The Ritual Practice of Amitabha by
Ven. Tenga Tulku
How Amitabha Achieved Buddhahood
A long, long time ago, before this era known as the Superior Aeon, there
appeared in the world a Buddha called Jikten Wangchuk Gyalpo.
His attendant, a monk named Gelong Chöchi Lodro, showed great mindfulness,
intelligence, understanding, and diligence, and he took the Bodhisattva Vow from
this Buddha. For thousands of millions of years, he applied himself earnestly to
spiritual practice with the intention of helping sentient beings towards full
realisation. He also made a sincere wishing-prayer that, on his attainment of
enlightenment, he would manifest a buddha-realm incorporating all the qualities
of a million buddha-realms within it.
Many thousands of millions of years later, in the aeon known as 'Zinpa', Gelong
Chöchi Lodro was born as a chakravartin monarch, Zipji Muchee ('Rim of
Spokes'). One of his ministers, the brahmin Gyamtso Dul, had a son,
Gyamtso Nyingpo, who became ordained and, feeling wearied with samsaric
existence, he attained full realisation in that very life, becoming Buddha
Rinchen Nyingpo (Ratnagarbha).
This world ruler, Zipji Muchee, and his retinue made many offerings and served
this Buddha with great respect. "Over many of my former lives," said
the king, "I've made this aspirational prayer to create a buddha-realm."
The Buddha gave him this prophecy: "Many aeons ago you were the gelong
Chöchi Lodro. Now you are Zipji Muchee, and in a future life you will become
For thousands of millions of years Zipji Muchee practised the Dharma. He vowed
that he would not achieve buddhahood until every being who prayed to be in his
buddha-realm could be born there. Eventually his wishing-prayer was fulfilled,
and he became Amitabha. The buddha-realm he manifested is known as Déwachen.
Ten aeons/kalpas have passed since Amitabha established that realm.
The Qualities of Dewachen
In general, to enter a buddha-realm, one must have removed even the most subtle
of obscurations, kept very pure samaya, and have attained the first bodhisattva
level. So, for ordinary beings, it is very difficult to enter a buddha-realm.
However, due to Amitabha's strong wishing-prayers, anyone who makes a sincere
wishing-prayer to go to Déwachen can be reborn there, even though one has not
purified unvirtuous karma nor liberated oneself from the disturbing
In this present Superior Aeon, the Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Chenrezig, and
Vajrapani, as well as deities, nagas and humans, requested Shakyamuni to teach
"The Sutra of the Pure Realm of Déwachen." This sutra describes
the qualities of Déwachen. In brief, these qualities are that the earth is made
of precious substances, the ground being as flat as the palm of a hand, not
uneven like our world of mountains and valleys. It is vast and spacious, and the
light shining from the body of Amitabha, and from the jewels and precious
substances, makes it very clear. The ground is not rough, solid or stony, but
soft, smooth and comfortable. If one were to press down on the ground, it
would give way and spring back like foam rubber.
In Déwachen, the trees are made of 7 precious gems: all the roots are of gold,
the trunks are silver, the branches lapis-lazuli; the large leaves are crystal
and the small ones are pyrites; the blossoms are pearls and the fruits are
diamonds. Whatever one wishes for appears from these trees. Jewels, tassels and
adornments loop from one tree to another.
Birds and animals, unlike those of our world, are manifestations of Buddhas and
bodhisattvas. Some are the colours of conches, turquoises and corals, and their
bird-calls are very enchanting, like the sound of a lute. Within those sounds
are taught the vast and deep teachings of the Dharma.
The rivers flow softly and gently, carrying the fragrance of camphor and white
and red sandalwood. This water has 8 qualities: its essence is very cool, its
taste delicious, its outer appearance light, soft to the touch, very clear and
unsullied by stones or pebbles; if drunk, it gives no harm to the throat or
stomach. On the water are buddha-manifestations of geese, ducks and cranes. One
can bathe in the many pools, reached by descending flights of 7 steps made of
Although these pools are deep, as one enters, the depth of the water adapts
itself to the size of one's body. Surrounding these bathing-pools are fragrant utpala
and lotus blooms, emanating light-rays. At the tips of the light-rays appear
innumerable Buddhas, each surrounded by Arhats.
Within this buddha-realm resides Amitabha, known in Tibetan as Öpamé,
meaning 'Immeasurable Light' or 'Limitless Radiance' because light-rays from his
body pervade every buddha-realm, illuminating them all. He is also known as
Buddha Amitayus, or in Tibetan
Tsépamé, meaning 'Immeasurable Life', because the extent of his life
cannot be calculated. His body is as red as ruby, which symbolises the warmth of
his compassion extending to all beings.
Amitabha has the 32 principal and 80 secondary marks of a Buddha, like
Shakyamuni. On his head, one of the main marks is the head-mound or 'ushnisha',
gained whilst he was practising the spiritual path (as Chöchi Lodro and Zipji
Muchee), from bowing down with reverence to the Buddhas Jikten Wangchuk Gyalpo
and Rinchen Nyingpo. As a result, at the time of attaining buddhahood, the
head-mound appeared. Amitabha's 'one face' symbolises that the dharmakaya is
free from all conceptual complication. His 2 arms represent means and wisdom,
and his 2 hands in meditation gesture signify the unification of means and
wisdom. He holds a begging-bowl filled with amrita, symbolising his kindness
towards sentient beings by giving vast and deep Dharma teachings. He wears the 3
dharma-robes, denoting gradual instruction of beings through Sravaka,
Pratyekabuddha and Bodhisattva Paths. As he never wavers from resting in the
equality of samsara and nirvana, his legs are in vajra-posture.
