Tara Mantra

There are many videos on Tara Mantra on Youtube, but this one stands out for its very beautiful music setting. You see a girl sitting and meditating. On top of her head is Master Tsongkhapa. Deep in his heart is the Bodhisattva Tara, and deep inside her breast is the letter TAM, her seed syllable, surrounding by the ten syllables of her mantra – Om Tara Tuttare Ture Svaha. This the standard method of meditating on Tara. The idea is to visualize that one ultimately is identified with the Bodhisattva herself. What this means is that one accepts all the qualities of Tara into oneself, so that there is no distinction whatsoever between oneself and Tara. Or to put it another way, one does actually become Tara in one’s meditation. This does not mean that one is having an illusion or is becoming crazy, like a patient who thinks that he is Napoleon; but it means that the aim of the meditation is to acquaint the mind with Tara herself. To become one with Tara means that one is losing oneself —  one is letting go of one’s own ego and one’s own personality, and merges into something much larger. It is pure spirituality. After identifying oneself with Tara, it is necessary that the practitioner ends the session with the ‘dissolution’ or ‘completion’ stage, where one visualizes that Tara dissolves back into her seed syllable, and finally into empty space, and then one remains within the meditation in emptiness — no thought, no fabrication. The two stages of the meditation — the visualization and the completion stage — always complement each other and the meditation will not be complete without both of them.

 

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Kunga Sangbo Rinpoche’s Visit to Thailand 2010

ตามที่พระอาจารย์กุงกา ซังโป ริมโปเชจะเดินทางมาบรรยายธรรมและนำภาวนาตั้งแต่วันที่ 23 กุมภาพันธ์นั้น ริมโปเชมีความจำเป็นต้องเลื่อนการเดินทางถึงประเทศไทยเป็นวันที่ 27 กุมภาพันธ์ ทางมูลนิธิจึงต้องเลื่อนกิจกรรมต่างๆไปเป็นกำหนดการใหม่ ดังนี้

27 กพ พระอาจารย์เดินทางถึงประเทศไทย
28 กพ ประกอบพิธีมนตราภิเษกพระแม่ตารา พิธีเปิดศาลาเตวาวัฒนา และสวดมนตร์สำหรับการตอกเสาเข็มพระสถูป นำภาวนาเนื่องในวันมาฆบูชาที่ศูนย์ขทิรวัน
1 มีค  สอนฝึกสมาธิที่ศูนย์ขทิรวัน เดินทางกลับกรุงเทพฯ
2 มีค  รอการยืนยัน
3 มีค  1-4 pm บรรยายเรื่อง “ทำความรู้จักพระพุทธศาสนาวัชรยาน” ที่จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย 7-9 pm สอนฝึกสมาธิทงเลนที่บ้านมูลนิธิพันดารา
4 มีค  7-9 pm บรรยายที่ห้องโพธิคยา ตึกอมรินทร์โซโก้ (ขอเชิญผู้สนใจมาสนทนาธรรมกับริมโปเชและมาเรียนรู้เรื่องราวของมูลนิธิตั้งแต่เวลา 5 โมงเย็นเป็นต้นไป)
5 มีค พระอาจารย์เดินทางกลับประเทศจีน

ดังนั้นกำหนดการที่เปลี่ยนแปลงจะมีดังนี้ 1. งานมาฆบูชาภาวนาที่ศูนย์ขทิรวัน หัวหิน จะเริ่มในตอนเช้าวันที่ 28 กุมภาพันธ์ แทนที่จะเป็นวันที่ 26 อย่างที่ประกาศไว้ครั้งแรก และ 2. การบรรยายที่จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย เลื่อนจากวันที่ 23 กุมภาพันธ์ ไปเป็นวันที่ 3 มีนาคม

ขอขอบคุณทุกท่านที่ให้การสนับสนุนกิจกรรมของมูลนิธิพันดาราด้วยดีตลอดมา

Dear members,

Due to a necessary schedule change by Kunga Sangbo Rinpoche, we need to reschedule the event in Thailand as follows:

27 February: Rinpoche arrives in Thailand

28 February: Empowerment of Bodhisattva Tara; Opening Ceremony of the Dewa Wattana Pavilion; Chanting for the Pilings of the Tara Great Stupa; Meditation on the Magha Puja Day

1 March: Meditation Practice – Rinpoche travels back to Bangkok.

2 March: To be announced.

3 March: 1 – 4 pm –> Lecture on “Introduction to Vajrayana Buddhism” at Room 707, Boromratchakumari Bldg., Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University ;  7 -9 pm –> Tonglen meditation practice at the Foundation House, Lad Prao Road.

