Calling the Lama from Afar

His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche the Third,
Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge
The Supplication -
Instructions on "Calling the Lama from Afar" by
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye the Great


I wish to ask everyone to give rise to faith and trust in the Buddhadharma. When listening to the teachings of Lord Buddha, one hopes to understand them. If one does not understand, then the blessings of the teachings cannot enter one's mind. It is very important to have a clear mind, difficult for Westerners to understand when studying the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism. In fact, if one has pure faith and devotion in the teacher, it is possible to receive the blessings by just being in the room in which the teachings of Lord Buddha are being presented. I earnestly ask everyone to generate the enlightened attitude of awakening before receiving the instructions entitled "Calling the Lama from Afar" that was written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the Great.

Participants of this course are followers of Secret Mantrayana, also called Vajrayana. "Secret" refers to the fact that the meaning of the instructions cannot be understood other than through the capacity of wisdom, compassion, and devotion on the part of the individual practitioner. What distinguishes Vajrayana? By practicing the Vajrayana instructions, a highly qualified practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in an instant. An advanced practitioner can achieve omniscience within this very life. A Vajrayana practitioner with lesser propensities can achieve Buddhahood during the bardo of death, when the mind merges and mingles with the simultaneous manifestation of emptiness and appearance, which is represented by Dorje Chang or Vajradhara.

Vajrayana is very profound; its qualities are exceptional. In order to practice the methods and means taught and reach fruition, one needs to appreciate the Three Roots, which are the Lama, yidams, and protectors. The Lama is the most significant root for advancement on the spiritual path.

When one becomes a disciple of a Lama, one should neither see him or her as an ordinary person or merely as a spiritual friend. One's Lama personifies the essence of all Buddhas of the three times. He is the embodiment of all Buddhas and of the five wisdoms. If a disciple experiences a Root Lama correctly, the blessings of the Lama's mind can enter the disciple's heart, who then is able to achieve direct realization of Mahamudra. Vajrayana is a very direct path to accomplish Mahamudra, which is realization of the mind's natural and true state.

Devotion, veneration, pure faith, and certainty are the most decisive factors a practitioner needs when embarking on the spiritual journey of Vajrayana. A disciple needs to develop devotion as well as gratitude and have pure faith by winning certainty in the Root Lama and all Lamas of the Transmission Lineage. When a Vajrayana disciple practices the path, progress and improvement depend upon the stability and certainty he or she has generated and developed. Certainty of practice and attainment of fruition depend upon the devotion and veneration a disciple has for his or her Root Lama.

Some pupils have natural faith in their Lama, others have difficulties. Therefore it is necessary to gradually develop sincere devotion and trust. Beginners need to check their attitude and look at their own mind, then they will be able to have pure devotion for the outer manifestation of the Lama, which becomes natural and spontaneous while practicing advanced stages of the path. A disciple first contemplates a Lama's qualities in order to gradually establish unwavering devotion, which is then called "non-artificial." Non-artificial and uncontrived veneration and dedication support progress. Further blessings are then transmitted by a Root Lama, until a disciple is able to realize the true nature of his or her mind and have pure faith. There are three stages while establishing a relationship with a Lama: contrived devotion that arises from inspection, uncontrived and natural veneration, and realization of the mind's true nature, which is pure faith.

There are different kinds of Lamas: the outer Lama, the inner Lama, and the ultimate Lama. The outer Lama is the Lama one thinks is separated from oneself. A confused mind apprehends dualistically by distinguishing an apprehending self in opposition to apprehended objects. Individuals seek a guide who leads them along the way to spiritual improvement, the reason students need an outer Lama, a spiritual friend one respects. Such a spiritual friend can be anybody a disciple trusts. Having chosen a spiritual friend as Lama, a pupil asks for instructions, follows the examples the Lama lives by, and strives to achieve the same results. When a disciple realizes the true essence of his or her own mind, then he or she realizes the ultimate Guru, the ultimate Lama, who is in truth the own non-deluded mind. A beginner first hopes to experience and realize his or her mind united with that of the Lama and then cultivates that wish all day and at all times. Then a student can experience and realize the inner Lama. This is a major feature of Mantrayana.

I wish to mention a few problems I have noticed concerning the outer and inner Lama. Some practitioners think they can practice on their own after having received a few instructions and need no further guidance or support. Such an attitude points to a lack of respect, and such a practitioner often goes astray. Other practitioners believe that once a teacher has passed away, the connection with the departed Lama is over. These ideas are not right and show that the relationship a disciple has with a Lama is faulty. I am also very sorry to have seen practitioners complete a three-year retreat under the guidance of a qualified meditation instructor and then have no respect for him afterwards. If an instructor did not prove to be incapable and is not unworthy, then such behavior is wrong. I have seen people complete retreats without having any respect for their instructors. They think they are just as good and qualified as the teacher, because both completed a retreat together, evidence that a practitioner has no understanding. In fact, the more understanding, the more devotion a disciple has.

I want everyone to know that it is not proper to separate the outer and inner Lama, rather one needs to see him or her as the personification of both. One can understand one's inner Lama, who embodies the truth of realization, even if one received all teachings from one's outer Lama, the Lama one meets and studies with. One is so accustomed to meeting and learning from teachers in many schools and therefore treats one's Root Lama the same way. In school, one changes teachers as one goes through classes and courses, so one is accustomed to various teachers. The Guru-disciple relationship isn't like that.

A number of people have asked me to become their Root Guru after their Lama passed away. This is not a good approach and is very western, in which case trust in reincarnation is still missing. Westerners think that when their Lama died, he is gone and lost forever and they only need a new one. I want everyone to know that our Root Guru is our Guru – forever. There is no reason to change one's attitude towards one's Lama after he has passed away, since the Guru-disciple relationship is changeless and never ends. Also, many people run from one Lama to the next and treat the situation like a shopping spree. They think they can change Lamas like they do clothes and receive new instructions, new inspiration, and so forth. It is good to receive teachings from various teachers, but one does not switch one's Guru. Such behavior is evidence that one's faith and devotion in one's Root Lama are quite weak.

Again, I am very sad to see many practitioners leave a retreat and then only respect Lamas who sit on a high throne, who wear robes made of brocade and silk, and who have a title, without respecting the retreat master who transmitted all the teachings to them. This is very bad. Whether the instructor is famous or not, he or she showed the practitioner the nature of his or her mind during the retreat. So, the instructor is, in truth and without a doubt, one's Root Guru. It is very important to appreciate this fact while doing a retreat and afterwards too. I have seen disrespect arise so often and therefore wish to underline this topic. I have seen followers no longer respect their Guru after a retreat and merely look upon him or her as ordinary. It is not a Tibetan command that one must respect a retreat master. On the contrary, respect for such a master is Dharma, a universal and spiritual truth. So, it is very important for everyone to learn how to relate to the Guru and how to maintain a correct and pure Guru-disciple relationship.

The Purpose and Homage

While receiving instructions on the Buddhadharma or praying to one's Lama, it is very important to understand that samsara only entails suffering, the reason one needs to renounce all conditions that bring on suffering and pain. Samsara offers no beneficial perspectives at all.

