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Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, Part 2

Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga, Part 2

Thangka image of Lama Tsongkhapa.
Lama Tsongkhapa (Je Rinpoche) (Photo © 2017 Himalayan Art Resources Inc. © 2004 Buryat Historical Museum)

Part 2 of a 2-part teaching on Guru Yoga, given at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle in 1994. (Part 1)

We’ll continue the teaching on Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga. Last time we talked a little bit about who Lama Tsongkhapa was and why it’s important for us to do the guru yoga practice. Because Lama Tsongkhapa was a living human being, a manifestation of the Buddha who appeared in a historical period and form closely related to ours. So, it gives us a lot of inspiration if we remember his life and his enlightenment; and makes us feel that we can also do it.

How to approach guru yoga

Also, it’s important—because this is called guru yoga—that we imagine that the essence of our own spiritual teachers and gurus, and the essence of the Buddha, the essence of Lama Tsongkhapa, the essence of Chenrezig, Vajrapani, and Manjushri are all one essence. They’re all appearing together in the form of Lama Tsongkhapa (or sometimes they call him Je Rinpoche). This helps us feel much closer to our own spiritual teacher in the times when we aren’t near our teachers. I don’t get to see my teachers very often, for example, and so the practice of guru yoga is very important because it makes you feel close to your teacher. Know that your teachers aren’t just their personality and their physical body and this kind of stuff. That’s not what we need to feel close to—but rather kind of the essence, their essence, their spiritual realizations. And so, by remembering that, and unifying that with the appearance of Lama Tsongkhapa, and remembering Lama Tsongkhapa is also the compassion, wisdom, and skillful means (in other words, Chenrezig, Manjushri and, Vajrapani) of all the Buddhas. Then we put all this together into one image. Then it becomes very powerful for inspiring the mind.

It also helps stop the schizophrenic mind that thinks the Buddha is over here, and Lama Tsongkhapa is over here, and my spiritual teacher is over here, and Chenrezig is back there, and Manjushri is over there. With that type of mind we’re seeing them all as like individual people or personalities, and that’s not the way I was taught. So this is kind of like an indirect way of pointing out the emptiness of self, not only in our self, but also that the Buddha doesn’t have a self and Lama Tsongkhapa doesn’t have a self.

Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practice (continued)

Briefly reviewing from last time, the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga practices starts with taking refuge and generating bodhicitta. Then essentially what follows is the visualization plus the seven-limb prayer. The seven-limb prayer is incredibly important for purifying negative karma and enriching our mind with positive potential (merit) so that we can gain the realizations. Next, we do the mandala offering also as a way of creating positive potential, and then comes the request to Lama Tsongkhapa.

There’s the short request to Je Tsongkhapa that’s five lines. Sometimes people will shorten that short request to four lines. To do that they will omit the center line to Vajrapani. So, they don’t recite that line out loud but the meaning is implicitly there. There’s also a more expanded version which is the nine-line request.

Short request to Je Tsongkhapa in Tibetan

mig may tse way ter chen chen re sig
dri may kyen pay wong po jam pel yang
du pung ma lu jom dze sang way dag
gang chen kay pay tsug kyen tsong kha pa
lo zang drag pay zhab la sol wa deb

Short request to Je Tsongkhapa

Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of objectless compassion,
Manjushri, master of flawless wisdom,
Vajrapani, destroyer of all demonic forces,
Tsongkhapa, crown jewel of the Snowy Lands’ sages
Losang Dragpa, I make request at your holy feet.

Nine-line Request to Je Tsongkhapa

Buddha Vajradhara, the source of all powerful attainments,
Avalokiteshvara, great treasure of objectless compassion,
Manjushri, master of flawless wisdom,
Vajrapani, destroyer of all demonic forces,
Losang Dragpa, crown jewel of the Snowy Lands’ sages,
O Guru-Buddha, the embodiment of all three refuges
I humbly request you with my three doors:
Please grant inspiration to ripen myself and others
And bestow the general and supreme powerful attainments.

Is there a melody for the short request? Doing 100,000 recitations of the short request

Audience: [Inaudible]

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): Yes, yes. Actually, there are a couple of tunes for the five-line request. When it’s shortened to four-lines then you can use this other tune. But yes, you can do the nine-line request with the same tune. Also, when you recite this over and over again—because there’s the practice of doing 100,000 of these—then you don’t necessarily sing it each time because it might take you a long time. So what you do is you just say it really quickly.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Right. If you do 100,000 recitations of the request I don’t see any reason why you can’t recite it in English. I say this because this isn’t a mantra, it’s a prayer. The Tibetans would probably say there’s special blessing in reciting in Tibetan because it was originally written in Tibetan. But my personal feeling is if you find it more effective for your mind to do it in English, then please do so because the point of the whole thing is that it’s effective in your mind.

Visualizations for the recitation

There are a few different visualizations on what to do when you’re doing the recitation. That’s what I really wanted to focus on today. Why? Because the visualizations are very effective; and they form kind of the basic chunk of time of what you do in the meditation. And so, your meditation session you do like we did here—pausing between each verse to get a sense of the meaning in the practices of refuge, bodhicitta, seven-limb prayer, and mandala offering parts of the sādhana. Then next you really pause for a long time here and do these visualizations and meditation.

You don’t need to do all the visualizations I’m going to describe in one sitting. What you can do is alter them and one day do one and one day another one. Or you might find that one is particularly effective for your mind, so you really focus on that one more than the other one. Or you might find that when different things are going on in your life you’re going to focus on a different visualization according to what you need.

Also, having a variety of visualizations then if you decide to 100,000 of the mig-tse-ma—that’s what we call the four-line verse—if you decide to do 100,000 of those, then you have a variety of visualizations to do. Our mind that likes entertainment and variety keeps well satisfied that way. It’s like the shopping catalog for visualizations—which one appeals to me today?

