from Khenpo Rinpoche
Biography of Karma Chakme Rinpoche
of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
Precious Garland: A List of Contents to Prevent Disorder
See It Is to Smile: An Introduction to MountainDharma
Serving to Guide Ordinary People into Dharma's Gate
Putting Away the Dice: How to Abandon the Paths of Samsara
and Generate Stable Renunciation
of the Nobles: A Clarification of the Practices of Individuals
Immersed in the Various Greater and Lesser Vehicles
Disk of the Sun: How to Keep the Three Vows Easily,
Having Received Them in Sequence
from All Danger: Instructions on Taking Refuge in Order
to Be Protected from All the Dangers of Samsara
The Main Path to Awakening: Instructions on the Generation
of Bodhicitta in Order That All One Does Be Brought
to the Path of Awakening
Cooling Shade of Compassion: Placing Oneself and Others
under the Protection of the Three Jewels Through Meditation
Dispelling All Obstacles: Visualizations for Practice
Sessions Used to Help the Weak, the Sick, and So On
A River of Amrita: Instructions on the Purification
of the Karma, Wrongdoing, and Obscurations Accumulated
Throughout All One's Lives
A Mountain of Merit: Instructions on How to Easily Complete
the Accumulation of Merit by Offering the Mandala
A River of Blessings: Guru Yoga, Practiced in Order
to Receive Blessings and Increase Experiences and Realization
The Ma Nam Zhi Kor, or the Four Manams
The main part of the practice of guru yoga is supplication or prayer to the guru, which can take several different forms depending upon the specific practice or liturgy of guru yoga that you are using. In the most elaborate form, this consists of a long supplication to the entire lineage, each member of which will be mentioned by name, as in our Mahamudra preliminaries. Here we focus on one specific type of supplication, which is used in our Mahamudra preliminary practice of both the Sarma and the Nyingma schools. It is called the Ma Nam Zhi Kor, or the four manams. Ma means "mother" and nam is the first part of the word for "space."
The next part of the text is a commentary on this prayer. I will give you a translation of the prayer so that you will understand the commentary:
All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space,
supplicate the guru, the precious Buddha.
All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space,
supplicate the guru, the pervasive dharmakaya.
All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space,
supplicate the guru, great bliss, the sambhogakaya.
All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space,
supplicate the guru, compassion, the nirmanakaya.
The text explains the meaning of this supplication, which although commonly used is seldom explained. The first point, which should be obvious by looking at the structure of the supplication, is that you are not praying for your own benefit. You are not praying because you want to be happy or you want to be free of samsara. You are praying on behalf of all beings.
Wherever there is space, there are sentient beings; and wherever there are sentient beings, they are afflicted by ignorance, mental afflictions, and karma. Essentially what this supplication consists of is praying that every sentient being throughout the universe realize Mahamudra.
Let us consider the second line first. “All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space, supplicate the guru, the pervasive dharmakaya.” What does it mean to refer to the guru as the pervasive dharmakaya? The dharmakaya is called pervasive because all buddhas are the same in the dharmakaya. In this sense there is only one dharmakaya for all buddhas. It is called Samantabhadra, “the all good,” and is shown as Samantabhadra; it is called Vajradhara and shown in that form; it is called the Great Mother, Prajnaparamita. It is called the youthful vase body; it is called the primordial buddha. And so on. All of these names are styles of depiction that indicate this same dharmakaya, which has from the very beginning been awake, and that is the dharmakaya of every buddha. The mind of your guru is nothing other than that. Therefore the mind of your guru is that pervasive dharmakaya that is the mind of all buddhas. That is what is meant by the dharmakaya guru.
The next line says, “All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space, supplicate the guru, great bliss, the sambhogakaya.” The sambhogakayas, or bodies of complete enjoyment of all buddhas without exception, no matter how many buddhas there are, are what we call the five sambhogakaya buddhas, or the sambhogakaya buddhas of the five families. There are no sambhogakayas that are not included in that. Regardless of which buddha it is, his sambhogakaya is the five sambhogakaya buddhas. Therefore, that is also the sambhogakaya of your guru. That is what is called the sambhogakaya guru.
“All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space, supplicate the guru, compassion, the nirmanakaya.” Nirmanakaya is unlimited and innumerable. We can say one dharmakaya and we can say five sambhogakayas, but because nirmanakaya is a direct response to the needs of individual beings, there are in a sense as many nirmanakayas as there are beings to perceive them. The sambhogakaya is experienced only by buddhas and bodhisattvas, who have pure perception, but the nirmanakaya, because it is a spontaneous response to the impure or ordinary perception of ordinary beings, is in a sense completely unlimited in how it might appear. We can attempt to sum it up by saying that according to the sutras there are three types of nirmanakaya. These are called supreme nirmanakaya, born nirmanakaya, and made nirmanakaya.