4 March: 5 – 7 pm –> Informal talks with Kunga Rinpoche; getting to know the Thousand Stars Foundation and participating in the activities, Bodhgaya Hall, Amarin Sogao Bldg.;  7-9 pm –> Lecture on “Abandoning the Ego” at the Bodhgaya Hall, 22nd Floor, Amarin Sogo Bldg., Ploenchit Road

5 March: Rinpoche returns to China

His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Four Noble Truths

Here is a video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s talk in 1996 on the Four Noble Truths. This is a long video, more than an hour, and it’s only the first part. So set up some time for yourself and enjoy His Holiness’ teaching.

The Four Noble Truths is the essence of Buddhism. It’s the first thing the Buddha taught to his future students after having attained Enlightenment.

Each video is about one hour and a half long. So be prepared.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

First Turning of the Wheel

Next Thursday (July 17) will be one of the most important days for Buddhists. That is the day when the Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma the first time, thus completing the Triple Gems and we can also say that Buddhism came into this world the first time as there was the Teacher, the Message, and the Follower.

The Message that the Buddha taught to his five former disciples who had earlier left him before he became the Buddha was the universal message of Buddhism – Middle Way and Four Noble Truths. Let me quote a passage from the Message itself, which was called in Pali “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta” or “Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth.” This is the very first teaching of the Buddha and perhaps the most important. The following quote is from a translation of the Sutta from accesstoinsight.com:

“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.”

This is the teaching on the Middle Way. This will be further elaborated and explained throughout the history of Buddhism. And in fact there are many levels of meanings in this short passage. At the first level, the Buddha was saying that the lives of the householder who indulges in pleasures of the senses, and that of the ascetic who denies all pleasures at all are not the correct way. One does not gain Realization either way.

Usually when a student comes across this teaching, he or she might overlook its profound message, which indeed lies at the heart of the Buddha’s message to the world. The way toward Liberation, the way toward freeing oneself from all the fetters that have bound all of us to the samsaric world, is not to be found in indulging in pleasures or in denying them. One who enjoys all kinds of pleasures of the senses will not attain Liberation because his mind is too preoccupied with these pleasures, seeking them and becoming attached to them. It is as if the mind believes that these pleasurable experiences are real and worthy of being attached to. But since all these are fleeting and momentary, the mind thus continually seeks and seeks, with no possibility of coming to rest. I often had the experience of holding a TV remote and sift through the channels very fast; on the one hand I wanted to finnd a good channel to watch, but was frustrated because there was nothing to watch; on the other I did not want to get up and quit watching the TV altogether. Or when you found a channel and wathced it, then when it was over you found yourself a bit empty, saying “Now what next?” The teachers usually say that this is like drinking sea water; the more you drink, the more thirsty you become.

This is the predicament of those who are attached to sense pleasures. You might have all the sex and all the food you desire, but in the end you find yourself empty. Is this all the meaning in life? Is this what we are born for? Now I am thinking of what Prince Siddhartha must have felt when he woke up one night and found all the dancing girls lying around on the floor, soundly asleep. With no action that put them up and presented them in a way that pleased the eyes of the audience (namely the Prince), what he saw now was the girls themselves in their very natural state. And the story said that the Prince was much repulsed by the sight.

On the other hand, denying all pleasures and seeking self mortification is not the answer either. Prince Siddhartha also found this out by himself, when he was practicing very austere forms of asceticism during his quest for Liberation. He decided to eat less and less, until in the end he ate perhaps only a grain of rice a day. He also tried denying the body in many other ways. He held his breath so hard he could hear winds blowing very loudly in his ears. And so on. In the end he found that he was much the same as he was before practicing these things. So self mortification was not the way to go.

