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Home > Advanced Meditation > Tantra Teachings > Practicing Tantra Effectively > Session Three: The Structure of a Sadhana

Practicing Tantra Effectively

Alexander Berzin
Moscow, Russia, September 2010

Session Three: The Structure of a Sadhana

Unedited Transcript
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So we have spoken about the importance of understanding what tantra is and how it works, in terms of basis, path, and result; and we’ve spoken of the importance of doing the preliminary or preparatory practices. And we’ve spoken a bit about the process of the empowerment and the importance of having a qualified teacher and feeling inspired by the teacher. If we don’t feel inspiration from the teacher, if there’s no connection with the teacher, then the energy in our practice is going to be quite low. So it’s very important to have that inspiration. 

In our tantra practices, there are parts of the practice in which we imagine the Buddha-figure that we become is inseparable from our spiritual teacher – when we imagine the figure in front of us. We already have that type of visualization and recognition during the empowerment. So whether the teacher is actuality a realized Buddha or not, with all the powers of a Buddha, is not the point; but what we’re focusing on is the fully realized Buddha-nature of the spiritual teacher. So we’re looking at all the teacher’s Buddha-nature factors functioning on that level. And seeing the teacher in this way, as inseparable from the Buddha-figure, allows us certainly to receive stronger inspiration from the teacher, and gives us more confidence in the possibility of having a fully realized Buddha-nature, and it’s a source of inspiration and energy throughout the practice. 

Whether we actually spend physical time with the teacher or not – or a lot of time, or a little time – is not necessary. It’s not necessary that we spend a lot of time with the teacher. But tantra practice is highly repetitious: When we make a commitment at an empowerment that… And the commitment is always the vows. But, in addition, there is often a practice commitment, and that will be set by the teacher; and, in most cases, it’s to do a daily practice every day for the rest of our lives. And so these practices, as I said, are highly repetitious: we’re doing the same thing every day, and you need inspiration and energy to be able to keep it up. And we get that energy certainly from understanding what we’re doing, but the inspiration from the teacher is really very, very crucial. 

It’s not that the teacher is somebody separate, over there, and we’re doing our practice here; but the teacher is inseparable from this Buddha-figure in front of us that we internalize ourselves and visualize ourselves. In that way, we have integrated ourselves fully with the teacher as a Buddha. And this is the point of what’s referred to as “guru-yoga.” And although we could do guru-yoga – maybe do that as a preliminary, and it’s definitely part of every sadhana practice – although we could do it with just a visualization of some historical figure, let’s say Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in the form of one of these Buddha-figures, or Tsongkhapa, or whatever, the practice has much, much more energy if there’s a living teacher that we’ve had some sort of contact with. Even if it’s in a big audience with twenty thousand people – you know, His Holiness the Dalai Lama – there’s some sort of personal experience and we actually have seen a human being like this. This gives far more energy. And often we will imagine the teacher and the founder of a lineage and the Buddha-figure all as one. 

But of course the teacher needs to be qualified. And our relation with that teacher needs to be a healthy one, not one that is mixed with disturbing emotions of “I know better than you!” and arrogance, getting angry with them for this or that reason, or being overly attached. It has to be free of these disturbing emotions. It needs to be a healthy, mature relationship. And that’s not easy because, after all, when we have a strong grasping to a solid “me,” we tend to think that I’m special. And if we sincerely look at the teacher as a Buddha – well, Buddha has equal concern for everybody. Nobody is special to a Buddha. Or everybody’s equally special. But the point is that a Buddha’s equal to everybody. And so we get inspiration from the teacher, who we shouldn’t think in terms of “Ooh, I’m so special,” and so on. Work, we have to do ourselves. 