Purification visualization

In the space in front of you is Je Tsongkhapa, the embodiment of Manjushri. On his right is Gyalsabje, the embodiment of Chenresig, and on his left is Kedrupje, the embodiment of Vajrapani. From these three, tubes of white light are emitted. They merge to form one and then flow into your heart. White nectar, like pure milk, flows through them into you and purifies all disease, spirit harms, destructive karmas, and obscurations. While reciting the request, first concentrate on purifying destructive karma created with the guru and the Three Jewels. Then concentrate on purifying destructive actions created with sentient beings.

After finishing the recitation, concentrate on your body being completely calm and clear, like crystal, completely free from all defilements.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Yes. The first one is the purification visualization that we did when we were reciting it today. So, we have already done the visualization in front of us which is like this picture of Maitreya in Tushita pure land. And then the clouds coming down like fresh curd, or fluffy cotton in a Western context. And you have Lama Tsongkhapa and then Gyalsabje and Kedrupje—his two chief disciples.

For the purification visualization you would imagine that from their hearts come these tubes of light. Those tubes of light, if they were in front of me, three of them would be coming this way and then joining into one, and then that comes into your heart. I think that you could probably have it come into your head and flow downwards too, according to how you feel most comfortable. Through the tube—and remember that it’s not solid tubing. It’s a tube of light. Then through that flows light and nectar; and that is white in color. The white symbolizes purity and that flows into you. And then you can do like this internal cleansing; where you imagine that your whole body/mind is filled with the light and all the disturbing attitudes, the negative karmas are cleansed.

At this point here it’s very good if you can reflect when you’re doing the recitation or visualization. Do some reflection on the ten destructive actions. You can go through each one and imagine purifying each one specifically—and making examples in your life when you’ve done each one. Do that specifically while you’re imagining the white light coming into you. Then it becomes quite personal and related to your own life.

Then you can concentrate sometimes on it purifying the disturbing attitudes. Again, think of specific disturbing attitudes, how they manifest in your life—and the light coming and purifying them, cleansing them out, pushing them out in the form of pollution and filth from the lower orifices of your body. Or just like, being like turning a light on inside your body and there’s no more space for them, they just disappear [finger-snap] like that. They don’t go anywhere; like darkness in a room vanishes when you turn a light on.

Or if you’re feeling some kind of particular obstacle in your life or obstruction that’s going on, either internal ones because your mind is stubborn or stuck or uncooperative or lazy or bored in the Dharma, disinterested in the Dharma. You feel like, “Dropping it all and going and being a Presbyterian again,” as Bill used to say. When the mind feels like that, then you can imagine that’s getting purified by the white light. Or if there are special diseases, or you’re feeling some kind of harm or negative energy around you, then that’s also purified. So, that’s the purification visualization.

While you recite the request you can first concentrate on purifying negative karmas created with the guru and with the Three Jewels. This is any kind of negative karma created in relationship to our spiritual teachers or to the Triple Gem. And then secondly, focus on negative karma created in relationship to sentient beings. You can spend as long on that as you want to; you can spend the whole meditation session on that if that’s particularly what you need.

Alternate visualization

Now, another visualization is one that isn’t written in this book, but I really like this one. I find it quite helpful. Here what you do is at Lama Tsongkhapa’s—remember how often we imagine an om ah hum on the deity’s body? Well, here what we’re doing is instead of the om at the crown, we’re imagining Chenrezig. And not just like Chenrezig plastered like a sticker on Lama Tsongkhapa’s forehead, but inside his crown chakra which is down below the crown—inside. So, a small Chenrezig. You can use either a Thousand-Armed or Four-Armed or a Two-Armed Chenrezig; whatever you want. Then at the throat chakra you imagine Manjushri. Manjushri is golden in color with the wisdom sword and holding the lotus with the text. And at the heart you can imagine Vajrapani. Vajrapani is one wrathful looking blue deity in mudras like this and holding a vajra.

In doing this visualization you still have the colors, the white, red (except instead of red Manjushri, it’s a red-yellow color—kind of a golden or an orange color), and blue. So it’s kind of corresponding still. You can still see the correspondence. What you visualize here is that first a tube of white light comes from Chenrezig, like if Lama Tsongkhapa’s—well, if I do it from your perspective Lama Tsongkhapa’s here. So a tube of white light would come from Chenrezig into your forehead; and then white light and nectar would flow into you specifically from Chenrezig. You think, “Really, this is the Buddha’s compassion.” And you concentrate very much on compassion and on purifying hatred—and the white color especially is very good for purifying hatred. We really focus on that—thinking of the qualities of the Buddha’s compassion and letting go of our anger, resentment, belligerence, rage, and so on. Really filling our crown chakra with this white light and nectar. Then it just kind of fills the crown chakra and then it just totally permeates your whole body. And you just sit and rest there in this white light and nectar—while thinking of Chenrezig’s compassion.

The second step is then you concentrate on Manjushri at Lama Tsongkhapa’s throat. You imagine like a red-yellow or a golden or an orange-colored tube of light going from Manjushri into your throat; and imagine that all the nectar is then kind of red-yellow, or orange, or golden-colored going into your throat. Here it’s really purifying your speech. It’s the nature of Manjushri’s wisdom—so here you really concentrate on the wisdom of all the Buddhas, the wisdom that realizes the ultimate truth, the wisdom that realizes the conventional truth and dependent arising, the wisdom that understands how to help people. You really focus on that wisdom coming into you in the form of the golden light from Manjushri into your throat chakra. Again, filling your whole body and mind completely and so purifying speech, purifying ignorance, gaining the wisdom of the Buddha.

