Meditation on the Buddha
Meditation on the Buddha
Begin by observing your breath for a few minutes to calm the mind.
Think of the qualities of infinite love, compassion, wisdom, skillful means, and other wonderful qualities you aspire to develop. What would it feel like to be those qualities? Get a sense of the expansiveness and peace of having a wise and kind heart that reaches out impartially to work for the benefit of all beings.
Those qualities of love, compassion, wisdom, skillful means, and so on now appear in the physical form of the Buddha, in the space in front of you. He sits on a throne, above which is an open lotus flower, and cushions of the sun and moon disks.1 His body is made of radiant, transparent light, as is the entire visualization. His body is golden and he wears the robes of a monastic. His right palm rests on his right knee and his left is in his lap, holding a bowl of nectar,2 which is medicine to cure our afflictions and other hindrances. The Buddha’s face is very beautiful. His smiling, compassionate gaze looks at you with total acceptance and simultaneously encompasses all sentient beings. His eyes are long, narrow, and peaceful. His lips are red and his earlobes long.
Rays of light emanate from each pore of the Buddha’s body3 and reach every part of the universe. These rays carry countless miniature Buddhas, some going out to help beings, others dissolving back into the Buddha after having finished their work.
The Buddha is surrounded by the entire lineage of spiritual teachers, all meditational deities, innumerable other Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats, dakas, dakinis, and Dharma protectors. To the side of each spiritual mentor is an elegant table upon which are arranged volumes of Dharma teachings.
Surrounding you are all sentient beings appearing in human form, with your mother on your left and your father on your right. The people you do not get along with are in front of you. All of you are looking at the Buddha for guidance.
Refuge and bodhicitta
To cultivate a sense of refuge, first think of the dangers of cyclic existence by remembering your own lack of security, dissatisfaction, and suffering. Then think of all other sentient beings who, like you, flounder in cyclic existence, and generate compassion for them. Finally, think of the wonderful qualities of the Buddhas, Dharma, and Sangha, and generate confidence in their ability to guide you from the constantly recurring problems of cyclic existence. Since it’s possible on the basis of your present life and mind to free yourself from all these undesirable experiences, resolve to explore that possibility to its fullest. Feel great trust and confidence in the Three Jewels and open your heart to rely on them to guide you and others from the torments of cyclic existence to the peace of liberation and awakening.
As you take refuge, imagine leading all the sentient beings around you in going for refuge to the Three Jewels. Visualize radiant light flowing from the spiritual mentors, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other holy beings into you and into all the beings around you, completely purifying all destructive karmic imprints and afflictions. The light also enriches you with all the wondrous qualities and realizations of the path.
Namo Sanghaya. (3x or 7x)
Feel that you and all others have come under the protection of the Three Jewels.
Now turn your thoughts to others and contemplate how much we depend on them for everything we enjoy and know in our lives. Our food, clothing, and everything we use and enjoy come due to their efforts. Similarly, our knowledge, talents, and good qualities have been developed due to the kindness of others. Even our ability to practice the Dharma and gain realizations depends on the kindness of sentient beings.
Just as your innermost wish is to be free from suffering and to abide in happiness, so too is it the aspiration of all other beings. But, they, like you, encounter sufferings and problems in their lives, and often their difficulties are much worse than your own.
Examine your capacity to help them. At this time your ability to help them is quite limited, but if you reduce your own ignorance, anger, attachment, and other faults, and increase your good qualities such as generosity, fortitude, loving-kindness, compassion, and wisdom, you will be of greater benefit. If you become a fully awakened Buddha, you will be of the greatest possible benefit to all beings. Thus generate the altruistic intention to become a Buddha in order to benefit all sentient beings most effectively. As you recite the refuge and bodhicitta prayer, much light flows from the Buddhas and other holy beings into you and all other sentient beings around you, purifying and enriching your minds.
I take refuge until I have awakened in the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha. By the merit I create by engaging in generosity and the other far-reaching practices, may I attain Buddhahood in order to benefit all sentient beings. (3x)
The Buddha is extremely pleased with your altruistic intention. A replica emerges from him and goes to the crown of your head. He melts into golden, radiant light that flows into you, and you and the Buddha become inseparable. Feel close to the Buddha, and feel that your mind has been inspired and transformed.
At your heart appears a small Buddha made of light. He radiates the light of wisdom and compassion in all directions, throughout the entire universe. The light transforms all sentient beings into Buddhas and transforms all environments into pure lands—places with all conducive circumstances for practicing the Dharma and generating realizations of the path. (Meditate)
You have transformed all sentient beings and their environments into awakened beings and pure lands in your imagination. Why hasn’t this become a reality? Because we sentient beings have bias and prejudice, and lack love, compassion, and joy. Wishing yourself and others to have these, contemplate the four immeasurables. Reinforce your feelings of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity for everyone—friends, relatives, strangers, as well as those who you dislike, mistrust, disapprove of, and those who have harmed you in the past.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes.
