This material is excerpted from Section 7 of the Vajradhatu Practice Manual.
In general, the guidelines, shrine setup, and personnel are the same for Shambhala Meditation Centers and for smaller groups. However, centers which are not Shambhala Meditation Centers do not use the Milarepa sadhana, Glorious Flame of Wisdom, to begin and end the day.
Guidelines for Participation
The following guidelines should be announced in advance.
1. It is appropriate for participants to come for the entire day, approximately 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Of course, there are exceptions to this. For example, parents with young children may be able to come for only part of the day.
2. Nice casual clothes which are comfortable for sitting are appropriate dress.
3. Once the practice has begun, a mandala is established in the shrine hall. Participants should enter or leave the hall only at break periods, not during chanting. It is best if participants are able to open the Glorious Flame of Wisdom mandala in the morning, and close it in the evening by chanting the Milarepa sadhana during the group practice. If this is not possible, it is acceptable for participants to enter and leave the shrine hall (during breaks) without having opened or closed the mandala.
4. When getting up to leave and when re-entering the shrine hall, practitioners should recite the Vajrasattva mantra to themselves. Those who do not know the hundred syllable mantra can recite the short form, OM VAJRASATTVA HUM. This procedure applies until the end of the day.
5. Breaks are scheduled about every 11/2 hours. During breaks, one can leave the shrine hall to use the bathroom and get a cup of tea; tea can be brought into the shrine hall. During breaks, functional silence is observed. Alternatively, the break could be eliminated and tea served in the shrine hall.
Shrine Hall Setup
1. A mandala plate with five piles of rice is placed at the center of the shrine. This represents the mandala of the three jewels and the three roots.
2. The seven outer Vajrayogini offerings are arranged at the front of the shrine. Just as in Vajrayogini practice, the order from shrine right to shrine left is: saffron water, flower, incense fence, votive candle, saffron water, naivedya torma, musical instrument. A piece of fruit or a cookie can be used in place of a naivedya torma. No other tormas are necessary on the shrine. If you like, the usual offering bowls of pure water can remain on the shrine. In that case, they should be placed behind the more elaborate offerings described above.
3. A thangka, a photograph, or a rupa of Milarepa should be placed on the shrine, if available.
4. Arrange practice tables and cushions in front of the shrine, facing participants, for the reader and the umdze. Place a clock and a small bowl of rice for the mandala offering on the table. It would also be thoughtful to provide a glass of water at each seat.
5. If your center is large, microphones should be set up for both the reader and umdze.
6. Set out copies of Glorious Flame of Wisdom, copies of the short mandala offering verse, and a bowl of white rice near the entrance of the shrine hall.
The chanting is led by two people: the reader and the umdze. Different pairs of people should be scheduled for these positions during the day.
1. Reader. The reader reads the prose sections of The Rain of Wisdom. A senior vajrayana student should be the reader in the morning, in order to give an explanation of the ceremony (see "Opening Remarks," below.)
2. Umdze. The umdze leads the chanting of the Glorious Flame of Wisdom and of the songs. Only the umdze needs a mala.
3. Gatekeeper. The gatekeeper prevents people entering or leaving during the reading.
4. Tea servers. People should be scheduled to prepare and set out tea in the reception area for breaks during the morning and afternoon sessions. If someone knows the recipe, it is nice toprepare chai, spiced black tea with milk. At some centers, it may be convenient to serve tea in the shrine hall itself.
This day celebrates the enlightenment and life example of Milarepa. The celebration is an all day guru yoga practice, which includes chanting the Milarepa sadhana and reading the songs of the lineage fathers in The Rain of Wisdom (Tib: Kagyü Gurtso).
The actual title of The Rain of Wisdom is The Essence of the Ocean of True Meaning; the subtitle is Bringing the Rain of Wisdom, the Spontaneous Self-Liberation, the Blazing Great Bliss, the Quick Path to Realization of the Supreme Siddhi, the Vajra Songs of the Kagyü Gurus. These songs are the direct personal voices of the lineage holders, sharing their experiences of the path, practice, and realization. In chanting them, we attune our minds to theirs, invoking the inspiration of their sanity and devotion. This collection was first compiled by Mikyö Dorje, the eighth Karmapa.
Sadhakas should perform the visualizations that are described in the Milarepa sadhana. Ngöndro practitioners should visualize the lineage tree in front, with Milarepa in the center. Other practitioners should not try to visualize at all, but should connect as much as possible with a sense of openness and devotion to the lineage as a whole and to Milarepa in particular.
