This is a short account of the month of miracles in Shravasti and how Buddha Shakyamuni skillfully brought the Dharma to over ninety-thousand people with mistaken views at that time.
The leaders of India’s six main philosophical schools had challenged the Buddha to a contest of miraculous powers many times as he wandered through the surrounding kingdoms. Six evil, heretic teachers led by Purnakasyapa had become mad with resentment and jealousy against the Buddha, and tried to engage him in a contest of miraculous powers, which Mara had persuaded them they could win. King Bimbisara laughed them out of court when they petitioned him, but they persisted, and finally he went to request the Buddha’s participation. The Buddha agreed, but stipulated that he would set the time of the contest. A teaching throne was set up in a large arena at Rajagrha, but shortly before the proposed contest, the Buddha and all his followers departed for Vaisali. Seeing this as an admission of defeat, the six heretic teachers were elated, and rushed after the Buddha, with their ninety thousand followers, and after them, king Bimbisara and his entourage. The heretics urged the Licchavi king to stage the contest there, and the Buddha again accepted, but said he would set the time.
The Buddha then moved on, from one city to the next; each time giving the same answer, and gathering a new following, until they came to Shravasti. The heretics soon arrived, and remonstrate with king Prasenajit not to allow any further postponement, and the Buddha assented that the time had now come. Buddha was fifty-seven years old when the conditions were most auspicious to accept this challenge. King Prasenajit built a hall in Shravasti especially for the event; in it seven thrones were erected. On the new moon of the first month of spring (what is now known as losar, the beginning of the Tibetan new year), the six other teachers took their seats and Shakyamuni came to his flying through the air. He was honored with extensive offerings. He then sent forth fire and water from his body and the hall was destroyed and reformed as a transparent palace. Before the kings of all the capitals he had passed through, the six heretics and their followers, and a huge assembly of gods and humans, he performed inconceivable miracles for the next fifteen days. On the first day, he created a bounteous tree by planting his tooth-pick in the ground, causing a great tree to spring up, fragrant and fully laden with flowers and ripe fruit. On the second day, he manifested two jeweled mountains. On the third day, he produced a jewel lake. On the fourth, voices came from the lake explaining all aspects of the Dharma. On the fifth day, golden light spread from his countenance and filled the world, purifying the emotional poisons of sentient beings. On the sixth day, he allowed people to read each others’ thoughts. On the seventh, he transformed his benefactors into world-rulers. On the eighth day, the Buddha pressed down on the throne with the fingers of his right hand, and with a thunderous roar, the fierce Vajrapani appeared from beneath, brandishing a flaming vajra at the heretic teachers. Four beings in Vajrapani’s retinue scattered the heretics and smashed their thrones. The heretics were so scared that they leapt into the river. Then, the Buddha radiated eighty four thousand rays of light, one from each pore of his skin, which filled the sky. On the tip of each ray was a lotus, and on each lotus a buddha, with attendants, teaching Dharma, and all were amazed, and some were liberated by the sight of it.
In these eight days Buddha Shakyamuni utterly defeated his opponents. The ninety thousand followers of the six heretic teachers adopted the Buddhist doctrines, joined the monkhood, and later became arhats. For a further seven days Buddha Shakyamuni continued to show miracles and give teachings to the great assembly.
(Extracted from The Eight Places of Buddhist Pilgrimage by Jeremy Russell; Teachings from Tushita: Journal of Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre; and The Twelve Deeds of the Buddha by Matthew Akester, Shechen Publications, 2003.)
On the afternoon of the 11th day of the First Month of Tibetan Iron Snake Year 2128, during the first week of the auspicious Miracle Month, Venerable Lama Chimed Namgyal, wearing his robes and sitting in the meditation position, passed from this earthly realm into parinirvana and rested in the clear light of the Dharmakaya State. Khen Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsewang, Ani Lorraine and Mimi Bailey were present when Lama entered parinirvana. At that moment, the character lines left Lama’s face and his complexion glowed, exhibiting a much younger appearance. There was a profound stillness in the room and Vajrasattva practice continued.
