The practice of invocation is an integral part of Buddhist liturgy, especially in specific deity practices. As such, during rituals, prayers or even our...
The practice of invocation is an integral part of Buddhist liturgy, especially in specific deity practices, such as Guru Yogas, Yidam sadhanas, Dharma Protector kangsos and pujas. As such during the kangso or even the daily practice of Dorje Shugden, one invokes upon his divine form and energies to descend when invited.
The tradition of using invocation prayers stems from the story of Magadha Sangmo whose impact can be felt across the entire ancient Buddhist world. In fact Magadha Sangmo is a previous incarnation of Dorje Shugden himself. The daughter of Suddatta, a layman and the Buddha’s primary patron, Magadha Sangmo was an ardent student of Buddha Shakyamuni. After marrying, she longed to see her Guru, the Buddha, and offer dana. Climbing to the roof of her in-law’s house she offered a verse of invocation and incense. The omniscient Buddha heard her prayers and arrived with his entire entourage, descending from the sky on a lion to fulfil her request. This was not only the first instance of incense being used as an offering but also that of the invocation prayer to enlightened beings, both of which have become integral in Buddhist practice.
The practice of invocation is used throughout all Buddhist schools to call upon the enlightened beings. Within Tantric practice, the invocation is recited holding the vajra and bell. The vajra is held at the level of one’s heart in a gesture (mudra) of invocation and the bell is rung rhythmically to the recitation of the prayer. Once the prayer is completed, the bell and ritual drum (damaru) are played to signify the presence of Dorje Shugden. This prayer is so powerful that it is used in the oracular tradition to invoke Dorje Shugden to enter the oracle.
The prayer begins with the exclamation of the Sankrit seed-syllable “HUM!” Following this is the line “Before myself as the Yidam deity“. This references the prayers completed before starting the invocation. Traditionally one would have arisen as a Yidam before any Dharma Protector prayers. In a monastic setting this would usually be the Yidam Yamantaka. Yidam practices are only engaged in by those who have received the necessary initiations and sadhana practices. For those who do not have any initiations, they would engage in Guru Yoga practices such as that of Lama Tsongkhapa – the Ganden Lhagyama.
Therefore, before beginning the invocation to Dorje Shugden, the practitioner with initiation will visualise themselves as being one with their Yidam while the practitioner without initiation will visualise Lama Tsongkhapa resting on the crown of their head.
Dorje Shugden’s Five Lineages [Credits: New Kadampa Tradition]
The invocation continues with a visualisation of Dorje Shugden who is surrounded by a raging fire fanned by turbulent winds, sitting on a snow lion which is “trampling enemies and obstructors“. This lion stands on a lotus that has a sun cushion. These enemies and obstructors are visualised in human form but are in fact symbolic of the obstacles we face in both secular and spiritual life. These obstacles are the result of our own negative karma, delusions and self-cherishing mind, therefore the symbolic form of a human represents these too. The lotus shows that Dorje Shugden has achieved Bodhicitta (compassion) and the sun cushion shows that he has achieved Shunyata (wisdom realising emptiness). Both of these are hallmarks of a fully enlightened being.
The visualisation continues with mention of his monk’s robes and wearing of a “golden domed hat“. Every part of an enlightened being’s form represents the path of practice towards Enlightenment. Dorje Shugden’s form is no different. The three robes of a monk represent the importance of vows and commitments, such as the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Tantric vows in one’s spiritual practice. And the golden domed hat, which was used in ancient Tibet as a travelling hat, represents the view of Emptiness as taught by the great Indian master Nagarjuna and explained by Lama Tsongkhapa. Dorje Shugden arose specifically to protect these teachings.
Dorje Shugden is described as holding a “razor sword” and “enemy heart“. The razor sharp sword is in fact the sword of Manjushri that eliminates our suffering at its core by cutting away negative karma arising from wrong perceptions blocking our realisation of Emptiness. The heart of the enemy symbolises the real cause of our problems and his ability to remove it. This cause is the three poisons – ignorance, hatred, and desire – and the ego. Just like human beings cannot survive without the heart, once the heart of our problems is removed, they in essence die and can no longer trouble us.
The next lines state that Dorje Shugden is pleased by those who practice the Buddhadharma in order to transform themselves and help others. It is through his compassion that he engages in fierce activities to destroy our internal and external “enemies and obstructors“. Internal enemies are our negative states of mind, the three poisons, etc., and outer enemies could be malevolent entities that seek to threaten us.
The invocation prayer continues by now focusing on the entourage of Dorje Shugden, who are described as “ocean-like” because they are beyond count. Surrounding Dorje Shugden are his four cardinal emanations of Shize representing peaceful activity, Gyenze representing increasing activity, Wangze representing controlling activity and Trakze representing wrathful activity. These are the four main activities that enlightened beings use to aid practitioners.
