USHNISHNA WHITE PARASOL PROTECTION AND REPULSION FROM ALL HARM: ‘STALLION GARUDA KING OF BIRDS’ DAILY PRACTICE BY KARMA CHAGME: ‘Aspirations to End Adversity’ with 17th Karmapa (Day VIII: Part 1)

On the eighth (and final) day of the ‘Aspirations to End Adversity’, the texts recited included Kagyu master, Karma Chagme’s ‘The Stallion Garuda King of Birds White Parasol‘ (Sitātapatrā: gdugs dkar mo)  practice, the Lion-faced Dakini (Simhamukha) Repulsion,  the Dharani of Marichi, and the Prayer That Saved Sakya from Disease. Here is a transcript of the first part of the Karmapa’s teaching on the Sitātapatrā[1] text by Karma Chagme, followed by compiled information on textual and authorship sources referred to. The 17th Karmapa’s teachings on the other texts will be considered in a separate post.

Ushnishna White Parasol – practiced by various lineages
Usnishna Sitātapatrā: White Umbrella Crown – Statue at Sanka Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

The 17th Karmapa first explained how this Karma Chagme text is part of a set of thirteen different sadhanas that all begin with the syllable āḥ and that the practice is included in various lineages, not just Kagyu and Nyingma:

“The White Parasol practice we will recite today is one of Karma Chakme’s thirteen “āḥ Dharmas”—thirteen different sadhanas that all begin with the syllable āḥ. They are also called the “Thirteen Dharmas for Going to Sukhāvatī .” Included among them is this White Parasol practice, entitled Ushnishna White Parasol: The Stallion Garuda[2] King of Birds That Transports to Sukhāvatī  (gtsug gtor gdugs dkar mo’i bsgoms bzlas bde ba can gyi zhing du bgrod pa’i gdams pa bya rgyal khyung gi rta pho/)[3]. Usually when we recite White Parasol in the Karma Kagyu, this is the only one we recite. There is also a custom of appending the repulsion by the Lhodrak mahasiddha Lekyi Dorje[4], but that is not in the original and is therefore omitted here. This White Parasol practice by Karma Chakme is not only included in Kagyu and Nyingma books; it is also found in texts printed in Mongolia[5], so I think it must have spread to some degree in the Geluk lineage as well.”[6]

Mongolian thangka of White Parasol (Source HAR)
Tibetan and Chinese translations of the root text Dharani of White Parasol

“In any case, White Parasol is part of the Kriya tantra and within that, the Tathagata family. In the Tibetan Kangyur, there are four different translations of the dharani of White Parasol, including the Great Repulsion, Divine Lands, the Unassailable, and Supreme Accomplishment. There are also a few Sanskrit commentaries and sadhanas for those[7].

Kublai Khan Kublai (忽必烈; pinyin: Hūbìliè;  1215 – 1294), also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, was the fifth khagan of the Mongol Empire (Ikh Mongol Uls), reigning from 1260 to 1294 (although after the division of the empire this was a nominal position). He also founded the Yuan dynasty in China as a conquest dynasty in 1271, and ruled as the first Yuan emperor until his death in 1294.

There are Chinese translations of the White Parasol dharani from the Tang and Sung dynasties. But primarily, it was translated into Chinese from Tibetan twice during the Yuan or Mongol dynasty. Moreover, the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan was devoted to Tibetan Buddhism. He followed Drogön Chögyal Pakpa (1235-1280) [8], Karma Pakshi, and many other Tibetan masters as his main gurus. On the instruction of Drogön Chögyal Pakpa, and in order to overcome maras and bring happiness to the kingdom, there started the custom of hanging a silk image of White Parasol and the mantra written in gold letters above the emperor’s golden throne. From that time on, there was a great tradition of a White Parasol ceremony every year on the fifteenth day of the second month in the two capitals of Daidu and Shangdu. During the ceremony, a hundred thousand people would stand in welcome as the White Parasol was paraded outside and inside the palace. I think that this is, among the four ritual activities of White Parasol, probably that of raising the banner[9].