Amitabha sits on a throne that is supported by 8 peacocks. When the sutras and
commentaries describe the 5 buddha-families, a particular aspect of wisdom and a
specific direction are ascribed to each one, even though they each embrace every
aspect of wisdom. Amitabha is associated with the western direction, and he
embodies discriminating wisdom, which arises when thoughts of desire and craving
are purified. Within the minds of ordinary beings, all the kleshas are present:
anger, desire, ignorance, pride, jealousy and so on. It is believed that birds,
in particular, have strong desire and craving, so, as a symbol of craving
transformed into discriminating wisdom, Amitabha's throne is supported by
In other practices, Akshobya is associated with the eastern direction and his
throne is supported by horses; Ratnasambhava with the south, his throne
supported by elephants; Amoghasiddhi with the north, his throne supported by
shang-shang creatures; Vairochana with the centre, his throne supported by
On Amitabha's throne is a 1000-petalled lotus, which symbolises that he remains
unstained by samsara. Although he has attained liberation, he has not abandoned
his body nor entered nirvana, but stays in the world, due to his compassion, in
order to benefit beings. His back rests against a bodhi tree, 600,000 yojanas
high, and its branches, leaves and flowers extend 800 yojanas (1 yojana is
approximately 4 miles). Due to our impure vision, we only see a small bodhi tree
at Bodhgaya, but once
we are reborn in Déwachen, a bodhi tree resembles this one described above. It
is called a bodhi tree because every Buddha has one, and when one achieves
buddhahood, it is obligatory that one must have a bodhi tree to lean against! (Rinpoché
chuckles). The cause for achieving buddhahood is to take the Bodhisattva Vow and
to develop bodhicitta. In every sadhana practised, one takes refuge and
generates bodhicitta. The bodhi tree symbolises bodhicitta.
To Amitabha's right is Chenrezig, with 4 arms, and to his left Vajrapani, with 2
arms. The fact that both are standing symbolises, first, that until samsara has
been emptied they will work to liberate sentient beings, and, secondly, that
they are disciples of Buddha Amitabha. They are surrounded by an infinite number
of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats all with head-mounds, and wheel-marks on
their hands and feet, wearing dharma-robes.
In Karma Chagmé's long 'Déwachen Prayer', he describes Amitabha, Chenrezig and
Vajrapani as 'very vivid' by using 3 synonyms. Firstly, they are physically
'vivid' (Tib. lhang ngé) because, amongst the entourage of Buddhas and
bodhisattvas, they stand out as exceptional, like 3 supreme mountains. This is
due to the proportions and qualities of their major and minor marks of
buddhahood. In terms of speech, they
are also 'vivid' (Tib. lhan né) because first Amitabha teaches Dharma,
followed by Chenrezig and Vajrapani, and at that time their speech permeates all
the buddha- realms. For the mind aspect, Amitabha is again described as 'vivid'
(Tib. lham mé) because of his compassion.
Having taken birth in Déwachen, one does not hear any more even the mere names
of the 8 unfavourable states, or of the lower existences. In Déwachen,
there are no ordinary women with anger, pride or desire. In this world,
sometimes men love women, and at other times they are angry with them and
quarrel, yet feel great suffering when they die. However, in Déwachen there are
only goddesses, 3000 emanated to serve each individual.
If someone in Déwachen wishes to visit the other pure realms of, for example,
Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Tara or the Glorious Copper-Coloured Mountain of Guru
Rinpoche, one can simply go there, receive empowerments and teachings from those
particular Buddhas, and return again to Déwachen. Having been born in Déwachen,
one possesses unobscured clairvoyant powers, including the ability to see other
beings in their particular worlds and give them protection and blessings, or, at
the time of their death, to go to the bardo to meet them and bring them to
Déwachen. All these qualities of Déwachen are explained in The Sutra of
Amitabha, which was eventually brought to Tibet and translated by the
learned lotsawas, and now exists as part of the Kangyur.
About This Sadhana
This Amitabha sadhana is a terma teaching called "The Space Dharma" (Tib.
nam chös), revealed by a tertön, Mingyur Dorjé. It is a 'realisation-terma'
that arose within his mind, with visions of Amitabha, from whom he received
these teachings. Rigdzin Minjur Dorjé was an emanation of the translator
Vairocana (8th C.), and of Shubu
Palji Sengé. Karma Chagmé brought the tertön to his residence at Nédo, and
when these visions and instructions from Amitabha came to Minjur Dorjé, Karma
Chagmé wrote them all down. There are 13 volumes of these teachings.
When he was 19, Minjur Dorjé went to Katok, a famous Nyingma monastery,
where he gave the Space Dharma teachings to Palyul Kunzang Sherab ([of a lineage
related to] Penor Rinpoché) and 25 tulkus. Karma Chagmé compiled these mind-treasures and
visions, writing them down. Karma Chagmé's first teacher was the 5th Trungpa
Rinpoche, Kunga Namgyal. His root lama was the 6th Shamarpa, Chöchi Wangchuk.
There is a vast life-story of Karma Chagmé's practices, studies and
visions.[He lived from 1613-1678 and was 17 years old when his teacher the 6th
Shamarpa passed away. From 1649-1662 he did a 13-year retreat, during the last 7
years of which he was accompanied by the young Nédo Minjur Dorjé (1645-1667)
whose visions he compiled as the Space Dharma Teachings. While sadhanas
from this form the 'Nédo Kagyu' tradition, the entirety of his teachings
has been transmitted as the central basis of the Palyul Nyingma tradition.] In
later life, Karma Chagmé went to Nampatsé, passed away and is said to have
gone to Déwachen.
THE ACTUAL PRACTICE
The first verse of 4 shlokas (page 1b in the Samye-Ling translation
'Amitabha Prayers', 1987 edition) is a supplication to Amitabha,
followed by a verse to Chenrezig, Vajrapani and their vast entourage of
bodhisattvas and arhats.
Next (page 2a), there is a verse of
supplication to 'The Second Buddha', Padmasambhava, and his 25 main
disciples in Tibet, and to the 84 mahasiddhas of India.
As this practice
first appeared as a mind-terma of Minjur Dorjé, the next 4 shlokas are
to him and to all the gurus who received the empowerments and
instructions from him. These verses supplicate the gurus.
