this, dangers from weapons of war and so on are ever increasing.
In this way, no matter how much we improve external conditions it will not increase human happiness. So, Buddha’s advice that we must seek happiness form within our mind is very true. We must establish real happiness, and we must solve our daily human problems and suffering by gaining Dharma realisations. This is very true.
So, from our side we need to do something practically. What should we do? We first need to understand the Dharma which is Buddha’s teaching. Buddha encourages us to seek happiness by improving our mind, our mental capacity, and he also gives us very special methods for developing our mind, giving many different levels of teachings. These teachings are called the Dharma.
First, we need to understand the Dharma and then we need to practice it. We need to practise Dharma because we need to gain realisations and experience of the Dharma. Many people are doing this, studying and trying to practise but they have problems and difficulties in gaining actual realisations and find it difficult to make progress even in gaining a clear understanding. Even if they have a clear understanding and try to put all their understanding into practice it is still difficult to gain realised experience. Why? This is because of lacking blessings from their Spiritual guide and from Holy beings. Although we may understand Buddha’s teaching very clearly and try to practice, we find it difficult to gain Dharma experience or realisations because of not receiving blessings.
If we do not receive blessings from Buddha and other Holy beings, then it is difficult for our understanding and practice of Dharma to lead to great results. It is difficult to make any progress. For example, if we plant vegetables in our garden, even if we gather together all the necessary conditions but lack water it will be difficult for the vegetables to grow. The other conditions may be perfect but if we lack water, it will be impossible to grow vegetables. Similarly, even though we may understand Dharma through study and even though we try to practice, without receiving blessings from our Spiritual Guide then if it looks like we have a garden with every condition gathered except water.
On our consciousness there are many seeds of Dharma realisations, seeds for realising renunciation, bodhichitta, the correct view of emptiness, and generation and completion stages. However, if we do not receive blessings from Holy beings, it is difficult for these seeds to ripen and grow. Because of this it is difficult to develop Dharma realisations, and without Dharma realisations we have no protection in our mind. Since there is no other real protection, we need to protect ourselves by gaining Dharma realisations. Our real protection are Dharma realisations, which we call Dharma Jewels. We need to grow within our consciousness crop-like Dharma realisations, but this totally depends upon receiving water-like blessings from Holy beings. Unless we do this, we will be powerless from our side. We can prepare other conditions such as understanding Dharma and trying to put it into practice, but the most important condition is receiving blessings.
Without receiving blessings, it is very difficult to develop even temporarily a peaceful, calm mind. Even if occasionally we develop a calm mind it will last for one or two minutes before it changes. So, the development of a peaceful, calm mind totally depends upon receiving blessings from Buddhas. Otherwise, from our side it is very difficult to cultivate a peaceful, calm mind, and even if we develop one it will quickly change. So, without receiving blessings from Buddhas it is very difficult to maintain a peaceful state of mind, and our happiness totally depends upon a peaceful mind.
We receive blessing form the Buddhas by making a special connection, or relationship with our Spiritual Guide by developing faith, making prostrations, offerings and so forth. With faith we visualise our root Guru in the aspect of Buddha, and then we make prostrations, offerings and requests. This is Guru Yoga, the essential method for receiving blessing from all the Buddhas. In summary, if we want to experience happiness, we need to cultivate a peaceful clam mind, and to develop and maintain a peaceful mind we must receive blessings from our Spiritual Guide, and we do this through Guru Yoga, developing faith and with faith making prostrations, offerings and so forth.
In reality therefore, Guru Yoga is the principal method for establishing happiness, and happiness is something we all want. Guru yoga is the principal method for gaining Dharma realisations, which are our main protection. Only by gaining Dharma realisations can we protect ourselves and others. Gaining material external things cannot solve out problems or those of others. If we think in this way we can see how important Guru Yoga is; it is a very special Mahayana technology, a special logical method to establish special qualities and realisations of pure happiness, to solve our own problems and benefit others.
We must read as preparation for our retreat the section on Reliance on the Spiritual Guide from, “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”. Relying on the Spiritual Guide is the root of the spiritual path. It is the very first practice at the beginning of the Stages of the Path, and whether the remaining practices are successful or not depends upon relying on our Spiritual Guide. We must, therefore, improve our practice by relying on our Spiritual Guide, first by reading authentic books and then through contemplation, understanding and realising the meaning of this explanation. Through this we will generate strong faith, and when we have strong and stable faith our practice of Guru Yoga will become meaningful and lead to great results.
