For the Tibetan Losar New Year on 3rd March 2022, HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche generously bestowed the Medicine Buddha empowerment (video here), which I was also fortunate to be able to take online. I have written about the Medicine Buddha before in connection with the Sutra of Medicine Buddha (see here). The teachings Garchen Rinpoche gave during the empowerment on the benefit of the visualization and four ways of seeing the torma were profound and yet simple. So, as a simple offering I have typed them up (based on Ina Bieler’s oral translation) for those who would like to read/contemplate them.
TRANSCRIPT OF TEACHING ON MEDICINE BUDDHA
GARCHEN RINPOCHE (2022)
Visualising the deity and Buddha Nature liberation
Now you should visualize itself in the form of the medicine Buddha. We visualize ourselves in a form of the deity in order to purify the outer physical observations of our body, the karmic patterns of our body. You visualize your own body in the form of the medicine buddha in an instant and that purifies the karmic imprints of the body. Then inside your mind you should cultivate an altruistic mind wishing to benefit all sentient beings. When that is present, when this wish to benefit sentient beings is present, in that very moment the self-cherishing and selfish mind is absent instantly and your buddha nature as it is and pure will instantly reveal itself. Even if you were to practice thousands of different deities, as long as you do not liberate yourself from the self-cherishing mind you will not become liberated from samsara. Therefore first and foremost we have to eliminate this self-clinging mind through the altruistic mind. Specifically, you cultivate immeasurable love, you become a bodhisattva. In the moment of immeasurable love there is no self, the self has naturally disappeared and that is then called the wisdom realizing selflessness. You realize the space-like nature of the mind. That is how you realize the space like nature of the mind, when you visualize the deity. So you visualize the deity with an altruistic mind and in the moment where self-grasping is absent then Buddha Nature has attained freedom. That is how that is when you actually transform into the deity, you actually become the deity and within this expanse of primordial wisdom all the Buddhas are one. So what we call Buddha is actually Buddha Nature has become liberated.
Torma Empowerment and Four Ways of Seeing a Torma
Then, in order to receive the actual empowerment visualize that countless forms of medicine buddha descend like snowflakes in a blizzard and then they dissolve into the image on the torma first. Then from that first white light radiates and it dissolves into the foreheads of the disciples and of all beings. Think that the moment the light touches your forehead it illuminates just like a diamond beginning to sparkle. It’s like the moment the sun shines on a diamond, it begins to sparkle and that is a sign that all sentient beings possess a buddha nature. It is just that when there is no sun so they can’t see the brilliance of their mind like a diamond. A diamond is not brilliant when there is no light, so think that the moment the Buddha’s light touches the arm at your forehead and the foreheads of all sentient beings think that in an instant like a diamond they lighten up they become illuminated and sparkle like a diamond.
When one visualizes that it is not just an empty visualization, or like a fabrication but really have some assurance that this is what is actually happening this actually really happened. Visualize on the basis of the torma.
1. Boundless palace of the deity
Therefore to explain, the torma has four qualities, there are four ways in which we should see the torma and that is also a skillful means of the secret mantra. The first way of perceiving the torma, is to see the torma as the boundless palace of the deity. That goes for tormas for like vases and bombas and also stupas that be arranged. Within these holy objects countless buddhas can reside. So the torma is the boundless palace.
2. The deity
Secondly, the torma should be seen as the deity itself and whichever deity you’re practicing you should think that the torma actually really is that deity. Then you may know that having said that you may wonder so how are the deities staying in the torma? How long will they stay in there? Will they always stay there? They will not always stay there in this sense rather it is the dharmakāya staying everywhere, the dharmakāya is all pervasive, so it is their dharmakāya essence that stays in the torma. Also, Milarepa had said just before he passed away, actually I cannot die so do not worry, I will continue to pervade the five elements.’ That is because the dharmakāya pervades wherever there is space; wherever there is space there is emptiness; wherever there is emptiness the dharmakāya pervades. That is also represented by the torma this empty space inside the torma is a sign of the empty nature, the pervasiveness of the dharmakāya. The dharmakāya pervades in all the directions, the upper and lower, and all the other directions everywhere so what we call Buddha in an ultimate sense is dharmakāya and dharmakāya is all pervasive emptiness. That is the the dharmakāya nature of the deity. so in this way the deity pervades any everywhere because there is emptiness, wherever there is emptiness there is the wisdom being. So that is the first and the second way of perceiving the torma.
