DJKR Teachings on Aspiration: Taipei 2016 / Hong Kong 2021 / Bodh Gaya 2023 / Vancouver 2024 Alex Li Trisoglio: 9-Week Review 2024

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

Aspiration (Taipei 2016)

Public teaching on Samantabhadra’s King of Aspiration Prayers (Ārya-Bhadracaryā-Praṇidhāna-Rāja)
Given at Jie Shou Memorial Hall, Taipei
November 30-December 1, 2016

Day 1: Video (97 minutes), Transcript
Day 2: Video (85 minutes), Transcript

Note 1: This is an edited transcript of a live teaching, and should not be taken as Rinpoche’s final word. Every effort has been made to ensure that this transcript is accurate both in terms of words and meaning, however all errors and misunderstandings are the responsibility of the editors of Please see note.

Note 2: This transcript includes footnotes with clarifications and more information about Tibetan and Sanskrit Buddhist terms used in the teaching. Please click on the superscript number to read the footnote. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s name is abbreviated to “DJKR” throughout.

Day 1

1. Introduction


I shall remind myself to expound this with the motivation of benefiting as many sentient beings as possible. And, likewise, I also request you to listen to this so that you will benefit as many sentient beings as possible. I shall also invoke the blessings of all the Buddhas of the past, present and future to be present here now. I shall especially invoke Samantabhadra Bodhisattva to bless this occasion, wherever he may be. Whether he is in Tushita heaven or somewhere in Sichuan — he could arrive here in a metro or riding an elephant — but we invoke him, we invoke his presence [to be here] now.

Aspiration is the most important element of the bodhisattva path

And this is because we are going to talk about [aspiration, which is] the most important element of the Bodhisattva path. I say this is the most important because aspiration is something that beings like you and me can do and are able to do. Now and then, we can talk about profound subjects such as shunyata. We may even try to meditate on shunyata. We may even try not to dwell on the past, not to dwell on the future, and to be present and here. But we also know that this is not that easy, because our addiction to go to the past and the future is just so strong that remaining in the present is almost impossible. But there’s something that beings like you and I do, which is we wish. We human beings especially are full of wishes. Hoping, wishing, expectation are almost like our second nature. So let us use this habit of wishing, expecting and aspiring, [and make] this habit into something profound and meaningful — something that is meaningful not just for myself but for all sentient beings. 

We know that sometimes we can benefit people practically — giving food, shelter, even a simple hug. But to give shelter and food to even a hundred people, let alone all sentient beings, is difficult. And we may never be able to hug every sentient being. We just don’t have that kind of appetite anyway. Some of them have a really bad smell. So to really, practically do something — application, action — is still very difficult for young aspiring bodhisattvas like us. [Whereas] again, aspiration is something we can do. 

Love, compassion, kindness are very, very wholesome thoughts. And yes, we must have [them], but to have love and compassion continuously is difficult, because sentient beings are difficult to please. Even [wanting to please just] one sentient being, maybe you can please [them] in the morning, but by afternoon, the same sentient being could be annoyed with you. And to please one or two sentient beings may be easy, but to please many, [let alone] everyone is difficult. And at this stage [as young aspiring bodhisattvas], if we try to please everyone, [we] will end up making ourselves suffer. So here again, aspiring to love, to have compassion, to be kind, is something that we can do. 

Aspiration is economical, and it does not require team work, which is a very good thing. Aspiration is humbling. It creates humility. And that’s really, really important for a human being. Because humility is the key to dignity, confidence, beauty, [and having a] magnetising, majestic quality. All of this comes from humility. And here again, aspiration brings this humility. Because when you pray, when you aspire, you are acknowledging that you don’t yet have what you are praying for. So these are some of the many reasons why aspiration is the most important, most profound, and most vast subject that we can talk about, contemplate, and [cultivate].

Appreciating bodhisattva Samantabhadra

We have heard [about the] incredible power of wisdom of Mañjushri. We have heard [about the] incredible quality of compassion of Avalokiteshvara. We have heard often about the power and strength of Vajrapani. After hearing [about] the greatness of aspiration, I hope we will begin to appreciate Samantabhadra bodhisattva. Because actually, how many people really want to have wisdom? But a lot of people want their wishes to be fulfilled. So in a way, Samantabhadra bodhisattva should be more popular than Mañjushri, because it is Samantabhadra bodhisattva who helps us fulfil wishes. Just his grace, his elegance as he arrives silently riding his giant elephant — all our wishes will be fulfilled. 

And especially — this is something great about Samantabhadra bodhisattva — even if you wish for something so mundane and stupid and mediocre, he has a way to somehow turn this into something profound. If you wish for a long life, which is a very mundane and very mediocre thing to wish for, he will make sure that you live long, but somehow in the course of your longevity, you will then begin to practice the Dharma and benefit sentient beings. Wishes for wealth, success, victory, everything — in one way or another, bodhisattva Samantabhadra transforms them into something meaningful. [And this is] partly because of his own wish [that he made] many, many eons before, when he was just beginning to be a bodhisattva. His wish was to never be enlightened until all sentient beings are enlightened. How selfless can one get? 

So, I consider that I’m fortunate to have this opportunity to share the Samantabhadra prayer tonight and tomorrow. And since we only have tonight, I’m not going to cover this aspiration in order, I’m going to shuffle it a little bit. 

2. The Text: The Pranidhana-Raja (The King of Aspiration Prayers)

The Benefits of Aspiration

First I’m going to talk about the benefit of this aspiration. This is what Samantabhadra has to say [Ed.: the Pranidhana-Raja has 63 verses in four sections, and the verses on the benefits of making aspirations comprise the third section, which starts at verse 47. The verses of the Pranidhana-Raja are in dark red. The English translation, including the outline and headings, is by Lotsawa House. The Chinese root text is from Amitabha Buddhist Center1See Arya-Bhadracharya-Pranidhana-Raja.]:

3. The Benefits of Making Aspirations

3.1. The Benefits of Making Aspirations in General
[47] Whoever hears this king of dedication prayers,
And yearns for supreme enlightenment,
Who even once arouses faith,
Will gain true merit greater still


[48] Than by offering the victorious buddhas
Infinite pure realms in every directions, all ornamented with jewels,
Or offering them all the highest joys of gods and humans
For as many aeons as there are atoms in those realms.


He says, “If someone adorns the whole earth with precious jewels and offers this to the Tathagatas, there must be so much merit. But someone else, upon hearing this aspiration, and then through hearing of this aspiration, if you have even a glimpse of enthusiasm toward the bodhisattva path, the power of [that] virtue is far, far more than offering a jewel-filled earth to the Tathagatas”. And you should never think that this is just a poetic statement. In fact, due to the limitation of human language, I would say this is understatement. The merit of doing an aspiration such as this is [so vast that] it just doesn’t fit in our small mind. And hopefully we can cover this later. But briefly now, the reason [why the merit of this aspiration is infinite] is because the aspiration is based on the grandest view and the grandest motivation.

3.2. The Thirteen Benefits in Detail
[49] Whoever truly makes this Aspiration to Good Actions,
Will never again be born in lower realms;
They will be free from harmful companions, and
Soon behold the Buddha of Boundless Light.


If someone actually aspires according to the Pranidhana-Raja, which is [the Sanskrit name] for this [prayer], this guarantees that this person will abandon all the lower realms. I believe this. Almost to the extent that sometimes I become lazy. But then again, it’s not really laziness [either]. I really believe that because I have prayed and I have also heard the Pranidhana-Raja, I will be okay. This life and next life and [at the time of my] death, I’ll be okay. I’m sure some intellectuals will say I’m just going through some very blind tripping. [Even] so, I will die much more peacefully than them. And trusting this is a blessing of the Buddha. If you are a follower of Mahayana Buddhism and you are a regular visitor to Mount Omeishan2Omeishan (Chinese: 峨眉山; pinyin: Éméi shān) = Mount Emei, see Emeishan., for instance, you should also feel happy. 

Furthermore, he says, those who do this aspiration, they will abandon, they will separate from non-virtuous friends. The reason why [people] are non-virtuous is because they don’t have this kind of aspiration. Your aspiration is big. The moment you have this kind of attitude, you have automatically abandoned this small-minded, petty-minded, non-virtuous friends. And soon you will see Amitabha (the Buddha of Boundless Light). I believe this totally. You know, belief is all we can do. And non-believers believe in their own reasons to not believe. Non-believers blindly believe in their reasons. And if I happen to believe in a grand vision, a grand aspiration, I think it’s much, much better and much more rewarding. 

