The Lamp of Pristine Wisdom:

A Commentary on the Mañjushrī Sadhana

‘Clearing Away the Darkness of Delusion’


By the 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche


Translated from the Tibetan by Erick Tsiknopoulos and Mike Dickman


Sole embodiment of the treasure of qualities of the primordial awareness of all Victorious Ones,

Greatest of all miraculous displays,

Hero who slashes through the web of all-consuming misconceptions:

To Guru Mañjuvajra, I bow down.

                Thus, having first offered a praise and homage, I shall here give a short commentary on the sadhana of Mañjushrī the Lion of Speech (‘jam dpal smra ba’i seng ge) known as ‘Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance’, composed by Khaydrub Raga Asya (Karma Chakme).

So why do we need to practice Mañjushrī? Because we have to generate the wisdom of listening, the wisdom of contemplation, and the wisdom of meditation. Mañjushrī is the essence of the sublime transcendent knowledge of all the Victorious Ones of the three times and their offspring, or to put it another way, the consummate embodiment of their wisdom.

Moreover, in regards to his form, while it is the very essence of appearance and the inherent nature of the basic dynamic of appearance, we base the spontaneously appearing physical form of Mañjughosha on paintings we see. Like good images or thangkas one can buy, the body of that known as “Mañjushrī” is orange in color, his right hand brandishing the sword of perfect insight, and the left holding an Utpala flower on which there is a volume of the Asthsahasrika Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, and he is riding a blue lion. Since this is the form we all know, it is the conventional, symbolically designated Mañjughosha, “Mañjushri”.

What is Mañjushrī in actuality? He is the ultimate non-dual primordial wisdom, that which constitutes the realization which, having actualized non-dual sublime insight, perfectly comprehends the unmistaken natural state of all phenomena. This is what is really known as Mañjushrī, and this is what we need to attain.

Now, why do we need to practice Mañjushrī? If we actually think that “what is called Mañjushrī is someone carrying a sword in his right hand, and an Utpala flower upon which is a volume of scriptures in his left hand, riding on top of a blue lion”, and practice while grasping at and fixating on a truly established Mañjushrī, then Mañjushrī will not be accomplished. Accomplishment will be a difficult thing. This is what is known as the ‘view of characteristics’, and it is a great fault.

In particular, in the context of Secret Mantra, it is taught that this grasping at characteristics is a great mistake. In the expositions on the generation stage practice of the deity, it is taught in several places that if you fixate on the deity as being truly established, fixate on the deity as having established characteristics, fixate on the deity as having a form, or fixate on the color and shape of the deity as having a truly established identity, then no matter how much the deity is practiced, there will be no accomplishment. Not only that, but it is also a great detriment.

Now, if one is able to see the identity of this kind of true mode of being, beyond color, beyond shape, beyond form, and beyond characteristics, that is, if one practices the Mañjushrī of suchness, then there will be accomplishment.

It should be understood that Mañjushrī is emptiness. It should be understood that Mañjushrī is selflessness. It should be understood that “what is called ‘Mañjushrī’ is the nature of my mind”. If you  understand that what is known as ‘non-dual sublime insight’ and what is known as ‘non-dual primordial wisdom’ are Mañjushrī, then the face of Mañjushrī will be encountered, and moreover, Mañjushrī will grant his blessings; Mañjushrī’s blessings will enter into us.

However, if I were to explain to those individuals generally referred to as ‘beginners’ how to immediately have a non-dual awareness of this nature, they would not be able to understand what I am talking about. When this is the case, since a beginner cannot even aspire to, let alone understand, this kind of realization of the natural state, what are the stages of method to be taught so that they can give rise to this kind of realization?

When the one known as Mañjushrī is taught to have an aspect of color, an aspect of form, and an aspect of characteristics, holding a sword in his right hand and an Utpala flower on top of which there is a book in the left, thinking “Now, this is Mañjushrī!”, beginners give rise to trust in that. Practicing the deity like this, as we gradually practice, in our minds we come to think “Oh, it really is true that the ultimate Mañjushrī is the mind’s true mode of abiding, and it is presented in this way simply as a method for realization”, and thus we understand the reason for it.

Now, following that, as the deity is gradually practiced, you get closer and closer to the actual natural state. Then, when you reach that which is beyond color, beyond form, and beyond characteristics, when you arrive at the pinnacle of true abiding nature, that which is beyond form and beyond characteristics appears.

Moreover, as it is said:

Continuum of the ground, profundity and luminosity inseparable: Mañjushrī.

Continuum of the integral unity of the path, method and wisdom: Mañjushrī.

The fruition, the kāyas and pristine awareness indivisible:

Homage to the Guru Majñuvajra.

That which is called “the indivisible Guru Majñuvajra”, associated with the ground, path, and fruition, is taught as the profound ultimate mode of being, and this being so, it is the true mode of abiding of profundity and luminosity inseparable. In the context of Mantra, this true mode of being of non-dual bliss and emptiness is Mañjushrī. Thus, this ‘artificial, constructed deity of the generation stage’ is nothing but a deity totally imputed by mind.

However, although the deity is actually not established as true, for beginners it is extremely essential that the reasons why you need to practice and aspire to realize be understood. Not understanding these reasons at all, and considering this “deity” as truly established, there will be no accomplishment if you practice. Moreover, it will be difficult.

