Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche
Given during 10th Ushnishavijaya Drupchö, Taipei, Taiwan
November 19, 2020
35 minutes (including Chinese translation)
The drupchö1drupchö (Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་མཆོད་, Wylie: sgrub mchod) = an elaborate and intensive form of sadhana practice held over several days (usually three to eight days) – see drupchö. was held on November 19-24, 2020. The teaching starts at time t = 46M 47S in the video for Day 1.
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 madhyamaka.com. 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.
I will just give you a general picture about dharani. I think [in the] Mahayana in general and especially of course [in] the Vajrayana, there are a lot of dharanis. Of course we are doing the Ushnishavijaya Dharani at the moment, and I think we will also [be] doing the long Avalokiteshvara Dharani later.
Dharani in Tibetan is zung2zung (Tibetan: གཟུངས་; Wylie: gzungs) – see dharani.. There are many different kinds of dharanis, and there are three categories of dharanis specifically mentioned here in the text3The part of the liturgy titled “Reciting the Dharani and Making Offerings” is divided into two. The second part is the recitation itself, which is preceded by a section titled “Meditative Absorption” in which these three kinds of dharanis are mentioned, p.172.:
- The dharani of patience is the unborn mind;
- The dharani of dharma is knowing all that is to be known;
- The dharani of ultimate meaning is realizing non-duality
The Sanskrit word “dharani” is connected to the word “dhara”4dhara (Sanskrit: धर) = “holding, bearing, supporting” – see dhara., which means “the one that holds”, like Vajradhara. For instance, we use the [term] “vidyadhara” [to refer to] someone who has wisdom.
The word dhara can be a very mundane word. It could even refer to things like buttons. In fact, probably it’s good to understand it that way in our case. Like cufflinks, or like a zipper. Basically, putting two things together so that one becomes part of the other, so to speak. There are many different ways to understand [dharani], on the ultimate level and on the relative level.
Basically what we are trying to do is [to] hinge or zip or button two pieces of fabric [together] so both become relevant. You understand? At the moment there is a fabric called samsara, and [another] fabric called nirvana, and they don’t talk to each other, so to speak. So it’s making [them] relevant [to each other], or [making] a connection between these two, so to speak [Ed.: see image at top of page where DJKR indicates making a connection].
The word zung (dharani) is quite a rich language also [i.e. it has a wide semantic range]. It’s not just mundane. It can be very rich. In the context “hold”, it has the connotation of being able to contain and maintain, and therefore “remembering”. Like the Mañjushri Dharani. Right now, our mind is everywhere. It’s scattered. We don’t remember things. We are forgetful. So to put it together, to maintain and hold it together, [we have] the Mañjushri Dharani. [There is] that kind of connotation.
Among the dharanis, I think one of the longest is the Avalokiteshvara Dharani. I have noticed that this is something the Chinese here, you do this very well. It’s very inspiring. And in the Avalokiteshvara Dharani, there are many parts that are actually a lot to do with healing. I don’t know whether they are in the Chinese one. [Words] such as “HI LI MI LI, I LI MI LI …”, all of those.
Because you are doing a dharani, I want to give you some sort of idea or information. To be more specific, what is it that acts as the hinge or the button or the zipper? There are actually three:
- (1) ngön gyi gewa dang [i.e. due to previous virtue5ngön gyi gewa dang (Tibetan: སྔོན་གྱི་དགེ་བ་དང་, Wylie: sngon gyi dge ba dang = sngon gyi “previous” + dge ba “virtue” + dang “because of”).]
- (2) tsen di töpa dang [i.e. due to hearing6tsen di töpa dang (Tibetan: ཚན་འདི་ཐོས་པ་དང་, Wylie: tshan ‘di thos pa dang = tshan “instruction” + ‘di “now, this, particular” + thos pa “hearing” + dang “because of”).].
- (3) tingédzin [i.e. meditation7tingédzin (Tibetan: ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་, tingédzin; Wylie: ting nge ‘dzin) = samadhi, meditative absorption, stabilization, trance; the fourth and last stage of dhyana (meditative concentration) – see samadhi.].