These are difficult points, I must say. The whole point of seeing the teacher inseparable from the Buddha-figure, although it is mentioned and is emphasized in all the tantra practices, it’s really not easy. One really needs to work very deeply to understand that, in a way that it will actually work in a healthy manner. And also I think we need to be realistic, in terms of: “I don’t feel equally inspired all the time. I don’t feel inspired to do my practice all the time.” It’s samsara after all. Samsara: its basic nature is it goes up and down. So of course our level of inspiration, our level of practice, is going to go up and down. So we need to go on, despite how we… whether our mood is good or bad, whether or not we feel terribly inspired or not. Just do it. And if we can recall the good qualities of the teacher, the kindness of the teacher, and so on, and integrate that into the tantra practice, it will help us to sustain our energy level, our inspiration, even if it’s not dramatic. So it’s important to be quite discriminating in terms of the teacher from whom we receive an empowerment. First, we need to be ready to receive it; the teacher needs to be qualified; and we need to feel some sort of connection, some sort of inspiration from the teacher. If any of those three are missing, you’re going to have some problems. 

Now, of course, there are some teachers which say it’s okay to come to an empowerment without actually taking the empowerment; and people refer to that in the West as going “just for the blessing.” So you get a little bit of inspiration from the ceremony, but you’re not actually taking the vows or taking any of the commitments. That’s okay, as long as you’re clear about what you’re doing. As His Holiness calls it, he says you can be a “neutral observer”; in other words, you can either be a positive observer or at least a neutral observer, but not a negative observer – going there with a very negative attitude, to make fun of this primitive thing that people are doing. Certainly that’s not the attitude to go with. 

Now what about the actual practice that we do? There are numerous types of practices that are done with tantra. We have four different classes of tantra in the New Translation (Sarma) traditions – that’s the Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelugpa – and we have a division of six types of tantra practice, just a division scheme, in Nyingma. And each of these classes is going to have a slightly different structure in terms of the practices that we do; but basically we usually have two stages: one in which we work with imagination, visualization; and one with which we are going more into something beyond imagination, to explain it in general. With the highest class of tantra – the fourth class in the New Traditions’ scheme, and in the higher three of the Old Tradition (the Nyingma tradition) – we’re working with actual methods to get to the subtlest level of mind, and working with the channels and energies and so on of the subtle body. This is what we do on the second stage. But all these systems and their classifications of the practice are rather complicated, and no need to go into that today. 

What I’d like to focus on, in more general terms, is this first stage, since that is primarily what all of us at our level are actually involved with. And even if we are doing practices that seem to be involved with the energy systems and chakras and so on, in actuality we’re just working with that in our imagination. So again it’s visualization practice. So, fine. This is how we have to begin. 

And with this practice with visualization, we have what’s known as a sadhana. “Sadhana” is a Sanskrit word which means, as I explained, a method for actualization; and “actualization” means to actually generate ourselves as a Buddha-figure. And for each Buddha-figure there are many sadhanas, not just one; and, as I explained, for each Buddha-figure there are also many different forms of that Buddha-figure, like four-arm Chenrezig, thousand – arm Chenrezig, etc. And so, since there are so many variants and variations of the practices, I think it’s quite important to not get overly attached to the one that we’re doing, as if it were so special, because all of them are special. Everybody will say that their sadhana is really special. So one just practices the sadhana that our teacher gives us and the lineage the teacher has practiced, without overinflating it – in terms of “Whoa, this is so special!” and you get quite a disturbing attitude toward it, and that tends in the direction of sectarianism. 

Now we have one type of sadhana in one tradition, one deity. Then there will be different lengths of that sadhana. There will be an abbreviated one; there will be a full one; sometimes there’s a medium level as well. And my teacher Serkong Rinpoche said that the abbreviated forms, the short forms, are for advanced practitioners. It’s the long, full forms that are for the beginners. In the full forms we recite, basically, the script of what we are doing. It’s like an opera of visualization. So we have all the steps, and you recite what you’re doing. 

