True Blessings

In this commentary on Guru Rinpoche visualization, Tulku Thondup Rinpoche reveals the deep nontheistic essence of Vajrayana practice.

By Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Illustration courtesy of Shechen Monastery

The purpose of training in devotional meditations and prayers to great masters such as Guru Rinpoche is not to please them or induce favors for your personal gain. It is solely for training and transforming your mind into positive thoughts and blessed expressions so that your life will advance naturally and you will be able to serve many with positive and joyful force. Whatever you see and think, that is what you will become.

In this meditation you visualize Guru Rinpoche in his pure land as the embodiment of all the enlightened ones and pray to him with total devotion. Then you receive the four levels of empowerments from Guru Rinpoche as his blessings. You unite your mind with his enlightened wisdom and rest there, in the state of intrinsic awareness in which there is no duality, concept, or sensation. The following description explains the stages of the meditation in greater detail.

Visualizing Guru Rinpoche and His Pure Land

Meditations should always start with the right intention. Think, “I am going to meditate for the benefit of all the infinite beings.”

In front of you, visualize Guru Rinpoche in his Zangdok Palri pure land. See all the details clearly and brilliantly as real and remember their symbolic meanings as much as possible. Then see, think, feel, and trust strongly from the bottom of your heart that this is the actual presence of Guru Rinpoche and his pure land.

Guru Rinpoche is the embodiment of all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and enlightened masters. His love is unconditional, whether you are a good person or bad. He has boundless power to fulfill your needs, if you are mentally and karmically open. It is important to realize that Guru Rinpoche is not another person, but rather the enlightened qualities of your own mind’s nature reflecting in front of you as Guru Rinpoche. It’s like seeing your face looking back at you in a mirror.

Zangdok Palri is the light of the wisdom of Guru Rinpoche appearing in the form of a Pure Land. Guru Rinpoche and Zangdok Palri are indivisible in nature and in quality, like the sun and its radiant aura. Meditation on and prayers to Guru Rinpoche are meditation on and prayers to Zangdok Palri, and vice versa.

The form of Guru Rinpoche and his pure land is not earthly. It is an image of wisdom light — pure, radiant, boundless, intangible, and beyond subjective and objective distinctions. Every particle is a presence of the five buddha wisdoms and the five buddha families in the form of five wisdom lights, which are the purities of the five skandhas, five emotions, and five gross elements. In order to realize such an absolute Guru Rinpoche, you must open your heart, step by step, through meditations and prayers, with the force of devotion.

With the energy of true devotion, pray to Guru Rinpoche, seeing him as the embodiment of all the enlightened ones. Sing the prayer mantra vocally or in your mind’s voice, repeating it hundreds and thousands of times. Sing the prayer in the sweetest melodies, like waves of joy that make your heart blossom further into a boundless force of devotion.

Om ah hung bedzar guru pema siddhi hung.O body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas:

Vajra Guru Padma(sambhava)!

Please grant me/us—all the attainments.

Guru Rinpoche himself taught how to pray:

O my followers, who wish to leave the suffering cyclic existence,

Pray continuously with respect, devotion, and trust in me

Six times a day and night,

With one pointed devotional melodies

Like the passion of children calling their parents

In the sweetest sounds of a lute.

Receiving the Four Empowerments

After the devotional prayers, meditate on receiving the four empowerments. First, visualize a whiteOm letter at Guru Rinpoche’s forehead— the vajra-body center. From theOm come Guru Rinpoche’s vajra-body blessings in the form of white beams of rainbow light. They enter the crown of your head and fill your whole body. Believe that all of your physical impurities have been purified. You have received his vajra-body blessings. They have empowered you to realize the manifested-body of buddhahood.

Second, from the red Ah letter at Guru Rinpoche’s throat—the vajra-speech center— come Guru Rinpoche’s vajra-speech blessings in the form of red beams of light. They enter your throat and fill your body. Believe that they have purified your speech and energy impurities. You have received his vajra-speech blessings. They have empowered you to realize the enjoyment-body.

Third, from the Hung letter at Guru Rinpoche’s heart—the vajra-mind center—come Guru Rinpoche’s vajra-mind blessings in the form of blue beams of light. They enter your heart and fill your body. Believe that they have purified your mind and emotional impurities. You have received his vajra-mind blessings. They have empowered you to attain the ultimate-body.