Then you move down to Vajrapani whose name is Chagna Dorje [Phyag na rdo rje] in Tibetan—meaning the ‘holder of the vajra.’ He’s dark blue in color. From Vajrapani comes a tube of blue light and then through that flows the blue light and nectar from Vajrapani into your heart. Again, filling your whole body and mind. Here you contemplate the skillful means of the Buddha—how the Buddha is able to teach others according to their own ability, who knows how to guide others, who is patient and compassionate when everybody messes up, who doesn’t expect gratitude when they do a kind favor, and doesn’t get fed up with others when they betray their confidence and let them down. So, you really think of the Buddha’s skillful means and ability to teach others according to their own level of mind and disposition. You imagine that you receive that quality in the form of the blue light that enters your heart.

In doing these practices you purify the body, the speech, and the mind as you go down. So again, you can concentrate more specifically on physical, verbal, and mental negative actions being purified. Also, you can also concentrate on the compassion, the wisdom, and the skillful means of the Buddha entering into you and filling you. Especially when you work with these colors, the colors have a real force on your mind; and especially when you’re associating them with a specific quality of the Buddha and contemplating that quality. As brilliant as you can imagine the colors, it’s very good. You don’t imagine your own body as solid. It’s not like this nectar and light comes and it gets stuck when it hits your skin because it can’t get in. But just remember that our skin is very permeable and there’s more space than atoms there. Just let your body be permeable and let the influence from the Buddha seep into you.

All this visualization is a very skillful way of really changing mental attitudes using symbolic means. We can concentrate on the visualization and then also say the request prayer at the same time. Sometimes what you can do and what I find really effective when we do the five-line verse, when we chant it very slowly, is during the first line where we’re talking about Chenrezig I concentrate on the light from Chenrezig coming into me. The second line I concentrate on the light from Manjushri. And then the third line I concentrate on the blue light from Vajrapani coming into me. With the last two lines when we’re talking about Lobsang Drapa (in other words Lama Tsongkhapa) being the embodiment of all of these, then I imagine all three coming at the same time. That becomes also a very nice way because then with each line you recite, you can just really concentrate on that color.

Sometimes what you might want to do is stop after each line. Remember I was describing the meaning of each line last time? Each line has a whole lot of meaning. I mean you can sit in it and meditate on objectless compassion for the next ten years! You might just kind of get that one line and get the light from Chenrezig and that’s your session. That’s completely okay if that happens. I mean, at the end maybe say the other four lines to get one verse done.

Also in this visualization what you can do is you can, as you’re imagining like the light from Chenrezig coming into you, is you can imagine Chenrezig—one manifestation of Chenrezig—coming out of the one that’s in Lama Tsongkhapa and coming and sinking into your forehead. Now that Chenrezig is merging with your crown chakra. And then similarly from the Manjushri in Lama Tsongkhapa’s heart appears a duplicate, and that Manjushri sinks in and merges into your throat. And from the Vajrapani at Lama Tsongkhapa’s heart a duplicate emerges, and comes and sinks into your heart. These are all made of light and so then you can really think that you also have Chenrezig, Manjushri, and Vajrapani in your three spaces. That’s very effective for your mind; and it really makes you feel close, not only to your spiritual teacher and to Lama Tsongkhapa, but to these three deities who are the embodiment of the compassion, the wisdom, and the skillful means of the Buddhas. It makes you feel like you have these three qualities within yourself and the ability to act according to them.

Description of Vajrapani

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Yes. Vajrapani has two arms and he’s holding a vajra which is up in the air. And then he’s standing, leaning on his right leg. So, his right leg is bent and his left leg is outstretched; and he’s quite wrathful looking. I probably have a picture somewhere of him. Lama Yeshe, when he formed the first three centers he named them Chenrezig, Manjushri, and Vajrapani.

To continue, so, that’s an alternative visualization. When you do these visualizations, it subdues the suffocating ego projection. It subdues all of the mind that worries and that’s full of preconceptions and judgements and criticism and opinions and all of this stuff that we get so totally over-burdened with. It also subdues our dissatisfied energy. Not only the physical energy that’s just restless because we eat a lot of sugar and because we’re on the highway all day. But the mental energy that plays into our physical energy—and the mental energy that wants chocolate and wants TV and wants this and wants that and wants the other thing. It really subdues the dissatisfied energy. Extremely helpful for us. Not just helpful, necessary.

Visualizations to generate wisdom

Next there’s the description of the seven kinds of wisdom and how to do these. You can alternate these different visualizations and they’re quite wonderful to do.

First wisdom: Great wisdom

1. Request,

Please inspire me to generate great wisdom that has no resistance to understanding the meaning of Buddha’s extensive scriptures.

From Je Tsongkhapa and his two spiritual children flows the orange nectar of great wisdom that fills your entire body. The essence of each atom of nectar is a small Manjushri. These Manjushris radiate light rays that touch the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions. All of their wisdom, in the form of millions of Manjushris, absorbs into you through the pores of your body, like snow falling into the ocean. Feel that you have generated great wisdom.

The first wisdom is the great wisdom. It’s sometimes called great or vast or extensive wisdom. First in your heart, you make the request to Lama Tsongkhapa, “Please inspire me to generate the great wisdom which has no resistance to understanding the meaning of Buddha’s extensive scriptures.” When you think of this, I mean, the extensive scriptures—all 84,000 teachings of the Buddha, all 108 volumes of the Kangyur and 200 plus volumes of the Tengyur, and all the different commentaries. And just all the different teachings that we’ve received, because we’ve received a lot of teachings, quite extensive teachings. So to help us really understand the meaning. When we say ‘understand the meaning’ it doesn’t mean understand it up here [just intellectually] and knowing the words. It means understand it in our heart so that it really becomes part of us. This might really relate because you’ve heard me often say that sometimes as Westerners we understand the Dharma through the filter of our Judaic-Christian upbringing. We project wrong meanings onto the Dharma because of the words that we hear that ring bells from our own culture. So, this is really helping us to—may we eliminate that kind of fog and may we really understand the meaning clearly of the vast teachings so that we can really put them into practice and change our hearts.