The message is that there is a common thread that lies behind both self indulgence and self mortification. In self indulgence one believes that there is something that you believe is there to be grasped and held on to. This could be the pleasures that we seek and cherish. This could be sexual pleasures, or could be other kinds such as our fond memories, our plans for the future, the sounds we love to hear, the taste of food we love, etc. However, when we found that these pleasures are no good we try to drive them away, we try to deny them and go away from them, fleeing them like wildfire. Instead of being attached to the pleasures, we feel angry toward them and want to destroy them completely. But the Buddha says this is not the way to go either. In trying to flee from the pleasures, we also believe that they are there and they are real enough that we must flee from them. The more we try to escape the pleasures and to destroy them, the thought that “these pleasures are there” is still around. So it is like runnig away from your shadow. Isn’t that rather silly?

Another way that is not correct is to find a ‘balance’ or a ‘compromise’ between the two extremes. Suppose one is convinced by the Buddha’s teaching that both self indulgence and self mortification is not the way, then perhaps one finds a mixture and an average of the two, striking the “middle way” literally. But this is not it. The Buddha’s teaching on the Middle Way goes much deeper than that (otherwise Buddhism would be only a religion of “averaging” 🙂 ). No, this is not a matter of averaging. When the Buddha says that one should avoid both self indulgence and self mortification, he wants us to be aware of the nature of our attachment and our aversion that are there in our minds. In self indulgence there is attachment and in its counterpart there is aversion. Both are in fact one and the same.

So the teaching is that one realizes things the way they really are. The pleasures and the pains are natural states of things, and they should be recognized as such. The most important thing is our mind. When the Buddha taught his five former disciplines (who would then became the first five monks in Buddhism, following this sermon in the Deer Park) that these extremes should be avoided, the meaning was that one should avoid grasping at things as if they have objective, substantial reality. One should avoid both the extremes of believing that things exist and of believing that things do not exist. One believes that things do not exist, for example, when one goes to self mortification way and try to deny all that is important and normal for living, such as food, air and water. This can also be seen in other guises when people try to discipline themselves physically, but not making an attempt to gain a true understanding of things. So sitting in the meditation posture for six hours alone won’t get you closer to Realization if not coupled with the understanding. And in another way, one also does not believe that things exist when one indulges oneself in all kinds of pleasures, believing that there is no tomorrow, for example.

Nagarjuna says that the true message of Buddhism is the abandonment of all views. I believe this lies at the heart of the Buddha’s own message to his disciples at the First Turning of the Wheel. One does not grasp at any view, whether it is the view that things exist, or that things do not exist. One realizes that having a view at all involves arguing for it and defending it and behaving as if the view is objectively there. For the Buddha, that is, ultimately speaking, not the Middle Way.

Vajrasattva

VajrasattvaOne of Phakchok Rinpoche’s teachings next week will focus on the Buddha Vajrasattva. In fact he is going to give those attending an empowerment of the Buddha so that we know how to practice the deity properly and receive the blessings of the lineage of all the masters who practiced this very practice before.

Vajrasattva is the Buddha of purification of previous karmas. This is why his empowerment is coupled with the talk on accumulation of merit, since accumulation of merit won’t be fully effective if one’s previous karmic results and karmic traces are not purified and cleansed away. Vajrasattva specializes precisely on this task.

The picture you see on the right is a status of Vajrasattva found in Cambodia. It dates back to the 11th century C. E., during the height of the Khmer empire. During that time Cambodia was a stronghold of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, together with Hinduism. It only became Theravada after the fall of the Empire in the fifteenth century. There are still quite a large number of artifacts and statues in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism that can be found in Cambodia and the northeast of Thailand. (The picture is from the website Sundial-Isan, to which I am very thankful.)

Now back to Vajrasattva himself. When we think of Vajrasattva and are constantly mindful of him through the mantra, either the short one or the very long, 100-syllable one, we are then doing a meditation on purifying our past karmic effects. One might suspect whether it is really possible to purify one’s karmic effects. After all, the law of karma seems to be iron clad. If you did something, you will get the result. But if you can purify all that, then where is the force of the law of karma?

This is a very important point. A key teaching in Buddhism is that we always have a choice. It is not that all of us are always predetermined totally by our previous action. Otherwise there would not be any sense in practicing the Dharma in order to become liberated, attaining nirvana or attaining Buddhahood. On the contrary, there is a teaching in some Mahayana Sutras, such as the Avatamsaka, that everyone of us — every being within samsara — will eventually become a Buddha. This means all of us are in fact predetermined to become a Buddha eventually, and the Vajrasattva practice will greatly expedite that process.