And in that, in addition to reciting what we are actually visualizing or what we’re trying to – a state of mind that we’re trying to generate, like bodhichitta, and so on – we also have various prayers, and we have lots of mantras. Some of them are the mantras associated with the Buddha-figure. Some of them are mantras that are associated with helping us to get into a certain state of mind. Like there’s a mantra in terms of voidness, and actually the Sanskrit words give us an indication of a line of thinking and reasoning that will get us into the proper state of mind. So there are many different kinds of mantras. Often these mantras are containing Sanskrit, not only Sanskrit words but they could be whole sentences in Sanskrit. And also sprinkled in it will be various syllables that represent something, like OM AH HUM. So when we make offerings, which play a very large part in these practices, we also recite a sentence in Sanskrit: “I offer this to the Buddhas and their entourage.” And you have a different Sanskrit word for the different things that you offer. 

So what are the parts of a sadhana practice? What is the script? What are the major things that will be there in the full form? And in the abbreviated form, they’ll just have a little bit of things; and if you’re familiar with the full form, you fill it in without having to do any recitation. 

There’s a following thought from that, before I get into the parts of the sadhana. The implication is that we have to really familiarize ourselves with the long one before we can effectively practice the short one. If we only do the short one without knowing the long one, it won’t be very effective because we’re leaving out too much. You don’t really know what is packed into it. 

And also sometimes we do retreats in which we spend a certain lengthy period of time only doing this practice, and doing lots and lots of mantras and so on. But that is not the time to just get to learn the sadhana. We need to have really familiarized ourselves well before doing a retreat. If we try to do a retreat with the whole sadhana practice and we’re not familiar with that practice, and we think, “Oh, I’ll get familiar with it during the retreat” – not very effective, not very effective at all, because we spend a lot of the time doing the practice incorrectly or incompletely. Now it might be very beneficial to take some time off from our daily lives to familiarize ourselves with the sadhana, and we could even call it a retreat, but that’s not really a retreat. Just to go away for a weekend – in the West, we call that a retreat – that certainly is not a retreat in the way that the Tibetans use the term. 

A retreat is when you have a very set schedule for usually quite a long period of time, depending on the speed that we’re doing, and you do a sadhana practice and you recite a mantra several hundred thousand times. It could be a million times; it all depends on the mantra. That’s a retreat. A weekend going off and having some lectures is a weekend off. It’s not the Tibetan word for “retreat.” The Tibetan word for “retreat,” here, is “one which is making the mind serviceable” – in other words, it can really run, it can really work with the practice – by this tremendous amount of repetition. 

Now the structure of a sadhana is – the full sadhanas – is that it starts with a lineage practice. So you visualize the whole lineage going back to the Buddha, in whatever form the Buddha might have appeared in for giving the practice. Whether it’s Vajradhara, whether it’s Samantabhadra, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. It will be different in each practice. And then you imagine the whole line of lineage masters going all the way down to your present master, the one that you receive the empowerment from, and you recite a verse for each one of them; or it can be a verse that includes a few of them. 

We shouldn’t think of Samantabhadra or Vajradhara being different from Buddha. Buddha’s appearing in these forms. Buddha can also appear in the form of – there’s a red Vajradhara in Vajrayogini. They can appear in the form of Yamantaka. They can appear in any form: Kalachakra. It doesn’t matter. Just as the teacher appears in all these forms, Buddha of course appears in all these forms. Otherwise we have the absurd conclusion that Buddha didn’t teach the tantras: only Vajradhara or Samantabhadra taught the tantras; and that is incorrect. 

In any case, we recite the verse. And each of the masters in it – the gurus – dissolve into the next one, the next one, the next one, and eventually they dissolve into our spiritual teacher, and that dissolves into us. So this gives us a very strong feeling of respect for the lineage, that this is something which is authentic, goes all the way back, it’s been tested over time; and we feel tremendous inspiration, not just from our actual teacher but also from the lineage masters as well. 

