Pranidhanas - part two


Tue 27 Feb 2024

This is part two of a series of teachings from Lama Shenpen on pranidhanas.

Read part one here

Another element in pranidhanas is confidence. If you can trust your own intentions and your word, then you have confidence and others can have confidence in you. This is a basis for any kind of relationship with the Guru. Or any kind of student-teacher relationship. If there is no trust anywhere, the sangha is not going to hold together, society isn't going to hold together.

The Guru has to have confidence that they will keep their word - and the student has to have confidence that they will keep their own word and that the Guru will keep their word. When that is shattered, that is a terrible thing. This is why these abusive situations are so terrible. Who can you trust if that combination of confidence and honesty that makes the pranidhanas effective is not there?

Another point to consider when making pranidhanas is skillful formulation. This is why we use  pranidhanas that have already been formulated for us, like the Samantabhadracharya pranidhana, or Rangjung Yeshe's Mahamudra pranidhana. We use words for taking refuge, for taking the bodhisattva vow that have been handed on to us. They are perfectly formulated. It is a kinf of intelligence, it is a skill to assess the situation and find the right balance with what one could reasonably expect to achieve without having any contradiction within it.

Rigdzin Shikpo's favourite example is that it is like wanting to eat lots of cake and wanting to get thin. You have to think through what you would need to do in order to achieve it. Then you must be as committed to doing what is needed as you are to wanting it to happen. Otherwise, it sounds like wishful thinking. Which is an interesting topic in itself. There is the example of the monkey's paw, a badly formulated pranidhana or wish. 

So, another point to consider is that of casting a spell.

A pranidhana is a kind of magical power. It has within itself the power to fulfil itself. We tend to think of a magical illusion as though it's not really there, but it's not simply magic in that sense. A magical illusion can do what we want it to - because the world is not fixed in a certain way, it can be changed by our pranidhanas, actions and intentions. The world is all based on intentions we have had in the past and those we are carrying forward into the future.It is all built on intentions. And that's a kind of magic. From a scientific point of view, you would not expect that to be true - where the world obeys 'physical laws' or 'mathematic principles' - not that it is created magically, that you could actually conjour something up and it would be powerful and effective. But this is what we are saying. We have the power to create pranidhanas, we can actually bring something about, all beings have that power.

More to follow soon.