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The Eight Auspicious Signs
Translated with commentary by Lama Zopa Rinpoche; paintings of the eight auspicious signs by Gelek Sherpa.

Probably many of us do not know how important these eight auspicious signs are and how they affect our lives. They can be used externally to help with one’s own success as well as with the FPMT organization to be successful in benefiting others and working for the teachings of the Buddha. Putting these eight auspicious signs around everywhere, outside and also inside the rooms, makes things very auspicious. It is not necessary to put all eight together, and they don’t all need to be in the same place. They can be placed separately at different locations, but you should have all of them.

The eight auspicious signs are the

umbrellayellow fishvaselotuswhite conch shellglorious peu1 banner Dharma chakraHere is the meaning of these eight auspicious signs according to my root guru, His Holiness Trijang Dorje Chang’s explanation.2

1. The precious umbrella saves us from all this life’s obstacles – such as sicknesses, contagious diseases, spirit possessions, interferers and so forth – and also from the next life’s obstacles – the sufferings of the three evil-gone-ones,3 of the devas, human beings and so forth. It saves us completely from being tormented by the heat of both temporary and long-term sufferings. It has the dependent arising of giving the extended joy of a cooling shadow of peace and happiness.

2. The yellow fish. Fish swim as they like without fear in the ocean. Like that [the yellow fish] is a dependent arising for oneself and others to run and enjoy freely with no resistance from happiness to happiness without fear of drowning in the oceans of suffering.

3. The vase of great treasure is a dependent arising that brings unceasingly all desired things, the fortune of a glorious life, enjoyments and so forth in the three realms of existence (the desire, form and formless realms) and peace (liberation from samsara).

4. The lotus is a dependent arising that frees us from all the stains of mistakes – the non-virtues of body, speech and mind. The abundant blossoming of a hundred petals of white virtue brings an abundance of the good essence of honey – everlasting happiness, definite goodness (liberation and the state of omniscient mind).

5. The white conch shell swirling clockwise is a dependent arising announcing the sweet melody of the profound and extensive Dharma that fits the elements, level of mind and wishes of sentient beings who are the objects to be subdued. It awakens transmigratory beings from the ignorant sleep of unknowing and persuades them to accomplish works for the benefit and happiness of themselves and others.

6. The glorious peu is a dependent arising for Dharma and politics to utilize and support each other in one continuous connection. Like that, at the time of the path, method and wisdom connect by being unified with each other; emptiness and dependent arising are connected in one without contradiction. At the time of the resultant state of buddha, omniscience and compassion are unified.

7. The banner is a dependent arising for the activities of one’s own three doors and those of others not be stepped upon by obstacles or disharmonious conditions but to be victorious and for the precious teachings of the Buddha to be victorious in the war over the black side, the types of maras.

8. The golden Dharmachakra is a dependent arising for the precious wheel of the holy Dharma, the scriptures and realizations of the Victorious One, to turn unceasingly in the whole universe. In dependence upon that, all those who are reborn and degenerating (samsaric beings who are continually being reborn and dying under the control of karma and delusion) apply themselves to the most glorious virtue, total liberation.

Wherever these eight auspicious signs exist, there will be the dependent arising of increasing the virtue of auspiciousness.

Colophon: Dictated by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche to Ven. Sarah Thresher at Root Institute, Bodhgaya, India, February 4, 2014. Edited with the help of Losang Hursthouse.

1. Skt. Srivatsa. Rinpoche has not translated this because it is not clear exactly how it should be translated. It is usually referred to as the “unending knot” but this is not the literal meaning of the words.

2. Translated from Gomde Lharampa Geshe Thubten Samdrup’s Dictionary published by Sherig Parkhang, 2005.

3. This is a literal translation of ngän-song sum, which means the three lower realms.

Caption: The white conch shell, painted by Gelek Sherpa

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HIS HOLINESS THE 17T HKARMAPA fled Tibet/China for India at age Fifteen: Photos from the time quite immediately after his arrival in Dharamsala
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Magical Nectar: Advice for a Disciple
by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche

Gracious Lord of all the Buddha Families,
The nature and embodiment of every refuge,
To you, the Lotus-Born, my jeweled crown, I bow in homage!

