Chenrezig Empowerment for the Tibetan Community at Thrangu Monastery

Power from the Declaration of Truth

——A Chenrezig Empowerment

Time & Date: 2:00-4:00PM, Sunday, June 18, 2017
Location: Thrangu Monastery Canada
Tibetan to English: Khenpo Karma Choephel

The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa’s first public teaching in Vancouver was organized by the Karma Kagyu Association of Canada, and co-organized by the Tibetan Cultural Society of British Columbia.  It took place on June 18th at Thrangu Monastery Canada.

After the abbot of Thrangu Monastery Canada, Dungse Lama Pema, invited His Holiness onto the throne, the afternoon began with a recitation of the “Mahamudra Lineage Aspiration Prayer”.  Before the empowerment commenced, the co-organizer shared a short welcoming speech and made offerings to the Gyalwang Karmapa.  Throughout this event, His Holiness gave explanations at each stage and spoke briefly of their significance.  Found below is the entirety of His Holiness’ teaching for this Chenrezig empowerment.

Chenrezig: The Embodiment of all the Compassion of all the Buddhas

     Yesterday, there are primarily Tibetans from the Tibetan association of British Columbia, as well Tibetans from different areas, and people of many other nationalities have gathered here.  This afternoon I will give the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara.

     Pretty much all Buddhists know who Avalokiteshvara is; in general, the embodiment who contains all the compassion of all the Buddhas.  He represents the compassion and loving kindness of all the Buddhas in the form of a deity.  So he takes the form of a bodhisattva but in actuality is a Buddha.

Angulimala’s Words of Truth

The empowerment today is for the mantra, or the dharani of Avalokiteshvara.  There are many names you can call it by, but what it means is that we are emphasizing the practice of the Six-Syllable Mantra of Avalokiteshvara.  So this gives you the permission or initiation to practice.

Sometimes mantras are called the “declaration of truth”, or “words of truth”.  This is how the word mantrais sometimes translated in Chinese.  The reason for this is found in the Sutra of the Sravakas (listener disciples of the Buddha); it says even at the time of the Buddha, there are such declarations of truth.  There is this story of Angulimala, after he has gone forth and become ordained.  One day, he is going for alms, he sees a pregnant woman having great difficulty giving birth.  He is unable to do anything to help her, so he goes back to the Buddha and explains the situation about the pregnant woman.  The Buddha instructs Angulimala to go back and say to the woman, “since the time I have gone forth, I have not killed anyone”.  Because before becoming a monk, Angulimala has killed many people; but since that time, he has not killed anyone.  Then, he should make the aspiration, “if this was true, by the power of the truth, may she be able to give birth easily”.  Angulimala returns to the woman to make the prayer as instructed, and because of this declaration of truth, she is able to give birth easily.  So this “declaration of truth” is, in one way, the declaration of something as it is— it is not falsehood, but honest.

The Six-Syllable Mantra: Power from a Lasting Commitment

So the Six-Syllable Mantra (om mani padme hung) of Avalokiteshvara is like the name of Avalokiteshvara.  How is it that this becomes a declaration of truth?  From the day he first arouse bodhicitta, Avalokiteshvara has become a bodhisattva.  That day onward, until now, he has always acted in accordance to his promise– to bring benefit and happiness to all sentient beings.  He has made this unchanging, unflagging commitment. And because he has kept that commitment as he has promised, his name has, in this way, become a mantra— a declaration of truth, which represents the unchanging, stable, lasting nature of his commitment.

Because there is not much time, there will not be any further explanation, the empowerment will follow.

Supplication, Refuge, and Bodhicitta

First, is a supplication to receive the empowerment.

(His Holiness recites transmission)

Next, we have refuge, bodhicitta and the Four Immeasurables.  In going for refuge, we generally go for refuge to the Three Jewels.  Here particularly, we go for refuge to Avalokiteshvara as the embodiment or essence of the Three Jewels.  Bodhicitta is, in general, the wish to bring all sentient beings to the state of Buddhahood.  Also in particular here, in order to bring all sentient beings to Buddhahood, the commitment and wish to practice the sadhana of Avalokiteshvara.  So in this way, it is not only aspirational bodhicitta, but also engaged bodhicitta.  Then, as a support for bodhicitta, there is the recitation of the Four Immeasurables.

(His Holiness recites transmission)

Body Empowerment: You are the Bodhisattva

Next are the initiations of the body, speech and mind of Avalokiteshvara.  First, the initiation of the body of Avalokiteshvara is giving you permission to meditate upon yourself as the body of Avalokiteshvara.

The reason it is important for us to meditate upon ourselves as the body of Avalokiteshvara, is that we no longer limit ourselves by seeing ourselves as ordinary beings.  When we think of ourselves as being Avalokiteshvara, the nature of compassion, this gives us encouragement and enthusiasm.  In particular, when we are meditating upon ourselves as Avalokiteshvara, then it is difficult to get angry. When you are thinking of yourself as the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, getting angry would be a little embarrassing.  So we think of Avalokiteshvara as the embodiment of all the compassion of all the Buddhas combined into one.  When you have that pride, then we feel a little differently then we did before, we have greater confidence.

