A central prayer in the traditional Protector kangso (fulfillment ritual) is the Kawang which is also known as the Kanshag. It is a common feature among many Dharma Protector prayers such as those to Setrap, Kalarupa, Palden Lhamo, Mahakala and many others. The kawang is a confessional prayer that purifies negative karma that has accumulated from countless previous lifetimes. If this karma is not purified, it can manifest as obstacles to our Dharma practice and can hinder our spiritual progress.
When done correctly, consistently and sincerely, coupled with the proper visualisations, it is an extremely powerful ritual that purifies tremendous amounts of negative karma. This purification alleviates obstacles faced by the practitioner and creates conducive conditions both externally as material necessities and resources, and internally within the practitioner’s mind. These conditions allow the practice of the Buddhadharma with limited hindrance, bestowing swift progress on the path to gaining attainments.
Dharma Protector practice is known for its graphic and violent imagery. The Kawang can be considered the epitome of this imagery; however the graphic words and descriptions are Tantric symbolism and in no way exhort physical violence. Since the negative karma threatening to obstruct one’s spiritual progress can be significant, the method for purifying such karma should be graphic in nature as opposed to other forms of purification practices, such as Vajrasattva, which employ less ‘violent’ imagery. Logically, if the negative karma that threatens or obstructs one’s spiritual progress is intense in strength, then the method to counter it must be equally intense. Therefore one should strive to understand the meaning behind the Kawang visualisation until a firm understanding is achieved rather than focus on the violent imagery itself.
The visualisation begins by imagining the form of a very large human being, either male or female depending on the practitioner. This human form is not a real person but is the embodiment of the Three Poisons – ignorance, hatred and desire, along with all other negativities such as our karmic obscurations, delusions, habituations, etc. Since these qualities are not tangible, we visualise them in the representative form of a human; this human form has no sentience. Visualising our negativities in the form of a human makes it easier and less abstract for us to imagine them.
As we continue the visualisation, a dakini who is an emanation of the meditational deity Vajrayogini appears and descends upon the human representation of our negativities. The dakini aids us in transforming these negativities into offerings to Dorje Shugden. The human form is sliced and cut open in a manner that uncovers the organs of the body. The visualisation continues with the dismembering of the body by the dakini to create wrathful sensory offerings.
The Wrathful Sensory Offerings
- ARGHAM (drink)
- This offering is made from the blood, which is visualised as being drained into an offering vessel.
- PHUPE (flower)
- This offering is visualised as the upturned skull, into which is placed the heart. On top of this the eyes, ears, nose and tongue are symmetrically arranged to resemble a gruesome floral arrangement. This is known as the wrathful flower offering.
- DHUPE (incense)
- This offering is visualised as all the bones in the body, save the thighbone, removed and burned by the dakini. The rising smoke is offered as incense.
- ALOKE (light)
- Next, the dakini removes all the fat from the body, which she makes into a butter lamp and offers up.
- GYENDE (perfume)
- This offering is visualised as the dakini removing all remaining fluids from the body, such as urine, bile, pus, etc., which is then placed in an offering bowl.
- NEWIDE (food)
- The visualisation continues with the dakini cutting up and placing the flesh of the body into an offering bowl. This is known as the wrathful food offering.
- SHAPTA (music)
- This offering is made by visualising the remaining thighbones hollowed out and carved into a wind instrument, like a bone trumpet. The sound made is offered up.
While this may seem very violent and gruesome on the surface, the true meaning is beautiful. Once the offerings are made, they are purified and transformed into the actual offering substances. The blood is turned into water for drinking, the wrathful flower into beautiful flower offerings, the smouldering bones into fragrant incense, the human fat set alight into an offering of light, the various bodily fluids into the finest of perfumes, the human flesh into delicious delicacies and the sound from the thighbone trumpet into a melodious offering of music. What we generally consider as foul is transformed into the most sublime offerings.
Some people think it wrong to make these sorts of offerings to the Buddhas fearing they will be offended, and so only offer things they find pleasing. However enlightened beings are without ego, therefore if you offer something sincerely, they do not perceive that offering as gruesome or unclean. They will not be offended. Of course one shouldn’t purposefully offer unclean things to the Buddhas when we can afford to offer nice things. The key word here is sincerity.
When the dakini offers the visualised wrathful sensory offerings to Dorje Shugden on our behalf, an immense amount of negative karma is purified. We should visualise this strongly and believe that all our negative karma and impurities are purified, just like the offerings. When done consistently and correctly this visualisation is very powerful.
The visualisation is wrathful in order to train us to not be attached or repulsed to the pleasant and unpleasant. It is another method in which renunciation is meditated upon. Seeing the body arise from negative karma and then ritually dismembered and destroyed as also reflected in the Chöd teachings. Renunciation is an integral component of meditations to actualise so that our Dharma practice becomes genuine.
Traditionally, although not entirely necessary, wrathful sensory offerings can be set out on one’s altar as physical representations of the visualisation in order to further generate merit.
Wrathful Sensory Offering Setup
- ARGHAM: Piping hot tea to represent the blood.
- PHUPE: A wrathful flower, representing the skull, heart, eyes, ears, nose and tongue.
- DHUPE: Crossed incense sticks to represent the smouldering bones
- ALOKE: A butter lamp or candle to represent body fat.
