Thursday, April 29, 2021

I visited my student Karma Palden in the Hospital

One of my dear Dharma friends and students, Miles McBreen, or Karma Palden, is currently hospitalized with health complications. I recently went to visit him in the hospital. Here is an excerpt from a very sweet post that he wrote on his Instagram page; this is only part of the message:

Yesterday my trusted spiritual friend and root guru, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, whose kindness this simple yogi will never be able to repay, imparted a protection amulet blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and has sent my photo and name to family and friends in Tibet and elsewhere around the world. Tonight, three large monasteries will be conducting Medicine Buddha and Green Tara Pujas for all sick beings including me in the list of prayer recipients. Along with a Puja tomorrow night through Zoom with Manjushri Dharma Center that really brings warmth to my heart and gentle tears of joy to my eyes.

In any case, know I am happy, I am calm, I am not in pain. I am at peace. I wish the same to everyone else …Cherish every moment you are given in this life. Even the challenges. Especially the challenges, they are a precious opportunity for insight, growth, empathy, love, and compassion.

Here, I will recount a bit about my visit to the hospital to see Miles.

When I entered the hospital, I was greeted by a very kind hospital worker; she was Nepalese and recognized that I was a Buddhist monk. She showed me the way to Miles’ room and gave me his room number.

As I approached his hospital room, I quietly peaked in without his knowing. I saw Miles sitting up on his hospital bed; he was praying his mala and meditating, and he looked quite serious in doing so.
I thought to myself, he doesn’t know that I am here right now watching him. This made me very happy, and I began to smile. As I entered his hospital room and greeted him, he responded, “Hello, Rinpoche, Tashi Delek!” with a smile on his face. I saw that Miles had set up a small altar with statues, images, and other Buddhist articles close to his bed.
When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “I am very good. I am very happy, Rinpoche.” Then I told him, very good! This also makes me very happy, Karma Palden. Often, no one is happy inside of a hospital. Most people in this situation are unhappy because they lose their peace of mind. After this, I was not worried about him because of his positive attitude and positive state of mind.

Very sweetly he told me, “This is because of you.” He says that he often reads my blogs on the Four Noble Truths, Impermanence, and the blog Meditation is Medicine for the Mind. He then said that he goes back and rereads them again and again. He also said that he felt extremely lucky to find Buddhism and to meet me. He explained that he feels that I am a good teacher and good practitioner; truly, I must say, I’m not sure about this, but he felt that this was so. Through his study, he said, finding a good Dharma Teacher is of greatest importance.

Then we spoke a bit about Dharma. We discussed the ‘tong-len’ practice, the meditation of giving all positive actions that you have and will generate in the future and sending them out to all sentient beings, even those who seek to harm you, and taking upon yourself all others’ pain, suffering, bad karma, and negativity. Even though your intention is to take the suffering of sentient beings upon yourself, this does not mean that you will receive all of their suffering and bad karma. Rather, because of your strong compassion, all the causes of your own suffering will be destroyed and the result is that your own suffering is lightened and ultimately eradicated.

We then talked about death and impermanence. Most people are averse to death and do not like to hear about impermanence, not even the words themselves! As a Buddhist monk living in this area, I am often called to the hospital and people’s deathbeds when people are very sick suffering from serious illness or dying. Throughout my life, over many years of traveling to different countries, I have met with many people from diverse cultures and backgrounds in this condition.

At the time of death, one can usually tell whether a person has practiced Dharma throughout their life.

Someone who has not at all considered Dharma during their life, impermanence and death in particular, may be very tormented at the time of death. When I visit them in the hospital, some are in a truly awful state; not only their body, which is of course decrepit with illness or age, but their mental state is often desperate and extremely negative. I have seen with my own eyes people trembling at death with eyes wide with terror. Such frightening scenes affect those around them and we ourselves were filled with dismay.

These individuals have complete identification with their body and their attachments, believing the outside world to be real. Human beings encounter the outside world through their senses, and believe that what they see, hear, touch, taste, and smell through these sense organs is reality.

The more someone has contemplated the holy Dharma, and especially impermanence, the less fear they will have in times of great difficulty.

If the person is someone who has devoted some time to the practice of Dharma, who has contemplated and meditates on impermanence and the twelve links of interdependence, etc, even if they don’t accept Dharma in this lifetime, when they encounter suffering and difficulties they are more able to willingly face them. They are more lighthearted and courageous. They have more internal fortitude and can have a vaster outlook. This brings great benefit during one’s life, and these individuals approach death differently.

Then there are good Dharma practitioners; these practitioners have centered their life around the practice of Dharma, and always have the Three Jewels with them and constantly meditate upon impermanence and death which stay transfixed in their mind. These exceptional individuals have prepared themselves for death beforehand. They are at ease and maintain their peace of mind at the time of death, dying without fear. I have seen people like this, such as my own father and my uncle, with my own eyes, and I saw how they died. At the time of death, these individuals were quite comfortable and prepared.

They do not completely identify themselves with the physical body and see death as a change. Our body dies and falls apart, and we don’t know when we will lose it. The body, however, is not yourself. Your mind is really who you are, and is what you carried from your past life and what you will bring to future lives. The mind is always with you. Therefore, the body cannot be you. Deluded people believe that his body is my home whereas this body is definitely not your permanent home but rather a guesthouse. The fourth verse of the “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas” states:

“Loved ones who have long kept company will part.

Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind.

Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guesthouse of the body.

Let go of this life - this is the practice of Bodhisattvas”

That being said, I was extremely happy to see my student Karma Palden and to witness his attitude in the hospital. Afterwards, he sent me a few very sweet voice message which I have also included below:

Tashi Delek Rinpoche.

Very good to hear you’re getting a vaccine, thank you for the good energy and sending energy my way. It’s working. I’m not better healthwise, my body is doing worse today...
So my blood in my body is low again, but all the things that happen with low blood, dizziness, nausea, hard things, suffering, when blood is low, are not happening at this time. It’s much easier to remain in peace with the mind than it has been the past few weeks. I believe the energy is greatly helping. Thank you, sending you lots of love.

It is delightful to be exhausting much of my negative karma, I am very happy...

A few days later on Thursday, 4/29, Karma Palden had surgery to assess his medical condition and to diagnose his complications. He was put under with general anesthesia. I went to visit him a second time once he began to recover and come back to his senses.

I brought a copy of the first draft of this blog and we read it together out loud. He was unable to read it without break; he often stopped to laugh or stopped to cry.

Afterwards, he asked me, "Rinpoche, may I ask you a question?" He then told me than he was in the process of completing the preliminary or foundational practices, called Ngöndro. One of the pillars of the inner preliminaries are 100,000 prostrations. He told me that to date, he has completed around 22,000 prostrations, which he has done every morning for a year. He then said that because his body was now in a delicate condition, he was worried he wouldn't be able to do his prostrations while his body recovers. He asked whether praying with a prayer wheel would be an admissible alternative.

I clasped his hands and smiled, responding, "Absolutely!" I thought to myself, he is in the hospital in this condition, yet his thoughts are on his prostrations. Moreover, if anyone knows Miles, they may know that his physical abilities are in some ways limited. This made me very pleased and happy.