Any way, the picture is *not* that whenever we did something wrong we can ask Vajrasattva to purify our action so we are freed and then we commit the same act again. That is totally not the picture. When you seek to purify your own karmic effects, you always do so out of the genuine and intense feeling that you have that what you did was wrong and that you are very deeply sorry and you are committed not to do that again, ever. In meditating on Vajrasattva, all of your previous karmas are open like an open book; there is nothing that you can hide from his eyes. You fully open up yourself and expose all of your misdeeds, both the ones that you know and also the ones that you do not know, and you make a commitment, a vow not to do any misdeed or unwholesome karmas again, either through the bodily, verbal or mental action. You genuinely and sincerely ask for the blessings of Vajrasattva so that his nectar comes to cleanse and purify your body, speech and mind. Vajrasattva, representing the power of all the Buddhas to help sentient beings in samsara, has all the power to do that. All we only need to do is to open ourselves up to him.

So his practice is very useful for everyone. In Buddhism, the most important thing is the mind. “The mind is chief; among all the things in the world, they are made by the mind,” taught the Buddha Shakyamuni himself in the Dhammapada. One result of unwholesome karmic action is that our minds become cloudy and defiled. A symptom of this is that we might be easily irritated, greedy, harboring harmful thoughts such as wanting to injure others, and so on. These are all defilements. They are called “defilements” because they “defile” the mind, making the mind dirty, and in fact our minds have been dirtied repeatedly for an incalculably long time. This is why we all need Vajrasattva’s blessings, but we also need to be constantly aware that without our own willingness to purify ourselves and without the sincere determination to be able to help all sentient beings through achieving Buddhahood, his blessings won’t be effective at all.

The mind is chief amongst all, so it has to start at your own mind.

Here is another photo of Vajrasattva, found in the northeast of Thailand.

Vajsattva in Thailand

HH Phakchok Rinpoche’s Visit to Thailand

Starting this Monday (June 16), His Holiness Phakchok Rinpoche will start his series of teachings and empowerment in Thailand. Here is the program:

Mon 16 June: The Great “I”
Place: Grand Ballroom, 11th Floor
Tawana Hotel
Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Tue 17 June: Healing in Buddhism
Place: Mongkolnavin Conference Room, Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital
Time: Registration starts at 11:45 a.m. Lecture 12:15 to 13:45, including Q&A.

Thu 19 June: Vajrasattava Empowerment and Teaching on “Accumulation of Merit”
Place: Boudhagaya Hall

Time: 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Registration starts at 5:00 p.m.)

Sat-Sun 21-22 June: Teaching on Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation
Place: The Forum Park Hotel
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

I have known Phakchok Rinpoche for some time, as Thailand is one of his favorite places for a visit. Last time he gave a two-day teaching at Chulalongkorn University, an event organized by the Thousand Stars Foundation. He talked about mind training and how to do meditation in the style of Tibetan Buddhism. This was very good for Thai Buddhists, who were not at all familiar with Tibetan Buddhism and how to do meditation from another tradition rather than their own. This was really an eye opener and a very beneficial start of a dialog between the Thai and Tibetan traditions of Buddhism, which Rinpoche himself has been advocating for quite some time.

This time Rinpoche’s teachings will be much more wide ranging. He will start out with a talk on “The Great ‘I'”. Well, this is simply the root cause of all the sufferings that bind us with samsara. Then he talks about how the teaching of the Buddha could help with those with health problems. He will give the talk at the Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and I am sure many patients and others will benefit a lot. Then on Thursday he will talk on how to accumulate merit and bestow an empowerment of the Buddha Vajrasattva. Vajrasattva is the Buddha of purification and the two topics fit together very well, as merit accumulation needs to be accompanied by the Vajrasattva practice of cleansing away our bad karmas in order for the merits to be most effective.

Then the highlight of his visit this year will be a teaching on Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation. Gampopa was a student of Milarepa, and he was the one who combined the monastic tradition transmitted by Atisha and the yogic tradition of Milarepa. So Thai people are really fortunate to be able to listen to this teaching.

Those of you who happen to be in Bangkok and would like to know more information please contact Khun Jarunee at jamjuree99 AT yahoo.com or download this file.