There follow 4
shlokas to the yidam deities, both those who are peaceful manifestations
such as Manjushri, Tara, and Chenrezig, and those with wrathful aspects,
such as Dorjé Phurba and Channa Dorjé (Vajrapani).
After this, one
supplicates the Dharma protectors (2b), Palden Lhamo and Mahakala, and
the guardians of this practice, the Shingchong protectors.
In the final
verse one prays that, through the blessing of having supplicated in this
way, all one's illness and suffering will be pacified; one's life and
merit will be increased; one will be reborn in Déwachen and become
inseparable from Amitabha. Throughout this prayer, one is praying with
faith and devotion. There is no special visualisation.
In order to be born in Déwachen, one needs 4 causes:
1) whatever virtue one is practising, one must do it with bodhicitta
2) the realm of Déwachen, with its special features, must be imagined
3) one must purify one's bad karma, and accumulate good karma;
4) one must pray many times to be reborn in Déwachen.
These 4 Causes will be explained below.
1) REFUGE & BODHICITTA
When reciting the first 2 lines (3a), one takes refuge in the 3 Jewels
and 3 Roots. Imagine Amitabha in space before one, encircled by gurus,
buddhas, bodhisattvas, yidams, protectors and dakinis. One imagines
oneself and all beings taking refuge in Amitabha.
The following 2 lines are the development of the bodhicitta attitude,
whereby one thinks: "I'm going to practise this Amitabha sadhana, in
order to establish all beings in buddhahood." Having recited the refuge
and bodhicitta verses 3 times, Amitabha and his whole entourage dissolve
into light and merge into oneself.
BLESSING THE OFFERINGS
(3a) One imagines that from emptiness the 7 offerings appear, as well as
the amrita, torma, and rakta. They are inexhaustible offerings filling
the whole of space.
Of the 4 causes for rebirth in Déwachen, the first, the prerequisite of
bodhicitta motivation, has been covered in the refuge and bodhicitta
part of the sadhana. The next part is the basis for rebirth in Déwachen:
the visualisation of developing the realm.
2) THE VISUALISATION
There are 2 parts to this: imagining oneself as the deity, and imagining
the deities in front. Other tantric practices have an elaborate
procedure for developing the self-visualisation, followed by the
front-visualisation. This sadhana has just a simple procedure.
(3b) Imagine Déwachen with its soft, springy ground. In the centre of a
pond of water, with the 8 special qualities, is an 8-petalled white
lotus, its petals almost closed. In its centre is oneself as Chenrezig,
white in colour, with head-mound and 2 arms, hands together at the heart
in prayer-gesture, one's lower body hidden within the lotus.
In front of one is a precious throne, supported by 8 peacocks. On it is
a thousand-petalled lotus and a moon-disc, on which Amitabha sits, as
red as a ruby, with 2 arms, his 2 legs in vajra-posture. A begging-bowl
filled with amrita rests on his hands, which are in meditation gesture.
His back rests against a bodhi tree.
To his right is Chenrezig, white in colour, standing on a moon-disc and
lotus, with 4 arms: 2 hands in prayer-gesture at the heart, and the
other two holding a lotus and mala.
On Amitabha's left stands Vajrapani, on a lotus and moon-disc. He is
blue in colour, with 2 arms, holding a vajra and bell in his right and
left hands respectively.
(4a) In the 3 places of the Amitabha, Chenrezig and Vajrapani in front
of one are a white OM, red AH, and blue HUNG, and in one's own heart, a
white HRIH. Light-rays of 5 hues go out to Déwachen, inviting the 3
principal deities, and they arrive in space before one. The damtsigpa
deity of one's own visualisation is already in front, and one now
imagines that the yeshépas, the wisdom-beings, become inseparable from
[Tenga Rinpoche was asked to explain the terms 'yeshépa' and
'damtsigpa'. This was his explanation:
The commitment-being, 'damtsigpa' (Tibetan) or 'samayasattva' (Sanskrit)
is the deity one is imagining, i.e. oneself as the deity or the deity in
front. From both oneself and the deity in front light-rays go out
inviting the deity from the buddha-realm: the wisdom-being, 'yeshépa'
(Tib.) or 'jnanasattva' (Skt.).
In the word damtsigpa/samayasattva, 'damtsig'/'samaya' is a changeless
commitment. When one imagines oneself as Chenrezig, one does not change
back into an ordinary being, or into another deity. It is a changeless
commitment. The '-pa' (short for 'sempa') or '-sattva' is a hero, or
someone with courage. This means that sometimes during meditation the
deity can become unclear, but one has great courage and the strength to
prevent that from happening, to remain clear. Thus all the faults in the
development and completion stages of visualisation are unable to defeat
one. That is why it is termed '-sempa' or 'brave one', 'hero'. Through
meditating on the damtsigpa, clinging to the 5 skandhas is purified, and
the result of this purification is the attainment of the sambhogakaya
state in the bardo.
As regards the yeshépa/jnanasattva whom one invites, 'yeshé/jnana' is
the pure nature of one's own mind and the nature of a Buddha's mind too;
they are identical. The Buddha's awareness of the mind being dharmakaya,
or primordial mind, is called ultimate wisdom, or 'yeshé.' The '-sempa'
refers to the fact that in the dharmakaya one is free from all thoughts
of something existing or not. One is free from all these faults or
complications. At this time, one is inviting the primordial wisdom,
'yeshé', in the form of the deity, who merges into oneself as the
damtsigpa. Through meditating on that, the ignorance of one's own mind
is purified. What makes this purification possible is the innate purity
of the dharmakaya mind of a Buddha and the purity of the essence of
one's own mind. The result of this purification is the attainment of the
dharmakaya at the time of death, when the 'ground luminosity' appears,
along with the 'clear light of the path'.
