Pujas ~ Traditional Prayers and Meditations
These are some of the practices we do at Amitabha Centre, please see our daily programme for the dates and times of these pujas.
The booklets and CDs of these prayers are available from Tharpa Publications.
The Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa combined with the sadhana of his Dharma Protector. This sadhana includes two practices revealed by the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri. The first is a special Guru yoga in which we visualise our Spiritual Guide as Je Tsongkhapa, who himself is a manifestation of Manjushri. By relying upon this practice, we can purify negativity, accumulate merit, and receive blessings. In this way, we shall naturally accomplish all the realisations of the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra, and in particular we shall attain a very special Dharma wisdom.
The second practice is a method for relying upon the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. Through this, we can overcome obstacles to our practice and create favourable conditions so that we can nurture and increase our Dharma realisations. If we rely upon the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden sincerely, our faith in Je Tsongkhapa will naturally increase and we shall easily gain experience of the pure Buddhadharma transmitted directly to Je Tsongkhapa by the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri.
These two practices are the very essence of the New Kadampa Tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. If we practise them regularly and sincerely, we shall reap a rich harvest of pure Dharma realizations, and eventually come to experience the supreme joy of full enlightenment. An extensive explanation of this sadhana can be found in the book Heart Jewel, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso available from Tharpa Publications.
Offering to the Spiritual Guide
Offering to the Spiritual Guide is a special Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa in conjunction with Highest Yoga Tantra. It was compiled by the first Panchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän, as a preliminary practice for Vajrayana Mahamudra. The main practice is relying upon the Spiritual Guide, but it also includes all the essential practices of the stages of the path (Lamrim) and training the mind (Lojong), as well as both the generation stage and completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra.
The essence of Guru yoga is to develop a strong conviction that our Spiritual Guide is a Buddha, to make prostrations, offerings, and sincere requests to him or her, and then to receive his or her profound blessings. According to the Guru yoga of Offering to the Spiritual Guide, we develop conviction that our Spiritual Guide is the same nature as Je Tsongkhapa, who is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri.
By relying upon Je Tsongkhapa, our compassion, wisdom, and spiritual power naturally increase. In particular, because Je Tsongkhapa is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, his faithful followers never experience difficulty in increasing their wisdom. There are many other benefits from practising Offering to the Spiritual Guide. These are explained in the book Great Treasury of Merit, which contains a complete commentary to the practice.
Melodious Drum Victorious in all Directions
The extensive fulfilling and restoring ritual of the Dharma Protector, the great king Dorje Shugden, in conjunction with Mahakala, Kalarupa, Kalindewi, and other Dharma Protectors.
This practice consists of five parts: Praise to Manjushri, the Guru Yoga of Je Tsongkhapa, Self-generation as Heruka, the Fulfilling and Restoring Ritual of the General Protectors, and the Fulfilling and Restoring Ritual of the Great King Dorje Shugden. Of these, the last is the principal practice.
A Dharma Protector is an emanation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva whose main functions are to avert the inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from gaining spiritual realizations, and to arrange all the necessary conditions for their practice. Beings in this present time have a strong karmic link with Dorje Shugden, and so he is the Dharma Protector who is most able to help them. Therefore it is said that now is the time to rely upon Dorje Shugden. Dorje Shugden always helps, guides, and protects pure and faithful practitioners by granting blessings, increasing their wisdom, fulfilling their wishes, and bestowing success on all their virtuous activities.
There are many brief and middling-length sadhanas of Dorje Shugden, such as Heart Jewel and Wishfulfilling Jewel. This extensive sadhana is called Kangso in Tibetan, which means Fulfilling and Restoring Ritual, and it is usually performed once a month in Dharma Centres. During this puja we make extensive offerings and perform other practices:
1. To fulfil our heart commitment to rely upon the Protector sincerely, regarding him as inseparable from the Guru and Yidam, and to practise the pure Dharma of Lamrim, Lojong, and Mahamudra.
2. To restore any degenerate or broken commitments we may have incurred.
We begin the practice with Praise to Manjushri to remember that the Guru and Protector are in reality emanations of the Wisdom Buddha. We then perform the Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa and, after dissolving the Guru into our heart, perform self-generation as Heruka. We then invite the general Dharma Protectors such as Mahakala, Kalarupa, and Kalindewi, before beginning the actual sadhana of Dorje Shugden. The fulfilling and restoring ritual of the general Protectors is interwoven with the sadhana of Dorje Shugdän.
Further information on the Guru yoga of Je Tsongkhapa and on the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden can be found in the book Heart Jewel, and further information on self-generation as Heruka can be found in the book Essence of Vajrayana.
