A Guide to Daily Meditation Practice
There are descriptions of each element of the daily meditation practice by our Spiritual Director, Geshe Dakpa Togyal, at the bottom of this page.
Prayers and Mantra Before Meditation
OM NAMO MAJUSHRIYE
NAMO UTAMMA SHRIYE SOHA
I Pay Homage To The Buddha
I Pay Homage To The Dharma
I Pay Homage To The Sangha
(Repeat 3 times)
LAMA LA KYAP SU CHI WO
SANGEY LA KYAP SU CHI WO
CHÖ LA KYAP SU CHI WO
GENDUN LA KYAP SU CHI WO
I Go For Refuge In The Guru
I Go For Refuge In The Buddha
I Go For Refuge In The Dharma
I Go For Refuge In The Sangha
(Repeat 3 times)
SANGEY CHÖ DANG TSOK KYI CHOK NAM LA
JANG CHUP PAR DU DA NYI KYAP SU CHI
DAK GEE JIN SOK GYI PEH SO NAM KYI
DROL LA PEN CHIR SANGEY DRUP PAR SHAUG
I go for refuge until I am enlightened to the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
From the virtuous merit that I accumulate by practicing giving and other perfections,
May I attain the state of Buddha to be fully able to benefit all mother sentient beings.
(Repeat 3 times)
The Four Immeasureables (Love, Compassion, Joy, Equanimity)
SEM JIN TOM JAY DEY WA DANG DEY WAY KYUR DANG DEN PUR KYUR CHIK
SEM JIN TOM JAY DUK NGUL DANG DUK NGUL KYI KYUR DANG DRUL WAR KYUR CHIK
SEM JIN TOM JAY DUK NGUL MEH PEY DEY WA DANG MI DROL WAR KYUR CHIK
SEM JIN TOM JAY NYEH RING CHAK DANG NYEE DANG DROL WAY TANG NYOM LA NEY PUR KYUR CHIK
May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from sufferings and the causes of suffering.
May all sentient beings never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger that hold some close and others distant.
(Repeat 3 times)
The Prayer of the Seven Limbs
(One may use instrumental music to accompany the prayer - such as damaru, bells, etc.)
CHAK TSAL WA DANG CHÖ CHING SHAK PA DANG
JAY SU YEE RANG KUL SHING SOL WA YEE
KAY WA CHUNG SHE DAK KYI CHI TSAK PA
TOM JAY DAK GYI JANG CHUP CHEN PUR NGÖ
With my body, speech, and mind, humbly i prostrate,
and make offerings both set out and imagined.
I confess my wrong deeds from all time,
and rejoice in the virtues of all.
Please stay until entire samsara ceases.
And turn the wheel of Dharma for us.
I dedicate all virtues to great enlightenment.
OM VAJRA SATTO HUNG PHED
(Repeat either 3, 7, 21, or 108 times)
Offering the Mandala
SA SHEE PÖ KYI JUK SHING MAY TOK TRAM
REE RAP LING SHEE NYEE DA GEN PA DEE
SANGEY SHING LA MIK DEH BUL WAR YEE
DRO KÜN NAM DAK SHING LA CHÖ PUR SHAUG
Here is the great earth
filled with the smell of incense,
covered with a blanket of flowers,
the great mountain,
the four continents,
wearing a jewel of the sun and moon.
In my mind, I make them the paradise of a buddha,
and offer it all to you.
By this deed may
every living being,
experience the pure world.
IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAM
(Recite 1 time)
Shamata Meditation (Calm Abiding Meditation)
(5-10 minutes to start with; then eventually, after daily practice, at least 30 minutes.)
Mantra Recitation Practice
(after completing the shamata meditation)
TAYATA GATÉ GATÉ PARAGATÉ PARASAMGATÉ BODHI SOHA (Prajnaparamita Mantra)
(Repeat either 3, 7, 21, or 108 times)
YANG PEY GYÄL KAM KUN DANG SA CHOK DIR
NEY MUK TRUK TSÖ LA SOK MI JUNG SHING
DRO NAM CHÖ JUR DEY KYID TSO WA DANG
PUN TSOK PELJUR LEK TSOK GEY GYUR CHIK
May there be no illness, dispute, or war
at all existing levels, from home to the universe.