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and anger.
Now offer the seven-limb prayer to purify negativities and create merit.
Reverently I prostrate with my body, speech, and mind,
Imagine you and sentient beings throughout infinite space bow to the field of merit.
And present clouds of every type of offering, actual and mentally transformed.
Imagine every beautiful object you can and offer it to the field of merit. Imagine the sky filled with lovely offerings, and offer them. Similarly, think of everything and everyone to whom you are attached, and offer them to the field of merit as well.
I confess all my destructive actions accumulated since beginningless time,
Acknowledge your past mistakes and harmful actions and purify them by contemplating the four opponent powers: 1) regret, 2) taking refuge and generating bodhicitta, 3) determining not to do them again, and 4) engaging in a remedial action.
And rejoice in the virtues of all holy and ordinary beings.
Think of the virtues of all the holy and ordinary beings and feel happy. Abandon any feeling of jealousy or envy and rejoice in all the goodness in the world.
Please remain until cyclic existence ends,
Offer a double dorje, symbolizing long life, to the field of merit, and request them to live long and always be part of your life.
And turn the wheel of Dharma for sentient beings.
Offer a thousand-spoked Dharma wheel to the field of merit, requesting them to teach the Dharma and to guide you in your practice.
I dedicate all the virtues of myself and others to the great awakening.
Rejoicing at your own and others’ merit, dedicate it to the awakening of yourself and all sentient beings.
(Optional: Do the extensive offering practice)
With the wish to offer everything in the universe in order to receive Dharma teachings and to realize them in your mindstream, imagine the entire universe and everything beautiful in it, and respectfully offer it to the field of merit.
The objects of attachment, aversion, and ignorance—friends, enemies, and strangers, my body, wealth, and enjoyments—I offer these without any sense of loss. Please accept them with pleasure, and inspire me and others to be free from the three poisonous attitudes.
Idam guru ratna mandala kam nirya tayami
All the beings in the field of merit receive your offerings with delight. The offerings dissolve into light and absorb into the Buddha’s heart. From his heart, light radiates to you, filling your body and mind, and inspiring you to accomplish the path.
To progress on the path and develop the realizations of the path to awakening, you need the inspiration of the lineage of spiritual mentors, especially your principal teacher or root guru, the one who touched your heart so deeply with the Dharma. Thus request:
A replica of your teacher, in the aspect of the Buddha, emerges from the Buddha in front of you and comes to sit on a lotus and moon cushion on your head, facing the same direction as you. The Buddha on your crown acts as an advocate for you in requesting inspiration from the entire field of merit as you make request to the lineage teachers:
Buddha, head of the Shakya clan, the foremost guide, peerless in expounding emptiness; Manjushri, embodiment of the Buddha’s complete wisdom; exalted Nagarjuna, best of the Superiors who sees the profound meaning; to you three crowning jewels of clear exposition I make request.
Atisha, upholder of this great vehicle, who sees the profundity of dependent arising; Drom Rinpoche, elucidator of this good path; to these two ornaments of the world I make request.
Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of objectless compassion; Manjushri, master of flawless wisdom; Tsongkhapa, crown jewel of the Snowy Land’s sages, Lobsang Drakpa, I make request at your feet.
Holder of the white lotus, embodiment of all the conquerors’ compassion, guide benefiting migrating beings in the land of snow mountains and beyond, sole deity and refuge, Tenzin Gyatso, at your feet, I make request.
The eyes through whom the vast scriptures are seen, supreme doors for the fortunate who would cross over to spiritual freedom, illuminators whose wise means vibrate with compassion, to the entire line of spiritual mentors I make request.
All the figures in the field of merit melt into light and dissolve into the central figure of the Buddha in front of you. As the embodiment of the Three Jewels, the Buddha now absorbs into the Buddha on your crown. As you recite the Buddha’s mantra, much white light flows from the Buddha into you, purifying all negativities and obscurations and generating within you all the realizations of the stages of the path.
The Buddha´s mantra
Tayata om muni muni maha muniye soha (at least 21x)
Meaning of the mantra
Meditation on the stages of the path
Now do one of the analytical meditations of the stages of the path.
May the precious bodhi mind
Not yet born arise and grow.
May that born have no decline,
But increase forever more.
Absorption and dedication prayer (download)
The Buddha’s seat represents the three principal realizations of the path: the lotus symbolizes the determination to be free from cyclic existence; the moon represents bodhicitta; the sun is the wisdom realizing emptiness. ↩
The qualities of the Buddha’s body include his ability to transform his body into different forms, animate and inanimate, in order to help sentient beings according to their individual needs and inclinations. With his speech, he can communicate different aspects of the Dharma simultaneously to beings of various levels of development and can be understood by them in their respective languages. His omniscient mind of wisdom and compassion clearly sees everything that exists and knows the thoughts and experiences of every sentient being. ↩
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.