The following passage outlines the method of visualizing Chenrezi, the Tibetan Avalokiteshvara. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) was one of the principal holders of the Nyingmapa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

People these days, with their limited intellect, short lifespan, and feeble diligence, would find it difficult to master all the elaborate visualizations found in the tantras. To attempt all these complex practices is unnecessary, however, for by thoroughly mastering a practice focused upon a single Buddha you can discover the wisdom and compassion of them all.

For the present practice, you may either visualize yourself as Chenrezi or visualize Chenrezi above your head, thinking of him as no different from your root teacher, the teacher for whom you feel the greatest devotion. He is white in color—the dazzling white of a snow peak reflecting a hundred thousand suns, dispelling the darkness of the whole universe. He has one head, symbolizing the oneness of the absolute nature; four arms, symbolizing loving-kindness, compassion, rejoicing, and equanimity; two legs crossed in the vajra posture, symbolizing the sameness of samsara and nirvana; he is sitting on a thousand-petaled lotus, symbolizing compassion, and a moon disc, symbolizing voidness.

One pair of hands are together at his heart and hold a jewel, which represents the bodhichitta, the wish-granting gem which bestows the supreme and ordinary siddhis [perfect abilities]. Of the other pair of hands, one holds out a crystal rosary to his right, and the other a white lotus to his left; the rosary symbolizes his unceasing compassion extending like an unbroken thread through the heart of every being, and the lotus the unchanging purity of his wisdom blooming above the mud of samsara. The jewel also symbolizes wisdom-bliss as the means, while the lotus symbolizes wisdom-voidness as the realization. His beautiful body, bearing all the major and minor marks of a Buddha, is clad in the jewels and silks of the Sambhogakaya [body of delight]. . .

At first you may not be able to visualize Chenrezi as a whole very clearly, so start by visualizing his face: the black and white of his two eyes gazing compassionately upon all beings, his perfectly arched eyebrows, the curve of his nose, and his radiant smile. Then slowly extend the visualization to his whole head—its perfect shape and its ornaments, the golden crown and earrings. Gradually, move down to visualize the rest of his body and the various ornaments, the three rows of necklaces, the antelope skin over his left shoulder and covering his left breast, the jeweled bracelets and anklets, the colorful silken scarves, the white shawl embroidered with gold, and the lower garment of five colors. Visualizing each detail slowly in this way, one by one, you will be able to maintain the overall visualization.

 Chenrezi, contemporary thanka painting, Chating Jamyang Lama. Courtesy of Snow Lion Publications.
Chenrezi, contemporary thanka painting, Chating Jamyang Lama. Courtesy of Snow Lion Publications.


Then, in each pore of Chenrezi’s body, visualize a Buddha-field, and in each of these billions of Buddha-fields a Buddha turning the wheel of Dharma for his retinue of Shravakas [those who become enlightened upon hearing the Buddha’s words], Pratyekabuddhas [solitary awakened ones], and Bodhisattvas. These Buddhas’ teaching on the view, meditation, and action of the Mahayana is based on the sublime Dharma of the six-syllable mantra, and their ability to teach is such that for kalpas on end they can expound the meaning of even a single syllable, OM for instance, without ever exhausting the subject. Nothing in these Buddha-fields is impure. There is no hatred of enemies or attachment to friends. All males are Chenrezi and all females Jetsun Drolma [his consort]. All these Buddha-fields are the display of Chenrezi’s net of magical emanations, the expression of emptiness and compassion inseparable.

As well as visualizing your body as the vajra body of Chenrezi, you also have to see the whole environment outside as transformed into Chenrezi’s Pure Land, the Potala Mountain in the blissful land of Sukhavati, graced with such marvels as the hill of jewels, the river of nectar, and the wish-granting tree; clouds of offerings fill the sky, the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM resounds everywhere, and “suffering” is a word that is never even heard.

When you visualize the deity’s vajra body, you should not think of it as something solid made of flesh, bones, and blood but as like a rainbow, brilliant, colorful and clear, yet without any substance. This is the void aspect of Chenrezi’s nature, which has no impure or solid constituents; Chenrezi is completely unsullied by the five aggregates, which together are what give rise to the idea of an ego.

At first, however diligently you try, you may well find it difficult to master all the details of the visualization. If that is the case, simply develop a clear conviction that you are Chenrezi himself—not as the result of some mental fabrication but inherently so. If you visualize Chenrezi above your head, simply be confident that he is there and be clearly aware of his presence. As time goes on, by focusing on each detail again and again, you will gradually become familiar with the visualization until it becomes quite natural, just as all the details of a place where you have lived for a long time readily appear in your mind.

When the visualization of Chenrezi becomes clear and stable, visualize light rays radiating out from his body in each of the ten directions, making offerings to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the innumerable Buddha-fields. These rays of light return, carrying the blessings of all the enlightened ones, and dissolve back into Chenrezi, who becomes even more brilliant and resplendent. Once again, he emanates rays of light, which this time reach out to all beings, dispelling their suffering, establishing them in the wisdom of great bliss, and transforming them into male and female Bodhisattvas and the whole universe into a perfect Buddha-field.

Excerpted from The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones, reprinted with permission from Shambhala Publications, Inc.

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