May everyone experience joy, peace, and spiritual splendors,
May the glory and riches of goodness ever increase.
(Pause for Reflection on the meaning of the Verse)
SEM JIN NEY PA CHEE NYIH PA
NYUR DU NEY LEH TAR GYUR CHIK
DRÖ WEY NEY NEE MA LU PA
TAK DU JUNG WA MEY PUR SHOK
May all who are sick and ill quickly be freed from their ailments.
Whatever diseases there are in the world, may they never occur again.
(Pause for Reflection)
GEY WA DEE YEE KEY WO KUN
SONOM YEE SHEE TSOK RAP SAK
SONAM YEE SHEE LEY CHUNG WEY
DAM PA KU NYEE TOP PUTR SHOK
By the goodness of what I have just done,
may all beings complete the accumulation
of merit and wisdom,
and thus gain the two ultimate bodies that merit and wisdom make
(Pause for Reflection)
Explanations of the Practice
by Geshe Dakpa Topgyal
The Purpose of the Practice
This is a short, condensed form of Buddhist practice. The purpose of spiritual practice is to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. In order for the individual to attain Enlightenment, he or she must accumulate merit or wholesomeness, develop wisdom (the perfect realization of Emptiness), and purify negativities and obscurations which prevent one from attaining the Perfect Awakened State — the highest form of happiness and the true cause of benefiting all sentient beings without exception. This short practice helps one gain the necessary positive factors that are required for the attainment of Enlightenment as well as help one remove the negative factors, the obscurations, and the hindrances. This attainment of positive factors is nourished by the union practice of shamata and vipassana meditation. In this way, one can seek full Enlightenment.
Prostration is the means of showing respect to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha from the depth of one’s heart, and is a way of showing that one is open to the guidance and teachings of the Buddha. Buddhists consider prostrations to be a means through which one can attain merit as well as purify negativities. Doing prostrations helps one overcome pride and ego, which are hindrances to Enlightenment. Doing prostrations also signifies that the individual is engaging in wholesome spiritual activity — it is a way of announcing (to oneself) that he or she is entering their spiritual practice.
There are three types of prostration: physical, verbal, and mental. There are two types of physical prostration: short and full-length. The short form involves touching the five points of the body on the ground — forehead, hands, and knees. The full-length form involves lying stretched out on the ground. One’s teacher can demonstrate this. Verbal prostrations can be done through reciting mantras or verbalizing the excellent qualities of the Three Jewels. Prostrations involve one cultivating respect for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha by recognizing them as superior, beyond compare.
Taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha is a means of encouraging oneself to live according to the Teachings, which means living in a sound, ethical way. Living in a sound, ethical way is living according to the law of cause and effect or Karma, abstaining from the ten negative actions, cultivating the ten positive actions, and sincerely trying not to harm other sentient beings and being of help to them as much as one is able.
Buddhists believe that sincerely taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha signifies that one is a Buddhist. “Sincerely” means that one sees the Buddha as the Perfect Teacher who can show us the right path, that one sees His Teaching, the Dharma, as the way to happiness and cessation of suffering, and that one sees the Sangha, the spiritual community, as helpful companions to assist us along the way.
BUDDHA — means a “fully awakened one” as well as referring to the historic Buddha Shakyamuni.
DHARMA — means the teachings of the Buddha, which lead to the realization of Ultimate Truth. It also refers to the systematic spiritual transformations that one undergoes as a result of one’s practice.
SANGHA — There are two types of Sangha. One refers to a group of spiritual practitioners who have not realized Emptiness and Bodhicitta. This group may include ordained monks and nuns as well as lay practitioners. The other type of Sangha refers to an individual or individuals who have gained a realization of Emptiness and Bodhicitta, altruism. The Sangha that serves as an object of refuge is the latter.
Bodhicitta is the sincere unselfish desire to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. In order for one to fully generate Bodhicitta, it is necessary for one to understand the nature of the different kinds of suffering from which living beings need to be liberated. One also needs to recognize that Enlightenment is the true means by which one can help all sentient beings.