Actually, every time that I visited Karma Palden or communicated with him while he was in the hospital, he never talked about his health or his physical condition. He only wanted to talk about his practice and the Dharma. He has said that since the onset of the pandemic, his practice has improved because he has been on a sort of retreat in the Big Sur, and he was worried that he would not be able to continue this.

Miles also said that he may now be on the road to recovery and on his way back home, although his body may take up to a year to fully recuperate. He was very appreciative of the prayers and good energy that others have sent to him, and feels that it has made a difference.

So, everyone, all of my Dharma brothers and sisters, I want to remind and request you to please, be smart, be careful, and take good care of your precious human body.

If and when something happens to your physical body, just think, this may very well be the result of my previous karma. It is best, though, to minimize your own worrying about it. Worry does not help. As Shantideva said, “If a problem can be solved there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, what use is worrying?”

Worry does, however, harm your peace of mind. Thus, it is very important not to let your mind become disturbed. Your mind is always in your own hands. Moreover, mental happiness can help to dispel physical suffering. So, try to be happy. 

My Sangha is always in my heart and in my prayers. I send you all my love and best wishes. Tashi Delek

~Khenpo Karten Rinpoche

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Importance of Oral Transmissions and How to Receive Oral Transmissions in the Modern Age

Even before the pandemic, I had been contemplating imparting oral transmissions of different practices that we hold at the Manjushri Dharma Center. Before the existence of technology, all oral transmissions were given in person, often in private. Then, as an example of a recent innovation, this past year His Holiness the Dalai Lama Himself gave an online transmission and empowerment of Avalokiteshvara through a live video. Then, seeking guidance from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, many monks and Lamas asked whether it was possible to give oral transmissions over a virtual medium such as a video or audio stream. His Holiness affirmed that it is possible to give oral transmissions using modern technology. He cited a story from Buddha Shakyamuni’s time in which a sick aspiring monk was given his vows through a written letter. He also mentioned that if Buddha Shakyamuni were alive today, His Holiness believes that He may have used technology and social media for the Dharma. What His Holiness did mention, however, was that the student must have good concentration, motivation, devotion when listening to the Teacher.

Over the past several weeks, I have given oral transmissions of various texts that we regularly practice during our weekly virtual practices on Zoom. Before receiving a transmission, it is important to understand what an oral transmission is, the historical lineage of a transmission, the qualities of those who confer the transmission, and how one should receive a transmission. Then, one can begin to understand the benefits of receiving a transmission and the disadvantages of not receiving a transmission.

1. Description of a Transmission:

Empowerment and Transmission are unique to Vajrayana Buddhism. They are not found in the Theravada tradition, which is based on the Sutras mostly practiced in countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, etc. It is also not found in the Mahayana practices of Buddhism in countries like China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, etc. However in the Vajrayana Buddhism practiced in countries such as Bhutan, Mongolia, Tibet and the Himalayan regions, it becomes imperative to receive these transmissions in order to be able to engage with the practice of the Yidam, or Deity. Before the accomplishment of any Yidam deity practice, it is a basic requirement to receive the three transmissions, namely Empowerment, Transmission, and Instructions, from the Teacher. The minimal requirement to engage in such practice is to receive the oral transmissions. In higher Tantrayanas, one must receive all three: the empowerment, transmission and instruction. I will not describe all three in depth here.

As we have been engaged in online practices that require these transmissions, I was concerned for students who do not have them and thought it may be of benefit. Since the teachings require at the very least the oral transmissions, my reason for giving these transmissions for the past few weeks was to fulfill one of the fundamental requirements to enable students to practice the teachings. This type of online oral transmission was novel and a first for me.

During the Buddha’s time, all transmissions were given in person. However, in this modern time when the Buddhist teachings are flourishing in different countries with different cultures at a different time, as I mentioned before, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that the oral transmissions and also the empowerments could be given via an online medium. With this in mind, I decided to give the oral transmissions of my own practices online.
Luung is the Tibetan word for transmission. Ka Trol wa in Tibetan has the connotation of receiving permission to practice the teachings. Therefore, when involved with such practices as the Yidam deity, having received the Luung means having received the permission to engage in that particular practice. In the past in Tibet, it was customary for a teacher to confer the transmission, empowerment and instructions to a student only if the student had favorable qualities of practicing the teaching and if it was beneficial to the student. I feel that the transmission, or Luung, can be delivered online, however, I do have reservations on giving the Empowerment and Instructions online. Therefore I will not be giving these online.

2. Lineage of Luung

Now the teacher conferring the Luung must be one who possesses the pure and unbroken lineage of the transmission. For example, knowing where one received the transmission and then from whom did my Teacher receive his transmission, and so on. There is what is called a special direct transmission: the student is asked to visualize the Teacher as a manifestation of the Yidam deity, and in doing so receives the transmission directly from the deity without any human Teacher involved. This is an extraordinarily very short lineage transmission called Nyeju in Tibetan. Then there are very extensive lineage lines of transmission starting from Tara herself and passed down from one Teacher to another. In this extensive line of transmissions, it is important to keep in mind the continuity of the lineage without any breaks in the transmission.

As an example, Namchoe Migyur Dorjee at 13 years old would have daily visions of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddha Amitabha, and Avalokiteshwara. Each day he would receive manifestations of the Dharmakaya, Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and speak to them as if speaking to another person. For instance, the Dechen Monlam prayer “Ngo Tsar Sangye Nawa Thaye..” is an actual practice that Namchoe Migyur Dorjee received directly from Amitabha Buddha. We may think that it must have been written by someone but it is actually the direct words of Amitabha Buddha to humans. This kind of transmission is an extremely direct and potent lineage filled with great blessings. Hence, if one is able to receive such a transmission, it carries great benefit and blessing for the practice. In Tibetan this is called Luung Gi Gyupa, meaning once the Lama has established conviction in the unbroken authentic lineage of the transmission then it is given to the student.

3. Characteristic of the Teacher giving Transmission:

What qualities does the Teacher giving the transmission have? The Teacher at the very least must be well-versed in reciting the practices associated with that Luung. With the Tantrayana practice the Teacher must also be someone who has done rigorous practice, completed retreats and who possesses experiential knowledge through contemplation and meditation. As an example, during a 3-year retreat, one’s practice is to epitomize the depth, power and precision of that practice and to awaken pure perception of this world as a sacred realm. The highest level of teaching is someone who is accomplished in the Samaya of the secret Mantrayana, having the vows of Pratimoksha on the outside and the Bodhisattva vows on the inside, as well as being highly experienced in the Kyey Rim and Dzog Rim. So, all this is immensely important in a Teacher.

