Guru Shakya Sengé Lion of the Shakyas
The fifth emanation is Guru Shakya Sengé, the form of Guru Rinpoche demonstrating the means of awakening within this lifetime through discipline and detachment.
This is a very simple and gentle approach, the gradual way of enlightenment. Shakya Sengé wears monk's robes and embodies the principle of realization through the monastic path.
After Buddha Shakyamuni's mahaparinirvana, there were seven generations of regents, the first being Mahakashyapa and the second, Ananda. The third and fourth lineage holders, Sanavasika (T. Nimakungwa) and Upagupta, were originally Ananda's students. Guru Shakya Sengé was ordained along with both of them by the Venerable Ananda on a small island in the Ganges River. There is a tradition of performing ordinations on such islands, which continues even today in Sri Lanka. Some schools don't ever give the full ordination on land. They'll go out on a river, a lake or the ocean and do it in a boat. It is said that when Guru Shakya Sengé was ordained, the earth goddess offered him monk's robes and a begging bowl in the presence of the buddhas of the ten directions.
After his ordination, Shakya Sengé practiced according to the traditional system which involves study, contemplation, and meditation. For more than twenty years he studied with Ananda, primarily focusing on the Tripitaka, or the Three Baskets of teachings; the vinaya, sutra and abhidharma. Guru Shakya Sengé mastered the Tripitaka as well as the outer and inner tantras and realized enlightenment.
After studying with Ananda, Guru Shakya Sengé spent many years in Bodhgaya. He practiced and taught the vinaya, sutra and abhidharma, serving many who were particularly suited to these teachings. Then he went to Rajagrha or Vulture Peak, one of the most famous places in the world of Buddhism. Here he meditated on the Prajnaparamita Sutras. The Buddha said that Vulture Peak has a special power to pacify the mind so as to reveal its true nature. Shakya Sengé went to meditate and contemplate the Prajnaparamita in all the places Buddha had originally given these teachings.
In Nepal, Guru Shakya Sengé took up the Vajrayana. In particular, he practiced on Vajrakilaya, which is one of the eight heruka teachings. These are very secret transmissions, the innermost of the tantric sadhanas. He practiced and meditated on Yangdag Heruka and Vajrakilaya for about three years. With this combination, he reached the highest Heruka level which is known as Mahamudra. Mahamudra is the understanding of great emptiness in which the entire universe is seen as great emptiness-bliss, within which everything manifests. According to historical accounts, Guru Rinpoche came to this realization in Nepal during the emanation time of Guru Shakya Sengé.
Vajrakilaya is a very important deity of the inner tantras. He represents the power and activities of all the Buddhas of the three times and ten directions. So by achieving the same realization as Vajrakilaya, Guru Rinpoche gained the ability to subdue negative forces all over the world. He used his ability to heal an eruption of the dark forces of the earth and sky that was taking place in Nepal at the time. These were among the activities of Guru Shakya Sengé, although he is mainly associated with discipline and gentleness.
In spite of his high realization, Guru Shakya Sengé follows the simplest ways and skillfully makes use of ordinary forms. He represents authentic spiritual development which proceeds from the ground level. He is not passively absorbed in a high state but is working from the grassroots. Even though Guru Shakya Sengé is fully realized, he makes appropriate use of worldly conventions. To be well aware of the law of karmic causation and to apply this knowledge in practice is the essential teaching of Guru Shakya Sengé.
Guru Shakya Sengé's activities had a profound influence on King Ashoka, the most famous and powerful monarch in all of Indian history. Ashoka was predicted by Buddha Shakyamuni in the following way; one day the Buddha was going to the city to beg for lunch. On the way, he passed a beach where a group of children were playing. They were building sand castles complete with structures for the king's court and treasure house. The children had even taken on positions such as king, queen, and ministers.
As the Buddha and his students approached, the little boy who was acting as the king saw them coming and was very happy. He picked up a handful of the sand and gravel which symbolized the royal treasure and ran toward the Buddha. When Ananda saw that the child was going to put sand in the Buddha's begging bowl, he was ready to turn the boy away, but the Buddha said, "Let me accept his offering. This is special." The Buddha lowered his bowl, but the child could not reach it. So the boy called for one of his little ministers. The boy king asked his friend to get down on all fours and then stood on his back to put the offering in Buddha's begging bowl.
Ananda and the other students saw all this and were very amazed. They asked, "Who is this child?" And Buddha replied, "This boy is uncommon. Through his aspirations and this connection with me here today, he will become a very great king about two hundred and fifty years after my mahaparinirvana. He will help spread my Dharma and support the sangha. He will create as many monuments to the Buddha throughout the world as the grains of sand which he carries on his palms. This is a very special child and his companions who helped him today will continue to support this boy's activities in the future." Then the Buddha did a special dedication prayer and continued on into the city. That was his prophesy about King Ashoka.
