An Aspiration prayer by Atisha the great.

 

An aspiration For those of the (Mahayana) lineage.

In the language of India:  Kula Prani Dhama Nama.

In the language of Tibet:  Rigs Kyi Mon Lam.

 

I prostrate to Arya Tara!

When the time of my death comes,

May I die with clear faculties.

May there not be the suffering of the cutting off  of my life.

In the bardo of becoming

May self-arisen primordial wisdom (rang byung ye shes) be realized.

 

Even having realized self-arisen primordial wisdom;

May there be independence wherever I’m born.

Wherever that birthplace is;

May the countless afflictions be few.

And may I take birth as a person who practices the dharma!

Even if I take birth as a person who practices dharma,

May I meet with dharma friends!

 

Even if I meet with dharma friends,

May making offerings to the three jewels be primary.

And may I abide in the three vows!

Even if I abide in the three vows;

May I meditate on profound emptiness.

 

May I remember all the dharma that I have heard!

Even if I remember all the dharma that I’ve heard.

Having realized the meaning of the Mahayana,

Not making my own benefit primary;

May the suffering of all sentient beings in samsara ripen on myself.

Even if that suffering ripens on myself

There will not be harm to body, speech, or mind and

By the mind that focuses on the benefit of others without the distractions of conceptual

Activities, may all the benefits for others be accomplished.

Having brought to completion all the benefits for others

May the three kayas possessing the five primordial wisdoms be spontaneously accomplished.

 

 

 

Known as the “Rigs Kyi Monlam”

This, composed by the Acharya and great scholar, Shri Dipamkara Jnana is complete.

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A Method of practicing Tara which allows blessings to swiftly enter.

Green-Tara

I prostrate to the noble Tara!

For a yogi desiring to accomplish Tara;

In the space before one is exalted Tara, her body is green and her right hand is (in the mudra of ) supreme generosity.

Her left hand holds an utpala.

Her right leg is extended out and her left is drawn in.

Think that she resides upon a lotus, sun and moon.

With your mind, make offerings, praises, and supplications to her.

 

Through each prostration offered with your mind,

Light rays emerge from  Tara’s enlightened heart-mind.

As they strike your body, the obscurations of the body are purified.

As they strike your speech, the obscurations of the speech are purified.

As they strike your heart, the obscurations of the mind are purified.

 

Having purified the habitual tendencies of clinging to true reality, as well as attachment and anger;

Meditate that there is no difference between oneself and Tara, like a dream and an illusion.

And then, recite the praises to Tara, 3 or 7 times,  as many as you wish.

Tara dissolves from above your crown, downwards.

Think that your body has dissolved into emptiness, like a rainbow.

 

As the body and mind have become loose and relaxed, the mind will be clear and exceedingly pure.

Recognizing that, meditate that the experiences of that recognition develop.

 

And then recite three times “By these roots of virtue, may I attain Buddhahood in order to benefit migrating beings!”

 

In this way it is explained in the root text that all good qualities arise from this praise, and so, by (practicing) it there will be accomplishment.

 

The Lord Jowo (Atisha), having received a prophecy from Tara, and having made her his heart practice, found the accomplishment of siddhis. 

And then, gradually, all of the Kadampas made this their heart practice and cleared away obstacles.

 They say there are no blessings and siddhis greater than these.

Reflections on and experiences with the Forest tradition of practice in Northern Thailand

I have been living in the mountainous areas of the Chiang Mai province of Northern Thailand for the past three years.  Beginning about a year ago I decided that I better make use of my extended stay in the region and become more acquainted with a predominant mode of practice here, that of the Thai forest tradition.

In the beginning, in order to peel, and sink my teeth into the juicy ripe mango that is the forest tradition of meditation practice, I had to overcome a couple of personal obstacles that were lingering in my consciousness.   Perhaps they were not obstacles so much as they were hesitations in beginning practice in yet another tradition after years of being steeped in the practices of Tibetan Buddhism which are predominantly Mahayana and Vajrayana.  After all, what would I need from the lowly and basic practices of the Theravada monks?  Tibetan Buddhism encompasses all of the three vehicles without need of searching for anything else, right?  Well, sort of… maybe…

As Tibetan Buddhism is presented traditionally and in the modern times in western countries, practitioners  are given a plethora of methods of training their minds.  Some of these are based in the practices of the Mahayana Sutras and many are based on the different levels of Tantric practice. The main claim of  the higher Tantras is that they offer a speedy path to complete Enlightenment in just one life.  This is all fine and dandy, the problem is that it can lead some people to believe, or hope whole heartedly in the inherent speed and superiority of these forms of practice.  This can lead to beliefs which become a type of Mahayana or Vajrayana dogmatism. After staying in several monasteries of the Thai forest tradition, and meeting some accomplished teachers, I have concluded that these vehicles aren’t objective in the sense that merely  practicing a “fast path” guarantees your rapid spiritual development.  On the other hand, practicing the Theravada with full confidence could can lead to relatively quick development because of the simplicity and straightforwardness of the practice.   

