In Sanskrit, puja means ‘offering’ and therefore an apt description of ‘puja’ is a set of rituals and prayers performed to offer devotional praise to a deity to accumulate merits and remove obstacles. In Buddhism, pujas are not offered to please the Buddhas as they do not have egos to be pleased. Instead they are a means of tapping into the Buddhas’ enlightened energy and ‘borrowing their attainments’ in order to accomplish purification of karma and accumulation of merits for the purpose of the specific puja, for instance, the removal of obstacles.
An attained person can recite a mantra or request a deity to bless something and it would have effect by virtue of their realisations. However, ordinary sincere practitioners need to rely on pujas with its complete seven limbs in order to perform blessings. The seven limbs are prostrations with refuge, making offerings, confessing, rejoicing, requesting for teachings, petitioning the teacher to remain and a dedication. These seven limbs or elements of a puja are necessary to effectively tap into the energy of an enlightened being.
The first of the seven limbs is prostrations towards the object of the puja and in this case, Dorje Shugden. We can prostrate physically or verbally by praising the qualities of Dorje Shugden. In this manner we take refuge in Dorje Shugden, purify our bodily karma by prostrating, and accumulate merits because Dorje Shugden is one with Manjushri. When we praise Dorje Shugden’s qualities, we create the causes to achieve the same qualities as well.
The second of the seven limbs is making offerings to Dorje Shugden. When we make offerings to an enlightened being, not only do we accumulate merits and attainments but we also create the causes to receive the necessary material needs to support our spiritual practice. There are many types of traditional offerings that one can make during a puja such as incense, water, lights, food, serkym – golden drink or tea offering, and so forth.
The third of the seven limbs is making confessions to Dorje Shugden. When we engage in the confessional aspect of the Dorje Shugden puja like the kawang, we are purifying the karma that we have created to experience a particular obstacle, and we are purifying the negative deeds that we recall as well as those we have forgotten. How much karma we purify is determined by how strong our refuge in Dorje Shugden is; and how strong our refuge is, is determined by how much we know of the special qualities Dorje Shugden possesses.
The fourth of the seven limbs is rejoicing in all virtuous deeds of Dorje Shugden and especially those of his previous lives. When we rejoice in their deeds, we collect a vast amount of merits because we are creating a connection to perform similar actions in the future. At the same time, we are also reinforcing our minds towards virtuous actions as opposed to materialistic or non-virtuous actions that we are normally exposed to in our daily lives.
The fifth of the seven limbs is requesting for teachings from Dorje Shugden. This basically means that we are requesting for an antidote to end suffering. It does not mean Dorje Shugden will appear to give us the teachings because we cannot perceive him as yet but we create the merits by way of Dorje Shugden to receive the Dharma. It also means that when we receive the Dharma, we will be happy, alert and not feel bored or distracted.
The sixth of the seven limbs is petitioning the teacher to remain through Dorje Shugden. Requesting Dorje Shugden to remain can manifest as our own teachers living longer; it can also manifest as a meeting with a qualified teacher or with our late teacher’s disciples, Dharma texts or anything that will facilitate our understanding of the Dharma. It will also manifest by us receiving the Dharma in one way or another.
The last of the seven limbs is the dedication of merits. The merits accrued through our practice of the previous six limbs are dedicated through sacred verses. It is important to dedicate merits because, by tradition, a moment of anger or negativity will undo or destroy the positive potential created through the previous limbs. Dedication therefore seals this positive force into merits which cannot be destroyed, and the reason why we keep dedicating is because we have not eliminated anger from our mind stream due to ignorance.
The most effective pujas are performed by sincere practitioners with positive motivation, to a deity they have a close affinity with that is developed through practice. The combination of the right factors makes the Dorje Shugden puja extremely efficacious seeing that he is regarded as the Dharma Protector of our time. This means that he is the Dharma Protector who can assist us best and fastest based on our karma. That is not to say that the other Buddhas such as Lord Shakyamuni cannot bless us and remove our obstacles, but it would require more merits on our part to receive Buddha Shakyamuni’s direct assistance.
On the other hand, Dorje Shugden is Manjushri manifesting as a Dharma Protector in a worldly form. This means he has tremendous affinity and strength to assist practitioners to overcome their obstacles on the spiritual path. The puja propitiating Dorje Shugden is composed by great masters specifically to purify karma, increase merits and create favourable conditions for our Dharma practice to flourish. It is important to note that no Buddha or Dharma Protector can change our karma. Therefore, how Dorje Shugden is able to overcome our obstacles is because he works with the purification and merits that were accumulated through the puja. In other words, Dorje Shugden’s puja doesn’t take away the problem but purifies the root negative karma that created the problem in the first place.
Performing the right puja to clear karmic obstacles is akin to taking the right medicine to recover from specific illnesses. In this way, pujas are antidotes and different pujas are done for different purposes. For example, pujas can be performed to heal diseases, purify negative karma, attract wealth, subdue spirits, counter disturbances and attacks by malevolent spirits and nagas, and also as an overall method of accumulating merits.
The benefit of Dorje Shugden’s puja is two-fold. Dorje Shugden’s supreme purpose is to help practitioners on their path to Enlightenment. However, as practitioners are beings caught in samsara and heavy with negative karma, Dorje Shugden must first help practitioners overcome obstacles and problems of the natural (financial problems, physical health, intellectual comprehension, emotional health) as well as supernatural kind (spirit disturbances, black magic, demonic possessions).
In a nutshell, Dorje Shugden’s puja provides the following benefits to the practitioner:
1. Creates the right external conditions for Dharma practice
All things in samsara are designed to distract practitioners from Dharma practice. And so in order to help practitioners, Dorje Shugden first provides appropriate external conditions for Dharma to flourish.
This includes a peaceful environment, the presence of Dharma teachers and centres, the means for Dharma to be communicated and understood, a government that does not hinder the teaching and spread of the Dharma and such like factors.
2. Creates the right internal conditions for Dharma practice
Even if the external conditions are in place, Dharma practice cannot go far unless the practitioner has the wherewithal to undertake the practice. And so Dorje Shugden also blesses the practitioner with:
- The intellect to grasp the teachings
- The wisdom to realise the preciousness of the practice and to put it into practice
- The ability to retain Dharma knowledge
- The freedom from mental encumbrances to focus on the practice
- The fortitude to persist with the practice
3. Overcomes obstacles and problems that hinder the practice
Often Dorje Shugden has to help the practitioner overcome obstacles and even serious problems that hinder his or her progress in spiritual training. At other times, the Protector manifests miracles so that a person can develop trust and belief and be led to the Dharma. These miracles include:
- Healing from very serious and fatal diseases
- Protection from life threatening situations, dangerous people and malicious spirits
- Wealth and financial security
- The fulfilment of difficult wishes that will galvanise the person’s faith in the Dharma.
Therefore propitiating Dorje Shugden benefits the practitioner both in the immediate and ultimate sense, covering not only spiritual but also worldly matters. And due to the fact that Dorje Shugden is a Buddha that has chosen to manifest in our midst, the Protector can respond to our needs swifter than normal.
Finally, in order to effectively and very quickly deal with the problems and hindrances that practitioners face, Dorje Shugden also manifests in four other forms, each a ‘specialist’ in removing specific problems – Gyenze to invoke upon Dorje Shugden’s ‘increasing’ energies for abundance in wealth and attainments; Shize to invoke upon Dorje Shugden’s ‘pacifying’ energies for healing illnesses and pacifying natural disasters; Wangze to invoke upon Dorje Shugden’s ‘controlling’ energies to subdue difficult minds and people; and Trakze to invoke upon Dorje Shugden’s ‘wrathful’ energies to overcome black magic and situations that are dangerous.
Therefore, when we consider how comprehensive the benefits of Dorje Shugden’s puja are, we begin to realise how important this Dharma Protector is for all beings of this time and age.
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