King Ashoka Mandala Teaching


Calling the Guru From Afar : A Supplication to Pierce Your Heart With Devotion

Root text by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Commentary by Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche (Part 2)

The Four Preliminary Contemplations

Sentient beings like me, with negative karma and evil deeds,
Have wandered in samsara from beginningless time.
I continue to experience timeless suffering,
But I never feel even the briefest moment of regret.
Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.
Bless me that renunciation arises from the depth of my heart.

The most important thing we have to look at is our own conduct and experiences, how we go through the day without any mindfulness. This is reinforcing our samsaric habitual tendencies, but we don’t see how we waste our time, we don’t see it as meaningless. Why do we not have regrets, consciousness or mindfulness? Why we don’t have any renunciation towards samsaric and mental activities? Why do we have so much activities and emotions, including positive emotions? Suffering is easy to abandon but we find it difficult to let go of any pleasure that we feel, any enjoyment that we have. The feeling of suffering is suffering of suffering, the feeling of joy is suffering of change, and the neutral feeling is the all-pervasive suffering. Whenever you feel that you lack something, this arises from the habits that you have from the past.

The suffering in samsara is not supposed to make you depressed. Being depressed and having renunciation are two different things. Mere suffering is when you are sucked into the meaningless suffering of samsara. Renunciation is when you know how to be free of that suffering and wanting to be free from that suffering. It will make you not waste your time, not be completely distracted to your daily activities and make wiser choice to follow the dharma to attain enlightenment.

The Precious Human Life

Though having attained the freedoms and riches I squander my life,
Always preoccupied by the pointless affairs of the world.
When applying myself to the great pursuit of liberation, I am overcome by laziness.
As I return from this island of jewels empty-handed,
Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.
Bless me that my human life may become meaningful.

What is actually a meaningful life? Using your time and effort towards the right path, the dharma. Doing something without good motivation, or doing activities with good motivation but acting without mindfulness, being completely distracted is coming back empty-handed. Laziness, having a choice to meditate but not taking that choice, is also being empty-handed. Having right motivation, right mindfulness and right meditation or practice to have a meaningful life. But the guru cannot fix your problem without your having to do anything. We ask the guru to bless us to remind us to practice every moment.

Death and Impermanence

Not a single life on earth escapes death,
Even now, they pass away one after another.
Soon I too must die. I am a fool, thinking I will remain forever.
Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.
Bless me so that with no time to waste, I will curtail my plans.

Impermanence is very important, thinking that I am may die today. Not thinking that I will live until I am 90 years old, that I can work till I am 50, then spend 20 years practicing in retreat, and then spend the rest of life in enjoyment. Impermanence makes you serious and cautious about your time, it is not meant to make you sad. It should transform your motivation to do your practice and a reminder to be more diligent, not to make you have fear and remain and be stuck in that mindset.

There are different attitude towards impermanence – there are some people who celebrate death, some who are indifferent and some who fear even the name of death. If you are in the third category, you need to spend less time thinking of impermanence, and if you are in the second category, you need to spend more time thinking of impermanence.

There are a few ways of looking at impermanence – one is thinking that the individuals around you are dying one by one, and soon it will be your turn. Secondly, thinking that the time of death is uncertain. Thirdly, some people don’t care about death but don’t know how to practice when they die, so they should learn from today how to practice at the point of death.

However, we should be careful that impermanence does not become a motivation to practice the dharma. Fear of death being the main motivation to practice dharma is a lowly, samsaric motivation. Death should boost your practice but not be your motivation to practice.

I will separated from each of my loved ones.
All the valuables I have hoarded will be enjoyed by others.
Even this body I hold so dear will be left behind,
And, within the bardo, my consciousness will wander aimlessly throughout samsara.
Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.
Bless me that I may realize the futility of it all.

We work so hard to make all our family and friends happy, to earn money and possessions. We spend a lot of money and time to improve our health. However, we don’t have any good results from all this time and effort – it’s a bad investment. However much we work for our family, they will die one by one. When we die, our possessions will be enjoyed by someone else. Our family will cry for us for some time, but after that we will fade from their memory. However much we work for our body, it will slowly deteriorate. However much we want to make our mind happy, the foolish mind will be wandering in the states of bardo and samsara.
Please guru, bless me so that I can see that all this time and effort spent is meaningless. Some people say family is good for practice. Without money how can we do retreat, how can we make offerings to the monks? Without a healthy body, how can I meditate? Without a happy mind, I am not motivated to practice? So what is this verse talking about?
But here what is meant is that you have to draw a line, how much time and effort do you want to spend in such pursuits? Does samsaric satisfaction benefit you in the dharma – making you wiser and attain enlightenment? Do not spend your time completely in samsara, spend your time meaningfully.

Karma – Cause and Effect

The black darkness of fear confronts me.
The fierce gale of karma pursues me.
The lord of death’s hideous thugs club and beat me.
Having to endure the unbearable suffering of negative rebirth;
Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.
Bless me that I may be liberated from the abyss of the lower realms.

This verse is asking the guru to bless us to be free from the lower realms. When you die, you will be forced towards the darkness, by strange looking demons towards the lower realms. From the practice viewpoint, when we talk about darkness, we are talking about ignorance – not understanding the path, or knowing the path but not knowing how to practice the path, or knowing how to practice but not understanding what is the result of the practice.
Karma refers to the habitual tendencies, of feeling guilty, love, regret, doing things, being all the time the best, anger, loneliness, millions of habits. When you come to the Dharma, the habits hold you back towards the same person whom you want to change. Basically at the front you have ignorance, and at the back you have the force of habitual tendencies. There are obstacles all the time to cause you to fail – when you want to practice the dharma, you have distractions, bad health, all sorts of obstacles.

We are so fortunate to meet the precious Dharma and have the capacity to practice the Dharma. We all know that practicing in retreat is very important, but in order to go into retreat, you need to know the whole path of your practice. Without knowing the whole path, how to measure your practice and how to improve your practice, it is not the right moment to go into retreat.

In our daily lives, we should adopt the three chakras – of studying, meditating and acting for the benefit of others. Studying means listening to teachings or reading Dharma books from authentic masters, like Rongzom Mahapandita, Shantideva, Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. When I read texts from these masters, there is an inner change in myself, as these masters are accomplished and they are very genuine. Reading deepens my understanding.