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Day three: morning

Prayers to Buddha Shakyamuni and to Manjusri.

Practice of the 35 Buddhas

the two benefits of the practice

Yesterday, you heard about karma. Today, I will teach the 35 Buddha practice. This practice is a
method to purify negative karmas, and at the same time, accumulate meritorious karma. These are
then the two effects of the practice. By purifying the bad karmas, your mind will be free from
their influences. This means your mind will be clearer; and the lessening of karma will also
strengthen your wisdom. The other effect of the practice is the accumulation of merit, which is
the condition for enlightenment. Merit affords you the opportunity to be enlightened. For
instance, by your very good merits, you can be reborn in a Buddha field. Such a rebirth is deemed
optimum for enlightenment because the Buddhas are there. You can learn directly from Buddha.
You are guided by Buddha, and so you are able to follow his teaching and become enlightened.
Excellent causes and conditions such as these are dependent on your store of merits, so you have
to know how to gather them. By doing the 35 Buddha practice you can accumulate useful merits
as well as purify negative karmas.

to understanding through reason and logic

Yesterday, you heard about karma. Last night, after the teaching, Herbert Giller and I discussed
the Western traditional concepts about karma. Whenever you hear about karma and the problems
caused by it, it is natural for your mind to think from the perspectives of your tradition and
history. Therefore I will give you some clear instructions to make out the differences between the
truth of the teaching versus your own culture and traditional attitudes.

First of all, in the beginning when you listen to Dharma teachings, you have to know that you are
listening to a different subject, a different culture than those found in the European or Western
countries. Secondly, when you listen, you can judge whether it makes sense or not. Judge in a
way where you consider the information through every logic and reason that the teachings give
you. Learn that logic. It enhances your understanding, judgement, and wisdom. It enables you to
understand that mind is mind. Learning that logic will improve your overall reasoning and
judgement. Before a teaching, think, ‘I will be listening to a subject very different from our
Western ways. I will be listening to a subject based on an entirely different culture and tradition
than my own.’ Then whatever you hear, you will know not to relate it to something very
interesting you have in the West, which you might feel excited about. And you will know not to
associate it with something Western which irritates you, or disappoints you.

Here is an example to show you what I mean. Take someone who is always criticising the
Western way of life. He is somewhat of a rebel and holds the concept that Western tradition is no
good. Others look down on him. But when someone like him encounters an Asian culture, such
as Hindu or Buddhist teachings, he will think that those teachings validate his view. By using the
Asian teachings, he can now challenge those who have always looked down on him. He can apply
the Hindu or Buddhist views to justify himself and his views. His thinking might be, ‘What I
thought all along is correct because the Buddha said so, too.’ Or he might think, ‘I don't like to
wear clothes. I can go naked. People always say I'm crazy. Now I'm not so crazy afterall. Look at

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 30


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
Milarepa, he, too was naked, so are the Hindu Babas!’ This shows how a person could take
something to validate his own ways.

Here is another example. During the Middle Ages, the Church had tried to inflict a sense of guilt
among its following. In this respect, some of you still think that to feel guilty is correct while
others among you may think it very bad. Now here I am telling you that in Buddhism, there are
also teachings and practices about karma that involve feeling regret for past karma committed.
But I also explain that the ‘regret’ in the Buddhist context is for totally different reasons. If you
are not flexible in how you think and learn, if you don’t develop a new attitude in your listening,
or if you are stuck in your own views, then you can seriously misunderstand what I am saying to
you. For instance, half of you might interpret what I said like this, ‘What I thought so far about
feeling guilty, which the Christian Church had taught me, is right. He just said it, too, to feel
regret for the bad karma. So Buddhism also says the same thing.’ If you interpret what I said in
that sense, then you would have given yourself the confirmation you were looking for. Then,
you’d feel encouraged to continue to feel guilty. The other half of you might think, ‘The Buddhist
teaching is bad. It’s the same as the teaching of the Church. They are also telling us to feel regret,
and to purify the bad karma. That is the same as to feel guilty, or punishment, or purification…or
the burning of witches, too. They’re all the same.’ If you understand karma in either of these two
ways, then you are seriously wrong. You have a serious misunderstanding about karma.

What is required is to be cognizant of the fact that you are learning a new subject, new to the
Western tradition. Some similarity might still be there, but most of it is new. Then having
received the explanations, you have to think them over. Reflect on what you have heard. The
explanations provide you with the skills for you to reflect, to introspect so that you could arrive at
a more accurate understanding.
the karmic thoughts

There are many thoughts. Some of them are karmic thoughts, which can produce results in the
form of illusions. Karma, or illusion does not come from anybody else but you. It comes from
your own mind. Some examples of karmic thoughts are: profound desire, a very grasping form of
desire; profound anger, a deeply rooted anger; and profound ignorance. Any thought related to
these three thoughts is negative karma.

Ignorance to begin with is neutral like sleeping, so it does not immediately create bad karma. But
from ignorance, negative karmas can develop. When ignorance gives rise to wrong views, then it
can develop into very serious negative karma. One example is ‘Sati’, the burning of widows. In
India, there was a religious sect, which burnt widows. It has recently become a popular subject
among researchers, moviemakers, and authors. Sati was invented by a Brahmin scholar who had a
very strong attachment to his wife. When he was dying, he wrote a book. He wanted to make his
wife believe that it was very good to jump into his funeral pyre so that they could go to heaven
together. That was the main theme of his book. And his book was very convincing. The scholar’s
misdirection came from three factors. The first was his very strong attachment to his wife. He
himself was said to have been a very ugly man. His wealth, however, procured him a very
beautiful, and young wife. So he had strong attachment to her. The second factor was his nature
was not good to start with so he harboured much jealousy but lacked compassion. This was why
he did not mind that his wife would suffer being burnt alive. Then the last factor was his
ignorance. He did not believe that his action was absolutely wrong. Tremendous negative karma
was created by his book, which involved so many negative emotions. The scholar created the
terribly bad karma because he didn’t know about karma, cause and effect, or ignorance. Later, a
religious practice was founded based on this book and had attracted followers in many parts of
India until recently. Now the government and public at large are trying to put an end to it. But
some people are still convinced by this book.