In the Nyingma tradition, one visualises oneself as the damtsigpa, and
in one's heart is the yeshépa, the size of one's thumb. In the heart of
that small deity is the 'ting-dzin-sempa' (skt. 'samadhisattva'). So it
is slightly different.]
From oneself as Chenrezig emanate innumerable bodhisattvas exactly the
same as oneself. They offer thousands of prostrations and
circumambulations to Amitabha in front of one, in this way confessing
and purifying the powerful bad karma and obscurations of beings. The
mantra of invitation is "OM AMI DEWA HRIH. BENDZA SAMAYA-DZA. DZA HUNG
BAM HO. TITRA LHEN. ATI-PU HO."
If it was a wrathful practice, " DZA HUNG BAM HO " would represent the
activity of the hook, noose, chain, and bell, but in the peaceful
"DZA" signifies "summoning" - all the lights coming from the
invoke the wisdom-deities to come into space before one;
"HUNG" means "remaining" or "residing" - the
wisdom-deities, whom one
has invited, and one's own visualisation, the commitment-deities, are
essentially the same: the essence of the mind of a buddha and of one's
own mind is emptiness and appearance inseparable;
"BAM" signifies "binding" - the wisdom-deities and one's own
commitment-deities become mixed with each other, like water into water;
"HO" means "pleased" - after the wisdom-deities and
have blended, they feel great joy and happiness at being able to
accomplish the benefit of beings.
"TITRA LHEN" is a request to definitely remain;
"ATI-PU HO" is a mantra of homage.
(5a) From the HRIH in one's heart, lights radiate to the 10 directions
inviting the 5 buddhas of empowerment and their consorts. The 5 Buddhas
scatter flowers and recite prayers of good fortune. The 5 consorts hold
vases of good fortune full of amrita with which they give empowerment to
Amitabha, Chenrezig, and Vajrapani in front. Amitabha's body fills with
wisdom-amrita, and the excess overflows from the top of his head to
transform into Amitayus, who remains as his head-adornment. The 5
Buddhas and consorts dissolve into Amitayus.
This head-adornment of the master of the relevant buddha-family is
customary for all tantric practices. All deities from the Vajra family
have Akshobya as their head-adornment; those from the Ratna family have
Ratnasambhava; all from the Lotus family have Amitabha; from the Karma
family, Amoghasiddhi; from the Buddha family, Vairochana. For the
buddhas themselves, as there is no-one higher than them to become master
of their family, they take different aspects of themselves as their
head-adornments. Amitayus, as the sambhogakaya form, is above Amitabha,
who is the nirmanakaya form. They are essentially the same Buddha.
3) GATHERING THE ACCUMULATIONS & PURIFYING KARMA
The third factor one needs to practise in order to be reborn in Déwachen is
gathering the accumulations and purifying one's bad karma and
(5b) Countless bodhisattvas emanate from oneself as Chenrezig, holding vases of
amrita for washing the 3 principal deities. Although they have no dirt, smell or
stain on their bodies, one enacts this as a good sign (Tib. 'tendrel') for the
purification of bad karma and obscurations.
This is followed by the drying of their bodies with soft, white, scented cloths,
as a good sign for removing suffering in one's own and others' minds.
The bodhisattvas hold the 3 dharma-robes for the nirmanakaya deity, Amitabha,
and dress him.
There are basically 3 dharma-robes:
- the outer robe has 25 vertical sections, each divided further into 5 parts;
- the upper robe has 9 vertical sections, each divided into 3 parts;
- the lower robe has 8 vertical divisions, each divided into 5 parts.
There are elaborate, medium and simple forms of these robes, and within these
categories there are elaborate-elaborate, medium-elaborate, simple-elaborate and
so on, making 9 possibilities in total. Although Amitabha does not feel cold,
one offers these 3 types of robes as a token of increasing the vitality of
oneself and others.
One offers to Chenrezig and Vajrapani crowns, bracelets, lower robes, and
jewellery. These bodhisattvas, who are in sambhogakaya form, have 13 types of
adornments, comprising 8 types of jewellery and 5 types of silk clothing.
The 8 jewelled adornments are:
- a jewel crown or tiara called "The 5 Buddha-Families";
- jewel earrings;
- a short necklace;
- a necklace reaching to the heart;
- a long necklace reaching to the navel;
- bracelets and armlets (1 of each for each arm);
- a belt or 'girdle' at the waist, with loops of jewellery hanging from
The 5 silks are:
- a 'back silk', i.e. a silk ribbon hanging from the back of the head, just
behind the tiara, like a tassle;
- 'silken earlobes' - the tiara stops just behind the ears with a decorative
pattern of 5-coloured silks which hold the back silk tight, and these silks hang
down behind the ears;
- some deities have a short blouse, and others have a floating scarf;
- a red silk skirt, or some have a skirt 'like Indra's bow', which means a
- on top of this red lower skirt is a blue silk.
One also finds variations of these 13 types of adornments in the instruction
texts. One offers these, not because Chenrezig and Vajrapani have a desire to
possess such jewels and clothing, but in order to create the karmic conditions
for increasing the majesty and splendour of oneself and all beings.
After the bodhisattvas have offered the drinking-water of the 8 qualities, as an
auspicious sign for oneself and all beings becoming free from suffering, they
merge back into oneself as Chenrezig.
Now, from one's heart, emanate many beautiful dakinis of individual colours,
each holding a specific substance to offer.
First, yellow dakinis appear with
scented water of the 8 qualities to wash or cool the feet of Amitabha, Chenrezig
and Vajrapani. Jamgon Kongtrul explains in a Guru Yoga practice the reason for
this offering: it is not because their feet are dirty or hot, but in order to
purify the incidental stains in one's own mind, so that in future one will be
endowed with immaculate wisdom. The offering made, these yellow dakinis merge
into the feet of the Buddha and 2 Bodhisattvas. It will be the same procedure
for all the subsequent offering-dakinis: after completing the offering they
merge into the corresponding part of the recipients' bodies.
