Guru Yoga

Practice Guide – Visualization

Now the Guru Yoga starts with self visualization. So first you dissolve everything into emptiness, from the emptiness you manifest yourself as Vajrayogini, not Varahi. Yogini. And then after the self visualization as Vajrayogini, then the second step is visualizing the Guru Vajradhara to Buddha Vajradhara, all the lineage masters are on your crown. Now this meditation is very clearly translated in this text. But with due respect, the drawing is wrong. This is Vajravarahi, Dani Dorje Naljorma, it says, not Dani Dorje Pagmo.

Now here says visualization, meditation, meditate everything is purified into emptiness, by means of the Sobava mantra. So with that recitation then together everything dissolves into emptiness. You then, from the out of emptiness, now emerge out of the emptiness looking like Vajravarahi, actually the Vajrayogini. And then it is described here, standing on the corpse that lotus and sun as you have not yet purified, all of your obscuration performing the Guru Yoga as your ordinary self would not net you, net you, net like net income you know, net you any blessing. It is a very good way to put it. Would not net you any blessing. But performing it as the Yidam would facilitate quick and easy receipt of blessing. That’s when practice in the Guru Yoga, you should focus your attention on Yidam who appears to you. So this is, of course, other options, you can visualize as other Yidams as well but normally it’s not done. Just Vajrayogini. That’s all. Not as any other Yidam. You visualize yourself as Vajrayogini because Vajrayogini represents the purified manifestation of wisdom. And but not as a Vajravarahi because in order to have self visualization of Vajravarahi you must have Vajravarahi empowerment. Without that you cannot visualize yourself as a Vajravarahi. Vajrayogini is one step further, one step further, one step before the Vajravarahi. So for this, you don’t need the empowerment. You don’t need initiation. So the ordinary practitioner can visualize yourself as Vajrayogini, so this is described here, very clearly. From visualization, Vajravarahi and all the Yidams you have done since the prostration. For that you don’t need to have initiation. But self visualization is totally different thing.

Then the following visualization according to the recitation you do it step by step. There is two ways to visualize the Guru Yoga; we call it…… means all the guru from your Guru Vajradhara to the Buddha Vajradhara, all the Guru surrounded by all the Gurus and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Deities and Protectors surrounded by all of them. But it is just the lineage Guru, from your master to the Buddha, one on top of another, as it is in the painting in the refuge tree, but only the center one, only the center trunk one. All the others are not in the four different places, they are all over the places like a cloud around it. It is allowed to visualize them in front of you, because for some people, it is difficult when you are receiving the transmission Om , Ah, Hum transmission empowerment, at the end, to do it from the top. That somehow like this, like this, like this, you know, they have this problem. Because of that, it is allowed to visualize them in front. Allowed. Allowed means the most proper way to visualize it is on top of your head facing the same direction. That is most proper way but it is allowed to visualize you are here and there, like Da Ji and Du Ji. You know, the self visualization and front visualization, that manner, you can do it. It is allowed, if you have problem with visualizing like this. Ok. Now that means quite clear, isn’t it? f you can, you visualize on top of your crown all the way up. If you can’t, then you visualize in front. Just like you have done for all the other practices.

On the crown of your head, now I am presuming you’re visualizing on your crown, so, otherwise you say in front of you. So on the crown of your head sits your own root Guru as he appeared in the taking refuge. So when you did the refuge, prostration refuge visualization. So it’s your root Guru but in the form of the Vajradhara so the same way. On top of sun and moon disc which is on top of the lotus and which is on top of a throne. Throne upheld by eight lions, that means each direction two lions, so four directions for eight lions. Then from the Buddha Vajradhara until Guru Vajradhara, all the lineage masters of the Maha Mudra. So now you are saying this prayer which is……You are saying this prayer. Then that is. Then now your visualization is complete. Then after that you say this prayer. So when you are saying that, when you are saying this prayer, so as you saying these prayers, then the actual, from the Buddha Vajradhara, until your Guru Vajradhara, the actual presence is invoked as you saying this. So now, as you say this, then your Guru Vajradhara and Buddha Vajradhara, everyone’s Om , Ah, Hum radiates light to all directions, and then the actual Buddhas and Gurus and their presence is invoked and dissolved. So your visualization is consecrated as the true lineage, not a tree but lineage. Tsok Shing. Tsok Shing means, Tsok means accumulation of merit and accumulation of wisdom. And Shing means object. So it becomes object of accumulation, not just your created imagination. It is true, becomes true.