When reciting a prayer to one's Lama, one needs to appreciate that one's Lama embodies all Buddhas of the three times and ten directions. By generating pure devotion in one's Lama before commencing with a recitation, one's prayers will be sincere, and it will then be possible to receive his or her perfect blessings and inspiration. While praying, it is vital that a disciple's mind remains free of worldly hopes or fears. Should a disciple's mind be perturbed and estranged through shallow devotion during liturgical practices, the Lama's blessings cannot enter the mind of a devotee. A disciple's mind needs to be raised as aloft as the wings of a bird before it soars into flight in order to experience the beneficial import a genuine and uncontrived recitation of such a precious text as the one I will be teaching engenders.

The title of the supplication I wish to speak about is "Calling the Lama from Afar." It is a prayer through which we call to our Lama from afar. He may be far away physically, he may even have passed away, and therefore we call to him. But the prayer is not meant for such occasions only. If a disciple is confident and certain that his or her Lama is the embodiment of all Buddhas, then a disciple with pure vision doesn't perceive physical distance as an obstacle and is thus able to recite the supplication and receive the inspiration that the Lama bestows at all times. For a dedicated pupil who has certainty in the fact that his or her Lama is the embodiment of all Buddhas, distance is irrelevant. If a devotee prays regularly, he or she receives an uninterrupted shower of blessings. This is the meaning of the beginning of the supplication, which reads:

"Namo Guru.
Lama, think of us.
Kind Root Lama think of us."

Renunciation is decisive when receiving one's Lama's blessings; devotion and dedication are keys to gain certainty that one's Lama is inseparably united with all Buddhas. Renunciation and devotion need to be heart-felt and do not refer to pointless lip service. Genuine devotion arises from the innermost core of one's being, from the marrow of one's bones. Ascertaining that there is no better Lama than the Buddha and knowing one's Lama is the Buddha means truly having the sacred view.

Our Root Lama is the Buddha, a fact one needs to acknowledge and appreciate fully. Some followers do not have a Root Guru. There are some here who may falsely think that this prayer does not apply to them - this is not true. We are all followers of the Karma Kamtsang, the Practice Lineage. The holder of this Lineage is the Gyalwa Karmapa. Therefore, if you do not have a Root Lama, you can pray to His Holiness the Karmapa. In fact, even if you have a Root Lama, you can see him as inseparably united with the Karmapa and then pray to the Karmapa. You can definitely see the Karmapa as your Root Guru while you pray to your Lama. If you do this, it is important to see the Karmapa as Vajradhara, the primordial Buddha and perfect source of the Oral Transmission Lineage in the Kagyu Tradition. When a disciple has conviction, he or she then recites "The Supplication" that was written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and prays:

"Essence of the Buddhas of the three times,
Source of genuine Dharma in scripture and realization,
Master of the noble gathering of sangha,
Root Lama, may you think of us."

Our Lama is the essence of all Buddhas of the three times (the past, present, and future). When Buddha is addressed in the teachings, we usually think of Buddha Shakyamuni with thirty-two major and eighty minor marks of enlightenment, which isn't meant in this context. "The Supplication" addresses the essence of the Buddha, and the essence of the Buddha is the dharmakaya, "ultimate reality," which is only realized by a Buddha's mind.

The prayer continues and teaches that one's Lama is the source of the sacred Dharma, the pure and authentic Dharma of the scriptural tradition and of the tradition of those who have attained realization; they have handed down the unbroken Lineage to us generously and with immense kindness. All teachings of the Buddha can be summarized in these two Transmission Lineages, which one's Root Lama has realized. Due to one's Lama's wisdom, he is able to teach the sacred Dharma to every disciple. Therefore, the teachings one's Lama presents and the teachings of Lord Buddha are not different, the reason one's Lama is the source of the sacred Dharma. Furthermore, one's Lama is the master of the sangha, the noble gathering of followers who uphold and present the teachings to us. The lord of the sangha is Buddha Shakyamuni, who is one with our Lama. Thus, our Lama is the lord and master of the noble members of the precious sangha. The first verse of "The Supplication" addresses the Three Jewels, embodied in one's Lama – the unification of the Buddha, Dharma, and sangha. What does this mean?

A Buddha is a realized being who ascertains the totality of conditioned and ultimate reality. Our Lama has attained ultimate realization, which is omniscience. He cognizes the relative and ultimate nature of all things, because he has achieved primordial wisdom. He or she has realized the indivisibility of emptiness, love and compassion, and samsara and nirvana. The essence of our Lama's mind is primordial wisdom, i.e., our Lama ascertains emptiness and simultaneously manifests loving kindness and compassion. He practiced, brought the skillful means to fruition, and thus has realized great bliss.

The Dharma teachings our Lama presents are the expression of his compassion, which he developed by practicing skillful means of Lord Buddha's path to omniscience. In short, wisdom is the essence of our Lama's mind; his instructions are an expression of his compassion and are the manifestation of skillful means.

All experienced and advanced practitioners are the sangha, those individuals who have received the blessings of the transmission and who have realized the source of all teachings. Our Lama is the source and blessing of all teachings and therefore he is the master of the sangha.

"Great treasure of blessing and compassion,
Source of the two siddhis,
Buddha activity that grants whatever is desired,
Root Lama, may you think of us.

Great treasure of blessing and compassion,
Source of the two siddhis,
Buddha activity that grants whatever is desired,
Root Lama, may you think of us.

Lama Amitabha, think of us.
Behold us from the expanse of the dharmakaya, free of fabrication,
We wander in samsara through the force of negative karma;
Bring us to rebirth in your pure land of bliss.

Lama Chenrezik, think of us.
See us from the expanse of the luminous sambhogakaya.
Pacify completely the suffering of the six kinds of beings
And totally transform the three realms of samsara.

Lama Padmasambhava, think of us.
Behold us from the luminous lotus of Nga Yab Ling.
In these dark times, swiftly protect with your compassion
Tibetan disciples, all those who are destitute and without refuge.

Lama Yeshe Tsogyel, think of us.
Behold us from the dakinis' city of great bliss.
Bring us, who have committed negative actions,
Across the ocean of samsara to the great city of liberation.

Lamas of the oral transmission and terma lineages, think of us.
Behold us from the expanse of primordial wisdom, the union (of appearance and emptiness).
Help us to break through the dark prison of our confused mind
And make the sun of realization arise.

Omniscient Drime Ozer, think of us.
Behold us from the expanse of the five spontaneous lights.
Help us to perfect the great display of mind, primordially pure,
And to complete the four stages of ati yoga.

Incomparable Atisha and your heart son,
Amidst hundreds of deities, behold us from Tushita.
Bring about the birth in our mind stream
Of bodhichitta, the essence of emptiness and compassion.

Supreme siddhas, Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa, think of us.
Behold us from the space of great vajra bliss.
Enable us to attain the supreme siddhi of Mahamudra – bliss and emptiness inseparable;
Awaken the dharmakaya in our heart of hearts.

Lord of the world, Karmapa, think of us.
Behold us from the space where all beings, in numbers as vast as the sky, are trained.
Bring us to see that all phenomena are like an illusion, without any true existence,
And to realize appearance and mind arising as the three kayas."

