First, we should visualize that the deity is luminous. The luminosity of our visualization counteracts the gross perception of our physical flesh and blood body. However, there should not be so much luminosity that the details of the visualization are blurred. Visualize the ornaments, jewels, and silks as precisely as possible. They will uplift us and help us to realize that all phenomena are light and not material objects. Obviously, the deity does not have a flesh and blood body like ours, yet it is not a dead inert image. Aim at encompassing the visualization clearly yet loosely, like a rainbow in the sky, or a reflection in a mirror. The deity has spirit and vitality. This counters the tendency to grasp at phenomena and materialize or intellectualize about them.
Secondly, we should be sure that we understand the ultimate meaning of the deity mandala. Otherwise, we will deviate from true practice. This is called "recollecting purity". Without understanding the symbolism, deity practice is not helpful and does not lead to liberation. For example, focus on the single face as dharmakaya; the two arms as appearances and emptiness, and so forth. The practice of recollecting purity enhances the luminosity and felt presence of the deity. This in turn enhances the understanding of the implicit wisdom. At the very least, always remember that deity is synonymous with bodhicitta and buddha and that the purpose of deity practice is to purify delusion and increase wisdom.
Thirdly, the most important point is that we should make sure someoneís home. By this, I mean that we must identify ourselves as the deity. This is vajra pride and has nothing to do with ordinary pride, who is better than whom, and so forth. The practice of vajra pride is to feel convinced that I am, at this moment, the wisdom deity with all qualities. If we practice vajra pride, we will eventually actualize ourselves as the deity. We will come to know our identity and that will be enough. Vajra pride is an interesting practice. When I was in Tibet, I was the respected son of a high lama. I felt special. When I came to India, I lived as a beggar, but I was a special beggar because my habit of feeling special was still there. Now, Iím in the West, pretending to be a special lama! My circumstances are changed, but I always seem to project a good image. So throughout my life, it seems that my belief in a good image has been very helpful. So, I feel very confident in advising you that if you can adopt the self-image of Guru Rinpoche, it will be very helpful to you whatever happens.
Now, I would like to say something about integrating these three point of deity meditation. Sometimes you should try to improve your luminosity and sometimes you should work with the symbolic wisdom. And sometimes, you should just keep it simple, contemplating that you are the deity and leave it at that.
Although the wisdom deity has a name and special attributes, the underlying principle is that the wisdom body comprises or is equal to all the phenomena of samsara and nirvana. So the deityís form or wisdom body is not just the deityís body, but it represents everything in phenomenal existence, including all kayas and primordial wisdoms. Deity is a code word for no limitations. For example, there is a teaching that says a single wisdom body pervades all realms and all realms are contained within a single wisdom body. This kind of perception or omniscience comes from perfecting the creation phase of Mahayoga. There are specific techniques for developing this, such as meditating that the celestial palace is the size of a three-thousandfold world system and the deity is no larger than an atom, or vice versa. Because deity is wisdom phenomena, free of limitations, itís flexible and everything is possible. Practicing deity phenomena is a very effective way of destroying our belief in solidity. That's the whole point of Mahayoga.
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