4. How must a student receive Transmission:

One who receives the transmission must visualize the Teacher as a manifestation of Vajradhara, or Dorjee Chang in Tibetan. All lineages transcend from the Vajra Holder. As one sits to receive the transmission, one must listen with acute attention and generate the motivation to engage in the practice of the teachings in the future for the benefit of all sentient beings. The most important part is not to break the sound continuity. It does not matter whether it is in a different language. When I recite the Luung in Tibetan (as I have received it in Tibetan), it does not matter whether one understands or not but the important part is to hear the sound. One must visualize oneself as a deity, be it Tara or Avalokiteshwara. Visualize each of your two ears as being an eight-petaled lotus flower. The stems then travel down through your neck and into your heart to form an eight-petaled lotus upon which is the yellow Tibetan word Dhi seated on a sun and moon disc. As the Teacher recites the Luung, visualize the words and sounds emanating as body, speech and mind blessings being transmitted from this lotus flower into your heart. The words from the Teacher, in the form of Ali and Kali blessings, gently flow into oneself and dissolve into your heart thereby receiving the transmission of body, speech and mind.

The correct way to practice is to first receive the transmission, then the instructions, followed by empowerment, and finally the practice to gain experience. Therefore, the transmission is the first step. In Tibet, if one has an affinity for a certain Yidam - be it Tara, Avalokiteshwara or Amitabha - one will first try to receive a transmission of that Yidam, then seek instructions, then receive the empowerment, and finally engage in practice.
To share a story, the first Do Drubchen Tenpae Nyima had a student. One day the student requested the transmission of Guru Padmasambhava from his Teacher. When asked why, the student replied that he felt close to Guru Padmasambhava and wished to engage in the practice. He thought of receiving the transmission first, then the instruction followed by the empowerment as was customary. However, when Do Drubchen Tenpae Nyima gave the transmission, the student was such a special and receptive vessel and of such caliber that he was able to realize the nature of the mind while receiving the oral transmission. In that first sitting, he was able to realize all three aspects of the transmission, instruction and empowerment. Hence, Do Drubchen Tenpai Nyima said that his student did not need the remaining instructions and empowerment. Therefore, realization is the most important. If one is unable to recognize the nature of the Yidam, no matter how much transmission and empowerment one receives, one must still strive to attain the realization.

5. Benefits of receiving Transmission:

With transmission, the Teacher gives the permission and empowers the student to engage in the practice. The day you receive transmission, the Teacher gives you his entire unbroken lineage. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the unbroken lineage is extremely important. The benefit of doing the practice after having received the transmission is akin to doing it a hundred times without the transmission.

6. The disadvantages of not receiving Transmission:

Without transmission, you cannot practice and you will not realize the benefits of the three higher level practices, namely, Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga. As an example, Marpa Lotsawa gave Milarepa a very difficult time. He did not give him any teaching for many years and subjected him to hard labor. A person unfamiliar with the teachings of Buddha may see Marpa as a cruel person and have sympathy towards Milarepa, but it is actually the contrary. Marpa loved no one more than Milarepa, however, his means to teach Milarepa was by eliminating the bad karma Milarepa accumulated as a result of killing people in the storm conjured by him as a vengeful act against his uncle and aunt. One must purify all bad karma first and only then will one be able to practice and see benefits of one’s practice. Seeing this, Marpa's wife, Yum Damepa was extremely sympathetic towards Milarepa. With her advice, she and Milarepa wrote a letter on behalf of Marpa Lotsawa, packed some special offerings and sent Milarepa to Ngogtung Chotor to request some teachings. Ngogtung Chotor was Marpa Lotsawa’s student and when Ngogtung Chotor saw the letter, he agreed to give teachings to Milarepa and asked him to sit with the other students. When Milarepa received transmissions, instructions and empowerment from Ngogtung Chotor, Milarepa did not receive any blessings from the teachings and Milarepa did not experience any transformation in his heart. All the other students of Ngogtung Chotor experienced many changes in their practice and realization. When asked why Milarepa did not experience any apparent changes to his heart from his practices when other students were seeing noticeable transformations, Milarepa then told the truth that he had forged a letter from his Teacher Marpa Lotsawa. At that, Ngogtung Chotor said that it is because he had not received any blessings from his Teacher and that was the reason he did not see any change in his practice or his experience. He said that this was not correct and that the Teacher’s Ka Luung is extremely important; hence, the Teacher’s transmission becomes extremely important. Ka and Luung are understood as permission from the Teacher. It is merely the permission given by the Teacher to the student, whatever the practice be. Therefore, in Vajrayana Buddhism, without transmission, one is unable to receive the blessings of any practice, especially that of higher yoga tantras. That is the disadvantage of not receiving a transmission. As a metaphor, even if one presses a handful of sand and continues to persistently do so, no oil will come off it. Similarly, without transmission from a qualified Teacher, there will be no result.

Sometime ago, when I asked my students what they will practice, they replied, “just go to, it has everything.” Or some have said to me, “I found this from, please recite this; I want to practice this.” These days it is easy because everything is on Google and it is simply a matter of downloading texts and explanations. I have replied that first, I do not know all that is on Google, secondly, all of Buddhist practices are on Google, especially in the West, all the highest tantric teachings are on Google, and that I do not have transmissions, instructions and empowerment on such teachings. Buddha’s teachings are expansive. The Sutras have 84,000 teachings of Buddha and there are even more in the secret Vajrayana teachings. Therefore, everything that is uploaded on the internet that one can see and find interesting cannot be easily practiced. Practice is done with the aim of transforming and purifying our minds and hearts; through this process, once we begin to clear away our delusions and ignorance, we can experience the essence of emptiness. This experience allows us to see the truth and the nature of reality as it is which eventually leads to the freedom from the suffering of this cyclic existence; that is the ultimate purpose of the practice. So, in order to do so, it is very important that that practice come from an extremely reliable source that is pure and has an unbroken lineage.

I, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, dictated this message in April of 2021 after giving a series of oral transmissions to my students over an online video platform. This blog was translated and transcribed by Dechen Paltso, through a series of conversations and audio recorded messages, and further edited by student, Karma Choeying.

Saturday, March 13, 2021





གང་ལྟར་བོད་སྲིད་པ་ཆགས་ནས་ད་བར་བྱུང་མྱོང་མེད་པའི་ཧ་ཅང་ལོ་རྒྱུས་ཀྱི་གོད་ཆགས་ཀྱི་ཉིན་མོ་དེ་ནི་དེ་རིང་ནས་བརྩིས་པའི་ཉིན་དྲུག་ལས་མ་གཏོགས་མེད། དེ་ནི་སྤྱི་ཟླ་གསུམ་པའི་ཚེས་བཅུ་དེ་ཡིན།

