The Four Foundations of Tibetan Tantra
Appendix II of Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical
By C. M. Chen as written down by Rev. Kantipalo
We have discussed meditation from the various standpoints of philosophy,
tradition and practice but here is the practical aspect which is most important.
Both the Old and New Schools in Tibet are in agreement on these valuable
preparations for Tantric practice. The subject is divided into five sections,
the Four Foundations individually and lastly the inter-relationships between
I. Taking Refuge
In the whole system of Buddhist meditation, to take refuge stands
at the beginning of practice although following after are two kinds of
knowledge, or the wisdoms of hearing (and reading) and thinking. Now the
fault of most Buddhists in the East is that they take the Refuges first,
that is, before developing these two wisdoms.
The Buddha did not receive a disciple unless that disciple first knew
something of His Teachings. In fact, He instructed personally those who
came to Him before admitting them as His disciples and always asked them
to study and thoroughly understand what he thought. He did not favor blind
faith and in the Dharmapada we find many instructions concerning this.
The Buddha mentioned two sorts of Dharma-instruments: those who were inspired
by the Exalted One and immediately believed in Him (araddhaviharin) and
the others who did not take the Refuges at first but rather gained knowledge
of the Teachings (Dharmaviharin), (as many Westerners do, added our Yogi).
The Enlightened One declared that He preferred the latter type. This is
one extremely important characteristic of the Buddhist religion in which
it differs from other systems. In Buddhism, one is encouraged to question,
to gain knowledge and to develop intelligence, a striking contrast with
outsiders?religions where one is first asked to believe in and to unreservedly
accept certain dogmas.
Westerners learn many Buddhist teachings from reading translations of
the sacred texts (Tripitaka). "This is good," commented Mr. Chen. Once
I was very much ashamed to hear Mme. Alexander David-Neel who preached
at the Sutren Buddhist Association. On the surface, she praised the Chinese,
but I think that really her talk contained the sharpest criticism. She
said that it is very fortunate that all Chinese believe Buddhism. Even
all the little children and the village women who know nothingthey all
praise the Buddha. In the West it is different. There, few people are Buddhists
but many of them are scholars and philosophers who have studied His Teachings.
After giving from memory the substance of the great French Buddhist
scholar's words, Mr. Chen went on: The only faith that most Chinese have
in the Buddha is to regard Him as some spirit or God. They worship the
Buddha just as they worship Kuan Kun or any other Devata. Most of them
have no idea of the difference between respecting a god and taking the
Refuge of Buddha. In the West it is very good that before becoming Buddhist
people acquire knowledge.
Among the three kinds of wisdom, taking Refuge belongs to the practicing
wisdom (bhavanamaya prajna) and this comes after the hearing and thinking
wisdoms. But in the East, sad to say, people have a common faith in Buddhism.
In this respect, the Western Buddhists are good.
A. Preparation for Taking Refuge
One should first study the Hinayana doctrine and realize the very terrible
and dangerous conditions existing in the world which are liable to effect
one unless the triple Refuge is taken. After one has read translations
(or texts) of the Theravada scriptures (as for instance, those issued by
the Pali Text Society) one will know the conditions of human life and that
whether one is rich or poor, weak or strong, one realizes that this Saha
world is full of dangers. By studying the Four Noble Truths and seeing
their application in our life, many bitter, painful things come into our
world of knowledge which we had not discovered before. Also, we will formulate
a philosophy of the universe and of our life according to our investigation
of the first two Noble Truths. For this we shall need to take Refuge in
the Three Gems.
Many persons in the East take Refuge in the Three Gems but do not know
the dangers of this world before doing so. Indeed it is my experience that
they are usually seeking comforts rather than seeing dangers when they
visit a temple. In the temple, especially if it is a rich one, they may
have the best worldly comforts while enjoying the quasi-spiritual pleasure
of seeing marks of attainment in others. In Chinese temples there are different
waiting rooms for visitors graded according to social ranksome are outside
of the main building and rather sparsely furnished, while others are secluded
in the complex of courts and buildings and are most elegant. The tea with
which guests are provided also varies with their status. Mr. Chen got up
and did a bit of acting. Pretending to be a host monk, he called out rather
harshly and abruptly: "Bring Tea." This, he explained, is the order for
poor persons and the attendant thereby knows that the lowest grade of tea
is meant. For those of middling standing, and Mr. Chen smiled politely,
the order is: "Tea please" and such people then receive a medium good tea.