Outline of the Ceremony at Shambhala Meditation Centers
1. Opening remarks by the reader.
2. Chant the Supplication to the Takpo Kagyü and the Heart Sutra.
3. Sit for 20 minutes.
4. Chant The Glorious Flame of Wisdom.
- page 1: "Instantly I become . . . skull cup." Chant the visualization, then skip to page 3, beginning with "I and all other beings . . ."
- page 3: Recite the refuge and bodhisattva vows, 3x each, with hands in anjali. Continue with the sevenfold service, also in anjali, and the self-blessing, with no mudra.
- page 5: OM . . . SVAHA: Recite the mantra 108x. The umdze uses a mala to count. Continue with the liturgy.
- page 6, middle: The front visualization is the same as the one for prostrations, except that Milarepa is the central figure and that other lineage figures sit on clouds. Milarepa is blue in color like Vajradhara, because he is the embodiment of the dharmakaya guru. All vajrayana students should try to hold this visualization throughout the sadhana, especially during the mantra recitation on page 12.
- page 7: At "inseparably with him," the shrine master offers more incense. At this point, the jnanasattvas, or "wisdom beings," are invited to empower our practice.
- page 12: OM AH GURU HASAVAJRA HUM. Recite 5 malas of the Milarepa mantra semi-mentally. Your lips move, but you would not be heard by your neighbour. Hasa-vajra(San) means "Laughing Vajra." This is Milarepa's vajrayana name. Recite the four manams ("Those who have been my mothers...the compassion nirmanakaya") three times.
- page 13: Change the text of the Four Dharmas of Gampopa to the currently used translation.
- page 15: The line "crude appearance (sic) is transformed into profound, subtle bindu" should have been changed to "crude appearance is transformed by the refined, bindu, and profound yogas." Recite "I supplicate Lord Mila Shepa Dorje" 7x. Shepa Dorje (Tib) also means "Laughing Vajra."
- page 17, middle: After chanting OM AH HUM GURURATNA SARVASIDDHI HUM, stop chanting the sadhana and start reading The Rain of Wisdom.
5. Chant The Rain of Wisdom
NEW (Rain of Wisdom errata from the Nalanda Translation Committee)
The reader reads the titles and the prose sections alone. If verses occur within prose sections, these also are read only by the reader; the group does not read them aloud. Examples are the verses at the bottom of pages 6 and 7, on page 8, and at the top of page 62, and page 102.
The umdze leads the chanting of the songs themselves. The community follows the umdze, not the reader.
- page 1: The reader reads the title. The umdze leads the chanting of the first 4 verses, repeated 3x with hands in anjali. Then all chant the remaining two verses, as well as the prose section at the bottom of the page. End anjali at the end of the verse section. The shrine master lights incense at the bottom of page 1.
- page 2 to top of page 5: All chant. Note: Do not read instructional notes in smaller type, such as "Then, offer a mandala," on page 5.
- page 5, middle: Where the text indicates to offer a mandala, chant the short mandala offering liturgy ("The earth is perfumed with scented water . . . ") while holding hands in the mandala offering mudra. Offering rice is optional. Omit reading the italicized title "Sanggye Nyenpa Suplication." Note that the reader does read the italicized titles on pages 6 and 12.
- page 11: Omit the abridged version: "Thus, one may do it this way . . . free all beings in the world."
- page 292: The last song chanted is the "Colophon" by the Vidyadhara.
6. Return to the Glorious Flame of Wisdom on page 20, beginning with "May Jetsün Repa . . ." Omit
the feast offering, from the middle of page 17 to the middle of page 20.
- page 21, top: After chanting, "All phenomenal existence is mahamudra, E MA HO," sit for 20 minutes.
- page 21, bottom: Chant the dedication and aspiration, and the auspicious verses.
7. To end, chant the longevity and rebirth supplications, and all the aspiration chants.
chants– Chant the protector chants during the last 15 minutes of the afternoon session. At
whatever point you are in the reading, insert the chants and offer the tea.
Suggested Schedule for Shambhala Meditation Centers
9:00-9:30am Instructions and morning chants
9:50-11:00 Chant Glorious Flame of Wisdom, from page 1 to middle of page 17. Then begin reading The Rain
11:00-11:15 Silent tea break
11:15-1:00 Continue The Rain of Wisdom
1:00-2:30 Lunch break
2:30-4:30 Continue The Rain of Wisdom
4:30-4:45 Silent tea break
4:45-5:50 Continue The Rain of Wisdom
5:50-6:00 Protector chants
6:00-7:30 Dinner break
7:30 - Finish reading The Rain of Wisdom and The Glorious Flame of Wisdom. End by chanting the longevity
and rebirth supplications, and Fulfilling the Aspirations