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Downpour ofVirtue and C,oodness

The Consecration Ritual based on the Dgt-legs Char-'bebs

composed by the First Panchen Lama

by Yael Bentor

T is by means ofa consecration ritual that an image

or a stupa is transformed into the nature a{ a

Buddha. As the regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama,

Sde-srid Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho explained, the ac-

tual Buddha (dharmakaya) pervades everything, down

to each ofthe countless particles which together make

up the phenomenal world. One image commonly employed to illustrate this nature ofthe actual Buddha

is the sesame seed and its oil: although the seasame seed

rrray not seem to contain any fluid, plentiful oil is obtained once. the hard seeds are pressed. Another

popular image for the existence of the actual Buddha

is space, which is everywhere. The actual Buddha is

said to be naturally consecrated or naturally established

everywhere. However, ordinary people may not al- ways comprehend this, and thus the tantras teach the consecration ofimages, stupas, thangkas, books and so

forth. These holy objects serve to locahze the presence

of the actual Buddha in certain identifiable places,

thereby making it available for worship and the

accumulation ofmerit. Consecrated images and stupas

serve to create faith and devotion in those who see

them and induce them to generate the mind of

enlightenment. They are a source of blessing and

auspiciousness. They aid in spreading the teachings of

the Buddha. By their power, calamities such as dis- eases, famines, and conflicts diminish. The objects to be consecrated are considered as bases or receptacles of the Buddha's body, speech and

mind. Images and thangkas are receptacles ofthe body;

books, dharants andmantras are receptacles of speech; while stupas and tsha-tshas (often small clay tablets, in this case in the shape of stupas) are receptacles of the Buddha's mind. Buddhist temples and shrines usually

contain all three fypes of receptacles.

A consecration is almost invariably perficrmed soon after completion of a sacred receptacle. In the case of

a major image, a stupa or a temple, a high lama is

invited to perficrm the ritual. Smaller receptacles, such

as images or thangkas owned by individual house-

holders or monastics, are usually brought to a monas-

tery for consecration by its abbot, or by an incarnate lama (a rinpoch.). The larger monasteries usually

perficrm an elaborate consecration onc e ayear in order

to renew the consecration of their temples and sacred

objects. Nearby householden and monastics often bring

their receptacles for consecration or reconsecration on

this occasion.

The expected results of the consecration are not solely dependent on the ritual proceedings, since the

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consists of the followirg steps: visuahzation of the

practitioners' dissolution into emptiness, visuali zation

of themselves as the chosen Buddha, invitation of the

Enlightened Beings and their absorption into the visualized Buddha, and finally, firmly sealing this

merger by means of initiation. The process is very

similar to the consecration itself and, in fact, serves as its model.

In order to assist in their visuahzations durirg the

initiaton, the practitioners put on the clothing of the

chosen Buddha in its Glorious Form (sambhogakaya).

These clothes include a brocade stole standing for the

upper garment, a piece of brocade which covers the lap representing the lower garmertt, a wig of hair tied

into a triple top-knot, and a crown with the five

Tathagatas of the mandala. Spectators at the ritual will

also observe that the performers place a red blindfold above their eyes, symbohzrngtheir ignorance prior to

their transformation into the chosen Buddha. The

blindfold serves also to block ordinary appearances in

preparation for the extraordinary perception of the

world as a mandala.

Not only the participants, but also the ritual sub-

stances and implements require transformation. First

to be transformed are the vases standing in front of the ritual master (this ritual action takes place prior to the

initiation). The water of the Victorious Vase (uijaya

kalaia)-the one without the beaked spout

will also

-

be transformed into the chosen Buddha. The water

will be used in the initiation of both the perficrmers

and the receptacle as well as during the ritual sequences

of the 'supreme bathirg' of the receptacle. Spectators

will see that on top of the Victorious Vase a small

conch shell containing scented water is placed. On rop

of the conch is a very small uajra, around which a five- coloured thread is coiled. The ritual master holds the

other end of this thread next to his own heart. The

mantras he recites are conceived ofas coiling along the thread, thereby transmitting his powers into the water. The water is only then transformed into the chosen Buddha. The Victorious Vase is a vase externally but

internally it becomes a divine palace, the mandala of Vajrabhairava. The ritual master pours the water from

the conch into the vase. Finally, the chosen Buddha

within the vase dissolves and becomes 'one taste' with

the water.

Generally, it is after the morning rea-break that the

other ritual substances and implements undergo their transformation. These items include the eight bathing vases, the bathing substances, the grain which will be

scattered over the image, gugul (incense used for fu-

migation ) and white mustard. The last two substances

are meant to be used for purification. All these items

are placed on the bathing nlandala

the tiered square

-

structure surrounded by offerings. These transforma-

tions as well are effected with the help of the five-

coloured thread extendirg from the ritual master to

each item, one after the other. Each item becomes

endowed with the capacnty of effecting its ritual

purpose.

