Explanatory Talk at the Bloomington
Kalachakra Initiation, 1999
Bloomington, Indiana, August 23, 1999
1 Deeper Points of the Empowerment Process
I was asked to speak about the Kalachakra empowerment or initiation. The context that I was given was that this is for people who are quite serious about receiving the empowerment and who might have read the book that I prepared for this – Taking the Kalachakra Initiation, published by Snow Lion – and who want to have a clearer idea of some of the deeper points. So, I thought I would highlight some of the more important points in taking an empowerment like this. I will speak for a little while and then we can have some questions afterwards.
In taking an empowerment like this, or any empowerment for that matter, it is very important to start with a positive motivation and maintain it throughout. In Buddhist terminology, the word translated as “motivation” actually means intention or aim. This is what His Holiness has been focusing on so strongly in the preparatory teachings: the motivation or aim is bodhichitta. We are focusing on enlightenment, the state in which all the limitations that we might have are removed – disturbing emotions, disturbing attitudes, and all the junk – and all our potentials are fully realized to be able to help others. With bodhichitta, our hearts are set with the intention and aim: “I really want to achieve this and I want to achieve this in order to help others as much as is possible!”
There are no miracles. In Buddhism, we don’t think in terms of omnipotence. We are not God. We can’t go out and instantly take away everybody’s suffering. But, we can try to reach a state in which we are able to help everyone as much as is possible. Things depend not only on what we might do as Buddhas, but also, of course, on the beings that we are helping. They need to be receptive; they need to work on themselves. We can try to explain reality to others, but we can’t understand reality for them. Everybody has to understand reality for him or her self. We need the type of motivation with which we really want to work on ourselves as much as possible, because we see the difficulties that everybody has and we really want to be able to help them better.
We do this within the context of safe direction. This is usually translated as “refuge,” but that sounds a bit too passive. It is not, “O Buddha, save me! I take refuge in you!” as in taking refuge in a wildlife refuge park. Rather, it is an active process. We put a direction in our lives; and that direction is a safe, sound, and positive one. That direction is indicated by the Dharma.
The Dharma is the state in which all limitations, disturbing emotions, disturbing attitudes, impulsive behavior – all the craziness that our minds can produce – is gone. This is often called “true cessation.” Cessation is a big word. We don’t need a big word. It is a true stopping. All our limitations, shortcomings, and confusion are stopped; they are finished and gone forever. The other aspect of Dharma, here, is true paths: true nonconceptual cognition of reality, which brings about the true stoppings, and true realization of the potentials that we all have. This is what we are aiming for, this the direction that we are going in: we are trying to get rid of all the stuff that is causing problems and realize all possible good qualities in order to be able to help others.
We also take safe direction from the Sangha. The Sangha refers to those who have achieved at least some true stoppings and some true paths, whether they be monastics or laypeople. We also take direction from the Buddhas, those who have actually completed this process. They have actually achieved the total true stopping of all obscurations and the total sum of all true paths.
It is very important to have this motivation as the context within which we approach the empowerment. We are working in this safe direction, and not only that: with bodhichitta, we are aiming to become a Buddha, so we are not just going part way in this direction. We really want to go all the way, to be able to help others.
We need some conviction in voidness. Without an understanding of voidness, we cannot really believe that it is possible to get rid of all this confusion. Voidness is very important. His Holiness has underlined this many times. “Voidness” is easy to say. What it means is an absence. Something is absent. We have all sorts of fantasies and projections about how things exist, and we fantasize and project all sorts of ways of existing that are impossible. There are many levels of impossible ways of existing, and that is why we have all the different levels of Buddhist philosophical positions. Without going deeply into all these different levels, basically what is absent is an actual referent to our projections.