Seven branches prayers

Then after that, then you are saying the seven branches prayers which is prostration, offering, confession, rejoice, requesting Buddhas to turn the wheel of Dharma, then requesting Buddhas to live long and dedicating the merit for all sentient beings. The seven branches prayers, you recite toward the Three Jewels and Three Roots and particularly the lineage of the Gurus, all Gurus of the lineage. So the recitation for that is……So now until that is seven branches prayer. So in this seven branches prayer order, the dedication is pushed two steps back. That is dedication, after that, requesting Buddha to live long and then turn the wheel of Dharma is put after that. And now, you are requesting them to turn the wheel of Dharma and then you are requesting further.

When death comes

When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

– Mary Oliver

Time to go

“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

– Mary Oliver

Wordsworth & Basho: Walking Poets

Basho, one of my favorite poets, ever…

Poems on the page and in the world

Sill Stone

I was in the Lake District last week for a symposium on ‘Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets’. A group of us were there to meet and discuss what we might make for a forthcoming exhibition at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, home to the Wordsworths from 1799 to 1808, now a museum and home of the Wordsworth Trust.

The Prelude mss

Curator Jeff Cawton shared his enthusiasm for ‘The Prelude’ and its various manuscripts. Most are written in the hand either of Mary, the poet’s wife, or Dorothy, his sister, with amendments by William; apparently he found writing physically painful, so composed in his mind while out walking, dictating the results when he came home.

Wordsworth ms

The pages above show a draft of Book 10, with William’s revisions on the left hand page:

… As a light
And pliant harebell, swinging in the breeze
On some grey rock, its birth-place, so had I
Wantoned, fast…

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Freud: psychic apparatus

The term psychic apparatus (also psychical apparatus, mental apparatus) denotes a central, theoretic construct of Freudian metapsychology, wherein:

We assume that mental life is the function of an apparatus to which we ascribe the characteristics of being extended in space and of being made up of several portions [ Id, ego, super-ego].

—Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis (1940)
As a psychologist, Sigmund Freud used the German terms psychischer Apparat and seelischer Apparat, about the functioning of which he elaborates:

We picture the unknown apparatus, which serves the activities of the mind, as being really like an instrument constructed of several parts (which we speak of as ‘agencies’), each of which performs a particular function, and which have a fixed, spatial relation to one another: it being understood that by ‘spatial relation’ — ‘in front of’ and ‘behind’, ‘superficial’ and ‘deep’ — we merely mean, in the first instance, a representation of the regular succession of the functions.

—Freud, The Question of Lay Analysis (1926)
Freud proposed the psychic apparatus as solely a theoretic construct explaining the functioning of the mind, and not a neurologic structure of the brain:

It is a hypothesis, like so many others in the sciences: the very earliest ones have always been rather rough. ‘Open to revision’, we can say in such cases . . . the value of a ‘fiction’ of this kind . . . depends on how much one can achieve with its help.

—Freud, The Question of Lay Analysis (1926)
Moreover, in emphasizing the immateriality of the psychic apparatus, Dr. Freud dismissed the matter of its physical substance:

That is not a subject of psychological interest. Psychology can be as indifferent to it as, for instance, optics can be to the question of whether the walls of a telescope are made of metal or cardboard. We shall leave entirely to one side the material line of approach.

—Freud, The Question of Lay Analysis (1926)

Dzogchen A. Berzin

The Need for Dzogchen
Dzogchen (rdzogs-chen, the great completeness) is an advanced system of Mahayana practice that brings enlightenment. It is found primarily in the Nyingma and Bon traditions, but also appears as a supplementary practice in some of the Kagyu traditions such as Drugpa, Drigung, and Karma Kagyu. Let us speak here of dzogchen as formulated in the Nyingma school.

To reach enlightenment, we need to remove forever two sets of obscurations:

emotional obscurations (nyon-sgrib) – those that are disturbing emotions and attitudes and which prevent liberation,
cognitive obscurations (shes-sgrib) – those regarding all knowables and which prevent omniscience.
These obscurations bring us, respectively, the suffering of uncontrollably recurring existence (samsara) and the inability to be of best help to others. They are fleeting (glo-bur), however, and merely obscure the essential nature (ngo-bo) of the mind and limit its functioning. In essence, the mind (mental activity) is naturally pure of all fleeting stains. This is an important aspect of its Buddha-nature.

[See: Ridding Oneself of the Two Sets of Obscurations in Sutra and Anuttarayoga Tantra According to Nyingma and Sakya.]

In general, to remove both sets of obscuration requires bodhichitta (byang-sems) and nonconceptual cognition of voidness (stong-nyid, Skt. shunyata, emptiness) – the mind’s natural absence of fleeting stains and its absence of impossible ways of existing (such as inherently tainted with stains). Bodhicitta is a mind and heart aimed at enlightenment, with the intention to attain it and thereby to benefit all beings as much as is possible. Removing obscuration also requires a level of mind (or mental activity) most conducive for bringing about this removal. Dzogchen practice brings us to that level.