Having ventured of the metropolis of Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai, for that matter, into the cool forested abodes of the north such as Chiang Dao, Mae Hong Song, Mae Taeng, or Mae Rim you will find some of the world’s most ideal places for meditation practice.  In the same way that the elder and most qualified Rinpoches of Tibet have become an endangered species, the “Ajahns” (approximately equal to the title of “Lama”) and “Kubar  Ajahns” (approximately equal to the title of “Rinpoche)of Thailand are dwindling in numbers.  Traditionally, these monks who rose through the ranks of monasticism in Thailand, have been from the area of Northeastern Thailand, known as Issan.  It is renowned as an area that while being poor materially, is very rich in spirit, love of fun (sanook), and its people possess a deep and abiding faith in Buddha Dharma.

 Its notable that throughout history, whether in India, Tibet, or Thailand the people who develop most spiritually were raised in environments where they had to be tough.  Constant encounters with death and impermanence due to lack of food or adequate healthcare, and also the day to day hardships of life in such regions provided the fuel to begin on a path seeking liberation from these difficulties.  Compare this with the people nowadays from the West or other developed Asian countries and you can see that because we are used to a high level of material comfort, developing the grit to put up with the hardships inherent in seeking liberation is rare.

In Thailand there are temples everywhere.  I read in one book that there are approximately 40,000 temples in the country.  One small temple near where I’ve been living is in the area of Chiang Mai called “Santitham”.  This is short for “Santi Dhamma”, which means peaceful dhamma.  If you’ve ever been to India you have inevitably heard the phrase “Shanti Shanti”. This is from the same root.  Santitham was built back in the 1940’s at a time when the area was a peaceful forest.  Now it is a popular place for both Thais and foreigners.  There are numerous hotels, restaurants, massage/spa shops, and bars in the area.  All things that one can expect to find in an area of Thailand frequented by foreigners.   It reminds me a little bit of what happened in Kathmandu with Dudjom Rinpoche’s monastery outside the Boudha gate.  That area of Kathmandu was once, apparently, a more rural area but is now smack dab in the middle of the city.  Although Thailand enjoys a much greater level of economic development and standard of living than Nepal, there are many similarities.

It was at Wat Santitham that I met “Phra Joel”.  Joel is a monk from Australia whose primary teacher is the abbot of Wat Santitham.  He has spent the last seven years following the Thai forest mode of practice intensively under the guidance of his teacher.  This training involves  approximately 4-5 months of what is known as “tudong” practice per year.  This is a training prescribed the Buddha Shakyamuni himself in which monks wander through the jungles and secluded areas of Thailand.  They must beg for their food once a day and sleep in a tent which they can easily carry over their shoulder, carrying only very few other necessary tools with them.  The idea of this type of practice is the give up attachment, overcome fear, and have as much time as possible to develop your own meditation practice. 

The thing that impressed me in my encounters with Phra Joel is that he really seemed like someone who had succeeded in taming his mind.  He was always calm and composed and really listened to you when you spoke without interjecting his own ego centric opinion into every conversation.  Just surviving as a forest monk,  and being one of the only foreigners in remote temples and going on these “tudongs” is an accomplishment in itself.  The difficulties involved with the simplicity of life, combined with the added challenges of severe cultural differences which bring many foreigners feelings of isolation that eventually become unbearable and cause them to give up the monkhood, he managed to use as fuel for the practice.

The two other “Kubar Ajahns” who have impressed me the most thus far are also elder monks from Northeastern Thailand who currently reside in the Chiang Mai province.  The first, Luang Por C Nawn, who is Phra Joel’s teacher surprised me with his ability to speak English.  I have been to see him quite a few times and he definitely seems to have a level of meditative accomplishment.  Although it would be impossible for me to judge exactly what that is, without him telling me, I have been around spiritual teachers long enough that I feel confident in my ability to pick out “the real deal”.  Whenever I would ask him questions about my practice or express my mind his simple, Zen link, responses of few words didn’t give much meat to analyze intellectually but were backed with deep experience in meditation and seeing the nature of consciousness and the nature of thoughts which give you a strong experiential feeling which is distinct from mere intellectual explanations.

The other Kubar Ajahn who impressed me so much is known as Ajahn Plien.  His temple is 40 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai in the area known as Mae Taeng.  He has been in the monkhood for nearly 60 years and has spent long periods of time in concentrated practice.  I was surprised when I first met him and I immediately wondered what is going on here?  His mental state produced a tangible expression, as if he were emanating into the material world from a higher formless reality.   I couldn’t help but wholeheartedly believing that this was a monk who had succeeded in attaining what is known as the “jhanas” as described in the classical literature of the Pali cannon.  The jhanas are not typically cultivated by Tibetan Buddhists, but Tibetan Buddhists are taught to refine their ability of samadhi to the point where one can gain access to the first jhana.  This is called “access concentration” and can serve as a proper foundation for further progressing on the path to liberation into the realization of the nature of the mind. Later, after having read his life story which has been translated into English I realized that some of the Ajahns practiced with as much diligence as Milarepa.  In one period Ajahn Plien mentioned that he was only sleeping 25 minutes a night and spending the rest of time in meditation practice.  No wonder he has received such excellent results.