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 31


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
Anger, and desire, which are like drawings on the water that can immediately disappear, do not
create much karma. Anger, or desire that are like drawings in the sand create some light karma
but they, too, will come to be wiped out. But the karma from anger and desire that are like
carvings in the stone will remain and will always cause problems because they are constantly
creating negative things.
remedies for karmic thoughts

Regret is like therapy. It weakens the karmic thoughts likened to stone carvings. As an antidote,
regret can weaken and even subdue the power of your negative emotions. Regret doesn’t mean to
blame yourself. I am being very careful here to distinguish this regret from the Christian way of
punishing oneself. I do not wish you to go in that direction. Buddhist teachers are always very
open-minded when they communicate with their students. They don’t talk diplomatically nor do
they try to please the students. They talk very honestly and try to make the students understand
properly. So please do not take what I say as a criticism of your tradition or culture because none
is intended.

The supplication to the Buddhas is a way to bring the benefit of their wishes to you. In general,
for someone to help you, you have to cooperate with the person. Your cooperation serves you as
it causes you to receive the help of another. Here in the practice, you have to arrange for some
karmic cooperation on your side. Supplication with pure devotion towards the Buddhas is the way
to receive and actualize their good wishes for you. From your side, you provide the cause to make
their great wishes happen to you. The Buddhas are those who have already accomplished the path
of enlightenment. Therefore they have wisdom, plus all the wishes they made for sentient beings
are happening. Now you create the cause for you to absorb the help. And that cause is your
devotion towards the Buddhas. Here, devotion is a pure state of mind with full confidence and
trust in their accomplishments. The confidence and trust come about through a precise
understanding of the wisdom qualities of the Buddhas, and their wishes for you. It means you
‘know’ thereby preventing your being ignorant or not-knowing the path of Dharma with
Buddhahood its result. An attitude of pure devotion prevents ignorance, and doubts that can
originate from your basic ignorance. It is a very pure attitude towards the wishes and wisdom of
the Buddhas, which invites their wishes and blessings to come to you to purify your bad karma.

Questions (Q) and Answers (A)

(Q): What you say is so close to me; it feels like something I’ve always known but now it has
become clear and bright. And I am touched by that, so I feel like crying.

(A): That’s very good, very good. I am happy you’ve understood what I’ve explained to you. But
again, that happiness should not be something that you grasp, okay? Don’t solidify it.

(Q): What happens to people who have bad concepts about guilt, for example in Christianity, and
develop the theory that you can be purified by being burnt?

(A): There is not really a problem. But if you stick to a wrong view then it simply remains a
wrong view. Nowadays people don’t practise things like Sati anymore. They no longer commit
the bad actions based on wrong religious views. Still, the people who had created the negative
things are receiving very bad karma. I mean, for instance, the people who had caused so many
women to jump into the funeral fires.

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
The Buddha always said, “Don’t write books wildly.” This was why Tsongkhapa invented a new
way for people to learn the Dharma – to learn it verbally. It was during the time when he was
organizing schools in Tibet to teach Buddhism. He did not want the people to know how to write.
So, he invented a unique method to train them in a special verbal skill for learning Buddhism
precisely. Tsongkhapa organised a school that allowed thousands of people to learn Buddhism by
his method. Consequently, the majority of Gelugpas used to only teach people to learn verbally.
Their people did not know how to sign their own names because they never learnt how to write.
Tsongkhapa did not want everybody writing books. To write a book is a very delicate thing.
Books that are not written properly will confuse people. That was his concern, and even the
Gelugpas themselves did not know of this real motive. When the Gelugpa geshes arrived in India,
they had difficulties signing their names because they never learned how to write. This was really
funny – they didn't know how to write the characters which they have been reading and using all
their lives.

There is a belief in some cultures that a deceased would receive things burnt in his funeral fire.
Many nice things are therefore offered and burnt for the deceased during a funeral. I don’t know
how this misunderstanding originated. But again, a book was written about this rite which became
popularized and spread it in China. Consequently, many precious things are burnt for funerals.
The act is not bad karma per se, but it is a waste, isn’t it?

During the Buddha’s time, as expected, the quality of the teachings was well preserved. Only the
qualified students like Kashyapa, or Ananda were teaching, and they taught from memory only.
Even for several hundred years after the Buddha’s passing, the teachings were still very well
maintained. The standards of the Hindu schools at that time were very high. My guess is some of
the teachings of Buddha Kashyapa were kept there, which accounted for the very high
qualifications of some Hindu saints. In those days, there were very few teachers who taught, for
example, that if you were to kill 1000 people in one week, then you would go to heaven. Related
to this kind of misconception, there was a man who was collecting thumbs of his victims. He had
killed 999 people, and he needed only one more. The last one was supposed to be the Buddha,
who instead, saved him.

It was people’s misinterpretations of the teachings that had started the decline of the Buddha
Dharma and the Hindu teachings. Moreover, it was when those misinterpretations were written
down in books that the decline really spread on a very large scale.

Wrong views are always created by ignorance. At the moment, wrong views are not an obstacle
for you. But when your practice come to the really deep levels in meditation like Shi’nay and
Lhakthong, then you will realise that wrong views can be indeed disturbing. They are, in fact,
targets for elimination in Lhakthong meditation.

