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 them. 

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

1. Hinayana

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 very common.

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

1. Outwardly:

  1. Find a good guru and make offerings to him.
  2. Stay with him and devotedly serve him every day.
  3. Practice under the guidance of the guru.
  4. 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 (dakini).

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. 

II. Prostration

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 harmful.

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 mandala:

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.

B. 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:


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:


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 to them.

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 Chan.

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 acts.

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 saving others.

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 completely.

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 and body.

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:

  1. OM VAJRASATTVA SAMAYACalling His name and samaya.
  2. MANUPALAYAPlease let me not forget my pure nature.
  3. VAJRASATTVA TVENOPATISTAPlease bestow on me Buddhahood.
  4. DRITHO ME BHAVAPlease make my Sunyata nature firm.
  5. SUTOSYA ME BHAVAPlease help me with yogic enjoyment.
  6. SUPOSYA ME BHAVAPlease may I not depart from my Sunyata nature.
  7. ANURAKTO ME BHAVAPlease may I not be without the nature of pleasure.
  8. SARVA SIDDHI ME PRAYACCHIPlease bestow full achievement on me.
  9. SARVA KARMA SUCA MEPlease give me the freedom of every good karma.
  10. CITTAM SREYAH KURU HUMPlease give me great boldness of mind.
  11. HA HA HA HA HOHPlease lead me to get the five wisdoms and their functions.
  12. BHAGAVAN SARVA TATHAGATA VAJRAMA ME MUNCAAll Tathagatas and Vajarasattvas, do not leave me.
  13. VAJRA BHAVAor let me depart from your nature of Vajra.
  14. MAHA SAMAYASATVALet me abide in the great Samaya of Vajrasattva.
  15. 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

A. Refuge

  1. If one takes refuge then one gains merits from the Buddha and this is similar to the Mandala practice.
  2. If one takes Refuge, then one has the Triple Gem as object of Confession.
  3. If one takes Refuge with reverence then this gets rid of pride thus having the same function as Prostration.
B. Mandala
  1. One offers the Mandala to, and takes Refuge in, the Triple Gems.
  2. One offers the Mandala with all things included in it, one's mind, body, everythingthus pride is abandoned as with Prostration.
  3. One offers the Mandala that all things may be transmitted into Enlightenment, a function similar to that of Confession.
C. Prostration
  1. The object of worship is the object of taking Refuge.
  2. One worships with all the sinners of the six Realms, thus gathering merit as with the Mandala.
  3. When one makes Prostration, pride is then gotten rid of, as in the case of Confession.
D. Confession
  1. Before one confesses, one has, of course, the objectthe Refuges.
  2. When one confesses, one must make the Prostration. Thus, in both ways cutting down pride.
  3. When one confesses specific misdeeds, an appropriate offering should be made:
    1. 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 and inside.)
      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 taking Refuge.

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 their wrongdoing.

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.

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