[50] They will acquire all kind of benefits, and live in happiness;
Even in this present life all will go well,
And before long,
They will become just like Samantabhadra.


The one who has such aspiration will live well. Why? Because you have a grand vision. A little bit of a scratch here, a little bit broken or dented there — that doesn’t bother you any more. I mean, I believe this, but I haven’t managed to completely not worry when things get dented. And this is because I know my aspiration is still not on the practical level. You know, when you have a grand vision, a grand view, a grand plan — a little bit of failure here or there is nothing. So you sleep well. This is why you will live well. If you don’t have a grand vision, if you are thinking of very limited things, then you have so many things to worry about. And we all know we have done quite a lot of [this] worrying business. And it’s not going to end. But the moment you put more emphasis on this grand aspiration, then other [limited things] are not that important. 

[51] All negative acts—even the five of immediate retribution—
Whatever they have committed in the grip of ignorance,
Will soon be completely purified,
If they recite this Aspiration to Good Actions.


This is a big statement, this next one. The force of karma is really, really, really strong. To manipulate, or ideally even to cancel out [the] force of karma — that is usually difficult. But here the Pranidhana-Raja says that if you do this [aspiration], no matter what kind of negative karma you have created, it will all be dispelled. Karma is fundamentally a mental phenomenon. This is what Buddha said, “Everything is cause and condition, and of all the causes and conditions, motivation is the most powerful”. So it’s a mental phenomenon. So generating a grand aspiration immediately manipulates the past, present and future karma.

[52] They will possess perfect wisdom, beauty, and excellent signs,
Be born in a good family, and with a radiant appearance.
Demons and heretics will never harm them,
And all three worlds will honour them with offerings.


Mundane things such as fame, prosperity, and relationships can maybe be achieved through mediocre aspirations, mediocre hopes and wishes. But a bodhisattva is not just looking for these kinds of mundane achievement. A bodhisattva is looking for yeshe3yeshe (Tibetan: ཡེ་ཤེས་, yéshé ; Wylie: ye shes) = wisdom – see yeshe., zuk4zuk (Tibetan: གཟུགས, Wylie: gzugs) = (visual) form, material form – see zuk., tsen nam5tsen nam (Tibetan: མཚན་རྣམས, Wylie: mtshan rnams) = names – see tsen nam., rig6rig (Tibetan: རིགས, Wylie: rigs) = family, clan, race – see rig., and kha dok7kha dok (Tibetan: ཁ་དོག, Wylie: kha dog) = colour, hue, beautiful appearance – see kha dok.. A bodhisattva is aiming for the wisdom of all wisdom. A bodhisattva is aiming for a perfect form, with perfect beauty or perfect marks, so that it can benefit so many sentient beings. A bodhisattva is aiming to belong to a perfect race or perfect family. A bodhisattva is aspiring to have a perfect colour, because the bodhisattva’s aim is to benefit sentient beings. A bodhisattva needs different colours, different shapes, different forms — all these different manifestations that can be used appropriately in different times and situations and with different people. And that can be achieved through the Pranidhana-Raja. And if a bodhisattva is practicing this aspiration, they will not be defeated by any other obstacles, demons, or [followers of] other kind of philosophical systems. Again, because [they have a] grand aspiration. Such a bodhisattva is worthy of veneration by the three worlds. 

[53] They will quickly go beneath the bodhi-tree,
And there, they will sit, to benefit all sentient beings, then
Awaken into enlightenment, turn the wheel of Dharma,
And tame Mara with all his hordes.


This is the most beautiful part. This bodhisattva will soon go to the bodhi tree, and upon reaching the bodhi tree, the bodhisattva will sit under the bodhi tree. After sitting, the bodhisattva will actualise Buddhahood. And after actualising Buddhahood, he will then turn the wheel of the Dharma. And then bodhisattva will vanquish the Maras, including the Maras’ entourage. There are so many stories about this. Actually the Maras, the demons, they are most afraid of somebody who has the grandest aspiration. So if you have a really, really grand aspiration, this is the most scary for the obstacle makers. If your aspiration is small, limited, then there is room [for them] to trick you. 

3.3. The Benefits in Brief
[54] The full result of keeping, teaching, or reading
This Prayer of Aspiration to Good Actions
Is known to the buddhas alone:
Have no doubt: supreme enlightenment will be yours!


To be precise — forget actually doing the aspiration, [in other words] reading and contemplating it. Even if you [just] have the text, a booklet, in your bag or in your pocket, and [you] sort of casually flip through the pages or read it without much concentration, the merit is infinite. Do not doubt these words, because we are talking about an act, a mental act based on grand aspiration. So these are the few of the benefits of doing this aspiration that I have extracted. 

The Seven Preliminaries for Purifying the Mind

Now, the aspiration. This has two parts. [The first] is preparing for the aspiration, and [the second is] the actual aspiration. But before that, one may wonder, for how long should we aspire? As infinite as the sky, there are innumerable or infinite sentient beings. As infinite [as] sentient beings, there are also infinite numbers of emotions. And the bodhisattva’s aspiration will also be infinite. So, as you can see, this is a long-term project. Actually “long” is not the right word. [This is a] forever project. We should kind of really give up on the idea of getting enlightenment. You should just pray that forever and ever, you will be a practitioner of the Pranidhana-Raja. This is the only thing you will do. That should be our aspiration.

1. The Seven Preliminaries for Purifying the Mind

1.1. Prostration
[1] To all the buddhas, the lions of the human race,
In all directions of the universe, through past and present and future:
To every single one of you, I bow in homage;
Devotion fills my body, speech and mind.


Now, to prepare for the aspiration. It suggests first to offer our homage with body, speech and mind to all the tathagatas of the past, present, future [in all] the ten directions.

[2] Through the power of this prayer, aspiring to Good Action,
All the victorious ones appear, vivid here before my mind
And I multiply my body as many times as atoms in the universe,
Each one bowing in prostration to all the buddhas.


Because of the power of the aspiration, it doesn’t take any time to gather all these tathagatas of the ten directions and the three times. The moment you want to aspire, they’re all there, ready to be your witness, ready to be your support. And I guess amidst all these hundreds and thousands of buddhas, you should not forget Samantabhadra bodhisattva silently riding this giant beast — the elephant. I always like to visualise hundreds of other elephants, sort of slowly [moving]. I don’t know whether you have ever seen elephants. They are very silent. They are the biggest animals, but when they walk, you don’t know. And also they have the most beautiful eyes. They have the most beautiful way of looking at you. They see you, but they always make you feel that they are not looking at you. Yes, so [visualising] thousands and thousands of elephants would be good. It is some kind of a tendrel, we call it in Tibetan. It’s an auspicious substance. And there are many other related stories about elephants, but maybe we should just go through the text. 

1.2. Offering
[3] In every atom preside as many buddhas as there are atoms,
And around them, all their bodhisattva heirs:
And so I imagine them filling
Completely the entire space of reality.


[4] Saluting them with an endless ocean of praise,
With the sounds of an ocean of different melodies
I sing of the buddhas’ noble qualities,
And praise all those who have gone to perfect bliss.


[5] To every buddha, I make offerings:
Of the loveliest flowers, of beautiful garlands,
Of music and perfumed ointments, the best of parasols,
The brightest lamps and finest incense.


[6] To every buddha, I make offerings:
Exquisite garments and the most fragrant scents,
Powdered incense, heaped as high as Mount Meru,
Arranged in perfect symmetry.


On each atom exists [a number of] Tathagatas as many as [there are] atoms in the world — to these Tathagatas, we offer our homage. We sing songs of their praise. We remember their qualities. We announce or declare their glory and greatness to the three worlds. And then we offer whatever we human beings can think of as good and worthy [of offering]. For instance, flowers, garlands, music, perfume, parasols, and lamps. Each of these is very romantic, you understand? It’s amazing. You have to think about [being in] India 2500 years [ago]. I mean, nowadays, [you might] give somebody an iPhone charger. But 2500 years ago, there was no electricity. So it’s such a beautiful gift to give somebody a lamp, ready-made with oil and wick. It’s such a beautiful gift. And especially to the sublime beings, you know? Incense, robes, all kinds of food, bath, soap, bath robes, toothpaste, whatever comes into your mind, basically.

[7] Then the vast and unsurpassable offerings—
Inspired by my devotion to all the buddhas, and
Moved by the power of my faith in Good Actions—
I prostrate and offer to all you victorious ones.