7th Sakya Trizin, Drogon Phagpa Gyaltsen (1235 – 1280) who had a very close teacher-student relationship with Kublai Khan

There is also in Chinese Buddhism an extremely well known dharani mantra called the Sutra of Great Ushnisha’s Heroic Stride. Its mantra is almost exactly the same as the dharani mantra of White Parasol, so this dharani mantra is also extremely important from the perspective of Chinese Buddhism. In brief, it is said that White Parasol is the greatest for repulsing spirits, disease, sorcery, and spells.”

That ends the 17th Karmapa’s teaching on that text. Below is a consideration and review of the contents of Karma Chagme’s daily practice text as well as the iconography and mantra of White Parasol.

Karma Chagme’s Daily Practice text  – contents
Karma Chagme (karma chags-med rā-ga a-sya; 1613-1678) composer of White Parasol practice: Stallion Garuda King of Birds

In terms of the sadhana text itself, Karma Chagme states in his short Introduction that the deity goddess is a form of the consort of Amitayus that emanated from the crown protuberance (uṣnīṣa) of Shakyamuni Buddha, and that practicing it will not only avert harmful forces, but also lead to rebirth in Sukhāvatī :

This extremely wrathful goddess, Sitātapatrā is a form of Pāṇḍarāvasinī, supreme consort of Amitayus, thus if you recite this, you’ll be reborn in Sukhāvatī . Since the Sage emanated her from his uṣnīṣa (crown protuberance) to bind Mahakala and his consort to samaya, she is therefore profound for repulsing sorcery. The dhāraṇī-sūtra came not from the Sage’s mouth but from his uṣnīṣa instead, therefore she is called uṣnīṣa.

Karma Chagme then goes on to explain in the text that although it is a kriya tantra it has been practiced by many siddhas as a Highest Yoga Tantra and condenses all the traditions of Nyingma tantras,  terma treasures and Tibetan practices of the 6th and 9th Karmapas and others. The reason it is called the Stallion Garuda King of Birds is because it is likened to transporting the practitioner to Sukhāvatī mounted on the bird:

“Although the dhāraṇī-sūtra is a kriyā-tantra, it has been practiced by many siddhas such as Jetāri and Vajrāsana in the manner of a Highest Yoga tantra. If you follow this practice and thus also practice it like them, it will become very easy for you. It is a practice that condenses the authentic traditions of the Nyingma tantras, as passed from Prahevajra[Garab Dorje] and Mañjuśrīmitra to Vimalamitra; the terma treasures of Guru Traktung Nakpo; an entire ocean of sādhanas from India; and the many Tibetan practices written by the Thongwa Donden (6thKarmapa) and Wangchuk Dorje (9th Karmapa) 3 and others. Thus, it is an easy practice and its blessing is great. To practice it is to hold aloft an indestructible vajra sword that can avert disease, obstacles, black magic, evil spells and all oppressing forces. If you wish to travel to Sukhāvatī, this practice will take you there, mounted on the garuḍa, king of birds. Therefore, make this your daily practice.”

In the text, Karma Chagme refers to the 6th and 9th Karmapas, yet the 17th Karmapa’s teaching also apparently referred to a terma by the 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (I have not been able to find this).  I found a text on the White Parasol practice in the Collected Works of by 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (this has not yet been translated into English)[10].

Iconography  – Brilliant white, one thousand heads, arms and legs
Images of White Parasol from Tibetan thangkas (Source: HAR)

Sitātapatrā is depicted in various ways as brilliant white, radiating with love and compassion and her body is adorned with various ornaments. In her most common form, which is also the form of the Karma Chagme text, she is depicted with 1,000 heads, 1,000 arms, 1,000 legs and 1,000,000 eyes. In her 1000 hands she holds aloft sharp swords. The text also recites that: ‘Her head is graced by a tiara of seventy million buddhas. Above her ushnisha, there spin, seven white parasols in a column. From every pore upon her body, shine dazzling rays of wisdom light.’

