The Seven Line Prayer
Barbara asked me to teach on a Nyingma practice, so I decided to teach on Seven Line Prayer to Padmasambhava. Here is how it was written. At Nalanda there was a big debate between Buddhists and Hindus. The Buddhists were worried about losing the debate. All the Buddhist pandits had the same dream, in which a dakini named Supreme Bliss told them they woulld lose unless they invited Padmasambhava, who was living in a charnel ground. They asked how do we do this, and the dakini told them to burn incense on the roof of the monastery and recite this seven line prayer. So the prayer comes from this dakini. The debate started with the blessings of Guru Rinpoche. Even so, the Buddhist pandits were about to lose the debate. The dakini told them to recite Padmasambhava’s mantra. A lightning bolt struck the chief Hindu debater and the other Hindu debaters converted to Buddhism.
In the Eighth century, when Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet, he brought this prayer with him. In the Nyingma tradition since then, one recites this seven line prayer at the beginning of any sadhana. The first HUNG symbolizes the mind of all enlightened beings especially Guru Rinpoche. When reciting this prayer, you lengthen this syllable and visualize inviting all enlightened beings.
The commentary by Mipham Rinpoche is divided into five topics. The first is the literal explanation of the prayer. Here it describes the birthplace of Padmasambhava, which some scholars say is in Afghanistan. Lake Danakosha, where Padmasambhava was born. It has water with the eight excellent qualities. The prayer says Padmasambhava was born miraculously from a lotus in this lake. In some places there are huge lotuses where a person can sit on the pad. And there are stories of other lamas being born miraculously, as well as Padmasambhava. The emanation was from a letter HRIH which symbolizes the blessing of the body, speech and mind of all Buddhas. It emanated light which struck Amitabha’s heart and re-emanated the light which struck the lotus flower where Padmasambhava manifested. The next line says marvelous is your achievement. One of his achievements is his eight different physical manifestations. Another is that he attained the state of Vajradhara in one lifetime. The next line says you are known as the Lotus Born. The next line says that he is surrounded by a vast retinue of dakinis, which is one of his qualities. The next line says I practice following in your footsteps. This means that out of the three different kinds of faith, I follow in your footsteps. That is not only because Padmasambhava is the essence of all enlightened beings, but also because he emanated eight forms, and achieved the state of Vajradhara. The next line is the aspirational prayer for blessings. It gives the reason why the prayer is said, to receive blessings and remove obstacles. The prayer is not difficult to understand, but one should know the meanings of the different terms in the prayer. When you keep them in mind you will understand when they are used in different sadhanas.
Out of the five different commentaries the next is the hidden meaning commentary. In the hidden meaning, the HUNG symbolizes the ultimate nature of mind, bare awareness beyond any fabrication. We are inviting this mind. The land of Orgyen refers to the ultimate nature of mind (sems nyid). Ordinary mind is of eight types. The first five are the five sense faculties, the sixth is the mental faculty. It is used when dreaming and in conceptual thought. The seventh consciousness is the alaya consciousness, the base where all the karmic imprints are stored. The eighth consciousness refers to the deluded clinging to a false belief in self. We accumulate karma through the five sense faculties. This faculty does not refer to the physical organ, but the subtle form with the organ that enables perception. When we look at a flower the physical object and sense faculty meet, forming the awareness of the flower. This induces a feeling of pleasure or pain. On that basis feelings of craving or aversion arise, giving rise to karma. If you have a fight with someone you may forget about it. Then if you meet him twenty years later, you will feel a sense of aversion to him. This is because of the imprint stored in the alaya. It’s the same thing with desire. When I was living in Los Angeles there was an area where there used to be a lot of wild flowers. There was no rain for twelve years and it became a desert. But then it rained and all the seeds germinated and it was filled with flowers. Because mind is not material, it’s not like we are stacking one thing on another. Our actions modify our consciousness so the propensity to act in a certain way is formed. It’s like a piece of paper that is rolled up and retains its curl when it is straightened out. The eighth consciousness is clinging to the self. It is so strong and pervasive. It becomes stronger at the time of death so that the mind clings to a notion of self after we leave the body. So that’s the ordinary mind.