Well, the more that we know about each of these lineage figures, the more inspiration we will feel from them, rather than it just being a name that maybe we can’t even pronounce. So just reciting names without knowing anything about these people is not very effective, and in fact usually becomes quite boring. We want to just rush through this section because it’s just names. So if we want this part of the practice to be more effective, we need to learn a little bit about at least the major figures of the lineage. And nowadays more and more information is available, through the Internet or whatever. It might not be in Russian, but in other languages as well. And there are tools for translating, so you can use them. 

And then, when the teachers inseparable from the Buddha-figure dissolve into us, then we focus on voidness. Dissolve all our ordinary appearances. Being inspired, so dissolve all the ordinary appearances. And then generate ourselves in the form of – the simple form of the Buddha-figure. These Buddha-figures will have a simple form and a full form, usually. So it could be a figure with let’s say twenty-four arms as the full figure; the simple figure will have just two arms. So we start off with the simple figure, not the full figure, usually. Obviously we need to have some experience of voidness; some understanding of that. And some understanding of that whole process that we’ve been discussing so far – of Buddha-nature, and how it’s possible to generate ourselves as a Buddha-figure, and what it actually means, and so on. You have to have some understanding. 

Then we have three basic sections: we have the preliminary or preparatory practices, the main practice, and then the concluding practices. So, within the preparatory practices, the order of what we do will be slightly different in different practices, and there will be more in the fourth class than there is in the first class [of tantra], but, anyway, the structure is basically the same, so I’ll just explain it in one way. So we have to prepare for the actual practice. So how do we prepare? 

First, we are going to make a lot of offerings in the practice. That’s a big part of the practices. So obviously we need to have developed some attitude of generosity beforehand; otherwise you’re not going to want to make any offerings. And there are many different types of offerings. For all the classes of tantra we have the offering of external objects; different types: water and incense and flowers, and so on, food, music. These are modeled after how you would greet and entertain an honored guest if they came to your home in ancient India. And in the highest class of tantra we have further types of offerings: inner offering (dealing with various aspects of the body) and so on – no need to go into all the details. And, in making these offerings, some offerings are going to be made to the Buddha-figure in front of us; some offerings are going to be made back to us as a Buddha-figure. 

And we want to be able in tantra to have the understanding of voidness with a blissful state of mind. There are many reasons for that. It’s very efficient for getting down to the deepest, most subtlest level of mind. I don’t really want to go into much detail about that; there’s not much time. So when we make the offerings, it’s very important to have the feeling that it brings joy and happiness to the Buddhas – not that they don’t have it already, but we imagine that it brings happiness to them. When we experience it ourselves, we experience it with a blissful state of mind. But, in both cases, with an understanding of voidness. It’s not that: “Oh, I’m this little thing and you’re so wonderful. And it’s such a big deal, what I’m giving to you.” And making offerings is a way of showing respect, and it also builds up more and more positive force. 

Anyway, in the sadhana, first what we have to do is… Now here’s a difficult word. It is the same word as “inspiration,” so sometimes it’s called “bless” the offerings. Well, what does that mean? So this word that some people translate as “bless,” as I said, I translate it as “inspiration” in certain contexts, in other contexts it is an “uplifting.” I mean, this is what inspiration does; it uplifts to a more – an elevated state. That’s the connotation of the Sanskrit word adhishthana (byin-gyis rlabs). So, uplift or brighten. Tibetans translate it with the word to brighten, brighten it to a higher state. So sometimes people translate that as “consecrate” – consecrate the offerings – in English. 

Question: Brighten means to make more bright? 

Alex: Yes. To increase its brilliance, in the sense of uplift it, make it in a higher state. 

Well, what we do is: These offerings are sitting there on the altar or the shelf and these are ordinary substances. They could be water, they could be tea, they could be flowers; they could be incense, special substances that you put in some tea that you get from the teacher. There’s all sorts of things that you could have. But the point is that this is the basis upon which we can label an ordinary form; but we can also label this uplifted form, the pure offerings that we’re going to make. 