Examples of repelling black magic and protecting historical figures in Tibet – King Trisong Detsen, Hashang, Gushi Khan and Mongolian forces
Fresco representing Güshri Khan, In Jokhang temple, Tibet. Photography: Brian J. McMorrow, fresco: Unknown – http://www.pbase.com/bmcmorrow/image/105542773

At the end of the short ritual, Karma Chagme explains the benefits and effectiveness of reciting it and gives examples of how it was used to protect people during challenging times connected to Tibet.  The examples he gives are King Trisong Detsen, heretics of India (including the Chinese Buddhist monk, Hashang (for more on what the 17th Karmapa recently taught about Hashang, see here).

Statues of the Fifth Dalai Lama and (apparently) Güshi Khan seen by Johann Grueber in the lobby of the Dalai Lama’s palace in 1661

Then, Karma Chagme refers to the Mongolian King, Gushri Khan (gu shrI rgyal po, 固始汗,1582 – 1655) [11] (who helped the 5th Dalai Lama gain complete control of Tibet by force in 1641[12]) and ‘ruthlessly obliterated the Karmapa’s teachings’ but due to the daily recitation of the Sitātapatrā practice, no harm or detriment came down upon them. He concludes that there is ‘no practice more profound than this for averting black magic’:

“In ancient times, the dharma king Trisong Detsen invited

A hundred scholars from the province

Of Ü and surrounding regions

To translate the entire Kangyur And Tengyur into Tibetan.

At that time, they could find no method

More profound than this

In the Kangyur to repulse

Curses and obstacles for the king,

And thus they used this ritual

To protect the king.

The tirthikas from India, the Chinese Hashang,

and Tibetan Bönpos cast their spells

But could not harm the king.

In later times, Güshi Khan[13],

The Mongolian king,

Recited this and meditated

Upon it every day.

Though he erased the Kamtsang teachings,

No one could cause him harm.

Thus no repulsion of sorcery

Is more profound than this.

It’s also taught that if you recite

Verses that express

The meaning taught within the texts

In a most concise fashion,

You will receive the blessings and merit

Of countless billions of buddhas.

It also will cleanse and purify you

Of the five heinous deeds

And all the karmic obscurations

 In their entirety.

It will bring a great increase in

Your life span, strength, and merit.

You’ll be reborn immediately

In Sukhāvatī , it’s taught.

 It blocks adversity in this life

And leads to pure realms in the next.

Nothing can turn you back from gaining

Your perpetual aim.

You will be very close to achieving Perfect buddhahood.”

–Excerpt from final section of Karma Chagme’s Stallion Garuda King of Birds (tr. David Karma Chophel).

The mantra

There are two short mantras used for the White Parasol daily practice:

  1. The essence:

ཨོཾཾ་སརྦ་ཏ་ཐཱ་ག་ཏ་ཨུཥྞིི་ཥ་ཧཱུྃྃ་ཕཊ། ཧཱུྃྃ་མ་མ་ཧཱུྃྃ་ནིི་སྭཱ་ཧཱ། སྙིིང་པོོའོོ། །

OṂ SARVA TATHĀGATA UṢṆĪṢA HŪṂ PHAṬ HŪṂ MAMA HŪṂ NI SVĀHĀ

  • The quintessence:

ཨོཾཾ་མ་མ་ཧཱུྃྃ་ནིི་སྭཱ་ཧཱ། ཉེེ་བའིི་སྙིིང་པོོའོོ། །

OṂ MAMA HŪṂ NI SVĀHĀ

At the end of the short ritual, Karma Chagme advises people that ‘even if the visualization is not always clear, recite the two short mantras in all activities.’

Recitation of the entire sadhana and mantra by the 17th Karmapa begins in the video of the teachings (see above) from 11.06 minutes onwards.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 30th January 2021. May it be of benefit!