North refers to enlightenment and West refers to samsara. On the northwest border means beyond nirvana and samsara. There are three kinds of nirvana. The first is the nirvana of the disciples, who seek individual liberation. They attain a kind of nirvana, but it does not have the full qualities of Buddhahood. It can be attained in two or three lifetimes. The next type is attained by solitary realizers. They meditate on emptiness of external phenomena as well as the emptiness of a person. It takes one hundred eons to attain this state. The third type of nirvana is free from the two lower forms and is able to work for the benefit of all sentient beings. It takes one hundred great eons to attain. Once you generate the mind of bodhicitta, even if it takes that long, you are willing to do this, and it seems too short to engage in actions for the benefit of all beings. For the Mahayana, there is the Sutrayana and Tantrayana. With Tantra you can achieve full enlightenment in one lifetime. So ultimate mind is free from nirvana and samsara.
The lotus symbolizes the ultimate nature of mind and the pollen refers to its clarity, the ability to cognize without dualistic thoughts. Although the ultimate nature and its clarity are different, the are an indistinguishable unity. This is symbolized by the stem of the lotus. The vajra originally referred to an indestructible gem. It also refers to the ultimate nature of mind. The marvelous achievement refers to attaining that very state of mind, which is Mahamudra or Dzogchen. It is the source of all enlightened beings. When refer to the ultimate nature of mind, we can talk about three levels, ground, path and fruition. As ground, all beings have this mind. As path, it is the mind which follows the different practices of Tantra and Dzogchen. When these practice are completed, they manifest as the mind of fruition.
When it says surrounded by a retinue of dakinis, it refers to the capacity of an enlightened beings to emanate the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities. Even as sentient beings we experience different mental states. All these are transformed at the time of enlightenment. For example, hatred is transformed into a wisdom symbolized by a wrathful deity. When we paint or do a sand mandala, we are creating a form that we cannot yet do by transforming our mind’s delusions. If you practice this way, when you die, you will have the ability to manifest these deities after death in the bardo and recognize them as the nature of your mind. The purpose of meditating on wrathful deities is inspired by compassion.
Only wrathful methods can tame some individuals. It’s like a mother who must sometimes must take a wrathful appearance even though she has great love for her child. Of course, sometimes mothers can get angry, but I mean the appearance of anger when inside there is compassion. When it says I practice following in your footsteps it means I practice following in the footsteps of the ultimate state of mind. The prayer says I pray you approach. This means you pray all your perceptions and thoughts arise as the expression of primordial wisdom. When you do this you have really invited Guru Rinpoche.
In the mantra, Guru stands for ultimate mind and padma refers to its stainlessness. Siddhi refers to its qualities. Hum refers to the dharmakaya, the fruition of enlightenment. The ultimate nature of mind is the dharmakaya (guru), the clear nature of the mind is the sambhagakaya (pema), and its ability to manifest refers to the nirmanakaya (siddhi).
All completion stage practices are pretty much the same, dissolving the visualization into the ultimate nature of mind. You should develop the confidence that your mind is no different from enlightened mind and emanate the syllables that represent the deities. When you visualize mandalas and deities, you should understand their emptiness and do the practice with great compassion. If your visualization is not supported by these two you cannot be reborn as as a deity. That’s why the vajra and bell symbolize compassion and emptiness, as a reminder to hold these two during the practice. You cross your arms to symbolize that they are always combined.
So now we will explain the third meaning, the skillful meaning or method. HUNG symbolizes the self arising nature of the mind. The land of Udiyana refers to the different channels and chakras. The northwest border refer the right, left and central channels. The lotus refers to the heart chakra with eight petals. The essential drop in the heart chakra is symbolized by the pollen. The marvelous achievement refers to the achievement of the great blissful wisdom. The practice of tummo induces physical bliss, which gives rise to great mental bliss and the recognition of emptiness. This is what is symbolized by Padmasambhava’s birth in the lotus. It refers to giving rise to this state. Here we are talking about completion stage yoga. It is twofold, both with and without signs. Completion stage with signs is like inner heat yoga and other practices. Completion stage without signs is recognizing the emptiness of this. Surrounded by a vast retinue of dakinis is the winds and drops which surround the heart chakra. Following in your footsteps means doing the practices of the vajra body, the practices of the clear light and illusory body. When it says I pray you approach it means all experiences should be seen as great bliss. Your blessings refers to the attainment of the rainbow body.