Garchen Rinpoche :
Some people don’t think that it is that important to make prayers. Some people much more prefer to visualize a deity and recite the mantra and meditate and not really recite all these prayers because they don’t think that this has the greatest effect. They think that the mantra recitation has the greater effect. But that is really not true at all. In fact, everything really follows the power of aspiration. Everything that we experience with body, speech and mind arises from an aspiration, whether it is positive or negative. It all comes from a kind of aspiration. So, aspirations are extremely powerful.
Also, it is said that if we want to achieve happiness and we do not make any aspirations or prayers or dedications, then we have to put in a lot of effort to gain the slightest results. Whereas if we pray and dedicate, then the slightest effort leads to the greatest result. The difference lies in the scope or vastness of one’s mind. If the mind is vast, then even a small virtuous act leads to a vast result. That is ultimately due to the power of aspiration.
Also, Buddhas arise from aspirations. For example, Buddha Shakyamuni had made 500 great aspirations, or Medicine Buddha had made 12 main aspirations and so on. Each of the Medicine Buddhas made different numbers of aspirations. But all the Buddhas, in brief, arise from a pure aspiration. What is a pure aspiration? In their mind, all they think about is the benefit of all sentient beings. They don’t think about anything else. They don’t think about themselves at all. That is their state of mind – a state of pure aspiration. When that is your state of mind, in this way, you naturally accumulate merits.
As a result of that, it is said that the natural manifestation of Bodhichitta are the countless purelands and different emanations of Buddhas. As Jigten Sumgon said, cause-and-effect is the natural manifestation of one’s moment-to-moment thoughts. Temporarily, the afflictive emotions manifest as the different realms in samsara, as our various experiences of sufferings. The Buddha said that at first you must recognize suffering. Recognizing suffering has two qualities, when you experience suffering now, if you understand this, then you recognize that I suffer because of my afflictive emotions, because I myself have created the causes of suffering in previous lives. You recognize that by trusting in karma. In this way, you are able to avoid future suffering and you are able to cultivate a mind of Bodhichitta.
Secondly, as Dzogchen Paltrul Rinpoche has said, “I do not prefer to be happy, I prefer to suffer because when I am happy, the three poisons, the afflictions, increase; but when I suffer, I purify my negative karma.” All suffering and illnesses and so on are the natural reflection or projection of our own afflictive emotions. When you see that, actually suffering becomes a good thing, because you recognize that my suffering purifies my negative karma. Think in this way. In this way, suffering becomes a way of purifying karma and accumulating merit. It is a good thing because it purifies my negative karma and also bring to mind the sufferings of all other sentient beings and think that “May I experience these sufferings instead of them! May I represent them!” Because ultimately our minds are one, so “May my suffering/sickness be the cause of eliminating their sickness. May I experience it instead of them.” This is the vast motivation of Bodhichitta that leads to a great accumulation of merits. You habituate to that, so every time you are sick or suffer, you will immediately think of that naturally—“It is not just me but all sentient beings suffer like that.” Instantly, you will be able to think of others. Compassion arises.
For example now, we recognize all the sufferings people are experiencing in this world. Think about for example how you suffer when your parents or children dies, or when someone you love dies, then likewise feel how much these other people suffer (when the same happens to them). You bring this to mind and this state of mind is a very powerful state of mind — when you really bring to mind the suffering of others. Think of how you will suffer when a friend you love very much dies. Then think that everyone suffers in that way, everyone experiences that. If you habituate to this, then immeasurable compassion arises. Through immeasurable compassion, self-grasping diminishes. This is how you should practice compassion.
Self-grasping diminishes when you cultivate compassion for suffering beings and when devotion for the Guru arises. When real devotion for the Guru arises, when a tear flow from your eyes as big as a nail, that drop of tear that flows from your eyes out of devotion purifies the negativities and obscurations of many aeons. This also happens when you cultivate compassion for all sentient beings. What happens is that when you think of others and feel compassion, self-grasping goes away and that is the quality of altruism. If you make prayers with such a motivation, thinking of the suffering of sentient beings, such an aspiration is very powerful. It will lead temporarily to the experience of happiness and ultimately, this is how you attain enlightenment. Therefore, it is very important to make prayers such as the King of Aspiration Prayers for Excellent Conduct.
Actually, everything comes from aspiration. Everything good and bad comes from aspiration. For example, now in this world, there is so many difficulties and hardships. The suffering that people experience is caused by certain individuals with evil aspirations and intentions. There are certain individuals who are full of hatred and wish to harm others and then they die with that state of mind – an angry mind. They die with this corrupt aspiration of wanting to harm, wanting to hurt others. Because that is an aspiration too, even though it is negative, it also will mature. Now we can see, the outcome of such aspirations is now ripening in the world. Also, there is something I saw on TV, a real story that happened in America, there was this really powerful person who set himself on fire and immediately you could see from the flames of the fire, a shape emerged. This is something that science can show. This also happens. This is due to hatred and something emerges from that. So basically, whatever aspiration we make, whether it is beneficial or harmful, it is very powerful. However, an evil aspiration is less powerful than a beneficial aspiration, because a beneficial aspiration is connected to Bodhichitta which makes it stronger and more powerful. So, this is how the qualities of a Buddha arise — out of aspirations. So, any aspiration is extremely significant, especially at times when you experience illness and suffering, aspiration prayers can be very powerful. Nowadays, I always encourage people to recite this verse from the Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara dedication. The quality of suffering is that you can purify your karma. Suffering is not negative, it actually is a positive thing. Secondly, when you suffer, you can also practice taking on the suffering of others, and think “May I experience the suffering instead of them.” When you think in such an altruistic way, then the suffering in your mind will already be pacified. Even though you experience physical illness, the suffering in the mind will go away and even the physical illness might go away. For example, this was the case with Lord Jigten Sumgon. When he was alive, he contracted leprosy which was considered the worst disease in Tibet. He was so badly ill that eventually he isolated himself and practiced cultivating Bodhichitta and practiced Chenrezig, and after a week only of practicing in this way, he was completely healed from the leprosy. That is a real story that happened in this world. That’s the power of the mind, that’s the power of aspiration prayers. Consider them as very important and precious. For example, the prayer for Excellent Conduct, where it says that all these qualities of the Buddhas arise from having made offerings to all the purelands and all Buddhas abiding in the ten directions and three times and so on, it is very meaningful to recite and also to reflect on the meaning of this prayer of Excellent Conduct. Also, it says in the prayer that may every slight virtue that I have accumulated with the mind of Bodhichitta and devotion become a cause of merit leading to the benefit and happiness of all sentient beings and so forth. It is an excellent dedication prayer. Then there are also corrupt prayers as we have mentioned like we can see in this world now. Various corrupt prayers of certain beings lead to this kind of suffering in the world. A corrupt and evil aspiration has a certain kind of power that also leads to a result. Therefore, recognize the power of aspirations as really very significant especially at times of illness and suffering. The Medicine Buddha himself became a Buddha through his aspirations of Bodhichitta, it is said that a Buddha is a manifestation of Bodhichitta. Even though his physical form appears as the Medicine Buddha, what really is his mind? His mind is Bodhichitta, it is not some other kind of mind. Any other Buddha has the same mind of Bodhichitta. That is the actual or real Medicine Buddha – Bodhicitta.
- Shantideva prayer Garchen Rinpoche encourages everyone to recite is :
May every being ailing with disease
Be freed at once from every malady.
May all the sickness that afflicts the living
Be instantly and permanently healed.
2. The prayer of Excellent Conduct can be found here :