Announcing the consecration

This is a lUghly dramatic moment in the ritual, in

which all the monks, wearing their ceremonial robes,

stand on their seats in order to announce the consecra-

tion (samkalpo). The announcement is accompanied

by the offering of the grain, which was used in Tibet

to represent flowers.

Cenerating the mind of enlightenment

The performers then kneel down to generate the mind

of enlightenment. They take the bodhisattua vow ro

achieve enlightenment not just for themselves but to

lead all sentient beings to enlightenment as well. This

provides the performers and patrons with the proper religious and moral attitude. It reminds everyone that the purpose of such actions as consecrations is the attainment of enlightment by all sentient beings.

The showing in the mirror

One more action must yet be completed before the transformation of the image may begin. Two monks

put on their ceremonial yellow hats and ritual-offering

clothing. One holds a ritual bronze mirror and the

other an offering ofincense. They invite the reflection

ofthe image to allow itselfto be captured in the mirror. Likewise, reflections of all the other objects to be

consecrated are captured in the mirror, which is then placed at the centre of the large bathing mandala. The

20

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depart to their abodes, but to return on the following d^y .

Concluding rituals

Rituals to assure protection

followirg d*y are

for the image until the

perficrmeci. 'fhe mirror -with its

reflections is then covered by a yellow cloth. Thanks- giving ceremonies are held to express gratitude to the

Buddhas for consenting to participate in the rituals. As

in the conclusions of most other Tibeten rituals, an

aspiration for oneself and all sentient beings to attain

enlightenment is recited. The merit accumulated

through the ritual perficrmance is dedicated towards this end. Then the Buddhas are requested to forbear such faults as might have occurred during the perficr- mance. The first d^y is completed with the recitation

of verses of auspiciousness.

The Second Doy

the Main Part

Preliminaries

As on the first day, the main dry of the ritual begins with the transformation of the performers into the chosen Buddha, then the self-initiation takes place, to be followed by the transformation ofthe various ritual

items. The image is agarn visuali zed as the chosen

Buddh a, and the purifications and bathing sequences are repeated. The performers next announce the

consecration and generate the mind ofenlightenment.

All this is done as it was on the first d^y.

Main part

Since on the main d^y the Enlightened Beings will be dissolved into the image visuali zed as the chosen Buddha, the body, speech and mind as well as the six senses of the visualizedBuddhas are blessed. Thereby,

the visuali zedBuddha becomes a suitable vessel for the

Enlightened Beings. All the monks, holdirg the uajra, bell, and incense then invite the Enlightened Beings.

Various offerings are made to them and they are requested to perform the consecration. The Enlight-

ened Beings dissolve into the visuali zed ones and the

two become indistinguishable, nondual,'one taste'.

This fusion is sealed by means of the initiatior, which

includes the Five Tathagaras' initiated together with

the Vajrac arya initiation, secret initiatioo, wisdom- knowledge initiatior, and the fourth initiation. This

completes the transformation of the image into the

nature of the actual Buddha.

Ancillary rituals

A fire-o{fering ritual (horna) is performed outdoors to promote 'increase'. This ritual ofVedic origin has the

purpose of increasing life, wealth, strength, merit,

wisdom, the study and practice of religion, and so

forth. The specific aim of the consecrarion is to

increase the effects ofthe consecration itself, That is to

sa1l, the fire offering augments the effects of the

presence of a Buddha emanation in the particular localiry. Although other recipients are not excluded,

the main recipients ofthe offerings made to the fire are, in the present case, the Buddhas abidirg in the conse- crated image. Then the eyes ofthe image are opened, using a small

gold spoon and an ointment of honey and butter, SO

that the Buddhas abidirg ther:e will look with compas-

sion upon sentient beings. This is followed by the

opening of the other sensory faculties: the ears, nose,

teeth and mouth. Then a feast (gary"acakra) is celebrated.

The feast offering and milk-and-rice porridge are

eaten as remainders @rasad) of the Buddhas. The guardians are next bound to an oath to protect the

image.

Transformation of the image

The actual Buddhas who abide in the image are now transformed into the appearance ofthe original image.

Praises and common and specific offerings'are made to

them.

Enthronement ffirings

One of the purposes of the consecration ritual is the

creation of sacred objects worthy of offerings, and thereby serving as a basis for the accumulation of

merit. The enthronement orFerings, the first offerings made before the image when the consecration has rendered it as a worthy receptacle for offerings, is in a

22

 

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