The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya
Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (rgyud ’bum, e), folios 129.a–135.b
Translated by Julian Schott
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya is a short manual on the ritual preparation for and casting of small caityas from clay. The ritual has three main parts: a description of the general transformative power of the dhāraṇī, the preparation rituals for the ground and clay, and rituals for the consecration of the cast images. The main dhāraṇī, with the name vimaloṣṇīṣa, “stainless uṣṇīṣa,” was widely used in central and northeast Asian Buddhism, especially in the context of purification, consecration, and inauguration rituals.
The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya Perfectly Constructed with Complete Knowledge1 is a dhāraṇī text that teaches detailed preparations for the construction of caityas (mchod rten), specifically the preparation of small caityas from clay, one form of tsha-tsha as they are commonly known in Tibet. The main dhāraṇī to be recited while crafting these small caityas is called the vimaloṣṇīṣa (“stainless uṣṇīṣa”) dhāraṇī, and is famed for its use in consecration and inauguration rituals. The vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī has a long history in India, as evidenced by its discovery on birch bark fragments from Gilgit dating to the seventh century2 as well as by its inclusion in numerous small caityas and seals discovered at Bodh Gayā that date between the eighth and eleventh centuries3 and in caityas and dhāraṇī seals found at Nālandā, Ratnagiri, Paharpur, and Udayagiri.4 In addition, its discovery on clay seals as far as Indonesia5 and manuscript fragments found at Dunhuang6 suggest that the fame of this dhāraṇī extended well beyond India.
There are two dhāraṇī texts in the Kangyur that have been (and still are today) the principal works employed in Tibetan rites for the consecration and inauguration caityas and stūpas. They are known as the “two stainless ones,”7 The Radiance of the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa (Raśmivimaloṣṇīṣaprabhāsa, Toh 599) and The Dhāraṇī of Pure Stainless Light (Raśmivimalaviśuddhaprabhānāmadhāraṇī, Toh 510). It is the first of these that is considered the main canonical text introducing and featuring the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī. It relates the narrative of how the dhāraṇī, emanated from the Buddha’s uṣṇīṣa, was first taught when a Trāyastriṃśa god was about to die and fall to the lower realms.8 The Buddha explains how it should be placed in caityas with a series of offerings and recitations in order to prolong life and purify the karmic causes of lower rebirth. The vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī is also counted as one of the “five great dhāraṇīs” (gzung chen sde lnga) used in consecration rituals in Tibet.9
The present text, although it contains its own, different narrative, is in some ways a more practice oriented manual, detailing the use of the same dhāraṇī specifically for the preparation of minature caityas, and can perhaps be seen as a derivative work of The Radiance of the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa itself. Nevertheless, in contrast to the primary title given at the beginning of the text, the colophon to The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya names it simply The Vimaloṣṇīṣa Dhāraṇī. The exact wording of the dhāraṇī itself in this text differs slightly from the version in The Radiance of the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa.
The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya begins with Vajradhara residing in a celestial caitya whose structure will be mirrored in the caitya maṇḍala taught later in the text. From this seat, he emits rays of light from his uṣṇīṣa and heart center to bless the universe and all the beings in it, filling the sky with images of dharmakāya caityas. Moved by this powerful display, Vajrapāṇi and the other bodhisattvas in attendance ask Vajradhara for instruction on the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī used to bless caityas. Vajradhara acquiesces, proceeding to teach the dhāraṇī along with variations to be used in specific scenarios. He then lauds the benefits of using the dhāraṇī when constructing caityas in general.
Following this more general discourse on the use of the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, Vajradhara offers a series of instructions on making a maṇḍala of miniature caityas, beginning with the identification and purification of the site from which clay will be excavated and the preparation of the site where the caityas will be made. Once these preliminary steps are taught, Vajradhara describes the procedure for making the caityas, including the softening of the clay with a mallet, the forming of the individual balls of clay, the preparation of the caitya molds, the process of inserting or impressing the dhāraṇī and other mantra syllables into the clay balls, and the casting of the caityas. Each of these steps is accompanied by a mantra recitation and a visualization sequence.