We saw that our Lama is the indivisibility of the Three Jewels – the Buddha, Dharma, and sangha. The foregoing verse teaches that our Lama is the Three Roots – the Lama, yidams, and protectors. We heard that our Lama is the root of all blessings. Furthermore, the yidams are the root of all siddhis or accomplishments. And the Dharma protectors, the dakas and dakinis, are the root of all activities.

One knows that one's Lama is the root of all blessings, because one receives all teachings of the Transmission Lineage from him; therefore he is the first of the Three Roots. One's Lama is also the source of ordinary and supreme accomplishments. Supreme accomplishment is Buddhahood, the unimpaired state. Ordinary accomplishments of happiness, well-being, the ability to pacify disturbances, and the like are all realizations attained on the path to enlightenment. Many ordinary accomplishments are experienced when one practices the methods of the path. The yidams are the source of all accomplishments and are the display of one's Lama's creative mind. Thus, one's Lama is the source of the two accomplishments of wisdom and skillful means, since his mind manifests the yidams, i.e., qualities of being.

The source of all activities are the dakas and dakinis, those energy forces within each and every living being that appear as four types of activities: peaceful, enriching; controlling, and wrathful. The protectors, too, are an expression of one's Lama's mind. There is no daka or dakini separate from one's Lama, and consequently one's Lama is the source of all activities one aspires to accomplish and seeks. In short, one's Lama is the pure embodiment of all aspects of enlightenment. We pray to him in all aspects and request him to kindly look upon us with compassion.

The prayer continues with a supplication to the Lamas of the eight main Lineages of teachings. It is advisable to study the history of Buddhism in Tibet and to know who the Lamas of the Lineages are – they are all aspects of one's Root Guru. It is not necessary to memorize each name by heart. The most important point is that one fervently prays to one's Root Guru with faith and devotion. As a result, one can receive his inspiration and blessings.

In summary, when reciting the prayer "Calling the Lama from Afar," it is essential to have confidence and conviction in the fact that one's Lama personifies all Buddhas of the three times. Faith and confidence enable a sincere disciple to appreciate all Lamas of the Lineage and their qualities; therefore one recites the first section of the prayer with deep faith and sincere devotion.

Practice Instructions: Preliminary Contemplations

1. Samsara

"Alas, sentient beings like ourselves, who have committed negative actions,
Wander in samsara from beginningless time.
Still experiencing endless suffering,
We do not feel even an instant of repentance.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that renunciation arises from the depth of our heart."

All sentient beings – whoever they may be and whatever state of existence they may be going through – want to be free of suffering and wish to experience happiness. They lead their lives anticipating the fulfillment of their hopes and the elimination of their pain and fears. But they are bewildered and do not really know how to achieve lasting joy or how to relinquish suffering; they do not know what causes both. On account of fundamental ignorance about the true nature of reality, living beings think they can achieve well-being without knowing that anything they do to bring this about only brings on further suffering and pain. Although they intend to be good, they perpetuate more causes and conditions that bring on misery and woe. Due to ignorance about reality, they fail to recognize the meaningless propositions conditioned existence offers; they ignore the chance to attain freedom and continue wandering in bewilderment instead. This process is called "karma in samsara" and has been taking place since time without beginning, i.e., as long as confusion determines one's mode of apprehension.

The most important point one needs to understand is that conditioned existence, samsara, is meaningless. Although it seems as if one can be happy because one does experience moments of joy, comfort, and ease, such happiness does not last. By contemplating the futile propositions one is continually subject to within samsara, renunciation is born in one's mind.

There are three types of suffering in samsara:

1) The first type of suffering is all-pervasive and refers to the suffering conditioned existence always entails - it is felt by all living beings. Since all living beings cling to the skandhas, the "five psychophysical constituents of being," everyone believes in a self by identifying with all or a few of them. While apprehending the skandhas as a self, one does not recognize the true nature of conditionality and falsely assumes it is possible to be happy anyway. Erroneously misapprehending oneself and one's experiences as independent and inherent existents, one necessarily suffers.

2) The second type of suffering is the suffering of change. Certainly, one experiences momentary joy in conditioned existence, but it is only temporary. It doesn't last, because happiness inevitably changes into loss, which denotes frustration and pain. Everyone can see and experience that temporary happiness changes into suffering.

3) The third kind of suffering is suffering of suffering, which each living being experiences according to their own karma. Every human being experiences a great deal of physical pain and mental frustration, some more so than others. In general, living beings are unwillingly subject to the collective karma of having to experience the pain of birth, sickness, ageing, and death. All living beings are born, get sick, become old, and die.

Whenever one recites "The Supplication," one asks one's Lama to bless one to recognize samsara for what it is and one asks him for his inspiration to renounce it completely.

In the preliminary practices, one reflects the four contemplations – the precious human birth, impermanence, karma, and samsara – which inspire one to turn one's mind away from deceptive propositions. The foundation for any Dharma practice is renunciation. The four preliminary contemplations help one recognize that samsara is deceptive. Should one engage in Dharma activities without having renounced mundane concerns that are deceptive, then one's practice will not be effective. This is the reason why "The Lineage Prayer" teaches, "Renunciation is the foot of meditation," the term foot in this line being a metaphor for the path to enlightenment. Dharma practice can only be genuine and beneficial if one has aroused and developed renunciation.

2. The Precious Human Birth

"Although we have attained a precious human birth with leisure and resources, we waste it in vain,
Constantly distracted by the activities of this hollow life.
When it comes to accomplishing the great goal of liberation, we are overcome by laziness
And return empty-handed from a land filled with jewels.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we make this life meaningful."

A precious human birth is the best support for Dharma practice. If one has the eighteen conditions (the eight freedoms and ten opportunities that constitute a precious human birth) then one will definitely encounter the Buddhadharma in this life and be in a favorable situation to practice without hindrances. This is the reason why the precious human body is crucial. However, it is extremely difficult to acquire and can easily be lost. Therefore, one needs to recognize its worth and take advantage of the exceptional opportunity one has by practicing.

It is taught that a human birth is precious in relation to time, number, and example. "Time" refers to the fact that a human body is very rare. Looking at history and biographies, one learns that a human lifespan is very short. "Number" refers to the number of those few living beings who have acquired a human body in comparison to the innumerable sentient beings who are not able to receive the teachings and practice them. "Example is best illustrated in "The Bodhicharyavatara" by Shantideva, which states: "For these reasons, the Buddha has said that for a turtle to insert its neck into a yoke adrift upon the vast ocean, it is just as extremely hard to attain the human state." In explanation: A blind turtle dwelling on the ocean's ground has no ambitions; there is a wooden yoke with a hole which tosses about on the great ocean's surface. The Buddha taught that it is just as difficult to attain a human birth as it is for the turtle to stick its neck through the hole of that yoke when it happens to rise to the surface of the ocean every one hundred years – in fact, it is less likely to attain a precious human body. This example is not intended to frighten but to make one aware of how difficult it really is to have acquired favorable conditions and how valuable one's present situation really is. And so, this is the reason one prays to one's Lama to please help one be grateful for the fortunate situation and to inspire one to make good use of it by practicing the Buddhadharma at all times.