Further Reading

ENDNOTES

[1] Sita (“white”) and ātapatrā (“parasol”).

[2] Garuda is described as the king of birds and a kite-like figure. He is shown either in zoomorphic form (giant bird with partially open wings) or an anthropomorphic form (man with wings and some bird features). Garuda is generally a protector with the power to swiftly go anywhere, ever watchful and an enemy of the serpent.

[3] This text has been translated into English for the Karmapa’s Aspirations event, by Karma David Chophel (see here: https://dharmaebooks.org/aspirations-to-end-adversity/). It has also been previously translated and published in English, by Lotsawa House, see here: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/karma-chakme/sitatapatra. There are some noticeable differences in the two translations, as I do not have time to analyse them,  I have taken the former as the main one (since it is the official one for the Karmapa event).

[4] This is referring to the Kadampa master, Lhodrag Namkha Gyaltsen (lho brag nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan, 1326-1401)) also known as Lekyi Dorje  (las kyi rdo rje, 洛扎·朗喀坚赞). This text referred to here has been translated and published by Lotsawa House, see here: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/lhodrak-namkha-gyaltsen/averting-obstacles-through-sitatapatra. For his online biography, see here: https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Drubchen-Namkha-Gyeltsen/2592.

[5] There is a Mongolian edition of the dharani available online here: TBRC W1EE67 gtsug tor gdugs dkar gyi gzungs/ (sog yig).. See also the story Karma Chagme tells in his text about how the sadhana protected the Gush Khan and the Mongolian invaders of Tibet (who obliterated the Karmapa’s teachings) from harm.

[6] This is confirmed also by the fact that there are several thangkas of White Parasol from the Gelug tradition listed in the Himalayan Art Resources website. In addition, there is a text composed by Je Tsongkhapa on the practice, see here: gdugs dkar mchog tu grub pa dang gdugs dkar bzlog pa/ Praise and the Repelling of Sitatapatra, blo bzang grags pa, 1 volume; 36 ff.. W3CN1834. [s.n.], Mongolia. [n.d.]. Block Print.

There is also a Sadhana text on the practice by the Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu master, Taranatha, in his famed collection of sadhanas, see here: gtsug tor gdugs dkar gyi sgrub thabs/ tA ra nA tha; yi dam rgya mtsho’i sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byung gnas/ (tA ra nA tha’i gsung ‘bum las pod 15 pa/); W12422, pp. 456-458. chophel legdan, new delhi. 1974-1975. by jo-nan rje-btsun taranatha ; together with the famed sgrub thabs brgya rtsa collection. Block Print.

[7]  There are four canonical texts found in the dharani section of the Derge Kangyur, all of which are translations from Sanskrit originals. These are listed as:

  1. The Spell of Uṣṇīṣasitātapatrā (Skt.uṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā aparājita pratyaṅgirā mahā vidyārājñī, gtsug tor gdugs dkar gyi rig sngags., or more fully Skt. ārya sarva tathāgatoṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā nāma aparājita pratyaṅgirā mahā vidyārājñī, Wyl. (‘phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gtsug tor nas byung ba gdugs dkar po can zhes bya ba gzhan gyis mi thub ma phyir zlog pa’i rig sngags kyi rgyal mo chen mo, D 590/985).

English translation: The Great Queen of Spells (vidyā-rājñī), the invincible averter [of evil] called the One With The White Parasol, who issued forth from the uṣṇīṣa of all the noble Tathāgatas, translated by Tibor Porció, PhD thesis, Viena, 2000.

  • The Incantation of the Supremely Accomplished Sitātapatrā (gdugs dkar mchog grub kyi gzungs, or more fully Skt. ārya tathāgatoṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā aparājita mahā pratyaṅgirā parama siddha nāma dhāraṇī, Wyl. ‘phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i gtsug tor nas byung ba’i gdugs dkar po can gzhan gyis mi thub pa phyir zlog pa chen mo mchog tu grub pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs, D 591).