Once the process of making the caityas has been explained, Vajradhara teaches his audience how to decorate the caityas, how to arrange them into the maṇḍala pattern, and how to arrange the entire ritual site in preparation for the main consecration rite. The primary maṇḍala described consists of five caityas: a central caitya surrounded by four caityas in each cardinal direction. Vajradhara repeatedly notes that this rite can be performed on any number of caityas—a hundred, a thousand, or even more.
After detailing these steps and their respective mantras and visualization sequences, Vajradhara proceeds to the final instructions on the main consecration rite. The practitioner, identifying themselves as Vajradhara, blesses the individual parts of the ritual site and maṇḍala through mantra recitation and visualization, makes offerings to the maṇḍala of caityas, and meditatively invokes the blessings of the five tathāgatas and the five families for each of the individual caityas. After completing this elaborate sequence, the practitioner is directed to recite the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī for as long as they can.
Vajradhara concludes his discourse by identifying the challenges a practitioner may face in performing such a complex rite, offering remedies and encouragement and extolling the benefits that come from practicing it completely and correctly.
There is no known Sanskrit witness of The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya, nor does it appear to have been translated into Chinese. Lacking an Indic witness, little is known about its circulation and use in India. As noted above, the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, the core dhāraṇī employed in this text, enjoyed widespread fame in India and beyond, likely because it was transmitted in scriptures and ritual manuals such as this one. Nonetheless, there is no further information on or versions of The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya beyond its Tibetan translation.
There is also little known about the provenance of the Tibetan translation of The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya. Among the numerous versions of the translation included in the Kangyur and other scriptural collections, none include a translator’s colophon that would provide information on its translators or the time and place in which it was translated. The text is not included in the imperial-period catalogs under its main title, but the Phangthangma (’phang thang ma) catalog does list a series of texts related to the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī that cannot be correlated with extant Tibetan translations. Among them we find The Dhāraṇī-Mantra of the Radiant Stainless Uṣṇīṣa Together with Its Rite (’phags pa gtsug tor dri ma med par snang ba’i gzungs sngags cho ga dang bcas pa),10 which as the title indicates concerns the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī in combination with ritual instructions for its use. Although this is more likely to be a reference to The Radiance of the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa (Toh 599) as mentioned above, it may possibly refer instead to The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya under a different title, as this text does describe an elaborate ritual that employs the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī. If that were the case, it would indicate that The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya was translated prior to the Tibetan empire’s collapse in 843.11 As noted above, The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya appears to be known by multiple titles, yet another of which might be the title found in the Phangthangma. The colophon of the text translated below identifies it as The Vimaloṣṇīṣa Dhāraṇī, and both the Phukdrak (phug brag) and Lang do (lang mdo) Kangyurs provide the alternate Sanskrit title Vimaloṣṇīṣasarvacaityanāmadhāraṇī, which can be tentatively translated as The Dhāraṇī Called the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa for All Caityas.
The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya is also found in two paracanonical collections: The Extensive Collection of Early Translations of Canonical Scripture of the Nyingma (rnying ma) tradition12 and The Collection of Maṇḍala Rituals from Old and New Exemplars at Palpung of the Kagyü (bka’ brgyud) school.13 In both cases the Tibetan translation bears the same title as that found in the majority of Kangyurs, shes pas thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten zhes bya ba’i gzungs.
As is often the case with dhāraṇī literature, The Dhāraṇī for a Caitya is preserved in two locations in the Degé Kangyur. Toh 601 is found among the Kriyātantras in the Tantra section (rgyud ’bum), while Toh 884 is located in the Collection of Dhāraṇīs (gzungs ’dus). Apart from a few scribal variations, these two versions are identical.