Beaming, he called out in refined tones: "Please give the best tea"this
is for guests of the highest social position, who must know that they are
getting the best. It is my good luck that I can always give you the best
tea. I have just told you this as you should know what these people think
about when they go to a monastery even if it is to take the Refuges.
Again, two kinds of comforts are spoken in China: "Pure comfort" and
"Red comfort." The pure sort is experienced from visiting some mountain
peaks and there throwing away all cares and burdens to discourse philosophically
with monks and nuns, and admire the beauty, solitude and quietness. Red
comfort is gained from worldly pleasures such as those of the table or
with the opposite sex. Whether people are bent on enjoying the first or
the second, they never think of the shortness of life, or when they may
die, or of disease, old age, etc. They neither think over these things,
nor are they aware of themselves who are just like deer with many wounds
from many hunters?arrows.
Even those who come to a monastery with the idea of becoming monks may
be treated very well, with plenty of food, good beds and fine views from
the windows. Chinese monasteries are commonly built on or near famous mountains
and have much land with many farmers working to support them. (Under the
present regime in China, replace have?with had?) There was no need
to bring food from one's family as was the common practice among Tibetans.
All this we see is very comfortable and really shows a lack of the Hinayana
spirit of renunciation. Of course, not all monks are like this, nor are
all the monasteries they live in like this, still this condition was certainly
One should think of taking Refuge as similar to the small chicks crowding
under the wings of their mother when many things around them threaten them
with harm. Or again, as the Tibetan refugees when they escaped from their
Communist dominated homeland and came to India to find many consolations
there but at the same time remembering the great dangers they had avoidedin
such ways one should think about this world and the Refuges.
If one does not think like this, then taking Refuge is without meaning.
Even some Bhikshus have no good idea about taking Refuge. Instead of taking
Refuge in the Dharma which is the true teacher, they seem to become monks
only to get a wealthy patron, good food, a good reputation, and so forth.
If their guru orders them to go and stay for a long while in a mountain
hermitage, they would not like to obey him, but if a patron invited them
to his house, immediately they would go. Laymen also sometimes think that
taking Refuge is a sure protection from worldly sorrows and so they take
it to promote good business, to get more money, a son, or to make a good
marriage. This is not sincerely taking Refuge in the Triple Gem at all.
Above is what we may call the negative side of taking Refuge. One must
see all the dangers of Samsara before one can really desire to escape from
continued birth-and-death. Moreover, this idea must be held very firmly
in the mind.
2. The Doctrine of the Mahayana
From the Sunyata sublimation of the Mahayana, one achieves a positive
transformation of human life to become one with the good conditions of
Buddha nature. If one has not yet realized this sublimation in Mahayana
but has finished the Hinayana preparations, the meditator should ask himself:
now that I am rid of affliction by pain, what should I do? It is well if
he at this stage takes the advice of some well experienced teacher.
My guru, Tai Hsu, wrote a book "A Buddhist Must Declare Himself." The
substance of this work lies in these ideas: Now I have become a Buddhist
and I am quite different than I was in my past. Before I took the Refuges,
I smoked and drank alcoholbut not now. I declare that I now lead a changed
life and shall endeavor not to act like a common uninstructed person.
After all, the aim of Mahayana is not to seek a release from pain but
rather to develop a good character as a Bodhisattva and with one's accomplishment,
to save others even with pain in himself.
In China, it was customary to come to a guru and say to him: I am just
like an uncut stone and I request you to engrave and polish me.
As a simile for taking Refuge, we may think of the magician who points
at a stone, turning it into gold: such a transformation is effected in
the character by one who takes the Three Refuges.
3. Learn Some Doctrines of the Vajrayana
Traditionally, one does not learn any of the secret teachings unless
one has first taken Refuge in the esoteric sense. But in the West some
tantric texts have been published quite openly and any one who cares may
read them. From such reading one may find good points to judge the Buddhist
Teachings and some good methods in the position of Consequence. (See for
instance, the Oxford Tibetan series).
Extending the simile we have already used, we may say: The golden stone
has now become a golden Buddha-image through the Refuges of the Vajrayana.
If a person has the high purpose to become a Buddha, then first he should
get an early and perfect renunciation of all possessions and take Refuge
in the Four Gems (in esoteric Buddhism, Refuge in the Guru precedes the
other Three). Such a one taking Refuge does not behave like a common person
who gives a khatag (ceremonial white scarf) to Rinpoche, repeats three
times what he says and then hurries away. Many foreign students spend money
to come to me and, already having the return ticket booked, ask me for
the Refuges. Firstly, I am not a guru, and secondly, such people having
an attitude like this are not ready to take them.
