Initiation, Empowerment or wangkur
A characteristic feature of Vajrayana Buddhism is the requisite ritual for participating in the worship, service and practice (Skt.: sadhana) of a deity or bodhisattva. This is the process by which a lama with experience in the particular practice confers on others the description, explanation, visualization and order of the practice, along with appropriate offerings and specific mantras. It is more than the sum of its parts though; it is a lineage transmission of blessing and energy.
The empowerment or initiation grants permission, bestows help with, and gives access to, the benefits of a tantric practice. It can be short or long, and complex or very simple. It normally includes the wang (Skt. abisheka) which is the actual consecration or dedication of the student to the practice-deity, the lung which is the oral transmission -- a recitation of the procedural text or manual (sometimes in a condensed or speedily-read version,) and the tri or instructions on how to do the practice. In special cases, a brief ritual-touching of the student with the text, accompanied by recitation of the associated mantra is sufficient.
Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche (d. 1989,) who served for many years as Chief Meditation Master of the Kagyu, in Gently Whispered (New York: Station Hill, 1994) said:
Gently Whispered contains a complete sadhana of Chenrezig which is possible to practice without an empowerment beforehand, although the practitioner should see to getting one as soon as possible.
A complete Buddhist empowerment is usually divided into four parts:
(Initiations for the practices of Chenrezig or Tara do not generally fit that pattern.)
Transforming Poison into Nectar
Here is an excerpt from Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche's (as yet, unpublished) commentary on Bhante Dharmaraja's Jewel Treasury of Advice: 100 Verses from the Heart. The Drikung Kagyu master [whose Sanskrit monastic name is transliterated to respect a regional accent as] Bhande Dharmaradza, lived from 1704 to 1754, and is considered a reincarnation of the great Dharmakirti (1595-1659.)
These four initiations are usually associated with the highest of the four main classes of tantra, such as Hevajra (Kyedorje), Chakrasamvara (Demchog), Vajrayogini (as Dorje Naljorma) or Kalachakra (Dukhor)
Getting the Power
According to Kalachakra.Net, the Dalai Lama, during a Manjushri Initiation in NYC in 1998, said:
An empowerment is only a beginning. For there to be enduring benefit, proper practice has to follow.
There is a hierarchical progression in tantric practices for which the empowerment is an essential ingredient, and so a wang may belong to the any of the tantra classes. (The number and kinds of classes depends upon the particular denomination of Buddhism.) The most frequently given initiations are for deities such as Chenrezi, Green Tara and Amitabha.
Any teaching which is associated with the empowerment means that there is a possibility for practice commitments to be imposed.
Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche taught that one can take an empowerment:
He said that in order for an empowerment to be effective, there must be three conditions:
1. The motive of the teacher is pure and founded in love and compassion. The lama must also have been empowered, and must have experience with the practice him- or herself.
2. The student or disciple must trust, without reservation, the validity of the ritual and the qualification of the lama. The lama is understood as a representative of the Buddha and also, of her- or his own teacher. The personal day-to-day qualities of the lama are not as significant as their role as vajra-guru.
3. Ritual objects such as image, vase [bumpa,] tormas and other suitable offerings must also be there.
When a practice is authentic, it is a link in the continuity of four aspects of transmission:
R.M., a practitioner, called that energy "grace" and likens it to " ... electrical power, invisible and very powerful." He said to the Kagyu email list, that
To participate, a person must have taken Refuge. Sometimes, the Refuge ceremony will be given immediately beforehand, so that the newer students may participate. This is especially the case in the West where visits from tantric lamas are few and far between.
A wang involves different consecrations/purifications. A major empowerment may have four transmissions, blessings or consecrations, and some of those are themselves sub-divided into several separate ritual actions.
A minor wang generally has three consecrations, one each for Body, Speech and Mind - the "three doors" through which we act (and create karma). Actually, from a higher perspective, the three are already purified, though generally we do not realize that.
In fact, it is the goal of tantric practice to purify all actions of Body, Speech and Mind by removing our moral and mental defilements [kleshas] so that our actions become not different from those of a Buddha. To paraphrase the words of His Holiness Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley: There is happiness when motivation and action are the same.