The Degé versions of the Tibetan translation serve as the primary witnesses for this translation. The versions found in the Stok Palace (stog pho brang) and Phukdrak Kangyurs were also consulted closely, as were the annotations reported in the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma) of the Degé Kangyur. Additionally, the version preserved in The Extensive Collection of Early Translations of the Nyingma tradition was studied as a representation of the text from a paracanonical source. No substantive differences were found among these numerous witnesses.
The dhāraṇīs used in this text have been preserved as cited in the Degé witness, with only minor emendations to correct obvious orthographic errors. An important exception is the main dhāraṇī, the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, for which we have Sanskrit witnesses. There are, naturally, some differences between the dhāraṇī as reported in the different Sanskrit sources and the Degé witness. Thus, when possible and warranted, the Degé has been emended to align with the Sanskrit witnesses when the latter preserve the clearer reading.
Thus did I hear at one time. The Blessed One, the great Vajradhara, was dwelling in a great caitya with a central palace made of various precious substances surrounded by four immeasurable caityas. It sat atop a foundation that had the nature of a caitya and was made from the five kinds of materials from the great Mount Meru.15 The nature of this great caitya was such that even the space above its summit had the quality of a caitya. He was dwelling there together with Vajrapāṇi, Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, Maitreya, and other bodhisattvas of the tenth level, as well as the protectors of the pure abodes, including Brahmā, Śakra, and the Four Great Kings.16
Then, a total of sixty quintillion17 light rays of various colors were emitted from the Blessed One’s uṣṇīṣa, [F.129.b] the śrīvatsa at his heart, and other places. The great brilliance of these light rays pervaded all the incalculable, inconceivable, and inexpressible realms of the trichiliocosm, filling them like a heap of mustard seeds. All those among the infinite number of beings who were blind could now see forms, those who were deaf could hear sounds, those who stuttered could speak clearly, those with a limp or who had trouble walking could walk, those who were paralyzed and those who were sick were freed from their illness, hell beings had their lifespans reduced and were gradually freed from their torment, and all beings gradually became contemplative. The entire sky filled with dharmakāya mind-caityas, which grew in size. The rays of light then reentered the Blessed One’s uṣṇīṣa, turning into a representation of the dharmakāya.
Vajrapāṇi and the rest of the entourage were astonished, and they worshiped the Blessed One with offerings of canopies, banners, flags, parasols, fly whisks, bells, silk scarves, incense, flowers, garlands, unguents, lamps, food, music, and the like. They asked the Blessed One, “Please, Blessed One, protector of beings who possesses great compassion, teach the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī,18 the great spell used in the rite for blessing a caitya.”
The Blessed One replied, “Here is the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, the great spell used in the rite for blessing a caitya. Any son or daughter of noble family who understands, upholds, writes, reads, or makes its title known will entirely purify the five acts with immediate retribution, the ten unwholesome deeds, and any other negative actions they have performed. [F.130.a] This is the vimaloṣṇīṣa, the great spell used in the rites for blessing a caitya:
Immediately after he spoke this great spell, all the realms of the world took on the nature of a caitya. If this great spell is written on birch bark, cloth, or other tree bark and affixed to the top of a banner, the banner will become worthy of worship, one that is honored and venerated by all gods, humans, and the like. If this great spell is affixed to someone’s body or neck, gods, humans, asuras, and the like will see that person as a buddha. If one recites this great spell when traversing rugged mountains, forests, isolated places, or other landscapes, all those mountains and landscapes will be like a caitya.
If one recites oṁ traiyadhve sarvatathāgatahṛdayagarbhe jvala dharmadhātugarbhe saṃhāraṇa21 āyuḥ saṃśodhaya pāpaṃ sarvatathāgatasamantoṣṇīṣavimale viśuddhe mahāvirajera gambhīrasi dharmadhātugarbhe vivisāra a a laṁ svāhā,22 the entire ground will take on the nature of a caitya.