As predicted, Ashoka appeared about two hundred years after Buddha's mahaparinirvana. He was the son of a very famous monarch, but he was not considered a prince because he wasn't born in the palace. The King had been with another woman outside the palace and Ashoka was her son. Everybody knew of this. Most of Ashoka's half-brothers lived within the palace walls. When the king died, the brothers all started fighting for the throne. It seems the only thing that they all agreed on was that Ashoka should not be king. But Ashoka wanted to be king, and in any case, he had to defend himself against the anger and jealousy of his half-brothers. The situation culminated in a terrible fight one day which involved many of the sons but finally, Ashoka emerged victorious. He had killed all the others to become king.
Soon he moved the palace from the original site to Pataliputra. Today this place is known as Patna. Having re-established his capital at Pataliputra, Ashoka, a very powerful and vigorous fighter, started conquering other kingdoms and became ruler of nearly all of central India.
Ashoka pursued military conquest for years and killed many people. He was a very violent and cruel king. In some accounts, it is said that he wouldn't even eat lunch before he killed someone. In those times there was a school centering on a wrathful female goddess. Ashoka was a follower of this sect and his master told him that if he executed 10,100 human beings and offered them to the goddess, his power would increase, but since this was a ritual, he was not to do it in the ordinary, military way.
So Ashoka had a ceremonial house built right at the central junction of Pataliputra. It had four doors, one in each of the four directions and whoever was unfortunate enough to step inside would be executed, according to the king's orders.
As Buddha Shakyamuni stated, Ashoka had a good, strong foundation for the Dharma but for the moment, his great motivations were obscured. In order to help dispel those obscurations, Guru Rinpoche came in the form of a simple monk and stepped inside the house of sacrifice. The executioner asked him to come forward and drew his sword.
The monk asked, "Why are you going to kill me?" The executioner replied, "Because these are the king's orders. It is part of a special ceremony." So the monk said, "Let me stay here for one week and after that you can kill me." The butcher agreed to this and the monk immediately started telling him about the six realms of existence, describing each one in detail. At the end, he pointed out that if he had already been killed, the butcher would never have heard this profound teaching. The monk meditated awhile and then gave more extensive teachings on the hell realms. He told the butcher about the karma of killing and hurting sentient beings, saying that this would lead to birth in various hell realms. He explained how certain negative thoughts and actions relate to specific forms of suffering.
Well, as it happened, the butcher thought, "Until now I only knew one way of killing, but this monk has taught me many more. When the week is over, I am going to boil him in a big pot and then roast him!" By the end of the week, the executioner had prepared everything just the way he wanted it. He had the monk thrown alive into a huge cauldron of boiling soup. Then he pulled out and roasted him for awhile, But then, in the midst of the fire, he saw Guru Shakya Sengé sitting cross legged on a lotus. Thinking this rather extraordinary, he informed the king. Ashoka had to come see this for himself.
When Ashoka was entering the room, the executioner suddenly recalled his mandate to kill whoever came through the door. So he drew his sword, and the King, who never travelled without a weapon, drew his own and asked, "Why are you trying to kill me?" "Those were your orders," the executioner answered.
And the king said, "I don't remember giving you any orders to kill me!" The butcher reminded him, "You ordered me to kill the first ten thousand people who come into this room. I still have a ways to go. Therefore I am under orders to kill you." So Ashoka said, "Well, if that is the case, you were in here first, so maybe I should kill you!" At that point, the monk effortlessly levitated up into the sky. After performing the four activities of sitting, standing, laying down and walking in space, he began giving teachings. They were still having quite an argument while the monk was performing these miraculous activities in the sky above them.
Soon, Guru Shakya Sengé began to talk to them about how bad the karma is for taking the lives of other sentient beings. "These are terrible actions," he said. "This is not the Dharma, which is a positive path. Stop all this violence. Since the king is unwilling to give his own life in this ceremony, how can he take the lives of others? You have been told about the evils of killing, so you should not take the lives of others anymore." The monk warned, "By taking advantage of your power and using it for selfish ends, you will end up suffering far more than your victims." Upon hearing this, both King andexecutioner dropped their swords and became blissfully aware of the Guru who continued giving teachings. Ashoka himself destroyed the sacrificial house and then took refuge in the Three Jewels.
Historical records relate that after this episode, Ashoka vowed that he would never again touch a sword with violent or negative thoughts. It is said that he became the most gentle and peaceful king of all time. Even without making war, Ashoka's loving-kindness and compassionate attitude insured that his domain grew even bigger and more prosperous until his kingdom covered a large part of southern Asia. It spread from Afghanistan on the west to Burma and Cambodia in the east and south to Sri Lanka. Ashoka visited the pilgrimage places of the Buddha and erected many stone pillars, inscription stelae, pyramid-shaped monuments and one million stupas containing Buddha relics throughout these lands. In Nepal, there are four or five stupas near Kathmandu that were built by Ashoka and there are many others all over India.