If I were to instruct others in the excellent way, who on earth would listen? For I am wholly without discrimination and cannot be a guide even for myself! Still, you see me with pure vision and you did ask. So rather than being a disappointment, I will say a few things as they come to mind.

All success, great and small, whether in spiritual or temporal affairs, derives from your stock of merit. So never neglect even the slightest positive deed. Just do it. In the same way, don’t dismiss your little faults as unimportant; just restrain yourself! Make an effort to accumulate merit: make offerings and give in charity. Strive with a good heart to do everything that benefits others. Follow in the footsteps of the wise and examine finely everything you do. Do not be the slave of unexamined fashions. Be sparing with your words. Be thoughtful rather, and examine situations carefully. For the roots of discrimination must be nourished: the desire to do all that should be done and to abandon all that should be abandoned.

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Compassion and the Individual
by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama


One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life? I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. I don't know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's 82nd Birthday

May His Holiness remains in good health and have a long life to keep turning the wheel of dharma to benefit countless sentient beings. May the true dharma propagated by His Holiness spread far and wide and may his wishes swiftly be attained.
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When you do things, then obstacles will come and you can go through them. Obstacles are a sign of success.

-- His Holiness 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

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One who has the Mahayana family cultivates bodhicitta, receives teachings from masters, and makes effort in the virtues until the heat of wisdom is attained. During this time, progress is classified in four stages: realisation, aspiration, greater aspiration, and achievement. Why is this called the path of accumulation? Because on it, one gathers the accumulations of virtue in order to become a vessel for the realisation of heat and so forth. Therefore, it is called the path of accumulation.

These are also called the root virtues which are similar to liberation. At this stage, twelve of the branches of enlightenment are practiced:
A. the four types of mindfulness,
B. the four types of perfect abandonment, and
C. the four feet of miracle powers.

The Four Types of Mindfulness are:
1. sustaining mindfulness of the body,
2. sustaining mindfulness of feelings,
3. sustaining mindfulness of the mind, and
4. sustaining mindfulness of phenomena.

These four occur during the lesser stage of the path of accumulation.

The Four Types of Perfect Abandonment are:
1. abandoning nonvirtues which have been created,
2. not allowing new nonvirtues to be produced,
3. producing the antidotes, virtues which have not arisen, and
4. allowing those virtues which have arisen to increase.

These four occur during the middle stage of the path of accumulation.

The Four Feet of Miracle Powers are:
1. the absorption of strong aspiration,
2. the absorption of perseverance,
3. the absorption of the mind, and
4. the absorption of investigation.

These four occur during the greater stage of the path of accumulation.

-- Gampopa

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【The Qualities of the Gyalwa Karmapa】

Today we began the recitation of Karmapa Khyenno, which is the invocation of the blessing, and the invocation of the compassion, and the invocation of all the activities of the Buddha, in the name of the great master who is the manifestation of the activity of all the Buddhas, the Gyalwa Karmapa.

It is the aspiration of this center, this foundation, and this founder, I personally feel great blessing of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and the Gyalwa Karmapa, in order to be part of this sincere, genuine, pure effort, and this aspiration will bring a lot of happiness, and it will develop pure wisdom in each and everyone who will participate.

For the beginning of these prayer sessions, I like to share with you a very sacred teaching, this is about the qualities of Gyalwa Karmapa. And the qualities of the Gyalwa Karmapa are immeasurable and limitless. They were summarized into 15 particulars by his Guru, the XIIth Khenting Tai Situpa:

1.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of all the activities of the past, present and future Buddhas of all directions. All directions are described as the 10 directions.

2.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the source of all the 84,000 Dharmas, which manifested as part of the enlightenment of the Buddha Sakyamuni. In the same way, a manifestation of the source of all the limitless immeasurable teachings of the Buddhas of the three times. The past Buddhas, the present Buddhas and the future Buddhas.

3.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the Supreme Master, the Supreme Lord of all the Sangha, which means the ordinary Sangha, as well as the extraordinary Sangha. The extraordinary Sangha are the Bodhisattvas. Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, whose manifestation is the Gyalwa Karmapa, is the father of all the Bodhisattvas and the father of all the Buddhas. This is so because without the compassion, which is represented by Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, there will be no Buddha, there will be no Sangha, therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the supreme master, the supreme lord of all the Sangha.