If one utters this great mantra spell when crossing any body of water—such as a river, lake, or ocean—all that water will take on the nature of a caitya. After reciting oṁ traiyadhve sarvatathāgatahṛdayagarbhe jvala dharmadhātugarbhe saṃhāraṇa āyuḥ saṃśodhaya pāpaṃ sarvatathāgatasamantoṣṇīṣavimale viśuddhe mahāvirajera gambhīrasi dharmadhātugarbhe vivisāra a māmaki svāhā,23 all water will take on the nature of a caitya.
Additionally, when one casts this great spell in a way that pervades the whole of space, all of space will also take on the nature of a caitya. [F.130.b] When reciting oṁ traiyadhve sarvatathāgatahṛdayagarbhe jvala dharmadhātugarbhe saṃhāraṇa āyuḥ saṃśodhaya pāpaṃ sarvatathāgatasamantoṣṇīṣavimale viśuddhe mahāvirajera gambhīrasi dharmadhātu vivisāra a a e khaṃ ya svāhā,24 all of space will take on the nature of a caitya and become worthy of veneration, circumambulation, and worship.
If one recites the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī when making caityas from any of the five great elements, it purifies all afflictions and obscurations. Moreover, when a caitya is made with materials such as earth, wood, rock, mud, or clay onto which this mantra spell has been cast, those materials will produce a caitya made of various precious substances. When oṁ ratnacaitye pañcaye vivisāra svāhā25 is recited, cow dung and similar materials can be applied to result in a caitya made of various precious substances. If this great spell is not cast, even if one intends to fashion a caitya from gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and the rest of the seven precious substances, it will be no different than one made of stone, wood, or clay. Why? Because the blessing of the mantra and essence mantra will not have entered the nature of these materials. When blessed with the great spell, however, even a caitya made from any of the five great elements will purify the stains of the obscurations from incalculable eons so that one will be born into a householder family as great as a sal tree and go on to obtain the stage of nonregression. If one makes a caitya from stone, wood planks, and the like after blessing them with this great spell, there is no doubt that one will be born into a brahmin family as great as a sal tree, gradually traverse the ten stages, and obtain the eleventh stage, Universal Light.26 If one makes a caitya from gold, silver, lapis lazuli, and the like after blessing them with this great spell, there is no doubt that one will be born into a kṣatriya family as great as a sal tree and go on to obtain the stage of Vajradhara. [F.131.a] Furthermore, if this great mantra spell is cast when making a single caitya, it will be as if ten million were made. If this great spell is not cast, even if ten million caityas are made it will be as if they are just one. Why would this be the case? The answer is the same as before.
The mantra for the great spell is tadyathā sūkṣme sūkṣme śānte śānte nirākule yaśo tejo sarvabuddhe adhiṣṭhāna adhiṣṭhite anumide svāhā.27 Its procedure is as follows: if one makes a single caitya from a lump of clay after reciting the spell over it twenty-one times, it will be as if ten million are made. The corresponding amount and benefit of making a hundred cannot be expressed, even by the arhats among noble śrāvakas. The corresponding amount and benefit of making a thousand cannot be expressed, even by bodhisattvas. The corresponding amount and benefit of making ten thousand cannot be expressed, even by the tathāgatas. The corresponding amount and benefit of making a hundred thousand cannot be expressed, even by the tathāgatas of the three times and ten directions.
For these reasons, one should perform the ritual offering, including the five supports for offering.28 First, the local deities should be appeased at the site where the caityas will be made, where the clay for the caityas will be stored, and where the clay for the caityas will be excavated. Next, a boundary should be created to thwart any ill-intentioned obstructing spirits who live there and would disrupt the caitya and its virtue. To infuse a thread with the mantra of this great spell, recite oṁ vajrasūtra hūṁ phaṭ29 while visualizing a thread to be a vajra thread. The area that encompasses the site for the caitya and the area that encompasses the site where the clay is located should be demarcated with the thread. When the ground is demarcated in this way, the specific patch of ground will take on the qualities of the various precious substances that are used for a caitya. [F.131.b]
In the same space, one should next cast the great spell oṁ vajrakīli kīli kīlaya sarvaduṣṭam hūṁ phaṭ30 on a rosewood stake that is eight fingers long. After reciting it seven times, one should visualize it as a vajra stake and plant one in the center and at the four corners of the demarcated area. If done in that way, one will be protected from all humans and nonhumans, unless their actions are the result of the ripening of previous karma. The rosewood stake should remain in the ground where the clay for the caitya is located and should not be removed for any reason until the clay is taken.