The main thing with Avalokiteshvara, is that initially he was an ordinary being just like ourselves.  Then he developed bodhicitta– great compassion– and because of that, he became Avalokiteshvara.  We are the same, the capacity for us to develop compassion, loving kindness and affection for other sentient beings is innately present with us from birth.  It is naturally present.  If we are able to take that and improve it, increase that capacity,  then we can become like Avalokiteshvara.  For this reason it is important that we have courage; we need to have the confidence we can do this.

Avalokiteshvara is not just a sacred being, someone who is worthy of veneration, prostrations and offerings.  We need to know, actually, Avalokiteshvara is an example of what we can develop into, of how we can follow the path.  Otherwise, it is difficult to say we have that same capacity as Avalokiteshvara.  So it is important we do not think Avalokiteshvara as an object of our meditation; but instead, we think of him as the subject of ourselves, and it is important to have this motivation.

So in order to become like Avalokiteshvara, we need to meditate upon ourselves as being Avalokiteshvara.  The main thing here is to visualize yourself as Avalokiteshvara.

(His Holiness recites transmission)

Speech Empowerment

Next is the initiation of the speech.  This is the initiation which gives you permission to practice the Six-Syllable Mantra of om mani padme hung.

(His Holiness recites transmission, then leads chanting of Six-Syllable Mantra)

Mind Empowerment: Pouring Water into Water

Next is the initiation of the mind of Avalokiteshvara.  This means that we rest in equipoise, inseparable from the wisdom of Avalokiteshvara’s mind.

The mind of the Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteshvara, is non-dual wisdom.  And the essence of all sentient being, of all of us, isBuddha Nature.  In terms of the essence, they are all the same. There is no distinction of one being better and the other worse.  For that reason, it is not as if the wisdom mind of Avalokiteshvara is one thing, and our own regular mind is something else.  It is like pouring water into water.  So, here, what we need to do is rest in equipoise, in meditation upon the meaning of this nature, while remembering the way that the Dharma expanse— the nature of things– actually is.   So resting this way, here, is the initiation of the mind.

(His Holiness recites transmission)

Daily Recitation: Finding Harmony Between the Mind and the Speech

That completes the empowerment for the body, speech and mind of Avalokiteshvara.  And if you do the practice of the Six-Syllable Mantra of om mani padme hung everyday, without missing a day, then you will receive the benefits as they are described in the texts.

But the main thing is, merely reciting the mantra orally is not enough. That does not help.  Actually, the mantra we recite orally and what we think in our minds need to match, they need to be in harmony. Otherwise, our Dharma practice is specious, it is fake Dharma practice.  When we look at it from the outside, it may seem like we are practising Dharma, but in actuality we are not.  And there is no point to practising like that.  So the most important is that, what we do orally and what we think mentally are in harmony.

Compassion does not end at Sympathy

The compassion that we talk about in Buddhism, is not merely the sympathy, empathy, or pity that we usually have.  The compassion that is taught in the Dharma is a stronger compassion than normal.  It is more involved, it is more dedicated.  We do not see the individual for whom we are having compassion, and the individual who is having compassion as being separate.  So it is not as if the person who has compassion or pity is in a good position, the other person is in a desperate situation and we are having pity on them.  It is not like that. Instead, it is like the compassion for the other person becomes a part of ourselves.  We become the nature of that compassion, so we are able to give ourselves over to it, and fully dedicate ourselves to it.  For that reason we are able to take the responsibility and mentally bear the burden of it.  So this compassion is not merely a feeling, an idea, or understanding.  It is not merely the prayer or aspiration, “may it be so” or “may this person be better off”. What is critical, is that our compassion be something that we actually put into practice, or that it is related with what we actually do in our lives.

Compassion is Putting into Action and Actually Benefiting Others

Sometimes people get a little suspicious and have questions.  They wonder, “well, Avalokiteshvara has four arms, so how can his shoulders be? How can they possibly be constructed.”  Even more over the Avalokiteshvara with a thousand arms and a thousand eyes.  Actually, this is not so important.  The main thing is that, whether he appears in four arms or a thousand arms, it is showing that in terms of actual practice, he is more involved and more dedicated.  So it is representing that a single set of arms is not enough.  So more arms symbolize he has more connections and more dedication to bringing benefit to other sentient beings.

Sometimes, I have the feeling myself.  Now, I am not Avalokiteshvara, of course, but I try to do as much as I can for other people.  Sometimes, I feel that just one single person is not enough to bring benefit to all sentient beings.  So as one person with only two arms, what can I do? It seems to me what I need to be able to do is to create an emanation in front of every single sentient being to be able to do what they wish, what would help them.  And only then, will I be able to benefit them.  Otherwise, as ordinary individuals with only two arms, it is difficult to actually bring benefit to all sentient beings.

This is, I think, why when Milarepa arouse compassion he said, “developing compassion feels like being thrust into a pit of fire.”  The feeling of compassion is so intense, it is like you were surrounded by a fire.  It is as unbearable as fire.  This is the feeling of overwhelming, unbearable compassion.  This is how our compassion should feel.  Sometimes, when we think we have compassion for other people, we just say, “oh, the poor thing!”  And we leave it at that.  There is not impetus.  There is no power to this at all, and it does not benefit.

(His Holiness recites transmission)


His Holiness’ teaching during the empowerment has thus come to an end. Following which, the co-organizer made another offering and a thank you speech to His Holiness.  Finally, His Holiness gave a talk especially addressed to the Tibetan community before concluding this event.