Over the next three days, until it was necessary to move Lama to the crematory, his body was not touched and one of the PBC members who entered his room to sit with him, some 24 hours after his passing, reported that if she had not known that Lama had passed, she would have thought he was meditating – just as we had observed many times over the years that he lived at Mandarava House.
When Lama was moved to the crematory on the third day, his skin was tender, smooth and youthful and his body was as flexible as a living person. Following Lama’s cremation, the Khenpos found relics among his remains. As stated in the Tantra by Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava, these signs are indications that a highly realized being has passed to the Dharmakaya State… (Continued in downloadable PDF)
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THE THREE KAYAS ARE ACTUALLY ASPECTS OF ENLIGHTENED BEING. They are the Buddha reflected in three
different ways in order to help sentient beings. The meaning of the Sanskrit word Buddha is awakened or fully realized one. What is realized? The original nature is realized perfectly as it is, with nothing changed or exaggerated but as it is at both the relative and absolute levels or as relative and absolute truth. One who is awake to this understanding is a Buddha. This realization involves the complete transcendence of obscurations. We haven’t fully awakened to our true nature because of these obscurations whereas Buddha Shakyamuni realized the original nature perfectly because he was purified of obscurations.
The word ‘buddha’ refers to all realized beings. It is not that only one particular enlightened being is known as Buddha. Those who realized their true nature in the past are known as buddhas, those who realize it now may be called buddhas, and those who come to this realization in the future will be known as buddhas. “Buddha” is a general term which does not merely refer to a single individual but to every realized being.
The whole purpose of enlightened beings is to benefit sentient beings. In order to do this, they appear in many different forms or bodies. The principle emanations are known as the three kayas: dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. There are even four and five kayas, divided further to qualify other manifestations of enlightened being, but it is all one Buddha. Kaya is a Sanskrit word that means “body,” in the sense of many qualities gathered together, joined and united as one. Kaya here refers to the embodiments of loving-kindness, compassion, wisdom, and skillful
means which appear in the world to help sentient beings… (Continued in downloadable PDF)
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We are together here tonight for a special occasion: to practice the dharma. With joyful effort, we are going to dedicate our time and concentration toward the development of inner peace and wisdom for everyone.
To begin, we should have the right motivation. This is known as bodhicitta, an attitude of love and compassion for all sentient beings, including oneself. We can understand the value of bodhicitta in a very practical way, through direct perception and our own experience, without having to use deduction or inference. In both worldly life and dharma practice, it is very important to develop an attitude of love and compassion. It brings joy and happiness to everyone. As Mahayana practitioners and followers of the Buddha, we should meditate on bodhicitta all the time. This is our principle practice no matter what other disciplines we perform. All activities must be based on this attitude.
Having aroused bodhicitta within our hearts and minds, we should listen to the teachings. Shakyamuni Buddha offered many different levels of instruction in order to help all sentient beings realize enlightenment. Tonight’s teaching is the condensed essence of the Buddhadharma which was revealed by Guru Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava was born about eight years after the Buddha’s mahaparinirvana. Over a thousand years later, in the eighth century, he came to Tibet and performed many miraculous activities for the sake of awakening sentient beings. He didn’t follow conventional rules and regulations but went beyond egoic habit patterns altogether. His activities were an expression of transcendental wisdom and he helped guide many sentient beings toward buddhahood.
Guru Padmasambhava predicted that in the future, there would be people who did not believe that he was real or that anyone could do such miraculous things. As a testimony, he left hand prints in the rocks around four different lakes in Tibet which can still be seen. He said, “I have definitely come to Tibet. These are my monuments.” Guru Rinpoche also left four footprints in the four directions, two in Tibet and two elsewhere, south of Tibet. He even left his body print in the mountains of Bhutan, near the Tibetan border. This is not just a story or a myth. You can still go there on pilgrimage and see his whole body impression in solid rock. These are reminders that Guru Padmasambhava actually came into this world and shared his wisdom.
