For ease of reference I have created this post which can be used for the opening and closing of each of the lamrim contemplations in this series. This is the suggested order for each session:
- Seven-Branch Prayer (3 x’s)
- Lineage Supplication
- Lamrim Contemplation
- Dedication of Merit
[Full instruction in these practices should be sought out from a qualified lama. The details of this can vary from lineage to lineage. What I offer below are merely suggestions. This is what I use in my personal practice based on my understanding from Taranatha’s text as well as the teachings I received from the resident Khenpo of the Dharma center I am affiliated with. This is specifically for sutra level lamrim practice, not tantra. I take full responsibility for any and all errors. May this be of benefit to all sentient beings.]
I repeat here a summary of Taranatha’s instructions from part 1 as this is relevant for each session (unless otherwise noted). I am also including examples of various prayers, some of which are taken from Taranatha’s text while others (in cases where he doesn’t provide specific examples) have been collected by myself – and in some cases adapted to a small extent. Also note, all of these are common Indo-Tibetan Buddhist prayers. There are many different versions of these preserved in the various lineages. If you already have equivalent versions that you are familiar with I see no reason why you couldn’t use those. I am merely providing the ones below for folks who want to do the lamrim meditations but might not have examples of the prayers and so forth.
To begin each session, sit in asana (such as the Lotus posture). Visualize the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas filling the expanse of space. Holding this visualization in your mind, give homage to these enlightened beings.
Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
Of the ten directions and three times.
Enlightened beings, please remain to guide me,
Please help me to attain your good qualities,
For the benefit of all beings.
Continuing to visualize all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas filling the expanse of space, recite an offering prayer.
To all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who remain,
In the ten directions and three times,
We bow to you with total devotion,
Offering flowers, incense, butter lamps,
Scented water, celestial food, music,
As well as all actual and imagined offerings.
May the exalted assembly partake of it all!
Recite the Seven-Branch Prayer from the Aspiration of Samantabhadra three times while reflecting on its meaning.
[The following is a version of the Seven Branch Prayer from the Aspiration of Samantabhadra. This is an English translation of one of the versions that is used in the Jonangpa center I am affiliated with. Any errors are mine. I have taken the liberty of using gender inclusive language here as well.]
However many Buddhas there are in the ten directions of the Universe,
All the Tathagatas of the three times, lions among men [and women],
To all of them without exception,
I pay homage with body speech and mind.
Through the strength of this aspiration prayer for excellent conduct which I now make,
By directly perceiving all Buddhas within my mind,
With bodies as numerous as atoms in the Universe,
I bow down to all the Conquerors.
Upon each atom are many Buddhas,
Who reside amidst the Buddha’s sons [and daughters],
Therefore, all the Dharmadhatu without exception,
I ardently regard as filled with precious Buddhas.
I praise all of them as an inexhaustible ocean.
In addition, all of the sounds of this praise are as a melodious ocean,
Expressing the qualities of all the Buddhas,
I praise all of the Tathagatas!
Sacred flowers, sacred garlands and
All musical instruments, perfumes, the supreme parasol,
Superior lamps and superior incense,
I offer to the Buddhas.
All sacred garments and supreme fragrances,
Piled barley meal equal to Mount Meru,
All specifically exalted, supreme and perfectly arranged offerings,
I offer to the Buddhas.
All offerings, unsurpassed and extremely vast,
I offer with fervent regard to all the Buddhas.
Through the strength of my confidence in this prayer.
I prostrate and make offerings to all the Conquerors.
Under the influence of attachment, aversion and ignorance,
Through body, speech and mind,
Whatever negativity I have accrued,
I individually confess it all.
All the Conquerors of the ten directions, their sons [and daughters],
Pratyekabuddhas, those on the path of training,
And those on the path of no more training,
Whatever merit all sentient beings have accumulated,
I personally rejoice in it all!
Whoever illumines the ten directions of this world,
Those who ascend the stages of the Bodhisattva Path,
Without attachment to Buddhahood,
All of the Protectors,
I entreat to turn the unsurpassed Wheel of Dharma.
To whoever can reveal the place beyond sorrow,
For the purpose of bringing benefit and bliss to all sentient beings,
I ask you to remain for as many aeons as there are atoms.
Joining my palms together in prayer,
By prostration, offering and confession,
Rejoicing, entreating and supplication,
Whatever little merit I have managed to accumulate,
I dedicate to the enlightenment of all beings!
Visualize an innumerable number of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas very high in the sky in front of you. And then, directly in front of them, visualize your root lama surrounded by a very dense gathering of all of the lineage masters, supplicating them with the following prayer…
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the universe,
And the perfect lama, my good and truly virtuous teacher,
And all unerring lineage masters,
Please regard and bless me.
Please pacify my faults completely.
Please awaken genuine insights within me.
Please dispel all obstacles to practicing the Mahayana way.
After this prayer you should make visualized offerings to the field of accumulation (aka, the merit-field) which you have generated in front of you. Then visualize your root lama and lineage lamas entering your crown and resting in your heart in a pavilion of light. Lastly, visualize the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas dissolving into suchness (i.e. Tathata).
Meditate on the specific topic as detailed in whichever lamrim session you are performing (see relevant posts in this series).
DEDICATION OF MERIT
Dedicate the merit you have accumulated by this practice to all sentient beings.
By virtue of this practice,
May all beings perfectly gather merit and wisdom,
And obtain the two sacred states,
Born from merit and wisdom.
[Note: the two sacred states mentioned in the dedication refer to the Form Body and Truth Body of a Buddha.]