ལྔ་བཅུ་ང་དགུ་ལོ་ནས་བཟུང་རྒྱ་ནག་དམར་གཞུང་གིས་བོད་ས་ཡོངས་རྫོགས་ཧམ་ཟོས་བྱས་ཤིང་སྐྱབས་མགོན་རྒྱལ་བ་ཐམས་ཅད་མཁྱེན་པ་གཙོས་ཆོས་བརྒྱུད་ཁག་གི་བླ་ཆེན་རྣམས་དང་ལྷན་བོད་རིགས་ཁྲི་ཕྲག་མང་པོ་ཡུལ་གྱར་ལ་འགྲོ་དགོས་པ་བྱུང་ཡོད། དེ་ནས་བཟུང་ད་བར་འདས་པའི་མི་ལོ་དྲུག་བཅུ་ཁ་ལྷག་རིང་སྐྱབས་བཅོལ་བའི་བོད་གཞུང་གིས་སྣེ་ཁྲིད་ནས་གཞིས་བྱེས་བོད་མི་མཉམ་འཛོམས་ཡོང་བའི་རེ་བ་ཉག་གཅིག་གིས་རྒྱ་ནག་དམར་པོའི་གཞུང་ལ་བསྟུན་མཁས་གྱིས་ཆབ་སྲིད་དང་ལང་ཕྱོགས་རྣམ་པ་མ་འདྲ་བའི་སྒོ་ནས་ཤི་འཇུ་རོ་འཐམ་གྱི་དཔེ་ལྟར་འགྱེལ་ས་ནས་ལང་བའི་ཐབས་ཤེས་མང་པོ་བྱས་ཀྱང་རྒྱ་ནག་དམར་གཞུང་ནས་དེ་ལས་ལྡོག་ཏེ་རྫུན་དང་གཡོ་སྒྱུའི་འཁོར་ལོ་བསྐོར་ནས་བོད་རྒྱ་གཉིས་བར་བཟང་ཕྱོགས་ཀྱི་གོམས་པ་འདེགས་འཇོག་གི་འབྲས་བུ་སྣ་གཅིག་མ་སོན།


ལོ་དྲུག་བཅུ་ཐམས་པའི་སྡོམ་ཚིག་དེ་མི་ཚེ་གཅིག་ལ་ལྟོས་ན་རིང་པོ་ཡིན་ཀྱང་མི་རབས་གཅིག་ལ་ལྟོས་ན་དེ་ཙམ་རིང་རྒྱུ་མེད། ལྷག་པར་དུ་རི་བོང་ལྟ་བུའི་ང་ཚོ་ཉམ་ཆུང་བོད་རིགས་རྣམས་ཚན་རྩལ་དང་དཔལ་འབྱོར། དམག་དོན་སོགས་འཛམ་གླིང་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ཀྱི་ཡང་རྩེར་དོན་བཞིན་པའི་སྟག་མོ་ལྟ་བུ་རྒྱ་ནག་དམར་གཞུང་གིམཆེ་སྡེར་གྱིས་མནན་བཞིན་པའི་སྐབས་སུ་དེ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་ཁ་དང་ལག་པའི་བར་ནས་ཕྱི་རུ་ཐོན་དཀའ་ཡང་དུས་ནམ་ཡང་སེམས་ཤུགས་མ་ཆགས་པའི་ངང་ནས་ང་ཚོའི་རིག་པ་བསྒྲིམ་ནས་གཡོ་འགུལ་དང་འཕགས་ཚག་རྒྱག་དགོས། དེ་ནི་ང་ཚོ་ཕྱོ་ལོགས་སུ་ཡོད་པའི་བོད་རིགས་རྣམས་ཀྱི་ངོས་ནས་བྱེད་དགོས་པ་ཞིག་དང་། བྱེད་འོས་པ། བྱེད་ཐུབ་པ་ཞིག་བཅས་ཡིན་ནོ།

ང་ཚོ་གཅིག་སྟོང་དགུ་བརྒྱ་ལྔ་བཅུ་ང་དགུའི་ལོར་རྒྱ་དམར་གཞུང་ནས་ཆོལ་ཁ་དང་ཆོས་ལུགས་འབྱེ་བ་མེད་པའི་ཐོག་ནས་རྩི་སྐུད་མགོ་བྲེག་པའམ་སྲན་ཕུང་དབྱུག་པས་སྟོར་བ་བཞིན་འདྲ་མཉམ་གྱིས་སྡུག་པོ་གཏང་ནས་ས་མཐར་གྱར་དགོས་བྱུང་ཡོད། རྒྱུ་མཚན་དེ་ལ་བསམ་ནས་ང་ཚོ་ཆོལ་ཁ་དང་ཆོས་ལུགས་ཀྱི་འཐེན་ཁྱེར་མེད་པར་འཐབ་རྩོད་ལ་མཉམ་ཞུགས་བྱེད་དགོས། ང་ཚོའི་མཐུན་སྒྲིལ་ནི་ང་ཚོའི་སྟོབས་ཤུགས་ཡིན། ང་ཚོའི་དུས་ནམ་ཡང་ནང་ཁུལ་དུ་འཐབ་རྩོད་སྤང་ནས་ཕྱི་རོལ་དུ་འཐབ་རྩོད་བྱེད་དགོས།


གུས་པ་རང་ཉིད་ལ་མཚོན་ན་ཉིས་སྟོང་ཐམས་པའི་ལོར་བཞུགས་སྒར་རྡ་རམ་ཤཱ་ནས་ངས་དུས་ནམ་ཡང་ཆོལ་ཁ་དང་ཆོས་ལུགས་བྱེ་བྲག་པའི་ཕྱོགས་ཞེན་དེ་མི་བྱེད་བསམ་པའི་དམ་བཅའ་བཞག་པ་ཡིན། ཇི་ཙམ་ཆོལ་ཁ་དང་ཆོས་ལུགས་ཀྱི་འཐེན་ཁྱེར་བྱས་པ་དེ་ཙམ་གྱིས་བོད་ཀྱི་རྩ་དོན་ངོ་མ་ལ་གནོད་ཀྱི་ཡོད་པ་ངས་གསལ་པོ་ཤེས་སོང་། དེ་ནི་རྩ་བ་བོར་ནས་གལ་ག་འཚོལ་ཞེས་པའི་དཔེ་ལྟར་རེད། རྩ་བ་དེ་བརྟན་པོ་ཡག་པོ་ཞིག་བྱུང་ན་ཡལ་ག་དང་ལོ་མ་རང་བཞིན་གྱིས་རྒྱས་ཡོང་གི་ཡོད་པ་རེད། སྐྱབས་མགོན་རྒྱལ་བ་ཡིད་བཞིན་ནོར་བུ་དང་མི་ཐོག་གོང་མ་རྣམས་དཀའ་སྡུག་མང་པོའི་ཁྲོད་ནས་བཙུགས་གནང་བའི་བོད་གཞུང་འདི་ལ་ཉམས་དམས་དང་། གཏོར་གཤིགས་གཏང་བ་ཡིན་ན་ཧ་ཅང་ཐབས་སྡུག་རེད། དེའི་ཐོག་ལ་མི་ཐོག་གཞོན་སྐྱེས་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་ངེས་པར་བསམ་བློ་གཏང་ནས་གཞན་གྱི་གཡོ་སྒྱུ་དང་། བསླུ་བྲིད། མགོ་སྐོར་སོགས་གཡོ་འོག་ཏུ་མ་ཚུད་པར་གནང་དགོས་འདུག།