Even though the direct generation of the wisdom realizing the way things are will not arise until the first [bodhisattva] level, one can trust that it will. A similar thing applies to the state of mind that imagines and creates [the artificial constructed deity].  Although in actuality “Manjushri” is absolutely not truly established whatsoever, one can think that these characteristics of shape, color, and form were taught as a means to encounter the true nature of being.  Nevertheless, this is incredibly important and of great benefit, for as is taught in the Four Hundred Verses of the Middle Way:

Even just entertaining hesitations about emptiness

Has the benefit of wearing away conditioned existence.

However, since it is like this, we have doubts about the real nature of the deity, but even though we doubt, if we understand just a little of the reasoning, it is of great benefit, and has something which can greatly move us.

So, since you need to practice this Mañjushrī, first you need to know how to really meditate on him. In whichever of the exalted teachings of the Mahāyāna one encounters, there are three stages: first one goes for refuge, then generates the mind of bodhichitta, and then engages in the main practice.

Of these three, the first is refuge:

Namo! In Mañjushrī, the emdodiment of the Three Jewels,

I constantly go for refuge at all times.

As for refuge there are two types: Mahāyāna refuge and Hīnayāna refuge. Of these two, this is Mahāyāna refuge. That which is called the Hīnayāna refuge is going for refuge without considering the thought of generating the aspiration of bodhichitta. If one goes for refuge in order to be freed from the fears of the general and particular sufferings of samsāra, that is called a Hīnayāna refuge. That referred to as the Mahāyāna refuge is the aspiration, “Not only for myself alone, but with all sentient beings as many as space is vast, I go for refuge from this moment forward until the level of unparalleled enlightenment is reached.”

Now, Namo in Sanskrit means “I bow” and “I prostrate”. What is being prostrated to? The Three Jewels. The body of Guru Mañjushrī is the Jewel of the Sangha Jewel, the speech of the Guru Mañjushrī is the Dharma Jewel, and the mind of Guru Mañjushrī is the Buddha Jewel. We consider this “continuously going for refuge” a very sacred thing. However, when we say “going for refuge”, we should definitely distinguish between the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha individually.

Also, when practicing things like the meditational deity and the Dharma protectors and guardians, it might seem as if the Three Jewels are not fully present here, and that you are going for refuge in something else which is called the “Three Jewels”. If you think that the yidams and their ilk each have their own individual refuge, then that is not authentic refuge.

Therefore, if you understand how to view the true mode of abiding in which enlightened body is the Sangha, enlightened speech is the sublime Dharma, and enlightened mind is the Buddha, then going for refuge is complete within this. All situations concerning “outer refuge” and “inner refuge” are like this. Since that is so, the Three Jewels are complete within one Mañjushrī.

The Three Jewels are complete within the practice of Jetsün Tara, too, and likewise when one meditates on Avalokiteshvara and so on, the Three Jewels are complete. This is because they have the identity of the Three Jewels. There is not even a single deity that does not have the identity of the Three Jewels. Thus, if one doesn’t think, there is a risk of it becoming like paying homage to worldly gods, and this is a grave fault.

With the method of non-attachment to things like worldly gods, one thinks of that deity as the consummate identity of the Three Jewels; the need to develop trust in this is important. In the context of Secret Mantra, what is known as “path-propelling devotion” is of great strength. It is taught that in that regard, the Secret Mantra has a special superiority over even the philosophical vehicle. Therefore, one should think “The deity is the consummate identity of the Jewels!”

Now, the body of this one known as Guru Mañjushrī is the Sangha, his speech is the sublime Dharma, and his mind is the Buddha. As one generates devotion that he is the identity of the Three Jewels, even if there is not the certain knowing of realization, the benefits of simply generating interest in this are great.

At all times, I go for refuge.

At all times means “from this moment forth until the level of unparalleled enlightenment is attained”. It doesn’t mean sometimes paying homage and sometimes not paying homage. It’s not a matter of whether or not you’re sleepy, as if you could say “forget about it!” when you’re feeling tired in the morning. At all times means regardless of whatever difficulties come up, big or small, I go for refuge always at all times. “With devotion of body, speech, and mind, I go for refuge” is the going for refuge.

Second, the Commitment or Generation of Bodhichitta:

I shall practice the Conqueror Mañjushrī for the benefit of beings.

I shall now practice Mañjushrī. For the sake of whom? Not for the sake of becoming extremely famous and learned and so on through increasing one’s wisdom. Since it says “For the benefit of beings”, it is a declaration of the Mahāyāna.

Generally speaking, concerning the explanation of going for refuge first, it is taught that for becoming exalted over incorrect paths there is refuge, and for becoming exalted over lesser paths there is generation of bodhichitta. Concerning “incorrect paths”, one who cultivates the incorrect view, incorrect conduct, and incorrect meditation of non-Buddhists is a non-Buddhist. In the context of referring to “the outsider Tīrthikas”, it does not necessarily mean someone wearing a rhoti and a kurta with dreadlocks on their head. Those who propound incorrect views and conduct, and incorrect views and meditation, are referred to as Tīrthikas. The teaching to first go for refuge in order to protect from mistaken paths, which consist of incorrect views, meditations, and actions, has the special quality of becoming exalted over incorrect paths, and the generation of bodhichitta has the special quality of becoming exalted over lesser paths.