4.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the lord of all beings, because all sentient beings need protection. There is not one sentient being who does not need protection, and there is nothing that can protect them without compassion. So the embodiment of compassion is the protector of all beings, the lord of all beings.

5.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the father and mother of all sentient beings, the parent of all sentient beings. The parent nurtures the child and brings up the maturity of the child step by step, from a very helpless and innocent newborn to a fully matured, self-standing, capable adult. In this way the Gyalwa Karmapa, the embodiment of compassion, is the father and mother who matures all sentient beings… that is from ignorant sentient beings to enlightened sentient beings that are equal to him, equal to Avalokiteshvara, equal to Buddha. So he will bring each and every one of the sentient beings to his own level of realization, the level of realization, which is the Buddha’s realization.

6.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the sailor who sails the ship across the ocean of Samsara, liberating sentient beings from the sufferings of the ocean of Samsara. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the sailor who sails them from danger to safety. So he is the great Bodhisattva, who is like a sailor.

7.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the shepherd, who takes care of his herd. When his herd needs water, the shepherd will take it to the water, when it needs to be grazed, the shepherd will lead it to the grassland, and when it needs shade, he will take the herd to a shady place, when it needs sun, he will bring it to the sun, when it is threatened and endangered by predators, the shepherd will protect the herd. The same way Gyalwa Karmapa protects all sentient beings from the suffering of Samsara, so he is the shepherd.

8.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the healer, the medicine man, and the doctor. When all sentient beings are suffering with the sickness of the three poisons: ignorance, attachment and anger, the Gyalwa Karmapa with great, limitless compassion heals them of this suffering, these three poisons. He is the healer, the medicine man, and the doctor.

9.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the moon. The moon is cooling. When sentient beings are suffering and burning with defilements, the Gyalwa Karmapa is the moon that shines and leads them from the suffering of the heat of the defilements.

10.The Gyalwa Karmapa is like the sun. When sentient beings are suffering from lack of discrimination, the basic ignorance of all sentient beings to grasp at an ego, a self, called dualistic grasping, they are blind, they cannot see - they cannot see what is good for them, they cannot see what is bad for them, they cannot see what is good for others and bad for others. Therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the sun that shines and allows every sentient being to see what is right and what is wrong, and finally overcome the deep shadow of this ignorance, this grasping at a self.

11.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the friend and companion who will help and assist anybody to do good, anybody who wishes to overcome their pain, their suffering and their shortcomings. He is the friend who assists and helps them. To those who wish to do good, and those who wish to progress, the Gyalwa Karmapa is the friend and companion who will assist and help them to achieve those wonderful, noble aspirations.

12.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the ocean of Gurus. Because the Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that is what makes the master. The Master by definition is one who transmits the precious lineage of Lord Buddha's teaching, which is derived from limitless compassion. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the ocean of all the masters - the master of the lineage, the master of the enlightenment of Buddha Sakyamuni, as well as the master of the enlightenment itself, which includes the master of the Buddha Sakyamuni himself.

13.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the crown deity of all the oceans of deities. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the activity of the Buddhas. All of the deities are the activities of the Buddha, as the Sambhogakaya of the Buddha. Therefore the source of all the deities is the enlightenment of the Buddha. Enlightenment of the Buddha is the fulfilment of the Buddha's aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. That is limitless compassion; therefore the Gyalwa Karmapa is the crown jewel of the ocean of deities.

14.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the Lord of the ocean of protectors. All the protectors, the Dakas and Dakinis, all are there to fulfil the activities of the Buddha. The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the activities of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All the protectors, all the Dakas, all the Dakinis are there to fulfil the activity of the Buddha, and the Gyalwa Karmapa is the master, the lord of all the protectors, the ocean of protectors. These three above particulars (12-14) are known as the three oceans: The ocean of the Guru, the ocean of the deities, and the ocean of the protectors.

15.The Gyalwa Karmapa is the embodiment of the great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The great Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara has taken the vow to not attain Buddhahood until all sentient beings are liberated from the suffering of Samsara and have attained Buddhahood. Therefore, until the last sentient beings have attained Buddhahood, the Gyalwa Karmapa’s activity will continue, and his manifestation, in the form of limitless compassion, will continue.

【Tai Situ Rinoche's Conclusion】

This is a very simple way to describe the limitless immeasurable qualities and immeasurable definitions of the Gyalwa Karmapa.