ལྷག་པར་དུ་སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་ཆེན་འདི་བོད་རིགས་སྐྱ་སེར་རིས་སུ་མེད་པ་ཚང་མ་ལ་ཧ་ཅང་གལ་ཆེན་གྱི་ཉིན་མོ་ཞིག་རེད། འདི་ཉིན་མོ་སྐྱ་སེར་མཐོ་དམན་དབྱེ་བ་མེད་པས་སྲུང་བརྩི་གནང་དགོས་པ་མ་ཟད་ཕྱི་རྒྱལ་དུ་བཞུགས་པའི་ཆོས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་བླ་དགེ་མཁན་སྤྲུལ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་རང་གི་སློབ་མ་རྣམས་ལ་ངེས་པར་ངོ་སྤྲོད་བྱེད་དགོས་པ་རེད། བོད་པ་ཞིག་ཡིན་ནས་བཟུང་བོད་དོན་སྐོར་སྐད་ཆ་བྱེད་རྒྱུ་ང་ཚོའི་ལས་འགན་ཞིག་ཡིན་པ་མ་ཟད། བདེན་པའི་ངོ་སྤྲོད་ཞིག་ཀྱང་རེད། ཕྱི་ལོགས་རང་དབང་ལུང་པར་འཚོ་གོས་དང་དཔལ་འབྱོར་གང་ཐད་ནས་འགྲིག་ཙམ་བྱུང་དུས་ང་ཚོའི་བོད་དོན་འདི་སྣང་མེད་དུ་གཡུགས་ན་ལས་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་ལ་གཏན་ནས་མ་གཙིས་པ་རེད།

གུས་པར་མཚོན་ན་ས་གནས་འདིར་འབྱོར་ནས་ལོ་གྲངས་བཅུ་གསུམ་ཙམ་ཞིག་འགྲོ་འདུག། སུམ་བཅུའི་དུས་དྲན་ནམ་ཡང་ཆད་མ་མྱོང་། ས་གནས་འདིར་ང་རང་རྩིས་པའི་བོད་པ་མི་ཚང་གསུམ་ལས་མེད་ཀྱང་རང་གིས་འགན་ཁུར་བའི་ཐོག་ནས་མཉམ་རུབ་ཀྱིས་སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་དྲན་སོགས་གོ་སྐབས་ནམ་ཡོད་ལ་བོད་དོན་ཐོག་བོད་ཀྱི་འཐུས་མི་ངོ་མ་ཞིག་བྱེད་བཞིན་ཡོད།

ས་གནས་འདིའི་མི་རིགས་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་ཀྱང་ངས་གང་བྱས་པ་རྣམས་ལ་མཐའ་གཅིག་ཏུ་རྒྱབ་སྐྱོར་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཡོད། གང་ཡིན་ཟེར་ན་བོད་དོན་དཀའ་སྙོག་འདི་རྒྱ་ནག་དམར་པོའི་གཞུང་ནས་མགོ་སྐོར་དང་བསླུ་བྲེད། རྫུན། གཡོ་སྒྱུ་སོགས་ཡིན་པ་ཚང་མས་ཤེས་གསལ་ལྟར་རེད།

ཁ་སང་གི་ཉིན་མོ་དེ་ནི་ཉིས་སྟོང་ཉེར་གཅིག་ལོའི་སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་དྲན་ཐེངས་མ་དྲུག་བཅུ་རེ་གཉིས་པ་དེ་རེད། སྔ་ལོའི་ནད་ཡམས་དེས་རྐྱེན་བྱས་ནས་མི་མང་མཉམ་འཛོམས་བྱེད་རྒྱུར་གཞུང་ནས་ཚད་བཀག་ཡོད་པ་མ་ཟད་དེའི་ཉིན་མོར་གནམ་གཤིས་སོགས་ཡག་རྒྱུ་དེ་ཙམ་མེད་ཀྱང་། ངོས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་སློབ་མ་མང་པོ་ཞིག་སླེབས་འདུག། ཁོང་ཚོ་བོད་དོན་ལ་ཧ་ཅང་སེམས་ཤུགས་ཆེན་པོ་ཅན་ཤ་སྟགས་ཡིན་སྟབས་ང་ཚོ་གཞུང་ལམ་དུ་སོང་ནས་སྐད་འབོད་དང་། ཁྲོམ་སྐོར་ཆུ་ཚོད་གཉིས་ཙམ་རིང་བྱས་པ་ཡིན། དགོང་མོ་ཆུ་ཚོད་དྲུག་པའི་སྐབས་སུ་སྤྱི་ཚོགས་དྲྭ་རྒྱ་འཛུམ་གྱི་ནང་དུ་པོར་ལེན་ས་གནས་སུ་བཞུགས་པའི་ངོས་ཀྱི་ཡུན་འདྲིས་དམ་ལྡན་གྱི་ཆོས་གྲོགས་རྣམས་དང་ལྷན་སླར་ཡང་ཆོས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་དགེ་ཕྲུག་འགའ་ཤས་དང་ལྷན་སུམ་བཅུའི་དུས་དྲན་མི་མང་ལང་གླུ་བདེན་ཚིག་སྨོན་ལམ་སོགས་མཉམ་གཞས་སུ་གཏང་། བདེན་ཚིག་སྨོན་ལམ་གྱི་ནང་དོན་ཆོས་ཚོགས་ཀྱི་དྲུང་ཡིད་ཟུར་པ་སློབ་མ་རེའི་ཆོ་Rachel  ནས་དབྱིན་ཇི་ཐོག་ཀློག་འདོན་བྱས།

།ངན་དགུ་འཇོམས་པའི་ཁྲག་དང་མཆིལ་མའི་རྒྱུན། །མྱུར་དུ་ཆད་པའི་ཐུགས་རྗེའི་མཐུ་དཔུང་བསྐྱེད། ཅེས་པའི་ཚིག་མཚམས་སུ་སླེབས་སྐབས་སྐད་འཕངས་ཇེ་དམའ་རུ་སོང་མཐར་ཚང་མས་མཐོང་སར་ངུས་ནས་གནས་སྐབས་མཚམས་འཇོག་བྱེད་དགོས་བྱུང་སོང་བས་མི་མང་ཚང་མ་ལ་སེམས་ཚོར་ཧ་ཅང་རྐྱེན་པོ་སྤྲད་བྱུང་།

མཐར་བོད་ཀྱི་ཁོར་ཡུག་དེ་ཇི་ལྟར་གལ་ཆེན་ཡིན་སྐོར་བརྙན་ཐུང་སྐར་མ་ལྔ་ཅན་ཞིག་གཟིགས་འབུལ་ཞུས་གྲུབ་པ་དང་ལྷན་པོར་ལེན་ངོས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་གྲོགས་གཉིས་ནས་ས་གནས་འདིའི་དབྱིན་ཇི་བ་རྣམས་ལ་ལོ་ལྟར་སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་དྲན་སྲུང་གཙི་གནང་བ་ལ་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ་ཞེས་ཀྱང་ཞུས། མཐར་ངས་ཀྱང་དབྱིན་ཇི་ཆག་རོ་དེ་རྒྱབ་ནས་ཚང་མ་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེས་ཞུས་ནས་ཁ་རྩང་གི་ཉིན་མོ་གནས་སྐབས་དེ་ཙམ་གྱིས་འཇུག་སྒྲིལ་བྱས།