Generally, how is the difference made between the Great and Lesser Vehicle? The difference between the Great and Lesser Vehicles is a matter of whether there is the generation of bodhichitta or not. Whoever does not have the going for refuge is not a Buddhist. Someone called a “Buddhist” must accept that the objects of refuge of the Three Jewels are the ultimate objects of refuge, and state that other than them there is no object of refuge. The words state that other than them there is no object of refuge are really excellent, because these words show that even when one practices Jetsün Tara, Mañjushrī, and so on, they have the consummate identity of the Jewels. If one proclaims “other than that, aside from them there is no other refuge”, and then the mistaken conception arises which thinks “Well then, what are Mañjushrī, Bernagchen [Black Robe Mahākala], Avalokiteshvara, and so on?”, in order to counteract that, “the being who embodies all Jewels” is taught, which leads one to the conviction that there is no other source of refuge other than the Three Jewels.


Not relying on the Three Jewels,

Even an excellent spiritual practitioner is a Tīrthika.

In accordance with this teaching, the going for refuge which exalts one above incorrect paths is definitely necessary. Without the going for refuge, one cannot travel within the Buddhadharma. No matter how much we might explain about the profound view, no matter much we might engage in excellent meditation, and no matter how much we might practice some deities, in this regard it becomes like a non-Buddhist god, because the causal words which make one a Buddhist have not been pronounced. This, then, is what is said to be the difference between non-Buddhists and Buddhists.

Generally, although there are many explanations of the distinguishing features of the four symbolic seals of practice of the established view and so on, it is taught that the distinguishing feature of going for refuge is this well-known main one: that a Buddhist is someone who goes for refuge in the objects of refuge of the Three Jewels and who affirms that there is no other source of refuge but them. Anyone who does not do so is a non-Buddhist.

Second, in regards to being exalted over lesser paths, what differentiates the Great from the Lesser Vehicle is the presence or absence of bodhichitta’s generation. Concerning what is referred to as “the generation of bodhichitta”, the Bodhicharyāvatara states that there is not so much as a single one among all the limitless sentient beings who has not been our parent. While acting as our parents, like our parents in this life, they had only great kindness so as to directly and indirectly assure our immediate benefit. Although what all of them want is happiness, they don’t understand that the cause of happiness is involvement with virtue, and thus suffering arises. Though what they don’t want is suffering, they naturally gravitate towards the causes of suffering, without needing to apply themselves. Therefore, one needs to have a compassionate mind which contemplates deep compassion towards all sentient beings involved in incorrect paths.

Towards them, giving rise to the thought “so that that all those sentient beings genuinely realize the natural state, realize the ultimate nature of all phenomena, and fully realize the unmistaken mode of abiding, I must practice Mañjushrī  for the benefit all sentient beings” is the generation of bodhichitta.

When it says For the benefit of beings, I shall practice the Conqueror Mañjushrī”, this shows that you have to abandon the self-cherishing mind which seeks your own welfare. Since what is implicit in that abandonment is the generation of an altruistic mind seeking the benefit of others, you need to have intense love towards other sentient beings, and accomplish their well-being.

Now, concerning the main practice, the meditation on the deity:

Out of the space of emptiness, upon a lotus, a moon,

And a blue lion, there is the syllable DHĪH,

The words out of the space of emptiness, which in Sanskrit are Om Shunyata Jnana Vajra Svabhava Atma Kony’ Ham, mean that you should understood that since not a single phenomenon is truly established, there is not one phenomenon that can be established as inherently existent, and that they are all emptiness.

First, all phenomena become emptiness. Out of the space of that emptiness, meditate on a lotus flower. What does this lotus flower represent? It suggests dwelling in conditioned existence without being stained by the faults of conditioned existence. As it is said:

Just as a lotus in water

Is born but not stained by that water,

So too, although one is born here, in the world,

One is not stained by the world.

This teaching means that the mental continua of all sentient beings are pervaded by the Matrix of the Bliss-Gone [sugatagarbha], replete with all qualities for the attainment of buddhahood. However, although all powerful causes for the enlightened qualities of Buddhahood are present, since the adventitious stains of discordant conditions and afflictive mental states of attachment which should be avoided are also present, one is thus obscured. This obscuration, however, is not one which is truly established, and if one clears it away through the power of its antidote, then, as is implicitly indicated [in the quotation], the stains will be cleansed, and one will be able to actualize those positive qualities.

Just as the flower of this lotus is not soiled by the stains of mud even though it is born from it, for us as well, no matter how much we are obscured by attachment and other such disturbing emotions, in actual fact, our essence is never obscured by distortions. We do have the positive quality of really being able to exhaust distortion, and actualize fruition, by correctly contemplating the necessity of relying on appropriate antidotes and so forth, through first recognizing the distortions, then setting about abandoning those distortions, and so on.