If one is not content and fails to appreciate one's situation, one will waste one's life with mundane distractions and continue struggling to achieve the eight worldly dharmas, which are the winds or influences that fan the passions. The eight worldly dharmas are attachment to gain, attachment to pleasure, praise, and fame, and aversion against loss, pain, blame, and a bad reputation. As long as one's mind remains overwhelmed by attachment and aversion, one will not be able to truly satisfy personal pleasures and will neglect to eliminate injuries. As it is, one experiences discrepancy while struggling to fulfill hopes to attain and defend supposed happiness. As a result, one wastes one's life.

Sometimes one wants to practice the Buddhadharma but is lazy and postpones practice until circumstances seem better. Again, one wastes one's life with unwholesome activities, which necessarily turn into habits. As long as one's mind remains bewildered in the darkness of ignorance, it seems easier to engage in negative than in positive activities. As a result, one prolongs one's time in samsara and remains in a state of confusion that only brings on more suffering. In that case, one resembles someone who returns empty-handed from a land filled with jewels. Therefore, we fervently pray to our Lama to bless us so that we use this precious human life as best as possible to achieve enlightenment.

3. The Dharma

a) Death

"There is no one on this earth who will not die.
Even now, people are passing away, one after the other.
We also soon must die,
But like a fool, we plan to live long.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we curtail all of our scheming."

All conditioned phenomena are impermanent and subject to destruction and decay. All efforts invested to achieve worldly goals are in vain, because everything passes. This applies to one's body too, which is composed of flesh, blood, and bones. At a certain time it was created, at another time it will decay. Not so one's mind, which was never created and will never cease. Whatever form of existence a living being has, everyone without exception will die due to the transitory nature of all conditioned things. One contemplates that there is nobody who has not died previously and knows this applies to oneself too. The sight or thought of death frightens everyone, although one knows that everything is impermanent. One blocks off these thoughts, is sad when they arise or when one experiences the death of a friend, relative, or stranger. Sooner or later one forgets and ignores the fact that this also applies to oneself. So it is necessary to repeatedly reflect the immediacy of death in order to understand that it is necessary to practice.

Furthermore, the time of death is uncertain. Nobody knows how long they will live nor when they will die, since many conditions cause death. Nagarjuna compared life with a flash of lightening and with a bubble, illustrating how brief and consuming life really is. He taught that life is so fragile that it is truly amazing that anyone manages to inhale after having exhaled and that it is amazing that anyone wakes up in the morning after having fallen asleep. Life is precious and death is certain - it can occur any moment. Nobody knows if they will live long or not. Contemplating the transitory nature of all things and the immediacy of death stimulates one to practice Dharma diligently and not to waste one's time. We pray to our Lama for his guidance.

b) Impermanence

"We will be separated from our closest friends.
Others will enjoy the wealth we as misers kept.
Even our body we hold so dear will be left behind.
And our consciousness will wander without direction in the bardos of samsara.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we realize the futility of this life."

One's friends and relatives make one happy with their kindness, but this does not last either. One spends a great deal of time being together with one's friends and quarreling with one's enemies. One rejects one's enemies and is attached to friends. Attachment and aversion are the bases for one's activities, and both are active karmic processes. One needs to contemplate impermanence and realize that life is transient. One's friends and family members in this life needn't necessarily have been the same in the past nor be near again in the future. At death, everyone parts and nobody can accompany anyone. One is separated from those near and far without knowing one's destination – nobody knows whether one will ever meet again.

There is a well-known example of a famous and accomplished Arhat, named Noble Katyayana. He had spent a great deal of time in deep mental absorption in a cave. One day he saw a woman holding a baby in one arm at the market; she was holding a fish she wanted to eat in her other hand. A hungry dog snapped at the fish, so she kicked it in rage. Noble Katyayana was a very accomplished meditator and saw the karmic link: The child the mother heedfully protected was her worst enemy in a previous life. The fish she wanted to eat had been her father, and the dog she kicked had been her mother. We are ignorant of karmic connections, which follow us from one life to the next and which interdependence irrevocably brings along. Our former enemies can become our best friends, whereas our best friends can become our worst enemies.

We should therefore not be indulgent in our relationships during this life and develop no animosity towards enemies or attachment to friends. Antagonism gives rise to other mental emotions, which cause one to continue accumulating negative karmic habits and mental patterns. This is the reason why one should spend as much time as possible developing Bodhichitta, "the altruistic mind of awakening," which helps one realize the equal nature of everyone and all things. One contemplates that all living beings were once one's dear parents and then one can experience genuine impartiality towards friends and foes. Again, no friend or enemy is able to protect one or assist at death. Nothing accompanies one then.

During life, one collects and hoards many things and wastes much energy in the process, which also brings on disturbing emotions, for example, the need to guard one's riches and fortunes. One was miserly and only accumulated negative karma and so one owns a lot. At death, only one's negative karma sticks. Many people fail to be generous by making offerings and assisting the needy, and so they hoard and suffer the pangs of having to leave everything behind when they die. One's mind doesn't end at death. The only help one experiences at death is based upon one's practice of the Buddhadharma during life. Therefore we ask our Lama to bless us that we are content with our situation instead of chasing after useless pursuits. Dharma practice is the only support at death.

Many people practice Lord Buddha's teachings in order to acquire wealth and fame in this life and do not understand the purpose of practice, namely to make the best use of this life by pursuing a meaningful aim. Practice prepares us to deal with death wakefully aware; it benefits future lives and eventually leads to fruition, which is realization of the unimpaired state. Spiritual practice would remain polluted and estranged should one try to fulfill personal advantages for this life only. Such a misled individual remains trapped in the eight worldly dharmas.

As said, genuine practice of the Buddhadharma is most helpful at death. Of course, one needs to practice diligently during life in order to experience the beneficial results then. One has to prepare a proper setting for practice by eating healthy food and taking care of oneself. Yet, one should be content with the favorable circumstances once one has established satisfactory conditions for practice, instead of seeking more and more wealth or fame. One would waste one's time and energy hoarding possessions. Furthermore, one may invest much time learning about the Dharma, but one's practice remains dry with a mere intellectual understanding. Therefore, it's extremely important to realize that one has no time to lose and needs to take advantage of every opportunity to practice the Dharma. Contentedness is a prerequisite. We therefore pray to our Lama to inspire us to realize the futility of worldly concerns.

4. Karma

"In front, the black darkness of fear waits to take us in;
From behind, we are chased by the fierce red wind of karma.
The hideous messengers of the lord of death beat and stab us,
And so we must experience the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we are liberated from the chasms of lower realms."

At death, one is fearful and distressed, which is one's karma and is likened to a hurricane whirling one through the ensuing experiences. Yama, the horrendous messenger of death, drags one through the entire process. We pray to our Lama to look upon us with compassion and free us from rebirth in the chasms of one of the three lower realms of existence (the hell, hungry ghost, and animal realms).

If one practices Dharma during this life, one will experience no fear at death, since one's mind will be peaceful and calm. Maintaining evenness by having habituated oneself to practice, nothing frightens one then. One engages in various practices that are preparations for the experiences of dying and death, especially the practice of the transference of one's consciousness into Dewachen, the pure Buddha field of Amitabha.

