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On the Health and Healing Puja

Medicine Buddha, from Orissa, India

Medicine Buddha, from Orissa, India

by Walker Blaine, Master of Liturgies to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

This December 5th–7th the Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche will perform a three-day Health and Healing Puja, or practice intensive, in Boulder, Colorado to increase health and dispel obstacles to well-being in the Shambhala community. The Health and Healing Puja will begin with two days of intensive Medicine Buddha practice by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Lama Pema Gyaltsen, and Lama Gyurme Dorje. During this time, His Majesty and the lamas will practice for the vitality and health of everyone in Shambhala, their families and friends.

Medicine Buddha, or Sangye Menla in Tibetan, is one of the main deities associated with healing in the Tibetan tradition. This sadhana is primarily practiced by healers and people working with illness. The Medicine Buddha section of the puja will happen on December 5th and 6th.

On the final day of the Health and Healing Puja, December 7th, the Sakyong will bestow the Hayagriva-Vajrapani-Garuda empowerment (Sanskrit: abhisheka) at Marpa House, in Boulder. This empowerment is one of the most powerful healing blessings in the Tibetan tradition. The Sakyong’s mother, Lady Konchok Palden, specifically requested this abhisheka for her own health and the health of the Shambhala community. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has bestowed this healing blessing three times, most recently in Marpa House at Lady Konchok’s request three years ago.

The Hayagriva-Vajrapani-Garuda abhisheka is given to practitioners in order to overcome or protect against severe obstacles and illnesses that might interfere with their path and practice. It is usually given as a blessing abhisheka, an empowerment where no practice or liturgy is given to the student. This is one of two ways to receive an empowerment in the tantric tradition. The other way is to receive an empowerment as a formal entry into a specific practice path, receive a liturgy, meditation instructions, and so forth. This second form of empowerment is more often offered in Shambhala. It is usually an introduction to a wisdom deity, a deity that can lead us to complete enlightenment, such as the Rigden. Sometimes people will receive a practice empowerment for a worldly deity, such as a protector like Magyal Pomra or a wealth deity like Jambhala, deities who is are bodhisattvas close to attaining enlightenment. In these cases, the new deity practice acts as a support while someone continues with their main practice, a fully enlightened wisdom deity.

During a blessing abhisheka we do not receive a practice or liturgy, but we still receive the empowerment in order to connect with the energy of the deity or principle of the practice, such as healing and protection from health obstacles through Hayagriva-Vajrapani-Garuda. The purpose of receiving an empowerment as a blessing is to rely on the capability of a realized teacher to open the potential or principle of that particular deity within our mindstream. Through the teacher’s accomplishment and the student’s devotion and practice, this kind of blessing could have a powerful effect on student’s life and lay seeds for corresponding results in the future as well.

Hayagriva in the Taksham Tradition, from Orissa, India

Hayagriva in the Taksham Tradition, from Orissa, India

Examples of blessing empowerments in Shambhala are the Kalachakra abhishekas bestowed on the community by the His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche 1995 and by the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche in 1987. While few of the Shambhalians who received these empowerments have engaged in the full Kalachakra tradition the way that these great teachers did, Shambhala’s connection with the potency of those empowerments has blessed and seeded the entire community since that time. Penor Rinpoche was well known for the power of his Vajrakilaya practice to overcome obstacles, and many people attended his Vajrakilaya empowerments in order to enhance their ability to overcome obstacles in their own practice and life. The Sakyong is bestowing the Hayagriva-Vajrapani-Garuda in the context of a blessing empowerment both at the request of Lady Könchok and in response to many requests for healing blessings.

The tradition of blessing abhishekas is an important feature of tantric culture. A vajrayana practitioner in a tantric or enlightened culture might emphasize one practice but receive a blessing empowerment for a deity that they may never practice. This might at first seem naïve, but the subtlety is that the practitioner is relying on the teacher’s blessing to carry the principle of the new practice into their mindstream. Because the practitioner is already familiar with deity practice generally, receiving a blessing empowerment becomes an enhancement of their own practice, made possible by the strength of their teacher’s realization. Even if one is not a vajrayana practitioner, a blessing empowerment can have a powerful affect on one’s life if one has strong devotion to the teacher bestowing the abhisheka.

Just as spending time in another country might enhance our appreciation of our home country, experiencing an empowerment with a specific purpose such as healing, enrichment, or magnetizing can bring great power and inspiration even if we do not do the practice. The energies of the new practice penetrate our present life just like a visit enhances our experience when we return home. The main thing that gives people the inspiration to receive blessing empowerments is their confidence in the teacher and their understanding and confidence in the ability of the living process of empowerment to ripen blessings in their mindstream.

Red Garuda Sculpture, Orissa India

Red Garuda Sculpture, Orissa India

Another important aspect of an event like the Health and Healing Puja is requesting specific blessings for oneself and others during a practice intensive before the empowerment. Traditionally, one can request a teacher to do a practice like Medicine Buddha for the benefit of oneself, a relative, or a friend in order to assist in times of physical or mental illness. Besides practicing for the general health and healing within Shambhala, the Sakyong will specifically direct his Medicine Buddha practice towards individuals who are working with illness. Even if we are not attending the empowerment, we can request that His Majesty practice for ourselves or someone we care for.

If you would like to be a sponsor of the Health and Healing Puja and make a specific request for someone to be included in the Sakyong’s practice, please visit this webpage at the Sakyong Ladrang. We suggest a donation of $108 to the Sakyong Ladrang, but smaller amounts are welcome.

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