As I said before (on another occasion), developing faith in our Spiritual Guide is like the sun shining on the snow mountain of our Spiritual Guide, causing the water-like blessings to fall into our consciousness. From our side we first need the sun of our faith to rise and shine on the snow mountain of our Spiritual Guide, and then the water of blessings will fall upon our mind. Through receiving the waters of blessings upon our mind all our seeds of Dharma realisations, such as renunciation, bodhichitta, correct view of emptiness, generation stage and completion stage will grow and ripen as realisations. For this reason, we need to practice Guru Yoga. Practicing Guru Yoga is very simple. It is mainly working with out mind, keeping a pure mind, stopping doubts and confusion, and without any hesitation relying sincerely upon our Spiritual Guide.
In, “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”, the section on relying on the Spiritual Guide has two parts: relying on the Spiritual Guide by means of thought and relying on the Spiritual Guide by means of actions. Relying by means of thought means that we need improve our faith in our Spiritual guide by contemplating his nature and qualities.
The explanation in, “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”, is very powerful and beneficial. I can take one example. Faith is most important for Dharma practitioners. Even other religions believe this; faith is their life. Also, for we Buddhists, faith is our life. Without faith our mind is like dry seeds from which no good qualities will grow, so faith is very important. But it is difficult for faith to come naturally; we need a special way of thinking in order to develop it. “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”, mentions many different methods for developing and improving faith. We must not ignore these instructions but regard them as very precious. Nowhere else will you find such good explanations. Now is the time to use these instructions. Through this we will develop strong and unchangeable faith, and then we should use this to gain realisations.
With faith our mind becomes totally pure. All negative conceptions, negative thought, and delusions temporarily disappear and become unmanifest, and only a pure mind remains, so there are never any problems. With such a pure mind we can very easily establish every realisation of both Sutra and tantra. So, faith is a very important Dharma realisation.
How can we develop and maintain faith? The specific methods to maintain our faith in the Spiritual Guide are in “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”. There are no other methods, and if we do not reply on special methods such as these then it is difficult to develop faith, and even if we do then our faith may immediately change. We therefore need to follow such instructions and not ignore them. For example, we can say to ourselves, “If I do not believe in what the Buddha says then I can never say that I am Buddhist”. We should make a decision, “If I do not believe in the Buddha then I am not a Buddhist and from now on I should never tell anyone that I am a Buddhist. But if I am a Buddhist I must believe in the truth of the Buddha’s speech”. Buddha Vajradhara said in the Tantra call, “Two Examination Tantra”, “in degenerate times when the practice of pure Buddhadharma declines I myself will manifest as a Spiritual Guide, appearing as an ordinary being. You should understand that I am that Spiritual Guide and respect him or her”. We should then ask ourselves, “Who is the Spiritual Guide who appears as an ordinary being and who is the manifestation of Buddha Vajradhara? Without doubt it must be my Teacher who is working so hard to encourage me, giving me teachings and so on. If its is not my Spiritual Guide, then who else could it be? Could it be the British Queen or the American President? No, there can be no other possibility other than the person who right now is working so hard to encourage me to follow the spiritual path who must be this very emanation of Vajradhara, otherwise who else could it be?’. Then we make the determination, “From now I must decide that my Spiritual Guide is the emanation of Buddha Vajradhara. Of course, Buddha can appear as an ordinary being. Buddha Vajradhara specifically manifests as an ordinary being because if he did not appear as an ordinary being, then I would not be able to see him. Because my mind is impure, I cannot make any connection with the Buddhas unless they manifest in ordinary forms. If Buddha Vajradhara and Buddha Shakyamuni always remained in the form of pure beings, then ordinary people like myself, would not be able to see them and make contact with them. So that ordinary people can make a direct connection and relationship with them Buddhas emanate as ordinary looking Spiritual Guides, looking exactly the same as we do. My Spiritual Guide sometimes appears to experience sickness, he sometimes appears to experience anger, he seems to experience the same things as I do but his activity of benefitting sentient beings is the same as the activity of a Buddha. His aspect is ordinary because if it was not then I would not be able to see and make connection with him”.
So, we should think that our Spiritual Guide is very kind in showing an ordinary form for the benefit of impure beings. He is very kind for if he did not show himself as an impure being then how could we see him, and if we could not see him then how could we have a relationship with him? If he remained in the form of a pure being, an enlightened being, a Supreme Emanation body, and Enjoyment Body, or a Truth Body then we would not be able to see him and make a connection with him; we could not even say, “Hello!”. Through his kindness he is showing himself in a form exactly likes ours, and because of this we have the chance to make a connection with him. Because he is the representative of all the Buddhas, through making a connection with him we are making a connection with all Buddhas.