The Practice of the 35 Buddhas

The Buddha taught that there are Buddhas in the different universes. In particular, there are 35
Buddhas who reside in realms located quite near our universe. Nowadays, the scientists can see
our Milky Way. ‘Quite near’ in our context, means somewhere near the Milky Way.

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
Each of these 35 Buddhas has a different colour. Among them, there are many white, blue and
yellow Buddhas. Why are they in these different colours? It is because the humans in those
realms are in those colours. In some realms where the majority of beings are yellow, then the
Buddhas there also appear yellow. This is something that Bodhisattvas do – when they become
enlightened, according to their wish, they choose a realm of beings to show them the way to
become liberated. To be in their midst, such a Buddha then pretends to be born as a child of a
family in that realm. Taking their form, he then pretends to realise that samsara is problematic.
And then he pretends to become enlightened when in actual fact, he is already a Buddha. In other
words, he pretends to be a normal human being for the sake of helping humans.

Our Buddha Shakyamuni was no exception. He too, was already enlightened. But he came into
this world as a human in order to show you that you have the potential to become a Buddha. You
can do as he did and become exactly like him. So he appeared as the child of a wealthy family on
this earth. If a beggar boy who has a lot of suffering tells you that samsara has no meaning, you
won’t be won over. But when a very wealthy man, or a king, tells you that life has no meaning,
that samsara has no meaning, that there is something else that you could achieve, he would be
much more convincing than the beggar boy. You’d be more likely to give him, a wealthy prince,
your attention. People in general think that someone very rich must be happy. But, the Buddha
said to them, “No. I am a prince here. I have everything. And still, I find no satisfaction. There
must be something else…meaning enlightenment.” So he ran away from the family trap, and
went to the forest. He didn't just sleep in the forest, he meditated there and then demonstrated his
enlightenment. He went through it all to show that it could be done. He was an example to his
followers of how it could be done, and he is our example still today. He said, “You can achieve
everything that I have achieved!”

The Buddhas in the different universes come in the same colour and form as the beings in the
respective realms. And lucky are the realms where they have Buddhas. A yellow Buddha appears
to the yellow humans. A blue Buddha is in the realm of the blue-skinned humans. And black
Buddhas appear where black humans are the majority. The Buddha there will appear as the son of
black parents, for instance, to fit the beings.

Once I was visiting a museum in Chicago, and some Americans asked me, “Why is the Medicine
Buddha always in this dark blue colour?” I said, “There was a universe with people of that colour,
so the Buddha was that colour. The Medicine Buddha was that kind of blue.” Then I corrected
myself, “Not was, he still is.” Why did I say ‘is? It’s because he is still there, within our Milky
Way.

We do have a stronger karmic connection to the Buddhas who are closer to us. Whether we see
these universes or not goes together with our illusions. For example, the Milky Way is within our
illusion and so it is visible to us – it means there is a karmic connection between us. Buddhas are
there in an area that is distantly visible to us so you can still receive their blessings. Therefore,
Buddha Shakyamuni selected the 35 Buddhas for us so that we can pray to them and supplicate
them from among the millions of Buddhas.
explanations on the actual practice

Visualize in the space before you the sky. In the sky, there appear 35 big lotuses as comfortable
seats. You are mentally creating them and offering them to the Buddhas to sit on. The 35
Buddhas include our Buddha Shakyamuni. You can imagine him in the centre and arrange all the
others around him any way you like – in a pyramid, circle or square. In the Buddha realms, when
a Buddha gives a teaching to his disciples, he is sometimes seated in the lotus posture or
otherwise, in the position when sitting on a chair like Buddha Maitreya. You can imagine the
Buddhas sitting in either of these two ways. (But I don’t think they’d be doing gymnastics, or

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 34


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
exercises like push-ups. So don’t imagine that, even if you like that! I'm just joking, okay?)
Anyway, you invite all these Buddhas and they are there. And then, you do prostrations to them.

You begin with Refuge in the Triple Gem as written in the text.
The Refuge vow:
<sem tschen/ tam tshe/ tag par/ sang gye la/ kyab su tschi’o… >
which means, constantly all beings take refuge in Buddha….

First, you read the text. There are two versions. The original version is in Sanskrit, the other is in
Tibetan. If you know Sanskrit, you can read that version. Otherwise, read the Tibetan. which is
quite nicely transliterated here.
The English translation from the Sanskrit is:
I prostrate to the Baghwan, the Tataghata, the Arhat, the completely perfect Buddha Shakyamuni.
In Tibetan:
<tshom den de/ de shin/ sheg pa/ dra tshom pa/ yang dag par/ dsog pe/ sang gye/ sha kya/ tub pa
la/ tshag tsal lo,
dor je'i/ nying po/ rab tu/ jom pa la/ tshag tsal lo', >

‘tshag tsal lo’ means prostrate.

‘Dorje'i nying po rab tu jompa’ is the name of one of the Buddhas.

‘La’ in Tibetan is a grammatical term meaning ‘to’.

So in English mixed with Tibetan, the whole phrase means:


I prostrate to Dorje'i Nyingpo Rabtu Jompa.

Or in Sanskrit,
I prostrate to Vajragarbha.

I would suggest that you read the names in Tibetan. This way, it is more convenient for you when
you could read together with the lamas. Reading the text in your language (e.g. German) is also
okay. Then the prostration verse section continues like that with the names of all the Buddhas
ending always with ‘la tshag tsal lo’.

The practice consists of three parts, or sections.


Section 1:

1. Visualization: You begin the practice by ‘the calling of the Buddhas’ by their respective
names. The visualization or thinking of the Buddhas comes before you do the actual
prostrations. If you want to accumulate merit, you can try to visualize in a more elaborate
way. As I said before, you think in your mind, or you visualize the 35 large lotuses. Then
you invite the Buddhas to come and sit down before you in the lotuses. Then, imagine
them all coming and sitting down on the lotus seats that you have mentally created and
offered them.

