Pranidhanas - part three


Fri 08 Mar 2024

Part three of Lama Shenpen teaching on the theme of pranidhanas

Read part one here // part two here

A further topic that is related to pranidhanas is 'tendrel'. Perhaps we can put it together with 'adhisthana'. There is a mandala of connections there that are not in time that we have to work with. It would be unrealistic to make a pranidhana of something to happen for which there was no tendrel, no connections that would make it possible for it to happen. It relates to the mandala. The mandala is all of a piece and the connections are as they are. So we can make a pranidhana for all beings throughout time and space, but before that can be effective, we have to let go of our limited ideas of what we are. We have to have a deep realisation of Bodhichitta.

In the meantime, we could make pranidhanas for things in the immediate future that are much more achievable. This is to do with skill at making pranidhanas at different levels of understanding. Whether the pranidhana will be effective or not will depend on those timeless connections, heart connections, mandala connections, nidanas and so on, that you can't really see. It is all related to the intentions and connections we have made in the past. Each karmic action is a mandala in its own right. Each pranidhana is a mandala in its own right.

The power of adhisthana is actually operating it too. Those connections can be empowered through calling on the adhisthana of powerful or enlightened beings. You make a pranidhana in the presence of a powerful being, which is what we say each day when we do the Shakyamuni puja. Any pranidhana made in the presence of the Buddha will be accomplished. The Buddha pervades the connections of our mandala with that combination of adhisthana and tendrel that makes things possible.

Another aspect is the removal of obstacles to the accomplishment of the pranidhana. Obstacles are caused by past intentions and actions of body, speech and mind that are now ripening in this life. So what do you do abouyt that? The classical way are the four powers of repentence. You find someone powerful and you make your confession. You ask for the power of their blessing and make a commitment to not commit that deed again. That sense that you can uproot things that you have planted in the past. You can't just ignore what you have done in the past, but you can uproot it and prevent it augmenting. We can use these various powers that are the subject of this discussion.

We have the power to dissociate ourselves from negative actions, putting them to one side and focussing on our commitment to skilful actions.

Another aspect is vision. If you are making a pranidhana, it implies a vision that things are not hopeless. Things could be different. It's the opposite of depression. It is the opposite of feeling helplessly guilty and bad about yourself. It is the opposite of that kind of dispair. You have a vision of how things could be. You have a better vision of how the world might be because of what you do.

The Samantabhadracharya pranidhana is an example of a complete vision of what it is going to take in order to reach complete and perfect Awakening and have the power to bring other beings to that state.

It is a tremendous vision. This is where the Vaster Vision theme of the LAH training comes in. You think in terms of countless lives, countless beings, countless Buddhas, unlimited punya. Everything in this vast scale. You think that the power of intention can actually bring all beings to Awakening and that we actually have that power within ourselves. That Buddha Nature.

That vision enables us to formulate skilful pranidhanas and follow them through, to commit ourselves to them. It is vision and confidence in that vision. It is a sense that not only can it be accomplished, but I have the power to accomplish it.

It might start with small things, but the power of pranidhana is something that we are cultivating on the Bodhisattva path. We are cultivating it on the Buddhist path in general as soon as we take refuge. We have a vision that there is such a thing as Awakening, such a thing as Buddha, as a path. There are those who follow the path and it is this we direct ourselves towards, even though to begin with,  we do not really know what it means. But it is a real sense of vision. A real sense of where we are aiming. It requires the vaster vision aspect.


This teaching will continue soon.