After that, cast the spell oṁ amṛte hana hana hūṁ phaṭ31 on sesame seeds and white mustard seeds. It should be recited seven times, and the seeds should be scattered over the site. By doing so, this specific area will become the immeasurable seat of the tathāgatas.
Once the area has been blessed as the seat of the tathāgatas, the boundary against ill-intentioned obstructing spirits should be set by offering incense, flowers, oblations, and the like to the devas, nāgas, and asuras who reside in the area and then dedicating the merit. The area will be auspicious and blessed after the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī has been recited.
Next, when digging up the clay for the caitya, one should dig while reciting oṁ vajra khana khana hūṁ phaṭ.32 Digging while reciting this and visualizing the area as composed of the five precious substances will transform it into the pure body of the Tathāgata.
The clean earth that has been excavated should then be placed in a purified area, and the rite of pounding the earth should be performed. One should form the gesture of Amṛtakuṇḍalin over a mallet, press it with a three-pronged vajra,33 and cast the great spell vajramudgara ākoṭaya ākoṭaya hūṁ phaṭ34 while pounding the earth. After pounding the earth while reciting this seven times and visualizing the mallet as a vajra mallet, all afflictions and habitual tendencies will be purified and defeated.
Next comes the kneading of the clay. After touching scented water with the gesture of Amṛtakuṇḍalin, [F.132.a] one should imagine the nature of reality as a white syllable a within the scented water. A bright moon disk appears from the syllable, shining with intense rays of light that pervade the scented water. Imagining that the scented water has taken on the nature of nectar, recite the great spell oṁ amṛte hūṁ phaṭ. After blessing it with seven recitations, the scented water will be like a stream of great nectar.
One should then recite the following great spell for kneading the clay: oṁ vajra pramardanaya hūṁ phaṭ.35 After reciting it seven times, the clay will become the body of the Tathāgata. Now that the clay has been blessed as the inconceivable body of the Tathāgata, one should form the gesture of Amṛtakuṇḍalin over it while reciting the following great spell: namo ratnatrayāya tadyathā sūkṣme sūkṣme śānte śānte dānte dānte nirākule yaśo yaśovati tejo śuddhe viśuddhe sarvatathāgata adhiṣṭhāna adhiṣṭhite ā namaḥ te hite svāhā.36 Once one has recited this great spell in three sets of seven, totaling twenty-one times, and blessed the clay with the great mantra spell, five kinds of wisdom-light rays will radiate from the clay into the ten directions and tame all beings as needed. The rays of light then return, causing the clay to take on the nature of the five precious substances and endowing it with the causes and conditions for the inconceivable body of the Tathāgata. This is what one should imagine.
The following great spell should then be recited seven times while preparing balls of clay: oṁ vajra āyuṣe svāhā.37 Once blessed in this way, clouds of wisdom-light rays will radiate from the clay balls, pervade the limitless realms of the ten directions, [F.132.b] and fulfill the aims of many beings. The clouds of light rays will then gather back into the clay balls, purifying them so that they are like crystals with the nature of precious wisdom. This is what one should imagine.