Then you recite the Buddhas’ names, one by one, saying according to the text, as in ‘I
prostrate to Buddha Shakyamuni…’ Read the whole verse once complete with all its
mental elaborations. Then you move on to the next part.

2. Offering: Create in your mind the most precious of offerings. All the precious things that
you can think of – precious lakes, precious flowers, precious jewels. You manifest the

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 35


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
offerings mentally from your mind, in front of the Buddhas and offer them like in
Mandala.

3. Seven-branch prayer: Recite the prayer once:

i. I prostrate to all these 35 Buddhas, including the countless Buddhas who live in all
directions.
ii. I pay homage to the boundless qualities of the Buddhas.
iii. I request all the Buddhas to teach sentient beings.
iv. I request all the Buddhas to appear to sentient beings, don’t disappear!
v. I request all the Buddhas to liberate all sentient beings.
vi. I rejoice in all the merit of sentient beings, including great beings like Arhats,
Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas.
vii. I regret all the (bad) karma of sentient beings, including my own (bad) karma – please
give blessing to purify everything in one moment.

You don’t have to visualize each one of the 35 Buddhas in detail because you cannot do it.
Focus on Buddha Shakyamuni and think that all the other Buddhas are also there. They
have wisdom. They have compassion. From your devotion towards them, you have
requested their presence and you have supplicated them, and so they are there!

4. Recitation with Prostrations: After the Seven-branch prayer, you stand up to do


prostrations by calling again the name of each Buddha, one by one.

Each complete recitation of the prostration verse begins with,


‘I prostrate to Buddha…’
and ends with the name of the last Buddha,
< rin po tsche/ dang/ pe me/ den la/ rab tu/ schug pa/ ri wang gi/ gyal po la tschag tsal lo//>

Then you go back again to the words in the beginning,


<sem tschen/ tam tsche/ tag par/ sangye la/ kyab su tschi’o//>
until <de schin/ scheg pa/ dra tschom pa/ yang dag par/ dsog pe/ sang gye/ rin po tsche/
dang/ pe me/ den la/ rab tu/ schug pa/ ri wang gi/ gyal po la/ tschag tsal lo//’>.

These pages you recite again and again while prostrating to all 35 Buddhas.

As you prostrate, you should visualize all sentient beings, including mosquitoes, as well as
beings in the precious human forms. Imagine them all on a boundless plain. The 35
Buddhas appear above in the space, all the sentient beings also can see them, and are
together with you doing prostrations to the Buddhas.

To do this prostration practice, you have to memorize the names. I suggest that until you
have the words memorized, you read the words into a tape recorder. Then you could play
the disk or cassette as you do the prostrations while saying the words along with the tape.
This is my suggestion. Is it more convenient? You only have to memorize the verse for
the prostration part. The rest of the practice, you can follow the text.

In one German edition, it includes in the first part,


<… lama la/ kyab su tschi’o//>
– which I have taken out. It was not part of the original sutra but a Tibetan addition. It
means to take refuge in the Lama. Nowadays there are all kinds of lamas, so there is no
security. It is safer and better to stick with the original text.

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 36


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
Chinese Buddhists have a slight criticism of Tibetan Buddhists about one point. Buddhism
was invited into China 500 years before it reached Tibet. There, the Tibetans everywhere
added the ‘Lama’, so Buddhism became known as ‘Lamaism’. Well, that's quite accurate.
Respecting the lamas is all right. You should have respect and devotion for your teacher
since you receive teachings from him.

‘Lama’ in the Tibetan context means spiritual guides, those who are enlightened including
all Arhats, and Pratyekabuddhas who have already attained their respective levels of
enlightenment. Their achievements depended completely upon the Buddha. And all
Buddhas became enlightened having fully and directly depended on the Bodhisattvas. The
Bodhisattvas are the ones who will develop into Buddhas. By that logic, some people
prostrate first to the Bodhisattvas, and then to the Buddhas. And I am just repeating their
logic to you. It's also good logic. But if it is taken to an extreme, it could be dangerous. Do
you know why it could be dangerous? It is because a teacher could then claim that, “I am
a great teacher of Buddhism, and I am above the Buddha!” Then he has turned the
Dharma into politics. Even nowadays, these kinds of claims are being mobilized a lot. Do
you understand what I mean? I will not say it too directly now. I just want you to
understand why I removed it.

Here in this practice, concentrate only on the Buddhas. Follow directly the original sutra
text. The Buddha is the direct cause of your enlightenment. Prostrate to the Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha, and don’t add the Lama, then there is no danger of going in a wrong
direction.

Do the long, fully stretched prostrations many, many, many times. We call them the
condensed yoga. Prostrations are very good for health and have many other benefits. They
activate all the positive nerves in the body, which service your wisdom and clear your
mind.

With hands together folded, touch the points of body, speech and mind, and then prostrate
and touch the Buddha’s feet. In this way, you get rid of all your negative karma
accumulated by body, speech and mind through the three mental poisons of ignorance,
anger and attachment. Think that you send the poisons all out of you when you stretch out
your body and limbs, and that you liberate all sentient beings in the six realms when you
stand up. This is a way to train your mind to activate your Bodhicitta.

I have witnessed that by doing prostrations, some cancer patients have averted
their cancers. I have no proof, but I know of someone whose cancer was
completely removed by doing prostrations. This is a very new discovery by
Buddhist practitioners by chance. I have also told a cancer research centre so
they could make further investigations into it.