Remember, when we spoke about ourselves in the form of a Buddha-figure, that this positive potential type of energy, in a sense – well, is it energy? not energy? that’s another discussion – but, anyway, this can give rise to our ordinary form or, when not mixed with confusion, it can give rise to a pure form as a Buddha-figure. So it’s our energy, actually, that appears in these forms. So Sakya, one of the Tibetan traditions, explains that this is inseparable, the ordinary samsaric form and the so-called nirvanic or pure form. Generate both. So what we are doing with this uplifting, this inspiration, is, rather than focusing on the ordinary type of appearance, we go back, we dissolve the projection of true existence onto that, and instead focus on the pure appearance. So it’s like two different levels of energy; we want to go from the lower energy to the higher energy, although both of them are there. 

So we want to get rid of this projection of everything encapsulated in plastic. Get rid of that projection – whether we’re talking about the ordinary vibration level or the Buddha vibration level – get rid of that and then focus on this pure one. So we do that with ourselves (in the Buddha-figure), our environment around us (in terms of a mandala), and we do it with the offerings. Clear away the projection of everything encapsulated in plastic – in terms of the ordinary level, the pure level – and rather than focusing on this ordinary level, it’s uplifted, inspired. So we go to this higher level, the pure level of appearance. We do that with our body. We do that with the environment around us, so it’s a mandala in its pure form. And we also do that with the offerings. 

So, to prepare the offerings so they can be offered, we need to transform them, uplift them, bless them, or consecrate them – however you want to translate it. So dissolve the ordinary appearance and the ordinary projection of true existence from them, and then generate them in a pure form as nectars and so on. And also increase them, so that they’re never going to run out; you don’t have to be stingy with them, thinking that there’s not enough for everybody. So it multiplies infinitely and it has just good qualities. We do this with the outer offerings. And, if it’s a higher class of tantra, also with the inner offerings. And these can be quite complex visualizations with many, many steps, each of which represents something else on the path. So it’s very deep, actually, this process; very profound, how it’s done. 

And, for starting the process, we always imagine chasing away interferences. And then we have a repetition of the preparatory practices that we’ve done with ngondro. So you have refuge (taking safe direction); you have the generation of bodhichitta. So that could go first, before the uplifting or the so-called “consecration” of the offerings; it could come there, or it could be both there and after you’ve done it. As I said, the order of these things is going to vary in different practices. But one structure that we use is refuge and bodhichitta as a basis, and then doing Vajrasattva practice as a purification, and then the seven-part practice – with prostration, and offerings, and openly admitting negative things that we’ve done in the past, etc. The seven-part practice, it’s called. There’s always a guru-yoga, imagining getting inspiration from the body, speech, and mind of the guru. And very frequently we have the retaking or reaffirmation of the bodhisattva and – if in the class of tantra we’re practicing it has tantric vows – also the tantric vows. So we have all of these preparatory practices; and there can be more that are put here, depending on the practice we’re doing. 

Then we have the main part of the practice. All the preparatory things can also be thought of in terms of building up some more positive force, and then there can be – we start with some voidness meditation to build up more deep awareness. So that meditation on voidness both builds up positive force and is the starting point for the actual practice – the actual main part of the practice, I should say. So, again, focus on voidness, clear out all the appearances and, in a sense, again we “reboot” in terms of generating ourselves in the form of a Buddha-figure – the full Buddha-figure now. 

Now another feature that we have is a protected space; sometimes called a protection wheel. To be able to do the practice, we need to have a feeling of confidence that all interference is chased away and, in a sense, we are in a protected space to be able to practice without hindrance. And there are many different ways in which we create this protected space – as I said, it’s sometimes called a protection wheel – many different ways in which it’s visualized, various figures on it, and so on. So there’s quite a bit of variation here. So this protected space could be generated as part of the preparatory practices, or in some practices it’s generated as part of the main practice. As I said, there’s a tremendous amount of variation here. 