The stories of the forest monks  are full of tales of meeting with wild tigers, elephants, and different kinds of poisonous snakes.  In the old days before Thailand had felt the negative effects of human greed, when there were more forests to practice in, encounters with wild tigers and elephants were not uncommon.  I asked Phra Joel what dangers he had encountered on his wanderings and he said it is common to have king cobras come up to you in the forest but the tigers and wild elephants are more rare these days.  Encountering a wild tiger or snake is seen to be an encounter with your own teacher.  You must contemplate that if you have not committed any bad karma towards this being in the past they will have no reason to harm you.  You can also contemplate the impermanence of your own physical aggregate with much greater conviction than just staying in safe places all the time.  It often turns out that during these encounters the monks are able to maintain their inner confidence in the teachings and the snakes or tigers will disperse on their own accord.  However, there are also stories that don’t have happy endings.  In my mind I compare this type of practice with the ideal of the “gchod pa” in Tibet.

It was Phra Joel who led me to my first stay at a Forest monastery about 20 kilometers into the mountains just north of Chiang Mai.  It was July in Thailand and well into the rainy season but the monks were just beginning their rains retreat for the next three months.  The practice schedule was set to be a little more intense than usual and none of the monks would be able to stay outside the monastery for the entire three month period.

Now let us try to understand a little about discipline in the Thai forest tradition.  Westerners often come to Buddhism looking for peace through meditation in order to do their work more effectively and just lead a better, more fulfilling life.  Ethical discipline is at the heart of the practice and is the necessary  foundation for developing meditation successfully.  Most people have heard about the five precepts which are the minimum rules for life in a Thai temple as a  layperson.  These are no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, and no intoxicants.  For the most part it’s fairly simple to follow these especially when living in the temple environment where there is less opportunity to engage in these vices.  Although, on a daily basis in the world it we may usually find an excuse to have a drink, tell a white lie, or kill some pesky insects or other small animals.

For the monks on the other hand there are many precepts and rules about how to do almost everything in the monastery.  If anyone reading this has ever lived in Asia for an extended period of time they will know just how very different Asian culture and the Asian way of doing things is from the West.  One of the first things that comes up for westerners in general and staying in an environment such as a Thai temple is that things don’t seem logical or rational.  I often found myself wondering why do they have to follow so many rules, aren’t they basic precepts enough?

Over time I came to appreciate that while the rules and hierarchy of the Thai forest tradition can be a bit daunting at first, there is meaning and benefit behind them.  The first noticeable benefit is they force you to be mindful in every action and you come to realize how often your mind is wandering off of the present moment into lala land.  In a forest monastery almost every second of every day should be accounted for.  Lay people and monks have distinct and separate roles which, when acted upon create a harmonious environment suitable for practice. All the rules are basically in the spirit of mindfulness and wisdom.  This simplicity with attention to detail makes the environment suitable for meditation practice, particularly that of shamatha.  If there is little time for chit chat and everything is following a schedule you don’t have to think too much about what you will do next.  You bring everything into the spirit of mindfulness and samadhi and thus your practice works to purify your mind from its distractions in all aspects of your daily routine, not just when you are sitting down to meditate.  This is really necessary if you want your spiritual practice to seep deeply into your being.  From my own experience as a beginner, a suitable environment is an indispensable factor for developing a meditation practice.  We have many habits associated with our homes, families, and social conditioning and it takes a sharp mind to penetrate just which of these are based on the knowledge of the way things really are and which are unwholesome and counter-productive.

For me personally, it has been particularly refreshing to detach from the conditionings I have developed as a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner.  It is easy to, after many years with the tradition, become attached to the mode of practice.  We become attached to deities, mantras, or overly ritualistic methods of practice. We may expect the greatness of the method to bring about the transformation we seek without realizing it could be accomplished more effectively and directly in a much simpler way.  I do value the richness and variety of the methods of the Vajrayana but as many have concluded, seriously doubt the efficiency of more advanced practices without having dealt with one’s own personal obstacles and inability to just sit and meditate without any of the bells and whistles of the Vajrayana.  I have come to believe that gaining experience in Theravada coupled, eventually, with more advanced Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices may be the most effective way to proceed along the path. 

Sila, samadhi, and prajna are three things indispensable for ones liberation from the variety of emotional afflictions and habitual patterns that dominate our samsaric experience.  The Buddha taught these as the basis of all the vehicles and these aren’t practices that need any elaborate rituals to enter the gate of practice, but they do need the proper environment  so that one may look into the mirror and see oneself with absolute clarity.