I hope that our readers will have read much on our subject and have
very thoroughly made all the necessary meditation preparations. With their
minds well-set on these ideas they may then truly take the Refuge. Taking
Refuge, after all, is not a matter of social intercourse, it is not as
though one was joining some school or other with an ambition to make a
name for oneself in this or that subject. Even in school, it is necessary
for a pupil to follow the syllabus for the prescribed number of years and
to accept the discipline and instructions of the teachers. In a spiritual
matter then, it is not possible just to come and to go as one pleases.
If one truly desires to take the Refuges, it is not correct to think of
departing again immediately after they have been given.
Mr. Chen gave another example: If I go to a craftsman and wish to become
his apprentice, he will not straightway teach me his art but may hand me
a broom to give me some menial work to do. Then, when he sees that I do
any work well and have no pride, being completely obedient to him, then
he will impart his techniques to me slowly, slowly over perhaps three to
seven years. Buddhism is not merely for worldly ends but for the highest
purpose of Full Enlightenment. How then, can one think of going to see
a teacher for a few hours and then going back? This attitude saddens meso
lies the fact that so few gurus are really good. Where neither guru nor
disciple are really good and their meeting even involves monetary transactions,
whatever Buddhism there may be at such a time is quickly gone.
B. Stages of Taking Refuge
- Find a good guru and make offerings to him.
- Stay with him and devotedly serve him every day.
- Practice under the guidance of the guru.
- If you get your guru's permission or if he sends you on some mission then
you may leave him, but not otherwise .
The objects of the outer Refuges are the Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
2. Inwardly: Offer all one's thoughts to the Four Gems
and keep no selfish volitions. One's thoughts should be occupied by the
instructions of the guru.
Object: Taking Refuge in the oral instructions on Sila, Samadhi and
Prajnaall according to the gurus method of practice.
3. Secretly: By the guru's grace one is always in the
Refuge of Sunyata (voidness) and Ananda (bliss).
Object: Taking Refuge in the Yidam, nerve, energy, wisdom essenceunder
the guidance of a heruka-guru, that is, a teacher with his yogic consort
4. Most Secretly: In Mahamudra, the Great Perfection,
and Chan, the object of taking Refuge is to: Enter into Chan, Renounce
Chan, Use Chan and the Ultimate Chan.
Although there are four kinds of Refuges, the Refuge formula is the
same in all:
Gurunam saranam gacchami (in the Vajrayana only)
Buddham saranam gachhami
Dharman saranam gachhami
Sangham saranam gacchami (Taught in all the exoteric schools)
This formula is repeated three times, adding before the second repetition,
"Dvitiyampi (for the second time)," and before the third time adding "Tatiyampi
(for the third time)." It is sometimes explained that the three times of
taking the Refuges represent taking them with the mind, speech and body
respectively, and therefore that one has taken them wholeheartedly and
with all of one's being.
As an explanation of the benefits of this practice has been given
previously (See Appendix III of Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical)
there is no need to repeat this matter here. We may consider prostration
under the same headings as we have used above.
1. Outwardly: Even the exoteric tradition of Mahayana
differs from the Southern Hinayana tradition and we do not consider here
the latters kneeling prostration. In Chinese Mahayana one must do thus:
and Mr. Chen rose and adopting a slow swinging and majestic gait, approached
us saying: When Dharma preachings are organized in some big temple, famous
monks, well-wrapped in various layers of thick cloth (if it is winter),
before they preach must, of course, worship. Slowly they come to their
preaching seat (and Mr. Chen exemplified the very essence of a Chinese
dignified manner). Then he placed his hands at his chest and stood as though
meditating. After a minute or two his hands parted, the left one remaining
at his chest while the right one was slowly lowered. At the same time the
knees were bent lowering the body. The right hand was then placed on the
ground mid-front of the body to take its weight and the knees were not
yet on the ground. Simultaneously, the left hand was placed on the left
hand side, the right hand moved to the corresponding position and the knees
lowered. Next the forehead was brought to the ground between the hands
and lastly the hands were inverted with palms upwards.
All this was done silently and gracefully, and moreover, slowly and
respectfully. Mr. Chen explained: The more famous the monk, the more slowly
he was expected to perform his prostration and when kneeling in the final
position, he might remain there for several minutes praying. The hands
are placed palms upwards as though the Buddha's feet are standing on them.
