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.
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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. Mahakala is none other than the inseparability of compassion and loving-kindness. In the view of ultimate wisdom, there is no separation between the Awakened Mind of Buddha and that of Mahakala.
Mahakala is a manifestation of the awakened mind. Appearing in very majestic form, splendid yet frightening, Mahakala stands in the midst of a mountain of flames to symbolize that no enemy can stand this appearance aspect; the sharp chopper, which he holds aloft in one hand, symbolizes the cutting through of negative patterns, aggression, hatred, ignorance—any of the five poisons. No neurosis or negativity can tolerate this very majestic form; the frightening form symbolizes Mahakala as totally devoid of fear or hesitation in his spontaneous yet consistent work toward the benefit and liberation of all beings.
Mahakala is seen standing on the corpse of two human bodies, thus symbolizing the death of negativities and the complete uprooting of negative patterns to such a point that, like a dead body, they will not come to life. It is very important that we know these symbols of Mahakala because many times we have mistaken notions that he may be a clinging spirit or harmful, evil being, perhaps even the Lord of Death ready to devour and attack.
One would find great difficulty in relating to the various symbols without understanding that our awakened compassion is the essential quality of the being of Mahakala. Mahakala has never been known to harm one being, even in the slightest manner, because he is constantly benefiting beings through the continuous play of the enlightened mind.
Proper attitude and sincere motivation are necessary when one participates in rituals. One asks that the blessings and awakened presence of these enlightened deities pervade in all directions. With this attitude, participating in the pujas is of greatest benefit and most practical. 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.
Source: Kagyumonlam. On the non-human level, numerous deities who were present also vowed to protect it. We do not need to supplicate them as this is their responsibility, and in turn, it is our responsibility to offer them tormas or gifts that sustain them. In a few places, the sutras also mention making offerings to protectors, and with the vajrayana these practices became extensive including numerous Dharma protectors and many kinds of tormas.
Such rituals composed long ago by Nagarjuna were found in China; however these practices, which originated in India, spread much more extensively in Tibet, so we find numerous, fierce black deities, such as the Black-Cloaked One Bernakchen, the Two-Armed Mahakala , the Four-Armed Mahakala, and many others. Their lineages of practice remain alive to this present day. Through Marpa the Translator came the lineage that is practiced in the Karma Kamtsang tradition, which preserves special key instructions, known as the Practice of the Body and Mind Inseparable from the Protector.
Originally the practice of Bernakchen was so secret that only a few close disciples knew that it even existed. The first statue of Bernakchen was created by the Seventh Karmapa.
From his time, this tradition of practice has expanded and continued to the present day. If we turn to the history of the ritual itself, the first one was composed by the Second Shamar, and then the Sixth Karmapa expanded the practice, making it so long that it was known as the Boring Mahakala, though its actual name is Burning Up Hostility sDang ba rnam sreg.
This text is also called the Golden One because the first words to be chanted of the parts from Burning Up Hostility were marked in gold. Finally there is a short version of Burning Up Hostility , known as the Tsalma mTshal ma , which means the Cinnabar Text , since in this case the first parts to be chanted that were selected from the longer text are marked in vivid red. All three lengths of the ritual will be chanted during Gutor this year: the first and last days are for the short practice; the second and third day, for the long version; and the fourth and fifth days for the middle length text.
On the fourth day the practice will begin at 2 am in the morning. To give the complete picture, there is still another version of the Mahakala practice, written by the Fifteenth Karmapa, who felt that it was inauspicious to have such a short practice, so he composed one that was even more extensive than the text of Burning Up Hostility by the Sixth Karmapa. Mahakala puja is performed every day at KTD see daily schedule here. At special times during the year, longer more elaborate Mahakala practices are conducted in the main shrineroom; these are announced in the events calendar and all are welcome to attend.
A Mahakala shrine is set up in the main shrine room at KTD during elaborate practices which are performed at special times of the year watch the monthly calendars for announcements. On February 25, , in observance of Losar Tibetan New Year , the Female Fire Bird, several monks from at least three different Kagyu monasteries performed an over 10 hour-long Cham ritual Mahakala dance. The proceedings were part of the activities of the 34th Kagyu Monlam, which took place in Bodhgaya, India.
Special Mahakala activities take place each year during during the Kagyu Monlam in India. Click on the links below for reports from past years, photos, and more. Mahakala Practice: Resources. Mahakala Practice: Resources A General Introduction Relating to the Mahakala Practice by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche 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.
Mahakala painting by the Gyalwang Karmapa. Mahakala Practice at KTD. Share this: Facebook Twitter Print. Related Posts. Prayer Wheels Prayer Wheels.
Mahakala Practice: Resources
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. Above them, ones mind appears as two vital drops of pure being, both white and red together, the size of a pea. In the center is HUM, the color of quicksilver.