I am very happy to have met some of the “Kubar Ajahns” and experienced the richness and profound peace and benefits which come from the practice of the Thai forest tradition in its native environment.  I would encourage anyone who is new to meditation to begin with the simple mindfulness practices taught by the Buddha and preserved in the Theravada.  I also believe that people who have been practicing Mahayana and Vajrayana for many years can learn a lot from experiencing the practice lineage of the Thai forest monks.

     Ajahn_Wat_Santitham

(Ajahn C-Nawn of Wat Santitham, Chiang Mai)

I have been living in the mountainous areas of the Chiang Mai province of Northern Thailand for the past three years.  Beginning about a year ago I decided that I better make use of my extended stay in the region and become more acquainted with a predominant mode of practice here, that of the Thai forest tradition.

In the beginning, in order to peel and sink my teeth into the juicy ripe mango that is the forest tradition of meditation practice, I had to overcome a couple of personal obstacles that were lingering in my consciousness.   Perhaps they were not obstacles so much as they were hesitations in beginning practice in yet another tradition after years of being steeped in the practices of Tibetan Buddhism which are predominantly Mahayana and Vajrayana.  After all, what would I need from the lowly and basic practices of the Theravada monks?  Tibetan Buddhism encompasses all of the three vehicles without need of searching for anything else, right?  Well, sort of… maybe…

As Tibetan Buddhism is presented traditionally and in the modern times, in western countries, practitioners are often presented with a plethora of methods of mind training.  Some of these are based in the practice of the Mahayana  Sutras and many are based on the different levels of tantric practice. The main claim of  the higher Tantras is that they offer a speedy path to complete Enlightenment in just one life.  This is all fine and dandy, the problem is that it can lead some people to believe, or hope whole heartedly in the inherent speed of superiority and speed of these forms of practice, another words: beliefs which are pure Mahayana or Vajrayana dogmatism. After staying in several monasteries of the Thai forest tradition I haven’t seen any evidence that  any of these vehicles are objective in the sense that merely  practicing such and such vehicle guarantees your rapid spiritual development. 

Having ventured of the metropolises of Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai for that matter into the cool forested abodes of the north such as Chiang Dao, Mae Hong Song, Mae Taeng, or Mae Rim.  Here you will find some of the world’s most ideal places for meditation practice.  In the same way that the elder and most qualified “Rinpoches” of Tibet have become an endangered species, the “Ajahns” (approximately equal to the title of “Lama”) and “Kubar  Ajahns” (approximately equal to the title of “Rinpoche)of Thailand are dwindling in number.  Traditionally, these monks who rose through the ranks of monasticism in Thailand, have been from the area of Northeastern Thailand, known as Issan.  It is renowned as an area that while being poor materially, is very rich in spirit, love of fun (sanook) and with a deep and abiding faith in Buddha Dharma.

 Its notable that throughout history, whether in India, Tibet, or Thailand the people who develop most spiritually were raised in environments where they had to be tough.  Constant encounters with death and impermanence, due to lack of food or adequate healthcare, and also the day to day hardships of life in such regions provide the fuel to begin on a path seeking liberation from these difficulties.  Compare this with the people nowadays from the West or other developed Asian countries and you can see that because we are used to a high level of material comfort, developing the grit to put up with the hardships inherent in seeking liberation is rare.

In Thailand there are temples everywhere.  I read in one book that there are approximately 40,000 temples in the country.  One small temple near where I’ve been living is in the area of Chiang Mai called “Santitham”.  This is short for “Santi Dhamma”, which means peaceful dhamma.  If you’ve ever been to India you know the phrase “Shanti Shanti”, this is from the same root.  Santitham was built back in the 1940’s at a time when the area was a peaceful forest.  Now it is a popular place for both Thai’s and foreigners.  There are numerous hotels, restaurants, massage/spa shops, and bars in the area.  All things that one can expect to find in an area of Thailand visited by foreigners.   It reminds me of what happened in Kathmandu with Dudjom Rinpoche’s monastery outside the Boudha gate.  Which, apparently, while once being in a more rural area, is now smack dab in the middle of the Kathmandu surrounded by the noise of traffic and its accompanying air pollution.

It was at Wat Santitham that I met “Phra Joel”.  Joel is a monk from Australia whose primary teacher is the abbot of Wat Santitham.  He has spent the last seven years following the Thai forest mode of practice intensively under the guidance of his teacher.  This training has involved  approximately 4-5 months of what is known as “dhutanga” practice.  This is a training prescribed the Buddha Shakyamuni himself which involves homeless wandering in the jungles and secluded areas of Thailand.  Monks must beg for their food once a day and sleep in a tent which they can easily carry over their shoulder, carrying only very few other necessary tools with them.  The idea of this type of practice is to give up attachment, overcome fear, and have as much time as possible to develop your own meditation practice. 