What we imagine here for gaining the great or vast wisdom is that from Lama Tsongkhapa and his two spiritual children—those are the two main disciples—flow orange, or red-yellow nectar, golden nectar of great wisdom. This fills your entire body. It’s coming from Lama Tsongkhapa again and the two disciples. You can imagine the three tubes coming and merging into one and coming into you with the golden light or the orange light. Use whichever shade you find most effective for you. The essence of each atom of this nectar that’s flowing into you is a small Manjushri. So it’s like you’re just getting tons and tons of Manjushris flowing into you, completely, so that your whole body, mind, everything becomes Manjushri. It’s really a beautiful visualization to do because you can imagine little teeny Manjushris and big Manjushris and the whole thing’s made of light. Those of us who grew up with Walt Disney and everything emanating and radiating and appearing and disappearing, we won’t have any problem with this one. Walt Disney prepared us very well. So all these Manjushris, all these atoms of Manjushri—this is focusing on the Buddha’s body. The appearance of Manjushri coming into us, filling us up.

From each of these Manjushris inside us then, light rays go out into the entire universe and are touching all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions. (Ten directions are the four cardinal directions, the four intermediate directions, up and down. I know it’s not symmetrical but we do the best we can.) This light from all the Manjushris that are now in your body goes out throughout the ten directions—all the infinite universe—to touch all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas there. It’s invoking from them their vast and great wisdom. This wisdom comes in the form of many, many, many Manjushris of all different sizes. All these Manjushris then come and dissolve into you—really sink into your heart. So big Manjushris, little Manjushris, they’re all made of this blissful radiating light.

Manjushri is really beautiful. The expression on Manjushri’s face is just so peaceful and gentle, and yet really totally there, and with the eyes wide open to reality. It’s quite a beautiful visualization with all these Manjushris that come and pour into you, dissolving in through the pores of your body. It’s kind of like snowflakes, when snowflakes are going and touching ocean. Or even when snowflakes come and touch your skin, how they melt and absorb into you. Kind of like that. As this is happening then you would say the request prayer and concentrate on the visualization and really feel like you’re receiving the extensive wisdom of the Buddha and that this is being developed in you. You might really spend some time developing this visualization. And at the end just concentrating, just holding the image; really feeling your body completely filled with all these millions and millions of Manjushris; and really feel, “Now I’ve received that vast, great wisdom of the Buddha.” Concentrate on that at the end.

That’s for the first wisdom, the great wisdom.

Second wisdom: Clear wisdom

2. Request,

Please inspire me to generate clear wisdom that can understand the subtle and difficult points of the Dharma without confusion.

The visualization is the same as above, but the essence of each atom of nectar is Manjushri’s mantra, om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. Millions of mantras are invoked from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They dissolve into you, and you generate clear wisdom.

The second wisdom is clear wisdom. Here we make the request, “Please inspire me to generate the clear wisdom which understands even the subtle details of difficult points of the Dharma without confusion.” Here you can think—remember times when your mind just gets confused? Where you can’t even remember the points, let alone discern the distinctions? When the mind just feels dull and cloudy; and it can’t get the subtle points, it can’t even get the gross points. So here we’re really requesting for clear wisdom that sees everything, that understands reality—both relative and ultimate—very clearly. It’s kind of like we look at the palm of our hand and see that so clearly. Similarly, here just the same—understanding the ultimate and the conventional, two levels of wisdom. So, thinking of that kind wisdom and wanting to develop that. The visualization is the same as above, but here we’re focusing on the speech of the Buddha in the form of the letters om ah ra pa tsa na dhi which is Manjushri’s mantra.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Here what you’re doing is you’re visualizing the letters of the mantra, not the sound of the mantra because you’re saying the mig-tse-ma, the request prayer. So you’re visualizing the letters of the mantra. It’s fine to visualize them in English. You don’t need to visualize them in Tibetan, transliteration, or Sanskrit.

From Lama Tsongkhapa, Gyalsabje, and Kedrupje come the tubes of light and through them are flowing this golden light. All the atoms here are made of little circles of the mantra. It’s like the mantra is standing in a circle, and it’s standing clockwise—om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. And so each atom has the letters om ah ra pa tsa na dhi on it like the Buddha’s speech. All these atoms of light and nectar that are coming to you have the nature of om ah ra pa tsa na dhi coming in, filling your whole body and mind with om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. Then from all these little atoms of om ah ra pa tsa na dhi light emanates all throughout the whole universe into all the directions, and to all the Buddhas and all the bodhisattvas in all the directions. It invokes from them the nature of clear wisdom. When the light goes out and when the light goes out to invoke, it’s kind of like these light beams that have hooks on them. It’s symbolic. Hooking back from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas the nature of their clear wisdom. And this comes back in the form of more atoms of om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. Which then come and fall into us through all the pores of our body and completely fills our body. Sometimes it’s really effective to imagine them specifically sinking into our heart—that our heart is becoming the nature of, in this case, the om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. In the previous visualization it was the body of Manjushri.

At this point you think, “Now I’ve received the clear wisdom.” Really imagine yourself having the clear wisdom. Don’t let the old mind come and say, “Oh, this is just a visualization. My mind’s still as screwed up and cloudy as before.” It’s like being a kid. Remember when you were a kid you would pretend to be anything? (I mean, even now we’re pretending to be a lot of things. The problem is we believe in what we pretend to be nowadays.) But so, it’s the same idea. Let yourself pretend. What is it like to have a clear mind? What would it be like to just have this clear wisdom, that’s crystal clear and could take everything in? Just pretend; and imagine what it would be like. And let yourself feel like that as this is all dissolving into you. And then really concentrate on that feeling at the end.

Third wisdom: Quick wisdom

3. Request,

Please inspire me to generate quick wisdom that quickly cuts off all ignorance, wrong conceptions, and doubt.