If one is concentrated and sincere in this prostration, one may feel the
warmth of the Buddha's feet on one's hands. There was a very devoted member
of the Pure Land School who died not so long ago in China and his meditation
was so strong that in the hollow made by the imprint of his head, could
be seen the image of Amitabha whom he fervently worshipped while in the
process of prostration. I have seen these marks in his place of worship,
though they appear to have faded over the years.
The essential thing with this type of prostration is the reverence and
slowness with which it is performed as this gives time for arousing faith
and discursive meditation.
2. Inwardly: As a contrast with the former type, this
should be done quickly. This type of prostration, the long or great one,
is also described previously (See Appendix III of Buddhist Meditation:
Systematic and Practical.) Here one is asking the object of reverence to
save one quickly, hence energy for this should be expended by oneself.
Bhante, present at this discourse by Mr. Chen, then remarked: Suppose a
man was condemned to death by a king and that man came to ask for a reprieve;
quickly, urgently, he would bow down at the king's feet. "You are quite
right," said our yogi.
3. Secretly: Keep the inner energy concentrated in the
secret wheel by falling down rather than by using the inward method, and
Mr. Chen demonstrated this full length falling. Only after one has practiced
the second and third initiations has this significance. When the deep breathing
in the bottle shape has been practiced, then one may make prostration in
this way. Before those other things have been accomplished, it may be definitely
4. Most Secretly: Whether one used the small or the large
prostration, whatever method is used, the yogi must continuously hold the
realization of the worshipped and the worshiper both being in Sunyata.
III. Offering the Mandala
A. The Purpose of Offering
1. Negatively, it is to get rid of miserliness.
2. Positively, it is to accumulate the spiritual food of supermundane
merits and wisdom. Many practice merely to get more worldly comforts, such
as money, etc., but this is not the true meaning of offering the mandala.
One should only do it to increase one's spiritual food which includes both
supermundane merits and wisdom. Some make the mistake that spiritual food
refers only to the former, but this is not the case, as we can easily see
when we know the significance of the different articles offered in the
For merit: Rice, pearls, gems and other precious things.
For wisdom: Flowers and ornaments for the heavenly girls, female Buddhas
(dakinis). So much is common to the mandala of every school.
In the Nyingmapa: Offerings for symbolizing the Dharmakaya are for wisdom
whereas those for the various rupakayas (such as the Nirmana and Sambhogakayas),
are primarily for merit. Even the two rupakayas have some wisdom. How else
could they be Buddha manifestations?
3. The mandala is not only to increase merit but to increase life as
well. How does it do this? Some die through exhaustion of their stocks
of merit and the mandala increasing these is both useful and practical.
4. It is offered for the salvation of others and not at all for oneself
and though many people may practice only selfishly, this is against the
ideals of the Hinayana and of the Mahayana.
Here I have a poem called "Offering the Mandala":
I do not want broad acres,
Nor official rank and right,
The Mandala I offer twice
By day and twice by night.
My one wish, that every being
Be a Dharma instrument,
Alone oh! do not let me gain
The Full Enlightenment.
In this way I stress that mandala offering is for others not for ourselves
and it is certain that in this Kali Age it is difficult to find good Dharma
instruments. The object of offering is the Trikaya for things are offered
to each Buddha body. The subject is also keeping a will to become the Trikaya.
Thus this offering is important both for the Dharma instrument and for
Enlightenment though many hold mistaken ideas on this matter.
The Buddha preached on some occasion: "There may come a time when in
a great famine, one grain of rice will only be sold for one jewelso expensive
will food be. Yet if a man has taken Refuge in me, he will never go hungry."
If this promise was made by Lord Buddha regarding the Refuges, then what
need is there to offer the mandala for selfish ends?
Now we come to practice.
Mr. Chen fetched a rug and spread this on the floor, bringing also his
silver mandala on a shallow tray and two small baskets. He then sat down
on the rug and gave a running commentary. He said:
"I have my own experience with the mandala and so I shall show you my
way of doing things. First take out the contents of the mandala." Removing
the topmost (jewel), he began to take out the various objects covered by
the rice of the top receptacle, saying: "The objects that one offers with
the rice are not fixed for certain and anything may be given which is not
an impurity or a poison."
Taking out a tiny black bottle, he said: "This is called Fairy Medicine
but I like to offer it as its shape is the same as the nectar flask of
the long-life Buddha (Amitayus)."