If one hasn't practiced during life, death becomes a frightful experience. The dying individual does not know what is happening or where he or she will end up. Lodro Thaye describes this state in "The Supplication" as "the black darkness of fear," a state in which the ravished mind passes through a foggy realm. Such an individual wanders from one life to the next without knowing where he came from or where he is going. After death, one's mind is blown by the wind of karma; all the results of one's actions ripen and one encounters the aching consequences. One is blown and driven into a next birth by the wind of karma, which is the infallible and unerring law of cause and effect, i.e., all active processes one has accumulated and is solely responsible for. Actions never remain unaccounted for until the ripening effects become vivid experiences in oneself.

One cannot determine one's future life after death, because one has no control over one's mind. Negative karma hurls one through suffering in the lower states of existence, where the lord of death rules. One experiences severe pain and frustration in those states. And so we pray to our Lama that we do not experience torment in the lower realms.

I discussed Dharma practice and the various obstacles that can arise. Dharma practice can be compared to a battlefield on which two weapons determine victory: Bodhichitta and devotion for one's Root Lama and all Lamas of the Lineage, who have upheld and transmitted the teachings to us without interruption. The most important factor when practicing the Dharma is the pure motivation, because intentions determine one's actions. If one has both weapons, Bodhichitta and unwavering dedication, all practices will be victorious.

It is not sufficient to recite sacred texts and mantras with a shallow frame of mind. Rather, one needs to check one's motivation again and again; one needs to examine one's mind and be attentive in all phases of life. If one investigates carefully, one sees that pure intentions engender beneficial results and that all activities of body, speech, and mind are positive and effective. If one doesn't understand one's own mind, practice hardly helps.

Obstacles to Practice

1. Pride

"We conceal within ourselves a mountain of faults;
Yet, we put down others and broadcast their shortcomings, though they be minute as a sesame seed.
Though we have not the slightest good qualities, we boast saying how great we are.
We have the label of Dharma practitioners, but practice only non-Dharma.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we loose our pride and self-centeredness."

Everyone is selfish, thinks they have outstanding qualities and are superior to others only on account of their attachment to themselves. One thinks others are inferior only to confirm one's sense of self-importance. One is hardly critical with oneself and thinks one is the best. Everyone has faults that are as huge as a mountain. One clearly sees slightest faults that others do have and criticizes them. Actually, everybody has good and bad sides, but one sees the more evident faults in others, which is only an excuse. One fails to recognize one's own errors. Should someone point to them, one becomes furious, because of one's sense of self-importance. Others have many qualities one refuses to acknowledge for one reason only - pride. One fears to appear inferior in comparison, inferior in one's own eyes, inferior in one's selfishness. Seeking and seeing faults in others is a sly way of reifying oneself. Recognizing one's own faults is the mark of a genuine Dharma practitioner.
Beginners may be proud to have gone on board the ship leading to mental refinement, falsely assume to have reached a goal, and think they have attained qualities of worth that help others. Yet, genuine help depends upon qualities of realization, which can never arise from pride and dishonesty towards oneself. Pride and arrogance mislead one to believe one is a good practitioner, whereas one is only boasting. As long as one is not honest with oneself and ignores one's own shortcomings, one is not a true follower of the Buddhadharma. One remains beset of judging others, which never complies with Lord Buddha's teachings but is, in truth, mundane and points to a lack of compassion. Such a misled individual is only arrogant and proud, obstacles that give rise to a long chain of disturbing emotions (ignorance, desire, anger, miserliness, jealousy, and so forth). Should one's practice remain worldly, true help for oneself and others is impossible. If one relinquishes one's arrogance and pride, then genuine qualities manifest from within, the sole purpose of eliminating the misleading obsession of the self-cherishing attitude. If one fails to eliminate self-cherishing, pride only increases, the reason why we pray to our Lama to pacify our never-ending selfishness.

2. Ego-fixation

"We conceal within the demon of ego-clinging that always brings us to ruin.
All of our thoughts cause kleshas to increase.
All of our actions have non-virtuous results.
We have not even turned towards the path of liberation.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that grasping onto a self be uprooted."

Since one believes in and is fixated upon a self, one falsely concludes one will live forever. One's thoughts and intentions then only fan other disturbing kleshas, "emotions," and one's activities remain unwholesome. Ego-fixation hinders one from even approaching the path to liberation. Therefore, we pray to our Lama to quickly look upon us and grant his blessings so that we cut through and thoroughly eradicate our mistaken belief in a self.

During all previous lives, one has been deluded and confused; consequently one isn't able to realize that the self is in truth non-existent. One intensifies one's notions of a self as a permanently existing entity and is thus convinced that one is very important. One believes to know what is good for oneself, but one's mind is only distracted. All thoughts one has arise from one's negative emotions, and so one only causes more misery for oneself and others. Even though one's intentions are good, one's activities are harmful. Due to the force of karma, one only causes more pain. Ego-clinging does not only hinder but actually impedes individuals from even thinking about wanting to find a reliable path to freedom from suffering. Since ego-fixation is so harmful, we ask our Lama for his compassionate blessings so that we completely and perfectly dissever clinging to a self.

3. Impatience

"A little praise makes us happy; a little blame makes us sad.
With a few harsh words, we loose the armor of our patience.
Even if we see those who are destitute, no compassion arises.
When there is an opportunity to be generous, we are tied in knots by greed.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion,
Bless us that our mind be one with the Dharma."

Should one not be able to integrate the Buddhadharma in one's mind, one would not be able to lead a meaningful life. One is very pleased when praised and becomes depressed and frustrated when someone is critical, because one thinks others don't see one as the person one wishes to be. Patience is repeatedly discussed in the teachings and one thinks one has perfected it, only to respond with anger when criticized slightly. Goodness and badness do not depend upon others' opinions, but only upon one's own ability to establish values of worth in one's life. As long as one is self-centered, one cannot really be good. Anything done with self-centeredness destroys any goodness one may have been able to develop. Therefore one needs to develop genuine qualities and not rely upon opinions others may have.

This verse reminds us that there is no quality as beneficial and important as patience and there is no fault as detrimental as anger. If one cannot develop true patience, unpleasant situations cause one to lose the patience one has been able to develop with so much energy and exertion.

Buddhism also stresses the importance of generating and developing compassion. But should one be indifferent towards somebody suffering in front of one's very eyes, then it's another sign that one isn't really practicing the Dharma. It is necessary to develop the pure motivation and to want to actually lead others to enlightenment, but the wish must be put into practice in that one automatically and naturally has empathy for others in all situations and at all times, without any hesitations.

The above also applies to generosity, the reason this topic is emphasized again and again in the teachings and needs to be understood and cultivated. If one does not help the needy, then one has failed to truly integrate the Dharma in one's life. The qualities of patience, compassion, and generosity are said to be important in the teachings, but one merely renders lip-service as long as one does not integrate the virtuous qualities one aspires to perfect and ignores opportunities to put them into practice in daily life. Such behavior is of no benefit to anyone. Words are not enough, the reason we ask our Lama to bless us so that our mind becomes one with the Dharma in all walks of life.

