Teachings About Initiations
March 17, 2015
Karmapa’s teachings about initiations, given on the first day of The Karmapa Public Course-2015.
Dear dharma friends, practitioners, devotees and, of course, Venerables, I would like to wish you all an auspicious welcome. According to the custom of this nation, I would also like to wish you Namaste. And because of our spiritual heritage, I would like to wish you Namobuddhaya. It is a pleasure to be here with you all. Many of you I have met in various places as well as here at the Institute in New Delhi. It is good to have the occasion to meet to remember the importance of Buddha-dharma. Our connection to the Buddha-dharma is what brings us all together. Because of various factors, it is not easy for us to meet, for us to exchange and to share. The wonderful combination of the blessings of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and own good deeds has bought all of us together.
I always feel encouraged and inspired in my responsibility as a teacher seeing all of you put enthusiasm, effort, and dedication into whatever aspect of the Buddha-dharma that you know. And also putting effort into cultivating it for a good cause, which starts with benefiting oneself. This is the obvious thing to do because without having abilities oneself, one cannot benefit others. Therefore, that is how we all begin. Over the years, seeing all of you, knowing all of you, hearing about you all, and seeing your tireless work, is a source of encouragement. Therefore, it gives me a reason and purpose to further convey whatever experience or knowledge of Dharma I have to all of you. Once again, during this course here at KIBI, I shall be offering you the precious Buddha-Dharma that I have practiced and learned. May it be of great benefit to all of you, and in turn, may it benefit all sentient beings.
In the coming days there will be wang’s, initiations, or abishekas, as they are known. As well, we touch the surface of the teachings of the great Bodhisattva, Shantideva. Through that, may we plant a virtuous seed in our hearts, and cultivate and develop it, and then dedicate the fruits to all sentient beings. In terms of the order of the program, having the practice of Vajrasattva or Dorje Sempa at the beginning is very appropriate because we must have a favorable and solid foundation in order to cultivate virtuous deeds. Therefore, through the practice of Vajrasattva we shall accumulate merit and wisdom, which are the two most important ingredients in achieving perfect enlightenment, which is basically, the state of complete awareness, the direct experience and direct understanding of the realization of the Buddha of our era achieved. In order to obtain this, then these two forms or accumulations of merit and wisdom are extremely necessary.
Therefore, I will now begin with the preparation of this Jenang (e.g. blessing). As always, with initiations performed in the traditional way, there are a lot of procedures to go through. This is basically to condition one’s understanding, one’s mind, one’s consciousness to that of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in order that the method that we use is not wasted or misused when applied to enlightened activities. Otherwise, we could basically waste the opportunity. Therefore, the traditional way is to go through a lot of preparation, such as in the practice of Ngondro, or the Four Foundations, as it is known in English. I think that many of you have engaged in this practice, which is wonderful. The practice involves a learning aspect, a contemplating aspect, and then requires putting it all into practice through meditation, which all of you are doing to the best of your ability, I’m sure. The more you do it then the better you will develop your understanding of this method.
The blessing that we receive in the form of accomplishment is required in order to develop our body, speech and mind until we reach enlightenment. Then we receive the extraordinary blessing, which is enlightenment itself, which normally requires a lot of intensive preparation. In our contemporary context, not all of us are able to follow all of the traditional aspects of the practice because of time and obligations in our daily lives. That is why we mostly engage in Dharmapala, wisdom, Yidam, practices as well as Guru-yoga practices.
We often engage in these practices as a way of receiving blessings, which moistens our hearts through the aspirations of enlightened beings. Practices such as Ngondro are not composed out of understanding, in the way that good literature, good poetry, or fantastic ideas are. They are not the result of that kind of thing. Such practices are basically an extract of the understanding of enlightened beings, realized beings, beings who have great experience of how the mind works, how emotions work, how a very sound and clear state of mind functions. Out of those direct experiences, they composed these practices or methods. Therefore, we cannot take it lightly and think they are compositions of this and that, like poetry, or literature, or music. They come from a very profound experience or understanding. That is why there is benefit to just hearing the mantra of Vajrasattva – the 100 syllables.
Although we may not have done all the preparations yet, nevertheless there are already blessings because, as I said earlier, the practices have manifested out of an enlightened understanding. Therefore, there is a natural or automatic blessing already there, and that is something that we can all touch, experience, and obtain right here, right now. As we apply the practice of accumulation, the practice of training one’s intellect and wisdom, and so on, then our understanding of these methods becomes clearer. In time, it not only becomes a source of understanding of blessings in a general kind of way; it becomes something more. If you approach it in this way then it becomes very grounded, it becomes a very down-to-earth way of engaging with the practice. Otherwise, one could misunderstand. Of course, the words in the language that is used as a medium to reflect this enlightened understanding in the forms of the texts that we have in terms of writings and printings and various languages is something that we can learn quite fast. If you have a good intellect, if you have good education, it is something that we can engage in right away. However, we could develop a form misunderstanding of the practices because understanding the language doesn’t mean that we understand their actual depth or quality. Therefore, we could develop a misunderstanding about how well we understand the dharma. In order to not waste time or energy, if we engage in the practice in a down-to-earth way, we obtain what we wish and aspire for without any pollution. It is my responsibility to share it with all of you, and of course, it is your responsibility as to how sound, how reasonable, how logical it is. Accordingly, you will engage in the practice.
Now without too many more words, I shall proceed with the preparation. In the meantime, I would like to ask all of you to use that time to practice as well and not leave your mind idle. The time that we have to absorb things, to understand things, is very precious. Therefore, if you leave your mind idle, it is a waste. If you let it drift into unnecessary things, it is another form of waste. All of you have sacrificed your precious time that could have been spent in a relaxing environment, such as at some holiday destination. Since you are here already, if you let your mind be idle and let it drift into other things then you have wasted two things: One you have wasted your holiday, and two, you have also wasted your time to practice. Therefore, I would like you to recite the 100 syllables and if you are familiar with the meditation of the Sadhana of Dorje Sempa (e.g. Vajrasattva) according to Ngondro then practice that as well.