Receiving an empowerment is like the planting of a seed; later, with the right conditions, this seed will sprout into true Buddhahood. Therefore, when an empowerment is announced, often there is besides the statement that 'Refuge is required,' the phrase 'commitments may be imposed.'
From posts on the K
The Body Consecration purifies physical defilements so that we may visualize ourselves as the deity. For example, whether old, young, male or female, we are Chenrezi, with one face, four arms, holding a rosary, a gem, and so on.
The Consecration of Speech purifies the voice and empowers us to be able to recite the appropriate mantra.
The Mind Consecration empowers us to realize the non-duality of our own mind and the mind of the deity, so that the everyday dichotomy of subject and object is transcended.
All three together empower us to do a specific meditation practice in which (among other things) you visualize yourself as the deity, recite the mantra, and allow any thought of a distinction between yourself and the deity to slip away. These practices help us to achieve the realization that our true nature as not different from Buddhahood.
Since the visualizations performed during major wangs are lengthy and complicated, there may be texts available for preparatory description and explanation. Some people like to bring along a small pad and pen to take notes.
If a wang includes a Vase Consecration then there will be a
ritual flask or bumpa with peacock
feathers. The liquid in the flask will have been consecrated before
the wang by the lama. During the ritual, the flask will be placed
on your head (usually the congregation will form a line, and go up one at a time
to receive these blessings) and you may be given some of the nectar from the
flask to drink. (It will be poured into your cupped hands from which you
sip. Any remaining drops are dried upon the crown of the head.)
Getting Ready for an Empowerment
You should prepare yourself as if you were going to receive consecration from the Buddha Himself (as, in a sense, your are).
During the preparation ritual performed by the lama before the wang, he created himself as the deity. Throughout the wang you should think of the lama as not different from the deity, and visualize him in the form of the deity. The consecration is more effective if you cultivate a firm belief that you are receiving the wang from the deity.
For example, if you are receiving a Chenrezi empowerment, then you should constantly imagine the lama in the form of Chenrezi, and believe that it is Chenrezi Himself who is conferring the empowerment upon you.
Before entering the area where the wang is to be given ,you should remove your shoes and wash your mouth with water. (There are usually assistants to pour water for this purpose, and to hold the bowl into which you spit it out.)
If the lama is already seated, you should make three prostrations toward him or her. Before each one, touch the slightly cupped palms of your hands together to the forehead, throat and heart. If for physical or other reasons you cannot make full prostrations then it is sufficient to bow deeply three times in the direction of the lama.
It is best to sit cross-legged, but if you are prevented by physical causes then it is permissible to use a stool or a chair. If, when sitting cross-legged, your legs or back become tired then change position quietly. You should not lie on the floor, or sit with your legs stretched out toward the lama.
Before the wang begins, the monk who is assisting the lama will usually give you a small amount of rice, which you should keep handy. This rice is for use in the mandala offering which occurs shortly after the beginning of the wang.
As there are always at least two mandala offerings during a wang (at the beginning and at the end), you may want to save some rice in a heap beside you (or in an accessible pocket) for the final mandala offering.
While waiting for the wang to begin, instead of looking around, you might reflect on your reason for being there. It is important to cultivate the right attitude, which is as follows: Sentient beings suffer under conditions of dissatisfaction and sorrow caused by moral defilements (passions) and mental defilements (delusions). Although you may recognize this condition of universal suffering, you cannot do much about it because you are as bound as everyone else. Only by attaining the wisdom, compassion and power of the Buddhas can you rescue yourself and others from this condition, and so for the sake of all sentient beings you are receiving this consecration. (Of course, this is a reminder of the 4 Noble Truths and the Mahayana attitude or bodhisattva vow.)
The ceremony may begin with the recitation of Refuge and preliminary prayers. Then there is a mandala offering to the guru, whom you visualize in the form of the deity, surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The monk assisting the lama acts as the model for you; he may make three prostrations and heap rice upon a silver mandala plate. While he is doing that, the participants perform the mandala mudra (in which the parallel ring fingers together pointing upward symbolize the axis of the cosmos according to ancient Indian cosmology), but this is not essential. Try, though, to imagine that in offering a bit of rice, you are really offering the universe with its millions of worlds containing all good things. You are offering all this for a bestowal of empowerment by this generous lama.