སུམ་བཅུའི་དུས་དྲན་སྐོར་དབྱིན་ཇིའི་ཐོག་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་ལྡེབ་མ་གསུམ་ཅན་ཞིག་བྲིས་ཡོད་པ་དེ་ཕྱི་ཉིན་ས་གནས་འདིའི་གསར་ཤོག་ཆེ་ཤོས་གཉིས་སུ་གཅིག་རྗེས་གཉིས་མཐུད་དུ་ཐོན་བྱུང་བས་ཧ་ཅང་དགའ་བོ་བྱུང་། ད་ཡིན་ན་ས་གནས་འདིར་བོད་པ་ཞིག་ཡོད་པའི་གོ་ཆོད་བྱུང་བསམ་པ་བྱུང་། 

།ནམ་རྒྱུན་བཞུགས་ཁྲིའི་སྟེང་ནས་ཆོས་བཤད་བྱེད། །སྐབས་རེ་ཁྲོམ་ལ་འགྲོ་ནས་སྐད་འབོད་བྱེད།

།ང་ཡི་རྒྱུད་ལ་ཆོས་སྲིད་ཟུང་འབྲེལ་འདི། །སུ་མ་འགུ་ཡང་མཚམས་འཇོག་ངས་མི་བྱེད།


།སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་དྲན་སྲུང་གཙི་བྱེད་པ་འདི། །རང་ཉིད་བོད་མི་ཡིན་པའི་ལས་འགན་ཡིན།

།ཁྲི་ལ་བསྡད་ནས་ཆོས་བཤད་བྱེད་རྒྱུ་འདི། །རང་ཉིད་གྲྭ་པ་ཡིན་པའི་ལས་འགན་ཡིན།


།སངས་རྒྱས་བསྟན་པ་ཡུན་རིང་གནས་དགོས་ཞེས། །ཀུན་གྱིས་སྨོན་ལམ་ཡུལ་དུ་བྱེད་པ་ལས།

།བསྟན་ལ་གང་གིས་གནོད་པའི་དགྲ་བོ་ལ། །སྨོན་ལམ་ཙམ་གྱིས་མི་ཕན་ཤེས་པར་བྱོས།


།ཕ་ས་དགྲ་བོས་འཕྲོག་ཀྱང་འཛུམ་དམུལ་དམུལ། །སྤུན་ཟླ་དམར་བསད་གཏང་ཡང་ཇི་མི་སྙམ།

།མི་འདོད་གཞན་ཡུལ་འཁྱམས་ཀྱང་ཚོར་སྣང་མེད། །སུམ་བཅུ་དུས་དྲན་སླེབས་ཀྱང་ཡ་ང་མེད།


།རེ་གཉིས་ས་མཐར་གྱར་བའི་སྡུག་ཡུས་དང་། །སྤུན་ཟླ་ཁྲི་ཁྲག་མང་པོའི་རོ་བདག་དང་།

།ཕ་ས་བཙན་གྱིས་འཕྲོག་པའི་འཁོན་ལན་སོགས། །མ་བརྗེད་སེམས་ལ་བཟུང་ནས་དུས་དྲན་བསུས།


Thursday, March 4, 2021

In 1959, my homeland of Tibet was invaded and forcibly taken over by Communist China.

In 1959, my homeland of Tibet was invaded and forcibly taken over by Communist China. 

 Fortunately, His Holiness the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet, and over 100,000 Tibetans subsequently followed him into exile to India.  Around 1965, a Cultural Revolution was set into motion inside Tibet and continued over the next 10 years; during this period, monasteries were desecrated and destroyed. With the sole intention of transforming the land of Tibet into Chinese territory, the Communist regime implemented all possible strategies, physical and psychological, soft and harsh, with the ultimate aim of completely destroying the environment of Tibet and eradicating Tibetan culture.  

An interesting human characteristic is that it is easy to change one’s physical condition, but extremely difficult to transform one’s mindset, especially when one is forced to change one’s own cultural and traditional dispositions passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years. The essence of Tibetan culture which is rooted in the teachings of the Buddha is to benefit others, and specifically to train one’s mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made it his lifelong effort to preserve this culture because of its immense potential to benefit others.  

When I was in Tibet, they forced us to participate in political indoctrination and propagandism where we were fed ideas and beliefs that the times of old Tibet were of hardship and antiquated, and that the new dawn of happiness had arrived. Officials lied and misled, alternating between harsh and sweet words to persuade, coax, and impel Tibetan people, all with the aim of erasing the basic identity and culture of the Tibetan people. They claimed that Dharma, or religion, is bad, they forced people to disrespect His Holiness the Dalai Lama, reduced the number of monks in the monasteries, and severed relationships between monasteries and the lay community. While I was in Tibet, Communist officials hindered promising students who showed potential from entering into monasteries. Officials would pull these young men aside and entice them to enjoy material life and worldly indulgence.  Stores which sold liquor and tobacco and even brothels were positioned near monasteries. Prostitutes were let inside the monasteries where monks were deliberately made to break their vows.

Another tactic to exploit the psyche of the people was with the construction of railway and road networks. On a surface level, it may seem that these projects were undertaken for the benefit of the Tibetan people;in reality, these infrastructure projects were not undertaken with the wellbeing of the Tibetan people in mind. After completion of the roadways to Lhasa, tourists were encouraged to visit the city, and Chinese citizens were encouraged to relocate to Lhasa, make a living, and settle there never to return to China. There were also other policies aimed to help outsiders to establish themselves.  Strategically, young Chinese men and women were brought to Lhasa, and marriage between Tibetans and Chinese were encouraged with monetary incentives.  Also, rich resources in the Tibetan plateau such as mineral deposits and water are extracted and used without restraint.  

Additionally, after His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Tibet, many other Tibetan reincarnate lamas and scholars, such as the 10th Panchen Lama, Gungthang Tempe Gyaltsen, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, and Lithang Tulku Tenzin Delek, were targeted and then poisoned or tortured in prisons and have hence passed away, dispatching the best of our society. Without renown spiritual leaders such as these, the Tibetan people did not have many figures to turn to for refuge and support. All these and many more tactics are employed by the Communist regime on an ongoing basis. When it comes to altering one’s deep rooted culture and beliefs by force, the suffering is unimaginable, and even if one has to give up one’s life, one is ready to do so. Thus, when Tibetans inside Tibet are confronted with the ultimatum to either give up their beliefs held for centuries or give up their own lives, they choose the latter. So far, 158 individuals have self-immolated.  These are the figures on record, but we cannot even estimate the number of people who were tortured, imprisoned, or unaccounted for. That is why Tibetans feel deeply desperate, and, in order to gain some attention to their plight, they sacrifice their lives.