Next, the seal of the vimaloṣnīṣa essence mantra is pressed into the clay balls, or the mantra is written on birch bark, cloth, paper, or any bark and inserted into them. The essence mantras of each of the five families—oṁ hūṁ trāṁ hrī āḥ38—should be incorporated into the vimaloṣṇīṣa mantra so that they are joined as a pair, and then either affixed as a seal or inserted as a written mantra as appropriate. The ball of clay will then possess the wisdom mind of the Tathāgata. When inserting the spell, one should recite the mantra oṁ vajragarbhe svāhā.39 Once recited, the wisdom mind of all the tathāgatas will be gathered within it and fixed. This is what one should imagine.
After that, one should recite the great spell for anointing the interior of the caitya mold with the oil of white mustard seed or sesame oil: oṁ araje viraje svāhā.40 Once this has been recited three times and the blessing conferred, the caitya will become a dharmadhātu caitya through the union of means and wisdom. This is what one should imagine.
Then, when pressing the caitya, one should recite the great spell oṁ vajramudgara ākoṭaya ākoṭaya hūṁ phaṭ.41 Once it has been recited and the caitya pressed, it will become a dharmakāya caitya through the union of space and nondual wisdom. Because the caitya is made using the vimaloṣṇīṣa essence mantra in whichever form,42 it will become an infinite dharmakāya caitya through the union of space and nondual wisdom.
One should next extract the caitya while reciting the great spell for removing it from the mold: oṁ dharmadhātuye svāhā dharmadhātugarbhe svāhā.43 The caitya is extracted after reciting this seven times, at which point it emerges as an infinite dharmakāya caitya through the union of space and nondual wisdom. It will fulfill, in an extraordinary manner, [F.133.a] the aims of all beings in this world until saṃsāra is empty. This is what one should imagine.
Once the caitya has been removed from its container, one should recite the great spell for the ring.44 After reciting oṁ pramāṇaye svāhā45 and setting the ring, it should be adorned with a precious parasol, precious pinnacle, precious banner, silk streamers, and other ornaments. Ornamented with the various qualities of nirvāṇa, it will benefit beings according to their wishes. This is what one should imagine.
Then, when the caitya is covered with a cloth, one should recite the great spell oṁ dharmadhātusvabhāva viśuddhe dharma te svāhā.46 If one repeats this spell many times, the caitya will signify the pure dharmadhātu.
If the maṇḍala of prepared caityas consists of five caityas, one should draw a maṇḍala with a central space and spaces in the four directions, totaling five. When making any number of caityas—be it a hundred or a thousand—construct a stone base with a number of maṇḍala squares corresponding to the number of caityas.47 It should be a square maṇḍala made of earth, stone, wood, and so forth. The throne beneath it can be a lion throne, a jewel throne, or a lotus throne. Once this base has been made, it should be sprinkled with cow dung mixed with scented water.
Water infused with saffron and sandalwood should be smeared in a circle to encompass the entire area where the central caitya and caityas in the four directions will be placed. Use thread to demarcate and then draw the maṇḍala.48 When drawing a maṇḍala for five caityas, draw a maṇḍala with five spaces—a central space and spaces in the four directions. In the same way, the lines of the vajra grid should be used to demarcate the space into maṇḍala squares corresponding to the number of caityas, be they one hundred or one thousand. [F.133.b] An eight-petaled lotus should be drawn in each of the spaces where a caitya is to be placed.
Then, once the caitya maṇḍala has been set up, the request to remain is made using the mantra spell oṁ supratiṣṭha stūpe svāhā.49 After reciting this three times and setting out the caitya, it will function extraordinarily to serve the aims of oneself and others. The sequence for arranging the caityas is as follows: the first is placed in the center, then one proceeds sequentially to set one in the east, south, west, and north. The great spell to be recited while placing them is oṁ vajrapadmasamaye svāhā.50 After reciting it three times, say, “please be seated on the vajra and lotus seat” while imagining that everything—the ground, the expanse of the sky, and the depths of the sea—is filled with caityas. Alternatively, one offers incense, flowers, and the rest of the fivefold offering and makes the request to remain after each caitya is made and placed in the maṇḍala.
