The significance of empowerments

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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:23 pm

It is a good question Jeeprs. I imagine different teachers will have different approaches. I live in the 'modern world' and I am a Westerner. Yet I have received empowerments and they were given in a traditional manner each time. I am thankful for that as that approach really resonates with me. Yet I would think that even in cases as you describe, where the empowerment was done via Skype, that some may be able to receive the empowerment while others may only receive what is sometimes referred to as the 'blessing' and not the empowerment proper. In fact this can happen even in a more traditional setting - students may physically be present for an empowerment ritual but have no idea what is going on, what is being said, not understand any of it, have no concept of what taking an empowerment is, etc, yet since they are present they might still receive the 'blessing' even if they do not receive the empowerment with awareness. The 'blessing' can plant karmic seeds in their mindstream which may later ripen so they can actually receive the empowerment. If that makes sense?
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May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:55 pm

Certainly it makes sense. But at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality of the aspiration. That is an intangible and a very subtle thing to convey. I think that is why the emphasis is put on the personal relationship with the teacher who is able to judge that quality. In the modern electronic world with so much symbolism and media, that is something that is easily lost I would imagine.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:09 pm

I agree with you. I *personally* feel a relationship with a Lama is essential. In my own case, I didn't request any empowerments until I first practiced at the sutra level, was ready to take refuge and bodhisattva vows, familiarized myself with what (at least on a basic level) it means to take an empowerment, found a Lama who I feel is sincere, knowledgeable and attained and who I felt a connection with and went into the empowerment with full intention of taking up the practices associated with it. My motivation was and is bodhicitta. For me, this is the ideal approach, but as you point out, aspiration can be difficult to ascertain. I can really only ascertain my own aspiration and not that of other students. It is through the grace of the Lama that we are entered into the mandala of a tantric deity. It is up to us to make effort to keep the practice commitments, maintain the vows and work towards liberation and enlightenment. At the anuttarayoga level (and perhaps others?), receiving an empowerment establishes an irrevocable bond between the student and the Vajra Master. The Vajra Masters are typically well aware of this. They have samaya to the students as well. From the Lamas side, they may have more knowledge about students than we (i.e. other students) may be aware of. So perhaps what may look to some as a questionable practice, like offering empowerments to students that appear not to really 'get' what taking an empowerment means in the fullest sense, may actually be an application of skillful means towards leading those students closer to the Dharma, or creating causes and/or conditions that will ripen later, perhaps even in future rebirths, etc.

But yes, my own tendency is to be a bit more 'traditional' in the sense of having a more direct relationship with my teachers and so forth. There are teachers out there where this is still possible. I don't mean that they are all available to chit-chat about every little thing - but when it comes to dharma practice, instructions, receiving empowerments, etc. there are still Lamas who stay closer to the traditional ways even in this modern world. I found one.
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May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:42 pm

Vajratantrika,

What are the common empowerments in your Jonang tradition? Are they mostly connected with Taranatha?

I'm very interested as I know so little about the Jonangpas, only what I learned from my discussions with a Jonang monk scholar in Dharamsala who was setting up a study institution in Darjeeling.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:48 pm

Hello JKhedrup,

JKhedrup wrote:What are the common empowerments in your Jonang tradition? Are they mostly connected with Taranatha?


At the sutra level, there is a lamrim by Taranatha, called in English, 'Essence of Ambrosia'. There is also the 'Great Madhyamaka' which is another name for the zhentong view upheld in the Jonang lineage. Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen is one of the primary Lineage Masters, along with Taranatha. There are many others as well.

There are also practices related to Green Tara (the 21 Taras). While Green Tara puja doesn't require empowerment, I believe there is also an empowerment associated with this practice (or a form of this practice) though I have not received it. There are also practices and an empowerment associated with Cundi. I also believe there are practices related to Hevajra (though I would have to confirm this to be sure).

The main Anuttarayoga tantra of the Jonang lineage is Kalachakra from the Dro transmission (which is a bit different from the Ra transmission offered in the Gelug and some other lineages, particularly in relation to the Completion Stage). Though it is said that Dolpopa fused both the Ra and Dro transmissions into one.