I don’t know whether you think like this. For instance, we are being hit by a pandemic situation. Not just the [pandemic] situation, many times our life has lots of challenges. And we have been to Harvard, we have been to Yale, we have done all those things that are supposedly [going to] help us. We have shops that open at 7am and close only at 11pm. But still things don’t work.
There are lots and lots of people on this earth, and they are sort of stuck. It’s almost [like] they’re always walking on a wall. There’s always a dead end. A sort of hopelessness [and] desperation. Now amidst [all of] these [people], some of us [are here at this drupchö8drupchö (Tibetan: སྒྲུབ་མཆོད་, Wylie: sgrub mchod) = an elaborate and intensive form of sadhana practice held over several days (usually three to eight days) – see drupchö.]. You are here. I’m sure some of you may be here just out of curiosity, [although] I don’t believe that curiosity [alone] will last more than a few hours.
There is some sort of joy [at being here], some sort of wanting to participate. Okay, [maybe] you don’t believe in everything that’s happening. [You might be wondering] what’s the point of the umbrellas? What’s the point of these characters [i.e. calligraphy]? What’s the point of all these [flower] petals? But somehow you still want to come here. There are a lot of other things you could do, but you chose to do this, so to speak. And this is conditioned, pushed, and pulled by what we call the “power of previous virtuous thoughts and deeds”.
That is actually your most fundamental zung (dharani). That’s actually the dharani. That is [what is] holding you. You look forward to doing this. You even already pencil in your time. You save your leave for this. And you tell all kinds of multicolored lies to your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, boss, just so that you can be here. This is actually dharani. It’s so important. And I guess we have that. And I believe for most of us, it will only get better.
And there are some people who also wish make [the environment] more pleasant. Like the decorations. The guqin9guqin (Chinese: 古琴, pinyin: gǔqín) = a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument. It has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement – see wikipedia. music. The chant. Trying to sort of hold it. All this is the dharani, the holding, hinging it together and putting it together.
The next one is tsen di töpa, which means hearing. Hearing about the Dharma. Hearing the teachings is really one of the most important dharanis.
Now the third one, the more complicated dharani, which is the samadhi-dharani. First, the word “samadhi”, which is almost always translated in English as “meditation” and also in Tibetan as “gom”. And unfortunately, that always refers to something like sitting straight, not talking, [being] quiet. Which is unfortunate10Ed.: DJKR talked at much greater length about meditation during the teaching “Vipassana for beginners”, December 11-12, Taipei – see Vipassana For Beginners..
Of course, samadhi [can be] understood at a lot of different levels. On the most fundamental level, samadhi is basically rescuing ourselves from many distractions [with just] one distraction. Of course, as [your] samadhi gets better, even this distraction gets “cancelled” so to speak11Ed.: in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the highest practices are those of “non-meditation”.. Or maybe a better word is “occupy”. [You] occupy yourself with something specific instead of always falling into the traps of all kinds of entanglements.
So when you chant the [dharani], “BHRUM, BHRUM, BHRUM, SHODAYA, SHODAYA …”12Ed.: for the text of the dharani, see Practice; Ushnishavijaya Dharani., at that time, your mouth is occupied. And occupying the mouth is quite a victory. If you are waging a war, and let’s say the enemy has three really important generals13Ed.: DJKR may be referring to the three doors (Tibetan: སྒོ་གསུམ་, Wylie: sgo gsum) of body, speech and mind., occupying the mouth is almost like [getting] the second commander14Ed.: DJKR said “second in command”. Given the context, this has been changed. to play mahjongg the whole night.
So even on this level, there is just so much power. Because while he is playing mahjongg you can just do all sorts of things. You can go behind [him], you can steal his wallet, you can check his phone. Everything. You can do all of that.
And on top of that, this Ushnishavijaya Dharani is like a masterpiece. Every word was supposedly crafted as a masterpiece by billions of buddhas and bodhisattvas. It’s supposedly so great that even lord Mañjushri asked somebody to bring this dharani to him while he was in Mount Wutai in China. [Likewise with] the Avalokiteshvara dharani. Avalokiteshvara claims that [for] each and every word, he has spent millions and millions of lifetimes just putting the words together, so to speak.