4. Attachment

"We think samsara is worthwhile, when it is not.
We give up our higher vision for the sake of food and clothes.
Although we have all that is needed, we constantly want more.
Our minds are deceived by unreal, illusory phenomena.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we let go of attachment to this life."

In this verse, Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye shows that samsara has no value or meaning. I have explained this topic and want everyone to know that one only thinks and merely assumes that samsara is meaningful. As it is, one spends a great deal of energy buying new clothes and getting better things; as a result, one ignores more far-reaching aims. One has everything one needs in order to enjoy a very reasonable standard of living as it is but continually seeks more and remains bewildered, because one believes samsara is real. It is, in truth, only an illusion.

We heard that conditioned existence irremissibly entails suffering and presents no values of worth, and we know that we need to develop genuine renunciation. But, one always wants more. If one has a hundred, one wants a thousand; if one has a thousand, one struggles to get a million. One's wishes multiply while one ventures through life and, in the futile attempt to satisfy hopeless aims, one incessantly experience sadness. In one's endeavor to acquire more and more fortune and fame, one ignores the most meaningful objective, which is Buddhahood, a state free of suffering. One needs to turn one's mind towards a meaningful goal, which is the Buddhadharma. Practice gradually enables one to experience perfect and lasting happiness. We ask our Lama to bless us so that we do not remain beset by the wish to own more and more things.

5. Non-Virtuous Activities

"Not able to endure the merest physical or mental pain,
With blind courage, we do not hesitate to fall into lower realms.
Although we see directly the unfailing law of cause and effect,
We do not act virtuously, but increase our non-virtuous activity.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we come to trust completely in the laws of karma."

When one suffers and experiences a slight headache, one complains. Should one be honest, though, one would realize that it is slight in comparison to the pain sentient beings in the lower realms are doomed to endure until their karma is exhausted. Every individual accumulates causes and conditions through their own activities of body, speech, and mind, which bring on birth in a respective realm and environment. The truth of the law of karma is not very stable in one's mind. Sometimes one remembers the infallible law of cause and effect and then one engages in virtuous activities, but one usually ignores, forgets, and does not even care about one's actions. If one truly realizes that non-virtuous actions lead to suffering and that virtuous actions definitely lead to happiness, one lives according to the law of karma.

Simply looking at one's present situation, one wins confidence in the active process of karma. There are so many living beings. Even the different individuals one is acquainted with experience various types of physical and mental anguish and pain. Some people seem to encounter problems throughout their entire life, while others never have accidents, hardly ever get sick, and the like. Every living being has personal karma and consequently experiences the ripening of causes he himself has created. All living beings are the same, though, in that they wish to experience happiness and not experience pain. Some are successful at achieving this and others are not, which is only the workings of karma. If one does not understand the infallible law of cause and effect, one leads one's life in bewilderment. Should one appreciate the law of karma, one would abandon non-virtuous actions and only do good. It is but certainty of karma that causes one to turn one's mind away from non-virtuous actions. We pray to our Lama to bless us so that conviction in karma arises in us.

6. Laziness

"We hate our enemies and cling to friends.
Lost in the darkness of ignorance, we do not know what to accept or reject.
When practicing Dharma, we fall into dullness, drowsiness, and sleep.
When not practicing Dharma, we are clever and our senses are clear.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we overcome our enemy, the kleshas."

One's mind is overwhelmed while discriminating between friends and enemies, which arises from attachment and aversion, the principal afflictions. One is ignorant as to what is really good or bad, right or wrong, what needs to be done, and what needs to be abandonned. Even when one does good, one is driven by the power of negative habits and becomes discouraged, tired, and sleepy, quite evident during intensive Dharma practice, such as in a retreat. It's very important to know what actually needs to be adopted and what must be given up in order to overcome the obstacles that all the disturbing emotions bring on. It is because of one's own delusions that obstacles arise during practice. We pray to our Lama to bless us so that we do not act against the Dharma.

7. Anger

"From the outside, we appear to be genuine Dharma practitioners;
On the inside, our minds have not blended with the Dharma.
We conceal our kleshas inside like a poisonous snake.
Yet when difficult situations arise, the hidden faults of a poor practitioner come to light.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we ourselves are able to tame our mind."

Some people appear to be really involved with the Buddhadharma, since they behave properly, but their thoughts contradict their actions if they have failed to tame their own mind. They have not been able to practice the Dharma with the pure intention of training their own mind, the only purpose of the teachings. Their minds are controlled by disturbing emotions, they only think of themselves, and remain inconsiderate of others. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye compares such an obstacle with a snake. Whenever one sees a snake, one is frightened and runs away, the reason a snake is metaphorically associated with anger and hatred. Like the snake one fears, one hides one's emotions, thus is in opposition to the Dharma and as a result experiences no beneficial results from practice. One may be able to recognize a few small errors one has, but it is more likely that one indifferently shrugs one's shoulders and doesn't worry about them.

I have noticed that many beginners have much faith in the Dharma. They practice with enthusiasm, but their emotions increase after a few years, because they aren't actually integrating the teachings in their lives – the teachings that are presented for one purpose only, namely to tame and transform one's own mind. Even longstanding practitioners and those who have completed a retreat still cling to self-importance. One needs to tame and train one's very own mind. Should a practitioner have tamed his mind, he has accomplished the aim of the teachings that Lord Buddha presented.

The best signs for successful practice are diligence, mental calm, and a peaceful disposition. We are taught that the qualities that arise from hearing and contemplating the teachings are mental stability and mindfulness in all situations; the quality that arises from meditating the teachings is freedom from disturbing emotions. Should an individual not accomplish peace and calm, the knowledge of Dharma he or she has won is superficial. We therefore fervently pray to our Lama to bless us so that we are able to tame our own mind.

8. Instability

"Not recognizing our own faults,
We take the form of a Dharma practitioner, while engaging in non-dharmic pursuits.
We are habituated to kleshas and non-virtuous activity.
Again and again virtuous intentions arise; again and again they are cut off.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we see our own faults."

Although one thinks one is a Vajrayana practitioner, one fails to recognize and examine one's own faults and continues having a strong inclination to act badly on account of the force of one's disturbing emotions. One knows about the importance of virtuous activities but forgets. This verse supplements the last one and again shows how easy it is to persist being concerned about others' faults and how hard it is to see one's own mind. Some people appear to be practitioners, but their mind is overwhelmed and controlled by negative habits, which hinder them from actually doing good. Their mind isn't stable. Sometimes Bodhichitta arises in their mind, evidence that it is possible to recognize one's own faults and do good, only a phase, though. It isn't sufficient to engage in virtuous actions of body and speech without having developed a benevolent mind. Beneficial verbal and physical activities depend upon a pure motivation.

Many people spend hours reciting a liturgical text and mantras, but their intentions aren't genuine and pure – practice is then in vain. One shouldn't fall into the extreme and think reciting mantras and doing retreats are meaningless as long as one hasn't been able to tame one's mind fully. In that case, one would ignore the benefit that practicing and reciting liturgies brings. One needs both, the formal outer practice and introspection. Dharma is the path on which one cultivates one's mind; practice actually transforms the mind. The skillful means Lord Buddha offered need to be integrated through recitation and meditation practices that are available to everyone. Therefore, one feels joy that many living beings are able to engage in the outer and inner training, instead of only confusing others.

