“What determines the power of the practice is not the blessing of the deity, because the blessings of all the deities are the same, but it depends on how much we practice this deity. The more we practice a deity the more powerful, the more beneficial it would become. and so therefore the greater will be the blessings that we receive. That is because when we practice a deity, we mingle with the mind of the deity.”
“This dharani of the Uṣṇīṣavijayā is considered to be very important throughout the four major lineages the Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma and Kagyu. All regard it as very precious because it clears away the obstacles to life of supreme and ordinary beings. Also, ultimately, it purifies our own obscurations, our negative karma.” —8th Garchen Rinpoche (2016)
For the Uṣṇīṣavijayā/Namgyalma live online practice being offered today (and tomorrow) by the Garchen Institute, as part of their Winter event 2021 (9am Arizona time on livestream here), I offer a transcript of a short Namgyalma (Uṣṇīṣavijayā) teaching given by Garchen Rinpoche in Virginia, USA, 2016 (see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSVVyzOxZZM) , prior to that empowerment. For those who wish to participate in the practice, the empowerment can be taken online, after the teachings. Before the transcript, I give a brief overview of the Namgyalma goddess deity and her Dharani mantra.
Uṣṇīṣavijayā (Ushnishavijaya) literally means, ‘Victorious Crown Goddess’, and in Tibetan: Tsugtor Namgyelma (gtsug tor rnam rgyal ma). Uṣṇīṣavijayā is a Buddha of longevity in Buddhism. She wears an image of Vairocana in her head-dress and is one of three special long-life deities along with the Buddha Amitayus and White Tara. This group is known as the Three Long Life Deities (Tibetan: tse lha nam sum). She is practiced in all the main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. She is in essence the Buddha Amitayus.
Namgyalma is a female yidam and long-life deity of the Kriya Tantra class in Tibetan Buddhism. She is typically depicted as being white in colour, seated, and has eight arms, holding various symbolic implements in each of her hands. Here is a page on Himalayan Art dedicated to the goddess. I have selected and published some images of her in this article, including some from the Garchen Buddhist Institute website.
In his teaching, Garchen Rinpoche explains how the mantra emerged from the crown protuberance of the Buddha when a father pleaded and prayed to him for a method to help save his son from suffering in future lives. In addition, Rinpoche explains why the mantra is powerful, what the dharani mantra is and how we will get direct experience of it from putting it to the test when difficulties arise.
May this transcript be of benefit to beings and to the long-life of 8th Garchen Rinpoche! May we all experience long, healthy lives and freedom from lower states of being.
Music? Namgyalma mantra or Bring Me Back to Life by Evanescence.
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 30th December 2021.
The Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya/Namgyalma Dharani mantra – long and short forms
In his teaching, Garchen Rinpoche emphasizes the importance of the mantra and its power. The Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāraṇī Sūtra is the Mantra of Usnisavijaya, a very important Dharani in Chinese Buddhism such that a Chinese Emperor (唐代宗 776 AD) and a Japanese Emperor (清和天皇 860 AD ) are said to have both enforced all Buddhist monasteries within their countries to facilitate its practice, after it had been believed to have brought rain to end two events of droughts in history.