Visualize as above, substituting Manjushri’s seed-syllable, DHI, and feel that you have generated quick wisdom.

Then the third wisdom is quick wisdom. You can see Buddhas have many different kinds of wisdom. All these wisdoms are the same in nature, but different aspects. Here we pray or we request, “Please inspire me to generate the quick wisdom which quickly cuts off all ignorance, wrong conceptions, and doubts.” All that mind that’s cynical, sarcastic, and skeptical. The mind that always goes, “Na na na na na na na na. Prove it to me. I don’t believe them,”—that mind.

That mind that just is full of wrong conceptions, it’s the mind that says, “I’ve believed this since I was ten years old. I’m not going to change my beliefs.” Or the mind that’s afraid to change our beliefs, like, “If I don’t believe that there’s God, I’m going to fall apart,” or, “If I don’t believe that I have a soul that’s immutable, I’m going to fall apart.” A lot of fear that comes from giving up our wrong conceptions, like, “If I don’t hold onto this image of being a victim, who am I going to be?” So letting go of these ignorant, wrong conceptions. The quick wisdom that very quickly can kind of get to the point without getting lost. The mind that when you listen to teachings can just kind of get to the point of what something is, without getting sidetracked here there and all over the place on all sorts of irrelevant things—but that can just quickly get to the point.

Here the visualization is the same as above with the tubes of light and nectar flowing through them, from Lama Tsongkhapa and the two disciples, coming into us. Here the light and nectar, the nature of all the atoms is the syllable DHI. This is Manjushri’s seed syllable. That’s the seed syllable at Manjushri’s heart: DHI. Like I told you, in the monasteries when everybody gets up we all go om ah ra pa tsa na dhi. Then we say 108 DHIs or as many as you possibly can, to generate quick wisdom, to wake yourself up in the morning. Very effective. It’s the letter DHI. You can imagine just the English letter, you can imagine the Tibetan letter if you want to, or the Sanskrit letter. And that the nature of all these atoms are the DHIs. This comes and fills your whole body/mind with all these DHIs, the nature of quick wisdom. Once they’ve filled your body then from the ones in your body again radiate out light rays to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas invoking their quick wisdom in the form of the letter DHIs. And then all these letter DHIs, some of them big, some of them small, some of them like Mount Everest, and some of them teeny weenie—and they’re all made of light and nectar.

They’re all very blissful in nature. So as these things are falling into you, you’re filled with light. All these things that we’re imagining, their nature is very blissful. The whole nervous system settles down, too, as these things absorb into you. So again, they come and you can imagine them settling particularly into your heart chakra or filling your entire body/mind. And then at the end you concentrate on imagining, “What would it be like to have the quick wisdom?” To just quickly kind of get to the point of things and get it—and you imagine yourself having that ability.

Fourth wisdom: Profound wisdom

4. Request,

Please inspire me to generate profound wisdom that understands the meaning of the scriptures in a profound, limitless way.

Visualize as above, substituting Manjushri’s implements, the sword and text, and feel that you have generated profound wisdom.

The fourth one is for the profound wisdom. Here we pray “Please inspire me…” (we’re directing this towards Lama Tsongkhapa and the two disciples) “Please inspire me to generate the profound wisdom which understands the meaning of the scriptures in a profound, limitless way.” The profound wisdom doesn’t just understand the superficial meaning of the scriptures, but it understands the real deep meaning. It understands not just the relative way of functioning and the relative way that the words work together, but the deeper meaning and the emptiness of inherent existence. It understands the Buddha’s teaching and particularly the teachings on emptiness.

Here the visualization is the same except now all the atoms are Manjushri’s implements. So Manjushri holds a sword and he holds a text. The sword Manjushri holds—it’s an upright sword and it has a double-edged blade. So, it’s sharp on both sides because it cuts off wrong conceptions about both ultimate and relative or conventional truth. And it’s flaming. It has flames that come from the top because it burns wrong conceptions, it burns the darkness of ignorance. We don’t have a picture of Manjushri here. I’m sure I have a picture. Manjushri’s sword is quite beautiful—this golden blazing sword. And it’s not made of metal, it’s made of light. The sword that cuts off doubts and wrong conceptions and things, this is again falling into you. The flames that burn away the darkness of illusion, this also falls into you.

Manjushri’s other implement is the Prajnaparamita text—the text on the perfection of wisdom. The Heart Sutra comes from that genre of teachings. We really imagine that the text, the Prajnaparamita texts, flow into us. Then we really feel, “Here I am. I’m totally filled up with Prajnaparamita texts.” Kind of like, “I’ve got the meaning of all of them inside me,”—and Manjushri’s wisdom sword.

Similarly, once they’re inside you then from them the light rays radiate out and invoke from all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas more swords and more scriptures. These again fall into you, merge into your heart, and fill your whole body. If you’re studying a particular text at the time, like we’re currently studying the lamrim text, then you can imagine when you’re invoking the scriptures that you’re invoking millions and millions of lamrim texts. Or if you’re studying thought training then the particular thought training texts. You can invoke millions and millions of those inside of you. So whatever you’re studying, you really relate it to that.

There’s a picture of Manjushri. You can see the flaming sword. Those are the flames there, the wisdom sword. And then here the text is on a lotus, but you can just visualize the text. And I don’t think it’s so important. I mean, you can visualize the text as long and narrow in Tibetan form, but I think we can also imagine an accurate English translation of it in a bound book—so the pages don’t flutter as they’re flying into you. And then we feel, “Okay, now I’ve received the profound wisdom that really understands deeply the meaning of the scriptures,” and particularly whatever text it is that we’re studying at the time.

Fifth wisdom: The wisdom of explaining the Dharma

5. Request,

Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of explaining the Dharma that elucidates the definite, correct understanding of all the words and meanings of the scriptures.

Visualize as above, substituting texts, and feel you have generated the wisdom of explaining the Dharma.