In Dzogchen, while thoughts are active, rigpa permeates them all, so that even at the very moment when powerful thoughts like attachment and aversion are arising, there remains a pervasive quality of clear light rigpa. Dodrupchen says, “in Dzogchen, since the clear light’s natural way of being is like the sun and its rays, inseparable, if you are able, through this, to bring out the radiance of genuine mind, you will be able to maintain the experience of clear light in meditation, without it fluctuating, or coming and going.”

Longchen Rabjam speaks of self-arising wisdom, which is in fact rigpa: “Self-arising wisdom is rigpa that is empty, clear and free from all elaboration, like an immaculate sphere of crystal. Its very being is such that it never explores objects of the senses.”

This “self-arising wisdom” is rigpa, which in essence is primordially pure. Longchenpa describes it as “empty and clear”. To call it empty is to refer to its essence, primordially pure. To call it clear is to speak of its nature, spontaneously present. As such, it is “free from all elaboration”, and free from the elaborations of adventitious phenomena. So it is like a flawless crystal sphere, and truly “its very being is such that it never explores objects of the senses”. (p.180-5)

Rigpa 2

Rigpa has three wisdoms, which are kadag, lhun grub and thugs rje. Kadag deals with tregchöd.[2] The lhun grub aspect has to do with esoteric practices, such as (but not limited to) Thödgal, that self-liberate the human body into a Sambhogakāya (rainbow body phenomenon).[2][3] The symbol of Dzogchen is a Tibetan A wrapped in a thigle. The A represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub. The third wisdom, thugs rje (compassion), is the inseparability of the previous two wisdoms.

In Dzogchen, a fundamental point of practice is to distinguish rigpa from sems (mind).[4]

The ultimate fruition of the thodgal practices is a body of pure light, called a rainbow body (Wylie ‘ja’ lus, pronounced Jalü.)[5] If the four visions of thogal are not completed before death, then at death, from the point of view of an external observer, the following happens: the corpse does not start to decompose, but starts to shrink until it disappears. Usually fingernails, toenails and hair are left behind[6] (see e.g. Togden Urgyen Tendzin, Ayu Khandro, Changchub Dorje.) The attainment of the rainbow body is typically accompanied by the appearance of lights and rainbows.[5]

Some exceptional practitioners such as Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra are held to have realized a higher type of rainbow body without dying. Having completed the four visions before death, the individual focuses on the lights that surround the fingers. His or her physical body self-liberates into a nonmaterial body of light (a Sambhogakāya) with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one’s compassion.[7]



In a Dzogchen Menngagde context, rigpa (Skt. vidyā; Tibetan: རིག་པ་, Wylie: rig pa) is the knowledge that ensues from recognizing one’s nature. At the trekchö level, one knows that there is a primordial freedom from grasping his or her mind (sems). The opposite of rigpa (vidyā, knowledge) is marigpa (avidyā, ignorance).

Nyingma tradition

The Nyingma tradition classifies the corpus of Buddhist teachings into Nine Yanas, among the highest of which is known as Atiyoga or Dzogchen (Great Perfection). The Nine Vehicles are: the Three Common Vehicles – (1) Shravaka-yana, yana of the Hearers, (2) Pratyekabuddha-yana, yana of the Solitary Realizers, and (3) the Bodhisattva-yana, the Mahayana (consisting mainly of the sutrayana teachings taught by Buddha Shakyamuni); the Three Outer Tantras – (4) Kriya (Activity) Tantra, (5) Upa (Engagement) Tantra, and (6) Yoga (Practice) Tantra (the three stages of tantra); and the Three Innermost Tantras – (7) Mahayoga (primarily consisting of Utpatikrama teachings), (8) Annuyoga (emphasizing Sampanakrama), (9) Atiyoga (focusing on the most profound Sampranakrama).

The first three are common to all schools of Buddhism and the next three are common to all schools of Tantric Buddhism, whereas the last three are exclusive to the Nyingma tradition.

According to the history of the origin of Nyingma tantras, there are six types of lineage:

Three Common Lineages (of Kama and Terma):

(1) The Thought Lineage of Buddhas, the most original teachings of the Dharmakaya Buddhas, originating from the primordial Buddha, Samantabhadra. (2) The Symbolic Lineage of the Vidyadharas (Knowledge Holders), which refers to the teachings of the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, originating from Vajrasattva, to Vajrapani to Garab Dorje of Uddiyana. (3) The Ear-whispered Lineage Of The Great Individuals, which are the teachings of the Nirmanakaya Buddha, originating from the Five Buddha families to the great human emanation master Garab Dorje, and then to Manjushrimitra, Shrisimha, Padmasambhava, Jnanasutra, Vimalamitra and Vairochana. This lineage then started and continued in Tibet, and continues through the present day.