The theme of this section of the prayer is the eight worldly obstacles and is the sincere prayer to our Lama that he blesses and inspires us to cultivate the pure motivation of loving kindness and compassion. When one studies the teachings, one needs to develop the pure motivation of Bodhichitta, a key to a living appreciation of the Buddhadharma.

Antidotes to the Eight Worldly Dharmas

1. Renunciation

"With the passing of each day, we come closer and closer to death.
As each day arrives, our mind gets more and more rigid.
Though we serve the Lama, our devotion is gradually obscured.
Our love, affection, and pure outlook towards our Dharma friends diminishes.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we tame our obstinate mind."

All phenomena are impermanent; all living beings die. Death is imminent and the time one meets it is indefinite. One celebrates the coming of every new year and one's birthday, but one is actually approaching the coming of death. Death is an experience of extreme suffering. There is no guarantee that death will not occur within the next minute. Yet, one bases one's life on the future by investing extreme energy in accomplishing ordinary ains, proof that one suppresses the truth.

By ignoring the immediacy of death, one's mind becomes more disturbed through one's emotions. One continues nurturing biased opinions concerning those one accepts and those one rejects. One remains confused and consequently continues experiencing the futile results conditionality always brings. Now, samsara isn't confused; nobody else and nothing whatsoever is responsible for one's own confusion other than oneself. As long as one insists on personal judgments and does nothing about them, one perpetuates the negative activities own emotions bring on. Samsara then spins and turns.

As each day passes, one's mind changes. If one recollects the past, one sees the change that has taken place within – one thinks one has more qualities, is kinder, and has become wiser. But all this is impermanent, too, and ends at death.

One relies upon one's Lama, looses faith and devotion in him, because one thinks one knows him. Many beginners are very excited when they meet their Lama, ask him for many teachings, and request him to introduce them to the nature of their minds, thinking they are making immense progress. Having received various teachings for many years with enthusiasm, they become discouraged at some point and loose faith, because they approached the Buddhadharma with an attitude of spiritual materialism. One needs to examine and check a Lama before one enters into a deep relationship with him. Once the Guru-disciple relationship has been established, one should never turn away but always rely upon him, uphold the bond, and practice diligently. A breach can also occur in connection with meditation practice. Beginners jump from one practice to the next and this brings great obstacles. One is never satisfied but chases after what seems different and better and what is new.

All practitioners of the Buddhadharma are one's brothers and sisters, especially in Vajrayana. When one receives empowerments and Vajrayana instructions, one establishes a profound karmic connection with all participants present, called samaya, "sacred commitment." It ‘s very important to keep the commitment pure, and therefore it's crucial to see all those one has received teachings with purely. The practice of regarding fellow practitioners purely is very important and must be upheld at all times. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case; one criticizes one's vajra brothers and sisters, feels jealous, is contemptuous, etc. Personal concerns even determine the atmosphere and activities in Dharma centers; as a result, many people argue and fight. In such cases, the samaya is damaged. A severe breach of the samaya brings on birth in the lower realms of existence. Therefore, it is important to uphold the commitment towards one's brothers and sisters in Vajrayana.

It's all right to seek new and exciting experiences in the world but quite misleading when it comes to spiritual pursuits, since spiritual materialism causes one's devotion and dedication to diminish and cease, leaving pride enough room to increase. For instance, a mistaken practitioner thinks, "I need more than others because I'm more advanced" - quite short of the truth. We therefore pray to our Lama to bless us so that we learn to train and tame our own mind correctly.

2. Refuge

"Although we have taken refuge, engendered bodhichitta, and made prayers,
Devotion and compassion have not arisen in the depth of our being.
Dharma activity and the practice of virtue have turned into hollow words;
Our empty achievements are many, but none have moved our mind.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that whatever we do is in harmony with the Dharma."

Whatever practices of meditation one does, one begins by taking refuge and generating Bodhichitta. One takes refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, Dharma, and sangha – and one recites the Bodhicitta prayer, the aspiration to liberate all living beings from suffering. Simply speaking the prayers of refuge and Bodhichitta without having sincere confidence and deep compassion means any beneficial help is impossible because the meaning does not move one's heart. One can recite many practices and prayers without achieving the result. This is why we pray to our Lama to bless us so that we develop true devotion and have the pure aspiration to achieve enlightenment. With fervent devotion and compassion, everything we do is sincere and will actually transform our ordinary and conditioned mental state into that of omniscience.

3. Bodhichitta

"All suffering arises from wanting happiness for ourselves;
Although it is taught that enlightenment is attained through benefiting others.
We engender bodhichitta, while secretly cherishing our own desires.
We do not benefit others, and further, we even unconsciously harm them.   
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we are able to exchange self for other."

All sentient beings want to be happy and free of suffering; consequently they lead their lives trying to achieve this aim. But they do not succeed as long as they haven't understood the relationship between cause and effect and fail to distinguish between relative and ultimate happiness. Relative happiness refers to all joyful experiences, which are temporary. Only ultimate happiness lasts. In order to have perfect happiness, one needs to practice virtue and plant good seeds in one's life.

One needs to know what suffering and happiness really are and learn about ultimate happiness, which is attained through developing and perfecting Bodhichitta, the aspiration to reach the state of enlightenment for the welfare of all living beings. Pure aspiration needs to be deep and sincere in order to be effective. By merely talking about Bodhichitta while being selfish, one will never be able to help oneself and others but will only cause more harm, because one merely aspires to satisfy one's own wishes.

We pray to our Lama for his inspiration that we learn to exchange ourselves for others, a specific practice in which we learn to give all our joy and riches to others in the form of white light that shines from our heart and embraces each and everyone. Furthermore, we take upon ourselves all the suffering beings experience. This practice is called "exchanging self for others," a practice our Lama teaches us.

4. Faith and Devotion

"Our Lama is actually the appearance of the Buddha himself, but we take him to be an ordinary human being.
We come to forget the Lama's kindness in giving us profound instructions.
We are upset if we do not get what we want.
We see the Lama's activity and behavior through the veil of doubts and wrong views.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that, free of obscurations, our devotion increases."

In Vajrayana, it is crucial to see one's Root Lama as the manifestation of all Buddhas of the three times. It is impossible to receive the blessings of the Oral Transmission Lineage without pure faith in him. Not seeing one's Lama as all Buddhas is as if one had no Lama or spiritual guide to begin with. Should a disciple have no faith in the teachings he or she receives from the Lama, it is as though he or she had never learned.

In the beginning, the Guru-disciple relationship seems to be very easy and rewarding. One does as told, because one trusts one's Lama. When one receives new teachings, one is enthused and jumps into a new practice. But if one doesn't integrate the practice in one's life, one actually cannot experience beneficial results. If one doesn't see one's Lama as the Buddhas of the three times, one's vision of him remains dark and eventually fades. In the absence of genuine faith and devotion, one's Lama's blessings do not reach one; consequently the benefits of practice do not affect one. We ask our Lama for his blessings so that we generate sincere and unwavering devotion and faith.