The color of the caityas and other features are painted observing the following correspondences: white for pacification, yellow for increasing, red for magnetizing, and green for protection.51 The cloth should follow the same scheme. This is what one should imagine.
Next, the maṇḍala of caityas should be blessed. One should recite the mantra of the great spell hūṁ raṃ svāhā, which has emerged from the red syllable raṃ located above the maṇḍala. After reciting it three times, a great flame of the wisdom of suchness will burn fiercely, purifying the concepts in those places52 so that the very foundation of the maṇḍala will be made of the five precious substances. This is what one should imagine. [F.134.a]
One should next recite the great spell oṁ a candramaṇḍala hūṁ phaṭ,53 which emerges from the place where a white syllable a stands in the center of the fivefold, hundredfold, or thousandfold maṇḍala grid. After reciting it an equivalent number of times,54 each cell becomes a moon-disk seat for a caitya. This is what one should imagine.
Above a moon disk at the heart, one should create a five-pronged vajra that emits an effulgence of wisdom light. These rays of wisdom light radiate from every pore on one’s body, spreading infinitely like cloud banks of buddhas and their maṇḍalas. They bless all the realms of beings, fulfill their aims, and then dissolve back into one’s body. This is what one should imagine.
Next is the generation of the caitya palace. One should form the vajradhātu55 gesture over the caitya placed in the maṇḍala, touch the top of the caitya, and then recite the mantra for the great spell: oṁ vajradhātu adhitiṣṭha hūṁ.56 Through this blessing, the caitya will be established in the center of a moon seat upon a dharmadhātu maṇḍala and a ground made of precious substances, all within a palace composed of various precious materials.57 This is what one should imagine.
Once each caitya has been prepared in this way, set out, and presented with different kinds of offerings, one should recite the spell for purifying different kinds of offerings, including lion banners, cooked rice, arrangements of fine foods and the like, canopies, streamers, parasols, garlands, fragrances, lamps, and incense:58 oṁ sarvapūja puṣpe svāhā.59 After it has been recited, its blessings will cause the offerings to amass as marvelous Samantabhadra offering clouds [F.134.b] and fall like rain. This is what one should imagine.
The five kinds of offerings to a caitya should be presented one by one, and they should be offered as individual gifts to the extent one is able, even if the cloth is small, the canopies are frayed and so forth, and the parasols are small. While the rite is being performed, one should clarify one’s samādhi, one’s continuity of experience. To do this one should recognize and imagine that the five caityas—those in the center and four directions—share the extraordinary colors, ornaments, attributes, and retinues of the buddhas of the five families. One visualizes that those caityas, which are made of the five wisdoms, are pure and clear by nature, and that each letter of the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī and the essence mantra of each of the five families in the center of those caitya vessels60 is brilliant and uniquely dazzling, like refined gold. The five families, in the form of infinite and multicolored rays of wisdom light, spread throughout the ten directions, adorning the infinite sky and the entirety of the dharmadhātu with clouds of tathāgata bodies. Having accomplished that, they bless all the realms of the world, serve the aims of all beings there, and fulfill their hopes. The rays of wisdom light return, strike the top of one’s head and heart, and purify anything that obscures awakened activity and so forth. One should imagine that one now has the nature of vajra body, speech, and mind.61
Next perform the reception using offering water consisting of scented water mixed with various fragrances. Form the gesture of the offering water, place the conch shell on it, and imagine that a white syllable a in the scented water transforms into a moon disk from which shine rays of light that grant the scented water the nature of wisdom nectar. One should then recite the great spell for making offerings: [F.135.a] oṁ amṛte arghaṃ pratīccha svāhā.62 After reciting it, one should scent the pinnacles of the caityas three times by pouring the water.63 The noble ones will be pleased with this offering. This should be expressed with the words “May all noble ones be pleased.” Then, using the oceanic cloud gesture,64 the water should be sprinkled over the pinnacles, after which one imagines that it gathers in the wisdom body and all the marvelous initiations are conferred. After this, the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī should be read aloud an appropriate number of times,65 the merit should be dedicated, and extensive aspirations should be made.