Choosing one specific Spiritual Teacher and regarding him as the representative of the Buddha is an essential characteristic of Buddhism. Through this Spiritual Teacher we are making a connection and relationship with all the Buddhas and thus we receive blessings upon our mental continuum. We then have a great chance to develop and maintain a peaceful and calm mind and other Dharma realisations, and this is very important, as you know. For these reasons we therefore need to practice Guru Yoga.
As I have already said, even temporary happiness depends upon developing a calm and peaceful mind. If we develop a peaceful mind, then we are really happy. If our mind is not peaceful, then no matter how good our external conditions are we will never be happy. If our mind is peaceful and calm then it does not matter whether our external conditions are good or bad, we can still experience happiness. We know that if, for example, we become angry then it does not matter how much good food or how many good friends we have, we will never experience happiness.
Through this we can understand how important it is to develop and maintain peaceful and calm minds to solve our problems and experience happiness. This depends upon our receiving blessings from Holy Beings. From our side alone it is very difficult to cultivate happiness. Even generating a peaceful, calm mind is very difficult, as you know. Through receiving blessings such as a mind sometimes comes, not only for human beings but also for animals and other sentient beings. Due to receiving Buddha’s blessings they develop a peaceful and calm mind and thus experience some happiness. So therefore, we can see how important it is to receive blessings from Buddhas and Holy Beings, and Guru Yoga is the specific method to receive blessings.
In summary we need to practice Guru Yoga because we need pure happiness, and we need the protection of Dharma realisations in our mind. These depend upon receiving blessings. Although we already have the seeds of Dharma realisations in our mind, to ripen these seeds depends upon water of the Guru’s blessings. Even if we are a very learned person and know the entire Dharam of both Sutra and Tantra, even if we become a scholar and great teacher, if we do not receive blessings from our Spiritual Guide our Dharma activity will not bring great results. In reality out mind is totally dry, so it will be difficult to gain any experience of the Dharma for ourself, and it will be very difficult to share anything with others. We will have no basis to share our experience with other people, so our teachings will just become words, and words alone cannot give much help to other people.
Receiving blessings is most important for those whoa re hoping to gain Dharma realisations, and even fort hose who have no wish to gain Dharma realisations but who are seeking ordinary happiness.
For the next few days before the retreat I would like to suggest that you read the section on relying on the Spiritual Guide in, “Joyful Path of Good Fortune”, to improve your faith in your Spiritual Guide, and then if possible try to read, “Heart Jewel”, to improve your faith in Je Tsongkhapa. Improving faith is the real preparation. Then we should memorise the short Mandala offering prayer and the Nine-line Migtsema prayer, and also read important section from, Great Treasury of Merit”, such as how to visualise the Field of Accumulating Merit according to this sadhana. Try to understand these things well, and in this may we will make our retreat meaningful.
It is my great hope that this retreat will make our practice of the Lama Chöpa more meaningful. Normally we do Lama Chöpa twice a month. May be for a few people there is real meaning in this, but perhaps many just come and enjoy the chanting. Of course, this is very good because it is virtuous activity, and we are accumulating merit and purifying negativity, but without meditating and concentrating on the meaning of the words, then just chanting the words will not lead to very great results. We must concentrate on the meaning. While reciting, “Offering to The Spiritual guide”, we should chant properly, but the mind must concentrate on the meaning of the words. We must be thinking about what the words mean, otherwise in the future there will be a great danger of never getting any good feeling from what we are reciting, Many Tibetans have this experience. They constantly pray and recite, but because they never think about and concentrate on the meaning of the words, their recitation doesn’t give them any special feeling. It looks like chanting and singing songs, but it doesn’t give any realisation or good experience.
Whilst we recite, at the same time we must stop distractions and concentrate on the meaning of what we are reciting, and through becoming more and more familiar with the meaning we will develop realisations. Whilst we are reciting, we should try to become familiar with the meaning, and this will lead to Dharma realisations. Through doing pujas many times in this way, Dharma realisations will come. If we never think about the meaning of the words we are reciting. We will develop this as a bad habit and then whatever we recite will never give us any good feeling. From now on we must avoid this bad habit and develop the good habit of concentrating on the meaning of the words we are reciting. Now that we are chanting in English it is easy to understand the meaning of what we are reciting. Without discrimination try to concentrate on our understanding of the meaning of the words. If we recite pujas like this, concentrating on the meaning together with recitation, then the more and more pujas we do the more our experience of Dharma will increase. This is the real retreat. If we never concentrate on the meaning of the puja we recite, then we easily become bored and recitation will never give us any good feeling, and the number of people doing the retreat will decrease. So, it is very important to concentrate on the meaning while reciting.
This is all for today. I will also give a short talk here next Sunday. Thank you.