The rice Mr. Chen scooped into one basket and the various objects he
placed in a second container. Next a bead necklace was taken off the outside
of one ring. This, our yogi explained, is offered to the Dakini and when
I change these objects, every month or so, it is given to make some small
girl happy. Then there is this small globe of the world which I also include
as the stanza says that the whole world is offered.
It is best to change all the rice with each offering, leaving only a
few grains of rice to show the continuity of the guru's grace. Afterwards
this rice should not be taken by the yogi making the offerings but may
be given to beggars or to animals. Even if one cannot change all the rice
still it is necessary to use at least two-thirds of new grain.
There are three kinds of Mandala and what we are doing now is called
the great one.
A. The Great Mandala
1. The base of this mandala symbolizes the 37 Bodhipaksika Dharmas. Then
with a little rice in the palms of both hands, Mr. Chen picked up this
base with his left hand and slid the outside of the right one around it
first clockwise three times and then thrice counterclockwise. Thereby,
he said, the misdeeds of exterior action and of interior thought are counteracted.
At the same time repeat the mantra of 100 syllables of Vajrasattva once,
and then put the rice from the right hand on top of the base and say:
OM VAJRA BHUMI AHA HUM.
In this way an unshakable foundation is made and the earth becomes gold.
2. Put the first circle of the mandala on the base while uttering:
OM VAJRA RAKHA AHA HUM.
This is the iron wall of sila observance.
If one has any objects associated with heavenly beings then they may
be put into this circle to be offered to the Buddha. Fill the mandala with
rice using the right hand and put into this circle whatever precious worldly
things one has, such as coins from many countries, sandalwood, gold, silver,
medicine or ornaments for the dakini of heaven and mankind. If one has
any very small toys, these may also be offered for Manjusri, the "boy"
Bodhisattva, to increase the Dharma joy.
If the mandala is offered for the three bodies of the Buddha then this
lowest circle is for the Nirmanakaya.
3. Precious things included in the second circle are specially offered
through various Dakinis. Flowers and ornaments may also be used here and
these are a special offering when this circle is given to the Sambhogakaya.
4. The third and smallest circle contains wisdom and therefore, the
Dharmakaya. So one should put within it any objects which are light or
wisdom symbols such as crystal or things in the form of a heart, but there
is nothing certain laid down about this. Cover them completely with rice
and level the top.
5. There are altogether 37 things named in the incantation and offered
with rice in their behalf. At last on the Summit something in the form
of a Gem should be placed to show the top of some mountain.
Now the mandala is complete. So one should raise it reverently, at least
as high as one's forehead with both hands and make the offering. At the
same time one visualizes with a concentrated mind: May these offerings
be multiplied to fill this hermitage, this town, the whole visible world,
the realm of sensual desire, the realm of the form gods and that of the
formless gods, till it prevails throughout the whole Dharmadhatu. May these
offerings increase in geometric progression and may the Nirmanakaya Buddhas,
the Sambhogakaya Buddhas and the Dharmakaya accept what is here offered
The great mandala takes several minutes to offer once, so after the
initial offering, the smaller one may be performed.
B. The Middle Mandala
On the base of the mandala make seven little heaps of rice representing
Sumeru, the four continents, and the sun and moon. Add a little new rice
at each offering.
C. The Small Mandala
This mandala is made with the hands (the mudra) but is too complicated
to describe. In each palm there is a little rice representing the two stocks
(of merit and of wisdom) and the sun and the moon are shown by circles
of the thumbs and first fingers, and the four continents by the crossed
fingers in the four directions. The two ring fingers pointing upwards are
the cosmic mountain of Sumeru. After offering the rice in this way, scatter
some from the right hand uttering the following stanza:
Earth, the foundation has been purified
With incense; Sumeru, the Comments four,
The Sun and Moon, I offer up to Thee,
Together with the Pure Lands radiant store.
May sentient beings all, that suffer pain
E're long Supreme Enlightenment obtain.
This should be repeated during every kind of mandala offering and not only
with this Mudra Mandala.
Again, the offerings may be considered under the following four headings:
1. Outwardly: Food, palace, house, tonics, medicines and
all the precious things one hasthese are offered for worldly benefits.
2. Inwardly: Brandy, whiskey and other fine spirits, the
five nectars and the five meatssuch offerings are made only in the Vajrayana
and may be divided again into:
a. Outward: Offerings for the lower three yogasno meat
should be given.
b. Inward: Offerings for the highest yogameats and spirits
are both used.