White dakinis offer flowers. Amitabha will be neither pleased nor
displeased if these are offered or not, but, through making this offering, one
can remove the suffering in one's own mind, and in future one will be able to
please beings by possessing the body of a buddha with the 32 major and 80 minor
marks. These dakinis merge into the eyes of Amitabha, Chenrezig and Vajrapani.
Blue dakinis offer incense. This offering is made to purify the stains of
one's conduct. If one has broken commitments, one will have to experience the
results of this negative karma and the obscurations that it produces. In the
future, through making this incense offering, one will have stainless, correct
conduct. The dakinis merge into Amitabha's nose.
Red dakinis offer butter lamps, in order to clear away ignorance and
stupidity in one's mind, so that, in future, one will attain the clear light of
ultimate wisdom (skt. jnana). The dakinis merge into Amitabha's
Green dakinis, carrying scented water, anoint the bodies of Amitabha,
Chenrezig and Vajrapani. This offering is made to eliminate duality in one's
mind: clinging both to perceptions and to their perceiver (the mind itself that
grasps). In the future, one will attain the non-conceptual state of the samadhi
of shamatta and vipassana. The dakinis merge into the bodies of the 3
Yellow dakinis offer food to the tongues of Amitabha and the 2
Bodhisattvas. This offering eliminates the sufferings of hunger and thirst
experienced by sentient beings. It also eradicates greed, the cause of these
miseries. In the future, all beings will be able to enjoy the food of samadhi.
The dakinis merge into the deities' tongues.
Yellow dakinis offer music, in order to eliminate all the sufferings of
sound experienced in the 3 lower existences, so that, in future when one is
teaching Dharma, one will have a voice as melodious as that of Brahma. The
music-offering dakinis merge into Amitabha's ears.
One then emanates many beautiful dakinis, who make the offering of a beautiful
consort to Buddha Amitayus on top of Amitabha's head. This is offered in order
to eliminate the sufferings of the hell-realms that result from anger, greed and
craving, so that, in the future, one will attain a state of bliss and
Following this, from the tips of one's fingers (as Chenrezig), which are in
prayer gesture, rays of light bearing the 8 auspicious substances, the 8
auspicious symbols, the 7 possessions of a chakravartin, and the mandala of
Mount Meru and the 4 continents are offered to Amitabha,
Chenrezig, Vajrapani and the entourage.
Why are the 8 substances considered auspicious?
They were all offered to, and subsequently blessed by, Sakyamuni Buddha.
Since that time, if one gives or receives any of these as a present, one thinks,
"This is a good sign, a very auspicious substance!" There is
auspiciousness and inauspiciousness related to everything. In the practice of
Dharma, every circumstance is considered to occur according to the 'laws of
interdependence', and sometimes events can happen auspiciously or
inauspiciously. For example, if one wishes to go into retreat, and one has a
retreat house, food provided, a lama to give one instructions, good caretakers,
freedom from illness and so forth, these are favourable conditions and are
considered auspicious, or of good fortune. Conversely, if one needs to find
one's food, falls ill, things always go wrong, or there seem to be obstacles and
one cannot complete what one wishes to do, that is called inauspicious.
Each of these 8 substances was offered to, and blessed by, the Buddha:
- white mustard-seed was offered by Vajrapani;
- a straw-seller offered durva grass as a seat for the Buddha;
- a tree-goddess offered bilva fruit (applewood);
- Longchen Sasong offered 'givang' (ambergris) which comes from an
- the goddess of earth offered red lead (minium);
- a dairymaid, Lekchéma, offered yoghurt that had been condensed from the milk
of 2000 cows;
- the goddess of form, Zukchi Lhamo, offered a mirror;
- the Lord of Gods, Indra, offered a white conch.
One offers these substances, not because Amitabha considers them auspicious or
inauspicious, but in order that all beings will have the auspicious good fortune
of being able to accomplish the practice of Dharma.
Following this, the 8 auspicious symbols
[The parasol] When practising on the path, a bodhisattva bows with
reverence and respect to his teachers, and as a result, the head-mound appears,
one of the physical signs of a Buddha. The parasol is of a similar shape to a
Buddha's head-mound, so one offers this auspicious symbol and prays that one
will have the good fortune of this physical sign of buddhahood, as a consequence
of offering this symbol.
A golden fish is offered to the eyes of Amitabha, Chenrezig, Vajrapani
and their entourage. Buddha Amitabha's eyes are long, like the petals of an
utpala flower or a golden fish. These eyes appeared at the time that he attained
buddhahood, after developing limitless compassion and love for beings while
practising on the path.
The Buddha's neck has the shape of a vase, since on the path he nursed
the sick and gave delicious food to many. Due to that, on achieving buddhahood,
his neck took the shape of a vase, so one offers an excellent vase to the necks
of Amitabha and his entourage.
The Buddha's tongue is like a lotus petal, slender, supple and endowed
with miraculous powers. While practising the path, he never told any lies. As a
result, at buddhahood his tongue took the shape of a lotus petal, so one offers
an excellent lotus to the tongues of Amitabha and his entourage.
On the Buddha's throat are 3 lines like the spirals on a conch. He gained
this sign by giving medicine to sick people while he practised on the path, and
when he achieved buddhahood, these 3 lines appeared. This is why one offers a
white conch (with clockwise spirals) to the throats of Amitabha and his
The knot of eternity is offered, symbolising 2 qualities of the Buddha's
mind: He knows the nature of things just as they are, and also the many
things that are to be known. He attained these qualities by continually
practising the 10 virtuous actions whilst on the path, so this knot is offered
to the minds of Amitabha and his entourage.
The body of Buddha is like the victory banner, or like the nyagrodha
tree, in that it is neither too small nor too tall but in perfect proportion
and size. This body is said to be like a victory banner because he remains
always in a state of meditation. One offers this banner to the bodies of the 3
deities and their entourage.