The fifth wisdom is the wisdom of explaining the Dharma. This is good to do before you have to give a teaching, or before you have to lead a group in any sort, or answer questions on the Dharma, or whatever. It’s very good. So, we pray, “Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of explaining the Dharma, elucidating the definite correct understanding of all the words and meanings of the scriptures.” Being able to get the words together to explain the correct meaning of the scriptures to the people that you’re explaining to. This means to be able to explain the meaning correctly; without mixing it in with New Age stuff or Christian stuff, or your own misconceptions, or what you think the other person wants to hear so that they’ll like you. But just being able to explain the teachings in a really accurate way so that it makes sense to the other person; and explaining the real meaning of the teaching. We request for that.

Here the visualization is the same except all the atoms are made of texts. Whatever text it is that we’re teaching or explaining or answering questions on, then we would imagine all the atoms made of that particular text. I don’t need to go through the whole visualization, do I?

At the end of it you again stop and you really feel, “Now I’ve generated the wisdom of clearly explaining the Dharma.” You really feel that. Make that determination. This kind of thing is so effective for our mind. When we’re in different situations where we really need help, I mean, we keep on talking about 911 Buddha and this kind of visualization is how you do it. This is how we call upon that help from the Buddha—very effective for your mind.

Sixth wisdom: Wisdom of debate

6. Request,

Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of debate that courageously refutes the pernicious words that express wrong ideas.

Visualize as above, substituting eight-spoked wheels of swords, and feel that you have generated the wisdom of debate.

The sixth one is to request, “Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of debate which courageously refutes deluded views.” Here we don’t have to think of the Tibetan monks sitting on the debate courtyard and doing that. But what about the deluded views that we hold within ourselves? Gaining this wisdom of debate isn’t necessarily to refute other people’s deluded views, but to refute our own. Actually, when we debate with other people, if we’re trying to defeat their deluded views it’s only to gain some clarity in our mind. It’s not because we want to win an argument. Because winning an argument—what good does that do you? But if you can very clearly explain to somebody else why their ideas are wrong, what you’re essentially doing is clearly explaining to yourself why those ideas are wrong and so you’re eliminating your own deluded view. Winning an argument isn’t the point of debate.

This is very good when we have a lot of deluded views. Or also when we’re faced with talking with people who are very skeptical. Or people who don’t know much about the Dharma. If you happen to be talking to a group of scientists who are reductionists and they don’t believe in the existence of mind, or they don’t know what mind is. Or you are talking to people who say, “Well, there’s just one universal mind and we’re all part of it.” Or you’re talking to people who believe that there’s a concrete soul that we all have. I mean, there’s millions and millions of wrong views—inside of us and in other people. This is to help us gain some clarity of that. And even wrong views like when your family’s telling you, “What do you need to practice Dharma for? Why don’t you go out and make a lot of money? That’s going to make you much happier.” Or, “What are you doing…”, the deluded view that says, “Why meditate on death? That just makes you depressed. Better go out and get drunk and forget your worries.” Those are deluded views also. We’re chock-a-block full of deluded views. Deluded view: “I need to tell somebody off so they know whose boss around here; so they don’t take advantage of me anymore.”

Here it’s the same visualization except now all the atoms are made of wheels of swords. To do this we visualize a Dharma wheel which is a wheel which has eight spokes. The rim is the outside and the hub is the inside, right? I always get these mixed up. “Which wisdom do I need?” Okay, and the hub is on the inside. The swords are connected at the hub and they’re all the double-edged swords. The spokes are swords and all the swords are double edge swords like Manjushri’s. So, it’s kind of like the Dharma wheel, but having the Dharma wheel in the form of swords is again emphasizing the clarity and the cutting off of misconceptions and ignorance. Especially when we’re debating wrong views, when we’re directly counteracting our own and others’ wrong views, the Dharma wheel with that clarity of the sword is really important and very helpful for us.

The visualization is the same except we have the wheels of swords.

Seventh wisdom: Wisdom of composition

7. Request,

Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of composition, which uses perfect grammar and words and has the meaning of clear wisdom that gives joy.

Visualize as above, substituting texts and eight-spoked wheels of swords, and feel that you have generated the wisdom of composition.

Then the seventh wisdom is the wisdom of composition. Here we make the request for the seventh one, “Please inspire me to generate the wisdom of composition which uses perfect grammar and poetic words and expresses clear wisdom and gives joy.” When we have to write about the Dharma, writing an article for a newsletter, writing to a friend, telling them what happened on your retreat, any number of things where we have to write about the Dharma; and when we write, we want to be able to explain it using good language. Using clear grammar. And in a way that’s really, I mean, it says poetic, but the meaning is in a way that makes it easy for other people to read. Write in language that people can understand, that they’re familiar with, so they get the meaning. Not composition that is obtuse and complicated and vague. Rather with language that has clarity in it, that expresses the wisdom clearly, and that gives joy to the person who reads it. That would nice, wouldn’t it?

Here the visualization is the same except all the atoms are texts and also wheels of swords. Same visualization except these two symbols are doing it. And then afterwards we really sit and feel, “Now I’ve generated the wisdom of writing and I can express myself clearly. I can put in words what I need. It’s going to bring understanding to the other person and bring joy to their heart when they read it.” You really sit and feel that. Feel yourself filled with all the wheels of swords and the texts that are filling you up.

This the heart of your meditation session. You can do any or all of these visualizations. Like I said before, I think it might be good in one meditation session maybe concentrate on one particular visualization and really develop it.

When you reach the end of the time for visualizing and saying the request prayer, then if you want to you can either read The Foundation of All Good Qualities which is in Pearl of Wisdom, Book 1. It’s the general lamrim prayer. Lama Zopa said about that prayer that reading that one once is more merit than offering a hundred million universes of jewels to all the Buddhas—because that prayer has within it the essence of the entire path. Every time we read it we are putting that imprint to realize the entire path into our mind. So, you can read that if you want to.