The Abidharma talks about a billion worlds like our own; it also states that “billion” is the number that corresponds to the activity of a single nirmanakaya buddha. According to the basic presentation, as each of the thousand buddhas of this fortunate kalpa appears in this world, he will also appear simultaneously in a billion other worlds — not only buddhas but also the great bodhisattvas like Avalokiteshvara, Arya Tara, Guru Padmasambhava, Vajrapani, and Manjushri. There are a billion of each of these of well. In fact there are even more worlds, since this figure of a billion drawn from the Abidharma is merely symbolic. Elsewhere it is said that the field of activity of a single supreme nirmanakaya is sixty-two times the number of grains of sand in the river Ganges. In all of those worlds, all of those buddhas, all of those bodhisattvas, and all of those Guru Padmasambhavas are emanations of Avalokiteshvara. The meaning of this is that Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezik) is the embodiment of the compassion of all buddhas, and compassion is the source of all compassionate activity. That is why you refer to the guru as compassion, the nirmanakaya guru.
At the same time, Avalokiteshvara, Padmasambhava, and our root guru, Karmapa, are three different names for the same thing. They are of the same nature, clearly predicted by Buddha Shakyamuni himself, all of which is included in what we call the nirmanakaya guru.
This is the same in essence as the fathers and sons of the Kagyu lineage. It is for this reason and with this intention that in the Guru Yoga of the Four Sessions, Gyalwa Mikyo Dorje wrote, “I supplicate you who are the principal figure in the boundless realms. I supplicate you who pervade all realms with your emanations. I supplicate you who surpass our thoughts, our expectations, and even our hopes.” This and similar parts of the Guru Yoga of the Four Sessions refer to the fact that the guru, the Karmapa, is all-pervasive.
All of this is included in what is called the supreme nirmanakaya. In the histories of the previous births of Buddha Shakyamuni there are many stories of the Buddha having been born in ways that were directly responsive to the particular needs not only of particular beings but of particular species, for example, taking birth as a fish, taking birth as a rabbit, taking birth as a person in a difficult social position, and so on. All of those are what is called born nirmanakaya or nirmanakaya of birth.
In the billion worlds that the text speaks about, each of the countries that we know in this world, especially the ones connected with Dharma, have an equivalent. Therefore they say that in those billion worlds, there are a billion Tibets, and in each of those Tibets, just as in the Tibet of this world, there are two principal supports, which are the two Jowo. There are two images of the Buddha that were offered by the two queens of Songtsen Gampo. The one offered by the Chinese queen was Jowo Shakyamuni, which is an image of Buddha Shakyamuni, and the other one, which was offered by the Nepalese queen, is an image of the Buddha Akshobhya, and is therefore called Jowo Akshobhya. There are such famous supports in each of the billion worlds, and not only those two, but also all of the properly created and consecrated images of the Buddha, including thangkas, stupas, and so forth. All such things are considered nirmanakaya because they emanations or agents of the buddhas’ activity. They are what are called made nirmanakaya or the nirmanakaya that is constructed.
That which is in essence a buddha or a bodhisattva can manifest in any emanation that is appropriate to benefit beings. The reason for this is that buddhas have to manifest in such a way that we can communicate with and relate to them. For example, if a person were to walk into the middle of a group of animals, the animals would be frightened and run away. Consequently in order to benefit those animals, a buddha needs to take birth as that type of animal. Buddhas and bodhisattvas can display any form of imaginable emanation. Within human society, they can take any place and fulfill any role — as monarchs, as ministers, as religious teachers, and so on. An emanation is not a one-step process. There will be an emanation of a buddha, and that emanation can produce other emanations, which are called secondary emanations. Those can produce still others, which are called tertiary emanations, and each level of emanation can produce further and further, so you get four, five, six, and seven.
There are examples of this where great teachers such as Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye the Great, and Jamgon Khyentse Wangpo produced five simultaneous emanations. The point of all this is that such buddhas and bodhisattvas are not hesitant or afraid to take birth, and therefore go through death, in order to benefit even one single being. They have no hesitation whatsoever about this. When the Eighth Gyalwa Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, was asked how many emanations he had, he answered, “Well, just in Tibet about 500,000.” Of course, there was only one Mikyo Dorje, there was one Karmapa who was the throne holder, but he had emanations and secondary emanations and so on spreading out to that number. All of this is included in what we call the nirmanakaya guru, so when you are supplicating in that line, that is what you are referring to.