Let us put it very simply. It is like a child thinking that there is monster under the bed. The child projects this and then believes that there really is a monster there – that the projection is referring to reality – and it scares him or her. Likewise, we project all sorts of things – this person is really a terrible person; this person is an idiot; this person is so sexy and wonderful. Then we think that this way of existing corresponds to reality and we believe it. On that basis, we get all sorts of attachment, aversion, etc. What is absent is a monster under a bed. There is no monster. There is no such thing as a monster. When we focus on voidness, we focus on that absence.
We’ve been knocking our heads against the wall for so long, imagining that the way that the world appears to us is referring to reality, when in fact it is not. We need to have some conviction in that, because only then is it possible to get rid of all the junk, all the disturbing emotions, the disturbing attitudes, and the problems that come from them. It is possible to get rid of them because they are all based on believing that the junk that our minds project is true. For our safe direction to be really firm, it needs to be based on this conviction in voidness, this conviction that, through true paths, we can achieve true stoppings.
We don’t have to understand voidness on a terribly profound level. Somebody asked the question, are we really prepared for this initiation. As long as we have some idea that our projections are not referring to anything real and we are convinced of that, we do not really need to have the most sophisticated understanding of all the impossible things and ways of existing that we are projecting. We have that conviction in general. Then we can approach an empowerment for tantra practice, because all of tantra is based on this conviction.
In dealing with an empowerment, it is very important to work with what is usually translated as “stopping ordinary appearances and ordinary grasping.” I am a translator, so I’m a little bit fussy about translations. I think the greatest percentage of misunderstanding about Buddhism comes from our confusion about the terminology. It gives us the incorrect impression of what we are talking about here. We are not talking so much about appearances as a noun. We are talking about making appearances, as a verb. If solid appearances are truly out there, we cannot really get rid of them. What we can get rid of is the solid appearance-making that our minds are doing. This is what we need to work with here. In Kalachakra, there is a lot of discussion of subatomic particles, so let’s use this as an example of solid appearance-making.
Everything is made of subatomic particles. In Buddhism, we talk about subatomic particles of the different elements: earth, water, fire, wind, and space. Each is progressively smaller than the next. Although things are made of subatomic particles, our minds connect the dots and make appearances of solid objects, “out there.” Then we do what is usually translated as “grasping,” but that is not a good translation. We apprehend such objects to exist in the way that our minds make them appear. We perceive it and we believe that there is something solid out there and that there is some inherent quality in it giving it a solid identity from it’s own side. For example, this terrible person who is trying to get ahead of us on the road, there is something inherently wrong with him that makes him an idiot, Believing this, we then get angry. In fact, however, there is just a bunch of subatomic particles, impulses from previous karmic conditioning, and a zillion other things contributing to bring about the basis for this appearance. What we want to do in approaching an empowerment is somehow to withdraw from this process of impure appearance-making, as it’s called, and get to pure appearance-making. To do this, we need to understand what is going on a little bit more deeply.
His Holiness is going to speak on a very deep and profound level so it is good to ease into it. There are two aspects of our minds. One aspect makes things appear. “Appear,” here, does not mean to arise only visually – it could be a sound that you hear, a thought, or a feeling that appears. To appear just means to arise. That’s one aspect of the mind. And it is valid; we can validly or accurately know such appearances that arise.
There is another aspect of the mind that is valid for understanding the deepest level: the fact that these appearances are devoid of existing in the way that they appear, when mixed with confusion. Please don’t get confused by the usual reference to these as “the two levels of truth.” There is no word “level” here. “Level” implies that the deepest truth – usually translated as “ultimate” or “absolute,” as if it were some transcendent thing – is a higher level. Consequently, we might have the idea that the conventional level is no good, so we want to go to the transcendent level, because that is where everything is going to be peaceful and blissful and we don’t have to deal with all the problems on the conventional level.
Let’s throw the word “level” out the window because it is not there in the original languages. We are just speaking about two aspects of things that are true and correct. One is the appearance (the conventional level) and the other is the way in which things exist, with an absence of existing in impossible ways. There are two aspects of the mind that are valid, one each, for cognizing each of these two truths about things.
