IN A PUJA, OR RITUAL SADHANA PRACTICE, we invoke and relate to the Guru, the Yidam, and the three roots, or in this case, the protector, Mahakala, who can also be understood as the embodiment of the three roots. What we are primarily focusing on in a puja, is the enlightened activity which pervades space and time. Since the Yidams (enlightened Buddhist deities) are more specifically the activity aspect of the Dharma, through their names their activity becomes obvious. When the ritual of Mahakala is being performed, Mahakala appears in the form of a wrathful deity. It is not because there is something ferocious about Mahakala or that he is aggressive. Mahakala is none other than the inseparability of compassion and loving-kindness. In the view of ultimate wisdom, there is no separation between the Awakened Mind of Buddha and that of Mahakala. Mahakala is a manifestation of the awakened mind.
Appearing in very majestic form, splendid yet frightening, Mahakala stands in the midst of a mountain of flames to symbolize that no enemy can stand this appearance aspect; the sharp chopper, which he holds aloft in one hand, symbolizes the cutting through of negative patterns, aggression, hatred, ignorance--any of the five poisons. No neurosis or negativity can tolerate this very majestic form; the frightening form symbolizes Mahakala as totally devoid of fear or hesitation in his spontaneous yet consistent work toward the benefit and liberation of all beings.
Mahakala is seen standing on the corpse of two human bodies, thus symbolizing the death of negativities and the complete uprooting of negative patterns to such a point that, like a dead body, they will not come to life. It is very important that we know these symbols of Mahakala because many times we have mistaken notions that he may be a clinging spirit or harmful, evil being, perhaps even the Lord of Death ready to devour and attack. One would find great difficulty in relating to the various symbols without understanding that our awakened compassion is the essential quality of the being of Mahakala. Mahakala has never been known to harm one being, even in the slightest manner, because he is constantly benefiting beings through the continuous play of the enlightened mind.
Proper attitude and sincere motivation are necessary when one participates in rituals. One should make supplication that through this participation one's negativities are completely uplifted and that the protection and guidance of enlightened beings remain inseparable from oneself until perfect awakening is experienced. One asks that one's presence here and one's invocation may contribute toward continuous world peace, harmony, friendship, happiness, understanding and goodwill and that all beings be uplifted from the negative patterns which cause chaos. One asks that the blessings and awakened presence of these enlightened deities pervade in all directions. With this attitude, participating in the pujas is of greatest benefit and most practical.
From a teaching given by the Ven. Khenpo Karthar
Rinpoche on February 2, 1981 at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra; translated
by Ngodrup Burkhar and edited by Agnes M. Ruch.
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