Actually, when reference is made to the ‘lotus’, what it signifies is sublime insight and emptiness, and with ‘moon on top of the lotus’, the moon is a reference to the nature of skillful means. What is this moon of skillful means on top of this empty insight-emptiness? It signifies the skillful techniques of great compassion. Not especially making manifest one’s own realization, since it is necessary to gradually accomplish the practice of the Mahāyāna Dharma for the sake of other sentient beings, the moon denotes the altruistic mind that cherishes others, great compassion.

   Out of the space of emptiness upon a lotus, a moon,

And a blue lion, there is the syllable DHĪH,

Upon this is a blue lion. The lion is the king of beasts, and can thus overcome adversaries, and since, like the lion, one cannot be overwhelmed by anything at all oneself, one is able externally to subdue incompatible factors such as ego-clinging, investing things with true existence, and all incorrect views, meditation, and conduct that is non-conducive to actualization of the wisdom recognizing the true mode of being and the wisdom that realizes selflessness, and, internally, one’s own insight into the true mode of being, just as it is, cannot be overpowered by incorrect views, meditation, and conduct, nor attacked by opponents.

Concerning the color blue, since generally the color of the sky is blue, it is called “sky blue”, but what does this imply? Because it is free from birth and cessation, coming and going, the sky is emptiness. Thus, since not even insight can be established as truly existent, that insight is said to be emptiness. Just as the sky is blue, as a symbol of its emptiness, it is figuratively represented as blue.

The saying And a blue lion, there is the syllable DHĪH, in the context of Mantra, refers to what is known as the Threefold Tier of Sattvas, the Samadhisattva [the being of meditative absorption] first; the Samayasattva [the conventional visualized being] second; and the Jñānasattva [the being of primordial awareness] third. During deity generation, this is a presentation of the generation stage that is extremely easy to understand. Generally, although a multitude of classifications were taught in the tradition of the old tantras, this Threefold Tier of Sattvas was the one most widely and openly taught.

First there is the so-called “causal meditative absorption”, known as “meditative absorption of the cause” or “being of meditative absorption”. The seed of Mañjushrī is the syllable DHĪH, and for this reason it is known as the “samadhisattva” or the “being of the causative meditative absorption”.

From which light streams forth to realize the twofold benefit, and gathering back,

This means that from the being of the causative meditative absorption, the orange syllable DHĪH, beams of light radiate out, and are offered as unsurpassed offerings to the Victorious Ones together with their bodhisattva offspring. Then all transmission, without exception, of the positive qualities and enlightened activity of the enlightened body, speech, and mind of all the Victorious Ones together with their bodhisattva offspring without exception, is gathered together in the form of light-rays, and dissolves back into the syllable DHĪH. This is the bringing together of blessings.

Since simply gathering blessings will not bring benefit, light streams forth from the syllable DHĪH once more, and touches all sentient beings of the six classes, purifying all the karma and afflictive emotions and their resultant suffering in their mental continua.

Generate conviction in the thought that all sentient beings have been established on the level of Mañjushrī.

Then, again, during the process of the streaming forth and the gathering back of light-rays, the absorption into the syllable DHĪH is referred to as the realization of the twofold benefit, and refers  to the making of offerings and purification of obscurations. What is referred to as the “twofold benefit” in this context is the accomplishment of benefit for oneself and benefit for others.

Furthermore, in this context, the two benefits are the gathering in of the blessings of all the Victorious Ones together with their bodhisattva offspring, and then their spreading out to influence all sentient beings of the six classes. Picture that, as all their karma and afflictive mental states along with their resultant suffering are purified, they are established on the level of Mañjushrī.

The second contemplation is to meditate and think that although they will only become Mañjushrī in the future, they now have the cause of becoming Mañjushrī.

The re-convergence of light rays is the action of the samadhisattva.

I, myself, am red Mañjushrī, with one face,

Holding a volume of texts and a sword and sitting in cross-legged position.

In a single moment, the DHĪH syllable completely transforms, changing into Mañjushrī, with a red colored body, the so-called yellowish-red color of sunrise. You have to meditate on the color of his body as being like the yellowish-red color of sunrise. What is reason for the color of his body being a yellowish-red in this case? In the same way that the light of the sun illuminates all the darkness, gloom, and all that is non-apparent in the universe, and expands its illumination until it is able to make visible all objects in the universe, you should understand this similarity to the color of the sun to symbolize sublime insight. Through this sublime insight that perfectly understands the true mode of being, through this sublime insight that fully distinguishes the true from the false, the deluded unawareness that is confused about the actual state of being is cleared away, and, since the radiance of the sublime insight which authentically, clearly, and distinctly perceives all phenomena encompassed within conventional reality and all phenomena encompassed within ultimate reality is expanded,  like the example of the sun, the color of his body is yellowish-red. Thus, in the context of Mantra, this is known as “mindfulness of the purity of the deity” or “mindfulness of the complete purity of the deity”. This is definitely necessary. Otherwise, if you meditate on the color of his body as a brilliant yellow, perfectly red, or completely white, there will be no benefit, because attachment to form, attachment to characteristics, attachment to color, and attachment to shape will occur, and the six faults of meditative concentration and so on will arise.

What does this one face symbolize? Although there are the Three Kāyas, ultimately, other than the Dharmakāya, there is no other Kāya.

As it is said:

The true mode of abiding is one, and is essential suchness.