The thing that impressed me about Phra Joel is that he really seemed like someone who had succeeded in taming his mind.  He was always calm and composed and really listened to you when you spoke without interjecting his own ego centric opinion or theoretical understanding of the teachings into the discussion.  Just surviving as a forest monk, one of the few or sometimes only foreigners in remote temples and going dhutanga practices is an accomplishment in itself.  The difficulties involved with simplicity of life, combined with the added challenges of severe cultural differences which bring many foreigners feelings of isolation that eventually become unbearable and cause them to give up the monkhood, he managed to use as fuel for the practice.

The two other “Kubar Ajahns” who have impressed me the most thus far are also elder monks from the Issan province who currently reside in the Chiang Mai province.  The first, Luang Por Ajahn C Nawn, who is Phra Joel’s teacher surprised me with his ability to speak English.  I have been to see him quite frequently and he definitely seems to have a level of meditation accomplishment.  Although it would be impossible for me to judge exactly what that is, without him telling me, I have been around spiritual teachers long enough that I feel confident in my ability to pick out “the real deal”.  Whenever I would ask him questions about my practice or express my mind his simple, Zen like, responses of few words didn’t give much meat to analyze intellectually but were backed with deep experience in meditation, seeing the nature of consciousness, and the nature of thoughts which give you a feeling of (aha it’s so simple!) that dry intellectual explanations cannot provide.

The other Kubar Ajahn who impressed me so much is known as Ajahn Plien.  His temple is 40 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai in the area known as Mae Taeng.  He has been in the monkhood for nearly 60 years and has spent long periods of time in concentrated practice.  I was surprised when I first met him and I immediately wondered what is going on here?  His mental state produced a tangible expression, as if he were emanating into the material world from a higher formless reality, which could be felt by others in the room.  I couldn’t help but wholeheartedly believing that this was a monk who had succeeded in attaining what is known as the “Jhanas” as described in the classical literature of the Pali cannon.  The Jhanas are not typically cultivated by Tibetan Buddhists, but Tibetan Buddhists are recommended to refine their ability of Samadhi to the point where one can gain access to the first Jhana, this is called “access concentration”, and can serve as a proper foundation for further progressing on the path to liberation. Later, after having read his life story which has been translated into English I realized that some of the Ajahns practiced with as much diligence as Milarepa.  In one period Ajahn Plien mentioned that he was only sleeping 25 minutes a night, and spending the rest of time in meditation practice.  No wonder he has received such excellent results.

The stories of the forest monks  are full of tales of meeting with wild tigers, elephants, and different kinds of poisonous snakes.  In the old days before Thailand had felt the negative effects of human greed, when there were more forests to practice in; encounters with wild tigers and elephants were not uncommon.  I asked Phra Joel what dangers he had encountered on his wanderings and he said it is common to have king cobras come up to you in the forest but the tigers and wild elephants are more rare these days.  Encountering a wild tiger or snake is seen to be an encounter with your own teacher.  You must contemplate that if you have not committed any bad karma towards this being in the past they will have no reason to harm you.  You can also contemplate the impermanence of your own physical aggregate with much greater conviction than just staying in safe places all the time.  It often turns out that during these encounters the monks are able to maintain their inner confidence in the teachings and the snakes or tigers will disperse on their own accord.  However, there are also stories that don’t have happy endings.  In my mind I compare this type of practice with the ideal practice of the “gchod pa” in Tibet

It was Phra Joel who led me to my first stay at a Forest monastery about 20 kilometers into the mountains just north of Chiang Mai.  It was July in Thailand and well into the rainy season but the monks were just beginning their rains retreat for the next three months.  The practice schedule was set to be a little more intense than usual and none of the monks would be able to stay outside the monastery for the entire 3 month period.

Now let us talk about discipline in the Thai forest tradition.  Westerners often come to Buddhism looking for peace through meditation in order to do their work more effectively and just lead a better, more fulfilling life.  Ethical discipline is at the heart of the practice and is the necessary  foundation for developing meditation successfully.  Most people have heard about the 5 precepts which are the minimum rules for life in a Thai temple as a  layperson.  These are no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct, and no intoxicants.  For the most part it’s fairly simple to follow these especially when living in the temple environment where there is less opportunity to engage in these vices.  Although, on a daily basis in the world it we may usually find an excuse to have a drink, tell a white lie, or kill some pesky insects or other small animals.

For the monks on the other hand there are many precepts and rules about how to do almost everything in the monastery.  If anyone reading this has ever lived in Asia for an extended period of time they will know just how very different Asian culture and the Asian way of doing things is from the West.  One of the first things that comes up for westerners in general and staying in an environment such as a Thai temple in particular, is that things don’t seem logical or rational.  I often found myself wondering why do they have to follow so many rules, aren’t they basic precepts enough?

