Chenrezig, Lord of Love: Principles and Methods of Deity Meditation

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9780963037107: Chenrezig, Lord of Love: Principles and Methods of Deity Meditation

Deity meditation is perhaps the least understood of all practices within Tibetan Buddhism. Yet the use of visualized images in mental and spiritual development forms the heart of this practice. For over a thousand years monks, nuns, and mountain yogins have developed and perfected this unique style of meditation.

Recently many exiled Tibetan masters have been actively teaching in Western countries. These teachers have very generously shared their contemplative knowledge and experience, including instructions for deity meditation. A small but growing number of people have attempted to practice these teachings. For most this has not been an easy path. Many feel there is something here very precious and valuable but difficult to approach. For a person not raised in the sphere of Tibetan culture fruitful practice of deity meditation requires a sound understanding of its basic intention and principles.

Bokar Rinpoche in this small volume directly addresses the needs and concerns of Westerners venturing into the lofty, yet sometimes, confusing world of deity meditation. He clearly sets forth the principles and theory of this meditation using a minimum of technical terminology and then gives instructions for the practice of Chenrezig. With his many years of study, practice, and teaching he is uniquely qualified to present these teachings. Through his deep experience and wisdom condensed here he unfolds a world and makes possible an authentic connection with it.

Still it must be said that for those interested in pursuing this practice, a book is not a substitute for contact with a living teacher. The Buddha Sakyamuni used oral instruction as the basic vehicle of teaching and all Buddhist meditative lineages have continued this custom. Many dharma centers can now be found throughout the world where one may receive qualified guidance for the practices discussed in this book.

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About the Author:

Bokar Rinpoche was born to a nomad family in Western Tibet in 1940. He left Tibet for India at twenty and completed two three-year retreats under the guidance of Kalu Rinpoche.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

from "Absolute And Relative Chenrezig" Lord with a white body unstained by defects, The perfect Buddha is the ornament on your head. You look with compassion on all beings, Before you, Chenrezig, I bow down. Thus a famous praise is addressed to the most popular deity of Tibet.

Who really is Chenrezig, deity with a white body and four, sometimes one thousand, arms? Who is this deity for whom the Tibetans nourish a special devotion and whose meditation is now also practiced by many Westerners?

Is it a luminous god, soft and compassionate, who, from the far heavens, keeps watch over the fate of beings as most of Tibetan people believe? Is it a simple symbolic image as Westerners sometimes think? Is it still another reality, deeper and richer?

First we need to understand that Chenrezig is both an appearance, the divine manifestation as well as an essence, the inner reality, with one not excluding or contradicting the other. The appearance of Chenrezig is the symbol of his essence made manifest. Through this appearance we can approach the essence of Chenrezig. The appearance does not exhaust the essence anymore than the essence negates the appearance. To pretend that Chenrezig only has an existence outside ourselves would be a mistake. But it would also be a mistake to see him only as an abstraction. Grasping the link between the two aspects of the deity (appearance and essence) is necessary in order to understand both his nature and meditation.

First, who is Chenrezig in essence? Chenrezig is the mode of being of the mind that is the union of emptiness and compassion. From the viewpoint of the definitive meaning Chenrezig is the ultimate nature of the mind. In other words, one may say that Chenrezig is bodhicitta in its two aspects: - Absolute bodhicitta corresponding to emptiness, - Relative bodhicitta corresponding to compassion.

When the nature of the mind is described, one most often uses the terms emptiness and clarity rather than emptiness and compassion as we just did. In fact, clarity and compassion are one and the same; they designate the dynamic expression of the mind. Many synonyms are used to describe these two indissolubly united aspects: - emptiness and compassion, - knowledge and means, - absolute aspect and relative aspect, - mode of being and mode of manifestation, and so on.

Whatever words one uses for it, Chenrezig appears from this same reality. He is the awakened nature of each being's own mind, the love and compassion primordially present in the dharmakaya.

Chenrezig is within us because love and compassion are not qualities added to the mind. These qualities are part of the awakened state even if, for the moment, this state exists only as a potential for us.

The different degrees of love and compassion that we can observe from one being to another correspond to a greater or smaller actualization of this potential, and to the influence in greater or lesser degree of Chenrezig in ourselves. But one cannot say that any being is totally without love and compassion, because this would deny in that being the awakened nature common to all beings. Merely, the veils covering the mind can temporarily be so thick that the latent qualities cannot express themselves at all.

The fundamental dysfunctioning of our mind takes the form of a separation between I and other. We falsely grasp at an I on which attachment grafts itself at the same time as we conceive of an other that is the basis of aversion. This duality prevents the free and spontaneous expression of love and compassion and holds them in a potential state. The result of this is that, instead of wishing for the happiness of beings, we wish for our own happiness. Instead of aspiring to the removal of their suffering, we aspire to the removal of our own suffering. Instead of rejoicing in the happiness of others, we rejoice in our own happiness. Instead of looking equally on all beings, we become involved in games of preference and partiality. Therefore, our Chenrezig remains hidden.

Saying that Chenrezig is the ultimate nature of the mind does not negate his form manifestation. The essence expresses itself through an appearance. Chenrezig exists on the level of definitive meaning and also on the level of literal meaning where he appears in the form of the deity by which he is usually known. He is the visible expression taken by all the buddhas to help us activate the love and compassion that are presently only a potential in us and to reveal the ultimate Chenrezig in ourselves. Even his name expresses his nature; each syllable that composes it in Tibetan has a meaning: - chen means eye; - re gives an idea of continuity; - zig means to look.

Therefore Chenrezig is the one who continually looks upon all beings with the eye of compassion.

The relationship between Chenrezig as the potential of compassion in our mind and Chenrezig appearing as a divine form is the real foundation of the practice:

On one hand, Chenrezig as a manifested deity is charged with and transmits the power of the grace and compassion of the mind of all buddhas;

On the other hand, our own mind is endowed with the potentiality of love and compassion;

- Thirdly, the ineluctable interconnection that links everything causes the first factor to necessarily act on the second one and reveal it.

Without the potentiality of our mind the deity remains an external, beautiful, and luminous but ineffectual appearance. Without the deity our potential remains ineffective. This is from the point of view of the path. However, from the point of view of the ultimate awakening beyond the notions of external and internal and beyond any duality, no difference exists any longer between the deity and our own mind that is itself buddha.

When we do the meditation of Chenrezig, if we see love and compassion grow in our mind, it is a sign that our practice is fruitful. The relative Chenrezig is then a support to develop the absolute Chenrezig who always dwells within us. Understanding that Chenrezig is never in reality separated from us and that he is inherent in our mind allows us to deeply penetrate the practice.

We need the relative Chenrezig to realize the ultimate Chenrezig. The meditation on the form and attributes of the deity and the recitation of his mantra brings us to the realization of the compassion present in our own mind that is also emptiness. The power of grace transmitted by the relative Chenrezig leads us to the absolute nature of our own mind whose dynamic is love and compassion.

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