There is only one true mode of being, essential suchness, and in regards to it, it is ultimately the basic space of phenomena [dharmadhatu], which is itself only one and has no discrete existence. On the basis of that one basic space of phenomena, that one Dharmakāya, there is one face.

In the right hand, there is a sword. What does this blade cut? Just as a knife cuts outer objects such as wood, this sword held in his right hand should be understood as non-dual insight, non-dual wisdom, or the insight that realizes selflessness. This insight that realizes selflessness cuts through ignorance, the root of conditioned existence. This ignorance, the chief, is the first of the twelve links of dependent arising, ignorance. Ignorance, this first of the twelve links of dependent arising, is grasping at true existence. In the context of the Middle Way philosophy [Madhyamaka], the triad of grasping at true existence, emotional obscurations, and ignorance are taught to be of the same meaning.

If ignorance, the root of conditioned existence, cannot be cut, then however much you employ direct methods to abandon the general negative emotions, it is possible and even likely that they will arise again. If you cut the branches of a tree without cutting the root, the branches will grow again.

Therefore, the root of conditioned existence is ignorance, or grasping at true existence. Grasping at true existence, too, is of two sorts: acquired grasping at true existence and instinctual grasping at true existence. Of these two, instinctual grasping at true existence is the difficult one to eliminate. Since the grasping at the “I” that has been in the mental continua of all us sentient beings from the very beginning, it does not need to be linked with conventional designations, does not need to be linked with philosophical tenets, does not to be linked with study, nor does it need to be based on external conditions. That so-called “I” is basic to the mental continua of all sentient beings that exist, and is always instinctually present.

Thus, just as ants are constantly running about, if something is not quite right with the “I”, it becomes frantic. All sentient beings, each and every bird, human and so on, are like this. Until omniscience is manifest, that is, up until the state of all-knowing is actualized, this accompanying “I” in our mental continua that is habitually clung to is the root of samsāra, referred to as ‘grasping at true existence’.

There is no way to cut through this aside from the insight realizing selflessness. It is not possible to overcome grasping at true existence through meditation on bodhichitta and meditation on compassion. What must be meditated on? Ultimate bodhichitta, the insight realizing emptiness, is the direct opponent of that which is known as ‘grasping at a self’: the grasping at true existence.

It is not possible for these two [the insight realizing emptiness and the grasping at true existence] to occur at the same time. In the presence of the mind of insight realizing selflessness, it is not possible for grasping at a self and true existence to simultaneously arise.

So, what does the sword represent? Just as a sword is able to cut external objects, the holding of the sword symbolizes the insight realizing selflessness, which cuts ignorance, the root of conditioned existence.

The Utpala flower with a volume of scriptures upon it in his left hand represents the following: the Utpala flower is primarily a symbol of love and compassion, and the volume of scriptures on top of it is primarily considered to be the transcendent knowledge which understands all phenomena non-erroneously and perfectly, especially the sublime knowing that realizes emptiness, or the sublime insight which comprehends all phenomena uniquely, clearly, vividly and distinctly. The volume of scriptures held symbolizes the wisdom in which not a single one out of all phenomena is unknown, understanding all phenomena included within relative truth and all phenomena included within ultimate truth, clearly and distinctly.

As for “sitting in cross–legged position”, his two legs are a symbol representing the two truths, and holding the position of the vajra–asana is the indivisible unity of those two truths. Furthermore, although they are a unification of what is primordially and timelessly an integral unity, initially they are two. They are not like a white string and a black string tied together; from the very beginning, the two truths are indivisible. It is not that there is the ultimate on one side when you abandon the conventional and the conventional on one side when you abandon the ultimate. Thus, as a symbol representing the indivisibility of the two truths, meditate that he is seated with his two legs in vajra posture. Whether you meditate on him as yourself or as in front of you is your own choice.

From BHRŪM in the heart-center comes a red four-spoked wheel,

Upon which there is a four-fingered blade, surrounded by the mantra.

Meditate that in the heart-center there is a syllable BHRŪM, from which there comes a red four-spoked wheel, marked with a HŪM syllable. Visualize the HŪM as transforming into a four-spoked wheel. Visualize that this four-spoked wheel is lying down flat. On top of it, in the middle of that four-spoked wheel is a totally spherical wheel, in which there is also a wheel. This smaller wheel is referred to as “the spherical bindu at the axis”. On top of that spherical bindu at the axis is a four-fingered blade. Visualize this small sword, this sword with four blades. Around that, when arranging the mantra of OM HRĪH DHĪH MAME DIPAM MAÑJUSHRĪ MUM HRĪH PRAJÑĀVARDHANI HRĪH DHĪH SVĀHĀ, place them in a clockwise fashion, and when it spins, it spins counter-clockwise. Visualize the spinning mantra garland of OM HRĪH DHĪH MAME DIPAM MAÑJUSHRĪ MUM HRĪH PRAJÑĀVARDHANI HRĪH DHĪH SVĀHĀ.

In front of him, from HRĪH arises the blue Goddess Sarasvatī,

In standing position and holding a sword and scripture in her hands.

They are both adorned by myriad silks and jewels.

You have to meditate that in front of yourself as the method, there is the Goddess Sarasvatī, the symbol representing sublime wisdom.