But this is all on a relative level. On the more ultimate level [there are three ways to understand dharani]:
- Dharani is when any method – such as reading this dharani15Ed.: DJKR is using the word dharani in two different ways here. First, as the general term to include all relative and ultimate dharanis. Second, specifically to refer to a type of long mantra that can be recited, such as this Ushnishavijaya Dharani. – holds your mind together with the state of unborn, meaning shunyata.
- And while the method holds you to the state of shunyata, simultaneously you also emanate the omniscience, the all-knowing wisdom and unobstructed compassion at all times. So it’s not just an empty void.
- Dharani [also refers to] a hinge or method that will not let [you] fall into the abyss of all kinds of extremes or duality.
So these are the three ways to understand the ultimate dharani. Out of that [unborn state] comes the magical display of all dharanis16Ed.: In the Mahayana, the teachings explain that “Emptiness is form”, as in the words of the Heart Sutra. In the Vajrayana, this “form” is often spoken of as a “magical display”, chotrül (Tibetan: ཆོ་འཕྲུལ་, Wylie: cho ‘phrul) or gyutrül (Tibetan: སྒྱུ་འཕྲུལ་, Wylie: sgyu ‘phrul)., and one of the most important ones is these words [i.e. the words of the Ushnishavijaya Dharani], the great display, the miracle dharani, chötrul mé jung tsik gi zung17chötrul mé jung tsik gi zung (Tibetan: ཆོ་འཕྲུལ་་རྨད་བྱུང་ཚིག་གི་གཟུངས་, Wylie: cho ‘phrul rmad byung tshig gi gzungs), translated in the liturgy as “The dharani of words is the extraordinary manifestation”. Here the words chötrul mé (Tibetan: ཆོ་འཕྲུལ་རྨད་, Wylie: cho ‘phrul rmad) mean “wondrous magical display”. In the liturgy, the Tibetan is on p.168 and the English on p.172.. [This is from the part of the liturgy which starts with the words18The part of the liturgy titled “Reciting the Dharani and Making Offerings” is divided into two. The second part is the recitation itself, which is preceded by a section titled “Meditative Absorption” in which the “miracle dharani” is mentioned, on p.172.] “From my heart comes lots of compassionate light, like the dawn sun”19In the Siddhartha’s Intent Taiwan liturgy, this is translated as:
From my heart emanates tremendous rays of light,
Like the radiance of the sun at day break.
For additional information, see Practice: Ushnishavijaya Dharani..
How I wish I had the skill of Mañjushri and the wit of Avalokiteshvara and the assertiveness of Vajrapani to explain this to you. Because this word [dharani] is so beautiful and so profound. I’m sure most of the time you [may] think “Oh, mantra is magical. Dharani is magical”. Yes, of course, that will do. If that’s what you’re satisfied with, why not? That will do. But here we are talking about incredible magic. It’s the magic of looking at something that is truth and at the same time hundreds of thousands of beings just see it as a lie.
This is the real magic actually. It’s everywhere actually, in all our daily experience. What you like, others don’t like. What magic! Nothing can be done about it. Yes, you can talk [to the] other [person] and you can [try to] convince them, but there’s always going to be somebody who will like it [and somebody else who will] not like it. These seeming opposites coexisting together so harmoniously. This is the magic.
Wow, if you can really understand this. And not just understand, if you can tap into that wealth, you will be as unshakeable as Mount Meru. But at the same time, [you will be] as adaptable as the one blade of grass on the peak of a windy mountain. [At times] it’s good to be like a blade of grass. Wherever the wind flows, it moves. But [the wind] never takes out [the blade of grass] from the root. [At] other times it’s good to be like Mount Meru. Just don’t move. But anyway, if you can understand [that], then you will really know the power of the dharani.
Anyway, for us, you and me, we may not understand this completely this time. But don’t whine. We have something. We came here. Year after year, we come. That wish, that liking, that longing. This dharani is what we need to count on.
Note: to read footnotes please click on superscript numbers.
Transcribed and edited by Alex Li Trisoglio