Quick Path to Great Bliss
The instructions on the Highest Yoga Tantra practice of Venerable Vajrayogini were taught by Buddha Vajradhara in the forty-seventh and forty-eighth chapters of the Condensed Root Tantra of Heruka. This particular lineage of instructions, the Narokhachö lineage, was passed directly from Vajrayogini to Naropa, and from him through an unbroken lineage of realised practitioners to the present-day Teachers.
After Buddha Vajradharma had taught the practice he left the mandalas of Heruka and Vajrayogini intact in twenty-four auspicious places in this world. Thus even to this day there are countless manifestations of Vajrayogini in this world who help sincere practitioners to gain realisations by blessing their mental continuum.
In many respects the practice of Vajrayogini is ideally suited to the present day. By relying upon this practice sincerely, with a good heart and a mind of faith, it is definitely possible to attain full enlightenment; but to accomplish such results we must practise the extensive sadhana regularly.
This particular sadhana, Quick Path to Great Bliss, was composed by the great Lama Phabongkha Rinpoche. Compared to other sadhanas it is not very long, but it contains all the essential practices of Secret Mantra. To practise the sadhana successfully we should first receive the empowerment of Vajrayogini, and then study authentic instructions on the practice such as those found in the book Guide to Dakini Land.
This sadhana is suitable both for our regular daily practice and for retreat; and we can practise it alone or in a group.
Open to those who have received Vajrayogini Empowerment.
A Pure Life
The practice of taking and keeping the eight Mahayana precepts
The practice of taking and keeping the eight Mahayana precepts is a special practice of moral discipline that is performed with bodhichitta motivation. The essence of the practice is to take eight precepts and to keep them purely for a period of twenty-four hours. By doing this practice again and again we acquaint ourself with the practice of moral discipline and thereby make our human life meaningful.
We receive many great benefits from practising moral discipline in this way. It helps us to solve the problems of this life by avoiding the causes of suffering; and it creates the cause for us to take fortunate rebirths in future lives and thereby protects us from the sufferings of lower rebirth. In particular, because it is performed with bodhichitta motivation, this practice is very powerful for purifying negative karma. It accumulates a vast collection of merit and creates the cause for us to attain the unsurpassed happiness of enlightenment.
We first need to receive these precepts from a qualified Preceptor, and then we can take them on our own as often as we wish. Instructions on both these methods are included in this sadhana. If we wish to take the essence of this precious human life we should strive to engage in this practice as often as we can.
Liberation from Sorrow
Praises and requests to the Twenty-one Taras
Tara is a female Buddha, a manifestation of the ultimate wisdom of all the Buddhas. Each of the Twenty-one Taras is a manifestation of the principal Tara, Green Tara. Tara is also known as the `Mother of the Conquerors’.
Tara is our common mother, our Holy Mother. When we are young we turn to our worldly mother for help. She protects us from immediate dangers, provides us with all our temporal needs, and guides and encourages us in our learning and personal development. In the same way, during our spiritual growth we need to turn to our Holy Mother, Tara, for refuge. She protects us from all internal and external dangers, she provides us with all the necessary conditions for our spiritual training, and she guides us and inspires us with her blessings as we progress along the spiritual path.
Tara means ‘Rescuer’. She is so called because she rescues us from the eight outer fears (the fears of lions, elephants, fire, snakes, thieves, water, bondage, and evil spirits), and from the eight inner fears (the fears of pride, ignorance, anger, jealousy, wrong views, attachment, miserliness, and deluded doubts). Temporarily Tara saves us from the dangers of rebirth in the three lower realms, and ultimately she saves us from the dangers of samsara and solitary peace.
If we rely upon Mother Tara sincerely and with strong faith she will protect us from all obstacles and fulfil all our wishes. Since she is a wisdom Buddha, and since she is a manifestation of the completely purified wind element, Tara is able to help us very quickly. If we recite the twenty-one verses of praise we shall receive inconceivable benefits. These praises are very powerful because they are Sutra, the actual words of Buddha. It is good to recite them as often as we can.
Prayers and requests to the Buddha of Compassion
Avalokiteshvara is an enlightened being who is a manifestation of all Buddhas’ compassion. He is known as the Buddha of Compassion.
He usually appears as white in colour with four arms. His first two hands are pressed together at his heart, symbolising his respect for his Spiritual Guide, Buddha Amitabha, who is on his crown. Even though Avalokiteshvara is an enlightened being, he still shows respect to his Spiritual Guide. His first two hands hold a jewel, which symbolises his own enlightenment. This mudra is indicating, “I attained jewel-like great enlightenment through receiving blessings from my Spiritual Guide Amitabha”.