And then, offering substances [that] are not limited by our own human, very limited [idea of] offering substances, but infinite offering substances. And we offer these with a motivation or attitude of joy towards [engaging in] bodhisattva activity. 

1.3. Confession
[8] Whatever negative acts I have committed,
While driven by desire, hatred and ignorance,
With my body, my speech and also with my mind,
Before you, I confess and purify each and every one.


Then, in front of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we confess all our misdeeds that we have collected in the past — misdeeds coming from desire, anger, jealousy, all kinds. From the depth of our heart, we confess. We do not hide [them]. We expose [them]. 

1.4. Rejoicing
[9] With a heart full of delight, I rejoice at all the merits
Of buddhas and bodhisattvas,
Pratyekabuddhas, those in training and the arhats beyond training,
And every living being, throughout the entire universe.


Next, we rejoice and get so excited about the qualities of the Buddhas. Rejoicing, in the most mundane way of putting it, is really like getting so excited about someone having a good time and having good qualities. [Here we rejoice at] the incredible qualities of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. And not only them — [we rejoice at] all the other beings who have sublime and ordinary virtue and good qualities. We are really happy that such qualities exist. We are not envious. We are not jealous. We don’t feel competitive. We almost feel relief that there are these guys with such great qualities who exist. Ah, now we can relax a bit because there’s somebody who can take care of us. There’s somebody who knows what they’re doing. The world is not that lost. So we create this kind of joy. 

1.5. Imploring the Buddhas to Turn the Wheel of Dharma
[10] You who are like beacons of light shining through the worlds,
Who passed through the stages of enlightenment, to attain buddhahood, freedom from all attachment,
I exhort you: all of you protectors,
Turn the unsurpassable wheel of Dharma.


Then we supplicate to all these Buddhas who are the real illuminators of this world that is filled with darkness. We request these Buddhas to turn the wheel of the Dharma, to teach. We request them to point out our mistakes. We request them to lead us to the right path. To answer our questions. To clear our doubt, increase our enthusiasm, and generate our confidence towards this spiritual path. 

1.6. Requesting the Buddhas not to Enter Nirvana
[11] Joining my palms together, I pray
To you who intend to pass into nirvana,
Remain, for aeons as many as the atoms in this world,
And bring well-being and happiness to all living beings.


And if there are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who may be wishing to — how should I put it? — conclude their display of benefiting sentient beings. In other words, those who wish to pass into the parinirvana — [then] in haste, urgently, [we] tell them not to do that. “Yes, we are slow, we are stupid, we don’t learn right away, but have compassion. Bear [with] us. Have compassion towards us. Please live long. If it is necessary, live for eons after eons.” 

1.7. Dedication
[12] What little virtue I have gathered through my homage,
Through offering, confession, and rejoicing,
Through exhortation and prayer—all of it
I dedicate to the enlightenment of all beings!


[Finally], you dedicate all the merit that you have acquired — through prostrations and making offerings and so on and so forth — to [the enlightenment of all] sentient beings. And this is the standard painless, incredible, powerful Mahayana technique to accumulate merit. And through this, we set a foundation for aspiration. You [now] have merit. Merit is an ability, it is a power. If you have merit, you have the ability to do things. And since you have just accumulated merit, now you have the ability to aspire. 

So next we will begin to aspire according to the [way that] Samantabhadra Bodhisattva [aspired]. Now, the aspiration of the bodhisattvas is grand, as I keep on repeating here, so some of these [stanzas] will probably be hard to understand, especially for newcomers. 

The Pranidhana-Raja is a very important text. There are so many commentaries. including from the very big shots — Nagarjuna, Dignaga8Dignaga (Sanskrit: दिग्नाग, IAST: Dignāga ; Tibetan: ཕྱོགས་ཀྱི་གླང་པོ་, chok kyi langpo, Wylie: phyogs kyi glang po) (c. 480 – c. 540 CE) = a 5th/6th century Indian Buddhist scholar who laid the foundations of Buddhist logic – see Dignaga. and Vasubandhu have commentaries. And then later in Tibet, there were hundreds of commentaries. This time I’m going to use the commentary by Dignaga9The commentary by Dignaga (Tibetan: ཀུན་ཏུ་བཟང་པོའི་སྤྱོད་པའི་སྨོན་ལམ་གྱི་དོན་ཀུན་བསྡུས་, Wylie: kun tu bzang po’i spyod pa’i smon lam gyi don kun bsdus) is available as work MW23703 at BDRC, see also: rigpawiki., since I’m mainly addressing the Chinese community, and I think the Chinese are more cozy with the Asanga department. Nagarjuna and company are a little bit, maybe not that familiar. And Asanga is very important. He’s one of the main masters who actually upheld the teachings of pramana, which is Buddhist epistemology or logic. And he also wrote several commentaries [on this text]. One is actually a synopsis of the aspiration, a very short synopsis of each stanza. And that’s what we are going to use, since we only have two nights.

The Pranidhana-Raja: The Actual Aspiration

2. The Actual Aspiration

2.1. Aspiration for Purity of Attitude
[13] Let offerings be made to buddhas of the past,
And all who now dwell throughout the ten directions of this universe!
Let all who are yet to come swiftly fulfil their wishes
And attain the stages of enlightenment and buddhahood!


First, we aspire to have the buddhas of the past, the buddhas of the present, and the buddhas of the future all filling this existence. And [we aspire] not only [to have] their presence, but to have their wishes fulfilled right now. Now this is a very big one, aspiring for the buddhas’ presence. And not just one or two, but everyone — [we are] inviting everyone. This is like inviting everyone to your party. Everyone! Nobody is excluded. And not only [aspiring to have] the buddhas of the three times filling this earth, but [also aspiring that all these] buddhas are properly treated and served and taken care of. Having that aspiration. I don’t know if we are even managing to fathom the implication of this stanza. If you can understand even a little bit, it should give you some goose bumps. Aspiring [to have] the presence of every Tathagatas right here, this [very] moment. 

[14] Let as many worlds as there are in all the ten directions
Transform into realms that are vast and utterly pure,
Filled with buddhas who have sat before the mighty bodhi tree,
Around them all their bodhisattva sons and daughters!


The next aspiration is yet again another grand aspiration of the bodhisattva, which is called [perfecting the Buddhafield or] zhingjang10zhingjang (Tibetan: ཞིང་བྱང་, Wylie: zhing byang) = perfecting the (Buddha) field..Let me think of an example here. I don’t know whether this example works, but let me try. In our very small mind, you understand? Let’s say I walk into this room, and I’m already with someone like Kris, and I [say to] him, “Okay, this is going to be my bedroom, and this is going to be my toilet”. Basically, [planning] my whole living situation, as [if] I own this [room], as if I own this territory. [I’m] making all the blueprints already. This stanza is making the blueprint of the Buddhafield. The bodhisattva is saying, “All this already belongs to me”, basically. “All this, everything. All this will be the Buddhafield. And of course there will be bodhi trees. And underneath all these bodhi trees, [my Buddhafield] will be filled with bodhisattvas. I’m already planning it.” This is the aspiration. We are already planning this.

Who cares about Taipei 1010? It doesn’t matter. Who cares about Nanjing Road, whatever road, all of this? We don’t even think about those things. Here [there will] be one hundred thousand bodhi trees, and under each [of these] hundred thousand bodhi trees, there will be billions of bodhisattvas receiving teachings of Prajñaparamita. Here, in the east of this city, there will be this many bodhi trees. And under each of those bodhi trees, there will be so and so many bodhisattvas receiving Vinaya teachings. [We are] planning, basically. Zhingjang is a bit like that. It’s basically perfecting the Buddhafield.

It’s actually connected to lots of the Mahayana teachings. You know, in the Mahayana teachings, they say that bodhisattvas look at sentient beings [as if they] belong to them, like their children. “Oh, I need to do this. I need to take care of this.” Parents also plan for their children, right? “My daughter will have this house. My son will have that house.” It’s sort of like that. “All the sentient beings that are mine need to be somewhere.” This is actually real estate planning. Actually it’s a really big planning here. “May the earth be filled with bodhisattvas.” Anyway, this is according to the synopsis of Dignaga.

[15] Let as many sentient beings as there are in all the ten directions
Live always and forever in happiness and health!
Let all beings meet the Dharma
That befits them best! And so may all they hope for be fulfilled!


Next, the aspiration of being able to pacify ailment and the problems of all sentient beings. May I be able to fulfil the wishes of sentient beings according to the Dharma.