The Four Immeasurables
1. Loving kindness—a mental state characterized by a sincere wish that others enjoy happiness. This serves as an antidote to hatred.
2. Compassion—a natural feeling of empathy in which one takes the responsibility of liberating all sentient beings from suffering. This serves as an antidote to anger.
3. Joy—a sincere wish that others meet with the causes of happiness and that they never be separated from the causes of happiness. This serves as an antidote for jealousy.
4. Equanimity—a mental state free from attachment and aversion in which we see all sentient beings as equal, and we do not hold some closer or more distant than others. This serves as an antidote for discrimination.
One should generate these states in a single-pointed and sincere way, from the very depth of one’s heart, so that one really feels what one is practicing and not just saying dry words and “going through the motions” of the four immeasurables. The most important aspect of this practice is to hold these aspirations in one’s mind even when one’s practice is “over.” One should remember and try to carry out these four aspirations in all of one’s interactions with others. It is then that the practice becomes sincere, meaningful, and truly beneficial. It then “works” when one is in the meditation room or out in the crazy world. Through practice, the four immeasurables will become automatic, spontaneous, not requiring any conscious effort to generate. Even though one may not have arrived at this point yet, when we try to truly practice the four immeasurables, we will find that they help protect our minds in challenging situations, where anger, etc. might normally arise. They bring our mind back to a state of calm and peace. (Practice, practice, practice! It is all about practice, please.)
The Prayer of Seven Limbs and Mandala Offering
The practice of the seven limbs prayer and the Mandala offering are the most effective method for the accumulation of Merit (positve energy) and for the purification of negativities and obscurations (which prevent one from reaching Buddhahood or Enlightenment).
The Mandala Offering
One should visualize Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Enlightened beings in front of oneself. And then imagine that the entire Universe is transformed into a paradise, which one then offers to them. Imagine that they accept your offerings with delight and emanate light from their heart. This light dissolves into one’s own heart, eliminating one’s own negative qualities as well as those of other sentient beings (such as grasping, clinging, longing) and bringing about positive qualities (such as the understanding of Emptiness, the development of Bodhicitta, and Compassion), thereby planting the seed of Enlightenment there. Take a moment to rejoice within oneself.
Shamata meditation is calm-abiding or single-pointed meditation. The purpose of Shamata meditation is to help one overcome inner problems caused by one’s negative emotions and helps to bring inner peace. Because our mental problems are due to the mind itself, we can never find a cure in the physical world and must work to change ourselves. The ultimate goal of shamata meditation is to go beyond the experiences of the ordinary material world and to destroy our fundamental mental confusion that arises from our inability to see things as they truly exist, as they really are. Right now, in our confusion, we see things the way they appear to our mind. Because the appearance of things does not hold the truth and is not the way they are in reality, an incongruity exists — the appearance of things and the reality of things do not match — and we are led to confusion, anger, disappointment, unrealistic expectations, etc.
There are two essential ingredients of shamata: mental clarity and stability. Clarity is when the mind is free from haziness, heaviness, dullness, numbness, and sleepiness. Stability is when the mind is completely free from mental distractions and wandering, agitation, and excitement. While we are in meditation, we must cultivate these qualities with our full power and maintain this state for as long as one can. If we are just sitting in the physical posture of meditation without working on strengthening our clarity and stability with single-pointed focus, we are not really meditating we are like a hen sitting on her eggs! If one finds oneself doing one of the following three, then one is definitely not meditating and is just wasting time:
1. If one is sitting and thinking about their physical discomfort, such as “my legs are hurting” and “my foot is getting numb,” or when one is distracted by sound, for example,” who just shut the door?,” or “was that a telephone I just heard?,” or when one is thinking about the temperature in the room, such as “Wow, it’s incredibly hot in here. Why didn’t somebody turn on the air conditioner?”
2. If one’s mind is full of fantasies, images, memories, anxiety, worry, fear, or expectation.
3. If one’s mind is blank, numb, dull, sleepy, with no sense of alertness and freshness.
An individual is engaging in meditation when his or her mind is free from these three states and can maintain their focus single-pointedly on their object of meditation with some degree of clarity and stability.