“In front of him, from HRĪH”,

first meditate that in front of you is the causal samadhisattva, a blue syllable HRĪH. For this, it is said that although it is appropriate to perform the twofold benefit through the streaming forth and gathering in of light rays as before, it is also fine if you don’t.

The HRĪH transforms into the Goddess Sarasvatī, her body blue in color. She is standing in upright position, and, like Mañjushrī himself, she holds a sword and volume of scriptures.

“They are both adorned by myriad silks and jewels.”

The adornment with many silks and jewels should be understood to mean the completion of all qualities of the Mahāyāna without exception, and the perfection of all positive qualities without exception. It is a symbol of the completion of all the vast Mahāyāna practices and Mahāyāna trainings, such as generosity, ethical discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and so on. It’s not that it’s just mere ornamentation and getting dressed-up; it acts as a symbol: that they possess the total completion and perfection of the Mahāyāna teachings and trainings.

At the heart-center of the Mother, upon a four-petalled lotus,

Is a sword marked with HRĪH, around which the mantra revolves.

Meditate that in the heart center of the female consort is a lotus flower, and on it is a four-pronged sword, marked at its tip or center with a blue syllable HRĪH. Visualize OM HRĪH DHĪH MAME DIPAM MAÑJUSHRĪ MUM HRĪH PRAJÑĀVARDHANI HRĪH DHĪH SVĀHA spinning around it.

This is what is known as the samayasattva, the conventional, visualized being. The samadhisattva, or being of profound meditative concentration, is both the syllable DHĪH and the syllable HRĪH.

Concerning the samayasattva, since both samayasattvas — the visualization of oneself as Mañjushrī and the Goddess Sarasvatī visualized in front of oneself — will not bring benefit simply by being there; they must also be consecrated. What does this mean? Since the wisdom being needs to be consecrated, one needs the jñānasattva, the being of primordial awareness, so one invites the jñānasattva and absorbs it into oneself.

When a lama confers or bestows an empowerment, or when we are receiving one, we always think that if we are hit hard on the head with the vase as we are receiving it, we have attained a powerful empowerment; and when the blessings are bestowed and we drink cleansing water, and when we get the long-life pills and long-life alcohol, we always think “I have attained the empowerment!”. However, the measure of whether we have really attained the empowerment or not is if, as the lama directly introduces us to the ultimate meaning of the empowerment and all the wisdom beings are invited, there is no trace of one’s ordinary three doors, the three avenues, and they are taken on, or regarded, as the three doors of the quintessential deity. So, when the blessings are granted, as the wisdom being invoked by the recitation of PHEM PHEM A BE SHA YA A A, and then absorbed, at that time, one’s own three doors are not ordinary, and in order to consecrate them as enlightened body, enlightened speech, and enlightened mind, since you need perfect understanding of the introduction, this is called the introduction to the true mode of being.  When that takes place is the criterion of having “received the empowerment”.

When you are introduced to awareness of the true meaning of the empowerment, there is attainment of the empowerment; conversely, if one does not encounter awareness of the true meaning of the empowerment, there is not attainment of the empowerment. In this context it also like this: mainly, the jñānasattva grants blessings, and if one can take on one’s three doors as the essence of the deity with nothing left over in the dimension of ordinariness, this is the authentic accomplishment of the deity. Furthermore, in the context of talking about “accomplishing the deity”, don’t imagine that it’s something like the face of a deity gazing up and down, saying, “Hey! What do you want?”

The wisdom being resembling myself is invited, and merges with me.

The deity being practiced, the wisdom being similar to oneself [as the deity] is invited, and absorbed into you. You invite countless jñānasattvas like yourself, the bigger ones as large as Mount Sumeru, the smaller ones as tiny as mustard seeds, and visualize that, like rain in an ocean, they touch and merge into you and all sentient beings.

Light streams from my heart-center, and all the sublime insight

Of the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and panditas,

And the sublime insight of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and ordinary beings

Gathers together in the form of light, and is absorbed into my crown.

At the time of completion, meditate that from your heart, white rays of light stream forth, and all the transcendent gnosis of all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, Indian panditas, and Tibetan translators, as well as the transcendent gnosis of the shravakas, the transcendent gnosis of the pratyekabuddhas, and the transcendent gnosis of ordinary beings is gathered together in the form of light, and absorbs gently into your crown. Then, meditate for about a minute within that.

The Dharma of the Three Baskets and the Four Classes of Tantra

Is gathered together, and dissolves into my throat.

Once more, red light streams out from one’s body, and touches the Three Baskets – the Vinaya Pitaka, the Sūtra Pitaka, and the Abhidharma Pitaka – and the Four Great Classes of Tantra – Kriya Tantra, Charya Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Anuttarayoga Tantra – and their entire meanings are gathered together in the form of light, and absorb into your throat.

The vital essence of the sun, the moon, all precious substances, and the four elements

Is gathered together, and absorbs into my heart-center.

Blue light rays stream forth from your body again, and you should think that, as they touch everything  in the outer universe such as the sun, the moon, the wish-fulfilling gem, the wish-fulfilling tree, all the vital essence of the four great elements of earth, water, fire, and air, all the kings, queens, ministers, famous people, great businesspeople and so on, in short, all the vital essence, potential, charisma, strength, influence, wealth, and resources there are in all of the famous people in the world, all of that is touched and gathered together in the form of light, and then absorbed into your heart.