2.2. Aspiration Never to Forget the Bodhichitta
[16] As I practise the training for enlightenment,
May I recall all my previous births,
And in my successive lives, through death and through rebirth,
May I always renounce the worldly life!


And then the aspirations to perfect the antidote, which is being able to apply the bodhisattvas’ techniques such as the six paramitas or the ten paramitas. And being able to remember past lives and foresee future lives. And then aspiring to have the power so that we will not be stained, overcome or overpowered by emotions. May we be able to remember the past lives, and upon remembering the past lives, may we be able to have a perfect renunciation mind and therefore renounce [this] futile samsaric life.

Aspiring to have renunciation mind

[17] Training in the footsteps of all the victorious buddhas,
May I bring Good Actions to perfection,
And my moral conduct be taintless and pure,
Never lapsing, and always free from fault!


And emulate all the tathagatas of the past and the present and the future. And complete the act of kindness. And apply the perfect discipline of the bodhisattva. 

[18] In the language of the gods, nāgas, and yakṣas,
In the language of demons and of humans too,
In however many kinds of speech there may be—
I shall proclaim the Dharma in the language of all!


And after renouncing samsaric life and perfecting discipline, may we be able to benefit sentient beings in all manners and manifestations. For example, may I be able to teach in different languages such as [the languages of the] gods, nagas, yakshasas or demons. May I be able to interpret the Dharma in different languages, different nuances and different symbols.

[19] Taming my mind, and striving in the paramitas,
I will never forget the bodhichitta;
May all my harmful actions and the obscurations they cause
Be completely purified, every single one!


And may I be able to perfect my diligence in practice of the paramitas, and let others also have the diligence in practicing the paramitas. And may I be able to never forget the bodhi mind. And by not forgetting bodhi mind, may I be able to purify obscurations, obstacles and hindrances to bodhi mind. And may I be able to overcome the karma of the past, the emotions of the past and present, and the addiction to all sorts of distractions.

I think I will [stop here]. Because from here we are talking about something quite important, so I will stop here for tonight and let you ask questions if you have any. If possible, [please] can you ask questions regarding aspiration.

Q & A

Should we just watch our thoughts? Or should we try to cultivate good thoughts?

[Q]: [I understand that] when we have thoughts, no matter good or bad, we just watch them. [But I have also] heard something like we should really try to protect our virtuous thoughts, to have more virtuous thoughts. So what should we do? After we’re first aware of our thoughts, should we still try to cultivate good thoughts or we just watch our thoughts?

[DJKR]: Both are correct techniques. I think not altering, not changing, is more when we talk about meditation, such as shamatha and vipassana. But altering and trying to change and trying to actually transform [thoughts] is also important, especially during lojong, for instance.

How can we be sincere in our aspirations?

[Q]: I have a question about aspiration. I feel that when I say any aspiration prayers, it’s never really sincere. And even if I think and feel that I am sincere, I still think that in reality it’s not sincere. So can you give us your thoughts about this sincerity issue? 

[DJKR]: This is a quite an important question. So today I’m going to dwell on this question and maybe after answering that we will finish. The issue of sincerity, [whether] or not we are sincere, really comes from [whether or not] we have the full picture, so to speak. And of course, this is difficult. You are right. First I will tell you something practical. Even myself, many times I don’t feel sincere, but [I aspire that] if I keep on repeating [my aspiration], if I keep on faking [it], [then maybe] sometimes once in a blue moon it [will be] sincere, and then hopefully this sincere state will slowly take over.

You know, the real issue with sincerity is [that] we end up seeing things in the context of past, present and future. We always separate these three. The past is gone. It’s never going to come back. The future is a wild guess. Well, you can have some educated guess, but still we never know. We are never really certain. And the present is this, and most of the time, even the present is controlled by causes and condition. So this sort of alienation [Ed.: i.e. separation] of the three times is the real cause of the insincerity that you are talking about. 

In the sutras there is an expression about having a gooseberry on your palm [Ed.: this refers to the Indian Gooseberry or myrobalan11kyurura (Tibetan: སྐྱུ་རུ་ར, Wylie: skyu ru ra ; Sanskrit: अमला, IAST: amalā, also Sanskrit: आमलक, IAST: āmalaka ; Chinese: 菴摩勒, pinyin: ānmólè) = Indian Gooseberry or Emblic Myrobalan (Phyllanthus emblica) – see kyurura.]. You can put this [transparent] fruit on your palm, and supposedly when the arhats/sublime beings look at the world, that’s how they see the world12The kyurura is mentioned in verse 6:224 of Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, where the sixth bhumi bodhisattva’s wisdom is said to be “As clear as a myrobalan fruit held in his own hand” (Tibetan: རང་གི་ལག་ན་གནས་པའི་སྐྱུ་རུ་ར་བཞིན་དུ, Wylie: rang gi lag na gnas pa’i skyu ru ra bzhin du). Because the kyurura fruit is supposedly transparent, the lines of one’s hand are visible through it – see kyurura.. There is far less separation of past, present and the future for the arhats/sublime beings, so [for them] past is now, future is now, now is now. Therefore, there’s much less guessing.

You have to sort of reach that level [in order] to really generate sincerity. For us, since we are still bound by time and space, there’s a lot of guessing. And whenever there’s guessing, then it’s understandable that sincerity is difficult. And this is why we stopped here [in the text], as we need to really hear about the grand view. Because most of the reasons why you are not sincere are [because your view is] also very, very limited. Mostly it has to do with not being able to have the bird’s eye view of everything.

Going back to being practical, if you wish that somebody be happy, then sometimes maybe you feel that wish sincerely. Other times, it is almost like an obligation. And also when you wish somebody be happy, you may also immediately contradict yourself by thinking, “Well, this is just a wish. It does not necessarily mean that somebody is going to be happy just because I wish him happy.” And this kind of doubt is endless. Even if somebody actually did experience happiness after you wished [it], you may still doubt that this has anything to do with your wish. 

Now here we need to learn the vast phenomena of mind, and also how karma works, so to speak. As I said earlier, a big part of the karma is wishing, motivation, your intention. So for you to [have a] good wish for [a particular] person is actually because this person has the good karma to have you wishing [them] well. I don’t know how you are understanding this. What I’m basically saying is that the world is very much lacking people who are having good wishes. If we can have even one good wish a day — [if] a lot of people, [let’s say] a whole nation, decides that every Sunday morning at nine o’clock, we will all consciously wish good for others. And we know that our action is always really secondary, as action always [follows] motivation. If we can actually do that, that group of people or society will definitely experience the effect of this good wish. But the reason why most good wishes, even if there are a few, are sort of rooted in self-cherishing and self-clinging, [is because] we are just not experiencing this ultimate kindness enough. We will be talking about the root of this more tomorrow. 

Just to conclude the answer before we go, if you really wish to [make] a good wish to all sentient beings or the world or Taiwan, instead of worrying about whether or not this wish will come true, [just] acknowledge that — right now — that is your wish. For young bodhisattvas [like us], if we can [acknowledge our intention] at the very moment [that we have the intention to make] a good and sincere wish, then that good wish can happen. If we can acknowledge that, that is usually the seed for the sincerity that she is talking about. You will lose it though. You will lose the sincerity very soon, because the next thought is, “Well, it’s just a wish. It’s not going to happen.” You know, all that judgment and critical mind. What it does is it dampens that freshness. This is quite an important question, and it is also related to some of the [stanzas of the] Pranidhana-Raja [that we will cover] tomorrow. We will discuss this more tomorrow, and for tonight, we will end it here.


Day 2


Comparing the approaches of Shravakayana and Mahayana Buddhism

[When we talk about Mahayana Buddhism], the term “Mahayana” [as in “the great vehicle”13Mahayana (Sanskrit: महायान, IAST: mahāyāna ; Tibetan: ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་, tekpa chenpo ; Wylie: theg pa chen po) = the great or universal vehicle; one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism (the other being Theravada), also called the Bodhisattvayana, referring to the path followed by a bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings – see Mahayana.] is not an arbitrary label or term. The word “maha”14maha (Pāli & Sanskrit: महा, IAST: mahā) = great, grand – see maha. in Sanskrit means “grand” [or “great”], and there’s a reason why we use this term “maha” [to describe the Mahayana]. In fact, the Mahayana is kind of almost too vast for ordinary minds like ours [to comprehend]. Whereas the Shravakayana15Shravakayana (Sanskrit: श्रावकयान, IAST: śrāvaka + yāna ; Tibetan: ཉན་ཐོས་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ་, nyentö kyi tekpa ; Wylie: nyan thos kyi theg pa) = “the vehicle of the shravakas (listeners)”, to which the early Buddhist schools belonged. The Theravada is the only surviving school of Buddhism based on the Shravakayana, and therefore Buddhism’s oldest existing school. It is the official religion of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia, the main dominant Buddhist variant found in Laos and Thailand, and also practiced by minorities and diasporas in many other countries – see Shravakayana. is a vehicle that is designed for those who can’t really chew and swallow a grand teaching such as Mahayana. This is not at all a statement [intended] to denigrate or look down at the Shravakayana. [Rather], we appreciate the Shravakayana for its accessibility, [how it is] closer to [ordinary] human thinking, so to speak.