Previously, he had been known as Ashoka the Cruel, but since he'd become a follower of Dharma his name was changed to Dharmashoka. He is one of the greatest examples of a religious monarch in the history of the world. In the guise of a simple monk, Guru Padmasambhava helped bring Ashoka to the Dharma.
That was the external version of the story concerning Guru Shakya Sengé's activities in Pataliputra. The inner meaning is that bodhicitta is the absolute state of Guru Shakya Sengé. This supremely beneficial thought arising from the expanse of infinite love and immeasurable compassion is always coemergent with wisdom. Wisdom matures the expression of love and compassion so that they become pure and true. These qualities are not externally existing, as if you would have to acquire them from anywhere outside yourself. They are all naturally inherent within you. Love and compassion are already yours to share. Look into your mind and discover that it has a wondrous array of original attributes. Loving-kindness and compassion are supreme among these primordial qualities.
The precious bodhicitta is radiating all the time, guiding us through all our difficulties even though we are hardly aware of it. Love and compassion inspire us to communicate and make friends with each other. They are completely based in primordial wisdom and inseparable from the nature of ordinary awareness. Therefore, when we start to actively develop bodhicitta, negative emotions, such as anger, hatred, jealousy, and violent thoughts, naturally dissolve and vanish. When you begin to cultivate genuine loving-kindness and compassion, ego-clinging and obstructions naturally disappear. At the same time, you feel great joy, peace and happiness which can be shared and appreciated by your friends and others. We should grow strong in the practice of friendliness and compassion toward all beings.
The absolute way to understand Guru Shakya Sengé is as detachment and simplicity; to find satisfaction, joy and happiness in following the middle path between asceticism and luxury. This principle is well represented in the serene mood and transcendent discipline expressed in artistic representations of Guru Shakya Sengé.
The Sambhoga Guru Shakya Sengé portrayed on thangkas looks a lot like Buddha Shakyamuni in a monk's robe with one face, two arms, two legs and a top knot or unishaka on his crown chakra. In Tibetan, this feature is called tsupa which is nothing other than a dark blue concentration of wisdom light. His skin is golden and his robes are red. He holds a begging bowl in the palm of his left hand while sitting on a lotus with sun and moon discs. Whereas Buddha Shakyamuni stretches his right hand down in the earth touching mudra, Guru Shakya Sengé holds a five-pointed vajra. Like all the other emanations, his body is luminous and transparent, being completely of the nature of a wisdom-rainbow body.
As in all the previous meditations, begin with the supreme thought to benefit others. Visualize a small sphere of golden light which transforms into Guru Shakya Sengé.
Recite the Vajra Guru mantra for as long as you'd like before absorbing the golden wisdom-essence into your heart. Remain in non-dual meditation for a while and then dedicate the merit to all sentient beings.
Among the six paramitas, Guru Shakya Sengé is associated with sila. By making us more calm and peaceful, practice on Guru Shakya Sengé will naturally develop moral strength, discipline and perfect conduct, which leads to deeper concentration and contemplation. The middle path beyond asceticism and indulgence leads to great equanimity and a profound realization of the true nature. This is the main principle embodied in the emanation of Guru Shakya Sengé.
Guru Sengé Dradok, The Lion's Roar
The sixth manifestation of Padmasambhava is Guru Sengé Dradok. Sengé Dradok is the first of the two wrathful emanations of Guru Rinpoche, the other being Dorje Drollo. Wrathful deities are particularly useful in counteracting negative influences from black magic, curses and other disturbances, such as people who malign you for no good reason. Guru Sengé Dradok is very efficient in subduing or pacifying such obstacles.
Sengé Dradok emanated in India. Orissa, which is not far from Calcutta, was the site of a very famous stone lingam and yoni which symbolizes Shiva in union with his consort. Every day people would slaughter and burn many animals there in ceremonial sacrifices. Sengé Dradok went there and pointed his finger at this lingam until it cracked and burst. People took that as a sign and stopped making animal sacrifices in that area.
Another story related to Guru Sengé Dradok took place north of Bodhgaya at Nalanda, the largest monastery in the history of Buddhism as well as the first great university on earth. As part of the contemplation practices at Nalanda, practitioners engaged in debates so as to refine their understanding of the Dharma. Everyday, there were lively exchanges expressing the viewpoints of the various schools within Buddhism as well as arguments in support of the tenets of some non-buddhist traditions. These contests still go on at some of the bigger monasteries.
In ancient times, it was expected that the loser of the debate would convert to the winner's viewpoint. It happened that a group of 500 powerful, non-Buddhist scholars came to Nalanda. For the most part, they were black magicians, so they requested a two-part competition, the normal scholarly debate, followed by a contest of magic.
Nalanda was full of scholars and it was easy to find five hundred qualified debaters, but no one at Nalanda was skilled in magic. They knew that this could cost them the debate and force them to convert, so they had a meeting to figure out what to do.
Suddenly a black lady appeared in the sky before them and said "Don't worry. My brother can help you." "Who is your brother?" they asked.
"His name is Padmavajra," she replied.
"Where is he?" they asked.
"He is now living in the darkness of the Frightful Charnel Ground. You must call on him to come." And they said, "We don't have his number. How should we invite him?" So the black lady taught them the secret hot-line code: the Seven Line Prayer. She told them Padmavajra would appear if they petitioned him in this way. As they chanted the prayer from the rooftops of Nalanda, Guru Rinpoche immediately appeared and agreed to help them.
Come the day of the debate, the Buddhists easily won the first half of the contest. The non-buddhist school then threatened them with by saying that after a week there would be plenty of signs. So Guru Rinpoche practiced on Singhamukha, the Lion-faced dakini, and she immediately gave him the appropriate teachings to actualize the completion stage. When a week had passed, a host of frightful omens like violent winds and thunder came. Guru Rinpoche transformed into the wrathful Sengé Dradok and with the freedom and power of the lion's roar, he made the subjugation mudra and threw the thunderback at them. They also conjured other minor forms of disturbing magic, like threatening entities hovering in the sky and other terrible things. Guru Sengé Dradok pointed the subjugation mudra and the dark shadows immediately fell to the ground. This was how he protected Nalanda University and helped meditative and contemplative activity continue flourishing there. All these extraordinary actions are associated with the energy of Guru Sengé Dradok.
The form of Guru Sengé Dradok is especially helpful in subduing the irrational energies of black magic as well as at dispelling bad omens and nightmares. If, unexpected obstacles suddenly arise, he has the power to neutralize both visible and invisible beings and to avert natural disasters. Guru Sengé Dradok can pacify all such threats. He is also a strong buddha for overcoming jealousy. When you stop being jealous, your attitude becomes one of love and compassion. There is nothing obstructing the free radiation of beautiful qualities.
Sengé Dradok is a wrathful emanation but his wrath is basically directed toward the destruction of jealously and greed. It is not accompanied by attachment and clinging; there is nothing to win or lose. Rather, this wrath actively dispels lust and envy. There are many wrathful deities in the Vajrayana, but none of them are angry or emotionally negative. These forms express the intensity of true love and the fierceness of genuine compassion involved in dispelling attachment, ignorance and anger.
There is a line from a Vajrakilaya tantra which says, "The vajra wrath of bodhicitta cuts through and destroys anger." This is very important to understand. The wrathful nature of Guru Sengé Dradok is totally based upon love and compassion for all sentient beings.
The absolute way to meditate on Guru Sengé Dradok is to transcend jealousy and greed. This will instantly overcome black magic, curses, hexes, nightmares, and unexpected obstacles.
To practice on Guru Sengé Dradok, begin by cultivating a feeling of loving kindness and bodhicitta. Then visualize a dark blue sphere of light within a churning black cloud which transforms into the wisdom rainbow form of Guru Sengé Dradok. His skin color is dark blue and he has one face, two arms and two legs. Wearing a tiger-skin and surrounded by wisdom fire, he stands upon a demon who embodies negative habit energy and black magic. All of this is happening above a lotus surmounted by sun and moon disks. A crown of five skulls sits on his head and his long reddish-yellow hair blows up into the sky. He has three glaring eyes looking upward and four fangs. His right hand holds a flaming, five-pointed vajra high in the air and his left hand makes the subjugation mudra toward the earth. Lightning bolts fly from the tips of his fingers and sometimes you will see eight-spoked iron wheels spinning amidst the flames. Imagine he is chanting with great power, the syllables HUM and PHAT! Like a lion's roar, the deep vibration of his voice shakes the entire world.
Visualize Sengé Dradrog and recite the Vajra Guru Mantra as much as you can while he radiates wisdom lights which dissolve all negativity, black magic, bad omens, nightmares, or anything in the environment that might seem a little strange or unusual. Feel that these obstacles are completely removed by his blessing. Finally, dissolve Sengé Dradok into a dark blue light which merges with your heart center. Remain in meditation as long as you can and then dedicate the merit to all beings.
This is a Five-Part Series. The links are as follows:
The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: An Introduction
The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: Part Two (Padma Gyalpo, Loden Chokse)
The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: Part Three (Nyima Ozer, Padmasambhava)
The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: Part Four (Shakya Senge, Senge Dradok)
The Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava: Part Five (Padma Jungne, Dorje Drollo)