To return to the first line — “All sentient beings, my mothers who fill space, supplicate the guru, the precious buddha” — you are specifically thinking of your own root guru because, according to the anuttara yoga tradition of the Vajrayana, your root guru is the embodiment of all buddhas. The reason that the mind of the guru is the embodiment of all buddhas is because if the mind of the guru is the dharmakaya, which is the wisdom of all buddhas, it follows that the mind of the guru embodies all buddhas. Since the guru is the source of Dharma, the speech of the guru is the embodiment of all Dharma. However the guru may manifest, whether as a monastic or as a chakravartin, the body of the guru as the foremost member of the Sangha is the embodiment of the whole Sangha. The qualities of the guru are what manifest as the yidams and other deities, and the activity of the guru is what manifests as dakinis and dharma protectors.
All of this is included in the guru alone, which is why we say, “The guru is the Buddha, the guru is the Dharma,” and so on. If you supplicate the guru alone, you are automatically supplicating all the rest because they are included in the guru. If that is the way you understand this supplication, the Ma Nam Zhi Kor, then it is to be used as the principal supplication. Therefore in the Mahamudra preliminaries, you accumulate 100,000 of that supplication. Alternatively, you can use a supplication addressed to any of the fathers and sons of the lineage. For example, in the Mahamudra preliminaries there is a second supplication composed by the first Gyalwa Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, lama rinpoche la sol wa dep, which is also included. You can also recite the name mantra of the guru, which in the case of the Mahamudra preliminaries consists of the short supplication to the Karmapa, karmapa khyenno. In the Mahamudra preliminaries you do all three of these. After every Ma Nam Zhi Kor, you say karmapa khyenno, so you accumulate 100,000 of each.
At the conclusion of the session, you think that ambrosia streams from the bodies of the lineage gurus and the root guru and enters through the aperture at the top of your head, filling the channels of the wheel of great bliss (the mahasukha chakra) inside your head.
It Makes You Smile: Ordinary Beings Entering the Door of Dharma
constantly make the aspiration that all of the negative karma
they have accumulated throughout beginningless time ripen
in this very lifetime This is the beginning of their willingness
to exchange themselves for others, for they then extend their
aspiration by saying, “And may all the negative karma
accumulated by others only ripen for me, and may it do so
in this lifetime.” The result of making such an aspiration
is that when their previous negativity does ripen sooner in
this way, its result is much less than if it had ripened in
its own, otherwise natural time.
is a story about this. At one time a Sakya geshe was in retreat
on the banks of the Zangpo River. Central to his practice
was making the prayer “May all the suffering of others
and may all my own previous negativity ripen for me right
now.” One evening this geshe became extraordinarily
thirsty, much more so than he had ever been before. The miserable
thirst that he experienced that evening is said to have been
unlike human thirst at all. He knew he had a cup with water
in it on his table, but when he reached over to take a sip,
the cup was empty. There was not a drop of water in it. He
knew he had a container of drinking water in his retreat cabin,
but when he went to get it, it too was completely empty. The
geshe thought he had better fetch some water from the river
and, desperately thirsty, he went outside. When he arrived
at the river, it was completely dry. This river, called the
Zangpo in Tibet, is the Brahamaputra River when it reaches
India, and it is a very big river. Now it was completely dry.
The geshe could see all the stones, pebbles, and sand on the
bottom of the dry riverbed. When he saw this, he could not
believe it. He thought something must be wrong, so he tied
one end of his monk’s shawl to a tree and lowered himself
into the riverbed. Sure enough, there was not a drop of water
anywhere in sight. The tree itself was completely dry. Everything
now he was almost dying of thirst, but there was absolutely
no water to be found anywhere. He went back up into his retreat
cabin and prayed, “May I take onto myself the karma
of all the beings who experience this kind of thirst, especially
pretas. May only I have to experience this.” This prayer
somewhat relieved his suffering of thirst, and finally he
was able to go to sleep. When he awoke the next morning, he
no longer felt thirsty. He looked at his cup and it was full
of water. He looked at his water container and it was full.
He went outside; the Zangpo was full to overflowing. In fact
now he could not even get his shawl back, since it was still
tied to the tree, but the tree was now submerged in the flowing
river. The geshe went to his teacher and told him what had
happened. The teacher explained that in a previous lifetime
the geshe had accumulated the karma that would otherwise have
definitely led to his rebirth as a hungry ghost, and that
because of the power of his aspiration, instead of having
an entire lifetime of such suffering, he merely had to experience
it for that one evening, because in doing so he had used up
all of that karma.
The Cooling Shade: Placing Others Under the Protection of
the Three Jewels
chapter of this text is called simply "The Cooling Shade."