So for instance, when we talk about the story of the Buddha, the Shravakayana would say that Siddhartha was an ordinary man. He was not a sublime being. Yes, he was a very special bodhisattva, but he had not yet vanquished samsara. It was only after six years of penance [beside] the banks of Nairañjana River16Nairañjana (Sanskrit: नैरञ्जना, IAST: Nairañjanā ; Pāli: Neranjara ; Chinese: 尼連禪, pinyin: Níliánchán) = The river beside which prince Siddhartha Gautama practiced asceticism for six years – see Nairañjana., and finally coming to a very decisive conclusion under the Bodhi tree, that he then vanquished all the causes and conditions and [all] the traces of the samsara, and went to the zone [Ed. i,e, state or condition] of a sublime being. And not only that, but from the Shravakayana point of view, even after his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, Buddha was subject to sickness. He coughed, for instance. He got thirsty. [And it was not until] after he passed into Parinirvana in Kushinagar17Kushinagar (Sanskrit: कुशिनगर, IAST: kuśinagara ; Pali: Kusinārā ; Chinese: 九士生地, pinyin: Jiǔshìshēngdì) = the place where Gautama Buddha attained parinirvana – see Kushinagar., that he was [no longer] subject of the aggregates. So when the Shravakayana talks about the life of the Buddha, this is how it is explained. It’s very humanly acceptable, so to speak.

[Whereas in the Mahayana], the story of the Buddha, [even] the so-called twelve deeds of the Buddha, is [all] just a show. It was all staged. From the time that he was in heaven, making decisions about who are going to be his parents, what race he will choose to be born, the location of his birth in Lumbini. Being born in the palace, seeing old age, sickness and death, renouncing the palace, doing penance by the banks of Nairañjana River. Even his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree is [completely] staged. And the reason why he had to stage it is that he wanted to show ordinary beings that an ordinary person can actually achieve such a state.

So even in telling the life of the Buddha, there’s quite a big difference between the Shravakayana and the Mahayana. The Mahayana’s view is grand. And we have to be careful here, because every time I use the word “grand,” it is really not to look down at the Shravakayana view as something lesser or small or incomplete. To repeat, the Shravakayana path is really catering for the masses. The Mahayana, on the other hand, is supposedly really for those who have a grand view, a grand attitude. Sometimes I’m puzzled why throughout Chinese history, the majority of Buddhism that prevailed in China was Mahayana Buddhism. It really means a lot, in one way. It really means the Chinese belong to this exclusive audience, if you like, who can actually think big or think grand. So we are going to talk a little bit about this today.

[As I said yesterday], I’m going to be shuffling the stanzas quite a lot because we now only have now tonight to summarise the aspiration, and to make this aspiration easier and more accessible, I feel it’s necessary to shuffle the stanzas a little bit.

The greatness of the Mahayana view

Perfecting the Buddhafields

[45] Let my bodhisattva acts be beyond measure!
Let my enlightened qualities be measureless too!
Keeping to this immeasurable activity,
May I accomplish all the miraculous powers of enlightenment!


For instance, there’s a stanza where it says: “May I have no limit in my action. May I have no limit to my qualities. And by obtaining limitless action and quality, may I benefit limitless sentient beings.” And there’s a stanza, actually [several] stanzas, where it says, “May I perfect ocean-like Buddhafields.” We were talking about perfecting the Buddhafield [yesterday]18zhing kham (Tibetan: ཞིང་ཁམས, Wylie: zhing khams ; Sanskrit: बुद्धक्षेत्र; IAST: buddhakṣetra) = buddhafield, pure land – see zhing kham.. This is a very peculiar Mahayana concept. Each bodhisattva will actually bless a certain field [or realm] as their own. For example, Amitabha’s realm of Sukhavati19Sukhavati (Sanskrit: सुखावती, IAST: sukhāvatī ; Tibetan: བདེ་བ་ཅན་, Dewachen ; Wylie: bde ba can, literally: “Blissful [Land]” ; Chinese: 極樂, pinyin: jílè, “ultimate bliss, highest joy”) = Sukhavati, or the Western Paradise, the western Pure Land of Amitabha in Mahayana Buddhism – see Sukhavati. is the Buddhafield that was blessed or you can say arranged and aspired for by Amitabha Buddha when he was a bodhisattva. His aspiration was, “Whoever hears the name Sukhavati, the Western Buddha Land, may they be born in that Western Buddhafield”, which then became such a big and important foundation of Buddhism in China, Japan, Korea and also in Tibet. It’s called the Pure Land School20Jodo Bukkyo (Japanese: 浄土仏教, Jōdo bukkyō, also 浄土教, Jōdo kyō ; Chinese: 淨土宗, pinyin: Jìngtǔ Zōng) = Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism – see Jodo Bukkyo., and this is such an important path, the Pure Land. It really needs to be nurtured and maintained in China, this Pure Land path. And really, it’s not as simplistic as wishing to be born in heaven etc. 

Likewise, there are many other Buddhafields that are specially arranged, aspired for, and [one might say] “designed” by the bodhisattvas of the past. According to some sutras, some of these Buddhafields are as small as [one of the pieces of] an atom that is cracked into thousands of pieces.

And I will tell you the reason why [having a] Buddhafield is important. To begin with, when you are dealing with deluded beings, you need a premises, some sort of a location where you can perform your bodhisattva [activity]. And it’s quite interesting, as some of the Buddhafields are aspired for by groups of bodhisattvas, like two bodhisattvas aspiring for one Buddhafield. Or one hundred or even a thousand. And whether you believe it or not, the Buddhafield that we are in at the moment— sitting, talking, shitting, taking a shower, whatever — this so-called earth, Jambudvipa21Jambudvipa (Sanskrit: जम्बुद्वीप, IAST: jambudvīpa ; Tibetan: འཛམ་བུའི་གླིང་, Dzambuling, Wylie: ‘dzam bu gling ; Chinese: 閻浮提, pinyin: Yánfútí) = according to Buddhist cosmology, the region where the humans live and the only place where one may become enlightened by being born as a human being – see Jambudvipa., is in the Buddhafield called “Fearlessness”22Sahaloka (Sanskrit: सहालोक, IAST: sahāloka ; Tibetan: མི་མཇེད་ཀྱི་འཇིག་རྟེན་གྱི་ཁམས; Wylie: mi mjed kyi ‘jig rten gyi khams) = Saha world, the name of our present world system, the trichiliocosm where the present Buddha Shakyamuni has manifested. Saha means “Enduring” or “Fearless(ness)”, and Khenpo Ngakchung writes: “the one thousand million-fold Saha world, is called the “world of no fear” not because it is very good. Rather, it is so called for its great evil. Sentient beings here are not afraid of desire, they are not frightened by anger and they have no fear of ignorance, which is why it is called the realm of the Saha world” – see Sahaloka..

And this Buddhafield was arranged, designed, and aspired for by one thousand bodhisattvas. And this is the most interesting Buddhafield because… I don’t know how to even begin. I was just talking to a lady in the restaurant. And she was talking about she feels very sad. The bodhisattvas of the past, these one thousand bodhisattvas, when they were designing this Buddhafield and [thinking about] who they wanted to let in, so to speak — their share of the sentient beings — one of the things that they aspired was, “May these sentient beings have sadness.” Sadness is such a valuable thing, because it leads you to search for higher truth. I don’t know whether you are getting this.

