The Meaning of Empowerment
To all the dharma brothers and sisters who have come here today I would like to wish you tashi deleg. What is the sublime dharma? It is wishing all sentient beings happiness and causes of happiness and that they be free of suffering and causes of suffering. We should generate loving kindness and compassion not just the beings in this world, but in all three realms. This is indeed a big task. When we discuss the sublime dharma the most scholarly can give a lot of teachings on the yanas and self liberation. But if you think about the ultimate aim, it is omniscience. The reason for different teachings is because the capabilities of beings is at different levels. All the teachings of dharma aim at omniscience in order to benefit sent beings. So the teachings have one goal, one result and one benefit.
In this world there are countless religions They all have one goal, to have happiness and its causes and to eliminate suffering and causes. The sectarian attitude is a temporary illusion, because the ground of being is the sugatagarbha. All buddhas became so because of realizing this nature.
The difference between Buddhism and non-Buddhist religions is how much effort one puts into the path. If you walk the path to omniscience it will be auspicious. Ultimately all beings will walk the path to enlightenment. If not, you will spend some time in samsara. There are three different paths, but one ground. it is likened to a flower. First you have a shoot. Then it turns to a bud and then bud blooms and becomes a flower. First you have to abandon afflictive emotions. When you become more seasoned, you transform your emotions. Then as you advance further you understand the nature of afflictive emotions as the flip side of wisdom. All three methods are taught to suit the temperaments and capacities of different practitioners. So these are the levels suitable for different practitioners.
My topic of discussion is empowerment. Even in empowerment there are different paths for individuals. Whether it is a big or small empowerment you must take refuge. At time of refuge you have to do away with afflictive emotions and turn your mind to virtuous thoughts. Then you raise the motivation of bodhicitta. Without this motivation you are not fit to receive empowerment and you are not able to liberate sentient beings from suffering. There are two different types of bodhicitta, aspiration and applied bodhicitta. Aspiration bodhicitta is appreciating the wonderful qualities of enlightened mind. Applied bodhicitta is putting this aspiration into practice. When you have these two you can be introduced to the empowerment.
You have to start practice with refuge. Some people aspire to Tantric empowerments but do not want to practice refuge. This is the attitude of small children. The teachings of self-liberation are known only to Buddha. So first we have the Buddha and then his teachings and then we have those to show us to the path to omniscience. So it’s not enough to receive an academic teaching. First you have to hear, then reflect and then meditate on the teaching. Hearing alone is not enough. Only when you have an experiential understanding can you share it with others.
The Buddha is the protector, the dharma is the path, and the sangha are the companions on the path. Starting with the Buddha all the teachers down to your lama are classified as the sangha. Without them you will be unable to be the right vessel to hold the teachings. If you take refuge and then know your nature is the Buddha nature, then to reach any level of realization you need to practice. If you do not make an effort, you will not reach any level of realization If you do practice, you will. Now we have the dualistic idea of self and others, conflicting emotions, and conceptual thought. Within dualism we give rise to grasping and afflictive emotions and so are trapped in samsara. We need to filter out afflictive emotions and conceptual thoughts. It is like a bucket of water with a great deal of sediment. Stir it up and it is not fit to drink. Similarly the sugatagarbha cannot radiate when the mind is stirred with afflictive emotions and conceptual thought.
In this world human beings devote a great deal of effort to get rid of external sufferings and put an awful lot of effort into their daily activities. Due to this they can achieve a certain peace and happiness. But real peace and happiness comes from cleansing the mind stream. Only Buddha knows how to cleanse this. So Buddha is called the supreme one among two legged beings. Only Buddha has the discriminating wisdom to do this. Sentient beings aspire to happiness and its cause but they do not know how to accomplish this. They do not desire pain and suffering but they do not know how to eliminate them. So their intentions and the results of their actions are completely opposite.
Milarepa summed up what dharma practice should be. It is not reading through the pages of the sutras. One should focus on the mind stream. All pain and suffering is the creation of the ignorance and of not seeing the nature of mind. From The root cause of ignorance comes attachment. From attachment, aversion and ignorance arise and the 84,000 afflictive emotions. They are the product of one’s own mind. Understanding that attachment and aversion are negative is important. The antidote to them is bodhicitta.
Before one receives empowerment it is important to get refuge. Then one examines the nature of mind. If you examine your mind, you will see you have attachment to those nearest and dearest to you and aversion to your enemy. But when you consider this further, you will come to a revelation. Those who you consider your enemy in many lives have been your parents, girlfriend, or boyfriend. When you come to this realization, there will be a form of equanimity. It is like pouring a cup of cold water in a pot of boiling water. A balance will be achieved and you will have warm and fuzzy feeling. In empowerment you will be introduced to the idea that that the five aggregates, sense bases, and consciousness are nothing other than purity. Now you will have a mixed reaction when you hear this. You will think that this may possibly true, but also have some skepticism and doubt.