Next, the recitation of familiarization and approach:


You should accumulate one hundred repetitions of this.

Offering goddesses emanate from me,

Filling the sky with their emanated forms and making offerings.

Now, from your heart center, immeasurable offering goddesses, white, yellow, red, blue, and green, the sixteen offering goddesses and so on, fill the sky with emanations, and make offerings to Father-Mother Mañjushrī.

The seven enjoyments and the five sense objects,

The seven emblems of sovereignty and the eights symbols of auspiciousness,

Mount Sumeru and the four continents, and all the resources of gods and humans:

Taking hold of them with my mind, I offer them to Father-Mother Mañjushrī.

Then, give rise to all offerings, the seven enjoyments, five sense objects, seven emblems of sovereignty, eight symbols of auspiciousness, Mount Sumeru and the four continents, and the resources of gods and humans, material offerings, mentally emanated offerings, ordinary offerings and extraordinary offerings and so on, and offer them to Father-Mother Mañjushrī.

Please quickly bestow upon me perfect insight of unhindered knowledge

Of all scriptures and commentaries!

Now, since the blessings must be granted, if you wonder what sort of blessings you should request, when it says upon me, pray that unhindered knowledge of all scriptures taught by the Transcendent and Accomplished Conqueror, the commentaries composed by all the accomplished scholars in the Noble Land of India and those who came to the Snowy Land of Tibet, and the sublime insight which is capable of realizing them perfectly, without confusion in regards to the words, without confusion in terms of the meaning, without confusion in relation to the subject, without confusion in relation to the object, without confusion about anything at all, be quickly and immediately bestowed upon you.

Concerning the prostrations:

On a throne of a lion and lotus,

Is Mañjushrī, son of the Conqueror,  

Red in color and holding a sword and volume of scriptures:

To the Lion of Speech, I bow down.

This is easy to understand as meaning “I prostrate to Mañjushrī mounted on a blue lion”.

On a throne of an aquatic plant, sun, and moon

Is the mother who gives birth to all buddhas,

Blue in color and holding a sword and volume of scriptures:

To Sarasvatī, I bow down.

When it says “On a throne of an aquatic plant, sun, and moon”, the aquatic plant is a lotus. The goddess who is the great mother who gives birth to all buddhas, with a blue-colored body, holding a sword in her right, and, in her left, a volume of scriptures, is Sarasvatī.

Concerning the essence of the Goddess Sarasvatī, known as the Goddess of Melody, it is taught that the triad of Jetsün Tara, Sarasvatī, and the Great Mother Prajñāpāramitā are of one essence. The Vajravarahis too are of one essence with them, and should also be understood as the Great Mother Prajñāpāramitā.

Is the mother who gives birth to all buddhas is not saying that she is a mere mom, but rather that just as a mother gives birth to children, she is known as “the mother who gives birth to all buddhas”. In regards to Prajñāpāramitā, when she is referred to as “the mother who gives birth to the four Aryas”, this means the mother who gives birth to the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas – the Four Aryas, or noble beings, and given the similarities between these, it is by depending on the Great Mother of the True Mode of Being, Prajñāpāramitā, that one is able to generate all the qualities of a buddha, manifesting all qualities of the threefold ground, path, and fruition, and, ultimately, of “giving birth” to buddhahood. It is for this reason that she is referred to as “the Great Mother”.

To the Melodious Goddess who is just like this, SarasvatīI bow down.

Now the concluding dedication:

By this virtue, may I swiftly

Accomplish Father-Mother Mañjushrī,

And having done so, establish every single being without exception

On that very same level.

If dedication is not performed, the roots of virtue will be wasted, because if one does not embrace what is known as the Three Sublime Principles – the sublime generation of bodhichitta at the beginning, the sublime freedom from fixed reference points in the middle, and the sublime dedication at the end – then one’s practice is not that of Mahāyāna Dharma. Therefore, you definitely need to embrace your practice with these three.

The above [practice] should be recited continuously,

Along with a few hundred recitations of the mantra:

The continuous practice of this commitment is crucial.

What this is saying is that you should always recite this.

According to the tantras and shastras, the benefits of this are that

With twenty-one or a hundred malas of the mantra

Unfailing memory will be attained,

If you recite twenty-one to one hundred rosaries of this, you will attain a memory retention which does not forget anything.

With a thousand, expertise in all languages,

With ten thousand,  

A thousand shlokas will be retained each day.

One will have unobstructed knowledge of all verbal expression,

You will understand all forms of verbal expression without having to be taught. When you rise in the morning, speech will flow forth fluidly from your mouth.

Be able to compose treatises on scripture and commentaries,

You will be able to compose treatises to all the works elucidating the meaning of scripture.

Clairvoyance will shine forth,

The higher perception of knowing other’s thoughts and so on will be born in you.

And in the future, one will attain lordship of the Levels.

This is saying that you will attain the level of an Ārya, a noble being.

If there is a karmic propensity,

He will be accomplished in a single day.  

When there is a karmic propensity between Mañjushrī and the practitioner, he will be accomplished in one day, and they will immediately behold the face of Mañjushrī.

Middling practitioners will realize within two days.

What this means is that if there is only a middling karmic propensity, then the true mode of being will be realized in two days, and one will be able to meet Mañjushrī.

Practicing for three days,

Even those with no karmic propensity will attain accomplishment.

Even if there is absolutely no karmic propensity for Mañjushrī, he will definitely appear within three days, and you will behold his face.

Therefore, you need to constantly practice.

Concerning the signs and indications of accomplishing Mañjushrī in dreams:

If you dream of the sun and the moon shining, gathering flowers,

The shining of the sun and moon, the gathering of flowers…

Plowing fields, drinking ink,

The plowing of fields and the drinking of ink…

Delight, writing letters,

“Delight” is a happy state of mind; natural happiness after waking from sleep in the morning is referred to [here] as “delight”… having dreams of writing letters and reading letters…

Finding weapons and scriptures,

If you dream of finding knives and weapons in your hand, and discovering texts and volumes of scriptures and so on…

Have no doubt that sublime insight has increased.

However, although it is always possible to have dreams like this, there is nothing definite about them. Here, what it is saying is that if this happens while you are practicing Mañjushrī, then sublime insight has increased.

Those words were the speech

Of the Indian pandita Kamalashila.

An old man from India

Ninety-nine years of age,

There was an old Indian, ninety-nine years old,

Who did not even understand letters,

Who did not even know how to read at all,

Met the Mañjushrī of accomplishment in just one day.

In a single day, he encountered the face of Mañjushrī,

Even his body became that of a youth of about eight years old,

And he understood the five sciences without obstruction,

Becoming a learned pandita.

The Sole Father Phadampa [Phadampa Sangye] requested [this transmission] from him,  

And that lineage came by stages to Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje;

The empowerment is in Knowing One Liberates All [Chikshey Kündröl].

The empowerment is in the Chikshey Kündröl [Knowing One Liberates All].

Of all the sadhanas of Mañjushrī,

None is as easy to accomplish as this.

Amongst all the Mañjushrīs, the closest to sublime insight, this one that can attain profound sublime insight quickly, is the Lion of Speech Mañjushrī. From the Chanting the Names of Mañjushrī [Mañjushrī-nama-samghiti]:

The perfection of expression, the abode of excellence,

The Lion of Speech is invincible.

As it says:

The yogic applications of this, the pill of sublime insight,

I accomplished in previous times.

For the most part, whoever eats it will become learned.

Whoever eats this will become learned.

And thus, this has now become the special practice

Of my heart-son, Pema Thrinlay.

Accumulate as much recitation of this mantra as possible.

Since it says Accumulate as much recitation of this mantra as possible, and not “don’t accumulate more than a hundred a day”, what it means is “accumulate as much as possible”.

Instead of going through from the beginning to end, if you just go from reciting the mantra OM HRĪH DHĪH MAME DIPAM MAÑJUSHRĪ MUM HRĪH PRAJÑĀVARDHANI HRĪH DHĪH SVĀHĀ, that’s fine.

It’s good if, instead of chanting it in a sing-song manner, you chant it slowly and with a melody.

It is saying here to accumulate as many recitations as you can, not just to recite a hundred.

If you accumulate while you are talkative, that is good, and if, instead of wasting your time as you are going about, you recite even just a few repetitions, your count will come to completion.

If you contend that “we absolutely must complete one hundred repetitions”, since this would lead to a situation of grasping at the true existence of numbers, there is a bit of fault in this. It gives rise to grasping at one’s claims that “I have accumulated one hundred, I have accumulated five thousand”. Therefore, by way of setting this number one hundred as a starting point, whenever you have free time or a break, if you accumulate the mantra OM HRĪH DHĪH MAME DIPAM MAÑJUSHRĪ MUM HRĪH PRAJÑĀVARDHANI HRĪH DHĪH SVĀHĀ, it is most excellent, and that being the case,

You will become automatically become a scholar.

This shows that, through the blessings of this mantra, you will naturally become erudite with qualities of learning.

May the one known as Gemo Lama,

One capable of holding the teachings and benefiting beings,

Become extremely learned.

Thus it is taught.

Since it is through the recollection of the purity of the generation stage that one reaches

The pinnacle of the secret vehicle of definitive certainty

And attains the supreme goal,

It is this that I have explained a little.

In the midst of Lama Yonten Pelzang, for all of the students of Benchen Nangten Samling, this was briefly explained before the start of the scheduled Dharma classes, and then later set down in writing in this way by the lowly one who merely presumes to claim to be the reincarnation of Nyenpa. It was composed on June 3rd, 2008.

Virtue! Virtue! Virtue!

 Sarva Mangalam! – May Everything Be Auspicious!    


Translated by Erick Tsiknopoulos and Mike Dickman.

Special thanks to Ven. Lozang Zopa for his extremely valuable and insightful translation assistance, to Kunzang for her translation review, to Karma Ngawang Dekyi for her ever-present help, and to Serta Khenpo Choeying for his consultation on the text.

This text is available for viewing and download at Sugatagarbha Translations:



2 thoughts on “The Lamp of Pristine Wisdom: A Commentary on Karma Chakme’s Mañjushrī Sadhana ‘Clearing Away the Darkness of Delusion’, by the 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

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