3. Secretly: The offering is given to all the Dakinis of
the five Buddha families, the three holy places of the dakini and the 24
mandalas dedicated to them, and those of the Akanistha Pure Land itself
to make both female and male Buddhas happy. Even worldly women who nevertheless
have some Dakini nature, all beautiful girls of character and wisdomall
that one loves is offered in visualized form. They should all be visualized
as dancing, singing, and in the sixteen kinds of actions mentioned in Vajrayana.
4. Most Secretly: The offering is of all the good things
gained through the samadhissuch as wisdom light, equanimity and joy, or
IV. The One Hundred Words Incantation of Confession
A. First we must know the four kinds of misdeeds to confess.
1. Outwardly: Breaking of the Hinayana silas, either the
five of the layman or the 250 of the Bhikshus (according to the Sarvastivada
Tradition), most of which are negative in character since they forbid certain
2. Inwardly. Actions committed against the Bodhisattva
samvara silas or against the Bodhisattva Citta silas, and as these are
positively formulated, one's faults lie in failing to do good and so not
3. Secretly: This is found only in Vajrayana that concerns
the precepts applying to the Third Initiation.
4. Most Secretly: The offenses against the four conditions
of the Dharma nature.
B. There are four kinds of power of confession:
1. Outwardly: This is kept by the "power of fear" and
is similar to the power of common persons who think: If I do such and such
a thing again then this or that punishment will result. One should keep
such a fear while it is still useful as it will eventually enable a meditator
to destroy the evil he fears.
A powerful spirit once wanted to subdue Padmasambhava and so appeared
as a layman in front of the great yogi. He asked the sage, What do you
fear? Padmasambhava replied: I fear sins (dipa in Tibetan). That spirit
then re-appeared in the form of a dipa (a creature with nine heads and
one tail). Seeing this, Padmasambhava stretched out his left hand and lifted
up the monster, where he may still be seen in the images of the great guru.
Why did Padmasambhava fear misdeeds? A sage does not fear the consequences
of an act but the wrong act itself. One should be like the sages in this
respect and fear the sins themselves and then they cannot be committed.
The Buddha said: The four Parajikas are like a needle without an eye
(i.e. imperfect), like a dead man who cannot come to life again, like a
broken stone which can never be made whole or like the palm tree which
when it is cut can never come to life.
Therefore, do not think that there is an easy way to confess so that
one may later commit the same deed again. Suppose, said Mr. Chen, that
a village beauty got a disease of the skin which badly infected her face.
Even if she was able to cure the disease still many spots would remain
to spoil her beauty. Prevention, therefore, is much better then cure in
this matter of misdeeds.
2. Inwardly: Always keep whatever silas one has undertaken,
repeat them frequently and bear them always in mind. Thus, one will be
protected by them. It is called the power of Prevention.
Once a Chan monk said: "Oh, so much trouble to repeat monthly all these
precepts (pratimoksa). Why should we do this?" At this, it is reported
that Wei-To (a protector god) threw him out of the temple.
Another monk felt very lazy, so sleepy, and thought in a disparaging
way: "Today no meditation, only repeating (the pratimoksa)." When the meeting
was held, he alone was left to sleep. He was struck hard by Wei-To also.
I myself repeat the sutra on precepts once a month even though I am
not a Bhikshu and with a good mind wish that all the merits may be returned
to all the viharas of Buddhist monks for their benefit.
3. Secretly: Actually use the nectar from Vajrasattva
which is the power of vajra-love action; it is called a power of dependence.
4. Most Secretly: Abiding in the Sunyata realization is
called the power of destruction.
The above four powers are similar to those found in other Tibetan books
in name, but here below I correspond them with four grades.
C. The Ritual of Confession
1. Outwardly: Always use the ritual of Avalokitesvara
(in the Chinese form of Kuan Yin). Once, related our yogi, there was a
certain Queen of Liang who was on her deathbed. A male servant was fanning
her but feeling tired he dropped the fan and let it fall onto her face.
She became very angry and died in this state cursing her servant's carelessness.
Because of this, her next birth was as a snake. But during her life as
the queen, she and her husband the King had done much good for Buddhism.
So although in the form of a snake, the ex-queen remembered her royal life.
