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Making Requests to the Medicine Buddhas
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this commentary on the Medicine Buddha practice (sadhana) at a Medicine Buddha Retreat in 2001; all the teachings from this retreat are chronicled in the LYWA publication Teachings From the Medicine Buddha Retreat. You can find a copy of this practice on the FPMT website.
I would like to mention that it is essential to recite the name of each of the Medicine Buddhas seven times. It is mentioned in the Medicine Buddha sutra as being very, very important for success. Reciting each name brings incredible blessings; it’s so precious.
With each buddha, if possible, completely rely upon that buddha with your whole heart, then recite that buddha’s name seven times. With total refuge, or trust, in that buddha, recite his name seven times. After that, you recite, “May whatever prayers you have done in the past for me and all other sentient beings be actualized immediately for me and all sentient beings.” This is mentioned in the meditation that accompanies the Medicine Buddha initiation in the Rinjung Gyatsa, and it might be the same in the Sukha Gyatsa. Both of these collections of the initiations of hundreds of deities have Medicine Buddha initiation.
The meditation is similar to what is in the small Medicine Buddha booklet. It’s not Padmasambhava’s simple healing meditation with the medicine goddesses, but a different book that has recently been published in a new form, Medicine Buddha Sadhana. Reciting each name seven times is there, but I don’t think this prayer of request, “May whatever prayers you have done immediately ripen for me and all sentient beings,” is there at the end. I normally add this prayer from the Rinjung Gyatsa Medicine Buddha initiation to the short practice of Medicine Buddha. This is how I try to do the practice.
After that, you then say, “May all my prayers succeed immediately.” When we were revising the Medicine Buddha sadhana, I did mention to add this but I think it was left out. You add, “May whatever prayers you have done in the past immediately be received by me and all sentient beings” or “May whatever prayers you have done in the past be received right this moment by me and all sentient beings.” You make that strong prayer. After that, you say, “May all my prayers succeed immediately.” I added that request after that. It refers to any prayers you normally do in daily life to have realizations yourself, including bodhicitta, and to benefit other sentient beings.
Some time ago I compiled a daily meditation practice, a Shakyamuni Buddha guru yoga, for beginners who want to do some serious meditation every day, something basic but extremely worthwhile. It’s a booklet to guide people who have done a meditation course, such as the November course in Nepal or a weekend course in another center, and want to continue meditation practice in their daily life. This booklet can be given to them to do as a daily practice. At the end of that booklet there are quite a number of dedication prayers to either have realization or benefit other sentient beings. There are different ways to make your life most beneficial for others. So, May all my prayers succeed immediately refers to all those prayers that you normally do in your daily life, even if you don’t specifically think of the individual prayers. After you recite the name of each Medicine Buddha seven times, you recite this request.
In the practice Medicine Buddha Sadhana, you normally visualize the Medicine Buddhas on your crown. After you make the request to each buddha, that buddha accepts your request. The dharmakaya way of accepting is to accept with delight but in silence. The rupakaya way of accepting is to respond to you by verbally saying, “Yes, yes.” While you are reciting each buddha’s name and making the request, you can visualize nectar coming from that buddha. After that, that Medicine Buddha absorbs into the Medicine Buddha below, until finally the last one, the Medicine Buddha, absorbs into you.
However, in the visualization here you have invoked the Medicine Buddhas in front of you, so you make the requests to them in front of you. Make the request and think that the Medicine Buddha has accepted your request. A replica of that Medicine Buddha then absorbs within you and blesses you. When you do the sadhana in retreat or do Medicine Buddha practice, you normally do it in this way.
When somebody has died or is very sick and dying or has a big problem, you might want to do Medicine Buddha puja to help that person. If you want to pray for somebody in particular to be healed or to have success, remember them when you recite each Medicine Buddha’s name and make the request. For example, if you are praying for somebody who has died, think of that person immediately being reincarnated in a pure land where they can become enlightened or receiving a perfect human rebirth to be able to practice Dharma and benefit all sentient beings. Remember that particular purpose when you are reciting each Medicine Buddha’s name seven times.