It describes how to place others under the protection or the
refuge of the Three Jewels. It begins with the invocation
NAMO RATNA TRAYA YA, which means "Homage to the Three
topic is introduced using the image of a parasol that shades
one from the burning rays of the sun, with the parasol representing
the compassion of the Three Jewels. The top part that sticks
up like in an umbrella is here an ornamental, golden peak,
representing the precious and abundant qualities of the Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha. Below that peak is the actual silken fabric
of the parasol itself, which is like divine silk because it
has the power to protect all beings. This power comes from
compassion combined with the aspiration made by the Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha.
This parasol of the protection of the Three Jewels is something
that you hold over others' heads to protect them from the
burning rays of the sun. You hold up this parasol by the golden
handle of devotion, allowing it to shade others and protect
them from the heat of samsara. The methods that are described
in this chapter can be used to protect or to pray for either
the living or the deceased. These methods work because, as
we have seen, buddhas are constantly regarding all sentient
beings all of the time. Buddhas never stop regarding and benefiting
beings. The manner in which buddhas regard all beings is utterly
impartial. They have the same consummate loving-kindness for
each and every being that they would if that being were their
The Guru Yoga That Is a River of Blessings: Guru Yoga in Deity
form of guru yoga you practice, whether outer, inner, or secret,
it has to be sincere. Sincerity means that it is practiced
with a degree of yearning and devotion that is almost intolerable.
Eventually you will get to the point where you cannot think
about anything except the guru. At that point, you will come
to a very different and far superior understanding of the
relationship between your root guru and all other buddhas
You will recognize that all buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout
the universe are merely the emanation of the guru, because
you will see that the guru is the embodiment of them all.
At that point, all sense of preference and partiality will
be swept away, and when you hear about accomplished individuals,
rather than thinking of them as an object of jealousy or competitiveness,
you will see them as emanations of your guru. When you hear
about the power or blessing of deities, such as the Dharma
protectors and dakinis, you will no longer think that they
are something outside or other than your guru. Instead you
will recognize that they are the emanation of your guru, emanated
for the purpose of activity.
The meaning of this is that as long as we have not properly
practiced guru yoga, we will have a sense that the guru is
just a person and that the deities are somehow superior. When
you properly practice guru yoga, you recognize that all of
the deities, Dharma protectors, and so forth are merely emanations
or displays of the qualities and activities of your guru.
They are not superior to the guru; in fact they are not other
than or outside the guru.
Ultimately you will recognize that the guru is the embodiment
of all buddhas. Once you have completely resolved within the
depths of your heart that the guru is the embodiment of all
of the Three Jewels, there will be no limit to your devotion,
and you will never be satisfied with your veneration of the
guru. You will never think, “I have offered the guru
enough. I have praised the guru enough.” Even were
you to offer your own flesh and blood as an offering to the
guru, it would still not be enough for you.
Whenever you think of the guru and supplicate him, you will
cry uncontrollably. There is actually a saying about this,
“If your eyes are dry, you are not a Kagyupa.”
You will think that you are going to explode with devotion,
as though your flesh and bones were going to blow up. It is
more than you can stand. When devotion reaches that degree
of intensity, even if you try to prevent meditation experience
and realization from occurring, you will not be able to. Regardless
of how little interest you have in their arising, because
of your devotion they will arise automatically.
In most of your meditation experience and throughout your
dreams, you will continually meet your guru, receive empowerments
and transmissions from him, receive predictions from the guru
and instructions on how you should avoid certain problems
or impediments, how you can enhance your practice, and so
on. When you dream of the guru, his particular expression
and gestures will indicate what you should do and what is
going to happen.
In many tantras, such as The Display of Ati, it says
that the precious and kind guru should be visualized above
your head or in the midst of your heart. By doing so, you
will attain all of the qualities of a thousand buddhas. Since
the essence of the visualization of any deity is the guru,
by visualizing the guru, you will also attain the blessing
and the qualities of a thousand buddhas.
“Better than millions of recitations of any mantra
is one supplication to the guru.” This does not mean
that the recitation of mantra is meaningless or has no benefit.
What is being contrasted is the recitation of deity mantras
based on a misunderstanding that they are somehow other than
your guru, and the simple act of supplicating your guru with
a recognition that he is the embodiment of all buddhas and
If you think that the deities you meditate on are other than
or better than your guru, then you will get less out of millions
of deity mantras than you will get out of one moment’s
supplication to your guru. If you have confidence when you
are supplicating the guru that he is the embodiment of all
deities, and if you recognize that the deity is nothing other
than your guru displayed in that form, then automatically
the recitation of the mantra is supplication to the guru,
and this distinction does not apply.
In that way, the benefits of supplication to the guru are
limitless and immeasurable. For that reason, in the whole
Kagyu tradition, the principal practice is supplication to