On each of the Buddha's palms and soles is the image of a
wheel. While practising on the path, whenever a teacher came to give
Dharma instruction, he would go to meet them out of respect and escort them to
his residence. Likewise, when they departed, he would escort them some of the
way, out of respect. Consequently, at buddhahood, these wheels appeared.
They are offered to the hands and feet of Amitabha and his entourage.
As Amitabha has already perfected the 8 qualities associated with these signs,
he does not need these auspicious symbols offered to him, but one makes the wish
that, due to the virtue gained through making these offerings, in future oneself
and others will be blessed with bodies possessing all these signs.
This is followed by offering the 7 precious possessions of a universal
monarch, a chakravartin. In worldly terms, after buddhas, bodhisattvas and
arhats, the next in degree of merit is a universal monarch. Through the power of
his accumulation of merit, such a king attains naturally these 7 precious
- a 1000-spoked golden wheel. If such a king intends to travel from one
continent, such as Lupakpo, to Dzambuling, this golden wheel will land on the
ground before he arrives;
- a jewel. It is made of lapis-lazuli, is 8-faceted, and is worn on the
king's top-knot. Light-rays from this jewel shine as bright as the sun for a
distance of 5 miles even during the night. If one has such a jewel on the
top-knot, all one's wishes or prayers will be fulfilled;
- a queen, as wife to the king. She is beautiful to behold, her behaviour
is gracious and so forth: she has all the 32 excellent qualities of a woman.
- a minister, white and beautiful. He is very wealthy, yet has the
courage to give all his wealth away to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as offerings,
and to other beings as generosity. He is able to endure the hardships in giving
away his wealth, so he also has great forbearance;
- an elephant, as white as a snow-mountain in
sunshine. When the king rides it, it has the power to fly through the sky;
- the supreme horse: it is the colour of a peacock's neck, has a large
tail and thick mane. It is so swift it can go around all the continents in one
- a general. He is very powerful, and through the power of his prayers or
wishes all his enemies are pacified, so he never needs to fight wars.
One offers these 7 precious possessions in order to become a chakravartin king
in the future.
There follows the [mandala] offering of the Supreme Mountain
and the continents:
In the Kalachakra Tantra, the central mountain is described as round, whereas in
the Abhidharma system it is described as square. Ultimately, they have no true
reality. According to the scientific view, one sees this world and the central
mountain as round with all the continents encircling it. Others see the world as
flat, like a plate. The Buddha said that in the minds of different beings arise
different appearances, on account of their individual karma, but ultimately none
of this has any reality. One might think that there is only one world like this,
but the buddhas have taught that there are millions of similar worlds, each with
a supreme mountain and 4 continents, containing many forms of life.
Before the creation of this world, there was just empty space, but beings were
living in other worlds at that time. This empty space appeared as a world due to
the karma of beings. First, a lot of air moved in this space for a long time,
eventually becoming very solid, like a foundation or ground. The name for this
is 'a double-vajra (or vajra-cross) of air'.
Through beings' karma, above this ground appeared a cloud in space called 'the
essence of gold'. A heavy rain fell from this cloud for a long time. As a
result, on this vajra-cross of air an ocean appeared, called 'the peaceful,
solid and permanent ocean' which was soft to the
touch, cool and delicious. The air agitated the many particles of gold that were
contained in this ocean, and they were brought together, to create the golden
basis for the earth. When one makes the mandala-offering, one says: "The
completely pure basis, the ground of gold". That part of the offering
refers to this layer of gold.
Through the karma of beings there appeared another cloud, called 'various
jewels', and it rained for a long time, forming an ocean on this basis of gold.
This is the water that people sail on, when travelling in a boat. As this ocean
was agitated by the waves for a long time, all the particles of various jewels
gathered together like foam on its surface, and gradually formed solid land, in
the form of the central mountain, Mount Meru. In the Abhidharma system this
mountain is described as square with 4 steps at the bottom, and its 4 sides are
crystal (east), aquamarine (south), ruby (west) and gold (north). All the
sediment of jewels left in the turbulent ocean came together and formed 7
mountain ranges, encircling the central mountain, made of 7 different precious
substances. Between each range (and between the central mountain and the ranges)
is an 'ocean of joy', a total of 7 oceans.
On top of Mount Meru appeared the city of Indra and the deities in the 'Heaven
of 33'. Within this paradise is contained all the wealth and splendour of
deities. In the 7 oceans that lie between the 7 mountain ranges, live the naga
kings, and all their wealth is contained there.
There are 12 continents around Mount Meru: the 4 main ones of Lupakpo,
Dzambuling, Balangchö and Draminyen, each with 2 satellite continents. Apart
from Ngayap, the land of the rakshasas, the other 11 are populated by humans,
and all of their wealth and splendour are contained therein. When offering the
mandala, all the wealth and splendour of the deities, humans and nagas from
these paradises, continents and oceans is offered. Although Amitabha does not
need these riches, they are offered to perfect one's dualistic accumulation of
merit and the non-dualistic accumulation of wisdom. When one has perfectly
completed these accumulations, one accomplishes one's own benefit, by attaining
the state of dharmakaya, and the benefit of others, by manifesting the form-kayas.
When offering vessels of deathless amrita, one prays for the attainment of the
supreme accomplishment (siddhi), i.e. the realisation of Mahamudra, and the
ordinary accomplishments. Altogether there are 8
ordinary accomplishments, such as the 'eye medicine' with which one can see
great distances, or see through the ground; 'fast legs', whereby one has the
power of great speed; clairvoyance; miraculous hearing; miraculous sight, and so
One offers a torma possessing the 100 flavours and the 5 pleasures of the
senses, and also rakta, which is essentially an offering of red amrita. It
seems, from the longer offering text, that rakta is an
offering of blood, but there is not an actual offering of blood poured out. It
also appears from the words in the text that the torma is actually made of flesh
and blood, but it is only described this way in
terms of what one is going to purify. In the longer offering text it says:
"crunch the bones of anger and eat the flesh of ignorance, drink the blood
of desire." In this way, one imagines these 3 mind-poisons are offered into
the deities' mouths and eaten by them, thereby defeating the 3 kleshas.