The aspect of the mind that makes things appear conventionally usually does so in two ways that it mixes together. Because of strong habituation, one side of that aspect of our minds makes things appear in a solid way and then we believe it. The other side of that aspect of mind makes things appear as dependently arising, which is how they actually exist. Things arise dependently on subatomic particles and all sorts of causes and conditions.
For example, one side of the mind that makes conventional appearances projects the appearance of a solidly and inherently existent real jerk onto the guy driving in the car behind us, wildly beeping his horn and trying to pass us. Another side of that aspect of our minds just makes a plain appearance of him in the car behind us, on the basis of the subatomic particles of his body, and on the basis of the facts that the road was built, the person learned how to drive, and so on.
Those two appearances get mixed together. They get mixed together so much that we are not at all aware of the appearance of the person as something that dependently arises. All we see is the appearance of solid existence that our minds project. When the aspect of our minds that makes conventional appearances makes things appear as solidly existent, the aspect of the mind that is valid for cognizing the deepest fact of how things exist cannot simultaneously see the absence of their existing that way. We cannot focus on an object and both perceive it to be solidly existent and perceive the absence of it existing solidly. We cannot do that in the same moment, focused on the same object. When our minds makes things appear solidly, we are not aware of their voidness, nor are we aware of their dependently arising appearance.
What we want to do, then, in any type of voidness practice or tantra practice, and particularly here in the empowerment, is to get down to voidness. That is crucial. Getting down to voidness means we try to focus on the absence of things existing as our minds make them appear. My mind makes it appear as though there is a stage and there are all these people, and His Holiness is so fantastic up there and I am here and I can’t really follow, and it is chilly or hot or noisy, and all these sorts of things. Our minds are making these things appear out of all the mass of subatomic particles, karma, and so on. We want to withdraw from all that. We want to realize that such appearances do not refer to reality. Our minds are making it appear like that and we are buying into it. We believe it, and because we believe it, we are intimidated by what’s going on. We’re getting lost, becoming uptight, and so on. We withdraw from that and focus on the absence of this referring to anything real.
Again, when we are focusing on that absence, we cannot also have the mind make an appearance of things being solid. So at that point, there is no appearance-making. If we stay on the rougher level of mind, which is all that we capable of at this point, and we go back to appearance-making, our minds are going to make things appear solidly again. Even if we are imagining His Holiness as Kalachakra, he is going to appear like a solid object, as if there were a person substantially there with a true identity, and so on. At that point, we cannot focus on voidness. What we want to do is to get down to the clear light level of mind. There will be a lot of discussion of this during the empowerment.
[For a more advanced discussion, see: The Validity and Accuracy of Cognition of the Two Truths in Gelug-Prasangika and Non-Gelug Madhyamaka.]
The clear light mind is the level of mental activity that provides continuity of experience from moment to moment. It is the basis or foundation that goes from lifetime to lifetime, even into Buddhahood. In my Kalachakra book, I use the example of a radio being on. The grosser levels are like the radio being on a station, the volume, static, and so on. In contrast, this clear light activity is the level of just the radio being on, and it goes on forever in a stream of individual continuity. Buddhism does not assert a universal mind underlying everyone’s individual consciousness and unconsciousness.
If we can get down to that clear light level, that is the level at which the first side of appearance-making (making appearances of solid existence) is absent and only the second side of appearance-making operates (making appearances of things as dependently arising phenomena). That is the level at which this second side functions. If we could stay at that level, there would be no problem focusing simultaneously with the two aspects of the mind valid for the two truths. One aspect of the clear-light level makes things appear as dependently arising, the other aspect of that level focuses on the absence of solid existence, and each of the two aspects perceives and understands fully what it focuses on. There is no duality – duality, here, means disharmony or discordance.
