The Genesis of Chenrezig

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The Genesis of Chenrezig from the late Bokar Rinpoche's Chenrezi, Lord of Love: Principles and Methods of Deity Meditation (Wisdom, 1991)

From an absolute point of view, Chenrezig is without origin; he exists primordially. However, from the relative point of view, there is a beginning of his manifestation in the realm of phenomena. The description given here of this manifestation is a summary of the more extensive teaching found in a text called the Mani Khabum.

Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light who reigns in the Land of Bliss (Dewachen), one day conceived that in order to help beings a deity in the form of a young man should be manifested. His right eye then emitted a beam of white light that took the form of Chenrezig. He saw the necessity of having a deity in the form of a young woman and a beam of green light sprang from his left eye giving birth to Tara.

Having been born from the eye of Amitabha, the young man miraculously appeared on a lotus. 

In those days there was a king called Sublime Kindness (Zangpochok) in the Land of Bliss. A thousand queens were his companions, but he had no son. This was his great regret, and he fervently wished for the coming of an heir. In order to fulfill his wish, he gave much of his wealth to the dharma and, on his shrine, presented many offerings to the Buddhas and the Three Jewels. He regularly sent a servant to the Lotus Lake lying not very far from the palace to bring back beautiful and fresh flowers for the shrine. 

One day, when the servant went to pick flowers, he saw a wonderful child seated on the heart of a lotus. He immediately ran to the palace and reported this to the king. The king thought that his prayers had been fulfilled; the miraculous child could be none other than the son for whom he had wished so much. He went to the Lotus Lake with his entourage to invite the young man to come and live with him. This boy appeared to be sixteen years old; he was very handsome, white in color, and adorned with silks and jewels. He was ceaselessly saying: “Poor beings! Poor beings!” The boy then came to live in the palace. The king called him Heart of Lotus (Padmai Nyingpo) because of the circumstances surrounding the boy’s discovery.

Sublime Kindness wanted to know from where the young man came. He therefore went to see Amitabha and asked him whose emanation Heart of Lotus was and what was his true name.

“This child is an emanation of the activity of all the buddhas,” answered Amitabha. “He is the one who accomplishes the benefit of all beings, the one who makes joyful the heart of all the buddhas. His name is ‘Chenrezig, The Noble Sovereign.’ The help that this well-born son brings to beings will be as vast as space.”

When Chenrezig later looked at beings with compassion, he saw that they were covered with many karmic veils formed by the influence of desire, aversion, blindness, jealousy, and pride. Thus their sufferings were innumerable. He saw all of that and a tear dropped from each of his eyes. Tara appeared from the tear that fell from his right eye and the goddess Lhamo Trulnyerchen appeared from the tear that fell from his left eye. The two deities turned toward him and said, ‘Do not be scared. We will help you with your mission to benefit beings.” Then suddenly they melted again into his eyes.  

While he was in the presence of Amitabha, Chenrezig thought, “As long as there is even one being who has not attained awakening, I will strive for the benefit of all. And if I break this promise, may my head and body split into a thousand pieces!”

Amitabha understood his thought and told him, “This promise is excellent. Myself and all the buddhas of the three times, having taken such commitments, attained awakening for the benefit of all. I will help you to accomplish that which you have promised.” Chenrezig’s body then emitted six beams of light that produced emanations whose destiny was to act for the benefit of all in each of the six realms of being: humans, gods, demigods, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings.

He thus worked for many kalpas. Then, one day, he looked with the eye of knowledge from the top of mount Meru to see if he had liberated many beings and if the number of beings in samsara had diminished. Alas, he saw that they were still innumerable.

He was very sad. Being discouraged, he thought, “I do not have the capability to help beings; it is better that I rest in nirvana.”  This thought contradicted his promise, and he burst into a thousand pieces and felt intense suffering.

Amitabha, by the power of his grace, reconstructed the body of Chenrezig. He gave him eleven faces and a thousand arms similar to the thousand spokes of a universal monarch’s wheel and a thousand eyes, symbolic of the thousand buddhas of the present kalpa.  Chenrezig could henceforth help the beings in this form as well as with his other forms of two or four arms. Amitabha asked Chenrezig to retake his promise with still more vigor than before and then transmitted to him the six syllable mantra: OM MANI PADME HUNG.

This is the history of Chenrezig’s manifestation in the relative domain. 

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