My mother’s first cousin had oesophagus cancer. At that time, she could not
swallow rice. She could only manage to ingest thin porridge, a liquid rice
porridge. The doctor’s recommendation was to cut away the cancer. I regret that
I didn’t know earlier as my mother passed away because of oesophagus cancer,
and so did two of her cousins. But this cousin, the last surviving, who lives in
Kathmandu, had refused to go under the knife. She had heard that one of her
friends who had stomach cancer was cured by doing a lot of prostrations. She
did not have much confidence at first. However, she still made up her mind to
do it. Her thinking was, “Let me die. But I will do prostrations and the merit

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
will follow me. The cutting by operation won’t make any difference. I will die
in any case. It might be postponed by a year or two, so it doesn’t matter.” She
then committed herself to doing only prostrations. You know, when you do
many, many prostrations you will like doing them. Physically, you will feel
very comfortable. And so, she did many prostrations every day. Then later,
having been able to swallow only porridge before, gradually, she was able to
swallow rice, and then she could eat again. She stopped prostrations for some
time because they were too much for her and she became very thin. But when
she felt that the tumour might be growing again, she started doing prostrations
again. This time, the tumour completely disappeared. Completely! She is
normal now, and fat, too! This is her seventh year since her serious oesophagus
cancer disappeared. She is not doing prostrations as much any more. She is
completely cured.

Another young Bhutanese lady, had blood cancer in the limbs. She went to a
very good cancer research centre in Bangalore in India for two months. I saw
her last in Timphu, the capital of Bhutan. It is now her fifth year since her
recovery. She did so many prostrations that she got a lump on her forehead, and
she is also completely cured.

Then we told Khenpo Tsultrim Sangpo to do prostrations. He has serious liver


cancer. When he first came to the hospital in New Delhi, the doctors told him he
could eat whatever he liked. They had given him up thinking that he would die
within two months, so there was no point in putting him on a strict diet. Let him
enjoy. Then I told Khenpo to do prostrations. Now it is his fourth year!

The prostration practice is very powerful, whether as an exercise or for blessing.


The cures of all three people must have been due to the blessing. Maybe the
practice produces an effect that burns the cancer cells, I don’t know. There is no
difference whether you do the prostrations in the way of the Four Foundations
Practice, or to the 35 Buddhas. The Bhutanese lady and my mother’s cousin just
recited ‘Namo Buddhaya, namo Dharmaya, namo Sanghaya,’ meaning I take
refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, that’s all. But they all did the long
prostrations. It is good to know. You should all know this because sickness can
happen at any time. Here, you do prostrations to purify your negative karma to
attain enlightenment.
Section 2:

Purification: After doing as many prostrations as you’d like, a hundred or a thousand, you sit
down again on your seat with yours hands respectfully joined towards the Buddhas. Read the rest
of the practice text. It is a list of bad karmas that sentient beings can accumulate. Any sentient
being has created and can still create these bad karmas in the past, present, or future.

It starts with <de dag/ la sog pa/…>,


or ‘You and all the others …’
and ends with <… tschö tsching/ dom par/ gyi lag so//>,
or ‘…and promise not to do bad things from now on.’

The confession prayer is recited three times.

Recite the words knowing that they are negative karmas and with the motivation that you wish to
get rid of them. Pray to the Buddhas to give blessing to purify all the negative karmas, all the

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
karmic seeds of negative actions that are still in your consciousness. Do not interpret the word,
‘confession,’ in the Christian sense. Here you are repeating the whole list of negative karmas and
thinking them being purified by the blessing of the 35 Buddhas.

If there is no karmic connection for something to happen to you, then it can


never happen to you. Nagarjuna, who had lived after Alexander the Great, had
learnt the Greek alchemy of turning stone into gold. He gave gold to many
beggars and consequently caused inflation in the country. The king sent
messengers to Nagarjuna to beg him to stop! But Nagarjuna thought to himself,
‘When the beggars come, I can’t help but give. I think now is the time for me to
leave this world. But rather than waiting for a natural death I need a cause to
die.’ Nagarjuna knew for the good of the country, he had to stop giving gold
and end the inflation. He then tried to see an unnatural cause for his demise.
Was there any negative karma left in his mind, which could act as cause to end
his life? Through his wisdom, his investigation into his mind showed him one
karmic seed that could kill him: countless millions of years ago, when he was a
baby, he had killed an ant by cutting off its head with a blade of grass. That
karma was still left there. So Nagarjuna told the messenger, “Please cut a piece
of grass, and touch my head with it.” The messenger did as he was asked.
Miraculously, Nagarjuna promptly removed his head, and presented it to the
messenger saying, “Now I die.” Nagarjuna then disappeared.

This example tells you how karma is stored in the dualistic mind that gives rise
to illusions. Nagarjuna had attained the Bodhisattva bhumis but had yet to
become a fully enlightened Buddha. The illusion was still there for him like a
picture screen, however, it could no longer trap him.
Section 3:

The third section is the dedication of your merit to sentient beings.

It starts with,
‘All Buddhas, be aware, [now I am going to dedicate!]. ‘… please be my witnesses!’
<sang gye/ tshom den de/ […] dag la/ gong su sol//>’,

“The merit I’ve accumulated in this life, or in any previous lives, from only giving a bit of food to
a living being, and up to enlightened merit, all these my merits I have combined them here and I
dedicate them to sentient beings. In other words, the results of my merits must benefit sentient
beings.”

In this way, you are making an earnest wish here that the good results of your merits, as small as
from giving a biscuit to a dog, up to the merit you accumulate for the sake of enlightenment,
should go to sentient beings. Make that wish from the bottom of your heart in front of the 35
Buddhas.

Recite the dedication prayer three times.

These are then the three sections: the prostration, the confession, (I have to use this word, but
please understand it in the Buddhist context) and the dedication. You practise all three sections in
front of the 35 Buddhas.

This afternoon we will read the practice text together, just to show you how to follow it. Then we
will do some Shi’nay meditation.

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
Day three: afternoon

Group Practice of the Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas:

First section:

While I read, you will do the prostrations. We all visualize the 35 Buddhas in front of ourselves.
When you have memorized the verse, then you will be able to say it faster.
You keep reciting while you do the prostrations.
(Prostrations)
Second section:

Sit down, or kneel down – whatever you like or is comfortable for you.
The second section is the confession, for purification.
(Speaking the confession part)
The last line means: I will not deliberately commit all these bad karmas again.
You will get copies of all these instructions. There is a list of the bad karmas like killing your
father, killing your mother, killing an Arhat or other beings.
Third section:

(A). The dedication prayer.


(Speaking the dedication part)

(B). Wishes

Recite the confession prayer three times. Recite the dedication prayer also three times. Then, the
lines after that are wishes for all sentient beings from the Seven-branch prayer. This you recite
only once.

If your time is limited, then recite the prostrations a few times and then the confession and the
dedication prayer once.

If you have time for many prostrations, then you keep on calling the names of the 35 Buddhas
and make as many prostrations as you’d like. Then you do the confession and the dedication once
or three times each.

Questions (Q) and Answers (A)

(Q): Can I also do this practice beside the practice I do right now?

(A): Yes you can. Here, it is best if you go systematically starting from Shi’nay until you reach
the most profound practice. Shi’nay is the concentration on the breath as I’ve taught you. Those
of you who have no knowledge of Shi’nay start with it, as your mind is still very busy. If you
have already done a lot of Shi’nay, and are used to it, then of course, you don’t start with it. But if
your mind is still not calm, it means that you have not effectively implemented the various
methods, which you have learnt and practised.

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
This is why I showed you how to start with Shi’nay. To concentrate on breathing is very
important, and on counting, too. After you are well used to the counting, then you won’t count
any more. But your mind will still follow the breath that you visualize. When you are used to
following the breath without counting, then you don’t follow it anymore. Simply keep your mind
on the breath.

You need Shi’nay to pacify your mind. The 35 Buddha practice is for purification. You should
concentrate on the 35 Buddha practice now in lieu of Dzog Shing (the field of
accumulation/refuge tree we focus on when we do the prostrations in the Ngöndro). I suggest that
everybody now concentrates on the 35 Buddha practice for prostrations. This is very powerful.
This is the prostration practice that Marpa did. Dzog Shing is good, but I think 35 Buddha
practice is better for you.

If you are doing the Six Yogas of Naropa practice, and you are doing Guru Yoga, then Dzog
Shing is okay within those practices. This is Mahamudra practice, so our prostration practice as
well as the Mandala offerings should be directed towards the 35 Buddhas.

You can memorize the text of the 35 Buddhas. The blessing contained therein is very, very
powerful. It is much better than the practice with the Lamas. Because we are in the Kali Yuga
time (dark age), many things can happen. Therefore, the 35 Buddha practice is a very secure
method within a systematic program for Mahamudra, which I have organized for you.

During the times of Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa and the
second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, when practitioners were doing the Guru Yoga practice, their
gurus were the great Siddhas as I have just named, like Gampopa. There was nothing wrong with
these masters. With respect to Düsum Khyenpa and Karma Pakshi, they were perfect –almost like
Buddha. The practices were convenient to follow. But nowadays, you are wondering what to do?
There is no security in following the teachers anymore.

For instance, a student might think like this, 'I took initiation from Tenga Rinpoche but now I’ve
heard something bad about him, so what should I do?' There is doubt. Where is the truth? There
are no teachers like Gampopa and Düsum Khyenpa anymore. The followers don’t feel safe and
they are confused. Moreover, there is politics in the refuge tree. I mentioned Tenga Rinpoche
because he had been to Germany many times and had taught here a lot. He gave many initiations
and now there are a lot of problems happening – not only the Karmapa controversy but also the
internal problems. You who are the followers are getting these kinds of information and then you
are confused. It is happening.

In those days of Gampopa, Düsum Khyenpa, or Karma Pakshi, to hear anything bad about such a
master was out of the question. What bad things have you ever heard about Karma Pakshi?

But nowadays lots of things are happening. For example, suppose Lama Yangdak gives an
initiation here and in keeping with the instructions during Gampopa's time, he tells you to think of
him, your teacher, above your head. And suppose, you agree and do as you’re told. Then
something happens to him. You will feel very confused and not know what to do. It is not safe to
just follow any teacher. I have come across many lamas, and many disciples who have come up
against these kinds of things. Therefore, the thing to do is to put all these teachers in the
bodhisattva group. Then, there is no problem and you should maintain a good attitude towards
them. But don’t prostrate to them.

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Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
I know of a lama who had done two three-year retreats and then he gave up Dharma. He was even
a teacher at one time and had given initiations. He was a French lama from a long time ago whom
I’ve met. He is now a guitarist at night in a Paris bar. Simpenla recognized him. He went there to
see him but was ignored. The now-guitarist didn’t want to talk to him, he didn’t even want to
know him. He wanted to be completely detached from the Dharma. So things nowadays are very
confusing to people. Suppose he had led you to think of him on the lotus seat in the form of
Vajradhara and then you see him now in the bar playing guitar, what would you think? If he were
Saraha, then it’d be alright (jokingly).

For Mahamudra, the prostration practice is to the 35 Buddhas. Stick with that – it is secure. When
you do prostrations to the 35 Buddhas, you will not have any problems and you will only get
merit. For sure, you will not see the 35 Buddhas doing something funny later on. After you have
finished the prostrations then you will recite the Mandala practice.

You should follow a systematic program in order to achieve quicker the results. You should not
do so many different practices. When you don’t do any Dharma practice, you are totally detached,
or separated from the path of enlightenment. This means you are not on the Path. You are
completely out of it. However, if you are on the Path but you are always looking for other paths
and trying out everything then you will never make progress in that you are not going straight, but
going zick-zack. Don't do ‘Dharma’ shopping.

(Q): I am doing Ngöndro right now. Should I finish it, or should I switch?

(A): If you finish the Four-Foundation practice and then start the Six Yogas of Naropa, then that
will be all right. Start this program having finished the Ngöndro is also fine. There is no
difference. I am just making a program that is secure. As I have explained many times before, and
I think you can figure out what I mean. Everybody is talking about lineage, lineage, and lineage,
and it is very confusing. So, I make a practice system that is secure. You are reading books here
and there and thinking about the lineages and in the end, you will be totally confused. Afterall, we
are in the time of the Kali Yuga (Dark Age).

(Q): For the Shi’nay meditation, is it also possible to visualize something different than explained
while concentrating on the breath? For example, to focus on the movement of the stomach, or to
do some other Shi’nay meditation.

(A): No, don't do it like that. What I taught is very important. It is what you should do. Exactly
the disciples of the Buddha have done this practice. They were all successful and so the method is
reliable. Many inventions cropped up afterwards, but they are not so reliable. Shariputra and the
other disciples of the Buddha all started with this practice. With regards to the other inventions,
what proof do you have that they work? You are not a Buddha, and an invention is just one
person’s idea. I could create a wave and call it the way to enlightenment but then I would have no
proof to give you. For enlightenment, all teachings should come from the Buddha, only then is it
reliable.

(Q): What to do when you have back problems and you can only do the prostrations very slowly.

(A): That's fine, then meditate. Visualize yourself doing the prostrations together with many
sentient beings. One prostration with back pain is equal to 1,000 prostrations by a healthy person
where merit is concerned. But where health is concerned, then there is a difference, because the
back pain disturbs the exercise.

(Q): And when are they finished? After how many times? Is there a number?

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
(A): 100.000 times. Sorry, I didn’t say that.

(Q): Is it alright to do Ngöndro and Shi’nay at the same time, for example, one in the morning,
one in the evening?

(A): Sure, you can do that. For Dharma practice, there isn’t any special time. Dharma is merit.
Merit needs to be accumulated by mind. There is no specified time for practice. You should do it
whenever it is convenient to you.

Shi’nay as method is required because your mind is not in Shi’nay. And when your mind is not in
Shi’nay you cannot do Mahamudra meditation. There are just too many thoughts. You cannot
meditate when you are thinking a lot.

All Dharma practices will effect a good rebirth because of the merit one accumulates in doing
them. Receiving many Dharma teachings and doing the many things are always good for merit
accumulation. They are good for the next life, but they will not make you successful in meditation
within one lifetime. By doing ten different practices a day, you will not succeed in any one of
them, but you will have merits.

(Q): If one has already finished the Ngöndro and is doing a Yidam meditation, should one go
back to do another preparation?

(A): That depends on the result. In Austria, some people though not many, did the 35 Buddha
practice. They did it exclusively and got the signs exactly as mentioned in the sutra. The results
came so quickly, because the blessing and everything is fresh. In other words, they did not have
any wrong thought about the Buddhas, their attitudes were pure.

I know of someone who gave up on Kalu Rinpoche. What could he do now? He had done
100.000 prostrations and 100.000 times Mandala to his Guru. This is what I mean by, ‘there is no
security’. In this time of Kali Yuga, you see many things. That person lost his trust in his Guru
because he saw something. I don’t know what it was. He had finished 400.000 times the practice
of thinking Kalu Rinpoche as Buddha Vajradhara. But in Kali Yuga, which means bad times, you
see many things so there is no security. Just think, what kind of problems would that person have
now had he practised the 35 Buddhas? He would not have any problems. He would not have a
fight with the 35 Buddhas.

I met with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s groups quite a lot so I have some experience with them.
They are doing very well because Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught them to have respect for
the spiritual teacher. To have respect for one’s teacher who has given you the instructions for the
path to enlightenment actually comes easy to most people. Trungpa Rinpoche had always
emphasized to his students to think that Milarepa is Vajradhara when they do the Ngöndro.
People never have any trouble with Milarepa. So the students of Trungpa Rinpoche are very
respectful and grateful to him for his teachings even though Trungpa Rinpoche was an alcoholic.
They don’t have any problems with their dharma practice regardless of what happened to their
teacher. Day and night, they practised Guru Yoga with Milarepa as Buddha Vajradhara. What
problem could possibly arise from that? Milarepa would not create any problems for them.

(Q): When I am already concentrating on one Buddha, then if I were to jump back to the 35
Buddhas, isn't that more like jumping left and right, instead of going one way straight?

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
(A): You should not think that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are like animals, or humans in the
sense that they are members of a particular group or organization. You should not think
Vajradhara different from the other Buddhas. The Buddhas don’t belong to any party; they are
aspects of Buddha wisdom and enlightenment. So, the 35 Buddhas and Vajradhara are of the
same nature. But they are not your personal friends, and neither are they your Guru now. Lama
Ole is your teacher, right? Do you think that the 35 Buddhas and Lama Ole are the same, or not?
You will be confused if you do. They are not the same.

(Q): What about Chenrezig?

(A): Chenrezig is of the same nature, when you concentrate on the 35 Buddhas, Chenrezig is
included.

The 35 Buddhas practice includes everything – all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Also included
are the ‘1000 Buddhas’. The 35 Buddhas will not push the 1000 Buddhas away. This is the reason
why the group of 35 Buddhas practice is organized as it is. It is so that when you do prostrations
to them you will get the blessing from the 1000 Buddhas, even one million Buddhas. You will get
the blessing of countless Buddhas when you do the 35 Buddha practice. That is what it means.

The normal human concept of things cannot be applied to Dharma practice. For instance, it might
make you think that one Buddha doesn’t belong here, but there. This is ‘group-mind’, or ‘party-
mind’. Dharma practice is neither a party-mind nor a leader-mind. To think like that is just your
ordinary way of thinking. A party-mind is when you think that there is a group of holy people
here and so you stick to them – that is being party-minded. When something is changed in the
group, then you will have difficulty in shifting to another, or new group of people. It will make
you feel uncomfortable. When you are leader-minded, you’re pegging someone to be your leader.
So when you are asked to pray to ten Buddhas, you have a problem. In your mind, your leader has
changed to ten, but you are used to having only one. This is how our ordinary, or worldly mind
works. However, both the leader-mind and the party-mind are not applicable to the Dharma.

The Buddha taught the 35 Buddhas practice with all three sections of practice. It is from the Sutra
of the Buddha. It was taught by the Buddha to sentient beings for them to become enlightened.
And we are the ones who want to be enlightened, aren’t we? We choose the Buddha’s teachings
as opposed to those of Jesus, Mohammed, or Krishna. The three sections of practices to the 35
Buddhas, which have now been presented to you, are effective. That’s why the Buddha taught
them and the lineage of this practice is unbroken. It is also a practice within the Mahamudra
lineage. You should do it, and when you do, do not apply the group-mind of worldly thinking.
This means you should not think that you ‘belong’ to Kagyüpa, Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, Gelugpa,
Lama Ole, Le Bost..., etc. Don't bring the group-mind into it. You are here now for
enlightenment, that is your focus. You want to purify your bad karma so you use an effective way
to achieve the desired result. It is not a competition between companies like Suzuki versus Toyota
for market share. That kind of mentality is not needed here. Rather, your only concern is to be
cured of your sickness, which is your target. Here, your sickness encompasses samsara, bad
karma, negative emotions, and ignorance. Those are your problems, so you want to apply the
right methods to be rid of them.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a disciple. He had a motorcycle accident in Taiwan and
his leg had been broken quite badly a short while ago. His father has the means to send him
anywhere to receive treatment. Even though I had told him to go to Germany, as there is a very
good hospital that could treat his kind of case, he chose to receive treatment in Taiwan.
Taiwanese in general, follow the thinking of Confucius, so they tend to be nationalistic. The
whole family wanted him to get his leg fixed in Taiwan. They felt that it shouldn't be fixed

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The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004
anywhere else. They wouldn’t want to think that their hospital was not as good as another
country’s. Because of the nationalistic-mind, the result was the one leg came out shorter than the
other. The chosen hospital did not deliver as efficiently as everyone had hoped. Maybe the
hospital equipment is not as good as at the place where Lama Ole had been treated. Lama Ole
also had broken his leg very badly, but now he is jogging again.

You should think of your problem, you should not bring in the group-mind, party-mind, and the
national-mind. Forget them, here it is Dharma! When you have a broken leg, think about how to
fix it. Don’t bring in such thoughts as ‘my country, my party, or my country’s hospital, etc.’. By
the same token, when you want to become enlightened, you should think in terms of the
effectiveness of the methods and not about anything else, okay?

You should not discriminate among the Buddhas. You should not be like the followers of
Sarasvati (goddess of wisdom) who would not do the Norjuma, or Lakshmi (goddess of wealth)
practice because both Sarasvati and Lakshmi have the same husband. Both devis are married to
one god, the king of Desa, which is a kind of Asura realm. There is the belief that if you do
Sarasvati practice then you should stick with it. If you were to shift to the other devi, then she will
kill you out of jealousy. So those who do Lakshmi practice for wealth do not do the Sarasvati
practice for wisdom. But Buddhism is for enlightenment, so you will have no problems with the
Buddhas, and there are no problems between them. So, don’t worry about ‘shifting’.

The previous example shows that it is silly to think one goddess would be jealous of another.
However, for someone who is fixed in thinking of somebody as a ‘goddess’ then maybe he would
also think that problems like jealousy do exist between the gods, and goddesses. What do you
think? Do you think that when you practice Sarasvati and later shift to Lakshmi, then the former
would be angry and would then harm you? Do you believe that? People do practise those
practices. Even some Buddhists in Tibet had adopted them. They do believe in that kind of
theory. I came across it when I was in school during the debates with the Khenpos. It’s ridiculous,
and yet the text is there, which was translated into Tibetan a long time ago. There were also
initiations in Lakshmi. Those who took the Lakshmi initiation did not want to practise the
Sarasvati practice in fear of Lakshmi’s jealousy. And the Sarasvati practitioners also stayed away
from the Lakshmi practice and initiations. This is silly, and it is from the worldly mind.

The attitude of enlightenment should be: first, engender Bodhicitta towards all sentient beings.
Second, focus on enlightenment by knowing the method-practices, and the wisdom-practices. A
method-practice is for the accumulation of merit. And a wisdom-practice is for enlightenment that
comes from your own mind.

Worldly mind should never be applied to the path of enlightenment. Everybody should be clear
about this point. Forget the worldly mind when you are on the path of Dharma, or enlightenment.
If you apply worldly mind to Dharma practice you will never achieve a good result. Worldly
mind means self-clinging, ego, which entails a lot of discrimination in the mind.

Now we do a little meditation.

On Bodhi Path Practice Program for Mahamudra 45


The Kunzig ShaMar Rinpoche
Bodhi Path Centre, Remetschwiel, Germany, August 2004