Recently, I witnessed something unthinkable that perhaps no one can fathom: in Kirti Gompa, a Monastery in the Ngaba Prefecture, working committee members were ordered to display a thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting usually depicting an enlightened being, a deity, or mandala) with the picture of Chinese leaders, such as Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, next to the statute of the Buddha, denoting equality of the two, and they announced that a national flag of China was to be hung next to the Dharma flag on top of the monastery. They were told to pay respects to the Chinese Communist leaders and to hold the regime in reverence as much as they revered the Buddha. Kirti Monastery is one of the main centers for the preservation of Tibetan religion and culture, and is thus seen by Chinese authorities as a Tibetan stronghold and a monastery with strong resistance.  As is said in a Tibetan saying, “When the goat gets shaved, the sheep shivers”; such a policy imposed on the Kirti Monastery exemplifies the trend being set for other cultural centers of learning inside Tibet.  

How can people who believe in truth, justice, and basic human rights look the other way and act indifferently to such oppressive actions? How can such misdeeds be justified for a believer in Dharma? 

Since Mao Zedong's Communist regime came to Tibet, Tibetans have endured a living hell on earth.  Families were separated, immeasurable suffering caused the loss of countless lives, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to leave his own country, and, since 1959, religion and culture have been cut from their roots.  Nothing worse could have happened to Tibet and its people and now to command monasteries to display pictures of the communist leaders who have caused immeasurable pain and suffering alongside images of Buddha constitutes what?  I was extremely distraught to hear this.  Occasionally I speak with people inside Tibet and feel their growing anguish.  Economic growth in China has no doubt reached them and they have gained some material benefits; nevertheless, their mind is never at ease.  As our conversations continue, they see and feel the ever increasing oppressive measures imposed upon them thereby suffering greatly.  For these reasons, so far 158 people have self-immolated inside Tibet. When we try to understand why these individuals resorted to the desperate act of self-immolation, they did so because the Communist officials rain down terror upon Tibetan villages and insult their spiritual teachers and elders. For them it is better to be free than to live with such daily oppression. 

As for me, I was born during the cultural revolution in 1965. I have personally witnessed grave suffering of my family members, my spiritual teachers, and many others. Having faced such political hardship, I had to leave and currently reside outside Tibet.  I feel strongly that if those of us who are outside Tibet don’t speak up, no one will.  I am a Buddhist monk but I believe that I have a responsibility to speak up about the current averse conditions inside Tibet.  As I have done every March 10th, the Tibetan Uprising Day, and with these recent events inside Tibet, I am extremely disheartened and want to share this message with the public.  

For those of you who either support the cause of Tibet or who support the truth, I urge you to pay attention. Those who support the cause of Tibet, you are not only supporting a small political territory, but supporting a nation of people that for centuries strived to live in peace and adopt a non-violent way of life.  In the world today, we are confronted with many issues that stem from the lack of truth. That is why I urge you to again give some attention to this situation and thus conclude my thoughts on this day, March 10, which marks the Tibetan Uprising Day. I ask you to please excuse any unintelligibility which comes from limitations on my fluency in the English language and the difficulties of translating such a serious and complex matter such as this.

I, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, dictated message before March 10, 2021, as I do every year on the occasion of Tibetan Uprising Day. This blog was translated and transcribed by Dechen Paltso, through a series of conversations and audio recorded messages, and further edited by student, Karma Choeying.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

With Mantra Recitation, Conviction and Devotion are more important than Pronunciation

Here, I would like to share some of my thoughts and advice about mantra with all my dharma brothers and sisters. Mantras play such an important role in Buddhism in general, and particularly in the Vajrayana as it developed in Tibet. Mantra is a Sanskrit word. The word for mantra in Tibetan is Ngag. The Sanskrit word has the meaning of “that which liberates or protects the mind.” It is a method to control the mind, which makes the mind steady and aids one from falling into the clutches of the kleshas or mental afflictions. In this way, mantras can be considered a companion of calm abiding practice (shamatha), and insight (vipashyana), because they protect the mind from the influence of ordinary perceptions and conceptions, thereby supporting meditation.

In Vajrayana Buddhism especially, every meditational deity (yidam), whether it be peaceful or wrathful, male or female, single or in union with a consort, has a specific mantra. That mantra itself is understood to be the enlightened speech of the deity, or more accurately the essence of the deity itself in the form of sound. As such, when we utter the syllables of the mantra, we are not only invoking the presence, blessings, and activity of the deity associated with that mantra, but we are activating, we are awakening, the enlightened qualities of the deity in our own mindstream, which has been our fundamental nature from the very beginning. So you can see why mantras are so important!

Generally, though mantras are categorized as sang-ngag  (secret mantras), zung-ngag (mantra of recitation), and rig-ngag (awareness mantras), among others, the mantras that we typically chant or recite are zung-ngag.


Now, there are two ways of approaching mantra recitation, based on what we consider to be the most important aspect of recitation. In one camp are those who assert that the correct pronunciation of the mantric syllables is of paramount importance. They believe that as mantras originate from the Sanskrit language, which is considered to be the sacred language in which all Buddhas teach the dharma, mantras must therefore be recited as accurately as possible, in Sanskrit. Otherwise their meaning and essence will be lost. If the meaning and essence is lost, then its power is also lost. Such individuals believe, in other words, that if the mantra is not recited with its correct sound, then there is no benefit. For those adherements, the study of dra-rigpa - the science of sound, or phonetics - is important before reciting the mantra. Those who give importance to the sounds of mantra consider it essential to study phonetics.


In the other camp, there are those who believe that mantra, especially sang-ngag (secret mantra) must be practiced above all with positive intention, strong confidence or conviction, and fervent devotion. They believe that möpa - firm conviction - and de pa - devotion -  is of greatest importance while reciting mantras. There is a Tibetan saying that with firm conviction, the secret mantra is accomplished. With pure motivation, firm conviction and dag nang (pure view), one will undoubtedly accomplish the result of the mantra. Analogous to this is the teaching that as long as the conduct and teachings of one’s root guru are in accordance with authentic Dharma, one can receive the blessings of a fully enlightened Buddha through pure view, fervent faith and the practice of Guru Yoga, even if the teacher is in fact an ordinary human being. In the same way, in this school of thought, greater emphasis is placed on one's devotion, motivation and view, than is placed on correct pronunciation of the sounds of the mantric syllables. If one recites the mantra with faith and devotion, and with pure intention, there is bound to be a result.


As many of you know, Tibetan Buddhism has its origins in India. Most of the mantras originating from India have not been translated into Tibetan.  As an example, the Vajrasattva mantra, “Om Benza Satto Samaya Mano Palaya....”, is recited in Sanskrit, or in a Tibetanized version of Sanskrit. It could have been translated and recited in Tibetan, but the original Sanskrit is retained. Although the long-life mantra of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been translated into Tibetan and Chinese, it is still recited in Sanskrit.  Additionally, the mantras in order to accomplish the Yidam, or meditational deities such as Namjom, Kunrig, Mithok, etc., are not translated into Tibetan. Rather, they are intentionally left in Sanskrit. The main purpose for doing so is not primarily that they sound correct, but to retain the blessings of reciting them in their original form as emanated and taught by the Buddha.