You can apply the Medicine Buddha practice to any purpose, to bring any success. After I read the sutra—I think there are two types of Medicine Buddha sutra wrapped up there on the mandala—I realized that you can use this practice for everything. You can do it to pacify any problem, including court cases. It’s very, very effective. Medicine Buddha practice is the best one to do especially in the case of somebody who is dying or who has died. After doing Medicine Buddha practice, at least visualizing the Medicine Buddhas on the person’s crown, you can do powa, transferring the person’s consciousness to a pure land, if you have received the lineage of powa and done the retreat until you had signs. Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche advised that the transference of the other person’s consciousness is much more effective after Medicine Buddha practice.
In the early times in Tushita Retreat Centre [in India] there were many dogs. Now most of the dogs have died and I think there are only two left ; before there were about fifteen dogs—a big population. When I mentioned to Lama Yeshe that maybe we should give some of the dogs to other people, Lama said, “I love my dogs. I don’t want to give them away.”
I later gave a few away to different people, but with a commitment, not of a sadhana, but to read a lam-rim prayer or chant mantras for the dogs. I gave one dog, Detong, to a lady who worked in the Spanish embassy in Delhi. She wasn’t Buddhist but I think she was a very sincere, good person. I don’t think I met her, but I gave her a dog and said that every day she had to recite the lam-rim prayer Foundation of All Good Qualities to the dog. She took it very seriously and did it. Detong was in Delhi for about a year, then one day the woman’s servants forgot to close the door and the dog got out. Detong means bliss-voidness. So, Detong was lost.
I was very happy to hear that every day she had done the whole lam-rim prayer, Foundation of All Good Qualities, for the dog. I rejoiced in the sincere way she followed the instructions. I was supposed to give her another dog but I don’t think it happened.
Another dog went to Austria. One of the main dogs that Lama had was a Pekinese called Dorje Den. Dorje den is Tibetan for “vajra seat,” and refers to Bodhgaya. Jane took care of him for a long time, about twelve years. I think he lived such a long time because he was in good hands.
When one of the dogs died while Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche was giving teachings at Tushita, I asked Rinpoche to do powa. The first thing Rinpoche did was to recite all the names of the Medicine Buddhas, and I think Rinpoche might have then done powa. The reason I brought up the dogs is in relation to Rinpoche doing Medicine Buddha prayers and powa.
Anyway, when you do Medicine Buddha practice, it’s very good to remember at that time particular projects or people you want to pray for or particular difficulties that you’re having.
Excerpted from Teachings From the Medicine Buddha Retreat (Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, 2009; www.LamaYeshe.com). More excerpts from this book, other Medicine Buddha commentaries, and a glossary of terms are also available on the LYWA website.
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About the Author
Zopa Rinpoche was born in Thami, Nepal, in 1946. At the age of three he was recognized as the reincarnation of Sherpa Nyingma yogi, Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama. Rinpoche’s Thami home was not far from the Lawudo cave, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal, where his predecessor meditated for the last twenty years of his life. Rinpoche’s own description of his early years may be found in his book, The Door to Satisfaction (Wisdom Publications). At the age of ten, Rinpoche went to Tibet and studied and meditated at Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery near Pagri, until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced him to forsake Tibet for the safety of Bhutan.
Rinpoche then went to the Tibetan refugee camp at Buxa Duar, West Bengal, India, where he met Lama Yeshe, who became his closest teacher. The Lamas went to Nepal in 1967, and over the next few years built Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries. In 1971 Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave the first of his famous annual lam-rim retreat courses, which continue at Kopan to this day.
In 1974, with Lama Yeshe, Rinpoche began traveling the world to teach and establish centers of Dharma. When Lama Yeshe passed away in 1984, Rinpoche took over as spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), which has continued to flourish under his peerless leadership. More details of Rinpoche’s life and work may be found on the FPMT Web site.
Thousands of pages of Rinpoche's teachings have been made available as transcripts, books and audio by the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, and most are freely available on the Archive's website. Rinpoche’s other published teachings include Wisdom Energy (with Lama Yeshe), Transforming Problems, Dear Lama Zopa and others available from Wisdom Publications, and many prayer and practice booklets available from the FPMT Foundation Store.