In a puja, or ritual sadhana practice we invoke and relate to the Guru, the Yidam, and the three roots, or in this case, the protector, Mahakala, who can also be understood as the embodiment of the three roots. What we are primarily focusing on in a puja, is the enlightened activity which pervades space and time. Since the Yidams enlightened Buddhist deities are more specifically the activity aspect of the Dharma, through their names their activity becomes obvious. When the ritual of Mahakala is being performed, Mahakala appears in the form of a wrathful deity. It is not because there is something ferocious about Mahakala or that he is aggressive.
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For many days before the Tibetan New Year, the sangha traditionally engages in a practice of the Protector Mahakala known as Gutor to clear away the obstacles of the previous year and open the way for the new one to come. This year in Bodhgaya, the Seventeenth Karmapa has organized ten days of Mahakala practice, empowerments, reading transmissions and explanations to take place at Tergar Monastery, his residence here. The sessions began with empowerments on February 12 and will continue through February Special this year is the text of the practice, which His Holiness has revived after this powerful ritual had lain dormant for centuries.
Traditionally, for every practice, one should receive these three: the empowerment that matures, the transmission that links to the blessings of the lineage, and the explanation that clarifies the text.
Down both sides of the high-ceiling in the central area were hung thangkas of the Kagyu masters, through whom this lineage of Mahakala practices has passed. Chanting wafted through the air, and before the Gyalwang Karmapa entered the temple, a small bird landed on the back of his throne to add its voice to the melody.
His Holiness began with three formal bows to the main Buddha statue, and after the mandala offering, he began a general explanation of the practice, stating that there are worldly protectors and those who transcend the world. The former can give certain siddhis, or accomplishments, but the latter actually help one become liberated from samsara, through eliminating the afflictions and karma that imprison us in an endless cycle of rebirths.
Belonging to this second type, the wisdom protector Bernakchan is not separate from the heart of the Buddha. The actual empowerment of body, speech, and mind was given through an elaborate torma, a sculpture made of barley flour and butter , a mala, and the image of a vajra.
In the afternoon, His Holiness gave the empowerment of Mahakali, who has numerous other forms and names, such as Remati, Dusolma, and Palden Lhamo. On a relative level, she is the powerful one of the desire world. Ultimately, she is known as the Self-Arisen Queen, the one who appears from the wisdom of the expanse of all phenomena.
After this empowerment, His Holiness gave a reading transmission for the required practices. On the morning of February 13th, Gyaltsap Rinpoche began the second stage, the reading transmission, which was quite special as his first incarnation was the one who requested this practice.
In the afternoon, the Karmapa continued the transmission. Then the Karmapa talked at length of the many different ways to visualize the deities as a self-generation or frontal visualization. He also spoke in English of the daily commitment for the practice, yet advised that what is most important is to practice seriously.
We should mix practice with daily life, so that it is not just during sadhanas that we are involved in meditation. Our behavior and our motivation should be transformed. If we recite a sadhana and there is no change, this is a sure sign that we are not practicing correctly. He then translated this advice into Chinese. The afternoon ended with a dedication of merit for the benefit of all beings throughout the world. To understand better this historic moment in the lineage, Khenpo Garwang was asked to provide some background information for the readers of the website on the practices and the history of Mahakala.
The bhikshu had developed special cognitions and could also demonstrate miracles. Proud of his abilities, he competed with the Buddha and, of course, he lost, which disappointed him greatly. His skin was very dark, his appearance terrifying and his power great, so he was given the name Mahakala, The Great Black One. His sister was called Remati. He roamed the three worlds and came to Bodhgaya when the Buddha became fully awakened.
In India, the teachings on Mahakala also known as Bernakchan were given by the Buddha, but they had to wait for the right time to be revealed and propagated. Almost a thousand years later, one of the great mahasiddhas, Dombi Heruka eighth to ninth century , was staying in Hahadropa Cemetery. Mahakala and his retinue appeared clearly to the Heruka and reconfirmed his commitment to protect the teachings. Dombi Heruka then retrieved the texts and spread these teachings and practices in India.
When he went to India, even though Dombi Heruka had passed away, his wisdom body appeared to Zangkar Lotsawa. Dombi Heruka gave him the transmission of Mahakalatantras, including the empowerments and the sadhanas. This transmission eventually passed to Pomdrakpa, who was a main teacher of the Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi Through the centuries, this transmission has been passed down the lineage right up to the present day.
As a lama, he is the Karmapa, and as the one who guards and spreads the teachings, he is the Protector Bernakchan. And so it makes no difference whether a lineage exists or not between Karmapa and Mahakala, because they are not different.
In his spiritual biography, several events illustrate their connection. There arose limitless activity to overpower all of apparent existence. After, Karma Pakshi went to the country of Korig where he cured many who were sick, crippled, or disabled, just by slapping them, and so his fame as a realized master spread in all directions. Since the longer text of the Sixth Karmapa had fallen out of practice for so many years, it was very difficult to find a copy.
The Seventeenth Karmapa had looked everywhere for an original and no one, inside or outside of Tibet, had ever seen or heard of it. But the present Gyaltsap Rinpoche happened to have a photocopy of a hand-written version, which seems to be the only extant copy of the text.
He lent it to His Holiness and this is the one that was input, and then five hundred copies were printed for the gathering in Bodhgaya. The practice is being reinstated this year as it makes an auspicious connection with all that is excellent: it brings benefits to the teachings and to all living beings while bringing about prosperity and positive influences. It is a wonderful opportunity to restore this practice that has been long in decline.
It is hoped that reinstating this longer version of Mahakala practice in Bodhgaya will cause the Dharma to flourish widely and bring benefit to immeasurable numbers of beings. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies.
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Preliminaries Thought of Refuge repeat three times From this moment on: until attaining complete enlightenment solely for the benefit of others, I, together with all sentient beings of the Six Realms, continuously take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; the Lama, Yidam, and Dakini. Shaping of Motive repeat three times Through the practice of generosity and other virtues, may I attain buddhahood in order to help others. The Four Immeasurables repeat three times May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness; may all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering; may all sentient beings never be separate from the genuine happiness that is free from suffering; may all sentient beings abide in equanimity that is free from passion, aggression, and prejudice. Visualization om shunyata jnana bedzra sobhawa atmako nya ham all things and I are the nature of that indestructible wisdom that is emptiness.
Mahakala Practice: Resources