A teaching by Lama Tsultrim Yeshe on August 28, 2022 based on prayers written by the great Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye of Palpung Monastery and contained in Ground, Path, and Fruition by Tai Situpa, Chamgon Kenting.1
Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé (1813-1899) is also called Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. He traveled throughout Tibet receiving empowerments on practices that were dying out. He compiled the knowledge and experience of the many Buddhist lineages in Tibet at that time. He was recognized by all schools of Buddhism in Tibet as one of the greatest masters of the Rimé (ecumenical) movement. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé is also known for writing and compiling one hundred volumes of teachings. This is just one of the many prayers he wrote.
These prayers were chanted following the parinirvana of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (10/06/2019) and going forward. KKR was sent by the 16th Karmapa to establish a seat for himself and future Karmapas in North America. KKR also was the men’s three-year retreat master for many years and is Lama Yeshe’s root lama.
Following is a teaching of the profound meaning
“I supplicate the precious guru.” Another translation is “Precious Lama, I pray to you.“
This prayer is very specific. The first line means: “I pray and supplicate with devotion to the precious guru, the precious master.” To supplicate is to ask for something earnestly and humbly. There’s also an element of faithfulness when doing this prayer. You are calling out with sincere, genuine devotion and feeling to the Lord of Dharma. In our situation, as members of the Karma Kagyu lineage, the Gyalwang Karmapa, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, or another realized being, such as Tai Situ Rinpoche, are all choices. If you are unsure, since this prayer became part of our dedications after Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s parinirvana, he is an excellent choice.
To whichever lama you select, repeat this short line with a deep feeling of faith and devotion. Because we aren’t enlightened, we reach out to an already enlightened lama for their help in order to realize our own liberation from samsara. We are asking that our mind become inseparable from all the lineage gurus back to and including Shakyamuni Buddha. The Karma Kagyu lineage tree2 shows the unbroken lineage with Vajradhara in the center. He is considered the primordial buddha with an enlightened mind that has never been confused and therefore doesn’t need to travel the path taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. By following this eight-fold path, we will attain Buddhahood. In most cases, this takes many lifetimes of devotion and practice. Following this initial supplication, we identify the kind of blessings we request.
“Grant your blessing that fixation on a self be abandoned by the mind.” Another translation is “Bless me that my mind gives up ego-grasping.”
We pray with limitless aspirations asking that we renounce or completely give up allowing our ego to grasp and fixate on things. An ego can be a huge obstacle that keeps us from realization, so we ask for help in renouncing it. People with a “bad” ego are often ruthless, sociopathic, only interested in benefitting themselves and do not care what happens to others. On the other hand, a “good” ego is confident. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used the phrase “primordial confidence” which never feels the need to prove itself, and never gives in to doubt. It isn’t motivated by competition and doesn’t require success as validation.
This confidence is beyond the eight worldly concerns: pleasure/pain; praise/blame; fame/disgrace and gain/loss. Being immersed in these eight dharmas keeps us stuck in the sufferings of Samsara (the cycle of death/rebirth to which life in our world is bound). These eight dharmas also set off mood swings. A confident ego is linked to vajra pride which occurs in pujas when we reach the dissolution phase and re-arise as the deity. Ego grasping should not be confused with a functional ego, which allows us to live in Samsara even after realizing emptiness.
“Grant your blessing that independence arise in our continuum.” Another translation is “Bless me that contentment arises in the stream of my mind.“
The second prayer means realizing the meaninglessness of worldly activities and worldly things. We ask that understanding how meaningless these worldly activities are is born within us. This knowledge should not just be intellectual but a true understanding. “Worldly activity” means activities that serve our ego, our attachment, our jealousy, fear, and greed. This prayer doesn’t mean you should shut down your business or stop your work. It does not mean that you should stop everything right now. It does mean you have to know “in your bones” that these desires have no end, and that there is nothing in them except what is created in our minds.
No matter how many clothes we have we can only wear a certain amount at any one time. No matter how much food we have we can only eat a certain amount. This goes for all the worldly things we desire. In short, we are slaves of our greed. We are slaves of our hatred. We are slaves of our jealousy. We do everything to fulfill our attachment, anger, jealousy, pride, and so on, but these are meaningless activities because they can never be fulfilled. Our greed can never be satisfied. If we look at other people it’s easy to spot fear, anger, jealousy, and so on. However, what is so easy to see in others is not so easily seen in ourselves. When we honestly look at our lives we can see that the more we have, the more problems we have. Desire is impossible to satisfy. I just paid insurance premiums on my house, car, and health which is indicative of how attached we all are to things like a house and car. Think about this: because of impermanence maintenance is permanent.