Also what’s effective to do after you spend some time doing the visualization and request prayer is to do just five or ten minutes of checking meditation on the lamrim. It’s very effective because here you’ve done this whole visualization for gaining wisdom; and now if you spend five, ten, fifteen minutes on lamrim your mind has—you’ve been sitting there thinking about, “Now I have all this wisdom,” and it’s going to be much easier to focus on lamrim and get some experience from the meditation when you do it. That’s a nice way to conclude your session too. In that way, you see, you integrate the lamrim topics that we’ve been going through with the visualization.


May the wisdom of learning, thinking, and meditation increase, and may the wisdom of teaching, debating, and writing increase. May I attain the general and supreme powerful attainments. Please inspire me to quickly become like you.

May the simultaneous-born great bliss shine immediately, and the afflicted shadow of grasping at inherent existence be cleared. May I cut the net of doubt of the true nature of mind. Please inspire me to quickly become like you.

Next we have special verses making special requests. After we finish the visualization, now we’re drawing towards the conclusion and we make these special requests. So first we ask, “May the wisdom of learning, thinking and meditation increase. May the wisdom of teaching, debating, and writing increase. May I achieve ordinary and extraordinary accomplishments. Please bless me to quickly become like you.” Here we’re requesting Lama Tsongkhapa.

Remember I’ve talked about the three kinds of wisdom? Sometimes I call it hearing, reflecting, and meditating. Here it’s translated as learning, thinking and meditating. Those three wisdoms. Thinking, “May they increase in me.” Requesting that the wisdoms of teaching, debating and writing, like the visualizations before, that they increase. The ordinary and extraordinary accomplishments [now translated as general and supreme powerful attainments]: Ordinary ones are, there’s eight various mundane superpowers—like the ability to read people’s minds, or clairaudience, clairvoyance, things like that. Those are ordinary powers because you don’t have to be an enlightened being to have them. And the supramundane or extraordinary accomplishments refers to enlightenment.

We’re saying, “May we gain all of these accomplishments. And please bless me to quickly become like you.” We’re asking Lama Tsongkhapa who is the embodiment of the Buddha, and our spiritual teacher, and Manjushri, and Vajrapani, and Chenrezig, “May we become like you. May I become Buddha.” It’s a very nice request prayer. Don’t think, “Okay, well, I’ve got to ask Lama Tsongkhapa, ‘May I become like you.’” But what’s going on psychologically here is we’re setting before ourselves our own goal of what we want to become. That’s the purpose of this request prayer is we’re getting clear in our own mind what we want to become.

Then the second verse, “May the simultaneously born great bliss shine immediately and the delusion shadow of grasping at inherent existence be cleared. May I cut the net of doubt of the true nature of mind. Please bless me to quickly become like you.” The simultaneously born great bliss: This is referring to a tantric realization of the mind of great bliss that understands emptiness directly. We’re saying, “May we gain this realization,” because that’s the real one that’s going to cut samsara. And may the delusion shadow of grasping at inherent existence be cleared: Our mind that makes everything solid and concrete and inherent and independently existent, which again is the source of all of our problems, may that just be totally cleared and dissipated.

“May I cut the net of doubt of the true nature of mind.” So, all of our preconceptions and doubts and confusion about the nature of our mind, may that be cut. And, “Please bless me to quickly become like you.” Again, what we’re really saying here is we’re setting in front of ourselves the realizations that we want to gain. Essentially what these verses are doing is we’re setting our life goals. We’re setting our priorities in life. That what the purpose of doing request verses are. It helps us get really clear what’s important to us.

What is the simultaneous-born great bliss referred to in the practice?

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: It’s referring to a specific kind of bliss. The name of the bliss is the simultaneously born bliss. I forget at the moment why it’s called simultaneously born. But it’s tricky. It doesn’t mean that two things are happening together. It’s a tricky term. It refers, I think, to the extremely subtle mind being blissful in nature and realizing emptiness. That’s one thing that we’re requesting for and also coincidentally that dispels the delusion shadow of grasping at inherent existence.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: That’s not the technical meaning of simultaneous here. I mean it does relate to that because when you realize the simultaneous wisdom you’ve realized the true nature of the mind that is always there. But these are two different requests. One request is that the simultaneously great bliss shine. The second request is that we cut the delusions shadow of grasping at inherent existence. The third request is that we cut the net of doubt of the true nature of the mind. Ultimately these three get to the same point. But sometimes when we specify the things it helps get it clearer in our mind. Simultaneous, because when you’re doing this tantric meditation there are different levels of bliss you generate. The simultaneous is the greatest level of bliss.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: I forget at the moment, but I think, I mean it definitely has to do with actualizing the subtlest level of mind.

So, those are the special requests that kind of sum everything up for us.

Request and absorption

Glorious and precious root guru,
Sit upon the lotus and moon seat on my crown.
Guiding me with your great kindness,
Bestow upon me the attainments of your body, speech, and mind.

Glorious and precious root guru,
Sit upon the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
Guiding me with your great kindness,
Grant me the general and supreme powerful attainments.

Glorious and precious root guru,
Sit upon the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
Guiding me with your great kindness,
Please remain firmly until I attain full awakening.

The next three verses involve request and absorption. Here what we’re doing is we’re beginning the closing down process. And so we’re saying,

Magnificent and precious root guru,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat on my crown.
With your great kindness keep me in your care.
Grant me the realizations of your body, speech and mind.