Fourth, from all three vajra centers of Guru Rinpoche come his vajra-wisdom blessings in the form of three colored beams of light. They merge simultaneously into your three places: forehead, throat, and heart. Believe that they have purified your intellectual obscurations—the dualistic concepts, with their traces. You have received his vajra-wisdom blessings. It has empowered you to attain the essence-body of buddhahood. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche teaches:

From the four sacred centers of the body of the glorious Guru,

Lights of nectar are emanated gradually and then simultaneously.

By merging them into one’s four places, four obscurations are purified.

Four empowerments are received and four Buddha-bodies are realized.

Uniting Your Mind with Guru Rinpoche

When your mind is fully open to and enjoying the blessings of Guru Rinpoche and Zangdok Palri with devotion, you will feel that your mind and body have become inseparable from them and start finding Guru Rinpoche’s presence and qualities in yourself, as it is natural to become whatever you see and enjoy, whether it is positive or negative.

Recognizing and enjoying such realization, sing the prayer mantra repeatedly tens, hundreds, and thousands of times with a devotional heart and the sweetest melodies:

Om ah hung bedzar guru pema siddhi hung.

O body, speech and mind of all the Buddhas:

Vajra Guru Padma(sambhava)! With all your attainments I am imbued.

Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa writes:

By the power of visualizing the details of the pure land and

By the power of making the aspirations by my mind

To the external Zangdok Palri—

May I see the natural presence of Zangdok Palri

In the world of my own body.

Experiencing Emptiness

When your thoughts and feelings become the experiences and expressions of Guru Rinpoche’s blessings and presence, then whatever you see will arise as the images of Guru Rinpoche and his pure land—the union of appearances and emptiness. Whatever you hear will resonate as sacred prayers and sounds—the union of sounds and emptiness. Whatever you feel becomes the experience and expression of omniscient wisdom, unconditional love, and boundless power—the union of awareness and emptiness.

Remaining in the state of such experience, sing the prayer mantra many times as the presence and waves of all pervading awareness:

Om ah hung bedzar guru pema siddhi hung.

O body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas:

Vajra Guru Padma(sambhava)!

As your attainments—all have been awakened.

Resting in the Nature of Awareness

Finally, relax in the nature of awareness—the experience of the results of the meditation that you are enjoying. Remain in the awareness of that experience—again and again—without grasping at it or defining it with concepts. Guru Rinpoche teaches:

The compassion of the Buddhas of the three times,

Please bless me to attain the liberation of my mind-stream—

By outwardly purifying the appearances, the objects that are grasped,

By inwardly liberating the thoughts that grasp and

By, in the middle, realizing the clear light, the natural state.

Meditations should always conclude by offering all the merits you have accumulated to all mother beings. If you offer your merits to others, they will benefit and your merits will increase. Then make aspirations by thinking and saying, “May I attain buddhahood in this lifetime or at the time of death so that I can serve all mother beings. If I am unable to attain buddhahood at that time, then may I take miraculous rebirth in Zangdok Palri pure land and become the source of happiness and enlightenment for all. May I be able to lead all to the pure land.”

Mipham Rinpoche makes his aspirations:

When the appearances of this life dissolve,

Through the path of naturally appearing clear light

May I be received by hosts of the knowledge-holder lamas.

May I be backed up from behind by the peaceful and wrathful deities.

May I be surrounded by dakas and dakinis of the three spheres.

With showers of flowers, rays of rainbow lights and sounds of music,

In the great blissful Pure Land— the Lotus Light

May I take miraculous birth at the feet of Guru Rinpoche.

Adapted with permission from Zangdok Palri: The Lotus Light Palace of Guru Rinpoche, published by Gatshel publishing, 2012. Distributed in North America by paragon Book Gallery, 2013.

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche was born in eastern Tibet, where, as a young boy, he was recognized as a reincarnated Buddhist master. In 1958, he fled the Communist Chinese invasion and settled in India, teaching university-level Tibetan and Tibetan literature.  In 1980, Tulku Thondup was invited to Harvard as a visiting scholar. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he translates and writes on Tibetan Buddhism. His most recent book is Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth