Karma Tashi Ling
Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society
About sadhana meditation:
In order to achieve lasting happiness and to be able to help others, one needs to become aware of the true nature of one's own mind. One trains one's mind by learning what mind really is. Meditation in general and sadhana practice in particular provide a way to investigate the mind. Engaging in a sadhana ritual is a form of meditation that develops focus and attention, and it is a means for the meditator to accumulate merit and generate bodhicitta.
At Karma Tashi Ling, on Sunday mornings we practice sadhanas of the following meditational deities on an alternating basis:
On Wednesday nights, we also practice the sadhana of the Bodhisattva of Compassion,
- Chenresig (in Tibetan)
also known as Avalokiteshvara (in Sanskrit).
For more information on the sadhana of Chenresig and a fuller description of each phase of the ritual, please see our Dharma Practice page.
Further information on sadhanas and meditational deities:
Sadhana practice involves two phases: the creation phase, where the meditator actively creates a visualization that has a variety of elements, including imagining Buddhas and their retinues, sacred implements and adornments, and imagining the outside world as the pure land of the Buddha. The implements and adornments are symbols that we can use to increase our understanding of our enlightened potential. For example, the Bodhisattva Chenresig is shown as holding a lotus and a wish-fulfilling jewel. The lotus is born from the mud, but not tainted by it. The wish-fulfilling jewel can represent attainment of the true source of happiness, which is serving others and relinquishing attachment to mistaken sources of happiness.
The creation phase also includes visualization of one's own self as the deity and recitation of an associated mantra.
The second phase of the sadhana is the completion phase, where the meditator releases the entire visualization and rests in the natural space of the mind.
About the term "deity":
Sadhana practice has many aspects. It is a Sanskrit term, and usually refers to a guided ritual practice, and is often used to describe what is called deity worship, where the principle focus of the sadhana is a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva, or other form of enlightened being. The word "deity" is used carefully here, as an approximate English equivalent of the Tibetan word "yidam", which means something closer to "highest mind". The sadhana provides a pathway for connecting with the deity, or Buddha, who is both an aspect of one's own highest mind, and something that has a separate reality of its own. Through this practice, the practitioner transforms his or her understanding of his or her own basic nature, which is really empty, radiant awareness.
For more information on what a yidam is, please see this article by the well-known translator Sarah Harding, on the Lion's Roar website.
Chenresig is thought of as a representation of the compassion of all the Buddhas. "Chenresig is also within us because love and compassion are not qualities added to the mind", as Bokar Rinpoche says in his book, Chenresig: Lord of Love. Chenresig can also be thought of as a symbol for Enlightenment itself, the union of emptiness and compassion. Tibetans are especially devoted to Chenresig, and many revered lamas are considered to be embodiments of this great being, such as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and His Holiness the 17th Karmapa.
Chenresig is portrayed in different forms, and he is found in many Buddhist traditions. Sometimes we see him with two arms, sometimes with one thousand arms. In the sadhana practiced at Karma Tashi Ling, Chenresig has four arms, representing the Four Immeasurables (Immeasurable Love, Immeasurable Compassion, Immeasurable Joy, and Immeasurable Equanimity). The upper right hand holds a mala, the upper left a lotus, and the middle two hands are holding a wish-fulfilling jewel. He wears a deer-skin over his left shoulder, symbolizing the ability to quell strife. He is seated in lotus position, with Amitabha Buddha above his head.
The Medicine Buddha (Sangye Menla) practice is the heart of Tibetan Medicine. He is shown as a blue seated Buddha, in monk's robes with his right hand at his right knee holding the stem of an arura flower, and his left hand in his lap holding a bowl.
