In brief, whatever you are doing,
Ask yourself ‘What’s the state of my mind?’
With constant mindfulness and mental alertness
Accomplish others’ good –
This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
–Verse 36 from Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva
Today, I offer a short transcript of Garchen Rinpoche’s teaching about the Vajrayana commitments (samaya) of body, speech and mind, given in 2020 during Vajrakīlaya empowerment and Drubchen. I took that empowerment online live at the time, and have re-taken it for the Vajrakīlaya Drubchen which starts today (November 13-17, from 9am ET) with Garchen Rinpoche, Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche and the Garchen Institute lamas, for more on that, see here. Empowerment from Garchen Rinpoche is essential and can be taken online, if not already taken.
One of Garchen Rinpoche’s main deities is Vajrakīlaya, as he spoke about recently when talking about his father telling him as a young boy to do the Vajrakīlaya secret accomplishment retreat, it being his first secret mantra deity retreat. For more on that see here. Rinpoche explained how doing that retreat, and with his father’s instructions on it, he brought anger onto the path. For other teachings by Garchen Rinpoche on Vajrakīlaya, see Sources/Further Reading below. In addition a new book has been published of Garchen Rinpoche’s teachings on Vajrakīlaya (compiled by Ari Kiev, Shambhala, 2021), see here.
In the Vajrayana, keeping samaya (commitments) is considered to be extremely important. The fourteen root Vajrayana downfalls are listed here. These include not disrespecting or denigrating women, as individuals or as a group, as they are the nature of wisdom.
Garchen Rinpoche always emphasizes in his empowerments that the root samaya that contains all the samayas is never losing love for any sentient being. Regardless of what they say and do. In that respect, it is said that Garchen Rinpoche has said he can never break samaya with anyone, because he always maintains love for them. The samaya for the Vajrakīlaya empowerment is the same as that. Here is a transcript of what Garchen Rinpoche taught about samaya after the Vajrakīlaya empowerment 2020. In it he speaks about the root samayas of body, speech and mind and how the teacher one sees on the screen is the actual sambhogakaya, not the physical body of the teacher, which is impermanent. Here is the transcript of this brief teaching:
Music? For the samayas that all go under the same bridge, Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel; letting thoughts naturally dissolve…Let It Be by the Beatles…’let it be, whisper words of wisdom, let it be.’
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 13th November 2021.
Garchen Rinpoche teachings on samaya (Vajrakīlaya 2020)
“Now you have received the complete empowerment and at the end, that which holds sustains the life-force of the empowerment is the holding of samaya. There many different samayas but basically there are root samayas and branch samayas. In the various classes of tantra, the four main classes of tantra, there are many branche samayas, many subtle samayas. It is excellent if one can keep them. How it was practiced in ancient times in India, was that for example those mahasiddha Indian masters would practice one single deity for their entire life. This is how they practicde and that is why they had to keep all these samaya.
However, nowadays we are in different times, and secret mantra vajrayana has spread all over the world. It spread in Tibet and then all over the world. We are in the degenerate age, and this is the time where the secret mantra must be spread. It is only the secret mantra that is able to tame sentient beings in the degenerate age. How does it do that? First we receive empowerments and there are many different empowerments we can receive. When we receive many empowerments along with those empowerments there are many root samayas. However, the various root and branch samayas are actually included within the three root samayas: the samayas of body, speech and mind. and those really are most important three.
The three samayas of body, speech and mind
Even in relation to those actually, so much can be said if one wanted to elaborate on those root samayas of body, speech and mind. So how can we really understand their essence? The essence of those three samayas is as follows.
When we practice the samaya of body, for example, if you take a single negative action of the ten non-virtuous actions and abandon it; or you practice a single virtue of those ten virtuous actions, one of those in particular referring to the body, you are keeping the samaya of form, of the body.
Likewise with the speech, if you practice a single virtue with speech that is the samaya of speech. For example, the recitation of scriptures or of mantras and so forth. Then every time bodhichitta arises within your mind, every time a wish to benefit others arises that is when you are holding the mind samaya. These are the roots samayas of body ,speech and mind.
To summarize them even further, the samaya of body is to abandon even just a single act that causes harm to others. Ideally, that refers to the vows that we take. In terms of timing, ideally you refrain from harming others for as long as you live, or if not that then for some years, or months or even just for twenty-four hours.
Like when we keep the Nyungne fasting vows, we are refraining from harming others and that is the essence of the body samaya. On top of that, when we accomplish the benefit of others, just a single benefit, that is to keep the essence of the speech samaya. Then when you apply the seal of bodhichitta every time even just a single negative thought arises in your mind, that is when you are holding the mind samaya.
These three samaya of body, speech and mind ultimately, all are included within just one: that is the samaya after mind. The samaya of mind is explained in verse number 36 in the Thirty-Seven Bodhisattva Practices, where it says in brief, ‘whatever you do look at the state of your mind, what is the state of my mind?’.