If one 'offers the anger', in this instance as amrita, the wisdom deity is not
actually drinking some amrita. What happens is that thoughts of anger become
defeated. Everyone has the 5 mind-poisons. The
wisdom-deities have the 5 facets of ultimate wisdom, and by offering one's own
mind-poison of anger it becomes transformed into 'mirror-like wisdom'. This is
the meaning of the deity overcoming the mind-poison of anger.
Similarly, the ignorance of all beings is symbolised by the torma, and if that
torma is offered to the deities, this ignorance can be pacified, diminished, and
transformed into 'dharmadhatu wisdom'. The offering of rakta symbolises
attachment and craving, which becomes pacified, and transformed into
'all-discriminating wisdom'. When pride, subsumed under the klesha of anger, is
pacified, it is transmuted into the 'wisdom of equality'. When envy, included in
the desire klesha, is pacified, it is transformed into 'all-accomplishing
wisdom'. In summary, if one is offering amrita, torma and rakta to the deities,
one should not just practise it merely on the basis of the words of the text,
but one needs
to understand the underlying meaning.
(11b) The dakinis render homage and sing praises to Amitabha, first to his Vajra
Body, which is compared to Indra's body. In Indra's palace of 'Complete
Victory,' in the 'Heaven of 33', the roof, ceilings, walls, and floors are all
made of precious, reflecting jewels. Although Indra has only one body, his
reflected image can be seen in every direction. Sometimes he's known as 'Indra
of 100 bodies', as his body is like space, pervading everywhere by means of the
reflections. That is the reason this example of 'a body like space' is given in
the sadhana, as Amitabha is able to permeate all phenomena with his
Anyone who has faith and trust in Amitabha is seen by him at all times, and if
one speaks to him, he hears what is said. If one imagines that he is present in
front of one, he is actually there, due to his compassion. With strong
devotion, one will receive his blessing quickly. In spite of animals and fish
having no faith in Amitabha, he still regards them all with his compassion, but
they receive his blessing only gradually. Due to the nature of interdependence,
if faith is present, blessing is received quickly, but if there is little or no
faith, blessing is received gradually.
In the Mahayana Uttara Tantra Shastra (translated as 'The Changeless Nature'),
it is explained that even though there is only one moon in the sky, it is
reflected many times in pools and oceans, in clear or dirty water. Just like
that example, Amitabha's activity permeates everywhere. The dharmakaya appears
everywhere, dependent on the clarity of one's mind. If the water is agitated,
the moon will still reflect in it, but unclearly. It is the same with one's
mind: if the mind is agitated, the dharmakaya is not clearly revealed. That
concludes the praise and homage to the dharmakaya.
Amitabha's speech is called Vajra Speech as it is unceasing. In terms of the
quality of his speech, it is unequalled even by the sound of thunder, and also
it is very beautiful, like melodious song or music.
When the Buddha teaches, to those nearby his speech does not sound loud, but
pleasant and clear, yet those listening far away can also hear it clearly. If
one is listening to Amitabha's speech, it never sounds
unpleasant, and it possesses 60 special qualities unmatched by melodious song.
Rinpoché thinks that this is why the 2 examples, of his voice being unmatched
by thunder and melodious song, are given in the sadhana. Out of compassion for
all beings, Amitabha continually gives Dharma teachings. That is the praise and
homage to the sambhogakaya.
There follows a praise to Amitabha's Vajra Mind, which is endowed with the 2
qualities of knowing the nature of things just as they are, and the many things
that are to be known. It is a mind that cares for the
welfare of all beings continually with great compassion and impartiality. Even
though Brahma is a lord of a thousand million worlds, and Indra is powerful and
has great merit, their minds cannot equal the
mind of a buddha. One pays homage to Amitabha's mind, residing in a nirmanakaya
form. In the text, it describes Amitabha as nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya or
dharmakaya. These 3 are simply different aspects of forms.
Each kaya has 3
different facets. For example,
the dharmakaya of dharmakaya is Buddha Samantabhadra;
the sambhogakaya of dharmakaya is Vajradhara;
the nirmanakayas of dharmakaya are the 5 lords of the buddha-families.
So, Amitabha, as head of the Lotus family, is classified here as nirmanakaya.
The dharmakaya of sambhogakaya is Vajradhara;
the sambhogakaya of sambhogakaya is Vairochana Gangchentso;
the nirmanakaya of sambhogakaya is Sakyamuni Buddha.
The dharmakaya of nirmanakaya is Amitabha;
the sambhogakaya of nirmanakaya is Chenrezig;
the nirmanakaya of nirmanakaya is Guru Rinpoche.
So, here, Amitabha is the dharmakaya.
CONFESSION AND PURIFICATION
One imagines the offering goddesses prostrating, and confessing any of the 10
unvirtuous actions that one has carried out physically, verbally or mentally.
They merge back into the heart of oneself as Chenrezig. When confessing
one's breakages of samaya, one needs to generate the 4 remedial powers:
1) feeling regret at former negative actions, realising they were harmful and
should not have been done;
2) resolving not to commit such actions in the future;
3) the power of reliance or support: in this case, imagining Amitabha, Chenrezig,
and Vajrapani in space before one, and, with them as a basis, one makes the
4) the power of remedy: here it means reciting the mantra OM AMI DEWA HRIH.
If all these 4 powers are complete, then even though the extent of one's
negative actions might be comparable to the size of Mount Meru, they will be
There follows a prayer addressing Amitabha and his entourage. It says that with
body, speech and mind one is devotedly praying for the supreme and ordinary
accomplishments, and through receiving the blessing may one attain the level of
VISUALISATIONS FOR THE MANTRA RECITATION
Having concluded the visualisations for gathering the accumulations, the second
part of the development stage involves reciting the mantra and visualising the
deity. There are many different ways of developing the visualisation of Amitabha
and his entourage: the deity can be complete in an instant of thought, or
complete in 3 or 5 stages. From amongst these, here one adopts the visualisation
that is complete in an instant.