Here is the long mantra:
OM NAMO BHAGAVATE SARVA TRAILOKYA PRATIVISHISHTAYA / BUDDHAYA TE NAMA / TA YA THA / OM BHRUM BHRUM BHRUM SHODHAYA SHODHAYA / VISHODHAYA VISHODHAYA / ASAMA SAMANTA AVABHASA SPHARANA GATI GAGANA SVABHAVA VISHUDDHE / ABHISHINCHANTU MAM / SARVA TATHAGATA SUGATA VARA VACHANA AMRITA ABHISHEKARA / MAHAMUDRA MANTRA PADAI / AHARA AHARA / MAMA AYUS SAMDHARANI / SHODHAYA SHODHAYA / VISHODHAYA VISHODHAYA / GAGANA SVABHAVA VISHUDDHE / USHNISHA VIJAYA PARISHUDDHE / SAHASRA RASMI SANCHO DITE / SARVA TATHAGATA AVALOKINI / SHAT PARAMITA PARIPURANI / SARVA TATHAGATA MATE / DASHA BHUMI PRATISHTHITE / SARVA TATHAGATA HRIDAYA / ADHISHTHANA ADHISHTHITE / MUDRE MUDRE MAHA MUDRE / VAJRA KAYA SAMHATANA PARISHUDDHE / SARVA KARMA AVARANA VISHUDDHE / PRATINI VARTAYA MAMA AYUR / VISHUDDHE SARVA TATHAGATA / SAMAYA ADHISHTHANA ADHISHTHITE / OM MUNI MUNI MAHA MUNI / VIMUNI VIMUNI MAHA VIMUNI / MATI MATI MAHA MATI / MAMATI SUMATI TATHATA / BHUTA KOTI PARISHUDDHE / VISPHUTA BUDDHE SHUDDHE / HE HE JAYA JAYA / VIJAYA VIJAYA / SMRARA SMRARA / SPHARA SPHARA / SPHARAYA SPHARAYA / SARVA BUDDHA ADHISHTHANA ADHISHTHITE / SHUDDHE SHUDDHE / BUDDHE BUDDHE / VAJRE VAJRE MAHA VAJRE / SUVAJRE VAJRA GARBHE JAYA GARBHE / VIJAYA GARBHE / VAJRA JVALA GARBHE / VAJROD BHAVE / VAJRA SAMBHAVE / VAJRE VAJRINI / VAJRAMA BHAVATU MAMA SHARIRAM / SARVA SATTVA NANCHA KAYA PARISHUDDHIR BHAVATU / ME SADA SARVA GATI PARISHUDDHISHCHA / SARVA TATHAGATASHCHA / MAM SAMASHVAS YANTU / BUDDHYA BUDDHYA / SIDDHYA SIDDHYA / BODHAYA BODHAYA / VIBODHAYA VIBODHAYA / MOCHAYA MOCHAYA / VIMOCHAYA VIMOCHAYA / SHODHAYA SHODHAYA / VISHODHAYA VISHODHAYA / SAMANTANA MOCHAYA MOCHAYA / SAMANTA RASMI PARISHUDDHE / SARVA TATHAGATA HRIDAYA / ADHISHTHANA ADHISHTHITE / MUDRE MUDRE MAHA MUDRE / MAHAMUDRA MANTRA PADAI SVAHA/
The short mantra is:
OṂ BRHŪṂ SVĀHĀ / OṂ AMṚITA ĀYUR DADE SVĀHĀ
Garchen Rinpoche recites the short mantra here and long mantra here.
Here is a link to the Namgyalma texts, mantra recitations and resources on the Garchen Institute website (https://garchen.net/library-bydeity-namgyalma/).
NAMGYALMA EMPOWERMENT TEACHING
By GARCHEN RINPOCHE (2016) – TRANSCRIPT
“I am now offering the empowerment for this deity. First of all, in general terms, the meaning of the empowerment that we receive is a form of independence, of freedom and empowerment. For example, you now live in a free, independent country where you experience much well-being, but then this is only limited to this lifetime, and even within this lifetime, you do not have much choice over your experience of well-being and pain or suffering, because it all is determined by your karma.
So, if you really understand the meaning of the empowerment, then you understand that you will attain a different freedom that lasts from today onwards, until you attain enlightenment. First of all temporarily, you have the freedom to be born in the higher realms to experience the happiness in the higher realms and then, ultimately it leads to final enlightenment. So that is the kind of freedom that you attain from receiving the empowerment. Knowing that, you understand that is very meaningful for this reason, so all of you who understand the meaning of the empowerment will trust in its significance. Every moment trust arises, you are accumulating great merit. So we will begin with the empowerment of the Uṣṇīṣavijayā.