In tantric sadhanas, we often read, “Out of voidness, I arise as this or that.” This is a very misleading translation. It is never “out of”; it is saying within the state of voidness, which can only really be on a deep level, the clear light level. Within that clear light level of the understanding of voidness, the aspect of making appearances of things as dependently arising objects kicks in. We arise as a Buddha-figure. (I personally don’t like the word “deity,” because it is too theistic). We appear as a Buddha-figure and everything around us appears as a mandala. We call these “pure forms.” Pure forms do not appear as solidly existent. They appear as things that dependently arise. They are like illusions, not solid.
In order to get to this point, we need renunciation. This is very important. I sometimes translate this as “the determination to be free” from suffering, problems, and their causes, but it also has an aspect of being willing to give something up. Here, what we want to give up is this ordinary appearance-making, because it is what causes so much trouble. We are doing it in every moment of our lives.
Tsongkhapa makes a big point about this. Ordinary or solid appearance-making is not something that we do only in weird moments of freaking out; it occurs every moment of our perception. To practice tantra, we need to be totally willing and determined to give that up. Our minds are making people around us appear like jerks, or like wonderful sexy things, or whatever. We recognize that that is what causes us our problems because we believe those appearances correspond to reality, and then we get emotionally disturbed, based on that belief. We need to be willing to renounce that, to give it up; we are not going to put up any longer with ordinary appearance-making.
This is very important in going to an empowerment, because if we decide beforehand that we are not going to get upset or freak out if we get lost, or be disturbed by the air-conditioning being too strong or too weak or whatever – because the appearances of them as intimidating or ordinary things are just projections of our ordinary appearance-making – that helps us get into the actual procedures. This suspension of ordinary appearance-making – or at least the attempt to suspend it – is a very important component of an empowerment. We may not be able to sustain this attitude every day, but at least we have conviction in it – that is the important word. It is sometimes translated as “admiration,” but it doesn’t mean admiration, it means conviction. We are convinced that this is what we would like to do. Although our minds are making the empowerment appear as a hassle, intimidating, and so on, this is just a confusing appearance. We do not buy into it. With that conviction, we have enough renunciation. We don’t have to give up God knows what; what we need to be willing to give up is at least the belief that these solid appearances are referring to anything real.
Within the state of voidness, we try at least to imagine that we are staying on this clear light level and that our minds are therefore giving rise to appearances of the place as a dependently arising mandala, His Holiness as a dependently arising Kalachakra, and ourselves as dependently arising Buddha-figures, and so on.
Another very important part of an empowerment is taking the bodhisattva and tantric vows. This, of course, needs a reaffirmation of our bodhichitta motivation. A vow is a subtle form, a subtle shaping of the clear light mental continuum. These vows affect the clear light level because they continue all the way to enlightenment; they go on from lifetime to lifetime as a subtle shaping of our mental continuums or mind-streams. That is why it is important to try to bear in mind, or at least feel, that with this understanding of voidness, with this absence, we are getting down to the clear light level and we are staying on that level and shaping it with these vows. As Sakya Pandita said, without taking the vows, there is no empowerment. The vows are absolutely crucial here.
As I said in the book, we don’t need to be fanatics. Nobody can promise to uphold all these things perfectly. But if we know the factors needed to really lose the vows – for that shape no longer to be there as the shape of our way of relating to life – then we may weaken that shape when we cannot live up to the vows, but we won’t lose it. The shape is basically this: we are working to achieve enlightenment to be able to benefit everyone. We lose that shape if we give up bodhichitta. We lose that if we have distorted antagonistic thinking, such as: “There is no such thing as enlightenment and trying to reach it is stupid!” We only weaken that shape unless, as explained in the book, all the factors are truly complete, which is quite difficult to do. We need not be intimidated by these vows. They are basic guidelines that we want to follow in our lives.
[For the four binding factors required for losing the vows, see: The Root Bodhisattva Vows.]