I consider myself to be in this latter camp with those who consider one’s mindset to be key when reciting mantrasTo illustrate my position, I want to share an account of the great Sakya Pandita. As an emanation of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, Maha Sakya Pandita was one of the greatest scholars of Tibet. He was especially versed in phonetics and the study of sound and linguistics. Not only was he well versed in the sound of human languages, but was also said to be able understand the languages of non-human beings like animals and devas.  One day, while Sakya Pandita was walking across a hill, he approached a stream where there was a small waterfall and noticed the sound of a mantra emanating from the water. He noted its unusual tone and went closer to the waterfall. He put his ear very near to the water and heard the Vajkilaya Mantra, Om Benza Kili Kilaya Sarva Big Gha Nen Bam Hum Phet.” However, Sakya Pandita noted that there was an error in the way the waterfall was “reciting” the mantra. The mantra was being produced as, “Om Benza Chili Chilaya Sarva Big Gha Nen Bam Hum Phet”.  

Sakya Pandita then had the thought that the mantra was in fact coming from an elderly practitioner, perhaps someone with a speech impediment, living on the hill and practicing the Vajrakilaya deity. He decided to find out and walked along the waterway. Sure enough, as he had heard from the bottom of the waterfall, there was an old yogi in a cave slowly and erroneously reciting the Vajrakilaya mantra. Seeing him thus, Sakya Pandita approached the old meditator and asked what he was doing. The yogi replied that he was practicing the Vajrakilaya deity and reciting the mantra.  Sakya Pandita then asked the yogi whether he could recite the mantra for him. The yogi then recited the mantra again, phonetically incorrect, with “Chili Chilaya” instead of “Kili Kilaya”. Sakya Pandita thought, “this poor old yogi does not understand the meaning and is just following his own blind faith, which will not work.” He resolved to set the old man on the correct path, so he told the yogi that he was reciting the mantra incorrectly, and explained the meaning of the mantra and how he was making a mistake by straying away from the true pronunciation of the mantra. By altering the words of the mantra, and thereby its meaning, Sakya Pandita asserted that it would likely bring inauspicious results. He then offered to teach yogi the correct way to recite the mantra so that it would benefit him.

The yogi replied in turn by asking Sakya Pandita how he would have recited it. The learned scholar proceeded to chant the mantra with great precision and accuracy. The old yogi then retorted that it was actually Sakya Pandita who was improperly reciting the mantra, because he did so with a mind clouded with doubt about the power of the mantra. Because he had no faith, only concepts, chanting the mantra that way would bear no fruit.

Frustrated by this challenge, Sakya Pandita argued again that the yogi was definitely incorrect from a phonetic point of view, which prompted the old yogi to jump up and explain forcefully, “For me, it was, it is now, and it always will be ‘Chil’ Chilaya!’” So saying, he drew his phurba kila, the three-sided ritual dagger associated with Vajrakilaya practice, from his waist sash and thrust it into the rock nearby. The phurba pierced all the way into the rock down to its handle. Now Sakya Pandita, a Vajrakilaya practitioner himself, pulled out his own phurba and replied, “It was, is, and always will be ‘Kili Kilaya!’” Sparks flew as he struck the rock with the dagger, but instead of piercing the rock, it just fell to the ground.

Sakya Pandita was humbled then, and filled with shame. The yogi approached Sakya Pandita and said that he was not only wrong but seriously wrong. “In the secret mantra recitation,” the yogi explained, “you must have great devotion and true motivation, and you lack these. You have great doubt as to what is correct and incorrect. My mistake is just in the sound and that does not really matter. Your mistake is in lacking devotion and pure view.” Sakya Pandita is said to have then received transmission and instructions from this elderly yogi.  The yogi’s confidence came from devotion and experience, whereas Sakya Pandita’s came only from scholarly knowledge and intellect.


I will share another account that took place in Lhasa, Tibet, around the 12th century.  There was a highly learned lama who was part of the aristocracy and he was in charge of the Tibetan administration.  He was from Drepung Monastery and was an accomplished scholar and extremely well-versed in phonetics.  One day, this lama was seriously ill and he developed a goiter.  He and his attendants did everything to cure it but he showed no signs of improvement.  His attendants invited lamas and monks from around the city to perform purification practices and did everything they could, but the lama’s condition did not improve.  

As all his efforts to cure his goiter were in vain, the lama then visited his root teacher and consulted with him.  He was told to perform a purification practice of the deity, Dorjee Namjom.  He was specifically instructed to find some monks from Barkhor. Barkhor is the well-known circumambulation path around the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. It is always filled with monks, practitioners, and beggars from far off places in Tibet. Following the instruction of the lama, his attendants went to the Barkhor and found 2 monks from Kham who were then practicing Chod.  They were invited to the lama’s residence and asked to do a purification practice of Namjom.  At first, being overwhelmed by the wealth and stature of the lama, both the monks were reluctant to start and said they did not know much and that it may be better to invite some other lamas.  The Lama then reassured them and told them to do the practice as they would usually do it and in their usual Khampa dialect.  They then made all the preparations and sat down to begin the Namjom practice.  The Dorjee Namjom mantra is recited: “Om Tuteya Tuteya, Tetaya Tetaya Sarva Potaya Sarva Potaya Gunna Gunna Gunapaya Gunapaya Sarva Satone Buddhaya Buddhaya Sambuddhaya Sambuddhaya Dama Dama Sam Damaya Sam Damaya Sarva Param Name”.  As they began to recite the mantra, the Lama felt a bit odd at the recitation. The lama who was well versed and an expert in phonetics immediately noticed that the monks were reciting the mantra incorrectly. It seemed that the monks mispronounced two words in the mantra - “Tuteya Tuteya” - and instead recited “Teteya Teteya”. “Tuteya Tuteya” means “Go away...Go away....Cleanse Away...Cleanse Away”.  Instead of reciting “Tuteya Tuteya”, the two monks recited “Teteya Teteya” meaning “cut into pieces..cut into pieces”.  The lama obviously began to wonder; first his neck was completely swollen and now are these monks praying for his throat to be cut?  It seemed extremely inauspicious.  Then, as the lama smirked at the bizarre chain of events, his goiter suddenly popped and he was ultimately cured.  


The two monks obviously did not know the meaning of the mantra, but they recited it wholeheartedly, with firm devotion to the deity and pure motivation for the lama’s recovery.  Such stories show that it is not how one recites the mantra that is of prime significance, but the attitude of the individual reciting it.


When reciting the Amitabha Puja during our usual practices at our center, some may not correctly recite the mantras or other Tibetan words in the text, and they may wonder about it, but that is not really important.  While reciting the Vajrasattva mantra in Sanskrit, we may not understand every word completely but your intention while reciting is far more important than how it sounds. I encourage all my students and dharma friends to chant mantra with faith, devotion and a pure altruistic motivation, without concepts regarding “correct” or “incorrect,” or “am I doing this right?” Let your heart and mind settle into and merge with the sacred blessings of the mantra, merge your faith and devotion with the deity with the recitation, and let firm conviction in the power of the mantra arise. In this way, there will definitely be benefit for you and for others.

I, Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, wrote this wrote this short blog on February 15, 2021, for all my students and Dharma friends, especially those who do not understand Tibetan but who often practice with Tibetan texts. This blog was transcribed by Dharma sister, Dechen Paltso, through a series of audio recorded messages and conversations.