This is like trying to describe the limitless space by describing the space in our own hand, which is very limited, although it somehow describes, because space in our own hand is consistent of the qualities of the limitless space itself. So this simple way, in fifteen particulars of the Gyalwa Karmapa's limitless qualities are briefly and simply described.

We as individuals are very fortunate. We are tremendously fortunate to be part of the mandala of the Gyalwa Karmapa's activity, because through the activities of the Gyalwa Karmapa, which is the activity of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, all sentient beings will be liberated from the suffering of Samsara and attain enlightenment. This fortunate situation will be truly meaningful if we can practise and implement what the Gyalwa Karmapa is, which is limitless compassion.

Try your best to sincerely generate limitless compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. There is only one way, as far as we are concerned, that we can generate the limitless compassion, and that is to sincerely vow:

May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood.

There cannot be anything more limitless than that. Only one thing will be more limitless, and that is to vow: May I assist all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood, and may I be the last one to attain Buddhahood when all sentient beings have attained Buddhahood. That is what Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva vowed. So we try to follow in the footsteps of our master and of the aspiration of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

All of these particular points which describe the Gyalwa Karmapa, for example when it says, he is the sun, he is the moon, he is the medicine, it does not mean literally that he is like the sun or the moon or the medicine.

It is the compassion of the Buddha, which manifests in the form of medicine that heals the suffering of the sentient beings. It is the compassion of Buddha which manifests in the form of the sun that shines. So in that way the Gyalwa Karmapa is the sun, the moon, the medicine, etc. As a human being the Gyalwa Karmapa will manifest until the last sentient being attains Buddhahood.

In these particular incarnations that are manifesting one after the other and are according to prophecy of the Buddha Shakyamuni and of Guru Rinpoche, according to these prophecies the last incarnation of the Gyalwa Karmapa will predict and point out and direct us, the disciples to the next incarnation. And this will continue, according to Guru Rinpoche's prophecy, until the last sentient being attains Buddhahood.

Particularly, twenty-one incarnations are prophesized one after another. Even the names and the descriptions were given by Guru Rinpoche.

The present seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, according to the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche and according to the sacred letter and sacred prophecy, the relics of the Karma Kagyu lineage and also according to Buddhism at large, His Holiness is right now* living at Tsurphu [also writtenTsuripu] Monastery, and his sacred name is Urgyen Trinley Dorje. His name is long and the middle part of the name prophesized by Guru Rinpoche is Urgyen Trinley Dorje.

We are all very fortunate that we have this great connection and are part of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa.

This will continue until twenty-one Karmapas, which is in the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche by the name and by the description. [But] We should never have the misunderstanding that Gyalwa Karmapa's incarnations will stop at twenty-one, the Gyalwa Karmapa's incarnations will continue until the last sentient being becomes enlightened. They will continue forever, in that sense.

Even the qualities of the dust, in which Karmapa's foot stepped, the blessing and quality of that dust, I will not be able to comprehend. But because of the lineage, some of his qualities can be presented and taught in these fifteen points.

The group recitation of the Gyalwa Karmapa guru yoga is very important and meaningful in the Buddhist lineage, because when you are in a group and you sincerely recite or do something good and positive, then everybody's merit and wisdom is common.

In the Tibetan language, there is a particular vocabulary that describes this, which means that when all of us together, as one like-minded group are doing something positive together, then we are sharing the merit, the benefit and the wisdom together. So in that way, for one person to chant a lot of numbers of prayers will take a long time, but in a group, if we sincerely and happily pray together, then everybody shares everybody's merit.

This is not a kind of excuse that each one of us cannot do a lot, but this is a quality in itself, it has its own merit, it has its quality. Sincerely, one-minded, sincere to each other, happy with each other and pure together, we unite our force, and in that way, each and every one of us receives the merit of everybody. It is not only that each and every one of us shares our merit with everybody. So it is one of the traditional ways to pray, in a group this is very, very meaningful, there is so much quality and benefit in this. You are sharing your prayers with everyone so that everyone gets the merit and benefits of everyone.

~ A teaching by H. E. Tai Situ Rinpoche in Taipei, Taiwan on November 9, 1999

(Image by lilyfafaa)

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