You know that Buddhists are afraid to go to hell, of course. But Buddhists are also afraid to go to heaven. Remember when we talked about the precious human body? We really don’t want to be born in heaven. In fact, a sober, more smart Buddhist would prefer to go to some of the lower hell realms rather than the highest heaven. Because in heaven, you don’t have this sadness until the last minute, and having last-minute sadness is really not productive. So having this sort of constant sadness and dissatisfaction is one of the criteria of this Buddhafield. There’s a grand story about how these one thousand bodhisattvas aspired for this territory, [but] anyway, I should just continue with the stanzas.

Infinite, ocean-like aspiration

2.14. Aspiration to Enlightened Activities
[39] I shall purify oceans of realms;
Liberate oceans of sentient beings;
Understand oceans of Dharma;
Realize oceans of wisdom;


So here the aspiration is, “May I perfect ocean-like Buddhafields”. Not just one or two, but “ocean-like” Buddhafields. May I arrange or may I aspire to have such Buddhafields [for] ocean-like eons. May I aspire to [understand] ocean-like dharma in these ocean-like Buddhafields [taught by] ocean-like Buddhas. So these are some of the stanzas that I’m quoting to really talk about the grand vision. And I’m slowly coming to the grand vision. 

[40] Perfect oceans of actions;
Fulfil oceans of aspirations;
Serve oceans of buddhas!
And perform these, without ever growing weary, through oceans of aeons!


May we perfect ocean-like Buddhafields. May we liberate ocean-like sentient beings. May we make ocean-like sentient beings understand ocean-like truth. May we make ocean-like sentient beings achieve ocean-like wisdom. And perfect ocean-like activities. And accomplish ocean-like aspirations. And please ocean-like Buddhas. And tirelessly perform bodhisattva activity for ocean-like eons. Next, another stanza where the grand view is explained:

a) Seeing the Buddhas and their Pure Realms
[28] In a single atom may I see as many pure realms as atoms in the universe:
And in each realm, buddhas beyond all imagining,
Encircled by all their bodhisattva heirs.
Along with them, may I perform the actions of enlightenment!


On one single atom, there are infinite Buddhafields, as many are there are atoms on this earth. And in each of these Buddhafields, [there are innumerable] Buddhas, each surrounded with their entourage of bodhisattvas and arhats, turning the Wheel of the Dharma constantly and performing ocean-like Buddha activities all the time.

c) Hearing the Turning of the Wheels of Dharma
[31] With all the power of my mind, may I hear and realize
The inexhaustible melody of the teachings spoken by
All the buddhas of past, present and future,
As they turn the wheels of Dharma!


May I be able to witness [all of] them without missing a single one of them. May I be able to listen and hear, contemplate and understand [all] the ocean-like teachings that are given by all these Buddhas in single moment.

Wisdom and Method in Buddhism

So these stanzas are indicating something else, which is the view. It is very important that you know that the Mahayana, and all the paths of Buddhadharma more generally, are a union of wisdom and method23thabdang shérab (Tibetan: ཐབས་དང་ཤེས་རབ; Wylie: thabs dang shes rab) = wisdom and method, prajña and upaya, skilful means and wisdom – see thabdang shérab.. Fundamentally, Buddhists think that if a path is missing one of these [two], then it is a faulty path. When we talk about wisdom, we are talking about understanding the facts, the truth. For instance, the wisdom of selflessness is taught in the Shravakayana. The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as “me” or “self” [that] truly exists. It is just a label that we ourselves [construct], and then we become habituated in thinking that this “self” truly exists. Beyond that, there is not a single solid reason to say that there is something called “self.” And knowing this [truth] is wisdom.

But how do you [come to] know this wisdom? You still have to [come to] know this wisdom [i.e. to develop this understanding and realisation]. You still have to have this wisdom. You still have to know this view. Otherwise, the habit of thinking that there is a self that truly exists is still strong. And the technique to work with such habits is called “method”.

So for instance, in the Shravakayana [there are methods] like vipassana, where selflessness is gradually taught. The method of sitting straight, for instance. When we are [taught] to meditate, the method usually involves sitting straight. Or breathing normally. Concentrating on a specific object such as the breath or a stone or whatever. All these are methods. And these methods must always be aligned with the wisdom that I was just speaking about. Similarly, wisdom must also be aligned with method. Otherwise, wisdom is useless. So you have to have the union of wisdom and method, otherwise you don’t have a path. The wisdom can be formless, method can be form. Wisdom might not have any colour or symbol or shape, but method may have plenty of those symbols, shapes, discipline, action.

Similarly, in the Mahayana, wisdom and method have to be in union. So for instance, in the Pranidhana-Raja, aspiration is obviously a method. But the Mahayana’s method of aspiration must be aligned with the Mahayana’s wisdom. And what is the Mahayana’s wisdom? Shunyata24shunyata (Sanskrit: शून्यता, IAST: śūnyatā; Tibetan: སྟོང་པ་ཉིད་, tongpa nyi; Wylie: stong pa nyid ; Japanese: 空, kū, “space” ; Chinese: 空, pinyin: kōng, “emptiness, voidness, hollowness, insubstantiality”) = emptiness; lack of true existence; illusory nature (of all worldly phenomena) – see shunyata., [as in] “Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness. Emptiness is not other than form”. That is the Mahayana’s grand view. So our aspiration must be aligned with that view [of shunyata or emptiness].

The Pranidhana-Raja: The Actual Aspiration (contd.)

So, if we continue from where we left yesterday — well, I have already [gone through] some of the later stanzas [to illustrate the greatness and inconceivability of the Mahayana view], but let’s continue:

[18] In the language of the gods, nāgas, and yakṣas,
In the language of demons and of humans too,
In however many kinds of speech there may be—
I shall proclaim the Dharma in the language of all!


[19] Taming my mind, and striving in the paramitas,
I will never forget the bodhichitta;
May all my harmful actions and the obscurations they cause
Be completely purified, every single one!


May I be able to teach in different languages. And then:

2.3. Aspiration to be Free from Defilements
[20] May I be freed from karma, harmful emotions, and the work of negativity,
And act for all beings in the world,
Just like the lotus flower to which mud and water cannot cling,
Or sun and moon that course unhindered through the sky.


May I, the bodhisattva, roam around in the stained and defiled samsara to benefit sentient beings. May I bloom like a lotus, beautiful, serene, and stainless — even though the lotus is born in the mud. So bodhisattvas can manifest as prostitutes, hunters, politicians, robbers, gangsters — but they are not stained by any of these worldly defilements or stains. And without any delay or obstructions or intrusion, as I roam around in samsara to benefit sentient beings, may I illuminate the darkness of the world like the sun and the moon. This stanza actually has another side to it, because the sun and the moon do not necessarily have the motivation to illuminate or not illuminate any [particular] spot on the earth. The sun and the moon just rise and illuminate wherever their light reaches, so to speak. Likewise, may sentient beings receive the bodhisattva’s illumination or activity [like the light of] the sun and moon, even though the bodhisattva may not have any kind of partiality.

2.4. Aspiration to Lead Beings to Happiness
[21] Throughout the reach and range of the entire universe
I shall pacify completely the suffering of all the lower realms,
I shall lead all beings to happiness,
And work for the ultimate benefit of each and every one!


Similarly, may I be able to dispel the suffering of sentient beings. May I be able to give sentient beings happiness and the causes of happiness. May I be able to benefit sentient beings appropriately, whatever they require. And gradually, may I be able to make sentient beings perfect their bodhisattva activity.

2.5. Aspiration to Wear the Armour of Dedication
[22] I shall bring enlightened action to perfection,
Serve beings so as to suit their needs,
Teach them to accomplish Good Actions,
And continue this, throughout all the aeons to come!


This is such a beautiful stanza. May I also act according to sentient beings’ behaviours, attitudes, customs, and traditions. You get this sense that the bodhisattvas really don’t want to be like [some kind of] thorny teacher, always correcting [beings], like “Oh, you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.” The bodhisattvas are mostly really aspiring to be a friend rather than a corrector or inspector.

2.6. Aspiration to Accompany other Bodhisattvas
[23] May I always meet and be accompanied by
Those whose actions accord with mine;
And in body, speech and mind as well,
May our actions and aspirations always be one!