So, within this protected space, then maintaining this understanding of voidness as best as we can, we generate ourself as the Buddha-figure – with an understanding of the voidness of the Buddha-figure and of the mandala and so on. And, in the more elaborate forms, most of these figures have a palace that they live in, and some are multiple figures as well. 

Now the way of generating ourselves as a Buddha-figure, there will be a variation in terms of how that is done. It’s done differently in the different classes of tantra, and within one class of tantra there will be variation. And what we have… Remember, in our discussion of the meaning of tantra, that instead of having our unawareness and disturbing emotions activate the karmic potentials to give rise to an ordinary form; instead of that, what we want to do is to – and that occurs of course at the time of death, the bardo, and rebirth – what we want to do is to have instead, without these disturbing emotions and so on, that this positive force gives rise to a pure form. 

So, in the New Translation period – Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug – what we imagine with the highest class of tantra is this process of substituting for death, bardo, and rebirth, in a much fuller form. So we actually have visualizations and practices which are similar to what happens with death, bardo, and rebirth, as a way of generating ourselves as a Buddha-figure. So, similar to death, the absence of all these ordinary appearances, plus of course the understanding of voidness. And then, with a bardo, arising in a simple form. And, with rebirth, arising in a full form. And, in the process of getting down to the subtlest level of mind, which we do with death, we imagine the whole process of the eight steps – or the ten steps, depending on the practice – of how the gross mind in this lifetime gets more and more subtle at the time of death. So we have quite a nice, very elaborate type of process here. And that is actually the kernel; that’s the most important part of the sadhana – is this generation practice similar to death, bardo, and rebirth. That’s really what we want to get rid of and become a Buddha instead. 

In Nyingma we have a similar process but slightly different. Rather than conceiving of it in terms of the process of death, bardo, and rebirth, it’s conceived in terms of how the what’s called “pure awareness” (rigpa) gives rise to appearances. So it can give rise to ordinary appearances; it can give rise to pure appearances. So this is called the “three samadhis. “Samadhi” is a state of absorbed concentration. So focusing on pure awareness – so that’s similar to death, although it’s not called like that. And then the energy of that pure awareness going out, communicating – that’s like subtle forms for bardo. And then an actual appearance – that’s like rebirth. So, although it doesn’t say death, bardo, and rebirth, it’s very, very similar; basically doing the same type of thing. 

Question: So, pure awareness and…? 

Alex: Communication – they use the word “compassion,” but it’s referring to the energy going out in a communicative type of way – and then an actual appearance. 

And the way of getting to this rigpa is going to be similar to – in our imagination, we do this – similar to how we focus on rigpa in Nyingma practice, as opposed to how we go to the clear light level in the New Tantra system, which is through the stages of dissolving the winds. The structure is the same. It’s just doing it in terms of the type of practices that are emphasized in each of these traditions. But the structure of eliminating this basis level from giving rise to uncontrollably recurring rebirth – death, bardo, rebirth – it’s the same. It’s just a different framework of how this subtlest level gives rise to ordinary appearance and to pure appearance. 

Now when we visualize ourselves as this Buddha-figure with all these figures in the mandala, we are all of them. We’re not just the main figure. The “me” is labeled on all of them. We are this whole assembly of figures. So even if we are a couple – visualizing a couple – we’re both of them. Now of course that gets into a lot of technical detail of what is your point of view as you’re visualizing yourself as all of these. That type of instruction one needs to get from one’s own tantric master, of how you actually do this. Not so simple. But all these different figures represent different aspects of ourselves: the different elements, the different aggregates, the different senses, the different types of deep awareness. So we’re the whole thing, just like we are in our ordinary form with the digestive system, the circulatory system, the arms, the legs, etc. All integrated. 