This is just a different translation of the same verse we say in our daily prayers. Here what we do is we imagine that the all the rest of the visualization dissolves into Lama Tsongkhapa as the central figure. Maitreya, the two disciples, and everything dissolves into Lama Tsongkhapa. We are requesting Lama Tsongkhapa, our magnificent and precious root guru—root guru meaning Lama Tsongkhapa is the nature of our root teacher—to come on and sit on our heads. Lama Tsongkhapa comes and sits on the crown of your head facing the same direction as you. And we’re really saying, “With your great kindness keep me in your care.” That’s important for us because we feel cut off and alienated, and we think, “The Buddha’s far away and my teacher’s far away and none of them talk to me anyway.” When we really do this it’s really, “Oh, wow! The guru Buddhas are keeping me in their care.” It makes you have this warm, nice feeling inside. It’s like, “Wow, somebody cares for me. And it’s the Buddha!” I think that’s quite important to us.

Then we’re asking for the realizations of their body, speech, and mind. So, for our body, speech, and mind to become like theirs. At that point the visualization has dissolved into Je Rinpoche in front, who now has come on top of our head. Then we recite the second verse.

Magnificent and precious root guru,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
With your great kindness keep me in your care.
Grant me the general and sublime realizations.

At this point we imagine that now Lama Tsongkhapa melts into light and merges in our heart. We imagine that our heart/mind and Lama Tsongkhapa’s heart/mind become the exactly same nature and that we attain the general and sublime realizations. This is the same as what was called the ordinary and extraordinary realizations above. Now Lama Tsongkhapa has just melted into light and merged into our heart. Then we recite the next verse:

Magnificent and precious root gurus,
Please sit on the lotus and moon seat at my heart.
With your great kindness keep me in your care.
Please remain firmly until I attain full enlightenment.

Now Lama Tsongkhapa reappears sitting on a lotus in our heart, a lotus and moon seat on our heart. And we go around the rest of the day remembering Lama Tsongkhapa is inside of us remaining firmly there until we attain full enlightenment.

This is a whole skillful meditation. First, we’ve imagined everything outside, then we’ve dissolved it back into us at the end. It all came from our mind anyway. It lacks inherent existence.

Lastly, we recite the verses of dedication.


Due to this merit may we soon
Attain the awakened state of Guru-Buddha
That I may be able to liberate
All sentient beings from their sufferings.

May the precious bodhi mind
Not yet born arise and grow.
May that born have no decline
But increase forever more.

Whatever virtue I may have gathered here, may it bring benefit to the migrating beings and to the Buddha’s teachings. May it make the essence of Buddha’s doctrine, and especially the teachings of Venerable Losang Dragpa shine for a long time.

In all of my lives, through the Victorious One, Lama Tsongkhapa acting as the actual Mahayana guru, may I never turn away for even an instant from the excellent path praised by the Victorious Ones.

Any questions about what we’ve done?

Examples of different guru yoga practices

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Lama Chopa is one, the Sanskrit name is Guru Puja. That is another form of guru yoga—jorcho, and it’s one guru yoga practice. So, Lama Tsongkhapa is a guru yoga practice, Lama Chopa is a guru yoga practice. I mean, also when we do the Chenrezig practice it’s a type of guru yoga. These are all guru yoga practices. Of these Lama Chopa is more expanded; it’s quite a bit longer; it’s usually done on the Tibetan lunar tenth and twenty-fifth each month. Some people do it every day. I do it every day. And this Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga is a shorter form of guru yoga.

Do I need a empowerment to do this practice?

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Yes. There is an empowerment, a Lama Tsongkhapa empowerment. But the practices I’ve described here, you’re completely okay doing without empowerment. Serkong Rinpoche did the empowerment with us when I lived in Italy. Very nice. Which reminds me, I’m looking forward to seeing him when I go to Dharamsala.

Sometime a tsog offering is included in various practices

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Well, when we did the Ngung Ne we included the tsog offering in it, but that isn’t necessarily part of it. It’s like Lama Chopa which you can do together with the tsog offering, or not with the tsog offering. To do the tsog offering, to actually perform it, you need the empowerment of the highest class yoga tantra. So, when people have taken that empowerment then we can start doing the tsog offering regularly together as a community. So, it’s optional. When we do this at the close of Ngung Ne, I put the tsog offering in because it’s nice to do the tsog. And this is the short guru yoga, and people have to go to work because we live in America, so in order not to make it too long then I include the tsog in here, but it’s not necessary.

Value of doing daily short versions of this practice to keep the connection

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: Yes. Right. Do one meditation session in the morning and one in the evening. It’s nice to keep up the practices daily even if you do the practice in a very short way many days. Then one day you have more time, you do it in a longer way. That’s very nice because it’s like when you live with somebody. If you check in with that person every day, then the feeling of closeness continues. If you don’t talk to each other for a few days, then it’s harder to feel close again. It’s the same with Chenrezig or with Lama Tsongkhapa. Even if you just do the practice as a short version, it’s kind of like checking in and keeping the close feeling open each day. Then some days you have more time, so you do the longer version, you sit and have a long talk with your friend. It’s kind of like that. Or there might be the different practices that you’re beginning to learn. One practice that you really like a lot, so that one you do more extensively; you spend more time on it each day. And the other practices you do more quickly. But you still keep them up.

Suggestion for making an abbreviated version of this practice

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: This one? To do it quickly? Basically, what I suggest is you do the sections of ‘Refuge and Bodhicitta,’ ‘Actual Practice’ (the seven-limb prayer, and the ‘Mandala Offering.’ For the ‘Short Request to Je Tsongkhapa’ you do the short verse to Lama Tsongkhapa three times or seven times. With a visualization, just do it during the time it takes to recite the three or seven recitations. And you can do the quick recitation of mig-tse-ma. You don’t need to do the slow melodious one. And then you can just do the request and absorption and the dedication. So, if you were to do it in a real quick way instead of spending a long time with the visualizations and the recitation you just do three or seven of them—which takes very little time at all to do. All these practices, the Tibetan practices, they’re like accordions. There are ways where you can do them really short, and there are ways you can stretch them out. And that’s really nice because it develops some kind of flexibility and creativity in your mind. To expand things, and to get to the point.

For Part 1 of this 2-part teaching, go to: Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga Part 1

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.