“Grant your blessing that non-dharmic thoughts may cease.” Another translation is “Please bless me so that all thoughts except the dharma cease to exist in my mind.“
We are asking for the ultimate not only just a little improvement. Thoughts of compassion and devotion, thoughts that help us develop wisdom, and beneficial thoughts for us and for others should totally occupy our minds. It doesn’t mean ignoring our own needs, though. Practicing dharma is vitally important and so we need to do what is necessary to have a quiet place to practice and feel safe at home as opposed to having food insecurity, being evicted, and hearing gunshots in the neighborhood.
We must do what’s necessary to have a quiet place to practice and to make time for practice. It’s hard to take time for practice away from other things we consider important. However, if you wait, there never seems to be any “free” time to practice. Often people think Buddhists just have to do things that are beneficial for others. However, the commitment we have as Buddhists is to attain enlightenment as quickly as possible, so we are able to benefit all sentient beings—not to take care of as many beings as possible in this life. This is a mistake because we are so busy caring for others that it leaves no time for dharma. You have to find the time to practice as if your hair is on fire, as many great masters have advised. If we are serious about obtaining enlightenment, we definitely need to practice, however, we also need to take care of ourselves mentally and physically.
“Grant your blessing that I realize my mind to be unborn.” Another translation is “Please bless me to recognize and realize the immortal, primordial essence of my mind.”
This mind, mine and yours, is beyond birth and death. Mind is beyond purity and impurity. It is incorruptible, without boundaries, limitless, beyond time, and location which is why it can never die. Ever present, mind is always pure, and never stained with obscurations and faults. It is like a diamond in a coal mine. Ordinary beings think Samsara can be made into a diamond. The buddha knew mind is the diamond—a wish-fulfilling jewel. The essence of mind is what we call our buddha-nature. It is the dharmakaya: Enlightenment itself, wisdom beyond any reference point — unoriginated, primordial mind, devoid of content.
“Grant your blessing that confusion be pacified in its own place.” Another translation is “Bless me that all illusion comes to rest by itself.“
We ask that our minds that only see the illusion we call life now will come to see reality as what it as it truly is. We supplicate that we realize everything happening in the past, present, and future are perceptual illusions formed by our senses. We see, hear, feel, taste, and touch things as they appear to us and think this is how they are. The Buddha taught that this is a false reality. The way things actually are is without concepts and beyond duality.
These are two traditional examples. First, a person tasting sugar for the first time who is unable to speak and cannot express what it is like.3 The second is a case of mistaken identity. A man walking in a poorly lit area sees a coiled rope and thinks it is a snake. When he is shown the rope he understands his mind manufactured the “snake reality” and doesn’t make that mistake again. A modern example is money. Every country on Earth has its own money. Citizens of each country decide what value to attribute to their currency and coin. If you are in Country A, in order to purchase something in Country B, you need to exchange your money for theirs using a comparison that literally can change in a few minutes (through currency trading). If we know money is an illusion, just another tool, we can approach it like that.
Just as our intrinsic Buddha nature is beyond any concept, experiencing things as they really are is also without concepts. The relative reality of Samsara exists through comparisons like big: little, dark: light, swift: slow, and so on. Each one of us lives in a separate reality. For example, in a relationship, you often see examples that your partner’s reality, their understanding/experience of what is seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or felt is not your own experience. We have different preferences in all that we do. These tastes for different things are all interdependent and based on karma, which is based on our habitual patterns.
“Grant your blessing that all that appears and exists be realized as the dharmakaya.” Another translation is “Bless me that all phenomenal existence be realized as dharmakaya.“
In the relative world of Samsara, there is wrong and right, but ultimately nothing is wrong and everything is right. We pray to realize the ultimate essence of dharmakaya as permanent and unchanging—as realized by buddhas and bodhisattvas. At the same time, we also see the relative world of Samsara and the consequences of our actions. As the great sage Gampopa advised: “While my view is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as grains of flour.” Even if we don’t believe in karma, long as we exist in this world we cannot avoid the consequences of our negative actions.
In the end, know your strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. Don’t associate with bad people or those who are negative in their outlook. While there is no such thing as ultimate badness, ultimate evil, or ultimate negativity we are living in the relative world of Samsara where all of our motivations and actions have karmic consequences. It is crucial to pray and dedicate our meritorious actions to those we cannot help.
1 Tai Situ Rinpoche is the twelfth in an unbroken line of incarnations that began in the 11th century. A spiritual master of unsurpassed significance in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, he was trained by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and is the current holder of the main Kagyu Lineage. The title Kenting Tai Situ means “far-reaching, unshakable, great master, holder of the command.”
2 A copy of the Karma Kagyu lineage with the names of Kagyu Lamas, deities, and protectors is found on Thrangu Rinpoche’s webpage. It can be downloaded or purchased as a large image. https://namobuddhapub.org/zc/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=189
3 Until after the Chinese invasion in 1959, most Tibetans were nomadic and relied on monks to read dharma texts for them.
Transcribed and annotated by Ellie Strand. All mistakes are mine.