I don’t know where the word “initiation” comes from, but it’s not a precise translation of the Tibetan or the Sanskrit words. It is literally an empowerment or “wang” (dbang). It empowers the seeds to grow. In Sanskrit, it is a sprinkling (abhisheka), like sprinkling water on seeds to make them grow. We are dealing with seeds, seeds of potential that are carried along with our mental continuums, specifically with the clear light level of subtlest mental activity.
We have foundational seeds, referring to basic qualities that we all have. Any living being has a fundamental energy. There is an ability to communicate, like some sort of vibration of that energy. There is also a physical aspect. There is an ability to understand, to know things. There is a certain caring, a warm aspect, which manifests in the parental instinct to protect. These basic good qualities – aspects of our Buddha-natures – constitute and work together like a network. They are not a collection of things, like a stamp collection.
In other words, just as we have a digestive system as part of being human, we also have a network of basic talents of warmth, energy, communication, the ability to understand, and so on. These things have a potential, and they can be enhanced and transformed so that they function as the network of enlightening qualities with which a Buddha operates. We do not need to collect missing components from outside. Our various spiritual practices strengthen the complete network of components that we already all have. But, to strengthen them most effectively, we first need to activate them. This is where an empowerment comes in.
We have foundational seeds, the foundational components, as part of our network of good qualities. They are part of Buddha-nature. What we want to do with an empowerment is to activate them, so that they grow much more rapidly than they would just by our going out and doing nice things for others. We want them to grow in a powerful way. We are able to do this in the empowerment through what is called “cleansing” – cleansing stains that prevent these seeds from growing more – and through planting, with a conscious experience of understanding something, causal seeds that reinforce the foundational ones.
Ngojey Raypa (Ngo-rjes Ras-pa Zhe-sdang rdo-rje), who was one of the second generation of the Drikung Kagyu lamas after the founder, said that without a conscious experience of something during an empowerment, there is no actual empowerment. So, we need to try actually to experience something. The Seventh Dalai Lama, speaking from a Gelug point of view, said that we need to have some experience of a blissful awareness of voidness. Since it is very difficult for us as beginners to have that on any level of sophistication, he said not to worry about it. He advised initiates to try at least to have some level of it, as best as they can.
So, we need to try to have some experience. Don’t imagine that the experience is going to be some mystical thing that’s coming from the side of the lama. It’s something that has to come from the side of our own understandings, based on the ambiance or the circumstance of what is going on and what we are imagining is happening.
This is going to happen throughout the empowerment: we are going to be told to imagine that we are touched with a vase or we are touched with a crown, and that we now experience “voidness and bliss.” That means a blissful understanding of voidness. It can be simply on the level of: “I am freaking out here that I am not able to follow, but that is not referring to anything real, there is an absence of that. Wow! What a relief that it is not like that.” Like this, we have some happy understanding of this absence. That is enough.
Such conscious experience will, in a sense, reinforce our foundational seeds. These seeds are our potentials, our talents for being able to understand reality, our innate abilities to have blissful happy minds, which is another feature of our network of good qualities. The experience and the causal seed that it plants will reinforce that network and, together with the ambiance of the empowerment, serve as a reference point that we can refer to later, in our meditation, and strengthen.
When, through constructive actions such as studying, meditating, and helping others, we build up positive force and deep awareness (usually translated as “building up the collections of merit and wisdom”), we strengthen the potentials of the good qualities that we already have. This is essential for the whole process of the empowerment to take place. We try to have some sort of conscious experience, which will reinforce the seeds that we have as part of Buddha-nature. Moreover, because the conscious experience is at least a vague understanding of voidness with a vaguely blissful mind, it will also serve to cleanse some of the junk that is obscuring our potentials from functioning at all times.
In short, we try to get rid of this ordinary appearance-making, with some level of understanding that things do not exist in the way that we imagine them to do. Within that state of mind, we structure our mental continuums with the bodhisattva and tantric vows and try to get some conscious experience of a blissful understanding of voidness at various appropriate times during the ceremony. The latter will plant causal seeds and reinforce the foundational seeds, so that we have some reference point later in our meditations.