Next come the Nine Mothers, Eight Guiding Monks and Ten Wrathful Attendants, who are all further emanations of Dorje Shugden. Joining them is the Dharma Protector Kache Marpo, an emanation of the Buddha Hayagriva and “chief attendant” to Dorje Shugden. In the oracular tradition, it is actually Kache Marpo who answers questions and provides advice on behalf of Dorje Shugden. Also present is the un-enlightened Dharma Protector Namkar Barzin, who also serves as an attendant.
The first verse concludes with the actual invitational lines that call upon Dorje Shugden and entourage to descend to the space before the practitioner. As mentioned earlier, the practitioner has either generated themselves as a Yidam or has Lama Tsongkhapa resting on the crown of their heads at this point.
Due to our negative karma we do not have the ability to invoke Dorje Shugden directly, therefore we use the medium of either the Yidam or Lama Tsongkhapa to do so. We visualise lights from our heart as the Yidam, or from the heart of Lama Tsongkhapa going out to the divine abodes of Dorje Shugden to invite him. The lights return and with them Dorje Shugden descends and enters into our visualisation.
Our visualisation of Dorje Shugden and entourage are called the “commitment beings” whereas the actual deities that descend are known as the “wisdom beings“. When wisdom beings are invited into the commitment beings they “become inseparable” which means that the visualised Dorje Shugden is now in fact the actual Dorje Shugden himself. Hence any prayers or offerings we make to this visualisation is akin to making these to Dorje Shugden directly.
A traditional painting of the Kingdom of Shambhala. [Credits: Shambhala Times]
When invoked, Dorje Shugden and entourage descend from their five main abodes: from under the throne of Lama Tsongkhapa in Tushita Heaven; from the abode of the Buddha Vajrayogini called Kechara; from Shambhala associated with the Kalachakra Tantra; from Wu Tai Shan, the five-peaked mountain in China associated with Manjushri; and Mug Chung (Sakya), the first temple in which Dorje Shugden was enthroned as a Dharma Protector.
Following the main verse are eight other verses during which one makes various offerings and exhorts Dorje Shugden to fulfil the role of a Dharma Protector. This section again starts with the seed-syllable HUM! In the second verse one prostrates with “body, speech, and mind” and makes various offerings. The body, speech and mind are important concepts in Buddhism as they are the mediums through which one interacts with the world. Therefore they are the vehicles used to accumulate negative karma which leads to suffering. Once purified they are also the portals through which we can attain the body, speech and mind of an enlightened being. This basically means achieving Enlightenment.
When we prostrate it may seem as if we are prostrating ourselves to the enlightened beings, but in ultimate truth we are submitting ourselves to becoming an enlightened being so that we can benefit others, by following the advice and teachings of those already enlightened. Prostrating with our body means to physically prostrate ourselves, prostrating with our speech means to verbally state “I prostrate…” and mental prostration means to visualise ourselves prostrating and understand the meaning behind the prostration.
This is followed by making various offerings, including what are known as the five commitment offerings. These are milk, yogurt, buttered tsampa, tea and beer. These represent spiritual nourishment, the calming of wrathful energies, physical nourishment, livening of the sense and Tantric attainments respectively. These offerings are all visualised increasing in size to fill “the whole of space“.
During the third verse one makes many offerings especially related to the practice of tantra. This once again includes the five commitment offerings. These offerings are again multiplied to fill the whole of our visualised space with the aim of restoring our “degenerated commitments.” When practicing Buddhism, more importantly the Vajrayana path, there are vows and commitments one needs to keep to progress on the path of transforming the mind. When practitioners break these commitments, it can lead to hindrances in the actual practices. By confessing, making offerings and asking for these commitments to be repaired, the optimum environment in which one can practice is restored.
The fourth verse focuses on the confession of transgressions and asking for them to be purified, so that one can have a closer relationship with Dorje Shugden. These “mistaken actions” are the results of our “body, speech and mind.” As mentioned earlier, these are the mediums through which we interact with the world and therefore the mediums through which negativity is accrued. These negative actions are said to “contradict the mind of the great Dharmapala.” Since Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being he wants us to progress on our spiritual journey and live a good life. When we commit negativities this goes against his mind as seeking only the best for us. The verse ends by asking Dorje Shugden to care for us with compassion “like a mother for her child“.
The Five Visions of Lama Tsongkhapa
The fifth verse exhorts Dorje Shugden to preserve and spread the Buddhadharma, especially the teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa who is mentioned as the “Victorious Lozang“. We also request that he helps to extend the life and works of the “glorious Gurus” who teach the Buddhadharma. The request is also made to help the “study and practice” of the Sangha community. Through this they are able to gain Enlightenment and help many more countless sentient beings.
Verses six and seven ask Dorje Shugden to remain protecting and guiding us, never parting from us similar to a shadow that remains connected to the body that casts it. We ask for conducive conditions to be created as per our wishes and to always be cared for. Exhorting Dorje Shugden to use the four enlightened activities of peace, increase, control and wrath, we ask that our “heart-felt desires” are accomplished.
The poignant eighth verse asks Dorje Shugden to aid sincere practitioners. As the Buddhist path seeks only to benefit others an emphasis is placed on creating good karma. At this point we ask Dorje Shugden to judge the truth of our sincerity by seeing the good karma we have created on the path of practice. We ask that those who are innocent are cleared of false “accusations” and those who are humble, a hallmark of a sincere practitioner, are protected. We also ask Dorje Shugden to “nurture Dharma practitioners” like his own children. This is reminiscent of a parent giving all their time, love and energy to look after their children.
The invocation prayer ends by venerating Dorje Shugden as both “Guru and Protector“. Dorje Shugden is regarded as a Guru as in previous lives he manifested as great spiritual teachers such as the Mahasiddha Virupa, Lord Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen (one of the eight main disciples of Lama Tsongkhapa), Panchen Sonam Drakpa whose texts are still used in monastic curriculums today and the great Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. We also ask for uninterrupted protection through “enlightened activity” and to be watched over “during the three periods of day and three of night“. In ancient India and Tibet both the day and night were demarcated to three periods, also called sessions. Therefore this line asks for protection throughout the whole of the day and night.
As mentioned earlier, once the invocation prayer is completed, the bell and ritual drum (damaru) are played to signify and welcome the Protector’s arrival. With the Protector present in our visualisation, we can now continue with the remaining prayers, which usually include further praises, recitation of mantras, the kawang confessional practice, serkym offering and other parts of either Dorje Shugden’s kangso or daily practice.
Invocation of Dorje Shugden
With the invocation verses, we request Dorje Shugden and his entourage to come from Gaden (Tushita) Heaven from under the seat of Lama Tsongkhapa and various other holy places, e.g. Sakya, Tashi Lhunpo, Kechara, Shambhala, Five Peaked Mountain (Wutaishan), etc. Recite the following clearly and well, and visualise the five forms of Dorje Shugden and his full 32-deity mandala appearing in front of us.
OM AH HUM (3x to consecrate offerings)
Before myself as the Yidam deity,
In the midst of a wind swept dark red fire,
On a terrifying magnificent lion,
Trampling enemies and obstructors on a lotus and sun,
Is our heart jewel, Dharmapala,
Mightly Gyalchen Dorje Shugden,
Adorned with robes of a monk on his body,
Wearing the golden domed hat on his head,
Holding razor sword and enemy heart in his hands,
With a manner of delight towards the practitioner,
And a fierce expression which destroys enemies and obstructors.
Hs is surrounded by an ocean-like host of retinue
Such as chief attendant, Kache Marpo.
Rays of light from my heart invite
From the natural sphere
And the individual palaces wherever they abide,
The wisdom beings who in one instant are invited
And become inseparable with the commitment beings.
With devotion I prostrate with body, speech and mind, and make offerings,
Both outer and inner, with flowers, incense, and light, perfume, food, flesh and blood,
Collections of tormas, beer, tea, buttered tsampa, milk, and yogurt,
Actually arranged and mentally visualised, filling the whole of space.
Samaya substances, fulfilment substances, basal substances, and mantric substances,
Outer, inner, and secret favourite visual objects and fragrant smoke offering;
With my offering of these, filling space, O entourage,
May you be satisfied and restore degenerated commitments!
All of our mistaken actions of body, speech, and mind,
Which have contradicted the mind of the great Dharmapala,
We confess from the heart; quickly purify them
And care for us with compassion like a mother for her child!
This heart-felt exhortation of you, supreme deity,
Is to spread and increase the Victorious Lozang’s tradition,
To extend the life and dominion of the glorious Gurus,
And to increase the study and practice of the communities of Sangha.
Never separated from me, like my body and its shadow,
May you dispel adverse conditions and obstructors without exception,
Accomplish favourable conditions and desires as I wish,
And protect and care for me without ever a break!
Especially, the time has now come to show directly
Your unobstructed might in quick, decisive enlightened conduct
Of the four activities to swiftly accomplish
Our deepest heart-felt desires according to our wishes!
The time has come to judge the truth in accord with the law of causality!
The time has come to clear the innocent of accusations!
The time has come to protect the humble who are without a Protector!
The time has come to nurture Dharma practitioners like your children!
In short, from now until attaining the essence of enlightenment,
Since we venerate you as the embodiment of the Guru and Protector,
May you protect us uninterruptedly with your enlightened activity,
And watch over us during the three periods of day and three of night!
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I am travelling to Lhasa in 10 days' time and am planning a 5 day itinerary in and around Lhasa. Please can you indicate key places of pilgrimage outside of the usual ones. For example, I've been trying to locate Chusang Hermitage near Lhasa but without success. Also, do you know of any Dorje Shugden gompas in Lhasa? Thank you so much,