Over time I came to appreciate that while the rules and hierarchy of the Thai forest tradition can be a bit daunting at first, there meaning and benefit behind them.  In a forest monastery almost every second of every day should be accounted for.  Lay people and monks have distinct and separate roles which when acted upon create a harmonious environment suitable for practice. All the rules are basically in the spirit of mindfulness and wisdom.  This simplicity with attention to detail makes the environment suitable for meditation practice, particularly that of shamatha.  If there is little time for chit chat and everything is following a schedule you don’t have to think too much about what you will do next.  You bring everything into the spirit of mindfulness and samadhi and thus your practice to purify your mind from its distractions in all aspects of your daily routine, not just when you are sitting down to meditate.  This is really necessary if you want your spiritual practice to seep deeply into your being.  From my own experience as a beginner, a suitable environment is really an indispensable factor for developing a meditation practice.  We have many habits associated with our homes, families, and social conditioning and it takes a sharp mind to penetrate just which of these are based on the knowledge of the way things really are and which are unwholesome and counter-productive.  Without the guidance of the rules the monastery, people will be doing whatever they wish and following their own afflictive patterns more.  This will cause the meditative environment of the monastery to degenerate.

For me personally, it has been particularly refreshing to detach from the conditionings I have developed as a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner.  It is easy to, after many years with the tradition, become attached to the mode of practice.  We become attached to deities, mantras, or overly ritualistic methods of practice. We may expect the greatness of the method to bring about the transformation we seek without realizing it could be accomplished more effectively and directly in a much simpler way.  I do value the richness and variety of the methods of the Vajrayana but as many have concluded, seriously doubt the efficiency of more advanced practices without having dealt with one’s own personal obstacles and inability to just sit and meditate without any of the bells and whistles of the Vajrayana.  I have come to believe that gaining experience in Theravada coupled, eventually with more advanced Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices may be the most effective way to proceed along the path. 

Sila, Samadhi, and Prajna are three things indispensable for ones liberation from a variety of emotional afflictions and habitual patterns.  The Buddha taught this as the basis of all the vehicles and these aren’t practices that need any elaborate rituals to enter the gate of practice but they do need the proper environment  so that one may look into the mirror and see oneself with absolute clarity.

I am very happy to have met some of the Kubar Ajahns and experienced the richness and profound peace and benefits which come from the practice of the Thai forest tradition in its native environment.  I would encourage anyone who is new to meditation to begin with the simple mindfulness practices taught by the Buddha and preserved in the Theravada.  I also believe that people who have been practicing Mahayana and Vajrayana for many years can learn a lot from experiencing the practice lineage of the Thai forest monks.

The song of the fourfold freedom from fear by Lotsawa Vairotsana

 

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བེཻ་རོས་མི་འཇིགས་བཞི་ཡི་མགུར་འདི་གསུང།

The song of fourfold fearlessness, spoken by Vairotsana

 

ལྟ་བ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀ་དག་བེཻ་རོ་ང།

མ་རིག་འཁྲུལ་པ་བག་ཆགས་འཐུག་པོ་དང།

ལྷ་འདྲེ་གཉིས་འཛིན་རྣམ་པར་རྟོག་པ་འགྱུ།

རྟག་ཆད་གཉིས་འཛིན་ཀྱི་འཕྲང་ལ་ང་མི་འཇིགས།༔

I, Vairo, am the view of primordially pure wisdom

Of the bewilderment of ignorance, the thick habitual tendencies,

The movements of concepts which cling with duality to gods and demons

Or the pitfall of the dualistic clinging to permanence or annihilation, I am not afraid.

 

བསྒོམ་པ་རང་གྲོལ་བེཻ་རོ་ཙ་ན་ང༔

བསྐྱེད་རིམ་སྣང་སྟོང་ལྷ་སྐུ་ཆུ་ཟླའི་གར༔

དངོས་པོ་གདོས་གཟུགས་མཚན་མའི་སྐྱོན་དང་བྲལ༔

གཉིས་སྣང་ཆོ་འཕྲུལ་འཕྲང་ལ་ང་ལ་མི་འཇིགས༔

I, Vairo, am the meditation of self-liberation

In the creation stage of appearance and emptiness, enlightened forms are like the dance of the moon on water

I am free of the fault of conceptuality regarding substantial forms

Of the pitfall of magical manifestations of duality, I, am not afraid

 

སྤྱོད་པ་བརྟུལ་ཞུགས་རྩལ་འཆང་བེཻ་རོ་ང༔

རེ་དང་དོགས་པ་དགའ་དང་སྡུག་བསྔལ་བྲལ༔

སྲིད་གསུམ་ཞིག་ཀྱང་ཡེ་ཤེས་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལ༔

སྐྱེ་མཆིའི་འཇིགས་བྲལ་གཞན་ལ་ང་མི་འཇིགས༔

I, Vairo, am the holder of powerful yogic conduct

Free from hope and fear, joy and misery

Even if the three worlds were to be destroyed, in the vajra of primordial wisdom

Free of the fear of birth and death, I am not afraid of others.