Tantric practices are also called secret practices. They are secret because some people have a thick layer of ignorance which is difficult to penetrate. If you reveal Tantric practices to them it will be like pouring drops of water on a red hot iron. It will only make a great deal of noise. So esoteric teachings cannot be revealed to those with great ignorance and egocentric pride.
When you are able to pacify attachment and aversion this will help you understand the real essence of the dharma teaching. You will understand that the basic ground ground of beings and Buddha are the same. This nature is like space or the ocean. Both the outer cosmos and inner self are the creation of the mind. You will realize that neither is real. Mind by its nature is very easy to transform into whatever you wish to transform it. This is because it is unborn and without inherent existence. When you are able to generate bodhicitta and then are empowered, the mind is empowered. This is because mind can be shaped in any way you want, because you know it is not absolute.
If you are able to generate loving kindness and compassion, how does it benefit you? If you generate bodhicitta, you will treat all sentient beings as your own parents and will not be generate attachment and aversion in your mindstream. Your mind will be full of loving kindness and compassion It will help you attain omniscience and until you do so, you will be reborn in the three higher realms. Bodhicitta is beneficial both to yourself and others. It is mutually rewarding. When you have bodhicitta, you are ready to receive empowerment.
When you generate loving kindness and compassion it is because you understand all beings have been your parents. But you see this in a dualistic way. You think enlightened beings are up there and all other sentient beings down here. They are pure and we are impure. When you are introduced to idea that the five elements when purified become the five consorts or dakinis and the five afflictive emotions become the five wisdoms, you will ask if it is that easy to transform them. Yes, it is that easy. When you are consumed by anger, at that moment meditate on the true nature of mind. When you are able to do that, in that state you will see that anger is pacified and has disappeared. You will find that the strong negative emotion has gone and it is off your radar. Is it that simple? Yes, it is that simple. Anger has transformed into wisdom and it is very easy to make that transformation. When you are able to do this, you will see all sentient beings are just like yourself. And you will realize the cosmos is a celestial mansion and its inhabitants are deities.
So it is as simple as that. There are two ways to present the concept of empowerment. The first way says the meaning of empowerment is taking refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha, treating the three roots as your path, and the resulting realization of the three kayas. When you have empowered your mind the complete freedom of wind and mind is empowerment. For those who are new to practice this makes no sense. Wind and mind are like two plies of a thread and are especially pertinent to Tantric practice. When you have this control, freedom and power over wind and mind you will understand outer and inner are the making of the mind. The second way says the meaning of empowerment is the ripening of the mind stream or continuum of sentient beings. The mind stream of Buddha is ripe, but that of sentient beings is not ripe. Though the ground is the same, because the minds of sentient beings are unripe they are like ice, while that of the Buddhas are like water. Buddha is like a bloomed flower and sentient being are like a bud. Both bud and flower are product of one stem. Empowerment introduces to your nature, to the ground.
There are two empowerments, threefold and fourfold. The threefold empowerment is to ripen body, speech, and mind, Thus there are three empowerments. To ripen body there is the creation stage of practice. To ripen speech there is mantra recitation. To ripen mind there is the completion stage. The fourth empowerment is the essence body, which is attained when one completely ripens the mind stream. It is not acquiring a new mind stream but purifying the obscurations that were there from beginningless time.
So whether your mind is ripe or not is dependent on how you practice the dharma. The first empowerment sows the seed for the realization of nirmanakaya. The Tibetan term for nirmanakaya is tulku. “Tul” means manifested or fabricated. and “ku” means body. “Tul” has the connotation that something false is taking place. The physical body is not real, it is composite, the assembly of the five elements. We have this notion that things belong to me and because of this there is attachment and grasping to them. The “me” has to be transformed. When you are enlightened the “I” or “my” will disappear. The first empowerment sows the seed to attain the nirmanakaya. This is possible because the body is inherently pure, but unreal and dependent. The minute you dismantle the idea of its reality you manifest the deity of the creation stage.