From the website medicinebuddhatoday.com:
Medicine Buddha can help in many ways. First, as we resonate with the practice and sense of Menla and call him into our mind and heart, we lessen any tendency to rely on fear-based thinking. Our sense of who we are and what is happening in our life will become more bright and clear. This alone can help with whatever health problem or conflict we face. When our mind is more clear, we can more fully invoke the natural health within and in all the universe, and we can bring these two experiences of health together into one, powerful healing force. Second, knowing Menla can inspire us, even if only in little ways at first, to not only care for ourselves, but to go beyond the confines of any illness or problem, to a bigger, braver, more caring and joyful vision of opening to our world. This is the goal of all Buddhist practice - to be well enough so that we can help our world. And finally, eventually Menla will take us to complete enlightenment.
White Tara is one manifestation of Tara's wisdom energy, which actually has many forms. She appears with one face and two arms, and is white in colour, representing purity. She sits in lotus position, with her right hand in the gesture of bestowing gifts, and her left hand at her heart holding the stem of a white utpala flower with blossoms in three stages of growth. These blossoms represent the Buddhas of the past, present and future. Her body is shown having seven eyes, including two in normal position on her face with a third between her brows. Two more eyes may be found on the palms of her hands, and the last two on the soles of her feet. These are usually described as the seven eyes of knowledge. Buddha Amitabha is found above her head.
White Tara protects one from an untimely death, which enables one to practice the Dharma longer in this life. She also bestows merit and wisdom. For more information on Tara, please see the section on Green Tara below.
Guru Rinpoche / Padmasambhava
Guru Rinpoche, which means "Precious Guru", is also known as Padmasambhava, which means "Lotus-Born". He is a beloved figure in Tibetan Buddhist practice. Guru Rinpoche, along with the great pandita Shantarakshita, establshed Buddhism in Tibet during the reign of king Trisong Detsen. Although Guru Rinpoche is the historical head of the Tibetan Nyingma lineage, he is revered through all the lineages. He is easily recognizable in the form he is usually shown, where his face is slightly frowning, he wears beautiful flowing robes with a dorje in his right hand at his knee, and his left hand is in his lap holding a skull cup. At his left elbow is a sceptre with 3 prongs.
So much is written about Guru Rinpoche, that in order to present an accurate picture it is best to let the reader pursue further information on their own. One good resource is the Rigpa wiki, which has links to further references.
Amitabha BuddhaAmitabha Buddha is a cherished figure across many major sects of Mahayana Buddhism in Asia. His name means "Infinite Light". Amitabha is a fully realized Buddha with an associated Pure Land called Dewachen. Before he became a Buddha, he was a Bodhisattva known as Dharmakara who made 48 vows, one of which was not to attain Buddhahood until he had created a Pure Land where beings who practiced sincerely could go to become enlightened. His Pure Land is said to be closer to our world than the Pure Lands of other Buddhas.
Amitabha is also one of the five Dhyani Buddhas in Tibetan practice, head of the Lotus family, and he embodies discriminating wisdom.
In the sadhana practice, we are coming from the perspective of Amitabha in his Pure Land. He is usually shown in the lotus posture with his hands in meditation mudra in his lap, and is red in color. He is accompanied by Chenresig in white standing on his right, and Vajrapani in blue standing on his left.
Green Tara is an enlightened being who, before she achieved Buddhahood, promised to manifest in female form to free sentient beings from suffering. She is usually shown in a seated posture with her right leg in front of her left, symbolizing her ability to take swift action to come to the aid of beings. She is green in color, with her right hand at her right knee holding the stem of an utpala flower, and her left hand at her heart in the Three Jewel's gesture, holding another utpala flower.
In all her forms she is the perfect body speech and mind, activities peace[ful] and powerful. ... in all her colors she reflects the 5 Buddha families and the Kayas. Within [this] one practice we can realize all the blessings, according to our method we will experience the complete result. ... . ... . ... all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are the pure reflection of the Buddha nature, so we can try not to get fixated on the external [forms] but instead through the practice try to realize this aspect of our own Buddha nature through transforming the way we view ordinary reality and experiences.