The other essential component of an empowerment is to activate the whole thing. This is referring to another aspect of Buddha-nature, which is that our mental continuums have the ability to be inspired. The word “inspiration” (byin-rlabs) is often translated as “blessing,” which gets into a whole different type of philosophical and theological background, so it is a bit misleading.
We all have the ability to be inspired, to be uplifted. We can be inspired by music, by the sunset, and so on. Everybody can be inspired by something. Here, the inspiration is from the guru, from the lama. And it is the lama as a Buddha. Another great Drikung Kagyu lama, Wonpo Sherab-jungnay (dBon-po Shes-rab ‘byung-gnas), also in the second generation after the founder, said that without really seeing the guru as a Buddha in an empowerment, we don’t really get the inspiration. The seeds are there, but there is nothing to activate them.
This raises the whole complex topic of the guru as a Buddha. We are all asked to see His Holiness as Kalachakra. It is very important to keep in mind that this statement, “the lama is a Buddha,” was never intended to be taken literally. It doesn’t mean that our gurus can walk through walls and that they know everybody’s telephone number on the planet. They don’t. Let’s not get into a fuzzy type of trip. We need to understand what it is really referring to.
There is discussion of the outer guru and the inner guru. Tsongkhapa goes into that quite a bit, as does the First Panchen Lama. The outer guru is the actual physical guru as a person, and the inner guru is the clear light mind’s understanding of voidness. The outer guru leads us to the inner guru. When we take empowerments, Tsongkhapa explained, we have “the causal empowerment that ripens.” That’s what we are doing here with the outer guru: he is inspiring us, providing the ambiance, giving the vows and these sorts of things. That is going to lead eventually to “the pathway empowerment that liberates.” That is referring to when we actually get a clear light understanding of voidness. That is what will really empower us to get rid of all the junk in our minds. It eventually leads to a “resultant empowerment,” our attainment of Buddhahood, which actually empowers us to be able to benefit others as fully as is possible. We need to think of seeing the guru as a Buddha, and as Kalachakra, within the context of this whole process of being led to the definitive inner guru, the clear light mind understanding voidness, and actual Buddhahood.
We can ask within that context, what are we actually doing here in terms of seeing His Holiness as a Buddha Kalachakra. For this, we need to understand mental labeling. That is the key here. There are three things involved with mental labeling. There is a basis for labeling, the mental label or concept itself, and what the label or concept refers to. Let us first look at mental labeling in terms of the mandala, and then we’ll go to the guru.
We are receiving this empowerment in a mandala. A mandala is a three-dimensional building. What we see in the two-dimensional powdered image is just an architect’s blue print. We need a basis for labeling. The basis is going to be this powder. Then, there is the label, which is “mandala.” But what actually is the mandala? The mandala is not the word “mandala”; it’s not the concept “mandala.” It is what that concept or name refers to on the basis of this powder. What is the mandala? The mandala is what the word “mandala” refers to. This does not mean that you have to say the word “mandala, mandala, mandala” and if you stop saying it or thinking it, the mandala disappears. The word, the labeling, doesn’t create anything. It is just talking about how can we describe the way things exist. They exist in terms of what the words for them refer to. The basis is this powder. We have the concept or label “mandala” and the mandala is sort of a non-solid thing that this word refers to. The mandala is not the basis; it’s not in the basis; and it is not the word either.
The example that I often use is a movie, like Star Wars. The basis is all the frames; the name is “Star Wars.” Well, what is the movie? The movie isn’t the title. The movie isn’t all the frames. What is it? The movie is what the title “Star Wars” refers to on the basis of all these frames. What is that movie? It is some sort of illusory thing. It’s not solid. We can’t find it.
It’s the same thing with the mandala. What allows us to really get into this whole visualization or imagination process is what the word mandala would refer to.