The Dharani Mantra
Then we come to the historical account and of the Uṣṇīṣavijayā empowerment. The mantra is the dharani mantra retaining mantra. So in this way by reciting this mantra, we accomplish or practice the deity and that the dharani mantra, in general, is very easy to understand. It emerges or comes from a dialogue. So there is a person, for example, who says ‘I have such and such a problem, I have so much difficulty please help me.’ and then in response that dharani emerges, a mantra emerges. Only by understanding the meaning of the dharani, or even reciting it, we accumulate great merit. It is already of great benefit. The secret mantra in general, is a very powerful practice if we understand its meaning. It is very concise in the form of mantra. It’s very powerful in it’s in its effect. For example, if we just understand the meaning of the OM AH HUM vajra recitation, it is extremely powerful. So in general, the other mantras of secret mantra are more difficult to accomplish, as it is hard to really comprehend its meaning. It is said that the dharani mantras, these retaining mantras of various deities, are easier to practice. If we recite such a mantra it will bring great benefits to those who have passed away and also to those who are alive. Actually, the benefit from recitation does not come necessarily only from the deity, because the deity is so special and so on, but because we engage in practice. What determines the power of the practice is not the blessing of the deity, because the blessings of all the deities are the same, but it depends on how much we practice this deity. The more we practice a deity the more powerful, the more beneficial it would become. and so therefore the greater will be the blessings that we receive. That is because when we practice a deity, we mingle with the mind of the deity.
First, we visualize the deity’s form, it appears in our mind. Then we habituate to that for a very long time, while we recite the mantra of the deity. So it is like our mind really becomes the deity and we really understand the significance of the deity. By doing that for a prolonged time, the habitual tendencies of this ordinary grasping at sound and form will be purified. Then what remains is our Buddha nature. That is when all of our temporary habitual tendencies are purified that naturally our mind is Buddha nature, is the deity. The dharani mantra, in general, is concise in words but very profound in meaning. It is easy to practice. In general the secret mantra is of great benefit. However, the dharani mantra of the secret mantra is the easiest for us to engage in practice.
This dharani of the Uṣṇīṣavijayā is considered to be very important throughout the four major lineages the Sakya, Gelug, Nyingma and Kagyu. All regard it as very precious because it clears away the obstacles to life of supreme and ordinary beings. Also, ultimately, it purifies our own obscurations, our negative karma. So there is a tradition of offering a hundred thousand-fold offering, or a ten thousand-fold offering of that dharani. For example, in the past we offered this long life ceremony to HH Chetsang Rinpoche together with a large assembly of sangha. At that time we offered the ten thousand dharani offering and actually we can see on that example the power of this practice, because within just a week HH had recovered from his illness. So that Dharani mantra of all the different mantras, is considered to be the easiest to practice, for anyone to practice. Only by reciting the mantra we receive the blessings of the deity.
The empowerment – its meaning and purpose
Next is the historical background of this deity. In brief, Uṣṇīṣavijayā is in essence Buddha Amitayus. She is a female deity, a goddess that possesses great compassion who is very easy to practice. The historical background of Uṣṇīṣavijayā is her story. In general, about the empowerment and the meaning of the empowerment, many of my senior dharma friends are familiar with that. I always introduce that to the best of my abilities. The most important significance of the empowerment is that we can attain freedom, independence through receiving the empowerment. That is when you die, normally, when you die you lose your body, and yet still there is the mind and due to the habitual perception of self-grasping in the mind, you will have a perception of the body that you have right now but which you have already discarded. You will have a perception of this body also in the bardo. Due to the various actions you have engaged in relation to this body, in this life you have accumulated karma and these habitual tendencies then will continue to manifest after you have died. Then, whichever of the six negative emotions is predominant will become projected. If it is hatred, it is reflected as the hell realm, if it is avarice, or stinginess, it is reflected as the hungry spirit realm, and so on. Whatever is within the mind naturally is reflected, a self-reflection of the mind. In this way, our karmas, our habitual tendencies will take on and create a different form in the six realms of samsara.
In order to purify these tendencies, we visualize and practice the deity. First, when we practice the deity, it appears in our mind clearly. We practice the deity, remembering the purity of the deity symbols. We visualize clearly, we cultivate divine pride, and we see the deity purely. For example, there are five perceptions of purity and the deity also represents the six paramitas and so on. We see the deity in its pure form and that is very significant. That is very important for you Dharma friends to bear in mind, also that is always explained to you by the great masters that you have here. You really have inconceivable great masters here. For example Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin is here.
Regarding the empowerment now it is that when the meaning of the empowerment arises in your mind stream, then you have received the empowerment. It means that when you really understand the meaning of the empowerment, it really becomes very powerful. If you really understand the meaning, then there is no fear of death. Also when you are alive you will be able to overcome your difficulties. Whenever a difficulty arises and you think of the deity immediately, then the deity will protect your mind, and you will not be overcome by whichever difficulty. So there is much more to be said about the power of the deity but we don’t have so much time. However, this deity will bring great benefit in this life and future lives.