English translation: LotsawaHouse The Noble Dhāraṇī of The Supreme Accomplishment of Sitātapatrā

  • The Incantation of Sitātapatrā (Skt. uṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā aparājitā dhāraṇī, gdugs dkar gyi gzungs, or more fully Skt. ārya tathāgatoṣṇīṣa sitātapatre aparājitā nāma dhāraṇī,. ‘phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i gtsug tor nas byung ba’i gdugs dkar po can gzhan gyis mi thub pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs, D 592/986).
  • The Incantation of Sitātapatrā (Skt. uṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā aparājitā dhāraṇī, gdugs dkar gzungs, or more fully Skt. ārya tathāgatoṣṇīṣa sitātapatrā nāma aparājitā dhāraṇī, Wyl. ‘phags pa de bzhin gshegs pa’i gtsug tor nas byung ba’i gdugs dkar po can gzhan gyis mi thub pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs, D 593).

[8] Drogön Chogyal Phagpa (ʼgro mgon chos rgyal ʼphags pa; 1235 – 1280), was the fifth leader of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. He was also the first Imperial Preceptor of Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty, division of the Mongol Empire, and was concurrently named the director of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs. Historical tradition remembers him as the first vice-ruler of Tibet under the Mongol Khagan as well as one of the Five Sakya patriarchs ( sa skya gong ma rnam lnga). Although this is historically disputed, he played a very important political role. He was the nephew of Sakya Pandita (1182-1251), who began the relationship between Sakya and the Mongol conquerors after their first invasion of Tibet in 1240. See Treasury of Lives biography here: https://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Pakpa-Lodro-Gyeltsen/2051

[9] The 17th Karmapa does not give any textual reference for this very interesting historical information.

[10] The 8th Karmapa text is called ‘phags pa gtsug gtor gdugs dkar gyi mngon rtogs dang dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga/ mi bskyod rdo rje; gsung ‘bum/ TBRC W8039, 26 ff. (pp. 591-642). [s.n.], [lha sa]. [2004]. edited by karma bde legs.

[11] Gushi Khan (固始汗, 1582 – 1655) was a Khoshut prince and leader of the Khoshut Khanate, who supplanted the Tumed descendants of Altan Khan as the main benefactor of the Dalai Lama and the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1637, Güshi Khan defeated a rival Mongol prince Choghtu Khong Tayiji, a Kagyu follower, near Qinghai Lake and established his khanate in Tibet over the next years. His military assistance to the Gelug school enabled the 5th Dalai Lama to establish political control over Tibet.

[12] One account states that: “The campaign was prepared in 1639, assisted by some Tibetans. In June of that year, Güshi moved against Beri [The king of Beri in Kham, Donyo Dorje] and subjugated most of Donyo Dorje’s subjects. On 6 January 1641, according to the chronicles of the 5th Dalai Lama, “the ruler of Beri and others fled to a well-defended frontier, but as by the sharp iron of a person’s virtue, the phenomenon of magnet and iron-filings takes place, so they were all captured and placed in a large prison-yard. All the root causes of unhappiness were removed from their places. The lamas and rulers of the Sakyapa, Gelugpa, Karmapa, Drukpa and Taklungpa were brought out of the prison dungeons where they had been placed and sent back to their own. The people up to the king of Jang paid taxes in money and earnestly sought to bow to him respectfully.” The Beri ruler was executed and all the Dalai Lama’s enemies in Kham were crushed.” See Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D. (1967). Tibet: A political history. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, p. 105-6.

[13] O ri gyal-po. In the Lotsawa House translation, it says ‘Oriat Mongols’. Basically, it means that even when enemies and harm-doers practiced the White Parasol, they were protected from harm. Although, perhaps this is also because they were supported by the Gelug and 5th Dalai Lama too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s