His second left hand holds a white lotus flower. A lotus grows in the mud at the bottom of a lake, but its flowers bloom on the surface of the water, completely free from the stains of mud. By holding a lotus flower Avalokiteshvara is showing that, because he attained enlightenment, he is free from all obstacles and has a completely pure body, speech, and mind. His second right hand holds a crystal mala, symbolising that he can free all living beings from samsara and lead them to liberation.
If we rely sincerely upon Avalokiteshvara and recite his mantra with strong faith, temporarily we will improve our realisations of the stages of the path, especially our realisation of great compassion, and ultimately we will attain supreme Buddhahood in Avalokiteshvara’s Pure Land, the Pure Land of Bliss.
This sadhana is very blessed. The main body of the sadhana was composed by a great Tibetan Yogi called Drubchen Tangtong Gyalpo, who came from Ngam Ring Monastery in eastern Tibet.
The prayer of seven limbs, offering the mandala, requesting the five great meanings, and the final dedication verse were later added by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
Treasury of Wisdom
The Sadhana of Venerable Manjushri
Manjushri is the Wisdom Buddha, the embodiment of the wisdom of all the Buddhas. By relying upon Manjushri, we will naturally increase our wisdom. Wisdom is a virtuous, intelligent mind that understands its object unmistakenly and functions to dispel deluded doubt. Since it is a virtuous mind, wisdom always causes happiness; it never causes suffering or problems. Moreover, because it understands its object unmistakenly, wisdom always leads to correct paths and correct actions; it never deceives living beings. Wisdom is like an inner Teacher that we carry in our hearts, and like a Protector that protects us from engaging in wrong actions and having to experience their unpleasant results. With wisdom, our mind is always balanced and comfortable.
In this sadhana, we first practise self-generation as Manjushri according to the instructions of Action Tantra, a commentary to which can be found in the book Tantric Grounds and Paths. After meditating on divine pride and clear appearance, we then engage in the practice of receiving the attainments of the seven types of wisdom in conjunction with the recitation of Manjushri’s mantra. An explanation of the seven types of wisdom is given in the book Heart Jewel. Finally, we offer tormas and praises to the in-front-generation.
If we practise this sadhana regularly and sincerely, we will definitely improve our Dharma wisdom, and eventually we will attain the ultimate peace of full enlightenment.
This booklet also contains a special prayer entitled Praise to Manjushri, which we can recite at any time.
The Yoga of Buddha Amitayus
A special method for increasing lifespan, wisdom, and merit
There is nothing more precious to us than our life. Because we have a precious human life, we have the opportunity to experience both temporary and ultimate happiness. We usually regard material possessions as very important and put much effort into acquiring them, but in reality our human life is our most important possession.
We all need a long life. If we lose this life, we shall lose our opportunity to enjoy a human life, to practise Dharma, and to attain liberation and enlightenment. This is why Je Tsongkhapa said that for those who wish to experience pure happiness, the greatest obstacles to the fulfilment of their wishes are death and ignorance. Death destroys our opportunity to take the essence of our precious human life, and ignorance destroys our opportunity to develop a pure experience of Dharma.
To overcome these obstacles, we need to increase our lifespan and our wisdom, and the principal method for doing this is the yoga of Buddha Amitayus. This yoga is also a special method for increasing our merit.
The Mahayana Sutra of the Three Superior Heaps – 35 Confession Buddhas
The purification practice of the Mahayana Sutra of the Three Superior Heaps
In our previous lives, while under the influence of deluded minds, we created a great deal of negative karma, and we also transgressed our commitments and incurred root and secondary downfalls. As a result we now experience difficulties in developing faith and conviction in Dharma, and in making progress on the stages of the path to enlightenment. Moreover, if we do not purify all this negativity while we have the chance we shall have to experience great suffering in the future.
Any living being, even a worm or an insect, can commit negative actions, but only humans have the fortune to be able to purify them. We have been accumulating non-virtuous actions and experiencing their suffering results since beginningless time, but we now have the opportunity to purify them completely. We should make use of this precious opportunity to purify our negative karma, not to create more! Since purification is the root of future happiness and spiritual realisations we should strive to cleanse our mind of delusions and negative karma.
One of the best methods for purifying negativities and downfalls is the Mahayana Sutra of the Three Superior Heaps, otherwise known as The Bodhisattva’s Confession of Moral Downfalls, or the Bodhisattva Mahayana Confession Sutra.
This sadhana contains the root text of the Sutra and a short explanation of the practice.
A more detailed explanation of this practice can be found in the book, The Bodhisattva Vow.