Gaining direct experience of the power of the deity
So what actually is the deity? When we talk about receiving the blessings of the deity? We need to understand the deity to be nothing else but a mind of love and compassion. Beings like Chenrezig have boundless compassion that is all pervasive, like space. So this omniscient wisdom of all the Buddhas is this all- pervasive great compassion that is ever present. If we supplicate to the deity then we can establish a connection unto the deity. In that way, we attain freedom independence. First, in order to attain freedom by practicing the deity, we must visualize the form of the deity clearly. It must clearly appear in our mind, in this way we attain the freedom of the body. Then the freedom of the speech is attained by reciting the mantra of the deity while we visualize the form of the deity. So that is something that you need to personally experience. You really must actually experiment with that and to really find the benefit, to see how it really benefits. In the beginning, we need to understand by hearing the story and so on. but then we also need to personally experience that by actually applying it, putting it into practice again and again. Then really seeing for yourself how it benefits.
For example, when you when you run into a problem, and in that very moment a negative feeling arises you think of the deity, then gain the experience really to see what happens. When I do that what happens when a deity appears in my mind at a moment of difficulty? Does it have the power to let go of this difficulty? Will it get better? If you see for yourself what really happens, when you really give rise to the deity, when it really appears in your mind, you will see how your difficulties will naturally dissolve. Then you will really understand the power of the deity.
Also with regards to receiving the empowerment, I always tell people that it is good to receive many empowerments, and especially also an empowerment like this today. Disciples from all over the world receive this empowerment over the internet and actually they can all receive this empowerment. That is not because I possess great blessings, but it is because the blessings of the wisdom being the deity is all pervasive like space. So therefore the empowerment is conferred wherever there is space pervades, like raindrops falling down. So the empowerment is not only conferred by having placed the vase onto your crown. What is most important in order to receive the empowerment is the compassion of the guru and also the devotion the faith of the disciple. Then you receive the empowerment. Therefore, wherever you are today, from whichever place you receive the empowerment and everyone really can receive today’s empowerment.
History of Uṣṇīṣavijayā – a father’s plea to Buddha to save his son from suffering
Now I will read the history of the empowerment. So the history of this goddess, is the essence of the victorious Amitayus. However, in order to make accomplishment easy without practicing secret mantra it is thought that one should rely upon the dharani mantra created by this goddess. Furthermore, when the Bhagavan Shakyamuni was residing in Indra’s fine dharma god realm there was one called Devaputra, the brave. He became attached to the enjoyments of the gods and gave no thought to death. One night, he heard a voice saying: after seven days you will die, then you will take birth as seven types of beings. Even if you are born as a human, you will be blind and impoverished. When he heard this he became extremely terrified and beseeched his father Indra Kaushika. With his clairvoyance, Indra could see that his son would die, and then successively take birth as a dog, a fox, a monkey, a snake, a vulture, a crow, a blind man and so forth. Having seen this, Indra quickly picked up a collection of offerings and offered them to the Bhagavan and prostrated to him, praying that the Buddha would help Devaputra. Indra requested a method to liberate from suffering. From the crown protuberance of the Bhagavan, light radiated and it illuminated the world, and the light disappeared into the Buddha’s mouth. As soon as this happened, the Buddha said this mantra of Ushnisha vijaya completely clears away the lower realms. At that time, even the lord of death, King of dharmas rejoiced.
Uṣṇīṣavijayā promised to protect sentient beings who possess this mantra. Devaputra then became one of the long-life gods. The door to the lower realms was closed. His enlightenment was foretold by the Bhagavan. The Uṣṇīṣa endowed with these qualities belongs to the Tatagatha family of the Kriya tantra. As soon as the dharani mantra is uttered, all the Buddhas will guard and protect one’s lifespan from being exhausted or shortened. The abodes of the lower realms will be emptied, and the door to the pure realm of Sukhavati will be opened. All will be born there and so forth. It is thought that there are limitless benefits.”
Transcribed and edited by Adele Tomlin.
For video of teaching and empowerment see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSVVyzOxZZM