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Sep 13
Dharma Teachings
The Shambhala Dedication of Merit

Delving into the context and deeper meaning of this familiar dedication chant

by Russell Rodgers

great-eastern-sunBy the confidence of the golden sun of the great east,
May the lotus garden of the Rigden’s wisdom bloom.
May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled,
May all beings enjoy profound brilliant glory.

In general, dedications of merit turn us outward, away from gathering spiritual attainment as personal property. In the Buddhist dedication of merit, we simply dedicate the benefits to others. In the Shambhala Dedication, we dedicate it to human society. Let’s see how this works.

By the confidence of the golden sun of the great east: When the sun rises in the east at dawn, there is brilliance, radiance and freshness. “East” doesn’t particularly refer to the orient or to Tibet. It is simply where the freshness of dawn takes place, anywhere on the globe. The golden sun of the great east symbolizes the innate wakefulness of human beings. When we are completely wakeful, the world seems fresh, clean and pure. It has original purity. It always was that way, but we are just now seeing it. Powerful awareness radiates like the rays of the sun.

grass-546794__340There are two types of confidence: conditional and unconditional. At first, we develop conditional confidence because we only have concepts about great eastern sun wakefulness. We have been told about it and we are entertaining the idea as a thought. When we are actually completely in the experience of wakefulness, present and aware, our confidence doesn’t need the support of thoughts. Wakefulness knows when it is awake. In fact, any thoughts that arise about wakefulness tend to obscure it. Wakefulness doesn’t depend on external circumstances either: it dawns equally in pleasant and unpleasant situations. That is unconditional confidence— confidence that depends on nothing other than self-existing inherent wakefulness. It is confidence on the spot, without judgment.

When one is wakeful, one sees directly in the now. Things are what they are, in suchness, pure and good. One cannot argue that the sun and stars are good or bad: they just are. We can develop quarrels and appreciations, but these are added later to our memory of that experience. Our wakefulness, symbolized by the golden sun of the great east, can be temporarily obscured by confused thoughts and projections, but it is still there, like the sun in the sky, when the clouds of obscuring thoughts and projections have passed. Even the obscuring thoughts have basic goodness if we see them directly, on the spot, as suchness. On the level of great eastern sun, the experience can be of pure energy, or pure sensation.

nature-846059__340May the lotus garden of the Rigden’s wisdom bloom: Rigdens are personifications of the vast, fresh mind of the great eastern sun. Just as lotus flowers grow out of the mud and are themselves unblemished by the mud, the Rigden’s wisdom exists wherever ordinary phenomena are beheld in complete, present awareness.

The Rigden principle emphasizes the presence of fresh goodness in secular and societal contexts. There is no real difference between the seemingly more religious approach of Buddhism and the Shambhala Rigden principle. Both are attempts to designate something with words, and the choice of words depends on the perspective of the speaker. The actual state of enlightenment is beyond words.

May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled,
May all beings enjoy profound, brilliant glory

So the logic of this dedication goes something like this: to the extent that we experience the confidence of the great eastern sun of wakefulness, then the lotus garden of the Rigden’s wisdom will bloom in the society around us.

Trungpa Rinpoche, the writer of these lines, contrasts the striking imagery of the dark ignorance of sentient beings to the state of profound, brilliant glory. It makes you think, doesn’t it?

For a Spanish-language translation of this essay, click here.

Este artículo en español se encuentra aquí.

Russell RodgersRussell Rodgers has been wondering about this kind of topic for the 39 years that he has been practicing. He resides in the Kootenay mountains of British Columbia, in the town of Nelson, and has graciously agreed to allow publication of his beautiful essays on the Shambhala chants here in the Times.

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5 responses to “ The Shambhala Dedication of Merit ”
  1. Jérôme (France)
    Sep 23, 2016

    Thank you Mister Rogers. It is a very clear and helpful explanation. I am the coordinator of The Shambhala Group of Limoges close to Dechen Chöling in France and I was waiting for more knowledge about this beautiful Shambhala dedication. So now I will be able and happy to share this understanding of the chant to our new students and also with the older ones. Thank you again from all of us.

  2. Jay Lippman
    Sep 20, 2016

    Russell, what is merit? And why are we dedicating it?

  3. Irene Rusterholz
    Sep 19, 2016

    Thank you Russell on sharing and publishing this series – I would have wished years ago to have more explanation/teaching on our chants. I appreciate your work a lot.

  4. Linda V. Lewis
    Sep 15, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your insight through all of these chants. It is particularly helpful to new students who have been sitting for quite a while but still have never been properly introduced to the terms and their meanings in the chants.

  5. Seann Tayler
    Sep 14, 2016

    Wow, Russell, this is such an outstanding service that you are selflessly providing. Thank you. Perhaps we will meet someday, at which time I can thank you in person with a bow of reverence and respect. You are truly an example of dedication to the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s aspiration for cultivating enlightened society. My eyes are filled with tears, and my heart is filled with joyful gratification for the rare gift that has been imparted by Trungpa Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham. They have made if possible for sentient beings to be liberated from the darkness or ignorance. You have truly understood the importance of their intention.

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