Generally, there are 3 aspects to the development stage:
- clear appearance of the deity;
- stable or strong pride;
- mindfulness of purity.
With regard to the clear appearance of the deity, one imagines Amitabha in
front, and one focuses one-pointedly on him: first, his head mound, then his
eyes, nose, mouth, ears and so on. Focus successively on all the bodily parts of
the deity within the visualisation. If one is looking at the eyes or mouth, then
one cannot, at the same time, imagine the head-mound, but that does not matter,
as long as one is visualising one part. Imagine the upper part of his body, the
lower part, his hands, the begging bowl. Direct the mind to his legs in vajra-posture,
and his 3 Dharma-robes, the moon-disc, the lotus, the throne supported by
peacocks, the bodhi tree.
'Stable pride' or 'confidence' is to think: "This is truly Amitabha present
in space before me."
With regard to 'mindfulness of purity', the form taken by an ordinary being in
this life is a result of karma accumulated in a former life. A deity's form,
however, appears due to the qualities of buddhahood, from ultimate wisdom. One
thinks that the appearances of the deities are not due to former karma.
(13b) Imagine that one transforms oneself from being 2-arm Chenrezig to his
4-arm aspect. In one's heart is the whole of Déwachen, with Amitabha, the 2
Bodhisattvas, and millions of bodhisattvas and arhats. One imagines all this
complete in one's heart. Within the heart of this Amitabha is a moon-disc, on
which is a red HRIH, encircled by his mantra, OM AMI DEWA HRIH. The mantra faces
outwards and turns clockwise, emitting 5-coloured lights that go upwards and
come out from his urna hair, between the eyebrows, and then out through one's
own urna hair into space, to all the buddha-realms.
>From the tips of these light-rays countless offerings appear, and are
presented to the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the 10 directions. One thinks that
all their power, compassion, and wisdom return in the form of light-rays that
enter through one's urna hair, and through the urna hair of Amitabha in one's
heart, back into his mantra. Think that one has received all the blessings of
Again these light-rays go out, this time to all the 6 realms of beings,
purifying all their bad karma and obscurations, which are the causes for their
suffering. In this way, every being gains the good fortune to be born in
Déwachen, in the future. Imagine that the whole outer world is transformed into
Déwachen, and sentient beings become either Amitabha, or another of the dhyani
buddhas, or one of their consorts, or a bodhisattva. From their mouths come the
sounds of the mantra, which shake all the lower realms to their very depths,
thus completely eliminating them. One thinks that all beings who have form, and
also those who are formless (spirits and non-humans) attain the state of
The mantra recited is "OM AMI DEWA HRIH". "AMI" means
"limitless light" and "DEWA" means "deity". So the
mantra means "deity of limitless light".
In pujas, the visualisation normally practised is this one.
It says in the Abhidharma teachings, concerning group practice, that if
people recite a mantra together with a mutual intention, as they are doing here
every evening in Samye-Ling, then even though one person may recite only 1000
mantras, through everyone together completing 100 million mantras,
each person who participates will gain the benefit of reciting the whole number
(15a) This visualisation is practised after reciting Amitabha's 6-syllable
mantra. First, from the HRIH in Amitabha's heart (within oneself as Chenrezig
with 4 arms), a chain of red HRIH syllables emerges
and exits from his mouth, going upwards to come out of one's own mouth. It
enters the mouth of Amitabha in front, and descends to his heart, where it
merges into the mantra circle, invoking his compassionate activity to accomplish
the benefit of beings. From the mantra comes a chain of red HRIH syllables,
which descends to go out through his navel, enters the navel of oneself as
Chenrezig, and enters Amitabha's navel at one's heart. One thinks one has gained
all the blessings and siddhis
from Amitabha. This is called the visualisation 'like a circle of fire'.
Secondly, in the space between one's mouth and Amitabha's mouth in the front
visualisation, light-rays of 5 different colours radiate out from the chain of
red HRIH syllables to go to the Amitabha residing in
Déwachen. They merge into him, and please him as an offering to his body,
speech and mind. From his body emanate countless large and small bodies of
Amitabha; from his speech, countless mantras and HRIH syllables; from his mind
emanate large and small 5-pronged red vajras. They all come like a swirling
snowstorm, and merge into oneself as Chenrezig, into Amitabha in one's heart,
and into the Amitabha visualised in front. For this visualisation, recite "HRIH"
for the time one has available.
(16a) In the vase in front, imagine the whole of Déwachen, with Amitabha,
Chenrezig, Vajrapani and their entourage. In the heart of the front-visualisation
Amitabha and in the heart of the Amitabha in the
vase is a moon-disc, on which stands a red HRIH encircled by the long 'dharani-mantra'
of Amitabha, turning clockwise. Light-rays go out from this dharani, purifying
all the bad karma and obscurations of every sentient being. From Amitabha's body
in the vase, amrita flows and fills the vase completely. For this visualisation,
recite the long dharani, which was taught by the Buddha in the sutras.
(16b) After the mantra recitation, one recites the 'Alphabet Prayer' and the
'Epitome of Interdependence' 3 times, followed by the 'Offering and Confession
THE CONCLUDING PRACTICE
PRAYER OF GOOD WISHES
In the spring of 1986 these instructions on the
Amitabha practice of Terton Minjur Dorje's "Space Dharma Heart Treasure"
were given by Ven. Tenga Tulku at Kagyu Samye-Ling, with Peter Roberts
translating. They have been edited for general use. A more elaborate
version, with instructions for Shrine Layout, Vase Visualisation, Long Life
Practice, Guardian Practice, Ganachakra and Powa, is available at the Samye Ling
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