There are 1,900 different versions of the life story of Guru Padmasambhava. The most popular one in this country is known as The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava. It contains about 110 different activities which can be condensed into eleven principal aspects, including accounts of the eight emanations of Guru Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava is a totally enlightened being. He is the supreme embodiment of all buddhas. On the highest level of the dharmakaya, Guru Padmasambhava is known as Samantabhadra or Vajradhara. The sambhogakaya Guru Padmasambhava is known as Vajrasattva, and in nirmanakaya form he is known as Buddha Shakyamuni or Guru Padmasambhava himself. Guru Padmasambhava proclaimed that he is no other than the Trikaya Buddha. He is also known as the Buddha of the degenerate era. His guidance, protection, loving-kindness and wisdom activities are something special to all Tibetans.
All his miraculous powers can be condensed into five different groups, those of:
1) the body
2) the speech
3) the mind
4) qualities and
Guru Padmasambhava’s miraculous bodily aspect was first demonstrated by his manner of coming into the world. He appeared spontaneously in the center of a lotus. Abiding in a rainbow-body, replete with transcendental wisdom, Guru Padmasambhava is also free from aging, sickness and death. These are some of his primary bodily attainments.
Guru Padmasambhava’s power of speech was made evident through his discourses on the Vajrayana and inner tantric teachings. This is really his specialty, because he is the Buddha of the degenerate era and the guru for high level practitioners. He is also known as the Buddha of tantra. His speech is very powerful. Merely by hearing his words, even mighty demons are completely subdued. Their minds and attitudes transform into the bodhicitta state of love and compassion. The supreme activity of Guru Padmasambhava’s mind is the realization of transcendental wisdom. He sees everything perfectly in one moment without mixing anything up. Whether an event is in the past, present or future, he is always clear in relation to the phenomena of the three times. All his predictions from the eighth century continue to be amazingly accurate even to the present day, for the world in general, and particularly for the situation in Tibet. This is an example of his wisdom mind.
One special quality of his transcendental activity is that Guru Padmasambhava does not just manifest as one buddha. He may seem like that, but he can appear in various ways at once, without being limited to a single embodiment. For example, he manifested as an ordained monk, a yogi and a lay practitioner, all at the same time. Outside of the Nyingma lineage, in the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, there are many masters who have had visions of Guru Padmasambhava and received teachings which greatly improved their realizations. He appears in many different forms in order to benefit all sentient beings throughout the three times and ten directions. By meditating on Guru Padmasambhava, practitioners remove obscurations, heal disease and sicknesses, pacify mental unrest, resolve psychological and emotional problems, and augment their realization of peace and happiness. Regular practice of guru-yoga overpowers and tames all kinds of wild conceptions and dualistic habitpatterns. It subdues ego-clinging, ignorance, attachment and anger. By practicing on Guru Padmasambhava, we accomplish all four of the enlightened activities.
The text for this teaching was originally taught by Guru Padmasambhava. It is a combination of both Sutra and Vajrayana teachings. It is known as the “Lam-rim Rinchen Ph’ung-pa.” Lam-rim indicates that this is a graduated path teaching aimed at a progressive movement toward enlightenment. Rinchen Ph’ung-pa means “Heap of Precious Jewels.” It starts with Sutra topics and explains how to develop to attain the highest realization of Dzogchen.
Guru Padmasambhava begins by paying homage to Dorje-sempa or the Buddha Vajrasattva. Dorje-sempa has two aspects: external and internal. We have all seen beautiful portrayals of the external Vajrasattva in thangkas. These depict the relative appearance of Vajrasattva as a sambhogakaya buddha. The inner way of understanding is indicated through looking closely at the terms; dorje in Tibetan and vajra in Sanskrit refer to indestructible wisdom. Sempa or sattva denote compassion. The union of compassion and wisdom is the absolute Vajrasattva and this is none other than one’s own primordial nature of mind.
The term “homage” has many different meanings. A realized being is known as an object of homage. Esoterically, paying homage means being in mystical union with the primordial nature. You connect directly with what you are in truth. By invoking and revering that transcendental reality, you merge with it and unite without any separation. This is known as absolute homage.