Once you attain the dharmakaya of Buddhahood by the power of loving kindness and compassion you can manifest as sambhogakaya. During practice you visualize the sambhogakaya forms and their celestial pure lands. We are practicing in order to actualize the sambhogakaya state of Buddhahood. There are countless nirmanakaya Buddhas, one doesn’t know where they are. A lama has said that enlightened beings are in the nature of all sentient beings. When you visualize the deity, if you experience the unity of clarity and emptiness, when you pass away you will realize the sambhogakaya state in bardo between lives. Your meditation should have the qualities of clarity, purity and stability. Meditation is what you do in the creation stage. And you do the recitation of mantra in conjunction with meditation. You recite a lot of mantras while doing the visualization. That is meditation Clarity. is making an indelible imprint on mind stream of the form of the deity. Purity requires deity confidence, thinking that you are actually the deity because you have the emptiness in you. When you have a clear practice you will see the clarity. Stability is stabilized mediation. This is when meditation becomes so firmly rooted you can always see the deity with your mind’s eye. With these qualities you can transform the illusory body into the sambhogakaya in the bardo state.
In the visualization a deity has different ornaments and costumes. These symbolize the different qualities of the deity. A garland of human heads for example symbolizes the elimination of afflictive emotions and conceptual thought, like the decapitation of a human being eliminates all thought. If you want to have a clear visualization in creation state you need to have the help of mantra recitation. The visualization is like fire, the mantra is like wind which fans the fire. You have to recite hundreds of thousands of mantras to enhance your visualization. Your speech is empowered by the mantra and your physical body is empowered to visualize yourself as the deity. It is important to focus on the mantra spinning around the heart center. Why do we do this? The sole purpose of visualization is to purify the mind stream. It is similar to water purification in the United States. Your physical body is transformed into the deity, your speech into mantra, and your mind is focused on samadhi. This is the practice.
In some empowerments you are given nectar. In others the empowerment is with rotating mala beads. The mala ties in with the prana and nadi, or wind and channels. Also during empowerment, especially during the creation stage, you should visualize light rays radiating from you to the Buddhas and all sentient beings. The more compassion you have, the more intense the visualization of these light rays will be. When you generate lots of light rays, it is very pleasing to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. This visualization also benefit sentient beings. They have lots of attachments which are the root of their sufferings. Your visualization to some extent lessens their sufferings.
The three empowerments of body, speech, and mind are given as methods for the realization of one’s own mind as such. Loving kindness and compassion are absolutely indispensable for seeing the true nature of mind. Sometimes we see a glimpse of this nature and then it is immediately obscured. When you have negative emotions it is necessary to deal with them right away. It is easy to deal with a small shower but a great thunderstorm hard to deal with. After the empowerment there is the samaya vow. It is certain things that you are required to do in obligation. Whoever is able to maintain the samaya will have the full benefit of the samaya. The breaking of samaya is like breaking thread in your mala beads. It is not hard to mend it within twenty four hours. But if you let them be, the broken samaya means facing the hell realm. The nature of anger is hell. Its seed is hell and its root is hell. Like a black seed giving rise to a black flower. So you have to be very careful of your emotions in keeping samaya and not losing your bodhicitta for all sentient beings. That is the samaya between lama and disciple. When the samaya vow is intact it is a win win situation and everyone will be the winner. It has the dual purpose of benefiting self and other.
In Tantric practice there are many different kinds of samayas. Each empowerment will entail one set of requirements. But you have to hold to gist. The gist of samaya is given by the words mind, appearance, sound, and awareness Seeing all phenomena as the play of primordial wisdom is the samaya of the mind. The next samaya is appearance. Everything appearing to the senses must be seen as the deity, but without attachment. Everything is the union of appearance and emptiness. There must be no attachment to whatever you hear. That is the samaya of sound. But you must use discriminating wisdom to see what is right and wrong. You must do this with mindful awareness. These are two of the fifty one mental events. When lumped together they are called mindful awareness. This is the last samaya, awareness. When the mind is watchful, the mind is like a burning fire and thoughts are like firewood. When they come into contact the wood changes to fire. Jigme Lingpa said that the self stability of mindful awareness, must be stabilized to the extent that it is not overcome by other obstacles.
A hundred scholars and a thousand yogis can say all they want to say about the nature of mind. For instance, in the Vinaya there are 453 codified rules of conduct. But all can be summed up by this teaching of Jigme Lingpa . The mind should never be separate from loving kindness and compassion Loving kindness and compassion should never be separated from emptiness. And mindful awareness should never be separate from emptiness. These are the key teachings. Absolute truth is watchful mind, relative truth is compassion. These two are symbolized by vajra and the bell.
If you are empowered and therefore have freedom, that is joyful and will give you happiness. When you are not empowered and your freedom is controlled by others, the afflictive emotions will lead to suffering. If you take a hundred empowerments, the one you must have is the empowerment of the state of your own mind. it must be able to stand on its own. Whenever you have difficult times look at the Thirty Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. It is the guide to the practice of relative truth.