As the assistant concludes the chanting of the mandala-offering verses, he will throw rice in the air; you do the same with a movement of the hand beginning at the heart going out from the body to symbolize the heart-felt motivation of these offerings.
There are then, certain prayers of requesting that the lama will recite in Tibetan. You repeat them phrase by phrase as best you can. As an expression of devotion, it is customary to place the palms together at the heart when reciting prayers.
During this introductory part or preparation, we recite the Seven-fold or Seven-branch Prayer:
1. We confess all sinful actions performed during countless past lives.
2. We rejoice in all the virtuous deeds performed by the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas and by all sentient beings.
3. We promise to maintain an attitude of Absolute bodhicitta which is the realization of Ultimate Truth - "emptiness".
4. We take Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha until we attain Enlightenment.
5. We hold the attitude of Relative bodhicitta - the desire to attain Enlightenment for the sake of rescuing all sentient beings from their sufferings.
6. and also to take all steps necessary for attaining Enlightenment for this purpose.
7. We dedicate the merit produced by all these good actions to the welfare of all sentient beings.
It is usual for the lama to explain the origin of the tantra. That is, how it came to be practiced, and how it relates to this or her particular teaching lineage.
Throughout the empowerment there are various visualizations/actions to be performed. They may be introduced beforehand, or explained by the lama just at the appropriate time.
The visualizations during the main part of the wang are more complicated than those of the preparation. For example, during the main part you may have to visualize deities emerging from space, or from the lama's heart, and Tibetan letters appearing at certain places on the lama's body and/or your own.
You may be asked to visualize lights of various colours issuing from the lama's heart and shining upon yourself and all other sentient beings, that purify defilements.
At some point, you may visualize yourself in the form of the deity, according to the instructions of the lama. This Body Consecration is made firm as incense is wafted by the assisting person.
During the Voice Consecration you usually have to visualize the mantra of the deity (in Tibetan letters) emerging from the heart of the lama and entering your own heart. The lama then may recites the mantra, which you repeat after him three times.
During the Mind Consecration, you visualize the seed-syllable of the deity in your heart and by concentrating on this seed-syllable which is the essence of the deity, you try to realize the non-duality of your own mind and that of the deity/lama.
The empowerment ends with various prayers and a final mandala offering of thanks to the guru for bestowing the wang. The disciples then file past the lama to receive any special blessings, such as the placing of the vajra/flask on top of the head, and sometimes, to receive an image.
If the mandala of the deity has been constructed (present in major wangs) then you should look into it and offer homage to the deity at its center.
customary to offer white scarves (Tibetan: khatag) at this time, or at
the very end, but this is not strictly necessary. If a khata is
offered (held as in the picture) then it should be placed in front of the lama or at his
side. Often, it will be returned to you (with the help of the
assisting monk) as a blessing, but not always. They may be available for
purchase before the ritual, but if you do not have one, you can offer a smile
and a bow.
Though the value of an empowerment cannot be measured in dollars, that does not mean that money is unsuitable as an offering. Flowers and fruit are suitable as offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; lamas who are residents at dharma centres, who help build monasteries and schools, and who travel widely need money. Each person should offer what he or she feels is appropriate.
Like Planting a Seed
In order to practice Vajrayana Buddhism, one has to receive Wang, Lung and
What Happens During An Empowerment Ceremony
An Empowerment always involves several different initiations. A major
Receiving an Empowerment is like planting of a seed. With the right
The Sanskrit term "Guru" refers to a person of great spiritual attainment
What To Do When Attending An Empowerment Ceremony
You should prepare yourself for an Empowerment as if you were going to
During the Preparation Stage, you should do the following:
1. Wash your mouth before you enter the hall.
Usually, the main part of the Empowerment consists of the Body, Speech and
During the concluding stage of the Empowerment, you do the following:
1) Chant the concluding prayer.