After paying homage to Vajrasattva, Guru Padmasambhava reveals his reasons for giving these particular teachings in one shloka or verse of four lines. I will give you a rough translation. He says that we should observe and think carefully about all forms of knowledge and not restrict ourselves, but to keep our minds open to every aspect of existence. This is an admonition to be impartially aware of everything which surrounds us. When you do that, you will understand how situations develop and learn to recognize how mind and perception coordinate and create our experience of the world. You will discover something mystical about what is happening here. Is your experience really the way it seems? Why is it that way? When you really inquire, you will find amazing answers.
One’s mind is the source of everything that is going on. All this motion is known as samsara, and is only within the mind. There is no samsara to be found other than the one within the domain of conceptual and dualistic consciousness. Enlightenment or nirvana is beyond conception, mundane ideas and habit patterns.
After a while, we become tired of samsara. We’ve been through so many changes while clinging to this mind and its karmas that eventually we might be moved to begin approaching what is beyond the confines of egoity and conception: primordial wisdom. Guru Padmasambhava has given us “A Heap of Precious Jewels” to awaken this wisdom, so as to bring about a clearer understanding of all samsaric phenomena and samsaric attitudes, to penetrate habit patterns and completely reveal our primordial nature… (Continued in downloadable PDF)
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The Four Immeasurables (tshad-med bzhi, Skt. apramana, Pali: appamanna) are:
Immeasurable love (byams-pa, Skt: maitri, Pali: metta),
Immeasurable compassion (snying-rje, Skt: karuna, Pali: karuna),
Immeasurable joy (dga’-ba, Skt: mudita, Pali: mudita),
Immeasurable equanimity (btang-snyoms, Skt: upeksha, Pali: upekkha).
The Four Immeasurables as a Traditional Tibetan Buddhist Prayer
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.
The following section is excerpted from The Door to Inconceivable Wisdom and Compassion by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
…There was a very famous Dzogchen master in the thirteenth century Tibet named Longchenpa who taught that the entire conduct of the bodhisattva can be summarized into two aspects: (1) aspirational bodhichitta and (2) actualizing bodhichitta.
Longchenpa went on to explain that the aspirational bodhichitta is actually based on the Four Immeasurables: (1) Immeasurable Love, (2) Immeasurable Compassion, (3) Immeasurable Joy, and (4) Immeasurable Equanimity.
Because sentient beings are as limitless as space, our practice of these four virtues must also be immeasurable. We can begin developing these in our heart by chanting aspirational prayers such as, “May all beings be happy, may the causes of their suffering be removed, may they always be joyful, and may they all remain in a state of equanimity.”
The aspirational bodhichitta is mainly applied at the levels of mind and speech. Through practice, it becomes the cause of the actualized bodhichitta. Once we accomplish this, we can perform actions with the confidence arising from our intention to benefit others.
The first of the Four Immeasurables is loving-kindness. Presently our loving-kindness is very partial, because we just love ourselves and our close friends, family members and relatives. Love is something we can experience quite easily, and therefore through practice it can become profound and vast.
The Buddha Shakyamuni taught that there are one thousand and one buddhas that will come into our world during the superior aeon. Among those, three buddhas have already come, so Shakyamuni is the fourth. The next, or the fifth buddha, is known as Maitreya in Sanskrit, which means “loving-kindness.” Buddha Shakyamuni spoke a lot about this future buddha in the Mahayana Maitreya Sutra. He taught that Maitreya would realize buddhahood solely through the practice of loving-kindness.
When you really love, you feel respect for the person or beings who are the object of your love. This attitude of loving-kindness expands and increases by seeing and appreciating their good qualities. True love is based in pure perception and a respectful attitude toward yourself and others.
If you decided to be loving, you can easily develop the other three immeasurables: compassion, a joyful attitude, and equanimity. So it is important that we know the value of love before we begin the other practices. The benefit of love is a very powerful and special. As soon as you generate an attitude of loving-kindness, you will start feeling more calm and peaceful, and naturally share this feeling with other beings. Your whole field of perception will be changed into something beautiful.