By the power she possessed she was able to appear before the king in a
dream warning him what had happened and asking him to gain the services
of some good monk to release her from the evil birth into which she had
fallen. The National Teacher of that time then made this ritual of confession
and employed it and secured the queen's rebirth in heaven. That particular
ritual has been very influential since that time and it is in any case
good to confess to Kuan Yin as she is so merciful.
2. Inwardly: This is the Ritual of Water composed by a
master of the Chan School. It is quite different from the first. Here
the names of all the misdeeds are gathered together and the whole composition
must be repeated before Buddha. It is not often used because of its great
length. Separately one may use the rites of the 35 Buddhas themselves as
was the practice of the venerable Tsongkhapa. He only repeated their names
and did not concentrate on their special qualities. In meditation he saw
them all but headless and was much distressed on this account. However,
the cure to this lamentable appearance was soon found by him when adding
the epithet "All Knowing" (sarbajana, sabannu); he then perceived them
3. Secretly: Visualize Vajrasattva in the act of embracing
his consort, whether one is personally practicing the Third Initiation
or not. One obtains through this meditation the nectar which comes from
the contact of vajra and lotus and this washes away all the sins of mind
4. Most Secretly: This is according to the meditation
of Mahamudra. A friend of mine came to me and I advised him: You have so
many sins you should confess them. Then he said: I meditate on Mahamudra
so it is easy for me to make confession. Then I said: Of course, if you
are able to meditate on Mahamudra very exactly then you will be able to
do this. But I thought: You have not got the realization of Mahamudra and
without it, how can you confess in this way? This is the mistake of taking
the position of Cause to be the position of Consequence.
The latter two are of Vajrayana, the third one is the very one among
the four foundations.
D. How to determine whether the sin is fully confessed or not?
1. Outwardly: A meditator may have some dream in which
he sees himself washing in crystal-clear water. Another dream indicating
purity would be vomiting black matter and dark blood. Such dreams indicate
that misdeeds are expiated.
2. Inwardly: According to my "Treasure of Meditative Light"
I discovered a curious fact, though it is so far unproven by my guru. Notice
the hair on the big toe while one is bathing (in a shower.) If they remain
erect while water is poured over the body then that misdeed is finished.
If on the other hand, they are flattened against the skin, then this shows
that further confession is needed.
In the histories of monks in China there was a monk who, before becoming
a Bhikshu, had committed many unskillful deeds. He practiced the ritual
of confession many times but because of the weight of his past misdeeds
could not believe that he was yet free from them. In a dream he came to
Maitreyas heaven and that Bodhisattva told him: You have already redeemed
your sins. As the monk was still doubtful, Maitreya told him to use the
divination sticks to prove his purity. However, added Mr. Chen smiling,
this way is not very sure if the sinner did not perform it carefully.
3. Secretly. By experiencing a dream of a meditative state
in which a sin of confession appears in the shape of a dakini. She will
be seen as young and beautiful if expiation is completely done but as a
repulsive old leper-woman if the sins have yet to be redeemed.
4. Most Secretly: The Holy light of ones meditations
will be clear blue or white if the evil deeds are confessed, but dull in
color if not.
E. Practice of Confession
One must be instructed in the visualization of Vajrasattva by a teacher.
He will tell one that the deity should be visualized on the head of the
mediator. After reciting ones faults earnestly and with tears ask him:
I have confessed these, my evil deeds. May I be successful in my meditations
and from you gain purity? Then one's own faults and the misdeeds of others
are visualized as gathered in the bodyand the whole body seems black and
slimy with this mass of sins. From Vajrasattvas heart with the mantra
of 100 syllables revolving on it, is seen to come some nectar which passes
out of his vajra to shower down the median nerve of the meditator. All
the blackness and dirt comes from the body and passes away from it seemingly
in the form of urine, perspiration and winds, leaving it clean and fresh.
The Mantra of Vajrasattva should, like every other incantation, be imparted
by a guru though we give its meaning here for meditative purposes:
- OM VAJRASATTVA SAMAYACalling His name and samaya.
- MANUPALAYAPlease let me not forget my pure nature.
- VAJRASATTVA TVENOPATISTAPlease bestow on me Buddhahood.
- DRITHO ME BHAVAPlease make my Sunyata nature firm.
- SUTOSYA ME BHAVAPlease help me with yogic enjoyment.
- SUPOSYA ME BHAVAPlease may I not depart from my Sunyata nature.
- ANURAKTO ME BHAVAPlease may I not be without the nature of pleasure.
- SARVA SIDDHI ME PRAYACCHIPlease bestow full achievement on me.