3. An offering
The third way is to perceive the torma as an offering and that is because the essence of the torma is the mind of bodhichitta. The deity is actually there and as a self-light a reflection of the five primordial wisdoms there appear limitless dakas and dakinis, offering gods and goddesses who make limitless offerings. So these are also present within the torma. It’s just like a big hotel and that’s the third way of perceiving the torma.
4. A blessing
The fourth way is to see the torma as a blessing and that is also because when we eat the torma we ingest the power of the deities’ bodhichitta. What we call the deity’s blessing actually is bodhichitta, or an altruistic mind. Bodhichitta is also connected to emptiness and the so-called blessing also is connected to all the other blessings that we eat. For example, the mani pills or various medicinal and blessing pills and so on, they all are infused with bodhichitta, and bodhichitta is the single medicine that heals hundreds of illnesses and the root of all suffering of all sentient beings is only self-grasping and nothing else. The only medicine to heal that is the altruistic mind. So that is the actual blessing, it is when an altruistic mind, when love arises in your own mind stream, that is a sign that you have received the deities’ blessings.
These are the four ways of perceiving the torma, or also sometimes a stupa or a vase and think that the deity is actually present within the torma so the deity torma is all these four ways:
First the torma represents the empty space of dharmakāya; the dharmakāya pervades it so the dharmakāya is present. Then the torma also is seen as the deity whichever deity you practice, appearing like a rainbow in the sky and that is the Sambhogakāya. Then the nirmanakāya are the ones who teach us, who explain that to us directly. So in this world they are the embodied nirmanakāyas the ones who give us empowerments transmissions and and the essential instructions. This is how it is explained in the scriptures. The minds of all those masters is also pervaded by the mind of the Buddha. That is why we say all the spiritual masters are the embodiment of all the jewels, their mind is the Buddha, their speech is the holy dharma, and their bodies are the sangha.
In general, they are said to be the embodiment of these rituals but on the level of the result, the fruition those should be understood to be the three kāyas so you now based on understanding the torma you can put your trust into the true like how things actually really are.
Here, we are purifying the obscurations of the body and the actual obscuration of the body physical obscuration is the perception of self and others to be separate individuals so we think that i’m is i’m we are we are separate um you’re not real and he’s not real actually the five aggregates are nothing but a pile of dust. Then next we are purifying the obscurations of the speech. The actual obscuration of the speech are the concepts that conflate one’s inner thoughts with the actual outer meaning. This means, for example, when we hear something nice, somebody says something nice, we are happy. Yet, when somebody says something unpleasant we get angry. Actually, all sound is empty and when you recognize that then you purify the observations of the speech.
Then, we purify the obscurations of the mind. Here you should think that from the torma blue light like from a diamond and radiates and dissolves into your heart and that purifies the obscurations of your mind which is to grasp at the dualistic existence of self and others. Here you should realize that actually because my mind is like space there is no duality in my mind between self and other. There is no self and other it is just something that I fabricate, but there is no duality. Once you have understood that, you have started to purify the mental observations.”
Corona Virus and recitation of Medicine Buddha mantra
Here is an excerpt from a video message in 2020 that Garchen Rinpoche gave about the Corona virus and Medicine Buddha practice:
“It is taught that if karma is not created, one will not encounter [a certain result]; therefore, a person who has not accumulated negative karma will not contract this disease. But most importantly, you should not develop any fear, thinking: “I will get this disease.” [Instead, you should think]: “Everything follows karma. What is important is that I do not accumulate [negative] karma. If I accumulate the karma for it, I will get ill. There is nothing I can do about it.” If you have not accumulated the karma for it, though, you will not get the disease.
So with trust in cause and effect, supplicate single-pointedly: “I prostrate to the Medicine Buddha, the King of Lapis Lazuli Light!” Or, “I prostrate to the Tathāgata, Arhat, perfectly complete Buddha, the Medicine Buddha, the King of Lapis Lazuli Light!” If you [want] to recite the mantra in Sanskrit:
TAYATA BEKANZE BEKANZE MAHA BEKANZE BEKANZE RADZA SAMUDGATE SOHA.
Recite this many times and listen to a recording of it.
The Medicine Buddha’s form has the color of space, so as you recite, think: “He is there, pervading space. Medicinal nectar falls down like rain and benefits the entire world.” Do not at all think: “I will get sick.” Also do not think [only] about your friends and [only] about your country. [Think]: “A rain [of nectar] falls down upon the entire world.”
There is also a Medicine Buddha empowerment and teachings Rinpoche gave in 2021, here.
Transcribed and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 6th March 2022.