If one finds it difficult to complete this rite as prescribed, one should transform one’s body using the samādhi of one’s personal deity and not let that intention weaken. One should recognize that the caityas and articles of worship are the nature of the dharmadhātu in their pure aspect. If one makes caityas in this way, it is the same as the extensive rite. There is no contradiction. If even this is not possible, one can make a caitya by reciting the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, keeping it in mind, writing it down, and carrying it with one. If one does this, it is in fact the extensive rite. Those caityas will be transformed into the body of the Tathāgata and will serve to benefit oneself and others in an extraordinary way. If one does not recite the vimaloṣṇīṣa dhāraṇī, even when offerings are made and power invested, no power will be conferred. This is also said in scripture:
The qualities of a caitya and other images made by one who possesses secret mantra and realization are described as follows:
shes pas thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten. Toh 601, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud ’bum, pha), folios 260.a–266.b.
shes pas thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten. Toh 884, Degé Kangyur vol. 100 (rgyud ’bum, e), folios 12.a–135.b.
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shes pa thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 104 (rgyud ’bum, pa), 272.a–281.b.
shes pas thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten zhes bya ba’i gzungs. In snga ’gyur bka’ ma shin tu rgyas pa [The Collection of Maṇḍala Rituals from Old and New Exemplars at Palpung], vol. 10 (tha): 373–96. Palpung: dpal spungs gsung rab nyams gso khang, 2005. BDRC W3CN12210.
shes pas thams cad mthar phyin par grub pa’i mchod rten. In dpal spungs dpe rnying gsar bskrun las dkyil chog phyogs bsgrigs [The Extensive Collection of Early Translations of Canonical Scripture], vol. 3 (ga): 437–60. Chengdu: si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2009. BDRC W1PD100944.
’od zer gtsug tor dri ma med pa (Raśmivimaloṣṇīṣaprabhāsa) [The Radiance of the Stainless Uṣṇīṣa]. Toh 599, Degé Kangyur vol. 90 (rgyud, pha), folios 250.a–259.b.
’od zer dri ma med pa rnam par dag pa’i ’od ces bya ba gzungs (Raśmivimalaviśuddhaprabhānāmadhāraṇī) [The Dhāraṇī of Pure Stainless Light]. Toh 510, Degé Kangyur vol. 88 (rgyud, na), folios 25.b–35.b.
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- nyon mongs pa
- mi ’khrugs pa
- ’od dpag med
- bdud rtsi ’khyil pa
- dgra bcom pa
- lha ma yin
- spyan ras gzigs
- bcom ldan ’das
- tshangs pa
- mchod rten
- chos kyi dbyings
- chos kyi dbyings kyi dkyil ’khor
- chos kyi sku
five acts with immediate retribution
- mtshams med pa lnga
- rigs lnga
five great elements
- ’byung ba chen po
- ’byung ba chen po lnga po
five precious substances
- rin po che sna lnga
- ye shes lnga
Four Great Kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
- phyag rgya chen po
- bag chags
- byams pa
- ’jam dpal
- ri rab
- gtor ma
- sgrib pa
- gtsang ris
- brgya byin
- ting nge ’dzin
Samantabhadra offering clouds
- kun du bzang po’i mchod pa’i sprin phung
seven precious substances
- rin po che sna bdun
- rig pa
- rig sngags
- nyan thos
- dpal gyi be’u
stage of nonregression
- phyir mi ldog pa’i sa
- sa bcu rim
ten unwholesome deeds
- mi dge ba bcu
- rigs gsum
- dkon mchog gsum
- stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams
- kun tu ’od
- ’khor los sgyur ba’i rgyal po
- ush+ni sha
- gtsug tor
- rdo rje ’dzin pa
- rdo rje dbyings ma
- lag na rdo rje