Once we’ve set up this visualization and you recite what everybody looks like – and in some practices there are also various figures inside the body of the deities – then we imagine what’s called the deep awareness beings dissolving into our visualized beings. And it’s a misconception to think that those are the real ones and these are the imaginary ones; that’s not quite the way that it is explained. But it’s a type of visualization or practice that gets us into the custom of bringing in the various energy winds into the central channel so that our generation as this figure becomes stable. Then we imagine that again we take the full empowerment. And that can be done in an abbreviated form; some practices, it’s done in a very full form. 

And at various times we make various offerings. In the preparatory practices when we did guru-yoga, we make offerings to the guru as the Buddha-figure in front of us. Here, in the main part of the sadhana, we make offerings back to ourselves. And of course when we imagine taking the empowerment again, you make offerings to the empowering deities. There’s lots of offerings made. 

And then there are various meditation practices to stabilize our visualization – so we’re no longer reciting anything now – so that we get more and more concentration, with more and more details, to help us get more stabilization on the whole thing. So there are many different types of practices that are done there. 

And then there’s the mantra recitation. And there are mantras for – if it’s a multi-figure mandala – there are mantras for all the figures. If the mandala has many figures, you say a different mantra for each figure. And some of them have more. The main figure usually has at least three mantras; usually three. And many visualizations that are done while we recite the mantras. Within the body, especially of the main figure, we’re going to have different syllables and different chakras, etc. All this is going to help us to eventually gain access to the subtle energy system. So we visualize various syllables. We visualize lights going out, giving offerings to the Buddhas. Lights going out, removing the suffering from all beings and giving them all happiness. Lots and lots of visualizations that can be done while we do the mantras. 

And during all these procedures that have come before this, we have various mudras (different hand gestures that you make), and sometimes ringing a bell. There are many different ritual type of things that are done to also engage the body. So we’re doing something with the body, the speech, and the mind simultaneously. 

Then, after the mantra recitation, there is Vajrasattva mantra done once or three times to purify any mistakes we might have made. And more offerings to ourselves. And then we get the concluding parts; that often will include offering a torma (gtor-ma) – this is like a cake – which is made in order to also get rid of interferences and make closer connections. So we have the purification – the transformation – of the torma again, like what we had with the offerings in the beginning. Torma can be offered to the gurus, it can be offered to the Buddhas, it can be offered to us. Very often, we call in various protectors; tormas are offered to them. 

And then, after all these torma offerings – and you also offer them outer offerings and inner offerings – then, after all of this, then we send these guests back. We imagine that they go back to wherever they live. And then – we’ve been in the full form of the deity up to now – then we have another transformation back to the simple form of the deity. 

And then there’s a recitation of a very long prayer. Each verse is covering a different stage of the practice. So you review the whole practice, starting with the sutra basics, all the way through all the stages of the tantra practice of that particular practice. And then, at the end, what is known as the verses for auspiciousness, which is basically a type of dedication. You know: may everything be auspicious; may everything go well for the practices; for all practitioners, for everybody to reach enlightenment; etc. 

So this is the basic sadhana practice. And different deities, and different lineages of the deities, will have different sadhanas, but they all follow basically the same structure. So when we have these short little sadhanas, these abbreviated forms, all of these fuller aspects are packed into it. And if you’re really doing it properly when you do the abbreviated form, you fill in all these things. And the more familiar we are with these practices, obviously we can do them more effectively, more quickly. And because they’re so complicated, it will take a whole lifetime to be able to do it really properly. Very, very, challenging. 

So our time is up for this session. And tomorrow we will speak about all the basic understandings that we will need – from the sutra side, basically – that will enable this practice of the sadhana to be effective. And I’d like to point out what problems could arise in our practice if we skip over and omit these foundational practices. 

So we end with a dedication. Whatever positive force, whatever understanding has come from this, may it go deeper and deeper and act as a cause for everyone to reach enlightenment for the benefit of us all. 

Thank you.