May I have the opportunity to be accompanied by other bodhisattvas who share my view, my action, my strategy, my wish. Actually, you could say this is also like an aspiration [to be accompanied by] a master. I’m just using the word “master” so that you understand, but I don’t think the word “master” is the right word in Buddhism. “Master” is very human language, it’s probably a good word for kung fu. You understand? [But for Buddhism, the appropriate word] in Sanskrit is “kalyanamitra”25kalyanamitra (Sanskrit: कल्याणमित्र, IAST: kalyāṇamitra = कल्याण kalyāṇa “excellent, virtuous, good, illustrious, noble, generous” + मित्र mitra “friend, companion, associate” ; Tibetan: དགེ་བའི་བཤེས་གཉེན་, gewé shenyen; Wylie: dge ba’i bshes gnyen) = spiritual friend – see kalyanamitra., which means spiritual friend or virtuous friend. As you can see in the sutra, the so-called guru or master is always the virtuous friend. “May I have that friend. May I have the opportunity to be accompanied by such a virtuous friend. And may I and this virtuous friend together aspire for one goal.” Here the emphasis is on “together” — body, speech and mind together — May we together aspire for one goal, which is to benefit sentient beings.

2.7. Aspiration to Have Virtuous Teachers and to Please Them
[24] May I always meet spiritual friends
Who long to be of true help to me,
And who teach me the Good Actions;
Never will I disappoint them!


Again and again and again, may I encounter this kind of virtuous friend.” People [often ask] about how to find the guru and stuff like that. I think do Pranidhana-Raja prayers, then you will find the teacher. A big part of the Pranidhana-Raja prayer is finding the right friend. May I encounter this virtuous friend at all times, in all kinds of occasions. For instance, just as we feel like misbehaving, may he sort of turn up from a corner. Of course, it’s kind of annoying, but that’s your virtuous friend’s job — to save you from getting into trouble. May I never ever dishearten them. [The last line] is so beautiful. It means something like “May I never dishearten them” or “May I never break their heart.”

2.8. Aspiration to See the Buddhas and Serve them in Person
[25] May I always behold the buddhas, here before my eyes,
And around them all their bodhisattva sons and daughters.
Without ever tiring, throughout all the aeons to come,
May the offerings I make them be endless and vast!


2.9. Aspiration to Keep the Dharma Thriving
[26] May I maintain the sacred teachings of the buddhas,
And cause enlightened action to appear;
May I train to perfection in Good Actions,
And practise these in every age to come!


And by the power of not breaking my virtuous friend’s heart, may I then be able to see these ocean-like buddhas as they teach [their] ocean-like entourages. May I be able to see them with my flesh, my eyes, these very eyes. May I be able to see it. Vajrayana people love this because the Vajrayana always says if you want to see the Buddha, you really have to have the guru’s blessing. This is connected to these things. Because he says if you really want to see the ocean-like buddhas, you don’t want to break the heart of the virtuous friend.

2.10. Aspiration to Acquire Inexhaustible Treasure
[27] As I wander through all states of samsaric existence,
May I gather inexhaustible merit and wisdom,
And so become an inexhaustible treasury of noble qualities—
Of skill and discernment, samadhi and liberation!


And it doesn’t matter where we roam in this samsara. Higher birth, lower birth, wherever I roam around in this cyclic existence, may my merit and wisdom be inexhaustible. And may I never lose my treasure of method and wisdom, and samadhi or concentration.

2.11. Aspiration to the Different Methods for Entering into the “Good Actions”

a) Seeing the Buddhas and their Pure Realms
[28] In a single atom may I see as many pure realms as atoms in the universe:
And in each realm, buddhas beyond all imagining,
Encircled by all their bodhisattva heirs.
Along with them, may I perform the actions of enlightenment!

[29] And so, in each direction, everywhere,
Even on the tip of a hair, may I see an ocean of buddhas—
All to come in past, present and future—in an ocean of pure realms,
And throughout an ocean of aeons, may I enter into enlightened action in each and every one!


b) Listening to the Speech of the Buddhas
[30] Each single word of a buddha’s speech, that voice with its ocean of qualities,
Bears all the purity of the speech of all the buddhas,
Sounds that harmonize with the minds of all living beings:
May I always be engaged with the speech of the buddhas!


c) Hearing the Turning of the Wheels of Dharma
[31] With all the power of my mind, may I hear and realize
The inexhaustible melody of the teachings spoken by
All the buddhas of past, present and future,
As they turn the wheels of Dharma!


And — now this is important — may I have the power to understand the desires, wishes, assumptions, and expectations of hundreds and thousands of ocean-like samsaric beings. First, to begin with, may I be able to know that each and every sentient being has different wishes, different moods, and different assumptions. Knowing [that], may I [then] be able to fulfil and correspond to each and every [one of their] wishes, expectations and assumptions. Likewise, by the power of these aspirations, may I have the power to enter into the myriad, infinite different subjects of the teachings of the [infinite] different Buddhas.

d) Entering into All the Aeons
[32] Just as the wisdom of the buddhas penetrates all future aeons,
So may I too know them, instantly,
And in each fraction of an instant may I know
All that will ever be, in past, present and future!


By the power of these aspirations, of course may I be able to enter, listen to and understand the teachings of the Buddhas of the past and the present. But also may I be able to visit the [Buddhas of the] future — right now, sitting here, may I be able to listen to the teachings that Buddha hasn’t even given yet.

e) Seeing all the Buddhas in One Instant
[33ab] In an instant, may I behold all those who are the lions of the human race—
The buddhas of past, present and future!


f) Entering the Sphere of Activity of the Buddhas
[33cd] May I always be engaged in the buddhas’ way of life and action,
Through the power of liberation, where all is realized as like an illusion!


g). Accomplishing and Entering the Pure Lands
[34] On a single atom, may I actually bring about
The entire array of pure realms of past, of present and future;
And then enter into those pure buddha realms
In each atom, and in each and every direction.


h) Entering into the Presence of the Buddhas
[35] When those who illuminate the world, still to come,
Gradually attain buddhahood, turn the Wheel of Dharma,
And demonstrate the final, profound peace of nirvana:
May I be always in their presence!


And when the ocean-like Buddhas manifest in many, many different forms and activities, by the power of these aspirations, may I be able to witness them all. And may I be able to visit all the Buddhas of the past, present and the future, each and every one of them, without missing even one.

2.12. Aspiration to the Power of Enlightenment through Nine Powers
[36] Through the power of swift miracles,
The power of the vehicle, like a doorway,
The power of conduct that possesses all virtuous qualities,
The power of loving kindness, all-pervasive,

[37] The power of merit that is totally virtuous,
The power of wisdom free from attachment, and
The powers of knowledge, skilful means and samadhi,
May I perfectly accomplish the power of enlightenment!


May I acquire all different infinite powers. May I have the power of performing miracles. May I have the power of understanding the different vehicles or different methods. May I have the power to act according to the teachings and according to the wishes of sentient beings. May I be have the power to love all sentient beings. May I have the ability to accumulate virtuous deeds and merit. May I have the power of never getting distracted or attached to any kind of dualistic phenomena. By perfecting the power of wisdom, method and samadhi/concentration, may I be able to accomplish all the bodhisattva activity.

2.13. Aspiration to the Antidotes that Pacify the Obscurations
[38] May I purify the power of karma;
Destroy the power of harmful emotions;
Render negativity utterly powerless;
And perfect the power of Good Actions!


May I be able to have the power to extinguish, destroy, and dismantle the consequences of karma, defeat the power of emotion, and defeat the four maras — the mara of aggregates, mara of emotion, mara of death and mara of pride.

b) To emulate the bodhisattvas: Samantabhadra
[42] The eldest of the sons of all the buddhas
Is called Samantabhadra: ‘All-good’—
So that I may act with a skill like his,
I dedicate fully all these merits!

[43] To purify my body, my speech and my mind as well,
To purify my actions, and all realms,
May I be the equal of Samantabhadra
In his skill in good dedication!


c) Mañjushri
[44] In order to perform the full virtue of Good Actions,
I shall act according to Mañjushri’s prayers of aspiration,
And without ever growing weary, in all the aeons to come,
I shall perfectly fulfil every one of his aims!


In short — and now we are concluding this prayer — may I be able to follow or emulate the view and action of the supreme child of the Buddha, whose name is Samantabhadra. Like bodhisattva Samantabhadra, may my body, speech and mind be pure. May my Buddhafield and my dedication be perfect. And also, in order to perfect all the bodhisattva activity, I shall also aspire just as how Lord Mañjushri aspired.

So this [completes] the main body of the Pranidhana-Raja, as condensed in the form of a synopsis by Dignaga. The last time I taught this Pranidhana-Raja, I was using a different commentary. So if you are comparing these two, maybe there will be some differences. I thought this time we would try to be more practical, rather than more academic or intellectual. So [I chose to] concentrate more on the stanzas of the Pranidhana-Raja [according to the explanation of] Dignaga.