 

འབྲེས་བུ་སྐུ་བཞི་ལྷུན་གྲུབ་བེཻ་རོ་ང༔

ངོ་བོ་རྣམ་པར་དག་པ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་སྐུ༔

རང་གསལ་ལོངས་སྐུ་ཐུགས་རྗེ་སྤྲུལ་པའི་སྐུ༔

འཁོར་འདས་ཡེ་གྲོལ་སུ་ལའང་ང་མི་འཇིགས༔

I, Vairo, am the result of the spontaneously present four kayas

The essence of the dharmakaya is complete purity

The sambhogakaya is innate clarity and the nirmanakaya is compassionate energy

In the primordial liberation of samsara and nirvana, I, also, am not afraid.

 

 

Translated by Sean Ross, 2/28/2017 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Prayer of Tro Thung Gyalpo

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ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

Tro Thung Gyalpo Ki Ki So So So!

 

 

ལྷོ་ཕྱོགས་མེ་རི་འབར་བའི་ཞིང་ཁམས་ནས།

རྟ་མགྲིན་གསང་སྤྲུལ་སྔགས་འཆང་མི་ཡི་གཟུགས།

དྲག་སྔགས་ནུས་པས་བསྟན་དགྲ་གདུག་ཅན་འདུལ།

ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

 

From the buddhafield of the blazing fire mountain in the western direction

Comes the secret emanation of Hayagriva, in the human form of mantra holder

Through the power of wrathful mantras, taming those evil enemies of the doctrine

Tro Thung Gyalpo, Ki Ki So So So!

 

དུས་ངན་སྙིགས་མའི་མཐའ་ལ་ཐུག་པའི་དུས།

མི་རྣམས་རག་པ་དུག་ལྔ་སྤྱོད་པའི་དུས།

གསང་སྔགས་ནུས་པས་སྐུ་ལྔ་ཡེ་ཤེས་འཆར།

ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

 

At this time -the end of the degenerate age

A time when all humans engage in the course five poisons

Through the power of secret mantra the primordial wisdom of the five kayas flourishes

Tro Thung Gyalpo, Ki Ki So So So!

 

ལས་ངན་སྤྱད་པས་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་མི་ལྡོག་པའི།

གསོ་དཀའི་ནད་རིགས་དུ་མའི་མནར་བའི་དུས།

དྲང་སྲོང་སྔགས་ཀྱི་མིང་གི་ལྷག་ར་བསྒྱུར།

ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

 

By the cause and result of engaging in negative actions

There is a time of oppression by a variety of difficult to cure diseases

At this time the name mantras of the rishis increase in power

Tro Thung Gyalpo, Ki Ki So So So!

ཕྱི་སྣོད་འཇིག་རྟེན་དོ་སྙོམས་མེད་པའི་དུས།

ས་གཡོ་ཆུ་དགྲ་འབྱུང་བཞིའི་འཚེ་བ་ན།

སྨོན་ལམ་ཐུགས་སྐྱེད་འབྱུང་བཞི་བདེ་ལ་འགོད།

ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

 

At this time when the external  world is out of balance

When there is the harm of the four elements, earthquakes and floods

By aspirations of heartfelt concern, place the elements in a state of happiness!

Tro Tung Gyalpo, Ki Ki So So So!

  

ནང་བཅུད་སེམས་ཅན་འདོད་ཆགས་ཆེ་བའི་དུས།

བསམ་ངན་དུག་སྦྱོར་ཟས་རིགས་སྣ་ཚོགས་དར།

ཏིང་འཛིན་སྔགས་དང་ཕྱག་རྒྱའི་བདུད་རྩི་བསྒྱུར།

ཁྲོ་ཐུང་རྒྱལ་པོ་ཀི་ཀི་བསྭོ་བསྭོ་བསྭོ།

 

At this time when the sentient beings of this world have great desire

Bad thoughts, and a variety of foods mixed with poison are spreading

May they become the nectar of samadhi, mantra, and mudra!

Tro Thung Gyalpo,  Ki Ki So So So!

བོད་སྨན་དང་སྒྲུང་པའི་མིང་ཙམ་ཐོག་པའི་ཚེ་རིང་རྒྱལ་པོའམ་ཆོས་དབྱིངས་རྡོ་རྗེ་ནས་བོད་ཤིང་ལུག་ལོའི་ལོ་གསར་ལ་བྲིས།

 

This was written by the one who holds the mere name of a Tibetan physician and name of Tsering Gyalpo, or Choying Dorje, during the New Year of the wood sheep.

Amitabha praise by Gar Chodingpa.

 

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Praise to Amitabha Buddha together with his retinue

 

Although there are limitless buddhafields in the ten directions

The supreme buddhafield is the sublime Sukhavati

I praise and prostrate to the victor Amitabha who is the chief among all the buddhas of the three times!