An object of meditation is the object on which one is fixing their attention. It may be anything—one’s breath, an image of Buddha, a syllable, a sound, a point of light, Impermanence, Emptiness, etc. If one is using an image of the Buddha as an object of meditation, one should not imagine it as a statue made out of metal, etc., but rather one should imagine that it is a living, breathing Buddha in front of oneself. One should visualize the object being the size of one’s thumb. It should be imagined as being very dense and also very bright. Imagining the object as being dense helps the meditator overcome mental excitements, and imagining it as being radiant helps prevent mental dullness or sluggishness. Once one has chosen an object of meditation, one should not change objects until one has accomplished shamata meditation. Sometimes when one is meditating, he or she may notice that their object of meditation changes in size or color or position, but one should not follow this alteration of the image, but should instead bring the mind back to the original image.
When one is meditating, he or she will most likely find that they are not able to hold the entire image of their object of meditation in mind, but visualize instead parts of their image more clearly than the rest of it. Be satisfied with resting the mind on these parts which appear more vividly, rather than trying to force the mind to get the whole image. This will only prove frustrating. Once the mind becomes more stable and confident, one can try to hold the whole image in one’s mind by gradually expanding or widening one’s focus.
Sometimes when one is meditating, he or she will find that there are sounds in their environment which have the potential to disturb the mind. It is best not to pay attention to these sounds, because it is only then that they have the capacity to disturb the mind. The sound should only pass through one’s mind like the wind — there, then gone. Or one can imagine that one perceives the sound as a young child would without judgment. He or she merely hears the sound.
Initially, one should strive for mental stability and later, clarity. Once one has reached a certain degree of stability and clarity, one should try to intensify the stability and clarity equally until one has achieved the effortless single-pointed concentration accompanied by mental and physical suppleness.
Mantra is a Sanskrit word which is composed of two separate words, “mana” and “tra”. “Mana” means “mind” and “tra” means “protection.” Mantra, therefore means “Protection of the mind.” The mind is protected from the disturbances of negative emotions as well as protected from ordinary appearances and grasping.
According to Deity Yoga practice, when one is meditating on a deity and reciting the mantra of the deity, the mantra helps one to overcome the ordinary sense of “I” and instead to maintain divine pride and to see every appearance as pure.
Reciting mantras acts as a kind of water or air filter, in which the debris or negativities of body, speech, and mind are caught, allowing for a purer, more refined state of body, speech, and mind to exist, eventually culminating in the most refined state, that of the Enlightened Being. Or one could say that reciting mantras functions as a kind of vitamin for the mind, nourishing it and deepening one’s spiritual understanding, particularly of Emptiness. It helps to cease the negativities of mind, purifying those negativities already existing within the mind and diminishing those which are on the verge of manifesting.
There are hundreds of mantras in Buddhism and each one has its own particular benefits and functions, but the following is a list of the benefits of mantras in general.
1. They help to develop spiritual realization and spiritual qualities.
2. They help to sharpen one’s intellect.
3. They help to deepen one’s wisdom.
4. They help to increase the power of memory.
5. They help to increase the clarity or lucidity of mind.
6. They help one overcome negative hindrances.
7. They help one achieve temporary benefits such as long life, good health, prosperity, etc.
In order for one to achieve all the benefits of reciting mantras, one’s spiritual practice must be motivated by genuine Compassion and nourished by the understanding of Emptiness.
Dedication has three functions:
1. It is a means to protect one’s merit or virtues so that they cannot be destroyed through anger or other negative states of mind or actions.
2. It enhances one’s merits or virtues, making them more powerful and causing them to multiply.
3. Because one is directing one’s merit or goodness for the benefit of all sentient beings, the merit cannot be extinguished by one experiencing its positive result in the mundane world. Nor can the merit be extinguished before one reaches full Enlightenment.
In order for the dedication to be pure, one must remain in a calm and single-pointed state of mind, clearly recognizing that there will be no room for one to experience a state of everlasting peace as long as one is under the influence of Karma and delusion. One’s dedication should be directly motivated by a genuine feeling of Compassion, and one should recognize that one is seeking Enlightenment as a means of being of most benefit to all sentient beings.