- GYENDE: Beer to represent urine, bile, pus and the remaining bodily fluids
- NEWIDE: A wrathful food/torma to represent the flesh
- SHAPTA: A spiked conch shell to represent the thighbone
Within the Kawang prayer, other offerings are mentioned apart from the wrathful sensory offerings, all with very powerful symbology. These include:
- THE SEVEN ROYAL EMBLEMS
- The Precious Jewel: Representing unending power and possibilities
- The Precious Elephant: Representing the qualities of being a noble gentlemen and having strength of mind
- The Precious Queen: Representing love that is not attached. She is the epitome of feminine beauty and love, radiating the joy of Enlightenment
- The Precious King: Representative of gaining the power to overcome enemies
- The Precious Minister: Representative of a king’s liaison, in this case to spread the Dharma
- The Precious Horse: Representing the power to travel far and wide, symbolic of carrying the Dharma and spreading it quickly
- The Precious Wheel: Representing the truth of the Buddhadharma
- ARMOUR AND SHIELDS: To protect us from our negative karma
- WEAPONS: To fight our negative karma
- ANIMALS: For swift assistance. The animals mentioned such as horses, elephants, yaks and dogs are also depicted as mounts in Buddhist symbology. Offering these creates the causes to receive swift and effective assistance from Dorje Shugden.
Nothing is offered by chance or arbitrarily. These offerings are requests to Dorje Shugden to do his work of protecting us from and purifying our negative karma. When these offerings are made we generate great merits for the purification of our negative karma while simultaneously creating the conducive conditions we need for a smooth spiritual path.
The Kawang prayer can be recited as part of a daily sadhana, as can all Dorje Shugden prayers. It should be included after the Guru Yoga of Lama Tsongkhapa, and any Yidam practices you may have. As the bare minimum you can begin with the Refuge prayers followed by the Four Immeasurables. In place of the Gaden Lhagyama you can recite Migtsema 21 times, followed by the invocation prayer to Dorje Shugden, torma and sensory offering verses, recitation of Dorje Shugden’s mantra (minimum 21 times), recitation of the Kawang three times followed by the serkym offering and end with dedication verses.
For those who are elder in age, or have obstacles related to the body, this practice is highly recommended as it purifies karma created from actions related to the body very quickly. It is also effective to clear and stabilise the mind when doubts and confusion arise. If this occurs, His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche has often advised us to recite the Kawang prayer a minimum of seven times. Rinpoche also recommends that those involved in large projects involving the growth of the Dharma should recite the Kawang.
The Kawang is a method to develop a strong spiritual bond with Dorje Shugden, as well as a powerful purification prayer. This prayer facilitates the purification of negative karma, allowing Dorje Shugden to help us further through the creation of conducive conditions for Dharma practice and the elimination of obstacles; therefore it is a central and important prayer for any Dharma student.
GANG GAY GYÜN TSUNG NYING TRAG CHÖ YÖN DRENG
NAM TRA WANG PÖ METOG DÜ TRIN TRIG
TRI CHEN DRI CHAB SHA RÜ KANG LING DRA
ZAG ME DÜTSI GYATSO GYE ZHIN ZHE
ZHEN YANG DÖ YÖN GYEL SI RINCHEN DÜN
CHANG SHE TA LANG JIG RUNG YAG LUG KYI
NGUR MIG LA GÖ SA TEN GO TRAB PUB
DA DUNG REL DRI CHI NANG SANG WAY TEN
JIG TEN DE DANG MA DE CHÖ TRIN GYI
DORJE SHUGDEN NANG SI DREG PAY TSOG
TUG DAM KANG ZHING NYAM CHAG SÖ GYUR CHIG
KYE PAR DAG CHAG MA RIG ZHEN WANG GYUR
GO SUM JA WAY NYE TSOG CHI CHI PA
SUNG MA KYE KYI TUG DANG GEL GYUR PA
TAMCHE NONG ZHING GYÖ PAY SEM KYI SHAG
ZHEN YANG TEN SUNG CHENPO KOR CHE LA
DAM TSIG LE DE NYEN DRUB CHÖ TOR SOG
NELJOR DAG CHAG NYAM CHAG CHI CHI NAM
KOR SUM MIG ME YING SU SHAG PAR GYI
Heart’s blood drinking offerings set out like the flow of the Ganges,
Flowers of the sense organs blossoming and clouds of smoke gathering,
Human bile perfume, flesh and blood, and the sound of thigh bone trumpets,
Please accept these as well as an ocean of undefiled nectar!
Also sensual objects and the seven royal objects,
The intelligent horse, elephants, frightful yaks, sheep, and dogs,
Saffron robes, strong, hard armour and shields,
Arrows, spears, swords, and outer, inner, and secret bases,
With these clouds of offerings, both supramundane and worldly,
O Dorje Shugden and all your wrathful entourage,
May your heart commitment be fulfilled and degeneration restored!
Especially, each accumulated faulty deed of body, speech and mind
We have committed under the influence of ignorance,
Which goes against your mind, Protector,
We confess with a mind of remorse and regret.
Furthermore, transgressions of our commitments to the Protector and entourage
And neglect or degeneration of retreat practice, tormas, and offerings, etc.,
We practitioners confess all of these
Within the unobjectifiable emptiness of the three spheres.
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