But fundamentally, I’d like to remind you again that it’s important to unite wisdom and method. And this is the principle that [underlies] aspiration. If these two get divorced or separated then — like the lady’s question last night — we [will] always get into this trouble of being sincere or not. But the moment we can understand that the view of emptiness and the method of aspiration [must always] be united, then all this — seemingly impossible and seemingly out of reach — can be reachable.

And I’d like to repeat [once] again that aspiration is something that beings like us can do. It’s measurable, so to speak. It is something that you can judge for yourself whether or not you are doing it. Beyond that, most of the spiritual paths are very subtle and kind of difficult to measure.

I will wrap up the actual explanation of the body of the Pranidhana-Raja here. I will let you ask some questions, and then I thought to make the evening more fruitful, we will actually chant the aspiration once in Chinese. So if you have questions, please. 

Q & A

Should we aspire to be reborn in Sukhavati?

[Q]: There is one [stanza] in this aspiration prayer where Samantabhadra [aspires] that when he passes away, may he be reborn in the Amitabha Pure Land of Sukhavati26This is stanza 57:

[57] When it is time for me to die,
Let all that obscures me fade away, so
I look on Amitabha, there in person,
And go at once to his pure land of Sukhavati.

. So I thought we should also want to be reborn in Sukhavati. But when I listened to most of your teaching online, it doesn’t seem like you are encouraging people to be reborn in Sukhavati. Can you say more about that?

[DJKR]: More about Sukhavati?

[Q]: Yes, Sukhavati especially. And also the relationship between Samantabhadra’s aspiration and Sukhavati..

[DJKR]: It looks like when these bodhisattvas aspire, they specifically choose some sort of — how should I call it? — point or value. I’ll try to explain. This is a little difficult. For instance, Avalokiteshvara supposedly blessed his name. He aspired that his name [would become] the most popular, and whoever hears [his name] will have some sort of connotation or link with love and compassion. And it looks like it is true, because I would say that of all the bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara is probably the most well-known. From Sri Lanka all the way to China and Japan, everywhere there is involvement with Avalokiteshvara.

Likewise, it’s believed that there was a monk — I forgot his name now — this was eons and eons before, and his aspiration was to bless a specific place called Sukhavati, where everybody would be attracted to go. So it’s almost like Sukhavati [the place] is more famous than Amitabha himself. You understand what I mean?

For instance, how many of you wish to be reborn in — how should I translate this? — a land of ponytails? OK, let’s call it “ponytails”. I don’t think you have even heard of it, have you? That’s the [pure land] of Vajrapani. I haven’t heard many of you rushing towards being born in this land. Anyway, ponytail is maybe not the right word. [The name of Vajrapani’s realm] is Changlo Chen, which is basically, “The Land of Long Hair”27Changlo Chen (Tibetan: ལྕང་ལོ་ཅན, Wylie: lcang lo can, where lcang lo = “braid, long braided or matted strands of hair, yogic hair” ; Sanskrit: अटकावती, IAST: aṭakāvatī) = buddhafield of Vajrapani – see Changlo Chen.. And how many of you have wished to go to Yulo Köpé Zhing, for instance, the Land of Turquoise Leaves28Yulo Köpé Zhing (Tibetan: གཡུ་ལོ་བཀོད་པའི་ཞིང, Wylie: g.yu lo bkod pa’i zhing) = the buddhafield of Tara – see Yulo Köpé Zhing.? That’s where Tara is, the Land of Turquoise Leaves. And if there are some Nyingmapas here, probably some of you guys wish to go to the Copper-Coloured Mountain29Zandokpalri (Tibetan: ཟངས་མདོག་དཔལ་རི་, Zandokpalri ; Wylie; zangs mdog dpal ri) = Glorious Copper-coloured Mountain, Guru Rinpoche’s pure land in Chamara – see Zandokpalri..

To me, the most attractive place is Khechara30Khechara (Sanskrit: खेचर, Khechara ; IAST: khecara, literally “sky-enjoyer, enjoyment of/delight in space” ; Tibetan: མཁའ་སྤྱོད ; Wylie: mkha’ spyod) = the buddhafield of Vajravarahi – see Khechara.. That’s where Vajrayogini is. It’s in the Sakyapa tradition. To me, that’s the most attractive land. From a very young age, I was so attracted to the idea of letters made of coral. And I like the idea that if I really wholeheartedly devote myself to Vajrayogini, even as I am about to enter into donkey’s womb, for instance, that this beautiful sixteen year old girl with a sindoor on her forehead will just grab my wrist and pull me up. I like this. And I think there are some Sakyapas sitting here. I’m sure there are many. Sakyapas pray to go to the Amitabha realm, of course because Amitabha [is there]. But also because there are other Sakyapa lamas there [in that realm]. It’s called Boma Shukpa Dakpé Zhing.

But anyway, among these pure realms, Amitabha realm is top of the list. And also, Amitabha realm seems to [give you] a lot of—what do you call it? — chances. Even if you are not that good, but if you are really wholeheartedly devoted to Amitabha, you will be reborn in the Amitabha realm inside a lotus although the lotus might not blossom. But you’re already okay, [as] one of these days it’s going to blossom. Anyway, as I [talk about these things], I talk as if [a pure realm] is some sort of a theistic, religious concept of heaven, but it’s not like that in Buddhism. Because the Amitabha realm [can be understood on] many different levels. As it is stated in the Amitabha Sutras, the moment you close your eyes, you are already there in the Amitabha realm, meaning the Amitabha realm is here and now. But for those who can’t understand these kinds of profound teachings, yes, there are mentions such as “Towards the west, where the sun sets, there is Amitabha’s realm,” and so on and so forth.

[So, in answer to your question] what should I say? [Sukhavati is specifically included here] because the Pranidhana-Raja is an aspiration to benefit sentient beings in every way. And while we are aspiring to enter into the ocean-like Buddhafield, [we can also aspire to enter] the Amitabha realm, as it is the most popular and sort of easy-to-access [of the pure realms]. I guess [that’s why] it is included here specifically. And actually Mañjushri’s [pure] land is not really certain either. In many sutras, sometimes it’s referred as Ngadri Zhing, which means “The Land of the Sound of Drum”31From ngadra (Tibetan: རྔ་སྒྲ ; Wylie: rnga sgra) = sound of drum – see ngadra.. But most importantly, it’s believed that Mañjushri’s land is actually earthbound. It exists on this earth. I think it’s about five hours’ drive from Beijing32According to the Avatamsaka Sutra, Mañjushri’s abode is at Wutaishan (Chinese: 五台山, pinyin: Wǔtái shān, literally “five-terrace mountain”) = Mount Wutai, located at the headwaters of the Qingshui in Shanxi Province, China – see Wutaishan.. I’m serious. I’m not making this up. It’s supposedly earthbound.

How to develop a strong aspiration to enlighten sentient beings, and how to combine wisdom and method?

[Q]: I have several questions, but which one you want to answer or which one is more important is up to your decision. Firstly, the reason why we want to get enlightenment sometimes is because we want to finally have a rest. So why we should pray to have [take on] so many troubles or big, tiresome tasks? What is the best way to find a strong motivation to do that? This is the first question. And the second one is how to really combine wisdom and skilful means/method. And the third one is that we aspire to uproot all of our suffering, but also [it seems that] many of our sufferings really help us. So how can we balance these two [ways of] thinking? 

[DJKR]: I’ll try to sort of combine them all. Combining wisdom and method might take some time. Practitioners always find it difficult. And there’s a reason why it is difficult, because many times these two [appear to be mutually] contradictory. For instance, even as we are talking about aspiration, we have to talk about the wisdom that talks about no-self, meaning [there is] no one who does the aspiration. And when we talk about wisdom, we talk about no numbers [i.e. going beyond all dualistic concepts such as numbers]. But when we talk about accumulation of merit, we talk about numbers such as the Seven Branch Prayer. But this is why the Pranidhana-Raja is quite special, because even though there are numbers, these numbers are all gearing towards the infinite wisdom, such as an “ocean-like” [number[— ocean-like buddhas, ocean-like sentient beings, ocean-like teachings. So [the way the Pranidhana-Raja talks about ocean-like buddhas etc is] already breaking this limitation [of ordinary dualistic thought]. I would suggest our main motivation to do the aspiration [should be] to understand the truth, so that we can benefit sentient beings. And even though [this motivation] may not be so strong yet, I think that we should try to educate ourselves to think that way.


Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers

Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio