Meditations to Transform the Mind

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 1999-07-01
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
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The Seventh Dalai Lama is often considered to be one of the greatest of the early Dalai Lamas.

Table of Contents

Preface 9(6)
Foreword 15(2)
Kyabjey Ling Rinpochey
Foreword 17(4)
Professor Nathan Katz
Translator's Introduction 21(26)
A Biography of the Seventh Dalai Lama 47(18)
Songs and Advice for Spiritual Change
Song of the Immaculate Path
A Sun to Lift Sleep from the Weary
The Excellence of Meditation on the Bodhimind
Alphabetical Song I
Preparing the Mind for Death
Three Meditations
Song of the Direct View
A Precept for Yeshey Gyaltsen
Meditations to Sever the Ego
Song of Easy Joy
Meditations on the Ways of Impermanence
Inspiration for Meditation upon Death
In the Twelfth Month of the Water Dog Year
Emptiness, Meditation, and Action
Song Rapidly Invoking Power
A Song of Erroneous Ways
Song of the Tantric Path
A Song of Essential Precepts
Song to Build a Link with the Lama
Song of the Four Mindfulnesses
A Daily Prayer to the Guru
Song to Contact the Guru from Afar
A Song for a Friend
Advice to a Throne Holder
Letter to a Throne Holder
Using Illness to Train the Mind
A Plaintive Call
Alphabetical Song II
Fundamentals of the Sutras and Tantras
To Shower Sublime Goodness
Four Rivers
Song to Jey Rinpochey
An Autumn Day
A Song in Paired Verses
Guru Inseparable
Melancholy Visions
A Hymn to Milarepa
Glossary 241(16)
Bibliography 257


Chapter One

A Biography of the Seventh Dalai Lama

The following account of the life of the Seventh Dalai Lama is translated from Khetsun Sangpo's six-volume work A Biographical Dictionary of Indian and Tibetan Saints , which he compiled in India during the late 1960s and early 1970s. An anthology of life stories from the great Buddhist masters of India, as well as the masters of all Tibetan schools of Buddhism, it contains short biographies of hundreds of Buddhist masters. Naturally the Dalai Lamas, being important historical figures, receive more attention than do most other lineage lamas in Khetsun Sangpo's collection.

For his life of the Seventh Dalai Lama, Khetsun Sangpo draws from, or rather, edits down, a biography that appears in an eighteenth-century Tibetan work called Lives of the Lam Rim Preceptors . This important text was written by the First Tsechok Ling (1713-1793), also known as Kachen Yeshey Gyaltsen and as Yongdzin Yeshey Gyaltsen. "Yongdzin" means "tutor," for he was the tutor to the young Eighth Dalai Lama.

Tsechok Ling was one of Tibet's greatest writers, and his Lives of the Lam Rim Preceptors is his magnum opus. In two thick volumes, it presents accounts of the lives and deeds of all the great lineage masters in the Lam Rim transmission. It begins with the Buddha, proceeds with the early Indian masters through whom the lineage descended, eventually comes to Atisha, and then deals with the great Tibetan masters, beginning with Lama Drom Tonpa, and culminating in the Seventh Dalai Lama, who was the primary lineage holder when Tsechok Ling was still a child. The First, Second, Third, Fifth, and Seventh Dalai Lamas are listed as important lineage gurus, and thus their biographies receive treatments by him.

Tsechok Ling's account is especially relevant to the present collection of poems, as it emphasizes the aspects of the master's life that are connected to his role in the Lam Rim and Lojong transmissions. In addition, Tsechok Ling quotes in full some half-dozen of the poems from Songs and Advice for Spiritual Change , to present the essence of the Seventh's spiritual teachings and also to demonstrate the Seventh's character as a Buddhist monk, two points always important in Tibetan biographical literature. Khetsun Sangpo omits these in his condensation for reasons of space.

In accordance with Tibetan literary tradition, Tsechok Ling's account begins with a verse of homage and makes a brief mention of the Seventh's ancestry. It then proceeds to relate the highlights of his discovery as a Dalai Lama incarnation, his enthronement, his monastic ordination, the various teachings he received during his training, his role as a teacher, and finally his death. In accordance with the Kadampa legacy of humility and secrecy, the list of the various meditation retreats he undertook is not provided, for these are considered to be too personal for open publication.

Of special note is the Seventh Dalai Lama's relationship as a young man with the elderly Second Panchen Lama, who was one of his most important gurus; later in the Seventh's life he served as a teacher to the young Third Panchen Lama. The Tibetans call these two lamas "Yab Sey," meaning "Father-Son." Throughout the early histories of these two lamas, whoever of the two was the elder would serve as the guru, or spiritual father, to the younger. The two were also instrumental in the process of tracing down and enthroning one another's reincarnations, as well as in participating in their monastic ordination ceremonies. This continued over the centuries until the modern era. In time, these two incarnation lineages came to be recognized as Tibet's two foremost tulku offices, and thus "Father-Son" came to mean the role that the two played as leaders in keeping the Tibetan people spiritually on track.

This is significant in the face of recent developments in Tibet. In 1995 the present Dalai Lama recognized a young boy as the reincarnation of the recently deceased Panchen Lama. The Chinese Communist government proceeded immediately to deny that he was the right incarnation, and then arrested and imprisoned the child, his parents, and the forty-eight monks of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery who were in charge of the search. They then declared another child to be the "true reincarnation," and enthroned him as such. All of this from Chinese Communists, who claim not to believe in the theory of reincarnation. Presently, in Tibet all monks and nuns are forced by China to sign a document declaring the "Dalai Lama's Panchen" to be the wrong incarnation, and the "Chinese-selected Panchen" to be the authentic incarnation. I mention this, because the relationship between the Seventh Dalai Lama and the Second and Third Panchen Lamas reveals the profound link between these two incarnation offices. Amnesty International has registered today's Panchen Lama as the world's youngest political prisoner.

Another interesting point in the biography is the relationship that the Seventh established with several other lamas. His tutor Ngawang Chokden, from whom he received the lineage of the Six Yogas of Naropa as well as Kalachakra, was in future lives to become an important tulku lineage. His reincarnations came to be popularly known by the name of the monastery in which Ngawang Chokden lived: Radeng (sometimes transliterated as Reting). Two future Radeng Rinpocheys were to serve as regents during the minority of future Dalai Lamas. In recent times, the previous Radeng became regent after the Thirteen Dalai Lama passed away in 1933, and oversaw the search for and enthronement of the present Dalai Lama. He died in the late 1940s. Another lama mentioned in Tsechok Ling's biography is the Demo Tulku incarnation, whose training the Seventh personally oversees with care. The names of future incarnations of this lama were also to appear on the short list of lamas competent to serve as regent of Tibet in the Dalai Lama's minority.

As stated in the Seventh's biography, his early years were spent in Kham and Amdo on the borders of Tibet and China, and he was not brought to Central Tibet until 1720. This was because civil wars in Mongolia had spread over into Tibet and were the cause of major disruption to Lhasa life. The Manchus, a Tartar race that had recently invaded and taken over the rule of China, became staunch followers of Tibetan Buddhism and adopted the stance of the Seventh's protector and bodyguard during his early years. Mongol armies at the time roved everywhere, pillaging and killing as they went, and the Manchus did not want the lama whom they held in the highest regard to be inadvertently harmed. Several texts in the Seventh Dalai Lama's collected works were written at the request of his Manchu disciples. The Manchu Emperor even had at least one son living in Tibet as a Buddhist monk under the spiritual guidance of the Seventh. A Yamantaka sadhana , or meditation practice, was written by the Seventh at his request and for his personal daily practice, an indication of the princely monk's spiritual dedication.

The Seventh Dalai Lama's audience room in the Potala Palace today still bears witness to the Manchu Emperor's devotion. Prominently placed on display (by the Chinese Communist government) is a text, hand-copied in ink made from gold dust, and adorned with pearls and precious stones, that had been given to the Seventh by the Emperor. It is but one in a three hundred volume set of scriptures created by the Emperor and sent to the Seventh as a gift. The Manchu emperor also sponsored a complete translation of the Tibetan canons into the Manchu language, both the Kangyur, or "Translations of Buddha's Words," and Tengyur, or "Translations of Works by the Indian Masters," a total of almost 5,000 texts. Over a hundred monks worked continuously on the project for over a decade.

The friendly and mutually beneficial relationship between Tibet and the Manchu Empire, known to the Tibetans as cho yon , or "teacher/ patron," was established during the life of the Seventh Dalai Lama and continued until the fall of the Manchu Empire in 1911. This was essentially a spiritual bond, with the Tibetan lamas providing priestly and educational duties for the Manchus, and the Manchus materially supporting and protecting Tibet from the Mongols and the Han Chinese. Many Tibetan monasteries had departments that accepted Manchu children as students, and many Tibetan lamas lived in China, in temples and monasteries built for them by the Manchus.

The marriage was one made in heaven. The Dalai Lamas had always been regarded as incarnations of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, while the Manchu Emperor was regarded as an incarnation of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. In that compassion and wisdom are the two qualities to be brought to perfection in order for enlightenment to arise, and more conventionally, for peace and prosperity to prevail, the theory was that the two working together would bring about great benefits to the world.

Indeed, there is no doubt that the arrangement worked very well for over a century. Tibet's spiritual and cultural life prospered under Manchu patronage, and the Manchus became sophisticated and wise under Tibetan Buddhist spiritual tutorage. Tibet retained its political independence and cultural integrity, while sharing in the stability established by fostering this unique relationship with an Asian superpower.

Unfortunately, during the last half of the nineteenth century the Manchus went adrift, unable to navigate the treacherous waters of the European age of colonization. Russia brought instability and violence overland from the north, and Britain did the same with their navy from the oceans of the south and east (as well as flooding the country with opium). The last years of Manchu rule in China were characterized by confusion, violence, and turmoil.

In the end Manchuria, after ruling Han China for some two hundred years (the so-called Ching Dynasty), eventually came to be ruled by the Hans. When the Manchus succumbed to revolution in 1911, Manchuria became part of China. The wheel of karma had turned full circle upon them. Reinterpreting the Manchu/Tibetan friendship to suit an expansionist vision, the new China laid claim to Tibet. The result is the uncomfortable situation that exists between Tibet and China today.

It is unfortunate that modern Han China has used the close ties that existed between the Tibetan and Manchu peoples as an excuse to invade and occupy Tibet, claiming Tibet as "a sacred and inalienable part of China since the time of the Seventh Dalai Lama." In the process they have transformed the relationship from teacher/patron into occupied/occupier.

The roots of this important and unfortunate historical development lie in the life and times of the Seventh Dalai Lama. But that is another story, perhaps for another book. Let's leave it for the moment, and go to Khetsun Sangpo's account of the Seventh Dalai Lama's life and deeds.

A Biography of the Seventh Dalai Lama

Homage to the supreme teacher Lobzang Kalzang Gyatso, A peerless buddha who, with the laughing power Of compassion, placed countless living beings Within the radiant sphere of truth By revealing the sublime path to illumination.

To fulfill an ancient pledge to benefit the people of the Northern Lands of Snow, and to act as a light of the Buddhadharma during this coarse age, the Seventh Dalai Lama took birth in Litang, Amdo, East Tibet, near the Tubchen Jampa Ling Monastery on the nineteenth day of the seventh Tibetan month of the Earth Mouse Year [1708]. Sonata Dargyey was his father's name, and Sonam Chotso his mother's. His birth was accompanied by wondrous signs beyond comprehension. His head was shaped like an umbrella, his forehead enormous, and his eyes wide and smooth. As had been prophesied, shortly thereafter he was given the name Kalzang Gyatso by a master interpreter of omens who was blessed by the buddhas and the bodhisattvas.

The intensity of the young boy's spiritual growth was like the growth of a water lotus. At the age of four he received a vision of Buddha Shakyamuni and the Sixteen Arhats, thus gaining their blessings. When he was only five years old he received a vision of Lama Tsongkhapa, who advised him to quickly go to the Dharmic fields of Central Tibet. These and many other auspicious events occurred.

Even when still a delicate child, Gyalwa Kalzang Gyatso poured forth the ambrosial nectars of Dharma in accordance with the specific karmic dispositions of those to be trained who came to him with faith. Once the Amdo Lama Chuzang Nomonhan came to him for blessings, made a symbolic offering of the universe to him, and asked him to bestow ambrosial Dharma; the Dalai Lama spontaneously composed and sang the following verse. At the time he was five years old.

O Tsongkhapa, a lord of Dharma,

Whose body supports the robes of a monk, victory banners

of the Buddhadharma,

Whose speech resounds with the 84,000 sections of the


And whose mind never stirs from the sphere of dharmadhatu ,

O master of truth, send forth your blessings.

At the age of six the boy was given Tsagan Nomonhan Ngawang Lobzang Tenpa as his tutor and gradually received a steady stream of initiations, scriptural transmissions, and oral teachings from him. Thus even at an early age he became a treasury of the doctrine. Once, after being requested many times, he himself gave an initiation into the mandala of Mahakaruna Avalokiteshvara, together with the scriptural transmissions.

During his eighth year, he made a pilgrimage to all the great spiritual centers of the Kham and Amdo provinces, including Dergey. In each place he also gave blessings and teachings. On one occasion during this journey, he gave the initiation into the mandala of Mahakaruna Avalokiteshvara, together with an extensive discourse on all the meditative disciplines that are preliminaries to that tantric system. All who attended were awed by the brilliance and depth of the child's words and were placed in the sphere of immutable faith.

In the Fire Monkey Year [1716] he was requested by the Manchu Emperor, an incarnation of Manjushri, to visit the great Kumbum Monastery that had been built by the Third Dalai Lama on the birthplace of the mighty Tsongkhapa. There, he sat upon the Dharma throne that had been constructed by the Third Dalai Lama and gave an extensive discourse upon Ashvaghosha's Previous Lives of the Buddha (Skt. Jatakamala ) to several thousand monks, thus fulfilling the purpose of the Doctrine and of living beings.

On the twentieth day of the tenth month of this same year, the young Dalai Lama cut his long hair and, taking the eight vows under Tsagan Nomonhan and Chuzang Nomonhan, put on the maroon robes of a monk. His ordination name became Ngawang Chodak Tubten Gyaltsen Palzangpo, "Master of Wisdom Speech, He Famed in Truth, A Victory Banner of the Buddhadharma, A Glorious and Sublime One."

Thereafter, the boy expressed his wish to study the great scriptures of India and Tibet. Taking Chuzang Nomonhan as his tutor he entered into a study of fundamental logic and debate, which is the door to the five great themes of Buddha: pramana , or valid thought and perception, as compiled by Dharmakirti; prajnaparamita , or the "perfection of Wisdom," as compiled by Maitreya/Asanga; Madhyamaka , or the theory of emptiness, as elucidated by Nagarjuna and his disciples Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, and Buddhapalita; abhidharma , or the encyclopedic categorization of metaphysics, as compiled by Vasubandhu; and vinaya , or ethics and self-discipline, as compiled by Gunaprabha.

On the full moon of the ninth month of the Iron Mouse Year [1720] Gyalwa Kalzang Gyatso arrived at the Jokhang, the Great Temple of Lhasa, and gave a religious discourse to many thousands of monks and lay people. Thus the Tibetans gained a breath of fresh air and experienced profound serenity. After the discourse, the youth went to the Potala and for the first time met with the omniscient Second Panchen Lama, Jetsun Lobzang Yeshey, an emanation of Buddha Amitabha manifest in the form of an ordinary monk, the very crown ornament of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. On the fifth day of the following month he received the ordination of a novice monk from the Panchen Lama, assisted by the Ganden Throne Holder Gendun Puntsok. The name Lobzang was suffixed to his childhood name, resulting in the title by which he came to be known: Lobzang Kalzang Gyatso.

Now a young novice, Kalzang Gyatso began a course of study under the Panchen Rinpochey. Beginning with the Great Stages of the Path to Enlightenment [Tsongkhapa's Lam-rim-chen-mo ], he listened to a steady stream of Dharma. In particular, he received the four complete initiations into the Vajrabhairava tantra system, together with detailed teachings on this highest yoga tantra path.

Kalzang Gyatso then took up residence in Drepung Monastery in order to study under the Ganden Throne Holder Lobzang Dargye. First he repeated the study of fundamental logic that he had made some years before when in Litang Monastery, but as he had already mastered the subject, he finished the several year program in a few months, and then went on to study Dharmakirti's Seven Treatises on Pramana . From the Throne Holder Palden Drakpa he also received two daily sessions of instruction on the emptiness doctrines, beginning with the basic texts of Nagarjuna and his main successors. Under his tutor's supervision he also read Tsongkhapa's great commentaries to Nagarjuna's and Chandrakirti's fundamental treatises, as well as Tsongkhapa's Essence of Good Explanations (Tib. Legs-bshad-snying-po ) that reveals which teachings are figurative and which direct. He also read Tsongkhapa's great and medium length expositions on insight meditation upon emptiness (Tib. Lhag-mthong-che-chung ). Studying all of these works very deeply and with tremendous enthusiasm, before long he had attained mastery of the Madhyamaka system.

On the full moon of the fourth month of the Fire Horse Year, Kalzang Gyatso received the full ordination of a Buddhist monk. The ceremony took place in the Great Temple of Lhasa before the sacred image of Buddha Shakyamuni, with the Panchen Lama as the ordaining abbot, the Throne Holder Palden Drakpa as the acharya , the highly learned and realized Gyumey tantric abbot Ngawang Chokden as the consulting ordination master, and the great master Kachen Lobzang Monlam as the timekeeper. In all, thirty-one of Tibet's foremost monks were present at the ceremony, including Gyalsey Tulku Jigmey Yeshey Drakpa. Thus Kalzang Gyatso was empowered to become a regent of the Buddha himself.

Thereafter Bhikshu Kalzang Gyatso requested Panchen Rinpochey to teach him the most vast and profound points of the sutra and tantra paths. The two retreated into the Tushita Chamber of the Potala, and Panchen Rinpochey gave him all four initiations into the Guhyasamaja Tantra. He also gave the young student the empowerments associated with the "Hundred Lineages of Bari Lotsawa," together with a transmission of all the related sadhana practices. Panchen Rinpochey also taught him Chandrakirti's commentary to the Guhyasamaja Tantra , together with three important works by Lama Tsongkhapa: Supplement to the Guhyasamaja Tantra (Tib. Shan-'grel), Summary of the Essential Meaning of Guhyasamaja (Tib. bsDus-don ), and Establishing the Frontiers of the Guhyasamaja Teaching (Tib. mTha-gCod) .

Having completed these studies, the boy then requested Panchen Rinpochey to initiate him into the Heruka Chakrasamvara mandala, foremost among the Mother Tantra systems, in accordance with the lineage of the Indian mahasiddha Luipa. Again the teacher and his student retreated into the Tushita Chamber, and the secret initiations and examinations were performed.

The following year, Kalzang Gyatso asked to be taught the abhidharma system of metaphysics, and as a preliminary memorized both Vasubandhu's Treasury of Abhidharma (Skt. Abhidharma-kosha ) and Asanga's Compendium of Abhidharma (Skt. Abhidharma-samucchaya ). Studying these together with all the principal Indian and Tibetan commentaries, he quickly gained knowledge and insight into the essential meaning of Buddha's teachings on abhidharma.


Excerpted from Meditations to Transform the Mind by . Copyright 1999 by Glenn H. Mullin. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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