We have our visualizations of the mandala, but we need a basis for it: the powder. And the basis needs to be a valid basis. We are not going to label mandala on just some pile of dirt. The label has to have certain qualities. Likewise, in seeing His Holiness as a Buddha, the basis for labeling is His Holiness’ qualities. It is not like seeing a dog as a Buddha just because everybody has Buddha-nature. We are not receiving bodhisattva vows in the presence of a dog; a dog is not conferring the ceremony. His Holiness has incredible qualities that we can see and have conviction in, based on our experience with him. On that basis, we label or conceptualize “Buddha,” the enlightened state that we are striving for. That is the direction that we have in our lives. With bodhichitta, we want to achieve that to be able to benefit everybody.
What is this concept or the name “Buddha” referring to? That Buddha, Kalachakra, appears like an illusion – made of clear light, transparent and so on – on the basis of His Holiness’ qualities and body, just as the mandala appears on the basis of the powder. This aspect of His Holiness is not actually abiding inside His Holiness, but when we think in terms of the guru as Buddha, we can receive inspiration from His Holiness as a Buddha. We may imagine that inspiration in the form of lights and all sorts of things, but, in any case, it’s something very blissful. It’s very uplifting. This is what will, in a sense, add energy to the seeds that we’ve planted; it will give them the energy to grow.
These components of an empowerment are very important to understand in order to gain the most from the experience. Otherwise, it is just an anthropological or entertainment event or it is something that we’re desperately trying to keep up with, or maybe it’s magical or mystical or something like that, because we don’t really understand what the process is. The process of empowerment is very profound and is understandable on the basis of this: We have this safe direction in life. We want to get rid of all the junk in our minds that is causing all of our problems. Particularly, we want to get rid of our mind’s making things appear in solid ways that do not correspond to reality. And we are convinced that it is possible – it is possible to get rid of this junk, because it cannot be validated. We are convinced in the voidness of this junk; there is an absence of what these solid appearances would refer to. So, it is possible to get rid of it. We want to do that to be able to help everybody because, obviously, to be able to help everybody we have to stop projecting all sorts of craziness on them. We want to clear our minds of this and try to get down to the level where our minds are just making things appear the way they are: arising dependent on a zillion different causes and circumstances, including subatomic particles and karma and all of that, and then try to stay within that framework, within that protected space.
His Holiness will begin by chasing away interferences and creating a protected space where we can let go of all our fears, worries, and hassles. Within that space, we go down to the clear light level, try to have a pure appearance of ourselves, the teacher, the setting, and so on. Then we are open and receptive.
We imagine that we are on that clear light level in order to have the vows actually shape that level and to have the various seeds, the foundational seeds which are part of our network of good qualities, reinforced by the planting of more seeds. This is done by having a conscious experience, at whatever level we can, of a blissful understanding of voidness. We may have many fears, low self-esteem, and all this sort of stuff, but it is not referring to anything real, thank goodness, and that happy feeling will plant another seed. It’s a conscious experience that will reinforce the network of good qualities that are there already.
We do this in the presence of His Holiness as a Buddha – not literally a “Buddha” who can walk through walls, but as the external guru who will help lead us to the clear light mind understanding of voidness. Where do we get inspiration from? It is from conviction in His Holiness’ positive qualities and appreciation of his kindness. That gives us inspiring strength. That inspiration, plus this planting of seeds, plus the conscious experience of the blissful understanding of voidness – all that is the empowerment. With that, we have a reference point to go back to later on in our meditation. That reference is not some mystical experience with all sorts of rainbows and fantastic things happening, but is some little experience of a blissful understanding of voidness, and some inspiration.
It is important not to feel “I didn’t get it!” because we were expecting something fantastic to happen. Nothing fantastic will happen. His Holiness will say that. It is nothing fantastic. But, from our own sides, dependently arising from what is going on with His Holiness and the ambiance and so on, if we get something, some little experience based on whatever level of understanding we have, that is something we can go back to later on and it will grow more and more.
This is what I wanted to share with you this evening concerning the empowerment process.
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