 

From the enlightened mind of all the sugatas, a single son was born

He possesses limitless and inconceivable compassion for all sentient beings, like a mother for her only child

I prostrate to the protector Avalokitesvara!

 

By becoming enlightened in the unsurpassed ‘compendium of secrets’

The spiritual friend of all the buddhas of the three times

Has brought to perfection the mind of the transcendent Vajrasattva

I prostrate to the majestic  victor Vajrapani!

 

All phenomenon of samsara and nirvana in the three times

Do not abide, and cannot  be settled upon- it is the wisdom gone to the other shore

I prostrate to Manjushri who has completely internalized the stainless dharmakaya!

 

 

This was written by the heart son of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, Gar Chodingpa.

Translated by Sean Ross on September 16, 2016 in Chiang Mai.

Advice to the Yogi Chowang

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རྣལ་འབྱོར་ཆོས་དབང་ལ་གདམས་པ།

 Advice to the Yogi Chowang

 རྗེ་བཙུན་མཚན་ལྡན་བླ་མ་རྣམས་ལ་རབ་གུས་མོས་པས་དུས་ཀུན་འདུད་དོ།

I pay homage at all times with extreme devotion

To all the precious, authentic  gurus!

དུས་མཐའི་སྤྲང་བཙུན་རཏྣ་བདག་ལ།

I, Ratna, a disciplined beggar of these ending times

རྣལ་འབྱོར་ཆོས་དབང་བདག་གིས་བསྐུལ་བའི།

Have been entreated by the yogi Chowang

གེགས་སེལ་བོགས་འདོན་གནད་དུ་བསྡུས་པ།

For a summary of the important points of the enhancement practices for removing obstacles.

ཅུང་ཟད་བརྗོད་ཀྱིས་གསན་པར་འཚལ་ལོ།

I beseech you to listen as I express just a portion:

 

རང་རིག་གདོད་མའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་འདི་ནི།

One’s own rigpa, this primordial wisdom

འགྲོ་འོང་གནས་མེད་མཐའ་དབུས་བྲལ་ཞིང།

Is without going, coming, or abiding, and is free of limit or center.

གཞོམ་གཞིག་བར་གཅོད་དུན་ཀུན་གྲོལ་ལོ།

In it the disturbing obstacle makers are at all times liberated

རྟོག་ཚོགས་གློ་བུར་འཁྲུལ་པའི་དྲ་བ།

The network of the delusory hosts of adventitious concepts

བག་ཆགས་གཟུང་འཛིན་སྣང་ཆའི་རྩལ་ནི།

Of habitual tendencies, grasping and clinging, and the power of appearances

ཆུ་ཡི་རླབས་བཞིན་ཇི་ལྟར་སྣང་ཡང།

Although they appear like the waves on the water

རང་རྩལ་ཉིད་ལས་གཞན་དུ་མི་ལྟ།

Apart from them being an expression of one’s own energy, do not see them to be anything else.

 

 བདེ་གསལ་མི་རྟོག་ཏིང་འཛིན་ཞེས་བའི།

As for the bliss, clarity, and non-conceptuality that are known as samadhi

ངར་འཛིན་ཉམས་མྱོང་རྩི་ཅན་གང་ལས།

Why hold experiences of grasping to the “I” as being important?

རང་གཤིས་ནོར་བུ་རིན་ཆན་དྲི་མེད།

The stainless precious jewel of your own nature

སྔར་དང་ད་ལྟ་ཕྱིས་ཀྱང་མི་འགྱུར།་

Does not change in the past, present, or future

འདི་ནི་ཆོས་ཉིད་དོན་དམ་བདེན་པ།

This is the ultimate truth of the dharmata.

 ཀུན་གཞི་བདེ་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོ།

The ground of all is the buddha nature

རང་བཞིན་རྣམ་དག་ཀུན་བཟང་དངོས་ཡིན།

Complete natural purity is the real samantabhadra

དེ་ལྟར་གཞི་ལམ་འབྲས་གསུམ་སྙིང་པོ།་

Like that, combining the essence of the trio of the ground, path, and fruition

གཅིག་དུ་དྲིལ་བའི་གེགས་སེལ་བོགས་འདོན།་

With the enhancement methods for clearing away obstacles

འཆུག་མེད་ཉམས་ལེན་རྩོལ་བྲལ་འདི་ནི།

Is the unerring way to practice which transcends effort.

 

བྲིས་པའི་དགེ་བའི་བདག་གཞན་འགྲོ་ཀུན། རྟོག་ཚོགས་འཆིང་བའི་དྲ་བ་བསལ་ཏེ། རང་གཞན་བྱང་ཆུབ་མངོན་གྱུར་ཤོག་ཅིག།

By the virtue of writing this

May self and others, all migrating beings, having cleared away the network of the hosts of binding concepts, actualize manifest enlightenment.

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