- SARVA KARMA SUCA MEPlease give me the freedom of every good karma.
- CITTAM SREYAH KURU HUMPlease give me great boldness of mind.
- HA HA HA HA HOHPlease lead me to get the five wisdoms and their functions.
- BHAGAVAN SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRAMA ME MUNCAAll Tathagatas and Vajarasattvas,
do not leave me.
- VAJRA BHAVAor let me depart from your nature of Vajra.
- MAHA SAMAYASATVALet me abide in the great Samaya of Vajrasattva.
- AH HUM PHATPlease subdue my sorrows.
Only one line is actually used for confession, that is, the one beginning
with "All Tathagatas, etc." since if one is not purified by confession
one cannot unite into their vajra nature and will then be in great danger.
Hence this line is very important.
V. The Inter-Relation of All Four Foundations
- If one takes refuge then one gains merits from the Buddha and this is similar
to the Mandala practice.
- If one takes Refuge, then one has the Triple Gem as object of Confession.
- If one takes Refuge with reverence then this gets rid of pride thus having
the same function as Prostration.
- One offers the Mandala to, and takes Refuge in, the Triple Gems.
- One offers the Mandala with all things included in it, one's mind, body,
everythingthus pride is abandoned as with Prostration.
- One offers the Mandala that all things may be transmitted into Enlightenment,
a function similar to that of Confession.
- The object of worship is the object of taking Refuge.
- One worships with all the sinners of the six Realms, thus gathering merit
as with the Mandala.
- When one makes Prostration, pride is then gotten rid of, as in the case
- Before one confesses, one has, of course, the objectthe Refuges.
- When one confesses, one must make the Prostration. Thus, in both ways cutting
- When one confesses specific misdeeds, an appropriate offering should be
Confessing a deed of ignoranceOffer a lamp (light dispels darkness.)
Confessing a deed of greedOffer water (an abundant substance.)
Confessing a deed of lustOffer flowers (beautiful things.)
Confessing a deed of prideOffer devotion (to break that pride.)
Confessing a deed of doubtOffer ointment (which makes clean outside
Confessing all sins of any kindOffer incense (the fragrance of good
silas is smelt everywhere.)
All these practices are set down in many rituals and I have only offered
here some of the theory together with a little matter of a practical nature.
To conclude with, we should perhaps say something about the practice of
In the White School tradition, the object in which one takes Refuge
is drawn as a large tree with five branches. The middle one has Karmapa
himself and other gurus, while on the right branch are the Bodhisattvas
of the Mahayana and on the left, the Arhats of the Hinayana. When the gurus
are shown on higher parts of the middle branch, the yidams are shown on
the middle part, while the whole of the front depicts the Buddha and all
Buddhas in the three periods. The branch of the back supports the sutrasthe
sacred words of the Buddha. This is the objective side of taking Refuge.
The subject (meditator) stands before this host, visualizing himself
surrounded by all sentient beings. Demons and evil ghosts are in front
of him, his mother is seen on his left and his father on his right. Behind
him are different classes of beings: the hell beings, the hungry ghosts,
then the animals, then next come all mankind, and further out are the Asuras
and most remote are the devas. When one takes the Refuges, all these beings
are visualized as doing likewise. When the meditator makes his prostrations,
repeating the 100 syllable mantra, all beings in these Six Realms make
their salutations. When he confesses his misdeeds, all beings also confess
Taking Refuge and the formula for the Bodhicitta should be repeated
together according to my idea. It is very important that the Bodhicitta
stanza not be neglected just because it is only four lines long and has
no special mantra. This is often the case and they are often run through
quickly and then forgotten. Their real import should be developed by the
use of these Four Foundations which are so essential for successful practice
of Tantric Buddhism. Where there is no Bodhicitta developed, the Four Foundations
cannot be correctly practiced and where these Foundations are not established
firmly, there is no real Vajrayana. If the Four Foundations are well practiced,
the whole system of Vajrayana will be practiced without any obstructions.
Regarding the time and quantity of these four practices, the old party
said ten thousand times is enough, while the new party emphasizes ten times
that of the old as the sins of the practitioners have increased and the
merit is reduced. So I do agree with the new partys saying. Nevertheless,
it will not depend upon the number of times done but the inspirations and
realizations therein gained.
[Home][Back to main list][Back to Chenian][Go to Dr. Lin's works][Related works: Appendix II of Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical 佛教禪定實修體系─附錄二]