All samayas come together in one
There is a collection of hundreds of thousands vajrayana, but it is said that all these samaya are like a hundred rivers flowing beneath a single bridge. The rivers all have to go under the bridge so they all meet under that bridge. So it just like those rivers, there are different samaya but it all is really under one bridge which is the purchase the mind. so since it’s just the mind actually from that perspective, it is something that anyone can do. The mind samaya is really the most important and precious. That samaya of mind really comes down to one thing, which is do not be distracted, sustain mindfulness and with mindfulness you recognize even the smallest afflictive emotion that arises and when you see what it really is, it becomes primordial wisdom.
That is is the samaya of mind: to sustain mindfulness in this way throughout the six periods of day and night always recollecting the enlightened body, speech mind activities and qualities of the deity.
In brief, samaya all comes down to the view, the natural state, awareness of the natural state that recognizes all the coarse and subtle afflictions arising
In brief, read verse number 36 in the thirty-seven practices. There is another way we can divide samaya such as that anything that we do that is beneficial and altruistic with body, speech and mind is the outer samaya. The inner samaya is to not be distracted and that is the samaya that’s really important to keep.
All mantras are contained in OM AH HUM
There are many practitioners among you who have established a connection to Vajrakīlaya and the Vajrakīlaya Drubchen for quite some time now. As you might know, there are many material traditions there are many different sadhanas, means of accomplishment. Whatever one you are familiar with, think that they are all one, they are all complete within one together. They are all practiced together. Their essence is that we need to recognize appearances to be the deity and sounds to be mantra. All the sounds we hear in the outer world are the Vajrakīlaya mantra. In brief, if you do not grasp at any sound, then all sound will become mantra. If you do not grasp at whatever thought arises in your mind, if you are able to let it be and dissolve, you are holding the mind samaya. That is what is meant with all mental arisings, all thoughts are the display of primordial wisdom. When all clinging to thoughts has disappeared, that is the ultimate samaya of mind.
When there is no grasping at form, that is the samaya of form. When there is no grasping at sound, that is the samaya of sound, and the samaya of mind is to liberate all thoughts that arise. Thoughts are liberated when you first recognize them and see them for what they are. So liberating them with complete awareness, that is the samaya of mind. All samayas are complete within this samaya.
Actually, all mantra recitation is complete within the OM AH HUM mantra. Actually it is not even necessary to recite a separate mantra for each deity, because they all are included within the syllables of OM AH HUM. So Dharma friends please practice in this way this is very important especially now where we receive teachings over the live stream.
The sambhogakaya guru on the screen
It is said that the Buddha, the transcendent conqueror, is the embodiment of the three kayas. Nowadays, you are seeing the lamas on a screen on the live stream and that actually is the sambhogakaya of the teacher. That is the real sambhogakaya. The blessings of that lama’s mind are actually present within that. Actually, the physical body of flesh and blood that we like to hug so much, actually that is just a fixation in our mind. We want to do that because we cling to the true, material concrete existence of appearances. However, the actual physical contact possesses much smaller blessings. The true guru lama never leaves, never passes away. That is also the meaning of our saying ‘please remain steadfast for many aeons’
Now, due to science, it is possible for us to see our true form through the screen. So think in this way, really think that what I see on the screen, the teacher that I see on the screen, that is the real Guru, who is always here. The physical form of the guru is impermanent so always remember that. Tashi Delek Dharma friends!”
FROM YOGI FATHER’S INTRODUCTION TO THE NATURE OF MIND TO SIDDHA CHIMEY DORJE’S UNBEARABLE DEVOTION, MIRACULOUS ROCK FOOTPRINTS AND COURAGE IN A CHINESE PRISON: GURU STORIES (Part 2) by 8th Garchen Rinpoche
GATHERING ALL INTO ONE AND WISDOM OF THE WRATHFUL DAGGER: OM AH HUM vajra recitation, Vajrakīlaya and transforming afflictions (by 8th Garchen Rinpoche) and new translation of Milarepa’s Song on the Ten Pāramitās
 The ten unwholesome actions or ten negative actions (Skt. daśākuśala; mi dge ba bcu) are:
- taking life
- taking what is not given
- sexual misconduct
- sowing discord
- harsh speech
- idle gossip (or worthless chatter)
- ill will (or wishing harm on others)
- wrong views.
The Precious Garland says:
By taking life, we will be short-lived.
Violence will bring us lots of harm.
Through stealing, we will lack possessions.
Through adultery, we will face rivals.
Through speaking falsely, we’ll face slander.
Divisive talk will separate us from our friends.
Harsh speech will mean hearing unpleasant words.
Gossip will cause our speech to lack nobility.
Covetousness will destroy our hopes.
Malice will bring us many fears.
And wrong view will bring inferior beliefs.
 Ten positive actions or ten virtues (dge ba bcu) are the positive counterparts of the ten unwholesome actions. They are:
- to renounce killing, and instead protect life
- to renounce taking what is not given, and instead practise generosity
- to renounce sexual misconduct, and instead follow the rules of discipline
- to renounce lying, and instead tell the truth
- to give up sowing discord, and instead reconcile disputes
- to abandon harsh speech, and instead speak pleasantly
- to renounce worthless chatter, and instead recite prayers
- to renounce covetousness, and instead learn to be generous
- to give up wishing harm on others, and instead cultivate the desire to help them
- to put an end to wrong views, and instead establish in yourself the true and authentic view