When you radiate true love, in that moment everyone is your friend. You will be able to see how nice everyone is, and they will see that you are also very special. Another power of loving-kindness lies in its ability to overcome serious obstacles. When Buddha Shakyamuni sat beneath the bodhi tree before his enlightenment, hundreds of demons were attacking him, but he conquered all of them by not getting angry. By simply meditating on loving-kindness, he transformed each one into an ornament of his enlightenment.
Being open to the value of loving-kindness, one can easily develop the precious attitude of compassion because its nature is the wish to remove the suffering of all beings. Love moves you to offer them some assistance to get through and free them from misery. It weakens the structure of ego-clinging so that your true nature can break through and reach out to all sentient beings, sharing this open-hearted attitude with everyone. Of course, you can feel compassion for yourself as well, but it is primarily practiced in relation to other beings. Compassion helps create an opening or gap in your normal habit patterns and weakens ego-clinging.
You have good reason to feel compassion for others, because every being is suffering. Although their intentions are quite normal and similar to your own—to be happy, joyous, and peaceful, their aspirations and what is actually happening are at variance. We would like to be happy, but often, if not constantly, we are facing many difficulties, misfortunes, and hardships.
Sentient beings normally act with good intentions. Even in trivial activities we are trying to achieve some joy, peace, and freedom for ourselves, either directly or indirectly. Animals are doing this as well. In running, flying, digging, and moving, by day or night, their final goal is to achieve some kind of comfort according to their understanding. In this way, the common goal of all sentient beings is the same. We have similar desires and objectives, yet we do not achieve what we want all the time. Why not? The major obstacle is ignorance.
…We already have the Four Immeasurables within the natural state of our mind, so practice is actually a matter of progressively clarifying and revealing them. To do this, we have to be purified of ego-clinging, grasping, and attachment to dualistic knowledge and experience. Such activities obscure our primordial nature and put severe limitations on these four precious powers.
As I have indicated many times, all beings already enjoy some degree of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. They are not qualities that we simply do not have or have never experienced. They are not beyond us in any way, like something we might discover out in space. The Buddha and Shantideva both explain that these four are naturally inherent in our being.
When practiced impartially and consistently, love, compassion, equanimity, and joy lead to buddhahood. Even when first beginning their cultivation, you will start to awaken to the inconceivable qualities of the buddha-mind. Everybody has the opportunity to grow in this way and realize buddha-nature. This wondrous Truth is the supreme potential we have to develop.
…People often wonder why there are such great benefits associated with practicing bodhichitta. To account for this, Buddha Shakyamuni gave four reasons.
First of all, when you grow in this way, you are not just doing it for one or two people. You are developing love and compassion for all beings, so there is great cause for an infinite expansion of merit. The practice truly brings joy and happiness to all sentient beings directly or indirectly, so it is a great source of spiritual energy and miraculous abilities. This is the first reason given to account for the immeasurable power associated with the practice of bodhichitta: the infinity of the objective focus—all sentient beings.
The second reason given is that, when considering the experience of all sentient beings, you feel from the bottom of your heart that you would like to remove their misery. Since you are no only thinking of the misery of one or two friends, but you are aspiring to remove the suffering of all beings, the power of this virtue expands infinitely. This is the inconceivable power arising from the aspiration to relieve all of their suffering.
The third power is related to the fact that you would like to establish them in the unceasing happiness and joy of enlightenment. This is called the power of giving, the great aspiration to share happiness with all beings.
The fourth power is associated with tireless endurance. As we have already mentioned many times, the bodhisattva’s endeavor is not just for one or two days. His or her commitment perseveres until every single sentient being is totally free from suffering and realizes ultimate enlightenment.
On the basis of these four great factors, bodhisattvas accumulate great power to remove the troubles and obscurations of self and others.
The Buddha Shakyamuni’s Words on Kindness in the Metta Sutta
This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness, and who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be; whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen, those living near and far away, those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another, nor despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world, spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths; outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views, the pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
being freed from all sense desires, is not born again into this world.