There are other practices as well, and I'm sure there are some I am not even aware of. Of course, practices common to most of Tibetan Buddhism are also shared, such as Chenrezig and ngondro such as Refuge/Prostrations, cultivation of Bodhichitta, Mandala Offering, Vajrasattva, Guru Yoga and so forth.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Feb 07, 2013 7:02 pm

Vajratantrika wrote: So perhaps what may look to some as a questionable practice, like offering empowerments to students that appear not to really 'get' what taking an empowerment means in the fullest sense, may actually be an application of skillful means towards leading those students closer to the Dharma, or creating causes and/or conditions that will ripen later, perhaps even in future rebirths, etc.


Yes. And I often remind myself to keep pure vision. I once caught myself looking around at an empowerment, wondering how qualified the attendants were. . . even having conversations and discovering that some understood little about Buddhism, didn't consider themselves Buddhist, or didn't understand samaya. So as I started down this negative line of thinking such as "What are they doing here? They don't understand what this is about! They're going to break their samaya and shorten MY lama's life!!!" and I realized that through this analysis I had forsaken both pure vision and bodhicitta. . . so lest I myself should fail to receive the empowerment, I concluded, well, the yidam must have invited them or they wouldn't be here. . . after all, this is the pure land of the deity, and the lama is the buddha, and we are all dakas and dakinis, so thank you Lama for pointing out my extremely limited, judgmental habits!
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby ngodrup » Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:35 pm

Good post, Dakini_boi
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:19 pm

dakini_boi wrote:...I often remind myself to keep pure vision...


Yes, excellent post dakini_boi!
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 11:01 am

No sooner do I post this thread, than I get an email invitation to an empowerment ceremony, next Sunday week.

I'm going. :smile:
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Pema Nyizer » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:44 am

:namaste:
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:20 am

How wonderful jeeprs. May your connection to the Dharma ever increase, and may you benefit all beings. :anjali:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:56 am

I hope so too. I must admit, I am having a bit of an inner struggle as to where I belong. I am not affiliated formally with any particular school but have friends and contacts in various traditions. I am very drawn to Soto Zen but also find many of the current Tibetan teachings very attractive. This school has an established teacher in Sydney and have moved to a new centre which is relatively near my place. I think I will just attend without too many preconceptions. The Dharma ultimately has the 'one taste' after all. :namaste:
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:23 am

My thoughts are that if people are not what we'd generally think of as qualified, but they feel enough of a connection that they feel moved to attend an empowerment that a qualified lama is granting them permission to attend, then at the very least they are creating a karmic connection--or they're likely strengthening an already extant karmic connection--to the path of secret mantra and the class of tantra to which the empowerment belongs, as well as to the teacher. Maybe that karma will ripen in this life and they'll actively take up the path, or maybe it'll happen in a future life.
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:35 am

Oh, also, as for how empowerment works, I think it's helpful to think of it in terms of creating an auspicious interdependent connection between (1) the enlightened body, speech, and mind of the the yidam (or on a deeper level, the teacher),(2) the sadhana, and (3) the process of realizing one's own innately awakened body, speech, and mind by practicing the sadhana. Visualizing oneself as the yidam, one considers that the nature of the yidam is outwardly represented by the lama (who one visualizes as the yidam) and that inwardly one's own nature is the real yidam... there's a sort of aligning interdependence in this arrangement that plants the seed and creates the context for one to experience that knowledge in an ultimate, complete way through the practice. Does that make sense?
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Re: The significance of empowerments

Postby Vajratantrika » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:23 am

I thoroughly agree with the comments Pema Rigdzin has shared. I would underscore the point about visualizing the lama as the yidam (i.e. the specific tantric deity associated with the empowerment) - if possible during the empowerment. This can be extremely beneficial. And to add, if there is a chance for Q&A, you might consider asking what practice commitments are involved and any other samayas (for instance, vows, etc). The Vajra Master will typically instruct on these points, but that is not always the case. And also what class of tantra the practice is a part of.

I am happy for you jeeprs. I found that when I received my first empowerment it really opened up a lot for me, drew me closer to the Dharma and provided a focus for practice. :anjali:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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