5. Confidence

"Our own mind is the Buddha, but we do not recognize it.
All concepts are the dharmakaya, but we do not realize it.
This is the uncontrived natural state, but we cannot sustain it.
This is the true nature of the mind, settled into itself, but we are unable to believe it.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that self-awareness by liberated into its ground."

The nature of everyone's mind is Buddha. The only difference between an ordinary living being and a Buddha is that a Buddha has realized the nature of his or her mind and an ordinary being has not. For this reason, the Buddha is not distinct from any sentient being. Seen from the Buddha nature, there are no good or bad, superior or inferior sentient being. A difference simply depends upon realization – a Buddha has realized the nature of his or her mind, an ordinary being has not. Sentient beings lead their lives controlled by the disturbing emotions and therefore cannot see their own true nature. A Buddha, however, has eliminated all veils of disturbing emotions and sees the true nature, the reason he is a Buddha.

Many thoughts arise in one's mind. When one recognizes the essence of one's thoughts, one realizes the Dharmakaya. When one fails to recognize the essence of one's thoughts, one chases after them and becomes even more entangled in the state of never-ending mental agitation. Should one have a peaceful mind and be able to realize the nature of one's thoughts the moment they arise, one would be able to leave the mind in its natural state of calm and ease while thoughts arise. If one appreciates the truth that one has the Buddha nature, one would be able to rest in mind's natural state without distractions. As long as one isn't confident in the fact that one has the Buddha nature, one falsely thinks meditation is something that can be acquired - this is another illusion. One needs to have confidence in the mind's ultimate reality and allow it to abide in its true and primordial state. We pray to our Lama to bless us that we may realize spontaneous liberation, which is the Dharmakaya.

6. Mindfulness and Awareness

"Death is certain to come, but we are unable to take this to heart.
Genuine Dharma is certain to benefit, but we are unable to practice correctly.
The truth of karma, cause and effect, is certain, but we do not decide correctly what to give up and accept.
It is certainly necessary to be mindful and alert, but these qualities are not stable within, and we are carried away by distraction.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we stay mindful with no distractions."

Everything that comes together ends. Lord Buddha, too, was born and died, at which point he manifested Paranirvana. Since a Buddha's body passes, doesn't this apply to ordinary living beings all the more so? One needs to remember and never forget that everyone may die any moment, and one needs to be certain that only the Buddhadharma is beneficial at death. Therefore one practices sincerely and fervently during life. One should not merely recite words one doesn't understand but integrate the meaning in one's life. One needs to accumulate positive karma by engaging in wholesome activities and by refraining from negativity. One needs to develop and cultivate great mindfulness, i.e., mindfulness of all sensations and actions. Mindfulness of the Buddhadharma is the key to successful practice, the reason we ask our Lama for his inspiration and blessings that we be mindful in all situations and at all times.

7. Determination

"Out of previous negative karma, we are born at the end of this degenerate time.
All our previous actions have become the cause of suffering.
Bad friends cast over us the shadow of their negative actions.
Our practice of virtue is corrupted by meaningless gossip.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that we take the Dharma deep to heart."

The description "degenerate time" refers to times when living beings' minds are very confused. Every practitioner has many obstacles. One needs to be very careful that one is not influenced or carried away by obstacles and of friendships and acquaintances so that one is not discouraged. Negative people do not have a good influence on others but lead them astray; and ensuing negative activities cause one to become even more confused. Furthermore, one shouldn't waste one's time with meaningless activities, such as idle chatter and similar worldly concerns. Meaningful activities are receiving Lord Buddha's teachings and putting them into practice. We ask our Lama for his blessings so that we generate and cultivate sincerity and determination and experience no distractions.

8. Perseverance

"At first, there is nothing but Dharma on our mind,
But at the end, the result is the cause of samsara and lower realms.
The harvest of liberation is destroyed by the frost of non-virtuous activity.
We, like wild savages, have lost our ultimate vision.
Lama, think of us, behold us swiftly with compassion.
Bless us that within we bring the genuine Dharma to perfection."

A beginner is fascinated by the thought that the Buddhadharma offers a purpose to life but unknowingly only perpetuates samsaric ways by behaving badly. The results of all practice to liberation are dissevered with negative conduct, which Lodrö Thaye the Great compares with a frost that destroys a crop. At a certain point, a practitioner forgets the meaningful pursuit and falls away. We pray to our Lama for his inspiration and blessings that our practice may never be destroyed and that we establish the final result. As Lord Gampopa said, "When a Bodhisattva is strenuous in all walks of life, he must make efforts without getting weary in body or mind. This is called a Bodhisattva's ever-active strenuousness."


"Bless us that repentance arise deep from within.        
Bless us that we curtail all our scheming.
Bless us that from the depth of our heart, we remember death.
Bless us that we develop certainty in the laws of karma.
Bless us that our path is free of obstacles.
Bless us that we are able to exert ourselves in practice.
Bless us that we bring difficult situations onto the path.
Bless us that antidotes, through their own power, are completely effective.
Bless us that genuine devotion arise.     
Bless us that we see the very face of the mind's true nature.
Bless us that self-awareness awakens in the center of our heart.
Bless us that delusive appearances are completely eliminated.
Bless us that we achieve enlightenment in one lifetime."

The last verse is a summary of the supplication "Calling the Lama from Afar." It conveys the sincerity of perfect renunciation, genuine devotion, and pure mindfulness and awareness.

I want to encourage everyone to recite this supplication often, because it is one of the most important prayers recited in the Kagyü Tradition. We recite it again and again in order to generate and cultivate pure faith and devotion in our Lama, who is the lasting refuge, the indestructible refuge, and the ultimate refuge. In conclusion, we recite the last verse:

"We pray to you, precious Lama.
Kind Lama, Lord of Dharma, we call out to you with longing.
For us, unworthy ones, you are the only hope.
Bless us that your mind blends with ours."


Through this goodness, may omniscience be attained
And thereby may every enemy (mental defilement) be overcome.
May beings be liberated from the ocean of samsara
That is troubled by waves of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

By this virtue may I quickly attain the state of Guru Buddha, and then
Lead every being without exception to that very state!
May precious and supreme Bodhicitta that has not been generated now be so,
And may precious Bodhicitta that has already been never decline, but continuously increase!

May the life of the Glorious Lama remain steadfast and firm.
May peace and happiness fully arise for beings as limitless (in number) as space (is vast in its extent).
Having accumulated merit and purified negativities, may I and all living beings without exception
swiftly establish the levels and grounds of Buddhahood.

The translation of the Root Text was made by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Michele Martin and it is indebted to a version by the Nalanda Translation Committee in "Journey without Goal" by Chogyam Trungpa (Shambhala, 1985). Printed in: "His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. In Memory," Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, Rumtek, Sikkim, 1992, pages 42-73. The instructions Jamgon Lama presented in France in 1990 were transcribed for the archives of Pullahari Monastery in Nepal and arranged for the website of Karma Chang Chub Choephel Ling in Heidelberg by Gaby Hollmann Photo courtesy of Lee Chin Yun in Taiwan. Copyright Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, Pullahari, Nepal, 2008.